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Ottawa, Ontario
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Just a little corner of the interwebz where I occasionally jot down a thought or two. Why do I do it? Partly to communicate in some way with you, the reader, and partly because it's some sad way of leaving a legacy of some kind I guess.

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Ramblings

an apple event

Jonathan Tom

The big Apple event has just wrapped up and I have a page full of copious notes to help me write this post. Let’s be honest though, there’s no shortage of places to go and learn about what was announced. I’ll have some of that information, of course, but you’ll also get my thoughts on them. As those who know me are more than aware, I am an Apple fanboy so my views will be skewed towards all things Apple but I’m a firm believer that you should go with the products that work best for you. So let’s get on with it shall we?

apple watch

I’m a little out of the loop on this subject as I’m still rocking the Apple Watch series 1 from when it was first announced. According to the event announcement it’ll do a better job of monitoring your heart rate and offer more insight into your health by giving you statistics on resting heart rates and recovery heart rates. Additionally the watch will monitor your heart rhythms and, in conjunction with heart rate, it may be able to offer you insight into otherwise undiagnosed issues.

The new Apple Watch (series 3) will also have built-in cellular service which will be tied to your phone. This means that you’ll be able to leave your phone at home when going out on errands, for a swim, for a run, for a hike etc. You’ll be able to access Apple Music as well which is nice for those that use that service; personally, I’m more interested in knowing when Spotify will work with this service. Given that they are a competing service I wouldn’t hold my breath on Apple opening things up to them. Along those lines, you’ll be able to make and receive calls on your watch - initially my thoughts were “this is cool, I’ll get to be more like James Bond” but then I realized how ridiculous that would look to anyone witnessing this - almost as dumb as people walking around wearing those old school bluetooth ear buds for phone calls. Never say never but I think that’s a feature I won’t be making use of unless I’m alone in my home!

The new watch is pretty much the same size as the series 2 watch (it’s .25mm thicker in the rear face), which is impressive considering how much more stuff needs to be inside the watch. There will be some new bands and it will be available in gold, space grey, and silver. Prices will start at US$399 for the cellular model and US$329 without - it should be available September 22nd.

apple tv

After having just received a second Emmy for the Apple TV they are introducing the Apple TV 4K. Obviously this means it will support 4K resolution (four times higher resolution than HD), but it also supports HDR. Now this does mean that your television will need to support both 4K and HDR (mine is only 4K) but if you’re one of the lucky few then your videos will look pretty impressive. Any purchased HD content will be automatically upgraded to 4K HDR for no charge; also, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are expected to offer their 4K services soon.

iPhone

Let’s be honest, this is what most of us watching were waiting for; it’s been ten years since Steve Jobs stood on stage and announced the first iPhone. Now Apple is announcing “huge iPhone news” and it comes in the form of the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. The new form factor looks like the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus: it’s water and dust resistant, has a retina display, and it’s available in silver, gold, and space grey. There is a new chip in this phone though, the A11 Bionic which brings 6 cores and a 64-bit design which makes is 70% faster thant the A10.

The camera is a 12 megapixel sensor with optical image stabilization. They seemed to indicate that this was available on the iPhone 8 as well which will be good news for people who wanted this feature in the smaller phones. The iPhone 8 Plus lenses are f/1.8 and f/2.8 respectively and features an improved portrait mode which will offer better bokeh and improved performance in low light. A new feature, called portrait lighting allows you to compose a photo, have the camera analyze the composition and make lighting options available in real time. What impresses me with this is the ability to make these changes to portrait lighting available after the fact as well. I’m interested in the improved video as well - it will offer better low light and 60fps shooting for 4k video and, for slow motion, it will handle 1080p at 240fps.

Big news, for me, is that wireless charging is finally coming to the iPhone using Qi technology. Qi, for those who don’t know, is commonly available and, now that it’ll be in an iPhone, will likely take off even faster. The iPhone 8 will be available in 64Gb and 256Gb, prices will start at US$699. The iPhone 8 Plus will be available in the same sizes but start at US$799. Pre-ordering will start September 15th and shipping September 22nd.

In a nod to Steve’s classic line, Time announced that they had “one more thing” and this was the ticket that people were expecting to hear about. The iPhone X (pronounced iPhone ten), is all screen with the exception of a notch in the top centre where quite a few sensors are hidden.

With glass front and back, dust and water resistant at a microscopic level, and available in gold, silver, and space grey, this device is really all about the screen. The screen is what they are calling a “super retina display”; at 5.8” with a resolution of 2436 x 1125 px (2.7 minion pixels) and weighing in at 458 ppi it’s spec’d to give us a pretty impressive OLED screen.

Waking the iPhone X is as simple as raising the phone or tapping on the screen. With no more home button I was wondering how we would be unlocking the device or how we would go back to the home screen. Turns out going to the home screen is as simple as swiping up from the bottom of the screen. Multi-tasking is accessed by swiping up from the bottom and pausing before releasing; it looks pretty simple. Siri can be accessed in the traditional way by saying “Hey Siri” or by double tapping the side button.

Unlocking the iPhone X is where things get (more) interesting; Apple is announcing what they are calling Face ID. Gone are the Touch ID sensors and now, in the aforementioned notch at the top of the screen, lie several new sensor which allow the phone to recognize your face. IR cameras, dot projectors, and other technically in depth components allow this to be possible. The bottom line is that it will still recognize you if you are wearing glasses or a scarf, or a hat and it will track any gradual changes as well including growing a beard . Being this flexible makes me wonder how hard it would be to spoof but it turns out, somewhat unsurprisingly, that this is something Apple has put a lot of thought into. It can’t be fooled by photographs or even masks and prosthetics. It’s smart enough to know when you’re looking at it too so it won’t unlock if you have your eyes closed or if you aren’t directly looking at it.

The cameras on the back are 12 megapixel with f/1.8 and f/2.4 apertures respectively. Both cameras have optical stabilization and have access to a quad LED true tone flash (the flash matches ambient colour temperatures to make things feel more natural). The front side camera will also support portrait mode (and portrait lighting) so your selfies will look even better.

The iPhone X will sport all the same cool tech that the iPhone 8 has including the new A11 Bionic chipset and the wireless charging. They also offered a little sneak peek into something that they are working on called Air Power which is a charging mat that will be able to charge the iPhone, Apple Watch (series 3 and later), and Air Pods (with a new wireless charging case). Air Power is projected to be available next year.

The iPhone X is will be available in 64Gb and 256Gb starting October 27th (shipping November 3rd) and it will set you back starting at US$999.

When Steve announced the original iPhone he closed with a Wayne Gretzky quote and it seems only fitting to end here with the same quote. Steve said this was what Apple did in business:

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” - Wayne Gretzky.

show us your home screen

Jonathan Tom

iphone edition

I’ve seen these “interviews” on a few sites that I read, namely Mac Sparky and, in a somewhat different vein, The Sweet Setup. So, I figured, why not do it on my own site?

Here we go:

what are some of your favourite apps?

Although I use all of the apps on my home screen daily, I’d have to say my favourite (and most used) apps are probably Slack, Facebook, Messenger, and Spotify.

which app is your guilty pleasure?

I spend far more time than I probably should on Facebook and Twitter. I guess I’m a little addicted to the social medias. I blame my friends, clearly their lives are far too engrossing.

which app makes you most productive?

This is an easy answer - Slack, without question. Communication is a huge part of my job and I don’t think I’d be able to do it without a good team communication app. A close second though would be Todoist.

what app do you know you’re underutilizing?

I’m going to have to say DEVONthink - since I left Evernote due to some privacy concerns. I initially went to Bear and I do like it but it’s just not quite as full featured as DEVONthink.

what is the app you are still missing?

I don’t think I’m missing any app specifically… it’s along the lines of you don’t know what you’re missing because you’ve never had it.

how many times a day do you use your iPhone?

Oh wow… many more than I would care to admit to I think. Maybe 10-15 times a day for legitimate reasons. I don’t count glancing at a notification and then immediately checking again for the time.

what today view widgets are you using and why?

Top to bottom I have the Fantastical widget to give me my day at a glance, below that I have the Klok widget for tracking times around the globe. Below that I have the Carrot Weather widget, followed by the Batteries widget (displaying my phone, my Apple Watch, and my AirPods). Then we have the Todoist widget, and my “smart home” widgets: the Harmony widget, the Ecobee widget, and the Philips Hue widget. Last but not least I have the IPVanish widget for quick access to a VPN.

what is your favourite feature of the iPhone?

I’m going to have to go with the camera. I have the iPhone 7 Plus (at least until the iPhone X is announced tomorrow). I’ve always subscribed to the saying that the best camera is the one you are going to carry which is the main reason why I ended up parting ways with my DSLR. I downsized from my Nikon D700 to my Fujifilm X100S and now to my iPhone!

if you were in charge at apple, what would you add or change?

I don’t really follow the politics of the Appleverse - I think they need to keep an eye on price points lest they lose the non-affluent customers. I would dare say that’s a pretty good number of people.

what’s your wall paper and why?

It’s just one of the stock backgrounds that I liked when I saw it. My lock screen shows off my neediness for Overwatch with the logo on a white background and Mercy’s catchphrase of “Heroes Never Die”.

So that’s my home screen. Have suggestions on new apps or better ways to use my current apps? Let me know. Otherwise, go make your own!

these dreams go on

Jonathan Tom

 President Barack Obama speaks during a prime time news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 29, 2009.

Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy

Let me preface this by saying that if you were misled by the article's title into thinking that this was going to be about Heart - I apologize.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA as it’s known, is an American immigration policy implemented in July 2012. It was designed to give illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States of America as minors the ability to have a differed (and renewable) reprieve from being deported. Today, the White House announce that it was rescinding the DACA which puts the nearly 800,000 young people covered by it at risk of deportation to countries they may never have known. There’s still some hope - the change has been passed on to congress so it’s now up to them to step up and help these young people. Anything I could write about it would pale in comparison to what former President Barak Obama wrote about it:

“Immigration can be a controversial topic. We all want safe, secure borders and a dynamic economy, and people of goodwill can have legitimate disagreements about how to fix our immigration system so that everybody plays by the rules.

But that’s not what the action that the White House took today is about. This is about young people who grew up in America – kids who study in our schools, young adults who are starting careers, patriots who pledge allegiance to our flag. These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper. They were brought to this country by their parents, sometimes even as infants. They may not know a country besides ours. They may not even know a language besides English. They often have no idea they’re undocumented until they apply for a job, or college, or a driver’s license.

Over the years, politicians of both parties have worked together to write legislation that would have told these young people – our young people – that if your parents brought you here as a child, if you’ve been here a certain number of years, and if you’re willing to go to college or serve in our military, then you’ll get a chance to stay and earn your citizenship. And for years while I was President, I asked Congress to send me such a bill.

That bill never came. And because it made no sense to expel talented, driven, patriotic young people from the only country they know solely because of the actions of their parents, my administration acted to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people, so that they could continue to contribute to our communities and our country. We did so based on the well-established legal principle of prosecutorial discretion, deployed by Democratic and Republican presidents alike, because our immigration enforcement agencies have limited resources, and it makes sense to focus those resources on those who come illegally to this country to do us harm. Deportations of criminals went up. Some 800,000 young people stepped forward, met rigorous requirements, and went through background checks. And America grew stronger as a result.

But today, that shadow has been cast over some of our best and brightest young people once again. To target these young people is wrong – because they have done nothing wrong. It is self-defeating – because they want to start new businesses, staff our labs, serve in our military, and otherwise contribute to the country we love. And it is cruel. What if our kid’s science teacher, or our friendly neighbor (sic) turns out to be a Dreamer? Where are we supposed to send her? To a country she doesn’t know or remember, with a language she may not even speak?

Let’s be clear: the action taken today isn’t required legally. It’s a political decision, and a moral question. Whatever concerns or complaints Americans may have about immigration in general, we shouldn’t threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us. They are that pitcher on our kid’s softball team, that first responder who helps out his community after a disaster, that cadet in ROTC who wants nothing more than to wear the uniform of the country that gave him a chance. Kicking them out won’t lower the unemployment rate, or lighten anyone’s taxes, or raise anybody’s wages.

It is precisely because this action is contrary to our spirit, and to common sense, that business leaders, faith leaders, economists, and Americans of all political stripes called on the administration not to do what it did today. And now that the White House has shifted its responsibility for these young people to Congress, it’s up to Members of Congress to protect these young people and our future. I’m heartened by those who’ve suggested that they should. And I join my voice with the majority of Americans who hope they step up and do it with a sense of moral urgency that matches the urgency these young people feel.

Ultimately, this is about basic decency. This is about whether we are a people who kick hopeful young strivers out of America, or whether we treat them the way we’d want our own kids to be treated. It’s about who we are as a people – and who we want to be.

What makes us American is not a question of what we look like, or where our names come from, or the way we pray. What makes us American is our fidelity to a set of ideals – that all of us are created equal; that all of us deserve the chance to make of our lives what we will; that all of us share an obligation to stand up, speak out, and secure our most cherished values for the next generation. That’s how America has traveled this far. That’s how, if we keep at it, we will ultimately reach that more perfect union.”

walk on water

Jonathan Tom

As some of you know, the company I work with was just on a project for the band “Thirty Seconds to Mars”. The project in question was their premier of a new single called “Walk on Water” at the MTV Video Music Awards. The concept was straightforward - the band wanted to use infrared FLIR cameras to really put a different spin on the visuals in the presentation. We got involved several weeks before the VMAs to help bring together a piece of tech that isn’t normally used for entertainment and the performance that the band wanted to give.

After having seen the finished product I was, of course, impressed with the job, but also struck by the fact that the final product could be seen as race agnostic. What I mean by that is that, by watching the camera’s output, there is no way to know that Jared Leto is white and no way to know that Travis Scott is black. As far as the camera is concerned it doesn’t matter. Whether or not this was intended in the artistic design is unknown but I thought it was interesting to think about.

Anyway, here is a video of the song in question in case you hadn’t seen it: