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The Promise of the Pi Network

The Promise of the Pi Network

There’s a new digital currency just out that has some very interesting aspects.

It’s the first crypto currency that can be mined on your phone. That’s right, you can earn Pi now by adding the app to your phone (iPhone and Android) and letting it run. The other astonishing thing about Pi is that it is very energy efficient and will not drain your phone’s battery.

You can start earning Pi coins now by going to this link Pi Network, download the app, and use “pkamm” for your invitation code.

iPhone X, another Apple Fail

iPhone X, another Apple Fail

How many utter failures does it take for Apple to realize it is on the wrong path?

iPhone X:

  • No Home button: Fail
  • Redesigned User Interface: Fail
  • Facial Recognition: Fail
  • Price: Fail

The camera is good. Add image stabilization to the telephoto camera on the iPhone 8 and I’m happy.

Apple, you’ve lost your way. And soon, you will lose your base. Be very careful how you navigate these waters in the next few years lest you begin to lose major market share. Pay attention!

Beware of iOS 8.4

Beware of iOS 8.4

One of the biggest reasons I never apply an OS update from Apple as soon as it is released is because I don’t want to lose functionality.

Sometimes an Apple update just breaks things. This has happened often enough to make me wait until it’s discovered and fixed. But increasingly, Apple has secretly eliminated features or functionality in order gain a financial benefit. It appears this has happened again with the iOS 8.4 release. Home Sharing has been quietly cut from iOS 8.4. If you update, you will no longer have the ability to stream audio from iTunes from your Mac OS X computer to iPhones, iPads, and iPods for free.

Rumors are that such an uproar from the Apple community has convinced Apple to return the feature, but not until iOS 9. So if you don’t want to lose this capability, stay away from iOS 8.4.

The iPhone 6 After Four Months

The iPhone 6 After Four Months

I’ve now had my iPhone 6 four months and I’m ready to give a balanced review.

First, it should be noted that 4 months ago I upgraded from an iPhone 4s. My philosophy with Apple products in general has evolved from a “got to have the latest” mentality into a “I will upgrade when the improvements are significant” mentality. In the past 5-8 years, Apple has provoked me to upgrade it’s products on roughly a ever-other-generation schedule. And the trend seems to be towards an ever-widening gap between upgrades.

The Hardware

The jump from an iPhone 4s to the iPhone 6 was significant, and it felt that way in all respects. The sleek and refined hardware design was impressive in aesthetics and weight. The fingerprint authentication worked surprisingly well and after setting up authentication for both right and left thumbs and index fingers, I found it to be very efficient and natural.

One criticism I have of the iPhone, and indeed almost all smart phones, is that they are not really comfortable devices in our hands. There’s very little about a “slim-brick” design that fits well with our hands. The ergonomics are mostly wrong for the human hand. It’s no wonder that so many folks drop their phones while using them.

That said, the iPhone 6 is no worse than most. I found that Apple’s own slim leather iPhone cover offers a sleek and simple design that stays true to the iPhone design, providing a solid grip in the hand.

The Software

The transition from IOS6 to IOS7 (and then to IOS8) was significant. There were not only a number of interface shifts, but there were also some annoying bugs to be worked through. It has taken Apple longer than I expected to address these bugs. And, I am not convinced that all of these bugs (e.g., wifi, bluetooth, battery life, and others) are resolved yet. Once I became more comfortable with the new interface, I began to enjoy it. The speed increase was noticeable and appreciated.

I spent the extra money to get the 128GB model since I was impressed by the iPhone’s camera specs and results. It was a wise choice. The camera is impressive for both stills and video. Although I own a DSLR, I find myself using the iPhone more often as my primary camera when I’m out and about. The stock camera app is adequate for most folks. But, if you are a more serious photographer, there are a number a great apps that give you more control over shutter speed, aperture, and timing. (I’m planning a post devoted to iPhone apps for photography and video.)

With so much memory on my iPhone, I spent the first month downloading almost 9 pages of apps. Since then, the download frenzy has waned. I have settled on regularly using about a dozen apps which now live on the first page of apps.

iPhone As Business Tool

The most significant evolution for me since purchasing my iPhone 6 is one that I would not have predicted. I am now essentially running an arts & culture website entirely from my iPhone. This means I take and edit photos and video, write content, manage various social media, post and comment, all from my iPhone. I’m a one-man, mobile, content-generating, broadcast machine!

With my iPhone fully engaged in activity almost 16 hours a day, I am now looking into solar-powered battery chargers. Any recommendations out there?

What’s Your Frequency? The Power of Binaural Beats

This post is a deviation from my usual blather. But I hope you enjoy it anyway.

Some Background

I have long suffered from depression. I have been prescribed a broad range of pharmaceutical “solutions” that ultimately proved to be ineffective or so fraught with nasty side-effects that I’ve abandoned them. I’ve also fallen into some of the more self-destructive forms of self-medication. I can sometimes battle this ailment with a regular dose of sunshine and exercise, but this isn’t a reliable solution.

In the past several months, I have been researching and exploring an approach that is a little like putting my head between a humming tuning fork. Let me try to explain.

Brainwave Entrainment

The approach I’m exploring is generally referred to as brainwave entrainment or brainwave synchronization. The idea is that the brain tends to change its dominant frequency towards the frequency of a powerful external stimulus. (In this case its aural, but it can also be visual or electromagnetic or any form of vibration, making the potential source rather broad.)

The other important fact is that certain vibrations of the brain are associated with particular states of mind, like thinking or sleeping or creativity or dreaming. These type of vibrations are called resonant frequencies, and they can be quite powerful.

Some History

The power of resonant frequencies has been known for a long time. Nikola Tesla experimented with electromechanical oscillators in the late 1800s. In one notable experiment, he attached an oscillator to an iron pillar that ran down the center of his lab and into the foundation of his building. His goal was to let the oscillator run until he detected a significant vibration in the pillar. However, he was unaware that the vibrations were being conducted through the iron pillar and down into the substructure of the city. In much the same way that earthquakes are typically strongest a short distance from their epicenter, the nearby buildings began to shake and their windows shattered, while Tesla’s lab remained unaffected. Luckily, police intervention brought the experiment to an end before the nearby buildings were completely destroyed.

More recent research into the mind-altering possibilities of this entrainment principle have been undertaken by several people, many claiming to be the first. One of the early experimenters, Robert Monroe, a student of engineering and human physiology, set up a small research program in the 1950s to explore the effects of sonic frequencies on the brain. The sonic principle he was using was already known to electronic engineers as binaural beat frequency modulation (a primary concept of radio receivers today). Monroe recorded two channels of audio data using a stereo tape recorder. One channel was recorded with a sine wave tone frequency of 200cps (cycles per second, also known as Hertz), and the other channel at 208cps. When this recording was played through stereo headphones, Monroe discovered that although one ear heard a 200cps frequency and the other a 208cps frequency, the brain interpreted the tones as an 8cps frequency and began to entrain itself to that frequency.

What It Means

What makes this interesting is that normally the two hemispheres of the brain vibrate at different frequencies, but Monroe’s experiment demonstrated that both hemispheres could be synchronized. He also found that when the brain was entrained to vibrate near 8cps, there was a tendency towards a dramatic increase in creativity and intuition.

According to research, the human brain operates within a wide range of frequencies, but generally stays within 4 levels of awareness: beta (13 to 30 cps), alpha (8 to 12 cps), theta (5 to 7 cps), and delta (1 to 4 cps).  (Different researchers may put these ranges slightly higher or lower.)

The highest level, beta, is generally associated with an active and very awake brain. This state is usually associated with intellectual thought and verbal expression.

The alpha level is usually associated with a relaxed, calm and creative waking state. Alpha is often achieved by simple meditation and the slowing of one’s breath.

Theta is perhaps the most interesting level. (It’s the most interesting to me.) In this frequency range, dreams, deep hypnosis, out-of-body projections, and other odd and less-understood phenomena begin to appear. This is the state of consciousness that you’ve probably experienced on that border between being awake and being asleep. This is that “twilight-zone” where the conscious and subconscious mind begins to overlap. I have found this state to be one in which the mind is most receptive to deep suggestion.

The delta range is most often associated with deep, dreamless sleep. I’ve used these frequencies often when I am having a bout with insomnia.

There is another frequency range that I feel obligated to point out only because of my philosophical background and the potential implications. This is the gamma range (25 to 100 cps). This is a more controversial brain frequency, sometimes associated with the transcendental states of Tibetan monks, REM sleep, and particular brain states induced by anesthesia. The philosophical implications have to do with what is called the “binding problem”.  This is essentially about the meaning of “consciousness” and how this relates to the neurological activity of the brain. It is both a philosophical and neurobiological problem that often gets obscured by the language of the two disciplines. Suffice it to say that if you crank up your headphones into the 25 to 100cps realm, all bets are off the table!

What I’ve Found

So I’ve been experimenting with binaural recordings in various combinations of the beta, alpha, theta, and delta frequency ranges. At first, I found a number of freely available recordings done by many people on the web. Some of these recordings were simple sine wave tones recorded at various offset frequencies to achieve the binaural beats associated with the various brain states. Then I found recordings that mixed in the sounds of ocean waves, forest sounds, rain-fall, white noise and pink noise. (Presumably, these added tracks were to make the listening experience more enjoyable.) There are many, many sources of free high-quality binaural beat recordings on the web that I’ve found to be quite effective. (It turns out that producing, packaging, and selling these recordings has now become another frenzied business trend, so beware.)

My needs were simple. I wanted to somehow fight my depression and the associated insomnia. For this, I have found several 10-30 minute recordings, at various frequencies (some sliding frequencies) that have been very effective.

I’m always fine-tuning with duration, amplitude, time of day, and synchronous activities. My experience is that it’s much like meditation, each person must find their “sweet spot” with these variables.

I’ve spent considerable time researching this subject. Although this is some pretty powerful stuff, I’ve found no significant areas of concern in terms of potential damaging effects of exploration into this realm, WITH ONE NOTABLE EXCEPTION:

FOLKS WITH A TENDENCY TOWARDS EPILEPSY SHOULD CONSULT WITH THEIR DOCTORS FIRST.

This warning is especially true when experimenting with visual frequency stimulus, but may also be relevant to sonic entrainment.

Epilogue

Most recently, I’ve been creating my own binaural beat recordings and layering additional tracks to my taste. I’ve also been experimenting with various software to create “sliding frequency” recordings. These are recordings that start with a particular frequency and slowly slide into another frequency, guiding the brain entrainment into a particular direction. I’m still tinkering with this method, but I’m finding some interesting results.

It’s fun to mess with your brain, so I encourage all you explorers to check out brainwave entrainment methods and approaches!

Resources

There’s an interesting iPhone/iPad app called Brainwave ($1.99) that may be a good way to introduce you to the binaural beat world.

Binaural Beats – an explanation

Forum – interesting discussions about binaural beats

Free Binaural beats – download free recordings and try them yourself

SbaGen – binaural beat creation software (opensource)

DeltaBox – binaural beat player with free recordings

iPhone 4 Woes

I’m still waiting for the dust to settle before I get the new iPhone.

An article in today’s L.A. Times takes Steve Jobs to task for suggesting that competitor’s handsets share the same antenna issue that plagues the iPhone 4. It’s a little disappointing to hear that Jobs has chosen to handle this issue by attacking the competition; even if what he suggests is true. Since when does Apple want to set the bar that low?

The signal issue seems to be mitigated by simply putting the iPhone into a protective skin. I thought that most people get skins for their iPhones anyway. Maybe not. But this suggests that Apple should have provided a suitable skin with each iPhone from the beginning.

I felt the same way about the iPad. The naked iPad is, in many ways, a design failure. It is not comfortable to hold and is awkward on both a table or the lap. However, Apple’s iPad cover is a design success, and transforms the iPad into a comfortable, usable device. Apple should have provided the cover as part of the purchase price of the iPad.

A while back, Apple stopped providing video adapters with their laptops. I was surprised and disappointed when I learned of this. What’s next? Will the power cord soon become an optional, extra purchase?

Obviously, I’m still a huge Apple fan. But I’m concerned that Apple is beginning to engage in some of the same less-than-honorable practices of many of its competitors. I expect more from Apple and Jobs.

Perhaps Apple will learn a valuable lesson in this latest public relations failure.