Monday, August 17, 2009

iPod Shuffle Won't Shuffle

I had an older model iPod Shuffle that I used for running. It started to get flaky and eventually died totally.

So I bought a new model, smaller and sleeker, and more memory.

But ... I listen to podcasts when I'm running, not music, and the new iPod Shuffle won't shuffle podcasts.

Even if it would sort by date I could live with it. But it sorts by source, and I don't want to listen to all the podcasts from one source all in a row.

And although I like the controls on the headphone wire, you have to double click to skip tracks and it is a frustratingly slow process to skip all the podcasts from one source just to get to the next source. Good luck if you want to find a particular podcast.

I started doing some research and I read that you could skip between playlists. Ok, I'll put each podcast source in a playlist and then I can skip through them. Except you can only put music in playlists, not podcasts, despite the fact that they're all just mp3 files.

Ok, I'll just move my podcasts over into my music section so I can put them in playlists. Except you can't. For some reason, iTunes goes to great lengths to prevent this. Even if you remove the file from iTunes and then try to import into the music section, it's too "smart" and puts them back in the podcast section. There are various work-arounds but I don't want to have to do this every time I get new podcasts.

Why stop you from shuffling podcasts? Sure, not everyone will want to shuffle, but that's no different than music. After all, the one and only control on the body of this iPod is whether to shuffle or not!

Why stop you from putting podcasts into playlists? Again, I can't think of any reason for blocking this.

It's probably a similar issue as with the K7 flaw - going overboard in trying to keep people on the correct path, refusing to accept that your (the designer's) idea of the "correct" path isn't necessarily the same as your users.

Judging from all the stuff on the web about this, it obviously annoys a lot of people. Come on Apple - listen to your users!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Pentax K7 Flaw (IMO)

I just traded in my Pentax K10D camera for the new Pentax K7. Overall I'm pretty happy with the upgrade, but there's one thing that really annoys me.

Both the K10D and the K7 have a "Green" mode where everything is automatic and many settings are ignored (forced to safe, default settings).

But in the K7, Green mode now forces saving the images as JPEG - RAW is not allowed.

I shoot in RAW 100% of the time - it gives me a lot more control over the final images, and using Lightroom (or Picasa) it's just as easy to handle RAW as JPEG - there are no extra steps or things to deal with.

This means I can't use Green mode on the K7. It's not the end of the world because "Program" mode can also be used fully automatically. You just have to be remember to put settings back to "normal" after changing them. On the K10D I'd use Program to do something different, but I could just flip back to Green mode without worrying about what settings I'd changed. I'd only have to worry about it when I went to Program mode. Now, staying in Program mode, I'll have to be more careful.

I'm sure Pentax had reasons for doing this, but I think they made the wrong decision. Beginners who can't deal with RAW are going to leave their camera set to JPEG. Anyone who is advanced enough to change their settings to RAW presumably did it deliberately (like me) and doesn't want it overridden by Green mode. Besides, given the cost of this camera, the market is not beginner newbies anyway.

It's a fine line between "protecting" users from shooting themselves in the foot, and being over-protective and stopping them from doing valid things. This time I think they went over the line.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tethering iPhone to MacBook

It was so nice out today, after a less than stellar summer so far, that I decided to take my laptop and go sit outside somewhere for coffee. The spot I picked (Pacific Gallery & Cafe) doesn't have wireless so it seemed like a good time to figure out how to tether my MacBook (13" unibody) to my iPhone (3Gs) for internet access.

It didn't turn out to be so easy. First you have to enable bluetooth on both devices (I hadn't brought a cable or that might have been an easier approach). Then you pair the devices. This went ok other than a little searching to find the appropriate settings.

But after pairing successfully, you're still not connected. Pulling down the bluetooth menu from the menu bar showed the iPhone but Connect to Network was grayed out (disabled). My network preferences showed a Bluetooth PAN (Personal Area Network) but it said the "cable" (!?) was disconnected. Not very helpful. In the Bluetooth preferences the tools menu (the "gear" at the bottom) had a Connect to Network that wasn't grayed out, but it also didn't seem to do anything.

If I picked the MacBook on the iPhone the Bluetooth preferences on the MacBook would switch to connected and then immediately switch back to unconnected.

Of course, I googled for the problem. A lot of the results were about how to get around AT&T not allowing tethering. But I was on Rogers (in Canada) and they supposedly do allow tethering.

Apart from the AT&T results, there seemed to be quite a few people with similar problems, but no real consensus on a solution. Some people claimed if you simultaneously hit connect on both the MacBook and the iPhone then it would work. It didn't for me. Some people suggested removing the bluetooth devices from both the MacBook and the iPhone and re-pairing. That didn't seem to help either.

Finally, one person said to restart the MacBook. That worked! I had to laugh because when people ask me about computer problems one of the first things I always suggest is to restart. But I don't expect to have to do that on Mac OS X.

The sad part is that even after I got it working it was too slow to be usable. I couldn't even bring up Gmail because it would time out. Pinging the name server was giving a response time of 4 seconds (4000 ms)! The iPhone was showing 5 bars and a 3G connection, but obviously I wasn't getting a good connection. Browsing on the iPhone was also very slow so it wasn't just the tethering.

I'll have to try it again when I've got a better 3G connection. I'm not sure if it's going to work easily in the future or not. Some of the people reporting problems had it working for a while and then it quit so I'm not totally optimistic. Maybe using a cable will be simpler. I wonder if the dedicated USB cell "modems" work better. (I would hope I'd be able to use my existing data plan?)

Friday, August 07, 2009

New Camera with Projector

Nikon | Imaging Products | COOLPIX S1000pj

I'm not sure it's something I'd use a lot, but having a projector built in to a camera is a cool feature.

Reading the fine print, the projector is only VGA resolution which is not too impressive.

If you were using the camera to record your whiteboard, it might be handy to be able to redisplay it with the projector.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Anatomy of a feature Anatomy of a feature

Interesting description of all the little details that are behind even the simplest feature, that most non-programmers have no idea of.


iPhone Competition

The Zii Egg looks like a pretty cool gadget.
  • touch screen
  • gps
  • vga camera for video conferencing
  • hd camera
  • wifi and bluetooth
  • sd card slot
  • hd video output
  • runs open source Google Android OS
So far it's not a phone, but that's probably coming.