Category Archives: iphone

After a day with the Kindle for iPhone

By now, you’ve undoubtedly heard about Kindle for iPhone. It’s pretty cool, actually…pretty bare bones functionality, but it tries its best to get out of the way and let you read.

Yesterday evening, I was meeting someone at Starbucks, and she was running about 15 minutes late. I was fiddling with my iPhone, and remembered that I had the new Kindle app on there, and had already downloaded the book I’m currently reading on the “big” Kindle.

I opened the app, which was already on the page I’m currently on. I read for a bit, and actually finished a whole chapter before my friend arrived. When I was done, I closed the app, and it did its magic sync back to the Amazon cloud with the page I had made it to.

When I got home later, I turned on my Kindle just to see what would happen. I clicked into the book from the home screen, and a message popped up saying something like “you’ve read up to location 2500 on gregr’s iPhone; would you like to move to that location now?” (those weren’t the exact words, but pretty close). I clicked yes, and that’s all there was to it – I was exactly at the point I left off earlier.

Pretty cool – better than I expected. I can totally imagine reading a bit of my book when waiting for an appointment, standing in a long line, or something like that.

So the good and the bad?

Good:

- Pretty much does exactly what you’d hope. You can read your book, and the rest of the GUI disappears.

- It’s free!

Bad:

- While the “swipe” is intuitive to change pages, it’s not very much fun after you’ve done it 50 times in a row. They should make it so if you tap somewhere, it skips to the next page.

All in all – it’s not the same as a Kindle, or similar to a book for that matter. The screen is small, and it’s backlit and less comfortable to read, at least for me. I wouldn’t want to read a whole book on this screen myself – but for short breaks, it works quite well. And somehow, I feel like my e-books are worth more now that I can read them in multiple places. :-)

NetNewsWire for iPhone usage

Josh Larson on NewsGator’s Media and Consumer team has a blog post up with some usage stats for NetNewsWire for iPhone in its first 9 weeks or so since release. Go take a look…over 200,000 users, and over 115,000 new-to-NewsGator users have signed up in the last 30 days.

We have some other data as well that’s more difficult to explain, so we didn’t publish it…but generally, what we’re finding is users of the iPhone app are sticking with it and using it regularly. Said another way, the abandonment rate of iPhone users is quite a bit lower than our average rate (which is already fairly low, but the difference is significant). It seems the combination of NetNewsWire and the iPhone is a winner!

Exporting video for iPhone

I was editing a video yesterday using Final Cut Express 4, and wanted to create a version that would play on the iPhone. The timeline I was using was 1080i60, and the aspect ratio was 16:9.

First I tried File / Export / Using QuickTime Conversion, and selected “iPhone” as the format:

fce1.png

This created a video that would indeed sync through iTunes to my iPhone, and play successfully, but it messed up the aspect ratio – it exports a video that’s 480×320, which is a 4:3 ratio, so everything in my video was tall and skinny. Pretty useless.

Then I tried File / Export / Using QuickTime Conversion, selected “QuickTime Movie” as the format, and set the compression type to H.264. Dial the bit rate down to say 900 kbps, set the audio to AAC 128kbps, and export. But – no matter what I did (and I tried just about every combination of settings I could think of), this video would not sync to the iPhone through iTunes – it had to go through a conversion (in iTunes, Convert Selection for iPhone/iPod) first. Definitely not what I wanted.

Then finally, I tried File / Export / Using QuickTime Conversion, and selected “MPEG-4″ as the format:

fce2.png

Click “Options”, then make the following settings:

File format: MP4
Video format: H.264
Bit rate: 900 kbps
Image size: Custom (set resolution you want here, e.g. 480×270)
Frame rate: current

fce3.png

But then, here’s the key to making the whole thing work, which unfortunately took a while to figure out. Click “Video Options”, and set the profile to “Baseline”:

fce4.png

Finally, set the audio to AAC-LC, and you should be good to go.

Hope this is helpful for someone…but at very least, the next time I need to do this, I will have it written down. :-)

iPhone and Exchange – push and DNS

It seems lot of folks are having problems getting Exchange push email working reliably with the new iPhone 2.0 software. For me, it worked flawlessly when I was outside of the office, but when I was in the office and connected to our corporate LAN via wi-fi, it was unreliable at best. If I instead connected to another wi-fi network (like the guest network from the folks two floors below us), everything worked fine.

There is an Apple KB article talking about this:

When roaming between home and office networks with Wi-Fi enabled, “push” may stop working if your company’s Exchange ActiveSync server has a different IP address for intranet and Internet clients. Make sure the DNS for your network returns a single, externally-routable address to the Exchange ActiveSync server for both intranet and Internet clients. This is required so the device can use the same IP address for communicating with the server when both types of connections are active. A workaround to avoid this issue is to disable Wi-Fi on the iPhone.

Yep, that sounded like the problem. Our internal and external DNS for our corporate mail server is different, just as the article surmised. But it turns out in our case, it was non-trivial to change them to be the same thing.

But it turns out there is a workaround that works for me. If you go into Settings / Wi-Fi, find your wi-fi network, and click the blue button next to it, you’ll see something like the following:

photo.jpg

And here’s the tricky part. Tap on the “DNS” setting, and edit it. In my case, rather than using the internal DHCP-assigned DNS servers, I typed in two external DNS servers. These new servers will override whatever is returned from DHCP, and when asked for the IP of our mail server, they will return the externally-facing IP, since that’s all they know about.

And that was it! The push email is now working 100% reliably. A little too reliably, actually. :-)

Note – I obviously no longer have internal DNS resolution within my corporate LAN, but that’s not a problem for me. Your mileage may vary.

Note 2 – this also assumes your external mail server IP is accessible from your LAN. This may or may not be the case, depending on how your firewalls and the rest of your network are configured.

iPhone template for Delicious Library 2

One of the first Mac apps I bought was Delicious Library. Not that I desperately needed it, but it was just too darn pretty not to buy, especially for a new Mac owner to use to show his friends. And when version 2 came out, I was super excited about being able to publish my library on the web.

Here’s my use case. I travel a lot, and I like to read books on the plane, rather than do my usual work…somehow I feel more relaxed when I arrive to where I’m going. Anyway, so I’ll be in the book store in the airport, and I’ll see an interesting book. But if it’s not a new release, then I often can’t remember whether I’ve read it before; I know I like the author, and I know I’ve read a lot of his work, but not positive about this particular book.

So DL2 and the iPhone to the rescue, right? Pull up my library, do a quick search, and I’d be all set. But herein lies the problem.

The out-of-the-box templates can be seen on Adam Betts’ blog. While pretty, here are the issues with the iPhone templates, at least for my particular use case:

1. There are only 12 books per page. Yikes – that means I have 20-some pages, and I’m not sure which page I need to go to. Or with the other template, all the books are on one page – which is nice, but leads to problem #2.

2. See all those pictures of the book covers? Those are coming to about 90KB each. Each! That means a page of 12 books is over half a meg. That’s a lot on a phone.

3. I don’t need the book descriptions and links to Amazon in there either. Those are pretty big also, although down in the noise compared to the image sizes.

What I really wanted was one page with all my books, or at least 100 or so of them, and have the page be small enough that I could load it over EDGE without having to sit down. I’d like search features too, and I’d like to be able to sort by author’s last name (so Tom Clancy would be before Brad Meltzer), but hey, there are bigger problems to worry about.

While I was browsing around, trying to figure out a way around this problem, I saw Mark Burgess’ site, and he had some sample templates. While his template wasn’t what I wanted, it showed me how to make one. So I worked on it for a bit, basically just modifying the one that ships with DL2, and this is what I ended up with:

DLiphone.jpg

Over 200 books on one page, and it’s coming in at just over 200KB including the images on the page. Now that I can live with!

As to how to install it…it’s not super easy. Here’s what you need to do:

1. Install Mark Burgess’s HTML template, and install it per his instructions (in the readme file).

2. Download my changes, and replace the files in the “iphone” directory in Mark’s template with the contents of this zip file.

No warranty, of course…this is at the “it seems to work for me” stage. :-)

If there is some documentation somewhere about how to make DL2 templates and get them installed without resorting to such hackery, I’d love to know about it, and then I can make this into a real template.

Anyway – hope this is helpful for someone!

NetNewsWire for iPhone now available!

The development of NetNewsWire for iPhone just might be the worst-kept secret in NewsGator’s history. But hey – that’s ok, especially since today is launch day!

NetNewsWire for iPhone uses the NewsGator Online sync platform, so you can use NetNewsWire on your Mac, FeedDemon on Windows, NewsGator Online on the web, or any of our other applications, and they will all sync together. I’ve talked about this a lot in the past…but this is really the only reasonable way to build a mobile reader, IMHO. We use mobile devices as companion devices, in addition to our desktop and/or laptop computers – they’re not the only devices we use.

The first thing to do is head on into the iTunes App Store (click the image below):

NNW-icon-appstore.png

Assuming you have iTunes 7.7 installed, that link will take you to the App store, where you can download NetNewsWire:

NNW-appstore-small.png

And then you’re all set. Here are a few screenshots while you’re waiting for your iPhone 2.0 firmware to download!

Main screen:

nnwMainScreen.PNG

News items:

nnwNewsItemsList.PNG

Reading an article:

nnwNewsItem.PNG

This new app also supports clippings – so you can find articles on your phone that you’d like to read later, and save them in your clippings folders. Those folders are also synchronized to your desktop apps and the online system as well.

If I sound excited, it’s because I am. :-) So stop reading now, and go to it!

And did I mention it’s free?

8 months with the iPhone

It’s been about 8 months since I started using an iPhone. Oddly, I wasn’t even interested at the time; I got the phone as a freebie for going to the Office 2.0 conference in 2007, and it sat on my desk for a week before I even activated it. Color me unexcited.

But then, things changed. Turned out I did like it, a lot. It was “fun”. I’m a sucker for fun gadgets. I switched my regular phone number over about a week later, and I’ve been using it ever since.

So the other day, I was out to lunch with someone, and he asked how I liked it. And while I was answering, I had two interesting realizations:

1. It’s still fun. I mean, all the little animations and eye candy. The little things. Could I live without them? Sure. But having them there somehow makes the whole experience continue to work.

2. It’s the first “smart” phone I’ve ever had that didn’t annoy me. I mean, really. Smartphones I’ve had in the past (from Audiovox, Motorola, Palm, and others) all eventually sucked at the little things. You know, like making phone calls. Sometimes I’d find that the phones were too busy doing something (gosh knows what exactly) to even let me make a call. Or too busy to ring when a call was coming in. Sometimes they’d lock up. Sometimes they’d get into a weird mode where anything I did would take 10+ seconds. Sometimes they’d make me want to throw them against a wall.

But oddly, the iPhone has done none of these things. It’s not perfect by any means – it’s got a few little bugs…but at risk of sounding like a fanboy, I have to say it works better as a phone than any phone I’ve had in the last 3 years.

And that is something I never thought I’d say.

iTunes Wi-fi Music Store

Everyone knows by now that the most visible feature of the iPhone’s recent software update is the iTunes wi-fi music store. When I first saw that, my thought was “ho hum”…I mean, I’m excited that Apple is changing the mobile game and updating devices with new features, but I had very little interest in buying songs from my phone.

Ha. Apple clearly knew better than me.

They completely nailed the interface. It works, it’s fast, and it’s fun. I was sitting around over the weekend, just browsing through the store. Tapping the “preview” buttons, tapping the “buy” buttons…it’s all so easy. And being one tap away from new music, on your device, is something that’s very cool – and cool enough it’s a little hard to explain exactly why. And knowing it will sync back to your PC, and there’s no downside to buying on your phone vs. buying from your desktop, really takes the last bit of worry away.

So nice work, Apple. You gave me a feature I didn’t want, made it easy for me to play with it even though I wasn’t interested, and you convinced me.

iPhone and Exchange Server

I’ve been using an iPhone for a while, and it’s definitely a whole new experience on a phone. I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit, but perhaps I’ll write more about that later.

I have it connected to our corporate Exchange server, and the first thing I noticed was that when I would delete a message on the iPhone, it wouldn’t get deleted in Exchange.

Technically, the message gets marked for deletion in Exchange via IMAP. The problem is, it just sits there in that state until eventually someone does an EXPUNGE command on your mailbox. And even worse, when you connect Outlook to Exchange via non-IMAP methods (like whatever the default is), the message just shows up with no indication it was marked for deletion.

Well, Shawn at fresh logic studios has built a small app that will periodically run an expunge against your mail account on Exchange, and this completely solves the problem. As downloaded, it runs the command every 5 seconds; I recompiled it to instead run every 5 minutes, so as not to get my IT guys too unhappy with me.

So a HUGE thanks to Shawn for writing this – it’s a lifesaver! Highly recommended.

UPDATE 7/14/2008 – I notice a ton of traffic coming to this post over the last few days; this post was written when the only way to connect your iPhone to Exchange was via IMAP. ¬†Using the iPhone 2.0 firmware, you can use Exchange ActiveSync, which doesn’t have the same issues as described above.