Monday, June 22, 2009

Rogers allows iPhone tethering in Canada for no extra charge until 2010

Rogers tetheringWhile US iPhone users are stuck waiting for AT&T to get their act together, Rogers in Canada has stunned iPhone users by not actively trying to screw users right out of the gate as they did when announcing the data plan pricing for the iPhone last year. After a high-profile backlash, Rogers was forced to offer more reasonable data plans for iPhones, and it appears they've learned their lesson this time.
As we all know by now, tethering is built in to the iPhone 3.0 firmware, and as long as you are on a data plan that gives you at least 1 GB of throughput per month, you can use iPhone tethering for no additional charge in Canada until at least the end of 2009. It's unclear what will happen next year, and it seems that Rogers isn't sure yet either. But rather than simply not allow it while they figure it out (as AT&T is doing), they chose to allow it.
My guess is the execs at Rogers are doing a few things here:
  1. Looking to increase goodwill after the disastrous data plan fiasco last year
  2. Wanting to watch usage patterns to see just how popular tethering turns out to be, to help them determine price points
  3. Using the drug dealer method of marketing -- get people hooked, then jack up the price
Of course, this is assuming they will revert to their evil ways; it would be nice to think that Rogers has actually turned over a new leaf and wants to provide reasonable service for a reasonable price. My guess is that most users of tethering are like me in that they want to have access to it for emergencies, but don't actually need it on a day-to-day basis. In that regard, allowing tethering as part of the not-inexpensive <1 GB data plans that Rogers provides makes reasonable sense.
So, does anyone think Rogers will continue to do what makes reasonable sense next year when it comes to tethering, or will the lure of a few extra dollars be too much for them to resist?

Dell cites Apple's 'green' claims in Better Business Bureau complaint

In a display of environmental posturing on both sides, Dell lodged a complaint with the advertising industry's self-governing oversight board: The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (NAD). The claim? When Apple says it has the "world's greenest family of notebooks," family could be taken to mean all models of MacBook past and present -- including models that weren't built with the environment in mind.
"Common industry usage of 'family' refers to a particular model or group of models, and not the entire notebook line," argued Dell, according to a post on the New York Times' "Green Inc." blog. Dell also complained about Apple's use of gold EPEAT ratings -- an award that many of Apple's competitors have also earned.
Standing behind their claim, Apple effectively said, "that's right, deal with it": Family, in the context of the ad "refers to its whole line of notebooks, taken in toto, [and] not a particular model or group."
The NAD said there was no problem with Apple communicating its EPEAT ratings to consumers, and commended the company for its commitment to creating an entire line of notebooks that meet the highest EPEAT ratings, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Even so, the NAD suggested that consumers could believe that "family" means a line of products (and not all the products) that a company makes. They recommended that Apple use direct comparisons between MacBooks and competitor notebooks to clarify their claims of environmental friendliness. They also recommended that Apple avoid the use of world's greenest "given the potential for overstatement." Apple? Overstatement? That's unpossible.
Apple was happy with the conclusion, with PR spokesman Steve Dowling telling the New York Times that the NAD had confirmed that MacBooks are indeed the world's greenest notebooks when compared to other manufacturers' entire product lines. It appears that Apple has taken to using the word "lineup" instead of "family" on its website.
Dell issued a statement, saying they "commend the NAD for their part in helping ensure companies represent their products' environmental attributes accurately." Dell has previously lodged advertising complaints against Lenovo, and last year the company had to stop using the slogan "the world's most secure notebooks."

Inside iPhone 3G S: Seeing your direction on iPhone 3G S maps

One of the highly touted features of the new iPhone is the ability to have the map display your direction of travel. A great idea, long overdue. As people were walking out of the Apple Store today it was one of the first things some people wanted to try. They brought up the Google Map app, and then started spinning around. But these whirling dervishes weren't getting anywhere.

Since I was the real smart TUAW dude, I told them I could get it going. Nope. Nada. Zero.

After a bit of a search at the Apple web site when I returned home, I found it. You have one more tap to do on the map. When you tap the location icon at the lower left of the map screen a second time, it changes to a new, previously unseen icon. It looks like a little wedge in a circle. When you activate it, you're good to go. Or spin.

I think if I were designing this I would have made it an option on the map to default to direction of travel, or North at the top. Oh well, nobody asked me. Not the most obvious GUI design, but I guess once you know it, you know it. Now you know it too.


This week I'm going with an oldie but goodie that I use every day. Way back when Dashboard first appeared, my biggest problem with it was that I simply forgot about it. My main use of Dashboard is for displaying information that I want to remember, e.g. appointments with iCal Events, iCal ToDos with DoBeDo, the weather, etc. However, for this to be really useful it needs to be in front of my face a lot. And since I generally tend to forget to invoke Dashboard on my own this pretty much fails.

Enter the basic preference pane app Dasher, which does one simple, but amazingly useful thing: it automatically invokes the Dashboard after a set period of time. Everytime I step away from my Mac and return, the Dashboard is displayed with my appointments, etc. so that now they're in my face enough for me to remember them and Dashboard finally works for me.

Dasher is a free download from Splasm Software. It's an old piece of software that has not been updated in quite some time, but it still works fine on my 10.5.7 machine.

Incidentally, there's another way to accomplish something similar using an OS X screen-saver. DashSaver (donation requested) from High Earth Orbit installs as a standard screen saver and will also display the Dashboard after a set period of time.

MapQuest 4 Mobile

Once upon a time, multipoint navigation on the iPhone required some heavy lifting, and a bit of savvy was required to get you from Point A to Point B to Point C. Using the built-in map application, you could enter a future location as a bookmark, as a contact, or you could use the "Recents" button. MapQuest 4 Mobile [iTunes link] provides the same multi-point trip functionality, and builds upon it with single tap location-based services as well as integration with the company's web-based service.

The app is organized into four sections -- maps, directions, my places, and settings. Maps, as implied in its name, provides a view of your selected location, but with the ability to display available services in the area. Among them are shopping centers, cafes, and gas stations. While many map apps can do this, MapQuest offers multi-select for categories, which means that if you'd like to pick up some Chicken and Stove Top and grab a latte on the way home from work, you could choose to display grocery stores and cafes both.

Read on for more about MapQuest Mobile.

Note: MapQuest 4 Mobile is a product from AOL, which is also the corporate parent of TUAW & Weblogs Inc.

MapQuest 4 Mobile may provide more than one route from your current location (or an entered address) to the grocery store, and then to the cafe. Routes can be based on the shortest time or distance, with the added ability to avoid highways, toll roads, and seasonally closed roads. What's more, the app allows you to rearrange your destinations, should they change. So if your need for caffeine outweighs your hunger, you could put the cafe at the front of the list.

Multi-point destinations notwithstanding, MapQuest 4 Mobile also provides a twist on navigation with its user interface. Whereas the built-in iPhone map requires you to tap to go back and forth between points, MapQuest 4 Mobile accomplishes this with swiping gestures. I found this to provide a better navigating experience than the built-in map app while driving (I know, it's against the law to use a cell phone while driving in California).

One last thing that stands out on MapQuest 4 Mobile is the way it displays traffic information. On the built-in iPhone map app, which color codes roads red, yellow, and green based on traffic conditions, I often find it difficult to differentiate between yellow traffic speed roads and the actual color of roads on the map, which sometimes happen to be a similar color. I found the contrast between roads and traffic information much more apparent on MapQuest 4 Mobile.

But MapQuest 4 Mobile is not without its share of issues, some that you may not be able to overlook in deciding whether or not the app is ready for daily use. I found the app to be less responsive than the built-in iPhone map when zooming in and out of views, as well as scrolling (both up and down, and left to right) on the current view.

This carried onto to navigating directions as well. On occasion, MapQuest 4 Mobile did not display the map for directions after a destination was entered. A blank map was shown instead.

I also found the lack of address book integration to be an inconvenience. While MapQuest's "My Places" provides a hook to stored addresses, and is certainly helpful for multi-point trip planning, it doesn't make up for the convenience of address book integration. Perhaps this will be included on future versions.

For all of MapQuest 4 Mobile's promise, it is not without its quirks; you may find them minor annoyances or showstoppers; the best way to know if you'll find it useful is to give it a try. Fortunately, there's little risk, as the app is free in the US App Store (iTunes link).

European nav app first out of the gate for iPhone

It looks like our European friends will get first crack at an advanced turn-by-turn navigation app for the iPhone/iPod touch. MobileNavigator Europe [App Store] requires the 3.0 software, and looks to be fully featured:
  • 2D and 3D map displays
  • Can be used in portrait and landscape format
  • Branded UI features such as Reality View Pro, Lane Assistant Pro & "real signpost display"
  • Speed Assistant with adjustable audio-visual warning
  • Direct access and navigation to contacts saved in the iPhone's address book
  • The latest NAVTEQ maps, 2M+ European POIs (points of interest)
  • Navigation is automatically resumed after an incoming phone call
  • Quick access to user-defined POIs in the area and along the route
  • Take Me Home function with a single click
This software is the first of several apps coming for the iPhone. The TomTom app that will work in the U.S. has been demoed and coming soon. Garmin, one of the premier GPS manufacturers is going the other way, and will release their own phone with navigation built in, but the project has been troubled and much delayed. Telenav has pre-announced its iPhone offering and suggested that customers keep an eye on the company's Twitter feed.

The Navigon app is US $94.99 (!) this month only, then the price goes up (!!!). The Navigon website doesn't yet show a list of the supported countries, but it's displayed in iTunes and is quite extensive (Albania to Vatican City with Estonia, Macedonia, San Marino & Slovenia + more in between). The app supports ten different languages and will automatically switch based on the selected language for the iPhone itself. The download weighs in at 1.65 GB.

This quick release of high quality navigation software should set mouths watering for a release over here, but I'm a bit troubled by the pricing, as you can buy a pretty fully featured low-end navigator for only a few more dollars.

Update: Our readers have also mentioned Gokivo, with a continuing US$9.95 a month subscription, and Sygic, which provides turn by turn navigation in Austrailia and New Zealand.

Vlingo adds voice control to older iPhones

Pity the poor iPhone 3G owner who now has to grapple with reality; yes, what was until Friday the world's coolest smartphone is now simply a piece of yesterday's tech, as current as a punchcard and as enduring as a wax cylinder recording on a hot afternoon. No, not really -- the iPhone 3G is just as cool as it was a week ago, and for $99 it's a relative bargain. Still, there's some envy on the wind.
Some of our readers have apparently been so dazzled by Apple's enthusiastic promotion of the new iPhone 3G S that they were fooled into believing that the hardware-linked features of the 3G S (the compass and the voice controls, specifically) would be made available on the 3G with the delivery of the 3.0 software update. They have written to us, irate and frustrated, wanting to know what happened to their promised features. We sympathize, and we want to help.
There is, as it happens, a way to get one of the marquee features of the 3G S -- voice control -- onto your iPhone 3G or original iPhone. The vlingo app, available free in the App Store since December of last year and also available for Blackberry & Windows Mobile, gives you voice command dialing from your address book, map search, Yahoo web searches, Twitter/Facebook updating, and more. The recognition quality is quite good; it's worked as well as Google Voice Search for me in most cases.
Vlingo is quite a bit slower to recognize audio on the 3G than the built-in Voice Control is on the 3G S (unsurprisingly, considering the horsepower boost on the new phone); it also does not allow iTunes control, while Apple's tool does. Despite these drawbacks, it's fun to use and very slick. Update: As Eitan points out in the comments, vlingo's speed is not necessarily limited by the local processing power, since it depends on the remote server for audio analysis.
One of the major points of contention regarding vlingo, and a cause of many negative reviews on the App Store, is that the app does have to do something a little bit touchy in order to enable voice dialing: it asks if it can upload your contact names to vlingo. While this is a necessary step if you want to use voice dialing, and while the company says it does not include phone numbers with that upload nor does it use the information for any purpose other than creating spoken profiles to recognize the names of your contacts when you speak them, there are plenty of users who aren't comfortable with this step. If you're not OK with it, you can still use vlingo without the voice dialing feature; at that point, however, it's not dramatically better than Google's Voice Search.
You can watch a video demo of vlingo in the 2nd half of this post. If you've got other workarounds or third-party apps that help 3G owners level up with their happy 3G S comrades, please let us know.

Inside iPhone 3.0: Enhanced controls for podcast & audiobook playback

It's on the master list of 3.0 features, but we've been sent enough tips and suggestions about it to conclude that the advanced podcast/audiobook controls came as a pleasant surprise for lots of iPhone and iPod touch owners who upgraded.
In the 3.0 version, from the playback display for a podcast, tapping the screen brings up a set of expert controls: a button to email a link to the podcast's page on iTunes; a 30-second "What's that, now?" instant rewind button; and a playback speed control to give you 1/2 speed, normal or 2x "FedEx mode" playback.
The scrubber bar itself has been given a charge, even though it doesn't look any different until you tap it; it displays the relative playback position within the episode being played. Dragging horizontally gives you high-speed scrubbing (previously known as "just plain old scrubbing"), but if you keep your finger on the screen and drag down, your scrub rate lowers step by step through half-speed, quarter-speed and 'fine scrubbing.' This detail control makes it a lot easier to cue up a particular spot in a long show or book chapter.
I've started to enjoy listening to some of my longer subscriptions in 2x mode, especially when I have a fixed amount of time to listen to the podcast but I still want to cover as much of it as I can. Even shorter news-centric podcasts can sometimes benefit from a speed boost. If any of you try out the 2x mode on an audiobook, do let us know how it works for you.
Surprisingly, I find myself using the 'email this' button quite a lot, especially to let friends and family know about some of my favorite shows. I imagine they'll be getting tired of that pretty soon.

ScreenSteps Pro adds video embedding and Pages/Word export

ScreenSteps 2.6 is out, and has added two very useful features: the ability to export to Microsoft Word or Pages, and the ability to embed videos into your documents for online publication. We've covered this screen-based documentation application since its initial release, and it continues to be a personal favorite for me and an incredibly efficient way to create and maintain documentation for clients, employees and users.
The video embedding is a huge deal for my workflow. I've found through years of working with clients that a PDF or online document and a video serve two very different audiences. Some folks, myself included, have a learning style that does not work with video tutorials. We require text and examples we can scan, search and bookmark. The other half are in a reverse situation; videos jibe with their learning style, but pages of text just cause a logjam in their brains. Ultimately, because I can rarely predict the learning style of a client, I end up creating both; documenting a procedure step-by-step, and then demonstrating it while I record the screen, using the manual I just created as a script. With ScreenSteps 2.6, I can now add a shorter video to each step or lesson, allowing me to serve both audiences a little more efficiently.
Embedding video is as easy as copying the embed code from any video service which provides it, choosing the Step > Set Video Embed Code menu option and pasting your code. At this point, the "video embed" is a PR-speak way of introducing a feature which really has much more advanced possibilities. Quite simply, this feature allows you to embed anything you want, and -- at least in HTML exports -- have it interpreted within the documentation as Javascript/HTML. I plan to use this freedom to embed bookmarks in my videos using YouTube's Javascript API. You can also use it to insert code examples with HTML pre and code tags. The sky's the limit.
On to the new export formats ... I really should say format, as it's a single option to export a Office Open XML format. This format can be read by and edited in most modern word processors, including Apple's Pages and Microsoft Word. As with ScreenSteps' other export formats, users can customize templates for their OOXML files, allowing strict adherence to standards within organizations with such requirements. It allows for some pretty darn good-looking Pages documents, too.
A trial version of ScreenSteps 2.6 is available for download from Blue Mango Learning Systems. See the product page for further details. Pricing comes in two levels: $39.95US for the standard version, or $59.95US for the Pro version (which is required for the video embedding and OOXML export features).

iLounge releases speed test videos of iPhone 3G S

Testing how speedy the iPhone 3G S "S for speed" really is has become de rigueur. iLounge has put together two videos comparing the facility of the 3G S to the 3G, last year's iteration of the iPhone, and to the second generation iPod touch.

The operator tests four applications: Edge, Peggle, Real Racing, and Star Defense. They are all graphically heavy games with initial load times, and likely where the difference will be most exaggerated. As is to be expected from a phone named for its swiftness, the 3G S outstrips both the 3G and the iPod touch by a fair margin, though the iPod touch counters the 3G S a bit more easily than the 3G does.

The videos don't offer any quantitative analysis, nor are they exact by any stretch of the imagination (you'll just have to trust the device operator to touch the application icons simultaneously), but it's comforting to know you that if dropped at least two bills, it was for a reason. Because the videos don't offer any guidance as to which device is where, I'll clue you in: in both videos, the 3G S is on the right.

3G S sales expectations shift higher, Apple offers $30 credit for activation issues

It's Father's Day here in the USA, UK and Canada (best wishes to all the Mac daddies out there!), and if the tea-leaf-reading over the iPhone 3G S launch is accurate, it looks like quite a few of those dads may have gotten a shiny new phone as a gift from the spouse and kids. Which would have been really thoughtful and unexpected. If I had gotten one. Anyway.

The pre-launch expectation from analyst Gene Munster was for a comparatively modest 500K units sold over the weekend vs. the 3G million-phone launch, but now his firm has suggested that may have been a conservative number, as noted by AppleInsider. Between AT&T's citing of 'hundreds of thousands' of pre-orders for the phone, and O2 announcing that first-day sales for the 3G S blew past the totals for the 3G last year, it's possible that the 3G S could creep up towards that million-phone number and blockbuster territory.

Despite (or perhaps due to) the brisk sales pace, AT&T's activation infrastructure did not seem to be ready for the influx of account changes; this is a familiar situation, as last year's 3G launch triggered similar delays. Many new buyers (including our own Steve Sande) were faced with activation delays between two hours and two days. In recognition of the aggravation and inconvenience, Apple has begun emailing affected users with the offer of a $30 iTunes credit to be delivered Monday morning, according to Everything iCafe. If you got a credit email, please let us know.

3.0 is here, but where's the free security update for iPod touch 2.x?

TUAW reader Jim Carroll is worried: "It is crunch time for your site," he warned ominously in an email yesterday.
Jim is worried that security updates made available via the iPhone OS 3.0 updates last week will only be available to iPod touch users through the obligatory $10 upgrade. "Please use your power as an Apple site to raise the issue." Please, Jim. We're blushing.
"As a long time computer user I am unaware of a similar incident where a company would charge for security updates," he writes. Companies charge money for updates all the time -- operating systems and anti-virus software take time and energy to make, and companies want to get their investment back. Apple has been kind with free updates to Safari, but only because they gain revenue from it via the Search bar.
Apple has always charged iPod touch users for major updates, of course, but security updates have most often come free. 1.0.1, 1.1.2, 1.1.3, 1.1.5, 2.1, and 2.2 all included security fixes, but were free to iPod touch users. (The latter two cases were free for those who bought the 2.0 update.)
1.1.5 is an interesting case. It was released a few days after the 2.0 update, and included security updates that were wrapped into the 2.0 update.
My advice? Have patience. This coming week or next, I have confidence we'll see an update for 2.x (2.2.2 perhaps?) that leaves out the new features, but includes the same security updates found in 3.0 at about $9.95 less.
We're also beginning to hear whispers of a 3.0.1 update for the device to help resolve WiFi issues in the new release; a German iPod user reports being told by an AppleCare representative that an update is expected shortly. Take that with the appropriately sized grain of salt.

Inside iPhone 3.0: Fix too-strict passcode lock settings for Exchange users

If your iPhone was connected to an Exchange server for email, contact or calendar synchronization prior to your upgrade to the 3.0 software, you may have run into the same problem that was bugging me for a day or so: the timeout on the passcode lock gets set to "Immediate," forcing you to enter the code almost every time you pick up the phone. Secure, sure, but very annoying. Going to the usual settings location to adjust the timeout shows no choices other than the insta-lock; what to do?
A thread on the Apple discussions boards points to the answer. Since the ActiveSync link to the Exchange server controls some security policies on the phone, you need to refresh those controls; the easiest way to do that, short of deleting and recreating the Exchange account, is to turn off all three sync modes and the Push setting. Once that's done, you can go back to the passcode lock screen and disable the lock or adjust the timeout. Put your sync settings back the way they were and your changes to the passcode config should remain in place.
While this is an annoying quirk, it's not all gripes and grimaces in the Exchange support department. At long last, users of Exchange calendars can send meeting invitations (hallelujah!); Exchange 2007 users can even view the reply status of attendees. Users can specify additional mail folders for sync, and Exchange 2007 users can search server-side mail from their devices.
For a full rundown on the enterprise-friendly features of iPhone OS 3.0, check out the Enterprise Integration guide via Apple's enterprise features page.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pogoplug: Your data, wherever you are ;-)

When word about the Pogoplug hit TUAW central, we debated to see who would luck out and and cover the device. Apart from a few cuts and bruises, nearly all of which will mend in a matter of weeks if the doctors are to be believed, I won. The past few days, I've had the pleasure of road testing a unit. And it's awesome.
The Pogoplug offers a USB NAS adapter, i.e. a network-attached storage system, that gives you network access to your data from home and on the road. With NAS you can use common protocols like AFP and SMB to connect to a remote disk. And you can do so easily. That's a big win, because choosing and setting up these remote devices has been a deal killer for many otherwise interested people. As Brad Dietrich, Pogoplug's CTO, told TUAW, "[Until now], the state of home networking has been too complicated and geeky for most people." Pogoplug provides a simple solution.
What Pogoplug brings to the party is a remarkable ease of use that crosses past any issues of firewalls and port setup and delivers remote storage to normal (i.e. read "non-geek") humans. It transforms remote file access into a consumer device. And best of all, it provides this for just $99.

What is Pogoplug

The Pogoplug is a large white brick, about the size of three iPhones stacked on top of each other. At one end is a power plug, at the other are two connectors: a USB port and a wired Ethernet port. You connect the power, the Ethernet, and attach a USB storage device. You then authorize the device at the Pogoplug website by providing your e-mail address and a password. And that's pretty much it. You're ready to start sharing data.
Pogoplug, through the device and the service that powers it, offers built-in sharing technology, but it is up to you to bring the actual storage to the table. Each plug contains a single USB connector for you to attach any spare USB drive. Your $99 cost remains the same. Want a bigger drive? Attach a monster 1.5 TB unit. Don't need that much room? Supported drives includes thumb drives as well as normal hard drives.
The Pogoplug provides secure access to your drive no matter where you are: at home or on the road. That's because outside your home, you don't access the drive directly. Whether working on your laptop or your iPhone, you connect to the Pogoplug service that negotiates your access. "[Your data] is secure from outside your network," Dietrich explained. "But your Pogoplug trusts you from inside it." This duality provides the best tradeoff for speed and security.
As mentioned, the first generation of Pogoplug uses a wired Ethernet connection and you'll need to attach an actual cable to your router. This provides for greater security and won't allow casual access to your files. Pogoplug customers have, however, asked for WiFi access in the next revision. Dietrich says Pogoplug is considering that option so long as they can deliver it securely and not suffer from configuration complexity.

Sharing data

All Pogoplug connections start from inside your home network. The plug creates a secure outgoing call to the Pogoplug central server. Because that call is sent rather than received, you don't have to configure your routers or your modems to allow this traffic. It works just like your browser does when you connect to a secured site like Amazon commerce. By starting from your home network and making outbound calls, you don't have to fuss around with firewalls. It just works.
All external requests for data pass through the central Pogoplug server. The server handles authorization, allowing or denying access to that data. It's up to you to create invitations that allow users to share files or folders. Invitees are sent a web address and when they open that page, your data is there for them to browse or download.
You can create work related folders, family folders, and so forth. Your invitations limit requests to specific locations and you can revoke that access any time you want.

PC Clients

In addition to the web client, OS X, Windows and iPhone systems can contact Pogoplug directly using a proprietary API. That API is open and fully published; Pogoplug encourages developers to take advantage of its features. If you'd rather not write a client from scratch, and nearly all of us would rather forgo that, Pogoplug offers free software that adds a virtual Pogoplug drive to your desktop. The software works with FUSE (Filesystem in Userspace), letting you mount a virtual NAS-based Pogoplug drive. In testing, the drive was no creakier than any other MacFUSE drive, which is to say you could see the rough edges but that it operated well enough for day to day use.
The big win for this, obviously, is remote access. Having a drive on your laptop desktop that easily connects to data at home means you can edit documents and work on projects without having to sync or otherwise copy data. Of course, that's true for any network drive. What Pogoplug adds is cloud support. It pushes that data access into the real world, away from your desk and throughout the internet. You extend your local networking way beyond your local network.

iPhone Client

As iPhones do not support general disk access, the iPhone client provides more general browsing than the mounted drive available to PCs. The Pogoplug app lets you view files, and includes audio and video playback directly from the iPhone. That's really great if you've got enough bandwidth going and you've automated your TV tuner to save a compressed iPhone-compatible version of your favorite shows on your Pogoplug drive. You can watch your movies and listen to your audio on the road.
The client also allows you to copy files from the Pogoplug to local storage, but not much more than that. The iPhone software is pretty bare bones at the moment. Specifically, it's missing the sharing capabilities that Air Sharing and other file-based iPhone utilities bring to the table. If you're out on the road with only the iPhone and you need to share a brochure, business card, or product manual, the current client cannot service that request. And that's a big shame because it would be so easy to integrate iPhone to iPhone sharing, FTP access, or even just mailing out an invitation to share data.


With a $99 cost, the Pogoplug seems like an outright bargain. The problem, though, is that it requires the central Pogoplug server in order to operate. Should Pogoplug go out of business, your unit will no longer work. In other words, you're buying into a service, not just into a device. So will the service be there for the long run?
When I talked to Pogoplug's Dietrich, he assured me that the service costs have been amortized into the purchase price. "Bandwidth is our real cost and we've made conservative assumptions about providing enough room in our margins to accommodate those costs. We know our margins and we know our costs." He assured me that Pogoplug's business plans include enticing new customers into the fold as well as targeting upsales to existing customers. "We have a feature set that keeps expanding."
As for partnering with other companies like media capture specialists Elgato, Dietrich said they've spoken to many of these companies but could not share specific details at this time. "Our business is infinite media at your fingertips and there's currently a big sharing solution hole in the marketplace. Pogoplug helps fill that hole."
So what should happen should Pogoplug go out of business? On their website, they've promised to open-source their proprietary server back-end code, allowing customers to roll their own solutions. It's not an ideal situation but the reality of the business world is that not every company succeeds, deserving or not. Pogoplug is to be commended for thinking through this potential from the ground up.


Although, like TiVo, Pogoplug is marketed as a pure consumer device, also, like TiVo, it's a hacker's dream come true. Pogoplug supports an open community forum for interested hobbyists. Here you can read about logging into your plug via a secure shell, connecting your plug to your TiVo so you can watch your recordings on the road, and learning how to build your own servers.
The Downloads page includes kernel and ram-disk images and drive software for Linux. The forums include general users discussion as well as development-specific topics like treating your Pogoplug as a low cost embedded computer. So while the plug delivers as a consumer device you can install for your Mom, it also offers a level of technology hotness that delivers for hobbyists.


During my time testing the Pogoplug, it has delivered exactly what it promised. Setup was insanely simple. Sharing was easy as could be. Reliability has been right on the mark. For me, it's not really a question of "should I recommend this" or not. I do. Enthusiastically. Instead, it's become a question of how many more ways can I think up to take advantage of a unit whose charms and capabilities are numerous.
Product: Pogoplug, networked storage device
Cost: $99

Palm and Verizon looking to take shine off Apple and AT&T

In a minefield of failed "iPhone killers" one is making some headway on fulfilling that murderous promise: the Palm Pre.
Perhaps it's no surprise: the Palm Pre was conceived by a team that includes plenty of Apple alumni, including Jon Rubenstein, who was made Palm's CEO yesterday to replace Ed Colligan. (John Gruber reminds us of one of Colligan's more famous quotes.) Rubenstein used to be the general manager of Apple's iPod division.
Not only that, but Fred Anderson, Lynn Fox, and Mike Bell are all connected (if not employed by) the re-energized Palm. Valleywag's Ryan Tate says it's no wonder, then, that the Pre syncs with iTunes right out of the box.
Competition is good, though, right? We'll see improvements to both the iPhone and the Pre because of the products' competitive relationship with each other. Look at the rivalry between Canon and Nikon: The result? Awesome cameras both. In the end, the customer wins.
This is true with carriers, too, as exclusivity agreements begin to expire. There were rumblings that the Pre would be released on the Verizon network around Christmas, but blowback from Sprint CEO Dan Hesse pushed the rumor mill's schedule back a month to January 2010, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Watercooler talk suggests that the iPhone's exclusivity agreement with AT&T expires around the same time for U.S. customers, but the Magic 8 Ball says that we might not see an iPhone for Verizon until both they and AT&T finish their LTE networks.

If you're using a Pre with your Mac, especially if you're taking advantage of the iTunes sync capability, let us know in the comments how it's going.

Terminal Tips: Rebuild your Launch Services database to clean up the Open With menu

TipsProblem: Some piece (or pieces) of rogue software have cluttered up your Open With contextual menu, which you can see by right-clicking or control-clicking any document in the Finder. This problem seems to be most prevalent with virtual machines that allow you to open documents with Windows applications, but tend not to clean up after themselves. After having both Parallels and VMWare installed on my MacBook Pro, my Open With menu was a mess.

Solution: Lucky for me, I noticed David Chartier's question about this on Twitter around the same time as I was wondering what to do about it. Some friendly person pointed him to a posting on Apple's discussion forum (also noted on Mac OS X Hints here and here), noting that running a specific command in a terminal window will rebuild your launch services, which repopulates the Open With menu with a current list of applications, without duplicates. It worked perfectly for me, but beware, on my system it took about 10 minutes to complete, and I suspect it could take more on a sufficiently gummed-up system.
Here's the Leopard version of the command (the path to the tool is different in Tiger, see here). I broke it into three lines for readability, but the \ at the end of the line is bash-speak for "keep on going with the same command" -- you can copy and paste it directly and it should work, or if you type it on one line without the backslashes, it will also work fine.

 LaunchServices.framework/Versions/A/Support/lsregister -kill\
 -r -domain local -domain system -domain user 
If, preferring to avoid the Terminal, you want a handy GUI app to rebuild the Launch Services database with a couple of clicks, check out Titanium's OnyX or Maintenance utilities, both free of charge.

Walt Disney World Notescast [ iPhone ]

To start with: I am a Disney fan -- to be precise, it's a lot like the way Jack Nicholson is a Laker fan -- so on my very nearly annual expeditions to a Disney park, I don't really need the map. I have memorized shortcuts and low-traffic restrooms, how to get all the good stuff done in one day, and loads more random bits (look closely in the Hall Of Presidents; molds for their faces are used on other animatronics around the park), mostly because carrying them around in my head was the easiest way to carry them.
Then I got my iPhone (my first smartphone) and was able to put data on my phone (which I always carry with me). Enter the Walt Disney World Notescast. This $0.99 app is a handy planning/informational tool that can guide your entire Walt Disney World trip, from vacation packages to tips on annual events and park history. I tested the iPhone version of this app, but TimeStream Software also sells a $1.99 version for notes-capable classic iPods and nanos. It doesn't rely on a data connection and you can carry all this info with you easily.
When you first launch the application, you get a list of options to choose from. I liked the variety of options, but I wish I could customize or at least re-order it so I could get at a few of the options more quickly. There is a bookmark system available, but I ended up bookmarking a lot of things so that list went non-functional pretty quickly. And while I understand not having a ton of information on one page, I had a hard time figuring out why there were breaks between, for example, "Tours of EPCOT I" and "Tours of EPCOT II". I love the list of phone numbers, especially since I can tap the number to make the call. In the now cutthroat world of Disney Dining, having that number handy -- as well as the ticket line and even the camping and Magical Express numbers, not usually easy to find on the WDW site -- is a huge convenience.

I liked the What's New section; it goes back years, and since I'm not at Walt Disney World that often, it's nice to see what's new since my last visit, even if that was quite awhile ago.

I have to admit, my favorite portion of this application is the Hidden Mickey Tours for each of the parks. I wish it were more vague in spots (some are very explicit, some less so), and I also like that is laid out "in order" as you walk through the park. I also have to admit I'd love more of this kind of information, not just for Mickeys but some of the other cool stuff to look for while I'm walking around.

Some minuses here: No maps. I understand not having the latest on what rides are closed or open, especially without relying on a data connection, but it'd be nice to have some idea where things are, particularly for people who aren't me (first time or very infrequent travelers) so the map would be one less thing to carry in a pocket that inevitably gets drenched on Splash Mountain. I have seen Disneyland apps that do this, so an image for each park doesn't seem unreasonable. I'd also like to see menus; I took these guides to Disney World and it was really nice to know what my options were before I sat down. Adding a spot for user-added info like where we parked (with a photo option), maybe my room number, or a checklist of people I promised souvenirs to, would be handy. Those would be useful lists, even if it's just a free-form text area where I can enter them myself.

All in all, I'd suggest this for people who are new to Walt Disney World, or haven't been in a long time. I liked how easy it was to use, and I adored the Hidden Mickey tours. This is definitely a useful application if you are off to Orlando anytime soon. If you're a superfan like me, you may also want to check out the $0.99 WDW Secrets edition, with more behind-the-scenes detail on attractions and park history.

AutoStitch raises the bar on iPhone panoramas

There are quite a few programs that allow you to create panoramas on the iPhone. I've reviewed some of them, and they all get pretty good reviews. The differences are often in how much work you have to do versus letting the software do the alignments of the various images. Since iPhone photos are almost always hand held, there are going to be issues of the camera not always being level.

AutoStitch [App Store] is a US$1.99 app that gets most of the process just right. When you run it, it asks you to import images from your camera roll, as many as you like. They can be horizontal for a wide panorama, or stacked vertically. As an experiment I shot both vertically and horizontally, and rocked the camera significantly out of level by tilting it up to about 45 degrees. I took 10 images, and the software assembled the images in the proper order. There were a couple of gaps, where there was no image, but that was my fault, not the application's. The result was pretty impressive: not as a great image, but that AutoStitch could make sense out of the jumble of shots. You can see this image in the gallery I've created.

No panorama software I've seen is perfect. When I look closely at the full resolution images I see a bit of ghosting in the distant mountains, but overall AutoStitch is an excellent program that lets you take the pictures while it does the work. All panoramas need some cropping cleanup, and iPhoto can do this when you import from the camera. If you want to do all the post-processing on the iPhone itself, I suggest Photogene, [App Store] which will straighten and crop your photos, plus lots of other functions if you want them. It's a great US$2.99 investment. I'll be reviewing this app in a future post.

Here are some sample panos taken assembled with AutoStitcher. I've reduced the size of these images so they will load faster. You can find more on the developer's web site.

Snow Leopard build 10A380 screenshots

The stack frame now has a attractive border between it and the shadow which looks quite nice. Also, an option for folder actions now appears in the Finder's contextual menu.

There's a cool feature in Safari that lets you create a note from any selected text. I'm also happy to see that the Image Capture app no longer looks completely out of place and matches the other apps. Also, Preview's "Contact Sheet" view is very cool. Think of a PDF's pages being displayed in a big grid.

What's very nice to note, and what I'm most looking forward to, is the list of apps that Michael describes as looking the same but operating much faster, including Address Book and Font Book. I love what Apple's doing with this update in tidying up Leopard and making it tighter, faster and more efficient. I can't wait to buy this.

Kaloki Adventure and Peggle on sale, plus free music

If you didn't jump to pick up Kaloki Adventure [App Store link] after our first look last week, now's your chance: the game is on sale today (not tomorrow, apparently -- you've got under 24 hours) for just $1.99, a buck cheaper than the usual $2.99 price. The game offers some fun but casual real-time strategy business simulation, so if your dream has ever been to own a burgeoning spaceport, they don't come cheaper than that.

And as an added bonus, NinjaBee is also offering a catchy tune from the game's soundtrack on their website for the low, low price of completely free. It's the jumpy, swingin' background music to the main gameplay, composed by Eric Nunamaker, who's apparently been working on video game music for quite a while.

Oh, and finally, while we're talking about awesome iPhone games on sale, Peggle is only a buck. 'Nuff said.

Think you're good at Flight Control?

Here I was, thinking our fine TUAW readership was pretty great at playing Flight Control. Yesterday, as part of a post about the new game Trains, I asked for everyone's high scores, and I thought we were doing well.
Commenter DJ won our informal competition (no prizes, sorry, beyond the satisfaction of a job well done) with a score of 1036. Dan came in second with 575. Rounding out the top three was Matthew with a high of 275.
Now, however, with the latest update, your high scores can be uploaded to, home of high scores for not only Flight Control, but Real Racing and Fast & Furious. There, it's clear that TUAW readers have much better things to do than play Flight Control all day.
Just a few hours ago, a user named TommyRoissy landed 14,439 aircraft before two of them collided. Ridonkulous. Our own Mike Rose speculates that some are playing the game inside the iPhone SDK's simulator mode to gain higher scores. I agree -- pair simulator mode with a graphics tablet, and you've got yourself quite the landing machine. Thanks to our commenters for correcting this; it's not technically possible to run purchased iPhone apps in the Xcode simulator, as it cannot emulate the iPhone's ARM processor.
Even so, that's a lot of time spent playing Flight Control. I mean, it's a good game, but let's say the average landing time is five seconds. 14,439 landings is over 72,000 seconds -- or 20 hours -- of playing time. I'm certain there's some pauses in there, but that's still a lot of landing.

Make your display's gamma in Leopard match Snow Leopard

Display Calibrator Assistantone of the small adjustments to Snow Leopard will be that the default gamma on displays will switch from the typical 1.8 value to 2.2, which is what is used on TVs as well as being the long-standing default gamma value in Windows.
Gamma affects the visual contrast you see on your screen, and a higher value indicates a higher level of contrast. The cost of this higher contrast is that you lose some detail on the less luminous parts of your screen.
If you're interested in seeing what this is going to look like in Snow Leopard, or switching your gamma setting now so that you're used to it ahead of time, here are the steps to do it using the Display Calibrator Assistant:
  1. Head into System Preferences, and click on the Displays icon.
  2. Click on the Color tab, and press the Calibrate... button.
  3. On the Introduction window that opens, click Continue
  4. On the next screen, "Select a target gamma", choose "2.2 Television Gamma"
  5. Click Continue leaving your Target White Point set to Native (or whatever yours is set to)
  6. Now name the new profile you've created, click Continue and then Done.
  7. Lastly, you can now choose to switch between your default color profile, and your newly created profile with the gamma set to 2.2.
I realize this might seem terribly obvious to some users, but for others playing with color profiles is not ground they've previously covered. If you're one of those people, this tip is for you.