After playing with Instagram for a few days I was absolutely hooked. I even went so far to declare at the time that, “Instagram is the iPhone app Flickr should’ve built.” This was back when the app first launched. I was close, but I was wrong.
Recently I gave Picplz a go after reading a bit more about their product, and my initial assessment was…well, let’s let the tweets speak for themselves:
By the way, massive kudos to @picplz for the quick responses. Well done.
“really s-l-o-w.” What does that mean? You can only do so much in 140 characters, but I tried to sum it up as best I could. The gist was this, Picplz acted like a nice utility app for uploading and sharing photos, but it wasn’t very sticky. Was I being unfair? After all, I only tried out posting one photo, and the social graph on Picplz is still very small.
At any rate, I stood by this assessment until a few follow notifications began trickling in. One morning while on the train I received three follows and decided it was time to give Picplz another look.
I snapped another photo, uploaded and shared, and still felt like the app was slow. But the conclusion I reached that morning on the train was, “Sure, Picplz isn’t quite there yet, but neither is Instagram.”
That’s right. I said it. I’ve been a staunch supporter of Instagram, but things change.
The short version of this story goes something like this: Once upon a time, I imagined something like this would happen within the frame of a different video player, and with a different person interviewing Sol about his latest awesome app. It was right there…if only…Ah well, it’s really funny how everything works out.
Like every iPhone release, Apple’s latest entry has created quite a stir. In fact, from the very moment a prototype was misplaced in a bar this new iPhone has enjoyed a spotlight laced with leak-fueled intrigue on top of the usual “what will be released?” speculation.
Dee was kind enough to get me an iPhone 4 as a combination Father’s Day/birthday gift, and I’ve been pretty impressed with it thus far. I decided to take the improved 720p HD video recording (and editing) aspect of the phone for a spin, and here is the result. All video was shot in camera, edited, and then uploaded to Vimeo and YouTube.
Note: I uploaded this video to both services as a means to test out each one for videos such as these. You’ll need to click through to watch in full HD.
Quite frankly, Barton’s actions align with something that has troubled me throughout the first year and a half of the Obama administration — Republicans do not want to let go. I can’t blame them. But at some point they need to stop acting like someone will eventually step in and say, “Oh, you were right. Obama, you’re out.” It’s not going to happen.
Yes, I’m aware that he placed a caveat by prefacing his statement with a claim that he speaks for himself, and not for the Republican Party. However, he also inserts agenda into his “opinion” by claiming that the same “shakedown” could occur to citizens as well as corporations. The truth is, Obama and Hayward came to an agreement, and despite criminal investigations, BP is still on the hook for damages that have been done to the gulf coast, it’s inhabitants, etc. They needed to be held accountable, and the decision to put $20 billion towards recovery was an attempt at good will, not a shakedown. It’s called accountability, folks.
That is to say, if you read comics in the first place. Those of us dipping our quills in the digital ink traditionally consume our comics in rather shady means — torrent downloads. Yes it’s ugly, but until recently that was the only presentable option, and not a very good one at that. Reading a PDF gives you the gist of what is going on, but it takes away the fundamentals — touching the uniquely textured comic book page, smelling that unique comic smell (especially the classics…mmm), and tasting…well, no tasting. But you get the point.
Tactile response will always be lost in the move to digital, but PDF fails to enhance any of the other aspects of comic consumption. Pouring over the page in meat space somehow feels different than reading a comic book PDF. Until recently, the PDF/Torrent scene was the only option, but now we have digital comic books. A whole other beast unto themselves.
Digital comics are recreations, and while they are fantastic recreations, they are still modified versions of the medium. They are hybrids — part comic and part animatic. Many have just enough movement to feel animated, but retain the look an feel of a panel. Many of the bigger productions actually go as far as adding voice over narration and character line readings, removing the need for text boxes and speech balloons. Enhancement? Defilement? This falls to the eye of the beholder, but in this comic lovers book the digital comic is a welcomed addition to our options.
But it’s not the solution to the main problem — reading comics in a digital era.
Even if things are moving the way of the digital comic, I still don’t want to have everything done for me. I want to retain some of the illusive emergence, the imaginative play that was so rooted to my love of the form.
Graphic.ly is the brainchild of Kevin Mann — a comic lover who grew frustrated with the disappointing availability of comics at local shops while living in the NorthEast of England. Mann wanted to build a comic distribution platform, a community built on the ability to purchase and discuss comic books with other readers and creators/publishers.
Mann teamed up with Micah Baldwin to build the first phase of Graphic.ly, an app built for Windows 7 and Adobe Air which allows you to download, read, and discuss comics in a digital format. Make no mistake, these are comics in every sense of the word, but they are also slightly enhanced in a way that completely retains the medium. Well, if you exclude all the tactile stuff I was waxing poetic about earlier.
The concept is simple, you purchase and download comics from the Graphic.ly comic book store, and then you read them. But you’re not simply reading a comic, you’re flipping through each page. Nay, each panel! With each new full page you get a macro view of the layout, and when you flip to the next section, you fully focus on panel #1. The art and text take center stage here, and this is what makes Graphic.ly so monumentally intriguing — this app pulls you into the process of comic book reading.
The Graphic.ly team is still beta testing the Windows 7 and Adobe Air versions of the app (full disclosure: I’ve been in the beta since the release of the Air app on 1/22). Next up, the team plans to build an iPhone and Android interface. Yes, you read that correction — comics delivered to your phone.
So far I’ve torn through the first two books in the beta: Spartacus Blood and Sand #1 and #2, and next up is Berserker. Not necessarily my cup of tea, per se, but the promise here is phenomenal. Needless to say, although it is still working out the kinks, Graphic.ly has me hooked. If you’re interested, sign up to check out the beta.
Amidst all of these very public check-in services comes to new apps centered on geo-location, but in a different way.
Several months ago, a friend of mine reached out with a quandary. He was planning a trip with a group of friends, and wanted a way to keep the entire group in the loop in a simple yet mobile way. Here’s the catch: the group didn’t want their activity made public, so Twitter and foursquare style apps were a no go. Enter Rally. This app comes from the good folks over at 12seconds.tv, and the inspiration behind the app tells all. The team wanted to build an app that would help real people connect at real locations with people they really, truly know.
When you think about it, the concept actually makes a lot of sense. I’m a bigtime advocate of foursquare — I love the app, and it has me completely hooked. Chances are, I won’t be budging from that service. Sure, it let’s me pick whether or not I’m checking in publicly or privately, and I’ve done a pretty decent job of keeping my contact list trimmed down to people I actually know in real life. But that doesn’t remove the need for something like Rally.
You see, when you choose to go “off the grid” in foursquare, what you’re really saying is, “I don’t want most people to know where I am right now.” Chances are there are still people close enough to you that you don’t actually mind knowing where you are at any given moment. By keeping Twitter out of the equation, Rally keeps things pretty simple and personal — connect with people you actually know, and share your location and activities with those people only. On Rally I find myself checking at places I would ordinarily keep “off the grid” — home, friends houses, etc. If you routinely hang out with the same set of people, letting them know that you are at one persons house versus another could be quite useful. Or think of it’s uses at public events — keep chatter off of Twitter, and keep your location secure. Then you only check in on foursquare at locations you don’t mind being public.
In addition, Rally offers a really slick interface that mixes Google powered maps and images taken by the folks checking in on your friends list. Your feed displays the person and location, along with the image taken upon check-in. The app is only available in Santa Cruz, CA for now, but I could see this being extremely useful (and even complementary to foursquare in some ways).
Like Rally, Blockchalk seeks to simplify the geo-location space. Where Rally dumps the overbloated nature of facebook/Twitter friend collecting, Blockchalk eschews the whole “profile” approach altogether. Instead, the location is put front and center. Every location becomes a block, and your check-ins are actually just messages (or chalk) posted on the block. Get it? Pretty genius.
Essentially, locations become message boards on Blockchalk, and whenever you fire up the app you will find yourself on a new block with a new set of chalks to read through. You set a home location, and always have access to home. Additionally, anyone can respond to your chalks, so you will gather replies and feedback from others in the neighborhoods you frequent.
In an even cooler addition, Blockchalk allows you to check out the chalks on any block of your choosing. All you need to jump to a block is an address, a cross street, or a zip code. However, the app (and chalks) remain pure by limiting the power to chalk — one must be at the location in order to author and submit a chalk.
This poses some interesting community aspects. Imagine reporting issues in your local neighborhood? Participation is restricted to your location, so in order to chime in one must actually be in the vicinity of the block. Essentially, in order to act out one must do so while visiting a different location, or risk misbehaving in their own neighborhood. I love the idea of neighborhood interactions taking place in a space like Blockchalk. Strange behavior on your block? Concerns about abandoned vehicles or other community concerns? Try Blockchalk.
I’ve attempted this in my neighborhood already, and I really hope to see it take off.
As the geo-location space continues to expand, it’s refreshing to see that some are offering unique ways to make geo-location more useful. I think both Rally and Blockchalk have great potential, but both suffer a little right now from limited participation.
Rally is, by design, restricting use to Santa Cruz residents for the time being. But in order for Blockchalk to be truly useful more people will need to adopt it in their local communities. It could become an insanely powerful community building tool in the local sense of the word, but it will require a wider adoption to get there. I imagine a future where neighbors leave chalk for each other on their block. “We’re planning a garage sale this Sunday, whose in?” or “Who is interested in a summer block party?” Picture the considerations involved in moving into a new neighborhood. If put to full use, one could check Blockchalk and see exactly what kind of world exists on that block.
As you can tell, I’m pulling for both of these apps. So check them out and let me know what you think.
i spent the day testing out the resilience of my iPhone battery, and thought i’d put together a timeline to show how things progressed. for the purposes of this test, i decided to keep every known battery draining setting turned on in what i consider a full on stress test.
here are the details:
3G is on
push notifications are on for foursquare, AIM, and Yahoo! Messenger
push mail is turned on for both a Yahoo! Mail account and an Exchange account
location services are on
i took screenshots throughout the charging session, here’s what i came up with:
3:30 pm — i started a charge, the battery was at 75% when i plugged it in
3:49 pm — no change after 19 minutes, however the “charging” symbol switched to the “plugged in” symbol — the phone thought it was fully charged
4:04 pm — still no change, but the phone has now reverted back to the “charging” symbol
4:16 pm — still no change. at this point, i unplugged to run errands
5:30 pm — returned home from errands, plugged back in to charge. during my time away, the battery depleted 50%
5:51 pm — within 21 minutes, the phone is back up to 75% charge
6:48 pm — nearly full charge. i checked on the charge flow, there were no hiccups (as witnessed in block I)
7:47 pm — nothing worth reporting during this hour, but i thought i’d add this in just to show that there were no further abnormalities
so i buckled and decided to enter into another round of testing out settings, etc. all the while knowing that this could be painful (even possibly result in being potentially phoneless for a period of time. i re-enabled push notifications for foursquare, and opted to keep AIM (download on iTunes store) and Yahoo! Messenger turned off for the time being. what resulted was exactly as expected — rapid battery loss (down to 25% within 45 minutes off of the charger and minimal use) and charging issues (phone ceased to charge beyond both the 25%, 50% and 75% thresholds).
NOTE: people will question what that means (“If you couldn’t charge past 25%, how did you test the 50% and 75% points?”). with two simple methods:
the jiggle technique: by unplugging the phone and re-plugging it in repeatedly, i could occasionally trick the phone into charging beyond the 25% point. this is hardly rock solid, and frequently failed to work.
restore, restore, restore: for whatever reason, running a restore would override this bug and the phone would remain in charge mode throughout the restore process. often, the restore would last long enough to get the phone back up to nearly full charge. this provided a clue.
you see, i noticed that each restore would render the bug moot, but when faced with the decision to restore from a backup, the bug would resurface in the subsequent syncing of older data. could the issues reside in a corrupted backup? once the restore sync completed, the charging and battery life issues seemed to stick now, regardless of whether push notifications were on or off.
this led me to the next step in my testing process: erase all data on the phone (not just a software restore), and then set up the phone as an entirely new phone. this is a hassle in that all accounts would need to be reconfigured (email, etc.), but that’s a small price to pay for a more stable phone if it works. if it doesn’t, i’ll be taking yet another trip to the genius bar.
i’m pushing the phone to the limits to test this out, so i’ve activated location services, push notifications, and 3G. if battery life is better under these settings, it means i’m onto something here. so far the test has been going well. sometime (before 7am) we experienced a power outage, which means while the phone was on a charger, it was not being charged. all signs point to it having reached full charge, as it was full when i retrieved it this morning at around 8:30 a.m. since then, i’ve had an AIM conversation via push notifications, ran out for bagels at 9:39 a.m. (where i reclaimed mayorship using foursquare), read several blog posts, took photos, uploaded to flickr, tweeted, grabbed coffee, and returned home at about 11:19 a.m. once home, i took a snapshot of my battery life, which at ~25% after a little over two hours of heavy use seems like an improvement. mind you, i was seeing a drop to 25% of battery after 40 minutes of light use (3G off, location off, and push notifications on).
i’ll continue to monitor, and will report the latest on the blog as it develops.
in a slightly related note: Sarah Lacy posted about waning Apple fanboy-ism over on TechCrunch this morning. with the recent issues over Google Voice and other unapproved apps, i’m sure functional issues like these only impact blind devotion to Apple further. it’s my feeling that no one should be blindly devoted to anything. period. a critical eye is important to maintain — otherwise films like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button end up getting a free pass from Fincher acolytes.
iPhone OS 3.0 brought with it a slew of new functionality, and some hidden gems. copy & paste, extended battery life, and push notifications were the three that piqued my interest most of all. after upgrading, i was happy to find that copy & paste worked well enough, and i actually found improved battery performance post upgrade. life was good. admittedly, i was a little disappointed that apps like AOL Messenger were not ready to go with push notifications right out the gate.
a little less than two weeks ago i noticed that my iPhone 3G was refusing to charge beyond 20%. the main battery indicator displayed 20%, and the indicator in the upper right displayed the “plugged in” battery symbol. definitely a mixed signal.
i decided to wipe the iPhone, do a full restore, and see if this improved things. after doing so, the iPhone accepted a full charge, and the next day we embarked on a trip to San Francisco via Caltrain. a few hours after leaving, and with very little use on the iPhone, the battery displayed 50% charge (and draining quickly). a couple notes on my settings before someone chimes in on with suggestions:
brightness is ~30%
3G is off
WIFI is off unless i’m in an area with known access
push mail is on, but only for exchange. all other accounts are set to fetch
by the time we reached our destination the iPhone was well below 20%, so we decided to make a pit-stop at the apple store for a visit to the genius bar. after a short wait, the apple tech ran some tests on the iPhone, and then promptly replaced it with a new one.
back at home, i upgraded the OS to 3.0, then restored from a backup. things seemed to be going better, in that i could at least charge the iPhone without problems, however the battery drained quicker than i’d remembered prior to 3.0. over the next week, the iPhone’s battery life continued to dwindle in performance, and the mixed signal issues from the first round started up again.
this time i tested the iPhone charging behavior a little more. i noticed that unplugging and replugging the iPhone back in could eventually trigger a charge cycle. so, i left the iPhone on the charger for several hours only to return to find it was completely drained of battery. next, i decided to test different charging scenarios: plugged into a computer, directly plugged into the wall, and using different cables. all of this made no difference.
on the verge of yet another wipe and restore attempt, i happened to notice something that opened up another possibility. i received a push notification from foursquare while charging (with the charge indicator displaying the lightning bolt symbol). after i read the notification, something caught my eye — the lightning bolt in the upper right was now replaced with the “plugged in” symbol. to top it off, the push notification (when the phone was left locked) kept the iPhone’s display on. i monitored this for roughly 10 minutes, and the screen never went back into sleep mode. sure enough, the battery was draining steadily.
it’s completely reasonable to expect push notifications to have some impact on battery life, but this appears to be a bigger functionality issue. i’m not seeing the same behavior with other notifications (like text messages, missed calls, or voicemails). for now, i’m keeping push notifications turned off until the v.3.1 update to the OS drops. of course, this might not be the same for all. i’ve found that some people reporting the opposite case (push mail causing the drain, not push notifications).
i’ve tested the phone for 2 days since removing push notifications, and battery life is back to the “improved” levels from before enabling push notifications. i’ve yet to bump into any of the odd charging state confusions, and i’ve also been able to heavily use the phone while commuting on Caltrain with only a 25% loss of battery (this was unheard of on the 2.0 software).