Tag Archives: iphone

Friday random 10

Here’s some music for the end of the week, straight off the iPhone set to random shuffle:

  1. Daughters (John Mayer, Heavier Things)
  2. Custard Pie (Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti)
  3. Far East Medley (Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Live Art)
  4. Heartbreak Hotel (Elvis Presley, Elvis 30 #1 Hits)
  5. On Your Shore (Enya, Watermark)
  6. Treasure of the Broken Land (Mark Heard, High Noon)
  7. When It’s Good (Ben Harper, Diamonds on the Inside)
  8. You Send Me (Steve Miller Band, Fly Like an Eagle)
  9. When Love Comes Around (Alan Jackson, Drive)
  10. Big Things Too (Veggie Tales, Veggie Tunes 2)

I have to focus this time on the first one in the list, John Mayer’s “Daughters”. People have many different opinions about John Mayer, not all of them good, but I’m a big fan — and mainly because of this song. Mayer has a sort of reputation as a womanizer but his insights on girls and parenting in this song are totally on the mark.

I’m a dad with two young daughters myself, and having become a dad relatively late in life (we adopted our first when I was 33) the transition from freewheeling academic to family man hasn’t always been easy. I first heard this song on the radio one day coming home from work, after having a particularly difficult night and morning with my oldest (and at the time only) daughter, who was just 2 at the time, and feeling like being a dad was some sort of punishment for a sin I’d committed. Then I listened to this all the way through, and I was simply blown away. Something about the simple, sparse instrumentation — just acoustic guitar, light percussion and piano, and voice — highlights the sense of grace and vulnerability shared by the daughter in the lyrics and by young girls everywhere, including my own kids. When Mayer says to dads about their daughters, “You are the god and the weight of her world“, he speaks the truth. And that afternoon, I knew it, and I’ve never seen my daughters quite the same way since. That’s a good thing.

Bonus: Don’t miss John Mayer’s Tumblr. It’s too bad he’s quit Twitter.

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One month with the iPhone 4

Outfit Ice iPhone 4 case
Image by griffintech via Flickr

Longtime readers will remember that I’ve owned an iPod Touch for a couple of years now, and it’s a marvelous device. The only things that kept it from being the perfect handheld, for me, were the lack of a camera and the lack of a microphone for taking voice memos. For a couple of months, though, other issues came forward. I began to think about how having 3G connectivity to the internet would be nice. I realized that my ages-old Samsung phone was way past its prime. And most seriously, iOS 4 was slowing my iPod Touch down to a crawl. All these things, plus the fact that my college has a discount deal with AT&T, finally pushed me over the edge into iPhone territory.

My wife and I both ordered iPhone 4‘s, mine a 32 GB model (to match the capacity of my iPod Touch) and hers a 16 GB model. The 16 GB model is apparently more popular, because it was put on indefinite backorder; so my wife, who lacks my techno-lust, opted to cancel her order and get a 32 GB iPhone 3GS instead. But my 4 got here in about a week, and I’ve been using more or less nonstop since then.

Yes, I know Apple has become the new Microsoft in terms of monopolistic, closed-system approaches to hardware and software. Yes, I know Android is the platform that all the cool geeks are flocking to. Yes, I know AT&T is supposed to be horrible and that if I would just wait a few months, the fabled Verizon iPhone will appear. However, these did not deter my purchase in the slightest. While I did my homework on Android vs. iOS devices, I never got very close to going Android. I’m an Apple guy the whole way, for better or for worse.

So, how’s the experience been?

  • I have not had any experience whatsoever with the much-publicized antenna and reception issues. In fact, the quality of the reception and voice clarity on the iPhone 4 is probably better than that of any phone I’ve ever had. (Which isn’t saying much, since I think this is only the third cell phone I’ve owned, but still.) We live supposedly in an AT&T dead zone, if you go by AT&T’s coverage map, but right here at my desk I get 3 out of 5 bars. And the reception is crystal-clear, and I have had no dropped calls at all (so far). For the record, I am using a case — I got a free case from the AT&T store for signing up, and now I’m using the free bumper I got from Apple. (I prefer the bumper because it maintains the phone’s slim profile.)
  • I signed up for the basic 200 MB per month data plan. At first this seemed like a sure bet for overages. On my laptop, there are sometimes single files that I download that are bigger than that. But I was surprised to find that by the end of the month I had only used up about 50 MB of that allowance, and that was not because I was stingy with my 3G internet usage. Indeed, it seemed like I was using the 3G for connecting to the internet a lot more often than I thought I would. I was way under my limit because 90% of the time, I am connected to a WiFi network. I just don’t need 3G that often — when I’m in the car or waiting in the dentist’s office, maybe, but these are not typical situations. Others may find themselves in more frequent need of 3G, though.
  • The retina display is very impressive, especially on apps that are optimized for the iPhone 4. (My current addiction is Real Racing.) It does a particularly good job of rendering text (for example, in ebooks or PDF’s) to be very crisp and clear.
  • The camera’s impressive too. It doesn’t have the megapixels of our point-and-shoot camera, but it’s also faster on the draw than that camera, and I like being able to take a photo or video and then send it directly to Facebook, Twitter, or to an email or MMS recipient. So I can really see the iPhone taking the place of both our still and video cameras.
  • The hardware is very fast, very nice and crisp. It’s pretty clear to me that iOS 4 simply wasn’t intended to operate on hardware less than the iPad or iPhone 3GS, and the 3GS is pushing it.
  • Most of the other features of the iPhone are identical to those of my iPod Touch, which is fine by me.

The iPod Touch has been turned into a gaming device and handed off to my giddy 6-year old, who can’t believe that after two years of telling her to get her hands off my iPod, she gets to use it all she wants (within certain parenting parameters).

I’m looking forward to more uses of the iPhone, especially as classes start soon and I can use apps like Attendance that really benefit from the camera and other iPhone features. The more I use it, the more I realize just how much of a game-changing device the thing really is.

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The Kindle evolves again

Image from Amazon.com

Update: Here’s an overview video of the new Kindle.

Amazon today unveiled the third generation of its Kindle ebook readers. The new devices, which will ship beginning August 27, will be smaller (21% reduction in size, while keeping the same size screen) and lighter (8.7 ounces) than the current generation of Kindles, with double the storage capacity, improved contrast and fonts, and built-in WiFi. Most importantly is the price point: $189, with a $139 WiFi-only model also being offered.

When Amazon first sold the Kindle, I roundly criticized it (here, here, and here; and then here for the second generation Kindles) as a good idea but lacking several deal-breaking features that should have been obvious, and would have been inexpensive, to include. I also thought the price point — which at the time was in the $359 range! — was way too high. I don’t think Jeff Bezos has been reading this blog, but I must applaud Amazon for addressing most of the issues I’ve brought up.

It took them long enough, but clearly the rapidly-expanding competition in the ebook reader market — not least of which is the iPad — has forced Amazon to make a better mousetrap. We now have native PDF support; WiFi in addition to WhisperNet; a better user interface and sturdier physical design; integration of social networking tools; and a reasonable price tag. The only thing they haven’t done that I first wished they had is made the screen touch-sensitive and in color, but after using the Kindle app on my iPhone and other ebook readers, I’m inclined to think that this isn’t such a big deal after all.

Additionally, Amazon has employed a pretty smart marketing strategy, which is to focus on the content rather than the hardware. If I own a Kindle, buy a bunch of books with it, and then decide I don’t like the Kindle any more or if the Kindle breaks, I’m not screwed — just use the iPhone or Mac Kindle app. For that matter, I don’t have to own a Kindle device at all to read Kindle books. That gives readers more freedom (which is good) and it’s also probably what allows them to drop the price on their hardware so much — more people are buying Kindle books without the Kindle reader, so the demand for the device is lower.

The one thing that seems curious in this announcement is that I would have expected Amazon to go full-throttle into the academic textbook market. Colleges and universities are beginning to adopt the iPad as the hardware platform of choice, and the lower price of the Kindle, availability of prominent textbooks (like Stewart’s Calculus) as Kindle editions, and the generally lower price of Kindle books over their print editions would seem to be big selling points. But there was no big announcement aimed at students and educational institutions to accompany the Kindle announcement itself. And the August 27 ship date is just a little too late for students entering the Fall semester. I wonder if Amazon believes they have a shot in that market; I happen to think they do, but they’ll have to get a move on if they want to compete with the iPad.

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The iPod touch: Keeping new parents sane since 2009

With Harrison’s arrival on the 15th, I have had neither the time nor the raw material for blogging about math, education, or technology. Instead I’ve been mostly figuring out how to decrypt my new son’s little coded messages and trying to sleep when I can. But there is one tech item from my experience of the last week that I would like especially to highlight: the ongoing awesomeness of the iPod touch.

Originally I wanted an iPod touch to replace my aging third-generation Photo iPod. I figured the main purpose of an iPod is music playback, and having internet and video capability would be sort of nice too. But now I see that the iPod touch is a lot more than a music player: It’s a passport to new-parent sanity. Consider the following ways the iPod touch has been of use lately:

– I used the iPod touch to provide real-time updates of my wife’s delivery — well, at least right up to the point we went to the delivery room — for friends and family using Twitter and Facebookfacebook-update I was even able to make some short posts to our family blog, although blogging on the iPod screen keyboard really takes it out of you.

– I found out that while you’re in the hospital having a baby, the moments of genuine excitement are intense but sparse. Mostly there are lengthy periods when you’re just there in the hospital room with nothing to do. Fortunately before I came to the hospital with the Mrs. I stocked up the iPod with every LOST episode I owned and a whole bunch of podcasts, so when baby and mom were asleep and I wasn’t tired (ha! Remember when I wasn’t tired?) I could fend off the boredom.

– Although I have never actually done this, you could use the iPod in its originally intended mode, as a music player, to play back calming music to a newborn with one hand while holding the baby in the other.

– Perhaps the most frequent use of the iPod touch has been during my overnight shifts looking after the baby. These are usually from 8PM to midnight and involve trying to lay down in a quiet, dark room knowing that any attempted sleep is going to be interrupted by a suddenly hysterical baby. The first night we were home and I was on deck, I ended up rocking the baby in my left arm while seated and using my right hand to Twitter to the outside world. Now this has become something of a nightly live-blog of my exploits as parent-on-duty.  I use the tag #babyshift to highlight these posts.

babyshift

Sometimes I report on what’s happening during my shift. Sometimes I throw out questions to the “audience” which turn in to good discussions about parenting tips and tricks. I’ve had very lively conversation threads during these times, while I Twitter one-handed in the rocking chair in our bedroom waiting for Harrison to settle into sleep. The “#babyshift show” has made what would normally be a tedious parenting task into something fun, even something to look forward to. You simply can’t overestimate the value of connecting to the outside world when your whole world is turned inward because of a new baby, no matter how wonderful that baby is. (Join me most nights between 8-9 PM by going to my Twitter page.)

So here’s to the iPod touch and the whole idea of mobile access to the Internet.

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Why I won’t be getting an iPhone just now

My interest in the new iPhone has never reached critical mass, but after finding out that I can get 15% off AT&T cell phone plans through my work, I started thinking again. The basic family plan, after discount, would be $100 per month, which is more than what we’re paying now ($60/month) but possibly worth it if the iPhone is as great as some say. But my interest tanked again when I saw the coverage map near my house:

The finger on the map is roughly where I live. The orange color indicates “good” coverage, which according to AT&T means that it “should be sufficient for on-street or in-the-open coverage, most in-vehicle coverage and possibly some in-building coverage”. If I stray over to the other side of our subdivision into the yellow, it’s only “moderate”. Most of where I live and work is no better than “good”.

Sorry: But if I’m going to drop $300 on the phone and $1200 per year on the service, I want a little better than being able to maybe-sort-of use the iPhone inside my house and only a relative degree of certainty I can use it at all, even standing out in the front yard.

It reinforces my conception that iPhones are for city folks and people who travel a lot, who make up a large and vocal portion of the pro-iPhone blogosphere and who don’t have to worry about whether they’ve got cell phone tower coverage in the first place. As for the rest of us, well, I don’t think the network is ready for us yet.

Or am I missing some important point here?

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Tuesday morning links

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Open memo to Steve Jobs

Dear Steve Jobs,

I appreciate your noticing that the iPhone is prohibitively expensive for most some people. Cutting the price to $199 for the basic model is a good step. But: When the phone/data plan for the iPhone still starts at a minimum of $60 per month, cutting the price doesn’t make the thing more affordable. You’re talking about a reduction of $200 or so to a one-time startup price, but keeping the cost of ownership unchanged. Whereas, if the good people at AT&T would cut the price of the plan, you could likely keep the price unchanged and it would be a lot more affordable.

But then again, you are a genius and a rock star all at the same time, so why am I telling you this? Instead, please assert your reality-distortion field on your pals at AT&T to get them to play ball with normal people who like technology but can absolutely live without it if the price is too high. Which it is.

Affordability is a lot more than the price on the sticker of the gizmo. That is all.

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