Month: January 2013

Uber in Singapore

The popular U.S. limousine service, Uber, has begun a local trial with a small fleet of cars, and I called one tonight after a late one at the office. For those unfamiliar with the service, it’s like booking a taxi through ComfortDelGro’s iPhone app, but without the frustration and depressing emptiness their thoughtless UX design induces. Uber’s cars are all top-end Mercedes Benz sedans, and cannot be flagged down on the street (limos, not cabs). Since Uber also relies on an iPhone/Android booking app, the main differences compared to local taxis from SMRT & Comfort are cost, luxury, and payment method. Uber cars cost more: base charges start at S$7 and trips are a minimum S$12. Making up for this in some way is the fact that fares are consistent throughout the day and night, and include all charges such as our local Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) scheme. Being willing to pay more means getting a car when you want one, at least that’s the promise once operations are in full swing. If money’s no …

A brief review of headphones using the metaphor of photographic reproduction

Imagine you could take a photograph of sound; bass, in particular. AIAIAI Tracks on-ears would be a very good tracing of that photograph. One gets the idea, and knows what the photo would look like, but it’s not the same as experiencing it firsthand. Incase Sonic over-ears: Now the photograph has been nearest-neighbor resized in Photoshop to 150%. So you get its presence and some detail, but with jagged edges all over the place. The bass is plain to see, but not particularly nuanced. Monster Beats in general are a printout of the photograph at 200% size on a color inkjet printer that’s missing a few ink tanks and in need of a head cleaning, then rolled up for sale in a $1,000 faux-crystal gift box. Klipsch Image ONE over-ears are like the photograph enlarged for display on the side of a skyscraper which has exploded and is collapsing in your direction. The Audio-Technica M50 headphones are like finding great photo paper at a closing down sale and printing out a realistic reproduction that you’ll …

[Branch] Do we still need to physically experience music shopping?

[Branch] Do we still need to physically experience music shopping? I thought I was perfectly fine with digital discovery, Spotify-style apps and the iTunes Store, but at the risk of losing the last big retailer in town (HMV), and remembering how one could wander for hours and come out with armfuls of new music, I think I’m going to miss the tactile/spatial experience of old. There’s something about walking in and seeing with your own eyes a handmade display promoting an album you’d never heard of, and becoming curious. A thumbnail doesn’t do that. Branch is a relatively new startup and service that allows anyone to set up ad-hoc, public discussion spaces. The person who sets the topic (or question) can invite others over Twitter or email, and any other viewer can ask to join in by simply writing what they would say if they were already part of the discussion. After that’s approved, they’re in. It’s an elegant and well-designed system, but still relatively unfriendly to some.* For my first attempt, I asked the …

Upgrade Your iPhone’s Camera with ClearCam

Occipital’s ClearCam (usually $1.99) was one of my favorite camera apps; it exemplified the kind of surprising software experience that made the iPhone special; an inexpensive downloadable bundle that seemed to change what the hardware in your hands could do: it took photos at a higher quality and resolution than the sensor in the phone allowed. How? By capturing a burst of photos (5-6) and combining them to average out noise, sharpen edges, and boost light sensitivity with a proven technique called Super Resolution. It was the only app of its kind on the store, and Occipital seemed to know their imaging stuff, having also made the outstanding 360 Panorama (featured in my list of essential camera and photo apps). It allowed the 5mp iPhone 4 to capture crisp 11mp images, but upon the release of the 8mp iPhone 4S, the app simply stopped working. I never found a replacement, and didn’t believe it would be coming back, thinking the processing requirements of working on an 8mp image were perhaps too much for a phone …

Using VSCO Film with Compact Cameras

Many of us have a soft spot for the look of film photos, whether because of nostalgic associations; or a preference for the grain, faded tones, and color shifts that render the familiar world just a little more interesting. The effort to simulate this in digital photos has lately become conflated with “vintage” effects, where age and strong aberrations are introduced. Those are okay for throwaway shots and fun Instagrammable occasions, but not when a moment deserves quality with a little added character. As a frequent user of the Visual Supply Co.’s VSCO CAM iPhone app, I knew their VSCO Film preset for professionals using Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture were going to be capable of producing subtle film-like looks, and save a lot of time in post-processing to achieve the kind of results I usually want. But there’s a big difference between a US$0.99 app and buying two sets of presets (a handful of finely-tuned settings and slider positions) costing US$79 each. It’s a no-brainer for the working photographer who shoots weddings and events; VSCO …

➟ Canon Powershot N

Canon Powershot N first impressions: Digital Photography Review Very intrigued by Canon’s latest consumer product shown off at CES. It’s an almost-square, mint tin-sized box with an 8x optical zoom lens, 12mp resolution, and wireless-N connectivity designed to work with your smartphone. Anything you shoot with it can be instantly shared in the ways you are already accustomed to, and the camera even applies a bunch of artistic filters automatically. This is an interesting and astute reaction to recent trends in consumer photography: namely, people shoot and share an imagebucket load of photos with their smartphones; the more advanced of these photographers care about and strive to eke ever more quality and clarity out of their daily shots, you even see some happy to carry DSLRs around to get shots exclusively for low-res online sharing; the emergence of middle-ground devices such as Micro Four-Thirds cameras, ultra-thin laptops, tablets (hell, even phablets); and of course, the rapid demise of consumer compact cameras for everyday use, having been deemed too much bulk and inconvenience for too little …

➟ Derren Brown’s Apocalypse

British mentalist Derren Brown has done a fair few TV specials, and like the illusionist David Blaine, he started small with entertaining tricks and then started ramping up the scale of his productions, and got a lot of flak for overwrought theatricality and ruining the fun with ever-increasing amounts of required disbelief. His latest, Apocalypse, isn’t about changing that course, but it’s compelling TV because of how extreme a prank it is, and how it digs a sole man/victim/subject deep into a pop-culture reference we’ve all thought about: a zombie invasion. The whole show is about convincing one wayward young man that the end of the world has begun, in an effort to shock him into displaying leadership and responsibility. They staged explosions, helicopters, a military hospital for him to wake up in, and more. It’s in two parts on YouTube — I skipped straight to the second last night, which starts with a helpful recap. Part 1 | Part 2 (videos embedded after the jump)

Bad for Good

Found out after suddenly wanting a single album that contained every song by Jim Steinman (couldn’t find one) that he tried to record his own follow-up to Bat Out of Hell in 1981, entitled Bad for Good. The songs were originally meant for Meat Loaf, of course, but when he lost his voice, Jim decided to go ahead and record them with his weaker vocals. Check out the sample of “Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through” on iTunes, and then compare it to the Bat Out of Hell II version. Seems the album was a hit anyway, but I was only a year old at the time.

Just before the New Year…

Just before the New Year, reading New Year posts, I came upon the following line on someone’s blog: “See you on the other side.” Something about the exaggeration struck me as so preposterous, even in jest, that the whole idea of celebrating the midnight moment was buried for me. Why do we indulge in this when there’s no meaningful line being crossed; nothing in the natural world that cares or remembers what we do from one calendar year to the next, I asked our waiter in irritation. Yes, I was on my phone at dinner again (I have that one resolution, at least). But then later in the night, I was reminded of a few things I was meant to have done by now, and how we always remember where we were the New Years before. I guess it all made sense again then. Counting imaginary milestones makes them real, much like watching walkthroughs of games on YouTube count as playing them. Both concepts exist to remind us of the urgency of our short time …