Monthly Archives: July 2010

My Technology Crutch

I love my iPhone. For 25 months I have had that mobile device with me. It follows me everywhere and is an extension of my life. I have become increasingly dependent on it, and it wasn’t until that I no longer had the iPhone on me when I realized how much of my life revolved around this amazing device.

In anticipation of the iPhone 4 release I sold my iPhone 3GS early with hopes of beating a flooded market come July 30. Within hours the iPhone sold and I was put into purgatory with a BlackBerry Pearl as my mobile device.

The Pearl and iPhone are two different devices. I acknowledge that there are years of technology between them and it would be fair to compare the iPhone to a BlackBerry touch screen device but the Pearl is what I was given and here are my thoughts on the experience.

Going from a simple touch screen keyboard to a compact button keyboard was my biggest downfall. I couldn’t use the intuitive typing on the Pearl to save my life or spell anything. Eventually I had to enable multi-tap in the keyboard settings so I could have control over what it was going to type.

After a week of texting on the Pearl I started to get used to which letters required a single or double tap and I was making fewer mistakes, but it was still a nuisance. I’m sure if I had to use the Pearl full time I would have given the intelligent typing a try but for my short time with the phone I couldn’t be bothered with it. The tactile keyboard was nice but I prefer the benefits of a touch screen.

I found it difficult to rely on a trackball for navigation, I just wanted to touch the screen and let my fingers do the exploring. Display and speed were noticeable downgrades but they are forgivable based on the years that separate the phones, but it was something I had come to expect with my phone.

There were countless times I wanted to know what song was playing, check the weather, see what was happening on Twitter or see if I had any new emails and would instinctively reach for my iPhone…only to be disappointed it wasn’t there. I occasionally used the Browser on the Pearl but I found it slow and awkward to type in addresses so I restricted my movement online.

I will give the Pearl credit for the shape. It was small and sturdy in my hands but didn’t feel fragile. If the phone was dropped and had to be put back together the cover, battery and SIM card were all that needed to be reattached (not from personal experience but have seen it a few times) without any significant damage to the device.

Another nice feature of the Pearl (or any BlackBerry) is the control you have over ringers. You can customize the vibrate and tone settings depending on what active state the phone is in and having it vibrate before a text or phone call comes in was a very nice feature. I liked the LED indicator on top of the phone which would blink if I had a message.

With an iPhone 4 in hand I am not sad to see the Pearl go back to where it came, but I’m glad I had a chance to experience a different phone so I can see how other people use their mobile device.

Which brings me to how did I get the iPhone 4 on launch day?

July 30, 2010I arrived at a Rogers store at 6:10AM and was sixth in line. At 8:00AM the first three people were let in and by 9:00AM they left with their phones in hand and the next three were allowed in the store. At this time the hold time to reach someone to activate the phone (since their computer systems were crippled under the stress) had increased from a 40 minute wait time to over 2 hours. Shortly after 11:00AM the calls were being picked up and the phone purchase could continue.

The atmosphere in line was excited and a little tense. There were maybe only a dozen phones in stock, but that number was not disclosed to the 20+ that waited to get in until later in the morning, after they had been waiting for hours, which was a huge disappointment to a lot of people. Rogers iPhone stock in Edmonton quickly ran dry and anyone looking for the phone in the afternoon was out of luck.

Around 7:00AM Bryce Kelley from Sonic 102.9 came and interviewed a few people in line. He asked a group of us how long we had been in line for, what we thought about the reception problem (if it was a problem to us) and how our employers felt about missing work to buy a phone. I didn’t hear the interview but Sarah heard a bit of it and immediately recognized my voice so one of my responses was used on air.

Every year an iPhone is released I tell myself I won’t go through it again, and as I pulled out of the Rogers parking lot (five hours after I arrived) I swore off launch day purchases again. Yet, there is something fun having a just released phone and knowing you have the maximum amount of time with it and can start enjoying it now. Although, this comes with the anxiety of minimal information prior to launch, wondering which location to buy it from and curious about what the stock was going to be like.

However, I won’t have to worry about those problems or being without an iPhone…until next year when the new model is released and I go through this turmoil all over again.

My Master Glass

Last weekend I rented a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II USM lens for, what turned out to be, a busy weekend. My original purpose was to use the lens at the World Wide Photo Walk (), but there was also time spent at Taste of Edmonton, a road trip to Millet, a family picnic in Beaumont and an Ice Dragons hockey game to close the weekend out. The lens never made it to the hockey game but I got a bit of use over the few days I had it.

This will be the farthest thing from a technical review of the lens, I can’t even say I used the focus switches on the side of the lens, so data and charts do not apply here. Obviously a piece of hardware that retails close to $3,000 is going to be good, but it was almost too much lens for me. I don’t know if 70-200mm was the right focal range for the photo walk on University campus, I think having a wider lens would have been better. I may have found more to take photos of if I used a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM or see if my lust over the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM was worth it, but I’m glad I tried the 70-200mm.

The lens was incredibly sharp and fast! There were several times a rabbit ran towards me and as fast as I could pull the camera up I got the rabbit in mid air and in focus. The rabbit may have been behind a fence, partially obstructed or accompanied by an over exposed photo, but I got it. Something I wouldn’t have been able to do with any lens I currently own (, , ). I can’t imagine what this lens is capable of if I had a camera with an upgraded auto-focus sensor or dialed settings in for high speed action.

July 24, 2010While I found University to be a little tight with the 70-200mm range it was a wonderful close up and portrait lens. I spent some time this weekend using my workhorse Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens and when comparing what the f/2.8 II could do, comparatively the difference was outstanding. The crispness was the biggest benefit and it pulled the subject in beautifully.

I knew that the lens was heavy, but I had no idea how heavy it was () until I carried it around for a few hours. To be expected, the build quality was top notch and the focus rings were smooth and solid. One thing I didn’t expect is that the lens didn’t increase/decrease in size based on the focal length. I am used to EF-S lenses where the glass would extend out of the housing and I guess when you spend this kind of money on a lens all of that business is handled inside.

There is definitely a place for a fast and sharp 70-200mm in my camera bag, but I think I will have to settle for the original Canon EF 70-200mm f/4.0L USM lens. Until then, I will look back on my weekend with the fastest and most expensive glass I have used fondly.

Photos from my World Wide Photo Walk and Taste of Edmonton trip on Saturday can be found in my gallery here.

My Ivory Ears

I had a special moment last week. It was one of those musical awakenings where you instantly loved something and were completely blown away by it. You were suddenly pushed into a world of sound that you loved but did not know existed.

Over the last year I have noticed my musical preferences change. I still enjoy my top artists but instrumental music was becoming more popular. I became more dependant on soundtrack scores from Zimmer, McCreary or Giacchino. I went deeper into Philip Glass’ discography finding great enjoyment in Mishima.

When I wanted a change of pace and listened to something with lyrics I went folk with The Rural Alberta Advantage, The Wooden Sky, The Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons but I was becoming more dependant on music without words.

After taking up Wendy’s advice on Fabrizio Paterlini I would spend days at work listening to music and not listen to a single song with words in it. Paterlini was a logical step to where I ended up last week, but I got there for an unrelated reason.

I haven’t been in a musical funk, I enjoy what I have but I didn’t know what was missing until Taylor sent me a link to Ludovico Einaudi. He came across Einaudi while listening to the last.fm radio and thought I would like the song. The song was “Fly” and it had a “Metamorphosis One” (Philip Glass) and “Everyday” (Carly Comando) feel to it and I was in love.

I got Einaudi’s two most recent albums, but when I heard the first seventy seconds of “Lady Labryinth” everything stopped. This song spoke to me on some other dimension and I knew I loved it. There was no hesitation in rating the song five and submitting a “Love” to last.fm before the song even ended, I just knew.

The next few days I jumped between Einaudi’s Divenire and Nightbook, slowly expanding out to his earlier work. There were some beautiful solo piano pieces, earlier work may be a little more unpolished and less engaging but still amazing all the same. Taylor continued exploring on last.fm and exposed me to Roberto Cacciapaglia by way of “Oceano“.

In a few short days I had narrowed in on minimalist piano and string quartet Italian composers that made some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard and I’m sure this will carry me further on my piano listening adventures.

My Dream Is Reality

Your mind is the scene of the crime.

This was my first midnight screening and I’m surprised it took me this long to see one. I have been anticipating Inception for so long it feels like this movie was always in development but the last year was building up to 12:05AM Friday morning.

I will be unable to give Inception a proper review because:

  • I saw it at the end of an already long day, which featured a full day of work and an Ice Dragons game
  • The story is complex and layered that to fully appreciate all levels you have to see it again
  • I’m completely biased and love Christopher Nolan’s work
  • To talk about the story and how it fits requires spoilers

To be brief: the movie was excellent. It was complex, intense, well cast and most importantly, original. With remakes, sequels and adaptations being the trend in Hollywood it’s incredibly refreshing to have a new story come along and entertain the way this did.

On the topic of the cast you can’t go wrong with Leonardo DiCaprio as your lead but I was exceptionally pleased with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard’s performance, they complemented the rest of the ensemble perfectly. I thought the visuals in the movie were incredible too and even though you knew what you saw wasn’t possible it felt completely real. As DiCaprio’s character says: “Dreams feel real while we’re in them. It’s only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange.”

The soundtrack was composed by one of my favorites, Hans Zimmer. The frantic and tense music he created added a lot of character to the movie and I will be repeating the soundtrack many times in the coming days as I come out of my Inception high. I was worried that listening to the soundtrack before seeing the movie would affect my immersion of the movie, that I would be listening for the musical cues more. However, I think it aided my enjoyment and listening to the soundtrack again has felt like a completely new experience after the movie.

When the movie was over I wanted to return to the dream state. The movie left me feeling good, but after sleeping on it (for a whole three hours) and thinking about it further I liked it more and began appreciating the entire story. I will go back to theaters to see it again to pick up the pieces I missed, to put the story together and better understand the dream.

My Failed Challenge Attempt

I was unable to complete the second annual Tube Steak Challenge for 2009-2010. At the count of 45.5 my quest to repeat the Tube Steak Challenge comes to a depressing end. Looking back on the year I think there were some highs, but it was a hot dog season filled with lows.

Not going out on May Long weekend was the lynch pin for this challenge, as you can expect to eat at least eight hot dogs over the course of a weekend.

We did a lot of barbecuing this year but our interests spread out to salmon and other meats more than the cylindrical snouts and entrails. I never went out of my way to eat a hot dog, and while 45.5 is a lot, it’s not enough. I will pick up some mustard and some fresh buns and hope that the third iteration of this challenge is a little more successful.