OnePlus One review -- 1 month initial thoughts

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This was actually supposed to be published in September, but I forgot to push to my blog ._.
Since this time, a new software update is out which should fix a lot of the bugs I mention below, but I will do another review about that after I update my phone. But I will publish exactly what I wrote after 1 month of use. Pre-orders for the public will be opened pretty soon so I thought it would be pretty informative for people considering.

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So as some of you guys know, I've been using the OnePlus One as my main phone for the last few weeks, ever since I left my internship at Facebook. Thought I'd do a recap of my first impressions after using it for a prolonged time to help people decide whether they want one when preorders open to public in October from the POV of a normal consumer.

Firstly I'd like to preface this with some background about my personal biases. I am reviewing this phone while in North America, where a lot of phones are on a CDMA network, where the phone is bound to a particular carrier. However, as someone who travels relatively frequently, I would never consider buying a phone which is not unlocked. I would also never purchase a phone on a contract, because I don't like being bound to using something for X number of months, since it limits my flexibility when something better comes out or if something goes wrong within those X months.

My smartphone history (relevant for comparisons I will draw):
2012, iPhone 4
2013 June, LG Nexus 4
2013 November, Samsung Galaxy S4
2014 August, Oneplus One

I first heard about the Oneplus One from my friend Luke Chang who was working at Samsung's startup accelerator in Palo Alto at the beginning of the summer. It was rumoured to have a 2 second boot time and crazy specs, as well as being shipped with stock CyanogenMod, for a very affordable price. So, when I received an invite for the Oneplus One in late July, I wanted to get one just to play around with it. I hadn't decided whether I wanted to use it as an everyday phone yet, since there wasn't that much information around about it yet, and my S4 was still functioning just fine. But anyway, I bit the bullet and threw in the order for a 64GB Sandstone Black model.

My phone arrived 3 days later which was impressively fast. The packaging was very striking and nice, with the red/white theme present through the entire package and accessories. My favorite part of the package was the sim card release pin, which looks like an adorable smiley face. :3

The packaging!

Going onto the phone though, the back was surprising in that its texture was not smooth but rough. I'm not sure what material it's made of, but I guess it's to go along with the Sandstone theme of the name. It's a bit like sandpaper but not as hard or gritty; at first I wasn't a fan but after using it I've grown to like it a lot. It means you don't have to worry about fingerprints or scratches as much as you do on lacquer surfaces, which is nice. I have had some problems with small particles becoming stuck between the grit pieces tho, but that's probably because i should stop putting the phone on the table when I'm eating. It also makes the phone more grippy, which probably prevents droppages.

^ rough surface! (sourced from google images)


I have been using the phone without a back cover or screen protector and there have been no noticeable scratches on the screen or backside so far, though I also haven't had any bad drops (yet) (fingers crossed) (I should really just order a case now).

The biggest problem I have with this phone is its size. At a huge 5.5 inches, the screen is not small enough for my right hand to reach all the way across it if I'm just carrying it with one hand. This means that I can't swype for messaging since my thumb doesn't reach the 'a' key on the other side of a standard keyboard. Luckily, Swiftkey provides a compact version shifted to the right which has been really helpful, but Swiftkey is not a free app (though I had already been using the Pro version on my S4 anyway). Might be alleviated if you have bigger hands than me. Fortunately, though the phone is big, it is at least super thin, so in terms of weight it isn't too significant of a change, and it's not super bulky at least in 1 dimension (tho since i'm a girl it still sticks out significantly from most pockets).


^with an iphone 5 to compare (google images)

Another problem which is a known bug and which OnePlus is actively trying to fix is the ghost tapping bug, where if you are using taps for typing (ie. not swype), which is how I type with two hands, if you tap too quickly, the screen registers some random ghost taps and you end up with gibberish on your screen or unintended behaviour. This caused some major worries on my way to Vancouver, when Kevin thought something that happened to me because of Swiftkey's autocorrect, where the words that came out from ghost taps were correctly spelled and the sentence was technically grammatically correct, but made no sense. I actually think the problem has improved since then with the new firmware update, but the problem is still not 100% gone.

In terms of positives, my favorite thing about the phone is its battery. To compare -- on LTE data, my S4 dropped from 100% to 50% in 1.5 hours (let's not even talk about the Nexus 4, which before rooting went from 100 to 0 in 2 hours). While I was travelling, I didn't want to leave my phone plugged to the wall overnight so i'd frequently charge my phone for 1 or 2 hours a day and hope that it lasted, and by the end of the day my battery would have dropped like 30-40% only with moderate use. I'm sure that if I heavily used my phone, it would have dropped more, but I'm confident I can get through a whole day on 100% charge. This is due to its 3100 mAh battery, which holds more charge than the S4 (2600 mAh). Furthermore, the phone comes with a 2A charger, so it charges super fast. Probably can do a full charge in under 3 hours. This is a huge plus for someone who is out a lot and doesn't want their phone to die on them halfway through the day, and the charger is small and fast enough that you could just plug it into the wall for a bit and you'll have enough juice to go for a while. Ofc, batteries deteriorate so who knows how long this will last.

^ sorry what? 74% battery after 8 hours?
(this screenshot is was taken today, after 2 months of daily use)

Overheating has also been less of a problem as compared to the S4. This may be a result of not having a case on the phone, but qualitatively I've felt that the temperatures the One reaches, though not cool all of the time, are at least only moderately warm as opposed to scorching, even during a charge.

In terms of photography, it's kinda ridiculous -- the One has a 5MP front-facing camera (to compare, the iPhone 4 has a 5MP BACKfacing camera), and a 13MP back-facing camera (same as the S4). It has a widest aperture of f2.0 which is pretty damn good, so the low light photos are not as noisy as I would expect at all. Sharpness is also on point, due to 6 pieces of physical glass making up the back lens. The focusing does get a little weak in low light, especially when trying to focus at infinity, but I think this can be fixed with software. It also has dual LED flash, but I haven't actually used the flash for photos yet, so I'm not sure how it behaves in practice. The torch is really bright though! I also really like the inbuilt HDR mode, the results are generally pretty good, see below.

Some HDR comparisons, Auto vs HDR:
 







And here are some low light pictures:


So the fireworks is pretty grainy, but heck, it was pretty dark that night haha.

If we wanna get into technical specs, I guess it's worth noting that the One comes with 3GB DDR3 RAM (S4 has 2GB, iPhone 5S 1GB). This seems rather ridiculous but I'll admit there has been pretty much zero lag on anything I've tried to do on this phone. Of course, apps have still crashed but it's unclear whether the crashes were memory-related. I know nothing about CPU so I'm not gonna bother trying to make much sense of it, but it's Quad Core 2.5GHz for anyone who understands more hardware jargon than me.

Another neat thing about the One from my personal experience is that it supports gestures on sleep mode, so if the screen is black, I can easily turn on the torch app with just drawing a 'v' shape on the screen. an 'o' opens the camera (though it has stopped working of late), and two lines 'l l' cause the music to pause. It's a small thing and kind of finnicky at times, but I was able to navigate around in the dark easily because of the torch shortcut in particular. A double tap on the screen also unsleeps the phone. Though, this is a double edged feature, it caused many false wakeups when I had a simple swipe unlock on my phone, so I had to add a pin pattern lock to counter the screen sensitivity (but hey, probably a good thing that it increases security?).

Another weird thing I've found is that I frequently try to hold the phone upside down when the screen's off, causing me to look for a button to wake it up which is not where I expect it to be. For some reason my brain just registers that it should go that way. It might be because the speaker on the top looks more like the input microphone to talk into, but I'm not really sure why I do this. The front camera should give it away but my brain is just silly.

In terms of the buttons, they are very subtle on the edges of the phone. It can be hard to turn on the screen with the button because it's so flush against the side of the phone (ditto with volume buttons). Another thing is the SIM card release hole is not standard -- I tried to use the pin that came with the iPhone/S4 and it wasn't long enough to pop the release. Which means, you either have to use the pin the phone came with or a paperclip. Not sure why they did this, but it's something I've had to deal with.

Stock Cyanogen is nice because it's super customizable -- I had been using Holo Launcher on my S4 because I didn't like TouchWiz and it allowed me to choose how many rows/columns I could fit on my screen and how big to make my text. The One allows me to do the same thing without the extra app straight out of the box, which I really appreciated. This is the first time I've used Cyanogen on Android (I had my Nexus 4 on Paranoid Android after root) and I decided I like it a lot.

More on this if other people are interested after I upgrade to the new software! But these were my thoughts after the first month. :)

From SF to Vancouver

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Wowowow so much has happened since the last time I wrote anything I'm not sure if I can update properly.

Uh, firstly here is a textdump of stuff I typed on the plane from San Francisco to Vancouver:
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Eh back to using the windows I guess. 

There's always this weird buzz on planes in the background, that's juuust too loud to ignore. I'm listening to music right now, but the overhanging... hum? roar? of the airplane engines kind of enters my head regardless. 

De-orientation was oddly anticlimactic and sad. I didn't pay attention to my emails (as usual), and totally didn't get that we were supposed to print one of the attachments we got, so I returned my computer and phone without printing it out and getting it signed. The guys at the help desk were also unaware of it lol, so I had to swing by Jay's desk and get him to print it for me :( I'm a noob. Then I was really sad because I had to go, and Jessica made me tear up when she said bye to me because she was also tearing up. I think I've always been bad at that haha, I remember when I was leaving home there would be random times when Yujie would start crying and then I would start crying and everyone else would be like wtf is happening and :'(

my last day! :D friendship photo @ like sign hehe

Anyways, on the way to the Canadas now. Thought it might be good to update peeps on my plaaayyynneeezzz (plans/planes? idk being in the air makes me kind of delirious). A couple of weeks ago I managed to convince Kevin to come with me to Vancouver this weekend. Though I'm not sure if I can call it convincing, because it went down like this...
me: Hey Kevin, we were really gonna go to LA that time, huh? (backstory: one night, we were driving around with Jessica and George in san jose, we went past the exit for the SJ Airport and I was like "haha hey wouldn't it be funny if we just got on a flight right now?" and he instantly changed lanes to exit. We ended up in the terminal pretty damn ready to buy a flight to LA, but all the flight times were either bad or all the tickets were sold out. So we didn't end up going. For reference of how random this was, it was a Wednesday night.)
Kevin: Yeah I was ready to go. I'm still sad about that.
Me: So I'm going to Vancouver in 2 weeks... 
Kevin: ...
Me: ... and it's on a Friday night... 
Kevin: I'd be down

And that's the story of why Kevin is on a flight to Vancouver right now. I ended up shifting my Sunday SIGGRAPH shifts to hang out since he booked a return flight for Sunday, so now my Wednesday is stacked instead. But I'll update about that when it actually happens.

For those who don't know, SIGGRAPH is a Computer Graphics conference held twice a year, once in North America and once in Asia. Obviously, this year the North American conference is in Vancouver, so that's why I'm going there now. I applied to be a student volunteer because all the research being done is super interesting to me, even though I haven't done any computer graphics related courses yet or any research at all. Anyway, it's reguarly super expensive so I'm really happy that I got the opportunity to go for free.

After this week, I'm flying to Seoul, where I'll be meeting up with Alexpong and Arthur for our international photo adventure! We'll be spending 5 days there before moving onto Tokyo. I'm so excited! I haven't been to any of these places before so it should be a fun time. It was kinda weird because the flight that leaves for Vancouver is in the same gate area as the Air NZ flight back to Auckland. It was like I was at crossroads, where I could choose to go home or something. It's kinda true I guess, given the 2-3 weeks that I have left after my internship I could really have chosen to go home instead of traveling around, but I chose to travel instead because I felt like it would be a better use of my time. Not that don't miss family and friends or anything (I really do), but I know I'll see them at Christmas, and right now it's winter and bleh-y and I get enough of winter in Boston where I hate it. 

Omg captain calling to say we're starting our descent soon. Weather given in celcius. I'm so happy :) I like Canada already. Also the in flight airplane was half in French so I got to practise my French. canadaaaaa

Man I'd totally forgotten how nice it was to type on this laptop. Backspacing so smooth and fast and all the keys are just the right clickiness and distance away from each other :O Things that you don't get on an Apple Keyboard wao I never even noticed before. If only the battery and touchpad weren't so shitty, and it didn't weigh a ton haha
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Anyway, I guess picking up where we left off, Kevin and I had a fun 2 days in Vancouver! We went to a variety of places including English Bay, Stanley Park, Granville Island and the Richmond night market.

duck duck duck @night market (it was the most asian place I have ever seen outside of Asia)

We concluded that Vancouver is gorgeous.


plz can I live here

Also Canadians are so nice! The train ticket system here is like 80% honor system (they have been trying to switch to nfc for the last 3 years but people are still using paper tickets), and people on the street are just generally more courteous than in America. Also this morning when I ordered tea from a cafe, the owner offered to bring it to my table when he saw that I was carrying a lot of things and told me to just sit down first. Then, the old man in the wheelchair on the next table smiled at me and said good morning when I sat down! :O #thingsthatneverhappeninamerica

Also I met up with Charleswong and we caught up and he took me to a really filling noodle soup place which was delicious and I felt fat but so happy because it tasted so good hehe. Food in Vancouver is definitely a highlight!

Siggraph itself was really fun and interesting. I wish I got to see more than I did though :( I was on shift a lot of the time and standing for 7 hours a day is not particularly fun. But I did get to see a lot of cool stuff, such as:

A machine built by Japanese researchers which used ultrasound standing waves to generate a sense of touch -- you put your hand in the box, and there is a screen at the back of the box. A leap motion senses hand movement. The screen shows a particular image, and if you move your hand inside the box, it feels as if you are touching the object! depending on what image is shown, you feel a different texture or sensation. It was really really cool :O I asked the guy how much it cost to build and he said $10 million USD. I was very careful after that haha.

The japanese seemed to be very big on ultrasound and haptic touch sensation. There was also a machine that used ultrasound waves to draw patterns on carpet. Eg, those types of carpets that when you swipe in one direction turn a darker color -- they had essentially made something that could, given a predrawn pattern, use ultrasound to create it on the carpet. It was pretty innovative!

Birdly, a machine that uses Occulus rift and a strap-in contraption to make the user feel like they are flying like a bird.

I got to try the Occulus DK2, you know that thing that people at Facebook waited hours in line to try and I didn't wanna waste half my day for so I didn't bother waiting for it? Yeah I waited 5 minutes this morning for a demo. It was cool. :P

(Photo by Domo)

I sat in the driver's seat of the Tesla Model S. It was sexy. The guy also told me to go in for a test drive :P too bad I'm leaving tomorrow and have been busy all week haha. Actually this was a very lucky occurance -- I was waiting in the line to try the Tesla and started talking to the guys in front of me. They turned out to be nice people so we exchanged contact details and I ended up hanging out with them later! Thanks Farhan, Domo, Sam and Jacky for being such good ambassadors for Vancouver haha.

(Photo by Domo)

Epson also had a printing station where they let attendees use really fancy printers and paper and inks for free. I printed a bunch of posters for myself and friends, it was hiiighhh glosss and soo pretttyyyyyy. I wish I had printed more now but I'm not sure what else I would have printed. They also had a printer that could print on tshirts, but due to my shifts I got there too late and so I only got the larger sizes :( 

Platypus shirt which is too big for me

Pixar teapots!! Every year at Siggraph, Pixar gives out different designs of walking teapots. It's a real collectors item and in serious high demand (like honestly a teapot from a couple years ago goes for ~$150 on ebay). This year they gave out 1000 per day for 3 days. Since I had shifts during midday on both Tuesday and Wednesday, I was only able to get one today. But they're so cute! I started lining up at 10.45am and the line already curved all the way around the exhibition hall and behind a screen @_@ Luckily, handing out teapots is pretty quick so once they started handing out at midday we were able to move forward very quickly. 

 (Photo by Domo)

As for some of the shifts I had to do, some were better than others because i got to see stuff that was interesting to me anyway. My first shift was at Technical Papers, where researchers present the bleeding edge of what they've been working on. It was super interesting and made me think that maybe I should try doing some research just to see what it's about -- actually also I ran into some people from the University of Toronto who were working on some Computer Vision stuff and the head Researcher knew Professor Zickler from Harvard. I guess I should take his class hahaha. Anyway, I digress. My last shift was also a production session for Xmen: Days of Future Past. There were actually three visual effects studios commissioned with work for the movie, and I got to see how they handled Mystique's morphing/feather rendering, the Sentinel's design and the breakdown of my favorite scene from the movie, the one where Quicksilver runs around the kitchen and everything is in slow motion and it's hilarious and great and beautiful and heeeeee.. it's really amazing what you can do with visual effects! and it's also just kind of hilarious when you see magneto acting all badass in the middle of an empty studio with only green screen around him. Really makes you respect actors and what they do because all the epicness we see on screen is certainly not there during shoot time.

Aaaanyway, I should probably post this before the next leg of my adventure because otherwise i'm gonna forget and have way too long of an update. At the waiting lounge now for my flight to Korea. Slightly confused because all the flight people keep trying to speak to me in Korean and I look blankly back at them. This should be interesting.

Narratives of our lives

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Story sheep
(Context for people who don't know who this is: This is SHREK, a merino sheep from New Zealand who avoided capture and being shorn for 6 years between 1998 and 2004 by hiding in caves. He took 20 minutes to shear and he produced 27kg (60lb) of high quality merino wool, enough to make 20 large men's suits.)
(Context on context ie. why I am including this story: because I always include a themed picture of a sheep on my blog posts these days, and he is kind of the sheep with the most impressive story.)

Over this summer, I started to get into a weird habit of asking people to tell me a story. I'm not really sure how it started, but I think one day I was sitting on the edge of a comfortable silence, ready to fall into awkwardness, when the words kind of rolled out of my mouth.

"Tell me a story."

Not like a polite request or an aggressive order, more like a curious command. The other person looked a little surprised, but obliged. Fascinated by the power of this simple phrase, I ended up using it over and over and again and again until my new friend was all out of stories over the next few weeks. I felt like I gotten to know a stranger and I had gained a new friend. And so I was satisfied.

I think a lot of people fall into the trap of thinking they are boring people, or that not much happens in their lives compared to others. I'd like to contest that; I think most if not everyone has such interesting things to say if only they would pay attention and try to present it in book form. I'd bet that a lot of people would pay attention and be interested in what they have to say. In the end, I wouldn't say the stories I was told by others this summer were super extraordinary of anything, but they carry with them a sentiment of the familiar, of nostalgia that I too had once put away in a box in the back of my mind.

These are the narratives of our everyday lives, the stupidly ordinary tales we tell of silly things we used to do and think and eat and play with. Not only that, but they comprise an ever-changing narrative -- as we grow and learn and change, our narration reiterates into a more cynical, or dismissive, or hopeful lens through which we look upon the past.

Story-telling is a social habit with startling longevity. It's how we propagated our history before records existed, it's how we accumulated experience through generations and, of course, it's how we make friends and get to know people today.

I decided that stories are probably my favourite way of getting to know the inner workings of people's minds. You can learn so much about someone by their choice of language and their perspective on their experiences. In the purest form of translation, intangible thoughts and feelings are translated into something that can propagate to and blossom in others. And for each of us that tells a story, many more also gain something to retell through their own lens, leading to richer and richer experiences.

Can these still be considered truth, given that they've been pulled and stretched and warped beyond what the original storyteller ever intended? I'm sure different people would say different things, but my opinion is that it's irrelevant; the experience of sharing a story is like retweeting a tweet through a chain, where eventually you run out of characters because there are so many @tags of people's usernames -- though maybe the original tweet is lost, you now have a net of friends tied together with 140 characters. Storytelling is like the glue that dries transparently on relationships, so barely noticeable that you probably would never even attribute your friendships to it.

Maybe I'm just too metaphorical of a thoughtster, but I really enjoy the idea that such subtlety in language can reveal the beauty of an undiscovered mind.

Am I still a kid for making people tell me stories as if they were my grandparents? Yea I'd say probably. Still going to enjoy them though :) 21 and hungry for tales of adventure! Message me if you know a good one :D

heres me and the cheesecake my friends bought me for my birthday :3

irrelevant unless u r interested in stalking my summer

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Hi mom and dad (my primary audience, because nobody else cares)
watching the world cup final right now
nobody's scored yet :(

paintball/fluro sheep


Man I'm just bad at updating derp. Okay things that have happened recently --

July 2nd, Bridgewater Associates held a recruiting dinner in Palo Alto which I was invited to. I honestly just accepted the invitation because I saw that the restaurant was The Sea by Alexander's Steakhouse and I wanted a nice free meal (was not disappointed, legit hamachi shots + tuna sashimi as appetizers and then fresh fish, lobster bisque, scallops and raspberry and hazelnut themed dessert), but tbh it was also good to meet new people and find out more about the company, I'm a little more interested in them now. Anyway the reason I bring this up is because I met a Stanford grad student who mentioned that he did archery, and that he knew of an outdoor range nearby so we made plans to go in the weekend. Anyway I will do this in chronological order so this will be continued after a brief july 4 interlude:


Over July 4 weekend, some friends and I went down to Monterey Bay (it's ~1 hour drive south from where I'm living right now) to visit the aquarium and the beach. Many cute animals were observed. On the drive back, we decided we wanted to get fireworks/sparklers because it was July 4th. But, fireworks is actually illegal in most places in California because it's so dry here and it's easy to start forest fires. So we weren't sure if we were going to find anywhere to get them. In a coincidental turn of events, we were waiting at a stop light when we saw all this smoke coming up from behind the next building... so naturally we decided to check it out. It turned out to be a parking lot where people were setting off fireworks and someone had set up a tent selling them. So we found our fireworks for the night :)

July 5th, Jim took me and Jessica to the archery range :D! It was weird to shoot outdoors, and it was also further than I had ever shot before lol so my accuracy was not great. But it was fun to get back into it! The range was mini-golf style, with ~15 targets arranged in a forest loop trail. Some targets were ridiculous (like ~70m away, over a valley -- ie. if you shoot short your arrows are just lost forever derp), so we skipped those. it was also hard calibrating for uphill/downhill shots lol. So much fun! My arms are weak tho and Jessica got a bruise because she swiped her arm with the bowstring, even though she was wearing the arm guard haha:


We have matching bruises! Hers is from Archery and mine is from paintball the next day lols. It was suuuuper hot in Santa Clara, like I literally felt like I was gonna get heat stroke (especially since ppl kept telling me to wear long pants and cover up to avoid it hurting a lot when I was shot). In the end, we played 3 games and I only got hit once in the last game, mainly because I was too skee to come out of my hidey hole in the first 2 lols. But I think I managed to get someone in the 2nd game :D paintball is hard tho, and idk if it was really worth struggling in the heat for :/ maybe it's just too intense for me, some people are super serious about it.

I bought a film camera! Time to snap some film. No light meter battery lolol, let's see how terrible my estimation is... (+1 for instagram shirt + hipster camera)



Last night we went to a Brohaus party. It was a lot of fun, though I'm not sure if after I graduate college I would like to be throwing parties in my own house. It might be doable if we had a cleaner or if we had a separate house just for parties lol, but I commend the hosts for throwing a great party, seems like they have been doing it for a long time and know how to do things the best way haha. There was a room for light painting photos! So fun :D I also borrowed Chae's captain hat and marauded as a captain for some of the night. Here r me and kevin taking myspace profile pic and some blacklight fun :D!



Tonight will be another hot pot night too

Yaaaay congrats to Germany!!12!1@2!11  schweinsteiger is a punching bag apparently derp
okay now i can go and do things bye soccer is over :)

Flying

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hayyy I'm blogging on a plane. This has never happened before.

Sitting on a flight between NYC and SF trying to escape the sunset of the day. 

Short-form thoughts: 
I am really hungry
I should do some work on this wifi but I don't really like working on planes
Actually I don't really like planes
But they are the fastest way of getting where I want to go I guess 
Why is this flight so long
America is supposed to be one country dammit
Before anyone argues with me about the picture being a goat because they have been red herring'd by the horns, it's definitely a sheep. Because the tail is pointing down, and if the tail points down it is a sheep. 
I like the macbook air's uber battery life
This week was fun but the stay was so shortttt
NYC subways are way too hot in the summer. I thought heat was supposed to rise?
Yujie I miss you

I think the wifi I paid for is about to run out so I will publish now. 
real update soon! because it's almost July so I have to.

PS. also removed the tagboard/cbox embed on the right because i was getting too much spam and too lazy to remove it as I always have. RIP cbox!

wat do with summer

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WOW I LITERALLY
HAD THE MAKE POST PAGE OPEN
ON MY LAPTOP FOR THE LAST 4 DAYS

 and didn't start writing until now :/ procrastinating hard on this June post clearly.

It's that awful thing where so much has happened since the last time you updated and you don't know where to start in describing it all or even if you should split it up into different posts to be more readable and then you push it to later and hand wave it all away...


... but it's okay because it's summer and the sun and blue sky makes me a happy sheep :3 !!

Uh so basic stuff:
School ended
I bummed around and lived in Eliot for a few days before flying to SF
Commencement happened
I traveled to the west and bummed around in empty apartment for a few days
Work started
I made new friends and started grilling my brain in software

Alexpong visited last weekend! So I went up to SF and saw a Giants game with Alexpong, Anson, Tony + Rakeem. Garlic fries at the stadium are delicious. I stayed up there for the weekend had lots of fun going around SF and eating foods and going through rummage sale and buying cheap things.

Liiikee, this old lens for $20!


It's an old 7 elements 6 blade Super Tak 50mm f1.4 from the 60s or 70s I guess (7 element = there are 7 bits of glass inside the lens, 6 blade = 6 aperture blades and therefore hexagonal shaped bokees), and it's one of the few old lenses containing Thorium, a radioactive element. So over the years the glass ages and becomes clouded with yellow, which looks really awesome but doesn't allow as much light to come into the lens. So, I purchased an LED light to shine down it and clear it up (pumping the glass full of high energy near-UV or UV light will reverse the reaction and yellowness). I am pretty sure that my whole team at work thinks I am super weird because I have 3 lamps on my desk and a tinfoil burrito wrapper chilling there with a lens lol.

And I also ordered a film camera in the mail which should get here on Thursday... I think after that I might try to do another photography related post about lenses since it's going to come with 2 more hehe. I look forward to playing with them this weekend.



... and I just realized I have like nothing to say about my life wow fml.

Go download and play with Slingshot or something




[[uhh... it doesn't appear this post embed is working ._. unsure why]]

Oh so that reminds me (hehehe look a Facebook post embed) -- my first official task at work was to implement saved default embed widths. You can read about it in a blog post which accompanied last week's release here. I'm responsible for "per user default embed widths" which is the 3rd subtitle haha. Before, embed widths would always default to 466px, so now it remembers your last preferred width so you don't have to change it again the next time you want to embed something. It's a small extension but I was really happy that it shipped so quickly!

Uhh what else? I have been trying to go to the gym every morning. It leaves me very relaxed and numb for the rest of the day but is also quite tiring. But I like that I am feeling more fit less unfit now. I wish I had more time in college to do things like this haha. I also kind of like the routine-ness of the day. But it also makes things go a lot faster.

I also had time to watch some movies -- the Grand Budapest Hotel, the new Xmen movie and How to Train Your Dragon 2. All of them were good and I enjoyed them a lot :3 I wish I had more time to watch movies derp but also I think I am getting old because staring at such a big screen for a long time gave me a bit of a headache. Or maybe I was just tired that day haha

Next week, I will be in New York at the Facebook NY office, so hollaaaaa if you're around and want to hang out after work.

Ah! I was accepted to the ACM SIGGRAPH Student Volunteers program, so I will be in Vancouver from August 8 - August 15, volunteering at SIGGRAPH :) I owe Professor Morrisett for being my reference, I am super excited and can't wait to go :D And then after that I will be traveling in Asia, in Seoul and Tokyo until school starts again.

Wow summer is going so quickly! @@ Before I know it I'll be back in Cambridge complaining about homework qq

Something about photography: Part I maybe

1 comments

Hi kids


So I guess this month's post is going to be about photography. Last weekend was AAA's spring photoshoot over Weeks' bridge and I realized a lot of people have misconceptions about how photos come out the way they do. So I thought I'd do a post about it.

Basically, there's something to be said about the difference between the effect of the camera body, lens and post-processing on a photo. A lot of people who don't know much about photography kind of lump the body and lens together as the 'camera' unit, and don't really think about post-processing. I used to be like this before I started taking photos. 

There were two cameras that we used primarily to shoot with. One was mine, a Sony NEX7 and Alex's, an Olympus EPL1. As you can tell from the images, the type of camera used doesn't matter as much as the lens or the post processing. Unless you're doing professional photos, a good kit lens will do you pretty well. A step up from that would be a fast lens for bokehgons in the background. (A fast lens is a lens with a big maximum aperture, or low f-stop number. This means it can let more light into the camera at once, and there is a shallower depth of field for subject focus (see physics textbook). For instance, the image below was shot with a lens at f2.0 which is relatively low. My lens ranges from f1.7 to f22.)

^bokehgons (bokeh = blurry background, bokehgonz = our slang for hexagon-shaped blurries)

There is also the difference between the types of photos your camera can produce. RAW and jpeg photos both can come out of your camera. Fancy cameras can even let you shoot both of these at the same time. RAW files are not really images at all, but they are a set of numbers that tell the information for each pixel. So, they are completely uncompressed and literally are the numbers that your sensor reads from the light entering the camera. If you have a 24 megapixel camera, each RAW file is 24 MB big. If you have a 10MP camera, your RAW files will be 10MB big and so on. Think of RAW as an intermediate step between taking the photo and making a JPG. More often then not, people will let the camera process the RAW into a JPG, but sometimes it's more helpful to immediately save the RAW and process it later on the computer. 

Here is a test shot I did with my camera, one that was RAW and which I converted into jpeg after loading onto my computer, and one that was converted by the camera into JPEG (neither have been post-processed except for the raw to jpeg conversion):

^RAW
^JPEG

(Both these taken with Sony Nex-7 with kit lens)

EDIT: The nex-7 seems to have a really subtle difference between RAW/JPEG that people can't quite spot so here's a starker example from another camera I found online (source):



The differences are pretty subtle, but basically the colors on the RAW without other tweaks are usually flatter/duller (In the bike photo, you can kind of see this in the sky, the contrast between the water and sky in the jpeg is greater with the sky being lighter, whereas in the RAW they are more similar). This is because the processor in the camera puts emphasis on certain things to make the picture look better, while an untweaked RAW is exactly what the camera sensor saw. Some of you might ask, "Why shoot RAW at all then?"

So the reason I'm even talking about this is that because RAW files leave behind all the extra numbers, they're much nicer to post-process or edit since there is a lot of information retained that may have been lost if it had been thrown out in a jpeg compression. For instance, if you had been shooting into the sun and your subject's face is dark, you could easily pull out their features if you have the RAW file even if in the photo it looks completely black. This would be nearly impossible to do with a jpeg.

For the AAA photoshoot, I post-processed pretty heavily, since it was cloudy that day I wanted to add more of a warm atmosphere and brighten things up since it was supposed to be a spring photoshoot derp (it was actually slightly drizzling while we were taking photos). Here you can see some before/after comparisons for reference (I use Photoshop CS6 to edit my photos, you can also use Appeture or Lightroom for this task):



Taken with Sony Nex-7, Pentax 50mm f1.7 lens

Since I use photoshop, I'm able to save the edits I make on one RAW file (in the end, it comes down to transformation functions on numbers in the RAW file) and apply them to other photos. I did about the same thing for every photo, for consistency's sake. Of course, what comes out of the transformation depends on the input of the RAW file. Since we were actually shooting RAWs with two cameras that day, you might be able to spot some differences between photos' coloring since I used the same filter transform for photos from both cameras since I was too lazy to make 2 separate filters to make them absolutely consistent derp. For each photo though, I had to fiddle with the sliders a bit for optimal brightness and contrast. 

So, to illustrate what I mean by post processing vs camera/lens:



this photo was taken with Olympus EPL1 &  Panasonic Lumix 20mm f1.7 lens.  

You can kind of tell that the Olympus RAW picture is a bit brighter than the one from the Sony. But with slapping on a filter and twiddling some sliders, we can make them more or less consistent with each other. 

Okay so now that we've got that out of the way, you might be wondering what post-processing can and cannot accomplish. Basically you can change pretty much anything with post-processing EXCEPT:

- Blurriness/motion blur:
unsalvageable. usually due to long shutter exposure


- Out of focus:
unsalvagable (the background is in focus, the subjects out of focus. click to zoom if you're unconvinced, this is a more subtle example). happens due to bad focusing, either autofocus focused on the wrong thing or manually


- Noise, to some extent:
^original test shot. usually due to high ISO
^50% noise reduce (You can do this in Adobe camera raw. This is already super high, I usually don't like to go above 20 or 25). you can still see the noise
^100% noise reduce

Note it is sometimes desireable to have some noise in your photos. Makes it look more film-like or nostalgic, and especially works well with black and white photos. That being said,  you can add it afterward.  Digital noise looks really bad compared to to real film grain though. 

This is a noisy ass photo and I kind of like it that way


Mostly, I just use post-processing for color correction/lighting adjustments or to remove skin blemishes for portraits. I have also been known to cut together two shots to get what I need out of them lolol: 


^ before and after of a headswap (I took another photo of Eric on the left and Jesika on the right was blinking, but it was easier to swap in Eric's head from that pic than Jesika's)

You will see the advertising industry use the liquify tool in post-processing to make models skinnier/shape things as they see fit (and garnering media criticism in its wake). I only use liquify for fun such as to give my male friends boobs or bigger biceps hehe.

This is getting long so I guess I'll wrap this up for now, hopefully that gives you a taste of what post-processing can achieve. If people like this maybe I'll do more about cameras/lenses/more about editing/let me know :3