First Impressions of the Canon Elph 330 HS


Final exams are over, and I’ve been mainly relaxing at home, sleeping more, and shopping for my 4th co-op term. The weather is also having its ups and downs. Yesterday it was a beautiful, sunny ~21 degrees. Today, is a muggy, rainy ~16 degrees. So in recent events, I lost my digital camera. :( I’ve had this camera since Dec 2008 – the Canon PowerShot SD880 IS (Elph series). It was a pretty good digital camera for its time – 10MP, 4x zoom, a large variety of color/lighting/scene settings. Throughout the years, I’ve dropped it on the ground multiple times. It’s also survived being completely soaked in water. In the past month or so, the lens cover would get stuck when I turn on the camera, and I would have to manually open it (probably due to me dropping it while it was still turned on). This is when my friends started noting that I should upgrade, but I didn’t want to part with it yet. So yes, I lost it, after ~4 years of extensive use. Not happy that I lost it, but I really was due for an upgrade.

The Search for a Replacement.
I was considering a DSLR. But thinking more about it, I didn’t see myself carrying around such a huge camera everywhere. I don’t aim for extremely HQ photos shot at perfect angles. I aim for quick shots on a day of exploring or a night out. Photos of humans, rather than scenery. So yes, I stuck with the point-and-shoot realm. I also stuck with Canon because I am accustomed to the button arrangements and screen interface. I really can’t go wrong.

Now, which series?
I never really paid attention in the past, but there are 3 major digital camera series for Canon. The A-series, the Elph series, and the SX series. The SX series is a little more expensive because it’s an in between of digital camera and DSLR. The optical zoom is usually pretty high. The A-series is more for performance, and many of them allow AA(A?) batteries for power, which I find quite unnecessary for me. Also, I discovered that the Elph series has a lot more customization on colour and scene settings than the other series, so I decided to stick with it. I find that the colour settings allow my images to appear better when using flash. This is especially important when taking photos of humans. Many people have told me my photos have a very particular look, and yes, that’s because of Canon’s colour settings that I can apply to every photo.

So yes, the Elph series. It was between the 110, 130, 320, 520, and 330. The 320 and 520 were both complete touch screen cameras, so that was out of the question. The 110 and 130 are older models. It was really between the 130 (16MP, 8x zoom) and the 330 (12MP, 10x zoom), both wifi models. I chose the 330 (in black) because it apparently has a better processor and I prefer zoom over megapixels. The 330 also records 1080p video, while the 130 can only record at 720p. The price difference is about $30. Best Buy USA has it on sale for $200 (online only I think) but I decided to buy it here in Canada for $239 to save the hassle.

Day 1 of playing with the camera:
I love it. The only thing I miss about my old camera is the ability to scroll continuously and quickly through my photos via the circular dial. None of the newer Elph models have it (none of the old ones really had it, either, actually). I was worried that I wouldn’t be used to the tiny buttons.. I’m still getting used to them. They are placing priority on a larger display screen, so I guess it’s worth it. The lithium battery is also slightly smaller than my old camera’s, making the camera very light when carrying around. I love the texture and form factor; it’s easy to hold firmly and I don’t think I’ll have to worry about fingerprints at all.

The Wifi functionality isn’t too difficult to set up (despite the negative online reviews), but I haven’t gotten web services to work yet. Canon seems to have lack of support for Mac. I did get to try out CameraWindow, transferring my pictures to my Android device (can also do it on an iOS device). This is definitely convenient. My main purpose of taking photos is to share them onto some kind of social networking service. It’s a hassle having to take out my SD card, copy the photos somewhere (either manually or through iPhoto), and uploading it through the web. iPhoto is always giving me problems now, too, so I refrain from using it. I have never actually used Canon’s image transferring tools (don’t plan to), so I cannot comment on that. There is also this extremely convenient option that allows you to resize the images to 1600×1200 or 640×480 when using CameraWindow for quick and easy uploads via mobile.

So far I am very happy with my new 330, and will update this post with some sample shots after a few weeks of usage.

 

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The Christmas Holidays & Other Blurbs


Last year and the year before I spent my Decembers studying for final exams. This year, I’m on co-op, meaning I actually have time to be in the Christmas spirit. I joined carolling at work – we’re actually planning to go around and carol to our customers in downtown Toronto in a few weeks. We’re doing 3 and 4 part harmony, which is pretty awesome, especially because we aren’t entirely serious about it. We’re doing it entirely for fun. I haven’t officially been in choir for a couple of years, so it feels great to be singing in a group again.

And I’ve even decided to take part of 3 secret santa events – 1 with my university friends, 1 with my high school friends, and 1 with my coworkers. Now, technology has come a long way… there are now websites that help distribute the names (like Elfster and Drawnames), and allow participants to create wishlists so that people can actually get what they want for Christmas. I remember back in high school when we used invitations printed on paper with fancy font, and we’d distribute the names manually (and run into possible issues like picking your own name).

Ah, those were the good days.

In other news, I finally visited The Microsoft Store at Yorkdale! Now, I’ve been to the Microsoft Store in Redmond – they all look the same.. but the awesome thing was that I got to demo some WP8 phones. As some may know, I already have a WP7. They only have the 920 and 8X available right now in Canada. The 920 is a bit large for my liking, but the 8X is a very beautiful phone. The interface on both are even faster and smoother than my WP7 (probably due to faster processor). A huge speed improvement was on app startup. The official Facebook app takes at least 5-10 seconds to start up on my WP7, and it took 2-4 seconds on the WP8 devices. Both devices have beautiful cameras – even the front facing camera. I almost want to buy an 8X right now because of the default settings on the front facing camera. I played around with some new features like Kids’ zone and Rooms, pretty cool features but I probably wouldn’t use them often. All in all, really impressed.

This past week, I also completed a Korean drama called Reply 1997. It’s a unique romantic comedy that is structured similar to How I Met Your Mother. A group of friends have a high school reunion and reminisce about the past. The story focuses on an H.O.T fangirl who has a very upbeat personality. A Pink’s Eunji is such an amazing actress. I’m impressed because she doesn’t have too much experience, either. The unique thing about this drama is that the OST is hand picked depending on what year we are in during the drama. Tons of 90’s music is played, and there are lots of 90s gadgets that they put in. Just goes to show how much technology has advanced since then.

So my co-op term ends in 2 weeks. I’m kind of sad to go because there are a bunch of things happening in the new year at work. Freshbooks is definitely a place I want to work full-time if I plan to stay in Toronto. Also sad to leave Toronto – had a great time in this wonderful city. It’s too bad I didn’t really go to Markham or Scarborough that often (kind of inconvenient to commute during the cold weather), but there’s always a ton of things to do downtown.

If we get Instagram on WP, I will be a happy camper


As of November 2013, the official Instagram Beta on Windows Phone was launched.


aka. My thoughts on Windows Phone 8.  Above is a screenshot of my home screen tiles on a Samsung Focus running a 7.8 custom rom.  This month of October has been filled with big mobile announcements, from 1 platform to the next. The wait is over now that everything has been announced, so should WP8 be your choice? I did a mini review for WP7 a few months back in conjunction with Jellybean. Now that WP8 is coming soon, we have a lot more to look forward to. I did get a chance to play around with the homescreen update from a custom ROM I installed this weekend as I am showing off above. The 1×1 sized icons are good, although a little too tiny.. the medium sized 2×2 default tiles also got a size up since they got rid of the wasted space on the right side of the home screen, also something that looked awkwardly large to me. I really like that I’m able to see more on one screen now, though, it’s a huge improvement. I’m not a fan of the 4×2 so I don’t have any of that size on my homescreen. I’ve only had the ROM for a few days, but I do plan to organize my tiles a little more now that I have the customization. So today’s big keynote. The single thing that really stood out to me was the improved Skype experience – being able to keep it running in the background. Skype has given people a mediocre experience on EVERY platform. Ive done Skype chat and calling on a variety platforms (iOS, Android, WP, OSX, Win7), and they never did a good job of minimizing bugs and user experience. The new experience for Skype really intrigues me. They claim you will be able to have Skype running in the background without decreasing battery life, and having it pick up calls and messages. Considering the fact that no one uses MSN anymore (or AIM for those who are American), Skype has become our main medium for keeping track of messages and video calling. Plus, you can sync it with Facebook chat and video calling (not on any mobile versions yet, but I’m sure it’s coming). The new lock screen is also something to look forward to, and something that devs can certainly take advantage of. Continue reading

Jellybean & WP7


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(Image taken from official Android site, adorable btw)

Android 4.1 (Jellybean) has been out for a bit, but I finally got the update on my Xoom tablet. Here’s my critique so far:

They claim that it is smoother, but on the Xoom, I experience some lag here and there. Ice cream sandwich was actually a lot more smooth, but still better than Honeycomb which was really laggy.

Google Now: Impressive smart searching. I haven’t used it to its full extent yet, and it’d probably work better when I’m travelling.

Improved widgets: I love it. Now, if you want to place a widget in a location that’s already occupied, the icons move away to other locations on the grid (if they fit) automatically! And yes, they are now resizable (actually I think they had this in ICS too but I’m not sure).

There are some better animations across the OS as a whole, and there has been another font change. I can only think back to the font debate we had back when I was working at Lookout.. whether to use Roboto, Droid Sans, or our own custom font. Now there’s another to worry about for JB. Oh, and this issue is back: http://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=23863 (facepalm)

Other than that I don’t see very many differences. There -are- a lot more new things you can do in terms of development though, which is exciting news. I’m glad that more apps are being built on tablets, some with impressive UIs, too.

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(Taken from official Samsung website)

On the topic of different OSes, WP8 is coming out soon. I realize that I never did a review on my new Windows Phone that I bought about 2 months ago. So I got a Samsung Focus 1 (I thought it was the Focus 2 for the longest time..),  I got it used for mid $100s, compared to ~$400 full price.

Why WP? I believe I was in a huge WP craze at the time and I vowed to get one after seeing its ‘metro’ UI and its ease of access to social media. The deal with Win Phone is that there aren’t a lot of models out there, so many updates are being pushed frequently. Unfortunately all the current WP7 phones out there cannot get a full Win8 upgrade when it comes out. We’ll get the UI but not the core features. A little disappointed when I found out about it, but oh well. I still love it.

The other cool thing is that because Windows 8 will also be following metro, many more developer shops are looking into WP development. It’s an exciting time for sure : )

The UI is very smooth, and I have barely experienced lag (A friend of mine who has the Lumia 900 has commented that his phone is not as smooth as mine). Multitasking is easy, accessing Facebook / email / your other faves is awesome via pinning your apps to Start. In terms of customizability, WP is definitely better than iOS, and on the same level as Android. Pinning is equivalent to widgets or icons for Android, except that scrolling is vertical on WP. In Win 8 though, they’ll add the ability to resize your tiles (can’t wait ;)).

Now the interesting thing is that WP lets you stalk people very , very easily, through the central application: People. You can sync all of your Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, etc contacts. Selecting any contact shows you your call/message history, and there is also a compressed news feed based on that person. You can also pin that person to Start for easier access. Creeped out yet?

Diving deeper into syncing contacts, WP has the ability to ‘link’ accounts together. i.e. Bob has a twitter and a facebook that used different emails. WP suggests to you that Bob Twitter may be the same person as Bob on Facebook. You can easily link them so they are just 1 single contact, and when you want to talk to Bob, you can select from all the various social media (whatever’s appropriate) to contact him!

Music playback is easily accessible from the lock screen, sharing photos takes a few seconds. Battery life is amazing. Note that I don’t have a data plan, but my wifi is on at all times. My phone usually lasts 2 days before it needs a recharge. Note that I don’t call for long durations that often (usually <15 min calls).

It seems like I’m promoting WP7 right now, but I’m really just pointing out all the built in features that WP has ;)

Now, for the things I -don’t- like.

I’ve had a lot of issues with setting alarms on it and actually waking up. Alarms at max volume for some reason is not as loud as normal music playback at max volume. I’ve missed a bunch of 830 classes because of my very quiet alarm.

So the obvious workaround would be to download a separate alarm app. Unfortunately, WP doesnt allow you to play music in your app if the app is not opened in the foreground. Eventually I just settled with really loud and annoying ringtones, and my alarm on my tablet as backup. I’ve never actually owned a phone that doesn’t allow you to set music as alarms (ie. only allowing ringtones.. which is unfortunate)

Another issue I’ve had is that during calls, if I get a push notification, the phone is no longer locked, so my face starts touching random buttons like End or Hold Call. It’s annoying, but it’s something to get used to.

The other main issue with WP is that there is a very small app store. All the ‘essentials’ are not available, and cool apps are usually introduced to iOS and Android first wayyyy before it will ever be introduced to WP7. I’ve been bringing around my iPod during outings just because I want to use Instagram. *sigh, when will the day come?

As a user, it may be very difficult to get accustomed to the common layout schemes used in most apps, as they are so much different on WP compared to other OSes. For some apps like Foursquare, I actually wish they follow the same design as the other OSes, but typical iOS and Android layouts can be very difficult to mock due to the available templates given to WP developers.

Without going into too much rambling, I definitely recommend WP for people who love reading feeds and sharing stuff via social media. :)

The Issue with Compatibility


I think I’m on a roll today, I’m feeling very reflective. Or maybe I’m just trying to avoid what I’m supposed to be doing today – catching up on work. I had to work from home on Friday since I recently caught a cold. It was a bad idea for me to go out so much yesterday, as it kept raining; yet today it’s beautiful and sunny. I think San Francisco is trolling me hard.

Anyways, it’s nearing the end of the term (well, 5 more weeks) and I have to decide on a work term report and technical presentation milestone topic. Wait wait. What? Well, I have to write a report based on something I learned at work. It’s a requirement for Waterloo co-op. I didn’t have to do it last term since they changed the curriculum, and I have to do 3 in total. I also have to do a TPM, a technical preso early next term. More on it here.

At first I was thinking of doing something extremely basic, but still technical. Android Apps & Version Compatibility. It’s definitely a problem that I run into from time to time at work.

I guess for those already in the mobile space, it’s something pretty basic and straightforward, but it’s a problem that you cannot forget about.

To sum it up, in order to create Android apps that support down to 1.5/1.6, the earliest public versions of Android, you need to do a lot of workarounds, especially for design. Ice Cream Sandwich is the latest version, and only a small handfull of phones are running it. In fact, about 1.6% of all Android users are running ICS. This is a stat based on access to Google Play (Android’s new name for their Marketplace), and you can read more here.

Now let’s compare it to Android’s competitor – iOS. More than 66% of iOS users are running iOS5 as of early January, according to this article. This is a huge difference! The reason for it is pretty straightforward – Apple makes iOS, and testing only has to be done on a small handfull of iOS devices to check that iOS5 can run properly on them. iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and all of the legacy versions of these devices. So, less than 20 devices. And this testing can be done within the company, there is very little difficulty in doing the testing because everything is internal. Continue reading