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MacPic of The Day September 17, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in iPods, MacPics, Oddities, Rants.
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iPod with an iPhone error message.

Amazing how Apple can tweak the software so that Linux and other operating systems that don’t natively run iTunes are SOL where the new iPods are concerned, or tweak an app or hardware for the iPod so that it doesn’t compete with an iPhone and artificially and self-servingly segment the market (such as pulling out the ability to enter new events in iCal, or pull the Bluetooth out) — but are so lazy they can’t even seem to clean up the iPhone software code they’re recycling to use in the iPod.

Sheesh.

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Major glitch popping up in TouchPods September 16, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Hardware, iPhone, iPods, Issues, Rants, Steve Jobs.
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(That’s my pet name for the ungainly and awkward “iPod Touch”, by the way; some folk call it the iTouch, but I think not. Besides, TouchPod has a nice ring to it, don’t you agree?)

Something called the “negative black effect” (speak about inappropriate names) is appearing in an increasing number of TouchPods.

Reports have surfaced earlier this weekend as the TouchPods began selling at Apple Stores that the new screens seem to be inferior to the iPhone’s, contrary to the Jobster‘s (stupid name; but Stevester seems worse) statement that screens are the same. Blacks aren’t as black, and colors seem washed out, as in this side-by-side pic from Gizmodo (iPhone on the bottom):

More units seem to have it worse: some TouchPods’ black portions look like the shimmery, odd blacks you get from film negatives (hence the “negative black effect” name), and they seem to be a spotty and erratic phenomenon. Look at this comparison from Apple-Touch.com (iPhone on top):

Apple seems to be taking in defective units and replacing them without question (which is a tacit admission that a problem exists), but sometimes the replacements themselves have similar problems. No official statement yet.

Caveat emptor. Certainly a strong argument against early adoption, and for waiting for the first revision. Or just waiting for the 16gb, 3G, open-line iPhone that everyone seems to be expecting. Hmm.

Check out a sampling of reports from Apple-Touch, Tech.Blorge, Gizmodo and Engadget.

Breaking News: Linux-less iPods September 15, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in iPods, Issues, iTunes, Operating System, Rants.
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Reports have come out that Apple has tweaked the new iPods (Classic, Touch, nano) so that iTunes breaks when you use the Linux operating system.

Some folk who like Linux a whole lot (or dislike Apple in general) have repurposed the older iPods to run off Linux instead, but Apple seems to have inserted new code into the iTunes DB file in the player in the hidden i_PodControl/iTunes folder that disables the database and shows exactly zero songs on the player.

Knowing the usual suspects, this qualifies as a minor nuisance. After the iPhone, this should be a piece of cake. But still.

Hackers are at work on it already. Click here for more details on the issue.

(Cross-posted from Mobile Philippines)

Battery Bug July 16, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Hardware, iPhone, Rants.
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Wirelessinfo.com got Apple to admit that there is a glitch in the battery indicator of the iPhone, essentially telling users that the battery isn’t fully charged yet while in fact it’s already topped up.

In their blog survey, at least 60% of the respondents said that their units were kinda wonky in this department, so the folk behind the blog contacted Apple PR about this. According to the site, Apple told them: “Your battery is fully charged, but the UI (User Interface) is just not correctly reflecting this. We expect to fix this in a software update.”

I’ve had laptop batteries from Apple with this problem, despite proper care and conditioning. Ah well.

(BTW, nice battery label, ain’t it?)

Low blow batt July 8, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Hardware, iPhone, Rants.
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Many folk who’ve gotten an iPhone have learned the disheartening battery replacement policy of Apple for their new phone. The battery is soldered into the unit and is not user-serviceable or -replaceable, and when it conks out, you’ll need to send it in to Apple.

Here’s the bummer: the service will set you back US$79, with US$6.95 for shipping, and will take three whole business days. If that’ll be too long for you to be without your precious iPhone, Apple offers a loaner unit while you wait – for US$29. Say again?

People are up in arms that this little tidbit wasn’t properly disclosed until the near-one-million mob that bought iPhones this past week were over the novelty and looking soberly ahead at life with their new gadget. Apparently, unlike the service plans splashed on the front pages of the site, this tidbit is buried somewhere deep in the support pages out back. For the vast majority who’ve made it a habit to have extra batts that they swap in and out for their other phone, this is a major downer, apart from the fact that getting a replacement battery will set them back 20% of the original cost of the unit.

A consumer advocacy group named The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights has written a protest letter to Apple, and more and more folk are up in arms over this convenient omission from the deluge of press releases and promotions the iPhone’s been enjoying since January.

Let’s see what happens next.

Password problems June 23, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in Operating System, Rants, Updates & Patches.
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Strange mojo happening on my system lately.

I just ran the Safari update a while ago, and before it started, the OS asked me to authenticate with my password. So I type mine in. Error. I do it again, thinking my fingers stuttered on the keyboard and mistyped a key. Error again. Hmm.

I set everything aside to concentrate on typing it precisely, making sure the Caps Lock was off. Error again. Uh-oh.The system then says I’ve tried too many times and snottily casts aspersions on my identity. The only good thing was that it brings up a password hint, which I thankfully provided myself ages ago in the event of something like this happening. But before exploring my options, I run RDP first to try and iron out whatever kink was keeping me out, but it didn’t work.Like most people with faulty memories, I just rotate a few inscrutable passwords for my many different logins, and I was hoping one of them would work. Because if none of them did, the alternative would be a nightmare.Thankfully, one did, an old one I hardly use. I wonder how it got switched, and where the OS found the damned thing. Good that the password worked, but the question remains: why did this happen in the first place anyway?

That question loomed large in my head because the update required a restart, which I had to put off because I realized that if I encounter the password screwup at the bootup screen and the new-old password doesn’t work, then I’m up the creek without a paddle. I take the plunge and restart. Sure enough, the regular password still doesn’t work, but the replacement I stumbled upon does. Later, I run Applejack and my other utilities, but nothing fixes it.

Damned odd: essentially, the system changed the old password to an even older obscure one for no reason at all. Surely the recent OS X update was the cause of the problem, but I have yet to find other instances in the wild. Could be an isolated thing, but as the expression goes, you can never can tell. Will check on the usual sources and see. Just wanted to caution you folk; if you have similar experiences, chime in please.

Blink May 20, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in iPods, Rants.
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Curious, this problem I now have with my 2nd generation iPod shuffle.

A couple of weeks ago it began to just blink back at me, yellow-orange-yellow-orange, instead of the comforting steady yellow it usually does when it’s playing my podcasts back at me on the train. Then after a bit of this, it shuts down, refusing me my daily MRT fix of Buzz Out Loud. At first I thought it needed to get charged, but even when I hooked it up overnight to the Powerbook, I got the same blink blink blink the next day. Uh-oh.

I restored it and reloaded the files, and it worked for about a couple of days, and then blink blink blink again. So I gamely did the restore routine once more, and it steadfastly refused to play. I thought it was some problem with the laptop, so I restored it on the desktop Mac, and while connected on both computers it seemed to work fine, unplugged it was blink blink blink. I did it several times over until I gave up for the meantime. I resorted to carrying the bigger 5th gen while I figured this one out.

Did I drop it somehow, crunch it underfoot? Did I leave it in the coin pocket of my jeans and let it go through the laundry? Did the dog ingest it and return it from the other end and the maids just cleaned it up and didn’t tell me? No, it had been just where it usually was – on my ID lanyard.

At the office, Clarissa Concio, Editor-in-Chief of our music magazine Burn told me her beloved iPod had gone bad too at around the same time, and she was afraid our iPods were exhibiting the Blink of Death, also known as Error 1418, which apparently had been happening a bit more often than was comfortable. This notorious problem, also known variously as Error 1415, Error 1417 and Error 1428, attacks any model iPod when upgrading to iTunes 7 or later. Even Apple seems dumbfounded, as evidenced by their page on the problem, and advises people to “attempt to restore your iPod.” Helpful.

What I did try out of desperation was restore the thing on the Thinkpad T43, effectively changing the nationality of my shuffle to Windows whether he liked it or not. Lo and behold, it started working again! So thinking the thorn, whatever it was, had been pulled from the paw, I went back and restored it again on the Mac.

Blink blink blink. No dice.

At least it isn’t a permanent hardware problem, I thought. Just some software snafu with iTunes. At the risk of driving the shuffle insane, I shifted it back to Windows, authorized the T43 on the iTunes Store, resubscribed all my podcasts (and even added a few) and resynced everything. I had no choice. Now it works fine, only it thinks it is a Windows iPod now, which essentially, for all intents and purposes, it is.

Poor thing.

iTunes Store Rants May 20, 2007

Posted by reverseengineer in iTunes, Rants, Services.
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Let’s get this out of the way first: I don’t hate the iTunes Store; in fact I love it. For instance, I love that you can buy tinge style, song by song, a Filipino quirk that even foreigners love. Which makes it all the more irritating that the niggles are even there – in comparison to the rest of entire service, the mistakes are glaring and magnified.

I’m just glad I can even purchase from it, although “purchase” is a big stretch. I do buy occasionally, but like most folk hereabouts, I’m mostly after the weekly freebies: songs, TV episodes, audiobooks, a game demo now and then, and of course the wealth of podcasts available on the site.

This isn’t to say they haven’t been working hard to make the site a good one. Some time ago they modified the downloading rules to allow you to get discounted rates if you purchase a complete album where you’ve previously bought individual tracks from. That’s one less on my list now.

What am I talking about?

1. I don’t like it that the Store doesn’t make any obvious and up-front distinction between audio and video content. I use a 2G iPod shuffle exclusively for audio podcasts, and I sometimes go fishing for new and interesting content when I get tired of my staples Buzz Out Loud, Filmspotting, TWIT, Cranky Geeks and so forth. It’s damned irritating to find something interesting, drill down the pages to get to it and discover at the end of it all that it’s a big fat vidcast, which makes it useless for my 1gb screenless shuffle. Can’t they just say so right off so I don’t waste my time?

2. The Top Songs and the other”Top” lists on the first page of the store don’t seem to really reflect the top anything, as in most popular or most purchased – it’s more like the newest additions and recommendations for the week. Eh?

3. The 30-sec previews seem to be selected automatically, without any intellectual intervention as to which 30-sec portion should be made available so you can make an informed choice whether to buy a song or not. Thus you sometimes end up with a 30-sec tuneless instrumental intro which cuts out just as the vocals start. Or maybe some boring random, out-of-context stanza rather than the catchy hook of the refrain. It’s just plain marketing common sense.

4. They don’t update or warn people that certain podcasts have died a natural death, i.e., the creators have disappeared from the face of the earth and there hasn’t been a new episode for months and months, yet they’re touted as subscribable still. I’d rather they’d just be archived and us told that it’s a dead end.

5. They nag you to death on iTunes if they see you haven’t listened to a podcast for a while, and automatically withhold downloading new episodes. Sometimes I just can’t get to the episodes because of work, and then when I do update, there are a half-dozen shows undownloaded and marked with an exclamation point. I have to deliberately activate the subscription again, and after I do it just starts to download the latest one, forcing me to click on each episode I’d missed one by one to get them. Argh.

6. The free tracks are only available for a week. Sometimes I forget, and they’re gone forever – at least as free tracks, making me feel bad. Hey, I’m OC that way.

7. There is officially no iTunes Store for my country. Still.

8. The search feature isn’t thorough and a bit wonky. There have been times I can’t find a track with the most basic and logical search argument, and I have to figure out alternate ways of looking for it.

9. I wish the games can be played in iTunes on your computer. Sometimes the small iPod screen gets to me.

10. I wish there was a way that when you delete the songs from a playlist, there is an option to delete it from the library for good at the same time. You have to muck around the lib to clean up stuff you don’t want anymore, and going through that massive pile is tough. While we’re on the topic, it would be great if the software was intelligent enough to root out duplicates right off at ripping time and keep you from wasting space with multiple copies of the same exact song. Wishful thinking, I know.

For all I know there are existing solutions to these niggles already, I just haven’t discovered them , or I’m too lamebrained or lazy to figure it out. If so, chime in and enlighten me, or add your own complaints to the list. Maybe Apple might take notice somehow and correct them, if not in Leopard, in the next iTunes update. It doesn’t cost anything to hope, right?