Tag Archives: User Agents

An iPhone Story

Last Sunday I purchased an iPhone. This was not my plan, but a couple of things came up to prompt this move. This thing is incredible for the most part, but with only one complaint:

The Purchase

First of all, my expectation was that I’d wait until a second generation release came about. I was quite content with my old Sony Ericsson semaphoring to the bimmer’s Bluetooth interface connection, and the old 3G iPod was the hurdy gurdy churning away at the iPod interface in the glove compartment. And these were good times. It all worked just fine – contacts loaded to the dash, control both from the steering wheel, phone call comes in and the iPod pauses until my conversation completes.

Until last week, when the phone died.

It had been dying a slow but natural death. To be honest, the only thing that was wrong with it was that the battery was able to hold less and less of a charge. The thing on my last business trip would last for maybe one phone conversation after a charge, and certainly wouldn’t make it through a couple of hours away from its power leash. But finally it ceased to work while connected to the charger. It couldn’t even hold enough juice to muster up a single phone call connected to power. Clearly it was time for a change.

And then the urgency occurred when a loved one wound up in the hospital, and my phone wasn’t working to receive the calls for assistance. What timing. Friday night in a hospital I had become all too familiar with recently, to the point where you know half the staff by name. Ugh. I need to do something about this quick.

I had two choices: Get a replacement battery for my Sony Ericsson for around $20 to hold me over until a 2G iPhone appeared, or jump on the technology bandwagon early and get an iPhone for upwards of $700 including tax and AppleCare. Naturally I went for the irrational choice and got the iPhone.

I owned the 1st gen Treo 180 when that first came out, and I loved it despite all its flaws. It was a PDA and a phone, and it was highly functional. But somehow the Treo line got confused and didn’t go quite where I was hoping it would, Palm support for Mac was off and on, and the rumors of an Apple phone began. My next phone would be a cheap-ass one with Bluetooth just to hold me over a cycle until something decent appeared. So with the iPhone finally coming out and the glowing reviews, I was placing myself in line for one of these babies.

The Initial Experience

If I may gush…

The purchase took minutes, the unboxing and activation was effortless, and I didn’t find the keyboard too difficult to operate even with my fat, round thumbs and long guitar-player fingernails. The initial sync was a bit lengthy over the USB connection for about 6 GB of data I had ready to go, and I had to rerun it a couple of times to get my contacts list right and to get the software updated on the unit. But once running, it just worked like a hot knife through warm butter.

Every application on this thing works extremely well, and well together. Syncing with my Mac, browsing through contacts, dialing numbers, watching vids from iPod or YouTube, email, calendar, and the rest of it – all very nice. The browser picks up phone numbers and converts them to hyperlinks to dial. Nice. I am sure that this is the finest mobile device created to date – very elegant.

The Browser

I’m going to get this out of the way. At the risk of being unpopular, I really am not a huge fan of the Safari web browser on the iPhone. Here’s why: I can’t resize fonts beyond tilting the screen – unless the page itself has font resizing baked in to the controls – a rarity. Zooming in on the content is inadequate, because I wind up scrolling horizontally as well as veritcally. The default page width for the iPhone is too wide and makes font scales too small as a result.

Now that I’ve had the iPhone for a couple of days, I want the handheld media type even more. This is an effing handheld device – support the handheld media type and prod developers to use it for your world domination goals instead of having to get people to fork their code. Web page layouts are too big by default for this size screen, and the web developer is confronted with the choice of either writing a version of their website just for the iPhone, or they have to install some greasemonkey-style hack. And I’m seeing plenty of websites offering iPhone-optimized versions of their sites so don’t tell me you’re doing this to offer the big giant World Wide Web in all its splendor. Boo. This would be so much better with an option to load the handheld css as an option somewhere. So much. Heck, even on a per-site basis as a preference in the bookmark or something.

What Safari on iPhone does, it does well – zoom in, hyperlinked phone numbers, and highly usable for a PDA web browser. Give me font resizing and the option to load the handheld stylesheet associated with the given web page and I’ll be happy. Bonus points if you can squeeze in a Flash plugin.

The Money Shot

OK this part I’m about to tell you was entirely unexpected. I went in to the Apple Store with no expectation that this thing would want to have anything to do with my BMW’s iPod and/or Bluetooth interfaces. It was created in 1995. This is emerging 1st generation technology two years later – snowball’s chance in hell of working with my car I thought.

I thought wrong.

This thing is sick. I tried plugging it in to the iPod interface and it just worked. OK cool – I can listen to tunes on this thing in my car if I need to. But surely this won’t pair up with my bimmer, right? No – it works effing perfectly. I pair it up, it connects just fine, it syncs my contacts, and I can place and receive calls in my car. iPhone gets charged up in the meantime – bonus points.

This thing just rocks. I am very impressed with the elegance of this innovative and highly usable design. Well done! Just fix Safari for me and we’ll be good.

End of the WebKit

Happy April Fool’s Day everyone!

Many have suggested over the years that WebKit should be abandoned in favor of Gecko, the browser engine with second-place market share according to studies like the Net Applications Survey. But why go with number two when you can go straight to the top? That‚Δτs why I am pleased to announce that WebKit will be discontinued in favor of Trident, the engine inside Windows Internet Explorer. Like OpenDarwin before us, we will be shutting down.

πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

OK if you’re not a Mac web geek, you probably are saying WTF right about now. Apologies…

Microsoft offers help with Firefox

It does not seem odd at all to me that Microsoft would offer a helping hand to Firefox development to get it running on Vista. It makes perfect sense that Microsoft would want to actively engage with this project, for two reasons I can see:

For one, let’s look at the amount of effort Microsoft has placed into developing IE7 to make it more secure, more standards-compliant, and more useable. Good for them! I’ve played with the beta and it is a huge improvement over the existing IE6 implementation.

But with all that effort, it puts IE7 in my opinion just under where Firefox is currently at in terms of overall quality. Not all the bugs with CSS and such have been completely worked out (though most have been) and it’s not quite as useable (though that’s improved a lot too). I’m betting the budget to get Firefox where it is has been considerably smaller. And on top of all that, Firefox is just about to go to the next major milestone of 2.0. Finally, with any darling open-source project, there are more eyes looking at it for bug fixes, for enhancements, and most of all, for security patches. More eyes are looking at Firefox and more hands are writing code for it than Microsoft could ever hope to afford. So while in the short term Microsoft’s browser dominance still reigns, Firefox now has an important chunk of that market share, and it’s increasing over time. Eventually, well-adopted open-source projects will tend to prevail over proprietary software.

Another reason, perhaps more short term thinking, is the buzz about how Microsoft may be trawling for talent. And why not? Apple hired Dave Hyatt, and that was a good thing for Apple as well as for their consumer base. IE could certainly use a little Mozilla in it’s blood.

CrossOver

CrossOver Mac was just announced, and this software should allow Mac OS X users on Intel machines to be able to run most Windows applications on a Mac without having to bother with installing a Windows operating system on your machine.

This is interesting if you don’t need ubiquitous compatability and only need to run a few apps in Windows. Mine are IE6 and Microsoft Project. Really, I don’t see any need to install a full-blown Windows instance if these two items could be satisified by CrossOver.

Linux Test

I figured it was time to test desktop Linux. Suffice to say that some things still need to be worked out with the new MacBook Pros, and I am too stubborn to run Windows. A slightly used HP OmniBook happened upon my way, and I figured what the heck.

My first crack at it was a RedHat distribution. It worked well enough, but the install was 4 CDs, and it didn’t impress me for some reason, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

I realized I wanted something different, and found this: handy little Linux distribution chooser to help me make a decision. And it guided me to Kubuntu. I ultimately chose Kubuntu because of the K desktop and the Konqueror web browser’s association with Mac OS X’s Safari browser. (Using Konqeror as I type…)

So far so good. Well I should preface that by saying that the initial installation did not go so well. After multiple tries to get a DHCP network connection going, I gave up, because there was a glaring bug that was not permitting me to modify my ethernet settings. I reinstalled just once more and things went so much better the second time around.

I’ll probably switch over to this machine from time to time, just for fun. I see one thing now very clearly though, after installing and running Linux for a couple of days now: I really appreciate the ease of use and power of Mac OS X. But this desktop environment isn’t totally horrible. I’d have to say it’s at least more comfortable to use than Windows. I have a lot of things to figure out though.

On the other hand, remind me never to buy an HP laptop. This thing is like having a slab of flagstone with a power cord attached. Sorry…