Doug Lerner reports from Tokyo and St. Louis, and points beyond…

Posts tagged ‘technology’

The passing Kodak moment

The bankruptcy of Kodak leaves one with a sad, nostalgic feeling.

This was taken in 1895. An ad for Kodak.


This is from 1911, over 100 years ago. The woman on the left is holding a Kodak camera.



Some things I like better in Android (from an iPhone user)

As an iPhone user, I just recently (like last week) got an Android to use for testing web apps. I wasn’t going for the “latest and greatest” so bought an inexpensive, contract-free LG Optimus Bright new off of an auction site. I wasn’t really expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised (

I’ve been using it a bit this past week, and there are definitely some nice things about Android OS 2.3.3 in comparison to my everyday iPhone 4 running iOS 5 which I noticed pretty quickly, which I would like to mention:

1. Maps app allows rotate. On the iPhone you can use the pinch gesture to expand and shrink. On the Android, in addition to that, you can rotate the maps, which is cool.

2. More things can be made into icons on the home screen (shortcut EverNote notes, settings, etc.). On the iPhone you can have apps and bookmarks to web pages, but the selection of what you can add to the home screen is much more limited than on the Android device.

3. Apps and widgets. Many apps even come with widget versions installed. There really is no comparison on the iPhone, and I was pleasantly surprised to find widgets on my Android. The pre-installed Google widget with voice input on the home screen is very cool.

4. Hardware keys provide a more consistent UI and save screen space. On the LG Optimus Bright the “hardware keys” are below the screen and are really not keys you press at all. They seem to be capacitive touch elements, like the screen, but are in fixed positions and don’t take up screen space. What I really like about them is in addition to a home button (which the iPhone also has) the key on the left works like a context-sensitive menu for settings and other features inside all apps; there is a separate key that you can always use to “go back” or cancel the current dialog; and a 4th key for search. In addition to saving screen space (e.g. you don’t need the bottom row of UI icons in the mobile browser like in Safari Mobile) it makes the user experience consistent across all apps, which makes things easier overall, and is something iPhone supposedly aims for.

5. Replaceable battery. This is obvious and not really anything more needs to be said about that.

I’m sure there are lots of things in iOS 5 which are better than Android OS 2.3.3 (for example, on my iPhone I can take a screenshot, but there doesn’t seem to be a way of doing that on my Android – at least not a pre-installed way).
My aim is not to cut one device down in favor of the other. But I just wanted to say I’m pretty impressed with Android too. The Optimus is also lighter and thinner than my iPhone 4 and has a larger screen (though lower resolution).

Anyway, just thought I’d make these few observations from a mainly iPhone and Mac user who really is also pleased with Android.


LG Optimus Bright L-07C first impressions

For Android app testing, I purchased a new DoCoMo LG Optimus Bright L-07C from Yahoo Auctions. It arrived this morning, New Year’s Day and I’ve been playing with it.

Just released in June, the specs are fairly good I think for the time (Android 2.3, 5 megapixel camera, 4″ 480 x 800 screen, all the usual GPS, etc., sensors and so on). Of course Japanese models turn over quickly and people want one-seg TV and keitai wallets, so they are selling brand new at auction sites at low prices now. Typically the auctions have a “buy now” price of about 12,000 yen, and the auction prices bid near that. Mine had a “buy now” price of 13,000 yen ($162.50) including shipping, and when the price rose to 12,000 yen I just snapped it up. Some of the auctions don’t include shipping. And some of the Optimus Brights being sold did not include all the standard included accessories, such as the microSDHC card. But this one included everything.

The review on this model are “so-do” because specs are changing so quickly. But it seemed more than sufficient for my testing work. I wasn’t expecting much, but was very pleasantly surprised.

Here are some photos:

(1) The box it came in. This is the box wrapper.


(2) The inner box, after removing the box wrapper.


(3) Opening the box. There it is!


(4) First impressions: it is very light and thin! It weighs noticeably less than my iPhone 4 and is thinner than the iPhone 4. It also has a larger screen: 4″.


(5) Lifting up the tab the owner’s manual is just below it.


(6) It comes with three back covers, depending on your mood. I am in a “white cover mood” today.


(7) The USB data cable connects to the power adapter or directly to a USB port on your computer. I still haven’t investigated what all can be done when mounted directly with the USB cable.


(8) The travel power adapter.


(9) The replaceable battery back. This is also very thin and light.


(10) The LG Optimus Bright comes standard with a 4 GB microSDHC card. It even says so in the manual. So if you are looking for one online, make sure it includes this. Some sellers are not including it. One tried to tell me, “It doesn’t come with one, but I’ll include a 2 GB one for you.” So do be careful. This is supposed to be standard.


(11) It immediately turned on. First impressions: The screen is very large, easy to read and bright.  And I am still amazed by how light it is, even with the battery installed. (Note: I didn’t realize when taking all these photos that the protective film was still on the screen.) The screen itself is actually very sharp, which doesn’t necessarily show up well in these photos taken with my iPhone 4.


(12) The first screen that pops up lets you choose your language. I chose English.


(13) The setup is really easy. It takes you screen-by-screen through the most obviously needed settings. The next screen was the wi-fi setup, and I connected to my home wi-fi.


(14) Next you are given a chance to add a Google account. By the by, I later changed to a QWERTY keyboard. 


(15) The next slide gives some UI advice – then you are ready to go!


(16) Some of the pre-installed apps. 


(17) This was interesting. Some of my photos were already in the Gallery. I guess it syncs what it can from the Google account I signed in with.


(18) Similarly, my contacts automatically appeared. I guess anything that ran through Gmail. Scary! Clicking on a contact let me send email.


(19) I connected the USB cable to charge. It “pinged” at me when it was done and recommended unplugging it to save energy.


(20) This compares the screen open to the same Evernote note on my iPhone 4. The Optimus is brighter and larger. The iPhone 4 has a higher resolution, so shows more info without sliding. I do have to say the Optimus Bright is very easy to read.


(21) Other notes:

– You can’t see it well here, but the LG Optimus Bright includes four “buttons” on the bottom: (1) a context-sensitive menu, (2) home, (3) go back , (4) search. I took a little movie I’ll put up. These are fixed “buttons” but are flat. There are no moving parts there. There is a proximity sensor so when you put your hand close it temporarily backlights the buttons a bit.

– I have another movie showing the nice effect when it switches between landscape and portrait mode.

– There is a little “G” (gesture) button on the side. If you hold it down, you can perform certain gestures without actually touching the phone. For example, if you tilt the phone left, the screens slide left and so on. Sort of interesting.

– I haven’t tried all the apps yet, but did try maps. It lets you do a rotate gesture with two fingers in addition to pinch in and out, which is very cool. The iPhone version doesn’t have that feature.

Anyway, I am pleased. I wasn’t expecting much at all yet it seems like a great bargain for a no-contract phone. Web pages load quickly, mail works, the camera works fine. I’ll upload more later on.

(I wonder if I can unlock this and use it on travel in the U.S. since I can’t unlock my iPhone).


Flipboard, Zite and Google Currents – a breakthrough week for mobile news aggregators

I think it’s somewhat of a breakthrough week in greatly enhancing the fun and usability of iPhones and iPads. 

Flipboard, Zite and Google Currents have all released versions for the iPhone. In particular, this has been a long desired development for iPhone users of Flipboard and Zite. Until now, only iPad versions were available. Google Currents is newer than the other two and released its iPad/iPhone app at the same time.

Anyway, these are basically news/magazine aggregators . But they are really good aggregators –  at the top of their class. I keep trying to decide which I like best. Flipboard has their cool “flipping” effect. But mostly I go for Zite because of the way it learns what you like to read, so every time I pick it up I find the content more and more interesting. (Note: Try to read articles in different sections sometimes, otherwise Zite can start thinking you are obsessed with just one topic.)

I used to only reach for my iPad occasionally. Now I use it every day – usually more than once a day – mostly for these apps. I still believe the iPad is more of a consuming device than a producing device. But it’s an interesting consuming device.

The fact these apps now also work on the iPhone make them even more useful. If you enjoy reading news, I think you would enjoy these apps.

Note to my mother, relatives and friends in their 80s and 90s (and you know who you are): If you have an iPad, please do go to the iTunes store and at least install Flipboard and Zite. They are the two easiest to use, are free, and I think you would get a kick out of them.


Reflections in an iPhone

TV again!

Somebody from the Katsushika-ku office just came by and lent me a digital tuner until I can find one of my own. They have them for people like me who don’t have cable or satellite and don’t have a digital TV and haven’t been able to find a digital tuner on sale because they are all sold old.

They lend them for free for three months until I can find one of my own.

So now I have TV again on my 1988 Fujitsu General TV. Who needs an expensive flat panel!


Digital antenna being installed now

Analog broadcasting ended in Japan on the 24th at noon, at which time my TV started displaying a screen saying, “call this number for more info on the change.”

My landlord is having a new antenna installed even as we speak. Unlike the U.S., a new antenna is required. Probably because digital broadcasts are done over UHF here. I think they must be done over VHF in the U.S. which is why everybody’s antenna was ok. Unless everybody there just happened to also have UHF antennas.

I don’t have a TV that receives digital broadcasts (I bought my current TV in 1988). And I quit cable over a year ago to save money. So even with the new antenna I won’t be able to see TV broadcasts. Converter boxes (a digital tuner with an analog output) are theoretically for sale, but are sold out everywhere.

The city I live in is going to lend me a converter for three months until I can find one for myself.


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