A painting of me

iPhone 4

   7 June 2010, mid-afternoon

Apple announced a new iPhone. It’s looking pretty hot. This is the first key note I can remember where the bulk of the presentation was stuff everyone already knew about, due to the leak from Gizmodo. It’s also the first keynote I can recall with a fairly big glitch occurring during the presentation: the phone had issues grabbing data over WiFi because of all the devices up and running in the presentation centre. The big feature that Apple (more or less) managed to keep secret was FaceTime, which is their video chat program for the iPhone. Sam Mendes directed the commercial they aired during the keynote to show off the feature, and as adverts go it’s very well done. (I guess you can say that about most of Apple’s advertising.) The last pair “talking” was a feature of video chat I hadn’t really thought about. The new phone looks pretty amazing, with the new industrial design and fancy high-res display. People were expecting Apple TVs and Unicorns, so i’m not sure if people will be satisfied with what they were shown during the keynote.

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iPhone Awesome

   3 March 2010, late afternoon

In the few weeks after my accident my iPhone become quite indispensable. The iPhone is the perfect computer for when you’re laying in bed or lounging on the sofa, something I have been doing quite a bit of recently. The iPhone is portable in a way laptops can’t touch. Its small form factor can be advantageous, despite it’s shortcomings. It’s software, though simple, works quite well.

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TaskPaper for the iPhone

   20 February 2010, early morning

TaskPaper running on my Mac

You may recall that many years ago I bought a todo list application called TaskPaper, because I am some sort of Mac Indie Developer philanthropist. I enjoyed using TaskPaper, but ended up giving it up for Things. The lack of an iPhone client was one of the big reasons. (Things is also a very nice Getting Things Done application, so that probably played a part in the switch.) Recently an iPhone version of the TaskPaper was released, and I have been trying it out the last few days.

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The Small Chair

   24 September 2009, early morning

Yesterday I decided to grab the McSweeney’s iPhone application. The quarterly they put out is held in very high regard, and the content they put online is hilarious, more often than not. (For example: Iran or Star Wars.) The application is $6, and is subscription based. Buying the application signs you up for 6 months of content from what they are calling the Small Chair. This content is pulled from sources that aren’t available online, and is updated weekly. You can subscribe for another 180 days of content for an additional $5. This is done using the newly added in-app purchase features introduced with iPhone OS 3.0. They also pull free content from their Internet Tendencies website, though I suppose this isn’t what you’re paying for.

This seems like a pretty smart idea to me. It’s an easily digestible version of a magazine, which seems well suited for an on-the-go device like the iPhone. The application lets you bookmark spots in the story/article you are reading, and has a fairly nice interface. I’ll be curious to see if anyone else copies the approach McSweeney’s is taking with this application. I could see Harper’s doing something like this since they already have so much content online, but behind a subscription wall.

The first ‘issue’ of the Small Chair is a story by Wells Tower. It’s good so far.

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iPhones and Cheapskates

   30 June 2009, early afternoon

In Canada an iPhone will cost you between $200-$300 on a 3 year contract. Those 3 year contracts will cost you upwards of $80 a month. Maybe you can scam something a little bit less, but at the end of the day, owning an iPhone is fucking expensive. You know what isn’t expensive on the iPhone? Applications. Want to get things done? The bestest application in the world costs $10. One of the best twitter clients costs you $3. The most awesome game on the planet costs you $1. I know what you’re thinking: god damn that’s amazing. Strangely, this doesn’t seem to be what most iPhone owners think.

Mental Note: A good way to filter out cheapskate customers you don’t want is to price your iPhone application at $4.

This message is sitting in my copy of Birdhouse. When Birdhouse came out people couldn’t shut up about how expensive it was. Release any application that costs more then $1 and you’ll get people moaning on twitter about its cost. When the AppStore let you write reviews for applications you didn’t own, you could always count on at least one review bitching about the price of the application. If that new Twitter client that costs $5 is going to break the bank, maybe you need to rethink owning an absolutely ridiculous cell phone.

There are lots of reasons not to spend $5 on a twitter client. It being too expensive really shouldn’t be one of them.

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Instapaper 2.0

   24 June 2009, early morning

To conclude: Instapaer & Instapaper Pro 2.0 are all kinds of good.

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Applications on the iPhone

   15 August 2008, early morning

Yesterday my iPhone decided to eat all my phones 3rd party applications. Well, not all of them, but most of them. In most cases, this isn’t such a big deal, you can just download them again from the AppStore and call it a day. In some cases the applications store data that I would have liked to have kept: so that’s no good. The iPhone 2.0 release seems to pretty buggy, especially when compared to the old phone’s software.

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Twinkle & Twitterific.

   18 July 2008, mid-morning

I was using Twinkle on my old iPhone to check twitter as it worked a fair bit better than MobileTwitterrific at the time. MobileTwitterrific development looked to have stopped fairly early on, because Iconfactory planned to work on a version that used the official SDK. (Since I didn’t have a proper data-plan, I barely used either application, opting instead to use SMS to send and receive updates.) When the official AppStore launched, Twitterrific was featured front and centre, while Twinkle was nowhere to be seen.

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The iPhone 3G

   14 July 2008, early evening

I went to Dufferin Mall to get contacts. I haven’t worn contacts in ages. They feel weird in my eyes, but I can see again, so that’s all that matters. While there I stopped by the Fido shop to see if they could add Visual Voicemail to my current iPhone — I hate normal voicemail, and the rates are the same. They told me, politely, no. I had already been told this on the phone — twice — but I like to ask around. Talking to various Fido reps I got the feeling my dreams of an iPhone first generation amnesty plan weren’t going to come true anytime soon. So I did what anyone would do: I bought the new iPhone. (It’s worth re-reading my last post on this topic, where I make fun of all the rich kids and yuppies I predicted would buy them. I guess I’m a yuppie.)

For those curious, I dropped my current value pack, which I added when I got EDGE working on my old iPhone, and added the new iPhone value pack — which is basically the same thing but with Visual Voicemail instead of normal voicemail, and no data rates whatsoever. On top of that I added what I really wanted, which was the 6gb/month data plan. All in all, that’s $27 more a month on my cell phone bill. I also sold my soul for 3 years, which is the part that really hurts. The thing is, I really wanted that 6 gig data plan. Rogers/Fido totally have my number.

I’ll have more to say later, but the GPS works, browsing is quick, and my headphones finally fit in the damn phone.

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Apps on the iPhone

   10 July 2008, early morning

The iPhone AppStore is live now. There is a lot of stuff on there now that looks pretty interesting. My phone has been jailbroken for quite some time, but the appliations available always struck me as half-assed for the most part. (There are of course exceptions.) Applications i’m interested in include: Jott, Evernote, Twitterific, NetNewsWire & Exposure. Also, the iPhone Remote application also looks pretty hype. The word on the street is that the AppStore works perfectly, though I haven’t had a chance to test it out myself. I need to sort out whether I can upgrade to 2.0 when it is released without re-locking my phone. (update: I should have know people would find the firmware early.) Such is the drama that comes with getting the phone so many months ago. The iPhone 3G officially launches in Canada tomorrow. It will be interesting to see how many Rogers sells. They seem to have been getting a lot of bad press, but do rich kids and yuppies read newspapers? I’m not so sure.

Update: The iPhone 2.0 software has been unlocked. Mind you, the actual software isn’t out yet, so the Gizmodo headline is a bit misleading. I think Gizmodo likes to cum in its pants.

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   28 November 2007, late evening

Today I discovered MobileScrobbler, which I have to say is a very cool application. It’s a Last.FM client for the iPhone or iPod Touch. It works like the desktop scrobblers that integrates with iTunes, pinging the Last.FM servers whenever you play a new song on your iPod. This is actually a good use of the network connectivity of the iPhone. It’s neat watching your Last.FM page update while out and about with your iPod. (The only thing I don’t like about the program is how it’s poorly written. Not that I can really fault a program someone is giving away for free.) Programs like this make me want to learn Objective-C.

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EDGE is a Go

   11 November 2007, late morning

It took a refresh of my profile, whatever that means, but my phone is now connected to the Internet via Fido and EDGE. I think the trick with Fido is to keep calling till you get a customer service rep that knows what they are doing, and isn’t afraid when you have a non-Fido phone. I’ll post about Fido’s EDGE speeds once I have used it more. EDGE isn’t slow as molasses, but it is certainly reminiscent of the internet via dial-up. Fido actually has proper 3G service in Toronto, so I’m going to have to see if I can find someone with a 3G phone so I can compare what the difference really is. For now I did want to say that browsing a handful of sites over the last couple of minutes has ate up a half a meg of bandwidth. Fido charges 5 cents per kilobyte if you aren’t on an internet plan, and 1 cent per kilobyte once you go over your bandwidth when you do have a plan. Their standard internet plans are lame. (And really, their 3G options aren’t much better.) I can see why Apple isn’t keen on releasing an iPhone here in Canada without a matching data plan to go with it: stories about people being bankrupt by their iPhones can’t be good for business.

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The iPhone's iPod Interface

   7 November 2007, mid-morning

Your finger tips are much bigger than the end of a mouse pointer. Apple is clearly aware of this, which is why most of the controls on the iPhone are large and easy to touch and work with. One glaring mistake in Apple’s choice of controls is the time-line bar in the iPod interface. If you want to fast-forward or rewind through a song you need to press the ball that indicates where you are in the song and drag it back or forward; the problem here is that this is incredibly inaccurate. I find it next to impossible to skip the first minute of a podcast. If the fast-forward button worked better then this would be a non-issue, but sadly it does not: the fast forward takes a second to kick in, and it’s so slow.

The other thing I don’t like about the iPod interface is that it is split over two pages. The “front” page has the timeline controle described above, and buttons to let you shuffle and repeat songs. It also shows the album cover art of the song playing. The “back” page has controls to rate songs, and has the list of songs on the album you are listening to. (The keyword here is album: if you are listening to songs on a playlist, this back page doesn’t list other songs on the playlist, it lists other songs on the album the song belongs to, which seems obtuse.) Now, there is plenty of screen real estate on the iPhone. Clearly Apple wants to show off this screen by dedicating most of the screen real estate to displaying the album art. The thing is, the controls from either page could easily fit on both pages. There is no reason that Apple couldn’t also include a song rating bar on the front page, or a time-line on the back page. (You could even hide these extra controls: tapping and holding the album are could bring up a rating bar for example.) This wouldn’t kill that much space; it certainly would make the interface a lot more functional.

The iPhone is a nice iPod, but i’m not sure it’s the best iPod evah.


From 1.0.2 to 1.1.1

   6 November 2007, early morning

With rumors of yet another iPhone Firmware Update in the works, I thought it was time to get going on upgrading my phone from 1.0.2 to 1.1.1. Now, as you may recall, doing so without putting any thought into the process would have left me with a brick of a phone. Thankfully, I’m not a sheep, and put off upgrading till people had figured out how to undo the unlock that caused the bricking, created a simple way to jailbreak and activate the phone (and install the Installer.app), and finally sorted out how to unlock the phone once again. In fact, if you were an idiot and upgraded despite all the warnings you would still be in good shape because hackers figured out how to undo the bricking. Yesterday I sat down and started going through all the steps required to upgrade. It was surprisingly stressful. Still, it was unlikely the whole process would get any simpler than it is right now: It’s actually easier to jailbreak, activate, and unlock a phone now than it was when I did so a month or so back. I’m curious as to what the landscape for this sort of hacking will be like when the official SDK is released. I don’t think this sort of activity will die down: I don’t think Apple will give people the access to the phone they get from a proper jailbreak, and they certainly won’t let people skirt activation with AT&T. I do wonder if the official SDK will make this sort of thing easier to accomplish. Proper documentation on the hardware might help move things along, though it seems the hacker community is doing just fine going it alone.


The Talkshow Discusses the iPhone.

   2 October 2007, evening time

My iPhone running AnySim.

I’m listening to the 11th episode of the Talk Show. It’s actually better than I had originally given it credit for. That said, Gruber and Benjamin seem to be way off base with his take the state of the iPhone.

[locked phones are] just the way the industry is set up, it isn’t Apple’s fault.

It may be the case that most providers sell their phones locked to a particular provider, but there is no reason to say this is the only way to do things. There is certainly no reason for Apple to follow the lame example set by Motorola or Samsung. For starters, Apple has the infrastructure in place to sell unlocked phones themselves: both through their physical stores and online. No one forced Apple to team up with AT&T, Orange, or whomever else. So yeah, if Apple chooses to sell locked phones that is totally their fault. That said, it is Apple’s prerogative if they want to make money by locking their phone to a provider. The kick-backs from AT&T certainly can’t hurt their bottom line. It’s not a particularly consumer friendly decision, but it is Apple’s decision to make.

Dan Benjamin and Gruber also both seem to be unaware that it is pretty easy to buy those fancy Korean phones both in the US and here in Canada. (You’ll probably pay a premium to do so, but that’s life.) Thanks to eBay you can live in the middle of nowhere and still have a fancy-ass phone. So while it may take Samsung a long while to roll out an expensive phone in the US, there are people out there willing to do the leg work for them. This is also the case with Apple. I can buy hardware unlocked iPhones at Pacific Mall here in Toronto. (How they are fairing in a post 1.1.1 world I can only wonder.) Apple is the only company I can think of that is actually being malicious about closing up this gray market. Again, I agree they are well within their rights to do so, and they probably need to show due diligence in keeping their end of the deal with AT&T, but it is definitely another consumer unfriendly move on Apple’s part.

I’m not sure how Gruber can rail against Apple for their ring tone policy, which is lame but in line with how things are currently done, but not rail against Apple for locking up the iPhone, which is also lame but in line with how things are currently done.

People are wasting their time trying to unlock these phones. … It’s a pipe dream.

That remains to be seen. I expect the phones to be unlocked again shortly.

Update Oct 3rd: John Gruber responds to the MacWorld editorial iPhone 1.0 forever.

Update Nov 6th: 1.1.1 iPhones are basically even easier to unlock thatn 1.0.2 iPhones. And so it goes.

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Intelligence Season 1

   1 October 2007, early morning

I just finished watching Intelligence Season 1. The show really is kick-ass. I can see why Rishi was going on about it so much last year. If you can track down a copy on the Internet you really should. It’s full of intrigue and murder and double-crossing and all sorts of good stuff. I can’t wait to start watching Season 2.

I watched the last half of the last episode on the ride in to work. Watching television on the iPhone works well enough, but i’m not sure it’s something i’d do normally. Getting stuff onto the phone involves converting it to an iPod friendly format. In my case, I used iSquint to do this, and it worked quite well. The only issue is the time it takes to convert from DivX to h.264. The iPhone tracks where you are in the various videos you are watching (it does this for podcasts too) so you can watch them piecemeal. I can’t imagine watching a video on the ride to work on a regular basis, but it’s a nice feature nevertheless.

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iPhone Firmware 1.1.1

   27 September 2007, mid-afternoon

Reports on what happens when you upgrade your iPhone’s firmware to 1.1.1 are starting to trickle in. So far things don’t look so good. Some people are reporting the loss of all their 3rd-party applications; others are saying their SIM cards are no longer recognized. My plan is to wait to there is clearer picture on what will happen. I’m missing out on some new features Apple has rolled out, which include: iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store. Louder speakerphone and receiver volume, Space bar double-tap shortcut to intelligently insert period and space, and other things I wouldn’t take the time to list on a feature list. Compare and contrast this with the sorts of applications and tools available to you if you chose to jailbreak your phone and install 3rd-party applications. Apple really needs to step up if they want people to leave their phones alone. Apple needs to release an SDK for the iPhone and let people develop for it legitimately. I think as of right now, what the people outside of Apple are getting up to is more interesting than what Apple is bringing to the table.

The problem with waiting to upgrade is that my phone is missing out on security updates that are being distributed in this patch. Still, if left to choose between a broken phone and a Javascript exploit, i’ll take the exploit.

[ed. I should setup a spin-off iPhone site before everyone here gets tired of me blathering on about my cell phone.]

Update 7:23pm: The latest word from Gizmodo is that the update will render unlocked iPhones more-or-less useless, as they will need to be activated with AT&T, but all attempts to do so will fail. Lame?

Update Oct 1st: You can now downgrade from 1.1.1 to 1.0.2 so that’s that.


The iPhone Headphone Jack

   26 September 2007, early morning

Neither my Grado SR-60s or my AKG K26Ps can be used with my iPhone. The iPhone’s headphone jack is recessed into the unit a fair bit. The problem here is that unless the plug on your headphone is fairly skinny, it’s not going to fit in the iPhone’s headphone jack. A lot of people think Apple is trying to sell official “Made for iPhones” headphones. I think the answer is much simpler. You can tell by looking at the phone that this was done to ensure the curved edges of the phone remained curved. If the headphone jack was raised slightly it’d protrude. Here Apple has chosen aesthetics over functionality. (Because the Touch is skinnier than the iPhone, the jack doesn’t need to be recessed as much, so the Touch avoids this issue completely. I think that should be evidence enough Apple isn’t trying to gouge headphone makers.) The iPhone does look nice.

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I'll iPhone You

   24 September 2007, evening time

My iPhone

The hardest part about unlocking my iPhone was finding a paperclip. You need a paperclip to pop the sim tray out of the phone. In my entire condo I didn’t have a single paper clip laying around. I was tempted to use a pin, but I was worried it’d pierce something. Finally, I found something that would work: one of Shima’s hoop earrings.

Getting the actual iPhone was a little bit convoluted, and involved a lot of help from some coworkers.

So far I’m liking it. Of course, my prior phone sucks a lot, so it was going to be easy for this phone to wow me. Obviously i’ll have a lot more to say on this, but I’ve put off both eating and cleaning the condo to get the thing unlocked and muck around with.

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