Tag Archives: iPhone

Bottling lightning

Lightning strikes
Image credit: Rob Ross (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
The last few days in my land have been marked by brief, yet intense summer storms. The lightning that laced the orange sky was so frequent as the storm receded that both Mme. Ross and I tried to get pictures of them, but our efforts were met with very different levels of success. Mme. Ross has a consumer-grade DSLR camera to work with, while I have my iPhone, and I think that might have had something to do with the speed of her success. I held the camera still and snapped hundreds of photos as electricity zipped across the sky, calmly trying to track the explosions of ancient wars across the whole my view, only being able to catch a quarter of that view at a time and so hoping that I was not shooting a dark section while another was lighting up.

Lightning is quick. The whole thing occurs in the fraction of a second, so if you’re not close enough to be struck, then by the time you see it it’s already gone, and that’s the challenge in capturing it. As the arc is formed between the sky and ground, the air column in its path is transformed into a plasma — the electrons stripped from the oxygen molecules, making that column a conductor. The light of the arc begins travelling toward your eyes at the speed of light. The heat of the arc causes the air around it to explode thunderously. As the light travels in a wave toward the sensor of a camera, the options for capturing a pretty picture of a lightning strike come down to quick timing.

With fancy cameras it’s a very attainable thing but when you’re shooting with an iPhone you enter the realm of probability. Hundreds of shots, I think, are likely to yield at least one good photo. Because as I noted while going through those shots, deleting all the lookalikes as I went, when you’re too late you mostly come up with phantoms: large fields of diffusing purple light. Less frequently you get the arc in its full brilliance and it washes out the camera sensor because in all reality, it’s only an iPhone. Fancy phone, ho-hum camera (in the grand scheme of cameras, I mean.)

Like any wave, you have to time it just right.

In hundreds of shots, I got two hum-dingers. It was so worth it.

Lightning strikes
Image credit: Rob Ross (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Looking for something to do with that fancy-schmancy camera and/or phone? Check out the Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge.

Daily Haiku 2014.09.11 —

(Image credit: Abaconda Management Group)

flocking sheep
seek out Apple stores
upgrade time



Well. It’s that time of year again. I find myself wrapped up in thought about the inevitable consequences of the new round of “Device Wars”. I’m taking a serious look at everything I believe, and I’m asking myself the hard questions. I have the opportunity to upgrade my phone in a month and a half, and now there’s this new iPhone that’s about to hit the stores. I told myself that I really wanted to see a bigger iPhone. The new iPhone 6 comes in two sizes, both bigger than the iPhone 5. I wanted a faster processor and better specs that I know could have been delivered with my current phone. Sure, the next iPhone 6 has them.

In fact, the iPhone 6 has stuff that will wrap people around the corners of Apple stores for weeks, congesting the most popular blocks of big cities all over the country, while each employee in the Microsoft Store next door plans his or her disguise for when they get into line after work. Because honestly, we don’t know jack about Windows Phones, and that’s typical.

I was a Zune user back in the day. I had a regular Zune, and then I had a Zune HD. I loved them both because they were fabulous devices, and yet they never seemed to be able to crawl out of Apple’s shadow. Neither, I fear, shall the Windows Phone ever see the light beyond the iPhone’s penumbral cast.

With this new iPhone, I could have it all. I could shoot HDR video at 60 frames per second. I can make videos in stop-motion and slow motion. I can make secure payments with my phone (finally!) and that one has not just customers, but vendors from Wells Fargo to McDonald’s lining up as well.

The whole gamut of improvements, as well as the feature fragmentation between the two models, rightfully warrants an upgrade from my current device, but to what — another iPhone?

Maybe. Android users like to make fun of many iPhone 6 specs, quoting similar specs that were available with the Nexus 4 phone from 2012, while ignoring those things the new iPhone is either bringing to the table or doing to keep up with the mass of Android competitors. Apple is Julius Caesar in an Android senate, but it manages to hold its own, and while I know that this discussion has me looking a little hypocritical in light of my “surveillance device in every pocket” rant, but I do think it’s time I ask myself the tough question: do I want to stick with an iPhone, or do I want to make another switch to Android? My phone is nearly two years old now. It’s dinged, and dented. It’s been nearly shut in a car door and it’s been dropped in the ocean. I’m almost certain it would kill me if it could.

Coincidentally, there’s been no mention of iPhone 6 being water-resistant, let alone waterproof. Meanwhile, there are several Android phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S5, that are both water-resistant and dust-proof. That sounds like a perfect fit for an outdoor enthusiast who works in an industrial environment, but is that good enough to make a switch I’ll be in bed with for two years?

And while part of me knows that I don’t have to upgrade at all, the rest of me says I’d be stupid to think that I could possibly resist . . .

This is America, after all.

How long can I really put something off?

It’s not as though I’m the world’s biggest procrastinator or anything, but I put things off just like anyone else. For one thing, there’s that wall in the basement I mentioned in a previous post; there’s the pair of socks I stopped knitting for no reason when I starting writing on a regular basis; the bookbinding projects that have been suspended in mid-air for some time. Then there’s the projects that I haven’t even started yet – the barn door baby gate and the garbage bin corral come right to mind. And right now I’m putting off going to the store for caramel rolls because I got bit by this prompt.

The big thing that I’m putting off right now with that “shoot, Jack, or give up the gun” type of procrastination is committing to a writing machine. Right now, in fact, I am writing this post on a laptop I picked up at Office Depot yesterday – but I’ll start at the beginning. I’ve been writing most of my posts from my phone or our iMac at home. But I have this issue where the iMac keeps me stuck in one spot and the phone is not the most convenient or robust way to blog. So I tried doing some blogging from my Nexus tablet, which had been more of a pricey e-reader for me, but the blogging experience from that was sub-par as well because either it wants to load mobile versions of websites or the WordPress app for Android would frustrate me with its lack of features and its bugginess. The iPhone app is buggy too, for what it’s worth, but it works better for mobile blogging.

Samsung Chromebook
Samsung Chromebook (Photo credit: Cajie)

So I started thinking about getting an inexpensive laptop for blogging and just for getting me away from the computer armoire when I have to do things on a screen. The most inexpensive laptops I have been able to find so far are the low-end Chromebooks, which are based on a really neat premise: most everything we do now is on the web, so why not just base your entire operating system around a web browser, appify everything, and then offload your storage to the web? Well, it works decent in practice, I think. But people come in two flavors – either they get and love Chromebooks for what they are, or they think that Chromebooks are crippled laptops and too expensive for what they are. I’m one of the first camp, but I have come to agree with the expense part. I brought home a $250 Samsung Chromebook for a week to try it out. I liked it, but I took it back because I’m waiting to sell the Nexus and at the time Amazon was selling it for a $30 discount, so I thought I could get away with paying about $80 and tax.

Sadly, I was not able to pull the trigger in time because Amazon and I don’t have the type of relationship where they tell me when they’re pulling a sale on something parked in my cart.

Then I started looking at other stuff. My wife asked me if a Chromebook would be enough because of my heavy reliance on intricate spreadsheets for budgeting – and she was right to bring that up, because Chromebooks can’t do Excel sheets. Google’s spreadsheet program doesn’t have all the features I need yet, and so isn’t compatible with my budget book or my ledger book. Thanks to Excel, I can actually budget out a whole year ahead of time in a couple of hours. I thought, well, maybe I should look at Windows machines. Then I thought I should hold out and save up for a MacBook Air. God, I would love that. But they start at a thousand dollars, and that brings up a whole ‘nother host of concerns and uncertainties. I’d rather have a truck than a computer that expensive right now.

I stopped at Office Depot after work yesterday and I chose this machine. It’s an Asus laptop with Windows 8, which I have no experience with at all, prior to turning it on last night. Turns out – it’s not that bad. Weird, but I’m already starting to like it. This one is classified as a sub-notebook, which means it’s a little small. But I like the screen size a lot, and it’s light – although not as light as Samsung’s Chromebook – and here’s the big seller: for a hundred dollars more than the Chromebook, I have twice the RAM, a 500GB hard drive (vs. 16GB SSD), two video out options, decent sound, a more robust processor that outperforms its peers, and a touchscreen. Holy hands-down, Batman.

So I’ve been procrastinating on this issue. I have up to two weeks to take this laptop back, but I’m thinking I can figure it out in one. I just don’t want to jump in all willy-nilly, you know?

I kind of like it, though.

This post was prompted by today’s Daily Post prompt.