Simpler cue sheets

March 31st, 2012  |  Tags: ,  |  Leave a comment

I can’t possibly be the first person to have had this idea. With that said, I like it a lot:

cue sheet on phone lock screen

As for the ride itself, it was overcast and certainly too cold to refrain from second-guessing wardrobe choices. (Bibs and knee warmers: bad idea. Shorts without knee warmers: worse idea.) Even so, we were doing pretty well until we hit Mt. Horeb and a thick fog rolled in. Just a couple of miles north of town, we were blind beyond about 100m, which seemed like unnecessarily bad odds for us given the size of the shoulders and the speed of traffic.

So we went back to town under rapidly-increasing fog cover and surveyed our options for a few minutes. We considered going to the Grumpy Troll and trying to wait for some sun, but it was before 9 AM and neither of us had any cash. We considered calling Andrea and begging for a ride, but that seemed too pitiful. Anyway, if you were wondering whether it is possible to ride the Military Ridge State Trail from Mt. Horeb to Madison on road bikes with 20 spoke rims and 700×23 tires, the answer is “yes, but only slowly.” (For out-of-towners, this is about 20 miles on crushed limestone and dirt.) I probably wouldn’t do it by choice, but it’s always fun to ride that trail and I don’t think my wheels are too far out of true. And — as an unexpected bonus — I’m pretty sure I can speak Flemish now.

The data buffet

June 2nd, 2010  |  Tags: , ,  |  Leave a comment

I’m glad to see that I will have the option to cease subsidizing the heaviest 2% of data users on AT&T’s network. If you would have asked me two years ago — before I got a phone that I actually wanted to use on the internet — I would have regarded a bandwidth cap as anathema, a step backwards even from the endless nickel-and-diming I experienced on Verizon’s data network.

But since getting such a phone — and, so I thought, using its data capabilities fairly heavily — I have never used more than 200 megabytes of cell network data in a month; Andrea has never used more than 100 megabytes. In the last seven months (charted below from my online AT&T bill), I haven’t even come that close to 200 megabytes, If we choose to switch from “unlimited” bandwidth to the new AT&T plans, we will save $30 per month. (We also have 2.5 days of “rollover minutes” for voice, but I suspect that we will have to continue to subsidize heavy voice users to some extent.)


An iPhone usability nit

October 22nd, 2009  |  Tags: , , , ,  |  3 Comments

I’ve had an iPhone for about 16 months now, and I’m pretty happy with every aspect of it that has nothing to do with the wireless carrier. However, some minor complaints are inevitable even in such a well-designed device. Consider, for example, the user interface displayed upon receiving a call. When the phone is asleep, the incoming-call UI looks like this:


To answer the call, you drag the green box from the left side of the phone to the right, just as you would do ordinarily to activate the phone’s screen. However, if your phone is awake — maybe you’re using it when someone called, or you recently put it in your pocket without explicitly putting it to sleep — the interface is different:


Now, years of computer use have conditioned most people to expect the affirmative option on the right in graphical interfaces. But even a few days of iPhone use are sufficient to condition one to drag from left-to-right in order to wake the phone or answer a call. I wonder how often one has send one’s wife straight to voicemail before one develops the necessary reflexes for the more-complex behavior demanded by this pair of interfaces.

Some apps are more equal than others

August 24th, 2009  |  Tags: , ,  |  Leave a comment

A lot of bits have been spilled recently on Apple’s iPhone app approval process, especially with regard to the not-yet-approved (“rejected,” for all practical purposes) Google Voice application, which drew an FCC investigation of Apple’s practices and an unintentionally-hilarious public response from Apple.

Today, John Gruber links to Real Networks’ announcement that they intend to ship an iPhone client for their Rhapsody music service; note that any concrete app that provides access to a music service probably violates Apple’s iPhone SDK terms in several ways. While I’m sure this announcement is great news for the eight or ten people who use Rhapsody, the interesting part is Gruber’s gloss on the link, in which he suggests that Apple will likely approve the app if it meets technical muster — even though the app probably violates the developer agreement — in order to avoid the appearance of anticompetitive behavior with regard to the iTunes music store.

If Gruber is right — and he certainly sounds plausible here — I wonder if there will become a de facto special class of iPhone applications during the review process: those that are potentially-controversial and well-publicized enough to require more careful examination or more flexible approval constraints. (Real probably assumes that this is already the case, or they wouldn’t be taking their case to the court of public opinion by pre-announcing this product before it is available.) Such a policy would certainly minimize Apple’s entanglements with irritable executive-branch agencies, but introducing yet more inconsistency and privileging some applications over others likely wouldn’t serve consumers or developers any better than the current policy.

How I saved a soggy iPhone

July 14th, 2009  |  Tags: ,  |  4 Comments

Andrea accidentally left her phone on the roof of our car for about a day and a half last week. While the phone was on top of the car we drove about ten miles and there were several substantial rainstorms. Fortunately, the phone was not physically damaged or lost, but it was totally soaked by the rainstorms: there was water inside the case and obvious condensation inside the phone itself.

When she discovered her phone, it wouldn’t power on. I assumed that the battery was simply dead (probably a good thing). I plugged it in via USB, just to get an idea of whether the phone was completely toasted or not. The phone powered up, but the display backlight flickered and cut out. The touchscreen seemed to work (when the display was working, at least). I could see a thin layer of water inside the display itself (not merely under the screen) on about a quarter of the face of the device on the top and right edges. There were fairly large water droplets visible in the camera lens, as in the “from outside” picture below:


Here’s what I did next, which wound up restoring the phone to working order:

  1. I powered the phone off and considered my drying options. (I rejected a hair dryer, because the heat was too hot, too focused, and because the device was too fiddly.)
  2. I figured that solder would probably be the first thing to melt inside the device. (Anything else would be attached via solder and presumably less likely to melt first.) I don’t know of any commercial solder that melts at less than 200 degrees F (most solder has a much higher melting point), but some components of the display might not react well to such high temperatures.I was interested in not exceeding the typical operating temperature range of the device. Therefore, I needed need a way to keep it at around 100–130 degrees in a fairly dry environment.
  3. The oven I had exclusive access to would preheat to 170 degrees, but not to the 100–130 degrees I was interested in. I figured that through some combination of preheating the oven and then turning it off, opening the oven to cool it to 120 degrees, and using the oven light, I’d be able to maintain a a reasonable temperature. (The oven light by itself will keep an oven warm enough to raise bread or make yogurt — about 100–115 degrees.)
  4. I set the phone at an angle between the base and wall of an enamel saucepan, since I didn’t want too much of the phone’s surface area touching the pan. I then placed the pan in the oven with the phone facing the oven light.
  5. After a few hours, the large droplets were no longer visible in the camera lens. (See the figure above.) However, I noted that there was still water in the display at this point, which began evaporating (and condensing on the lens) after about four hours. All in all, the phone was totally dry after about eighteen hours in a lukewarm oven; I left it in for a while longer just to be sure.

I think the major points to take away for people who find themselves in this situation are simple: an oven light is probably your friend, it will probably take at least an overnight stay in the oven, and don’t power it on unless it’s appeared dry for a while — there may be more water left. Oh, and you probably don’t want to power on the soaked phone (that will likely do more harm than good). However, because I did, I know that this method of drying phones actually restored a nonfunctional phone to working order. Although “data” isn’t the plural of “anecdote,” I’m interested in hearing from anyone else who uses this method to save a phone.

Finally: follow these instructions at your own risk. Specifically, don’t blame me if your phone comes out of the oven puffed, soufflĂ©-like, and still nonfunctional.


June 17th, 2009  |  Tags: , ,  |  Leave a comment


UPDATE: I’m not kidding.


First impressions of the Core Animation book

October 29th, 2008  |  Tags: , , ,  |  Leave a comment

I got my copy of Bill Dudney’s Core Animation for Mac OS X and the iPhone yesterday.

I pre-ordered this book in March, but the Pragmatic gang decided to include coverage of iPhone topics at the 11th hour and ran into a snag with Apple’s now-lifted iPhone NDA, which delayed the book’s release from midsummer until now. (I note that the iPhone chapter, which was directly responsible for the delay, is 14 pages long.)

I really don’t have any time for recreational programming right now, but I read the first few chapters last night. It reads well, has an approachable tutorial style, and makes me wistfully look forward to some point in the future when I have more free time.

That Obama iPhone application

October 8th, 2008  |  Tags: , , , ,  |  Leave a comment

Last week Sen. Obama’s campaign released an iPhone application designed, as far as I can tell, to help people more efficiently annoy the living crap out of their friends. The reaction from weblogs I read and twitter users that I follow was overwhelmingly positive, and given the pedigrees of the programmers involved, I have no reason to believe that the application is not well-designed and effective at what it does. However, I find myself almost completely creeped out by the whole thing. Honestly, random people who insist that I make a public confession of faith in their preferred candidate have had no trouble finding and pestering me even before I could be an “Insufficient zeal” item on a smoothly-animated, multi-touch enabled bullet list.

The first non-positive comment on this application I encountered in my feed reader came from Wolf Rentzsch, who noted that the use cases for the application seem to reduce one’s friends to “resources to exploit to further [one’s] political ideology.” Rentzsch compares Obama’s proselytes to “religious crazies,” which I think is unfair. I’ve had far better conversations with the kempt and friendly members of various cults who come to my door than I have ever had with the clipboard-addled, talking-point-infected scumbags who want me to vote for someone or to sign something without reading it.

I was curious, so I installed the Official Obama ’08 iPhone and iPod Touch Application, but it made my phone go haywire: repeatedly calling everyone in my contacts list who isn’t a U.S. citizen or is recently deceased; applying some bizarre Shepard Fairey halftone effect to all of my photos in the Camera Roll; replacing Marker Felt in the Notes application with what I am pretty sure is an unlicensed version of Gotham; etc. I had to remove it.

The experience got me thinking, though: while there are clearly a lot of useless iPhone applications, there aren’t that many that are actively socially hostile like this. I wonder what other applications might fit in this model?


(Click the image for a larger version.)

On scrolling

August 11th, 2008  |  Tags: ,  |  Leave a comment

Adam Engst points out that “you pull down on a Mac scroll wheel to scroll down, but push up on an iPhone/touch to scroll down.” This confused me for my first couple of days of iPhone use, but it makes a little more sense when you consider the underlying metaphor: on the iPhone, the idea seems to be that you are “grabbing” the paper and moving it under the window. Therefore, on the iPhone, your scrolling mimics moving the paper with your fingers under the viewport; on the Mac, you mimic moving the window through the document. (The latter behavior makes much less when I think about it, but I suspect it is an artifact of the first scroll wheel applications.)

(I remember being similarly confused when I first used the Sibelius music notation software on my Mac, which also uses a “grab the page and move it under the window” idea. It probably didn’t help that I was having to unlearn many years of Finale ninjahood….)

Pragmatic [REDACTED]

July 23rd, 2008  |  Tags: , , , , ,  |  Leave a comment

I suppose this is why the Core Animation book I pre-ordered from Amazon in March remains unshipped a week after its expected release date and why Amazon sent me a panicked “we have no idea when this will ship — do you still want it?” message.

In cheerier Pragmatic Programmers news, I watched some of their Erlang screencasts on a recent plane trip and am glad to endorse them. They’re certainly not a substitute for Armstrong’s excellent Erlang book, but they’re a nice taste of some very cool features of the language. I learned of these via DF, whose one-sentence summary of Pragmatic’s products hits everything I love and loathe about them. (Seriously, Bookman makes my skin crawl, and it’s only the beginning.)

(Confidential to readers who appreciate the idea of evaluating technical books on both content and typography: have I got a treat for you, and soon!)