Apple

Macheist warming up

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Macheist sounded their early warning system a few days ago. Claiming to have detected abnormal cosmic radiation levels. It seems that the countdown has begun. Navigating to correct galactic co-ordinates and sending out a solar tweet results in you getting a license for the disk visualisation application Daisy Disk worth $20.

Go to co-ordinates 151.7,174.4

Go to co-ordinates 151.7,174.4

I participated in the previous Macheist and scored a boot load of applications for $39 (retail value of apps was around $558). The concept gains momentum every year and I’m confident that this year the applications on offer will be better than ever.

Daisy Disk

Daisy Disk

The idea is simple, the guys over at Macheist set up a series of challenges that require you to do some serious detective work. They set up dummy web sites, embed stuff into images and generally make things super challenging. Never fear, you aren’t on your own and everyone participating in the event shares their successes. The bulk of the money raised goes to charity, some of it goes to the app developers and some obviously goes to Macheist – so this is all for a good cause.

It’s a heap of fun if you participate and even if you don’t, you still get all the listed apps. If you do decide to get a little more involved in the puzzle solving you unlock bonus apps that further increase the value of your loot.

There are usually a few bonus applications for first 25,000 people that sign up for the heist. The more people that join the cause the more apps are unlocked. From what I understand, the target had been reached every year for the past 3 years, so don’t worry about some of the apps not being unlocked.

Keep and eye on their website for further updates or follow them (@macheist) or me (@gordongreeff) on Twitter for more updates.

Kindle vs Nook (vs iSlate)

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A few lucky early adopters have already received the Kindles down here in deepest darkest Africa, but as much as I want to get my hands on an ebook reader immediately, I’m going to try to fight the urge until there a few more killer devices available locally. The Barnes & Noble Nook was recently announced and will be available soon in the USA, but no word yet on availability internationally. I’m pretty sure that they will want to distribute the device as far and wide as possible, especially if they want to compete with Amazon.

If a had to choose a device today, I’d snap up a Nook in a second. It has features that the Kindle doesn’t have and just looks like a much better device. I haven’t used either device yet, but when it comes to the actual reading of books, I suspect they will be pretty much on par as they share the same size screen powered by the same E Ink technology.

One thing I don’t really like about either device is that the content you purchase from the respective online stores isn’t portable. It’s the whole DRM saga all over again. We’ve been through this with the purchasing of online music already. It doesn’t work. That’s why you can now buy your music DRM free from iTunes. I know it just comes down the publishers being a little nervous having their content out there in the wild west, but in the end I want to be able to take my ebook content from device to device without being locked into a specific technology platform.

So there is a lot of buzz about the Apple iSlate/iTablet at the moment as well. A few media slips over the last few days seem to confirm that we should see something early next year and that there will definitely be some reader functionality built into the device. If Apple continue the trend of providing DRM free content from the iTunes store maybe this will be the first platform where I will be able to purchase an ebook and transfer the content from my iSlate to whatever my new ebook reader of the future will be.

I’m gonna hang on a bit longer before I make the leap.

kindle2_02.jpg

nook.jpg

Device

Kindle

Nook

Screen Size

6 inch E Ink

6 inch E Ink / 3.5 colour TFT

Touch Screen

No

Yes (Colour)

Storage

2GB

not expandable

2GB

Expandable up to
16GB

Wireless

AT&T

AT&T 3G and
Wi-Fi

Bookstore

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Natively
Supported Formats

Kindle (AZW), TXT,
Audible, MP3,
MOBI, PRC

ePub, “multiple DRM
solutions,” PDF

Formats
Supported via
Conversion

PDF, HTML, DOC,JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP

Word, more to come

Web Browser

Yes

No

Sync with


iPhone, iPod Touch

iPhone, iPod Touch, Blackberry, PC, Mac OS

Sync
Last page read
Last page read, notes, annotations
Lend ebooks
No
Yes

Available

Now

Nov 30 ‘09

How to clean your Apple Mighty Mouse

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The little scroll wheel/ball on my Mighty Mouse gets lazy every few weeks and only lets me scroll in one direction. Sometimes only up, sometimes only down. Side to side never seems to be a problem.

A simple fix I learned about to solve this problem meant I didn’t have to keep phoning Digicape to complain about repeatedly being sold bad mice…

Simply turn your Mighty Mouse off (by sliding the cover at the bottom closed), turn the mouse upside down onto a piece of paper and move the mouse around putting pressure on the scroll wheel so that it makes solid contact with the paper.

As you move it around you should see it leave a gorgeous trail of finger dirt and residue. Depending on how bad it is, you may even be able to spell your name before it’s clean.

The video below demonstrates the process:

Apologies for the poor quality. I whipped this up quickly on my iPhone 3GS.

QOTD: Steve Ballmer (Microsoft) <- this ones a doozy

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Steve Ballmer: “Let’s face it, the Internet was designed for the PC. The Internet is not designed for the iPhone. That’s why they’ve got 75,000 applications – they’re all trying to make the Internet look decent on the iPhone.”

Wow ! Let’s not even begin to discuss IE6 and the fact that without ActiveX and Silverlight I doubt a single website would look half decent in any version of IE.

Any website that conforms to HTML and CSS standards looks just find uncle Ballmer. Idiot.

Tale of the annoying Apple headset mic

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Does the placement of the microphone/volume control button on the Apple headset annoy anyone else ?

Maybe I just happen to have a very unfortunate set of bodily proportions, but the microphone/button placement on the headset cable always catches on the collar or my shirt when I am sitting down with the earbuds in my ears.

iphone-headset.png

It catches just enough that I have to make wild neck movements to “unhook” it while I’m driving.

I have exactly the same problem with the headset that came with my iPhone 2G. Does Apple have it in for me ?

If they moved the button a few centimeters higher or lower it would solve the problem immediately.

MobileMe Media Sync — Apple Patent Watch

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File this under awesome x rad. Seriously, I find it so annoying when can’t carry on listening (or watching) to my current song or podcast when I move from one device to another. Sitting at my desk listening to a podcast on iTunes and switching to my iPhone when I have to dash off somewhere is mildly frustrating because I need to get to the correct podcast and then scan for the spot I was at before I can pick up where I left off.

With this I should just be able to pop my earbuds in and hit play on the head set control. It will save me time not only because I don’t have to find the right track, but I also won’t have to listen to the same parts of tracks again because I’m not sure where I was.

And I totally agree that Apple need to start working a little harder to earn my MobileMe subscription every year !

091019-applepatent-01

Synchronization of Media State Across Multiple Devices, one of the latest patents filed by Apple, aims to use MobileMe to make sure if you start watching a movie in iTunes or on the AppleTV, then switch to your iPhone, you’re at the exact same place in the movie (and back again) — with no USB sync required.

Last month, prompted by reader Seth Clifford, TiPb asked for just such ‘WhisperSync’ (to use the Amazon Kindle term) functionality. Not only would this be great for users with multiple Windows, Macs, iPhones, and/or iPod touches, but it would be a great way for Apple to add value to MobileMe, whose $99 a year is non-competitive to say the least, especially for Windows users (who don’t benefit from iLife, Back to my Mac, Mac sync, etc.) So, yeah, Apple — make this happen!

(Via The iPhone Blog.)

SIP clients for the iPhone

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For quite some time now I’ve been on the hunt for a decent SIP client for the iPhone. At one point I almost gave up completely as it seemed that the only people that were interested in releasing SIP clients for the iPhone were companies that provided a “pay for” SIP service. There was no generic SIP client that actually delivered acceptable voice quality.

I know there are some great applications if you have a jailbroken iPhone, but I was looking for something mainstream, especially if I was going to evangelise the solution to less technical colleagues and customers.

Having access to a corporate SIP service at the office I was keen to find something that worked really well, primarily because everyone that had a Nokia device running Symbian could make VoIP calls and I couldn’t.

There are now finally a handful of decent clients available in the App Store that do almost everything that I needed them to do:

– ability to use my own SIP server configuration.
– ability to use the built in address book.
– support for the G.729 codec.
– ability to make GSM calls from within the application.

Ideally, I’d also like the application to be free, but so far this hasn’t happened. All three of the applications that I feel are worth considering carry a £3.99 price tag from the UK iTunes store (click here for instructions on how to create a UK iTunes account without a UK credit card).

The only feature that all of the applications fall short on, is the G.729 codec support. With bandwidth constraints in South Africa G.729 compression for voice over IP has become commonplace.

After reading a few reviews and comparing feature lists I eventually settled for iSip, knowing that the lack of G.729 support would mean that I would be restricted in the destinations I would be able to call. After the initial configuration (which was incredibly simple) I was happily making calls to certain destinations. The call quality was excellent and connection time was extremely quick. The ability to have multiple profiles meant that depending on whether my iPhone was connected to the corporate VoIP network or a general Internet WiFi hotspot I was still able make calls without having to change settings.

I have put in a feature request in with the application developer, but as yet I have not received any feedback as to if or when this is a possibility. I know there are some licensing issues when making use of G.729, but I’m pretty sure they could just work that cost into the price of the application.

Below is a list of the applications that you should consider if you are looking for a Generic SIP client sans G.729 support:

isip.png WeePhone.png Acrobits.png
iSip
WeePhone SIP
Acrobits Softphone

I thought I would also make mention of Nimbuzz and Fring. These two applications are free in the App Store and they allow for custom SIP settings, but both require an active connection to their respective servers to “log in” and actually make calls. This results in a terrible speech delay and I’ve found them to be almost unusable. Others may have better luck. Also,most corporate VoIP networks probably won’t allow connections to the Internet, which renders the applications completely useless.

Nimbuzz.png Fring.jpg
Nimbuzz
Fring

The quest continues…

Update: I received a response from the developers saying that they are in negotiations with the G.729 license holder and that they aren’t able to include support for the codec until they have concluded the discussions.

Create a UK iTunes account without a credit card

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With the proliferation of iPhones, iPod Touches and more and more people using iTunes, I am regularly asked how I manage to get all the album artwork for all my music as well as being able purchase music and other content not available in the South African iTunes store. The simple answer is that you need an account in one of the iTunes stores outside of South Africa.

Apple closed quite a few loopholes that one used to be able exploit to achieve this, but fortunately there is still a way. I’ve taken bits and pieces from other websites and blogs and a little of my own experience with doing this and put together a step by step guide to get you to iTunes goodness.

  1. Fire up iTunes and click on the “iTunes Store” icon in the sidebar.
  2. Scroll right to the bottom of the page and click “Change Country”.
  3. Change Country

    Change Country

  4. On the next page, scroll to the bottom and select “United Kingdon”.
  5. United Kingdom

    United Kingdom

  6. Now go into the App Store and find a free app and “buy” it. Any app will do, as long as it is free. There are loads.
  7. The following screen will pop up. Click on the “Create New Account” button.
  8. Create Account

    Create Account

  9. On the next few pages you will need to agree to some terms and conditions and then fill in all your details. When it comes to the address, the only important thing is a valid postal code. Fill in a valid UK postal code that you know or get one from here: http://www.fakenamegenerator.com/.
  10. The last page you will be presented with will be the payment page. On this page select the “None” option.
  11. Payment method = None

    Payment method = None

You’re done creating your account. You may now go forth and make use of Genius, download artwork and purchase anything that is free in the music or app store.

If you’d like to buy content that has a price attached to it, all you need to do is redeem an iTunes voucher. You can purchase UK iTunes store vouchers from gamepointsnow.com. I’ve used them a number of times for Xbox live vouchers and iTunes vouchers. Very reliable and I have never had an issue. They make use of either Paypal or Google Checkout which both work with a South African credit card. You pay a small premium for buying from them, but it’s the simplest solution I’ve found so far.

Your voucher arrives via email within seconds and then you just click on the “Redeem Voucher” link in the iTunes store.

Right. You’re set. Time to starting fully enjoying the iTunes experience.

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