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Articles matching: iPhone
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Marc Wandschneider is a professional software developer with well over fifteen years of industry experience (yes, he really is that old). He travels the globe working on interesting projects and gives talks at conferences and trade shows whenever possible.

My Publications:

My book, "Core Web Application Programming with PHP and MySQL" is now available everywhere, including Amazon.com

My "PHP and MySQL LiveLessons" DVD Series has just been published by Prentice-Hall, and can be purchased on Amazon, through Informit, or Safari


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Posted to: Things I've learned about CoreImage (and Quartz, and OpenGL) in two weeks
Jun 25, 2009 | 20:35:29
Is it worth upgrading your iPhone to OS 3.0?
By marcwan

In a word: yes.

Features aside, which those of us stuck with older iPhones won’t be able to use (No compass? What will I do when I’m lost hiking on the Great Wall?), the new operating system has made some serious performance gains in the web browsing arena. The graphic going around the intarwebs right now:

Image from Medialets.com

Even on the same old iPhone 3G, browsing performance is massively improved. Hopefully there are other performance improvements in the OS, such as app launch times or general lagginess you tend to see.

I absolutely love how these results are still all an order of magnitude slower than a reasonably low-end mac laptop. 15-45s vs … 1.3s. Excellent.

[Read Rest of Article]
Jan 30, 2009 | 21:24:50
An iPhone bug fix 18 months in the making
By marcwan

A few years ago, I had a Palm Treo, which was a pretty cool device – for 2004. The two big problems were its weight – dropping it would immediately break the glass, something I discovered four times in one calendar year – and its lack of UTF-8 support, which made entering accents and weird (read: Asian) characters impossible.

Fast-forward a few years to the iPhone, and finally you have a handset that is both 100% UTF-8 and actually shipping with a worldwide font so you can view emails and pages in Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic, and even enter contacts with names in those languages.

But there was a bug: Contacts entered in Chinese characters would not be sorted correctly – they were just lumped at the bottom and you just knew to tap “Z” when you wanted to text or email your Chinese colleague or friend.

The iPhone 2.2 firmware finally fixes this. They now sort names correctly, with Chinese names sorted by pinyin. (Oddly enough, Japanese names are still not sorted by romaji.) In fact, they’ve supplemented the UI for contact names so that you can enter (in Latin characters) how the name is pronounced and how it should be sorted.

An already cool device keeps getting cooler.

[Read Rest of Article]
Jan 02, 2009 | 22:15:10
Bringing my iPhone back from the dead
By marcwan

Well, the not-all-that-long saga with my iPhone 3G came to a very happy ending last night with the release of yellowsn0w 0.9.4. Stumbling home from a local bar and still a little wobbly from too much beer, I did a quick refresh of the iPhone Dev-Team blog and saw the latest version of their crack and tried it out, to very quickly be rewarded with the sweet, sweet words “China Mobile” appearing at the top of my handset. After a little under a week of using a very lousy Sony phone, I’ve got all cell phone and EDGE data functionality back on the Apple, much to my great joy.

With the iPhone dev team advertising heavily that you should absolutely not upgrade to the 2.28.00 baseband (the modem firmware installed by the 2.2 iPhone update), I was expecting to have to go get another hardware fix for my iPhone. Since they were going to have to install the new hardware hack, I was just going to let them remove the old one as well.

But the story took an interesting turn this week when the dev-team suddenly announced that they wouldn’t be hacking the 2.11.07 baseband, and instead would only help you get around the 2.28.00. So, now I needed to get rid of the parasite hardware thing, and quickly. Not wanting to wait for a trip down to 女人街, the local hacked phone market, at 11pm on New Years day I did a little bit of research, took a deep breath, got out the little screwdriver set and started pulling it apart myself.

↑ The only real trick is prying off the screen after removing the two screws from the bottom. You just don’t force anything and it comes open reasonably easily.

↑ Here you see the inside with the screen up top and the circuitry underneath. The orange thing in the SIM card slot up top is the hardware hack I have to get rid of. You can also see how dusty life here in China normally is. This was after I’d blown as much of the dust out of the inside as I could.

↑ The main circuit board removed. There are about 6 screws and a few connecters to get it out.

↑ This is everything.

↑ And this the hardware SIM hack strip I removed. I love how it looks like some sort of malicious worm or something. It came off quite easily.

[Read Rest of Article]
Dec 31, 2008 | 11:33:31
My iPhone is dead, long live - no wait, it's just dead
By marcwan

In a reasonably recent article, I chronicled the purchase and subsequent untimely loss (via theft) of my first generation iPhone. While expensive and unfortunate, this had the nice side effect of giving me the chance to buy a second generation – 3G – iPhone to play around with some more.

Having had it for over two months now, I’ve been quite pleased with it, although the battery life leaves something to be desired. The 16G of storage and the better internationalisation support are huge enough sells on their own for me.

Given that the iPhone dev-team hasn’t cracked the 3G baseband yet and that I have been using such a non-cracked phone here in China for many weeks now, I was under the assumption that I was using an unlocked Hong Kong 3G iPhone, and could upgrade it as I wished to use it around the world.

It turns out I was wrong. Spectacularly so. Last night, after upgrading the phone to the 2.2 firmware (and therefore the 2.28.00 baseband), I now have an iPod Touch, with a permanent “No Signal” in the upper left corner. What happened? I do not, it seems, have an unlocked phone, but instead there’s a little shim SIM card inside the phone which does the unlocking for you, but only for specific basebands. While I can’t quite see which one I have, it clearly doesn’t like the 2.2 release’s new baseband, and stopped working entirely.

So, I have two choices:

  1. Given that new 2.2-enabled shim SIM cards are coming out, I can go to the same place I purchased the phone sometime later this week hopefully and get a new shim card to re-enable my China Mobile SIM card.
  2. I can otherwise wait for the dev-team to crack the 2.2 firmware’s 2.28.00 baseband, which will likely take a while, as they’ve only recently cracked the 2.11.07, and haven’t actually released that yet.

I could have avoided all of this by only updating the firmware and not the baseband, but that would have required understanding exactly what I had in my phone. Whoops.

[Read Rest of Article]
Oct 15, 2008 | 02:59:43
My iPhone is dead, long live my iPhone
By marcwan

I bought an 8GB first generation iPhone 10 months ago, and have generally been thrilled with it, especially after it was jail-broken and I installed iCosta on it, which allowed me to enter Simplified Chinese characters for use here in mainland China. I had planned to, sometime after a full year of ownership, write up my experiences with the phone and general thoughts.

The theft of said iPhone in Delhi a week ago pretty much put an end to those plans. I had just taken a night train from Rishikesh in the Himalayas to the Nizamuddin station in Delhi, and was suffering from something not unlike dysentery. As I stood around in a daze at the pre-paid taxi stand trying to get a ride to the airport with my phone casually stuffed into a pocket, I must have been bumped by one of any number of people trying to get me into their taxis to who knows where and had it lifted. When I got to the Delhi airport, it was no longer in said pocket. I am sure it did not fall out of my pocket in the taxi because after I lost my camera that way in Mumbai, I started checking the back seats of cabs diligently!

So, I was without a cell phone for a week, and had some time to reflect on my unexpectedly short period of ownership. I was originally thinking I would wait until mid-late next year before looking at what the current offerings were, since the 3Gs didn’t appear to be that huge of an improvement over the first generation.

In short, my impressions of the iPhone were as follows:

  • It is awesome. I’m maybe not as fan-boy as this guy , but right from the instant I was eating dinner in a Thai restaurant and saw a friend walk in with one of them in her hand, I was sold on the form factor and huge glass screen. I find myself constantly playing with my phone, whether it be to check the weather, re-read my SMSes for the hundredth time, or otherwise just play a quick game of backgammon (note: computers can play a perfect game every time. If you set the difficulty level to “high”, be prepared to be quite depressed). This feeling of awesomeness has never worn off.
  • The glass keyboard is no substitute for a real tactile one. I owned a Treo in the past, and it doesn’t take long to develop fast, error-free typing skills on those. No matter how much practice I get typing on the iPhone, conversely, it’s a minor hassle, more so for Asian languages, where there is no room for error at all in terms of character guessing.
  • The camera is pretty ghetto. I’ve taken some nice photos with the iPhone, but really, will always carry a real camera around with me.
  • There are two missing applications, in my mind: MMS and video recording. I got around MMS by using SwirlyMMS, which has evolved into a truly excellent application over the year. This requires a jail-broken phone, but since I live in China, this was a requirement anyway. There are a couple of video recording applications that cost some money, but I haven’t bothered yet.
  • Apart from the camera, the iPhone is replacing many devices in my electronics stable. I now no longer bother with watches or alarm clocks – the phone does both of these well – and I rarely carry around pen and paper now either. I just take notes in the “Notes” application (well, “备忘录”on mine) whenever necessary.
  • The speaker is a bit quiet on the phone. I missed a huge number of calls and SMSes because I never heard them while the iPhone was in my pocket or bag.
  • The iPhone has completely obsoleted the cool little red iPod nano I have. I feel quite bad for the little guy, because it’s really a wonderful little piece of electronics. The flipside to this is that when you add video to the equation, 8GB is simply not enough. I have maybe 90 minutes of some cartoons, a few episodes of “The Soup”, and some music, and my iPhone is stuffed.
  • The device is generally quite sturdy. I have had a few heart stopping drops flat onto concrete from 3-4’, with no real damage at all. However, the phone got a huge scratch on the glass when I put it into one of those airport security plastic boxes for running through the X-Ray machine.

But really: given how much time I spend with the phone, the impressions are extremely positive. I constantly recommend it to anybody who asks.

After arriving in Beijing, I went out and purchased a new iPhone, this time opting for a 16GB 3G phone. I plugged it into my Mac, and iTunes (after upgrading to a new version grrr) offered to restore all my settings, which I accepted. The loss of my old phone was not a big deal in most regards—I had my contacts, calendars, and such things backed up to my laptop. The Notes application, however, supposedly did not do backups, and I was devastated at the loss of all the notes I had taken during my recent month of yoga in Mumbai. To my absolute joy, all of these notes were waiting for me upon restarting after the restore! My general impressions of this new iPhone:

  • I don’t like the plastic case. It comes across as cheap, and the form factor of the aluminum one was both thinner and had a nicer feel. The new one does feel lighter, for some reason, however, despite only a 2g difference.
  • The 3G data access is wicked. I struggled to use 10MB per month with the old iPhone, whereas I might see myself going to the unlimited plan with the new one.
  • The speaker is much louder, so I miss a lot fewer calls and SMSes now. The downside to this is that I no longer miss the spam messages I get here in China. Fortunately, these are still reasonably few.
  • My new phone, with its built-in Chinese translation and excellent Chinese Pinyin IME input mode, is the perfect worldwide phone. Except that on restarting it, it doesn’t seem to find any cell networks unless it’s in English mode. Go figure.
  • The 2.1 software is nicer than the 1.1.4 I was running before, although probably not significantly. The improvements in locale and translation support are phenomenal, but those using the phone in English probably wouldn’t even notice. Other changes are nice, but really just minor tweaks.

If you’re the owner of a first-generation iPhone and thinking about upgrading to the 3G phones, is it worth it? Absolutely not. If you suddenly lose, destroy, or otherwise find yourself no longer in possession of your first-gen phone, should you upgrade? In a legitimate market scenario, you probably don’t have any choice, but in a place such as here in China, where markets still carry the older phones, the choice is a bit tougher: the older phones sell for a couple hundred dollars less than the 3G phones, and do look nicer. For me the space and newer software with better Chinese support were the key selling points. It might not be enough for others.

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