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Archive for June, 2010

My iPhone4G died…and was resurrected.

June 27th, 2010 No comments

I was two days into happy iPhone 4g ownership when the unthinkable happened – my iPhone went crazy.  Up till now, I was feeling pretty good about this beauty – I had none of the yellow spotting/streaking that blogs were talking about, I wasn’t able to consistently reproduce the attenuation issues, and all the other minor problems that people were talking about had yet to make their appearance on my new Precious.  So imagine how freaked out I was when I saw this on my baby:

(I’m really sorry about the video quality – I was fully intending to take some decent video of the problem under good lighting but by the time I got home to get my car to get to my Genius Bar appointment, I had run out of time.  So the above was grabbed using my fiancee’s iPhone 4 while we were waiting at the Apple Store in Ardmore.  The lights there are like being under interrogation and the reflection off the shiny screen of the iPhone makes it incredibly difficult to capture what’s happening on the screen properly).

If you watch the above video enough, you’ll see that my screen has basically washed out – I had maybe 4 colors (if that) on the screen.  Furthermore, on the left hand side you can see vertical scrolling reminiscent of VHF reception issues on early television screens.  I had not dropped the phone and it had spent its entire two days previously either living inside my pocket (with nothing else in there) or on a flat desk surface.  You’re talking to a guy who has never dropped an electronic device and went through 2 years with his iPhone 3G having never suffered a scratch.  Suffice it to say I’m careful with my tech.  So you can imagine just how freaked out I was by this.

I have to say that I was very pleased with both AT&T and Apple’s response to this issue.  Since I’d ordered the phone from AT&T, I took it first to my local AT&T store.  The rep there was pretty impressed with the problem but they had zero spares on hand to do a swapout.  He recommended I go to the Apple Store to resolve my issue.  The Apple Store was able to give me a Genius Bar appointment the same day and they swapped out the phone without any problems.  The Apple rep was also pretty impressed by the error, having never seen anything like it before on any iPhone.  I walked out of there relieved and clutching a new Precious.  It was going to be a good day after all.  And I was able to use the Precious to do this:

If you want the full story on that, you’ll have to check out my personal blog!

Categories: iPhone Tags: , , ,

Penultimate for iPad

June 18th, 2010 No comments

I recently spent a week up in Boston attending a conference.  Since we were highly encouraged not to use our laptops during the class, I basically sat through three days of lectures with only my trusty iPad as my primary companion.  To take notes, I decided to use Penultimate, which is currently one of the top-selling paid apps in the iPad store.

 Penultimate for iPad

 Penultimate for iPad

Penultimate uses a notepad & pen metaphor to allow you to capture handwritten notes.  You can create notepads as needed, with each page customizable to be a grid, lined, or blank format.  You use your finger to either write/draw on the pages or to erase your musings.  You can add as many pages as you’d like and you can email individual pages or notebooks as desired.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why this is such a popular app.  I could not get the hang of writing notes with my finger, and I was very glad I had my stylus with me.  There is only one size pen and one size eraser.  You can undo or redo your last action.  And that’s about it.  Here are some screen captures of my notes.

 Penultimate for iPad

 Penultimate for iPad

 Penultimate for iPad

I had several complains about the interface.  First, you can only see one page at a time, whether in portrait or landscape format.  I can understand why you’d have only one page in portrait orientation.  But to force that same limit in landscape mode seems artificially limiting.  Also, in landscape mode, you have to scroll down to get to the pen and eraser controls.  This is despite having  ample free space between the edge of the notebook page and the edge of the screen.  Furthermore, you can only flip the pages from the bottom of each page.  The notebooks are arranged based on last edit date and there are no other options.  It would have been nice to sort them alphabetically.  Finally, the pen and eraser action areas seemed excessively large.  It would have been nice to have at least a couple widths for the pen tool.  And the eraser seemed to erase a lot more than the width of the pen, which doesn’t really allow for fine erasing.  Usually, if I needed to erase, I ended up erasing everything or deleting the page and re-starting rather than just removing the section I wanted to.

If the app had been $0.99, then this might have been OK.  But for $2.99, I expected a bit more.

Categories: iPad, Reviews Tags: ,

ZAGG InvisibleShield for iPad

June 15th, 2010 1 comment

So I went ahead and ordered the ZAGG InvisibleShield full protection kit for the iPad over Memorial Day weekend. The site was having a 50% off sale, making the full body kit $20 plus shipping/handling. Since there wasn’t much price differential between the full body and front only versions, I went for the whole shebang. I received it this weekend and installed it. Here are my thoughts.

The kit arrives in a short tube. That explains why S&H is a bit on the higher side, though overall reasonable. It also pretty much means your shield is going to be curled. I fixed that by rolling/unrolling it several times in the opposite direction and flattened it pretty well. The package comes with the two shields, plus a generous bottle of application fluid and the standard rubber squeegee.

P1030173 600x337 ZAGG InvisibleShield for iPad

P1030175 600x337 ZAGG InvisibleShield for iPad

The instructions are generic. How do I know? Because they recommend removing the battery if possible (hah!). Also note, that there is no cutout in the shield for the antenna plate of the 3G. Not sure if that was deliberate or not. In any case, I’m pretty well versed in the InvisibleShield routine, since I’ve had one on every iDevice I’ve owned since the company started.

The installation process is pretty standard. First, clean off your glass. Really rub out all the fingerprints and smudges using a clean microfiber cloth. Then the fun part of putting on the shield itself begins. This was, quite frankly, a pain in the ass. There’s no good way to put it. ANY sort of floating particulate matter will adhere to the screen. They give you a generous size bottle of fluid, which is good because I ended up using almost all of it.

I covered the front glass pretty easily, though aligning such a large sheet of sticky material is difficult even with the lube. The back shield was even worse in some respects and easier in others. The back shield is a bit larger than the front shield (or seemed to be) but I also didn’t care as much about any particles that might have stuck to it. I’m planning to keep the iPad in a case for its natural lifespan, so the back protection is kind of moot.

I ended up removing and reapplying the front shield about five times. Even so, there are still bits of fuzz and grit that are now bonded to the underside of the shield. Luckily, none of it impacts the usability of the iPad, but it’s annoying because I can see them in certain positions and under certain conditions. But I also don’t know how ZAGG could do any better. I wouldn’t want to use multiple smaller sheets to create a coverage surface, and you want the thing to stick to your screen, so you can’t make it easy to take on/off. The shield can be removed/re-applied for about an hour or so after you’ve put it on, but much longer than that and I’d be worried about stretching when you’re taking it off.

The shield does NOT provide side protection. The sheets are just big enough to cover the front and back plates only. I’ve not noticed any signal degradation due to the covering of the antenna plate, so that’s good. I’ve also not seen any issues resulting from the ginormous pools of fluid that were wiped out from between the glass and the shield during the multiple applications process. I think 95% of the lube I sprayed onto the shield ended up being squeezed out and I got a little panicky seeing my new iPad with so much liquid on it.

Now that I’ve had it for a day or so, I’ve enjoyed the slightly more tactile sensation that the InvisibleShield gives the screen. It does, however, impede the usability of my stylus. You have to push a lot harder to get the stylus to be recognized. Which is weird, since I don’t notice a similar issue with fingers.  Also, if you think the iPad has glare before the application of the shield, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  The screen seems much more reflective.

All in all, I’m glad I put the shield on my iPad. But I don’t know that it’s going to be as useful as it would be on an iPhone, since the iPad is not going to be spending tons of time in my pocket with keys and change. Also, I’d guess that the majority of users will put the iPad into a case of some sort, so the times that it will be naked in public are pretty small. But for peace of mind, it was worth the $25.

White, Red, or Black – Which way the Web?

June 11th, 2010 No comments

When we look out over the Internet, we seem to be diverging into three
different approaches, or paths, that define how users will interact
with the wider web.  For fun (and because I used to be a big role
playing geek), let’s call these the White Path, the Red Path, and the
Black Path.  The color descriptions aren’t intended to imply good or
bad, they are just convenient labels that reflect different
viewpoints.  You may disagree with my characterization of each path
and the companies I feel best represent that path.  But since I’m
writing the article, I get to decide who’s who.

Let’s start with white.  White is the amalgam of all other colors.
White light can be broken out into its constituent spectrum and I use
it to mean an open Internet commonality.  Of course the company that
best exemplifies this approach is Google.

google White, Red, or Black   Which way the Web?

Google has an embrace/extend approach to the Internet that has as much
user interaction moving to the web as possible.  This does several
things.  First, it makes the whole issue of the OS irrelevant – the
browser is the OS.  Second, it makes more and more of the user’s
interactions ad-enabled, the bread-and-butter of Google’s revenue.
Third, it keeps Google competitive against other companies that may be
ahead of Google, whether in terms of market share or implementation.
Google’s nickname of the Borg is quite relevant when you think about
the fact that they may have started further behind (depending on the
industry), but they will eventually catch up and surpass their
competition.

This embrace-and-extend philosophy was first attempted by Microsoft.
Initially they were successful in absorbing the force of the Internet
(who else can claim to have turned a multi-billion dollar company on a
dime to build IE6?)  In the end, though, they failed.  To quote the
awesome Darth Vader, “the student has now become the Master”.
Microsoft’s fear of the browser becoming the OS is becoming more and
more real each day, and they are forced to respond by putting their
primary tools online to compete.

Google has a vested interest in making the web as ubiquitous and as
accessible by as many different platforms, technologies, and devices
as possible because it increases their ability to sell ads.  But they
also need to “guide” folks into using their tools and concepts where
possible because that offers them greater control.  So Google embraces
web standards and the open source mantra while extending their
influence by providing robust tools and infrastructure to make
building on the web easier.  Google I/O showcased this approach.
Google announced Android 2.2, probably the most advanced mobile OS in
the world right now, as well as tools to extend the Google Apps
platform (including shots at Amazon’s various cloud-based services)
and a bold attempt at gaining access to the living room via Google TV.
Any one of those would have been interesting, but the fact that they
announced so many initiatives shows that they are starting to gain
some huge momentum in the race for Internet 3.0.

Black, on the other hand, represents the absorption of all colors.  In
a nutshell, this describes Apple’s philosophy.

apple White, Red, or Black   Which way the Web?

In Apple’s worldview, the Internet should be filtered and buffered
through their App universe using Apple-sanctioned tools and devices.
The iPad, the iPhone, the iTouch – all of these represent ways to
control and shape the Internet by putting Apple between users and the
wild wild frontier.  Apple also wants to shape and control the
Internet, but their approach is to provide an experience that is so
smooth and easy that people won’t want to leave their walled garden to
visit the badlands of the unfiltered web.  There’s a small access
point to that madness provided via Safari, but the lack of Flash
compatibility serves to underscore that even when there’s an exit,
that exit is provided on Apple’s terms and they hold the leash back to
the iFortress.

In principle, there is nothing wrong with this approach.  HTML5-based
web apps can drive a near-seamless Internet experience.  However, it
means a lack of connection to the App Store’s transaction management
system, which means the user has to trust the app builder.  It’s a lot
easer to just pay $0.99 to buy a sanctioned app.  With iOS4 and iAds,
the lure of the App Store increases even more.  Apple develops ads
with major advertisers, developers put space in their applications for
those ads to run, users interact with the ads in-line, rather than
through web sites or custom advertising apps, and multi-tasking on a
more capable processor makes all this work seamlessly.  The developer
gets a chunk of revenues from the advertising, allowing the
development of lower cost, better applications.  Win-win for everyone,
so long as you’re willing to live with Apple being the gatekeeper to
all your content.  Never forget that Apple is there to sell hardware.
Content is the engine that drives hardware sales so Apple is always
going to err on the side of the providers, not the users.

Red is where things get interesting.  I use the term Red to represent
a middle path between the all-or-nothing White and Black, and Facebook
serves as the example.

fb White, Red, or Black   Which way the Web?

Facebook also wants to control and extend the web on their terms, but
they know that they can’t be everything to everyone.  They’re not the
walled garden of Apple – no devices to control and manage the user.
But at the same time, they can’t become the open-source firehose that
is Google – someone might come along and make them irrelevant.  So
they attempt to provide many many reasons to stay within their domain
(Farmville, anyone?) but they also provide (unwanted) breadcrumbs back
for those times when users leave the nest.  Would it be possible for
Facebook to become an Apple-type environment?  Sure, and they’re
looking into how to make the site more sticky by offering photo
storage, video streaming, dedicated email service, etc.  But they know
that locking down their environment too much would move people to
other, similar, services, so they try to walk that line between too
much and too little.

Facebook’s biggest bugaboo is that in order for them to make money,
they need to know EVERYTHING about their users, and their users have
to be willing to share everything about themselves.  Already the push
back is happening as Facebook keeps trying to make more and more
public while users resist.  I believe that it will take only one or
two more high-publicity privacy violation incidents for Facebook to
fall under federal regulation, in which case they will have a much
harder time making changes willy nilly.

Each path’s champions have a firm view of the future of the Web.
While I don’t believe that only one company can win, I do believe that
one company’s vision will dominate in the mid-term.  Which one, I’m
not sure, though I do have my favorite. What I do know is that the
battle between these three companies will result in rapid advances in
web technology and standards, as well as in mobile Internet hardwares.
The next five years will see an Internet radically different from
what we have today, and more and more the concept of a traditional
(Microsoft-based) desktop will become irrelevant.

Categories: Editorial Tags:

Apple Unveils iPhone 4

June 7th, 2010 No comments

Apple finally unveils iPhone 4 to the masses. Steve Jobs introduced the new iPhone on Monday, complete with an all-new, thinner design, camera flash, front-facing camera called FaceTime for video calling, a second noise-canceling microphone, multitasking, HD video recording, iMovie App for iPhone, iOS software, and a gyroscope for six-axis motion sensing.

iPhone 4 Apple Unveils iPhone 4

iPhone 4

Steve Jobs says the new iPhone is beyond any consumer product that’s ever been seen, only 9.3mm thick and 24 percent thinner than the iPhone 3GS, making it the “thinnest smartphone on the planet.”

Availability
The new iPhone 4 arrives on June 24, while preorders begin on June 15. It is available in the same prices and capacities as last year’s model: $199 for 16GB, and $299 for 32GB. The iPhone 3GS will be available for $99.

Internals
The new hardware also has a larger battery that offers longer uptime, including 7 hours of talk time 3G, 6 hours of 3G browsing, 10 hours of Wi-Fi browsing, 10 hours of video, 40 hours of music, and 300 hours of standby.

Dual cameras
The iPhone 4 also includes a whole-new camera system that includes LED flash with a 5 megapixel lens that records HD video. The new rear camera will record 720p video at 30 frames per second. Users can also use built-in video editing to trim their HD clips right on the phone.

The handset’s forward facing camera can be used for video chat with the application FaceTime, allowing users to see someone using another iPhone 4 as they talk to them. Videos can also be edited using the new iMovie application, which will cost $4.99 on the App Store.