Sunday, September 30, 2012

Editing old VHS & MiniDV videos on the iPhone 5

Editing videos on the iPhone and iPad is absolutely amazing. OK, you won't get Final Cut ability to do multi-track, multi-layers and other stuff like that but you do get absolute convenience and portability.

The iPhone 5's improvements makes it even better for mobile video editing.

You also get a banging deal on software. The iOS platform is loaded with great apps. A color grading on the application on the PC will cost you $300. On iOS, it won't have all the bells and whistles, will only cost you $3-4. You won't be fine-tuning and matching skin tones or anything like that but you will definitely have the best home "cinematic looking" video from that soccer game that separates you from the rest of the other dads. I've been editing on my iPad since day one using the camera connection kit and it has been great. I would go to a family event with my DSLR and by the end of the function, I will already have an edited video complete with titles and soundtrack in glorious 1080p HD video. In other words, simply amazing. The iPhone 5's larger screen and faster processor makes it reallty enjoyable.

I've been using applications like iMovie (I love the trailers functionality), Splice, Intro designer for titling, CinemaFX and Red Giant's Movie looks for color grading. There are also countless vintage, retro, effect apps on the app stores that I can't mention all their names. Mobile devices won't compete with desktop as I've said before but the key thing is flexibility and portability. I can quickly edit a video on my lunch break, in the bathroom, or in a car ride home.

Now for the meat of my post. I've been storing years of VHS/MiniDV videos on my NAS and decided to edit a few of them. With 64GB, I was able to load up quite a bit of video on my iPhone 5 to take with me and edit whenever I had the chance.

My videos have been converted and imported a few different ways in the past 15 years. Most of my videos have been converted via Firewire-iMovie on my old 233mhz iMac from the turn of the century. I've also used RCA-Firewire converters like the ADVC-1000. I've even converted videos using a $30 DVD recorder I got from Cost-Co. Hours and hours of footage has been archived in Quicktime and H.264 format just sitting on my file server.

To edit on the iPhone, all you need to do is get a h.264 version into the camera roll. It is simple as that. Before, I would use the 30 pin camera connection kit and simply plug in a USB or SDcard to import my footage.  Or you if you are on a Mac, you can use iPhoto to import them into your camera roll.

I've been using a swiss army knife File manager application called Files Connect. It allows me to mount Appletalk, Samba and SSH/SFTP volumes. This is how I've been getting videos on to the iPhone and iPad. I have over 3TB of footage on a NAS (FreeNAS) and I simply copy over the clips I have.

Now here are caveats. The file names needs to be 8-9 characters in DOS 8.3 format. The file also needs to be in H.264 or Quicktime format. However, I've notice iMovie works with a lot other files like AVHCD, motion-jpeg and most files on modern cameras.

Once you copy the file over, you will need to "save to Camera Roll" by using the Open In key press. Once the file is saved in the Camera Roll, you are good to go.

As I've said before, you can use iPhoto if you are on mac to import your video. As long as the file is readable, you can create a specific album and import it as well. I created an album called "Old Movies" with my old VHS/8mm/Hi-8/MiniDV rips.

Here is an example of a footage shot in 1998 being edited in 2012 on a smartphone. Simply amazing. The same footage would be edited on super expensive Pentium 4 / PowerPCs rigs of that era. And you wouldn't be able to color grade or add fancy effects that you have today. You can also mix and match video footage in iMovie. I've had 640x480, 480p, 720p, and 1080p files in the same project.

To add titles, I use a $3 titler called Intro Designer. It is more than sufficient for home videos and has a good selection of themes/templates.

Here, I am tweaking videos using Movie Looks from Red Giant. This app is $2 and their high-end desktop app is $300 (and up) used professionally by Hollywood film makers. It won't be like the desktop app but it is a great start. You can select some presets and voila - Cinematic looking graded video.

Another grading app I've used in the past is CinemaFX .  The app is $2 with add on packs you can buy. It has over 55 effects with some vintage and retro grading. You can apply vignetting and other things.

So, as you can see, you can do quite a bit with the iPhone  (including the iPod Touch and iPad).
The iPhone 5 makes it enjoyable due to the sheer improved performance and screen.

$2 to $4 for an app is cheaper than buying a cup of coffee. I've gotten hours and hours of amazement and seeing people's emotional reaction is simply quite magical. The editing also feels quite natural and not at all contrived as some naysayers have suggest. It has been a good solid 3 years since the 1st generation iPad (when iOS iMovie launched) and there is simply nothing like this on other platforms. I've seen the splice-n-edit offerings on Symbian and Android and I must say the fun factor and useability is heavily weighted on Apple's eco-system. Other phone cameras may have superior capabilities but none of them give you the creative tools to express them in a polished final output.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Stocking up on PogoPlugs

I've been stocking up on these little PogoPlug devices. I have 5 total (3 at work and 2 at home).

$18.50 shipped on sale at Adorama is a no-brainer. I've installed ArchLinux and they've been running all sorts of things for me - BIND DNS, MySQL backups, Rsync Daemon, LAMP (PHP and MySQL). They are great fun to play with. I make a point to do everything from my phone and iPad to make sure I am "Intel/X86" free. I definitely think ARM is the future. I have a bunch of old USB sticks lying around so these put them to great use.

With an iPad, it takes a total of 20 minutes from start to finish to build a LAMP server with SAMBA/AFP access. Once you enabled SSH, you are pretty much free to do whatever you want with ArchLinux ARM. Go ahead, install WordPress and host a blog from your house for less than $2 a month in electricity.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Seagate GoFlex Thunderbolt Adapter (STAE121) review w/ Samsung 830 SSD

This is another web review of the GoFlex Thunderbolt adapter. Here is a short summary: It is SMOKING FAST.

After accumulating over 7 or so 2.5" Seagate GoFlex drives, I decided to take one of these for a spin.
I love the idea of the GoFlex and I've been happy with mix and matching drives (USB2, USB3, and Firewire 800 connectors).

With 8 SATA6 SSDs lying around, Thunderbolt was the next logical step to take advantage of them. If you've been reading my blog, I've tried everything with my SSDs - enclosing them in eSATA RAID enclosures, chaining up in striped RAID over USB 3.0, and other means of squeezing out the most performance externally. Now, I've given up and have gone Thunderbolt and for good reasons. With an SSD, it is fast (scroll to the bottom).

Go-Flex adapters have SATA on one end and a connector (usually USB) on the other. This one is slightly larger with a bottom base (to house the Thunderbolt electronics). The great thing is that they will also work with any 2.5" standard SATA drives found in laptops and this includes SSDs.

Here it is pictured next to a USB 3.0 Go-Flex adapter.

Furthermore, I should note, the expensive Thunderbolt cable is not included and you will need to source one before using this adapter.

As for speed, you won't be terribly impressed with the adapter using  a standard HDD drive. The normal  Go-Flex 1 TB drives run at 5400 rpm so they will perform as fast as a drive connected internally.

First of all, with the standard a standard 1TB Go-Flex drives, I was getting some 80MB/s read and write using BlackMagic's speed tesk. These aren't that better over a standard connection like USB 3.0.

USB 3.0 yielded slightly slower benchmarks that you won't notice too much in real world situations.

You will need SSDs to see how wonderful Thunderbolt really is. I paired up some Samsung 830 128GB SSDs to both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 to see how they performed.


Here are some preliminary results:

Using Thunderbolt, you will see in excess of 300 MB/s reads and writes. 360 MB/s read was normal after several runs.

Now here is USB 3.0 speed for reference and comparison. 180-200 MB/s write and reads. Clearly, Thunderbolt is superior.

Synthetic benchmarks is one thing. What matter how will it perform in the real world. My typical use case would be  copying large files like virtual machines, system clones, and large media files.

For my test, I copied a 30GB Vmware VMDK file from my boot drive which is a M4 512GB SSD capable of 500 MB/s reads.

From my internal 512GB Crucial M4 SSDs to SSD via USB.

From my internal 512GB Crucial M4 SSDs to a Samsung 830 SSD using Thunderbolt.

63% faster with Thunderbolt.

Now lets compare with a standard 7200 rpm drive connected directly to my notebook on the fastest SATA6 bus.

From my internal 512GB Crucial M4 SSDs to a Seagate Momentus XT Hybrid 7200 rpm drive.

If you are not using SSDs, expect your time to be 10-12 minutes with standard hard drives.

In another test, I copied a 6GB Windows 7 VM image on to the SSD. Total time to copy was 12 seconds. Booting from the same Virtualized image of Windows 7  off a Thunderbolt SSD took 11.3 seconds to boot to the log in screen. This is faster than most of the computers on my company's network. Let repeat that again. It took 11.3 seconds to boot a virtualized Windows.

There you have it. Thunderbolt is smoking fast. Thunderbolt vs USB 3.0. There is no contest.
It totally obliterates USB 3.0. More importantly, Thunderbolt now makes external bootable drives a reality. You can safely boot off an external drive with little or no performance penalty. In some cases, the external Thunderbolt boot drive will be faster than the internal drive as it is in the case of my 27' iMac which still uses a regular hard drive.

I will update this blog later as I get two more high performance Thunderbolt drives : LaCie Big 2 and Drobo 5D in the coming days.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Goodbye Galaxy Nexus, Hello iPhone 5

Goodbye Galaxy Nexus, Hello iPhone 5.

I'm about to retire my GNexus to secondary status and I'm glad to.
The phone has been a terrible mess from day one. I was mistaken to believe a "Nexus"  product would get updates and fixes but Verizon pretty much screwed the whole thing up from day one.

I got  the official Jelly Bean the other day and it hasn't fix anything. I still get 3-4 hour battery life and most of the core apps don't work for me. I know this is Verizon's fault because I've played with other VZW Nexus phones with rooted ROMS and they perform much better than stock VZW. Jelly Bean still lags on Verizon GNEX phones. The camera app on Jelly Bean on VZW is atrocious compared to other GNEX phones with different roms.

Unfortunately, as a manager, I need to set a good example and I simply just can't root and experiment with an employer issued phone.

I'm back with the iPhone and I'm happy. I love the great apps that help me get my work done. iSSH, Screens (VNC/Apple Remote Desktop), Texstatic, various superior MySQL clients, and  X11 apps.
PUSH IMAP w/ IDLE works  with Cyrus/PostFix/Dovecot mail servers along with MD5-CRAM SSL authentication works on the iPhone. I don't use GMAIL so I need to make sure my PUSH emails from Nagios is working 100%. CalDAV with PUSH notifications and event .ics calendars work out of the box with iOS. More importantly, Cisco VPN w/ Group Authentication works since day one. Google still hasn't really figured out how to fix this and a smartphone is useless to me if I can't VPN/SSH into my work.

Lastly, the most important thing is MTP. MTP works  5% of the time. 95% of the time is is pure frustration. The GNEX has been a pain to transfer files. I've been using webdav, samba, ftp to get files into my Nexus. MTP client on Mountain Lion broke in 10.8.1. I can't get MTP working reliably with Ubuntu 12.04, CentOS or Linux Mint. I'll get it working but something will break it like an update to GMTP or Fuse. PPTP is really slow and web/ftp/sftp isn't going to cut it. I've tried various PPAs, FSTAB, manually mounting and it will work for a bit and then drop. When I plug in my Galaxy Tablet, it goes kaput again. Even when it does work, it never worked reliably. Files take forever to transfer and often get corrupted.

iOS 6 and the iPhone 5 mounts on Linux with no hassle. In fact, with a clean install of Linux Mint 13, I didn't have to do anything but plug in the cable. The App folders mounted and I could copy my files. I transferred about 20GB of MKV, WMV videos to the various video player apps I have. Large PDFs (120-300MB) and 60MB Excel files transfer without a hiccup. As you can see below, Linux Mint has no problems mounting an iPhone 5.

Lot of Android fans will tell you they will deal with all these frustrations because of the customization and flexibility of Android. I don't change home launchers, add widgets, apply different skins on my phones. Both my phones, I can play MKV and different video codecs, mount network volumes, run emulators and do pretty much the same thing. I do like the fact you can completely swap out a ROM distros. There are also some killer applications on Android that I like like Torque (iOS equivalent is pretty pricey). You can also run chroot Linux but I have never been a fan of the implementation on Android.

I have a different set of needs in terms of customization. For me, customization is the ability to install a great app like Vmware Vsphere client to manage my ESXI server. Customization is the ability to pull a sd card from my new Olympus OM-D micro 4/3 camera and edit 1080p video of my vacation. iMovie is truly amazing and has changed how I edit my home videos. I no longer need to use Final Cut for simple things like a picnic or music recital. Customization is also the ability to sort out my pictures in my picture album without manually renaming my jpegs 1.jpg,2.jpg,3.jpg just to have them display in a certain order. It is the little things I appreciate. There is still no peer to the iPod player on the iPhone.

The iPhone 5 is really fast. At work, we are developing a spreadsheet HTML5 web application that is javascript/ajax heavy and the iPhone 5 loads up the application with no problem.
The various Android devices we have have been choking on these pages (200 plus divs with over 100 concurrent ajax calls).  The benchmarks (Anandtech) have shown iOS6 and the A6 SoC has a super fast Javascript engine. I'm surprised because Google's V8 has always been better than Apple's Nitro Javascript engine.

The GNEX still has a better screen but the apps I've used haven't taken advantage of it. I don't watch movies or surf the web on my phones so the larger screen is lost on me. I do, however, run a lot of terminal connections and I still prefer apps like iSSH over Connectbot. iSSH has transparent keys, touch sensitive gestures to pull up control and function keys. This level of usability even on a smaller display trumps the larger 4.65" screen.

I won't be ditching Android. I'll see if I can lemon my Nexus for S3. But for now, I am loving the iPhone 5.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Legacy Windows Rsync Backup to FreeNAS

I have some old Windows servers (10 years and counting) and I have been using rsync to back them up to my FreeNAS box. It has been working great for me.

First of all, I do have my Windows servers backup in virtualized format. However, those are only one-time snapshops that I run once in a while. These are classic ASP IIS web servers that I can easily put up on a new VM. However, many of these legacy servers generate gigabytes of data a day in their repositories. Running VM conversion daily is not ideal.

My solution was to use some sort of rsync solution just for the data repos. I've tried some applications that didn't work too well with Samba shares and these old servers have slow I/O. Copying files to external sata or usb drive was not ideal. We've moved on from Windows to Linux and do not have any Windows file servers of capacity to provide network backups.  Hence, I decided to use Delta Copy with FreeNAS. So here is a little write up on how to set it up. I have 4 Windows 2000 servers backing up daily with this method.

First, download Delta Copy and install it. It is open-source and pretty much free. It is basically a wrapper for cygwin's rsync. When you install it, it will ask you to install the Server services which allows you to run it as a Rsync server on Windows. You don't need to do this. Instead, you will be just using the Delat Copy Client application. But before we do that, we will need to configure our Rsync service for our Windows Clients on FreeNAS.

In FreeNAS, go under Services , Select Rsync >  Rsync Modules > Add Rsync Module.

Then fill out the form; giving the module a name and set the path. In my example, I simply called it WIN and linked it to a user called backupuser.

This process is much easier than trying to configure the daemon rsyncd.conf file by hand.

Now, on the Windows Client, start the DeltaCopy Client. You will create a new Profile.
You will need to enter the IP of the Rsync server (FreeNAS) and specify the module name which will be called "Virtual Directory Name."  When you pull the select menu, the list of Rsync Modules you created earlier in FreeNAS will populate.

You can set authentication. On the server, you can restrict by IP and do other things to lock down your rsync. 

Next, you will add folders (and/or files) you want to synchronize.

Once the paths are set up, you can run a sync by right clicking the profile name.

Here, I made a test sync to a home folder of a virtualized windows box. As you can see, I mounted the rsync volume on my mac to see the progress. The rsync worked beautifully. DeltaCopy did what it was told.

Once you get everything working. The next thing to do is set schedules. If you done tasks schedules in Windows before, it is pretty straightforward. DeltaCopy has a link in the application to directly create a new task for you. I set my backups to run nightly and it has been working great.

There you have it. Windows rsync to FreeNAS using DeltaCopy.
The nice thing about FreeNAS is you don't have to modify /etc/rsyncd.conf files. Everything can be done in the web admin.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

ESXI 5.0 Virtualization server with 6-cores and 32GB RAM for under $400

The Fujistsu MX130 small foot print server is getting a lot of love these days.
In fact, I love it so much I decided to get a second one when it went on sale again.

I just upgraded the memory to Mushkin Silverline 32GB for $122 when it went on sale at NewEgg.

Now, I have a great little ESXI 5 Hypervisor server for under $400 with 32GB of RAM.

$140 Fuji Server
$122 32GB of RAM
$120 6-core AMD FX-6100 CPU
$12  extra gigabit card
$394 total

I can run 20-40 Virtual Machines (depending on size and payload). Average LAMP VM are 256-512MB so if I only wanted to host Linux VPS, I think I can probably go as high as 50 LAMP VM.

I'll build my second MX130 whenever deals and bargains arises for components.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Gadget lust for bargain bin (linux hackable) electronics

I have knack, or I should say an affinity for bargain-bin gadgets that have tinkering potential.

Ever thought about using an alarm clock as a 3G wifi hotspot for your car?
Or ever thought about converting a NAS into a MySQL server for backup and replication?
Throughout the years, I have bought countless useless gadgets that fall under the cheaper than $39.99 price point.

Here are some of them. They all run some form of Linux which makes them fun to experiment with

There are some great gadgets that never seem to get any consumer traction and eventually fall into the bargain dumpster bin. Deals can be found on, fatwallet or

For example, the original Chumby retailed for $179. I would never pay that much for a glorified alarm clock. However, for $30, a Best Buy branded Insignia Infocast is something you can tinker with. The infocast is pretty much a rebranded Chumby.
It has a USB dongle and can be hacked into a 3G wireless hotspot or a surveillance camera server.
It is good for streaming Pandora or Squeezebox by the bedside. There is pretty much nothing to do. SSH can be enabled and you are pretty much ready to go.

Next is the ZipIt Z2 Wireless Messenger.
The XScale PXA270 is the same processing power as a Dell Axim or original iPhone. Originally $149,
the device was tailored toward teenagers as an instant messenger (AIM/MSN/Yahoo) companion device.Long before the iPhone and during the sidekick heyday, this device was a commercial flop.
At $20-$30, you can turn it into a mini Debian Linux computer.

I still haven't found a compelling use case for this except to show teenagers that power of the Linux OS in a small form factor.

Now for my cheap favorite hackable device. The PogoPlug.

This originally retails for $99. In fact, it is a pretty good NAS/File Server/Host your own private cloud solution. This device basically allows you to load up a bunch of USB drives and share them out in your own private cloud. I use one as a private DropBox. I have about 20 portable 2.5" USB drives and dozens of USB sticks that have a place to go for gadget retirement.
I primarily use it as a my remote backup device for my Android and iOS smartphone/tablet.

Whenever, I take a picture on my iPhone or Galaxy Nexus, my photos and videos are automatically synched. Another good feature is the ability to share out files like dropbox or
Hence, I think it is a worthy product.

It becomes a killer product when you can pick them up brand new for $20 or lower ($18.50).

Now, this is where all the fun begins! I installed ArchLinux, a full LAMP (Mysql/PHP) server, rsync, GIT server, and netatalk on one device. You can't go wrong with $20! I have my servers background backup to this device. It makes a fantastic low-power MySQL replication server.

Total time to setup is about half an hour. I even have webmin running one. I once brought one of these on-site on a job and everyone was giving me the "WTF" stare and when I said my MySQL database on was on it, everyone had a good laugh.

The one to get is the E02 model which has the 256MB of RAM.

After installing PHP, I was surprise to find out I could install stuff like wkhtmltopdf ( as webkit engine to convert HTML webpages to PDF). Seriously, I could use this a dev LAMP server. I wonder how my clients would react if I brought one in during a demo.

So there you have it. I won't go into the details of what you can do with some of these devices. There are countless forums and tutorials on them.

So the next time you see some discontinued tech gear in the $20 bargain bin, give it a second look. If it runs an ARM architecture and Linux, there is a great chance it can be hacked.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

iPhone 5 is the Rolex of Smartphones.

Watching the iPhone 5 keynote, I was noticing some similarities to a particular watch brand.

Apparently, a Wall Street Analysts seem to come to the same conclusion. (

The "Apple's iPhone 5 praised as 'a Rolex among a sea of Timexes'" is being floated around the blogosphere so I figure I put in my few cents of words here.

However, my conclusion is based on fit-n-finish, build quality and construction rather than the merit of the OS or technology of the phone itself. I also think Apple's playbook parallel Rolex.

I am a watch collector and have been collecting watches over 20 years now. I have a pretty nice collection of Swiss mechanical watches (see above) and enjoy the fine precision manufacturing. I appreciate the heft, feel and I am still amazed at the manufacturing marvel of a hundred moving parts that keep time to high precision and tolerance. You have watches that beat at 21,000 - 36,000 bps that ONLY loses 0.5 to 1 seconds a day. You have hundred of parts that work in unison to make it all work. That is amazing considering the technology is over 200 years old and often pieced together by human hands make it more meaningful than the fastest computers. Imagine a car engine running at high-rpm day in day out! I simply marvel at that complexity and reliability. I own all sorts of brands - Omega, IWC, Rolex,Panerai. Watch collectors are the oldest forms of nerds!

I also own a lot of gadgets from different brands, operating systems, and platforms. I carry both Android and iOS devices so I tend to be platform agnostic. However, there is no denying the level of detail and attention to little hidden things that Jonathan Ives put into his work. He cares about how things look and work even when they are hidden from the naked eye. (see: )

So when I saw the milling video of the iPhone 5, the diamond cutting of the chamfer edges, the inclusion of sapphire for the camera lens, I thought I was looking at a Swiss watchmaker manufacture's promotional video. In fact, Apple even states on their website,

After watching the video of Ives, I thought I was looking at a Rolex video. Specifically in this screen shot.

I have to admit, I am impressed in terms of just raw manufacturing of materials. My Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy Tab feel extremely flimsy. The iPhone 5 is suppose to raise the bar in terms of craftsmanship in material quality and finish from previous iPhones. I cant wait to feel and touch first hand.

Jonathan Ives must be a fellow watch collector because there are so many minute details you wouldn't notice unless you have discerning eyes. He really gets it.

Now back to Rolex and the similarities between the two companies.

(my 4th generation GMT Master II green arrow)

Rolex watches are archetypes of their specific genres.

The Submariner is the classic diver's watch that is over 50 years old in design and highly imitated.  It was worn by Sean Connery's Bond, issued by the British Royal Navy and countless explorers. The same goes for the GMT Master, the Daytona and the Explorer models. The GMT is the archetype international multizone traveller/pilots watch. The Daytona is the archetype sports chrono (some will argue the Speedmaster).

Rolex watches also get a bad rap due to the diamond encrusted Datejust/Presidents worn by nouvelle riche celebrities and rappers.

Rolex is also highly heated debated among watch collectors with equal praise and scorn. I hear the same "iSheep" arguments against Rolex collectors as un-informed and conformists.

But the point remains, they are the archetype of their genre and the key word is "archetype."
They define the category they are in. The Submariner is the epitome of a diver's watch and the design has endured 50 years uninterrupted with iterative changes. It was considered to be the first waterproof diver's watch (which again is up for debate).

To me, a Submariner will be iconic as a Porsche 911 or a Leica M camera. Those designs never really change and it makes them a true testament to the genius of their conception. When you go 50 years like that, you certifiably become a timeless design.

Many companies have tried to make similar watches with different design but they are all pretty much derivative of the formula - stainless steel, single cut casing, rotating bezel for timer, thick crown guards, waterproof crown, white large hands on dark face for legibility. Hence, the Submariner will always hold the crown as the archetype diver's watch.

Most watch collectors I know will have at least one "Sports Oyster" model in his collection because those watches do represent precision engineering and often have great historical provenance despite the bad rap of the diamond encrusted Presidents have on the brand.

The iPhone is also the archetype of the multi-touch slab phone design just like the original Sony walkman was the archetype of the portable cassette player of the 80s. Can you name me the model for Sanyo's, Panasonic or Toshiba's portable "walkman players" of that era? In ten years, no one is going to remember a  HTC Hero, LG Optimus, Toshiba Thrive but everyone will remember the iPhone regardless of how they like or hate the device.

Once can also say the Macbook Air is the archetype of the ultrabook form factor despite the fact the Sony 505 precedes it. The design has become so iconic that one immediately associates a wedge aluminum laptop with black island chicket keyboard to an Air.

Now for other similarities between Rolex and Apple.

Rolex produces over 800,000 oyster models with chronometer certified movements a year. They have the highest volume of Chronometer COSC certification for their line-up. Apple has the highest selling single model smartphone.

Rolex, in the recent decade, have vertically integrated; buying up their suppliers and consolidating
their parts. Apple is doing the same with SOC designers and mapping companies.

Rolex is a true in-house Swiss manufacture; meaning they design their own movements and design. Whereas companies like Bell & Ross, Breitling, and Tag uses standard ETA off-the-shelf movements (ETA 2892 movements) and embellishes them ornamentally.  A majority of the watch "brands" you see in retail outlet are not "manufactures" and this parallels the many smartphone manufactures that use an "off-the-shelf" operating system (Android) and off-the-shelf SOCs (Tegra, Omap, Qualcomm S4).
These phone brands will embellish Android with their skins and modifications in the same vein Breitling re-works a standard ETA (Swatch owned) movement. Note, there is nothing wrong with a re-worked based ETA movement.

Apple doesn't use a standard Tegra 3 or OMAP processor. They license from ARM and have their own SoC designers design the CPU (A5/A6) which will eventually be produce by outsource foundries. The A5/A6 is only used by Apple. Apple also use its own "movement" which I call the OS. Like a Rolex Caliber 3x00 movement, iOS is Apple's own prize possession they don't share out to others. This makes Apple highly unique like Rolex. Apple does not farm out its case design or operating system to another company. They have Foxconn manufacture their phones but the design is uniquely Apple. Sure, they use RAM and LCDs from third party the same way Rolex used components from others.

Apple also takes extreme pride in their manufacturing processing. The macbooks are always advertised as being cut from a single block of aluminum. Hence the term unibody.

This is straight out of Rolex's original playbook. In fact, when I saw the manufacturing video for the Macbook Airs, I thought I was watching a Rolex assembly video as well.

The Rolex Oyster case for over 50 years have always been marketed as being cut out of a single block of "904L" steel. I won't get into specific but Rolex uses 904L steel versus the rest of the industry who use vanilla, off-the-shelf 316L steel. My blog is a gadget site so I won't go into the specific of watch manufacturing here.

But I will note Rolex is also unique in their use of Parachrom-hairspring. They did extensive research and design which parallels Apple's "optimization" of their hardware and software marriage.
If you want to get watch nerdy, here is a starter on Rolex's unique hairspring design. They take great pride in this as Apple takes great pride in specific iOS UI interactions. They care about the little details.

Both companies take extreme pride in their manufacturing process. You can tell by the attention to detail in the PCB, motherboard layout of Apple's phones and laptops.

Apple will invest and research in battery chemistry the same way Rolex invest, research, and patent specific lubricant chemistry (lubrication is vital to the reliability of moving parts in a watch).

Apple has the reputation of being the design company in Silicon Valley. Rolex also holds similar creds in terms of their unique Oyster and triplock designs.

Both are volume manufactures that have great control of their supply chain and yield quality. Rolex obviously knows how to run a tight ship considering the high number of COSC movement certifications they get with their high volume of watches. That precision requires high tolerance of manufacturing. In short, both companies know how to ship high quality high-end products in volume.

Both companies have legendary reputations.

Rolex sports watches are known to be indestructible. There are countless stories of Submariners surviving hair-splitting epic stories from falling out of jet planes, to Hollywood depictions of surviving heroic feet of international spies. Rolex are used by famous people such as Chuck Yeager, various astronauts, and celebrities. If you want to be tough guy who consider himself an adventurer/explorer/world traveller, you wear a Submariner or Sea Dweller.

Apple's reputation is in elegant User Interface, ease-of-use, integrated systems of tightly coupled software/hardware. Apple products are also used by celebrities and "hero" designers/photographers/filmmakers. If you want to be in the artsy hip crowd, you use a Mac and iPhone.

They both appeal to their niche customers and both have their stereotyped users.

Like Rolex, Apple's iPhone usually retains a higher resale value. With Rolex, the watch prices always goes up. A Submariner was $200 in 1970. $2200 in 1997. $4500 in 2001. Around $8000 now! Second hand ones are incredibly high. I have a GMT Master I bought for $2200 brand new and have worn for over 15 years that I can easily sell for $4500 because the new one sells for $8500.

Lastly, the biggest similarity is the watch/screen size and how the two companies dealt with it. Rolex only recently caved in to make oversize versions of their watches (Explorer 2/Datejust). Panerai, IWC and Omega have been moving away from 40mm standard watch cases. I think Rolex resisted this change for years because they felt oversized watch case was a passing fad. Apple just recently resisted from moving from a 3.5" screen to a 4.0. Time will tell if both companies made the correct choice.

I can see Apple's main line of argument by not going for a 4.5" screen. You don't want to mess with a good thing. Iterative changes are less disruptive when you have a loyal following. I, myself, can't get over Rolex going to 42mm case design. Hopefully Rolex doesn't do 44-46mm which is way too big for that case design. Like Apple, Rolex is testing the water with only the Explorer 2.

I find it amusing as a gadget nerd and a watch collector that there are these similarities. Could it be Apple is defining itself into the historic hallmark of name brands. Steve Jobs once compared the iPhone 4 to a well crafted Leica camera. I can see where their marketing people are aiming going for. Yet at the same time, both companies understand their customer and this reflected in their slow, iterative changes.

And like Rolex, I know people out there isn't going to like this post on a gadget blog because they don't like Apple or the iPhone. Watches are like gadget religion. You will have haters on both side.

Being the archetype doesn't necessarily makes the iPhone/iPad  better devices vis-a-vis their peers. Being first to market, mass appeal, and derivatively copied designs make them archetype by that definition. The same holds for Rolex. Not everyone is interested in a sports watch. Some may prefer a dress watch like those from IWC, Blancpain, Breguet or Lange.