georges' blog

December 19, 2008

Review: The 3G iPhone

Filed under: Technology — kendall @ 5:35 pm

One thing I could hardly wait to get my hands on while living abroad was the Apple iPhone. I saw quite a few people using unlocked phones in the Middle East, but I was willing to wait until it was available in the Middle East or until I moved back to the US. It turns out that the latter happened first. In any case. The 3G iPhone hit the market just a couple of months before I moved back the US. I picked one up the second day I got back and have been using it since. I pride myself a bit on being non-partisan when it comes to technology–I am utilitarian. Nowadays, there are generally may tools available to get a job done and there are compelling reasons to use one over another in various situations. In my work I need to use Windows, Linux, Solaris, and Apple’s OSX. I am not an Apple fan-boy. But…

I have been using Windows Mobile-based smart phones for a few years now. These provided what I needed in a smart phone. I used both HP’s iPac and iMate’s Jammin. Besides a mobile phone–duh–and sync-able contacts, I needed Arabic language support, an Arabic-English dictionary, a Bible program, a web browser and some tech tools, like ssh, telnet, and remote desktop. Some of these features were great, like Olive Tree’s Bible program. Others were merely adequate. And some were present but painful to use like web browsing and remote desktop.

The iPhone is not without its own problems. But generally speaking, and I am not exaggerating, the iPhone is simply the coolest thing ever. Ok, I am exaggerating, but it is pretty cool. Thanks to AT&T’s 3G network and adequate memory and processing power on the phone web browsing is not something I do as a last resort. Sure it would be better on a full-sized monitor, but when I am out and about I do not hesitate to check something out on the web with my iPhone. Resizing and moving around pages with the touch screen and gesturing quickly becomes second nature. Also, many sites have developed iPhone formated version of their sites. But there are also iPhone apps developed for many activities that would otherwise be browser-based. I’ve got the WordPress, Facebook, MySpace, and Amazon apps installed so there is no need to navigate to these sites to do these things. I could use some better games, with longer playability… But generally speaking gaming is fun and certainly no worse than with a Windows Mobile handheld. Many games make good use of the accelerometer. The camera takes surprisingly good pictures. Phanfare’s Photon app makes uploading pictures from your iPhone to your Phanfare gallery trivial.

The complaints I have heard about the phone are first related to the phone itself and the operating system–that it drops calls or the quality of calls is poor. I can’t comment on that–I’ve not had any problems in this regard. Secondly, battery life. I have found that the battery life leaves a bit to be desired. But only in comparison to ordinary cell phones. Sure you can get days of battery life with a cell phone, but i pretty much got used to having to charge my phone everyday. That is pretty much what you need to do with the iPhone, plug it in every night. If you do a lot of gaming on your phone, it might not make it all day. The third main complaint is that there is no way to tether your phone such that you can use the modem with your laptop. This is simply untrue. But in the interest of full disclosure, it is not trivial. For what ever reason (meaning AT&T wouldn’t allow it) this application is not available at the App Store. You will need to jailbreak your phone. If you use the QuickPwn app this is a snap. Then you will need to use the Cydia app store to install IPhoneModem. There are confusingly two applications named iPhoneModem–one is free and one cost $10. I had no success with the free version, but the one by Addition seems to work pretty fine, particularly version 2. I am online now, while driving down I-40 on our family road trip from Oklahoma to California. We’re about an hour from Albuquerque.

Anyhow, I’m still lacking full Arabic support. There is a product by Islam4iPhone or some such company. I tried installing it, but so far without success. Also, their site is only in Arabic, which slows me down. But I’m confident this will be coming soon. Arabic support is essentially no different than Hebrew support and there appears to be a pretty strong Israeli community lobbying for Hebrew support. On the Arabic-English dictionary side, Google’s online translator is pretty good. It is free. And it does a lot of other languages too. But without native Arabic support, the words don’t look right, because the letters are not connected.

Anyhow, I don’t intend to be comprehensive here, just want to say, love my iPhone. I highly recommend it. It is getting better everyday. It is about time someone made a smart phone that was fun to use. I will probably try to do some individual app reviews in the days ahead.

Review: They Might Be Giants Friday Night Video Podcast

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendall @ 4:15 pm

The occasion of our family’s first grand car trip–we’re driving from Oklahoma City to Los Angeles–reacquainted me with the They Might Be Giant’s Friday Night Video Podcast. This is one of the most awesome podcasts by any measure. And I am not exaggerating. It features John and John of TMBG as sock puppets. They enjoy some amusing banter as you would expect in any talk or variety show and then they introduce video clips from their children’s albums Here Come the 1, 2, 3’s and Here Come the A, B, C’s. Our children love the podcasts. And unlike some children’s programs their offbeat sense of humor and lyrics as well as their catchy tunes are very appealing to adults–at least Claudia and me.

If you are a fan of TMBG, Cake, or Bare Naked Ladies, you will enjoy the music. Your kids will too. And they’ll learn about the letters of the alphabet, numbers, and other things like conifers and Davy Crocket–well, maybe not too much about Davy Crocket. The biggest bummer of the podcast is that they took a vacation in the summer of 2008 and apparently haven’t come back. We look forward to their return. In the mean time we will probably have to pick up one or more of their CD/DVD collections.

Check them out on iTunes. Or you will get a sample of their some 813 Mile Car Trip in our road trip galley to be posted soon.

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