Flying a drone while from a moving truck on the Oregon Coast

I’d never flown a drone from a moving car. So when we were on the Oregon coast a few months ago, Jenna was driving slowly while I was standing on the bed of the truck trying to fly the drone. We did a few takes, driving forward and backwards. Here’s a cut from the footage.

Comparing iPhone OS camera vs Lightroom app camera for HDR

The top two HDR photos were taken using the iPhone’s camera app. The left one is the default and for the one on the right I tapped on the bright sky and reduced the exposure a little to get more of the color in.

The bottom two HDR photos were taken using Lightroom’s camera on the same iPhone. The left one is the default and the right one has the exposure reduced a little before capture.

Which one do you think came out best?

Startrails over a Community Observatory in California

So I have been taking night sky photos for a few years. Just as a hobby. Never seriously. Have only read some blogs and watched some videos and a lot of experimentation with the goal of just having fun. I know that star trails is yet another way to process those images but in all these years I had never once tried it. Just tried it on the images I took on New Year’s Day. These are 200 images (15s exposures) blended together to reveal the movement of the stars over an hour. The center of the apparent circle is the polar north, which is why all other stars appear to move around it.What do you think?

The blended image
One of the single captures

Thanksgiving at site of Native American petroglyphs where settlers entered California

Donner Pass: this is where the first European settlers entered into present-day California. They tried using a new route and it led to a horrible tragedy, if you have ever read about the Donner Party, this pass is named after them.

At the Donner summit are archeological petroglyphs – carvings on the rocks – made by the Native Americans called the Matis tribe who used to live here between 2000 BC to 500 AD and had already moved somewhere else by the time the Donner Party got here.

We spotted a baby shark in Bermuda which totally looks like a sting ray

I was recently in Bermuda with my WeHealth team and we had just spent half a day snorkeling. Back at the dock we spotted this things pacing the inlet. Someone identified it and said it’s actually a shark even though it looks like a sting ray.

Turns out this is actually a baby shark … do do do do do 😂

Documenting the difference that properly fitting trousers can make

This is embarrassing but a totally true story. A few years ago I was visiting my team in Poland. I travel light and only had one pair of pants. They got caught in something and tore on the way there. I had no time to try and fix it as I had to rush to all day of meetings. As the day progressed the tear got bigger. By evening it had become large enough that you could “see inside”. But all the stores were closed by then so I couldn’t get a sewing kit or buy new pants.

We had back to back meetings and dinners all week. I had no time to fix the pants nor buy a new pair. By day 4 I couldn’t wear them anymore. So I started showing up to work in my pajamas. If you think people on the street assumed I’m some homeless bum, you are right. Just look at me on the left. Totally a homeless dude. But the shiny, expensive-looking leather boots 🥾 threw people off. I would get a lot of stares. I would literally see people’s expressions shift as they scanned me from head to toe.

Finally, on day 9 I was able to make it to a store at 8am, an hour before my next meeting. I picked the first pair of pants and they fit me perfectly.

I took this picture exactly three years ago today in the dressing room to document the before and after look 😂 Until that day I had never really fully appreciated the difference properly fitting trousers can make ☺️

Inside a dressing room of a department store in Poznań in Poland 🇵🇱

Shooting with ISO Invariance

So I am going to nerd out here for a bit 🤓

I had read somewhere that the recent Sony cameras are ISO invariant. Meaning the raw data captured by the sensor doesn’t depend on what ISO is set in the settings. So if you shoot a photo at 3200 ISO in the camera and compare it with the same photo shot at 320 ISO and then later brightened in software, you would notice no difference.So a couple of months ago when I was at the Grand Canyon in Arizona, I decided to try it out. Finally got around to pixel peeping on that.

On the left is what I would normally shoot at night, at 3200 ISO, a 15s exposure. On the right, I reduced the ISO down to 320 with everything else the same. And now I added exposure via software. And indeed, the noise introduced by the camera when I bump up the ISO on it is at the same level if I add exposure in post processing in software.

So why would I do this? What did I gain by shooting at low ISO? One thing is that if I had accidentally set my ISO too high, I couldn’t have dialed it down in post. So for sure, on sensors like this, it seems to be a good strategy to underexpose when in doubt.

And that points to the related advantage, if I have the moon in this photo, or the lights on the north rim as can be seen in this picture, those lights don’t get blown out at the low ISO. So I can extract slightly better dynamic range in post-processing on photos that are shot at lower ISO.The limitation to shooting at base ISO and brightening later, however, is that I was only seeing a black preview on the back of my LCD all night! I usually shoot without post-processing in mind, I don’t have time. I prefer to get all the settings right, so I can quickly get it out without additional steps. My bias has been speed over quality. So not sure if this is for me. But it is exciting to finally verify for myself that ISO invariance is a thing, and it’s kinda fascinating. Anyone else who has experience with this?

Apple’s usability issue has left me without a phone

My phone was cracked so I decided to get it replaced using the iPhone Express Replacement service. I have used it in the past and I value it because it means no disruption. I get the new device, I get to activate it, and only then I ship my old phone to them.

So I started at Apple’s website to follow the instructions to do so. I clicked on the first link to “Confirm your coverage”

It took me to a page where it asked me to enter my serial number and hit continue.

It then told me that my device was indeed covered. However, this is where the issue began.

There was a “Start Claim” button prompting me to click on it if I had accidental damage, theft, or loss. This conflicted with the instructions on the support page. But because this was the official status page for my device, I thought it made more sense to follow instructions for my device.

So I clicked on “Start Claim”.

I don’t have screenshots of what happened afterwords.

  • I checked a box that said that “Once you submit your claim your device ownership will be transferred to Assurant who will then handle the next steps.”
  • Then I hit continue
  • Then it asked me to insert the date for the incident, so I entered it
  • Then I got an alert on my other Apple device to confirm that I was filing a claim
  • Then it asked me to pick one of only two options: [ ] Theft or [ ]Lost
  • On the prior screen, I was asked to click on Start claim for accidental damage, theft, or loss coverage, but now it was only showing two options with no option to pick accidental damage
  • So I canceled the claim process. I never completed it. I never picked either of the options, I never clicked [Next], I never provided the required description of the incident etc.
  • I then switch to contact Apple Support about setting up express replacement
  • While I was chatting with Apple Support, my iPhone suddenly shut down
  • I thought it had lost power, so I plugged it in and tried restarting it
  • But it restarted with a strange progress bar
  • And 120s later it came back on completely and it was fully reset / erased

I received an email from Apple saying the following:

The device is now in lost mode. Apple says they can no longer do an express replacement until I can either remove the device from lost mode, or remove the phone from my account. I a unable to do either of those things as I get an error message saying “This phone has been reported as lost / stolen” and nothing happens.

I am a computer engineer. I have tried every single thing possible on every device I have to try all combinations and I drew a blank.

I have talked to both Apple & Assurant, both are clueless what to do.

This has started a pillar to post interaction where Apple says this is Assurant’s problem. Assurant says it’s Apple’s problem. Both call each other and pass the buck to the other party and transfer me and then I get transferred back.

I have also spent hours screensharing with a senior Apple tech who says he has never seen anything like it in 4.5 yrs.

I finally asked him what his estimate is for how long it will take. Because if it is going to take longer than a few hours then I really need to think of a plan B. I had to cancel multiple meetings and stall a lot of work because of this.

The Apple technician I spoke to was very nice. And smart. And he suggested that the only way to resolve this is to send the phone to Apple with a note explaining what happened. So that’s what I am doing now. I will print out this blog post, and put it in the box that I will be shipping to Apple.

Apple’s customer experience is really good. It is something I appreciate and value. But I unfortunately have run into the 0.1% cases where it’s not stellar.

What I would like to see is:

  1. At a bare minimum, I should get a new phone in return for the cracked one (minus the deductible). Honor the replacement warranty that I am paying for. It’s not my fault that the glitch in the flow has put this phone in some twilight zone.
  2. But to be honest, the cascading effect this has had on my productivity, the stress of dealing with all this when I literally am paying a premium to not have these gaps and bumps, I don’t know how to quantify that all. As the founder of a pandemic startup who has 10 other things on his plate that are way more urgent, this has been an extremely unsettling and stressful thing to deal with.