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Friday
Jul112014

2016 Mazda Miata MX-5 Debut In Monterey, CA

Mazda has announced it will debut the all-new fourth-generation 2016 Miata MX-5 in three locations around the world on September 3, 2014.  Those locations are: Monterey, California; Barcelona, Spain; and Chiba, Japan. This countdown timer is for the Monterey, CA location.  Mazda plans simultaneous debuts in the three countries and the time Mazda has published for the debut in Japan is 9:30 a.m. on September 4.  That would be 5:30 p.m. on September 3 in Monterey and that is what I used for setting the countdown timer.

 

 

The September 3 debut will be an invitation-only event for the press and Mazda dealers.  The public debut will take place two days later, at the Miatas at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca event.  It will also be a celebration of 25 years of top-down motoring in Mazda's very special roadster!  Event organizers are expecting to attract more than 1,600 Miatas and their owners from all across North America.

Thursday
Aug222013

iPhone 4S Volume Adjusts Up & Down On Its Own

My iPhone 4S recently developed a problem with its volume control buttons. Magically, all by itself, the iPhone's volume setting would change. My fingers wouldn't be anywhere near the volume buttons but the volume would suddenly adjust, as if some ghost was pushing the buttons. It affected both the ringer volume and the music volume. I'd be walking along with earbuds on and the volume would suddenly drop to zero.  WTF?!

A little research on the web revealed that it's a somewhat common problem. There are numerous related topics over in Apple's forums. What I learned is that it's a mechanical wear issue inside the volume button assembly. The backside of the volume buttons press against a flex pad that has traces for the volume control circuit. The volume buttons are kept separated from the flex pad by a spring. Over time, the edges of the spring wear through an insulative coating on the flex pad, thus intermittently closing the circuit and causing the volume level to change. It can affect either volume button, or both.

To fix the problem, Apple's engineers designed a little shim that slips in-between the flex pad and the spring, restoring the layer of insulation.

Diagram showing placement of shim within volume control assembly (click image to enlarge)

Quick and Inexpensive Repair!

I made an appointment with a Genius at my local Apple Store. The Genius was easily able to replicate the problem (the ringer volume started adjusting on its own while I was turning off the passcode for the phone). I was a little disappointed when I was told my iPhone was too far out of warranty for the repair to be done for free. But my disappointment evaporated when the Genius told me the total cost of the repair (placement of the shim) would be $6.00 (including sales tax)! The repair was completed in 20 minutes and the volume button demon has been exorcised from my iPhone 4S, hopefully for good!

The repair was very inexpensive (click image to enlarge)

By the way, somewhere along Apple's iPhone 4S production cycle, the shim apparently became a standard part of the volume control assembly. Later model iPhones shouldn't be as prone to developing the problem.

Saturday
May252013

Topless Sun Run Photo

The Okanagan Valley Miata Club hosted its biennial Topless Sun Run on May 24-26, 2013.  I was granted access to a scissors lift so I could take this photo of the 96 Miatas in attendance!

(Click image for full-size version. May be downloaded for personal use only. Any commercial use requires a written agreement.)

Monday
Aug272012

Understanding Apple vs. Samsung

The Apple vs. Samsung trial continues to be a major topic of discussion on podcasts, blogs and forums. I followed the case fairly closely and feel I managed to grasp the various legal concepts and arguments presented throughout the trial. Because I invested the time and energy to try to understand the details of the case, I was not surprised by the jury's decision. I expected it. And to be quite frank, if an attempt is made to understand the legal issues involved, I honestly don't understand how any reasonable, logical person could disagree with the jury's decision. Contrary to the cries of some individuals that are decidedly pro-Samsung (or anti-Apple), the case was not as simple as "rounded corners" or "dark rectangles." The devil is in the details, as they say.

For anyone that desires a better understanding of why the jurors ruled the way they did, I recommend spending some time with the words of Nilay Patel. Nilay is a tech journalist and managing editor at The Verge. Nilay also happens to have a law degree from Wisconsin Law School and he is a member of the bar in Wisconsin and Illinois. Obviously, Nilay is well-qualified to address the Apple vs. Samsung trial, which he followed closely.

Following the jury's decision on Friday, Nilay posted this article at The Verge:

Apple decisively wins Samsung trial: what it means

I encourage all of my readers to click over and read the article.

Then, on Sunday, August 26, Nilay was a guest on the TWiT Network's This Week in Tech episode 368, hosted by Leo Laporte. I'm a fan of TWiT's lineup of shows and frequently listen to them during my walks. Whether your interest lies in Mac or Windows, iOS or Android, or a variety of other topics, the TWiT Network has a show for you.

I've embeded This Week in Tech episode 368 below. The episode is 2 hours and 15 minutes long. The coverage of the Apple vs. Samsung lawsuit is only about 36 minutes long. As a tech geek, I found the entire show of interest. But if you are only interested in the Apple vs. Samsung discussion, it starts at approximately 9:30 and ends at about 45:30. A couple of key highlights during the discussion: "Willful Infringement" is discussed at 22:10, and the oft-mentioned "Grid of Icons" is discussed at about 40:15.

If you are remotely interested in better understanding some of the legalities at play during the trial, I urge you to watch the entire 36 minutes dealing with the lawsuit.

 

Monday
Aug272012

"And we Intend to Protect Them"

On January 9, 2007 at MacWorld Expo, Apple CEO Steve Jobs formally introduced the very first iPhone in typical showman fashion.  Here are two Jobs quotes from that introduction.

We’re going to touch this with our fingers. And we have invented a new technology called multi-touch, which is phenomenal. It works like magic. You don’t need a stylus. It’s far more accurate than any touch display that’s ever been shipped. It ignores unintended touches, it’s super-smart. You can do multi-finger gestures on it. And boy, have we patented it.

And...

We’ve been innovating like crazy the last few years on this, and we’ve filed for over 200 patents for all the inventions in iPhone. And we intend to protect them.

I love a man of his word!

Sunday
Aug262012

Apple Shines, Samsung Whines!

The day after a San Jose jury awarded $1.049 billion in damages to Apple (Apple vs. Samsung), Dan Frakes, senior editor at MacWorld, posted the following tweet:

When the iPhone debuted, it was widely criticized for having no buttons/keys. Now people think the iPhone’s design is “obvious.”

Well said and spot on, Dan! Before the first iPhone ever shipped the web was filled with predictions that Apple would fail in the ultra-competitive mobile handset business. Let's look back at a few.

On December 23, 2006, before the iPhone was formally introduced to the world, The Register's Billy Ray boldly declared:

As customers start to realise that the competition offers better functionality at a lower price, by negotiating a better subsidy, [iPhone] sales will stagnate. After a year a new version will be launched, but it will lack the innovation of the first and quickly vanish.

It appears Ray's idea of "quickly" will be measured in decades, not months or years.

On January 12, 2007, Businessweek's Steven Wildstrom wrote:

The iPhone may challenge some Treo, Windows Mobile, and Symbian (mostly Nokia) products, but its hardly a threat to BlackBerry.

Fast-forward to 2012 and the iPhone is besting the BlackBerry in the workplace and RIM is struggling to stay alive!

On March 28, 2007, MarketWatch's John C. Dvorak opined:

These phones go in and out of style so fast that unless Apple has half a dozen variants in the pipeline, its phone, even if immediately successful, will be passé within 3 months.

With a grand total of more than 240 million iPhones sold worldwide and sales of each new iPhone model more than doubling the sales of the previous model, it appears Dvorak slightly missed the mark.

On April 30, 2007, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was interviewed by USA Today's David Lieberman. Ballmer's prediction:

There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It's a $500 subsidized item. They may make a lot of money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I'd prefer to have our software in 60% or 70% or 80% of them, than I would to have 2% or 3%, which is what Apple might get.

Oops, Mr. Ballmer! The iPhone currently has 63% market share with AT&T and 54% market share with Verizon. When you factor in the popular iPad and look at web market share, Apple's iOS grabs an astounding 65%Interestingly, Android's web market share is a measily 1%! I wonder which platform web content creators are more likely to support?

And finally, on June 6, 2007, PC Magazine's Jim Louderback confidentally predicted:

It'll be mildly successful (like Apple's desktops and notebooks, which have a 5 percent market share), but not at the level of the RAZR or Nokia's popular phones. 

Let's see, Google bought Motorola Mobility and recently announced layoffs, while Nokia is also struggling to compete. Both are casualties of Apple's confidence it could build a better mousetrap. Other handset makers are stuggling as well. And, by the way, Apple's Mac OS U.S. market share is up significantly, more than double the 5% Louderback quoted.

Those predictions are just a sample. There are many more to be found around the web. But back to Dan Frake's tweet.

Dishonorable Samsung

Before the iPhone became a huge success, the very features that made it truly revolutionary were criticized and dismissed. During the iPhone's developement, none of those features were "obvious" to anyone other than the team at Apple charged with designing the device. But once the iPhone went on sale and became a sensation, other handset makers were caught with their slide-out keyboards heading for the scrapheap. It doesn't take much to imagine the sense of urgency—maybe even panic—that was felt in the boardrooms of competitors. An internal memo described a "crisis of design" at Samsung. Yet, court testimony revealed that Samsung spent just three months mimicking details of the iPhone's design. The San Jose jury found that Samsung was guilty of willfully violating Apple's patented designs and trade-dress on multiple models across the Samsung line. Worse, in addition to copying features of Apple's invention, Samsung had the gall to claim that some of the iPhone's features were so "obvious" they shouldn't be patentable.

If the features were so "obvious" to Samsung (or any other handset maker), why didn't they implement and patent them first?

No, it was Apple that gambled on revolutionizing the smartphone market. It was Apple that spent five years in development reinventing the wheel. It was Apple that spent millions of dollars bringing the dream to reality and legally patenting and protecting the technology. It was Apple that ignored the pre-2007 history of how mobile phones looked and functioned and designed something magical.

So, it is right and just that Apple's employees and shareholders are the ones to benefit and profit from Apple's vision and leadership. Most definitely not Samsung, or any other idea-copying Johnny-come-lately.

Saturday
Mar242012

iPad Wallpaper: The Rockies from 30,000 Feet

In my new iPad and iPhone 4S camera shootout article I included a stunning photo of the snow-covered Rocky Mountains.  The photo was taken by photographer Elliot Shev as he flew over the Rockies.  It's an impressive photo, especially when you consider that it was shot through the airplane's window.  The bonus, of course, is that it was taken with Apple's new iPad (third-generation).

A couple of readers wrote to ask if the photo could be made available in the new iPad's retina display resolution.  I'm pleased to report that Elliot has consented to allowing Mark's Hangout to host the photo for all to enjoy on their new iPads.  Click the image below to open the 2048 x 2048 version and then save the larger image.

Rockies from 30,000 Feet by Elliot Shev (used with permission)

Elliot's photo makes for a very nice background wallpaper.  In fact, it's the photo that I am currently using on my iPad!

 

It seems appropriate that the photo used as the new iPad's wallpaper background is a photo actually taken with a new iPad!  My thanks to Elliot for sharing his terrific image!

Wednesday
Mar212012

New iPad and iPhone 4S Camera Shootout

I've seen some very beautiful photos that were taken with the new iPad ("iPad 3").  Apple used the same 5-megapixel sensor in the iPad 3 as they used in the iPhone 4, but added the optics that were used in the iPhone 4S.  How does that combination compare to the 8-megapixel sensor (and same optics) found in the iPhone 4S?  Let's take a look.

Test Method

The test objects were positioned in a portable product studio.  The photos were taken outdoors, on a sunny day.  The natural light was diffused through the portable product studio's translucent white panels.  This arrangement created an even light on the test objects that was somewhere between dim indoor light and bright outdoor light.

Three cameras were used, an iPad 3, an iPhone 4S, and, as a "best-case" control, a Canon 5D Mark II digital SLR with a Canon 24-105 zoom lens.  The 5D Mark II's lens was set to 35mm (to match the 35mm effective focal length of both the iPad 3 and the iPhone 4S).  The 5D Mark II was set to its lowest ISO setting of 100.  The iPad 3 defaulted to ISO 80 and the iPhone 4S defaulted to ISO 64.  The 5D Mark II was in aperture priority mode at f-5.6, which came closest to approximating the depth of field range of the two Apple cameras.  Shutter speeds varied but all cameras were supported to eliminate movement.  All cameras were set to auto for white balance.

The iPad 3's maximum resolution of 1926 x 2592 made it lowest resolution device in the test (the iPhone 4s has a resolution of 2448 x 3264 and the 5D Mark II was set to JPEG mode at a resolution of 3744 x 5616).  However, all images were loaded into Photoshop and cropped to a resolution of 1900 x 2400 at 72 dpi to level the playing field as effectively as possible.  No other adjustments were made to the images.

Results

Click on any image to expand it to full-size.

iPad 3

iPhone 4S

5D Mark II

A Closer Look

Since the full-size images are quite large, here are some 100% crops at 500 x 450 so you can more readily compare color accuracy, sharpness, detail, noise and optical distortion.

iPad 3

iPhone 4S

5D Mark II

iPad 3

iPhone 4S

5D Mark II

Analysis

Even with the improved optics, the iPad 3's 5-megapixel sensor was no match for the 8-megapixel sensor in the iPhone 4S.  The iPhone 4S image was sharper, more detailed, and had less noise.  With regard to color accuracy, the iPad 3 did a better job with reds and purples while the iPhone 4S did a better job with blues, yellows and fleshtones.  Greens were roughly equal.  The iPad 3 produced whites tinted toward blue while the iPhone 4S produced whites tinted toward magenta.

Of course, both Apple cameras fell short compared to the 5D Mark II.  But that's not really a fair comparison.  This shootout was between the iPad 3 and the iPhone 4S.

Winner: iPhone 4S

As the saying goes, the best camera is the one you have with you.  Most iPad and iPhone owners are not going to take photos of color patterns and test objects and then scrutinze the images at magnification.  Both the new iPad 3 and the iPhone 4S produce much higher quallity images than was possible with minature image sensors just a few years ago.  But if I'm picking between the two, I'd reach for my iPhone 4S first.  And, let's face it, the iPhone 4S is easier to carry around.  It's a teriffic "one you have with you" camera.

Real-World Images

Here are two real-world images that were taken with Apple cameras.   Click the images to expand them to full-size.  I've reduced them both to 1400 x 1046 resolution so they can be viewed with little or no scrolling.  Can you tell which was taken with an iPhone 4S and which was taken with an iPad 3?

Dog by MacRumors Forum Member (used with permission)

Rockies by Elliot Shev (used with permission)

So, which is which?  Scroll down for the answer in the update below.


Tuesday
Mar202012

Apple Wins Coded Magnet Patent for iPad Smart Cover

Patently Apple reports that Apple has won the first coded magnet patent for iPad Smart Cover.

Apple has won their first coded magnet patent win today. Apple's invention generally relates to a system, method, and apparatus for releasably attaching the iPad smart cover accessory to an iPad. The iPad Smart Cover includes at least an accessory body and a magnetic assembly pivotally connected to the accessory body. The magnetic assembly includes at least a first plurality of magnetic elements arranged adjacent one another in a first relative size order along a first line and arranged according to a first polarity pattern of alternating magnetic polarities, and a second plurality of magnetic elements arranged adjacent to one another in a second relative size order along the first line and according to a second polarity pattern of alternating magnetic polarities.

This is quite interesting, especially considering my recent discovery that Apple's new iPad ("iPad 3") features a new type of sleep/wake sensor that requires a specific polarity.

Many, Many Magnets

iFixit performed a teardown on the Apple Smart Cover last year.  They discovered that the Smart Cover contained more than 20 magnets.  One of the magnets (circled in the photo below) is for triggering the iPad's sleep/wake sensor.  The remaining magnets are designed to allow the Smart Cover to quickly attach and properly align with the iPad.

Smart Cover and iPad 2 Magnet Locations - Right Side (Photo by iFixit)

Since Apple released the iPad 2 and Smart Cover, dozens of third-party manufacturers have introduced a variety of cases, folios and covers that utilize magnetic "Smart Cover" technology to one degree or another.  It remains to be seen how Apple's newly-awarded patent might impact the third-party iPad case market.

Saturday
Mar172012

iPad 3 Smart Cover Sleep/Wake Feature Not Working

Apple released the new iPad ("iPad 3") on Friday, March 16, 2012.  Unfortunately, new iPad buyers quickly discovered that their iPad's Smart Cover sleep/wake feature is not working properly with some third-party cases.  More perplexing, the problem isn't always consistent from case to case within the same model line.

On Smart Cover compatible cases, the iPad's sleep/wake feature is triggered by a small magnet embedded in the case's cover.  Most of the speculation regarding the possible cause of the sleep/wake problem has centered around the placement or location of the little magnet within the lid of the case.  Apple is rumored to have moved the location of the magnetic sensor in the iPad 3 and, thus, the magnet in some cases doesn't line up properly. While that might be the problem with some case designs, that's certainly not the problem with the Maroo Moko II case that I purchased for one of our new iPads!

It's all About Polarity!

It appears Apple is using a new design of sleep/wake sensor in the new iPad.  A sleep/wake sensor that is sensitive to polarity.  I shot some video to demonstrate.

(For the best viewing experience, click in the lower right corner to expand the video and then click on "HD".) 

By the way, the most recent genuine Apple Smart Covers are compatible with the new iPad 3!

Update

A case manufacturer in the UK has tested my discovery.  The magnetically-activated sleep/wake function on one of his case designs was working with the iPad 2 but not working with the iPad 3.  He disassembling the first panel of the case's smart cover and reversed the entire panel—thus reversing the polarity of the magnet embedded in the panel—and held the panel in place with clear packaging tape.

Then he tested the modified case cover on both the iPad 2 and the iPad 3.  Success!  With the reversed panel, the case cover works perfectly with both the iPad 2 and iPad 3!

This manufactuer's test proves that the magnetic sensor switch in the iPad 2 is not sensitive to polarity!  Apple has switched to a different type of sensor switch for use in the iPad 3.

Update 2

I've learned why Apple decided to use a polarity sensitive switch in the new iPad 3.  Some iPad 2 customers were having issues with their iPads entering sleep mode when they flipped Apple's Smart Cover around flat behind their iPad 2.  Since the iPad 2's sleep/wake sensor wasn't polarity specific, it could sometimes be triggered from the magnet being positioned at the rear of the iPad.  By changing to a sensor that requires the correct polarity, the problem is eliminated.

Update 3

I've learned that some of the original genuine Apple Smart Covers do not work properly with the iPad 3.  Sometime in 2011, Apple apparently modified the design specifications of the Smart Covers in preparation for the release of the iPad 3.  According to reports on Apple's support forums, the model numbers for the Smart Covers changed at the same time.  Apple is reportedly exchanging these older Apple Smart Covers for the newer models at your favorite Apple Store.