Category Archives: Gadgets

iPhone icons

Here are some lovely PSDs available for download; excellent for picking apart how to create great iPhone icons:

http://christianbaroni.me/?page=downloads

(Found via http://twitter.com/flyosity/status/15798736074.)

This will be important for iPhone apps but even more important down the road (in my opinion) for web apps that have custom icons associated with them. If you’d like to learn more about this technique, full instructions for creating a custom desktop iPhone icon for a web page or web app are right here in Jonathan Stark’s excellent go-read-this-now book on building web apps with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript:

http://building-iphone-apps.labs.oreilly.com/ch03.html#ch03_id35932602

The gist of which is essentially you are creating a 57 x 57 icon and then adding one of the two following HTML lines to identify it:

The first option inherits the glossy light effect and corner radius from the iPhone OS. The 2nd one does not, so you have to handle corner radius and any desired light effects manually. iPad icons use 72 x 72 pixel resolution. I’m not sure yet, but I’m betting the new OS will have something closer to the 72 px size. Anyone know the answer?

Radio is dead. Long live Radio.

New York Times today: Will the Internet Kill Traditional Car Radio?

Ultimately, the incursion of Internet-based music services and radio station streams may be less about annihilating yet another business model than it is about breaking down barriers. For the first time, small local stations will be able to reach an entire driving nation, so some broadcasters may see their audiences swell as more listeners find them on Internet-connected car radios. In the end, it may simply be a case of radio is dead, long live radio.

Radio is the last bastion of the centralized publishing model, and wireless internet enabled automobile devices stand to challenge this final establishment. People increasingly don’t want to be fed centralized content any more, nor do they appreciate being bound to the radio-listening constraints of local proximity to radio stations. They want to have personalized access to content that predicts their tastes, or else they want to specifically select what they want to hear. They want their content to come from anywhere, and to be available anywhere. This is how things work on our computers, our smartphones, and so on – why should our car radio experiences be any different?

It also occurs to me every time I plug in my iPhone to my car’s audio system that developing a separate car interface for audio consumption, or really any other function, is largely a waste of time and money. Why bother with it? Instead, ship an iPod Touch or some Android-based device embedded in the dash. Let users access their existing streaming content, be it iTunes, Pandora, Last.fm, NPR apps, and so on.

This goes for other car functions as well. The other day I was getting a ride back to the car dealer in their shuttle, and their 2007 R-class Mercedes had a GPS system that was woefully out of date and buggy. I asked the driver why they hadn’t updated the software or the maps, and he said they just weren’t going to do it for whatever reason. This struck me as completely backwards from the current trends of technology – why not embed a GPS system that updates itself continually over 3G? Small changes could incrementally add themselves to the map database, and software updates pushed through an app store or web interface. Why suffer with a broken map application for a car that is only three years old?

Perhaps all the car functions could be opened up. Provide an API for developers and the smartphone app market do the rest.

Accessing the Gluten Free Bay Area Google Map on iPhone

This post is specifically for the gluten-free community in the San Francisco Bay Area in the short term, and I expect this will become a more global effort soon.

Our goal for today is: Access the Gluten Free Bay Area Google Map on iPhone. This can now be accomplished easily using the iPhone Google Earth app.

Why is this cool you ask? Because dining out on a gluten-free diet can be a complicated and depressing experience. Most restaurants don’t get it. The few that do are often hard to find. Many of us in the Bay Area celiac community have lessened this pain by contributing to this map, pinpointing which businesses cater to gluten-free needs (i.e. might have a gluten free menu or a savvy chef or wait staff.) This has turned into a very useful database over the months and years.

But on those times when you need it most, like when you’re on the road, you might not have access to a computer to be able to look up a place for lunch. Now with Google Earth on your iPhone and in your pocket, looking up gluten-free restaurants is more convenient than ever.

Here’s how to get started:

Step 1: Add the Gluten Free Bay Area Google Map to your saved maps by navigating to it (a shortened URL for those that need it: http://is.gd/4YuBP ) and clicking on the link indicated:

Click the link "Save to my maps" circled in red

Step 2: Go to the App Store on your iPhone and install the Google Earth app.

Step 3: Launch Google Earth on your iPhone and tap the info icon in the lower right corner:

Tap the info icon on the lower right corner.
Tap the info icon on the lower right corner.

Step 4: Sign in and then tap on My Maps. Tap on Gluten Free Bay Area in the resulting screen. Now when you use Google Earth on iPhone, all the gluten free locations will show up on your map!

Gluten Free Bay Area map detail.
Gluten Free Bay Area map detail.

How cool is that?

Macworld ’08 Announcements

I think the MacBook Air is a beautiful piece of industrial design. Beautiful. I probably wouldn’t buy one, but I really admire it. I bet Yingwen would like it though. It is a sexy machine that is more about portability and fashion than functionality.

I know I am a power user at heart, and I’m always going to have my eye on the higher end systems that have long-term expansion capability, but I have to say that Apple did a good job on the specs given the space limitations. For one, the soldered RAM is set to 2 GB, so thanks for maxing it out. And 3 pounds for a full-size keyboard and screen is right there about the single most important reason I’d actually consider blowing upwards of two grand after tax and add-ons on such a machine. If I were still a hard-core BART commuter, this would make it a no-brainer.

Apple TV now looks cool now that it no longer requires a computer to connect to online services and they dropped the price, but the 24 hour limitation for rental downloads is too short. Yeah I know on-demand rentals from cable and satellite are about the same duration, and the iTunes downloads are a lot cheaper overall, but the current on-demand rental durations are too short anyway. Well, maybe it’s no big deal – I suppose the difference between paying $3.99 for a 24 hour rental and $12.99 for the full rights are pretty minimal in the long run. Ultimately I think the Apple TV features are pretty cool – especially with Flickr and Youtube connectivity. I was still hoping for an Apple TV that was actually a TV, and maybe with a built-in DVD player too. Less boxes and wires and stuff hanging off the back – something I could just stick on the wall. The only remaining complaint I have is that they still to this day have not implemented subtitles. Seems like a major failure on the part of accessibility here.

The iPhone updates were welcome. I think the most significant of these is the Maps app, where it now tries to triangulate your location. It actually works! Not perfectly accurate, but it seems to find me within the range of the circle that it renders. So much easier to now use “current location” as the starting point for generating driving directions.

I don’t get why they would charge $20 to iPod Touch users to get the software upgrade that gives them the same basic app suite as iPhone. Boo. Just give it to them already. Come on.

Time Capsule seems like a great idea, and certainly makes a lot of sense when used in conjunction with MacBook Air as a backup solution. This is a nice and convenient luxury item: If I had $500 bucks to burn, sure I’d go for a 1TB box. Otherwise I’d probably look for a decent tethered backup drive. UPDATE: Now that I look around and price these things, it isn’t that much more expensive than a standard off-the-shelf enclosed 1TB drive, and if you factor in the convenience of ubiquitous wireless backups, it is an attractive offer.

All in all it was a nice suite of announcements. Couple all that with last week’s Mac Pro/XServe items, and it is actually quite a lot of cool gadgetry. Apple TV seems the most significant to me at this point, and I hope they eventually make me my Apple HDTV already.