Posts tagged Featured

Google maps now has SA direction information

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Anyone that regularly uses Google Maps or Google Earth would have noticed that the level of detail and the correctness of the detail for South Africa has been improving significantly over the past few months.

The first thing I noticed in Google Earth was the addition of some 3D buildings to the Cape Town CBD area. Shortly afterwards there was a marked improvement on the amount of street level data that was available.

I’ve also seen the Google Streetview car driving around Cape Town a number of times. I assume all the fuss is to provide tourists with decent mapping information when they arrive in their droves for the World Cup next year.

streetview-prius.jpg

Today I caught a tweet (thanks @kishyr) saying that direction information is also working in Google maps. I quickly tried it out myself and I’m happy to announce that it is working and appears to work pretty darn well. It even sensibly calculates different directions based on whether you are in a motor vehicle or on foot. The transit direction information doesn’t work yet, but then again neither does our public transport system.

google-map.png google-list.png

Above are screenshots from my iPhone 3GS detailing directions from the Cape Town CBD (my current location) to Hout Bay for a motor vehicle. When I change to “on foot”, it redirects you along Victoria road all along the coast.

Good work Google ! But remember, don’t be evil.

Barnes & Noble Nook aims right between the eyes

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Talk about blowing the competition out of the water !

Looks like the Nook has all the features we’ve been begging for in the Kindle. I won’t go into detail about the features, Engadget sums it all up very nicely below.

My only questions are how large the book selection will be, what will the books cost and will it be available in South Africa ?

Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader leaks a bit early: $259, pre-orders are live (video): “

Looks like all those whispers were true — the ‘Android-based’ nook is alive and well, and it’s calling itself the planet’s ‘most advanced e-book reader.’ Measuring 7.7- x 4.9- x 0.5-inches and weighing 11.2 ounces, the device includes a top e-ink display from Vizplex and a color touchscreen (3.5-inches) below, which supports one-touch control and swipe-to-browse books with full-color covers. The rechargeable battery takes 3.5 hours to go from zero to full if using a wall outlet, and B&N claims that itll last for up to ten days if you flick the wireless to ‘off.’ Speaking of which, inbuilt WiFi (802.11b/g) and AT&T 3G is included, not to mention 2GB of internal storage, a microSD expansion slot, MP3 player, built-in mono speaker, 3.5 millimeter headphone jack, a micro USB port and support for EPUB, PDF and MP3. The nook also supports bookmarking, making notes, and highlighting passages, and the LendMe feature allows users to lend books for up to a fortnight at a time to other e-readers, cellphones or computers.

B&N also tells us that you can pick up where you left off (with markings and highlights in tact) on your iPhone or BlackBerry using its free eReader software, which just so happens to be the same app that allows sharing to iPhone, iPod touch, BlackBerry, PC or Mac. As expected, the company will also let you sample ebooks before you buy, and youll enjoy free WiFi each and every time you sashay into a Barnes & Noble retail location. Its available to pre-order as we speak for $259, with initial shipments expected to happen at the end of November. Introductory video is after the break, along with a few highlights about accessories and features.

Update: Aw snap, B&N just yanked everything related to nook from its website. Thankfully for you, everything youd ever need to know is right here.

Update 2: Looks like it’s back! Though, the landing page itself still seems down. Hurray for backdoors!

(Via Engadget.)

A word on migrating WordPress installations

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One of the reservations I had about migrating this blog from WordPress.com to a hosted WordPress installation was the difficulty I thought I would have migrating all my content over. I also wasn’t sure if the same themes and widgets would be available to me. The concern around themes and widgets was put to rest quickly after a few short searches for the stuff I wanted.

wordpress.png

I also read an article a few days prior about exporting the post content from the site using the export tool built into WordPress, so I figured that at least I wouldn’t have to retype or copy and paste all my articles back into the new blog.

After installing WordPress on my server (use bluehost.com for this, they are awesome) and doing some basic initial configuration of the admin user I headed over the import tool, also built into WordPress (smart guys, importing and exporting, who would have thought). I pointed the import tool at my exported .xml file and hoped for the best.

Now I’ve been around the block a few times when it comes to exporting data from once system and them importing it into another. There are always issues. Not only was I pleasantly surprised when all my post, tags, categories and comments were brought across (with the timestamp data in tact no less), I almost couldn’t believe it when it asked me if I wanted it to attempt to fetch all my attached content and media as well.

What the hell. I clicked “Yes” and hoped for the best. Well blow me down. I actually had to double check just to make sure that my browser was in fact pointed at the correct site. The transfer was so painless and so complete that I literally didn’t need to do anything other than put a post on the old site informing everyone that the blog had moved.

High fives for all the WordPress developers. I am truly impressed.

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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