Review update:
my Vtec lenses for iPhone
and iOS 8

Vtec telephoto lens on iPhone

Vtec lenses for iPhone

Lenses for iPhone

In early 2013 I bought a set of Vtec lenses for my iPhone 4. I posted a review that showed the impressive difference they were making in my photography. I’ve continued to use these lenses almost weekly, and I really appreciate the range they give me.

But last week I upgraded my iPhone 5s  to iOS 8.0. I had read that the update included some enhancements to the Camera App, and I was excited about that. (My iPhone is the only camera I have anymore.)

The update, however, seems to be having weird effects on the photos I can capture using my Vtec lenses.

Outdoor conditions

I first noticed the weirdness a few days after I published a blog about the heron outside my office window. That blog featured a few photos I had snapped of Herr Heron using my Vtec lenses. No problem.

But a few days later I took some similar photos after updating my iOS. I could tell right away the photos taken with the Vtec lens were blurry and bland. Compare:

Vtec lenses for iPhone
Egret, taken with Vtec 9x telephoto lens, iOS 8
Vtec lenses for iPhone and iOS 8
Egret, taken from same distance, with no lens and iOS 8

Sure, I love how close I can get to wildlife with these lenses, but I’ve lost all the detail and color!

Indoor conditions

I noticed the same problem that Sunday when I took some photos at my church:

Vtec lenses and iOS 8
Pastor Jason, taken with the Vtec 9x telephoto lens and iOS 8
Vtec lenses and iOS 8
Pastor Jason, taken from the same distance, with no lens, and the camera at full zoom, iOS 8

The difference is pretty obvious, so I decided to do some further testing in a more controlled setting. You can see the results below.

Further testing

Vtec lenses and iOS 8
Mexican weaving, no lens, no zoom
Vtec lenses and iOS 8
Mexican weaving, no lens, full zoom
Vtec lenses and iOS 8
Mexican weaving, Vtec 2x telephoto lens, no zoom
Vtec lenses and iOS 8
Mexican weaving, Vtec 2x telephoto lens, full zoom
Vtec lenses and iOS 8
Mexican weaving, Vtec 9x telephoto lens, no zoom
Vtec lenses and iOS 8
Mexican weaving, Vtec 9x telephoto lens, full zoom
Vtec lenses and iOS 8
Mexican weaving, Vtec 12x telephoto lens, no zoom
Vtec lenses and iOS 8
Mexican weaving, Vtec 12x telephoto lens, full zoom

To my untrained eye, these results look significantly different from the test shots I originally took when I first got my Vtec lenses for iPhone in January of 2013. (I don’t remember what iOS was on my iPhone at the time.) The clarity is not as good, particularly around the edges. And some of the photos look warped and bowed. Only the 12x telephoto lens seems to be taking photos of the same quality under iOS 8 as it did under previous systems.

Retiring

The good news is, the Camera App in iOS 8 does seem to be better. My photos are much clearer, even at full zoom. I’ll do more testing, but it’s looking like I may be retiring my suite of Vtec lenses for iPhone after less than 2 years of use!

Requesting

Have you upgraded your iPhone to iOS 8? Have you noticed any differences in the Camera App, specifically in the quality of the photos you can take? Please tell us about them in the comments below!

And if you have not upgraded, and you’re interested in a nice set of Vtec lenses for iPhone, email me and we can discuss the possibilities!

Why I’m changing web hosts

FatCow review

FatCow reviewFor several years, this blog and website have been hosted at FatCow.com. FatCow was recommended to me by a fellow blogger, and for a long time I was very happy with the service. I even recommended it to others.

No longer.

Customer “service”

There had been a few occasions when my interactions with customer service gave me the feeling that I was talking to a trainee. Phone help was better than Chat help, but even that began to decline.

Tech “support”

Then, when my site randomly disappeared a few months ago, and FatCow tech support suggested I had a plugin conflict (though my plugins had not changed in weeks), I started researching better options. I found a well-reviewed alternate, but I knew that making the switch would require a significant time investment, so I delayed making the switch.

But this past week saw me yelling at my laptop, waiting l-o-o-o-o-n-n-n-g minutes for a page to load anytime I tried to save a change in the post I was writing. Often I’d get a message saying my connection had been lost. When I asked tech support what was going on, he suggested that upgrading to a more expensive plan would solve the problem.

Cost

A host like FatCow specializes in appealing to low-traffic, low-budget sites like mine. I don’t have thousands of clients, and I don’t sell hundreds of products, so I’ve been able to make do with a low-cost host.

The problem with low-cost hosts is that they make their money by selling volume. The more people they cram onto their servers, the more profit they make. And the less attention and bandwidth each customer gets.

Moving to Inmotion

So my research led me to Inmotion Hosting, and I am ready to make the switch. I don’t know yet how long the transition will take or what the fall-out will be. (There’s always fall-out.) But I’m frustrated enough with FatCow to finally do it.

If you have any advice for me, please post a comment. Here’s hoping for minimal down-time!

Simple and deep: a book review of Hyperbole and a Half

Hyperbole and a Half

I was first introduced to the writings and drawings of Allie Brosh when a fellow blogger sent me a link to Allie’s post about “the Alot.” After reading it, I immediately subscribed to her Hyperbole and a Half blog.

Allie didn’t blog on a regular schedule, but each time her gently piercing cartoons arrived in my inbox, I rejoiced. When she gradually stopped blogging altogether, I wondered what had happened to her.

Hyperbole and a HalfThen she posted a blog about her struggle with depression and celebrity, and it helped explain where she had been. And I read an interview about her struggle, and she mentioned her upcoming book, and I knew I would need a copy.

Deep words

Allie is recognized for her distinctive drawings (which seem child-like but are carefully nuanced), but I am just as impressed with her writing. She has a wry intelligence that can be both hilarious and poignant. And she is decidedly unique (maybe even strange), yet her stories resonate with millions of people.

Listen to how she describes her depression:

“And that’s the most frustrating thing about depression. It isn’t always something you can fight back against with hope. It isn’t even something—it’s nothing. And you can’t combat nothing. You can’t fill it up. You can’t cover it. It’s just there, pulling all the meaning out of everything. That being the case, all the hopeful, proactive solutions start to sound completely insane in contrast to the scope of the problem.

“It would be like having a bunch of dead fish, but no one around you will acknowledge that the fish are dead. Instead, they offer to help you look for the fish or try to figure out why they disappeared.

“…The problem might not even have a solution. But you aren’t necessarily looking for solutions. You’re maybe just looking for someone to say ‘Sorry about how dead your fish are,’ or ‘Wow, those are super dead. I still like you, though.'”

I love that.

I don’t know how common or how personal depression is, but judging from the 5,000 comments on this post in her blog, Allie’s words are hitting home.

Simple pictures

Her drawings are too. Somehow, in her bright colors and trembly lines, Allie Brosh conveys a range of complex emotions. And she presents her visual story frame by frame with a sense of comic timing that feels like live stand-up. Take a look at the series below (which is of course copyrighted to Allie Brosh and is only included here as a review sample), about her canine companion, Simple Dog:

[Note: An alert reader let me know that the flipbook I created below does not appear on all mobile devices. Sorry. You’ll have to wait until you’re at your desktop to get the full effect.]

Notice how Simple Dog’s positioning changes just enough to give you the impression that something is going on inside that doggy head, but she just can’t quite make the connection. And I love the changing expressions on Allie’s face, too.

More about Allie Brosh

I recommend Hyperbole and a Half—the book as well as the blog—for anyone who has pets or children or parents or emotions or ADHD or a tendency toward perfectionism or a love of grammar.

And if you’d like to learn more about Allie, check out these interviews:

  • NPR (read the highlights, but also listen to the recorded story)
  • GoodReads (really good questions asked by the interviewer)

 

Book review: Business by the Book

review business by the book

Book

When I review Business by the Book, by Larry Burkett, I’m referring to the version that was published in 1990. The copy I have joined my business library only a few years ago—I don’t remember where I got it. When I was cleaning my office a few weeks ago, I almost put it on the “thrift shop” pile. But something made me decide to peruse it again rather than discard it. I’m glad I did.

Review

This is a classic book for business owners, and by “classic” I mean the principals are enduring. Though some of the real-life illustrations he shares seem a little dated, the advice is still sound.

Early in the book, Burkett lays out six “basic business minimums.” He proposes that applying these minimums is a good way to make a business distinctly Christian:

  1. Reflect Christ in your business practices.
  2. Be accountable.
  3. Provide a quality product at a fair price.
  4. Honor your creditors.
  5. Treat your employees fairly.
  6. Treat your customers fairly.

Now, perhaps it’s sad that Christian business people need to be taught this—it seems like the kind of thing we began learning in Sunday School! But I think Burkett’s assumption is valid: Too many business people—even those who claim to be Christians—believe that the Bible’s teachings are incompatible with savvy business.

Burkett shares plenty of real-life stories of people who applied Biblical principles to their business operations—sometimes at great financial cost. Though he comes close to painting a PollyAnna-ish picture of everything working out for people who do the right thing, he does acknowledge that it isn’t always easy. A Biblical decision may, in fact, not be profitable in the short-term. But in the long term, explains Burkett, God blesses His people.

That long-term view is important, maybe today more than ever. In an age of fast growth and instant gratification, it’s tempting to seek quick, easy success. But the foundation of every business is relationships—with customers, with staff, with vendors, with shareholders. And even today, relationships take time and trust.

Business by the Book

In the end, it doesn’t matter what type of business you’re in. I believe we will all be judged not by the profit margin we generate, or the product we manufacture, or the inspiring Mission Statement we hang on our walls. We will be judged by the quality of the relationships we develop, with God and with the people around us. As Burkett says:

“Since graduating from business school I have been studying another text book. It’s called the Bible. And it takes a radically different approach to business matters than most business schools today–an approach more concerned with eternity than profits.” (p. 11)