My take on the Kindle

For those of you kept in suspense since my last blog post – I bought the Mac! Managed to pick up a second hand Mac Mini from eBay on a second chance offer that was a bit of a steal! Got it fully up and running using Synergy and a KVM switch, but that’s another blog for another day…

Latest purchase is the new Amazon Kindle. They’ve really nailed down the price (nearly under £100 for the WiFi only version now), and the quantity and quality of books on there seems to be going from strength to strength. Basically, I wanted a device that I can sit in bed and read on without messing up my eyes, and also carry with me for odd moments where a book would come in handy. Having textbooks on there as well would be a huge bonus, saving on weight and cash! I’ve been meaning to get back into reading books for a long time, and am really glad I bought a Kindle – I’ve hardly put it down since!

First book I bought was Nikki Sixx’s book – ‘The Heroin Diaries‘ – it’s an absolutely fascinating view into the mind of a drug addict, as the main bulk of the book is a diary that he was keeping at the time, interspersed with stories and dialogue from the people close to him. I’d thoroughly recommend it! The buying process on the device is nowhere near as awkward as I anticipated either, the menus do flow quite nicely. I’m yet to try it with any textbooks (waiting to see what I need to read up on this year!), but I’m sure that even if I can get one course textbook on it, it’ll be a lifesaver in terms of weight!

A lot of people tried to dissuade me from getting one (Seb Payne & I were going to argue it out on Tech 107, but life got in the way!), saying that the Apple iPad was the way to go forwards, or to wait 12 months to see if colour e-ink displays come into the market. Buying an iPad is something that’s never even crossed my mind to date, the technology behind it is no different to my iPhone, which I have on my person most of the time, so buying a slightly steamrollered device that does the same job doesn’t make much sense to me! I do, however, want to see if colour e-ink displays will start to come of age soon, but I guess that (as with the Kindle) they’ll be extremely expensive on launch.

Well that’s my £0.02 on the matter of tablet computing (or whatever market you’d classify these devices in!), I’d better get doing something vaguely useful as opposed to writing blog posts. Dads & Lads camp with Cubs next weekend, and back up to Durham the week after to get prepared for the onslaught of Freshers week – can’t wait!!

To Mac or not to Mac

As you may know, I am the extremely happy owner of an iPhone. I also happen to be doing a degree which has something to do with programming (apparently…), leading me to wonder what would happen if I were to try combining these two!

I’ve previously had one or two ideas put to me for iPhone software, and also have thought of some myself. Objective-C looks like a bit of a pain in the backside to learn, but challenges are fun! The only obstacle left in my way is Apples decision to only let you run their iPhone development software on their own OS.

This leaves me with a couple of options. Firstly, I could put together a hackintosh on some old hardware, providing I’ve got some hardware lying around that it will work with! The only downside of trying that approach is that this is likely to happen. The other option is to buy one, I’ve been having a look at Mac Minis, which would probably cost somewhere in the region of £600 with student discount.

I don’t know if I’m ready to give up my Mac-hater stance and actually buy one, but I’m tempted…

My take on the iPhone 3GS

First of all, this is not a particularly informed review. I do not own one of these devices currently, I’m basing my opinion on third party reviews and Apples’ keynote address on the 3GS.

The one thing that strikes me about this whole launch is the amount of hype Apple are creating about the 3.0 software – but overlapping this with the launch of the 3GS. For instance, things like Spotlight search and the new Messages app feature center-stage on the Apple website promoting the 3GS, but these are available on 3G and even 2G iPhones!! That said, the features 3.0 brought to my phone have been sadly disappointing. The vast increases in SDK capabilities haven’t been taken up by developers at all (may do another post on this some time) for whatever reason, and I’m yet to use Spotlight in a ‘non-test’ capacity. The messages app is all well and good – but when I tried to send a contact to a friend of mine, it came out as rubbish. I know there’s not a standard for such messages across phones, but that sort of invalidates the point of having such capabilities!

Voice control is all well and good, I’ve not seen many reviews of this feature out in the wild, so I can’t really pass judgement on that. The addition of a magnetometer within the 3GS will be a huge feature. I personally try to get out and about doing some Geocaching, and hopefully the Groundspeak iPhone application will be updated to allow use of this compass to make seeking caches even easier with an iPhone.

However, the simple addition of video recording (and increase in camera quality) is just about enough to sell me on the 3GS. I’ve whinged about the quality of the existing camera until I’m blue in the mouth – but still I use it for all my day-to-day shooting! People are much more likely to be carrying a mobile phone than a full camera when they need it most. Apple have pulled some really good moves in this hardware update, and I for one am on the end of the hook – I want it!

Skype for iPhone released

Skype have just launched their official iPhone client in the UK! Woop!

My first reaction was definitely one of ‘wow’ – the interface is slick, and a quick phone call to their ‘test service’ (didn’t want to wake anyone!) revealed the call quality to be excellent, although it seemed that a little part of my test message was dropped.

Only problem I can see with it is the lack of cell network support, I’d really like to be able to make calls on the go without having Wi-Fi nearby. Other ‘nice to have’ would be the use of background processing on the iPhone, but that is Apples’ fault obviously. Maybe push notifications could be used somehow in this app? We shall wait and see…

iPhone 3G – me want!

God bless you Steve Jobs, you never cease to amaze me with your new technology. New iPhone 3G was announced last night at WWDC, with some brand new features:

  • 3G (duh!) which actually seems to work at the same speeds as HSDPA(?) It is actually a HSDPA phone, according to Apples tech-specs – which makes it 3.5G!
  • A-GPS (Assisted GPS, works with Wi-Fi and Cell tower to calculate positions faster)
  • 2.0 software (obviously!)
  • Also available in white!
  • Flush headphone jack
  • All-metal buttons
  • Better speakers

The 2.0 software looks good as well, can’t wait for some native games to come along!

The best thing of all – o2 offering free upgrades to existing customers! No contract termination fee, just pay for the new phone, sign up for a new 18 month contract, and you’re away!

I’ve already registered so that o2 will phone me up to set the ball rolling on these things in early July – I can’t wait!

Update: Just realised I’m away through most of early July – damnit.

iPhone 1.1.4 Released

Firmware update 1.1.4 for update has been launched this morning. No new features (apparently, not installed yet), but a few unspecified bugfixes. Nothing in the Apple KnowledgeBase about the security fixes either!

Could this actually be the release of the SDK, but hidden away? I’d expect an iTunes update within the next week or so, to unlock the features of the SDK, and then maybe firmware 1.1.5 to unlock the phone

EDIT: Just tried to update my phone, got a "1602" error, apparently I have to restore to factory settings 🙁

Changes in 1.1.3

Well, I have to say I’m fairly impressed with the 1.1.3 update I blogged about earlier. Even after my PC crashed and then started the download all over again -.- urgh.

The "Find Me" service on Maps isn’t too brilliant it seems… it told me that I am currently somewhere in Poynton. Well duh!

The changing of the home screen is quite nice, however I don’t like the shakey effect when changing icons around – I think it looks tacky!

I’m yet to see movie rentals for the UK…

Multiple texts is a bonus though!

On another note – the "MacBook Air" has been shown off to the world (well… the people who were at MacWorld – I’m still waiting for the video to be released!). Not that I’d want a Mac anyway…

iPhone 1.1.3 update

iPhone software update 1.1.3 has been released! Don’t know if Steve Jobs has just announced it at Macworld or something, but iTunes now recognises the update, and its downloading for me as I write this!

Unfortunately, several million other iPhone owners are doing the same, so download speeds are quite low – it’s going to take about 90 mins to download :'(

New features (from the download menu when you start the update):

  • Updated maps
    • "Find me"
  • Multiple SMS
  • Updated home screen
    • 9 simultaneous screens side-by-side
    • Safari bookmarks on home screen

and a couple more I forgot before clicking "next"!

I will post and tell you all how it goes! 83 mins left!