IOS 6.01

By Peter Scargill

IOS 6.01There was a time when Apple updates were awaited eagerly by millions, constantly checking to see when they were ready…. how things change.

I was sitting near the phone this morning when a message popped up to say that IOS 6.01 was available. I pressed a couple of buttons and forgot all about it. 20 minutes later I checked the phone and one could be forgiven for thinking it had not done anything… it is updated ok but with no visible changes.

I’ve kind of gone off IOS recently because Ice-Cream Sandwich (Android) is coming along nicely, particularly since the latest updates and it’s just more “fun” – even the once-naff Android Market (today referred to as Google Play) has some pretty good stuff now including a decent PDF reader. One of my biggest gripes about IOS remains – the WIFI is not very good – if you have more than one access point in your office or home, IOS seems incapable of automatically selecting the best as you move back and forth between access points. Now, don’t get me wrong, Android is no better – but there’s a free App for that in the case of the latter. There is no such thing for IOS.

Well, not much has changed with the new update, the screens look the same, the WIFI still doesn’t select the best option and indeed looking through the list of fixes that they’ve done – I don’t know anyone that suffered from the few problems cited as the reason for the update.

So pretty much a non-event, the whole update happened without interaction and everything works a treat – but such a far cry from the kind of updates we’re seeing in Android and indeed elsewhere. Is it any reason that people are picking the likes of the Samsung S3..

Come on Apple, give your existing users something new and exciting for a change.

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The THREE EU Pass

Over in Spain, I recently found myself needing to look up a web page on the move.  After receiving text after text from THREE as you do overseas, I finally succumbed to the one that said “Get online as much as you like in the EU for just £5 a day with the Euro Internet Pass”.

I paid my money  – and sure enough the phone could browse the web – but phone browsers don’t work with all websites and the airline site was no exception – so I switched on the laptop and shared the phone connection with it as I do all the time back home.

A THREE-generated page popped up to say this was not allowed.

Do phone companies EVER get sick of misleading the public? How can “get online as much as you like” mean anything other than what it says? This bunch are no better than Orange when it comes to the massaging the truth in advertising.

I can see another round of calls to the Indian call centre who don’t have a clue.

iPhone Camera Replacement

I have to say, I thought I was pushing my luck here.

My iPhone camera developed a blur – it wasn’t the lens cover as I’d already put a brand new back on it – it was the lens.  Apple wanted 160 quid – then I found someone to replace the camera for under £30 and just as I was about to do that I spotted this item on Ebay and I thought… why not.

Armed with miniature screwdriver I have just successfully disassembled the iPhone, took the battery out, replaced the camera, put all back together and presto – working camera. Hard to believe at that price – but it works perfectly.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating – try clicking on the image:

Image taken with replacement iPhone camera

Here’s the link for the camera:

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/370508824876?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649

Here’s the YouTube disassembly instructions – not mine – someone took the chance before me.

Replacing iPhone camera

QR Codes

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I thought I’d take a diversion from talking about iPhones and iPads here as nothing that exciting is happening at the moment and talk about QR codes, a really handy way to give people information on a mobile phone from a website or printed publication.

Firstly, what are QR codes?  A kind of Barcode? Checkout the QR code on the right here, it’s a link to my website. The idea is you point your mobile phone at the image and are taken straight to the website.

tmpD531To quote Wikipedia, that well-known source of all truth… “A QR code (abbreviation for Quick Response code) is a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code) that is readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera telephones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded may be text, URL, or other data.”

Put simply, stick one of these on your fizzy pop can and kids who can’t type will easily access your website or whatever else you want them to look at. The limits of these codes seem to be around 256 characters – which gives you a lot to play with. Try the link to the Wikipedia site reference on the left.

So firstly, how do we READ QR codes?

tmp9D0FtmpBDD9ON the iPhone, “SCAN” is in my experience the fastest, easiest, no-frills QR code reader – it’s free and it works. On the iPhone 4 it’s just about instant. If you have one of these devices there is NO reason NOT to have this app! Just go to the App store on your phone and look for “scan” without the quotes.. their icon is shown above on the left. It’s free and no catches that I can see.  Indeed even the demo image on the App store (seen on the right here) takes you to a valid site instantly with more information on QR codes. The Android phones will have their own scanners and success will vary depending on the software and the camera on the Android phone.

How do we GENERATE QR codes?

That’s just as easy. To have a play I recommend you go to this website… http://qrcode.kaywa.com/ – it really doesn’t get any easier.

The more technical among you might be thinking – well that’s fine but I want to generate these on my own website….well… here’s the thing. Google have an API for this.

http://createqrcode.appspot.com/

Put in your information, hit “Create QR code” and Bob’s your uncle..  try this for example..

 

http://chart.apis.google.com/chart?cht=qr&chs=300×300&chl=http%3A//www.fsb.org.uk&chld=H|0

What is REALLY good about this is that you can use this as the basis of generating images on your website or elsewhere in custom ways.

http://chart.apis.google.com/chart?cht=qr&chs=300×300&chl=http%3A//www.fsb.org.uk&chld=H|0

The colouring above should help you see what is fixed and what you need to change for your requirements. The %3A is necessary to use in place of colons in addresses, the rest should be obvious – size of the graphic and the address you want to link to…

tmpBE72A project called the ZXing project allows you to create a QR code easily with your contact information which, when scanned (for example by the excellent SCAN App) will create a new telephone contact for you. Check that out here.

The QR code on the right is an example – scan it and you should see a new contact open up with my details including phone, address and notes. The same site has other options such as calendar events but at least on my iPhone, they do not actually create calendar events as yet. As soon as they do I can see a whole host of applications arising.

If you want to give people-on-the-move easy access to your website or other information – there it is…QR codes. Cheap, cheerful, easy and as far as I can tell, reliable.

Radio on the move–the right way

Interested in more radio stations when you’re on the move – well you’re at the right place!

tmpC31FInternet radio is not a new phenomena, “Shoutcast Radio” by Nullsoft (Winamp)  has been available since 1999 and has continued to grow ever since. PC users have been able to listen to their choice of worldwide radio stations since then – which is fine but not a lot of use on the move.

Recently several things have happened recently (I refer here to the UK, American viewers have had satellite radio options for some time now while we’ve been stuck with the umpteen regional repeats of the BBC and a handful of alternatives on FM) which has made mobile Internet radio practical.

Firstly, mobile phones have become smarter to the point where Android and iPhone devices for example can handle fairly sophisticated programs in the background as well as transmitting audio via Bluetooth to car speakers.

tmp5D21Secondly, the mobile network has improved. THREE company claim to have just about the best 3G network – now, I know Orange customers will say that Orange and O2 collectively have a massive network – but take it from me, in rural areas, for example the A69 in Northumberland, you’ll find much of that is the older kind of connection which simply is not fast enough to “stream” music.

Thirdly more car radios than ever now either have an “auxiliary” socket for audio or handle Bluetooth connections for audio (sadly, still not enough).

Ok so what do I mean by “stream”?  Well, downloading tunes before you play them is not really practical for mobile radio and so Internet radio is “streamed” which means your device at any time only downloads enough to be able to play the tune. As the music plays, the next few seconds are downloaded ready for use etc etc… continuously. This allows for continuous play after a short delay. That delay determines to some extent how well the service tackles signal drop-outs – ie what happens if there is no signal for a couple of seconds or so due to a combination of poor signal and obstructions.

tmpA44ALet’s take my setup as an example… I have a Mercedes with an auxiliary socket for audio. The car handles Bluetooth but only for phone calls so I bought a Belkin Bluetooth audio receiver which requires power, connects to the Bluetooth on your phone as a kind of headphone device- and transmits the audio from the phone through a 3.5mm stereo jack to your home stereo or car radio. It works a treat and the quality is high. In my case I have a 240v supply in the car but the unit operates on low voltage so anyone with a bent towards a soldering iron should be able to adapt the unit to run off the car. Some folk have questioned the quality of such devices, I’ve had no problems at all.

tmpF567That takes care of the hardware and for software I use “TuneIn Radio”which costs a couple of pounds at most on Android and iPhone devices. Hundreds if not thousands of radio stations available at the touch of a button are now available to anyone who puts the effort forward to make it work.

tmpA7D5Be aware that using Internet radio eats up your mobile data so a few hours in the car listening to Internet radio could put pay to a few hundred megabytes easily – make sure your service provider does not impose limits on how much data you can use. Orange for example despite claiming “unlimited data use for iPhones, in fact have rescinded on that and have a “fair use” policy, which translated into English means they underestimated the amount of data people would use.  Three specifically state “all you can eat” in many of their contracts and there is no fair use policy. So make sure you’re with the right provider.

So what about drop-outs – with radio the signal quality degrades and you end up changing channels all the time when on the move (unless you only ever listen to BBC in which case you’re missing out) but with Internet radio this simply does not happen. If you have a bad or no signal for more than a few seconds, the music simply stops and may pick up when you get back to a half-decent signal – but to put this in perspective, a trip down the M6 will see areas in the mountains of NO radio signal at all while Internet radio continues un-hindered.  In my experience, using THREE as a source of Internet (either on the phone or using a MIFI dongle to supply WIFI to the phone) it is pretty much swings and roundabouts which is best in terms of availability – but of course with the latter you don’t have to change channels as you do, with, say BBC local radio.  My local Northeast radio for example is available on TuneIn Radio and I can pick this up anywhere in the world, not just while I’m in the Northeast.

I hope if nothing else this article gets you to investigate Internet radio – a wonderful alternative to rather limited FM radio.

Images are copyright their respective owners.

Jailbreak iPhone 3GS (later model) with IOS 4.3.2

I’ve been thinking about this for some time as I really can’t handle Orange’s restrictive practices on using WIFI.  For many years I owned various Microsoft Smartphones, paying maybe £30 a month to Orange – and with the ability to share the 3G connection with my laptop – then along came the iPhone – and all of a sudden despite paying slightly MORE monthly, this becomes a CHARGEABLE item! That’s just not right.tmp58C2

Anyway, the iPhone 3GS is now 18 month old, got a few months left before considering when to upgrade and what to upgrade to.. and so I thought I’d give it a go.

Redsn0w ( http://blog.iphone-dev.org/ ) will jailbreak all but the iPad2 and so I downloaded the program to my Windows 7 PC after much reading on the subject. Well, of course it didn’t’ work – turns out you need to use it in XP SP3 compatible mode-  a simply right-click option.

Minutes later, one jailbroken iPhone – it really is that simple – note the new icon in the photo on the right – except – that Cydia, the repository for jailbroken apps – is currently having issues with Amazon who provide their storage… basically for now it’s bust.  so now I have to wait patiently, not something I do well, for them to get their act together so I can go and grab the relevant software to make my phone, once more into a handy source of signal for the iPad and laptop when on the road.

Of course, I have a MIFI unit which provides WIFI access – but that’s on THREE – and there are believe it or not times when Orange’s signal is the stronger.. so hopefully soon I’ll have the best of both worlds. More when Cydia is NOT bust.

iPad Killers? Not Likely

After all the noise made about Android killing the iPad – what do we see? A solitary Galaxy Tab which is a bit on the small side and hardly “thin” – and that’s about it – other tablets are either still in the works, still using older versions of Android – or recalled. Meanwhile the iPad has it’s new operating system upgrade, new Apps updates and now there is Apple TV -  which means that thanks to the REMOTE app, you can now use your iPad or even iPhone to control your TV, browse your music selection, make playlists and more.

I can’t think of a better gimmick for parties right now than to appear armed with wireless iPad and offer to let guests make their own music selections.  It all works and the Apple TV product is cheap.

Chances of getting compatible software on an Android device in the near future? I don’t think so.. all we need now is for SKYPE and APPLE to get their act together and put Skype video on the iPhone 4.

 

 

Peter Scargill

HDR Panoramas

Ok, happy with HDR (high dynamic range) – and seen panoramas (wide screen images often made from multiple normal images)  but both??

HDR Panorama of Hollyberry Cottage kitchen

Here’s a picture I took some time ago. Note that you can see the inside of the room perfectly clearly AND the outside as well. That’s a feature of HDR – multiple photos combined into one to make up for lack of dynamic range in cheaper cameras. But then why is the image all curved? Because this one is made out of 16 separate HDR shots – put together as a Panorama!

How? The images were shot using a simple Apple iPhone 3GS using HDR PRO. They were then automatically assembled into a panorama by Serif’s Panorama Plus. The original image was very high quality and thousands of pixels across but I’ve shrunk it down for the web. Suffice it to say that this was taken with ambient lighting – NO special effects and NO touch-up. The resulting view (apart from the curves) pretty much reflects what you see in reality – as against the often stark images that cheaper cameras produce as they are unable to handle either the width you need to show a complete room – or the massive differences between external light and that which filters into the room.

I’ll run through some step-by-step examples as soon as I get a little spare time. There are a lot more images than this on the Hollyberry Cottage Holiday Rental site http://www.hollyberry-cottage.co.uk