Archive for September, 2014

Thoughts on the iPhone 6

September 29, 2014 Leave a comment

I have now been using an iPhone 6 (not a 6 Plus) for a few days so I think now is a good time to report back on my experiences with it. Before choosing the smaller 6 I evaluated both it and the 6 Plus using a mock-up laser-cut from a sheet of MDF. In that time I found the bigger phone would be just too awkward so I chose the 4.7 inch screen iPhone 6 with the maximum 128G of storage.

When I unpacked it I immediately thought it looked bigger than I expected, especially compared with the iPhone 5 I had at the time. But now, after a few days use, the screen seems just about right. There are times when reaching the top of the screen is awkward so I certainly wouldn’t want anything bigger, but I find reading email, web pages, etc, a lot easier so I guess it’s all about the compromise between reading the screen and ease of carrying it around.

The screen is not only a good size (maybe just slightly too big) but it is also beautiful. The clarity, colour accuracy, contrast, viewing angle, and even performance in full sunlight are all impressive. It is a step up from the earlier phones which were already very good. Whether AMOLED is better or worse depends on what your priorities are, I guess.

The iPhone 5 was no slug but the 6 feels so much faster. Certain apps (the Tom Tom GPS app for example) took a while to launch on the older phone but are much faster on the new one. And the sharing screen appears much faster now, there are just no significant delays at all.

In the past I have always had the screen lock off because I didn’t want to enter a PIN every time I unlocked the phone, but I can say that the fingerprint sensor on the 6 works perfectly. It unlocks every time for me and has never unlocked for anyone else, so I can have good security without any inconvenience at all. I just rest my finger for a fraction of a second on the sensor (which is also the wake button) and the phone is unlocked.

The new camera is still just 8 megapixels but the quality is really good. It’s hard to believe that the photos it takes are from a phone. it easily beats other phone cameras and a lot of compact cameras although it still falls a bit short of the best compact cameras and SLRs of course. Many reviews are rating it well ahead of cameras with higher resolutions which is no surprise because higher resolution means smaller pixels which means lower quality and higher noise. Sometimes having less pixels is better and Apple knows this.

The new iPhones are bigger in height and width but are thinner than their predecessors, in fact they are ridiculously thin. Maybe they’re too thin if the latest fuss about them bending (mainly the bigger 6 Plus) is true. I haven’t been brave enough to try to bend mine but it will be interesting to see how it survives the usual fairly rough treatment my gadgets are exposed to.

I always use my phones heavily and have all the features turned on, but battery life is still useful. I do need to charge every day but unless I am playing a lot of games once a day is enough.

So the iPhone 6 is fantastic but there are a few things I might list as possible deficiencies. You could make a case for making the phone a millimeter or two thicker allowing a bigger battery, increased strength, as well as avoiding the small camera lens bulge. You could make a case for having a higher resolution camera but that would not necessarily give better images. And you could make a case for water resistance. That would be useful, but my previous phones have all survived the occasional minor “dampening incident”.

All products have compromises and the best ones are those where the right compromises have been made. I think the iPhone 6 gets very close to getting that right. It’s not perfect, but it’s the closest to perfection I have seen.


Another Three Years

September 21, 2014 Leave a comment

Well the latest New Zealand general election is over and we did not get the result I really wanted. On the other hand, if you read my post from 2014-09-09 (“Pretty Relaxed, Except…”) you will see that I am not completely stressed about the outcome either.

I didn’t realistically expect that Labour could form a new government but I did hope that National would be weaker and require a more moderate party to limit some of its more extreme ideas. Instead National will probably team up with the ultimate extremists (Act) even though that might not even be necessary to gain a majority.

So what happened? Basically it seems that marketing has beaten substance. The right was far more professional, organised, and consistent than the left in this election campaign and that seems to have been enough to persuade people to return them to power with an even bigger majority.

In fact, talking to people I really couldn’t find many – especially National supporters – who could name any actual policies that they liked. I did hear a few mangled attempts at criticising Labour policies, such as the capital gains tax, but even that was more propaganda than fact.

So it really does seem that we have entered an age where spin beats everything else in forming public opinion. I should say at this point that, as I said in the post mentioned above, the National Party isn’t as bad as it has been in the past and has moved to a more moderate position (possibly aiding in its popularity) so I’m certainly not saying that a National government is total evil entirely relying on propaganda to survive.

But probably the most annoying thing about this election was (yes, you guessed it) Act. The party got less than one percent of the vote, barely more than the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party, yet because of a dirty deal done with John Key, they will be part of the next government, no doubt attempting to inflict their totally discredited economic ideology onto us. They have no mandate for this and deserve no ability to influence policy.

But as I have said in the past, Act provide National with a good excuse to push some more extreme policies onto the country without being blamed directly. They can just say that it is part of the coalition agreement and escape the blame that way. One of the most ill-informed and dysfunctional policies from this government’s last term (charter schools) started that way.

So it has been a wild ride, a bizarre election campaign, and great entertainment. But now it’s over and we have to settle in for another 3 years with John Key in charge. I saw in a news item today that he wants to take a fairly centrist approach and not do anything too radical. I hope so. That way he probably won’t solve any of our big problems but at least he won’t create any new ones, and that’s all we can really hope for!

Who’s the Real Traitor?

September 16, 2014 Leave a comment

In my last blog entry I said I was fairly relaxed about who will win the general election – which is now only a few days away – as long as the nutty Act party aren’t involved in the new government. But now I’m not so sure. Our current prime minister now seems more sleazy, more dishonest, and more untrustworthy than ever before.

Now I know that I shouldn’t have high expectations of any politician, but in the case of Key I think we have someone who takes the art of political spin to a new level. We have someone who fully embraces the dishonest and cynical techniques mastered by his American friends. And we have someone who is primarily driven by enhancing his own political aspirations – and maybe getting to play golf with Obama again!

So I think it is important to remove Key and his sorry bunch of supporters from power. Probably the most hideous of them all, Judith Collins, has already suffered what is hopefully a fatal political failure, but like a foul zombie she could rise from (political) death to wreak havoc on the country again if we aren’t careful. Clearly we need to consign the rest of the Tories to the political scrap heap as well.

But that is unlikely to happen because despite everything, John Key (because the current popularity of the political right is due to him and has little to do with his party or policies as a whole) just doesn’t seem to suffer much from any of the attacks brought against him. All the dirt just doesn’t seem to stick to “Teflon John”.

But in the past I haven’t been quite so critical of the PM – so what has brought about my rather sudden political change of heart?

Well it’s a combination of things. There’s Nicky Hager’s revelations in his “Dirty Politics” book (which I haven’t finished reading yet). There’s the disclosures at the “Moment of Truth” event. There’s the increasingly unconvincing denials by the establishment. And there’s the sudden realisation I had when listening to a podcast by political journalist Wayne Brittenden that the manipulative tricks used for years by American politicians are exactly what the Nats are using successfully here too.

Briefly, here’s how the trick works. You lie. Yes, that’s it really. The nuance is that while the issue is new and everyone is paying attention you make up whatever exaggeration, obfuscation, or outright untruth is necessary to take the heat off. Then as the crisis passes and something else takes people’s attention it doesn’t matter if the lies are revealed because something else will have come up where the technique can simply be repeated.

The classic example cited was the invasion of Iraq based on the claims of weapons of mass destruction. No one who looked at the facts really thought they were there, and American politicians must have also realised that, but the ruse has been so successful that many Americans still think the weapons (which never existed) have been found!

An interview this morning with “Sir” (I use that title with all the incredulity I can muster) Bruce Ferguson just didn’t seem to have a lot of credibility. His political bias was really clear when he referred to Edward Snowden as a traitor to his country, in what was as close to a rant someone like him was ever likely to experience. Maybe he has never hear that famous Edward Abbey quote: “A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.”

As Ferguson said, if we wish to believe a traitor then we have good reason to think mass surveillance is happening. Well yes, I do believe a “traitor” actually. He has had the courage to do the right thing, even if it is technically against some sort of theoretical duty. Some of us think morality transcends duty, but I guess people like Ferguson just wouldn’t understand.

Pretty Relaxed, Except…

September 8, 2014 Leave a comment

The general election in New Zealand isn’t too far away and it seems that no matter what happens the current party in power, National, continues to be popular and that the main opposition party, Labour, just isn’t getting any credibility.

I recently took a web-based survey on my opinions and it recommended I should vote Labour or Green, which I probably will, but I will probably be backing the losing side. However I am pretty relaxed about that because National, which is a center-right party, is a lot more moderate than in the past and if they win will probably be OK, even if not great.

However there is one potential problem: the only party on the right still supporting the tired, old extreme monetarist policies of the past. The policies which we know don’t work and which have caused a lot of pain to most New Zealanders.

That party is Act and they have no hope of succeeding on their own and so have relied on a dirty deal with National to have any chance of success at the election, an incredibly ironic action considering how they espouse the principles of individual merit and fair competition. Apparently this applies to everyone except themselves!

So I would be pretty relaxed with National winning, even with the sleazy John Key in charge. But I would have big problems with any policies likely to come from a partnership with Act. Another irony on the situation is how National warn of a left-leaning coalition involving what they claim are nutty parties like the Greens, but at the same time thinking that their own possible coalition with the ultimate nutters is OK.

In fact the Greens are quite a moderate party now, and are far less left-leaning than Act is right-leaning. In many ways I think they have come too far to the center although that just seems to be a requirement for political success in recent years.

National have certainly succeeded because they have abandoned exactly the policies which Act support. And that’s the danger. I think many in National really want to return to the more extreme policies of the 80s and 90s but that doesn’t fit in with National’s new moderate and reasonable image. But if they were “forced” into implementing some extreme policies by their partner they couldn’t really be blamed, just like they hoped to avoid blame for the dirty tricks they had their blogging friends carry out on their behalf.

New Zealand is in a reasonably good economic position right now, but that really isn’t much to do with the government. Only two things have saved us: good dairy prices and the Christchurch earthquake rebuild. Neither of these are the result of government policies and in fact as dairy prices fall and as the rebuild is gradually completed those benefits will be gone leaving us with nothing.

Statistics indicate that Labour has been at least as good at economic management as National so if Labour had governed for the last 8 years I think we might be better off and in a better position to recover from poor dairy prices. But if Act (or previous, more extreme, incarnations of National) had been in charge we would certainly be a lot worse off.

So yes, I’m fairly relaxed about either a National or Labour lead government. All I really want from this election is the final death of Act, a party only surviving because of cynical and manipulative deals done with National for years. They are the real nutters!