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17 Sep 2017

Considerable Coolth from Apple

If we have warmth, why don't we have coolth? When when something is really cool, it can also be hot. Imponderables aside, Apple this week introduced its view of the future: Three new smart phones, an updated watch, and a 4K television. First, phones.

What Happened to the Iphone 9?

Apple has announced the Iphone X (10), but you won't be able to buy one until November, and two models of the Iphone 8 that are available now. Will there be an Iphone 9? Microsoft skipped from Windows 8 to Windows 10. Is there something wrong with 9?

Model X will have glass screens front and back. Fingerprint ID will be gone, but the phone will recognize your face. Apple says Face ID unlocks the phone only when the owner looks at it and the technology is designed to prevent spoofing by photos or masks. The rear camera has two lenses and creates 12-megapixel images and is capable of creating video with 240 frames per second for slow-motion playback. Augmented reality (AR) comes to life on the phone. The 5.8-inch 2436 x 1125 pixed display produces a resolution of 458 pixels per inch.

Apple calls the new cameras the "True-Depth Camera System". It's essential for Face ID and also for AR. Because the camera includes infrared imaging and mapping, applications such as Pokemon Go will have a more realistic look and feel. Why is that important? Because games predict the future of all other applications.

All this means that the phone will require significant changes in the way owners use the phone.

Did Apple Ponder the Osborne Effect?

Until 1981, computers were desk-bound; but on April 3, Osborne Computer announced the Osborne 1. It weighed 24 pounds and fit in what looked like a sewing machine case, but it could be carried around.

The screen was tiny, it ran CP/M, it cost $1800, and it had to be plugged in. Still, the Osborne 1 was amazing in 1981.

In less than a year, the company had sold $100 million worth of them. That would be around $270 million in today's dollars. Then something funny happened.

Osborne announced that it would have a new and more powerful model in a few months and sales of the Osborne 1 dropped to near zero. The company never did recover.

I'm not suggesting that this will happen to Apple; still, it seems odd to announce a phone that won't be available for a while but will have incredible new powers when it becomes available at the same time the latest phone upgrade is announced.

Will this hurt sales of the Iphone 8? Probably not. The smart phone division is reported to be Apple's most profitable division, so if sales of the Iphone 8 are less than stellar, it could affect the company's bottom line. But anyone who's planning to wait for the model X phone will be able to buy one in about a month.

Ten or Exks?

17 years after Apple introduced OSX, there's still confusion over what to call it. Maybe that's why Apple decided to rename OSX as MacOS. Although it was commonly pronounced OS X (letter ecks sound), it has always been OS Ten around Apple. Although I poked a bit of fun at it in this week's podcast, the proper pronunciation is "Iphone Ten".

The Entire Smart Phone Line

The X is slightly heavier than the 8, but slightly lighter than the 8 plus.

The X has the largest screen and the highest resolution.

All 3 are water- and dust-resistant. All 3 are also available with 64GB or 256GB of storage. The 8 Plus and X models are reported to have 3GB of RAM, while the 8 has 2GB.

Watch Television (two items: a Watch and a Television)

WATCH: Remember when Apple just made computers and left watches to companies like Bulova, Timex, and Hamilton?

The Apple Watch Series 3 adds built-in cellular capabilities to your watch, so users can "stay connected, make calls, receive texts and more," Apple says, even if your Iphone isn't nearby.

The third-generation Apple Watch has fitness applications with coaching features. It's water resistant and it can show your relative elevation. I'd say that it can tell you how high you are, but you'd probably get the wrong impression.

There are two models, one with GPS and cellular, and one with only GPS, both featuring what Apple says is a 70% faster dual-core processor and new wireless chip.

TELEVISION: Remember when Apple just made computers and left televisions to companies like Zenith, Magnavox, and RCA?

The Apple TV 4K supports both 4K and High Dynamic Range (HDR), so the images are sharper and retain detail in both dark and bright scenes. But there's a lot of "coming soon" in the announcement. Itunes users will get automatic upgrades of HD titles in their existing Itunes library to 4K HDR versions when they become available. Apple also promised 4K HDR content from video services such Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, "coming soon".

What Apple offers, of course, is not a television but a box that connects to your television, so you might need a new television, too.

Hold the Phone (the Right Way for Videos)

If you use your phone to capture videos, you might be holding it the wrong way. Some topics are controversial -- like toilet paper (over or under?), pets (cats or dogs?), and computers (Windows or Mac?) -- but one topic shouldn't be at all controversial. There is a right way and a wrong way to hold a phone that's being used to capture video.

Press ESC to close.This is the wrong way.

It will create a video that's tall instead of wide. Portrait instead of landscape. It's natural to hold the phone this way. It's the way we hold it to talk (for the small part of the population that actually uses a phone for talking). It's the way we hold it to text. It's the way most people hold the phone for selfies. And it's the way the phone is held for a lot of still pictures.

So why not videos?

Click any of the smaller images for a full-size view.
To dismiss the larger image, press ESC or tap outside the image.

Press ESC to close.Press ESC to close.You've probably been to a theater and, when you were there you may have noticed the configuration of the screen.

The theater will be like the image on the left, with a wide screen. You have never been to a theater with a vertical screen such as the one on the right.

The one on the right doesn't exist, by the way. I used Photoshop to create this absurd configuration. The images are from WikiMedia.

Horizontal visionBut Why?

Why do we naturally see more horizontally than vertically? Well, first I have to admit that most of this is guesswork on my part.

But as a photographer, I know that lenses capture circular images. So I've superimposed two red circles on an image of a face. One is centered on the left eye and the other is centered on the right eye.

Notice that this gives humans a large overlapping area that is seen by both eyes and other areas, right and left, that are seen by only one eye.

You can prove this to yourself by closing one eye, looking straight forward and moving the hand that's on the same side as your open eye until it is at the very edge of your vision.

Then close the eye that can see your hand and open the other eye. Your hand won't be visible. So what we see naturally is more accurately described by the blue rectangle (or maybe by an oval). In any event, the shape won't be circular or square. We could therefore argue that our natural vision pattern is horizontal, not vertical.

Although I started by saying there's only one right way to create a video, I should also admit that there are times when vertical works better. Here's an example: One person talking. Just like portrait photograph generally uses vertical images, a video of one person can work better in portrait mode than in landscape.

Old TV screens had a 4x3 aspect ratio, but then came 16x9 high definition. TV news programs with just one person on screen left a lot of screen real estate on both sides, so producers had to find something to fill the space. Maybe another person. Maybe video. But something. But why are TV screens horizontal?

Step back nearly 90 years to Hollywood. Early motion pictures didn't have standard dimensions, but theater owners needed to buy projectors to show the motion pictures and they wanted a standard format. The motion picture industry came up with a horizontal format. Cinemascope came along and made the aspect ratio wider and there have been a few other oddball formats (Cinerama, for example). Overall, though, it's been a horizontal world.

Motion pictures are likely to remain horizontal for the foreseeable future, but SnapChat requires even those who produce high-budget video programs to create vertical clips. So the granite that the horizontal-only rule was chiseled into shows signs of weakening. As for me, my built-in aspect ratio is horizontal. Don't expect to see any vertical videos here.

At least not this week.

Short Circuits

Need a Utility Program? Try

Several sites offer free downloads of utilities, but most of them do things that could be considered a bit unethical if not totally dishonest. Maybe you hear about a utility that sounds useful, so you look for it. The site you go to promises the download and near the top of the screen there's a huge button that says DOWNLOAD. Nearby (in much smaller type) is the word "advertisement".

Sometimes that huge DOWNLOAD button is at the very top of the page and is designed to look like a link to the file you want. The link to download file you actually want is near the bottom of the page, sometimes in very light type.

In other cases, the site that provides the download packages the file into its own installer and that installer comes with applications you didn't ask for and don't want. These are called PUPs (possibly unwanted programs) and some of them will be installed automatically with the application you wanted unless you choose a manual installation and carefully read every screen that the installer presents. And sometimes the crap will be installed even if you tell the installer you don't want it!

Welcome to OlderGeeks

When I wanted to download a file recently, the developer suggested I had never heard of the site before, so I took a look, expecting to find the usual collection of deceptive buttons and tag-along junk. Instead, I found a site that is refreshingly straightforward, a clear statement about the lack of tricks, and a request for a donation.

There is no free lunch. The big download sites pay their way by selling links and by including PUPs. OlderGeeks pay their bills by asking for donations. Before I left, I made a small donation.

You'll find more than 2500 free applications here and the operators say that they examine every application they post to be sure that it is clean. Next time you're looking for a utility application you've heard about, or if you need a driver of some sort, give OlderGeeks a try. At one time, they had discussion forums on the site, but those have now moved to Facebook and there's a link from the site to their Facebook page. The site also promises remote tech support if you need help with something.

A Business Plan Any Venture Capitalist Would Love to Hate

Let's take a look at that support offering. Just how much does it cost? There is no published price. As chief geek Randy puts it: "We actually charge no fees. Zero, nadda, zip. If someone requests remote support, we help them install the remote app and we get started fixing whatever problem they are having. When the customer agrees that their computer is far better off than when we started, we disconnect after telling them they can make a donation on the website if they can afford it. The amount is up to them. That's it. We like to keep things simple (Being from Missouri and all ;) ). It does reeeeeealy freak people out when they find out there is no catch. That makes us smile."

This is not an entirely unheard of business model, but it's sufficiently unusual that it bears talking about. Occasionally I hear of a restaurant offering a deal like this, but it's not something I've ever encountered in the computer support field. It tells me two things: First, Randy knows that the support he offers is worth paying for. And second, he must believe in the goodness and honesty of most people. I'm sure there are people who don't pay even if they can afford it, but apparently most people -- or at least enough people -- understand the value of the assistance they've received and are willing to pay for it.

So even if you don't need any help right now and you're not looking for any utility programs right now, it might be a good idea to bookmark

The Equifax Breach: What Now

The credit monitoring companies -- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion -- are probably the most detested organizations on the planet. They're rarely helpful and yet we have to deal with them whenever we want to buy a car, open a bank account, or do nearly anything else that involves money.

The recent Equifax breach that exposed critical information about hundreds of millions of people calls for immediate action. I'll describe what I have done and you can decide whether these actions are appropriate for you.

I have frozen my credit reports at all four agencies. Why not just Experian, you might wonder. Here's why: If Experian made it possible for crooks to gain access to my Social Security number, full name, birth date, driver's license number, and other essential information, then that information is in the hands of crooks.

The crooks might try to open a credit card account in my name, but not necessarily with a bank that uses Experian. The bank might use TransUnion or Equifax. And there's a fourth credit reporting company, Innovis, that some companies use, so I have frozen my credit report with all four. They can provide information to companies that I am already dealing with, but not with any new companies. That keeps crooks from opening a new account in my name.

If I need to open a new account somewhere, then I'll need to unfreeze the account. That's annoying, but the safety is worth it. If you want to do the same:

  • EXPERIAN charges a $5 fee in Ohio and creates an account that you'll need to log in to if you want to unfreeze the report. The cost may be more or less elsewhere. Freeze here.
  • EQUIFAX will freeze your account for free and issue a PIN to be used if you want to unlock it. Freeze here.
  • TRANSUNION will freeze your account for free and create an account that you will need to log in to if you want to unfreeze. Freeze here.
  • INNOVIS has an on-line form to fill out. The service appears to be free and Innovis says that it will confirm the change by mail. Freeze here.

And if you're looking for some additional useful information, see this report by Brian Krebs.