The iPhone comes to Ireland with a whimper

O2 Ireland are bringing the iPhone here on 14th March.

Some points:

  • No unlimited data plan. 1GB per month limit. 2c per MB after that. That works out at just over €20 for an extra GB/month.
  • No visual voicemail
  • €399 for the 8GB, €499 for the 16GB
  • €45 per month for the cheapest tarrif giving 175 minutes and 100 texts per month. 18 month agreement.

So, am I going to get one? No. Why?

  • I already have a 16GB iPod touch that does just about everything I need bar making calls
  • My Nokia N80 suits me fine.
  • I’ll wait for the 3G iPhone to come along thanks.
  • The handset prices are too high, coming in at more than £50 more expensive than you’d pay on O2 UK for a 16GB model.
  • I’m a Speakeasy (PAYG) customer. Those contract rates look stupid compared to what you get on O2 in the UK. £35 for 600 minutes, 500 texts, unlimited data and visual voicemail. I’m not about to sign up for 18 months of what o2.ie are offering.
  • No indication of any wifi hotspot deal such as O2 UK have with The Cloud.

All in all the term rip-off springs to mind.

iPhone event

So Apple have announced an event for 6th March (see TUAW) Here’s my wishes:

  • Obviously the SDK is going to be released. I hope this provides support for the iPod Touch as well.
  • Flash would be nice
  • Enterprise capabilities? Well support for 802.11 authentication and LEAP would be nice!
  • There’s already a VPN client, but I don’t know if I can use it to get into IBM (I suspect not) One where I knew I could would be cool

Innovation that matters

About a year ago, IBM ran an internal competition for employees to produce a short video on the theme of “Innovation that matters”

Over 500 entries were submitted from all corners of the world and were subsequently rated and commented on by fellow employees. The most highly rated made it through to a shortlist from which five winners were selected by a panel of judges.

Myself, Steve Haskey and Brian Hulse from IBM UK based in the Hursley lab put together our effort which from the outset was planned to be a light-hearted comedy sketch with a salient message. Steve and I wrote and acted whilst Brian provided voiceover and musical talent. Steve did the really hard work of filming, directing and editing.

Shot over a six hour period one Saturday morning, Listening is the first step became the highest rated entry and one of the five selected winners. Since then it has been used numerous times both within the company and externally. It’s been shown at divisional kick-off meetings and to customers and has been downloaded internally over 40,000 times. One thing we always wanted to do with it was give it a wider audience, and to that effect we’ve been given permission to put it up on You Tube. So, without further ado, here is our video. Enjoy.

Feed reader viewers may want to skip to the full post to view.

The good news is that the 2008 competition will be announced soon, so you can hopefully expect to see more fun videos in the future. However I doubt you will see one from us. Steve and his wife Wendy-Ann are busy looking after their new born twins, I have moved to Ireland and Brian is probably busy picking up the pieces I left behind in my old job 😉

Photoshop CS3 and the 7-Point System

Up until now I’ve mainly been using Adobe Lightroom to process my RAW photos for white balance, exposure and tonal correction along with removing dust spots and sharpening. Whilst I’ve got pretty used to Lightroom I’ve often found myself wanting to do a bit more. I have a copy of Photoshop Elements 4 on my Mac and sometimes take photos out to that to do a little more with levels and layers. However I’ve never really invested much effort into that side of things. Whilst I always try to get things right in-camera I’ve become increasingly interested in improving my post-processing skills.

Adobe Photoshop CS3

Adobe Photoshop CS3 is pretty much the de-facto standard for photo editing, but the problem is it costs a lot. I’ve never been one for the illegal use of software, mainly because I work in the industry, so up to this point have simply got by with what I have, plus a few great low-cost tools like FDRTools, Calico and NoiseNinja.

So, I recently stumped up and bought Photoshop CS3. I also got a couple of books: Adobe Photoshop CS3 for Photographers by Martin Evening, and Scott Kelby’s 7-point System for Adobe Photoshop CS3.

Scott Kelby's 7-Point System for Adobe Photoshop CS3

Whilst Evening’s book is a typically comprehensive overview of the features and function relevant to photographers, the Kelby book is structured in a different way. It concentrates on a core set of functions and techniques, including processing in Camera Raw (or Lightroom), curves, shadow/highlight adjustments, painting with light, channel adjustments, layer blending and layer masks and sharpening. It applied these techniques to 21 photos each in it’s own chapter. It is basically teaching by rote. You can download the RAW files he uses and follow along with each chapter taking you through the same set of actions (more or less) until they become ingrained. Along the way he introduces other techniques but never digresses too far from the seven key concepts.

I’ve found this very useful in terms of helping me learn what to apply in what circumstances. There’s such a wide array of tools in Photoshop that there are effectively many ways to achieve the same end result. Already I look back at how I used to do things in Elements and know it wasn’t the right way. The real value I’m getting from the 7-point system is to give me a solid base skill set that I know when and how to deploy for the result I want to achieve. Without this and if I just had the Evening book (or any similar one, including other Kelby efforts) then the information overload it gives you can be a problem and it is hard to relate that to what you would need to do to take one particular photo from start to finish.

Of course, the danger is that the 7-point system becomes too formulaic and the inevitable look that it produces becomes too familiar. I think the challenge here is to use it as a basis but then extend that knowledge with your own style and ideas, and other techniques that you pick up along the way.

Wacom Bamboo

To end, CS3 has also been great fun to use with one of my Christmas presents: a Wacom Bamboo graphics tablet. I can’t wait to revisit some of my back-catalogue of photos and work them through CS3!

Thumbs up for Register1 hosting

This web site and blog is hosted by the ever excellent register1.net

On my previous blog entry I hit a problem when uploading photos (I normally just link from ones on flickr) Specifically I hit a php process memory limit. Register1 responded to my support ticket asking for the limit to be raised within 5 minutes and doubled the limit. That is amazing service given it is a Sunday. During some recent problems with my blog being hacked to insert search keywords and links they provided log details of attempted ftp accesses and blacklisted various IPs from China and elsewhere. All in all my experience of them over the last year has been entirely positive and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them for anybody in the UK or elsewhere looking for hosting.

Rolex 24 at Daytona

Daytona-2

With a free Friday in Florida after the end of Lotusphere, a few of us took the opportunity to head the 70 miles up to Daytona and catch the Friday practice and qualifying sessions for the Rolex 24, otherwise known as the 24 hours of Daytona.

For just $25 we gained access to the infield and garages and got up close to the prototype and GT cars taking part in the event. In addition to the practice and qualifying sessions we also got to watch a good hour or so of the Florida 200 race in which 95 cars ranging from Roush tuned V8 Mustangs to Mini Cooper S’s raced in a fairly hectic encounter.

This was my first go at motorsport photography and the dark-art of panning. For the non-photographers out there, panning involves tracking the car with the camera whilst using a deliberately slow shutter speed. If done properly this leaves the car in focus and the background nicely blurred, really giving the car a punch that makes it stand out. Whilst it is fairly easy (at least in the bright Florida sunshine) to use high shutter speeds to freeze the action and get sharp shots, a good panning shot will really stand out. For example, compare the shot of the Ferrari F430 at the top of the post with this one of a Roush Mustang from the Florida 200 race:

Daytona-10

Unfortunately, panning is hard. Especially when shotting hand-held. With my 55-200 Tamron lens I only got about half a dozen worth panning shots out of probably over 100 attempts. The good news is that with motor racing you are typically not short of opportunities to get the shot you want given the cars tend to come round quite often!

The access to the garage areas was great, and I have a load of shots ready to be processed from that. One particular highlight for me was seeing a couple of British drivers – one well known and one not so (at least in the UK) As you can see below, the veteran Derek Bell was driving in the 24 hour race in a Pontiac Riley prototype. His car finished in 63rd place overall and 24th in the prototype class.

Derek Bell

However the highlight for me was getting to meet Dan Wheldon. He was a few years below me at school and went on to win the Indy 500 and Indycar series in his rookie year, as well as being a previous Rolex 24 winner. I managed to blag my way into his trailer based on this tenuous link and had a quick chat with him and fiancée.

Dan Wheldon

Unfortunately he didn’t have the best weekend. His car was crashed by a team-mate on Thursday and they finished 42nd overall, 18th in class in the Chip Ganassi Target Lexus Riley.

Lotusphere 2008

Lotusphere 2008 Beach Party 2

This entry is probably overdue and a little past it’s sell by date by now, but I’ve only just had the time to catch my breath in the last week or so since getting back from Orlando.

My first ever trip to a Lotusphere conference was simply all I expected it to be and more. I had the chance to meet lots of people I’ve worked with for the last six months or so, and also others who I’ve built up a relationship with over Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Connections, Beehive and various other social software tools. In addition I got to see work I’ve been leading shown as part of the Lotus Connections 2.0 related announcements, sessions and demos during the week. Staffing the Connections area in the Meet the developers lab gave me the opportunity to talk to a wide variety of customers, either already using Connections or considering doing so.

The reception that the new features of Connections 2.0 got was generally very pleasing, and on a selfish front the Home page appeared to go down well. I’ll be contributing a more detailed blog entry on the Home page to the synch.rono.us blog in the near future.

Aside from all that the conference experience was pretty unique in my experience of these things. There definitely is a great community spirit around Lotus products, and I got the impression that it is stronger than ever. A few other notes:

  • Aer Lingus transatlantic Dublin – Orlando was convenient and generally very good. Leg room in economy was on a par with American and the service much better.
  • The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resort is a great conference facility. I’d put it ahead of anywhere else I’ve experienced including various Vegas venues.
  • It was nice to have a chance to exercise the favourable Euro-Dollar exchange rate!
  • It helps if you can get by with very little sleep for a whole week.

As ever, my photos from the event are available on flickr