The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'iphone'
Another Apple Event™, this time the annual iPhone/iPad one. And out comes Tim Cook, announcing that they're foregoing the traditional feel-good videos and plunging right in, as today's event will be “truly big”; followed by an hour and a half of mostly incremental improvements. Oh, and a pay-TV platform that looks like an Onionesque parody of the Netflix/HBO/Amazon high-concept event-serial genre.
The good news is that it won't have a huge impact on one's credit card, as there are no must-haves. Everything's slightly nicer, and the top-end iPhone takes better pictures than any other iPhone, though nothing's compelling. (Apple themselves quoted a report from last year saying that the A12 processor in the iPhone XS will be ahead of Android devices for two years, which means that my XS still has one year of non-obsolescence left.)
For what it's worth, three things I would have liked to have seen announced at an Apple device event:
- The ability to use the NFC transceiver in the Apple Watch (and iPhone) for arbitrary non-payment-card applications; allowing things like putting public transport cards, library cards, locker keys and such on one's watch. The convenience of being able to board buses or enter/exit Tube stations without getting my wallet out is one thing I miss about London (which achieves this by tapping into the payment-card network with its system). (IIRC, Apple have said that they keep the NFC chip under tight control because of security considerations. Perhaps an acceptable compromise would be for Apple to closely vet all applications with NFC entitlements, with their security engineers going through the NFC-adjacent code with a fine-toothed comb, as they do some other apps with elevated security permissions. This would be fine; after all, it's not like every developer and their dog would be putting this functionality into their apps.)
- An iPhone with the capabilities equivalent to the iPhone XS or similar (decent cameras, reasonable battery life, at least 256Gb storage maximum), but in an iPhone 5-sized form factor. Being able to use a phone one-handed without precariously crowd-surfing it on one's fingertips to reach the top of the screen would be nice. If they made it thicker to accommodate the battery and Flash storage, that would not be a problem either; besides, IMHO, the bevelled edge of the iPhone 4 and 5 did look more stylish than the generic roundedness of the iPhone 6 and subsequent models.
- In terms of pro photographic products: an iOS (or iPad OS) device with a decent-sized sensor (at least Micro ⁴⁄₃, if not full-frame), with a decent optical zoom lens that's f/1.8 or better, or, even better, an interchangeable lens mount; thus giving you the advantages of a full-sized sensor and lens (and the laws of physics say that, however good phone-sized sensors get, they'll always be handicapped by their size) with Apple's computational photography and the iOS photographic app ecosystem. Of course, it will probably be a cold day in Hell before Apple put something like this out; it may be more likely that several incumbent camera manufacturers like Canon and Nikon, mindful of phones biting into their market share, get together to launch a computational-photography application platform, complete with interchangeable APIs and app stores, allowing photographic app developers to get their apps running on real cameras. Or maybe not.
So the Apple Event revealed what everybody feared: the headphone socket is dead. The connector is being removed from future iPhones, because “courage”. In its stead, Apple will start shipping wired headphones with their proprietary Lightning connector, and (for the time being, at least) adaptors for your existing headphones (which just became “legacy” headphones). The adapters are as you'd expect: a longish cable with a socket on one end, just cumbersome enough to encourage you to dump yesteryear's technology and get with the programme; they also prevent you from charging your phone whilst using the headphone socket, but there's a $40 double adapter from Belkin you can buy that will let you do this. Meanwhile, William Gibson has noted that, soon, his early cyberpunk novels may sound slightly more anachronistic, with the phrase “jacked in” having a ring of almost Victorian archaism.
It is not clear how long the headphone socket has a future on Apple's other product lines; it'll be interesting to see whether the iPad (which is not as constrained for space) retains it. (They could argue that losing the socket would make it more likely to survive poolside spills, and if that fails, fall back to “because we said so, that's why”.) The MacBook series might retain headphone sockets for longer (even Apple's stripped-down new MacBook has two ports: the headphone port and a USB-C port for everything else), though perhaps its days are numbered even there.
For those with older iPhones missing out on this new development there are Apple Plugs to stop up those unsightly old-fashioned headphone sockets; whereas, if you want a phone that has a proper headphone socket, you can always switch to Android. (Correction: if you want a phone that has a proper headphone socket and don't particularly care about audio performance, you can switch to Android.)
(Another theory about Apple's antipathy to analogue audio connections has to do with DRM; that, in order to do deals with all-powerful record labels, demanding more end-to-end control over their precious intellectual property, Apple are moving to do what the recording industry had failed to achieve before: to close the analogue hole, making possible restricted audio formats which not only cannot be made into perfect digital copies, but can't be played into anything producing a clean analogue audio signal. Tim Cook has dismissed this rumour as a “conspiracy theory”, and said that Apple have no such plans. If there's any truth in such a theory, there would have to be several telltale indicators. For such a system to work, firstly Apple's system would have to distinguish between secure audio devices (presumably the sealed end-to-end digital headphones) and insecure ones (which include Apple's headphone adapter). Secondly, the licensing specification for Apple's Lightning technology when applied to headphones would have to specify that there cannot be a tappable signal path between the Lightning circuitry which decodes (and presumably decrypts) and the speaker drivers that convert it into sound. The headphones would have to be designed to literally fail to decode an audio signal if dismantled or tampered with, so that a pirate couldn't tap the voltages going to the speaker drivers. If the specification goes into such details, then perhaps it's time to worry.
The other announcement was that, as well as the proprietary Lightning wired headphones, Apple are selling a new set of wireless headphones named the AirBuds, which are probably more interesting than what they sound like. They charge by induction in a special container, fit in the ear, and connect to iPhones (or other devices) by Bluetooth, along with a proprietary Apple pairing protocol. They also contain microphones (for voice calling) and accelerometers, and have a few subtle features, like the ability to call up Siri on a connected phone by tapping the earpiece. The technology powering them is a new Apple chip named the W1, whose exact capabilities and specifications are unknown.
At the moment, the AirBuds are superficially uninteresting; they're essentially a nicely-designed, semi-proprietary Bluetooth headset. However, they are a trojan horse for something potentially more interesting. With their array of sensors (microphones and accelerometers) and signal processing and communications capabilities, they are clearly not a simple audio converter (like the chip in the Lightning cable on Apple's new wired headphones) but a small wearable computer running some kind of firmware; sort of like an Apple Watch for the ears. Both the hardware and the firmware are at the very first version, and so are limited in scope, but the potential's there. It's quite likely that a firmware upgrade at some point may add more functions, and a hardware revision may expand its capabilities even further. By version 3, AirBuds may be running something named airOS, with a third-party app store; there will be apps that run entirely on a set of earphones. One can imagine early standalone apps being things from talking clocks and ambient music/sound generators to self-contained versions of Zombies, Run!; if the AirBuds end up getting other capabilities, such as GPS, of course, the possibilities expand considerably. And then there is the possibility that they may eventually have their own mobile data connection, independent of a tethered iPhone; the main bottleneck is the requirement for a SIM card, and Apple have been pushing for the SIM card's replacement with a data-based credential of some sort, something that would allow far smaller devices to connect to phone networks. Perhaps eventually, the pocket-sized iPhone itself could end up going the way of the PalmPilot, replaced by a body-area network of ear- and wrist-based devices, communicating with each other by Bluetooth and sharing a mobile data plan.
This is why we can't have nice things: One of the fastest growing technological business sectors in the US is patent trolling; i.e., buying up portfolios of patents and using them as letters of marque to shake down those who actually make things. The US's broad patent laws, and the ability to shop for favourable jurisdictions (there's one in East Texas which has a habit of siding with the litigant and awarding generous damages) makes this possible.
Now, patent trolls have started shaking down independent mobile app developers (these don't have legal departments, and can be counted on to pay up even if, say, Apple or Google might end up prevailing in court). A company named Lodsys started threatening anyone who uses Apple's in-app purchase mechanism, and more recently, a Mumbai-based company started demanding money from anyone who connects to Twitter, claiming that they infringed on an as yet ungranted patent application covering a broad range of activities involving real-time communication. And now, non-US developers are withdrawing their apps from the US market, on the grounds that the risk of ruinous litigation makes it too dangerous:
Simon Maddox, a UK developer, has removed all his apps from US app stores on both iOS and Android for fear of being sued by Lodsys, a company which has already sued a number of iOS and Android developers which it says infringe its software patent.
But for US-based developers, the problems remain. Craig Hockenberry of Iconfactory, developer of Twitterrific, remarked that "Just when you think things couldn't get any worse, they do and tweeted that "I became an independent developer to control my own destiny. I no longer do". Iconfactory is among those being targeted by Lodsys, but earlier this week was granted a 30-day extension to reply to Lodsys's claim.The patent-troll problem does not apply in the EU, whose parliament narrowly avoided introducing US-style patent laws. It's not clear whether they apply in Australia (weren't US-style software patents, if not the direct applicability of US patents, introduced in the Howard-era free trade agreement?)
Proof that we're now almost* living in the future: the new mobile Google Translate app, which runs on your iPhone and does speech recognition, translation and speech synthesis (provided you have a data connection, of course). So you can say a phrase into it in your language and have speak a translation into various languages, with even more supported as text only.
* Now all we need is mobile data roaming that doesn't cost extortionate amounts (after all, this is the sort of thing most useful abroad), and we will be living in the future.
And now, interrupting regular (or even irregular) blogging to introduce a side-project I have recently been working on: The Postmodernism Generator for iPhone. This is an iPhone port of the venerable Postmodernism Generator, which has been around the web, in various forms, for a decade and a half. The iPhone edition runs on the same engine, albeit slightly extended and cleaned up (aside: stopping a 15-year-old command-line C program from leaking memory enough to run acceptably on a phone involves considerable work), with some improvements (you can adjust the target length of essays and, optionally, use surnames from your address book in authors' names). Additionally, the grammar has been updated somewhat, with new content (for example, it now knows about Lady Gaga, Slavoj Žižek and Quentin Tarantino films made after Jackie Brown); these changes will be ported to the web-based version shortly.
The Postmodernism Generator for iPhone is available from the App Store, here. It's priced at the lowest price point (US$0.99/£0.59/0,79€/AUD1.29), which gets you a virtually infinite cornucopia of dense verbiage at your command, with or without a network connection, for amusement, befuddlement or plagiarism*.
Note: The Null Device does not encourage the use of the Postmodernism Generator for plagiarism.
In 2001, a chap by the name of Aaron Ardiri wrote a port of Lemmings to the PalmOS PDA platform. Now, he has given himself 36 hours to port it to two modern mobile platforms, the iPhone and Palm webOS, with OSX and Windows desktop ports for good measure. Ardiri posted his progress, and interim OSX binaries, to a liveblog here; it seems to be down, but there's a long, scroll-like screenshot of the whole thing here. It's quite interesting, in its descriptions of how coding practices have changed as platforms have become less cramped, and of the process of adapting 2001-vintage PalmOS code to larger (mostly UNIX-based) systems.
Ardiri is considering adding another port to Android; I imagine this would involve some means of translating ancient, low-level C code into Java (or else a C compiler that produces Dalvik bytecode). If he's just dealing in C-based platforms, he could add Nokia's various platforms and (from what I hear) Samsung's new "Bada" OS, though whether there'd be much reason to bother is an open question.
This afternoon, courier arrived bearing a small box from "Syncreon Technology", which, according to the postcode, appeared to be located in an industrial estate in Hinckley, Leicestershire; it was labelled with "No Delivery To Neighbour" and the contents were described as "Electronic Parts". On opening the box, I wasn't particularly surprised to find that it contained a new iPhone 4. It seems that Apple went to the trouble of setting up a front company, with an office somewhere nondescript, in order to avoid units from the first batch being stolen.
You've probably seen the reviews of the iPhone 4. All things considered, it is a beautiful piece of hardware. The screen, with its tiny pixels and rich contrast and colour depth, looks like backlit slide film or luminous magazine print, and the build quality of the unit feels solid in a way that few mobile phones do. Meanwhile, iOS 4 is very responsive on it. There may or may not be an issue with antenna sensitivity and reception (some users have reported their iPhones losing bars of signal when they touch the steel frame, which doubles as the antenna, and its signal reception fared worse than that of a 3G data card, the only thing I could compare it to on the Three network), though it seems to get acceptable signal so far. Meanwhile, the (rear) camera seems to be a great improvement over the previous one.
I have transferred my data from my old iPhone 3G (one I bought on eBay earlier this year as a stopgap device) to the new phone and played with it a little, though, so far, I'm pleased with it. It'll probably become even more impressive as apps start appearing that take full advantage of its capabilities.
Well, here it is. Apple have just announced their next iPhone, the iPhone 4, and it does impressive. The screen resolution has been quadrupled, to 640 by 960, with the effect that the pixels are too small for the human eye to resolve individually. The new iPhone also has two cameras, one front-facing and one rear-facing, and does video calls. Aware of the party-photo market, Apple have optimised the main camera for low-light performance, adding backside illumination (which, given Apple's squeaky-clean policies, is not as indecent as it sounds) and thoughtfully avoided cramming in more pixels. (Before you ditch your LX3, though, remember that it's still a phone camera; the pixels are still much smaller than in a compact, and the lens system is rudimentary. I'll bet that Hipstamatic looks sweet on it, though.) It can also shoot high-definition video, and Apple will be making an iMovie application available for it, for shooting and editing video entirely in the phone. (I wonder whether the microphones are any good in loud environments; if they don't distort like those in every compact camera I've seen, it may be good for recording gigs.) Furthermore, the iPhone 4 adds to its compass and accelerometer a 3-axis gyroscope, giving it similar motion-tracking capabilities to what the Sony PS3's Sixaxis controller and Nintendo WiiMote have). And then there's the impressive-looking build of the unit, with its machined steel frame and ultra-durable glass panels. Anyway, here is Apple's page on the design of the new iPhone.
On top of that, the iPhone OS has been bumped up to version 4, which brings a number of features, including multitasking (which means you can chat on Skype or listen to streaming music whilst doing other things), an e-book reader with PDF capabilities, and more. (The rumoured Facebook integration isn't mentioned, though.) The upgrade will be free for all compatible devices, which means everything but the first-generation iPod Touch. Oh, and the iPhone OS is now named the iOS, and is rumoured to be going into the next Apple TV. (Hmmm.. given a TV-connected device running Apple's game-friendly OS and an iPhone with gyroscopes, perhaps Sony and Nintendo should be very worried about now.)
I wonder whether they'll rename the iPhone 4 in Asian markets, though; the number 4 is considered unlucky in China and nearby because, in Chinese, it rhymes with 'death'. To wit, other companies like Canon skipped version numbers when hitting their fourth iteration.
Recently, the annual Pwn2Own contest took place; in it, participants try to take over a computer by exploiting security holes in a web browser, and capture the flag (in this case, a file on the computer's hard drive). This year, all the browsers but one fell; Firefox 3.6.2 (though it's not clear whether NoScript would have mitigated this), IE8 and Safari all fell; one of the hackers even pwned an (un-jailbroken) iPhone and made off with the SMS database. The one browser that remained standing: Google Chrome, not because it's bug-free, but because the sandbox mechanism makes exploiting bugs impractical:
"There are bugs in Chrome but they're very hard to exploit. I have a Chrome vulnerability right now but I don't know how to exploit it. It's really hard. They've got that sandbox model that's hard to get out of. With Chrome, it's a combination of things - you can't execute on the heap, the OS protections in Windows and the Sandbox."
One of the problems with the iPhone is the lack of multitasking, or rather of non-system multitasking. Various officially blessed built-in applications (such as the phone call process, the built-in music player and the App Store downloader) can run in the background, but the system strictly enforces a ban on anything else from doing so. Which helps keep the iPhone (a small device with limited memory and battery life) from being bogged down under ill-behaved background processes, saves the user from having to contend with task managers and also reduces the risks of malware attacks, but at a cost; while an iPhone makes an eminently usable (mostly) single-task appliance, it falls down at tasks you'd want to run in the background. You can use it to listen to last.fm or SoundCloud or make Skype calls, but not whilst doing anything else. (And yes, I know you can jailbreak your iPhone and make it multitask to your heart's content, but that doesn't count.) Apple is a jealous god.
That wasn't as big a problem when the iPhone was the only phone of its class, but now, Android and WebOS have shown up, flaunting post-iPhone touch interfaces and being able to play your Spotify stream while you browse the web, and even hoary old dinosaurs like Nokia's Symbian are being brushed up and advertised as being able to multitask. Sure, a badly-written app there could drain your battery in no time, but that's beside the point; if multitasking works well enough (i.e., doesn't fail catastrophically often), Apple's system will look decidedly dated and overly conservative, and whatever Steve Jobs' aesthetic sensibilities say about it, Apple will have to put it in or risk becoming an also-ran. And, being subject to Steve Jobs' perfectionism, Apple's solution will have to not only bring in multitasking but do it without the compromises other systems have.
However, there is a rumour that the next version of the iPhone OS will do just that; i.e., will allow third-party developers to write processes that run in the background in some well-behaved way whilst managing to avoid the pitfalls of declaring a free-for-all.
I'm curious as to how they'll do it (assuming that the rumour is true, of course). My guess is that they'll focus on use cases such as processes needing to run a carefully constrained background thread, and communicate with it from the single-tasking UI process, and allow them to do this. Perhaps it'll use Apple's Blocks extension to C, and possibly a lightweight scheduling technology related to OSX's Grand Central Dispatch. That way, a background music player will be able to fetch and play audio until it is stopped or diverted by the UI (which can come and go).
US troops in Iraq now have an iPhone app for tracking insurgents; well, for displaying tactical maps in real time. Meanwhile, the insurgents have found a Russian-designed program which can be bought for $26 and which allows them to watch the video feeds of Predator drones, which happen to be unencrypted. (Oops!) The military is planning to fix this, though it's harder to do than it sounds due to the expensive proprietary design of the aging drones.
Paul "Hackers and Painters" Graham on why Apple's heavy-handed grip on the iPhone threatens Apple:
The way Apple runs the App Store has harmed their reputation with programmers more than anything else they've ever done. Their reputation with programmers used to be great. It used to be the most common complaint you heard about Apple was that their fans admired them too uncritically. The App Store has changed that. Now a lot of programmers have started to see Apple as evil.
I just bought a new 27" iMac a couple days ago. It's fabulous. The screen's too shiny, and the disk is surprisingly loud, but it's so beautiful that you can't make yourself care. So I bought it, but I bought it, for the first time, with misgivings. I felt the way I'd feel buying something made in a country with a bad human rights record. That was new. In the past when I bought things from Apple it was an unalloyed pleasure. Oh boy! They make such great stuff. This time it felt like a Faustian bargain. They make such great stuff, but they're such assholes. Do I really want to support this company?Apple's mistakes are to treat software (a complex commodity which involves an ongoing relationship between the provider and the customer) the same way as they do recorded music (a simple commodity, purchased once, and amenable to being sold by a middleman), and generally screwing up the developer-user relationship with its onerous approval policies, whilst also alienating potential talent who might otherwise have worked for them:
If your company seems evil, the best programmers won't work for you. That hurt Microsoft a lot starting in the 90s. Programmers started to feel sheepish about working there. It seemed like selling out. When people from Microsoft were talking to other programmers and they mentioned where they worked, there were a lot of self-deprecating jokes about having gone over to the dark side. But the real problem for Microsoft wasn't the embarrassment of the people they hired. It was the people they never got. And you know who got them? Google and Apple. If Microsoft was the Empire, they were the Rebel Alliance. And it's largely because they got more of the best people that Google and Apple are doing so much better than Microsoft today.
But the other reason programmers are fussy, I think, is that evil begets stupidity. An organization that wins by exercising power starts to lose the ability to win by doing better work. And it's not fun for a smart person to work in a place where the best ideas aren't the ones that win.Graham also includes this memorable observation:
When you look at the famous 1984 ad now, it's easier to imagine Apple as the dictator on the screen than the woman with the hammer. In fact, if you read the dictator's speech it sounds uncannily like a prophecy of the App Store.We have triumphed over the unprincipled dissemination of facts.We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology, where each worker may bloom secure from the pests of contradictory and confusing truths.
Joe Hewitt, the developer of the iPhone Facebook application, has publicly sworn off iPhone development, over Apple's heavy-handed approval policies:
My decision to stop iPhone development has had everything to do with Apple’s policies. I respect their right to manage their platform however they want, however I am philosophically opposed to the existence of their review process. I am very concerned that they are setting a horrible precedent for other software platforms, and soon gatekeepers will start infesting the lives of every software developer.
The web is still unrestricted and free, and so I am returning to my roots as a web developer. In the long term, I would like to be able to say that I helped to make the web the best mobile platform available, rather than being part of the transition to a world where every developer must go through a middleman to get their software in the hands of users.”I wonder whether this will make enough waves to shake Apple into loosening their grip somewhat. Perhaps that'll take Jamie Zawinski to take up iPhone development, attempt to port DaliClock to it and then storm off in a huff.
So why would I get an iPhone? Because it's an appliance that just fucking works.
I have a list of 30-ish reports of more-or-less irritating bugs that I encountered during my first week of using the phone that I back-channeled into Palm via several of their developers, but most of those bugs were tolerable. The deal-breaker bugs are as follows:
- I still can't reliably sync my phone to my Mac.
- Peformance is a joke.
I was thinking of getting a Pre as my next phone, though after playing with one, I'm not tempted to buy into an 18-month contract for one. Perhaps if they were available as prepaid, I'd consider one. (The Pre concept sounds nifty, and perhaps they'll fix the execution.) Until then, I'll probably stick to my ancient Treo 650; you can sort of get the web on that.
On the iPhone, even calculator applications come with obscenity filters, blanking the display if, when the iPhone is turned upside down, the number shown resembles an obscene word.
The latest dispatch from the annals of Apple AppStore approval cluelessness: a dictionary application has made it through the review process only after removing all words that could be considered indecent. NinjaWords' developers tried taking other precautions, such as obtaining a 17+ rating and ensuring that only complete word searches could yield potentially rude words, but to no avail:
The list of omitted words includes some which have utterly non-objectionable senses: ass, snatch, pussy, cock, and even screw. (Ass and cock appear throughout the King James Bible.)
Apple requires you to be 17 years or older to purchase a censored dictionary that omits half the words Steve Jobs uses every day.The article points out that even censorship-happy red-state firms like Wal-Mart will quite happily, and legally, sell dictionaries, containing words like "fuck" and "shit", to children, which makes the famously laid-back Californian Apple's censorship policies look even more ridiculous. Either that or those aren't actually Apple's policies but a result of them hiring trained chimps to handle their app review process.
The latest dispatch from the Long Siege: in the US, the EFF is arguing that users of devices such as the Apple iPhone should have a right to "jailbreak" them, i.e., to circumvent mechanisms which prevent them from installing software unapproved by the manufacturer. Apple have countered this with a dire warning that jailbroken iPhones could be a terrorist weapon, with the capability to bring America's communications infrastructure to its knees:
By tinkering with this code, “a local or international hacker could potentially initiate commands (such as a denial of service attack) that could crash the tower software, rendering the tower entirely inoperable to process calls or transmit data,” Apple wrote the government. “Taking control of the BBP software would be much the equivalent of getting inside the firewall of a corporate computer — to potentially catastrophic result.To their credit, Apple didn't actually use the T-word, but they insinuated it pretty hard, and added to that the possibility of drug traffickers using hacked phones to make anonymous phone calls. Hey Apple, don't forget about the paedophiles; surely they'd find some nefarious use for jailbreaking as well.
The EFF's experts, meanwhile, have called bullshit on the whole thing.
red von Lohmann, the EFF attorney who made the request, said Apple’s latest claims are preposterous. During a May public hearing on the issue in Palo Alto, California, he told regulators there were as many as a million unauthorized, jailbroken phones.
He added that, if Apple’s argument was correct, the open-source Android phone from Google on T-Mobile networks would also be a menace to society. ”This kind of theoretical threat,” von Lohmann said, “is more FUD than truth.”Of course, if unauthorised clients on the phone network are such a threat, then merely keeping jailbreaking technically illegal wouldn't deter actual paedoterrorists; a threat of such severity could only be countered by declaring possession of jailbroken phones to be a terrorist act and actively hunting down and prosecuting transgressors under national security laws, using the full surveillance infrastructure of the Department of Homeland Security. Perhaps that's what Apple are hoping for?
Meanwhile, the very same week, Apple have demonstrated why users have an interest in jailbreaking their gadgets, by banning all Google Voice applications from the App Store, reportedly at the behest of phone companies not wanting their cozy business models upset. And some are speculating that Spotify's much-anticipated iPhone client may be rejected by Apple, due to it competing with iTunes.
The street finds its own uses for things; in this case, the things are iPhones (though the concept could easly be ported to other, less fashionable, smart phones; an Android version is in the works), and "the street" is FixMyStreet, a system that lets you notify the relevant public authorities of any local problems. At least it does if you live in Britain, where the system runs,.
Meanwhile, Namco have decided to milk the Katamari cash cow once more, with a version for the iPhone:
No new twists here; just an adaptation of the classic Katamari game. It uses the iPhone (and iPod Touch)'s tilt sensor as a control mechanism. Unfortunately, the hardware seems to be a bit too slow; when I tried it on my first-generation iPod Touch, it ran infuriatingly slowly. (Perhaps the second generation will work better with it?) The fact that the developers kept the screen-warping effects when you reach a size milestone probably doesn't help either. As such, I can't recommend buying this unless you're desperate for a Katamari fix.
On a tangent: I wonder how Keita Takahashi is getting on with Noby Noby Boy. I haven't heard much about it for a while.
(via Gulfstream, Boing Boing Gadgets)
Got an iPhone you want to get unlocked? The software unlocks for the 3G might not be out yet, though you could always go to Vietnam, where they do things the hardcore way:
First, a technician opened up the phone and stripped it to the motherboard. In his skillful hands, the device seemed much easier to dismantle than I expected.
The technician then extracted the baseband chip, the component that controls the connection between the phone and the mobile network, from the motherboard. (This is a painstaking task as the chip is strongly glued to the phone's motherboard. A mistake during this process could brick the phone completely.)
Once the chip was extracted, it was Tuan Anh's turn. He used a chip reader to read information into a file. He then used a Hex editor to remove the locking data from the file, and after that, the chip got reprogrammed with the newly altered file. Now it was no longer programmed to work with only a specific provider.
The chip then got reassembled into the motherboard, another painstaking process.The entire procedure will cost you about US$80 plus however much travel to Vietnam costs. Mind you, you then have to be careful about not updating your phone, because Apple's updates will re-lock the baseband chip, necessitating a return visit.
(via Boing Boing Gadgets)
Russia's ever-ingenious con artists have come up with another clever scam: fake iPhones. The devices look exactly like real iPhones with depleted batteries, and when activated show the Apple booting screen. They're handed over to the mark as collateral for borrowed money; the mark sees that the phone appears to start to boot, and assumes that the battery is depleted. When the borrower doesn't return to pick it up (and, presumably, the contact details they left turn out to be bogus), the mark takes it down to a service centre, where the technicians open it up and find that it's a plastic shell containing two batteries, a LED and a segment of a steel bar for weight.
I'm guessing that the reason the scam works is because most people wouldn't believe that someone would go to the trouble of making something that looks exactly like an iPhone but is cheap enough to be discarded for less than the value of one.
In his WIRED column, Lore Sjöberg savours his last days without an iPhone:
Right now, I can have a thought like, "I wonder who had a hit first, Chuck Berry or Little Richard?" and allow that question to wander around in my head. Maybe I'll remember it and look it up when I get the chance; maybe I'll just let it go. I suspect that this time next month I'll be pulling over to the side of the road -- I hope I'll pull over to the side of the road -- to get the answer immediately.
Right now, my friends are not subjected to photos of every "witty" stop sign annotation I encounter. In fact, they can actually hang out with me with no fear of showing up in my Flickr stream with basil in their teeth.
Right now, I do not post to Twitter every time I see a dachshund.
Right now, I am capable of referring to my cellphone without actually telling people what brand it is.
With the iPhone, Apple have been expanding the boundaries of how much control a consumer electronics company can exercise over its products and their users. Much has been said about the iPhone's locked-down software distribution model, which has more in common with proprietary gaming consoles than with mobile phones (let alone Apple's wide-open OSX computers), and strict enforcement of carrier contracts. Now iPhone hacker Jonathan Zdziarski has discovered that Apple seem to have a central blacklist of banned iPhone applications. This is presumably to allow them to remotely kill any applications that made it through the approval process by mistake. (Apple could also use it to remotely kill applications that never were approved in the first place, installed on jailbroken iPhones—that is, assuming that the hacks for jailbreaking these phones don't start blocking the blacklist.)
The version of the iPhone sold in Japan has one difference from Western versions: the camera shutter sound cannot be switched off, apparently because Japanese gadget fans cannot be trusted not to use it for surreptitiously photographing up skirts.
And for those thinking about buying a 3G iPhone, unlocking it and running it with a prepaid SIM card, some bad news: Apple have closed that loophole, and won't let them out of the store without a contract (at least in the US). Of course, this is all for your own convenience and/or good:
"There is no question that many enjoyed the convenience of at-home activation, but we also found that many others wanted to complete purchase and activation in one step so they could walk out of the AT&T store with their iPhone up and running. We have decided to take the latter approach and we think customers will like it. It will be especially helpful if any questions or issues arise during activation. They can be resolved on the spot and in-person.And, of course, the old unlocking hacks are unlikely to work, given that it's a completely new device, and chances are, Apple have put more work into security. (If their 6th-generation iPods ("iPod Classic"), on which the iPod Linux people have given up because of the hardware-based cryptography used in the boot process, are anything to go by, cracking the iPhone 3G may be a lot harder.)
So that was the long-awaited Apple WWDC 2008 keynote. The big announcement was probably the worst-kept secret in Cupertino, the 3G iPhone. There's also the iPhone 2.0 OS (available to non-3G iPhone users), and a web-based service named me.com, which is basically mac.com with Google-style AJAX apps, iPhone integration and a mac.com-sized pricetag; so if you're an Apple true believer, you know where to send your $99 a year. I wonder how well non-Apple alternatives will work with iPhones.
Other than that, Apple are making minor concessions on the issues of the iPhone being too locked down. Enterprises will be able to deploy their own (non-Apple-approved) apps to up to 100 pre-registered, cryptographically certified iPhones, and while Apple won't let you run software in the background on your iPhone, they will be providing a (proprietary, Apple-controlled) conduit for push notifications, which IM applications will be able to use.
Anyway, Your Humble Narrator isn't lining up outside the AppleStore to get one, even at the reduced price ($199 worldwide; no word on minimum contract prices, i.e., the rest of the iceberg), given that Google's Android looks to promise almost everything the iPhone has, only without the proprietary lock-in.