Category Archives: iTunes+iPod+iPhone

IPhone 2.0: Not Bad, If You Don’t Mind The Tantrums

Dear iPhone,

Well, it’s been almost three weeks now, my dear friend. I upgraded you with what seemed would be one of your best software versions yet. Promises of third party applications, WPA Enterprise security for your WiFi and Microsoft Exchange support (swoon) were finally, tantalizingly within my grasp.

What happened? Why must you treat me so shabbily? Is it because I had the audacity to want the best for you — indeed, for us? I love how you’ve made me more productive… at least, when you’re not throwing your latest tantrum, that is. The unexpected restarts haven’t caused a problem, at least not so far. Not that I know of…? Sooner or later it’s bound to happen that you’ll reboot just when I really need you. And really, can I trust you not to get all piquish when I’m in the middle of a call? Can I, truly?

And tell me, what’s up with the battery life? I used to go a good, solid day between charges with you. Maybe more. We’ve had a lot of fun together, you and I, and you’ve been quite tolerant and understanding. These days it seems like I can’t even listen to music for more than a few hours and you’re looking like you’re gasping for electrons. I’ve done everything I can think of to salvage our relationship, even sought counsel from your Maker. After that things were a little better for a while, but now you feel cold and distant, again.

I do hope that a visit from Uncle Steve will bring you happiness, and soon. I love you and the things you do for me but I’m just not sure how much longer we can keep going like this. I’m afraid AppleCare won’t be able to help if we don’t do something about this sad, dreary situation we’ve found ourselves in. Know this, though, that if there is any way possible, I will find a way to help you.

I remain, as always, very sincerely yours.


Apple TV, take 2

Some pleasant surprises came with the Apple TV 2.0 update, which arrived yesterday…

  1. You can use the Apple TV as an AirTunes device.
  2. 1080p output is supported.
  3. Closed caption support is available (though, sadly, content with CC is currently quite limited).
  4. Though you have 24 hours to finish watching an iTunes rental from the time you start, I was able to successfully start a movie with 45 minutes left on the clock and still watch through to the end – even though this took me nearly 45 minutes over the limit. (Kudos to Apple for allowing this.)
  5. There are (optional) parental controls on all content downloaded from the Internet: movie and TV show previews, podcasts, photos, etc.

My kids and I picked out and started watching a movie within 15 minutes after running the new software. Given the fact that I wanted to keep the cost of our experiment down – in case it didn’t go so well – we chose a standard definition* (SD) movie. While not nearly as good as the network broadcast 720p content we’ve become accustomed to it did compare pretty favorably with a standard DVD. I’d still give the edge to upconverted DVD video; however, there were no glaring deficiencies in the downloaded video.

I’ll be exploring more in the next few weeks. I wonder, what other surprises await?

*Don’t confuse SD with standard (i.e. non-widescreen) picture. The movie was presented in a widescreen format just as in the theater; it just wasn’t encoded as HD.

Content for the Apple TV (and, well… you)

As promised, here’s a selection of what I’ve been watching my Apple TV.

First up, the Hidden Universe HD podcast. Focusing primarily on images from the Spitzer Space Telescope, the Hidden Universe brings some fantastic visuals from the depths of space. With reasonably well-written, 2-6 minute pieces, you can get breathtaking views of objects both (relatively) near and far. The longer, and typically more interesting episodes are hosted by Dr. Robert Hurt. Two versions of this podcast are available, so make sure you get the HD version.

Next on the list is another space telescope podcast: Hubblecast HD. The images are no less breathtaking from Hubble, and the Hubblecast crew has a few video tricks up their sleeve, too. This “vodcast” (or video podcast) is hosted by one Doctor J, aka Dr. Joe Liske, who expertly guides the viewer into the wild and beautiful reaches of deep space. Note: there are three versions of this podcast on iTunes, so be sure to get the HD version, not Full HD. You’ll notice that the first 5 episodes are missing, unfortunately, but you can fetch these from the standard Hubblecast feed or get them online. (The HD version first appeared in episode #6.)

Several television news organizations have at least attempted made an attempt to put together video content. NBC Nightly News is noteworthy as being the first full-length newscast available; FOX for short, generally upbeat clips, updated at least a couple of times each weekday; and CBS Evening News. Unfortunately, none of these are available with enough resolution to look decent on the Apple TV. (Since I started to write this, CNN and ABC have added news-related videocasts as well. I don’t normally watch these networks but you might want to check them out.)

Even if you don’t use an Apple computer, you may find it well worth your while to check out MacBreak in any of the several formats available. Hosted and produced by a variety of folks associated with TWiT, you’ll find a variety interesting short videocasts on topics including image editors, video production, and the cool gadgets. Make sure you get the Apple TV version, not the HD version.

A couple of other videocasts I’m currently subscribed to are Beautiful Places In HD and Finding America HD. They’re not high-end productions but they are certainly enjoyable for what they are. Beautiful Places is currently on hiatus, but hopefully returning this spring; Finding America is updated every week or two.

If you find any of this helpful – even if you don’t have an Apple TV – would you leave a comment or drop me an email and let me know, please?

iLove the iPhone (2)

Things I love about the iPhone, in no particular order:

  1. I admit it: cool factor. (Though, why shouldn’t useful be cool?)
  2. One hard button to rule them all. Simplicity. Elegance. Utility.
  3. Phone and iPod functions are exquisitely integrated.
  4. Scrolling and zooming in and out on full-function web pages.
  5. Access to web and email from almost everywhere I care about.
  6. Applications: YouTube, WiFi Music Store, Google Maps with traffic.
  7. Support for WPA Personal.
  8. Durability.
  9. A beautiful, bright, big screen.
  10. No more pocket dialing. Hurray!

This is a shorter list than my list of gripes, but a few of the things mentioned above still impress me every day, even as I near 3 months with the device. For example, it’s close to sheer bliss to swap back and forth between the listening to the iPod and using the phone. The music fades out, whether you’re answering or calling; you talk on the phone; then the music fades back in, right where you left off. Words belie the beauty of the experience. Go to an AT&T store and try it. You’ll see what I mean.

One other item of note; the single word “durability” doesn’t really give you much of an idea of what I mean. There’s “oh no! My iPhone fell, but landed on my shoe… whew!” on the one hand, and “augh, that’s the fourth time this week that I’ve bent over and sent the iPhone scurrying across the floor” on the other. Let me just say that any other device would have been terribly scratched up by now. It took me a while to remember not to put it in the same pocket with my car keys, but it’s no worse for the wear. In fact, the back of the case has some light scoring from such adventures, but the glass is in fantastic shape. What few scratches that are visible are difficult to find even with the display turned off.

If this thing ever malfunctions, I hope to add one more thing to my list. I bought AppleCare. If I need to use it I’ll let you know how it goes.

iHate the iPhone (1)

Things I hate about the iPhone, in no particular order:

  1. No support for third party, native apps.
  2. Exchange support requires IMAP. Why not support the RPC mechanism?
  3. Notes don’t sync to anything meaningful on the computer(!!!).(But this is fixed in Leopard.)
  4. No support for third party, native apps. Oh, I already said that?
  5. EDGE is okay but 3G is better. Technically more of a wistful sigh than a hate.
  6. Mobile Safari crashes for no apparent reason from time to time.
  7. No podcasts available from the WiFi Music Store.
  8. Easily the most annoying for me: no Keychain Utility.
  9. No Adobe Flash support? Seriously? Rarrrgh, Hulk mad!
  10. WPA Enterprise is not supported for WiFi (only WPA Personal).
  11. Can’t play (most) audio and video attachments in email.
  12. Easily the most disappointing: no IM client.See also: No support for third party, native apps.
  13. No way to use music created in Garage Band, et al. as a ringtone.

You will note that I am not mentioning, and nor will I mention, anything about the wireless carrier. That’s a religious war, not a technical issue, and frankly it’s not a problem for me. (Draw your own conclusions on that statement, as you please.)

Don’t fret, dear reader, I have another list of things for part 2: iLove the iPhone.

UPDATE, via TUAW: Apple: “we plan to have an iPhone SDK in developers’ hands in February”This is getting spooky. Steve Jobs, are you reading my blog?

UPDATE 2: Oh yeah. Added “ringtones” above.

UPDATE 3: Notes don’t sync.

The Early Adopter Tax (an open letter to Apple, Inc.)

Dear Apple,

I’m not happy.

Not at all.

Thanks for dropping the price $200 on my phone… 27 days after I bought it. Yes, I realize that this is long after your return policy applies, by a whole 13 days. Still… two hundred dollars?! One word: ouch.

Some people are looking for a refund. Some people want iTunes Music Store credits. I really don’t agree with either proposal, because to a certain extent I agree with those who said that the phone was worth it when I paid for it; clearly it still is now. These things are essentially cash out of pocket for you and it’s hard for me to condone penalizing you solely for selling something at a price that the market will bear. However, the magnitude of the price drop suggests that I was, perhaps, being gouged. That, precisely, is why I’m not happy.

What I propose to you is this: give the early adopters free AppleCare on our pre-September 5th iPhones. It doesn’t cost any real money up front, and won’t cost anything for the majority of your iPhone customers (unless there’s something you aren’t telling us, of course). It’s certainly a lot cheaper than cash refunds, and seems likely to be less cost than the equivalent number of iTMS credits.

So, how about it, Apple? Are you willing to make a small concession to us, your faithful fans? You don’t have to admit you sold us something at a grossly inflated price. Just tell us you care. You can’t make everybody happy, but I suspect that a lot of us would accept this token of goodwill.


Scott R.

UPDATE: Steve Jobs posted an open letter of his own today. I’ll cut to the chase:

Therefore, we have decided to offer every iPhone customer who purchased an iPhone from either Apple or AT&T, and who is not receiving a rebate or any other consideration, a $100 store credit towards the purchase of any product at an Apple Retail Store or the Apple Online Store. Details are still being worked out and will be posted on Apple’s website next week. Stay tuned.

I feel a little better. I probably will get AppleCare for the phone, anyway.

iPod rescued

Well, first, some background, I guess. The last update on the topic of the iPod didn’t even mention the sad news: my iPod died last summer. A seemingly insignificant drop inside the car caused it to stop playing music no matter what I did. This made me sad since the iPod mini isn’t available, and besides, it’s not that old! At least, not to my pocketbook.

What I ended up doing was sending the little guy in to iPodResQ. For about $30 they provided round-trip shipping and diagnostic services. It turns out the logic board was bad (sigh), but still, the additional $100 still leaves the total cost far less than that of a new iPod, not to mention accessories. One caveat: the turnaround was a lot slower than their web site seemed to imply. I waited for 10 days all told, and only got a status report when I emailed them expressing my growing concern.

Even with that less than totally satisfactory experience, the repair job seems to have been first rate. When the mini arrived I was able to reload the software and music on it immediately and it’s been running fine ever since. And yes, I’m taking much greater care with it when I hook it up each day…