Sunday, September 30, 2012

How to Improve Map Data

I did bug fixes and used an in-house developed mapping system long ago--in Fortran on a VAX, so yeah, my experience isn't the most current...

Apple (along with Google) has all the map data on their warehouses of servers.  Our car has a DVD for its navigation system, but phones do not store the map for the whole world--they send a request off to the map servers to calculate routes and search and everything.

I would assume it is also sending updated "I'm here" information to the server as needed for recalculating routes, etc.  And that data can also be used to help improve the maps.

Assuming the road data you have is like the black line, but all the location data from people traveling on the road is the red dots--the servers can start to identify a difference.  (They would get some sort of speed with the dots too, so you could tell the data was from something moving at the speed of a car rather than a row of houses).  

If I was doing it, the servers could detect that sort of discrepancy and add it to a list to be reviewed by a person.  Though maybe the server could update automatically too.  (Automatic updates would be a question for all the ex-Google maps people that Apple is hiring :)

But to do that you need data.  That's what Apple didn't have before, and was even giving that data to Google.  But now they've got 100 million people providing that sort of information to them.


AD 1:
I saw one of the Samsung ads, apparently trying to poke fun at people waiting in line for the iPhone 5.

A guy was enjoying his Galaxy phone, and was holding the spot in line for his parents.

But he didn't try to sell them on his Galaxy phone, or say anything was wrong about their choice of an iPhone.  This implies that while the guy likes his phone, he must be agreeing that an iPhone is a better for his parents.

AD 2:
And the other commercial I saw was for the Droid phone.  I think an earlier ad, prominently pushing that it does turn-by-turn navigation while the iPhone didn't.

Google wasn't ever going to give that Android advantage away to Apple.  Maybe Apple could have spent a huge fortune for it from Google if Google would even agree to that for any amount of money.  But then who knows what next mapping advantage Google would have held out to keep a plus for Android.  Google had Apple at a huge disadvantage over maps.

It's a bit painful for some people today, but I'm sure Apple's maps are already improving.   The map app itself isn't the problem, it's the data.  Data on servers that Apple can easily update and fix.

It'll be interesting to see if iOS 7 changes so Bing is the default search engine.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Mob Doctor

I think this is the first post about TV...and probably more interesting because it's about why I didn't like a show rather than what I do like :)

My wife likes medical shows, and I lean more towards gangsters, so "The Mob Doctor" seemed like something we both might like.  But we only made it about 1/2 way thru the first episode before giving up.

There were some big problems.

1) Wrong network.  Gangsters ordering people killed should not be limited to saying "Heck".  The show should have been on cable so there could be profanity and violence suitable for the premise.

2) They really started the show at the wrong point in the character's lives.  She was already working for the mob, and quite soon got a message to kill a patient.  It seemed more like what would be season 2 or at least the middle/end of season 1.  It skipped past all the interesting story about how a nice doctor got sucked into working for the mob.

The process of the character going from good, making poor choices trying to help family, to bad would have been a much better start to a series.  Ending the season with a cliffhanger "Will she follow the mobster's order and kill the patient" or having that end the season so you wonder how far it'll go next year seems better than having it in the first episode.  (I'll never know, we gave up before finding out if she did or not.)

Boardwalk Empire spent whole 2 seasons taking their characters to nearly the point.

3) Because of that jumping ahead in the big story, it felt they were introducing a huge number of characters all at once.  Overwhelming and confusing.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Reading this, I think he's very right, especially about Windows 8.

The part about the iPad mini might be correct too, we'll need to test and might need to adjust some apps.  But if developers have followed the guidelines for touch sizes, things should still work quite well with no changes.

The article is much more correct about Windows 8 and tablets/desktop.  The iPad mini would have a 2" change in size vs the 20" difference between a tablet and a desktop.  I can already say from just using the previews a little that most Metro (Windows 8 Style-UI*) apps look huge and silly on my desktop, where the same app on a smaller-size-screen tablet would look far better.

Windows has gotten away with all sorts of screen resolutions and sizes by being Windowed.  This is the download window for GetRight 1.0 from over 15 years ago.  On some monitors it was bigger than others, but its one size worked on them all.  In the years since, the graphics have gotten better, but the window size changed very little.  And it worked on every install of Windows--the first versions even worked on Windows 3.1.

Yes, some Windows and Mac programs can go fullscreen, but the program has the choice.  If it doesn't fit that way, it can be disabled easily by the developer.  (I'd only ever used developer tools with lots of lines of text at fullscreen size.  I've never used any program on my Mac in fullscreen mode.)

Imagine a calculator app that must fill the whole screen.  On a phone it'll be perfect.  On a tablet, it could be made to look good and fit nicely--but then imagine that same app blown up on a desktop.  It would be totally silly.

Same for a clock app; Apple finally did one for the iPad in iOS 6, but some of the things look a little silly even at that size.  The tiny little minute selector in the middle of the screen for the Timer for example.  Now again, imagine that blown up on a 27" desktop screen.

* Microsoft does such a good job picking cool sounding code names, but then runs them all thru some corporate filter.  How XBox didn't become "Microsoft Windows Game Console Live" we'll never know.

Monday, September 24, 2012

iPhone 5S

Now that the iPhone 5 is out, it's time to start predicting what will be in next year's iPhone 5S.  
  • It'll look pretty much identical as has been the case with all the *S models.  
  • Camera may get a slight increase in MP, but really it's getting high enough, better sensors as usual though.  
  • Faster as always.
  • Still no NFC.  (Because I've never seen anywhere I could use NFC to buy things or do anything.  Apple doesn't do "checklist" items just to do them, they wait to do them right.)
None of those are that huge, I'd guess the bigger thing will be increase in the capacity.   32/64/128GB sizes.

It'll be interesting to see when the speed/battery trade off starts to switch the other way.  This year they went for doubling the speed while keeping the battery life the same.  What if next year it is a minor speed increase, but doubles the battery life?

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Apple maps might not be as good as google's yet. (Though around Seattle they've looked perfect).

Google may be laughing now, but they'd be wise to remember that when the first iPhone came out, the list of things everyone said were missing was huge. Microsoft, Blackberry/RIM, Nokia all laughed at what it didn't do too.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

iPad mini/air weights again

Now that the iPhone 5 details are public, I thought I'd redo the math for the weight-per-volume using those new numbers.

The iPad 3 is 25.7 cubic inches (in³) and a weight of 23 oz.  For 0.89 oz/in³.
The iPad 2 is 23.6 in³ and a weight of 21.3 oz.  For 0.90 oz/in³.
The new iPhone 5 is 3.38 in³ and a weight of 3.95 oz.  That's a slightly higher 1.16 oz/in³.  

Using the predicted iPad mini/air size in inches of 7.78 x 5.31 x 0.28 is 11.57 in³....

Using an iPad density gives a weight of 10.3 oz (292 grams) on the low end and an iPhone 5 density give 13.4 oz (380 grams) on the high end.

Even the higher number is less than the weight of the new 7" Kindle Fire HD (13.9 oz).

I'm still guessing closer to the iPad density and a bit over 10 oz.  But even on the high end, its still less than the competition.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

iPhone ∞

Go look here.  Look at the pictures of the Porsche 911 over the past 40+ years.  The details change a bit, but you look at any one of them and you recognize it is a Porsche.

They slowly evolve and improve:  more fuel efficient yet more powerful engines, better safety features, better/different finishes.

That's how the iPhone has been and surely will be far into the future.  There will be little differences, curves here, angles there, glass vs metal, but the iPhone you'll buy in the future will have that same recognizable style compared to what we have now.  You'll recognize any future iPhone as being an iPhone.

Nobody expects Porsche to come out with a completely redesigned and different looking new model every year.

iPhone 5

I'm excited to order mine tonight and get it.  Bigger, faster, thinner, lighter.  All sounds great.  We've already been updating apps to take advantage of the extra screen height.

Thinking about 2 years from now (since the iPhone 5S will surely follow the pattern of updating the stuff inside but keeping the same shell.)  I doubt they'd change the resolution again, 1136x640 will be it for quite awhile.  But if the "bigger is better" keeps up, they might increase the pixel size.  They could now up to a 4.35" screen and still be under the magic 300 dpi Retina number...

But really the Width is what's important, easy 1-handed typing on the keyboard.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Windows 8

I've only used the Windows 8 preview a bit.  But from that short time, I think "Windows 8" will be in business books in the same chapter as "New Coke".