Isn't it always the way? The moment I turn in a column, Apple makes a stunning announcement, that they will indeed release a true Software Development Kit for the iPhone, and will also support the iPod Touch with it, which is equally excellent news. Of course we do not yet know what form it will take, or what restrictions Apple may place on the licensing of that SDK. For example, Apple may forbid developers from creating or at least releasing VoIP applications. I can imagine that Apple would be less than friendly to Voice over IP applications, although it would seem to me that Apple shouldn't much care if its AT&T customers use VOIP or not -- Apple will still be getting its share of monthly revenue from AT&T iPhone accounts. Apple would be worried, I suspect, if people unlock their iPhones and then just use VOIP over wi-fi. Apple could also require payments for use of the SDK, or could require software distribution through iTunes only, or require its own legal department (and possibly engineering and software quality assurance departments) to go over the software before giving it the Seal of Approval. I would rather like those as options, but I personally do not want Apple exercising control over iPhone third-party software.
Free City-wide Wi-Fi? Say again?
San Francisco, in its infinite wisdom, placed a ballot initiative before the voters asking us to fund a city-wide "free" wi-fi network. It said this: "Shall it be City policy that the City should, through an agreement with a private provider, offer free wireless high-speed Internet access as quickly as possible on an equal basis to all part of San Francisco? Unfortunately, this silly city voted 62% to 38% in favor of this measure. Free? That's utter nonsense. It has to be paid for somehow. High-speed? What does that mean, in concrete terms? To all parts of San Francisco, even those with very low densities of computers and/
No Ethernet makes me unhappy
For some peculiar reason, my Windows 2000 PC lost all communication over Ethernet. I could not ping, could do nothing that required communication over the network. I reinstalled the TCP/
But what to put on it? It is probably time to move off Windows 2000, so I discovered a technique to create a Windows bootable CD and put Windows XP on it from my copy of Virtual PC. I don't think I will ever run Virtual PC, but the XP Pro license it came with with is now very valuable to me. I found a thread on macosxhints.
Following the directions on that page under the "Bootable Windows XP installation CD-Rom (with SP2)" section, I downloaded some files, copied the I386 folder off one of the CDs that came with my VirtualPC package, and created an ISO image. The problem is, you need to use a PC to do all this, but you can use Windows 2000 running on Parallels if you have it. I burned the ISO and will install XP on a new drive.
The Internet is full of terrific information, but, like all electrons, it is transitory. I am very grateful to the Internet Archive (http://
nVidia 8800GT - Heaven Sent
I recently upgraded my video to an nVidia 7800GS, one of the last of the AGP cards, and I am satisfied with it, but there's a new card that is really appealing to a budget-minded yet enthusiastic gamer like me: the 8800GT. It actually beats the 8800GTS 640MB according to early benchmarks, and is supposed to be priced between US$200 and US$250 for 256 and 512MB versions. World of Warcraft runs fine for me now, but someday, especially now that I will be moving up to XP, I'll want to try some of the latest 3D technology like Crysis, Hellgate London, BioShock, Supreme Commander, and others.
It is without a doubt one of the greatest pieces of technology I have ever handled, on a par with the original Mac and NeXT experiences. However, being a somewhat more demanding user now, I do see some immediate shortcomings in it, but the good news is that they're all minor and fixable in software. For example, the scroll control within a song is absolutely terrible. With my iPod nano I could easily dial back a minute or two to repeat a section of a podcast, but on the iPhone I end up scrolling too far back and then forward past my current position, all because the scroller control is far too small and far, far too sensitive. I also notice that sometimes I will return to a song I had been listening but rather than pick up where I left off, it does so for a fraction of a second and then starts from the beginning again.
And although I like Cover Flow somewhat, I still prefer to navigate through my music in the more traditional columnar way, but it isn't quite the same as my iPod nano. I also had to change the "hotlink" buttons (or whatever Apple calls them) at the bottom of the initial iPod screen. I now have Genres, Playlists, Videos, Podcasts, and finally "More", in that order.
Another thing I wish I could do consistently is listen to music while surfing the web. For some reason, the music sometimes simply stops playing. I cannot connect that stoppage to any particular thing I am doing while surfing. It can happen when Safari is loading in a particularly long page, when I double-tap to zoom in or out, when scrolling,or even when doing nothing but eyeballing the screen. No particular action seems consistent to ending play.
I also notice that sometimes the touchscreen isn't aware of my touch. For example, when I press the button on the front to wake it up, swipe my finger along the bottom to activate it, and then press the iPod button, nothing happens. I need to touch the iPod button again and then it (usually) detects my touch. I've wondered if it was perhaps the temperature or dryness of my skin, but that doesn't seem to make a difference.
But all in all, I have not regretting my purchase for a single moment. I did have one scare recently: I was listening to a song and pushed the button at the top of the phone to turn on its touchscreen, and nothing happened. I then pushed the button at the bottom edge of thevfront but again nothing happened. For the next thirty seconds or so I felt a rising sense of panic. I could still hear the music, but otherwise the machine seemed dead. I pulled the USB cable out of the bottom, but no change. I tried to increase its volume, yet again nothing happened. I pulled out the headset wire and no sound came out of the speaker. I then plugged it into the USB cable connected in turn to the PowerBook and the screen flickered on, then went out. I hit the power button again and the screen came on, and it seemed to be okay. I plugged the earphones in again, went into the iPod player, and hit the Play button, and sound came blasting out. Evidently, although the iPhone did not change the volume it sent out the earphones earlier, nonetheless it somehow registered my attempts to increase the volume, and when its mind came back it blasted sound out at maximum volume. I do not know why this happened. The iPhone was fully charged, so it wasn't a problem with low power. Perhaps the mp3 file had a problem. Perhaps it didn't like me playing music while it was still connected to the PowerBook and iTunes. Perhaps a passing cosmic ray flipped a bit somewhere. Now I'm just glad it is working.
Now that I finally have a phone that has Bluetooth, I figured that I should use a wireless headset. Although the Apple model looks nice and is quite small, I frequently use the phone in the car. Background noise can be a problem, so I decided on a Jawbone. When I handed the Jawbone box to the salesperson at the Apple Store (a young man named "Chipper"), he asked me if I knew about Apple's headset, and I said that I needed something with excellent noise reduction. Although the Apple Bluetooth Headset looks nice, I knew it would not have the functionality of a Jawbone. Looking at the Apple website confirms my fears: it isn't nearly as good a headset as you would expect from Apple.
About the Jawbone, it was easy to pair with the iPhone and sound quality is extraordinary. I was speaking to my parents while driving to work and I rolled down the window. Ordinarily, the whistling sound from outside would drown me out, but they could not even tell that anything had changed. Another time a truck rolled by me, so loud I could not hear myself, but the person talking to me had no idea. The demo movies on their website show just how effective their technology is, and although it cost about as much as the Apple headset (US$119), it was well worth it.
About the only problem I have with the Jawbone is that it does not quite fit into my ear. It has a loop which goes over and around the ear, and that works well and is comfortable, but the nubbin that fits into the ear hole is just a short cylinder. Unlike a Jabra earpiece, Jawbone has no contoured shape to it. So, it sometimes pops out of my ear. The loop keeps it near enough to my ear to still be usable, but it isn't right. I am now looking around for one of the Jabra earpieces, made of silicone rubber, which I read somewhere can fit on the Jawbone's ear fitting.
MacOS X -- The Latest
I have not yet upgraded to Leopard, but I expect to in a month or three. I want to give it some time to mature, to get past the peculiarities of an initial release. For example, Apple appears to have changed the way the firewall works. The new one can digitally sign an application and deny it access to the Internet if it changes from launch to launch. In theory, this is a good idea. A changed application can indicate some mischief. However, some applications always change themselves from launch to launch, for example Skype and World of Warcraft. The fix? Reinstall the app. Another problem is that it is not turned on by default. Although I suppose having the firewall on by default runs some small risk that something isn't going to work, it should be quite easy to have it at least stop incoming traffic and permit outgoing traffic, something basic but still helpful to start with.
While I am not a big fan of ipfw (I prefer pf in OpenBSD, personally), it still did the job on 10.
Why didn't the Star Wars hologram effect for iChat ship with the release version of the OS? I don't understand that at all. Steve and Phil Schiller demonstrated it at at least one public event, and I think two that I attended. I just can't see George Lucas making legal threats against Apple for something like that. Just call it something like "Outer Space Signal" and avoid any reference to Star Wars, and it should be fine. And if someone makes the argument that there was some kind of bug in it that prevented it being included, well, I have a bridge I would like to sell them.
It just sounds like the usual story after a new OS release: things change, change upsets people, people and/