Posts tagged ‘iphone’


Feeding your iPhone

You’re a busy person. You’re on the go. Everything has to happen now, or just a little before now. Nothing can get by you, not for a second. You need to check every website you’ve ever expressed more than a passing interest in every second of the day. That’s why you use a feed reader on your iPhone.

Setting aside my pathological need to stay up to date about everything and hear interesting news the second it happens, there’s a few options available to me these days. I’m going to go over the three I’ve actually tried.


Fever is a peculiar beast, in that it’s a website you’ve got to set up yourself. If you do happen to have somewhere you can host your Fever installation though, then suddenly you’ve got a damn sweet web based feed reader… for your desktop computer.1 You’ve also got a reasonable iPhone interface, but it’s also a website, and not one of those clever ones what caches things offline. It’s also a bit clunky on an iPhone 3G (possibly an extra ‘S’ would speed things up). And, unlike the desktop app, there’s no handy way to send things away to read later on Instapaper or its ilk. The second someone makes an awesome native iPhone app that syncs with Fever, I’ll switch in a heartbeat.


I’ve long been a fan of NetNewsWire on the Mac. What it lacks in swish Newsfireish polish, it makes up for in syncability and customisable reading panes. But the peculiar iPhone version 2, now with Google Reader syncing, has made some odd choices, mostly in design. Folder headings don’t stand out as clearly as they could from individual feeds, and once inside a folder, you’re stuck with date-based grouping, not feed-based. When you star an item, its state isn’t reflected on the toolbar button, but at the top of the item; this means that if you’ve scrolled down at all, you can’t tell whether an item is starred at a glance.

In its favour, it does have some good sharing options (though not Google Reader’s sharing functionality). It can grab only specific feeds from Google Reader if you wish. It can send items to Instapaper, and it can post things to Twitter. In both of these cases though, I feel Tweetie’s recent implementation is better, though–refer to saving an article for later as “Read Later”, and let users choose what they’d like to use. And for tweeting, let people send the link to their twitter app, if they have one; I’m reasonably sure this is possible, since Tweetie and Birdhouse seem to be able to interact neatly. In general–and this is a bit of a nitpick–I prefer a “Read Later” item rather than a “Send to Instapaper” item. One of them describes exactly what I want to do, and the other describes what the software wants to do. There’s a reason why the default bookmarklet from Instapaper goes with the first option.


Byline is pretty much an app for Google Reader alone. It has starring, and sharing, and even note-taking as if you were using the actual Reader–though it doesn’t yet support some of the more social aspects of the website, such as following friends and the like. It also syncs quickly, almost certainly winning any speed race with NetNewsWire.2 It can also group your items by feed whilst browsing an entire folder, unlike NNW.

What it can’t do by itself is send things to Instapaper, though it is possible, by importing your shared items feed into Instapaper Pro.3 Its killer feature though is the ability to cache articles for offline reading. Byline can be set to store all your articles away, or just your starred items (by default, it’ll only attempt this whilst connected to a wireless network). Byline’s final cute feature is right-swipe to mark as read, and left swipe to mark as unread. Simple and clever. What it lacks is NNW’s handy “next unread” button at the bottom of the screen; if you’re navigating from item to item in Byline, you’ll have to tap the buttons in the upper toolbar, and if you’re skimming through things quickly, you may find that your hand obscures the screen.


So, I was all ready to finish this article, and then what should I find but Reeder, which unexpectedly addresses a lot of my issues with the three listed above. Again, it’s basically a front-end to Google Reader, but like NetNewsWire, it can keep read articles around–though unlike NetNewsWire, you can configure just how long. It has navigation buttons at the bottom of the screen (and animates the transition). It allows a small amount of styling from the feeds, such as text alignment and font size. It doesn’t have swipe to read/unread, but apparently, (it’s coming]( It has Instapaper4 and Delicious support, and Twitter coming. It supports a few of Google Reader’s features such as sharing and notes. Like NetNewsWire, it uses site favicons a bit too, which is a nice touch.

In a particularly nice touch, the “Mark All As Read” button also takes you back out into your folder list. Though, for the indecisive user, this could be quite annoying (luckily you will at least be able to find them again if you’re keeping read articles about). It’s also far and away the most attractive of the bunch. This may or may not be important to you, but let me say that no other iPhone app has made black look so good.

Things What No One Has Done Yet Unless They Have Somewhere Else And I Didn’t Notice

A few requests:

  • Scaling images to fit is a nice touch and looks better. But if you want to read a webcomic, and the text is too small even in landscape, then it’s no good. Let’s have some tap to full-size action.
  • While we’re talking webcomics, if I’m reading xkcd, then I want to be able to read the alt-text, too. Tap and hold?

So, which one is the best? I’m not really sure. If you’re using Google Reader on the web a lot, then at this stage you probably wouldn’t go with NetNewsWire, as it’s missing sharing and notes. If you don’t read feeds much on the iPhone while on the go, then you could feasibly get away with Fever, but otherwise I wouldn’t recommend it at this stage. I’ve only just met Reeder, so I’m reluctant to give it top-billing when what I’m feeling might just be a brief flutter and not true man-app love. And yet… it’s pretty sweet, and it syncs quickly, and you can’t shake the feeling that a whole lot more consideration has been put into the interface than any of the others. Sorry Byline. You totally would have won if I’d written this yesterday.

Oh, and there’s also Newsstand. Which looks like it has more features than any of the readers I’ve listed here. But I’ve spent too much money on readers already, and it looks a bit gaudy for my tastes, so I’m not buying it. Someone else can review it.

  1. Especially if you use Chill Pill.
  2. Fever would win in a competition to show you an accurate read items count, however would then start losing ground as you moved from item to item, which is practically instant on Byline or NetNewsWire, but clunky on a website like Fever
  3. This does have the unfortunate side effect of spamming all your friends with things you simply wanted to read yourself.
  4. Minor niggle–sending to Instapaper involves having to specify whether you want to send a description with the article. I never will, and I resent having to wait for the keyboard to turn up before I give yet another click.

Posted by Tom Charman to , , , | 6 Comments »

WWDC 2009

6:00 So, welcome to this live blog of another live blog of WWDC 2009! I’ve slept in a bit but that’s okay!

6:01 So wait a second – it’s over. This is bullshit. I calculated I had to wake up at five o’clock. Apple sucks. If they had announced their keynote time in GMT and not PDT then I would have had a chance.

6:02 Apple sucks more! Their server is too busy and I can’t get the iPhone 3.0 Gold Master seed before I get to work. On to the keynote I guess…

6:03 Firewire returns! That is definitely the reason I need to throw out my 10 month old unibody macbook and upgrade! I was one of those people1 that cracked the shits when I learned I could no longer use target disk mode.

I’ve given my credit cards to Marissa but I think she’ll understand when I explain to her it will be easier to troubleshoot my laptop in the event something goes wrong and I need to recover my data.2

Easiest. Sell. To. Girlfriend. Ever.

What else — new battery, more RAM and… wait… what’s this? No express card slot?? WTF???!? OH MY GOD APPLE YOU HAVE DROPPED THE BALL! I WILL NEVER BUY AN APPLE PRODUCT AGAIN!!

6:04 For the record — I know I am not actually live blogging. It’s because it makes nasty markup. Actually it’s because I don’t know how to do it. Yes, I am a n00B.

6:56 I had breakfast and a shower. None of you really needed to know that, or even care. Tom is here trying to figure out what is in the new iPhone 3GS that he won’t get in his 3.0 update. He says — not much. I say — sexiness and new speed! Seriously — I love this free update for the iPhone thing. Best thing about owning one. Bring on Tethering!

What is it with apple launching stuff right between my upgrade cycle?

7:03 $14.95 upgrade for Leopard is sweet! So cheap it isn’t worth stealing.

7:05 Now I can remotely erase my iPhone in case it is stolen! Yeah! Total justification for MobileMe. What a glorious day. I feel vindicated. In your face Tom. And you said MobileMe was a waste of money.3

7:10 So that is a wrap. I had more to say but I have to go to work, and this is long anyway. I thought of a killer joke in the shower but I’ve forgotten it now. I am shattered.

In summary — Apple sucks. How dare they update their macbook line after almost a year. You might think that is a good run for me to have a top end laptop, but not when you consider Tom has an iMac which has not had significant updates for years. I like the new iPhone but am pleased since I am not off contract for another 15 months we get most of the functionality anyway. Snow Leopard to not be $160 is awesome and looks really nice. I like any OS that makes my machine run faster. MobileMe still sucks at it’s price point.

7:24 What else? Oh, the iPhone 3.0 seed is downloading now. But I don’t think I’ll get it installed before I have to leave for work (in approximately 5 minutes). I should put on some clothes.

UPDATE I have noticed at one point I imply that Tom is in the same room as me and at the end I imply I have been naked since my shower. Neither of these inferences are true.

  1. Along with 95% of the fucking internet, apparently.
  2. Years of hand picked, best quality porn.
  3. Actually, it is. Really, it is. For the love of god, spend your $119 on something else.

Posted by Jackson Kearney to , , , | 2 Comments »

Good Combinations

When the dog bites, when the bee stings, I simply remember my favourite things. And recently, many of them have been joining together, presumably for extra “not feeling so bad” goodness. BioWare are making an iPhone Mass Effect game. Gillian Anderson might be appearing in Doctor Who.1 There’s a Tom Baker style costume available in Rock Band. The Cosmic Machine have made EventBox, which combines Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader and a few other things.

Also, the combination of me and a lack of swine flu is particularly gratifying.

  1. Although, she’s rumoured to be the Rani; perhaps the most sucky returning villain in Doctor Who history.

Posted by Tom Charman to , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

You and Your iPhone

Oh alright. One more iPhone post, but only so as to try to collect all the tips I’ve seen around the web in one handy place. Let’s get right to it. A lot of them are typing tips, but there’s some others.

There’s some basic things about the keyboard that everyone should know, but I’ll say them just in case. Inside “Settings” > “General” > “Keyboard”, you’ll probably want to enable the “.” shortcut, so that you can get a full stop and a space just by pressing double-space at the end of a sentence. You’ll also want to enable caps lock, which I avoided for a while until I realised that it just enables double-tapping the shift key to move into caps lock. Generally speaking, if you’re using punctuation at the end of a sentence, pressing space will automatically return you to the letter keyboard, so don’t waste time switching back.

Speaking of punctuation: don’t bother typing your own apostrophes unless you really have to. By which I mean, the most common apostrophed words get auto-corrected. Type “dont” for “don’t”, “theyre” for “they’re”, etc, and the words will be automatically corrected for you. If you come up against a stinky word like “we’re”, whose apostrophe-less form also happens to be a perfectly sensible word in its own right, just repeat the last letter and type “weree” to get the phone to correct it appropriately.

If you hold down a letter for a bit, a pop-up will arrive with options for special versions of that letter, i.e. with accents and the like. This hasn’t come in handy yet, but its time will come…

It doesn’t come up much, but if you’re browsing a page which has a separate scrollable area within it, use two-fingered scrolling to scroll that area.

If you’re using your iPhone to play music, you can double-tap the home button while the screen’s locked to bring up mini iPhone controls. And if you’re NOT listening to music, but you were, then you can do the same and press play to start from wherever you left off. Presumably if you haven’t at all, it just shuffles your songs or something.

At time of writing, searching Google by actually going to will give you nicely mobile-screen filling text, rather than the big spread out normal results. For some reason, using Google’s own actual searching app for the iPhone does not do this, and nor does searching through the Safari search bar. Makes me grumpy.

If I think of or find some more, I’ll add them here.

Posted by Tom Charman to | 3 Comments »

All Your Podcasts in a Row

Ahem. It turns out that a much easier way to get around the following problem is to just upgrade to iPhone OS 2.1. Because these days audio podcasts just keep playing nicely like they should. Still, you can go ahead and do the following if you’d like to. You know, for fun.

One of my irritations with the iPhone, which I forgot to mention before, was with audio podcasts. On a normal iPod, if you play the first of a bunch of audio podcasts, at the end, it will continue on to the next, and so forth

On an iPhone however, it’ll just stop. This is a pain if you’ve got a whole boodle of Onion Radio News or triple j new music to get through.

The solution is easy: make a smart playlist in iTunes for tracks which both:

  1. Are part of your troublesome audio podcast — matching the artist is probably easiest. And,
  2. Have a play count of 0.1

Sync this playlist to your iPhone and when you play it, there’ll be no irritating stoppages. It’s possible this only irritated me, but I thought I’d mention it on the off-chance.

Next time; I promise not to talk about iPhones. No, really.

  1. This step is by no means necessary if you like having every single episode of a podcast on your iPhone.

Posted by Tom Charman to , | 1 Comment »


Well, we’re about a month into having an iPhone now. It’s time to do a spot of reviewing. After all this build-up, is the iPhone actually a good phone? Does it suck in places? Which places? First — the good stuff.

  1. It’s the first phone I’ve had which allows me to make my own ringtones, out of any audio file I have to hand. After years of never touching Garage Band, suddenly we’re best mates.
  2. It has 16 icons visible on the home screen. That’s 7 more than any phone I’ve used in the past. Result!
  3. The App Store. No wandering around the internet, finding dodgy looking programs and nervously sending them by bluetooth to my phone. Oh, the joy. In a related vein:
  4. 2 Across. The Age crosswords… on the train! 2 Across, by Eliza Block is $7.99 AU and worth every cent. There’s also the slightly more expensive Crosswords, which cunningly insists on showing you the keyboard at all times. This is probably good for geniuses, but as I spend most of my time with crosswords pondering, I prefer the 2 Across style. Crossword’s keyboard is also a squished-up tiny one, which makes noises when you type, even if you’ve told your phone not to do that. And also it’s ugly. I suspect most of my issues with Crosswords stem from it being a port from the Palm OS.
  5. It will auto-correct your words including accents. For example, the other day it corrected curacao to curaçao. Awesome. Well, awesome on some levels.

But there are downsides to the iPhone, too. I occasionally miss being able to hit a green button whenever I’m looking at something even vaguely about a contact in order to call them. I can’t copy and paste text of course. I’d settle for being able to insert the contents of my “Notes” into proper textareas while browsing. And what the hell is up with those notes anyway? Why don’t they sync with Mail’s notes? It’s not like they look and function EXACTLY THE SAME or anything. I know many have expressed these frustrations, but it doesn’t make them any less annoying. The only redeeming feature of the Notes app is that you can email them.

In other annoyances, the Contacts app — surely a simple sort of thing — quite often hangs after you launch it. Or rather, it did before iPhone OS 2.0.1 was released. Well played, Apple.

Having to wait for Apple to approve updates to software is occasionally frustrating, too, though from a user point of view, it’s easily solved by the developers not telling us about their awesome updates before that approval comes. When you actually update an app, it gets wrenched back to your first home screen, regardless of where you happened to have it filed away.

These are niggles though. My biggest beef with the iPhone, perhaps predictably, came not from Apple but from Optus. While the service had been excellent, my initial bill was unexpectedly $123 and not $66, as I had expected.1 It turned out that I had impressively managed to download 200mb of data in my first five days, and that those five were in Optus’s eyes, part of a pro-rated month, where my download limit was around 80mb. When I pointed out to the sales assistant that my first month was supposed to have unlimited data, he pointed out that in the terms of service, the “first month” didn’t start until two weeks into the contract. I pointed out that the person selling it to me had specifically told me otherwise, and he kindly refunded me — take note, hapless Optus customers.

  1. $59 cap, plus $7 a month payments for the iPhone.

Posted by Tom Charman to , | 6 Comments »

I know my iPhone’s screen is large and the video appears to be pornographic but it’s a perfectly legitimate scene from Angel involving Julie Benz’s cleavage

Move along.

Posted by Tom Charman to , | 1 Comment »

iPhone Day

Is there anything more shaming than standing in queue for a phone? Well, yes. But as I’ve never been caught in a Nazi-themed sex orgy, this might have been near the top of the scale for me.

Apparently, the Optus store in Southland was opening at 8.00 am. Australians are lazy, I thought, and so I turned up at 7.30. Disappointingly, there was a queue of about 20 people. Even more disappointingly, the staff soon came out to the queue to inform us that there were no black 16 gb iPhones available. Well, I thought, I’ll just order a black one. I can wait.

After an hour of this ‘waiting’ thing — which might not have taken so long if Optus’ ordering system hadn’t broken down twice — my resistance to white had considerably evaporated. Some bloke had shown off his white one, and of looked quote nice. I used to like white things… It doesn’t look too shabby… I’ll never see the back anyhow… It was just as I was starting to convince myself that I’d happily take the white one that one of the Optus staff came out to inform us that there were only four of them left. There were five people in front of me. Sadly I bemoaned that even with a deposit I wouldn’t manage to get a phone.

“I don’t have a deposit.”

As it turned out, almost NO ONE had a deposit, making my opening gambit of not immediately asking “Who’s got a deposit” when I lined up particularly galling. Luckily, I had a few other queue members with deposits on my side, and we formed an alliance of sorts to beat the people in front of us to the 16gb phones. It was at this point that I started to feel like I was on a particularly nerdy version of Survivor. “They’ve been asking about deposits all day,” lies one hapless competitor.1 I make a mental note to kill her with whichever app on the iPhone decapitates people and makes it look like an accident.

Our new, smaller queue is formed, and I try not to make eye contact with those we’ve left behind. Mercifully we’re soon allowed in, and I’m given my phone. I open up my old phone to get the SIM card out, and blow dust all over the helpful customer service girl. It’s how we say “thank you” on my planet.

It’s a good little iPhone, too. People whinge about the keyboard, but as someone who never got the hang of T9, I’m light years faster than I used to be. The browsing is nifty, except when websites make their crappy “mobile” versions of sites which don’t offer all the capabilities of the real site.2 The second I need to actually go somewhere interesting, the Maps will be awesome. And the Facebook app is nifty, as one expects from something made by Joe ‘Firebug’ Hewitt.3

I finally have the One True Video iPod. All is right with the world.

  1. In fact, I think she was just confused about the difference between wanting a pre-paid phone and having a deposit.
  2. Presumably, the Google Calendar team have something far more interesting to do.
  3. He’s famous if you’ve done web work and like Firefox extensions.

Posted by Tom Charman to | Comments Off on iPhone Day

Time Warp

See my face? No? This is my frustrated face. Not only did I lose two reviews a week ago, but I’ve been unable to get in to put them back. Shockingly, our very first, and probably very last Marilyn Manson review is lost in the ether. Sorry Chris. Its time will come again.

So I’m minus two reviews, we’re about to get to the Doctor Who finale and my dreams of catching up with the schedule have been dashed. I have films I want to talk about. Zodiac. Pirates of the Carribbean. Blades of Glory. I mean, I could just say, here, “Good but slow,” “Ugh but Keira,” and “Funny but a bit tepid.” But I want to waffle.

I can, however, still write blog posts, I think. So here is one.

I’ve been learning about financial stuff at work recently. All sorts of things that I knew nothing about are opening up to me. General ledgers, natural accounts, accruals, commitments, cost codes. I thought I had a handle on GST, but there are things about that I find I had no idea of. I’m somewhat embarrassed that I can actually find reconciling a monthly account interesting. I can’t decide whether my ability to be fascinated by the most apparently dull things is a skill or a curse.

And now, five things that are pissing me off:

  1. This iPhone business. I can’t believe those ungrateful whingers in America are daring to complain that the thing has been overhyped. At least you can buy one! Spare a thought for the less fortunate than yourselves. No no no, not starving Africans. More fortunate than that. Closer to yourselves but not quite. Three months behind you in television, no iPhones. That’s us. Selfish buggers. Someone needs their priorities straightened out.

  2. Drifters. Those pedestrians who start to gently drift across the pavement just as you’re trying to overtake them on that very side. One day I’ll snap and I shouldn’t be held accountable.

  3. My inability to think of a third thing.

  4. The stuff I mentioned in the very first paragraph of this post.

  5. Point 3 again, but now with a more ‘five’ related theme.

Posted by Tom Charman to , , | 7 Comments »

2008 is not now, not even close

Dear God. All this sucking up to you, America. Free Trade Agreements. Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Showing The World According to Jim on our televisions. And still, we don’t get the Apple iPhone at the same time as you bastards.

What was it all for, I ask myself? What was any of it for?

The iPhone looks awesome. It’s arguably the One True Video iPod (but with a small hard drive and battery life). The interface looks sweet as. It has wi-fi. It can tell when it’s on its side. And they won’t be releasing it in Asia until 2008. Oh, how I am fuming. It wouldn’t be so bad, but we only just started 2007! Gaaaaah!

Steve Jobs doesn’t care about Asian people.

The Apple TV is less exciting, but far more available. I’ll have to do some investigating into what sorts of video can be played and streamed, but it seems like a nice alternative to an actual media centre PC.

Oh, woe is me. The One True Video iPod Slash Phone has arrived and I’m not one of the chosen ones.

Meanwhile, Canadians have sneakily been showing Stargate without telling me. Sneaks!

We had our first ever (and most successful) review-a-thon last Wednesday, in an attempt to catch up on Battlestar Galactica. You’ve seen the partial fruits of this endeavour. As the review-a-thon drew to a close, Andy told us he had done two reviews himself, and promptly went to sleep. It’s been a week now. I’m not calling him a liar. I’m calling on you, the people, to bash down his door with flaming torches.

I mean, the door to his room. Not the front door. That might irritate Jackson. Try to keep your wild cries and angry chanting to a minimum as you enter the house.

I’m not addicted to these new asterisks. I could stop any time I wanted.

Posted by Tom Charman to , , | 12 Comments »