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The Geek’s Reading List, September 26th 2014 Edition

Camera evolution: the exact same picture taken with every version of the iPhone.

This has been another very slow tech news week. News was dominated by the fawning (and not so fawning) reviews of the iPhone 6, and, in particular, the ‘Mr. Gumby’ bendyness users complained about. As is typical with Apple, they seem to have used their marketing prowess to get ahead of the story, and this morning I even read some conspiracy theories regarding the issue. A word to the wise is don’t put your iPhone 6 in your pocket unless you want a conversation starter

This is an excerpt of this week’s stories. The complete Geeks List, how to subscribe, and all back issues, can be found here.

Hard Drive Reliability Update

Backblaze’s business model is to use redundant consumer grade hard drives in its cloud storage solution. They are agnostic with respect to vendor and they buy a lot of drives, which provides excellent insights with respect to reliability. Fortunately, they have elected to share that information and provide regular updates on their experiences. Because these results should impact manufacturers’ warranty costs and reputation, the information might be useable for investment decisions as well as influencing your next storage purchase choice. The comments on the reliability of ‘enterprise grade’ hard drives being similar or even worse than ‘consumer grade’ hard drives despite a greater than 100% price premium are particularly interesting.

“The good news is that the chart today looks a lot like the one from January, and that most of the drives are continuing to perform well. It’s nice when things are stable. The surprising (and bad) news is that Seagate 3.0TB drives are failing a lot more, with their failure rate jumping from 9% to 15%. The Western Digital 3TB drives have also failed more, with their rate going up from 4% to 7%. In the chart below, the grey bars are the failure rates up through the end of 2013, and the colored bars are the failure rates including all of the data up through the end of June, 2014.”

$200 Million Bitcoins Sought After By Hedge Fund GABI

A word to the wise: no size asset buyer announces their intention to take a large stake in an asset because that causes the cost to rise. Therefore, you can safely conclude that, if anything, GABI, is unloading Bitcoin, or somehow shorting them, to the hapless rubes who still believe this scam.

“Bitcoin Hedge Fund Global Advisors Bitcoin Investment (GABI) has begun buying Bitcoins and will invest up to $200 million in their first 6 months on operation. An article on Morning Money first mentioned the $200 million number. CoinDesk has reported in this article, that GABI is buying the Bitcoins over the counter through DigitalBTC, an Australian company, that is Australia’s first publicly listed Bitcoin company.”

Drone Exemptions for Hollywood Pave the Way for Widespread Use

Frankly I’m surprised the FAA’s permission was needed since I have seen so many drone videos. Were all these done illegally? I am not sure some of the rules make a lot of sense (for example why should the operator require a pilot’s license?), but some degree of regulation is necessary when you are flying machine with rotating parts in the general vicinity of people. Contrast this cautious reality with the hype and hysteria associated with Amazon’s drone delivery service. Either way, prospects are probably dimming for helicopter pilots in the film biz.

“The commercial use of drones in American skies took a leap forward on Thursday with the help of Hollywood. The Federal Aviation Administration, responding to applications from seven filmmaking companies and pressure from the Motion Picture Association of America, said six of those companies could use camera-equipped drones on certain movie and television sets. Until now, the F.A.A. has not permitted commercial drone use except for extremely limited circumstances in wilderness areas of Alaska. Put bluntly, this is the first time that companies in the United States will be able to legally use drones to fly over people.”

iPhone camera evolution: How does the iPhone 6 camera compare to previous iPhone cameras?
Because this is a slow news week, I’m including a few bizarro world stories to sort of pad things out. You see, the reality of thing is that all smartphone cameras are crap and unless and until people are willing to carry around a large lens they will always be crap. The quality of a photo is a function of the sensor and the lens and if you could get a decent picture out of a sensor the size of a piece of confetti and a lens the size of an aspirin tablet, Sony, Nikon, etc., would have figured that out long ago. A smartphone camera is convenient and cheap (they cost a few bucks each), which make them nice features in case you happen to encounter a UFO. But don’t for a moment think they are good cameras or ever will be.

“In the past seven years, each new advancement in iPhone camera technology has made dramatic improvements to image quality. The iPhone 6 is no different. Besides being faster to shoot and easier to focus, the images taken with the iPhone 6 camera show greater detail and are significantly better in low-light. In this follow-up post to my iPhone 4s and iPhone 5 comparisons, I present an 8 iPhone comparison from all iPhone versions taken with Camera+ including, the original iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, and the new iPhone 6 in a variety of situations to test the camera’s capabilities.”

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