A Comparison of How Olympus and Sony’s 5 Axis Stabilization Systems Work →

December 17, 2014 |

Chris Gampat, The Phoblographer:

At a recent media excursion with Sony, we were given a presentation on how their sensor stabilization works. For starters, Sony stated that it needed to develop a brand new system independent of Olympus’s for many reasons–but the most notable reason has to do with the fact that Olympus’s system was developed for the Micro Four Thirds world. Sony’s would need to be developed for a full frame system and in order to do this, the company pulled engineers from many parts of its company to develop the technology.

Stabilizing a full frame sensor takes a lot more work than it would for a Four Thirds sensor–and that’s why Sony developed the system that they did.

Fascinating stuff.

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Parallax Error →

December 17, 2014 |

John Carey has a few interesting thoughts on the optimal wallpaper resolution for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus:

When you set a wallpaper, iOS makes a copy of the image and saves it internally, this way if you delete the original, you won’t loose [sic] your wallpaper. The problem is that the file it saves is only adequate for a vertical orientation so when you rotate your home screen the image blows up and becomes horrible looking. Troubling! Apple’s default images always rotate perfectly because they are stored internally within iOS and maintain the correct resolution for the longest side of the screen when rotated horizontally, a technique first seen in the original iPad.

If you’re using your own pictures as wallpapers, you should read this.

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NOTE: This is the fourth article in my Introduction to Whisky series. You can read the past articles in the series here.

After Glenmorangie Ten Year Old - The Original, which I reviewed here a few weeks ago, The Quinta Ruban is the next step in Glenmorangie’s core range. It’s a 12-year-old single malt and it’s the result of letting The Original mature for an extra couple of years in Portuguese port casks.

Glenmorangie 12 Year Old - The Quinta Ruban. Photo Credit: Spencer Blake

I already wrote in some detail about the origins of the Glenmorangie distillery in my review of The Original, so I won’t repeat that part here. If you haven’t read that article, now would be an excellent time to do so. It’s OK, I’ll wait. Besides, The Original is actually the base for The Quinta Ruban, so it makes sense to get to know it before venturing in deeper waters.

Back already? Awesome. Then let’s take a closer look at The Quinta Ruban and see what we find.

A word about Glenmorangie’s wood-finished variants

According to Wikipedia, finishing is “the procedure that some whiskeys [sic] undergo whereby the spirit is matured in a cask of a particular origin and then spends time in a cask of different origin”.

Besides The Quinta Ruban and The Original, Glenmorangie’s core range currently includes two other 12-year-old wood-finished single malts. The Lasanta is finished in Spanish Oloroso Sherry casks and The Nectar D’Or is the Sauternes-finished variant.

If you’d like to taste all of them, Amazon UK has a nice gift set that includes a 10 cl bottle of each of the four variants for £36.99, or about $60. It would be a fantastic gift for any whisky aficionado.

Glenmorangie Gift Set. Photo Credit: Dominic Lockyer

Port and Sherry are fortified wines — Sauternes is a sweet wine from France — that are commonly used by some distillers to finish their whiskies. In this case, Glenmorangie’s master distiller tried to add an extra layer of complexity by incorporating some of the sweetness and richness of these strongly aromatic wines to their already excellent The Original. The results, however, are a bit of a mixed bag. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Learning to nose whisky, one dram at a time

The Quinta Ruban is the first whisky I’m tasting — or nosing, as the term seems to be — off a single-serving 3 cl dram. I purchased a set of 13 different drams on Master of Malt a couple months ago, when I put together the list of whiskies I wanted to taste in my first approach to the world of single malt whisky. This was not one of my 11 original selections, but I added it to the list at the last minute on Matt Gemmell’s recommendation.

The drams themselves are lovely. They look a bit like antique apothecary bottles, and they feel right at home in my liquor cabinet. The red wax seal preserves all the aroma and character of the whisky, and the label displays all the information you need. It’s a wonderful way to peruse rare or expensive whiskies without needing to spend hundreds of dollars.

The only complaint I have about these drams — and it’s admittedly nitpicking — is their size. They’re perfectly adequate, but I can’t help but feel they’re just a tiny bit too small for my taste. It’s so close that it really is a shame; a measure of 4 cl instead of 3 would have been perfect. It doesn’t look like much, but if there’s one thing we can all agree upon it’s that, all other things being equal, more whisky is better.

The Quinta Ruban

The Quinta Ruban is described by Glenmorangie as “The darkest and most intense whisky in the extra-matured range”. It’s certainly darker than The Original, with a lovely mahogany color that I would rate as 1.6 on the Whisky Magazine color chart:


Click or tap on the chart to view it full-size

The difference between this one and The Original — which I rated as 0.2-0.3 on that same chart — is striking:

Yes, your eyes don’t deceive you: there is more whisky — and therefore, more happiness — in the second glass

This difference is not only cosmetic, mind you: unlike The Original, The Quinta Ruban is non-chill filtered and has no caramel coloring. That means the color we see is entirely due to the distillation process. In this case, The Quinta Ruban owes its darker, richer color to the time it spent maturing in port casks.

The nose

No matter how many times I tasted The Original, I was never able to discover any fruity aromas, and that drove me mad. Here, on the other hand, they’re present in spades, but that doesn’t make The Quinta Ruban any easier to nose. Here’s a video of the official tasting notes by Glenmorangie’s master distiller:

On my first approach I was immediately surprised by its boldness, and the overwhelming sensation that washed over me as I inhaled. A very strong aroma compared to The Original, I thought of bitter oranges and something like peaches, but not quite. There’s also a bit of caramel, or toffee. The port comes through with a hint of sweetness in the end.

This dram has been a constant struggle for me because the components are all there, but not in their usual form. It’s like they’ve been tampered with, almost. You think you smell oranges, but then you think of marmalade. You think you recognize a hint of cinnamon, but on your next pass it’s gone. It’s as if too many scents were fighting for your attention, and the total was somehow less than the sum of its parts.

Of course, one can never discount the fact that this may be due to my inexperience in nosing whiskies as complex as this one. I assume that a more seasoned nose would be able to appreciate it in its full glory, but unfortunately it appears I’m not quite there yet.

I will say this, though: even if I’m not able to pick apart each individual scent, I really do enjoy the boldness of The Quinta Ruban’s aroma.

The palate

Here is where things start getting ugly, unfortunately. The Quinta Ruban is bottled at 46% alcohol, which means it needs quite a bit of water to open up and be more enjoyable. Not adding enough water results in a very unpleasant burning sensation that dulls your perception of the whisky. Conversely, adding too much water means you’ll end up with a drowned, character-less whisky that won’t tell you much either.

Once you get the right amount of water and swirl it in the glass for a while, The Quinta Ruban is sweet and herbal, which to me seems like an odd combination. In fact, while I drank it I couldn’t stop thinking about medicine. It also feels somewhat chemical, and it reminds me of a cough syrup that’s been made artificially sweet in order to trick you into thinking you’re having something else. I may have an unresolved childhood trauma with cough syrups, because the thought made me quite uneasy about it.

The finish

I’d say it’s long, and thankfully subtle. The weird, sort-of-chemical taste wears off fairly quickly, and the remaining sweetness lingers on for a good while after that. I quite enjoy the aftertaste, to be honest, just not what I have to go through in order to get there.

Perfect for

It’s hard for me to think of a situation to recommend this particular whisky, because I honestly don’t see myself buying a full-sized bottle, and I certainly wouldn’t order it if I had other decent choices.

That said, in my mind wood-finished whiskies like The Quinta Ruban, The Lasanta or The Macallan are inherently classier than others. Their darker hue is a very characteristic trait that I’ve come to associate with sophistication and elegance through the magic of cinema and television — Don Draper, I’m looking at you.

I would then suggest to leave this one for more formal occasions, where it’s not only about enjoying a fine dram, but also looking good while doing it.

A dram for social occasions

Final Words

Like I said, this one’s definitely a mixed bag. While there’s plenty to love here, I’m still unconvinced and I can’t help but think that if I were given the choice between this one and The Original, I would pick The Original every time.

I’m well aware that I haven’t had a whole lot of time to get properly acquainted with it, and I do believe it’s the kind of whisky that gets better with time and continued exposure. However, there are a couple things here I’m not too fond of, such as the herbal touch in combination with its rather overpowering sweetness. These little things will probably keep me from coming back too often to this one. That said, I’m curious to try The Lasanta and The Nectar D’Or, so perhaps I’ll buy the gift set and give it another chance. We’ll see.

In any case, I have no doubts The Quinta Ruban is an excellent single malt, it’s just not up my particular alley. I guess you can’t win every game.

I look forward to my next stop, and I think I’m ready for stronger flavors. Perhaps it’s time to revisit Talisker — I had a first brush with it years ago — or maybe even one of the the more peaty Islay denominations if I’m feeling brave. Until then, happy nosing!

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Off to work at  →

December 15, 2014 |

Jeremy Foo tells the story of how, after four years of trying, he managed to get a development job at Apple:

The code review was brutal. The author of UITableView eviscerated every decision I made in the design of that piece of work. It was pretty obvious that at that moment, everything was a bust. What I also did realise was also how high the bar was and that I had a lot of work to do.

Great story. I just hope he cleared it with someone at Apple before publishing the article. Otherwise, I don’t imagine they’ll be too happy about those pictures being made public by a new recruit.

Via The Loop.

UPDATE: Since the publication of this entry, Jeremy has deleted the original article.

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Hacking The Tweet Stream →

December 15, 2014 |

M.G. Siegler, on the recent trend of embedding a picture of text in a tweet to be able to tweet longer messages:

In the age of Tweetstorms, I thought I would grow to hate this as well. But I actually quite like it. One big reason: it maintains the flow of the tweet stream. That is, it’s one tweet with a payload, so it both flows in and out of the stream just as quickly as a regular tweet. And, more importantly, it can be retweeted (another one of those early Twitter “hacks” that has since become part of the official canon) and replied to without breaking context.

I’m seeing these tweets more and more in my timeline as well. I’m not crazy about it becoming a thing, but I can’t say it bothers me, either.

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“It stops today” →

December 15, 2014 |

Patrick Rhone proposes an alternative to “I can’t breathe”, the rallying cry against racial discrimination and police brutality that was widely adopted in memory of Eric Garner:

Let us remember him this way. The way we remember Rosa Parks. Proud, tired, and stating with fierce dignity, “It stops today”.

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José Mujica, sobriety and the two-week test

December 12, 2014

José Mujica, the current President of Uruguay, is quite the character. He doesn’t live in the presidential house, for one, and instead spends his days in a modest farm owned by his wife in the outskirts of Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital city. His security detail is the bare minimum Uruguayan law would allow him: two security guards by the front gate and two orange traffic safety cones. And the cones, he jokes, he could do without.

Permanent Council Receives President of Uruguay

Photo Credit: OEA - OAS

His monthly salary as Uruguay’s President amounts to approximately $12,000, 90% of which he donates to several charities across the nation. This has earned him a solid reputation as “the world’s humblest president”.

Sobriety as a way of life

Mujica’s sober personality stands in stark contrast with the rest of global political leaders, so often surrounded by excess and scandal. If these leaders, Mujica believes, don’t live like their countries’ citizens, how can they be expected to solve their problems? How could they ever fix something they fail to understand at the most fundamental of levels?

It’s this sobriety — which he carelessly shrugs off, as if it had never been really a choice — that has become the defining trait in his political career. It has also, of course, earned him a few enemies along the way. But Mujica doesn’t have time to worry about them; his gaze always seems to focus elsewhere, his mind busy, thinking of all the things he wants to do next.

When asked by a Spanish reporter during an interview a few months ago, he had a few very interesting things to say about the consumer society, and sobriety as a way of life. Unfortunately, the original interview is in Spanish, so I have transcribed and translated the most relevant bits below for your benefit:

In today’s society, due to the multiplication of this hyper-consumerism, we are leaving other essential forms of consumption unattended and instead, we’re spending tons of human resources on pretty stupid things that have little to do with human happiness.

People are stuck inside the giant spider web that is the consumer society, which is built upon the idea of accumulating stuff, and they don’t even realize it. But let’s go to the beginning. When you buy something, make no mistake, the money is an instrument that you’re using to pay for it. But what you’re actually paying with is the time of your life that you had to spend in order to earn that money. So whenever you spend on something, what you’re really giving away is time, the time of your life.

When I talk about sobriety as a way of life, I’m talking about the kind of sobriety that gives you more time, as much time as possible, to devote to the things that truly motivate you. Which are not necessarily related to work.

There’s so much truth in these words. This is a man that values time and attention over the material things in life, and that appreciation has informed every decision in his life. It’s not up to me to judge his political career but at 79, his self-awareness and passion for life are surely worthy of admiration.

Time may be the single most valuable resource we have, and yet we carelessly give it away until one day, most of our life is gone and there’s no going back. But, as Mujica exemplifies, there’s another way to go about life, one that doesn’t revolve around owning more stuff or earning more money.

A geek and his toys

As a geek, I sometimes struggle to embrace a lifestyle of minimalism. I like minimalism on its face, both as a philosophy and as an aesthetic style, but the compromises it demands of me are sometimes overwhelming, because I have a natural tendency to love shiny gadgets and an insatiable passion for discovering new things.

It’s taken me a few years to find an acceptable balance between sobriety and minimalism as an ideal, and a practical approach capable of informing my everyday decisions without requiring me to become a monk. This balance, I have found, adds tremendous value to my life and enhances the role of everything and everyone in it, because everything becomes a conscious choice born of intentionality, instead of it being a random accident or a superfluous craving. It feels like being in control of my own life, and if there’s one thing geeks love more than toys is being in control.

My general approach when it comes to purchasing stuff or incorporating new things into my life comes down to a very simple question: does it provide long-lasting value or is it a spur-of-the-moment, impulsive decision?

It seems like a pretty easy question, but if you’re anything like me, you know answering it correctly can be surprisingly tricky.

Another character trait most of us share is our ability to become extremely excited when we desire something. We now call it being passionate as if it’s a good thing, but make no mistake, there’s nothing noble about it. Desire is an incredibly powerful emotion, but it has the unfortunate side-effect of skewing perspective. When I want something — really want it — I will go to great lengths to justify my intention to buy it. Sometimes, this rationalization happens without my even noticing, and that’s when I know I’m in trouble. That’s when I know it’s time to take a couple steps back.

Who hasn’t spent days researching a new gadget or whatever, only to find it extremely lacking and disappointing when the initial excitement wears off? If you were to look back through the whole process, more often than not you’d find out it was you who deliberately tricked yourself into believing you needed it in the first place. All along, it was you who planted the idea in your head, and it was you who let it grow until it became so powerful that the only way to silence it was to give in to it.

What’s even worse, the whole experience usually leaves behind a sense of disappointment that lasts far longer than the initial excitement, and this dissatisfaction only moves you to try and find the next cool thing.

It happens to the best of us. Luckily, there’s a way to handle it — or at the very least, limit its potential for financial and emotional ruin.

The two-week test

Whenever I’m faced with a new purchasing decision, I apply what I call the two-week test. It’s a remarkably simple thing to do, but it requires a fair amount of discipline and self-control, which are precisely the key factors in all of this.

What the test consists of is this: once I’m done with all my research and I’ve isolated the item I want to buy, I just sit on it for two full weeks before buying it. That’s it. It really is that simple.

I have found that two weeks is just about the time it takes for a fleeting passion to dissipate. Surely in that time, a new interest is bound to cross my mind, and that’s exactly how I test the merit of the original idea. If after those two weeks of competing with other interests the original idea still makes sense, then I go ahead and buy it without remorse.

Now, the key thing here is that when I say sit on it for two weeks, what I really mean is, completely forget about it for two weeks. No more research, no more reading about it, nothing. Which, of course, is easier said than done.

I can’t speak for you, but my brain is particularly tricky when I’m zeroing in on a new purchase, especially if we’re talking about a volatile object such as an eBay listing or a hard-to-find item. There’s almost always a key moment during the research phase when I convince myself that I just found the bargain of the century. I mean it, I actually believe that I’ve somehow managed to find a once-in-a-lifetime deal and that if I don’t pull the trigger that very second I’m going to end up regretting it forever.

Obviously, that’s bullshit.

No matter how great a deal it may seem, if you managed to come across it in just a couple days of casual online research, chances are you’ll find it again. Or maybe you’ll find an even better deal. On an intellectual, rational level, I know that. I know the rush I feel is bullshit. But the funny thing is, it never feels like bullshit at the time.

I still struggle to pass the two-week test. Every. Single. Time. I’ve gotten better at it with the years, but it would be a stretch to say I’ve mastered my geeky impulses. Like most of you out there, I still have a pretty long way to go.

Like my father before me

During the same interview with the Spanish reporter above, José Mujica also talked about consumerism itself, and how it’s the wrong way to solve the problems of the global economy. Here’s a translated excerpt (emphasis mine):

You told me in the beginning that consumer spending is good because it reactivates the economy, and I say you’re right, but whose spending? If we cared about healthy spending, necessary spending by people that today don’t have the means to buy anything, we could grow a global market. And, we’d have a lot more jobs for everyone. But we don’t do that. Instead, we just build disposable stuff and call that innovation.

I see that you don’t shave, but let’s say you did. Why do you need to buy new blades every two or three days, when our grandfathers taught us that a single straight razor can last for three generations?

If we tried to fix the problem of all those people who are starving on Africa and America, you’d see what a market there is, brother. There’s market to spare. To build houses, to fight for medicine… Generosity is the best business.

Once again, it’s hard to argue with that. If you’ve been reading along for some time, you know the topic of responsible consumption has been a recurring theme lately on Analog Senses. About six weeks ago, I published an article titled ‘On craftsmanship, consumerism and zombie iPads’ where among other things, I wrote about how shaving technology evolved from long-lasting straight razors into disposable razors and blades, which were cheaper to produce, but much more expensive to own in the long run, and generated a lot more waste. This nicely mirrors Mujica’s position. One sentence, in particular, now stands out to me:

I write with a fountain pen, I wear a nice watch — nice doesn’t have to mean ridiculously expensive, mind you — and I buy quality items whenever I can. I’ve only owned 3 pairs of winter boots in the past 15 years, all of which were the exact same model. I also ride hand-made bicycles that are almost as old as I am, and that my children will hopefully enjoy riding one day as well. I haven’t quite mastered the art of shaving with a straight razor yet, mostly because I haven’t been clean-shaven in over four years, but I like to think that if I started shaving again, I would probably purchase a quality straight razor and never look back. I dream of one day owning a Leica camera — possibly even a film one — and it will probably be the last camera I ever buy.

As luck would have it, my electric shaver — a cheap one made by Philips — which I used to trim my beard about once a week, croaked on me shortly after publishing that article.

Which brings us to my next trick:

Straight Razor Shaving 101

I’ve always found the world of straight razor shaving fascinating, and I actually even bought one many years ago, when I didn’t know any better and I didn’t even own a computer. I never did any serious research and ended up buying a cheap one at a local store. The experience was understandably terrible — there were no YouTube tutorials around at the time — and after that, I kind of moved on and put it behind me. Recently though, it’s been coming back to me as a perfect example of everything I’m talking about here.

That incident years ago was a textbook failure of the two-week test — although technically, I hadn’t even thought the test up yet. Had I taken the time and effort to look at it the right way, I would have either bought a better razor or never bothered with it. Either way, the outcome would have been way better than it was.

This time around, I’m doing things differently. Since my shaver is dead and I need to spend the money anyway, why not take this opportunity to reassess the whole thing? Why not apply the test this time and see what happens?

Straight Razor Shaving 101

14 days. 336 hours. 20,160 minutes. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea

It’s been hard. Straight razors are a surprisingly deep rabbit hole, and there are many enthusiasts who swear by them. Filtering out the hype from the actual useful information was not always easy, but this wasn’t my first rodeo. After all, I’ve been blessed with a wide array of uncommon interests.

I took two weeks to do my research, and I soon decided to go for a vintage razor instead of a new one. Vintage razors are typically made of carbon steel, which is more flexible than the modern steel used in current straight razors. It’s also easier to sharpen and requires more care to maintain its edge, so there were a few factors to consider when picking a razor. Not to mention that vintage razors vary wildly in price.

During this phase, I was incredibly close to buying one or two razors I came across. In fact, I almost spent over $200 on a new old-stock (NOS) Filarmónica, an old Spanish manufacturer that’s supposed to be the holy grail of vintage razors. Luckily, I reminded myself of the rules and I decided to just wait it out.

The Filarmónica eventually went unsold, which eased me up a bit and gave me the calmness I needed to put the whole thing out of my mind for the next two weeks. It wasn’t easy, but after the first couple of days I started to relax and when the clock ran out, my mindset had changed dramatically. Instead of going for a high-end razor, I would go for a high-quality vintage razor from a lesser-known manufacturer. These are fairly easy to find on eBay, and can usually be found in pristine condition for under $100.

I finally settled on a new, unused vintage Jaguar, a group brand of renowned German manufacturer J. A. Henckels. I paid about $60 for it. It’s a great razor and to my eye, it also looks lovely:

Straight Razor Shaving 101

Straight Razor Shaving 101

It’s been a few days since I received it and so far I’m incredibly happy with my purchase. There’s quite a bit of a learning curve ahead of me, but I’ve already completed my first whole shave with it — two passes and all — and I’ve somehow managed to not slit my throat in the process, so I’d say I’m off to an pretty good start.

Straight Razor Shaving 101

Home is now behind you, the world is ahead

This experiment has reinforced my belief in the two-week test, and strengthened my determination to lead an intentional life and be a responsible consumer whenever possible. Like Mujica, I believe our time is too important to spend on disposable stuff that doesn’t add any value to our lives.

On a personal level, this is deeply satisfying. On a more immediate level, it also means I will never need to buy another razor. With proper care and maintenance, this one will easily outlive me.

However, straight razors are more than simple tools: they have as much craftsmanship in them as they have practical utility, and some of them are genuine works of art. There are many different types and many different sizes, and each one provides a different experience. I still have to find the one that works best for me. As a first foray into this world, though, I couldn’t be happier.

I look forward to exploring this new interest of mine, with the eyes of a curious novice. Suffice it to say, I have plenty of room to grow.

I just have to take it two weeks at a time.

Straight Razor Shaving 101

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Josh Ginter reviews Reeder 2 →

December 11, 2014 |

Another excellent software review by Josh Ginter. This time, he takes a look at my favorite RSS app: Reeder 2. I use it all the time on my Macs, my iPad and my iPhone, and I vastly prefer it over the native Feedly clients.

If you’re curious about it, Josh’s review has everything you want to know, and a few other things you haven’t thought of yet. Great stuff, as ever.

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