Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

iPhone is no desktop, it’s a phone!

March 27, 2008

“iPhone is no desktop”, says John C. Dvorak. And I say that I don’t even see Apple trying make iPhone as a desktop replacement. If they were, I think Adobe would be pushed on hard to make a Flash available at launch, Mail application would have all sorts of filtering options, Photos application would allow to do some advanced picture editing and retouching and they would probably have Garage Band preinstalled :). What do we see instead? GUI and applications are made as simple as possible, but very accessible and fast. I don’t think that we are ever to create complicated CAD drawings or 32-tracks music compositions on the devices as compact as Smartphone unless the data input/output technology gets more advanced and we get bigger displays (mini-projectors) and a more convenient way of input. Let’s not forget that primary task of the Smartphone is to keep you connected with the world in more ways than just being able to talk to your buddies.

Windows Mobile was more the beginning of a desktop replacement than iPhone was. Microsoft implemented multitasking support, “Start” menu and the UI that more or less resembled the desktop environment. Why did PDAs get extinct? Because of the lack of connectivity with the world. People don’t bother about carrying a device that runs a scaled down version of Winamp or Doom, but rather a well-designed AIM client or Facebook, and an iPod that you can navigate through with a touch a finger :).

The question is whether iPhone is good at connecting people to the world. Half way it does good (UI of the SMS application resembles the conversation; a well-written browser that runs Facebook web app that allows to perform some basic tasks of the “real Facebook”, Digg web app that gives me a laugh or two during the day, Twitter web app that helps me twit for free without using the text messages from the package). But what about MMS (something, that even $50 phones can do)? Looks like it was easier for Apple to make YouTube convert their movie database into H.264 than writing a simple MMS application…


Thank you, Steve!

October 17, 2007

Looks like Steve Jobs is actually reading blogs and comments on gadget news web sites. The hopes of many came true with the announcement of official iPhone SDK. Moreover the SDK is coming to iPod touch, so both camps will be glad with the ability to add new applications and features. It was pretty obvious to me from the very beginning that such a powerful hardware and software base as iPhone cannot be left out without the ability for third-party applications.

It is worth mentioning that Apple is taking security seriously with the plans of incorporating digital signatures for third-party software. This will dramatically decrease the chance of viruses and worms, because really nobody wants an infected phone or get your personal data stolen.

Apple, thanks to this announcement, you again raised in my eyes and in the eyes of the entire iPhone owners community! Thank you for such a wise step!

iPhone software update: is it worth?

September 27, 2007

It was pretty obvious that the new update from Apple would lock the iPhone back with AT&T. To some extent the days and nights hackers spent figuring out how to unlock the iPhone can now be considered totally wasted. I don’t want to make any predictions, but it seems that Apple had a plan B where they applied a totally different locking technique and now it is going take another 2 months to figure out how to unlock the iPhone.

But my concern is not about unlocking the iPhone. I’m paying Apple what it “deserves” and am staying with AT&T (everybody should already know that Apple is receiving a portion of the monthly payments from AT&T iPhone users). My concern is about third-party applications that I won’t be able to use when I install the 1.1.1 update. This is a big hit for iPhone developers (or hackers ;)), who have already came up with a good amount of useful iPhone apps, and is even a bigger hit to users who are now unable to use those nifty little tools. Well, update is absolutely voluntary and nobody including Apple will force you to update your phone. So for myself I decided to stay the old way and keep my apps instead of getting iTunes Wi-Fi store, louder speaker and TV out. Yeah, I would not mind those features for my iPhone, but still they don’t seem good enough comparing to what third-party applications can offer instead.

Do you follow me guys? Can you see a future of iPhone in the hands of hackers and not in the hands of Apple? Hackers who try to bring best stuff for us and not try to earn more money like Apple does. But Apple’s attitude to the consumer is a different story, which needs another post or two.

Update: Engadget has a nice article comparing what you’ll get with an update, and what you’ll lose. It sort of supports my opinion about the new update and third-party applications.

Third-party applications on iPhone

September 25, 2007

When the iPhone was announced probably the biggest question was “Will it run third-party applications”. Many, including me, got disappointed with the negative answer from Apple. Thanks to hackers it did not become a major issue and since day one of my purchase I believed that there are going to be dictionaries, games, themes and many more for iPhone without Apple’s interaction. Now I cannot imagine my iPhone at its factory state: I got a few games installed, custom ringtones, voice recorder, eBook reader and many other little utilities. Apple, where are you? The device is so much better with the ability to add new features. And by the way, Steve, as you see even the software developed by hackers did not crash the “west coast AT&T network” 😉 So, come on, give us an official SDK and make life easier for the new generation of iPhone programmers.

Almost a month with the iPhone

July 22, 2007

Yes, I got it the first day it was released. Got it almost without waiting in the line in Everett Mall in the AT&T store. As many others in Seattle, I was first forced to buy three accessories with it, but the next time I returned to the store 2 hours later they said it was not necessary anymore. Unlike many others, activation did not take long for me. It was not the promised 2-3 minutes, but 20. Well, it’s still better than waiting for two days to get your device activated.

The first surprise was that it did not work with the 64-bit version of Windows, which I am currently using. Good I had a laptop which was running Windows XP Media Center Edition. Laptop is where I still use my iPhone to upload movies, music and podcasts. I still have not used it to sync calendar and contacts.

Couple of things to say after using the iPhone for almost a month:

  • The device is more practical than I thought. Before purchasing the iPhone I was worried about the screen – it might break, get scratches… Well, no any scratches after a month. Obviously I’m carrying the device not in a pocket, as I used to before with my previous cell phone, but in a $30 case (that looks like this) and I find it to be rather convenient, even more convenient than carrying the device in a pocket. Though the iPhone does not have too many hardware buttons, it is quite practical to use it. Screen is very sensitive – almost as sensitive as your skin. It can recognize even the light touch with the tip of your finger. Obviously it is more sensitive than on any other PDA or smartphone that I ever had a chance to use.
  • Browser is amazing. It is much better than Pocket Internet Explorer on Windows Mobile or Blazer on PalmOS. While on EDGE pages open at an average or below average speed, but still the navigation is very convenient and user-friendly. Better surfing speeds can be achieved while using WiFi connection. The only problem with the Safari on the iPhone is the absence of Flash support, but many tend to think that it will be fixed when the official SDK is released.
  • Battery life is short. The longest the iPhone could live without charging was two days for me and that’s with less than 1 hour talk time. It seems that the most power is consumed when using the WiFi connection and browsing the Internet. It seems that turning off WiFi when not needed saves the battery life. A good thing is that watching movies does not consume too much power. Some tests have showed that after watching a 1:20 hour movie only about 1/4 of battery power was gone.
  • It is hard to control music when iPhone is in the case. iPod is definitely a better choice for those who listen much music. The remote button that is on the headset wire can only play/pause and skip the track. Taking an iPhone out from the case and switching an album is kind of painful.
  • Camera is nice. It’s not the quality of Nokia’s N95 5-megapixel camera, but still better than any 1-2 megapixel phone cameras that I have seen before.

As many others I’m waiting for the software update and for the official SDK to be released, so we can have some games and more applications on-board.

Vista crashed?

February 1, 2007

Last Sunday I decided to move to Vista as my primary OS (from Windows XP Professional). I installed my downloaded RC2 and used the serial number I got from Microsoft. This time I installed it to my primary partition completely replacing Windows XP. So far, so good, but today I was rather disappointed. Vista crashed already for two times today (I hope I can manage to finish this post before Vista again drops all my active connections). When I say crashed I really mean it seriously crashed without letting me save any open files I had. Both times everything started from network stack crash. So first I noticed that some applications lost Internet connections. I wanted to close a couple of applications in order to free some memory. But uTorrent, Firefox and some others were not responding. I decided to start taking some screen shots, just for fun. I tried to run Photoshop CS2 to paste them: did not start, gave critical error. Then i started Windows Paint. It also crashed after i pasted second screenshot. I tried to disable and reenable the network connection in the “Network Connections”. The whole system became non responsive (any keystrokes, Win+L, Win+R, Alt+Tab, Win+Tab, and last but not least Ctrl+Alt+Del were not working). The funny thing is that the video was still playing in the backrground and I could still enjoy the sounds from the “Over The Hedge” movie. Well, I like vista 😉 Kudos to Microsoft for 5 years of waiting and 10 minutes of my attempts to restore the numerous chat sessions with people (that’s the main reason I was trying to bring the system up again …)

Vista crash screen shot 1

Vista crash screen shot 2

Vista cannot handle network file sharing?

December 29, 2006

I’m back again to my good old Windows XP installation after having a few tries to transfer a file to my other home computer while I was running Windows Vista. I was able to share a few folders and was successfully browsing my Vista box from the other computer. But when I started file transfer and wanted to get a few files from the Vista box Vista just crashed with a beautiful Blue Screen. Now I’m back to Windows XP and I am successfully copying a few files over the network to the other home machine.

The version of Vista I’m using is Release Candidate 2, which is supposed to be a well-functional pre-release Windows. RC2 is the pre-release of Windows Vista Ultimate, not the limited Windows Vista Home. Is that the kind of product we expect for over $400? I guess not.

Windows Vista RC2: installation, first impressions, Aero style

October 7, 2006

In the morning I found that the ISO image of Windows Vista RC2 has completed downloading (the total size was 2.49 GB). Quickly I found the blank DVD+R disc and also found that it was the last DVD from the 50 pieces disc pack. Well I was lucky that I had at least one left :). I burned the image using my favorite burning software Nero. I wanted to verify my image so I made Nero to “Verify written data” after the burning process. 10 minutes later the DVD was burned and it seemed it did not have any read problems.

Then I used software to repartition my hard drive. I had to make my primary Windows installation partition smaller and meanwhile deleted the Linux swapspace partition. Eventually I had about 10GBs free, which I thought was pretty enough for Windows installation and couple more apps.

Windows Vista RC2 installation

After completing few steps to get a free serial key from Microsoft (I found some instructions here) I was able to start the installation. The system has just restarted for the first time after I initiated the installation and it seems like it’s completing the installation now.
Some time later…
Well it took over 20 minutes to finish the installation since the reboot. So finally I’m in Vista :).

Windows Vista RC2 desktop screenshot

Windows Vista RC2 Welcome Center screenshot

The first thing you see after you’re done doing some basic setup (user, time, network) is the Welcome Center. It has some worthless stuff and I don’t think anyone will turn to it after having Vista installed the first time.

Windows Vista RC2 Start menu screenshot

Well, let’s get more into it. Start menu. Start menu has not changed much from Windows XP. The changes are not that radical as we saw in Windows XP comparing to previous versions like Windows 2000 or 98.

The most useful thing I’d say is the search field. Once you click start or press the “Start” button on the keyboard the Start menu pops up with the search field focused. What’s the use of it? When you type a search phrase results appear above the search field instead of the programs list. Matched programs appear first, then your browser (IE7) history and favorites and also recent files you have viewed. Program search becomes useful when you want to access an application that you don’t use often and you’re too lazy to look through a huge list of installed software to find that little app. All you do is just type in the app name and press Enter and you’re done. I enjoyed launching Calculator that way. Just type in ‘calc’ press Enter and you have calculator opened. Let’s say you want to access your music. Type in ‘music’ and the first result is the “Music” folder from your user’s directory.

Besides the program search it can do the file search quickly and pretty accurately. I did not have a chance to test the speed on a huge collection of music, videos and downloaded crap, so I can’t speak much about that.

The new Aero look. It looks cool but does not impress me much comparing to MacOS X or Linux XGL (see video here). I think Microsoft could add more cool GUI features. Well, it’s better than XP anyways, so most of us who never used MacOS or Linux XGL will spend hours enjoying the new GUI features of Vista.

One interesting and rather useful feature is the window switching when all opened windows are shown in 3D. It looks good and saves time looking for a specific window. It looks better than Mac’s Expose, but Expose gives a better overview if you have many windows opened. You can also scroll through the windows using your mouse scroll. It brings some realistic look and feel :).

It is also interesting how you can access this feature. The icons in the Quick Launch panel are bound to Win+[Number key] shortcut on your keyboard. For example first icon in the Quick Launch panel is Win+1, second one is Win+2 (which by default is the cool windows switching function).

To be continued…

Windows Vista RC2 download for everyone!

October 7, 2006

Hey, there’s a place where we all can download and try the new Windows Vista RC2. Second release candidate is much closer to what we’re going to see in early 2007 I guess. I’m currently downloading it and can’t wait to install it and use it.

Here is the download link:
The download size is 2.49GB and it will take some time to download it even on the fast Comcast lines. I guess it will download it overnight on my Verizon DSL.

While you’re downloading it you can check out these cool screenshots of RC2 at:

I hope I will post a little review as soon as I have it installed. Have fun 😉

Software: GMail Manager – Firefox add-on

October 6, 2006

I’m a GMail user for almost two years (1.5 to be exact :)) and like all of us have been loving it since the first day of using it. We all know how good AJAX works in GMail, how good the spam filters and how much space we all have there :)) So far in two years I’ve used 14% out of 2+GBs they offer. Since the time I started using this time I have not deleted a message. Why? No need to delete messages with that amount of storage.

GMail Manager

Ok, enough for little GMail review, let’s start rolling with this lovely Firefox add-on. So, GMail Manager. GMail Manager is an easy to install add-on as are the rest of Firefox install. After being installed a little panel with your email address appears on right part of the status bar. Before you can start using this add-on you have to configure it. Set up you GMail address, your password, add multiple accounts… Set up is easy and doesn’t take much. Once you’re done configuring GMail Manager it will poll the GMail server with the new message for your current account. Whenever you receive a new message the GMail icon in the status bar will become blue indicating that you have 1 or more unread message. Once you click your email address in the status bar it will take you to your GMail to read the new message. You can also move your mouse over the status bar panel to see the brief info about your new messages (from, subject etc.).

GMail Manager

Another great feature of GMail Manager is associating all of the email links that you see while browsing to your GMail account. Each time you click an email link it takes you to the GMail web site to the “Compose message” page. So basically GMail becomes your fully functional email client which behaves almost like any other desktop email application (like Outlook Express, Thunderbird etc.).

That’s it for GMail Manager. I would recommend it to any Firefox and GMail user. It is a nice addition to the army of Firefox add-ons 🙂