December 20, 2012

Welcome to the First Edition of Tech Thursdays!

Welcome to Tech Thursdays, a new monthly column on BlueTales penned by Miguel, tech expert and our Airport Operations Supervisor in San Jose, California.

Sharing the gift

I love being at the airport during the holidays.  The hustle and bustle, the smiles, happy tears and laughter echoes throughout the day.  As a tech enthusiast and a JetBlue crewmember, I also have the privilege of seeing technology in action.

Besides eating, what do we do the most during the holidays?  Take pictures, of course!  In the past five years, I’ve seen an increased use of smartphones such as the iPhone as an all-purpose camera.  I used to smirk at these camera phones as a passing fad, but to my surprise, I’ve noticed the quality of the pictures taken from the new line of camera phones rival that of many consumer-level point-and-shoot cameras.  It seems that smartphone companies noticed this as well and are loading up their smartphones with smart camera features.  The panorama feature on the iPhone 4S and 5, for example, is impressive and easy to use.

But technology is just a tool.  The best way to take good pictures is to know how to take good pictures.

Here are some pointers:

1. Get a smartphone tripod -  They range from $10 to $30 and will eliminate that blurry effect cause by movement.  It’s great for self-shooters.  If you’re a couple traveling, you won’t have to find a stranger to take a picture of the both of you.  The Griptight GorillaPod from Joby even has bendable legs so you can mount and wrap your smartphone almost anywhere.

2. Disable the auto-focus before taking the shot - If you are shooting in an airport setting or other crowded areas, an enabled-auto-focus will keep the camera lens scanning and focusing until you press the picture button. Typical scenario: You have a couple of friends posing in Terminal 5’s elevated stage in JFK and then you snap a picture.  Guess what?  You got a blurry picture because of the crowd walking just under them.  You can avoid this by:
a) disabling auto-focus
b) manually setting a good distance and focus and then snapping the picture
c)  If you want to keep the auto-focus on, make sure you have a “quiet” foreground.

3. Take advantage of HDR - In one of my “Are you kidding me?” moments, I found that my wife’s iPhone 4s has HDR or High Dynamic Range mode.  Simply put, this is a goof-proof way of taking great pictures.  When enabled, your camera phone will take a low, medium and high exposure picture in one snap and combine them.  The result is usually a photo with very good lighting, depth and color.  It’s great for stationary portrait and landscape shots.  If your smartphone doesn’t have it built-in, chances are there’s an app available for you to download.

On top of laughter and cheers, music is one of the ingredients that gets people in the holiday mood.  If you’re lucky enough to be in San Jose, CA, you’d probably hear me singing Christmas songs all day long. Ask any of the crewmembers who have their ears covered and they’ll tell you.

Smartphones and tablets have opened up new ways to share music you enjoy while you travel to visit friends and family.  There are several well-developed apps for Apple and Android phones and tablets.  Simply search the app store for “DJ.”  These DJ apps range from free to about $50. Yes.  I agree. You don’t need to fork out $50 unless you are actually going to use it for perform professionally.

The beauty of these DJ apps is their ability to play and mix your music automatically in the Automix or AutoDJ modes.  This means songs are played in a continuous random order as if you have a working DJ in the room.  You can even customize the transition from one song to the next if you desire.  I recently used this approach in our holiday dinner party and it worked perfectly.

As an iPad user, my best recommendation is the Djay app from Algoriddim.  They designed the app to have a sleek look and a very low learning curve.  All you have to do is tap on the Automix button and choose a playlist.  That’s it. You are now the life of the party! Now, to add that cool element of presentation.  Here are some tips:

1. Get an iPad/tablet stand - Seeing the nice graphics and spinning turntables adds that wow-factor.  The one I used is called the iKlip Studio from IK Multimedia for $30.

2. Use a quarter-inch Y-splitter to plug from the iPad earphone plug to the speakers – The Y-splitter end is an RCA plug that easily goes into home or desktop speaker system.

3. Make sure to hide the wires behind the i-device stand to have a clean look.

Whether it’s taking pictures or collecting music, the advent of smartphone and tablet technology have given us amazing new ways to do what we have enjoyed doing forever – sharing.  I hope this advice helps you enjoy your technology this holiday season.

Learn more about Miguel and stay tuned in January for the next edition of Tech Thursdays!

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