Friday, July 11, 2008

Getting the right iPhone 2.0 software

For those of you (like me) who followed the information I reference in a previous blog post, note that that unofficial iPhone 2.0 software was for the new iPhone hardware. If you (like me) have the original iPhone hardware, you need to follow the directions at MacRumors linked from the title to get the correct software for your hardware.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Initial iPhone 2.0 app impressions

Here are some of my initial observations about the iPhone 2.0 software:

Settings: Has a "Fetch New Data" item that lets you turn push updates on or off, set data fetch interval (includes the email check intervals for non-push email). Has a new "Mail, Contacts, Calendars" item, which consolidates various items (I think, I don't remember the details of this from the old OS) and includes under calendar "New Invitation Alerts", "Time Zone Support", and "Default Calendar" settings. The latter corresponds to the Calendar app UI now showing the multiple calendars synced from iCal. Played with simplified Chinese international keyboard a bit; neat to be able to draw characters by hand.

Contacts: The iPhone 2.0 software adds a "Contacts" app, which appears to just be a shortcut to the "Contacts" tab in the "Phone" app. We now have search, but it appears to be strangely limited, in that it doesn't search all fields. From playing with it a bit, it appears to search names and company, but not address or notes, for example. At least, this is my tentative conclusion. The on-screen keyboard has a "Search" button, but results update as you type; the "Search" button doesn't seem to do anything.

Calendar: Updated UI includes multiple-calendar awareness.

Maps: UI spiffed up. Circular cross-hairs vibrate as it progressively refines your location.

App Store: It works; looks just like the "iTunes" app.

And some third party apps: BA Flights: Mostly, thought perhaps not entirely, lame. Only lets you search for departures/arrivals within the current month. About what you'd expect: a three-button web app front end.

Talking Italian Phrasebook: Not sure that all of the phrases are correct, but pretty good for free.

Currency: Nothing fancy, just like the Stock app. A nice, simple app.

Exposure: Interface like iPod app. No Flickr upload capability. Not sure I'd pay $3 for Mobile Flickr. Need to compare this to MoPhoTo (which also doesn't seem to support upload).

NearPics: Very slow, and I'm testing via wifi.

Twitterific: Seems fine. Allows "attaching" photos to twitter updates, but I'm not sure this is something I'd like to do often; I think I'd be more likely to photoblog here on Blogger.

So, what do I want?

  • Skype! There is an app/service called TruPhone that seems Skype-like. Seems to include the equivalent of SkypeIn for no extra charge. It's in beta, but maybe I'll try it (if it won't insist on calling pay via wifi within the US, given that I have thousands of rollover minutes). I'll report after/during my upcoming trip on my experiences.
  • A good photoblogging interface that doesn't force me to switch to another blog platform. In other words, Blogger app.

Neat looking apps that I don't have an immediate need for:

  • SignalScope, a spectrum analyzer.
  • StageHand, a presentation remote that also displays your talk notes, allows you to highlight/point parts of your slides, etc.
  • OmniTuner, which seems, despite the emphasis on guitar, to be a chromatic tuner app. Orfeo is definitely a chromatic tuner, though with less impressive graphics and at twice the price.

And, finally, exactly how many payware tip calculators does the iPhone need? Do people really have trouble calculating tips using a regular calculator (such as the one built into to OS distribution)? Or just ballparking tips in their heads (how difficult it it to figure 10%, then either add in half of that again or double that)?

iPhone 2.0 report

Since I'm in the process of writing my part of a grant proposal before heading off on a trip, I figured, "Hey, why don't I update my iPhone to the 2.0 software?" The software is unofficially available; see this iLounge article for a good summary of how to get it. Here's how things went:

11:55AM: Option-clicked "Check for Update", selected .ipsw file, iTunes extracted update.
11:56AM: iTunes started "Preparing iPhone for software update..."
12:02PM: iTunes started "Updating iPhone software..."
12:04PM: iTunes started "Verifying updated software..."
12:06PM: iTunes started "Updating iPhone firmware..."
12:09PM: iPhone restarting, iTunes sees it, offers to set it up anew or restore from backup. I restored from backup.
12:11PM: iPhone restarting
12:12PM: iPhone reappears in iTunes list. Arrangement of icons same as it was before update. Only immediately apparent differences are "Contacts" and "App Store" icons. Set up synchronization in iTunes to sync all applications. Synced iPhone. 12:30PM: All done, now to see if it works...

More about iPhone apps

Some more-or-less random observations about the available iPhone apps (based purely on their app store descriptions and icons):

  • There's a lot of $0.99 apps; I'm not really sure what the rationale is (on the part of the software developer) for not just releasing such apps for free.
  • There are many free apps that appear to do the same thing as pay apps. Why would anyone pay for an app that simply produces a white screen to improve the iPhone's ability to act like a weak flashlight?
  • Here's my initial list of (free) apps: "BA Flights", "Currency", "Exposure", "Jott for iPhone", "NearPics", "Remote", "Talking Italian Phrasebook". Yes, we're going on a trip.
  • Disappointments: no Skype, no official Flickr app (the free version of Exposure is adware).
  • A fair number of cute ideas in some of these apps, but I don't think many really take advantage of the synergies available in the full range of iPhone capabilities.

iTunes App Store up and running

Wooo! The iTunes App Store is up! Just use Software Update to download iTunes 7.7, enable "show apps" in iTunes preferences, click on the "Applications" icon, and select "Get More Applications..." (similar interface to podcasts). Can't load the apps yet on the iPhone, since the iPhone 2.0 software hasn't been released, but you can at least browse and make a list (which I will be doing shortly).

Update: You can "purchase" applications and they'll download. This doesn't appear to use the shopping cart, but I've only tried free apps.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Friday, July 04, 2008

The future of video cameras

So, we're getting ready for a trip and really don't feel like lugging our Sony mini-DV camcorder along with our digital camera. Everyone's talking about the Flip Mino, so that would be a possibility. Then again, our still camera has a movie mode, with the same resolution as the Mino (640x480), except that it has a 12X optical zoom, better optics, and a better sensor. It doesn't have much in the way of video compression capability, storing its video as MJPEG (just a sequence of JPEG compressed frames), which means that videos require 1GB per 10 minutes or so. But that's not such a big deal these days. Even though it is discontinued and Konica Minolta is no longer in the camera business, there was a firmware update that allows it to use 2GB SD cards. A quick trip to Costco, and we have enough storage for our trip.

So, it seems that we're on the threshold of major change, not just in laptop computer mass storage, but also in video cameras. For those who need more than a cell phone or Mino -- and who aren't professionals -- what's the motivation behind getting anything other than a good digital camera with video capability? Pretty much every digital camera out there supports at least 640x480, or standard definition. They certainly have the sensors to capture HD. Flash memory prices will be low enough within the next couple years that it will really not make any sense to buy a hard drive camcorder. The only remaining question will be: do you really need to shoot 10 hours of video before the next time you'll be able to dump the video to a computer or DVD burner?