Wednesday, 19 October 2011
What if I told you that you could now have Google voice working with an iPhone’s native phone and messaging apps -- much like you can with Android -- and that you don’t have to jailbreak or install the Google Voice iOS app to do it? Yep. Read on!
Last week I ordered an iPhone 4S from Sprint. That’s my carrier since I left AT&T well over a year ago, and I’ve been a Android user on Sprint since I made the move. But before that I was an avid iPhone owner, happy with the phone and reluctant to drop it. But AT&T woes finally forced my move. Now, for the record I like Android. One of the great benefits of an Android phone for me over the past year has been the fact that the Google Voice service can be built right in, native to the phone. For those not familiar, Google Voice (lots of info is available here) is a service that gives you “one phone number for life.” You give that one phone number to people, and that numbers is used to ring all your phones – cell phones, home phones, work phones, whatever – in whatever manner and schedule you choose. If you switch providers and get a new cell number or home or work number, no worries. Just update your Google Voice account with your new or additional numbers, and you main GV number that you give out to everyone will ring the new ones, presto zappo bango. Google Voice also provides text messaging services and voice mail, accessible on a mobile phone via mobile web or a smartphone apps, as well as through a web browser on your laptop or desktop computer.
For quite some time an iPhone app has been available that one can install on the phone, which allows you to place calls, send text messages and get voicemail from your Google Voice account. But you have to do all of those things in the Google Voice app. So, it’s a little clunky – think of it as an extra, non-default phone dialer and text messaging app that sits alongside and kind of duplicates the purpose of your iPhone’s native dialing and messaging apps. In other words, to use Google Voice on the iPhone with the app, you have to use your iPhone differently.
But – thanks to Sprint and the fact that they now have the iPhone 4/4S in their inventory – we no longer need to use the Google Voice iPhone app and can get practically full functionality, using the apps that are native to the iPhone.
Earlier this year, Sprint and Google announced they were joining forces (loosely) and providing the ability to integrate your Sprint wireless account with Google Voice in a manner that would allow you either to use your existing GV number as your mobile number, or alternatively to use your existing Sprint phone number as your Google Voice number. When you set the service up that way, Google Voice becomes your voice mail system and you get all the messaging and calling benefits of Google Voice, too. And, it works with all Sprint-branded mobile phones, not just Android – which is a real differentiator vs. the other wireless carriers.
The beauty of it all: You can set up Google Voice integrated with your Sprint account to both send and receive phone calls and text messages from the native iPhone app interfaces, without the need to jailbreak your phone to install third party apps/hacks, and without the need to install the Google Voice iOS app. People you call or send a text message to will see your Google Voice number in caller ID or as the message sender. Voice mail access works a little differently, but we’ll cover that in a bit.
For discussion purposes to try simplify things, I’m going to refer to this integrated-Google-Voice-Sprint-Account customer experience as “Sprint Integration” for the remainder of this post.
It’s also probably worth pointing out that there are a couple of practical limitations (which are in no way related to the iPhone) that some people run into when setting up their Sprint Integration.
- First of all, if you have a Sprint calling plan that is business-liable (as opposed to a personal phone account), the integration is not supported or enabled. Some individual Sprint customers own their own phones and pay their own bills, but because they got an employer’s corporate discount or similar situation their account is actually flagged as a business account. That should be pretty simple to fix in most cases with a call to Sprint customer service. But just know that actual business accounts are not eligible.
- In addition, if you’ve set up phone call or SMS blocking or filtering through Sprint, you won’t be able to integrate your line with Google Voice until you disable those features in your Sprint account -- but note that Google Voice can usually enable you to do effectively the same thing.
So, how do I make this work?
It’s actually pretty simple. I won’t go into every single detail here, but I will cover the basics. I’m going to assume you can set up a Google Voice account, and if you need more information use the links above to learn everything you need to know.
Okay. First of all, there are a few things you need to make this work:
- An iPhone 4 or 4S provided by Sprint (no, this process can’t and won’t work with an AT&T or Verizon iPhone).
- A Sprint plan that is not a corporate/business plan. Family plans are fine, as long as they are not a business-liable plan.
- No call or text blocking/filtering configured in your Sprint account.
- A Google Voice account (they’re free) that has a phone number already assigned (in other words, not just the GMail-based “Google Voice Lite” thing – upgrade if necessary).
- About 15 to 30 minutes of free time.
To start, once you have logged into your Google Voice account, you’ll need to go to the Settings menu (by clicking the gear icon on the GV screen, over in the upper right area). Then navigate to the “Phones” section of the Google Voice settings. Here you’ll see any forwarding phones you’ve already set up in Google Voice.
A side note: If you already have another Sprint phone line set up in Google Voice with Sprint integration enabled, you cannot set up a second Sprint-integrated line on the same GV account. That’s not really documented anywhere, so I found this out the hard way since my Android phone was already fully integrated before I got my iPhone. So, when I added the iPhone to my Google Voice account I wasn’t even given the option to enable the Sprint integration. What this means is that if you already have one Sprint phone integrated, you’ll either need to disable the Sprint integration on that line or use a different Google Voice account to set up your new Sprint number on. I had troubles deactivating the Sprint integration on my Android phone, so had to search down help from both Sprint and Google so it could be manually deprovisioned. Hopefully you won’t run into that problem - but let me know if you do and I will try to point you in the right direction…
If the Sprint number you want to integrate has not already been added to your configured phones in Google Voice, you’ll need to do that now: At the bottom of the list of configured calling devices (phones, GMail chat, etc.) is a link you can click to “Add another phone.” Follow the simple instructions, enter the codes it promts you to use, and in a minute or three you’ll have your Sprint mobile phone number set up and working in Google Voice is basic mode. You’re not completely done yet, but you’re close. For now, make a call from another phone to your Google Voice number and validate that your newly-added phone rings, just to verify everything is working properly. Remember: Test often, and at each step. It’s a good habit to get into when it comes to “mashing up” multiple computer/technology systems.
Next, take a look at the entry for your iPhone in the GV Phones list (in Settings). You should find a Sprint logo on the screen, next to the nickname you gave your iPhone phone, as well as a link that says “Check eligibility for Sprint integration.” Click on that link.
You’ll need to choose between the two available options: Do you 1) want your Sprint mobile number to become your new Google Voice number, or do you 2) want to replace your Sprint mobile number with your GV number? If everyone has and knows your Sprint phone number, then you can choose option one, so you don’t have to distribute a new phone number to everyone. But, if you’ve already given your Google Voice number out to people who need to reach you, you’ll choose option two like I did. The net effect of that choice in the end will be that when you place calls and send messages from your Sprint phone, the recipient of the call or text message will see your Google Voice number in Caller ID and on the text message. And that’s really the point.
So -- Make the choice appropriate for your situation, then wait patiently for several seconds while the Google Voice communicates in the background with Sprint. Before you know it both companies’ systems will be provisioned to handle your calls all mash-up-cyborg-app style. If successful, you will see a message that tells you:
Your Sprint number, (000) 000-0000 is now integrated with Google Voice.
Calls and text sent from this phone will display your Google Voice number.
Your Sprint voicemail has been replaced with Google voicemail.
International calls from this phone will be placed through Google Voice.
Now you’ll probably want to set up a voice mail greeting in Google Voice if you don’t already have one (or just use the generic default if you prefer (yuck)).
Your next step should be to place a phone call to a number that’s not attached to a Google Voice account (like a friend’s cell phone) and verify that the caller ID shows the correct number.
Next, make sure “Receive text messages on this phone” is checked in the Google Voice setting for your line, and then send a text message to a non-GV phone to make sure it’s sent using the correct number.
Note: It’s actually important to use non-Google-Voice phones for these test calls and text messages, since GV can recognize when one GV enabled phone is communicating with another GV number, and will sometimes try to be “helpful” and modify the normal process of displaying Caller ID data.
If the proper phone number is displayed on calls and text messages sent from the iPhone native Phone and Messages apps, and if your iPhone rings when someone calls your Google Voice number, you’re all set!
What about voice mail?
The only thing that won’t work natively in the iPhone apps in this configuration is visual voice mail. Since the iPhone’s visual voice mail app doesn’t recognize Google Voice from the voice message perspective, you have a couple choices here:
- Configure Google Voice in your browser to email you link to any voice mails (on the Voicemail & Text tab in Settings), and/or
- Check the box in the list for your integrated phone (on the Phones tab in Settings) to enable Google Voice send you a text message when a new voice mail is received
This integration works – as I started to explain earlier – with any “Sprint branded” phone. That doesn’t mean phones that have a Sprint logo painted on them, but rather refers to phones provided under contract by Sprint that operate on the Sprint CDMA network (not Nextel, nor the other carriers that piggyback on Sprint’s network). And, just to be clear one last time, Sprint is the only current service option for native integration of Google voice on an iPhone as described here. So, if you have AT&T or Verizon, sorry pal… No native app integration for you, at least not yet. You’ll just have to use the Google Voice iOS app, which you can download free from the Apple App Store.
And honestly -- If you’re thinking about getting an iPhone 4 or 4S and are leaning toward Verizon or AT&T – stop and consider this:
- Sprint’s mobile service costs less than both Verizon’s and AT&T’s
- Sprint’s plan actually allows unlimited data usage, while Verizon’s is capped – as is AT&T’s
- When Sprint customers roam, it’s free of charge – and it’s on Verizon’s network (!)
- Dropped calls? Not in my experience, which is a far cry from what I dealt with on AT&T…
- Did I mention Sprint’s service costs less?
So – lower cost, you get to use the other guy’s network for free when needed, and no data caps. Sure, download speeds *might* be marginally slower here and there (and even that’s a debatable point), but there’s one more benefit you should know about: Sprint lets you sign up, get the phone and service, and try it our for 14 days. If you don’t like it, cancel your service and return the phone in good and complete condition where you bought it, and you’ll walk away with a refund for the price of the device and any early termination fee you paid. You will pay for the service you used and probably for the activation fee as well (unless you cancel service within the first 3 days), but nothing more.
If I sound like a Sprint commercial, trust me - I’m not. I’m just a customer that likes my wireless provider – and for what it’s worth, I’m a pretty darn picky customer.
Got questions about the Sprint iPhone integration with Google Voice? Post them in the comments and where it makes sense, I’ll update this post with details I may have missed. And be sure to share your iPhone integration success stories as well!
Thursday, 13 October 2011
Siri is coming to the iPhone 4S on Friday, and already people are starting to discover the Apple virtual assistant has a but of a sense of humor.
To chronicle and record for humorous posterity all the unusual, funny, shocking or otherwise interesting crap Siri comes up with, I have created Darn Your Siri - http://www.darnyousiri.com - where anyone can post their funny Siri screenshots there, too - just go to the submission page. That name seemed a little less inappropriate than something like "shit Siri says" but I see that's also a site someone fired up. Of course they did! :)
To take a screen grab of any iPhone screen, hold down the home/round button while at the same time clicking teh power/sleep/wake button on top. The resulting screen grab JPG file is saved in your photo gallery on the iPhone.
I'll be seeing what all Siri has to say soon, when my phone arrives from Sprint on Friday.
Friday, 07 October 2011
Can I cancel my current Sprint account/plan and get a new iPhone 4S?
There's this new iPhone coming out - the iPhone 4S. Maybe you heard about it? Pretty nice device, really. I had iPhones exclusively for a few years from the time Apple came out with them - the original model and then the 3G. I never took the 3GS leap.
But a year and a half ago I fired AT&T out of frustration over continued poor service and moved over to Sprint. That meant I had to give up my iPhone, since AT&T was still the exclusive iPhone carrier. It also meant I never picked up an iPhone 4 model, other than the few times I made a call from a friend's phone. Instead I moved to an Android device, the Evo 4G (which I like, by the way).
Now, let me say up front that I'm not sure if I really want to make a change back to the iPhone right now. The Android phone actually works pretty well for me, as far as the OS and phone itself are concerned. Frankly, I rarely use the 4G capability of the Evo, mostly because of the limited and often spotty 4G WiMax service. But when it works, it works pretty well. Since I made the move away from AT&T a year and a half ago, Verizon - and starting next week Sprint - have added the iPhone to their lineups. I miss some of the capabilities and features I used to get with the iPhone, especially when it comes to app integration between the Macbook, iPad and the iPhone for my aviation-related apps, which get a lot of use between the iPad and Mac these days.
So, I decided to check and see what I'd have to shell out, should I decide I wanted to move to a new iPhone 4S on my Sprint account. The problem I foresaw was that I'm about six months away from the end of my current two-year contract. So, when logging into sprint.com the system told me I'd have to pay full price to order a new iPhone 4s today. Of course, it also informed me I could wait 176 days for upgrade eligibility, and then get $150 off the full price. The rather alarming full prices are:
- 16GB iPhone 4S $649.99
- 32GB iPhone 4S $749.99
- 64GB iphone 4S $849.99
- 8GB iPhone 4 original $549.99
So, I can pay full price now or $499 for a 16GB model in 6 months (more for the larger models). I would guess (but am not certain) that at that time I might be able to also sign a new 2-year contract with Sprint and get an additional $200 off, which would theoretically put me at $299 for the 16GB model with a fresh two-year Sprint contract lock-up. Or is the $150-off-list- price deal dependent on a 2-year deal as well? I will have to ask about that. Either way, I'm at least $100 more than the prices announced the other day (which require a contract)
Next I checked with Verizon, thinking maybe I could just cancel my Sprint service and go over there right away to get the subsidized price with a new two-year contract and not have to wait. Their prices were much more reasonable - and less than I'd pay at Sprint even if I waited for six more months and took the deal I already mentioned. Verizon's new account prices are: $99.00 for the original iPhone 4 and $199/$299$/399 for the new 4S models (also the same prices Sprint offer's it's new customers)
I don't really want to cancel my Sprint service: I get (truly) unlimited data and messaging on Sprint - and you don't get that on the other carriers (there tends to be a 2GB limit). I have a family plan, which allows me to share minutes between two lines, free evenings and weekend, free calls to any mobile phone, and more. Plus their service has been great for me, and when I roam it's free and it's on Verizon's network. I basically get the best of both worlds network-wise. Oh, and the monthly price is right, too. I like Sprint.
Out of curiosity, I logged back into my sprint.com account for another look, and decided to see what it would cost to add an additional line to my existing Sprint family plan and get a new iPhone that way. Maybe that would be cheaper? Ahh, what do you know - The site showed I could do just that and get the same two-year-commitment pricing as Verizon offered. Now we were getting somewhere!
But I don't need or want two phones or two numbers. So finally I called Sprint and asked the helpful support rep what would happen if I *added* a new number and additional line of service to my existing family plan account (a third line costs $19.99 a month if I add it and share the pool of minutes I'm already paying for). My real question was this: Could I then immediately cancel my original number/phone/service from the family plan?
"Sure you can do that," he said. I'ld have to pay a $90 early termination fee balance for the existing line (it's prorated from the original $200 fee (which Sprint recently increased to $350)), and they'd move my existing Sprint number to the new iPhone, too if I wanted. The Sprint rep even put me on hold and took the time to verify with management that was okay to do. Oh, and if I want they'll purchase the used Evo 4G through their buy-back program and credit me $87 for it - which would pretty much negate the $90 early termination fee. Alternatively I could sell the Evo 4G to someone else if I wanted. Either way, it's not a bad deal. And the $19.99 a month fee for the third line would go away as soon as I cancelled the original line, too.
So, based on what the Sprint rep told me it's doable - and fairly reasonable. They recover their costs through the balance of the early termination fee, and get a subscriber locked in for an additional two years (and the early-termination fee for the new phone would be $350.00). If I want, I can get an iPhone 4S without having to pay $650-$850 for the privilege. Sometimes all you have to do is ask the right questions.
Not sure yet if I'll actually decide to get an iPhone 4S. I'd have to think carefully about what I'd lose in the process, app-wise.
One big red flag is that I use Google Voice exclusively for calling and text messages, and it's all Frankenstein-style-built-in on Android natively via the Google Voice app. Not so much on iPhone. Update: I picked up a Sprint iPhone and was able to pretty much fully integrate Google Voice without having to use the Google Voice app, full information here.
So that's one important trade-off to consider, along with the change Sprint made on September 9th: They now charge a $350 termination fee (the same as Verizon and AT&T) that's pro-rated depending on the number of months left on a subscriber's contract. But regardless, it's good to know that if one wants to make the move, it appears there's a reasonable way to do it.
Thursday, 21 July 2011
I've been chasing my tail lately with an older MacBook Air laptop that simply would not reliably connect to the WiFi router provided to me by my ISP, Qwest. The ZyXEL PK5000Z router is a combo DSL modem and wireless router.
The strangest part of the issue was that while non-Apple hardware would connect to the router just fine, all of my Apple devices had issues, varying in nature. The iPad would connect but the connection was flaky at best and sometimes would just hang. My MacBook Air would rarely connect to the WiFi network, and when it did connect it would almost always not be able to get any network traffic to pass. When traffic did start to move on rare occasion, it would burst and then quit. Every non-Apple device, from Windows machines to PlayStation to WiFi-enabled TV to smartphones, etc. worked fine. Just the Apple stuff failed. I was partially assuming the old MacBook Air was to blame - It's been dropped on its head a few times and has been through the ringer. It's pretty worn out.
Then today I got a brand-new model MacBook Air (more on that later perhaps). I expected it to work but when I got home, it was just more of the exact same issue. Ugh. Not good.
I tried a number of things to try to fix the problem. I turned off UPnP and set up a wireless network with no security or encryption, but the results were the same. So I called Qwest to see if someone there had any ideas. I have to admit that based on past experience, I didn't have high hopes. But, I spoke with a guy who asked me to change my router to force it to use channel 11 on the WiFi radio. I was quite surprised when - after changing the channel and forcing the router to use just that channel, the Apple computers and iPad starting working just fine.
So, if you happen to have issues getting your Apple computer, iPad or iPhone or other device to connect to the PK5000Z router, give WiFi Channel 11 a try. It might just work. The PK5000Z wireless radio setup page is probably located here, but if that link doesn't work just browser in your web browser to 192.168.0.1 and then click on Wireless Setup, and then in the left side menu click on Radio Setup. Next, the radio is set to Auto Detect for the channel default setting, Change that to Channel 11. Make sure the power setting is set to Full and scroll down to click the Apply button. That's it!
Wednesday, 20 April 2011
Update: Apple has posted a Q&A page with information about the data in question, exactly what that data is, and changes they have planned.
This is, well... it's at least very interesting. Which is to say, it’s something that has to make you wonder: Even when core location tracking is not active, apparently your iOS4 device is keeping a log of everywhere it goes. Which is to say, everywhere it goes with you.
The four images here are a visualization of the info harvested from my own iPad, retrieved automatically from a iTunes backup of my iPad on my Mac (click on each of the images to view full-size). I should note that the locations are actually displayed in a less accurate fashion (visually) by the program that generates the map plots, so as to somewhat avoid any issues and abuse associated with exact location tracking. The information in the data file being analyzed is substantially more accurate and detailed.
From cell tower triangulation (it appears this is where the data comes from), you can see a cross country trip I took with a friend from New York to New Mexico, visits to the Denver/Boulder area, and of course a whole slew of travel around the Pacific northwest, where I live.
Also of interest is that I very recently (within the past two months) had my iPad replaced when the sync jack went bad, yet much of the data is from the old iPad in addition to the new one. Obviously when I restored a backup on the old one to the new one, the data was retained as part of the restore. Interesting. Also, there's location info that's recorded on mine, and in some cases I don't see the location data for areas I know I have been to. I'm not completely sure of the rhyme or reason for that.
Video of the two guys who discovered this and created the visualization program is here. They discuss how this was discovered and go into some detail about the data, where it lives and what they found. Video is via the Where 2.0 conference.
Got a 3G iPhone or iPad? You can run the "iPhone Tracker" app on your own Mac and see what your iTunes backup has sitting around on your computer. If your iTunes backups are encrypted (not a default setting) the data is still there but it's not readable.
On it's face and in isolation this is not exactly a huge deal. The location data is not being sent anywhere as far as we know. It resides on your iPad or iPhone (3G models) and on your computer where you sync to iTunes. Well, that's assuming you don't sync to someone else's computer, of course. In that case, they might have your location data available to view and play with.
And really, that's why this could be a big deal, on some level. And it's not just that the data is being collected, cataloged, stored and exists, it's that it's been there since iOS4 was released, and we didn't know because no one really noticed until now. Someone had to get curious, poke around, dig into the data and discover it by accident. Makes you wonder what other info might be hanging around in places we don't know about, eh?
Hopefully Apple will explain exactly what all the data is, why it's there and how it's used - in great detail. It can't be there for no reason, and I can think of a few cool reasons for collecting the data, but unencrypted and no notification of tracking is a little concerning to me. I'm looking forward to hearing from Apple to understand more.
Tuesday, 25 January 2011
I’ve been a Google Voice (and before that GrandCentral) user for a few years now. It’s a terrific service that provides One Phone Number to Rule Them All, so to speak. You can associate multiple different phone accounts (land, mobile, satellite, whatever suits you) with one Google Voice number and can change them at any time. So, anyone can dial or send text messages to your Google Voice number, and you control which phones ring and when, and where your text messages go.
Today Google announced that they are offering a service for $20 that allows you to port your existing mobile phone number to Google Voice, which means you can start using GV without having to take on a whole new phone number. That’s a great thing when you want to avoid the hassles of getting people to start using a new number.
But there are a few things you should know before you make this move, so you can be sure it’s for you.
Google Voice supports most – but but not all – of the features you have on a typical mobile/smart-phone plan. Certainly you will be able to receive calls, get voice mail, and send/receive text messages (especially on Android with the awesome GV app).
There are, however, a few common mobile features that are not supported by Google Voice:
- Multi-media Messaging Service (MMS): If you like to send video, picture or audio messages to your friends and family, Google Voice can’t do this. I regularly have to tell people trying to send me their video or picture to send it to my email or my actual cell phone number provided by the carrier (which I don’t give out – that would defeat the whole purpose of Google Voice). So, if MMS and one number if critical for you, you should wait until GV gets around to supporting this.
- Calls to your Google Voice number are not counted as calls to a mobile number for the purpose of mobile carrier call plans. So mobile-to-mobile minutes won’t get accounted for in the same way.
- With a couple of exceptions, calls you make from phones attached to you Google Voice account will not show up on called ID as having come from your Google Voice number. The exceptions to this are when calls are initiated through the GV web app (in which case Google’s systems dial you up on your phone then connect you to the person you’re dialing) and a few of the GV mobile apps like the ones for Android and iPhone. The Android app actually builds itself into the Android OS’ dialing system and it’s truly seamless. On the iPhone you need to dial using the Google Voice app.
- For text messages to be sent to mobile phones and for them to appear as coming from your GV account phone number, they need to be sent through the GV service, too. This means using the Google Voice interface on Android OS (which you can set as your text messaging default, by the way), via the iPhone app, etc., or from the most useful Google Voice web app interface mentioned earlier. I use the web app all the time for text messaging from my computer browser. But it’s different, so you need to realize that.
- Text messages sent by applications and to/from short message codes (like Skype, your bank, etc.) don’t work.
That said, Google Voice is a terrific service that lets you have one phone number that can ring and deliver messages across several other phones. I use two Google Voice numbers – one I give out as my home phone and the other is for work calls. If I am working from my home office, both numbers cause my home phone to ring, but no one actually knows the number of my home phone – they just know the GV number that I gave them. If I move or far whatever reason change hone phone or work or cell phone numbers, I don’t have to worry about telling anyone. I just change the associated numbers in my Google Voice account. If I am on vacation somewhere across the country for a few days and want calls made to my home GV number - but only from my family members - to ring a phone number at my friend’s house, but only after 8am and before 11pm, and not during the next two hours because I want to get a nap… Google Voice can do that for me, too. It’s really quite powerful and easy to set up.
You can set schedules for different phones, and having a complete history of every call, voice mail and text message available in the browser app is really very nice. If any of the phone numbers associated with the different phones you have connected to your GV account and number should change in the future, there’s no need to tell the world. The people you know can just keep dialing your GV number, and in the background you can change that number that AT&T gave you back in the day when you got your first iPhone and point it at your new Verizon number. Hey, I’m just sayin’...
More information about porting numbers and Google Voice in general can be found at:
Wednesday, 12 January 2011
Earlier today, I was working in my home office and using my iPad alongside my computer. I started a download to update some app data on the iPad, which was fully charged at the time, and went back to my computer to do work-related stuff.
A couple hours later I went back to the iPad and pressed the home button to try to wake it up, with no response. I tried the wake/sleep/power button, same lack of response. Thinking it might be a dead battery (but wondering how that could happen in such a short period of time) I plugged it into the charger and left it there. Normally that would result in some screen activity if the battery had died, but after a couple hours on the charger the iPad was still dead.
After several minutes of futzing around with the iPad on and off the charger, and pushing every button on the iPad, I remembered a button combination that's used to execute a power reset and boot the iPad into recovery mode.
So, I did that combo, holding the Power/Sleep and Home buttons down at the same time for around 15 seconds while the iPad was on the charger. Sure enough, the iPad restarted and fired right up normally. It had a partial charge (about what you'd expect for the amount of time it had been running on battery before it died) and WiFi was disconnected, but after reconnecting to my WiFi network things were all back to normal.
Hopefully this saves someone a trip to the Apple Store or a call to the fine folks at Apple Support.
Tuesday, 23 November 2010
Yesterday I wrote about how I enabled my MacBook Air to share a wireless laser printer in my home office so I could print to it using the new Air Print feature in iOS 4.2 on the iPad. That works great, but since my MacBook is only *almost* always on, I started thinking about other options. I have a first –generation (Power-PC-based) Mac Mini in my living room that basically doesn’t get used at all, but I don’t think OS x 10.6.5 is really an option for that. So, I turned my attention to the other always-on computer in my home office, the HP MediaSmart Home Server.
I wondered to myself, has anyone come up with a way to share printers accessible from a Windows computer with AirPrint-capable iOS devices? And, sure enough, someone has already done just that. The short tutorial covers Windows workstation versions (XP, Vista and Win7), but the instructions apply to Windows Home Server and other flavors of Windows Server, as well. My Win Home Server is based on the Server 2003 OS.
I’m going to add to a couple of the original steps here, since there are a few things I did that were not included in the instructions on the original post.
First of all, you need printer drivers installed for the printer you want to share on the system. You may not have printers already installed and shared on your Windows Home Server. To do this, you can make a Remote Desktop connection to your WHS machine, and from there follow the standard steps to set up a local printer. In my case, I downloaded the Brother printer drivers and set up the network printer and printed a test page from the WHS machine to make sure it was working properly. Next, I followed the instructions on the port referenced earlier, and then I enabled sharing on the networked printer.
The first time I connected to the printer, a little padlock icon appeared on the iPad (see beow), indicating a Windows account user name and password were required to access the shared printer. This, of course, can be controlled and changed on the Windows computer in the printer sharing security preferences:
After entering the account information, the printer was accessible and printing of various content (text, graphics and photos) worked flawlessly. One big difference I noticed between sharing the same printer through Windows vs. the Mac is that when connected via the Windows AirPrint share, an option for double-sided printing appeared. That option is missing when connecting to the same printer shared via the Mac. Here’s the Windows-connected printer options as seen on the iPad:
So, I now have my laser printer shared across all devices on my LAN, including iOS 4.2, via the Windows Home Server, no extra charge!
Technorati Tags: Air
Monday, 22 November 2010
UPDATE: Check out my new post that describes how to enable the AirPrint support for Windows shared printers, including on Windows Home Server.
I was pretty excited, based on reports in the community in the past about being able to print from my iPad in the new iOS 4.2.1 operating system via my Mac computer. My WiFi laser printer in my home office is a good printer, but it certainly is not Airprint enabled. So leveraging my MacBook (which is pretty much always up and running) was to be a good option for me.
But, alas, iOS 4.2.1 is here, and OS X 10.6.5 is installed and running on my MacBook (after some troublesome issues that finally got resolved)… But it looks like Apple removed the Airprint capability from the 10.6.5 release of OS X. It was in the beta versions, but not in the version they finally released.
Lifehacker has a brief article describing how to manually enable Airprint support in 10.6.5, so you can share your non-Airprint printers with your iOS 4.2 devices via your Mac.
In a nutshell, you just do this:
- Download a few files (which are pulled from the OS X beta)
- Copy them to a couple of specific locations (described in the linked site, above)
- Remove your printer from the system
- Restart your Mac
- and re-add your printer, and share it
Of course, this is not a supported configuration and undoubtedly there is some very real reason why it was not included in 10.6.5, so your mileage may vary should you decide to try it.
For those who may not want to break open the Terminal app in OS X, someone also built a quick Mac App called Airprint Hacktivator that you can run, which will allow you to automagically install the proper files and configure the OS.
Again, your mileage may vary. But I can tell you, it worked for me! I used the Hacktivator app and didn’t even have to restart my computer. I ran it, removed the old shared printer and re-added it, and instantly my iPad “saw” it and was able to print.
So, I’m now printing from my iPad, via my MacBook Air on the WLAN, to my office laser printer. Pretty slick, and a nice feature to have. No more emailing links and copy/paste content to one of my other computers in order to print things I find or need from the iPad.
UPDATE: There's apparently also an option out there to enable the Airprint support on Windows. I may have to take a look at that one and see if it will work on my Windows Home Server, which is quite literally *always* on, as opposed to my Macbook, which *almost* always on...
If you’re interested in what else is available in iOS 4.2 for the iPad, I suggest you check out the Lifehacker review and video.
Tuesday, 26 October 2010
Today marks the release of Office 2011 for the Mac, as described in the official release notice. And in a new feature twist, the software is also available for download to BizSpark (startup program) MSDN subscribers as of this morning. Typically Mac-based software has not been made available there, so this is a pretty cool change.
It’s available to people with membership at the following programs and levels:
- VS Pro with MSDN Premium (Empower)
- VS Premium with MSDN (MPN)
- VS Pro with MSDN Premium (MPN)
- BizSpark Admin
- VS Ultimate with MSDN (VL)
- VS Premium with MSDN (VL)
- VS Premium with MSDN (Retail)
- VS Ultimate with MSDN (Retail)
- VS Ultimate with MSDN (MPN)
Why Office 2011 for the Mac?
There are a few reasons why you might be interested in Office 2011 on the Mac, but for me the number one reason is the brand new Outlook 2011. No more Entourage software, now we get the actual Outlook experience, which is enough for me to upgrade with no other changes in the suite. Add in all the other changes, and it’s a pretty slick new version.
Mac user? Are you going to get Office 2011?
Saturday, 19 June 2010
The other day I decided I'd had enough pain in my relationship with AT&T and that I was going to make a move. I looked at my various options, and landed on Sprint and the EVO 4G Android-based smart phone. I've spent a few days with the new service and device, and I thought I would write up some early thoughts and opinions.
First of all, let's get this part out of the way: I already miss using the iPhone. Now, the Android phone is cool and there are a lot of good things to say about it. But the iPhone is what I'm used to, and from size to form to OS usability to - well - fit and finish, so to speak... The iPhone is great, and hard to leave.
Sprint's mobile service
As expected, Sprint's service is a little patchier in certain spots around the Portland area than AT&T, while in other areas Sprint provide substantially better coverage. Neither carrier truly blankets the entire area effectively. At my house, located in a fairly remote and rural area about an hour northwest of the city, service by both carriers is equally spotty.
But one thing about the Sprint service that stands out over AT&T's is the call delivery stability. Calls go through, the phone rings when someone is calling, and I have yet to experience a dropped call even once. Even in areas with one or two bars of signal strength showing on the phone I can reliably place and receive calls. Try that with an iPhone on AT&T (even in strong signal strength areas) and one is bound for overall abject failure disappointment.
The EVO 4G phone
The phone is pretty darned slick, and Android is a very cool operating system. It's a tough adjustment from the iPhone to this device in some ways. But overall, color me quite impressed. The display is nice, and even though it's a little larger than I might like it is good hardware with a quality fit and finish.
Battery life is somewhat frustrating, and Sprint even hands out a half sheet of paper when you buy the phone printed with recommendations on how to configure your phone to prevent battery drain. The usual suspects apply (turn off GPS and 4G when not in use, turn down screen brightness, etc.) but I think we all recognize that they wouldn't be handing out the sheet if battery consumption wasn't an issue for customers. That said, my experience so far is that battery life is fairly reasonable if you follow the recommendations. I just wish it wasn't necessary, and I'm hopeful someone builds something like a 3000 mAh battery that will fit in the same slot as the provided 1500 mAh battery. There's a little extra room inside that back compartment, so if it's practical to build a bigger battery to fit, hopefully someone will come through. I know I'd buy it.
There are some good apps out there, but not the same quality as I can find for the iPhone in the areas I care about the most. And I am having problems with some apps crashing and force-quitting that are more than just a little frustrating.
The ability to customize and run widgets, etc. on the phone's "desktop" screens is super cool, and the Google Voice app builds itself into the OS in such an elegant, Borg-like manner that it just makes sense for GV people. There are a couple glitches in the app, but hopefully those get improved upon over time.
In a nutshell...
I miss the iPhone a bit. The EVO is a great phone, don't get me wrong.
I don't miss AT&T at all, at least not yet. My calls on Sprint go through the first time and they don't drop. Data connectivity is reliable and performs well. I can't say that about AT&T.
Thinking out loud about the service issues on AT&T's network...
I'm no cell phone service expert. Far from it. But one thing I've wondered over the past few days is whether the issues on the AT&T network are solely carrier problems, or if some small part of the blame might be Apple's. Is it possible the methods of connecting to and communicating on the network being implemented by Apple aren't optimal? I wonder because for the past year I've carried my iPhone with me for personal use, while at the same time carrying a Blackberry - also on AT&T's network - for business purposes. Frequently the Blackberry performs better in any given location than the iPhone. But not always. There are times when both devices just fall off the back of the truck as far as network connectivity and reliability (for both voice and data) is concerned, Yet I can say based on that year's worth of experience that when I've needed to make a call and ensure the best chance of staying connected and not getting dropped, I've used the Blackberry with noticeably greater reliability.
The amateur radio geek in me in me can think of a few possible reasons for the difference between the performance differences between my iPhone and the Blackberry in the same locations at the same time:
- They connect and communicate differently - Obviously the engineers at the different phone manufacturers don't get together in the same room and write radio code, so I suppose it's possible RIM's people are better at this than Apple's folks.
- They're using different cell towers/radios/bands/frequencies - Since these are multi-band transceivers, one has to remember that they may not be operating on the exact same infrastructure equipment at any given point in time. In that case, performance would likely be different.
- The Blackberry seems to hand-off to EDGE sooner than the iPhone, and it stays connected to the network at least a little more reliably.
At any rate, it's hard for me to know what I will think of the EVO and Sprint in another week. I have this 30-day period to decide if it's right for me, and if it doesn't work out I can decide to try something else, or even go back to AT&T if it turns out I was wrong in my decision. But that doesn't sound like something I want to do at this point.
Thursday, 17 June 2010
As I explained in my last post, I made the decision over the past few days to move away from AT&T for mobile phone service, which necessitated a change in the smart phone hardware I use since the iPhone is exclusive (for now, anyhow) to AT&T in the United States. I did some research, got some advice from people I know, read a lot of reviews, and heard out several others who contacted me with their thoughts -- and then today I took action.
After work, I left the office and started for home. It was a little after 5pm, and I thought to myself, I wonder if there’s a Sprint store nearby? I’d been looking at the HTC EVO 4G, a truly impressive Android-based smart phone that operates on the Sprint/Clear 4G network for data, as well as Sprint’s 3G mobile network.
Turns out there’s a store just a few blocks away, so I turned around and drove there. I had realistic expectations as I headed over: The HTC EVO 4G is sold out on the Sprint and HTC web sites, and is in very short supply/unavailable pretty much everywhere, so my hope was that the store would at least have a working demo unit that I could take a look at and test drive.
Turns out they had two working units on the shelf, and the *very* friendly and *very* helpful young lady at the store quickly and expertly walked me though the phone for a minute or so. I was pretty impressed with the fact that she immediately picked up on my experience and expertise level and tailored her very knowledgeable interaction to me. So if someone at Sprint reads this, please take this as a commendation for Meghan O. at your Tanasbourne Town Center store in Beaverton, Oregon. She deserves a customer service award, truly. No pressure, all information, and true passion about the phone and Sprint’s service. Compare that to my experiences in AT&T stores and there’s really no contest. In fact, the Sprint customer service experience reminds me a lot of the service experience in an Apple store, come to think of it. Hmmmm… Maybe Apple should think about that.
But I digress. It turns out they had three brand new, in-the-box EVO4G phones that people had reserved but not picked up, so they were available for the taking. Oh, I started to drool. Well, not really – but I think you know what I mean.
I’ll save all the gory details of why this is such a cool phone for another post, since I need to get some sleep tonight. But I want to explain here why I’ve decided to engage Sprint as my probable (operative word there, see below) new service provider.
- First of all, I can get more for my money. For the same price I am paying AT&T each month for iPhone service and a data plan, I can get the same number of minutes, same unlimited messaging, free calls to any mobile phone on any carrier in the US, free nights and weekends, and – BONUS – the Sprint hot-spot coverage, where the EVO 4G acts as a wifi hot-spot for up to 8 devices to access the Internet.
- I haven’t decided this yet, but I am considering dropping the 3G data service plan from AT&T on my iPad and just using the EVO 4G to provide Internet service via the hot-spot capability (and at faster speeds, I should add). The $30 a month savings pays for the hot-spot feature. I could always sign up as needed for AT&T 3G service on an ad-hoc basis at $15 a month if I need their service for some reason.
- Sprint has a 30-day return policy, which allows you to evaluate Sprint and the hardware you choose, and return the equipment in non-damaged condition within that window for a full refund - including no charge for the service used. In effect they’re saying, “Come try us, and if you don’t like it, we will take the equipment back and make you whole again.” That’s corporate confidence, and should I find out I’m an idiot and made a bad decision (or if I decide I want to take a look at a third carrier) I have the option to get out, no questions asked. I like the try-us-on option. Good move.
- Sprint’s early termination fees are substantially lower than the competition’s newly-published penalties: At Sprint, it’s $200 max, and after you’re about 8 months into your 24-month contract, the penalty starts to drop by $10 a month until it bottoms out at $50 -- and that’s a pretty reasonable deal.
- No limits on data usage for the smart phone. AT&T and others are now capping their “unlimited” plans (and thank goodness, they’re re-labeling them in most cases to be more accurate in their descriptions).
- In the store, Meghan’s customer service skills and knowledge simply won me over. She was confident in what she was saying, quick but not rushed, covered all the bases accurately and efficiently, and answered literally every question I had with answers I wanted to hear.
I’ll add a few things about the EVO 4G phone, because they just have to be said. Keep in mind, I am a bit of an iPhone and Apple fan-boy, and I made the tough decision to leave AT&T and the iPhone not because of Apple’s hardware and software, but instead because of AT&T’s poor service and quality woes.
- This is a sharp phone. The screen is big (really big) and vibrant and it’s a solid build. It feels good in your hand.
- The camera is great, and even gives you access to detailed configuration settings like auto or manual white balance, various recording resolutions, etc.
- And that’s just the main camera. There’s also a second, front-facing camera working at VGA resolution for video chatting/conferencing or whatever you want to use it for (maybe you want to shoot your own passport pictures – it’s all up to you).
- One thing the Apple iPhone doesn’t have a native app for (which is a real shame), but Android does: The Google Voice app. I downloaded and installed the GV app in about a minute and configured it to use my Google Voice account, and now the Android phone uses my GV account – natively – to place and receive calls and text messages. It’s totally borged, all wired in tightly without the need to launch a separate app for calls or anything. You go to the regular phone and messaging apps on the phone, and they knows they’re tied directly to Google Voice. That’s huge, and it’s unique to the Android platform. If you’re a Google Voice power user, Android is *definitely* for you. Find me and ask for a demo, I’ll show you what I mean.
- The Android UI is awesome. It’s responsive, intuitive and even fun to use. I’m impressed.
- 4G data service. I happen to live in Portland, Oregon, which is one of the early cities that got WiMax/4G from the start. The network is pretty well established here and so this means a lot in my book. Fast Internet service for a flat fee and ability to share it with other devices is hot.
There’s a lot more to love about the EVO 4G phone, but I’ll save the rest for another post. Suffice it to say, I am pleasantly surprised and quite impressed with both Sprint and the new HTC phone.
More to come later. If you have an opinion, comment away and let me know!
Wednesday, 16 June 2010
And to Apple: I’m sorry, but as good as you make me feel about the world of technology, I just don’t love you enough to endure AT&T’s bad habits anymore. So, the iPhone has to go, too. And that makes me sad. I truly wish things were different. I almost can’t believe I’m doing this. They say if you love something, let it go free. It’s a brutal suggestion, really.
Let me start out by saying, for those who don’t know, that I’m a security and IT management professional by trade. I’ve held executive and senior management roles for both security and IT functions at a publicly-held company in the financial services space, I’ve consulted with governments and companies large and small on cyber-security issues, and these days I manage security strategy for a Fortune-500 company. So, I have some perspective and reality-based opinions about security and quality.
Let me also say - plainly and clearly - that this blog is where I voice my own opinion about things that are on my mind (as opposed to discussing work-related topics). And my mind is pretty active right now as it concentrates on my personal AT&T Wireless account and the lack of service and security quality the company has delivered over time. In other words, I have some strong opinions on the topic.
This is certainly a bit of a rant, but it’s not a knee-jerk reaction. It’s grounded in reality and reason and I have put some time and thought into my decision.
And enough is enough: I’m done with AT&T.
First AT&T’s reliability and call-handling problems were the issue, and frankly those were bad enough on their own. There are locations where I can *guarantee* calls will drop on my iPhone on the 3G network, every single time. Areas with three to five (out of five) bars of signal strength that suddenly drops the call and goes to zero, before churning around trying to reconnect and eventually coming back with a full signal once (I assume) a tower hand-off finishes. I actually have to tell people that the call will drop in a few seconds and that I will call them back in a couple minutes when the service recovers. They always want to know how I can know that. It’s sad. Coverage has gotten *worse* over the past several months in many areas where I travel, and call reliability has suffered. It’s probably worth noting that the same bad service areas affect my iPad’s 3G data access, as well. So, it’s not just my iPhone.
As if that wasn’t enough, there’s the costs associated with the AT&T service. We pay a premium for iPhone voice and data plans, and get crap for service in return. If I had a buck for every time someone tried to call me and got voice mail, while my phone was sitting in front of me with four or five bars yet never rang once, I’d be able to pay that early termination penalty AT&T requires of it’s customers. It’s bad enough that AT&T sells us this poor service, but it’s even worse that Apple isn’t more publicly vocal and more forceful about getting the problems solved. It’s been three freakin’ years already, for gosh sakes! There is absolutely no excuse.
Then a week ago comes news that AT&T’s iPad registration service was exposing email addresses and validating iPad hardware identifiers, as uncovered by a hacker group with an unfortunate name (don’t Google it if you are not already familiar with why it’s unfortunate, just trust me on that one). I, too got the victim-list email from AT&T describing what had happened, six or seven days after the fact. It’s not the actual leak that stinks in this case, it’s the fact that such a design would make it into a Internet service in the first place.
Since then, there’s been a bit of a meta-debate about who’s responsible for what, and all of it is really just details. The fact that the information leak *could* happen in the first place is yet another indicator of why AT&T is a sloppy, careless company when it comes to the services I consume and my personal information. Shame on them. But there’s more…
Then this week comes the straw that broke my proverbial camel’s back, as AT&T’s servers fail massively under load during the iPhone 4 pre-order, and we discover that apparently the company's critical software changes didn’t get tested, and changes got made at the last minute. Oh, and as a result our personal data is being exposed – once again - due to a supposed flaw in the AT&T systems and how they access database records.
Regardless of the variety of outstanding questions about the exact details and severity of the security situations, the very existence of these problems is more than just problematic.
One has to wonder, if one is being pragmatic and watching the past couple weeks’ activity: What else might they be skimping on that we don’t already know about? If I followed the same practices and didn’t test or validate security and functionality in my line of work, there’s no doubt I’d be gone in a second. Again, simply unacceptable for a huge company and it’s customers, who demand and require trust.
None of this is indicative of a company that practices good, basic security principles as a matter of course. It’s not indicative of a company that strives first for quality. And it’s not the type of company I feel like I can trust anymore.
So, I am quitting you, AT&T. I’d say it’s been nice knowing you, but that would be mostly a lie. So I’ll just walk away and let the past be the past, and focus on the future. Nine-plus years is enough. Good luck to you. I hope you will change, but it’s going to take some serious work, and I just don’t know if you can actually do it. Your track record is not good. Change is hard. Change means pain. And in the end, most people aren’t willing to endure that process. But maybe you will, and if you do please let me know. I’d like nothing more than to be a happy customer and to write something happy and positive here. I’ll keep my iPad service going with you, since I don’t really have much of a choice and its very existence is part of what makes it possible for me to let the iPhone go. But it’s time for a new phone on a new carrier.
Maybe someday you’ll earn my business back. You might have Apple in your jaws of exclusivity, but not me. For now, you’ve lost my trust and business -- and please realize that you killed an Apple iPhone customer in the process.
And that’s really saying something.
P.S. – A quick final thought to Apple:
I love the hardware. I love the OS. I love the apps. But I can’t stand the service provider, which has failed us for too long now.
I fail to see how you can continue to do exclusive business with a company like AT&T, and I hope you’ll quickly open up options for your customers. Maybe you’re already working on it, which would be a breath of fresh air in this cramped, stuffy, smelly room. I’m sure many will suffer the pains of AT&T to get your hardware and software in your hands, and honestly this is a painful decision for me to make because your phone is something I want and need. But your corporate quality and image is directly tied – even intertwined - to AT&T in the United States, and for a company that stands tall on the ideals of doing things well rather than doing them first, your AT&T relationship is a failure of massive proportions, with quality never measuring up and ability to correct way too lacking. For what it’s worth. I want your products more than any other, but AT&T’s issues have finally crossed a line and have reached the summit of Mt. Unacceptable.
So, what do I do? Please, tell me. Do I wait patiently for a relatively short period of time for another carrier option, or do I just make the move now and use someone else’s hardware?
I am truly sorry to have to leave, Steve. Please, win me back.
Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Well, Apple has released their iPhone app version of the Apple Store, available in the app store now.
I tried to reserve an iPhone 4 through it this morning, but each time I enter and submit my phone account info, the app crashes and I'm returned to my iPad's home screen.
If I had to guess, I'd say AT&T's systems might be the problem since it crashes at the time the AT&T account info is submitted, but who knows. Regardless it's not a very graceful way to handle an error. :)
You can shop for anything Apple in the app, which is actually pretty slick.
Update: Still having problems on the AT&T site (which says it’s down for a server upgrade) and the Apple site, as well as the new iPhone store app doing the reservation. Honestly, you’d think these huge companies would plan ahead for the kind of volume they get every time these releases occur? If your bank planned ahead like this, you’d never get you money. It’s really completely inexcusable, and the track record is horrid. It’s hard to feel comfortable trusting my communication services and information to companies that don’t successfully execute on the basics like availability. Yikes…
Monday, 14 June 2010
Yesterday as I was sitting on one of my favorite chairs with my iPad in hand, I found myself browsing the latest iPhone 4 news and rumors online. After all, the new Apple smartphone will be released to the wild in a week, and pre-orders start on Tuesday (tomorrow). So I had to get my fix of the excitement.
But as I sat there for a while and hopped back and forth from the web browser to this app and that app on my iPad, it occurred to be: Maybe I don't really need an iPhone anymore. Maybe I should look at my options.
Why would I even consider this? Well - because I have the iPad.
A moment of clarity washed over me as I realized that all the functionality I rely upon on the iPhone is also available on the iPad, with few exceptions. All of my aviation software that I use for flying I have on the iPad for example, and honestly I prefer to use it there. Come to think of it, all the apps I use regularly are getting by far the most use these days on my iPad, not the iPhone.
So, what exactly am I using my iPhone for, now that the iPad is in my life? What would I lose if my iPhone disappeared for good, that I can't find on my iPad? Honestly, it's a pretty short list:
- Phone calls -Obviously I don't make calls on the iPad, those all happen on the iPhone. And the phone's not too reliable for that purpose, I should add. But I blame AT&T for that issue.
- Text messages - Which I also cannot do on the iPad, at least not in the native form. I use Google Voice for all my text and inbound voice calls anyhow, so I do some of that on the iPad, some on the phone.
- Location and mapping - But, most of my GPS navigation and guidance work is now performed by the iPad (there are a couple great HD turn-by-turn apps available).
- Facebook app - just for convenience, and because the app on the iPad is, well, the iPhone app (and what the heck's up with that anyhow?). But I also do Facebook in the Safari browser on the iPad. It's just not as portable. And Facebook is hardly a deal-breaker requirement.
- The iPhone is there any time I need pocket-sized app services - And this typically means using apps for things like weather and finding a store or restaurant, which I think can be done from other phones pretty easily. I don't want to carry the iPad with me everywhere, so there are times when I would have to go without.
- Photos - Again, not something you can create with the iPad since there's no camera. But honestly the camera in the iPhone 3G isn't much to speak of, and any phone I'd buy today will dramatically improve on the camera story. I might even get - *gasp* - video capability.
When I consider the (frankly) crappy call delivery and high cost of service on the AT&T network over the past few years, it's awfully tempting to consider making a move away from that carrier for my phone services, which would of course also mean moving off the iPhone. And maybe the iPad 3G makes that move possible for me. Im certain that's not what Apple or AT&T intended, but it might just be the effect.
So - What to do?
I should point out that I do have a few strong reasons to want to stay with the iPhone and get the new model. It has a great interface, common apps between devices are nice to have, and the fact of the matter is things look terrific on the iPhone display (and will look even better on the new one). I like Apple's hardware and software very much, despite the walls and restrictions they've put in place.
In the "alternatives" department, I've started looking at the Sprint EVO 4G - a big new phone with a good performance spec sheet. There have been some rumors of glass/screen de-lamination so I will have to look into that to be sure. And battery life is rumored to be a bit weak. But, having access to 4G wireless data speeds in the city and a Sprint monthly service plan that costs less than the AT&T equivalent by as much as $30 is tempting. In fact, I could add Sprint's $29.95 Internet-sharing plan to the EVO 4G and it would serve as a wireless hotspot for me and 7 of my closest friends if I wanted. And all that for almost exactly the same cost I pay AT&T today for the same service, sans the 4G speeds and hot spot.
I've also thought about the new Verizon phones. The Droid Incredible looks pretty darn sharp, although it appears one will have to wait until July for it to ship. And Verizon's network is - well, you know. It's the network!
One interesting and frustrating tidbit about both of these Android phones is that neither comes with the Froyo (v2.2) version of Android installed. I'm sure HTC will ship it for the phones before too long, but it would have been nice to see them ship with the latest OS, especially given the performance improvements made in that version.
And so, none of this brings me any closer to a final decision. None of these phones are available today, but since pre-order time is here I feel like I should be making a choice. I guess I don't have to, but I don't really want to wait for too long. This shattered screen is pretty aggravating.
It would be cool to see the Android phones in action and to see whether the Android apps look any better on the phone's screen than they do in screenshots available on the web. Frankly, iPhone apps look pretty awesome most of the time, so I am a bit of spoiled iPhone snob, I suppose. Many of the screen shots of Android apps I have seen look like something on a Commodore 64 from when I was a kid. But maybe that's not the norm. So, if anyone has an EVO 4G they'd like to show off in the Portland area please let me know. :)
What would you do, and why?
Monday, 07 June 2010
Last week I logged onto my AT&T Wireless account and checked out my account's upgrade eligibility there. At the time the site indicated it "Could not determine your upgrade eligibility." That was a little weird.
I logged back in today and looked again. With the bid Apple announcements expected today I figured it would be good to know if AT&T planned to make me wait until two years had passed on the calendar. When I asked in a store a few weeks back they'd told me late June.
But today the AT&T site indicates I am already eligible now. (Update: Apparently I'm not the only one)
The Apple keynote where a new 4th-generation iPhone is expected to be announced starts today at 10am. I'll be getting on a plane to go to Chicago about that time, so it looks like I will have to catch up on the news when I land.
I will probably get a new iPhone, as long as they don't cost an exorbitant amount of money. My current phone is the original 3G model, has a shattered (but still fully functional) screen, and is very, very slow with some of the resource-intensive apps I run. I've looked at Android phones, and while the OS is cool the apps I use the most are not available on that platform and likely never will be.
Wednesday, 02 June 2010
I bought my iPad 3G just a month ago, and at the time I signed up for the AT&T Wireless unlimited data plan for $29.99 a month. I’m glad I did, and should point out to anyone on the 250MB plan who wants (or thinks they want) a truly unlimited plan, you have until June 6th to sign up for that plan. After that date, the unlimited data plan won’t be available anymore.
AT&T has announced they’re ending unlimited data plans pretty much across the board. The new plans will provide 250MB and 2GB of data each, with (fairly reasonable) overage charges. Current smartphone customers are not required to switch to the new plans, but can choose to do so without a contract extension.Before explaining the packages, I went to my iPad to see how much data I used during my first month with the iPad:
I’m a pretty heavy user, with a chunk of my use at home, but plenty of data use on the road. So, maybe a 2GB account would work for me (at least most of the time). AT&T says only 2% of their smartphone users exceed 2GB per month. If I was working away from my home office even more, I think I’d likely hit the 2GB top end of the new account. And while I understand the logic around the per-month statistics for smartphones, the iPad really is a different type of device. So, I wonder what the iPad user monthly usage statistics are. What percentage went over 2GB in the first month the iPad with 3G was available? AT&T didn’t spell that out for us.
Luckily, I can retain my unlimited iPad data account if I want to. I just have to keep it auto-billing in order to keep it available, it sounds like. In the future if I find my usage consistently allows, I can choose to go for the 2GB capped account and save enough money for an expensive coffee.
Plan details from AT&T’s press release:
DataPro. Provides 2 gigabytes (GB) of data – for example, enough to send/receive 10,000 emails (no attachments), plus send/receive 1,500 emails with attachments, plus view 4,000 Web pages, plus post 500 photos to social media sites, plus watch 200 minutes of streaming video – for $25 per month.** Should a customer exceed 2 GB during a billing cycle, they will receive an additional 1 GB of data for $10 for use in the cycle. Currently, 98 percent of AT&T smartphone customers use less than 2 GB of data a month on average.
DataPlus. Provides 200 megabytes (MB) of data – for example, enough to send/receive 1,000 emails (no attachments), plus send/receive 150 emails with attachments, plus view 400 Web pages, plus post 50 photos on social media sites, plus watch 20 minutes of streaming video – for just $15 per month.** This plan, which can save customers up to 50 percent off their wireless data charges, is designed for people who primarily like to surf the web, send email and use social networking apps. If customers exceed 200 MB in a monthly billing cycle, they will receive an additional 200 MB of data usage for $15 for use in the cycle. Currently, 65 percent of AT&T smartphone customers use less than 200 MB of data per month on average.
** Usage examples are estimates. Individual results will vary based upon customer’s Internet usage patterns.
I guess the one thing that bothers me is that AT&T and Apple launched the iPad with an unlimited plan option. I am quite glad that existing iPad users can keep the plan they signed up for, but I think about future and new phone capabilities such as the likely video conferencing and streaming on new mobile devices that are set to be available this summer. I worry about plan limits which – in the future – could consistently result in overage charges once data usage organically increases with new hardware capabilities and demand.
Wednesday, 05 May 2010
Okay, file this one under super-cool. A company called Parrot has built and demonstrated a flying model helicopter (quadracopter?) called the AR Drone. With four blades, it’s controlled by an iPhone using WiFi and the phone’s motion-sensing capabilities.
It also streams video from a camera mounted on the flying machine back to the iPhone. It’s a like mini predator drone for your living room or back yard (well, sort of).
I want one. Or at least to play with one. As a product it looks to be well-executed and a lot of fun.
Check out the Web 2.0 conference demo video below, as well as a Parrot video. A whole slew of additional videos from Parrot are available on YouTube.
You can also find out a whole lot more about the AR Drone from the Parrot web site – Just click here.
Monday, 03 May 2010
On Friday evening last week I stood in line for about an hour along with a slew of geeks and even a few nerds at the Apple Store in Tigard, Oregon to get one of the first Apple iPad 3G models. There were about 35 or 40 people ahead of me in line, and a few more than that in line behind me by the time the 5pm release clock rolled around and the Apple staff came screaming down the hallway in the mall.
Within only 15 minutes I was already on my way back out the door of the store with a 64GB 3G model in a bag, and about $930 less in the bank (I got the AppleCare contract based on past experience). I picked up the model with the most storage simply because (again based on experience) I have tended to skimp in that area and have always come to regret the choice. So, this time I was all-in.
As I have mentioned before here, I use my iPhone for all sorts of things, but especially for aviation related tasks. Since the Foreflight aviation software for pilots was released in an iPad HD version in early April, I knew that was going to become my electronic flight bag. In fact, I might not have even bought an iPad at this point if it wasn't for Foreflight. I waited for the 3G model before buying because its built-in GPS can be used by Foreflight's maps and location-based information system. I'll write a Foreflight HD review soon. It's quite awesome, especially considering this is the first rev if the HD version. I can't wait to see what they improve and add over time. Check out http://www.foreflight.com for details.
After using it for a few days, though, there are lots more reasons I'm glad I made the jump and picked this thing up.
There are so many well-worn cliche statements about the iPad that people have used over the past month. Some of them are especially true, though. For example, reading and writing email on this thing is awesome. It's the way it should be.
Not everything is so perfect in iPad land, though. I wrote this blog post in a program (BlogPress) that is available in a HD version that uses the full iPad screen space, but it won't publish to my site. I guess the metaweblog API isn't good enough for it. :) Unfortunately it appears a good, solid, full featured blog authoring app is a pretty serious gap in the bazillions of apps available on the App Store. There's an opportunity just waiting for someone to tackle it.
The 3G radio, as one pretty much has to expect, pulls down the charge on the battery faster than the iPad model that's just wifi. Of course, you can turn 3G and wifi off and on as you like, independently. How much battery power is actually used with a 3G connection seems to be dependent -- and this makes logical sense -- on the distance from the cell towers and the relative transmit power needed to make the radio connections. Id imagine its also dependent on the type of connection and the frequency band in use on a given tower. Common sense applies to battery life just like any other device. On both models backlight brightness also contributes to batty life, of course.
I've started searching for a high-output car charger, since the iPad needs more than the typical iPhone charger puts out. Kensington and a couple other companies are making a 2.1-watt charger that will allow the iPad to charge in the car in a reasonable amount of time, so I will be picking up one of those soon.
A few of my favorite other apps that have a place on my home screen page:
I set up and tried the AT&T navigator turn by turn software that I already had running on my iPhone. Even though its not iPad screen optimized and I have to use the zoom resized to go full screen, it works great and even better than on the iPhone 3G. The iPad has much louder and clearer voice navigation (and music sound for that matter) and the GPS is fast and more accurate. It just runs better overall. The iPad is a terrific GPS device it seems. Time for some custom iPad dash mounts. Do a YouTube search and you'll see a couple.
I've started using one iPhone app again that I'd let languish for some time because again its just better on the iPad even though you have to zoom it to use the full screen: BeeJive Instant Messenger. The extra real estate and bigger typing surface is great. I hope they release a HD iPad version soon.
The Safari browser on the iPad is awesome and almost so second nature I forgot to mention it. I did notice though that some sites optimized to work with iPhone are a little weird in the iPad browser. Google Voice is a good example (for both the mobile and standard interfaces especially when it comes to the voice mail playback areas of the interface).
Netflix for the iPad is pure genius, and as more flicks are released for streaming it just keeps getting more and more worthwhile. Hulu needs to get their iPad act together now, for real. The ABC video app is cool and now it plays over 3G with a new update, too. (updated)
word is they will be updating it so you can play video over the 3G. Right now ABC's app only streams over wifi.
My favorite game so far is FlightControl HD, a top-down view map game where you land airplanes and helicopters and keep them from crashing into each other. Relatively simple, pure genius. Addictive stuff. I haven't tried many other games just because I'm not a huge gamer. Some of the driving games sure look fun though.
The Weather Channel HD app is also really slick. Lots of great info there, in a well-used piece of screen real estate.
There are others, as well but that gives you an idea. I'll write more at a later time.
Anyone else got a list of killer apps for iPad 3G I should be sure to check out?
Monday, 26 April 2010
I’ve received a number of emails this morning complimenting me on a YouTube video showing a new app that syncs with iTunes via the WiFi connection. The only problem is, I’m not the same Greg Hughes that wrote the app.
To see what all the geeky excitement is about, watch the video below.
The Greg Hughes in question is actually a guy in the United Kingdom. He tells me he’s a 2nd-year Computer Science student at the University of Birmingham. What he’s built looks pretty cool. I hope that when my namesake submits his app to the Apple Store, they accept it and let all of us get at it (I’m wondering if they won’t approve based on past decisions, and if they’ll say it performs an action already provided by an Apple product -- but I’d sure love to be proven wrong on this one).
The app is set to be submitted at the Apple App Store soon according to the author, and it looks like we can check for the latest information at http://getwifisync.com/ (there’s not much there as of the time of this writing, but that will almost certainly change) and there’s a Twitter account at http://twitter.com/WifiSync to check out.
Saturday, 03 April 2010
I drove down to Best Buy today to check out the iPads they had on display and for sale. It was about 1:30 p.m. when we arrived and they still had quite a few in stock, but only the 32GB and 64GB models. The 16GB iPads had sold out just before we arrived.
My impressions of the device were this: It was a little heavier than I thought it would be, and a little thicker feeling, but a nice size. It has a great display and is very snappy and responsive. The iPhone apps displayed at 2x resolution were generally pretty blocky looking, but useable at least until a higher-resolution version is released. I wouldn’t want to keep viewing some of them for too long just because it was hard to look at them that way for more than a few minutes. Maybe I’m just spoiled.
Why do I want one of these things? There are a variety of reasons, but one particular reason tops my list. I’m very much looking forward to running ForeFlight Mobile HD on the iPad in the future. The picture on the right shows a couple cool screens of the aviation application revamped for the iPad’s larger display. They’ve iPad-ified acreens for plates, maps, weather, downloads, and airport data. They’ll be adding a bunch of other iPad enhancements in a future update.
Anyhow, back to my check-out-the-iPad experience… The Best Buy sales guy said ( in a “you didn’t hear it from me” sort of way) that they would have another shipment of them in next Sunday. For what it’s worth. I asked for and got a paper from the guy entitling me to go to the front counter and pick up a 32GB model and continued to shop at the store. But, as I thought about it I kept returning to my position over the past few days: The iPad doesn’t have enough value for me without the 3G radio built in. I was considering buying one for use around the house, but just couldn’t justify buying two of these in the first month.
So, I returned the paper to the floor sales guy and said thanks, but I was going to wait for the 3G models. He nodded and said he understood.
It’s a cool device with a nice interface. It’s a lot like a big iPod Touch or iPhone, as the kids pointed out. But it also can do more than the smaller devices in terms of app capabilities and performance.
I’ll pick one up once the 3G models are out. For now, I’ll wait.
Friday, 02 April 2010
I decided the other day that I won’t be in the lines on Saturday morning when the iPad becomes available at Apple stores and Best Buys around the country. Cory Doctorow also says he won’t buy one, but for different reasons. He goes so far as to say you shouldn't get one either. Interesting arguments. I’ve discussed before – here on this site - some of the reasons I think I want one, as well as some of the concerns I have about it, and in the end I do want to acquire one.
But, this Saturday’s event won’t be for me.
Why? I’m going to wait for the 3G-equipped model.
The more I think about it, the more I realize I need portability in the iPad if I am going to use it, meaning portability and network access across the boundaries and gaps of WiFi networks. I plan to use an iPad from the road, in the hangar, at any random place where I might land and want to check a weather report and email, that sort of thing. So, without an available-most-everywhere data service (a phrase that some, I know, will debate at length), it just won’t meet my needs.
So, I wait.
Anyone else waiting for the 3G models before buying? Too bad they’re not available on day-one. I’d grab my
lawn line chair and head right down there if they were.
Update: A good New York Times article talks about perceptions, limitations and redundancy in the iPad. Interesting perspective.
Friday, 29 January 2010
You could argue that one shouldn’t complain about a product before it lands in your hot little hands, but a common theme over the past few days among the pundits on the web has been the newly-announced iPad and it’s apparent lack of openness. as Alex Payne comments, “Apple has decided that openness is not a quality that’s necessary in a personal computer. That’s disturbing.”
While I think the iPad is a cool device, and that it will be useful, and that I will likely buy one… I have to agree with Alex. He’s right. That’s an interesting and complicated place to be: I want to and probably will use an iPad to do good things, and make valuable use of it. But there’s a big part of me that won’t like it too much.
The risks of closed platforms have been debated for some time, in many venues and over a variety of companies, platforms and systems. Lots of catchy terms like “walled garden” and “black box” are used to describe essentially one thing: Vendor-provided ecosystems that you can only interact with they way the vendor allows you to.
It’s why the iPhone “hacking” community has been so active, and so popular. Everywhere I see teenagers and aducts with iPhones that have been “jailbroken” so they could run third party apps and get around Apple-instituted limitations, or unlocked so they could drop in a T-Mobile SIM card. The numbers are staggering when you look at how many iPhones have been modified. And I think we all know that the same community will step up and take the same approach with the iPad. After all, “it’s just a big iPod touch,” as they say. Well, whether you look at it that way or not, the software is a common denominator for sure.
Apple needs to step up and find a way to work their garden so the walls can at least be lower. There must be a healthy balance between truly closed, which is what we have today. Apps can’t be installed on the iPhone unless Apple sells and approves then (unless you jailbreak your device). Allow multitasking and background application activity, in the very least. Some restrictions are simply unacceptable.
The closed nature of the device – and I call it that purposefully – foretells the possible future, one where consumer devices replace computing systems. The iPad may have a computer chip in it, but so do my clock radio and televisions, and those are devices – not computers. If I can’t have unfettered access to the computer, it’s a device in my mind. When I was a kid we used to get into the guts of the computer, physically and programming-wise. We were able to make them do whatever our little hearts desired. That might be something good or bad, smart or stupid, broken or functional. But we learned and we created, we discovered and we built.
The iPad is a design feat (with a fat bezel, but still a cool design). The OS is another design usability marvel. The ecosystem built around the devices is popular, usable and works. But it stifles creativity, choice, flexibility. Are we at another of these inflection points, where things like common-person usability and “it just works” are acceptable trade-offs for flexibility and capability?
My hope is that Apple will step up to the plate and make some hard choices that benefit their customers’ bigger-picture needs. It’s the right thing to do, and would add some traction to what otherwise appears to be a deceptively slippery slope. I can envision a software switch (which would be set to the “safest” mode by default) that a device user could manipulate to “lower the garden walls” electronically as a matter of choice, with the potential consequences clearly spelled out (and I should point out that this would be a useful enterprise capability as well, should they wish to properly and securely enter that space someday).
Choice. What a concept.
Ready – Set – Comment.
Wednesday, 27 January 2010
Apple is taking the covers off a new “tablet” style device today – called the iPad (link to Apple’s new product site, with video) - in a much-hyped announcement. I rely on my iPhone in so many different ways nowadays that I have a hard time thinking what work and life would be like without it. I could manage just fine, but things would change substantially.
One of the things I do a lot with my iPhone is pilot-related. I have a number of apps on the iPhone that I use to help me look at aviation weather, airport information and diagrams, radar images, current wind and weather conditions, electronic charts, and a whole lot more.
But the iPhone is a small screen for a lot of the information. Much like small GPS devices in the cockpit are convenient yet too small to offer the best experience, the iPhone doesn’t provide the best format for some content.
Here are the iPhone aviation and pilot apps I use most often:
- ForeFlight Mobile – worth every penny and more, this is an amazing app for planning flight, filing your flight plan, lot of maps (VFR/IFR/street/weather/clouds), electronic airport information, weather info to the max (including closest station winds aloft) and much much much more.
- CoPilot – I use it mostly for the terrific weight and balance calculator and graphing portion of the app. Also for some speed/distance/fuel/etc. calculations (all of which I always verify manually). If ForeFlight had all this included, it would be terrific.
- AeroWeather – Probably the app I run most often. One tap on the screen and I have an instant one-screen view (very well laid-out) of the weather situation at each airport I care about, arranged the way I want.
- TWC (The Weather Channel) – Not an aviation app, but it has a good 10-day view of the weather that tends to show the most pessimistic look at what’s forecasted, which is nice for pilots. We need an aviation-specific app with a long-term view like this one has (within reasonable predication limits).
Enter the Apple iPad. Half and inch thick, 1.5 pounds and a 9.7-inch display. And it can run ALL iPhone apps out of the box, pixel for pixel with a border, or via pixel doubling in full-screen mode. A new SDK lets app developers take full advantage of the screen real estate and resolution.
And, there’s 3G service for $14.99/month for 250MB of data, or $29.99 for unlimited data - from AT&T. Free AT&T WiFi hotspot use with those accounts, too. But, the iPad 3G models are unlocked, so choose your GSM carrier. Prices for iPads start at $499 for a 16GB WiFi only model (with options of 32GB and 64GB storage), and 3G models for $629, $729 and $829. WiFi models available in 60 days, and 3G versions in 90 days.
Now, granted I am predicting the future a bit here, but hopefully ForeFlight and a few other iPhone apps on the new tablet will – assuming they all take advantage of the new display capabilities in updates – be the most perfect in-between device option for the private pilot.
Grab a copy of the latest AFD as an eBook? There’s an app for that.
I can even imagine Garmin or some other aviation GPS software/hardware maker offering a iPad app for sale, rather than selling a device with the software. The possibilities for flying – after accounting for very necessary safety and quality requirements - are great.
Anyone else think they might want an iPad for their aircraft cockpit?
Saturday, 29 August 2009
I’m an Exchange 2007 user. It’s terrific, works great and is truly the standard by which others are judged when it comes to business email, calendaring, contacts and other key business productivity features.
Being both a Mac and a PC guy, I’ve been the tester, owner and user of a variety of different applications to interface to Exchange. Outlook 2007 on the PC is a pretty obvious choice, and again it’s a standard by which others are often judged. But on the Mac I have been using Entourage for some time, with mixed opinion and results. It’s a good attempt at filling the gap left by the fact that there is no Outlook for the Mac, but it lacks in both features and stability.
However, on this fin gray Saturday morning I find myself once again examining the world of Exchange and the Mac. As I type this my Mac is going through the upgrade process and transforming itself into a Snow Leopard (OSX v10.6) machine. I’ve also downloaded the Entourage Web Services Edition upgrade from Microsoft, which is waiting on the Mac hard drive to install after the OS upgrade is completed.
My plan here is to set up and run under the new native-Exchange 2007 support in OSX Snow Leopard while at the same time checking out the new Entourage Web Services Edition features.
I should also note that earlier this month, Microsoft announced it will be releasing (finally!) a new Outlook client for the Mac in 2010. The expected “too late” crowd has been chiming in with their opinions, but in The Real World, where people older than 13 years actually make decisions about buying software for business use, this may be a big deal. It’s at least somewhat inevitable that Macs will become more common in the workplace, and the need for a consistent collaboration and productivity platform will full-fidelity, complete feature sets across OS platforms is critical to making business work.
I’ll post more details and thoughts once I get some of the setup and comparisons done over the next couple days. Meanwhile, I need to get packing some more cardboard boxes here at home so I can load them up… For anyone who might have noticed I have been absent from writing here, I am in the process of selling my house and will be getting married in October, so my world is a bit busy these days. But I am not gone. :)
Monday, 08 June 2009
Today Apple announced the next rev of the iPhone, the "iPhone 3GS." It has beefed up processing power and some cool new features like a better camera, more storage, etc.
Normally I'd be ultra excited about getting one as soon as its available. But this time around, I'm having a hard time getting inspired.
It has nothing to do with Apple's hardware and software. In fact, the processing power boosts and other changes are very, very tempting, and in a world where all else was equal it would be a no-brainer for me to drop the early upgrade cash on the table and move on up.
But the fact of the matter is, with AT&T's ultra-poor network performance on my current iPhone 3G, I think I'm better off waiting until Apple adds another U.S. carrier. I consistently have to turn off the 3G capabilities on iPhone 3G in order to avoid dropped calls and to successfully get network connections. That was the case with the first iPhone 3G I had, too. To top it all off, the service has gotten worse recently in my experience. I just can't see dropping that much cash for a new phone to operate on a network that already sucks. I've been sorely disappointed by AT&T, almost to the point where I want to call them and tell them they've consistently failed to perform to the level of service they claim (which is 100% the case).
It's time for Apple to drop that bomb on AT&T. Failure to perform in this case is going to cost Apple market share. It's got to be embarrassing to the company. During the announcements made today at Apple's World Wide Developer Conference, every time AT&T was mentioned the crowd just laughed. Seriously laughed, and not because there was a funny joke. It was because AT&T's quality is so lacking one just can' t help but either laugh or cry. They even laughed when AT&T was not mentioned - most notably with regard the fact that the carrier's logo was missing from some key slides in the presentation, pointing out AT&T's lack of launch time support for MMS and tethering, two of the key selling points for the new phone model.
AT&T has turned into that partner that Apple doesn't need, and shouldn't want. It's time to make a change. AT&T has simply failed to perform. When you can't reliably make and maintain calls and the data network won't keep a connection between towers, something's just not good enough. I hope Apple will step up - sooner rather than later - and add another carrier or two even before AT&T's exclusive agreement expires. It takes two to be successful in any partnership, and in this one AT&T's turned into a bit of a boat anchor.
What would change my mind on this one? Simple: When my current 3G phones work like they should on AT&Ts network, I'll be the first one to say so right here. Out loud and with conviction. But, I'm not holding my breath quite yet.Tmobile
Maybe a good jailbreaking and switch to Tmobile will work on the new OS and device. I'm sure someone will figure out out. Desperate times call for desperate measures. We shall see.
Tuesday, 05 May 2009
I recently took advantage of an in-store offer to replace my water-damaged 16GB iPhone 3G with a 8GB version for $199 with no contract extensions, just paid the money and walked out with it. And in my case I got to keep the old one, which makes a great WiFi-enabled MP3 player.
Apparently (according to reports) it's now official policy/program now for Apple stores to allow problematic iPhones where the water damage sensors (there are four of them) have been "tripped" (discolored do to extended water exposure) to be replaced with the same size and model for $199. That's a great move for people like me who do things like ski, boat and oh, I dunno... Live in the freakin' rain.
So, if you have a problematic iPhone that you have been told is not covered under warranty, you might be able to take advantage of this policy.
More info here.
Monday, 09 February 2009
I dropped into a Starbucks this afternoon, all prepared to get some emails written and to get some work done between my Sunday afternoon and evening commitments. Everything was fresh in my mind and ready to go via the keyboard and onto the screen. I fetched my grande two-pump sugar-free vanilla skinny latte and sat down in the chair, opened the laptop and watched it wake up and connect to the AT&T wireless access point.
But much to my dismay nothing would load over the network. The AirPort icon in the status bar showed the name of the network and indicated that I was connected to the access point, but I had no connection to the Internet.
After a brief bit of trying over and over to load a web page, I checked the network preferences in the apple system preferences panel and found that I was not getting an IP address. The Mac was self-assigning a 169.* address, which is a non-routable local-only address. I tried restarting the AirPort card in the Mac, but that didn't help. I then found I was able to connect normally with my iPhone to the AT&T WiFi network and get a "real" IP address (192.x), so I quickly deduced that something was wrong with my Mac.
I had to give up on troubleshooting and head back out into the world, but I spent the rest of the day wondering if maybe there was something about the MAC address for my wireless card that AT&T had chosen to hate. After finishing my day of activities, I drove home this evening and fired my laptop back up. It connected to my home wireless network. But again, no IP address assigned. Hmm, definitely the laptop.
I started thinking now. What could be happening? Powering the AirPort on and off, shutting down the Mac and powering it back up, manually telling the network stack to renew it's DHCP lease - all these things did no good.
I finally decided to take a look at the Mac firewall logs. You'd think that would be the first place I'd look, being a security guy. They're kind of hidden in plain sight, a few layers deep in the Mac's preferences dialogs. You go to the System Preferences panel, in the Security section, then the Firewall tab, then click the Advanced button, and finally click the Open Log button. If logging isn't already turned on, you can enable it there, as well.
Sure enough, I looked in the log and found several examples of this (emphasis mine):
Feb 8 23:02:04 greg-hughess-macbook-air Firewall: Deny configd data in from 192.168.0.1:67 uid = 0 proto=17
Feb 8 23:02:26: --- last message repeated 2 times ---
Ah hah... Apparently the firewall was refusing inbound connections initiated by the router as it tried to set up the DHCP address being requested by the laptop. The configd daemon is a service that handles configuration changes for various pieces of the system, mostly all network-related. Great, I had something to fix!
I first confirmed configd was in fact running, then deleted the firewall configuration file (located at /Library/Preferences/com.apple.alf.plist) and configured the firewall to temporarily allow all connections, and then back to allowing essential services. Sure enough, as soon as I made the changes the Mac was able to get a DHCP address from the router, and the network was back up and working.
I have no real idea how the firewall got messed up. At one point I had it set to configure access for specific services and apps, so that might have had something to do with it. But it's strange that this problem only started today. It's possible the configd process was denied by a rule, I suppose. Perhaps I hit a key on a pop-up dialog to deny firewall access to the daemon without even realizing it while typing?
At any rate, it seems to be working now (as evidenced by the fact that I am able to post this blog entry, of course) and hopefully it will continue to work as expected. Maybe this will help someone else troubleshoot a similar issue.
Tuesday, 06 January 2009
I've written here several times in the past about Pandora, the slick Internet music app that streams music it determines you'll like based on a starting point you give it (like a specific artist, for example). You can refine the channel by voting up or down, song by song. Based on your votes and the "genetic" makeup of the music you rate, it determines what other music to put into the channel. The greatest aspect of using Pandora is discovering some truly great music and artists, many of which I never heard of before Pandora. It changed my music world.
Not too long ago, Pandora for the iPhone was released, and it was the number-one free iPhone app for 2008, and for good reason. It works well on WiFi or 3G networks and provides the majority of the functionality you get on the full-blown web app.
Well, today Pandora released v2 of their iPhone app, and they've added even more to it. Gleaned from the release notes, here are the new features:
- Tap the album art to see a progress bar, create a station from the current song or artist, or to email the station to a friend
- View the "back side" of the album art to read artist bios
- Rotates to a landscape layout to see recently played songs (coverflow-style)
- Play samples of each of your bookmarked songs
- Create a station based on genre
It's a cool update. I just wish I could close it and have it play in the background while I do other thing son my iPhone. I mean, come on Apple - It's the number-one app, make an exception, please! Anyhow, I don't know if I will use it more (it was already pretty great), but it adds some smart new functionality that's appreciated. You can find it here (links to iTunes App Store) or just get it for free via the App Store icon on your iPhone or iPod Touch.
A few photos to show you what I'm talking about:
'Create New Station' options
Sending to a friend without leaving the app
Coverflow-like view of past-played songs
Sunday, 21 December 2008
I'm stuck at home during this incredible and unusual snow storm. I quite literally cannot drive my four-wheel-drive truck out of my driveway due to the wet and icy layer under the two feet of snow that's accumulated, melted slightly, and then refrozen over the past week. Unfortunately, when the storm is at its worse, my iPhone has lost it's connection to AT&T's network. "No service" has become its full-time status. I've tried both enabling 3G (which we don't have out here) and restricting it to EDGE only, and it simply will not connect. Until recently I would at least get a signal if I set it down it in the right spot.
When the power goes out at the house, I need to be able to make at least one phone call (to the power department). In a storm out here, power outages are a fact of life. I've been unable to call the PUD this week because I had no cell service on the iPhone. And the power went out for 7 hours the other day.
Today I got fed up with the inability to place a call and waded through the sea of snow to my truck (which is stuck), rifled through my center console, and found my old Blackberry 8800 and the battery. It's been in there and unused for over a year. I popped the SIM card out of the iPhone and slid it into the Blackberry, then popped the battery in. Even after sitting for a year the battery had a half-full charge (wow) and the Blackberry powered up and within a few second acquired the AT&T network. Text messages started to flow in - success! Of course, the data connection was refused, but the GSM phone service works fine for text and voice service. It makes Snowmageddon a little more tolerable.
I've grown more and more frustrated with my iPhone's network performance over the past month. I plan to take it in and see if it's the individual phone, or a network change, or if it's more of a design thing, but I'm not holding my breath. Luckily the iPhone still works on WiFi without the SIM card (which actually makes it an "i" rather than an "iPhone" I suppose, heh), and that's good because I rely on it for a number of truly invaluable network-capable applications.
Anyone else done comparisons, or had network performance issues with their iPhone 3G after some time has passed? I've done complete restores of the phone to make sure the phone was clean software-wise, same issues. Any experience you have will be appreciated.
Friday, 12 December 2008
There are a few different options out there for running virtual machines on your desktop. One of those available options is Parallels, and an electronic-delivery special offer lets you get two copies of Parallels v4.0 for the price of one. That's $40 per copy, quite a deal. So, if you have a need to run Windows apps on your Mac, or you want to run any other PC-based operating system, you might consider grabbing a copy. You could give the other one away as a good, geeky Christmas gift.
Link: Parallels two-for-one offer
Friday, 28 November 2008
Not that you'd actually want to do it (or at least I don't think I would), but you have to admit it's pretty cool that you can now run Linux on the iPhone. It's really basic so far, but no doubt it will get better and have more and more hardware/feature support. Maybe a dual-boot option would be cool though, after all...
Details are here and Engadget has info, too. Video showing it off below. What would you use it for?
Thursday, 30 October 2008
I had the opportunity today to spend some time chatting with Ben Jackson, who's the owner and technical director of Brainjuice, LLC. His company created Blogo, the app I use on my Mac to write posts like this one.
But today we weren't talking about Blogo, we were discussing a new iPhone game Brainjuice is in the final phases of completing called Arcade Hockey. It's just about done and will appear in the iTunes App Store in early to mid November. It's a table hockey game and it's a lot of fun, well-executed and designed.
Here are a few screenshots of the game screens, so you can see what's coming. You can click on each image to see the full-sized version.
The splash screen, which you see when the game first starts:
You have the option of playing a one- or two-plater game. In the one-player version you play against the computer's artificial intelligence opponent. More on that later in the article.
You can choose a few options, like the size of the paddles and pucks, as well as the version of the game (standard arcade deck, or "boomerang" style.
Game play consists of a classic table hockey game, and you use the tip of your finger on the touch screen to move the paddle and hit the puck. The physics of the game are pretty good, and the puck reacts pretty how you'd expect and want it to.
The classic and boomerang tables:
When you've played your "best-of" set, the game makes sure each player knows who won and who lost.
As a former air hockey addict, I can say this game is quite a bit of fun, and there's something to be said for pulling the game out of your pocket and playing a surprisingly accurate and realistic game on the bus, before the movie, while out on a hot date you want to impress with your skillz, or at lunch.
Since I had his attention, I asked Ben a few questions about the new game and it's development, as well as future product dev plans.
This is Brainjuice's first iPhone app. Until now you've focused on Blogo, your Mac-based blog authoring app. Why did you decide to create this game?
We wanted to start with something light rather than jumping right into Blogo for the iPhone. Table hockey is fun, the competitor is selling and we thought we could do much, much better. Also, there's something about sliding your finger around on the phone which is a natural fit for air hockey.
When will it be available, and how much will it cost?
It will be available as soon as Apple accepts it, likely in November. It will sell for $4.99, but we plan to offer it for free for an initial period of time.
What's left to be done before you ship it?
We are really only working on the (computer opponent) AI at this point. Besides that it's pretty much done.
What did you learn in the process of creating the game?
We learned that getting though the whole certificates and code signing process is a huge hurdle. And a lot of physics.
How many people worked on the game, and how much time did it take to build?
Brainjuice and INCOMUM (the design and creative team) have 8 team members between them. On this project one developer and one designer did all the work. Total dev time... About two months total. Our team is based in Brazil and Philadelphia, but we spend most of our time here (in Brazil), as the weather is nice.
What other apps can we expect to see from Brainjuice for the iPhone in the future?
We're planning to devote a fair share of out attention to creating Blogo for the iPhone after Arcade Hockey is out the door. We're itching to see what we can do with it.
FInally, here's some (unfortunately somewhat fuzzy) video of Arcade Hockey in action on my test iPhone today. I had a hard time looking around the camera to see the screen while I was trying to play, but you get the idea. Look for this cool game coming soon to the iTunes App Store. Or if you happen to see me around, you can feel free to ask me to show it to you.
Wednesday, 29 October 2008
It's been an interesting and exciting few days in iPhone land.
In the just past couple days, Google Earth and a voice recording application from Griffin have both been released for the iPhone. Add to that the news that iPhone owners now have access to AT&T WiFi hotspots for free - nice! Google Earth is - of course - free, and Griffin iTalk is free for a limited time, along with it's Mac client (for syncing).
Google earth on the iPhone (iTunes app store link) is pretty cool. It takes advantage of the GPS and accelerometer, and other than that it's, well... Google Earth, just on a smaller screen. You can use touch/twist to rotate gestures on the screen, as you'd expect. I should mention that it's crashed a lot on me, and that when I first installed it I had to hard-reset my phone to get anything to work. But for the most part its been as stable as any other complex app on the device (meaning mediocre to so-so). It's worth the install for sure, if for no other reason then just because of most of the cool things you can do with Google Earth on your Mac or PC.
The other great app that everyone with an iPhone or second-gen iPod Touch should run and get right now (while it's free) is Griffin's iTalk and the complementary iTalk Sync client, which allows you to sync your audio recordings made with the iPhone app to your Mac (PC version coming soon) over the air via WiFi. It works like a charm, is well-documented, looks great and the audio quality is user configurable. The best quality setting sounds pretty great. It could realistically be used for man-on-the-street style interviews.
Provide a file name, select the recording quality, and start recording by clicking the Big Red Button:
The green button means you're actively recording. The VU meter shows your audio levels live. Click the green button to stop recording.
You'll end up with a file (or more than one if you record multiple times) showing in the recording list.
When you load up the Mac sync client app (a small and quick install) and start the iPhone app on the same wireless network, you'll be prompted to allows the sync client to access your iPhone's recordings.
While copying the file via the sync program, the iPhone shows you the status and progress:
And finally you have the files on your Mac (or soon on a PC), in .AIFF format, ready to use. Nice and easy!
I plan to play with the app in Barcelona next week and test the audio quality to see if it's really good enough for on-the-spot interviews for the podcast. It's worth a shot, although it won't touch the quality of my Zoom H4 recorder, of course.
Friday, 24 October 2008
Update: Microsoft's Mac business unit just set the land-speed record for turning around a fix. The story is available over at TUAW.
I've been wrestling with a problem for a few days after applying the latest Office 2008 for Mac update (v12.1.3). Everything works well except for sending and responding to meeting notices.
After the update, when Entourage tries to send a meeting notice or response, it throws the following: "[Error] Unexpected data was encountered. [Explanation] Mail could not be sent. Account name: 'Exchange - Greg' Error: -17997."
Needless to say, this is a frustrating problem. I managed to send some original meeting notices by opening them up after they failed to send (you can find them in the Outbox) and clicking the 'Send' button a second time. That worked for some reason. However, the same workaround doesn't seem to work for meeting responses, so I am having to send emails created by hand in order to confirm meeting requests with people who send them to me. Thankfully, when I accept a meeting request it does make it onto my calendar properly - it's just the outbound email that gets hung up.
I've had problems in the past with Entourage not parsing updates created by Outlook, but this is a much bigger and more painful problem. This is another case of "if it just worked the way it's supposed to, it would be the best option by far." A lot like my iPhone in that regard. Glitches kill the experience and create big frustration.
UPDATE: I just found a Microsoft newsgroup thread discussing the problem, and apparently it's a known issue bug in the latest release. Hopefully they'll be able to release a fix quickly. Workarounds include:
- Uninstall Office and reinstall, then update to the version prior to the latest release
- Move invitations you create from the Outbox to the Drafts folder and resend (won't work for acceptance notifications, though)
- Grin and bear it. :)
I may try removing my Entourage account profile from this computer completely and then setting it back up with the Exchange server fresh just to see what happens. I'd lose a few things that are store local-only in the process, but that won't really hurt me should I decide to go that route.
Anyone else having this issue? Any other great workaround ideas?
Thursday, 28 August 2008
I thought I'd present some casual observations I made throughout the day Wednesday on a trip from Portland to Seattle, as well as some newly reported information about the AT&T 3G network that's hit the 'net over the past 24 hours or so.
The back-story here is that I - like many others - have found the reliability and consistency of the iPhone 3G to be less than satisfactory while on the 3G AT&T network.
First of all, it became clear to me over the course of several hours yesterday that the iPhone is not to blame with regards to connectivity on the 3G network. While driving from Portland, Oregon to Seattle, Washington and back yesterday, I had the opportunity to run a whole slew of speed/connectivity test sessions using the iPhone app called "iNetwork Test" (click here to get the free app in the iTunes App Store).
AT&T actually has fairly impressive 3G network coverage from south of Olympia, Washington practically all the way to Seattle, with one or two small gaps in-between where the phone switched to EDGE. Much of the area along that I-5 corridor is rural or sparsely-populated. From a wireless connectivity standpoint, it's a pretty decent area to live in if you're going to be far away from the city.
My experience in using the 3G network along my drive up and down the Interstate can be summed up thusly:
In areas with higher population density, and thus more iPhone (and other device) users, ability to a) connect to the voice network and make calls, b) stay connected to the voice network, c) make data connections and d) maintain data connections was substantially worse. The difference between dense and sparsely populated areas was like night and day.
Where population density was lower, even in cases when fewer bars are displayed on the signal strength icon, voice and data connections were reliable and solid without exception. In contrast, in high-population areas even full-signal connectivity was spotty and unreliable.
I'm running the latest iPhone software, v2.0.2, which both Apple and AT&T have encouraged people to upgrade to. AT&T even sent a text message to all users asking them to upgrade - a first-time action on the part of the carrier.
Some new information, part of which you'll find quoted below, helps explain why I experienced substantially poorer performance in the cities and heavily-populated areas but not in the rural sections of my drive. According to reports, it appears AT&T's 3G radio systems are power-constrained, and are not able to maintain all the connections. The incredible number of iPhone 3G devices on the network - especially in metropolitan and urban areas - is most certainly placing a heavy load on the radios. In addition, iPhone 3G devices that have not been updated to the v2.0.2 software are placing an even heavier burden on the radios from a power-consumption standpoint.
So, there's a power-management problem, as well as a capacity problem. When the network "noise" in the radio spectrum used gets to be higher, the towers have to increase power to try to overcome the noise. You can see how that doesn't work. Eventually the noise keeps climbing and the power consumption at the tower (and presumably on the iPhone as well) goes through the roof.
More towers would increase capacity, reduce power requirements and resulting noise, and generally improve coverage. But that's not something that can be changed overnight.
All of this helps explain why my ability to make calls, connect to the 3G data network and download at high speeds was much better where the network is only lightly used.
The Daily Tech site has a detailed report (and some intelligent reader comments) that describes the cell-site power issues, the problems related to the older iPhone 3G software, and other items. Go to the Daily Tech site to get all the details. Here is a portion of the information, including some text quoted from Roughly Drafted Magazine, whose author was able to get some new details from a source inside AT&T's wireless business describing the power issues and what the iPhone's v2.0.2 software update changes:
Basically the update "fixed power control on the mobile" according to the source. To understand what they're going to say next, you must first know a bit about AT&T's jargon for UMTS -- the technology it uses to deliver its 3G network. In the technology, phones are referred to as user equipment, "UE" for short. The base transceiver station towers are known as "Node B".
With this jargon in mind, the AT&T source explains:
"In UMTS power control is key to the mobile and network success. If the UE requires too much downlink power then the base station or Node B can run out of transmitter power and this is what was happening. As you get more UEs on the cell, the noise floor rises and the cell has to compensate by ramping up its power to the UEs. If the UE power control algorithm is faulty then they will demand more power from the cell than is necessary and with multiple users this can cause the cell transmitter to run out of power. The net result is that some UEs will drop their call. I have seen the dropped call graphs that correspond to the iPhone launch and when the 2.0.2 firmware was released. The increase in dropped calls, (were the result of) dropped calls due to a lack of downlink power."In essence, the iPhone is asking for a stronger signal than it needs. In areas with lots of users, some or all of whose phones are doing this, calls start to get dropped and signal quality drops. This all follows with the conclusions the media had reached -- the problems were somehow correlated to user distribution and seemed puzzlingly to be both with AT&T's network, and with the hardware.
The source continues:
"The power control issue will also have an effect on the data throughput, because the higher the data rate the more power the Node B transmitter requires to transmit. If the UEs have poor power control and are taking more power than is necessary then it will sap the network’s ability to deliver high speed data. This is one of the reasons why AT&T has been sending text messages to users to persuade them to upgrade to the 2.0.2 software. In a mixed environment where users are running 2.0, 2.0.1, and 2.0.2, the power control problems of 2.0 and 2.0.1 will affect the 2.0.2 users. It is not the network that is fault but the interaction of the bad power control algorithm in 2.0 and 2.0.1 software and the network that is at fault. The sooner everybody is running 2.0.2 software the better things will be. Having seen the graphs the 2.0.2 software has already started to make difference."Since transmitting lots of data takes lots of transmission power, and transmission power was unnecessarily being raised above that necessary for the use levels on phones, the network in areas of heavy use was unable to handle high speed data.
Monday, 25 August 2008
A couple of small, independent evaluations of the iPhone 3G's performance, which has been much maligned by many of it's customers (including me from time to time), have been published in the past day or so. The results are interesting to consider, especially side-by-side.
In the first test, Swedish tech site GP took their iPhone 3G to a super-fancy antenna test chamber
at a company called Bluetest, where they ran the iPhone through the highly technical paces along with a few other 3G phones for comparison purposes. Results are available on the GP site.
In the second test, Wired asked readers to participate in testing from the field
, where they gathered and submitted speed and other connectivity data with their own phones. Wired then analyzed, mapped and posted the results as well as the test data in complete raw format at their site.
In the end, what did the tests yield? Well, you should read them for yourself and draw your own conclusions, of course. But in a nutshell, here's my take on what they found:
- GP's antenna test found that the iPhone 3G's antenna performs as well as any of the other 3G phones tested.
- The Wired real-world network test found that the networks are often woefully underperforming, and that while speeds are typically faster than EDGE, the ability to connect to a 3G tower might be problematic at best.
So, does this mean Apple-provided software fixes may not be able to solve the iPhone's 3G woes? It seems that in the case of network performance where the number of "bars" showing on 3G is at the bottom of the scale yet a EDGE network has a strong signal, trading off could be done better by the phone. But what really needs to happen to solve the big-picture problem is better 3G coverage. My experience in several cities has been that 3G coverage is poor in many cases, and inconsistent at best. In fact, if the AT&T EDGE/2.5G network was not available as a fall-back (or maybe "call-back" is a better term, given the dropped call rate), AT&T would never be able to sell their service. The effective 3G network coverage just isn't good enough to stand on its own. And poor coverage combined with all those handoffs and network drops just mean more and more battery power being applied by the device to keep re-establishing it's 3G connectivity.
However, any software fixes for lockups, freezing and app crashes will require Apple taking action. One thing I've wondered lately: Are device/software hangs and crashes causing or somehow related to network connectivity issues? Could one be causing the other, at least part of the time? I have noticed locking/hanging in several apps while the iPhone tries to connect to the AT&T network (as evidenced by the simultaneous flurry of AT&T radio-speaker-dance noise that we've all become familiar with over the past several years).
Wednesday, 20 August 2008
I like to listen to my Pandora "stations" in the background while working on my laptop. I get frustrated when I accidentally close the web browser (often its in a hidden tab) or, even worse, click on a link soewhere and Safari, in all it's awesomeness and wisdomness, re-uses the window and kills the audio feed.
In hopes of finding a better way, I started searching for a Pandora widget for the Mac Dashboard (the layover-page that you can put any of a number of downloadable mini-apps on). Unfortunately, I didn't find anything. (Update - turns out there is a widget out there, but it's a memory hog and apparently has a few issues). So, rather than looking for someone else to do the work for me, I started to actually think about a solution I could build on my own.
After about 10 minutes, I remembered the nifty capability in Safari to define a "snipped" portion of a web page and make it a Widget on the OSX Dashboard. You use the little scissors icon in Safari to accomplish this. I started thinking about the Dashboard and how it works, and wondered if there was any way to have Pandora play in the background using a system (the Dashboard, that is) that appears to reload each app every time I launch it.
What the heck, worth a shot, right? Well, I found I could create a web-clip of Pandora's music player that would play my music. No big surprise there. Click on the image to see the widget full-size.
But when I exited the dashboard to go do some actual work, the music would quit.
I got curious though. Maybe someone had thought about the fact that web pages constantly change and play music and whatever else. I did the obvious: I clicked on the little (i) button in the lower right corner of the widget and it took me to the page where I can choose to make the widget look like it's torn from a piece of paper, or whatever. And, lo and behold, right there in the lower left, is a box that makes it appear you can uncheck it and make the audio play in the background, even when dashboard is not active. I've highlighted that box below.
Would it work? I unchecked the box, exited Dashboard, and the music kept on playing in the background. Problem solved! It turns out the default setting is to play web page audio only when Dashboard is active, so you have to toggle the setting to get what you want.
Any other ways to do this? My method works great, but I wonder if someone else came up with a different solution?
Monday, 18 August 2008
Boy Genius says iPhone software v2.0.2 is on it's way out the door this afternoon. In fact, I just checked in iTunes, and there it is.
All 248.7MB of it. The description in the iTunes UI says it contains bug fixes, and that's it. Here's hoping the performance and stability issues - especially related to 3G network performance and switching - are what they fixed in this release. I almost returned my phone the other day out of sheer frustration, and that's saying a lot, really.
Update: After a couple hours of on/off use, apps are notably more stable/snappier (at first I wondered if it was just my imagination, or a fresh restart effect - time will tell), and network performance is better. Where a 3G network with poor or broken signal would be selected before, now a strong EDGE network is selected by the phone. Apps don't seem to hang in places where they reliably (or maybe the better term would be "predictably") hung before the update. For example, the volume controls in almost every app used to not respond for periods of time. Now they work every time. Much less frustrating. There are no real changes in terms of ourward appearance and functionality.
Tuesday, 12 August 2008
There are a lot of so-so iPhone apps out there, fun to use once or twice but not killer applications that you simply must have. DataCase
is a candidate for that latter classification. (Available via the app store
for iPhone and iPod Touch, $6.99)
The DataCase app allows you to copy files from your PC or Mac to the iPhone via the wireless network using a drag-and-drop method. Once on the iPhone you can view and use the files in mobile mode. There's support for MS Office formats, PDF, text, common images, HTML, plus any audio and video the iPhone OS would normally support.
It's pretty slick. I'm playing with it now and can see the real benefits of having a variety of key files, documents, etc. available on the mobile device any time I need them. One problem common to all iPhone apps is the fact that it has to be running in the foreground in order to access the app remotely - no background execution. Good thing I bought this 16GB iPhone eh?
Links: Veiosoft web site
and a review at TUAW
Friday, 01 August 2008
You should listen to your online friends. They often have great ideas, like in this case. I was recently turned onto a simple but effective
alternative to bulky plastic cases and leather holsters for my new iPhone 3G. It's called the invisible SHIELD
. The product, simply put, is
pretty darned terrific. You hardly know it's there, and it protects
like crazy. You can also get invisibleSHIELD for the iPhone
Now, let me tell you right up front that when it comes time to "install" the shield on your phone, you'll need a clean work surface, a little patience, 12 to 24 hours to let your shield "cure" on the phone,
and the ability to read and follow some simple instructions. If you make sure you have those few key things taken care of, all will go well.
In the video below I show and abuse my iPhone 3G (the only one I own...) with an Invisible Shield installed. In the video you can see that there are a couple scratches under
the shield. Those came from a combination of iPhone and the keys in my pocket (before I ordered the invisibleSHIELD
. In fact it was those exact scratches, which I got the first day I had the phone, that prompted me to find a real, working anti-scratching solution.
I can highly recommend the Invisible Shield.
Full disclosure: Zagg (the manufacturer of the invisibleSHIELD
) doesn't know I am doing this review. I found their product all on my own based on a real need, and clicking on the advertisement below takes you to my link on their product site - If you buy something there I'll get a small chunk of the change you spend. If you don't like that idea, no problem - just go to zagg.com and click through to the iPhone 3G page (or whatever product you want to cover and protect - For me, my MacBook Air is next).
Wednesday, 23 July 2008
First, a big congrats to the guys at jkOnTheRun for their acquisition by GigaOm and their continued full-time blogging careers. Great people, and a great deal.
Kevin at jkOnTheRun posted a preview article the other day that I somehow missed until now, describing the Microsoft Live Mesh client for the Mac. It's not available yet, but Kevin was able to try it out. Previously he'd reviewed the mobile client for Live Mesh.
I've been using Live Mesh for a few months now in a limited fashion because only one of my computers at home will work (meaning only one runs a Windows desktop OS). My other machines are a Home Server and Mac, and my mobile decide is an iPhone. But I like what I have seen in the Mesh system, including the UI. So, I am looking forward to the release of a Mac client.
Check out Kevin's preview of the pre-release Mac app here.
Wednesday, 16 July 2008
On TechCrunch IT, in a post called "The New Apple Walled Garden," author Nik Cubrilovic makes a good point...
TechCrunchIT » The New Apple Walled Garden
Geeks and enthusiasts wearing Wordpress t-shirts, using laptops covered in Data Portability, Microformats and RSS stickers lined up enthusiastically on Friday to purchase a device that is completely proprietary, controlled and wrapped in DRM. The irony was lost on some as they ran home, docked their new devices into a proprietary media player and downloaded closed source applications wrapped in DRM.
I am referring to the new iPhone - and the new Apple iPhone SDK that allows developers to build ‘native’ applications. The announcement was greeted with a web-wide standing ovation, especially from the developer community. The same community who demand all from Microsoft, feel gifted and special when Apple give them an inch of rope. When Microsoft introduced DRM into Media Player it was bad bad bad - and it wasn’t even mandatory, it simply allowed content owners a way to distribute and sell content from anywhere.
How can people who preach and pontificate open systems be so enamored with a completely closed, proprietary system as Apple's? Now, don't get me wrong. I was in line at an Apple store last week with all the people Nik talks about in his article. I really like the iPhone and I think my Mac is great, hardware-wise (okay, the OS is not too bad either). But there's something that's always lurking there in the back of my mind, like a pestering little voice that doesn't want me to give in or forget lessons of the past. "A closed system is a system doomed to fail," the voice tells me. Either that, or it is so limiting as to stifle. Or both. Maybe I need to get my medication checked. On the other hand, maybe the voice is right. Or both.
Risking cliche cynicism, I think one has to consider whether The Church of The Steve congregation is further developing (or devolving, if you prefer) in its adoration, at the expense of long-term good. Blind faith, crazed unthinking people saying one thing yet doing another, the how-dare-you-question mentality... Sounds familiar. And that's coming from an Episcopalian. An imperfect, sometimes-questioning, sometimes-doubting, cynical one -- But you get the point. I hope.
Perhaps the scariest part of my thought process today is that I actually agree completely with Dave Winer on this one. He nails it right on the head. Okay, there are times when I agree with Dave, but until now I've never really admitted it in public. :)
What do you think about Apple's model? Fanboy? Concerned? Who cares? End of the world as we know it? Utopia? Told-ya-so?
Tuesday, 15 July 2008
Gizmodo has a good article highlighting the analysis of the iPhone 3G's battery life (some loose methodology, and some only slightly more formal) by nine industry pundit sources. All I can add to the info is that it's good to burn the batteries in for a week with full charges and discharges (even in the modern battery world) before one can really experience accurate results (batteries tend to need a couple good cycles to provide optimum output).
The general consensus? No 3G phone on the market has great battery life, but in the grand scheme of suckiness, the iPhone 3G's battery life suck the least. Forgive the terminology, please. Just trying to make a point. :)
"One takeaway seems to be that as far as straight-up 3G talk time goes, the iPhone 3G is near the top of the range—Wirelessinfo and PC World both found it to be among the best 3G handsets they've tested for voice talk time. For mixed use and browsing numbers, the range is pretty wide, since the variables at play are nearly infinite."
Monday, 14 July 2008
Wow. The numbers are really huge. Apple has released figures for it's "opening weekend" box office smash, the iPhone 3G. One million units sold in the first three days. It took 74 days to sell that many of the original iPhone last year.
No wonder activation in the stores was so sluggish (or at times just broken). Big uptake in the USA, plus 20 other countries on opening weekend.
A quick note about analyst reports that preceded Apple's announcement. "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." For the record, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said Monday that Apple was not going to meet even the half-million sales mark expectation set by the marketplace for the opening weekend. Boy, was he ever wrong.
In addition to the huge iPhone sales, Apple also announced that more than 10 million apps were downloaded from the iTunes App Store in the same time period. I wonder how many of those were paid for, how many were free, and what kind of revenue for Apple and authors we're talking about.
Very. Smart. Company. Not perfect, but that don't need to be. They take chances. Big ones. Laser-focused, too, and always successfully defining ahead of time what is "right" and then delivering (which, by the way, is much easier to do than letting someone else define "right" and then trying to meet those expectations).
Saturday, 12 July 2008
This morning I signed up for a hosted Exchange Server 2007 account with the 4iphone.net service provided by 4smartphone.net, an early provider of push-iPhone service using the ActiveSync capabilities of Exchange. I'm up and running with my new iPhone on their Exchange server now with my own domain name, and I can tell you already I am just a couple steps away from migrating my email from Google Apps to 4smartphone.net.
To put it simply, Exchange Server 2007 rocks, and so does the new iPhone and its updated software. But when you put them together, you get the ol' 2+2=5 effect. The greater value of each piece of technology is truly realized when used in concert.
Note, too, that hosted Exchange customers get a free copy of Outlook 2007 (for the PC) or Entourage 2008 (for the Mac). There's no need to buy a copy. The client license is part of the hosted Exchange license. That alone is a substantial value.
Setup was fairly straightforward, although some of the configuration instructions were a little vague and complicated to decipher at first (see below). But as of now I'm receiving and able to send email on both my Google apps and Exchange mail servers - with no changes to my DNS settings required. So, it's super-easy to evaluate and try-out the Exchange hosting. Add the 15-day free trial (they'll reimburse if you decide not to keep the service running), and it's a zero-risk evaluation.
Note that when you set up the account at 4smartphone.net, you will initially be logged into their Account Manager, which is where you configure your domain(s) and users/mailboxes. In this interface, the information provided to set up your ActiveSync users is a little vague (specifically, the format of the user name is not intuitive). You can, however, find the complete details of what you need to configure your account when you log into their "Mailbox Manager" web app. In that interface, you'll navigate to Setup > ActiveSync > Instructions and there find exactly what you need.
Delivery with push technology on exchange reminds me of my Blackberry days - within seconds of arriving on the server, email hits the mobile device. Since I got my first iPhone I've always felt a little sluggish when it comes to receiving email. No more: The first time email arrived in Entourage on my Mac and on the iPhone at the same time - practically instantly - I realized what I've been missing.
Combined with the usability and terrific functionality of the 3G network and iPhone 2.0 software and it's just a little too much to describe. It just works, it works well, and it is usable to the point of not having to think about it -- the ultimate test for a usability engineer.
After setting up the email flow and making sure it all works, I used Entourage to copy all my contacts and calendar items to the Exchange server, then enabled syncing of that information from Exchange to the iPhone.
I'll post more after I've had a little more hands-on experience, but so far so great. Highly recommended, and with 4smartphone.net and companies like them, Exchange is available instantly to individuals and small groups or businesses, not just big companies.
Friday, 11 July 2008
I'm officially the proud and happy owner of a white 16GB iPhone 3G. I'm about to head out to the store to take care of all the other stuff I need to get done today, so I will have a chance to check out the GPS and 3G network stuff shortly.
I arrived at about 7am at the Apple Store at the Flat Iron Crossing mall in Broomfield, Colorado. About 150 people were already there by the time I arrived, and the numbers just kept on adding up as the morning wore on.
There were a lot of first-time-iPhone-purchasers as well as upgraders in line. I figured it was about a 50-50 mix. The Apple store staff said they had lots of iPhones in stock. At 8am, an army of crazed, screaming Apple Store employees came running from the parking lot where they'd staged themselves, past the crowded line and into the store, trying for high-fives along the way. It was the most excited group of retail workers I've ever seen, to be certain.
The iPhone-stock situation at the Apple stores, however, contrasted drastically with what we were hearing on Twitter about the people in line at the AT&T stores, where stock on hand seemed to be very limited and lines were also long. Word was each AT&T store had about 60 phones or so. Not so at Apple stores, where managers said they had enough to cover the crowds.
Almost as soon as 8am rolled around things went south. The first of the line moved into the store and shortly after is when things stopped. Rumors started to trickle out that the activation system was failing. The situation improved somewhat, until an hour later when the system again failed (likely as a result of the west cost stores opening). The store manager came out to address the crowd and explained the situation (quite effectively, I might add - Apple has a great crew at the store I visited), telling us what was happening with surprising transparency and apologizing for the delay. He thanked us for waiting and our "dedication," and came back out to give updates. At about 10am local time, the situation improved substantially and people started getting their phones in a more-timely manner.
As it turned out, we were not leaving the store with fully activated iPhones as expected. In fact, I got mine at 10:55 a.m., but when I walked out of the store it was still sealed in the plastic-wrapped box. Apparently Apple decided to ditch the in-store iTunes activation dance and instead started sending people home to activate their new devices on iTunes themselves. Good call. In the store they took my information and changed my service over with AT&T, which went smoothly (go figure - AT&T's money grab was slick as snot, heh). My old iPhone went out-of-service with AT&T about 20 minutes later and I so was without a phone until I could get back home to activate the new one.
There were around 200 people in line when I left. Good thing the process was moving faster.
At home, I was able to activate my new phone in less than 30 minutes. It took a while for iTunes to make its initial connection, but once that happened it was a quick and painless process. No bricked phone or anything, and after restoring my backup from the old iPhone I was all set.
Bonus info: I got an email from Telenav this morning explaining they're working now on an iPhone version of their GPS mapping software - Quite excellent! That mean we'll soon have high-quality, turn-by-turn GPS navigation on the iPhone before too long! No delivery dates or other promises (of course), but the app is in the development process. Details are at Gizmodo, and the Telenav blog is a good place to keep your eyes open for future information.
Thursday, 10 July 2008
I arrived in Colorado this afternoon, plugged in my iPhone, backed it up, installed iTunes 7.7 and grabbed the iPhone v2.0 software from Apple's servers (it's out there, although iTunes is not yet advertising it here). I found the Apps listings in iTunes and decided it was about time to upgrade. So, I hooked up the iPhone and promptly fell asleep on the couch while it did it's thing upgrading.
I woke up to the sound of "bliiihdeep!" from the phone and a little "thunk" as it slid on the countertop from where I had it propped up against my Macbook Air (strategically placed so a vibration would make it move, hence alerting me to activity during the lengthy upgrade process). I went to the phone, restored the backup from iTunes, and BAM! There I was, iPhone 2.0 software ready to go.
Once I jumped onto the wireless network at the house, I launched the app store and started looking at programs. The first one I tried was Twitterific. It's pretty okay, but all else being equal I wish I still had Twinkle on there as an app. I'm sure it will be available soon enough.
I installed Google's search app (very cool), the Paypal app (kinda cool, very spartan), and the Weatherbug ap (because those guys rock and their screenshot actually looked interesting - and it's a great little app). Last, I found the Pandora app.
Now, I have written about Pandora here before, long long ago. It's just as amazing a service today as it was then. Simply put, you start pff by providing an artist or two or three that you like and Pandora starts playing music of a similar nature that it "thinks" you'll like. You can vote individual songs/pieces up or down and it refines its recommendations. And Pandora's app on the iPhone let me log into my Pandora account instantly, within seconds, and literally ten seconds later it was streaming my music channels to me over the air.
Incredibly usable, simple, effective. Pure usability bliss.
I showed it to my mom. She instantly lit up and said, I quote: "Wow!" The thing about Pandora is I can explain it to anyone in about 20 seconds and they always "get it." They've done something - perhaps everything - right.
That made me think. My mom just found out she will have to be spending some substantial time in the hospital soon. When I showed her the Pandora application, after she showed her sense of amazement, she got pained look on her face and asked me if I would show her how to transfer files to her (crappy) MP3 player. The device is next to unusable. Even I have a hard time getting it to work. There's nothing good about it. So, tomorrow when I am out picking up a new iPhone 3G, I'm going to grab an iPod touch for my mom. And then ship my old iPhone to my friend Chris (whose shipping address I need in order to do that BTW, hint-hint).
My wish list for more apps? I was pretty disappointed to not find a blog authoring application, something similar to Windows Live Writer but trimmed down and made for the iPhone. Maybe I just need to learn how to program this stuff, but that's a scary thought. Someone better than me must be working on a blogging app. There's a good one available in the app store for TextPad, but that doesn't really help me since I don't use that platform for my blog.
So, iPhone software v2.0 has convinced me to but an iPod Touch for my mom. Once again, the ball's been hit out of the park.
Wednesday, 02 July 2008
Google Talk is now available on the iPhone in the Safari browser. At the Google Mobile blog, the details are laid out. If you use Google Apps for your domain and have the Talk app activated there, word is you can access it, too using this URL syntax:
"We've just released in the US a new version of Google Talk designed specifically for the iPhone and iPod Touch browsers. In addition to sending your friends Gmail messages from your iPhone, you can now chat with them while you're on the move, too! In your iPhone browser, just go to www.google.com/talk, sign in and start chatting. That's it. Google Talk runs entirely in the browser so there's no need to download or install anything."
Announcement: Official Google Mobile Blog: Google Talk for the iPhone
AT&T has released a set of informative videos (all of which appear below) with details about when, where and how to buy the iPhone 3G. Prepare to qualify!
There are three videos. The first one is for people who are not existing AT&T customers:
Next, information for people who are already customers of AT&T (including iPhone owners and non-iPhone customers):
Finally, if you want to give your first-generation iPhone to
your old friend Chris
someone you know, here are those details:
In addition, a press release outlining all the details for various types of purchasers describes the in's and out's of contracts, upgrades and whatnot:
AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) today announced iPhone 3G pricing for new and existing AT&T customers, several attractive voice and data plans, and tips on how to be “iReady” when iPhone 3G goes on sale at AT&T retail stores at 8 a.m. local time on Friday, July 11.
“We can’t wait to offer iPhone 3G to our customers, and we want to make sure the buying process is as easy as possible,” said Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of AT&T’s wireless unit. “Considering all the great new features of iPhone 3G, we think our pricing and monthly plans present a tremendous value for consumers and businesses alike.”
Pricing and Eligibility
AT&T is making it easy for customers to prepare for their iPhone 3G purchase by posting “Get iReady” tips and frequently asked questions at www.att.com/iphone. The site also will include a link for customers to check their upgrade eligibility and other wireless account information.
iPhone 3G will be available for $199 for the 8GB model and $299 for the 16GB model. These prices require two-year contracts and are available to the following customers:
Existing AT&T customers who are not currently eligible for an upgrade discount can purchase iPhone 3G for $399 for the 8GB model or $499 for the 16GB model. Both options require a new two-year service agreement. In the future, AT&T will offer a no-contract-required option for $599 (8GB) or $699 (16GB).
- iPhone customers who purchased before July 11
- Customers activating a new line with AT&T
- Current AT&T customers who are eligible, at the time of purchase, for an upgrade discount
Current customers may also choose to wait until they become eligible for an upgrade discount. Eligibility is generally determined by amount of time remaining on a current contract and payment history.
Current AT&T customers who are upgrading to iPhone 3G will pay an $18 upgrade fee and new AT&T customers will pay the standard $36 activation fee.
Voice, Data and Text Messaging Plans
AT&T brings iPhone 3G customers the best coverage on the globe and the largest mobile-to-mobile calling community with unlimited calling to AT&T’s 71.4 million wireless customers. iPhone 3G customers can choose from four individual AT&T Nation plans, which bundle voice and unlimited data (e-mail and Web browsing).
All AT&T Nation and AT&T FamilyTalk® plans for iPhone 3G include nationwide long distance and roaming, Visual Voicemail, Rollover®, unlimited Mobile to Mobile calling, Call Forwarding, Call Waiting, Three-Way Calling and Caller ID.
- AT&T NationSM Unlimited: Includes unlimited Anytime Minutes for $129.99 a month.
- AT&T Nation 1350: Includes 1350 Anytime Minutes and unlimited Night & Weekend Minutes for $109.99 a month.
- AT&T Nation 900: Includes 900 Anytime Minutes and unlimited Night & Weekend Minutes for $89.99 a month.
- AT&T Nation 450: Includes 450 Anytime Minutes and 5,000 Night & Weekend Minutes for $69.99 a month.
AT&T will offer FamilyTalk plans, with bundled voice and unlimited data, starting as low as $129.99 a month for two iPhone 3G lines. Up to three additional iPhone lines can be added for $39.99 each.
Unlimited text messaging can be added for an additional $20 ($30 for FamilyTalk plans of up to five lines); $15 (1,500 messages), or $5 (200 messages).
iPhone for Business
Business customers interested in iPhone 3G should contact an AT&T business sales representative or review their account information online to determine their eligibility for upgrade pricing. Corporate e-mail and other business applications require the Enterprise Data Plan for iPhone, which is $45 a month and bundled with an eligible voice plan. Small business customers may qualify for AT&T BusinessTalk, the industry’s only shared plan specifically for small businesses. Additional details on iPhone business offerings are available at www.att.com/iphoneforbusiness.
iPhone 2.0 Software
All iPhone customers will benefit from the iPhone 2.0 software, which will be pre-loaded on all iPhone 3Gs and available as a free download for current iPhone customers. The new software will include numerous enhancements, such as business-class e-mail access via Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync; the iPhone Software Development Kit (SDK), which allows a business to easily create applications customized to its needs; and the App Store, which offers a wide-range of applications — from games to business, education to entertainment and productivity to social networking. For example, AT&T has developed YELLOWPAGES.COM Mobile for iPhone, which takes local mobile search to a new level by allowing users to discover businesses and local events based on their popularity among other iPhone users, get directions and access business reviews.
So - The real question is this: Who plans to get in line early? :)
Monday, 30 June 2008
I've really missed Windows Live Writer since I starting using my Macbook Air so much. Even though I have it in a Fusion virtual machine running Windows, I find I rarely use it since it uses the VM's filesystem (not the Mac's), and copying stuff onto the Mac clipoard and then pasting into a Windows virtualized app is not what one might wish.
I was pleasantly surprised to run across a Mac app called Blogo, which I am using to write this post. It's nowhere near as feature-rich as Live Writer, but Blogo is a great start on a WYSIWYG editor with many of the bells and whistles. I pointed it at my blog home page during setup, with very little hope it would auto-discover my blog settings, but I was pleasantly surprised. Up popped a dialog asking for my username ad password, and once I provided it, there on the screen was my list of blog posts pulled straight from the server's API (which I seem to recall emulates the Blogger API). Very nice.
Blogo has a funny icon logo, is available as a free 21-day trial, and after that it's $25. There are a few key features missing that might make me pause when it comes to shelling out the cash. Specifically there is no spell checking (I'd like to see red underlines and inline corrections with the right-click action), selecting text and trying to drag it around doesn't work, the image editor is fairly limited, and it doesn't seem to pull my list of existing categories. Plus you cannot edit the HTML it creates (yet) and pasting multimedia content inline doesn't seem to work well. But as I said, it's a great start. If you have a Mac and you're frustrated with other blogging apps, you should check it out.
It's the best WYSIWG mac client I've found so far, so it earns a spot on my Mac's Dock. I will be keeping up with this editor's progress with high hopes, and am encouraged there may yet me a Mac blogging client to rival WLW.
We can hope!
Tuesday, 24 June 2008
I've traveled to Europe with my iPhone before, and despite activating an international data plan I ended up spending a bit more than I wanted to (by about $100). But Raven Zachary came back home to a $800+ bill, and there are many tales of others having even worse experiences.Raven wrote a blog article offering some tips
to keep your costs down, all of which are good. So, if you are traveling out of the USA with your AT&T iPhone (and yes, that DOES include to Canada or Mexico, so do your homework), check out what he wrote.
As of today, there is no "unlimited" international data plan available. It can get very expensive to deal with email attachments and use the maps program, or even just to check email the same way you do back home (meaning automatically every n
minutes). With the 3G network coming on the new iPhone and the associated roaming costs for high-speed
access projected to be higher, this all becomes even more important.
Until AT&T makes it a little easier to be their customers, and simplifies things for those of use paying them big bucks for service, you'll need to order specific international services
and configure your iPhone in certain ways
to make sure you don't get nailed and you'll have to search the 'net to find sources to read about the problems and related solutions. I feel sorry for people who get completely blindsided (and there are a lot of those people out there). So much for seamless, don't-have-to-think-about-it use, eh?
Thursday, 05 June 2008
A reporter from Forbes Magazine, Brian Caulfield, has been sneaking around a bit
, asking questions, and taking pictures from various public-domain locations where he thinks Apple's next-gen iPhone (or APple Tablet, or next-gen iMac, or all of the above) are being dispatched from.
Tons of boxes overflowing a large warehouse, courier service trucks in drives coming and going, no-label boxes and warehouse workers being cagey but saying basically nothing. But when you start to stack up so much circumstantial evidence it's pretty convincing. If nothing else, it generates great hype and gets people like me to pay attention and write about it. Marketing madness.
What I really
want to know: Where and when to line up as an existing AT&T customer who wants to upgrade, and how much cash to bring with me. I'm guessing/surmising the answer is sometime in the next week and a half, and $200 (plus a pen to sign a contract extension).
Friday, 23 May 2008
The Import Genius blog has a new article
describing their examination of shipping manifests for Apple Computer, and they have found an unusual and very large set of shipments over the past couple of months that they suggest is imports of the heavily-rumored next version of the iPhone. I geek out over this stuff, simply because I really like my iPhone and I'm looking forward to the next version and the capabilities we all assume it will have.
According to the Import Genius people,
Since mid-March, Apple Inc. and its logistics partners have imported
188 ocean containers of a product type never before declared on its
With iPhones currently out of stock at many Apple stores,
including its flagship outlets in New York City, rumors abound that the
company is winnowing stocks in preparation for a new 3G version of the
Well, we shall see. And hope. Lots more details and evidence are available in the ImportGenius.com blog entry
Other interesting iPhone tid-bits:
Tuesday, 20 May 2008
Thursday, 15 May 2008
I've spent the past couple days, off and on, editing a manuscript on my Mac using the Pages application that is part of iWork '08. I've been editing a Word .doc file, which pages can open and deal with. Sort of. In the end, the way Pages handles Word docs... FAIL.
Formatting issues have resulted in a badly-hacked mess of a document that probably barely passes for acceptable when I return it with edits. I feel pretty terrible for the recipient.
So, frustratingly it's time to buy a copy of Mac Office '08. I was afraid it would come to this, and I guess I'm not really surprised at all. It was wroth a try, and I get Keynote so that's cool (as long as I don't have to use it for PowerPoint files that is).
Meanwhile, time to go up in the office and grab that Windows laptop with Office 2007 and get back to work...
Wednesday, 14 May 2008
I'm going to have to try this one next week when I fly...
Apparently Gerald Buckley was able to successfully scan his boarding pass bar code, which was displayed on his iPhone screen as a PDF image. I have to assume the scanner was most likely an image-scanning type since a laser scanner like you see in many places probably wouldn't "see" the barcode. Although, I have noticed in bright sunlight that the iPhone screen almost looks like the text is printed on the surface right under the glass, almost like it could have a shadow. But regardless, it's pretty cool.
Buckley describes his experience on his blog
Those of us with a "jailbroken" iPhone can take advantage of a new beta software release from Intelliborn
called "IntelliScreen." Intelliborne is the same company that brought us Vonagent, which is another app I have on my iPhone for voicemail integration.
The app allows you to have a single, quick view from the standby screen of news, email, your text messages, the weather forecast, your calendar - lots of great info, all on one screen and scrollable.
Each of the sections are finger-scrollable and the screen show up whenever the iPhone is locked. The configuration app lets you specify basically everything you'd want (with the apparent exception of specifying your own news feeds - you have to choose from feeds at Yahoo, CNN, Reuters, Fox, etc.).
Rumor and real-world activity happening right now sure looks like a new, 3G iPhone is just around the corner, and with that should come the new apps store sanctioned by Apple. But until them Jailbreaking your phone (which is a relatively harmless software change) is the only way to get this app. In the Installer application on the phone, go to the Sources list, then click the Edit button, then the Add button. You'll need to add this as a new app source:
If the Intaller refreah seems slow to finish or respond, just be patient.
- View Calendar, Email, Text Messages, News, Sports, and Weather from your iPhone "Slide To Unlock" screen
- Smooth scrolling across each item to quickly glimpse at your data
- Auto-Checks Email when you view the unlock screen - no need to "Refresh" from Mail.app or wait 15 minutes
- Go directly to the application of your choice with a "Swipe"
- Precise International Weather (by Zip) provided by Weather Underground.com
- News Feeds include Yahoo!, CNN, Fox News, and Reuters (more coming soon!)
- ESPN Sports Feeds include MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, NCAA Men's Football and NCAA Women's Basketball
- Customizing your IntelliScreen is easy! Choose which content you want to view and where
- Mail and Text Messages can be shown only if new items are available
More info at http://www.intelliborn.com/
Thursday, 24 April 2008
Last week I wrote about an issue in VMWare Fusion on my MacBook Air. Well, looks like VMWare has released an update in v1.1.2
with enhanced MacBook Air and Time Machine support.
VMware Fusion 1.1.2 addresses two MacBook Air-related problems. Previously, MacBook Air users would encounter a crash if a virtual CD/DVD drive was connected to the virtual machine but a CD/DVD drive was not connected to the MacBook Air. This update fixes this issue. Also, this latest VMware Fusion update adds the ability to burn CD/DVDs with the MacBook Air’s USB Superdrive.
The new release also includes compatibility with Time Machine, Chinese localization, and a slew of other fixes for USB devices and other stuff. I have been using Fusion quite a bit lately to run multiple VMs on OS-X at the same time (namely a Linux custom machine and Windows Server 2003). The multiprocessor support is really nice and running Windows apps in Unity mode on the Mac desktop is still pretty amazing to me.
Sunday, 13 April 2008
I downloaded a new iPhone native app this morning called Twinkle, which is a terrific Twitter client with integration to the iPhone's camera and the radio geolocation abilities. Even without those two enhancements, Twinkle would be - by a long shot - the best option for the iPhone when it comes to Twitter. To get Twinkle, you need to install it via the Installer.app program for jail-broken iPhones (see below for some more info).
Twinkle automatically figures out (approximately) where you are using Erica Sadun's FindMe utility, and uses that to label your Twitter posts with your location - very cool. It also allows you to cclick on a "near me" button to find posts from people located - you guessed it - near you. You can fine tune the distance and it's a nifty addition to Twitter.
A few observations:
- Twinkle is a very fast app - which is welcome since web-based options tend to be very slow, to the point of painful. This app, however, races.
- The UI design and usability to pretty darned terrific. It's quite well though-through.
- I wish I could follow people from within Twinkle. That's one feature that's missing. I hear it's coming soon though.
- Looks like I cannot click on URLs in tweets - that's certainly a missing feature (also coming soon).
- Need links to pics that are posted in the tweet - Can't see a reference to the image in the web Twitter interface if I include a pic.
- The app has has crashed on me a number of times while it's trying to do the geolocation, not sure if my fringe-area location has anything to do with that or not.
Of course, the app creator has a Twitter account, and you can see how popular it's becoming when you look at tweets that refer to Twinkle on TweetScan.
A few iPhone screen-grabs to show it off (click each one to view full-size):
View of my followed peeps' tweets
You wouldn't normally see this too often. My
fringe coverage area means I'm hard-to-locate.
Viewing an individual tweet, with ability to
reply, direct message, or go to the tweeter's
individual profile/post page.
Replying to myself. Yeah, that's a little weird.
What you see when you view an individual
Ah screen-door effect. Taking a picture
to attach to a tweet.
Note the paperclip showing a picture is
attached. Also, the character count actually
works and is accurate, which is a weakness
of many twitter clients.
Clicking on the paperclip allows you to
view the attached image - a nice friendly
addition. You can also remove the image
from here, if you change your mind or
want to shoot a new one.
Note: In order to use Twinkle today, you have to "jailbreak" your iPhone, a modification that allows third-party applications to be installed on the device. In the future, you will hopefully be able to download Twinkle from the Apple app catalog (once it's made available). But not today. An obligatory word of warning... If you do the jailbreak process, Apple won't provide support on your phone in the event you need it (unless you restore the phone to non-jailbroken status of course). The ZiPhone jailbreak app is slick and simple - you can just download for Windows or Mac, plug in your iPhone, click a few times, wait a few seconds and you're done. Google it if you want, you'll find it.
Sunday, 06 April 2008
Count me in as one of the people who will line up to get a 3G iPhone - whenever it comes out. It looks as if the community has determined via tear-down methodology that the chipset inside the current iPhone is not 3G capable, so a software upgrade doesn't seem likely (something I had hoped might be possible based on early information, but ah, oh well...).
The most recent oh-by-the-way rumor/news about a 3G iPhone comes via Walt Mossberg, who says it will available in 60 days. And Walt is certainly a person to be in-the-know. In the video where he made the side comment also discusses the current state of "broadband" around the world and talks about where technology bottlenecks are preventing future growth and areas where consumers are not yet satisfied. It's a good clip to watch.
The 3G iPhone part is about 6:50 into the video.
Add to Mossberg's comment the recent orders of 3G chipsets and related ramp-down of 2G production at the company Apple sources their equipment from, plus side comments by other industry execs and some good Apple-style business common sense thinking, and it all really does start to add up.
Looks like it's time to start tossing that loose change in the ol' jar again each day.
Saturday, 05 April 2008
Over at Lifehacker
, Adam Pash
has written an article describing in some very useful detail how to use a couple freeware apps to trim down a Windows XP installation
so you can create a lighter-weight install disc for whatever purpose you may have.
I'm interested in this because I plan (at least at this point) to use a Windows Server 2003 install disc as the starting point for a VMWare Fusion
virtual machine on my Macbook Air, and I want to keep it as lean and mean as I possibly can. That way I can run the couple/few Windows apps that I really need to make my computer life complete.
Why Windows Server 2003? Because I have a couple unused copies sitting on my shelf just screaming to have the shrink-wrap removed. Come to think on it, it might be the first time I have opened an actual shrink-wrapped Windows Server box since around 2000. I've grown quite used to electronic delivery and volume licensing discs. Wow.Does anyone have any solid information that would point to benefits of using the 64-bit edition of Server 2003 over the 32-bit version? If so, please let me know! Comment below, or the email link is over there on the right side of the page.
I'll report back with results after I get it all set up. Should be interesting and a bit of fun.
Tuesday, 25 March 2008
I discovered (via iPhone Atlas
) a new web app that lets you specify any well-formed RSS feed, which it converts to an iPhone-formatted and friendly list of headlines - sliding animations and all. My site's feed can be seen by clicking here
You can just click on over and add your feed
. It takes seconds. This geeral idea could translate into some pretty cool blog themes if someone wanted to tackle it.
Sunday, 23 March 2008
I saw an interesting post
yesterday (with a couple pics) indicating that Mono, the open-source implementation of .NET, has been ported to the iPhone, or at least it's been started. That's pretty interesting, and it makes me wonder two things: First, are .NET apps realistic for the iPhone? And second, WWSH
It's certainly interesting to think that all those talented .NET programmers out there could have a chance at programming for the iPhone, and that any of a variety of apps could be ported or even natively run in the future.
A little proof:
Mach kernel version:
Darwin Kernel Version 9.0.0d1: Wed Oct 10 00:07:50 PDT 2007;
Kernel configured for a single processor only.
1 processor is physically available.
1 processor is logically available.
Processor type: armv6 (arm v6)
Processor active: 0
Primary memory available: 116.00 megabytes
Default processor set: 26 tasks, 164 threads, 1 processors
Load average: 0.00, Mach factor: 0.98
# export MONO_DISABLE_SHM=1
# ./mono hello.exe
Hello Mono World
Saturday, 22 March 2008
I'm noticing a not-so-subtle change in the force. I spent the better part of the week listening to Barack Obama, and I'm a moderate-to-conservative guy. Policies aside, he's a persuasive man. Anyhow - I'm also a Windows guy for the most part, but have been known to ride (and occasionally cross over) that fence, as well. Recently, a new business/work venture has me experiencing the need to be ultra-portable from time to time, meeting and working potentially from who-knows-where. So, given the current tax situation and the "workability" needs, I broke down and dropped by the Apple Store last night and - after having visited the store four times and carefully considering the available options - I bought a MacBook Air. My friend Matt patiently watched while I substantially delayed our arrival at the movie theater. Good sport, that Matt.
In case anyone's keeping track, the current game score in the Hughes household Windows vs. Apple system showdown is: Windows 2 (technically 3 if you count the roomie's machine), Apple 2 (or 3 if you count the iPhone). I'm not a Switcher, but I am an Adder.
VMWare Fusion, a very cool app that will let me run Windows apps on the Mac, is coming soon. I will write up my experiences at some point with that process, with a focus on how it works from the perspective of an IT guy. There are - plain and simple - certain apps that are only available on Windows that I need to use, so it will provide me with both worlds, at the same time. You can learn about Fusion here
Everyone and their brother have already posted reviews and articles about the MacBook Air, so no point in me rehashing the obvious. Here are my initial highlights:
- Keyboard - Backlit, brightness auto-adjusts, nice keys, quiet typing.
- Screen - Excellent backlight, also auto-adjusts, bright and contrasty.
- Thin - Well, duh. And light, too. That was what got me to look in the first place.
- Battery - Not going to get the advertised 5 hours, but I have pounded it pretty hard for about 2.5 and its still advertising an hour left on the battery (first charge)
- Close-lid-sleep-wake-up drill - Nice and quick. I like that.
Also, I picked up the "incase" brand neoprene sleeve case they had at the Apple store, which is really very nice. I am already liking it. Great protection and hey, it's all black. :)
I got home, opened it up despite being very tired, ran through the setup (nice, easy and cool), eventually climbed into bed and watched this past week's episode of Lost in HD on the 'net. The Air is a great computer for that, too. I like.
Friday, 21 March 2008
Got iTunes, or anything else Apple on your Windows computer? If so, when the Apple software checks for updates, you'll probably see an option (which is enabled by default) to install Safari - even if you don't already have it installed on your computer. Safari is Apple's default web browser (and actually not a bad one at that). But since people are used to seeing - well - updates when the software checks for updates, you might not realize you're installing new software.
Just making sure you're paying attention here, is all.
Sure enough, when I check for updates on my Windows machine, where Safari has never been installed, I'm presented with the option to install it...
As Tom Krazit tells us... Just un-check the box if you don't want to install Safari. Simple as that.
"It seems that at some point people became conditioned to downloading anything that shows up from an official source, like Microsoft, Apple, AOL, Yahoo, or whoever. Remember, it's your PC; spend your installation capital wisely." (link)
It's always important to pay attention to what you're clicking on. Fact is, Apple's probably counting on the fact that a significant number of people will just click without thinking - And that's indicative of a whole slew of problems, with users, companies, you name it.
For my part, I made the educated decision to install it. I actually kind of like Safari on the Mac, so I'm interested din trying it on Windows.
Thursday, 20 March 2008
Stories at CNN, Ars Technica and CNET are covering the fact that Apple is working on a plan that would allow unlimited "free" access to the iTunes music library - if users paid more up-front for their iPod devices.
This sounds interesting, but it seems like an up-front charge (when you buy the device, as a one-time fee) might have some legal (not to mention business viability) challenges associated with it. Now, if they were to go with a Zune-like monthly subscription model, that would be a whole different story. It would actually make a lot of sense.
Group-think/conventional wisdom seems to be that since the average iPod/Phone user spends about $20 total on music through the iTunes store, it would make sense to charge everyone that much up front. Others say something more like $80 is more reasonable. I think they're all wrong: Charge me $20 up front, and I will do everything I can to maximize - in a big way - that mandatory investment. People only spend an average of $20 because they have to keep paying. Charge that up front and grant them unlimited access, and they'll download more music than you can possibly imagine.
That's where the Zune Pass idea is a better one. Recurring monthly revenue of a predictable, fixed amount (which is great from a business standpoint) and a happy customer base. I just don't see a one-time fixed fee model holding water for very long. But then again, if your intent (hypothetically) is to launch a firestorm campaign to (further) monopolize the market and then dump it as unviable... Well, you might actually succeed at one goal by failing at another. Just an thought. :)
© Copyright 2013 Greg Hughes
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This page was rendered at Tuesday, 05 March 2013 15:03:21 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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