Updates from October, 2012 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • dtoub 8:40 am on Thursday, October 25, 2012, 8:40 am Permalink | Reply
    Tags: iPad, iPad 4, iPad mini   

    iPad mini vs iPad 4: decisions, decisions 

    I’ve been using my wife’s former iPad (first generation) for many months now, in addition to my iPhone 4S. The iPhone has a retina display and is pretty fast, with an A5 processor, so it is still very useful and I have not jumped on the iPhone 5. Which is good, since I don’t have a lot of disposable income and am not sure I want to get sucked into another two-year contract with AT&T, given its disdain for its customers (eg: charging for using the iPhone as a hotspot).

    The original iPad: not very fast and the display is often very pixellated, especially if dealing with iPhone apps that have not been redesigned with the iPad’s display specs in mind. But it’s been usable, even as a laptop replacement for short trips to the EU. Still, watching apps like FaceBook take 30 seconds or more to load, and having each tab in Safari load content when selected due to a lack of RAM, makes it clear that the iPad’s limitations are a daily reality. For reading Kindle books and watching videos, it’s great. For most other things, it is often slow. And forget even thinking of running iOS 6, since it isn’t supported on that iPad.

    So I have been very interested in the (then-rumored) iPad Mini for some time, since while smaller, it would run iOS 6, be less expensive than a 9.7″ iPad, be more portable, and would have to be much faster than the original iPad. When it was announced earlier this week, I was very keen on preordering the 32 GB model with cellular coverage (Verizon) tomorrow on the 26th. It’s light, has the same A5 processor as my iPhone 4S, the smaller non-retina display screen would probably be good enough (it has a bit higher pixel density than the same display on the iPad 2), and typing probably would be reasonable, at least with thumbs.

    But then I started comparing prices with the iPad 4. Yes, the iPad 4 is more expensive, but there is some overlap with iPad Mini prices. At first, I was pleased to realize I could get a 32 GB Mini with 4G for a bit less than an iPad 4 without 4G ($559 vs $599). While I don’t use my 3G very much on my current iPad, since I’m usually within range of WiFi or else am in Europe where I have a data plan for my iPhone and don’t need a redundant one for my iPad, I could see scenarios where having 4G would be useful, especially if it were a Verizon iPad Mini and I set it up as a hotspot for my MacBook Pro on a train without WiFi.

    And then I started realizing that while the iPad Mini isn’t a smaller iPad or a larger iPad Touch, other than the form factor and the addition of 4G, it is basically a larger iPhone 4S, the same iPhone I bought over a year ago. And that’s where it starts to fall down. Yes, the iPad Mini has more robust WiFi (it can connect to a 5 GHz WiFi network whereas my iPhone 4S can’t), but for common use, that is not going to be a deal-breaker. But at $559 for innards that are largely last year’s iPhone, I’d rather spend the extra $170 and get an iPad 4 (32 GB, 4G) with a retina display, a very fast processor (faster than the iPhone 5), and a larger screen that is more usable when I want the iPad to serve as a laptop replacement. And more and more, it will serve as a standalone computer, not just as a content reader.

    I know the iPad Mini is more portable and would probably make something like Modern Combat 2’s multiplayer mode usable on a device larger than my iPhone (it is not very usable on the full-sized iPad, at least for my hands). But I was really hoping it would have been priced around $250 to start. This time next year (or earlier), when Apple comes out with an iPad Mini that has a retina display and a faster processor, I’ll be stuck with a $559 device that might not hold its own with more recent apps that require higher CPU capabilities. If a 2-year-old+ iPad is now so obsolete as to not even load the latest version of iOS, what will happen to the iPad Mini when it is one or two years down the line?

    If I’m going to spend over $500 for a tablet, I’d rather it not have a CPU that is the same as the phone I bought a year ago and a worse display to boot. As an investment that I’d want to use for 2-3 years, I’m not seeing the iPad Mini as a smart purchase, at least for my needs. For an entry level device, it is a beautiful thing from what I’ve seen on the Web, and wil serve a lot of people very well as an e-book reader and as a way to watch videos. But for gradually serving as a device that is easier to write with on a regular basis, this is not that device. Had it been either less expensive or had a more compelling processor (such as an A6) and a better display, that would be a very different value equation. But consider the iPhone: while it is very usable and preferable to maintain an iPhone for two years, we’re also talking about a device that is also generally under $300 for most folks (even under $200). For nearly double that cost, I’d want something that I know will not feel very underpowered in a year. And the iPad Mini is somewhat underpowered for 2012. When an iPod Touch has a retina display but Apple’s new small tablet computer doesn’t, that just seems odd.

    So in the end, I’m likely going to grab the iPad 4 tomorrow as a preorder. If someone thinks I’m misjudging the iPad Mini, please let me know in the comments. I’m not saying the iPad Mini is a bad thing; it’s not. If it were, this would not be a tough decision. But for my needs, I’m not sure at that price point it makes much sense to not spend a bit more on a comparable iPad with better overall specs.

    • Paul Muller 11:52 am on Thursday, October 25, 2012, 11:52 am Permalink

      “This time next year (or earlier), when Apple comes out with an iPad Mini that has a retina display and a faster processor…” Now you’re catching on.

  • dtoub 10:47 am on Friday, October 7, 2011, 10:47 am Permalink | Reply

    I want my applecare+ 

    I’m an idiot. Seriously.

    I got up at 3 AM EST to preorder the new iPhone 4s. My 3GS is long in the tooth and the new camera alone makes it a worthwhile upgrade. Plus at this point, I can get a reasonable amount for my 3GS on the market, so why not.

    3AM: Apple Store down. Twitter is going nuts

    3:45 AM: Store is now up. Great. I use the Apple Store iPhone app to preorder, and get all the way to checkout when the process freezes. The page essentially refreshed and nothing ever would go through. So I go downstairs to my wife’s iMac to try again.

    4:30 AM: All attempts via the online Apple Store fail, as it times out when trying to verify my account with AT&T. As a final attempt, I go to att.com, and sure enough, it’s smooth sailing. Before hitting Submit, I give the Apple Store one last try, but no luck. I note that AT&T is not offering AppleCare+ as an option, but is offering their own warranty plan for $9.95.

    4:45 AM: I go to the online Apple Store and there is no way to purchase AppleCare+ except when as part of the iPhone order process. I check online forums, and many others are in the same boat.

    I get an e-mail confirmation from AT&T, and it makes it clear that no changes or cancellation are possible, as expected.

    This morning, I call Apple to see what can be done. After about 90 minutes of going through various people (the first person, incidentally, wanted the phone’s serial number and order number. He didn’t get that I preordered via AT&T I suppose), First I was told I would have to cancel my AT&T preorder and reorder via Apple, just too get AppleCare+. The Apple Support rep, who was truly helpful, called AT&T himself, but the preorder stands. I would have to return it unopened to AT&T and get a refund and then order anew via Apple. Why?

    What happened to Apple? It was never perfect. But details like this usually didn’t end up getting ignored. I get that the Apple Store crimped under a ton of traffic, although it’s not like Apple didn’t know it was going to have a massive load at 3 AM EST. Why not stagger it by time zone then?  And if you’re going to offer the iPhone on multiple carriers and offer a new warranty product that is required to be purchased along with the covered device, why not make sure your carriers have it in their systems?

    So yes, I’m an idiot.

    UPDATE: I sent an e-mail to Tim Cook and also via Apple’s Feedback page. Got a response from an executive at Apple and we just spoke on the phone. They’re trying to work on a fix. We’ll see.

    • Justin 12:25 pm on Friday, October 7, 2011, 12:25 pm Permalink

      I’ll be curious to see if you are able to add it after the fact. I was not given the option during my pre-order through the Apple online store, but even I was I’m sure I would have been too afraid to attempt it given the fragile nature of the pre-order process. It took me over two hours to just reserve mine!

    • Bruce 2:13 pm on Friday, October 7, 2011, 2:13 pm Permalink

      I pre-ordered through the Verizon website which also doesn’t allow you to purchase Applecare+. Called the Apple Store number this morning and spoke to a representative that said I could go to the retail store with my phone and they would sell it to me there. Needed the phone to make sure there wasn’t already damage that would be covered. Then he said with a pre-order I might be able to go in now and get it without the phone.

    • dtoub 2:17 pm on Friday, October 7, 2011, 2:17 pm Permalink

      What I’m hearing now from the executive at Apple is that at minimum, they will allow folks who preordered to go to an Apple Store and purchase AC+. I’m hearing similar things on the Apple Discussions. But I asked that this also be possible over the phone with Apple, since not everyone is that close to an Apple Store (mine is a hike either way) nor is it efficient for their sales people to be inundated with this nonsense. He agreed and will get back to me next week, hopefully with more than one solution. Sounds like AC+ was launched in a fog, with not a lot of good communication and much confusion. Not good, Apple.

    • Justin 10:06 pm on Friday, October 7, 2011, 10:06 pm Permalink

      I was looking at Squaretrade and at first glance AppleCare+ seems like the better deal. You get tech support for 2 years plus the 2 year accident protection for the same price as the SquareTrade, which doesn’t offer the extended phone support. Thoughts?

    • dtoub 10:56 pm on Friday, October 7, 2011, 10:56 pm Permalink

      My my thoughts exactly. It’s preferable to be able to take the phone to an Apple Store for evaluation. I think the new plan from Apple is better.

    • Justin 12:27 pm on Tuesday, October 11, 2011, 12:27 pm Permalink

      Did you hear any more from Apple? I guess after I receive my iPhone 4S on Friday I’ll be heading to the Apple Store to add the Applecare+. Macrumors reported that you could only take in your unopened iPhone 4S, is that what you heard?

    • dtoub 2:39 pm on Tuesday, October 11, 2011, 2:39 pm Permalink

      An Apple exec today told me one could go to either an Apple Store or AT&T Store before November 14 to purchase AC+. Nothing was said that it had to be unopened. Other folks on Apple’s forums say they were told they could call Apple Care until 11/14 to order over the phone. We will see which is the case.

    • Justin 9:09 pm on Tuesday, October 11, 2011, 9:09 pm Permalink

      Cool, thanks!

    • Justin 5:36 pm on Wednesday, October 12, 2011, 5:36 pm Permalink

      Wanted to pass along this tidbit I spotted on the Apple Store’s Applecare+ page:

      Note: AppleCare+ will be available through November 14, 2011, to customers who pre-ordered iPhone 4 (8GB) and iPhone 4S. After you receive your new iPhone, contact us at 1-800-275-2273 to purchase AppleCare+.

  • dtoub 4:05 pm on Monday, June 6, 2011, 4:05 pm Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , iCloud,   

    wither my iDisk? 

    From the WWDC keynote today, there was a lot of detail about iCloud. It’s nice that it’s free. And great that it expands a lot of the current functionality of MobileMe. But not so great that, at least from the information presented, one is limited to 5 GB and there is no Web server functionality. Maybe this will change in the fall, when iCloud is released. But as I currently have a 20 GB iDisk, which uses nearly 8 GB for my documents and Web site files, it’s clear that I will have to start thinking about migrating to another Web server. Per Apple’s support document, they are granting continued use of my existing MobileMe account until June 30, 2012. But then, it is all gone. Unless there is something else that wasn’t mentioned today at WWDC, one will not be able to serve Web sites via iCloud.

    Presumably, there will be a mechanism by the Fall to migrate up to 5 GB of files + mail (I have 2.2 GB of .mac e-mail) to iCloud. But I am likely to simply purchase a domain and hopefully redirect http://homepage.mac.com/dtoub/dbtmusic.html to that new location. Not the end of the world. But it’s another important lesson. I remember when Steve killed the “free for life” iTools in favor of .mac at $99/year. This was followed by the $99/year MobileMe, which finally wasn’t half bad. Now Steve has killed MobileMe in favor of the free, but lower capacity iCloud. Who knows what will get killed off next time around.

    • Paul Muller 4:47 pm on Monday, June 6, 2011, 4:47 pm Permalink

      FWIW, about a month ago I registered a domain name through WordPress and restyled my site to look something like a netlabel. I even figured out how to make my Bandcamp site a subdomain and I now have a gmail account that also uses the same domain. So everything is consistent – the WordPress template, the Bandcamp download area and email addresses – they all look like they belong to the same site. Plus, I can add other artists at some point, with their own email and webpages. Total cost was $17 – add in the $20/year I have been paying for WordPress to host up to 5 GB of MP3 and pdf files and it is still just $37 annually. I’ve got my music on my laptop, of course, and I back up regularly to a USB hard drive. But worse case, all my finished stuff is in the cloud on WordPress and I have had zero issues with their reliability in over 2 years.

      If you are looking for alternatives to your present setup, look further into WordPress. Best value out there as far as I can see…

    • Tom 5:27 pm on Monday, June 6, 2011, 5:27 pm Permalink

      Small point, but at no time did Apple ever say iTools was ‘free for life’.

    • dtoub 5:30 pm on Monday, June 6, 2011, 5:30 pm Permalink

      Thanks Paul. I’m waiting until iCloud comes out this fall to sort it all out.

      Tom, I knew someone would call me on that. I’m quite aware of what Steve really said, but he said it in a way that the perception out there was clearly that iTools would be “free for life.” Parsing his words, one could come to a different conclusion, but at the time, we all thought he meant it.

    • Michael 8:56 am on Tuesday, June 7, 2011, 8:56 am Permalink

      There are many of us concerned about our iWeb sites. Losing ‘homepage’ was disappointing as was iTools. But I for one would be happy to pay extra to keep my iWeb site where it is with its current address..especially as I am an educator and many of my published documents cite my iWeb created Site in my biodata.

    • Steve Layton 10:50 am on Tuesday, June 7, 2011, 10:50 am Permalink

      Like I’ve told everyone for quite a while now, #1 buy a domain name! It’s super cheap now, it’s yours for ‘life’ (i.e., as long as you pay the renewal), it follows you no matter where you’re hosted, and all your page & file links and your email will never change even when if & when you shift webhosts. Which is #2, sign on to a large, reputable webhost. For also super cheap, you can have hundreds of GBs, tons of bandwidth and lots of options for whatever tools you’d like to incorporate. If you’re like Paul, it’s totally simple to install & use something like WordPress to create and format your own site, all the while keeping it flexible but organized and tidy up top. It keeps you in control, and keeps your online presence stable year after year.

    • dtoub 3:42 pm on Tuesday, June 7, 2011, 3:42 pm Permalink

      Well sure, but for now, I’m watching to see what Apple does to accommodate the large number of us who have come to rely on our iDisks for serving our sites AND hosting files that we can, when desired, share with others, even from an iPhone. What was nice about all this is it was a single solution-nice to store files and back things up, well-integrated with numerous apps (even Quicken 2007), and serve Web sites if desired. I use WordPress for this blog, of course, which works well, but would move to my own domain and site if and when Apple makes it clear this fall whether or not we can migrate our many gigs of documents from our iDisk to an iCloud-based solution. I have a year, so at least I have some time. Thanks for some great suggestions!

  • dtoub 2:05 pm on Wednesday, February 9, 2011, 2:05 pm Permalink | Reply

    does the verizon iPhone have a push e-mail bug? 

    Like any good husband, I dutifully ordered my wife a new Verizon iPhone at 3 AM EST when it was available for preordering for US Verizon customers. Fortunately, I was in the UK on business where it was a more tolerable 8 AM, and it only took a few minutes to preorder her iPhone on my iPhone 3GS (unlike Verizon’s iPhone, mine works in the EU). She received it a week later and loves it, except for one glitch: it does not push her .mac e-mail. Not only does it not push e-mail, it seems not to fetch it every 15 minutes, either. I chatted with an Apple rep and we determined it is not an issue with MobileMe. Her iPad gets her e-mail via push just fine, but her iPhone, not so much. Based on a lively discussion forum on Apple Support, a lot of folks are having the same issue. However, someone on the forum met with an Apple Genius and similar issues happened with the original iPhone and got fixed by AT&T in a reasonable period of time. Apple is aware of the issue, apparently, and hopefully this will be resolved soon. But for now, push doesn’t seem to be working for many Verizon iPhones.

    UPDATE: I’m told that the issue appears to have been resolved for many users, presumably on Verizon’s end, but not yet for my wife’s iPhone.

  • dtoub 8:31 am on Thursday, September 2, 2010, 8:31 am Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Apple Fail, , Ping   

    ping-so many possibilities, but not there yet 

    iTunes 10 finally was released late last night on the East Coast. It has a new icon and somewhat tweaked UI, plus an Album View that omits art for albums that don’t have more than a few tracks (although one can force all artwork to be shown, but only by setting individual prefs for each playlist, which is cumbersome). But the biggest feature is the presence of Ping, a music social network. Based on Steve Jobs’ keynote yesterday, before Ping was even available, it was being heralded as the MySpace killer. Granted, MySpace is terrible, and I actually visited my profile just the other day with intent to delete it once and for all (I wavered at the last moment, so it’s still there. For now). But is Ping the MySpace killer others are talking about? More importantly, is Ping useful in terms of sharing music and encountering like minds and new music, much as SoundCloud, for all its faults, is?

    I’ll cut to the chase: no on all counts.

    Don’t get me wrong-Ping has promise, to be sure. It’s interesting to see what others have listed as their key albums, and how they’ve rated various things in the iTunes Store. But Ping doesn’t go beyond that. You’re limited to 10 albums in the Music I Like section, all of which must be in the iTunes Store. Those of us who have pretty unusual tastes for albums that are not part of the iTunes Store mainstream are out of luck. And do I really care that much about how others have rated various albums? It’s interesting, but not that useful. I’m also ignoring the occasional bugs that hopefully will get fixed, like the ability of me and at least one other friend to be able to successfully upload a photo of ourselves. That was something MySpace got right, along with pretty much every other social network out there.
    Music networks like blip.fm, SoundCloud and MySpace have their faults. I’ve gone back to SoundCloud recently because it finally seems to work better with Safari and I have many friends there. We can upload our most recent compositions and improvisations and share them, so it’s pretty easy to encounter new music. What I would have liked to have seen from Ping is a meld of what Ping is now (iTunes Store-only) with SoundCloud (personal and experimental uploads). You can’t upload your own music to Ping. That was what made MySpace, at least initially, so attractive to those of us who either love independent music or create it, or both. And in the end, I’m far more interested in a network that allows me to upload my own creations and encounter those of my friends, since there are many gems out there that are being created every day but will never be in the iTunes Store. I have a few things on iTunes, but those are flukes. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to get iTunes to include albums that I create for free distribution; hell, I can’t even get iTunes to list me as anything but a “new age” composer. Guess there are worse things, but according to the gods at Apple, I’m classified in the same group as George Winston and a host of touchy-feely, feel-good performers and composers. Would it kill iTunes to have an experimental or postminimal or even minimalist classification for those of us who are part of the new music world? Maybe they do have those categories, but I can’t get them to change me from “new age.” Sigh.

    Anyway, for now at least, Ping is probably going to be one of those networks I go to only occasionally, like LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a good network, but its latest UI is terrible-I could blog just about its many faults. And also about how unresponsive LinkedIn is to constructive suggestions for improvement. In terms of Ping, I’m sure more folks will join up (right now it’s reminding me at times of eWorld. Remember eWorld? It was a virtual ghost town back in the days of Prodigy and Compuserve). But like me, I think at least some will find Ping somewhat useless. I understand the rationale for Ping-it’s a way to stimulate sales of tracks from the iTunes store. And I’m sure it will. But that’s not what I want in a social network. Sure, it might be interesting in some sense to see what my friends are listening to. But I’d find it more interesting to be able to encounter new music, whether avant garde classical or indie rock, that just doesn’t make it to the iTunes Store. And as Kirk McElhearn (right now, my only friend on Ping) pointed out on his Twitter feed, one can’t even “like” The Beatles, since they’re not represented in the iTunes Store. Now, how useful is a music social network that excludes The Beatles? Honestly…
    • Eurobubba 12:15 pm on Thursday, September 2, 2010, 12:15 pm Permalink

      Too frustrated to be motivated to figure out what it *can* do right now, but it looks like I can only display music that I actually purchased from iTunes (which is a tiny and unimportant fraction of my total music collection).

    • dtoub 12:29 pm on Thursday, September 2, 2010, 12:29 pm Permalink

      Yup-that’s my frustration as well

    • DBert 12:33 pm on Thursday, September 2, 2010, 12:33 pm Permalink

      The only thing it has me liking right now is an album I bought for my wife and I’d really rather not be associated with it. I can’t seem to get rid of it. So far, Ping is pretty useless. Great potential though. I’d certainly rather be linked to peoples libraries rather than the just the music someone has bought on iTunes. Even the Netflix rating and friend system blows this out of the water.

    • dtoub 12:46 pm on Thursday, September 2, 2010, 12:46 pm Permalink

      I had the same issue with some Glee stuff my daughter just bought. But you can get rid of them-in your profile, each album has a Remove link.

    • Mike 3:48 pm on Thursday, September 2, 2010, 3:48 pm Permalink

      Ping is empty. The user profile and preferences are so limited as to be useless. Entering almost any musician or band gives no results. How is this such a big deal??

  • dtoub 11:16 pm on Friday, August 13, 2010, 11:16 pm Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , microsoft   

    google is evil 

    Like much of the planet, I was an avid user of Google for many years. Mostly for search, but I also used Google Maps, Google Earth, Gmail (just as an automatic backup for my .mac account, however) and at times, Google Groups. I tried Google Wave, but like most folks, never really figured out what to do with it. I don’t use Chrome-Safari’s UI and overall design just seems better. Indeed, Google’s design isn’t that great. It tends to be very bare-bones and lacks the elegance of many OS X apps.

    But for search and a few other things, it clearly functioned well. But I have become very disappointed by Google’s misguided stance on privacy and more recently, net neutrality. They’re on the wrong side of both, and as much as I’m not a fan of Microsoft, I’ve switched to Bing as my search engine of choice on both my MacBook Pro and iPhone.

    Again, I’m not enamored with Microsoft. Their designs are generally also pretty poor, and functionality-well, let’s just say that I know a lot of PC users who despise how often Word and other Office apps crash or just don’t work correctly. And on the OS X side, it’s no better. If I didn’t have to use Office for work, I would ditch it in a heartbeat. But iWork still has issues in a cross-platform environment. I use Keynote for my own personal presentations, but at most professional meetings it’s de rigeur to use the PC provided rather than one’s own Mac, so all presentations have to be in PowerPoint format anyway. Sigh.

    But back to Google. Yes, Microsoft is bad, but Google, I think, is even worse. Like most corporations, they’ve gotten so big that they’ve become all about profits. But worse than that, they don’t seem to care about privacy or net neutrality. At least Microsoft makes some attempt to safeguard their users’ privacy.

    Google is not about search anyway, but about advertising. AdSense is still the main source of Google’s revenues, and by a great amount. Android, for all its prevalence, contributes very little to Google’s bottom line, and probably never will generate a ton of revenue. Same for pretty much everything else Google does. It’s all about search-generated advertising revenue.

    That’s not new, and there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with it. But when Google places its own profits above its users, I have to think about other alternatives. Bing, while not perfect, is actually pretty good. While both Bing and Google show flight statistics, Bing provides a bit more information. In other words, while Bing isn’t necessarily better than Google, it’s good enough and in some cases, does have more functionality. The competition is actually good for users, in that Google is now playing catch-up to achieve parity with Bing’s progress. And part of me admires Sergey and Larry for having been nerds who made good while in grad school. But the company is going against its own core principles, and I have no need to keep using Google’s search engine anymore. So I won’t. And when MS or some other company achieves parity with Google Maps (Apple, perhaps, at least on the iPhone?) I’ll switch in a heartbeat. I never thought I’d favor anything by Microsoft over Google, but we live in strange times, and I do admit I’m not regretting leaving Google’s minimalist (read: boring but functional) search page for other horizons.

    • Tristan Thomas 4:51 am on Sunday, August 15, 2010, 4:51 am Permalink

      You know everyone is painting an evil picture on Google when most of us don’t understand whats really going on. All Google is saying is that the internet is young and that the government should not place any restrictions on it as of yet.

      Google truly does no evil. Or do they? There is this one article I read at http://tech-senses.com/ called called “How doing Business With Google Almost Killed A Company”. That is probably the most evil thing Google has ever done.

    • dtoub 9:16 am on Sunday, August 15, 2010, 9:16 am Permalink

      Uh. no. What Google and Verizon is saying is that they should have control over mobile Internet bandwidth, with those who pay more receiving priority. That’s not an unrestricted Internet-it’s capitalism gone awry. Phone communications are unfettered-that’s an implication of net neutrality. All bandwidth is the same. If the government doesn’t maintain the same status for Internet data transmission, then this is the opposite of what you are stating in terms of being unrestricted. This blog, for example, would receive a much lower priority than a Web site from, say, Comcast.

  • dtoub 6:35 pm on Thursday, July 1, 2010, 6:35 pm Permalink | Reply

    truphone on the iPhone: was working great, now it’s broken 

    I’ve been using TruPhone on my iPhone for VoIP calls to or from other countries for about two years now. They recently updated it to enable multitasking under iOS 4. Here’s my e-mail I sent just now to TruPhone’s tech support:


    After being a TruPhone user from nearly day one and suffering through the early bugs, I was glad that TruPhone was pretty stable and functional for VoIP. I never cared much for the additional twitter support, since if I’m on a WiFi network there’s no issue with using a twitter client. But things were working fine.

    Then I updated to 4.0.1.

    If I make a call, I have absolutely no indication that the call is even going through until the other person just happens to answer and speak up. I was ready to close TruPhone when nothing happened after tapping on a contact’s phone number when he fortunately just happened to answer. And I also had no way to hang up-the app does multitask, but unless I force-quit TruPhone, it won’t hang up. 

    All of this is unacceptable. Please address these bugs. I have a bit over $30 in my TruPhone account and will switch to Skype in a heartbeat if TruPhone is not able to provide the basic functionality many of us need for VoIP calls. No need to add features-please devote your resources to make sure core functionality is not broken. Was this update even tested before releasing it into the wild?

    There are a ton of great apps for the iPhone, many of which work great, are regularly updated and so on. Others either are never updated, or break with updating. TruPhone is broken. Judging from all the negative comments on the iTunes App Store right now, I’m not alone. Skype has its issues, certainly, but it’s looking better and better as TruPhone looks worse and worse. Hopefully they’ll get a clue and fix it before a lot of people just give up on them. Like I said, it had been working well, and it’s way cheaper for international calling than what AT&T charges under their $50/month international plan.
  • dtoub 3:45 pm on Saturday, May 8, 2010, 3:45 pm Permalink | Reply
    Tags: bad app-bad app, iPhone (cr)apps   

    iPhone apps that suck 

    In no particular order…

    • WordPress (no longer saves local drafts, but is supposed to, so you lose your entire blog post unless it’s published immediately)
    • Duke Nukem: great game, terrible controls. Not worth the $0.99 until it’s fixed.
    • Battery Magic: I’m still not sure what it’s supposed to do other than give a rough indication of how much time you have left on your iPhone depending on what you are doing. Not clear that it’s accurate, and it could do so much more, so it’s ultimately disappointing.
    • DOOM II RPG: bad controls, unlike the original DOOM.
    • Echofon for FB: far more limited, buggy, and worse than the pretty good official Facebook app. If it had more features than the official app, then this would be a good thing. But it doesn’t. Strange, since Echofon’s Twitter app is really really good, so their Facebook app is all the more disappointing.
    • Instapaper Free: they so much want you to upgrade to a paid version that the developers won’t even automatically refresh content. C’mon.
    • Talking Spanish: how about “Speaking Spanish” or, more accurately for this app, “Not Much Help with Speaking Spanish?”
    • Wolfenstein 3: bad controls. Bad, bad controls. Only Duke Nukem’s controls are worse.
    • LinkedIn: the Web site is bad enough (too many issues to enumerate here), but the iPhone app does so much less
    • MapQuest 4 Mobile: Fail. Slow to load, inaccurate directions, lags in a big way when displaying your movement. So bad compared to the standard Google Maps app on the iPhone that its lifespan on my iPhone was measured in minutes.
    • Taptu Touch Search: why? Really-why? What does this do, other than show a cool interface, that any other search app does?
    • CardStar:: awesome idea (carry around all your loyalty, reward and club cards on your iPhone for scanning) but rarely works when these are scanned, leaving me to look absolutely ridiculous at the gym or grocery store
    • Action Bowling Free: not worth the price. Too easy-try Wii Sports bowling instead
    • Mosquito Device: buggy (pun intended) in that it just doesn’t work to keep mosquitoes away
    • AT&T My Wireless: Nice concept, but since the last update when you check your data usage the app crashes. So what’s the point of this app, if you can’t check your usage? Based on the comments in the App Store, this is happening nearly universally, so if AT&T can’t or won’t address this quickly, how confident can we be that it will improve its cellular network and finally allow tethering (which was promised, oh, a year ago)? Answer-not confident at all.
  • dtoub 12:23 am on Wednesday, December 2, 2009, 12:23 am Permalink | Reply
    Tags: echofon,   

    echofon: my new desktop twitter app 

    For quite a long time, I have been using Echofon (formerly known as Twitterfon) on my iPhone and it was always ahead of the curve. It did pretty much everything I needed it to do (it had the first implementation of threaded twitter conversations on the iPhone, I believe), the developer was sort of responsive, and until a few months ago was ad-free and cost nothing. All good things must come to an end, and I upgraded to what was then Twitterfon Pro for a few dollars, even though there wasn’t that much additional functionality compared to the ad-supported free version. Since that time, Twitterfon was rebranded as Echofon (perhaps to stave off a potential copyright suit from Twitter?) and it’s functioned well on my iPhone.

    Recently, a beta OS X desktop version of Echofon appeared that was pretty good. It was Twitter-only, so it didn’t include any additional social networks like Twitter, but the interface was very nice (quite similar to that of the iPhone app) and promised to sync with the iPhone app. I continued to use EventBox, but once that was taken over by RealMac and rebranded as Socialite, it floundered and I found myself using the Adobe AIR-based Seesmic Desktop client. Seesmic isn’t bad-it has a good deal of functionality and some nice touches, like simultaneous posting to both FB and Twitter. But the interface is, well, crap, like all AIR-based clients, and from Seesmic’s recent moves into Windows, Android and RIM, it’s clear that OS X isn’t much of a priority. So I took another look at Echofon, and it’s now my desktop Twitter client of choice.

    It was just updated (but still in beta) and implemented the new but controversial RT functionality in Twitter. However, unlike Socialite, Echofon gives the user the option of using the new RT format or the previous version that allowed for editing (eg, RT @someone: your tweet here). Even better, if one chooses the new RT format, Echofon displays a preview and the user can accept or discard it. Socialite doesn’t do any of this-it just automatically retweets in the new format only, and with no ability for the user to cancel the action.

    About the only Twitter functionality it seems to lack is support for Twitter lists, but for me that’s not a big loss right now, and I have no doubt it is on the horizon. I’d also love to see Facebook integration if it’s done right (both Socialite and Seesmic weren’t optimal, but Seesmic was better in many ways than Socialite with regard to Facebook); given that the developers recently released a free Echofon FB app for the iPhone that is pretty good, I suspect FB integration is also coming. This is how Seesmic started out-they had two separate apps for Twitter and FB and then merged them together.

    Anyway, I can live right now without Facebook integration; it’s not like the FB site lacks complete functionality. And Echofon has Twitter trends and saved searches that get stored on Twitter.com. Echofon doesn’t have a single pane that combines tweets, replies and direct messages, which is a nice feature of Socialite and Seesmic, it does mirror the iPhone version by using a tabbed structure that is unobtrusive, functional and doesn’t make me pine for a single window format. Notifications are also so much better than the useless notifications in Seesmic. While the sync and push notification aren’t always as rapid as I’d like (I believe Echofon’s servers are updated every 10-15 minutes or thereabouts rather than pushed), it works reasonably well. And it has a very Mac-like UI that is leagues ahead of Seesmic and most other Twitter clients. It’s free for registered users of Echofon Pro on the iPhone, and hopefully will stay this way.

  • dtoub 6:50 pm on Wednesday, November 25, 2009, 6:50 pm Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , tech support   

    ever have one of those days… 

    …when you solve your own tech support issue while the IT professional still is trying to figure out what the issue is?

    That’s what happened to me today, and it’s not the first time. Usually it’s a function of how little the IT support person knows about OS X. But in this case, it had nothing really to do with the OS but with browsers in general. I was surprised yesterday to find that upon going to the URL of an ob/gyn journal, I got an error message in Safari indicating that the page would not load. I restarted Safari-same thing. Emptied the cache-no change. I assumed the site was just down, but if I went there via Firefox or the Safari browser on my iPhone, there was no problem.

    I contacted the site’s support team and they were stumped. I indicated that I was running OS 10.6.2 which led to the question “are you using a Macintosh computer?” So I figured that OS X wasn’t necessarily their forte. They thought it might have something to do with an old version of Flash, but I’m running the latest version and besides, if it were a plugin issue, it would also have produced the same behavior in any other browser on my laptop.

    So I had a hunch and deleted all cookies relating to the site in question. That did the trick, and I let the tech support person know what the issue was. Case closed. But this must be the tenth time or more in recent memory where I had to solve my own problem. And as previously, I had the same feeling that had I not figured it out myself, the problem would not have been solved. That happened to me around 2000-there was some network issue at work that resulted in OUtlook 2000 for the Mac no longer working. The IT person was not happy to have been dealing with a Mac issue, and basically I was on my own. After a few days I figured it out and life went on just fine. But had I not persisted and arrived at the solution, no one was going to bail me out. So I’ve always had to be self-sufficient as regards the Mac. Still, it is a shame that the user frequently has to solve the problem.

    Just the other day, Debbie and I noticed that many Web pages would require a refresh to load at all, and some downloads of as little as 100 MB would stall. This was happening on two different computers running either 10.5 or 10.6, and even emptying the DNS cache or using an OpenDNS server wouldn’t resolve the issue. Multiple calls to Verizon tech support failed to solve the issue, since our bandwidth appeared to be just fine. Finally I got someone who told me to restart the DSL modem, something that should have occurred to me, but definitely should have occurred to someone during the 4-5 calls to tech support I had made.

    So it’s nice when tech support can come through. But it’s a challenge. And to be fair, they have a tough job. I don’t envy these folks. But many times tech support people seem to be reciting from a script when they should be listening to the user and formulating possible solutions on the fly. The last person I spoke with at Verizon did just that. Unfortunately, this happens too infrequently.

    • Richard Friedman 9:23 pm on Monday, November 30, 2009, 9:23 pm Permalink

      At least they didn’t ask if your computer was plugged in.

      I had a recent experience with the Kodak Gallery website .. I updated some images and was ordering 11×14 prints, but every time I clicked on 11×14, the image changed to sepia, and it looked as if no matter what I did, the website wanted me to order sepia prints. I tried chatting with their support folks (the only way to get thru was by live chat) and they didn’t quite understand what I was saying. So I gave up and used the new screencast feature in Quicktime to record all the steps that demonstrated how the site jumps to sepia when I order 11×14. I also discovered that if I completed the order form in a different but non-intuitive ordering of steps (like set size first, then the other options) it worked ok. Then I emailed them the .mov file from Quicktime. In a few days I got a reply that I had indeed discovered a bug and they sent me a special discount code to apply to my next order. As they say, a picture (or .mov) is worth a thousand words.

    • Jenn 12:07 pm on Sunday, December 13, 2009, 12:07 pm Permalink

      This happens all the time at {MY_COMPANY?}. The most recent issue was Excel consuming all of my computer’s processor speed whenever I attempted to run even the simplest formula on a medium-sized dataset. Their solution was to reinstall Office and run a repair on Excel. They also ran the RegClean after I told them that a free, CNET-recommended, MS Partner-certified program found 903 errors. Still didn’t work. This back and forth went on for about 3 weeks. On Thursday of last week, I was playing around in the advanced options of Excel (2007) and noticed that the default option for formulas is to use 2 processors. TWO! I changed it to manual and selected 1 processor, unchecked some of the other unnecessary things (like those stupid font tool boxes that show up if you hover too long in one spot). This was at the end of the day, so I found out Friday morning that I had found the magic solution. I may not hate Excel anymore, for it runs quite a bit more smoothly now.

      Of course, I then made sure to send a friendly “hey guess what I found?!” email to tech support and the unfortunately unhelpful folks in infrastructure in case someone else complains of a similar issue.

      (Btw, I found your blog via Kel. He posted a link to your tale about your incident–about which I am very sorry that happened to you–and then I saw you had a tag for “information technology” and kept reading.)

    • dtoub 2:52 pm on Sunday, December 13, 2009, 2:52 pm Permalink

      Thanks for your concern. Kel’s an awesome friend and human being. We’re both lucky to know him.

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