Lumia 930, one year on

I bought a Lumia 930 in October 2015 to replace my old iPhone 4. I didn’t want to spend €800+ on a new iPhone, and my feelings about Android were mixed. The Lumia 930 was the previous year’s Windows Phone flagship. The 930’s camera was very well-regarded (the most important feature for me), and I have always found the Windows Phone UI pleasing. With lots of people waiting for the release of the 2015 Lumia models, I was able to buy a 930 at a great price.

I wrote about it again in March, just after it had received the Windows 10 update. So how do I feel about it now, after using it for a whole year?

Well, hmm. It still works, but I wouldn’t say I’m loving it.

Let me take a minor niggle first. I listen to a lot of podcasts. I use the default Windows 10 Podcasts app. I pause and restart podcasts from the lock screen all the time. If a podcast has been paused very recently (and I haven’t timed this, but it feels like about five minutes or so, before the phone puts the app into some kind of deeper sleep mode), pressing the side power button will bring up the lock screen with audio playback controls visible. I press play, the podcast starts again, and all is good.

But if the podcast has been paused for longer, I have to press the side button to bring up the lock screen, and then use one of the volume buttons to show the audio controls. Fair enough; another button press doesn’t bother me. What does bother me is the fact that the “play” button doesn’t work immediately. I have to press it twice to get it to actually start the podcast going again.

Minor niggle, but I find it disproportionately annoying. Also, in the last couple of months, every now and then the Podcasts app just won’t stop playing. The controls on the lock screen don’t work; the controls in the app don’t work; plugging and unplugging my headphones doesn’t work; force-quitting the app doesn’t work. The only thing have found that will stop the podcast playing is to reboot the phone. Maybe I should try a different podcasts app. But I’d prefer the default one to work better.

I also have minor gripes about the browser (no ad blocking), the email client (not great at displaying HTML formatted mails), and the lack of apps in the app store (getting better now that Windows 10 has been around for a while).

Worse, though, is the camera. I have taken some pretty nice pictures with it over the last year, but its low light performance has been consistently disappointing. Earlier in the year I also started noticing a pronounced blurring in the bottom left corner side of (landscape) photos. It’s there in portrait orientation as well, but because that part of the picture often captures the sky, it isn’t always obvious.

Here are some of the first photos where I noticed the problem, back in April. (Click for full-resolution versions, and check the bottom left and top left corners respectively.)

I’ve gone back to some of the early photos I took with the phone, looking for sharply focused images with enough detail in that bottom left corner that a problem would be visible. And sure enough, it looks like it has always been there — I just didn’t spot it.

It has bothered me since I became aware of it, but I’ve just put up with it. I’ve learned to frame my photos with that in mind, or to strategically crop them afterwards. But that’s not a great solution, and it has been contributing to my general feeling of discontent with the phone. I’ve been thinking about photos a lot lately (another post about that coming up soon), and earlier this afternoon I downloaded a set of lens correction profile reference images from Adobe for an experiment. I don’t have a tripod for my phone, and I didn’t set up additional lighting, but I took some reference pictures with my Lumia 930 and my iPad mini 2 (2013) anyway.

Lumia 930: top right corner
Lumia 930: top right corner
Lumia 930: bottom left corner
Lumia 930: bottom left corner
iPad mini: top right corner
iPad mini: top right corner
iPad mini: bottom left corner
iPad mini: bottom left corner

Even poorly shot reference images like these make it easy to spot flaws. There appears to be some minor vignetting in the top right corner of the Lumia, but it’s obvious that the bottom left corner has some pretty severe distortion going on. I don’t know enough about camera optics to guess whether this is the lens or the sensor, but something is awry. Also: what the heck is going on with the Lumia’s colour processing? This is one of the things I meant by its poor low-light performance. The iPad mini captured the green wall accurately under the indoor LED lighting. The Lumia is just badly confused.

I can live with a podcasts app that has hiccups and crashes. But an unreliable camera makes me sad, and makes makes me use it less — which is exactly why I wanted to upgrade from the iPhone 4 last year. When the iPhone 7 was announced with two cameras in the Plus model I was excited and tempted by it, but I still can’t get past the price tag. I know I could get better photos than even the iPhone 7 would yield from our ten-year-old Konica Minolta DiMAGE A200 (which has a colossal aperture compared to every phone camera), but I’m not going to carry that around with me all the time.

Maybe I’ve been going at this with the wrong attitude. I’ve been assuming that there’s nothing I can do about it except wait until I upgrade again. But I just dug out the invoice for the purchase, and apparently the phone is still under warranty for another 9 months. I don’t know if that’s the store’s warranty or the manufacturer’s, but I think I need to find out. I’d happily keep using it for another year if I didn’t feel a twinge of regret every time I wanted to take a picture with it.

Update (20 October): I took the phone back to CoolBlue on Monday, and they took it in for a warranty repair.

Passing through Schiphol

I love Schiphol airport. (Which is a good thing, given the amount of time I spend there.) Aside from the fact that their ground handling is generally fast, friendly, and efficient, that also take the time to add neat design touches to the airport itself whenever they can. Here are some videos I took of two of them: a section of glass floor through which you can get a glimpse into the underground baggage handling operation; and a clock that appears to be being updated every minute by someone standing just behind the clock face. In fact, that’s what I really thought was happening at first. It’s really subtle, and fun when you figure out that it’s not real.

Mixed messages, Saturday 15 October 2016

These browser tabs won’t close themselves, you know. (The new “Universal Clipboard” feature in iOS 10 and macOS Sierra makes it easier for me to copy links from my iPad to my laptop, though. When it works.)

“The Greatest Restaurant In The World: Discovering A New Era Of Food At Noma”:

When I first encounter René Redzepi, he is cutting a live elk in half with a chainsaw. Noma’s unwavering commitment to native, hyper-local Nordic foods requires its kitchen staff to spend hours every morning foraging the neighboring woodlands and shorelines for wild ingredients, and Redzepi has a gift for sensing gastronomic potential in everything around him.

“A lot of times you can find these lovely little rose hip flowers pickling in the stomach fluids of the larger field mammals that live around here,” Redzepi says, his arm elbow-deep in the abdominal cavity of the freshly bisected animal, its viscera still twitching and gurgling as he fishes out two small, pink, slimy flower petals from within. “Sometimes you have to saw through 20 or so elk before you find any, but it’s always worth the effort. They’re absolutely perfect with caramelized sweetbreads.”

(It gets funnier the deeper it goes.)

Not satire is Gary Sernovitz’s article “The Thrill of Losing Money by Investing in a Manhattan Restaurant” in the New Yorker. Having invested in a restaurant, there’s much that’s painfully familiar here.

If you live in New York City long enough and appear to be successfully employed in an industry that Bernie Sanders dislikes, you will be asked at some point to do three things: sponsor a table at a vanity fund-raiser, become a “producer” of a Broadway play, and invest in a restaurant. I had no trouble declining the honor of hosting a benefit or helping “Hedda Gabler” back to the stage.

I did the restaurant.

And while I am not dumb enough to have imagined I’d make much money as a passive, partial investor in a New York City restaurant, I was dumb enough to think that I could probably earn my money back-ish, while at the same time helping some decent young men fulfill their dream. (Also, it seemed more fun than investing in a municipal-bond mutual fund, which cannot, thanks to the killjoys at the S.E.C., give investors free beers.) But of the many failures of logic and foresight of that investment, which I made in 2010, the one that stings the most is not realizing that so few restaurants in New York make money precisely because too many restaurants in New York have investors like me.

Eponymous Laws — pithy rules with someone’s name attached to them, like the Peter Principle (“In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence”) or Betteridge’s Law of Headlines (“Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word ‘no'”) — have a disproportionate air of authority to them. Ryan Schmeizer writes about how the very appearance of authority can influence us as much as real authority, and that by appealing to authority, eponymous laws can have more persuasive power then the underlying concepts themselves. Also, how to steal 16 cases of beer from Walmart in broad daylight.

This led me to look into the Lindy Effect, which presents a sobering picture for software developers trying to update legacy code.

The 2016 World Stone Skimming Championships took place on Easdale Island on the west coast of Scotland last month. (I’m still confused about when to capitalize compass directions.) Congratulations to Dougie Isaacs (Scotland) with a toss of 61m, and Lucy Wood (England) with 40m in the men’s and women’s championships respectively.

On the subject of lesser-known sports, I played (indoor) cornhole for the first time while I was in New York the other week. For a game whose commonly used terminology includes phrases like “Mustachio”, “Slippery Granny”, and “Dirty Bag”, it’s surprisingly cerebral and tactical.

FanDuel's sport research lab
FanDuel’s sport research lab

I may not like what Medium is doing for the web, but being transparent about their interview process is a bold step. Leslie Miley spoke about how being intentional in the hiring process is necessary for diversity. The UK GDS (Government Digital Service) is explicit about what is OK. Working remotely (or, to turn the concept on its head, location neutral) is still hard, no matter what kind of spin you put on it. All this is important when trying to deal with (and emerge from the shadow of) startup culture.

My fun evenings

The Marianas Trench concert at Tolhuistuin this evening was cancelled because Josh Ramsay is suffering from laryngitis. Fiona and I are disappointed, but they say they’ll try to reschedule. So I spent the evening booking my travel for a few months ahead instead. Yay? As an experiment, I’m going to stay in Glasgow a couple of times rather then always be in Edinburgh.

Mixed media, Sunday 9 October 2016

Oof, why do I let these things pile up on me.

TV shows are by far the biggest source of media consumption for me right now.

  • Before we left for California, I still had a few episodes left to go in the third season of Person of Interest. I finished season 3 on the plane, and then ploughed straight through the last two seasons as well. There are some excellent episodes in there, and I’m happy that they were able to draw the show to a conclusion. I’m impressed by how they managed to stick to the show’s original premise all the way to the end. Even in the midst of a battle between superintelligences where humans are no more than pawns, when the heroes’ world is falling apart around them, the show keeps confronting them with number-of-the-week plots, and they still make time to help those in need.
  • Season 3 of Agents of SHIELD had a lot going for it. I had been under the impression that Agent Fitz was going to be written out of the series, but I’m glad he’s still part of it. Sad that Bobbi and Hunter are out instead. Lots of good character development on this show.
  • I watched season 1 of Dark Matter while we were in California in August. (It’s not on Netflix in NL yet.) Discount Firefly, following the crew of a starship who all wake up out of statis with their memories wiped. It’s kinda fun, but it takes the show a while to discover that the character they had set up as the lead (“One”, played by Marc Bendavid) is actually the least interesting one to tell stories about. Also: they have a sexbot episode. In 2016. It would have been embarrassing even in the nineties.

  • I usually describe Lev Grossman’s The Magicians as Narnia crossed with Harry Potter, but at university, and all the characters are assholes. I loved it, and was excited to see the TV show. It doesn’t disappoint! It does take a lot of liberties with the story, introducing new characters and removing others, but it maintains the central premise, and most importantly the feel of the book(s). (The first season of the show incorporates Julia’s story from the second book, The Magician King. Julia and Penny both benefit from getting a bigger spotlight.) The first season also has a very different ending than the book. Watching the show made me go and re-read the book, and I was impressed at how much the showrunners had made it their own. If you’ve read/watched one, you will still find a lot of surprises in the other.
  • Mr. Robot, season 1: Dark, claustrophobic, disorienting. Rami Malek as Eliot is quite brilliant.
  • Chef’s Table, seasons 1 & 2: I love how this series focuses on the chef’s story rather than necessarily on their food. Sure, the food is important, but it’s really all about what drives them, and how they got to the point they’re at. A consistent theme is just how crushing the life of a chef, or really anyone in the hospitality industry can be. The hours they have to put in are ridiculous, for a tiny chance of the kind of recognition only a handful of top chefs enjoy. I also found it interesting to watch the management styles of the various chefs — how they treat their staff in the kitchen. Some are brusque; some see them as co-creators of amazing things (Grant Achatz); some take their responsibilities as teachers very seriously (Magnus Nilsson). The show briefly rekindled my love of fine dining, but then I remembered that I’d have to dress up to visit these places, and my wardrobe currently consists entirely of concert T-shirts and corporate merch.
  • Stranger Things, season 1. This made me curiously meta-nostalgic for a kind of eighties I never experienced, but saw portrayed in exported films and TV shows that this one echoes. It’s like being melancholy for the 1950’s vision of the future with jetpacks and flying cars. ‘Twas never thus. Taken on its own, the show is great. Predictable, but very satisfying.
  • Archer, season 7: inappropriate fun, as ever.

  • Luke Cage, season 1: mostly excellent, though I was disappointed by how the final episodes seemed to revert to a very comic-booky hero vs villian storyline, when the rest of the show had set up the characters to inhabit a much more down-to-earth and nuanced world. That’s what I enjoy most about Netflix’s Marvel shows, how they treat comic book characters in a realistic (well, ish) setting. Jessica Jones and Luke Cage don’t wear costumes, and are the better for it. The music of the show is fantastic. I find myself listening to a lot of TV and movie scores while I’m working these days, and the Luke Cage score has a lovely seventies soul vibe to it.
  • Agent Carter, season 1: fun, but flat. The setting is post-war New York, but the show felt like it was also trying to mimic the over-acted mannerisms of media from that era. The characters are drawn in bold strokes and vivid colours that make them feel like stereotypes rather than rounded characters. Some of this is deliberate, so that the stories can then play against those stereotypes, and that’s one of the major themese of the show: the awfulness of Peggy Carter having to prove herself all over again in the face of institutional sexism and prejudice. Sometimes it works, sometimes it feels artificial.


  • Suicide Squad: forgettable. Too many characters, not enough interplay. Jared Leto’s Joker is overwrought and awful. Fortunately, his part was cut back to almost nothing.
  • Jason Bourne: really forgettable. I saw this with Fiona at the Grand Lake in Oakland in August…or did I?
  • Keanu: silly, but I liked it. For a comedy about mistaken identities, it has surprisingly few cringe-inducing moments, and goes for absurd laughs instead.
  • Spotlight: fantastically acted and sensitive newsroom drama about a terrible scandal. Just like with Chef’s Table I had an eye on the behaviour of the various management-level characters, and was observing how the editors and team leaders worked to make big things happen.
  • Maggie’s Plan: subtle comedy about people in love and trying to deal with the consequences of getting what they want. (I don’t think I would call it a “romantic comedy”, though. Romance plays a part, but it’s not the focus. Nor is the comedy, really. The humour is sly and wry, rather than laugh-out-loud funny.)
  • The Constant Gardener: I normally like subtle spy thrillers like this one, but I just found it dull. Maybe I watched it in the wrong frame of mind: in a cramped airline seat on the red-eye back from New York after an exhausting week. Maybe don’t trust my judgement on this one.
  • Eye In The Sky: intense drama about a single drone mission over Nairobi, and the life-or-death decisions the military officers and commanders have to make in the course of it, with only limited information. Given the limited number of settings, this almost felt like a theatre play. It’s a good film, but it left me with a creeping revulsion to the modern military technology. Drone strikes may be more precise tools than bombs, but is the ability to kill more precisely and effectively really a step forward for humanity?


  • Geoff Manaugh – A Burglar’s Guide to the City: Geoff Manaugh’s 2010 article Nakatomi Space is about movie characters (taking Die Hard as a specific example) and real-life military operations subverting architecture to achieve their objectives. In it, he says, “What I find so interesting about Die Hard—in addition to unironically enjoying the film—is that it cinematically depicts what it means to bend space to your own particular navigational needs.” This book goes deep on those same ideas. It doesn’t feel like there’s a concrete point to the book, but it’s a neat delve.
  • Chuck Wendig – Zeroes: I came back from California convinced that I had read two books, but it took me days to remember what the second one was. This was it. It’s not bad, and as a techno-thriller it moves at a nice pace. I just didn’t love it.


  • Injection vol 2 is a moody follow-up to the first volume, with a neat detective story at its heart, and truly beautiful colouring.
  • The Vision vol 1, “Little Worse Than A Man”: Ooh, dark dark dark. The Vision trying to figure out what it means to be human by literally making a family for himself. Themes of loneliness, isolation, and strangeness pervade the book. Very good.
  • Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat! vol 1 “Hooked on a Feline”: I loved this. I didn’t know anything about Patsy Walker before reading Charles Soule and Javier Pulido’s run of She-Hulk. This book gives her a spin off that follows her after those adventures, as she tries to get herself set up as an independent hero in New York. In terms of style, it’s a cross between Soule and Pulido’s She-Hulk and North and Henderson’s Squirrel Girl. It’s adorable.
  • Ms Marvel vol 5 “Super Famous”: keeps on being good and worth buying.
  • Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur vol 1 “BFF”: This didn’t really work for me. The prehistoric Killer-Folk just didn’t register as a viable threat, even taking comic book logic into account; and I found Lunella’s constant interior monologue grating. Part of the point of the story is that she doesn’t have anyone she can talk to about her life and problems, but I would have enjoyed it more if she’d had a sidekick. (Devil Dinosaur doesn’t count — yet — unless she emerges from her Terrigen cocoon with the ability to talk to him (her?) directly.)


  • Fiona loves Marianas Trench, and spotted that they were playing in Amsterdam (Tolhuistuin) in October. Of course we got tickets. I started listening to them last month, and OMG! They’re fantastic. I’m super excited about the gig coming up on Tuesday. Power pop to the max!
  • I still haven’t watched season 3 of RWBY, but I’ve listened to the soundtrack now. It has some strong tracks, but not nearly as many as on the soundtracks for the first two seasons.
  • I pitched in for the kickstarter for De La Soul’s new album, And The Anonymous Nobody, and it’s finally here. It’s okay, but maybe I haven’t given it enough opportunity to grow on me yet. It’s pretty downbeat, and I’ve been mostly in the mood for more shiny and upbeat stuff recently. (See: Marianas Trench above.) (Okay, so maybe Astoria’s lyrics are a bit dark, but the soaring power pop hooks cut right through them.)