Archive for November, 2008

Update Your iPhone : Version 2.2 Now Available

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Town Crier IconSo my last post was railing against the iPhone… it sort of depressed me to write it… but now with my morning email I was made happy again. One of the many cool things about the iPhone is that the software updates are free, easy to install and always come packed with a ton of new features and functionality. Software version 2.2 was made available this morning… I downloaded and installed, messed around with the new stuff a bit and here’s my report…

Google Street View > I haven’t made up my mind on whether this feature is too intrusive or not, but what could I possibly do to stop this train anyway? Taken in its pure form, this is pretty cool stuff. Tap your Contact icon, tap a contact where you have an address filled in, tap the address… the iPhone pops you over to Google Maps and drops a pin for the address. To the left on the info bubble that appears… tap the person icon with the orange background and it drops you down into street view. Not sure what purpose this might serve for anyone but your iPhone can now do it regardless.

The one problem I suppose is that the pins don’t always drop right where you need them to be. You can touch on the pins and drag them to a new location, but if you’ve dropped a pin by tapping on an address in your Contacts, the pin doesn’t allow you to move it (Why Apple?). Anyway, the workaround is to just drop a second pin and move that one to where you need it to be… Another slight criticism is that the pins are awkward to move… when you’ve covered the pin with your finger to move it, you can no longer see what you’re doing and it’s hard to drop it precisely… do this without Wi-Fi and you have to wait a while before finding out you need to move it again… a bit of a pain in the butt but worth it if you really need to see a picture of the street…

The coolest feature though (in my opinion) is the now enhanced directions feature… you can now get walking directions as well as transit info all the way down to what time the next bus or train is leaving… very useful, very cool. This functionality shows itself once you’ve asked the iPhone for directions from one point to another… and it’s good to know that it would take me about 16 hours and 8 minutes to walk the 48.9 miles to my Dad’s house… you never know.

And one last very useful enhancement… say you’re at a club or something, you want one of your friends to meet you but you’re not exactly sure where you are… simply use the iPhone to automatically locate yourself on the map, drop a pin and then email that location to your friend… what gets sent is a Google Maps URL that your friend just clicks on to locate you. Nice…

Podcasts > The iPhone now has the ability to download/stream Podcasts directly to the phone over a Wi-Fi connection or straight through your cellular network. Before this update you needed to download the Podcast first to your desktop (iTunes) and then tether the iPhone to your computer to transfer it over… pretty much useless if you were out and about in the world… but now, you can access all Podcasts directly through iTunes on the iPhone…

Try this… from the Home screen tap iTunes… tap the Search button in the row of icons at the bottom of the screen… type in WGN and wait for the search results… tap See All Podcasts. Scroll down to Steve & Johnnie¬†and tap it… then have it… very, very cool. And if you get a call while you’re listening to a Podcast, the Podcast will fade down and pause while you answer your call… when you hang up it will fade back up and continue from where you left off.

These were the two new features I liked the best… but there’s a host of other updates, enhancements, etc… for a list of those visit the announcement page on Apple’s website.

Have fun.

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Say It Ain’t So Cupertino.

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

Town Crier IconI guess I should have seen this coming… a little sub-surface investigation would have raised the warning flags, but being a long-time advocate/participant of the open-source vibe, I suppose I still insist on seeing the world as a primarily altruistic organism with its glass half full as opposed to half empty… this week however, Apple has pushed me a little closer to disenchantment as reports hit the wire that Apple has no intention of allowing the Flash player to run on its most popular line of iPhones.

We talked about this on the air a couple months back when Patrick had just attended an Adobe summit. When I asked him what he knew about any impending release for Flash Player on the iPhone, he claimed to be sworn to secrecy… although I doubt this turn of events was what he was keeping secret.

As it turns out, supporting Flash would be a move that directly impacts the profitability of Apple’s new App Store… Flash, which started life humbly as software that allowed you to build those nifty web-animations and banners, has evolved into a full-blown platform capable of spitting out applications of its own. Long story short, developers would simply need to write their App in Flash, post it to a web page and thus totally circumvent the need to deal with Apple or its App Store at all… big problem for Apple…

But so what… This is just plain wrong… so much of the web today is Flash-based that viewing it with the Flash erased is noticeably incomplete… so much so that I rarely use Safari on my iPhone… for that reason.

A live by the sword die by the sword proposition I guess… I’ve always loved that Apple hardware was a proprietary deal, it has always made for far more reliable machines and my experience has proven this fact again and again… but I never anticipated that Apple would use their power to perpetrate this sort of censorship, which I guess just illuminates a particular naivete on my part… but is it so bad to expect a company based on the empowerment of the people to practice a little altruism?

I guess so… a read of the iPhone SDK Agreement clearly states the following;

“An Application may not itself install or launch other executable code by any means, including without limitation through the use of a plug-in architecture, calling other frameworks, other APIs or otherwise,” reads clause 3.3.2 of the iPhone SDK agreement. “No interpreted code may be downloaded and used in an Application except for code that is interpreted and run by Apple’s Published APIs and built-in interpreter(s).”

The jury is still out on what the eventual outcome of all this might be as there has been no official statement from Apple… but if the sentiments leaking out of Adobe and other sources are to be considered… It’s not looking that good… so one thing I’m not going to be doing while awaiting the ultimate decision is paying for apps at the App Store… to me that would be a vote against what I thought Apple stood for.

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Who Wants To Hulu?

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Town Crier IconWow, almost two months since I’ve posted anything… but I’ve been too busy for recreational writing and thus, short on topic ideas… but I just ran across an awesome article on Hulu.com… You might remember we talked about Hulu on the radio a couple months back. I played with the site for a while back then, but found too few TV shows and movies to keep me interested… however a couple months have passed (which is an eon in Internet time), so I decided to head back over and see how things were progressing… that ended up being a fortuitous decision as I found so much more content now that I have to admit… I’m hooked.

I’m sort of a perfect storm for this type of thing… I have a high-speed internet connection, dual-monitors on my machine, I make my living with/on a computer and I’m addicted to television/movies. Directly above my computer monitors I have an old 13″ Trinitron connected to a dual-channel TIVO box with a capacity for about 350 hours of non-HD programming… and I STILL fill it up! Which is where Hulu comes in… no need to keep it on my TIVO if I have access to it 24/7 over the internet, which is just what this is… your free-of-charge repository of online media.

On top of the ever-growing content that Hulu is getting online, the coolest new addition to this site has to be the power to “embed” their content, how cool is this…

…and I offer a massive tip-o-the-hat to Jeff Zucker and Peter Chernin, the heads of NBC Universal and FOX parent News Corporation respectively… here’s two heads of major media outlets that seem to finally be tuning in to how Web 2.0+ works… it’s all about being open… sharing… going viral… this is the best way in 2k8 to connect your content directly to its audience.

An interesting point made by Zucker in the article was that he didn’t quite know how all this would inevitably affect traditional distribution channels like dvd, pay-per-view, movie rentals, etc… but he knew that Hulu represented the chance to answer that question… he also has the still flailing music industry as a picture perfect model of what not to do… but I digress…

Another cool new feature of the site is being able to queue movies to watch later… this, along with a running history of the movies/shows/clips you’ve watched is available to registered users of the site… but as this is free… no problems right?

One caveat for those using dual-monitors… a current limit of the Flash Video Player that’s behind all this video delivery magic, is that you can’t use the Full Screen function to play a stream on one monitor while you work on the other. The workaround for the time being is to use the Pop Out option instead and then maximize it on one monitor… Almost the same effect anyway except you’re looking at the desktop beyond… also not that big of a deal right?

Anyway, I’m going to have more to write on this as I delve further into the content… but right now I have to watch the ending of the Fifth Element (for the 20th time)… free for the watching at Hulu.com.

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