Near-field Communication fun!

Been a while again!

I upgraded my phone to an HTC One X, which has NFC (Near Field Communications). This technology allows seamless transfer of data. This means no pairing, no friendlisting. You just touch two phones together, or a phone against a tag or other device and they are instantly connected. This allows for many things to take use of this, such as easy transferring of phone contacts or web pages, to contactless payment, and much more.

Here’s a couple of examples showing how I’ve been using it:

First up, a kitchen timer!
KitchenNFC Timer

I programmed these tags with NFC Task Launcher (Google Play Store). When I tap one of the stickers, my phone sets an alarm for the appropriate time. This isn’t cumulative, but a static timer for each sticker. Comes in handy for those recipes that always tend to stick around 5s and 10s!

The stickers in these are from BuyNFCTags.com, SmarTrac Bullseye NTAGs. They are basically passive stickers with 144 bytes of data. Not much, but enough to store commands from NFC Task Manager. I’ve programmed these each with different alarms. The app has a task specifically for “# minutes from now”, so it wasn’t too difficult and can be easily replicated.

My second use I’ve found is demonstrated in this video:

I basically use this in tandem with my Bluetooth headphones. I modded the headphones with NFC (Re: taped an NFC sticker onto it). It also has a “companion” tag to use with it on my desks at home at work. When I tap the tag in the headphones, my phone’s Bluetooth turns on and opens the music app, while also disabling Wi-Fi (to save power on my trip to work). When I get to work, I tap the tag there to turn Wi-Fi back on and disable Bluetooth. Same with my ride home from work in the evening. Very handy and takes just a tap to do it! There isn’t any digging into settings.

I have a final idea, but I will keep mum about it until I find out if the next iPhone includes NFC.

Anyway, that is my fun with NFC! I really don’t think I could go back to a phone without it after this. Android has a few quirks, but this more than makes up for them.

New Job, New Place

Been a while since I updated! I unfortunately haven’t taken many personal photos, but I did have been busy.  I got a full-time job working for Bryn Mawr College in December. I basically do all the photography and video for the communications department. I’ve already done a few video and photo assignments. I’ve taken some pictures of a renovation at the Guild (Pronounced Guyle for some reason?) and made a video showcasing students of a Certificate in Management class, both of which can be seen below. Overall, I think the job makes very good use of my talents in both video and photography.


I also moved into my own place! It’s a studio with a separate kitchen and two closets, one of which is walk-in. Here’s an embeded 360 panorama, doesn’t showcase the whole thing but you get a good idea.


 

Made a trip to IKEA and got this awesome desk:

Desk
Click to see on the IKEA site

It’s really nice. I have it to where the cable hole is on the wrong side of the wall, but it has a nice cable run inside to tuck away the ugly cables. It even fit a power strip inside the run! And it has two really big drawers that are nice for stowing extra USB cables.

The futon I got for free, so I can’t complain.  But I love the new place, great to finally have a place all to my own.

Galaxy Tab 8.9 Review

I said in my last post that I would do a better writeup on my new Galaxy Tab 8.9, so here it is. I recently came upon owning this from winning a contest from Android and Me, which was sponsored by Nvidia Tegra. I’ve actually had my eye on this tablet for a while, so this is perfect for me. I was getting kind of tired of my Nook Color and it’s smaller screen and slower processor. Anyway, more after the break.

GTab-7

First of all, let’s look at the specs. It has pretty much identical specs to any other first-generation Honeycomb tablet. It sports Android 3.1, so while it doesn’t have the latest software, it is pretty up-to-date. But it has a 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 processor, 1GB RAM, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, all that good stuff. And it packs it into a pretty small package, I am able to easily slide it into the back pocket of my camera bag.

GTab

The Galaxy Tab also sports a 8.9″ 1280×800 “PLS” (which I guess is Samsung’s market speak for their IPS-beating technology) display.  And the colors are gorgeous. I can’t tell you how great my photos look on this thing. Though I will complain about the overzelaous “Auto-Brightness”, which keeps the display almost too dark to appreciate. It is a huge improvement in both responsiveness and resolution over the 1024×600 Nook Color, though. I also want to mention that the screen is a huge fingerprint magnet, so I will probably be getting a matte screen protector like I had for my Nook.

As for the size, it is perfect for me. It’s small enough to fit in my camera bag but large enough to enjoy movies on. It’s only about a pound, and the thinness is perfect for me. I’m able to hold it with one hand both landscape and portrait, which is perfect for reading. I guess this is also where I mention the cameras, 2 megapixel front camera and a 3.something megapixel one in the rear. Honestly I doubt I see myself using the back one other than to scan a quick QR code. Though the first one seems likely to see use in Skype and GTalk, it had trouble keeping up in low light.

 

image
The homescreen, as customized by me. Android offers a lot of customization options over iOS, due to its many useful widgets.

And now onto the software, I guess. This comes loaded with Android 3.1, with Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface. There are a couple of neat customizations. I enjoy the slate gray of the soft buttons, they seem to be a bit more professional looking than stock Honeycomb’s “neon” look. Also a feature I forgot to screenshot: if you click the little ^ in the middle of the status bar, it pops up with a list of TouchWiz apps. These are different from normal Android apps as they only take up little windows, and not the entire screen. They are handy if you need to kill a task quickly, or do some quick math on a calculator. Also includes a Calendar, World Clock, Pen Memo for takings notes, and a music player.

The home screen is initially loaded with Samsung widgets, which are easily resizable. I, however, decided to remove all the widgets since they weren’t as aesthetically pleasing as I would have liked. There are 5 different pages, each customizable in an eight by seven grid. Some widgets take more, some less. What’s good though is that the included widgets are resizable.  Browsing through the homescreen is smooth enough, however if something is going on in the background, like if you just closed an app, it can get a bit choppy.

Gmail App Image
Gmail's "Split Pane" view

The included apps are designed really well for tablets, something the Nook Color sorely lacked. Gmail’s scrollable widgets has eliminated the need for me to keep a dedicated Gmail icon on the home screen. As for the app itself, the split pane layout is great on the screen. Being able to go through labels on one side while seeing the emails contained within on the other side of the screen is much better than switching screens every time. When you select an email, it turns into another dual pane view of the email and the other emails in that label. Again, much better than non-Honeycomb tablets like the Nook Color where you would have to switch back and forth between the views each time you wanted to see another email.

Google Maps Image
Google Maps, in its "3D Mode"

Another included program is Google Maps. It works pretty well, though I don’t see myself using it for routing, as I usually just do that on my phone so I can keep the directions with me. The 3D mode is need though, as you can see the actual shapes of the buildings to help you get your bearings.

 

Honeycomb Browser
The browser, with its quick controls enabled.

And now for what people will probably spend most their time using. The browser. It is a great, speedy browser, and the quick controls seen above are great to use. However, I found it very lacking in GIF performance, often playing frames out of sequence and at a much slower rate than usual. I now use Opera, which has great performance and the GIFs play flawlessly on it. Has a great interface too, but I do miss the quick controls from the stock browser.

Android Keyboard, "SwiftKey"
SwiftKey, an alternate keyboard

The Tab comes with 3 default keyboards installed. The default Honeycomb keyboard, Samsung’s own keyboard, and Swype. All of these are decent keyboards and can get the job done. However, one of my favorite parts about Android is the ability to download custom keyboards. My favorite of these is SwiftKey Tablet X Keyboard. It has a great predictive engine, and options for a split-key layout in portrait, which is great for typing with thumbs.

The Honeycomb market is lacking on Tablet specific apps, much more so than the iPad App Store, however I feel that this gap will narrow with time, especially considering the imminent release of Ice Cream Sandwich, which is Google’s combined phone and tablet version of Android. A couple of great tablet apps I would recommend are IM+, an instant messaging client, and the Google Reader app is great. See Tablified.com for a good selection of Honeycomb enabled apps.

A small note: gaming performance is excellent. The Tegra II really flies with the games designed for it, which can be found in an app called Tegra Zone. One such game is Galaxy of (or on?) Fire II, which has amazing 3D visuals. Not quite Xbox 360 class, but still great looking. I also run an N64 emulator, which runs flawlessly.

And now for the other side: the “not so great” stuff. For one, while TouchWiz’s interface can be useful sometime, I have had to restart more than once due to the system locking up. I’m not sure if this is due to Samsung’s own code or Google’s. But it isn’t the most stable OS around. I’ll give it a small pass however, since my iPhone is prone to do the same thing. Another minus is the lack of ports, such as HDMI and a full USB port, which can be found on the more inexpensive Android tablets. Also missing is expandable storage. However, these things seem to be needed to be removed to get the thickness down to what it is.

All in all, I definitely would have ended up feeling justified it in buying this if I had paid for it instead of winning it. An all around great tablet at a decent price. Some may feel that it needs to be a smaller price ($450 as of this post) due to the smaller size, I feel that it is a nearly identical cousin to the 10.1 ($500), in a smaller package. At $50 less for pretty much the same product, it is a deal.

Pros:

  • Great customization options
  • Scrollable widgets are great for email and social feeds
  • Responsive touchscreen
  • Beautiful screen
  • Great gaming performance
  • The Honeycomb-designed apps are really great to use

Cons

  • Software can be a bit unstable
  • Unfortunately, not many apps are designed for tablets

I would definitely recommend this to someone looking for a tablet. I’ve been enjoying it a lot myself, and definitely prefer it over the iPad software. I guess this has been a bit longer than I expected, but I wanted my review to be thorough. So I hope it has helped anyone looking for some feedback on this device!

30 Day Photo Wrap-up, and more

Today marks the final day of my 30-Day Photo project. The last day was self-portrait, which I needed a new one of:

I liked this project. It helped me discover again how it was to think out a picture before hand, and go out and make that picture happen, instead of letting that picture come to me.

30 Day Photo Challenge

I suppose I should write a blog post about this. At the start of this week, Colleen roped me into doing a 30-day photo challenge with her. I took this as an excuse to make a page to showcase my personal projects, which can be found at projects.kitfphoto.com.

Day 2 - Rocks

So far, I’ve done Books, rocks (right), “in my bag”, water, and close-up (below). I’ll be revealing the title for the site on the day I upload it. When it’s over, I will upload a gallery on my SmugMug site with larger images. I’ve inserted a couple of pictures from the project, click through to go to the page on my project site.

I hope you enjoy it! And if you are looking for more photos, don’t forget to check out my gallery at Kit F Photo, and contact me if you would like to use them.

Day 5 - Close-Up

New host, new theme!

It’s been a while since I have posted. I guess it is time to do that! I’m still in Philadelphia, looking for work, so don’t hesitate to contact me if you need any photo or video work done.

I’ve converted my kitfphoto.com email into a Google Apps account to let me manage my calendars and emails more easily. It’ll also mean better meeting invite handling. Also with the Google Apps account comes a new YouTube page for my professional work. As for hosting, I am now with Lithium Hosting. I’ve been recommending them for a while, but I never switched over myself for some reason. But now I am! They transferred everything over very quickly, and was a speedy process. And now when I go to my cPanel I don’t have to have so many SSL errors! Great host.

I’ve also taken a few photos, which are below.

 

The baseball stadium and the picture to the right are of a new park in Philadelphia. Penn Park is located near 30th and Walnut. It seems okay for sporting events, but doesn’t seem like  the type of place to “hang out”. But it has a good view of the city, which unfortunately is kind of hard to photograph during the day.

The other photos are from the Bryn Mawr campus, which I must say is a really nice campus. As always, you can see these pictures larger and more at my gallery!

Lastly, I’ve been volunteering for some video work, so expect to see more on my YouTube portfolio soon!

Morning River Band Show

Well I’ve been in Philly for 3 months now. A couple of prospects on the job front, but nothing quite set in stone yet. But I’ve been shooting some events, the most recent of which was the Morning River Band’s CD release show. Here are a few shots:

 

 

More pictures after the break.

 

So all in all, I had a lot of fun shooting the show.  It seems there is a lot more opportunity for a good shot unlike a wedding.  I also shot the Fourth Wall Arts Salon for my internship, which was also a lot of fun.

Well that’s just about what I’ve been up to. I’ll be sure to post more often when I get gigs. Don’t forget, if you need anything shot, head over to the Contact Page to hit me up, and we can work something out.

Motion Photography

Kind of oxymoronic, yes? I was inspired to do this fromme-toyou on tumblr.

 

Instead of an instant of time, you capture a moment. Here’s my first shot:

To do this, I basically took a short (20 seconds or so) video, and opened it up in AfterEffects.  I created freeze frames of each state of the lights and alternated the transparency to mimic the original video. I stabilized it by rotating and moving the freeze frames to match best I could, and masked out all the portion of the images that didn’t change. You can still see some unstable bits, but they are relegated to the lights themselves, instead of the entire image.

I’m looking forward to trying more of these types of experiments out!