alex in a nutshell

September 18, 2009

Apple and treatment of iPhone OS beta testers

Filed under: — Alex Salamakha @ 8:50 PM

I was boarding a flight to New Zealand few weeks ago and was about text my wife when my iPhone switched to its emergency screen. I quickly connected my laptop straight after take off only to see  iTunes error message about my OS version is too old.  That’s Apple’s way of telling a beta tester that he needs to upgrade his beta to a new one, which was released on the same day. No warnings, no nagging, just shut down the bloody thing. There goes my in-flight entertainment. FAIL!

Accident? Well, it’s a beta after all, however, you can’t downgrade back to a stable version even if you are prepared to wipe the entire phone off. FAIL! Well, technically you can downgrade but jailbraking it first, but it’s another story.

Got to hotel, spent 2 hours downloading new beta over both ridiculously slow and expensive Internet connection.

Yesterday it happened again. Right in the middle of a busy day iPhone OS 3.1 beta 4 decided to switch itself off. That’s how I found out about final release of 3.1. FAIL!

Companies should treat its beta testers with respect.  In contrast, Microsoft released Windows 7 RC due to expire early next year, few months after the planned release. Not only that, users get plenty of warnings on when their beta will expire, enough to plan ahead for an upgrade.

I fail to see any logic behind Apple’s decision to treat its customers like shit,  blocking any ability to use the phone except for emergency calls until the upgrade. If you really want me to upgrade, tell me in a form of a message. I may need phone now, but in few hours I’ll do it. Nah, why bother? FAIL!!! FAIL!!! FAIL!!!

I will never try Apple beta software again. This experience wasn’t good’ enough. And HTC Hero on Android platform looks exceptionally good.

August 18, 2008

iPhone wireless sync with multiple PCs

Filed under: — Alex Salamakha @ 8:39 PM

Since my Dopod d810 died as a result of an accident, I needed to get a new smartphone. The choice is obvious – iPhone 3G. It’s a nearly perfect device, however iTunes sync is sub-optimal. I couldn’t get it to sync consistently at work, where I have Outlook 2007 with Exchange 2007 Server.

Sometimes it would sync, sometimes it wouldn’t. After hours on the phone with Apple support I’ve narrowed down the problem – if Outlook doesn’t talk to Exchange, everything works. As soon as Exchange is in the picture, it becomes an issue. I couldn’t get my iPhone to sync with Exchange directly due to security policies at my workplace.

On top of that, sync with Outlook usually means that my Exchange calendar will contain both business and private events, which is rather sub-optimal, I’d rather keep my work environment business-only site.

So ideally I want the following:

  • Don’t keep any personal info at work machine
  • Keep one central repository of all contacts and calendars (outside of work)
  • Sync iPhone with contacts on my home laptop (backup reasons and in case I don’t have an Internet connection for some time)
  • No wires and as automated as possible

After some digging around and talking to several colleagues, I’ve came up with an optimal way of addressing all my sync needs. Take a look at the high-level diagram of the solution:

iPhone Sync diagram

I already have a Google account, and Google Calendar is an awesome tool, BUT iPhone doesn’t sync with it directly. Here comes NuevaSync. It’s a free service that provides Exchange interface to Gmail, Google Calendar, and Plaxo.

You need:

  1. Create a Google Account. It’s free.
  2. Download Google Calendar Sync utility to synchronise your Outlook/Exchange with Google Calendar. It’s free.
  3. Create a NuevaSync account. It’s free.
  4. Configure your NuevaSync account by providing your Google Account credentials.
  5. Configure your iPhone to work with NuevaSync:
    • Click Settings >> Mail, Contacts, Calendar
    • Add a new Exchange account with NuevaSync credentials. Click here for full instruction (requires login on NuevaSync web site).
  6. In Settings >> Fetch New Data uncheck Push email to save your battery. Instead select Fetch time more appropriate for your needs. I started with 15 minutes, but found 1 hour to be heaps better for battery life.

That’s about it.

If I get a meeting request in my work inbox while I’m away from my desk, the request trickles through to my iPhone within short time and I can still make it.

Ad-hoc sync with my MacBook Pro works great via iTunes whenever I connect the iPhone to it. Apple did a fabulous job of syncing the iPhone with multiple machines, something I could never get my Windows Mobile phone to do.

I don’t use email sync. I get too many emails at work and I don’t feel like getting them on my iPhone. I get all my personal emails on the iPhone, however. In order to do that I’ve set up all my mailboxes in Google Apps (you can bring your own domain as well) and enabled IMAP via Google Control Panel. iPhone works with IMAP mailboxes very good and I found myself using iPhone mostly for all my email needs. As I do it in small intervals throughout the day, I don’t need to allocate a huge chunck of time every evening to clear my Inbox.

This tip will also work if you have a Windows Mobile device.

UPDATE: Google now offers Exchange interface, hence there is no need to use NuevaSync. Just point your phone straight to Google:

February 10, 2008

Setting up home media centre with PlayStation 3

Filed under: — Alex Salamakha @ 9:13 AM

I’ve been using my old 21″ Philips CRT TV for the past eight years and have been reluctant to replace it because I didn’t think the technologies offered were mature enough and I couldn’t justify the price of the replacement.

However, the time has come. LCD TVs are now descent quality, sharp picture, and reasonably priced.

Sony Australia offered free Playstation 3 (40GB) with any Bravia TV 40″ and above. It was a very sweet offer to resist and I became a happy owner of two fine Sony products.

Since I’m not a gamer, I didn’t care for PS 3 gaming features, but I did care about its media centre capabilities.

It does everything I need. First of all, it plays DVD, BlueRay and DivX. Also, it has a very easy-to-use interface. But wait, there is more. There is a fantastic (and free) program called TVersity, which I run on my desktop and use to stream video, music and images from my desktop to the TV via Playstation 3.

Think about presenting snaps from your latest trip to your friends on a 46″ LCD in your living room instead of printing the pictures in a photo lab and then passing the album around. Kicks arse!

How about playing music in living room from a massive music collection stored on a huge hard drive somewhere in the basement?

How about flicking through your entire collection of movies with your remote?

So, there are three things you need to do when you get yourself a Playstation3:

1) Get a proper remote for your Playstation 3.

2) Get a HDMI cable to connect PS 3 to your LCD panel. Just make sure you get something cheap, don’t fall into the trap of buying $400 Monster cables because they are “better quality”. HDMI is a digital standard, it either works or it doesn’t. I’ve got mine for $13 and very happy about it. If you don’t believe me, read this article in PC World.

3) Install TVersity. That’s about all you need in order to set your media centre up.

Gaming. I’ve played games on PS3 during past 6 weeks of owning it. Once. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good, graphics is superb and real on large LCD panel, however, I much prefer playing Wii console on that old and semi-retired 21″ Philips CRT TV with my daughter. It’s so much more fun!!!

October 4, 2007

VS.Net 2005 AddIns

Filed under: — Alex Salamakha @ 1:27 AM

VS.Net add-ins are being installed by default to My Documents\Visual Studio 2005\AddIns folder.I’ve got a roaming profile at my work computer and My Documents folder is located on a remote drive, which, in its turn, causes all the add-ins to fail during load due to trust issues.

Simplest solution is to move add-ins to a new location and then change your VS.Net 2005 settings via Tools >> Options >> Environment >> Add-in/Macros Security:

VS.Net 2005 AddIns settings

Hit OK, restart your Visual Studio and voila!

July 22, 2007

Dopod d810

Filed under: — Alex Salamakha @ 8:53 AM

With my beloved HP rw6828 being sent back to HP for refund, I started to look around for its replacement. The choice is obvious: Dopod d810 is pretty much the best phone on the market. It has every single feature you may need – 3G, HSDPA, Bluetooth 2.0, Wi-Fi, built-in GPS, easy buttons navigation, scroll wheel and it has constant attention from Dopod. Recently Windows Mobile 6.0 have been released for Dopod d810.

Dopod d810

Battery lasts for about 2-3-4 days, depending on usage. I read e-books on mine, as well as browse Internet a bit,use Google Reader actively use to-do list and contacts, make calls over Skype, use TomTom and Google Maps for directions, etc. I’m yet to try video calls, can’t comments on this feature.

However, there are few things to complain about. GPS sensitivity isn’t great comparing to my Bluetooth GPS BT-338. Also its shiny black case is a fingerprint magnet.

But overall it’s a very, very, very good phone that covers all needs of an IT professional or any busy person with lots of contacts. Highly recommended!

July 20, 2007

Macbook Pro and Vista

Filed under: — Alex Salamakha @ 2:48 PM

I’ve got a Macbook Pro few days ago and installed Vista on it. The install under BootCamp was a breeze – I’ve burned a CD with drivers for Vista, then installed Vista and then installed drivers’ CD, auto-run, reboot, all working. Not a single glitch! Even Apple remote works!

As far as performance is concerned, Macbook Pro is a pretty good performer. Mine is 15.4″ 2.2 GHz,128 MB Video, 2GB RAM, 160GB hard drive with a glossy screen. Its overall Vista score is 4.8, which is pretty good, I reckon:

Vista score for my Macbook Pro

Overall thoughts on Macbook Pro:

I’ve spent a great deal of time reading up on the Internet about it and had a number of concerns. Lots of people said they overheat, that their screens are not that good, that one-button touchpads are very uneasy to use for Windows users, it’s fans are noisy under Vista, that keyboard layout is weird, etc. It all false from my point of view.

My Macbook Pro doesn’t generate significant heat, it’s one of the quietest laptops I’ve seen and used in my life, single-button touchpads are great with two-finger clicks (actually, I think it’s a better way of navigating because it’s much easier to put a second finger on a touchpad and use thumb to click that to move your thumb towards right touchpad button in regular laptops) and the screen is pretty good, on par with Sony Vaio screens.

The only “weak” point of Macbook Pro from Windows guy’s point of view is its keyboard – it’s slightly off comparing to a regular Windows keyboard. However, BootCamp does a good job of mapping most of the keys accordingly with the exception of right Enter key (what’s the use of it? 🙂 ). It’s also weird to make screenshots with Fn+F11 and press Fn+Delete for Del. I can potentially map right Enter as a Del key, but couldn’t be bothered, really. I got used to it within first couple of days and that’s says a lot because I’m very particular about my keyboards.

Would I recommend Macbook Pro to a Windows programmer like myself? ABSOLUTELY! It’s a fine machine, good build quality, nice design, great performance, very easy to set up both OS X (literally 5 minutes) and Windows Vista. You can run it as a dual boot machine and get the best of both worlds.

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