Lightroom 4 Photo Fun – My Nephew

I took few pictures of my nephew using iPhone 4’s camera.  Afterward, I used Lightroom 4 to retouch the photos.  One of the photos was retouched to have a darken look.  The other photo was retouched to have a glowing, dreamy look.  Anyhow, you can check out my nephew photos right after the break.  Enjoy!!!

Lightroom 4 Photo Fun – Watermelons Stack On Top Of Each Other

Hopefully I will soon be able to retouch photos of non-fruity things, but the photos below are still fruity.  Check out the watermelons stack on top of each other!  Just for comparison, the original image was taken from iPhone 4 and the retouched image was retouched by Lightroom 4 (Adobe photo editing software).  I like the retouched one better since it was sharpened about 45 percent with low noise reduction in luminance and color, giving the background of the retouched photo a smoother look (i.e., not too grainy).  Enjoy!!!

The images above were taken and created by Vinh Nguyen.  You can reuse the images for all purposes, but you have to credit Vinh Nguyen for the images.  The images above contain the traditional copyright license which credits to Vinh Nguyen only, therefore you cannot redistribute the images above under creative common licenses.

Afterthought:  I added way too much red onto the red lanterns on the background of the retouched photo above.  Oh well, I guess overall the retouched image does look better than the original image.

Sometimes, I’m Very Whiny! This Time, It’s About Where The Heck Is My Lumia 900…

Nokia Lumia 900, powered by Windows Phone

Nokia Lumia 900, powered by Windows Phone (Photo credit: gui ambros)

I know I should not be whining too much, but I was infuriated.  I ordered Lumia 900 through Amazon Wireless, and the order went through as Amazon thought AT&T had approved my phone upgrade.  The order was hard to pass since I could upgrade to Lumia 900 from iPhone 4 (not the 4s) for only $20 (actually it would be $56 since one time activation fee from AT&T would be $36).  I was so happy and went on with my day as I so expected to be able to play with Lumia 900.

At first I was not even thought about having a phone upgrade since I was pretty happy with iPhone 4.  Unfortunately, it turned out that my iPhone 4 refused to charge its battery for couple times already.  Then there was this feeling that I was bored with iPhone ecosystem.  I had too many useless apps on iPhone that I would never even have time to play around with.  Furthermore, I rarely used my iPhone for anything else besides talking on the phone for obvious reasons, listening to music through Spotify, playing chess in spare time (although I’m really bad at chess), and using Flipboard to catch up with technology news.  The decision to upgrade to Lumia 900 was easy.  First, it was cheap as in $20 upgrade.  Second, Lumia 900 could do all the things I had described that I would do with an iPhone.  Third, Lumia 900 is a Windows Phone, therefore it’s radically different than iPhone and Android phones in term of operating system.  Fourth, Lumia 900 looks gorgeous.  Fifth, Microsoft’s mantra for Windows Phone is to be less app centric and more of getting things done.  Well, the last point could be a propaganda from Microsoft, but I see it as something I have been doing already anyway… playing less with senseless apps and stick with what matter most.

So, I was so expected to see Lumia 900 to arrive at my front door.  A day later, Amazon sent me an email and informed me that they had redirected my would be gorgeous Lumia 900 back to their base of operation, because something had went wrong with my phone upgrade approval.  In their email, Amazon told me to call AT&T up for further explanation.  I called AT&T, and they told me that Amazon might have ran out of Lumia 900 phone.  I was amazed!  Could it be Lumia 900 was this hot?  On a second thought, could it be Lumia 900 wasn’t a sure deal for everyone, therefore they would not stock enough of these phones and had none in stock when the supply of these phones ran out?  Eagerly, I rang Amazon up since AT&T told me Amazon might be able to help me with straightening my problem out since I went through Amazon the first time around for the phone upgrade.  Amazon told me that AT&T had sent them a message which to deny my phone upgrade plan.  Nonetheless, I spoke with AT&T earlier and they told me that my phone upgrade plan was already approved and all I had to do was to activate the phone when I could receive the phone.  I told that to Amazon, but all Amazon could do was to reverse my upgrade plan so I would have my original phone plan again.

I know, my original phone plan was a great phone plan as it had unlimited data option.  My iPhone 4 was grandfathered in with earlier phone contract.  Still, I was prepare to let go the unlimited data option for a radical change to Windows Phone ecosystem.  So, in the end, I have to wait and wait and wait in order for anything to happen.  I wasn’t impatient but as a customer I was expecting a lot more from the two giant corporations.  I’m curious how came these two gigantic corporations had failed to communicate with each other and let the customer to experience a non-smooth transition in regarding to phone upgrade?

I’m not really an impatient person, but I guess once you got used to super fast deliveries from Amazon you would expect too much from them in the end.  Amazon had never failed to deliver anything to me before, but this is the first.  Perhaps, once in a while, there will be the first of something which begs me to have an experience of.  Amazon was my first choice of ordering smart phone since it would deliver products amazingly fast, and it would be cheaper for me to order Lumia 900 through Amazon.  I talked to AT&T and they told me AT&T could only sell me Lumia 900 at $90 something (I forgot the exact amount, but it was $90 something).  The choice of ordering Lumia 900 through which party was obvious.  Now, I’m crossing my fingers that they would reverse my phone plan correctly so I could once again begin the upgrade process… again… sigh!!!

Do you have a bad experience of ordering a new or upgrade or replacement smart phone with Amazon and AT&T before?  Why don’t you share your story with everyone in the comment section, right beneath this post of mine.  So, go ahead and post yours OK?

I Love My iPad Very Much, But I Can’t Just Be So Close To It Even Though I Really Want To! Kinky?

Left: iPhone 4. Right: iPad 2. Placed together...

Left: iPhone 4. Right: iPad 2. Placed together for size comparison. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is my honest assessment of my iPad usage since the day I bought it.  I have an iPad 2 from very early on, but I rarely use it!  How come?  Before I start to rant on, let me get something straight first!  I don’t plan to buy iPad 3 or however Apple calls it (the new iPad, I believe), because I rarely use iPad 2.  So, how come, right?  Well, iPad is a very good device and I’m loving it, but it’s just so limited for me.  Check out the points below that shine some light on why iPad 2 is so limited for me.

  • Watching Netflix on iPad 2 isn’t so satisfying, because I have my big screen TV (hooking up with PS3 and Xbox 360 for Netflix) or a 27″ computer monitor (hooking up with computer to watch Netflix)!
  • I find myself prefer watching Netflix on iPhone 4 since it’s lighter and smaller for on the go purpose (i.e., traveling).
  • Reading on iPad 2 is so so, because I prefer to read it with dedicated E-ink device such as Amazon’s Kindle.
  • Playing video games on iPad 2 isn’t fun, because I prefer better game experiences on my dedicated gaming PC/Desktop, Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles.
  • I find myself playing video games on iPhone 4 more than iPad 2 since iPhone 4 can be carried around at all times — how iPhone 4 follows me through thick and thin and I don’t imagine myself carrying iPad 2 around all day.
  • Working with files on iPad 2 just plain suck!  I rather do this on my MacBook Pro and Windows 7 PC and Ubuntu laptop.
  • Creating contents (e.g., making short films for YouTube, writing articles) with iPad 2 is a no no for me, because iPad 2 doesn’t have the power and the tools for me to work with my creative contents.  Plus, I cannot save my creative contents to local storage bank easily.  I care about the cloud, but I do care about local storage bank even more for obvious reasons (e.g., on-site access to save bandwidth, the whole nine yards).
  • I’ve always feel odd for holding iPad 2 in Starbucks, and yet I don’t feel odd for holding iPhone in Starbucks.  Don’t ask me why, because I don’t even know why!
  • Camera on iPhone 4 just works better than iPad 2 — probably the holding of iPhone 4 feels much more comfortable for camera usage purpose.
  • iPad 2 is great for browsing the web, but since I like to do many things at once (e.g., playing games, email, web browsing, creating contents, playing more games) and so I prefer to work with more powerful devices such as MacBook Pro and Windows 7 Desktop.
  • Listening to music cannot be done on iPad 2 in my case, because native Spotify app has not yet come out for iPad.  Plus, the sound on iPad 2 is a no no for listening to music.  I rather listen to music through iPhone 4 that hooks to my car’s auxiliary port (i.e., better sound from car’s array of speakers) or the awesome speakers from my PC.
  • I love blogging as you can see what I’m doing right now on this blog, but I’ve found out that blogging on iPad 2 is a real pain in the you know what.  End of story for this particular point, because iPad 2 cancels its true purpose if I have to carry an extra keyboard or bulky keyboard case around with it.

In the end, I think my iPad 2 is only a good backup for my iPhone 4.  That’s, when iPhone 4 runs out of battery and needs to be recharged.  That’s, when iPhone 4 needs to be replaced by another smartphone or iPhone newer generation model/device.  That’s, when iPhone 4 has issued with a particular on the go app (but this is most unlikely for me).  So, my honest opinion on iPad 2 or any iPad in general is that I don’t really care to have iPad, because it seems to me the device is just another netbook but with just some more advantages (i.e., not a whole lot more advantages I mean) in fashion, trend, and portability.  I’m not even close to 40s, and yet I feel I’m too old for the people who think iPad is the only thing they ever need!  I do feel smartphone has become evermore useful in terms of portability and usability, but I can’t say so for iPad!  Let me end this blog post with this, “I love my iPad very much, but I can’t just be so close to it even though I really want to!”  Kinky?

Watch out Siri, Assistant Is On The Way To Best You!

Google

Google (Photo credit: Daniel Morris)

It’s so obvious to just about anybody that Google has got to be forevermore innovative in its dominant specialty which is Google Search.  You know, the thing that you do on the Internet whenever you stuck and need some answers to your particular problems (i.e., searching the web).  If Google snoozes, plenty of newcomers will overtake Google by being innovative.

Just recently, we have seen waves of innovations that might do just that!  Siri from Apple is one of those waves that might undermine Google’s future!  We know Google’s bread and butter has got to be Adsense and Adwords — these two technologies are relying on Google Search or else things will be moot for Google’s bottom line.  But why Siri and similar technologies?  Siri and similar technologies promise a step up artificial intelligence kind of technology which might be more attractive than just plain smart search engine.  With this in mind, we can see why Google might not like the idea of Siri to be the future search engine, because Adsense and Adwords will become irrelevant and bringing in less revenues when Google Search becomes less popular.

Of course, as now, we might think Siri, Evi, and others are just cosmetic effects for inferior search engines when one compares such things against Google’s effective search engine.  Nonetheless, one must not forget that Siri and the likes are possibly more awesome since it might be applicable for more than just your traditional computers.  People don’t exactly use laptops and desktops on the go as much as how they are with their smartphones, and this is why Siri is much more attractive on smartphones than plain old search engine.  Searching for something through voices can be less painful than typing in things on tiny screens that you often find with tiny smartphones.  And we know nowadays smartphones matter since these things are even more proliferate than laptops and desktops; for entirely different purpose which is surprisingly quite pleasant to many people — they’re going to be used on the road!

What’s more is not all about voice activation but more of the novelty of having a digital assistant.  Of course, as now Siri and the likes might not be exactly how people expect these technologies to be since the intelligence of these technologies aren’t yet quite sophisticated, but giving times I think these technologies will be smarter and then Google really has to worry then.  Imagine how something as Siri can be inside cars, houses, TVs, computers, and more.

It’s that obvious Siri can assist with more things than just being iPhone 4S’s assistant.  And we know we can use Siri or Evi to find things on the web.  What’s more is that Siri allows iPhones owners to execute tasks on their iPhones.  The artificial intelligence is now becoming more apparent as the virtual/virtue of the future of all things digital and real life.  Instead of imagining something much far out, we can just take a look at what we have already imagined and see why artificial intelligence of Siri and the likes will be so successful that Google will be tremble with fear.  It’s all about the Jetsons.  The lifestyle where robots serve their masters is indeed quite appealing!  Siri and the likes can certainly be installed onto robots!  Aren’t our cars becoming more robot-like?

One thing which I’m uncertain about the business model of Siri and the likes is how will the advertising business model fit into this technological picture?  Certainly, it’s quite awkward for Siri to spew commercials right?  We can’t really have or like that right?  I know I won’t!  Anyhow, I think eventually someone might find ways to squeeze in profitable business models for Siri and the likes.

Even Siri and the likes might not yet be profitable for the bearers (i.e., the founders or companies of these technologies), Google is not going to sit idle around for something or someone to usurp its bread and butter. This is why I’m not surprised to read a TechCrunch’s report Google’s Plan To Compete With Apple’s Multi-Platform Siri? Google “Assistant” which has reported that Google is working on a technology which goes beyond Siri to compete against Siri and the likes.  I think TechCrunch’s report mentioned they called Google’s Siri counterpart as Assistant.  Perhaps this name might be up for trademark troll?  Google might just as well better call it as Google Assistant, because the plain Assistant is either too common of a word to trademark or someone probably has used it within a computing field already.  Apple’s recent iPad trademark legal battle against Proview might be the best lesson for Google’s Assistant?

Anyhow, TechCrunch reported that Assistant might emphasize in helping real people solve real problems.  It certainly sounds to me as if Assistant is a better type of artificial intelligence design.  After all, this technology designs to solve people’s real problems, right?  TechCrunch reported that Google might allow third party developers to hook into Assistant’s API to create novel things.  If this is true, then it’s certainly that Google is taking an opposite direction of how utilizing something similar to Siri in general, because Apple is tightly guarding its Siri technology to a point that one can say three words, wall gardened experience.

So, in a sense, now it’s on Apple!  Even though Google has not yet released Assistant, it seems that Apple might better be making Siri as prolific as possible for the market, or else Assistant is going to do just that, stealing the spotlight from Siri eventually!  Luckily for Siri, I think Apple is moving in the direction where Siri can be found to be coupled with even more technologies.  One example would be how Arstechnica reported Siri will be coupled with Mercedes so drivers can use Siri to command Mercedes to do things (e.g., turning on radio, playing mp3s, GPS-ing).

Sources:

Evi Might Outdo Siri And Google Search

Image of Evi App taken from Vinh Nguyen's iPhone 4

Image of Evi App taken from Vinh Nguyen's iPhone 4

I couldn’t yet upgrade to iPhone 4S from my iPhone 4, therefore I had not a chance to experience Siri.  Luckily, I found an article in regarding to how Apple would pull Evi off its App Store by TechCrunch, because Apple did not like how Evi could do similar things to Siri and do them well.  I went to the App Store immediately to see if Evi was gone from App Store yet, but to the sigh of my relief it was there still.  I purchased Evi for $0.99.  I tested out Evi and it was certainly a little nice app for $0.99.

People have been reporting how Evi’s true knowledge search engine may make Siri looks dumb.  So, I tested it out, and I’ve found Evi’s server to be super busy as it seemed to tell me that it had gotten trouble from getting a response from its servers.  Nonetheless, as long I tried again or few more times with the same questions, Evi eventually got it right by spitting out correct answers.  Of course, Evi could not hook me up directly to iPhone 4’s applications and performed tasks, but I think Evi could be a contender for Siri and Google!

Yes, this sort of apps might make Google’s search engine goes the way of the dinosaurs.  So, I think if I’m Google, I better create something that is better than this sort of things (e.g., Evi, Siri, Vlingo).  Get busy Google!

In conclusion, Evi is cheap enough and nice enough, I don’t regret of having it.  Perhaps, I might use Evi for stupid questions such as “Where can I buy a cat?” — even though I know I would never get one and yet I know Evi would give me the answer anyway.  That’s the beauty of Evi.  Evi would point me to several locations that Evi thinks I might find a cat of my liking.  How about this one?  “How do I make the best coffee?”