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     More iPhone ups and downs
    Filed under: — David @ 11:38 am

    Cool thing: My iPhone automatically remembers the volume settings for 1) being plugged in to my car stereo 2) having its headphones plugged in 3) having nothing plugged in. It’s fun to see the volume slider zip back and forth as I connect and disconnect the headphones. This is a really nice touch.

    Uncool thing: There is no way to view the description of a podcast episode. On an iPod, you can hit the center button twice while the episode is playing, and you see the text that shows when you click the little “i” button in iTunes. The people at the Santa Monica Apple Store were unable to come up with any way to access the text. I listen to a podcast, LDS Voices, where every episode is by a different person, so the “artist” is different every time. (Actually the person’s name is in the episode title, but I use a script to move it to the artist field.) The iPhone gets confused by having a podcast by various artists, so the end result is I have to guess who it is.

    I’m also holding off on the latest iTunes and iPhone updates, since they broke MakeiPhoneRingtone and iToner, respectively. I like my ringtones, especially the Star Trek sound effects I bought from the iTunes Store. I had to use MakeiPhoneRingtone because iTunes won’t let me make ringtones out of anything on that album (not that I would have paid the money anyway, I already bought them once for crying out loud). But you can make ringtones out of these tracks of Nichelle Nichols talking about Gene Rodenberry. But which of your contacts would you assign those to?

     iPhone wish list
    Filed under: — David @ 9:00 am

    Here is my complete (for the moment) iPhone feature wish list.

    • Add an option to set silent mode during calendar events.
    • Don’t auto-lock when plugged in.
    • Detect when a wi-fi network is making you log in before using it, instead of having things like Maps and Weather mysteriously fail.
    • Recognize URLs, phone numbers, and addresses in Notes and make them active links.
    • Provide a way to download photos from web sites.
    • Clipboard (cut, copy, paste) operations in Safari, Notes, SMS, Mail, and …well, everywhere.
    • Make all sounds customizable.
    • Play movie trailers properly when they’re accessed through the Podcasts menu - or better yet, don’t call them podcasts to begin with.
    • Make the list of cities in Weather reorderable (practically all other lists are).
    • If I want to play all my Sountrack music, I have to select Soundtrack > All Albums > All Songs > Shuffle. I need a Play button I can hit before drilling all the way down, like on an iPod.
    • If I wake the iPhone by pressing the Home button, take me to the Home screen instead of where I was last.
    • Add an option to not include quoted text in e-mail replies.
    • Provide a way to break up SMS conversations, or automatically break them up after a certain time interval has passed (just like iPhoto events!). Currently all SMS messages with a person appear as one conversation, and all you can do is delete it.
    • Provide more keyboard layout options (I use Dvorak).
    • Make the delete key pop up just like the other keys do.
    • Add an option in Safari to not tell web sites it’s an iPhone. Some sites have iPhone/mobile versions that are crippled, broken, or otherwise annoying.
    • Provide access to all iPhone settings through iTunes.
    • Let me sync my music, photos, and videos from one computer, and contacts and calendars from another.

    The cool thing about having my phone and iPod in one device is I don’t have to manually pause the iPod when I want to make or receive a call. The problem is my photos and music are on my desktop Mac, while my contacts are on my laptop since that’s where I do my email. If I could use iSync with the iPhone I’d be fine, but Apple decided to complicate my life by making things simple and forcing me to do everything through iTunes.

    The clipboard function mentioned above is complicated by the fact that you need a way to select text with the touch screen. Currently, dragging your finger across text moves the insertion point, so what would you do differently to select? Have a text selection mode? You need a really obvious way to indicate which mode it’s in, and I’m having a hard time imagining that being done gracefully. Another option is a button you have to hold down while selecting with another finger, but that wouldn’t be intuitive.

    I filed a couple of my ideas as feature requests in Apple’s bug database, and they got marked as known issues. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I’m sure they have no shortage of suggestions from iPhone users.

     Second batch of iPhone thoughts
    Filed under: — David @ 12:16 pm

    Movie trailers
    Counter-intuitively, movie trailers downloaded in iTunes show up as podcasts. So in the iPhone’s menu, there are two ways to access movie trailers: through Podcasts, or through Videos. What’s really weird is if I play a trailer through the Podcasts menu, it only shows the first frame and just plays the audio. If I turn the iPhone sideways, instead of switching to landscape view, it goes to Cover Flow mode. At first I thought movie trailers were just plain broken until it occurred to me to access them through the Videos menu.

    When my iPod is connected to my computer, the iPod’s screen says “Do Not Disconnect” in large letters until I “eject” it in iTunes. Sometimes it gets stuck that way until I restart the computer. If I unplug it anyway, the computer gives me a warning that unexpectedly disconnecting a device is unhealthy.

    Just now I yanked my iPhone out of its dock without thinking to eject it in iTunes. But there was no warning. It just quietly disappeared from the iTunes source list. Then I realized that the iPhone never displays the “Do Not Disconnect” message, so the only time it’s really dangerous to spontaneously unplug it is during syncing. It’s about time.

    Size and shape
    I was worried that since the iPhone is bigger than my old Sony Ericsson T68i, it wouldn’t fit in the same place in my pocket next to my wallet. Fortunately my pockets are wider than they look, and it still fits.

    The problem with the shape, though, is it’s too symmetrical. It’s all to easy to pick it up upside-down since it’s hard to tell by feel which way is up.

    I’m avoiding upgrading to iTunes 7.4.2 because it doesn’t work with MakeiPhoneRingtone. My favorite ringtone so far is “Phone Phone Phone” by They Might Be Giants. I also made a ringtone out of Spines (just the intro), which the iTunes Store currently doesn’t let you do.

     iPhone: first batch of thoughts
    Filed under: — David @ 4:31 pm

    Lisa and I got iPhones over the weekend. For her it was a bridal shower gift, and for me it was a birthday gift. I also got the movie version of Optimus Prime (bundled with the mini versions of Jazz and Bumblebee). It’s fairly cool; I may write about it later.

    It’s ironic that my activation process was made more complicated by the fact that I was already an AT&T customer and needed to change plans to something iPhone-compatible.

    I called AT&T this morning and went through this process:

    • Choose a plan - I went with the basic one, which actually includes more minutes than my old plan so I’ll end up paying less because I won’t have the overages.
    • Read the IMEI code from the iPhone’s box.
    • Read the IDs of the old and new SIM cards. (I don’t keep the old SIM card because it reportedly can’t deal with the new data features).
    • Wait on hold for a minute.
    • Connect the iPhone to my computer.
    • Go through the iTunes setup thing: choose additional text messaging options (the basic 200/month is plenty for me), skim the agreements from Apple and AT&T.

    The AT&T guy told be I’d be getting two confirmation emails, and that my phone wouldn’t be completely operational until the second email arrived. But the second email took a while to arrive (half an hour or so) and the phone seemed to be working fine almost immediately.

    Pairing with the car’s hands-free system was straightforward, and works just like it did with my old phone.

    However, the iPhone is still a major step backwards in Bluetooth features: it only does headsets and hands-free systems. With my old phone, I could use Address Book to dial numbers, send and receive SMS messages, and see incoming call info on my MacBook Pro’s screen. It was cool to be able to have SMS conversations or see who was calling without taking my phone out of my pocket. With the iPhone, I can pair it with my computer (after a few tries), but it doesn’t actually provide access to any services, so pairing is pointless.

    I was hoping for the ability to use the iPhone’s calendar to set it to silent during certain calendar events, like when I’m in church or other meetings. I thought it was a somewhat obvious feature, but apparently Apple didn’t think of it. So I filed it as Radar #5486212.

    I’m not going to buy any ringtones from the iTunes Store. Paying a full 99ยข for a fraction of a song just doesn’t make sense to me. I’m just going to use something like iToner or MakeiPhoneRingtone to use my own sound files.

    For the sake of doing something a little more work-related, I tried browsing the Picasa Web Albums site. Here I ran into a surprising limitation: I couldn’t save any of the photos to the iPhone photo library. I tried .mac, thinking maybe Apple did a special thing in their own web albums to make it work. Nope.

     Why wi-fi?
    Filed under: — David @ 2:53 pm

    It still seems strange to me the way Steve Jobs introduced the existence of Safari on the iPod touch. After stating that it would have wi-fi built in, he talked about how some wireless networks require you to log in through a web page, and they addressed that need by just giving you a full-featured web browser.

    It seems like a roundabout way of introducing a major feature. He makes it sound like if it weren’t for those password-protected networks, they might not have thought to put Safari on the iPod. What else would you do on a wireless-enabled iPod? Just buy music? Apparently. Sync wirelessly with your computer? Apparently not.

     My first YouTube video
    Filed under: — David @ 8:22 am

    Now that I have a camcorder, I can join the millions of people posting random stuff on YouTube. I figure they’ll mostly be for the benefit of friends and family. Today’s selection is some mostly slow-motion video of my brother’s cats.

    The slow motion setting on my Sony HDR-SR7 is fun but it has its limitations. It takes exactly three seconds of video and slows it down 4x to twelve seconds. One problem is it seems to be doing it at a lower resolution; at first I thought it was having trouble focusing. The other problem is the process doesn’t seem to be interruptible. Once you press the button, you can’t do anything else for 15 seconds - that’s three for recording, and then twelve to play it back at the final speed while it writes it to disk. And with cats it’s particularly hard to tell if you’re going to get a good shot or not.

    This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

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