More Connectedness…

The past couple of weeks or so I’ve been hunting for some sort of mobile hotspot device or at least a reliable connection while I’m out and about in the world.  Most of the time I seek the shelter and relatively tasty supply of caffeine offered at a coffee shop (with power to boot), but as I continue to remain unemployed I’ve found myself wanting to be out in a park somewhere and still get some stuff done.  Or, getting out of the city for the weekend and heading to the Pacific to hang out.

A big problem for me was cost: Every major wireless player offers a variant of a USB stick, or a MiFi device but they all require a new contract and ironically a “phone number” for that device because they’re all phone companies.  I was attracted to Clear’s devices because of their cheapness and a device that was meant to specifically get “Apple” devices on-line, the iSpot.  I’ll not here that I am a shareholder in Clear (CLWR) but I’m casual and while I want them to succeed, I’m not tethered so to speak to their devices.

The iSpot is an Apple-like MiFi spot designed to only let devices that match known MAC addresses of iPads, iPhones, and whatever “i” thing Apple will launch next.

Clear iSpot

Clear's iSpot Device

Because these devices would sap less of the network than others, Clear offers their plans at a fantastic discout: $25/month to month and a $99 device fee.  Within days of its launch back in August some intrepid hackers figured out how to open it up and remove the MAC address restriction, disable OTA (over-the-air) updates, and enable USB tethering.  While I’m technically using Apple devices anyway, the MacBook Pro is not inclusive in the default MAC address settings: this is purely an iOS device device.

My largest problem is that out here in Ocean Shores, Clear does not offer 4G coverage.  Sprint, Clear’s partner offers 3G coverage but once-upon-a-time I owned a Sprint USB stick that didn’t work so great out here.  Also, when I went to pick one up in W.Seattle they were sold out and backordered for a few days.

In the end I went back to the simplest option: tethering my iPhone over ATT for an extra $15 a month.  Surprisingly, ATT has updated coverage over here and it’s not as bad as I would’ve thought– I pulled down 2 megs, .75 up at a relative ping of about 348 ms.

iPhone in Tether Mode

iPhone in Tether Mode

I’m not thrilled about losing my unlimited data plan in order to gain tethering but I gotta say this is fairly fast and useful for doing what I should be doing out here: checking the news, email, and letting Xcode fetch new defs out of the Apple respository.

The only thing to decide now is whether or not I really want to be spending my time away from the city and home online somewhere.  It has advantages but I’ll have to watch it.

The iSpot is an Apple-like MiFi spot designed to only let devices that match known MAC addresses of iPads, iPhones, and whatever “i” thing Apple will launch next.

iOS 4 – Some Glitches…

iOS4 is out today and I gotta say I’m having a bit of a love/hate relationship here. First off, I lost my damn contacts. I didn’t actually lose them but when I went to use my smartphone in a smart manner it didn’t really work. I ended up having to do a hard-sync to a more out of date version of my cloud version of Google Contacts. Talk about frustrating…and to my knowledge this issue still isn’t solved. I also had some wonkiness in the Clock app of all things– titlebar flashed green as if I was in a call and it kinda got the timer numbers all screwy there. I did a hard reboot and all is good now…I think.

But on to the OS pack– it’s very fast on my 3GS. I like the new draw animations, and the addition of Folders for droppings Apps is great. Even the spellcheck is a nice addition because I’m tired of typing the word “ducking” all the time. Use your imagination.

Here’s my last gripe: Freaking multi-tasking. Apple, why would I want to leave the Settings app up, or Messaging? How about the damn Clock app? Why don’t you have a whitelist or at least a preference setting that would allow me to specify a “Never multitask” or “Always quit (for real)”?? I can only assume there’s an iOS4.1 update around the corner.

I noticed this release contains the same serial as the 4.0 GM Seed that we developers had access to. I had it loaded, but maybe I’ve got some glitches because of that…oh well.

More as it develops…

iPhone OS 4.0

I’m sure you can read up elsewhere on the interwebs about some of the more critical features of the upcoming iPhone OS4 release. What I’d really like to concentrate on is a new clause that I signed yesterday involving development and use of 3rd-party IDE’s or non ObjC languages. The critical portion is reproduced here:

Applications may only use Documented APIs in the manner prescribed by Apple and must not use or call any private APIs. Applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by the iPhone OS WebKit engine, and only code written in C, C++, and Objective-C may compile and directly link against the Documented APIs (e.g., Applications that link to Documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool are prohibited).

This ends Adobe’s attempt to become a bit more relevant in the web space and I honestly feel a bit sorry for them. Flash has enjoyed being the king of the web for so long they’ve grown a bit complacent. However, if someone tried to convince me 5 years ago that the next battleground would be in the mobile device space and that Apple (ha!) would be on the forefront I would’ve laughed.

So, back to the changes in the dev agreement. My girlfriend’s cousin is currently a Java developer and has been dabbling a bit in iPhone dev, but only through a middle-ware tool called AlcheMo or Flash’s upcoming CS5. This has been his only expsoure to the OS because it would be a challenge for him to learn ObjC this late in the game– in his defense, he didn’t start out as a C programmer so I can understand a bit of his frustration. It isn’t as though he’ll be unable to develop for the iPhone, but he’ll need to do so: a) using a Mac and b) using XCode. As someone who started from the ground up one of these is a bit of a financial investment which is why I started with a Hackintosh.iPhone OS 4 Logo

On the flip side Apple is doing what they’ve always done: encourage shift to their platform. I’m more than happy to develop on a Mac and use one as my primary machine day to day. However the work that I do does occasionally require Windows so I will dual-boot.

iPhone OS4 Outed!

Apple is in the middle of a press event right now detailing some of the major features of the next iPhone OS release, due out in Summer 2010. I’ve read that there will be a Developer Preview released today.

My only problem currently is that I’m still awaiting a MacBook Pro refresh (due in January mind you) that would allow me to migrate to Snow Leopard which is the only thing the current SDK supports (sadly). One of the larger requested features, Multitasking is now available and it looks very sweet. They’ve demonstrated the audio library so Pandora can finally exist in the background as you run other apps, and Skype(!!) maintaining a background status while you’re using the phone for other things.

It’s really exciting but I definitely need some new development hardware if I’m going to take advantage of any of this cool stuff. More later.

Holiday Binge on Apps…

I spent New Years “untethered-but-tethered” so to speak. I took my Mini hoping to do a bit of coding, but quickly realized that it just wasn’t going to happen. This wasn’t a bad thing– I can guarantee any code written would’ve been horrible. I did however, spend some QT with my iPhone downloading apps (over AT&T’s Edge network no less)… There were some great apps on sale for cheap prices, and some new ones that I just hadn’t come across before. Here they are:

Tap Tap Revenge 3
Cost: Free (with some In-App purchases to extend the game beyond the 200 or so free tracks)

I don’t know, something about this app’s similarity to Rock Band or (Guitar Hero if you prefer) is engaging enough that I don’t find it to be a rip-off. The tracks are fun, it can be challenging at times, and there seem to be a ton of free tracks associated with the game. Granted, most of the artists probably won’t be recognizable at first glance but you’ll find some neat music here.

F My Life
Cost: Free (AdMob Supported)

When I wasn’t using my phone, my girlfriend was rather obsessively checking this app. Conveniently titled, this app is an extension of the popular web site FMyLife. It supports rating posts, and will use badges to alert you of new posts. You can go back and read (what seems to be) limitless archive of this stuff. A great time waster.

Cost: Free, $.99 for additional services tied to the app beyond your first.

Boxcar came out of a recommendation from one of my favorite blogs, TUAW (The Unofficial Apple Weblog), (which also has an app here). In short, it adds Push notifications to services you choose. @DM’s on Twitter come to my email, but I wanted them to be sent as alerts. Boxcar’s services watch your accounts, and send you an alert, and then delegate to the app of your choice. I like Tweetie 2 on the iPhone, so Boxcar gets the popup alert, and then opens Tweetie to get the message in greater detail. Slick, eh? Support for just about every major Twitter client for the iPhone is there. Boxcar also supports other services such as: Growl, Twitter Search, Facebook, and Email.

Now on!

I’ve been fooling a bit with UStream (which is awesome btw…) and its potential use in a proposal I’m busy developing. I hope to have a bit more info soon, and I can’t even begin to describe what might end up here (or not). Instead, I thought I’d just broadcast it out and see what develops. Maybe some of my famed training courses? I dunno…

GeekApproach Feed on UStream

The Roundup

First off, my grandmother passed away on Saturday morning. She was in her 70’s but had been in hospice for the past…almost two years I guess. Unfortunately I had to fly out to LA to do a gig at Microsoft’s PDC. I’m not sure what else I should be feeling or saying about her. I’ll miss her, but I’m just not sure what to do with it yet.

Anyways, I’m down here on the floor with a Hackintosh. This is how nerdy I am: I actually flew down with an external USB keyboard for my Hackintosh, but I figured out a way to get VNC and Internet Connection Sharing working from my primary laptop so I can at least use a full size keyboard.

My grand plan was to catch up with my Stanford U ObjC/iPhone dev program, but I don’t even know what happened to my day yesterday. I really want to keep up with auditing the class, but I’m sooo far behind… I think its the first time in a long while that is actually something I’m genuinely interested in: I actually wish I know had some disposable income to just pick a school and spend the time learning. I want to keep going with it to figure out if I want to spend $40k+ on an education, but life seems to get in the way.

This wasnt what this post was supposed to be about but whatever…

Droid does what iDon’t (or something…)

This video for Motorola’s new supposed iPhone killer, code-named “Droid” is interesting. Not because of the many things that the iPhone can’t do (apparently), but because the word “droid” is wholly owned by Lucasfilm, Ltd.??

WTF? Are you kidding me? I guess he might’ve been one of the first authors to popularize the word but…c’mon. It’s a shortening of the word “Android”. Wow.