Category: "Geekdom"

What metadata can tell you...

Politics, Geekdom Send feedback »

So, back when people were saying stupid things like “It’s just metadata, not your actual phone conversations” about the NSA monitoring, I really wanted to see someone release this sort of info just to demonstrate what “just metadata” really provides. It turns out, someone in Germany already had. I meant to post this when I first ran across it back in July, but didn’t.

From Zeit Online:
Most people’s understanding of what can actually be done with the data provided by our mobile phones is theoretical; there were few real-world examples. That is why Malte Spitz from the German Green party decided to publish his own data collected from August 2009 to February 2010. However, to even access the information, he had to file a suit against telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom.

Basically, the metadata matched up with other publicly available info is pretty revealing. And the NSA has access to it without the effort Spitz had to go through to get his own data. This profile that they built by tying together info told where he was and for how long. You can also tell how he got there by looking at routes & time it took. You can even extrapolate who he may have been with (or at least who was nearby) if you have access to everyone’s records as the NSA does.

This profile reveals when Spitz walked down the street, when he took a train, when he was in an airplane. It shows where he was in the cities he visited. It shows when he worked and when he slept, when he could be reached by phone and when was unavailable. It shows when he preferred to talk on his phone and when he preferred to send a text message. It shows which beer gardens he liked to visit in his free time. All in all, it reveals an entire life.

And, in another article they put up a pretty cool visualization that is really what got my attention. Pretty cool. But also a bit scary.

iOS7 first Impressions

Geekdom, Design Send feedback »

This is just a quick look based on my first day or two with the new OS.

Design...

Much has been made of the "flatness" of the new iOS since it's introduction at WWDC. While the design guidelines for graphics and icons are indeed much flatter, the OS as a whole has become much more dimensional. As usual, it's all in the details that you experience with use, but don't see in screenshots.

First, there is the much mentioned "parallax" effect that is added to the Home & Lock screen backgrounds. Basically, it's like there is a thick layer between the icons and the background so that as you tilt the device you see "under" the frame of the screen. It's a pretty cool, subtle effect.

Then there is the way transitions between the home screens and applications are handled now. the apps zoom from where you run them, then when you go back to the home page they zoom back in if they are on the screen you are returning to. But if they are on a different home screen, the icons fly down onto the home screen, like they are coming from behind you. Everything is very zoomy, but if this annoys you it can be turned down in settings.

In Safari they changed the way "tabs" are displayed when you switch between them on the iPhone & iPod Touch sized devices. It's a pretty cool effect that reminds me a little of what Windows 7 does when you use Windows Key + Tab to switch apps instead of Alt + Tab. But of course it's a slightly slicker implementation. It looks like they also removed the 8 "tab" limit. :)

They have also gone beyond the visual with things like the change to the lock screen sound. When you press the power button, they added a slight echo to the click noise the phone makes. It's a cool, almost subconscious effect.

A more general, subtle visual change is that when you wake the phone up or put it to sleep, the screen fades in & out rather than just popping on.

Technical Improvements...

So, apparently iOS7 is the first mobile OS with MultiPath TCP — Basically, the phone can use parallel internet connections. So, if your wifi is flaky it can use your cell data. This might help a bit, mainly when you try to use an overloaded public wifi hotspot like Starbucks or a restaurant. But for me, it's usually my cell (data & voice) that is flaky when I have a good wifi connection.

Another interesting first is the 64-bitness of the OS. Though honestly, I'm not sure I see what advantage this offers on a mobile platform. Generally, the biggest advantage of a 64-bit processor & OS is the ability to address more than 4GB of memory and more easily handle files larger than 4GB. Are there really applications that need to address that much RAM in a mobile device? Does the iPhone or iPad even have that much memory? I suppose there could soon be files that large on an iOS device, but it would definitely be an edge case. It seems even the developers are mixed on the value of a 64-bit iOS.

Another biggie is the way multitasking is handled. Really, in a mobile system like iOS this really just means things can be updated and downloaded in the background. We already had music playing in the background, so this just broadens the scope a bit. What it does mean is lower battery life and more data usage if you don't keep on top of what has permission to run in the background. I think I've already seen a bit of the battery impact. The battery life wasn't great anymore on my year old iPhone 5, but it is quite a bit worse with iOS7, at least it is initially. Perhaps once the novelty wears off it won't be so bad. :)

Concerns & Annoyances...

As usual, with a new release, battery life seems to have degraded. I'm sure I'll need to tweak some of the applications that are downloading data in the background to improve this.

In Mail I keep accidentally marking things as Junk instead of marking them as unread. They are both on the "Flag" menu, but Junk is where Unread used to be. Another side effect of the new Mail version is that it is driving me to clean out my inboxes a bit better. Having 300+ unread messages on my phone was a bit annoying. I had a lot of old just that needed cleaning out. I'm down to under 90 80 60 now, but have a lot more to go. :)

Bugs...

Yeah, there are some. The first I've come across is pretty minor though. While the Notification Center Today panel is rearrangeable in the System Settings, that setting seems to never stick.

There was actually another I found during my initial setup, but of course now I cannot find it. All in all, this seems to be a pretty stable release so far.

Obviously not something for Apple to fix, but waze has become rather crashy since I updated. It also pings the bluetooth interface in the car a LOT more often. This is probably only annoying because I don't use it via bluetooth audio, but do have the phone paired so that I can use it for calls. But the VW stereo really wants me to stream audio.

Support LibriVox

.Various, Geekdom, Diversions, Podcast Send feedback »

LibriVox: acoustical liberation of books in the public domain

LibriVox is a pretty cool project that's been around since 2005. Basically, people volunteer and record chapters of books that are in the public domain. Like Project Gutenberg for audio books. I've recorded a couple of short things for them, they use poems & the like as sort of a tryout. I was originally planning to work my way up to a chapter, but like everything else, my interest waned.

My stuff:

Anyway, the reason for this post is to pass along their request for donations. Last year they got a Mellon grant to rebuild their infrastructure. Now they are trying to raise a bit more to complete some of the things the grant wouldn't quite cover. So, check out their work, and if you find it worthwhile & useful, by all means, donate! :D

I need a bigger house...

Geekdom, Automotivity Send feedback »

Much bigger.

iPhone 4 Review...

Geekdom 3 feedbacks »

I actually intended to post this about a week after I got it, but I slacked. :p Since I’ve waited so long, I’ll go ahead & make it brief & start with the Cons…

Cons

  • Of course, everyone knows about the antenna issue. iOS 4.0.1 did seem to make the antenna meter a bit more accurate (now I get about 3 bars max at my house instead of bouncing between 5 & 1), but of course the hardware issue is still a hardware issue.
  • Case availability, as usual, is terrible. It’s improving now, but still a bit lacking. Luckily the 3G cases kinda sorta fit. I finally ended up going for a cheap case that is a bit too padded. It nearly doubles the thickness of the phone. This lack of cases is especially bad, considering the ‘antenna issue’.
  • Multitasking can be a bit annoying - particularly that non-multitasking apps go to the launch bar too. It would be nice to be able to exclude apps from multitasking so they actually exit when you exit them. There are some apps that just don’t need to be backgrounded.
  • Proximity sensor issues - when talking on the phone, the sensor doesn’t always sense that the phone is by your head. This might have improved a little with 4.0.1, but not much.
  • Weird audio bug - after using an app with its own volume level, such as Pandora or YouTube, you have to reboot to adjust the ringer volume. This was resolved with iOS 4.0.1.
  • They skimped a bit leaving out the microfiber cloth that came with the 3G. Perhaps the oleophobic coating is supposed to make this unnecessary.

Pros

  • Seriously fast. This is even more pronounced since my 3G was running iOS 4 and had seemed to be slowing down even before that. Even little things like contact scrolling are noticeably faster. The iPhone 4 may pay for itself just in app launch time.
  • GPS seems faster & more accurate. GPS based apps lock on a lot faster than with the 3G.
  • FaceTime works great once you turn it on. It seems that some phones default to having it off, others have it on. I’ve used it a couple time now & it’s pretty smooth.
  • Text is gorgeous. No, really. Small text on the new screen is amazing. Reading on the new phone is a lot more comfortable than the old one.
  • The new cameras are pretty good stuff too. The video quality & photo quality is quite good for a phone. One oddity with iMovie is the inability to split clips. That seems like something that should be doable. Perhaps implementing it in the interface was too much of a challenge. I’m hoping to get it after launch. Along with the ability to put titles over photos. & upload 720p to YouTube.

Those’re the basics. In short, yes it’s worth it. The only long term issue is the antenna debacle. Perhaps they’ll come up with a more permanent solution than using a case. Oh, another thing: Developers, update your apps. Especially the icons. The bundled Apple apps are so much purdier than most of my 3rd party apps.

We'll Be Back Soon.

Geekdom Send feedback »
We'll Be Back Soon.

Not soon enough, dangit!

I was up a bit late anyway, so I thought I’d brave the extra half hour just to see if they enabled the pre-order at midnight Pacific. It looks like they’ve started the process at least. *sigh*

I'm glowing...

Geekdom Send feedback »

I think this would be better on a ceiling than a wall. Putting it on a wall would be covered by furniture & artwork and the like. A ceiling would rock though. Minus the pattern of course.

Glowing Walls
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