Tuesday, June 30, 2009

iPhone Apps

I thought I'd give you a quick rundown of every app on my iPhone (those that are currently installed as opposed to those I've ever downloaded, and rate them. Fairly subjective and relatively lengthy post of course, but here goes. It's in screen order rather than importance or effectiveness order:

  • Messages (default app): 9/10. Great now OS3.0 provides forward capability. Just wish it had a character count in it. Used a lot.
  • Calendar (default app): 6/10. Used a lot. No real alternative. Fails for me on having no week view, no ability to create private appointments or not being able to categorise appointments or letting any other 3rd part app integration. Disappointing after using a Palm.
  • Twittelator Pro: 8/10. Great Twitter client. Used a fair bit. Better than Twitterific and Twitterfon which I used before.
  • Notebook by Appigo: 9/10 See previous post. Good notes client.
  • Clock (default app): 9/10. Does what it says on the tin. Alarm and countdown occasionally useful.
  • Evernote: 5/10. See previous post. Potentially good, some issues
  • eWallet by Ilium: 8/10. Good electronic wallet. I used versions on Palm and WM devices.
  • Newsstand: 8/10. Good RSS reader (best I've found on iPhone)
  • Photos (deafult app): 7/10 Does what it's supposed to.
  • Camera (default app): 7/10 Does what it's supposed to. Bit fiddly I find
  • Settings - not going there. Use it to fiddle settings. Works
  • Contacts (default app): 8/10 Works for me. Some improvements with OS3.0
  • Deluxe Weather: 7/10. Very nice interface, forecast and current weather a bit out sometimes
  • Calculator (default app): 8/10 Works
  • Documents to Go: 7/10. Be better when Excel editing support arrives
  • Maps (default app) 8/10. Handy
  • Mail (default app): 8/10. Be better if you could access multiple accounts from one screen
  • Ipod (default app): 9/10 What more is there to say?
  • Safari (default app): 9/10 After Blazer on the Palm, anything's better! Actually it's quite good.
  • Phone (default app): 8/10 works for me. Not sure it's the app's fault but I occasionally miss calls
  • ToDo by Appigo: 5/10. One of those things you think you need, but I rarely use in practice.
  • App Store (default app). Works for me. Neat
  • BlogPress: 7/10. Decent enough blogging app. Some minor niggles
  • Facebook: 9/10. Not a huge Facebook fan, but this works well.
  • eReader: 8/10 Only just got this. Struggled with ebooks before, but thought I'd give it another go
  • Voice memo (default app): 6/10 New in OS3.0. Another one of those apps you think will be useful but never use.
  • eBay: 9/10. very handy for tracking sales I've done. Neat.
  • Converter: 9/10. Converts everything I've needed to!
  • YouNote Lite: 7/10. Handy note tool. Allows photos, freehand text, text.
  • iTunes (default app): Never used it so can't rate it
  • YouTube: 8/10. Great but not used a lot
  • Trunk (notes): 5/10. A wikipedia style note app where you create links. Never got the hang of it.
  • Countdown: 8/10 How many days to Christmas/holiday etc. Does what it says on the tin.
  • Mobile Linked Me: 7/10. Instant messneger app. Don't use it a lot, but when I do it works OK
  • Google Earth: 7/10 Better on the desktop
  • Twitterific: 6/10 Prefer Twitterlator
  • WeatherPro: 8/10 Forecasts ok but not fussed on interface
  • Moby: 8/10 Used for my Tweet picture posts
  • Tipulator: 5/10. A bit twee but invaluable when there's 17 of you tring to split a bill and give a tip!
  • Tap Expense: 6/10 Can't find a decent expense app. This is as close as I've got
  • Shazam: 10/10 Just for the "wow" factor, being able to identify just about any piece of music gives it maximum
  • Around me: 6/10 Find out what services, pubs, garages etc are close - providing they've got an internet presence or have subscribed to the directory!
  • Lastminute.com Greek phrases: 7/10 For my hols! Volume is very quiet, but handy.
  • Photogene: 10/10 Great for touching up you photos
  • Kai pond:9/10 Pointless, but graphically great
  • Google: 6/10 Installed because I though I should. Never use it
  • Sol Free: 6/10 Fairly basic solitaire. Very small graphics
  • Bejeweled 2: 8/10 If you like that sort of thing. My daughter does.
  • Cro Mag Rally: 6/10. Greatgraphics. Occasionally crashes iPhone
  • Notes (deafult app): 4/10 Basic. Never used it really
  • Arcade Bowl: 9/10 Very addictive game
  • WordPop: 10/10 Possibly the best mobile game ever?
  • Stocks (deafult app). Never used it so can't rate it
  • Weather: (default app). 2/10 Basic
So there you have it. That's what's on my phone.

Notes and the iPhone

I'm still not sure about Evernote for the iPhone. The principle is sound - make text notes, take photo notes or voice notes, sync them and have it all available on your iPhone.

Trouble is, to sync you need wifi access, which you might not have when out and about. I don't know if it's just me, but I have a problem when trying to view notes on my iPhone when there's no wifi access, where I can see the thumbnail of the note but when I open it, I just get a blank page. Bizarre. Thers a thread on the Evernot support page that suggests deleting the app and re-installing, but that's not overly convenient. I hope a bug fix omes soon.

Meantime, the best other note app by far that I've found is Appigo's Notes which I've mentioned before.

It doesn't do photo notes, but it's got a great, clean and simple interface, and syncs (without wifi) to Toodledo. You can format your notes with bold, italics, bullets, headings, and change alignment. You can also email your notes, and if you have Appigo's ToDo also, you can create new to do tasks from notes. Think of it as a souped up Palm "Memo" app and you won't go far wrong. It's the best and easiest solution I've found so far. The integration with Toodledo, especially when using a desktop, and the ability to export notes (and to dos) into a variety of formats including CSV, XML, text and allegedly Palm Tasks makes it a very valuable app and one that should ensure you'll never lose any valuable notes.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Data roaming charges

I've been pretty pleased with the service I've had from O2 since moving to my iPhone. OK, it's not the cheapest tariff in the world, but you do get unlimited data which is very handy on such a data intensive device.

Anyway, annual overseas holiday is looming (not fast enough in my opinion), and I checked out the O2 web site to see what's what. I knew I couldn't use my unlimited data plan abroad.

Basically, it seems I have three options.
  1. Do nothing (i.e. don't get any add on), and get charged £2.94 per MB (Western Europe) for all the data I use.
  2. Take out a "Data Abroad 10" data roaming bundle, where I get 10MB (per billing month) for £20
  3. Take out a "Data abroad 50" data roaming bundle as above, that'll give me £50 MB but will cost me £50.
I reset my usage stats on the iPhone on Friday evening to get a feel for how much data I'm using. Bear in mind that I was playing out playing cricket for about 9 hours yesterday so hardly used the device, and it's been busy at home with family today so I haven't used it much either, I've still managed to rack up nearly 7MB in that time. That's almost exclusively Twitter, fetching RSS feeds and a few emails (no major attachments in there).

If I did that on holiday, a 10MB bundle ain't going to last me very long, but I'm not fancying the idea of adding another £50 to my holiday spending for data (skinflint). At this point, looks like I'll take a 10MB bundle, and restrict myself to a few tweets and a daily RSS download, and maybe check emails a couple of times week (not work emails I hasten to add).

Cloud computing - the way forward?

If you're technically inclined you'll have heard about cloud computing. The basic theory is that rather than tying yourself to a desktop PC, or a laptop with certain inevitable restrictions, you can use any device to access your data because it's held "in the cloud".

Think, Googlemail for example. It doesn't matter whether I'm using my PC, my netbook or my iPhone I can access my Googlemail account from any internet connected device. And because companies like Google also do documents, calendars, contacts etc, theoretically I've got pretty much always on access to all my key personal data.

And there's the rub. Do I want all my key personal data "in the cloud", or would I rather have it safe and secure on my hard disk, USB drive of CD or DVD backup? I've always been a bit sceptical about loading data onto someone else's servers, despite all the reassurances about data protection and other security matters.

Generally though, I think this is the way that things are going, and providing you're sensible about what you store in the cloud, it's clearly better than getting to a meeting for example and finding out you've left that presentation on a USB stick in the draw in your study.

To that end there are a couple of cloud applications that I've been fiddling around with - some for longer than others, but which I'm beginning to make more of an effort to use iin a serious way.

Toodledo is an online list organiser, that handily syncs both Appigo's Notes and ToDo apps on my iPhone. I'm also trying to use Evernote, a similar application, but one that's been around longer and allows notes, clips from web pages (or whole pages), photos and voice note's to be taken and then accessed/synced to other devices.

I've also taken out an account with an online storage service - a free service to start with to see how I get on. I can transfer files to this service, and again access them from any internet connected PC. It also doubles as a decent backup option for certain files too.

I'm still a little wary. I wouldn't want to put anything really personally sensitive in the cloud, and of course you're buggered if you haven't got an internet connection (unless you've synced the files you need to your PC/laptop/mobile device.

I'll see how I get on.

Father's Day surprise

I've had a great Father's Day. Didn't get breakfast in bed (had to make breakfast), but had in laws and my Dad round for Sunday lunch, and a nice day all round.
Was anticipating a box of choccies or similar and cards, but I had a massive surprise when out of a card fell two tickets for the Saturday of the first npower Ashes Test against the Aussies on Saturday 11th July! To say I was gobsmacked is an understatement!

So, all being well - weather permitting, and permitting we haven't stuffed the Aussies inside three days (some hope!), me and Mini-Stats will go armed with picnic, sun cream and camera for a day of top test cricket. Looking forward to it (thank you very much family!)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

iPhone OS 3.0

So, I've updated my iPhone to OS 3.0.
It was a little bit traumatic. Everything seemed to be going ticketyboo until the point where the dialog "restarting your phone" came up. The iTunes window went blank, the iPhone restarted to the emergency call screen only, and iTunes persisted in telling me my connection to the App Store was broken and it couldn't connect. This went on for about 40 minutes, but which time I'd worked out that there was nothing wrong with my connection, but Apple's servers were taking a hammering.

Suddenly, my iPhone popped up a "your phone is activated" (or similar message), and I was off an running, so to speak.

So, was it worth it? Yes.

There are very few reasons for not upgrading any version of software on any platform to the latest version. OS 3.0 (hereafter just 3.0) adds some stuff which will be useful for me, and some that wont.

  • Forwarding text messages. Why this wasn't default in v1.0 God only knows.
  • MMS (the ability to send a picture via text message). As above. Almost every other phone in the world for the last 3-4 years has offered both of those
  • Landscape mode for email, notes messages....
  • Cut, copy & paste. Everyone wants it. How useful it will be only time will tell
  • Spotlight - a way to search your iPhone for just about anything from contacts to applications
Less Useful (for me anyway)
  • Voice memos. One of those things you always think will be useful, but never use in practice
  • Tethering (to be able to use the iPhone as a modem for a laptop. Not at O2's extra data bolt on prices matey!
  • Auto join networks - not a major user of wifi to be honest
  • Stereo bluetooth capability. rarely use BT on the device. Use a wired headset in the car and a decent set of wired earphones for listening to audio/music (not Apple's I hasten to add)
  • Turn by turn GPS. Haven't got any software, and use my Centro with Tom Tom mobile in any case.
There are some other bits and pieces, but these are the main ones that I'll use (or not)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Docs to Go for the iPhone arrives

Documents to Go is now available for the iPhone! However there are some caveats, and they might be pretty big depending on what your expecting and what you want to do.

Firstly, you can currently only edit Word documents - there's no support for editing Excel or Powerpoint files, although a free update is promised when the Excel editing function arrives.

You can however view Word, Excel, Powerpoint and PDF files. It all looks very good, and I've already downloaded the app - at £2.99 (limited time offer) this is an absolute steal. OK, functionality may be a bit limited, but when Excel edit arrives and you've paid less than 3 quid, you can't complain. It's a darn sight cheaper than Quick Office.

Cut and paste is here, and it works! Again, it's not the same implementation as we're going to find in OS 3.0 on Wednesday, but it's there and I've tested it.

Once you've downloaded and configured you have to download a desktop app and set the app to sync via wireless - a bit like the eWallet app if you've used that. Again, set up was easy and it works very well. You can store doc on the device you've created as "local files" or you can use the "Desktop files" option to have files that sync between your phone and your desktop.

I have to say it all looks very slick, and I'm glad I held on. I hope Excel editing arrives soon - not sure why, I don't know ow much I'll iuse it, but it's hand to have there.

Once again, think of the price. For less than 3 beer vouchers you get a polished app that offers way more even now than some of the crud you get on the iPhone that costs a bit more. Any half serious iPhone user would be nuts not to download this at £2.99.

Twitter update

Twitterific has been updated to resolve the Twitpocalypse problem and the free update is available via the App Sttore. I'm sticking with Twitterfon for now, but have updated anyway.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Twitpocalypse and the iPhone

In a move that will no doubt annoy my learned Father who thinks I'm overly obsessed with things gadgety and suchlike, I have to report that as a user of the micro-blogging service "Twitter", I've been having trouble with my Twitter client of choice, Twitterific from the Iconfactory.

I'm not going to go into the depths of what Twitter is about - that's been done to death elsewhere. Whether you think it's pointless or not, the fact is that it can be very useful.

The problem I've been experiencing is this. When I try and log into Twitter via my Twitter client of choice, Twitterific, on my iPhone I get the following error message..." (Twitter API Error The connection to Twitter failed with 'Operation could not be completed. (YAJL error 3.)' This is apparently known as the Twitpocalypse problem.

Now it appears the cause of the problem is this. Every "Tweet" (message" is given a unique ID number, and Twitterific has hit a problem whereby the sheer number of Tweets in the system has hit a point where the incremental unique ID number cannot be recognised (or so I'm told).

So, what to do. The Iconfactory have posted a message saying they're working on a fix, have submitted an update to the App Store but have no idea when this will get through.

Luckily there are a load of different Twitter clients around for the iPhone, so in the meantime I've switched to "Twitterfon" another free client (beset by some ads, but bearable. So far it looks good, and at least I can satisfy my Twitter obsession.

If you know about these things, you can follow me on Twitter via my username @Statto1927

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Has the iPhone 3Gs Got Talent?

Well, the iPhone 3Gs has certainly divided opinion - or rather it's pricing has.

Reading my various mobile information sources, PDA247, Palm-Mac and The iPhone Blog and the most highly veritable @ruskin147 on Twitter (Rory Cellan-Jones) see his blog also, amongst others, people are falling largely into two camps.

Firstly there are the "Wow, what a brilliant device, here are 999 reasons to upgrade from your current iPhone which seems to have become an incompetent device overnight" brigade, and "never mind the price, it's got a 3 megapixel camera and video recording"!!!

Then there are those (like me) who think that the OS 3.0 update is clearly worth having, but the actual costs of owning the new 3Gs hardware is extortionate. Especially if you whack in an internet tethering bolt on which I would have been interested in it it was included in my already pricey plan, and even more especially given that when all said and done, the hardware doesn't break new ground. Well it does for an iPhone, but not compared to many of the current smartphones that are out there from RIM, Nokia, Android and dare I say it Palm?

The Apple fanboys counter that by saying hey, the majority of iPhone owners don't want all that hardware keyboard stuff, proper PIM integation, front mounted cameras for video calling (does anyone really do that on a smartphone?), what they want is music and media. Well, if that's the case, why don't they buy an iPod Touch?

Speed is the key. Apparently 3gs will open the NYT web page 2.9 times faster than the current 3G unit. Who's counting? It'll also open those applications that much faster. I can't say I've noticed any lag.

Anyway, my point is, as I've mentioned in a previous post, I'm not overly impressed with the new hardware. It leaves me feeling lacklustre. Maybe I was expecting too much. I'm not even really sure what I was expecting.

Anyway, and for the foreseeable future, Simon is it a yes or a no? Will the 3Gs go through to the next round?


Monday, June 08, 2009

iPhone 3.0: Internet tethering & MMS: Hurrah, but read the small print

Although both the above are part of the iPhone 3.0 update, you read the small print and it talks about dependence on local carriers and you just know that you'll be one of the unlucky few whose carrier won't support this.

But those of us on O2 (at least on pay monthly) in the UK need fear not. The new iPhone 3Gs and 3.0 update page has links for tethering and MMS and both say that we'll get it. In fact, it appears once you've downloaded 3.0, O2 will set up MMS for you automatically. You get MMS on PAYG too you lucky people.

The bad news is, to get tethering you've got to pay for a bolt on and that's a minimum of £14.68 a month which frankly is a bit stingy when you're already paying £35 a month. Bah.

Apple's banana skin

Just noticed this on Apple's own iPhone 3.0 update page. Has someone slipped up? When it extols the virtue of the new MMS function it says....


Send MMS messages and include video, photos, audio and contact info. Even tap to snap a picture or shoot a video right inside Messages.

But the iphone 3G doesn't shoot video (unless you jailbreak it).....Oops

To be fair there's a footnote that says sending video on an iPhone 3G is not supported, but it doesn't say anything about shooting it...

New iPhone. The nattily named iPhone 3Gs

So the new iPhone has been announced, and all those pre-release blurry photoshop makeups of new hardware scattered around the web have been shown up for what they are. Blurry photoshop make ups. You can't have a matte casing, the chrome band is still there, it's still the same size it hasn't got a front facing camera...

It's a new phone in the same case. So what of it?

As an existing iPhone owner, the OS update to iPhone 3.0 available 17th June looks a no brainer, and I've covered what's in there before and bar a few tweaks that stands, and come 17th I'll be updating. Apple's run down of the benefits of 3.0 is listed on their web pages

As for the new hardware, I’m bordering between non-plussed and surprise that Apple really haven’t upped the ante that much.

Much of what both 3.0 and the new hardware offers can be achieved by jailbreaking rather than shelling out on a new phone (and a new contract to go with it), and that's something I'll seriously consider doing I think.

Personally, I don't think theres much that's really innovative here, and nothing that justifies Apple's statement that this is "lightyears" ahead. I’ve seen people on some forums talking about how “awesome” Spotlight search is (well it's OK, but hardly awesome), or how nifty that guitar app thingy is (D’oh). Video? Pretty much every smartphone (bar the current iPhone) can record video now - and you can do that if you jailbreak. Turn by turn navigation. Ditto, or buy a dedicated unit. Voice diallin? Again, most phones have been able to do that for years (except the current iPhone). Seeing a trend here? Give iPhone users what every other phone already has and they go Woo-hoo!

OK, battery life is allegedly better, but in day to day use, I don't have a real problem with the battery on my 3G unit.

The only possible “wow” factor for me was them retaining the 3G at a $99 price point. If that price point translates to the UK, the 3G might be a bit of a steal for people - especially as the 3.0 update is free. Otherwise I’m not dreadfully impressed, and I think I'll be keeping my eye on how the Pre does. Mind you, I've still got a year left on my contract, bu which time Palm might have released the Pre 2 (ok, maybe not), but Apple probably sure as hell will be gearing up for iPhone 4.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

iPod Touch

My daughter has just spent her birthday money and some of her savings on an iPod Touch. She's always been taken with my iPhone, and decided she wanted one for her birthday. We said, let's wait and see what you get - she got quite a bit of cash from friends and family, and as is the way with young girls found a few more quid lying around in her multitude of handbags (she's only 12!).

We agreed that to make up any difference she'd have to flog her 4G pink Nano which I've listed on e-bay tonight, and in the meantime we shelled out on the Touch - or rather she gave me what she had, I paid the difference and will pocket the e-bay money (and give her any surplus of course!).

I've never held a touch before, and though comparisons with the iPhone are obvious (minus the phone bit), the striking thing is just how thin it it - much thinner than the iPhone.

She's already uploaded about 800 songs from our iTunes/CD library, and a couple of DVD's I'd ripped for my iPhone.

The other interesting thing I found, was that I could load up applications that I'd download from iTunes for my iPhone. I thought I would have to pay again or download again, but no - they were all listed, all I had to do was pick and choose which ones to put on the Touch. Cool.

We haven't set up another iTunes account - if she goes to the App store, it asks for my username/password. I haven't read any info about the best way to manage multiple devices through iTunes, but I'm happy with things the way they are at the moment - at least she doesn't know my username/password!

Palm Pre teething troubles

Well, today's the day the Palm Pre was released in the US - no sign of it over here. How's it going down? Well, it's hard to say without first hand experience, but it's certainly been hyped a lot.

However, reading the Forums at Precentral it seems all is not rosy.
  • First, there's a software update available on launch day (hmm..) and reports are that it requires a lengthy re-boot process
  • There are also reports of dead pixels in units and even more worryingly a report from one of those with that problem that Palm have told them it's not a warranty issue. Eh?
  • Others are reporting light leakage at the bottom of the screen
So, a great start then. Given the apparent limited numbers of units available to vendors on launch day, it rather makes you wonder if the launch hasn't all been a bit rushed and Palm have had problems at manufacture, but having said that it's been almost 6 months since the device was showcased. Maybe they're "rushing" to trump the next gen iPhone which is widely rumoured to be unveiled by Apple on Monday.

Who knows? On the plus side, not having the device launch in the UK just yet means we can sit back and watch our American cousins "beta test" the device in the wild. On the downside, it really makes you wonder, if despite the pre-launch hype Palm have already blown any credibility they might have regained over the last few months.


Mini-Stats fractured his elbow last week playing cricket for the 2nd XI. Fell whilst fielding and put his hand out to break his fall and broke his elbow instead. Ouch.

We've spent half the week in fracture clinic, and yesterday he had surgery to pin and wire the break back together. He's going to be in plaster for about 6 weeks, and that about wraps up his cricket season.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Pipex webspace update

Using Terrapin an FTP client I have, I can now log into my Pipex webspace, but alas there don't appear to be any files in the root folder. This is rather concerning given that I run four websites in this webspace!

I have backups - but I'd rather Pipex had backups and that they can find them and restore them. Still no word from them apart for the original "we'll be in touch..."

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Pipex, Tiscali, whoever - crap

My ISP is Pipex. Or rather was until they were taken over by Tiscali. Or rather was until Tiscali was taken over by Carphone Warehouse (are you getting a sense of a pattern here?)

Anyway, the long and short of it is I've been with them years, mostly because at first they provided a decent service. Since the Tiscali takeover a few years ago the service has deteriorated, and lately has been poorer still, espcially in the evenings. Think BT throttling and you'll get a sense of what I experience msot evenings.

Anyhows, I've just been too lazy to be arsed to move to another provider.

Today I've been unable to access my websapce - or rather I can't access any of my 4 websites

All I get is a dreaded page not found 404 error. Pipex web pages don't indicate anything wrong with the service, and no reports of an outage.

I'm seriously considering moving to another ISP or at least moving my websites to a hosted service. Anyone any thoughts on what/who?

I'm getting closer to