Archive December 2012

Taking time to look good: Jumping Spider Brendan Moyle Dec 29

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This isn't the time of the year when I'm on the computer often, and there's little sciency-stuff to write about. Hot humid summers in Auckland tend to encourage one to take it easy. I am however, taking the time to do a bit more macro-photography. One of my favourite subjects this time of year are the jumping spiders (Salticidae). They're growing large as their prey increases in abundance. One of the most widespread natives we have is a Salticid by the name of Trite planiceps – it's distinctive black carapace and front legs make it easy to spot. It's often found around flaxes and other native shrubs. Albeit yesterday I was surprised to find on on the back of my neck in the kitchen. I guess it was either a great optimist or had me confused with vegetation. Maybe I am moving too slowly…

I got this shot in an area of local bush a couple of days ago. The spider is kindly undergoing part of it's grooming behaviour. Many spiders do this grooming on a regular basis. It's a bit different to the normal stalking pose you might see.

The Salticids (family of jumping spiders) are well known for their excellent eyesight. They are able to discern shapes in 3D. Other spiders are suspected only to be able to sense movement, and rely on other cues (vibrations, chemical-signatures) to identify prey.

NZ Tunnelwebs Brendan Moyle Dec 11

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These large lurking spiders are common in the NZ bush. Their nocturnal habits though mean they are rarely seen by people. On occasion they do wander into people's houses. We had one crawl across the kitchen floor earlier on afternoon. Fortunately in our house we keep a cool head around large spiders. Actually we tend to be enthusiastic greeters to such arachnids.

Nonetheless, the best time to see these spiders is at night. It is extremely rare to see them out of their tunnels. Nonetheless, I managed it with this large beauty. This is the NZ Hexathelid Hexatheles hochstetteri – one of the very first species from NZ to be described.

This Mygalomorph spider is unusual for having 6 spinnerets rather than 4. They are some of New Zealand's largest (by weight) spiders.

#1 Wanderer

#2 Closeup- the small eyes are clustered at the front edge of the carapace

#3 Adapted to kill- the spines on the front legs help trap the prey long enough for the fangs to strike

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This is why I use Nokia maps Brendan Moyle Dec 10

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From the Victoria Police in Australia
Online Warning – Mildura Police are urging motorists to be careful when relying on the mapping system on the Apple i-phones

Technology is a wonderful thing until it lets you down.
But in reference to my earlier post, if you're going to be using your smartphone as a GPS system, it needs to be an accurate navigation system. This is one of the big reasons I've stuck with Nokia.

On reviews, technology and phones Brendan Moyle Dec 10

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In this internet age modern consumer electronics depend a lot more on reviews to get market share. I was reading the Herald’s review of the Nokia Lumia 920 this morning and I think this also exemplifies the endemic problem to such reviews. The problem with reviews is they often leave the buyer out of the review. In short, they’re so technology focused, they lose sight of the fact that well, people buy these things to use based on their aspirations. These aspirations don’t always match the things the reviewer finds important.

A case in point was the reviews of the Sony DSLR’s when I made the move from Minolta (film SLR) to digital. Almost every review knocked back the Sony DSLR’s on the basis of the jpeg-engine. The jpegs out of the camera weren’t as nice as the Canon or Nikon equivalent. For someone like me who didn’t shoot in jpeg, but in raw formats instead, this is just ‘who cares’.

When it comes to the actual Nokia phones, well, I think everyone appreciates that Nokia’s decision to dump its very dated and creaky Symbian OS for Windows (rather than Android) is practically the last throw of the dice for Nokia. One only has to look at RIM and their Blackberry to realise how rapidly market share can evaporate.

Personally, I’m not a Lumia 920 customer. But I do have the 800 which runs on Windows 7.5 (not 8). Many of the things that kept me with Nokia rather than jumping to an iPhone or Android aren’t actually detailed in the review.

First, I don’t use my phone as a camera. It doesn’t matter how good or how bad the camera is on a smartphone, it has no weight in my decision. The NZ Herald review highlighted this is one of the selling points of the 920. But I’m either shooting with a DSLR or a mirror-less camera like the Nex 5. The physics of light can’t be overcome by good software. A large sensor and great lenses gives my regular cameras the edge. Now, I concede that a lot of buyers won’t have my preferences. And maybe Nokia is trying to create a selling point for people who are ready to ditch their compact cameras. But it’s not part of my purchase decision.

Second, build quality and call quality matter. I travel a fair bit. And one thing that Nokia has always done well is their hardware. They make good phones. The Lumias are good, well-built phones. I don’t want a compromise product that isn’t going to stand up to the odd bit of rough treatment. I also use my phone to make phone-calls. That means I also am going to put a bit more weight on that. I like to hear clearly and talk clearly. (How many phone reviews still cover call quality?)

Third, I like a good GPS system. The combination of Nokia maps with the Nokia Drive GPS system is great. It simply comes with the phone. Nokia has a superb maps and driving GPS system. I can find remote waterfalls in the countryside, and sports-fields hidden in the maze of Auckland urban streets.

Fourth, well, it’s a windows phone. As someone who uses Windows at work and at home, that means instant compatibility. Word, excel and pdf documents are at my fingertips just with the phone. There’s no need for any 3rd party apps or the like.

Fifth, it is an excellent music player. When I’m traveling I like to listen to music the most. Not movies, not games, but actual music. If you’ve had to experience Chinese pop music you’ll understand why :) . The music player is superb here (based on Zune). I’m not sure how the 920 stacks up as this wasn’t covered in the Herald review.

In terms of the actual apps, it turns out I’m not a big app user. The phone does all the email and web browsing already and integrates with facebook neatly. I suspect I’m not alone here in needing few apps. There’ just a small number of apps I regard as essential or valuable. Here’s my top 10:
1) MapMyRun- app for measuring distance, pace and speed of walks, runs and bike rides
2) Connectivity Shortcuts- quickly manage access to WiFi, Data, Bluetooth & Airplane mode in one tile. Being able to turn off the 3G Data connection means you can utilise WiFi hotspots for most of your data needs.
3) Nokia Drive- awesome GPS navigation app that comes free with the phone.
4) NZ Herald- sorry Stuff, I like the Herald app much more.
5) Stop the Music- convenient for forcing the music player to stop, rather than count down for minutes when paused, before stopping.
6) World Clock- handy for keeping in synch with those friends overseas
7) Seesmic- a better twitter client than the native twitter client for Windows phones
8) Skydrive- access your stuff on the MS 'cloud' easily
9) Weatherduck- weather app with ability tile favourite locations to main screen
10) Amazon Kindle – The Kindle reader actually works well with the 3.7" screen of the Lumia 800

So, in short reviews need to be used with some caution. They are a useful source of information. But they’re not going to be written with you as a specific consumer in mind. Hence, I think you need to identify what it is you want from a phone. Start with that and see how the various phones measure up. There are some nice selling points to Nokia and the windows OS.