Apple iPhone

Photos from the iPhone 4S camera

Yesterday, I bought my first iPhone. I’ve wanted one since they were first launched in 2007, so I feel very lucky to finally have one.

Here are some photos taken with the iPhone 4S camera on a walk along Regent’s Canal on a sunny afternoon in London. Many were taken underneath bridges to test the dynamic range of the camera.

Macclesfield Bridge, Regent's Canal: Note the detail in the shadows and the bright reflections.


Reflection of a modern house built to 18th century plans (reversed)


Under the bridge
Underneath a (troll free) bridge to show low light with some highlights


Underneath the A40 Westway, London


A40 Westway - taken on an iPhone 4S

Without doubt, the camera on the iPhone 4S is excellent, and has a refreshingly simple user interface. Tap any part of the screen to focus or meter there, and take the shot.

I’m hoping to post more regularly to Flickr now – my account has languished recently and I’m hoping a shiny new phone with easy tools to integrate with Flickr will give me a little encouragement.

I’ve created a “Photos from the iPhone 4S” set of photos on Flickr which will doubtless grow in days to come:

Since this is my first iPhone, I can’t comment on comparisons with previous models, but for the times when I don’t want to carry my DSLR around, I know that I’ll always have a very capable camera with me. Consider me pleased!


Another new way to connect a Mac to a monitor, another adapter for the collection

According to Apple news website Mac Rumors, Apple’s forthcoming range of hardware include monitors that connect via the recently-introduced Thunderbolt connector.

When I gave a lecture earlier this year in Oxford, the venue technician asked if I had a Mac and produced a box of adapters. “Mac? One of these should fit it”. There were five adapters inside. Mini-VGA, DVI, mini-DVI, micro-DVI, and Mini Display Port. I wonder if the Thunderbolt connector will replace Mini DisplayPort on future Macs? Then folk can add a sixth adapter to their collection…

Find out more about the wonderful world of Apple displays and their connectors on Wikipedia.

Apple DVI/VGA Adapter

Mini-DVI to DVI Adapter

Apple Reviews

Nine months with an Apple Magic Trackpad

As of this week, Apple will be offering customers of new desktop Macs the choice of either a Magic Trackpad or a Magic Mouse for no extra cost. Multitouch is here to stay.

Since I first saw a multitouch device, the original iPhone, I have always wanted to see more multitouch technology find its way onto desktop computers. When Apple first released the Magic Trackpad in July 2010, I was curious to see how well it would work as a primary pointing device (read: mouse replacement). I tried one out at an Apple Store, and I read the mixed reviews on the numerous review sites. It wasn’t long before I bought one.

My Magic Trackpad, which has replaced my mouse for the last 9 months.

When I started using it, I kept my mouse close at hand. I was cautious, but I liked the Magic Trackpad straight away. I had been getting an aching arm from using my mouse, despite careful positioning of my iMac, keyboard and mouse, with attention to posture. One of the first things that I noticed was the slight change in position of my arm through using a large trackpad had made the numb ache disappear.

Within a fortnight, I had put the mouse away in a drawer. It has, for the large part, stayed there. The Magic Trackpad is just a joy to use, so much so that I find myself blogging about it. The trackpad surface is smooth, positioning accurate, and the multitouch gestures are incredibly useful. My mouse only comes out when I have any complex 3D modelling to do, but even then, only for long complex modelling sessions.


Aside from two-finger scrolling and panning, the gestures that I have found that I use the most are a swipe of four fingers up to reveal the desktop, and four down to activate Exposé. The least useful are pinch to zoom and the two-finger rotate – I’ve switched these off, as occasionally when clicking with my thumb with a finger still on the pad, as had unintended consequences.

I have enabled the right-click in System Preferences, and clicks register with a nice physical ‘clunk’, so despite the multitouch capability, there is still tactile feedback where it counts.

To really unlock the multitouch potential of the Magic Trackpad, or indeed, of the Magic Mouse, you will need to download the free MagicPrefs app. You can configure your own swipes and tap combinations, as well as play with the realtime multitouch visualisation. I have mine set up to use a three-finger swipe to use Spaces in OSX, a feature I hardly ever used until now.

Mac OS X 10.7 Lion

We know that Apple are taking lessons learned in iOS and bringing some of those features to the Mac. This will include many more multitouch features which will make a Magic Trackpad even more useful. The following video, of a beta of OS X 10.7, gives a good example of why multitouch is here to stay: (video no longer available)

So if you’ve been sitting on the fence wondering whether to buy a Magic Trackpad, I heartily recommend them! If you’re in the UK, it is work looking for them on Amazon as they can be much cheaper (£48 from Amazon [disclaimer: affiliate link], vs £59 from Apple).


Why the Apple Tablet will be the ‘Computer for the rest of us’

Amongst all of the speculation about the rumoured forthcoming ‘Apple Tablet’ computer, I came across an excellent article entitled Why The Tablet Will Finally Be Steve Jobs’ “Computer For the Rest of Us” on Cult of Mac.

It sums up what was important about the iPhone – hiding the complexity of the workings of the phone with a beautiful interface, and make it joyfully simple to use, with software that you know will work properly and safely. Apply the same paradigm to a (tablet) computer, and you have a true ‘computer for the rest of us’.

It’s worth a read.

Link: Why The Tablet Will Finally Be Steve Jobs’ “Computer For the Rest of Us” (Cult of Mac)

Apple Software

iMovie ’08 on a 1.8GHz single processor G5

According to the system requirements for Apple’s newest incarnation of iLife (iLife ’08), iMovie ’08 shouldn’t work on my machine (an ‘original’ 2003 1.8GHz SP G5 with 1GB RAM).

The installer runs a system check before it installs iLife (as it did on my G4 laptop) to see if your system meets the minimum requirements (a dual 2GHz G5 PowerMac or a 1.9GHz iMac). If you don’t meet them, it won’t install iMovie, and you’re stuck with the old (but oddly, better featured) iMovie HD.

That is, unless you own on the of the original 1.8GHz single processor G5s from 2003. I installed iLife ’08 last week, just for the upgrades to Garageband and iPhoto, but miraculously, iMovie ’08 installed as well.

And it works rather well. Playback is smooth enough for me, scrubbing through frames works well, as do the transitions and titles. And I didn’t even need to perform any of the dodgy hacks that have been going round to make it work on my system.

Since my system was only around for a few months before being discontinued back in 2003, maybe they’ve forgotten to put it in the ‘exclude’ list, who knows?

Apple iPod

iPod woes

Recently, my 2 year old 4G iPod broke. I was listening to a podcast whilst walking to work when the audio froze. I took it out of my pocket and found that everything had frozen – the UI as well as playback.

I tried to reset it on the move, but nothing could unfreeze it. I had to wait until the battery ran down, which took nearly a day in its paraplegic state.

Upon connecting to the mains adapter after it had finally ran out of power, the iPod restarted, but a sad face stared out from me, and nothing could get rid of it. I restarted it again, tried to force it into disk mode, but all to no avail. Just a new icon saying things really were up the creek and I needed to take my iPod to someone to have it fixed.


So it’s sat on my desk for a couple of weeks, waiting for me to have time to take it to the Apple Store in Southampton. Until today. For some reason, while shopping for food, an idea occurred. Tehmina‘s iPod (a trusty 2G iPod still going strong) dates from the time when Firewire was the only option, and iPods were Mac only (oh those were the days!). I have been using the supplied USB connection on my iPod thus far. It shouldn’t make any difference, but since I had nothing to lose, I thought I’d give it a go.

Whilst I’m typing this, my ‘broken’ iPod is syncing with iTunes.

When I plugged it in with a Firewire lead, it mounted on the desktop straight away, iTunes launched, and told me that I needed to restore my iPod. One click of the “Restore” button, one iPod reboot, and all seems back to normal.

So, if you’re reading this because you’re having trouble with your iPod, try connecting it to your Mac with a Firewire lead, if you’re lucky enough to know someone who has one.

I’ll be trying to source my own iPod Firewire lead – not only has it ‘fixed’ my iPod, but the sync is happening much much faster.

Apple blogging Software

Testing Ecto 3 alpha

Way back in the dim and distant past, before my other blog, Past Thinking, began to focus solely upon heritage matters, I reviewed Ecto 2. Now, 2 years later, I’m writing this with the alpha version of Ecto 3.

This isn’t a full review – this is really just a test drive of the alpha version, and a quick account as I go along.

I once decried the rich text editor of Ecto 2, wishing for a WYSIWYG editor, and it seems as if at long last my wish has been answered. Everything you do in the editor is actually displayed as you expect it to, rather than the strange highlights and awkwardness that went before (which I did get used to).

Ecto 3, although not yet finished, has a much more ‘Mac’ look and feel to it, although perhaps I still find the multiple windows to be slightly annoying – I’d prefer a more unified or tabbed GUI. Still, you can close the windows that you’re not currently using.

Uploading images is a breeze – the screenshot below was captured in Skitch and dragged from Skitch right into Ecto, where it was automatically resized. Very nice. I then had the option to upload the image there and then (which I forgot to screen grab).

Ecto 3 (alpha) screenshot)

And, since the WYSIWYG editor uses WebKit, it looks like it’s doing a fairly accurate job.

As you can see from the screenshot, there’s a “Keywords” box below title. It’ll be interesting to see if these hook into Ultimate Tag Warrior, or appear as html meta tags (does anything still use them these days?). In the alpha version, there is no help file (it’s still being written) so I’ll give it a go and see what happens.

All in all, writing this little ditty was a pleasure in Ecto, and if you are reading this, it successfully connected to my blog and posted this.

When Ecto 3 is finished, I’ll post a comprehensive review here. You can read Adriaan’s announcement over at Infinite Sushi.

(ahh – so that’s what the ‘Keywords’ does!)

Apple Web Stuff

Cleaning up Word HTML

Today, whilst building a new data downloads section for the Archaeology at Heathrow T5 website, I had to convert a load of Word documents full of tables and subheadings into beautiful xHTML Strict for pages in a WordPress environment.

Normally, I’d open the files in Word 2004 (on a Mac), save them as HTML, then use Dreamweaver 8 to open each file, clean up the HTML via the “Clean Up Word HTML” command, then perhaps do a bit of cleaning by hand (i.e. removing the inline CSS).

But faced with 8 fairly complex documents, I decided that there must be a more efficient way of doing this. A quick Google (“clean word html osx”) revealed a remarkably simple process.

I’ll repeat it here, just for my own notes.

Open the Word documents in TextEdit (I’m a Mac user, remember!). In TextEdit go to Preferences, then go to the “Opening and Saving” tab. In the HTML saving options select “XHTML 1.0 Strict” and “No CSS”. You can also tick “Ignore rich text commands in HTML files if you like.

Then saving your Word documents as HTML using TextEdit gives you beautifully clean code to work with.

TextEdit’s HTML export options


Fed up with iPhone news and hype?

The question has to be asked of the iPhone – will it blend?

Combine an iPhone and an extremely efficient blender…

Apple Music

Apple, EMI, and DRM

Eric Nicoli (CEO, EMI Group) and Steve Jobs (CEO, Apple Inc) took to the stage for a press conference in London today. There has been much speculation about what would be announced. Some hedged their bets on an announcement that the Beatles would be available via iTunes, while others thought that it would be an announcement about digital rights management (DRM) being dropped from EMI tracks available on iTunes. Optimists felt that both would be announced.

I’ve just finished listening to a live webcast of the event, where EMI and Apple announced a new product available from iTMS: Premium digital downloads. These will cover the entire existing EMI catalogue, will be DRM free, and at a higher quality.

Premium tracks will cost $0.30 (20p) more, be at 256kbs AAC, DRM free. You will be able to upgrade existing tracks to the premium quality by paying the difference. Videos distributed by EMI will also be DRM free.

Existing tracks will remain at the same price, with DRM.

The iTMS will support this new ‘feature’ from May. Steve Jobs said that this is the “next big step forward in the digital music revolution”. You will be able to set a preference in iTunes for your preferred quality.

Steve also addressed the issue of interoperability. He recognised that people want to play on devices other than iPods. When questioned about ‘severing’ the dependency of iPods from iTunes purchased music, his response was that he believes that people buy iPods because they are the best music players on the market. They have been able to play plain mp3s from the beginning, and that people will continue to buy iPods. If they don’t “we’ll have to work harder”.

Steve said that they will offer same opportunity to the other “big 4” distributors. He talked about the widespread cynicism since his open letter about the futility of DRM. Apple couldn’t really want to break their dependency between iTunes and iPods!? Well, now they have, and when Mr Jobs discussed this, there was a definite tone of “so there” in his voice.

In the question round afterwards, a Sky News reporter asked when the Beatles catalogue will be on the iTMS. Eric Nicoli mumbled that EMI were working on it, and hoped that something might happen soon.

Adam Webb (freelancer) asked a very poignant question. Why keep DRM on the $0.99/79p tracks? Why not take it off entirely? Why pay more to have DRM free music? This rather important point was neatly sidestepped by Steve, who said they didn’t want to raise prices. A politician’s answer, if ever I’ve heard one.

Why should DRM free music be more expensive? Well, at least it’s a start. Maybe one day all distributors and internet music stores will operate a model as sensible as

Read the official EMI press release.
[Update] Here’s Apple’s press release.