iPhone Dithers Images

I first noticed a problem with how the iPhone was displaying synced images while working on user interface comps for MobileTwitterrific. I would export a 24-bit PNG image and place it in iPhoto to view the picture directly on the iPhone at 1:1. This would allow me to see how controls and text held up on the high resolution display and adjust the UI elements accordingly. To my dismay I noticed that once synced, all images placed on the iPhone displayed dithering artifacts. The same thing happens when you sync any of the free wallpapers available at the Iconfactory via iTunes and iPhoto.

I didn’t pay this problem much attention at first, but yesterday I noticed the so-called “Icon Factory Wallpapers” pack that popped up on Nullriver’s AppTapp installer from Conceited Software. After having installed the wallpaper pack, I noticed, as did an observant user named Keith Rhee, that these images did not suffer from the same 8-bit dithering as other user installed images. Keith’s done some digging and discovered that either iPhoto or iTunes compresses all synced images down to 8-bit pngs using a custom algorithm that neither he nor I can re-create with Photoshop. Apple obviously did this to save precious storage space on the iPhone, but depending on the image, sometimes the results can be less than spectacular (see above).

Keith was good enough to come up with a manual work-around for this problem that you can use if you want your iPhone wallpapers to appear as smooth and silky as they possibly can. Of course, neither Keith, myself nor the Iconfactory take responsibility for any potential damage done to your iPhone as a result of these instructions. Here is the process:

1. Use AppTapp to put Nullriver’s Installer on your iPhone.

2. Using Installer, install the BSD sub-system and the SSH client/server.

3. Under your phone’s wi-fi settings, look up the current IP address.

4. Use an SFTP client (Keith used Interarchy) to access the iPhone at the aforementioned IP address. The default username/password for an iPhone is ‘root’ and ‘dottie’ respectively. (Unless the owner of the iPhone has changed the username and password for his/her iPhone.)

5. The official Apple wallpapers are located at /Library/Wallpaper. Two files are required for all wallpapers that you install in this directory:

* The wallpaper itself – 320×480 pixels
* The thumbnail file that shows up in the wallpaper browser – 75×75 pixels

If the wallpaper is named foo.png, then the wallpaper thumbnail needs to be named foo.thumbnail.png.

Apple obviously took great care to design on-screen elements that look as good as they possibly can. The high resolution touch-sensitive screen has been hailed by critics and users alike as being unmatched on any mobile device. Apple’s default wallpapers are positively gorgeous, as are the individual apps, window elements and controls. But when it comes to our photos and wallpapers, Apple has decided they need to be dithered and compressed to save space. Some will say the visual difference is negligible, and most of the time this is true. The real bummer here is that we have no choice if synced images are dithered or not.

I’d like to suggest that Apple gives users the option to decide if we want to save that space, or display our family photos and wallpapers as we intended them, in all their 24-bit glory. If you agree, head on over to Apple’s iPhone feedback page and tell them a pixel is a terrible thing to waste.

Schadenfreude ala Apple

Ask Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch or anyone who’s dared to stick their neck out on Survivor, and they’ll tell you being at the top is a dangerous place. As often happens in technology, industry and reality TV, the higher you dare to reach, the more people will want to see you fall. Judging by the flurry of negative reports published this week about Apple, Steve Jobs must be doing something VERY right. The sheer number of “analysis” by so-called experts, dealing with the iPhone price cut has reached deafening proportions, and almost all of them take pot shots at my favorite computer company.

How bad can it be? That’s what I asked when the usual suspects published their typical bullshit about Apple following the “Beat Goes On” special event on Wednesday. TheStreet.com’s Scott Moritz was back in classic Apple bashing form with this whopper:

“The move will add more evidence to the speculation that the iPhone, while causing quite a buzz, may not be selling as rapidly as some optimists had expected.”

Lest he forget, the only “optimist” that said Apple would sell more iPhones than were expected was Mortiz himself. A fact that he’s never actually admitted to or apologized for. TheStreet.com was just getting started however, as this piece from Marek Fuchs proved:

“Now, if you can name a product in the annals of commerce that was introduced to great fanfare and shortly afterward had its price slashed to ribbons where that worked out to be a good thing, well, do let me know.”

I hate to break the news to you Marek, but there are plenty of examples of similar price slashing, and one even comes from the cell phone industry. The ultra-popular Motorola Razr dropped more than 1/3 in price within the first six months of its debut, and although the iPhone dropped faster, I suspect it’s simply because the iPhone was ten times more anticipated (and sold ten times better) than the Razr.

I’m pleased to write that it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Apple this week however. In an enlightend piece from NYT piece on Friday, Saul Hansell cuts through the crap and actually discovers the real reason for the iPhone price cut:

“The central rule of technology is that the unit price drops sharply with volume. If Apple sold more than it hoped, then it would achieve scale faster and would be able to drop prices sooner. Apple’s introduction of the iPod Touch, using many of the same parts as the iPhone, gives it an even bigger checkbook to brandish in Taiwan to secure good supplies at good prices.”

Hansell aside, it’s a sad state of affairs that outsiders like John Gruber and myself, have a clearer picture of what’s going on here than the people that write for Wall Street’s largest publications. Apple set the iPhone’s launch price high because they knew gadget lust would be ridiculous. It’s the basic law of supply and demand, and Apple played it perfectly. They knew that people would bitch about the price of the iPhone prior to launch, but that hundreds of thousands would pay it just the same.

With the successful launch of the iPhone, Jobs was able to reduce the iPhone’s entry price to levels below any similarly equipped smart phone on the market. These new price levels virtually guarantee Apple a very merry Christmas buying season. Despite this clear and agressive strategy, all Mortiz, and others such as Dvorak and Robinson can come up with is “The iPhone is DOOMED!”. This second rate analysis is almost as funny as Britney Spear’s supposed come back.

So all you so-called “experts”, do me a favor and keep publishing those Apple hit pieces. Your collective efforts drove AAPL down far enough that I could pick up more shares that will eventually, inevitably rise to $150 and help pad my retirement. Steve and I thank you.

UPDATE: Gruber thinks Mortiz is shorting Apple stock, and I agree 100%. He’s got another tissue of lies masquerading as factual reporting today. Moritz says that “Optimists had figured the price cut and product shuffle, while sudden, was part of a bigger plan to make way for a higher priced 3G iPhone on the eve of the holiday buying season.” Wanna take a bet as to whom the “Optimists” are in this scenario? Can’t be Apple or any real customer base, because no one has ever said that 3G would be available on the iPhone this year or even next. That leaves one person… Scott Mortiz. Break out your duck boots people, we’re knee deep in bullshit.

Sweet Zombie Jesus!

“Everyone always says they’re in favor of saving Hitler’s brain. But as soon as you put it in the body of a great white shark, ooohh! Suddenly you’ve gone too far!”

Just another friendly reminder that all-new episodes of Futurama are coming to Comedy Central in November. I don’t regret telling you this, but I do both rue and lament it.

He’s Pissed, and I Don’t Blame Him

I love how this ad takes Bush’s “either you are with us or you are with the terrorists” rhetoric and turns it on its head. The climate deniers seem to respond to black and white vs. levels of gray, so maybe spots like this will penetrate their thick, thick skulls. We can only hope and pray. There isn’t much time left.

Nothing to See Here

Global warming is a hoax. Just remember that simple “fact” as you watch the news this week. Temperatures in parts of the United States have hit triple digits for the second straight week, California is suffering rolling blackouts due to the extreme heat and Felix grew from a tropical storm to a category 5 hurricane in just 27 hours. None of this matters you see, because evidently there is no empirical evidence to suggest that man is causing climate change.

I know what you’re thinking. You thought the argument was that the climate wasn’t changing AT ALL, not that man was causing it. Well, those skeptics seem to have given up on that lame defense and are now admitting that climate change is real, it’s just not humans who are causing it. It has to do with the wobble of the earth, or sun spots, or water vapor or cycles or… or… whatever! Just not increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels. No, there is no evidence of that what-so-ever.

So as you bake in your blacked out or windswept home in the days and weeks ahead, just keep repeating to yourself that man isn’t to blame and there is nothing we can or even should do about it. If you say it enough times, it will be true. At least in your own head.

Greensboro Gets StreetSmart

Mercedes-Benz and Smart are currently touring the country to give eager fans of the Smart Fortwo an early look. Various models of the automobile have been a hit in Europe since it debuted in 1998. Its micro size gives the car an ability to park almost anywhere, which tends to come in handy on the narrow streets of European capitals. The “StreetSmart” tour, as is being called in the U.S., finally came to Greensboro this weekend, and so my friends Talos & Rachel Tsui and I packed up and headed out to the Shops at Friendly center to get a good look and test drive the Fortwo.

The sign-up and waiting period for the test drive lasted 2 full hours. Thankfully the weather was cooler than it’s been in recent memory, with gray skies that kept the beating sun off of us and the hundreds of other people waiting to get their hands on the wheel. We queued up through a high-tech trailer lined with safety videos and technical illustrations of the car as we wound our way out back, closer and closer to the car. The entire event reminded me of being in line for Space Mountain at Disney World, except there were no screaming kids and it was free.

The Fortwo has what Smart calls “automated manual transmission”. If that sounds confusing, that’s because it is. Once inside the car, the Smart representative informed me that the transmission does more work for you than a manual, but I quickly found it isn’t an true automatic either. With the push of a button, you can leave the car in “automatic” and it will shift in and out of the appropriate gears. However, at any time, you can begin to shift manually using either of the paddle shifters nested on the steering wheel, or via the more traditional shifter on the floor. I quickly found that shifting manually was not only more fun, but resulted in a smoother drive as well. I’m told the car is still geared for European roads and the shift timing will be improved for automatic mode prior to its official launch.

Overall I was surprised at how roomy the car was. I’m a big guy, and yet I had enough space to be comfortable, and was able to see out over the ultra-small hood and side windows easily. I had the pleasure of driving the cabrio convertible, which was especially fun on the streets behind the Shops at Friendly. According to Smart, the car will start at prices under $12K and should get an average of 40 mpg in the city, which is pretty good. The European market also has the option of a diesel engine, which I’m starting to get keen on thanks to more info from my friend Corey. No telling yet if the diesel version will be available in the United States.

All in all, the Smart Fortwo was a pleasure to drive and look at. Although the visual design of the Smart can’t help but bring a toy to mind, the car itself does not feel toyish in any way. The controls, materials and handling are all what you would expect from Mercedes-Benz. As an in-town commuter car, I think it would be ideal. Trips to work, the grocery store, and errands would all shine with the Fortwo. Obviously I’m not sure how it would hold up on long trips, or extended drives on highways crowded with impatient drivers. It was encouraging to see so many people waiting in line to test drive the Smart. Given the ever climbing price of gas, and the U.S.’s seemingly endless need for huge SUVs, the Smart may very live up to its name and help bring Americans, driving stylishly, into the 21st century.

So You’re an Idiot Then

From Think Progress:

After his plane was forced to take evasive maneuvers to avoid rocket-propelled grenades while taking off from Baghdad, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said “he watched through the window as the grenades exploded near the plane. He said he felt the blasts.” Asked if he was frightened, Inhofe responded, “Not a bit. I was kind of excited.“

Not only is Inhofe the biggest partisan hack in the history of the U.S. government, but to him, almost getting shot down over Iraq is like riding Space Mountain at Disney World. It’s enough to give new meaning to the term, Fastpass.