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Thursday, July 15, 2010

The iPhone 4 Redux: Analyzing Apple's iOS 4.0.1 Signal Fix & Antenna Issue


In case you haven’t noticed, the iPhone 4’s antenna design has come under considerable scrutiny. In our iPhone 4 review, we investigated the iPhone 4 antenna and came to two conclusions. First, that iOS 4 was displaying signal bars in an overly optimistic manner, compressing the dynamic range of possible signal bars users can see. Second, we identified a worst case signal drop of around 24 dBm when the iPhone 4 is cupped tightly in the left hand, covering the black strip and possibly detuning the antennas and adding additional attenuation from the presence of the hand.

Since those initial measurements, we’ve been working tirelessly to both characterize the problem, fully understand the mechanisms behind it, and report on a number of possible solutions.

The Bars Have Changed

On July 2, Apple released a letter noting that the formula used in iOS 4.0 to calculate how many bars are presented for each signal strength is “totally wrong.” This mirrored our conclusions that the effects of the signal drop were exacerbated in part by the way the iPhone visualizes signal strength - the dynamic range is compressed so much that the 24 dB drop from cupping the phone without a case could make all the bars go away.

They went on to promise that in a future software update they would make bars 1, 2, and 3 taller, and make the bars more “accurate” by displaying 2 bars fewer in certain circumstances.

iOS 4.1 beta rolled around yesterday, and we immediately dove in to find out just how much the bar to signal strength mapping has changed. Update: iOS 4.0.1 final just came out this afternoon and we finished preliminary testing. The signal strength mapping algorithms are identical to the 4.1 beta. The findings in this article apply to 4.0.1 as well as the 4.1 beta.

After updating our devices to the iOS 4.1 beta (and 4.0.1) and making sure our little trick to show signal strength in dBm instead of bars still worked, we set off. Remember last time how I said I drove around town all day with iOS 4.0, testing the phone, and recording signal strength and how many bars were being shown? You guessed it - another update, another evening of driving around. Anand and I did quite our fair share of moving around to get a complete picture of what the new cutoffs are.

Old Bars

New Bars

The results are conclusive - Apple has dramatically changed the signal strength to signal bar mapping in iOS 4.0.1 and the iOS 4.1 beta, making the dynamic range not only much broader, but the range values for each bar much wider. The range of signals that correspond to bars three and four are the same width, and bar two is only slightly less.

The cutoff value for two bars to one bar remains the same, but every other value has increased. The result is that the worst case drop of 24 dBm no longer makes all the signal bars disappear, but rather two.

AnandTech reader Mike Escoffery, Director of Design and User Experience at Media Platforms, created his own diagram to help compare the old and new way of iOS signal strength reporting:

As you can see the old way (top) put far too much weight into the 5th bar of signal. Apple's new approach not only splits it up more reasonably between the 4th and 5th bar (still non-linearly keeping you in the 5th bar if possible) but also extends the range of the lower bars.

This change actually presented itself in our numeric signal strength reports - there’s more dynamic range in these numbers too. Previously, the absolute lowest value any iPhone would report was -113 dBm. With iOS 4.0.1/4.1, the value is now a shockingly low -121 dBm. In the iPhone 4 review, I talked a lot about how although the phone is prone to dropping signal from being held wrong, it was measurably more sensitive in weak signal areas. I was shocked that calls and data worked seemingly unfazed at -113 dBm. It seems as though this increased 8 dBm of range below -113 dBm was meant to show really how much more sensitive the radio stack is - it undeniably is more sensitive. Both Anand and I were able to hang onto calls all the way down at -121 dBm.

We’ve also included a comparison to how the latest version of Android displays signal bars from GSM or UMTS networks below. Thankfully, this didn’t require driving around town all day but rather inspecting the latest version of the Android source code from Google’s own repositories. Android uses an ASU value to compute signal strength, which isn’t anything more than a remapping of dBm to a sane value that’s a bit easier to interpret.

Apple’s mappings have gone from having probably the most compressed dynamic range among handset vendors to less compressed than Android.

While the software update obviously does not and cannot address the design of the antenna itself - or make the drop from holding the phone any less - it does change the way the issue is perceived among users. The result is that most iPhone users will see fewer bars disappear when they hold the iPhone 4 in a bare hand. The side effect is that the iPhone now displays fewer bars in most places, and users that haven’t been reporting signal in dBm will time see the - perhaps a bit shocking - reality of locations previously denoted as having excellent signal.

Interestingly enough, Apple has indeed changed the heights of bars 1, 2, and 3. They’re taller, and the result is that the relative heights are no longer linear, but rather a tad exponential looking. It’s a mind trick that Apple no doubt hopes will make the signal look better. If the bars are taller, they must denote stronger signal, right?

From top to bottom: iOS 4.1, iOS 4.0, Android 2.2

The reality is that Apple likely wants to deflect at least some of the initial backlash AT&T will face for reporting the signal bars without any concessions. Concessions that used to make coverage look better than it really is. Regardless of how tall the bars are, there are still going to be fewer of them virtually everywhere. Interestingly enough, while bars 1 and 2 are the most changed, their respective cutoffs are virtually unchanged.

While I was testing iOS 4.0.1, I told Anand that the signal reporting lie that started with the iPhone 3G had been removed entirely. That iOS 4.0.1 would potentially show the reality of AT&T’s coverage to iPhone users. With 4.0.1 users looking at signal bars will get a much more realistic view of how signal is changing.

We tested the iOS 4.1 beta on iPhone 3GSes as well, and found the mappings to be the same there as well.

Lindsay Lohan Is a Hot Mess For GQ Germany (PHOTOS, Video)

From: Rita Pereira

Actress Lindsay Lohan, who was recently sentenced to 90 days in jail and 90 days in rehab, posed in sexy retro photo shoot with her SCRAM bracelet for the upcoming issue of GQ Germany (more pictures/video below).

The 24 year-old was also required to take off her clothes to pose topless while playing the guitar on the beach. Lindsay actually looks kind of hot and sexy in this new shoot. Shocking!

Lindsay Lohan GQ Germany Pictures + Video

[images: GQ]

Amazing Beatbox Girl

Epic Ninja Ball Girl

The 420 Soundboard: Click On It


There’s a science behind “420.” It’s not only the police scanner code for “marijuana smoking in progress,” it’s also the angle at which you need to hold a magnifying glass toward the naked sun to light a bowl without a lighter. It’s Cheech Marin’s birthday, as well as Jerry Garcia’s, Chris Tucker’s, Aldous Huxley’s, and Helen Keller’s (holla at your first medicinal marijuana advocate!). Divide 20 by four and you get the price for a common quantity of weed ($5 you dope); divide four by 20 and you get the approximate number of brains cells lost to a typical session. Add four and 20 plus the number of plants George Washington grew, divided by the number of blunts ‘Pac smoked while making All Eyez on Me, minus the number of times Bill Clinton inhaled and you get… Nevermind. We’ve collected the stonedest quotes of all time for the fourth Complex Soundboard (slept? Try the original, the junior, and the Jersey Shore). So explain “420″ however you want (yes, most of the above is the product of some seriously blunted minds), just enjoy (and share!) our 420 Soundboard. After all it only took us 1,512,000 seconds to put it together.

Willie Nelson & Snoop Dog: On the Road Again!!

How Do I Win Rock Paper Scissors Every Time?


How Do I Win Rock, Paper, Scissors Every Time?

How can I win at Rock, Paper Scissors?
Have you ever gotten tired of being crushed by Rock, cut to shreds by Scissors, or smothered by Paper? Do you ever feel like you are fighting in a game of chance which fate developed to mock you? Well, here is some great news. The graphic above has information compiled about Rock, Paper, Scissors (RPS) from the World RPS Society, the masters of Rock, Paper, Scissors, to help you overcome your opponents and understand the strategies needed to win Rock, Paper, Scissors every time.

What are some RPS game winning strategies?
As its name implies, Rock, Paper, Scissors, like a really limited periodic table, involves three elements. Each one of these elements has a winning, losing, and tying combination against an opponent. On paper, this sounds like there is only ever a 1/3 chance of winning with each throw. But introduce a little human psychology into your game, and you have an edge and a game plan for winning.

Where and when did RPS begin?
Forms of RPS can be found all over the world today, but the earliest known version of the game dates all the way back to the 1700s in Japan. The Japanese played a game called Jan-Ken-Pon, their version of RPS. This means the Japanese have been playing RPS longer than anyone else in the world. Maybe this is why Paper resembles a karate chop.

Today the game of Rock, Paper, Scissors is an officially sanctioned sport with its own international body of competitors. The World RPS Society hosts annually the RPS World Championship. Yes, there is prize money for winning RPS. You never bought into that whole ‘bragging rights’ thing that much, right?

How do I play RPS against a dude?
Males tend to come out aggressive with Rock on their first throw. Turn the odds in your favor with Paper.

What if my opponent is a pro at RPS?
Expect experienced players to throw Paper when they play against a newcomer. Showing Scissors should put him in his place.

Is there a trick to beating a newbie at RPS?
Because of their lack of mental stamina, when inexperienced players lose they tend to copycat the last winning throw. Crush them with its opposite.

In RPS, what should I do if my opponent throws two rocks in a row?
More than likely your opponent has noticed this trend too and will change his pattern. But this only leaves him the options of Paper or Scissors. Countering with Rock should do the job.

How can I predict my opponent’s next move in RPS?
Just like in the game of Poker, people will give away their next move subconsciously. Watch your opponent’s hands before you throw. Are all his fingers tense? That means he is thinking of throwing Rock. Throw Paper to win. Is your opponent’s hand relaxed with all the fingers loose? That is an indication that he is readying Paper. Give him Scissors. If just two fingers are loose or tight, Scissors is the diagnosis and Rock is the remedy.

Are there any stats that can help me win at RPS?
For the math-stats geek, or those who like to play the odds, paper is thrown the least often at 29.6% of the time. Rock and Scissors are thrown the most often, at 35.4% and 35%, respectively. When there is need for a changeup, use Paper as an unexpected option to surprise your opponent.

What can I learn by watching my opponent play others?
If you get the opportunity, do not shy away from watching your future opponents play others. Pay attention to the details. Do they give away any throwing tendencies? Does their play style or attitude suggest a pattern to their play? Observe, analyze, and counter accordingly!

I am getting smashed in RPS; are there any tricks I can pull?
As a last resort when all else is lost, you can always attempt to pull a fast-one on your opponent. Giving him the ‘Spock gesture’ is unexpected, highly illegal, but also impossible to counter.

Artificial Lung "Breathes" in Rats: Study


U.S. researchers have created a primitive artificial lung that rats used to breathe for several hours and said on Tuesday it may be a step in the development of new organs grown from a patient's own cells.

The finding, reported in the journal Nature Medicine, is the second in a month from researchers seeking ways to regenerate lungs from ordinary cells.

In the latest study, Harald Ott and colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston removed the cells from rat lungs to leave a scaffolding or matrix.

They soaked these in a bioreactor along with several types of human lung cells, creating pressures to simulate the pressure inside a body to make the lung workable and flexible.

The cells took up residence and grew into different tissue types seen in a lung, Ott's team reported.

When transplanted into rats, they worked for about six hours, although imperfectly.

The researchers said it may be possible to try the experiment with more immature stem cells, the body's master cells. These could include embryonic stem cells, which can mature into any cell type in the body, or induced pluripotent stem cells -- ordinary cells with genes added to make them behave like flexible stem cells.

The potential market is large and dozens of companies are launching into regenerative medicine, as are academic labs like those at Harvard.

"Nearly 25 million people live with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and approximately 120,000 patients die from end-stage lung disease annually in the United States alone," Ott's team wrote.

"Lung transplantation remains the only definitive treatment for end-stage lung disease. As with other organs, however, the supply of donor lungs is limited. In 2005, only one out of four patients waiting for a lung underwent transplantation," they added, citing the United Network of Organ Sharing.

Last month, a team at Yale University in Connecticut implanted engineered lung tissue into rats that helped the animals breathe for two hours.

(Editing by Todd Eastham)

First Music Video Shot Entirely on the iPhone 4 Debuts

Director Marty Martin and musician Flakjakt have debuted the new video “Cascades”, filmed entirely with the iPhone 4.

The music video business can be brutal. Some artists can spend millions of dollars on what amounts to just a few minutes of footage, and even then the chances of a large audience watching it have diminished as the reach of music videos has diminished. The production costs have skyrocketed, and the equipment needed to put on a traditional music video has grown to rival that of a TV show, leaving less well-known musicians to find more creative and cost effective ways to get their name out there. Seattle-based director Marty Martin and musician Flakjakt have found an interesting and creative way around buying or renting expensive camera equipment – they used an iPhone 4.

When faced with a task to get something done that typically demands a great deal of money, the creative will finds alternative ways to accomplish the same task. With just a $200 budget, and a limited reach, Martin and his friend Steve Failows (aka Flakjakt) needed to find a way that could draw a bit of attention to their project without sacrificing the quality. With the hype surrounding the iPhone- plus the 720p video camera- an idea was born.

“I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and say that if it hadn’t said iPhone 4, people wouldn’t have watched it,” Martin says.

Using the iPhone 4 was sure to gain a little bit of added attention, but beyond that, Martin just wanted to make as good a video as possible regardless of how it was filmed, “My ultimate goal was to make it look as close to a film as possible.”

Over the span of two days, Martin filmed the video “Cascades”, using only the iPhone while accumulating roughly three hours of footage at nine locations. The footage took half a day to convert. Martin then spent the next 40 hours straight editing it using Final Cut Pro to edit the video into what you see below.

Martin and Flakjakt are hoping to strategically place the video to make it go viral. Using the iPhone 4 helped get a little much needed attention, but the duo is hoping that the quality of the music video, and the song itself will have people forget the medium and just enjoy. Check it out below and decide for yourself.

Also, head to to see more works from the director.

Update: Looks like Flakjakt’s was not the first iPhone 4 video to surface, but it may be the best. We will try to contact the other video makers.

Sara Carbonero is Spains Hottest Sports Reporter


You may remember Spain's hottie sportscaster Sara Carbonero from her interview with boyfriend and World Cup star Iker Casillas. The Spanish TV host talks sports for Telecinco. In July 2009, Sara Carbonero, was voted "The Sexiest Reporter in the World" by FHM. Take that, Erin Andrews.

The English press made a big deal about her being the cause of the Spain loss to the Swiss. But it was much ado about nothing. Casillas couldn't have been too distracted as he led Spain to their first-ever World Cup championship. Her mushy kiss with the Spanish goalie also raised some attention around the world. Sara Carbonero seemed a bit squeamish after Casillas planted a few smooches on her at the end of the interview, but it's not like she reports on the war or the heinous atrocity known as the BP oil spill. Who cares? Everyone knew about them anyway.

We thought you might enjoy a gallery of this beauty, so here are a slew of pics to check out.

Experts work to free buried ship hull at WTC site


Workers at the World Trade Center site are excavating a 32-foot-long ship hull that apparently was used in the 18th century as part of the fill that extended lower Manhattan into the Hudson River.

It's hoped the artifact can be retrieved by the end of the day on Thursday, said archaeologist Molly McDonald. A boat specialist was going to the site to take a look at it.

McDonald said she wanted to at least salvage some timbers; it was unclear if any large portions could be lifted intact.

"We're mostly clearing it by hand because it's kind of fragile," she said, but construction equipment could be used later in the process.

McDonald and archaeologist A. Michael Pappalardo were at the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks when the discovery was made Tuesday morning.

"We noticed curved timbers that a back hoe brought up," McDonald said Wednesday. "We quickly found the rib of a vessel and continued to clear it away and expose the hull over the last two days."

The two archeologists work for AKRF, a firm hired to document artifacts discovered at the site. They called the find significant but said more study was needed to determine the age of the ship.

CBS News: Buried Ship Found at Ground Zero

"We're going to send timber samples to a laboratory to do dendrochronology that will help us to get a sense of when the boat was constructed," said McDonald. Dendrochronology is the science that uses tree rings to determine dates and chronological order.

A 100-pound anchor was found a few yards from the ship hull on Wednesday, but they're not sure if it belongs to the ship. It's 3 to 4 feet across, McDonald said.

The archaeologists are racing to record and analyze the vessel before the delicate wood, now exposed to air, begins to deteriorate.

"I kept thinking of how closely it came to being destroyed," Pappalardo said.