iOS 4.x = sloPhone 3G

Snail

iOS 4.x on the iPhone 3G

Every so often I have one of those dreams… you know the ones. You’re somewhere and you’re running, but for some reason you’re getting nowhere. It’s like you’re running in slow-motion or you’re waist-deep in treacle and hardly moving. You feel helpless. Eventually you wake up and if you remembered the dream you breathe a sigh of relief that everything is back to normal… until you go to use your recently ‘upgraded’ iPhone 3G that is.

You see I read about iOS 4.0 and all it’s neat new features and thought… well it can’t hurt to upgrade my two year old iPhone 3G. I mean Apple are really on top of their game when it comes to hardware and the operating system so what’s the worst that could happen?

Well, iOS 4.0 was duly installed and now my iPhone 3G is living that dream! It has made the phone so slow it’s no longer pleasant to use. Everything about it is slower, some things by a significant amount, for example:

  1. The phone now takes at least three minutes to power on.
  2. The whole interface ‘stutters’ when flicking from screen to screen, or re-arranging icons.
  3. Tapping on the ‘Messages’ icon now results in a blank white screen for around ten seconds before the list of SMS conversations appears. (Previously it was instant).
  4. Text input is much less responsive with about one in eight characters not even registering. The result is a lot of blank spaces which you then have to go back and correct (this never happened before).
  5. Most applications take two or three times as long to load, and when tapping on the camera icon it’s a good ten seconds before the ‘virtual shutter’ opens.
  6. Sometimes when taking a photo, the ‘shutter’ closes and then reopens but the photo isn’t saved.

Why even tonight I downloaded and installed iOS 4.0.1 in the vain hope it might make a difference, but all it has done is knock a couple of bars off my signal strength indicator so now I see just one bar on the O2 network in my house (where I previously used to see four or five bars).

So what about the benefits of iOS 4.x for us 3G users? Surely there are some plus points to offset this lardy performance? Well:

  1. I’ve discovered that folders are a ‘nice to have’ but hardly essential. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have a huge number of applications anyway, so the benefit is limited.
  2. Unified inbox – now that is worthwhile. I can now check my mail in one place instead of four, but it’s not worth the trade-off in speed.
  3. The camera zoom facility is more of a novelty that anything else. Given that it’s digital zoom, I don’t see the benefit of zooming when the photo is taken, rather than zooming in with a gesture when you’re looking at it afterwards?

Beyond that I haven’t really seen much benefit in going with the 4th generation iOS software on the iPhone 3G. What’s more this isn’t my phone being old and cranky or getting ‘full’, seeing as immediately prior to the first iOS 4.0 upgrade it was still pretty sprightly. Furthermore, friends of mine who also own the 3G and who have upgraded, have also complained about subsequent lack-lustre performance. Of course it would be nice to be able to downgrade the phone back to iOS 3.1.3 but apparently this isn’t a supported option according to Apple, and while Apple Store staff and even tech support acknowledge the problem, there is no ‘official’ line from Apple on these problems.

So what can one do? Well as it happens… not a lot. If you search the web for solutions there are a few, but these seem to require jail-breaking the phone and there’s no guarantee you won’t just brick your phone for good! You could ring tech support but all you’ll get is a shoulder to cry on and perhaps a bit of sympathy. But there is one glimmer of hope. I am assured that Apple do read the feedback they’re sent, so I have posted this missive to them over at:

http://www.apple.com/feedback/iphone.html

…here’s hoping that they are taking notice and will do something about it quickly. If you’re having similar problems and your iPhone 3G is in the ‘slo-mo’ dream, then help the cause by leaving your feedback at the above link.

And if by some chance you haven’t upgraded your iPhone 3G to iOS 4.0 or 4.01. yet, then my recommendations is…. DON’T !!

Apple - iPhone - Feedback - Thank You

Here's hoping...

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Happy New Year!

Well the last three months got pretty hectic both in and out of work which didn’t leave much time for keeping Macbitz up to date. Nevertheless the Mac world moves on and there’s new Mac hardware and software that I’ve purchased and can bore you all to tears with! I will try and get around to writing up more detailed thoughts and reviews in the coming months, but here’s what I’ve been buying (or had bought for me)…

  • A new Panasonic TX-L32V10B 32″ TV. It’s full HD (1080p and 24fps), has an ethernet port in the back but more importantly has a PC socket on the back. What better than to plug my Mac Mini into it!
  • An Apple Airport Express which is daisy-chained off my Airport Extreme upstairs in the study so that I can extend the network downstairs.
  • A Sony PS3 Slim that can talk to my Mac Pro via a couple of bits of software.
  • A copy of Blue Harvest that helped me with a problem with a BMW 120d !? Yes that’s a BMW car/automobile (depending on where you live).
  • Socialite – a great client for pulling your social networks (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and other feeds together.
  • Busy Cal and Spanning Sync for lots of juicy calendar goodness. That’s seamless calendaring between the Mac, Google and my iPhone with a bit of Entourage thrown in for good measure.
  • Songbird is helping to remove some of the frustrations of iTunes. Plus BeaTunes and Song Sergeant have been doing sterling service.
  • I’m having fun with a Canon DMC FZ28 camera and a copy of PhotoShop Elements 8 for the Mac.
  • Yep is helping me organize all those paper documents I scanned using my ScanSnap S300M.
  • Some neat iPhone apps that I actually use.

There’s bound to be other stuff that I’ve forgotten for now, but will dig out and scribble about on MacBitz in the coming weeks and months. So a Happy New Year to everyone and may your ‘twenty ten’ be a good one.  PS – I didn’t even mention the rumoured Apple Tablet once…. doh, I just did!

Uninstallers – Three for your consideration

I’ve never been great at reviewing software. I could argue that it’s because I’m highly focused and just use the features I need. Alternatively I could just admit that I lack the mental discipline to methodically check every feature to see how it stacks up. In any case, I made a bit more of an effort when it came to looking at uninstallers, primarily because I like trying out software on the Mac and with a good 75-80% of things I try getting trashed for whatever reason, I needed something that would do a thorough job.

AppZapper

AppZapper

So I plumped for three candidates. AppZapper was one of the first applications I bought for the Mac and has been a long time favourite. However, CleanApp caught my eye one day as being a bit more feature rich and I decided to give it a go with interesting results. Finally I thought I’d add AppCleaner to the mix, mainly because it’s a free alternative to the other two.

All three go about letting you choose apps to uninstall in a similar way. Either you drop your victim on to the application’s “pad” or you choose it from a list of apps the uninstaller knows about. This is where the first differences appear in that when you launch CleanApp it quickly builds a list of apps and presents it to you by default, while the other two open in ‘drag n drop’ mode and need to be asked to show a list of known apps. What is also interesting is that on my system, both CleanApp and AppCleaner built their lists in seconds, while hitting the ‘Genie’ button in AppZapper resulted in some furious disk activity for around ten minutes before I was shown the results. Now as you’d expect, each program gave a different figure for the total number of apps it thought I had installed, and this may be (in part) down to how each categorizes what it finds, but the program giving me the highest total of removeable items was CleanApp (269), then AppCleaner (236) and finally AppZapper (231).

Now I briefly mentioned categories and by that I mean the types of things you can install on your Mac. Obviously there’s the traditional apps that go in your

AppCleaner

AppCleaner

Applications folder (or wherever you choose), but there’s also Preference Panes, Screensavers, Plug-ins, Widgets, etc., and each uninstaller will let you get at these to varying degrees. AppCleaner shows me everything in the Applications folder (including subfolders like Utilities) under the heading of Applications. It also has a separate button for Widgets and finally a button labelled Other for everything else which listed plug-ins, contextual menu items and the like. CleanApp on the other hand considers everything as either an Application or a Preference Pane. In the case of applications it’s anything with the extension .app wherever it happens to reside on your system (although you can chose to exclude folders from the search). Under Preference Panes, CleanApp listed 3rd party preference panes as well as 3rd party widgets, 3rd party screensavers and 3rd party plug-ins like the Evernote web clipper, Flip4Mac etc. The fact that only 3rd party items are listed here is interesting because you’d think it means that standard Apple items are safe, however I found that Apple applications like iTunes, iPhoto and even Disk Utility are also listed as uninstallable applications by CleanApp. Whether or not that’s a good thing I’m not sure, but both AppZapper and AppCleaner offer some sanity checking by not displaying standard Apple applications by default (although you can change that setting in AppZapper), plus they both let you specify other (3rd party) applications to protect via their preferences settings.

CleanApp

CleanApp

Now it’s about time we got down to the main purpose of these three programs and that’s removing unwanted apps and extras from your system. My first test was to uninstall Thunderbird which I’d been trying out for a week. Both AppZapper and AppCleaner said they would delete two files – however CleanApp found a third Library file relating to Thunderbird that the other two didn’t spot. Ok, how about a bigger program like Aperture? CleanApp announced it had found 18 files and 3 folders that needed removing. AppCleaner found 6 files and 2 folders, while AppZapper flagged 6 files and 1 folder for removal. You’d think that for sheer thouroughness, CleanApp is the clear winner here. However, examining the list of items to delete revealed some very interesting results. I use Aperture in conjunction with iPhoto, so even though Aperture has it’s own separate library for storing photos, I can directly access my iPhoto library from within Aperture. What this means is that CleanApp listed my iPhoto library (all 14.1Gb of it!) as one of the files it could remove when uninstalling Aperture, which would of course have been disastrous! This happens because of a feature of CleanApp which is a background process tht watches how applications work – i.e. what files they interact with. So it correctly spotted that Aperture was indeed accessing my iPhoto library and thus offered it up as a candidate for removal. This is where a utility like CleanApp needs caution because in the right hands it’ll seek out the stuff that the other two miss, but in the wrong hands it can and will take away files you’d really rather keep and that may even be necessary for your system to run properly so care is needed.

What would be nice is if CleanApp had a ‘Protect this application’ feature (like the other two do). That way I could tell CleanApp that I want to protect iPhoto, then if I go to uninstall Aperture, CleanApp would alert me to the fact that certain files used by Aperture are also used by iPhoto to help prevent me from mistakenly removing files that iPhoto needs. Sure you can un-check what files to delete once CleanApp has done its assessment, but often files can have obscure names you might not spot as needed by other apps and a helping hand to prevent human error wouldn’t go amiss. CleanApp does go some way to mitigate the problem by offering an Archive facility, so rather than deleting files (which can be done via the Trash to offer a small degree of protection) for apps you want to uninstall, it can archive them to a bespoke CleanApp archive file (with the .caa extension). The selected files are then taken out of service so to speak, but can then be reinstated later via the Archive function. It’s not ideal because it still leaves you to find out the hard way if you’ve removed something needed by another app, but it is better than nothing. I tried this out by going to uninstall Plex (which doesn’t share files from any other application from what I can tell) and then using the Archive option rather than the delete option. A day later and after powering off my Mac over night for good measure, I fired up CleanApp and recovered Plex from its Archive (CleanApp recovers the files to their original locations). I then launched Plex and while I didn’t test every single aspect of the program, what features I did try worked just fine.

A trio of uninstallers

A trio of uninstallers

There are other differences too. I installed six 3rd party screensavers and then had a look to see what my uninstallers made of them. CleanApp only found two of them, because by default it only looked in my Users/<username>/Library/Screen Savers/ folder, whereas four of the screensavers just happened to have installed themselves into the system /Library/Screen Savers/ folder where any user could use them. Yes you can change this behaviour in the CleanApp preferences by adding the relevant paths to search under the Paths tab, but it again emphasizes the fact that you need a bit of knowledge to get the best out of this utility. Both AppZapper and CleanApp found all six by default, and that’s pretty much the theme for uninstalling things using these three tools – AppZapper and AppCleaner will do a lot by default while CleanApp gives you more power but you need to exercise more control.

The final thing is logging or history, and all three will keep a history of what you’ve removed whether you access the logs via a menu item or directly within the application itself. Unfortunately neither AppZapper nor AppCleaner offers an undo facility, although CleanApp does provide this by way of its Archive facility as I mentioned earlier. There’s another app out there that will ‘archive’ applications for you and let you reinstate them later on, although the name of it escapes me at the moment.

As far as features go, that’s about where it ends for AppZapper and AppCleaner, but CleanApp offers a few more things, namely – Old Files, Archives, Languages and Cache Files. Old Files will list files under your home folder (Users/<username>/) that haven’t been accessed for over a month and is a handy way to see what junk you may have forgotten about that you can then delete directly from the list. The list is helpful in that it tells you where the file is, when you last accessed it and how much space it’s taking up.

As I mentioned above, Archives lets you reinstate uninstalled apps that you chose to archive rather than delete. You can also permanently delete archive files from here if you’re sure you no longer want the app and your system is running fine, or you can burn the archives to CD/DVD from within CleanApp itself. I’m not sure if there’s an option to re-import CleanApp archives into the program, but if there is then it’s escaped me for now. Languages looks like it lets you search for language localization files, e.g. for languages you’ll never use so that you can delete them and recover space, but it’s not something I’ve needed to do. Finally the CacheFiles feature lists everything in your Users/<username>/Library/Caches folder giving you a handy way to look for cache files to clear out, for example from apps you uninstalled before you had CleanApp.

There you have it, my potted view of three application uninstallers. So the first question is – are they really necessary? Well that all depends on your point of view and how you use your Mac. If like me you are constantly experimenting with new bits of software, then these are a great way to keep your Mac free of junk files that would otherwise take up space and potentially slow your Mac down. If however you are like some people I know who have only ever installed iWork or Microsoft Office (oh and of course World of Goo!) since getting their Mac, then I guess you probably don’t have the need. That then leads me on to – which one is best?

Well if you’re reasonably non-technical and want to just keep things a little tidier then there’s not much to separate AppZapper and AppCleaner other than the price. AppCleaner is free and will do a reasonably good job so I guess that edges it over AppZapper, but then there’s nothing like the “ZAP!” sound-effect you get when you use AppZapper to purge that useless app with attitude. However for the power user I’d say CleanApp wins for it’s range of features and more ‘thorough’ cleaning, although as I’ve mentioned it can be a double-edged sword and you really need to exercise some caution when using it. Also, I have seen mention of some users complaining that the background scanning process in AppCleaner can slow your Mac down and/or prevent it from sleeping. This isn’t something I’ve noticed, but then it’s only fair to mention it.

Which one shall I keep on my system? Well I’ve paid for both CleanApp and AppZapper so I’ll keep both for now and will compare results when I next come to uninstall apps over the coming months. If it wasn’t for AppZapper there would be a space for AppCleaner on my system too, but if you’re after a free and capable uninstaller then AppCleaner is vastly superior to just dragging your app to the Trash bin. The other thing is that these aren’t the only Mac uninstallers out there. Hazel springs to mind as a program that not only helps you organize files, but also includes an app uninstall feature. There are more and if you have a favourite then mention it in the comments. It’ll keep us all busy until Apple decides to include an uninstaller in a future version of OS X, and even if that happens (you can’t predict anything with Apple), there will be companies offering alternatives.

Finally I would add that although AppCleaner is a handy little app that’s free to download and use, you can make a donation to the author and if you do decide to keep and use it, then I’m sure he’d love it if you sent a few dollars his way!

Pandora Radio… In the UK… On a Mac (sort of)

picture-1I was a big fan of Pandora Radio when it started out. Both before and since I have tried music recommendation systems, including the new iTunes Genius, but I never found one that seemed to hit the mark better than Pandora. There was something about the way they analyzed the music (something they referred to as the Genome project) that made their recommendations very good – certainly in my case. and in the space of a year I must have bought about 12 CDs based on new music I heard on Pandora.

In their infinite wisdom, the various record labels and authorities decided that allowing me to listen to a radio station in the States given that I live in the UK, was a somehow damaging their profits and the sad day eventually came when I got the Pandora email saying they had been obliged to block listeners from anywhere outside the US. Go figure! So I put up with it and went on my merry way, but every so often I’d see a story about Pandora and I eventually started to miss discovering new artists so I set about looking for a way to solve my problem.

picture-2
In essence the trick was to access Pandora via a service that would disguise my ‘UK’ IP address and make it appear as though I was just another user in the States. Trouble is, many of the services that do this either require some sort of monthly subscription or require you to download and install fairly invasive software. I did try a few in the latter category, including Firefox add-ons, but most didn’t work either relaibly or at all with Pandora. I eventually discovered HotSpot Shield and before long I was enjoying Pandora again.

Now HotSpot Shield falls into the category of ‘free’ installed software. You download a small client package (PC/Mac) which you install and there it sits doing absolutely nothing – until you need it, which is exactly what I wanted as I didn’t want my everyday browsing interfered with. I tried out the Mac version and it worked well enough, but given my lack of familiarity with OS X I eventually plumped for running the Windows version inside a small VMware Fusion session. So I set up a minimal Windows XP virtual machine 512Mb, single processor, and as small a hard disk as I could manage, patched it with the thousands of XP fixes you need then installed HotSpot Shield and that was it. Now every time I want to listen to Pandora I just fire up Fusion, load the little VM, load IE7 go to Pandora and I’m away. HotSpot Shield make their money by placing a small add in a frame at the top of your browser window. It’s fairly unobtrusive plus you have the option to close it anyway.

So, I’m happily listening to Pandora and discovering and buying new music again. What could be better? Maybe the record labels seeing sense and removing this daft restriction?!

My (all things Apple) wish list

While I ponder whether or not the Logitech QuickCam Vision Pro was such a good purchase, I thought I might bore the world with my Apple/Mac wish list. So here (in no particular order) are the things I wish were different in my Mac-esque world:

  1. A Logitech webcam with a microphone that supports OS X Speech Recognition.
  2. A ‘watch folder(s)’ feature in iTunes.
  3. Better (more intelligent) integration of OS X ‘Spaces’ on dual-monitor setups.
  4. An iPhone with a user-changeable battery.
  5. iPhones available on any UK network.
  6. An AT&T client for OS X.
  7. A choice of reasonably priced USB/Firewire add-in cards for the Mac Pro.
  8. A second CPU upgrade option for Mac Pro users with (only) one 4-core processor.
  9. A Mac Mini with easily upgradeable RAM and that supports more than 2Gb.
  10. A Blu-Ray DVD upgrade for the Mac Pro.
  11. An end to the $1 = £1 exchange rate on technology products (OK, maybe I pushed the scope of this list a little bit).
  12. Outlook to MobileMe syncing in Windows, WITHOUT having to install iTunes.
  13. Colour-coded categories in iCal.
  14. Better control of Time Machine built-in to OS X (I know you can get 3rd party add-ons, but this really should be built-in).
  15. Better login support for mapping SMB shares, not this Login Items bodge.
  16. A proper tree view in Finder. (I use Mac Rage, but it’s not ideal).
  17. A two or even three button mouse made by Apple!
  18. An Apple wireless keyboard with the same key layout as the wired one.
  19. At least one eSATA port on the Mac Pro.
  20. And finally (for now)… an Apple PVR/Blu-Ray DVD Recorder that supports DiVX, mp3, DVBT, FreeSat, has HDMI 1.3a, etc., etc., …and the bank balance to buy such a monster!

A heart felt plea to Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

I enjoy using my Apple products as much as the next man, and (shock, horror) I also own and use products that have nothing to do with Apple. So why does Apple insist on tainting the experience by forcing me to do things I don’t want to?

Now Steve, I know you are rich beyond most people’s wildest expectations, and I expect that with that

Solar-powered pith helmet

Solar-powered pith helmet

wealth comes certain benefits like not having to do things you don’t want to. But spare a thought fo the guy on the street, the guy who filled your pockets with those iDollars. I mean how would you feel if your spectacles came with a pith helmet, complete with mini-fan, that you were obliged to wear every time you put your spectacles on? And how about those rollneck sweaters that have become your trademark? What if the people who supplied those insisted that you wear a jetpack on your back when wearing your sweater?

Well now you start to understand what it feels like to be an Apple customer.

Yes I use a Mac Pro and I’m very happy with it. Just so happens I also run VMWare Fusion on it so I can fire up MS Outlook every so often, and sure enough as a MobileMe account holder, I’d like yo sync my iCal calendar across to Outlook. But you won’t let me, not unless I install iTunes 8 in Windows aswell – not because it’s necessary, but because it’s another opportunity to get iTunes installed on another computer.

And while we’re on the subject of iTunes – believe it or not I do buy music online from other sources, but iTunes doesn’t seem to want to acknowledge that and won’t give me the ‘watched folders’ facility that practically every other music management software on the planet has.

And how about that iPhone battery? What are my chances of being able to buy a reasonably priced replacement from you and replace it myself? No you’d rather I send it back to Apple through some expensive repair cycle.

I could also mention Mac Mini memory upgrades, and ask why you had to make it so difficult when most computers these days let you do this task in a minute or so?  Or why you’ve chosen to not make a second CPU upgrade available for Mac Pro users who went for the single 4-core option initially?

We could go on, but you get the picture. So why this nasty side? Are things so tight that you’ve got to hold every customer upside down and shake them by the ankles until every last penny falls from their pockets? Surely not. You know you could go down in history as the first ever CEO to do something – invite your customers to tell you in a hundred words or less, what it is that annoys them about Apple and Apple products. Then do something about it. Not these ‘customer feedback’ forms dotted around the Apple website that we’re assured get read, but we suspect just get filed in the bin.

Come on. You’d be happy, your customers would be happy and my life would amount to more than a dash between two dates on a gravestone.

It doesn’t take a Genius

One of the rumoured new features in iTunes 8 is the Genius which according to Kevin Rose’s blog “makes playlists from songs in your library that go great together“. That got me thinking… how will it achieve that?

I can see it working in one of two ways. Firstly there’s the algorithm method – some clever coding akin to what they do with Pandora or in applications like (the name escapes me right now). For that to be the case, Apple’s developers would have had to have done a lot of research or have bought out a company that already does it. Can’t say I’ve seen anything like that in the news.

The other method is the for iTunes to track what you listen to and then make recommendations based on what other iTunes users who listened to the same track, then chose to listen to. The second method, which I suspect is more likely, means iTunes phones home every time you listen to a track and Apple then builds a ‘Who Likes What’ database from which it’s recommendations are made.

I’ve never had much joy with services that use the second method, much prefering the way Pandora does it, but it will be interesting to see what Apple comes up with. Sadly I still don’t think a ‘Watch Folders’ feature will make it into iTunes 8 which speaks volumes about Apple’s attitude to it’s users.