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#654: iPhone 3.0 Software Update, Google Voice, Repair of the Week

 
     
 

Happy Tuesday,

After a week of eighty degree temperatures and light wind in Key West, it’s surprisingly nice to be home, even if Mud Season is upon us. The valley floor is bare, the river is rushing, and Owen is back to his old self: rolling in the mud, swimming in the river, rolling in the mud, sleeping in the sun, swimming in the river. I’m tuning up my mountain bike, and am excited to get my annual March swim in the Mad River.

Apple today introduced iPhone OS 3.0, with a slew of new features including the popular shake-to-shuffle found on the latest nanos, multi-player game architecture via Bluetooth, and, perhaps best of all, cut and paste. Kali has more details below.

I hope you can make time for a vacation sooner than later. I encourage my employees to vacation in larger chunks instead of long weekends here and there, and I’m happy that Jon will be somewhere warm with his family next week.

Until then, enjoy this issue and keep in touch.

Matt
matt@smalldog.com

 
   
     
  iPhone 3.0 Software Announced Today  
   
 

At today’s iPhone 3.0 event in Cupertino, CA, Apple announced changes to the iPhone software and a new version of the Apple Developer Kit. Here’s a rundown of what we can expect:

For End-Users

  • Cut and Paste capabilities. To copy and select, users will double-tap (or tap and drag to select longer parts of text) and then paste. It will work between applications.
  • Spotlight searching.* Big news! Now you can search your Mail: To, From, Subject and Entire Message, just like in Apple Mail. Calendar, Notes and even iPod will support the search feature as well.
  • Landscape Orientation. All main applications will be able to support landscape orientation. Safari already features this, as well as many other third-party apps. (My husband will definitely appreciate this since he hates the small typepad!)
  • MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) support. Users will be able to send and receive photos, audio files and contact info. Plus, the new Messages application will be able to forward and delete messages (either individually or multiples) in addition to its MMS support.
  • Shake-to-Shuffle. Now, shaking your iPhone or iPod touch will shuffle your music—a key feature in the iPod nano and iPod shuffle.

Other features include automatic updating, networking/sharing between iPhones/iPod touches (see below), Parental Controls, YouTube enhancements and more. It’s also been reported that the iPhone also will be able to support new accessories, such as FM transmitters.

See Apple’s iPhone OS page here.
Read Apple’s press release here.

  • Available this summer (no further details at this time)
  • Free for iPhone users; $10 for iPod touch users

For Developers

  • More than 1,000 programming interfaces for the iPhone. That way, they’ll have more ways to create feature-rich applications for the App Store.
  • Peer to Peer Connectivity, This new framework allows any application to communicate between devices using Bluetooth. Gamers will be able to add a multi-player experience and others will be able to share data between devices.
  • Apple Push Notification service. Apple is now allowing third-party apps to utilize their “push” service—users will be alerted to new information even when the application isn’t running.
  • See the full list of features in the iPhone SDK here.

We’ll update with more info as soon as we hear it!

 
   
     
  Repair of the Week  
   
 

This week’s repair is on a dual-processor Power Mac G5. In its day, this particular model was Apple’s flagship desktop with dual 2.5GHz processors, up to 8GB of RAM and an optional video card that would drive a 30-inch Cinema Display. Part of the reason the G5 processor never made it past 2.7GHz was its heat output. Earlier Power Mac G5s relied on giant heatsinks and robust fans to cool themselves, but at the 2.5GHz level a more substantial liquid cooling system was used.

Earlier Power Mac G5s used two separate processor modules that could be replaced individually, but this model’s liquid cooling system incorporated both processors, a coolant pump, and an actual radiator not unlike that found in your car. Coupled with the powerful fans, this liquid cooling system was quite effective at keeping processor temperatures reasonable.

Unfortunately for this customer, a local school district using the machine as a PowerSchool server, the liquid cooling system began to leak. The machine presented with intermittent kernel panics and random shutdowns, and having seen similar symptoms from other liquid cooled G5s, I suspected a leak straight away.

After removing the aluminum side panel and clear lexan air deflector, I noticed coolant residue on the main logic board and a small, barely moist puddle under the processor module. Knowing that the repair cost would far exceed the real-world value of the machine, I used Apple’s support-for-certified-techs system to request coverage even though the machine was years out of warranty. They said yes, and the next day a replacement processor, logic board, and power supply were delivered.

Jon installed these components, but the machine wouldn’t power on. Re-tracing his steps and relying on intuition, he declared the parts dead on arrival. A new batch arrived the next day, and this time around the liquid cooling system was leaking into its shipping container! One more try brought another leaking processor.

At this point, our customer called Apple directly, explained the situation, and asked how she could most quickly get back up and running. The Apple rep happily offered a shiny, brand new, eight-core Mac Pro. Two days later, the Mac Pro was safely in our server room (we offer co-location services) hosting the PowerSchool system for our local school district.

 
   
     
  Google's Latest: Google Voice (Formerly Grand Central)  
   
 

The latest in Google’s quest for world domination is a product called Google Voice. As with most of Google’s offerings, it’s free and solves a problem most people don’t even know they have.

Most of us have at least two phone numbers—a home phone and a cell phone. Some of us have a few work numbers, a second cell phone, and several lines at home. If your mother doesn’t know where you are and needs to say hello at that very instant, she can dial your Google Voice number, which in turn will ring each and every one of your phones at the same time.

If you’re in a meeting with only your iPhone, and silence mother’s call, she can leave you a voice message at your Google Voice mailbox. Since you’re in a meeting, but want to know what Mom called about, you can use your iPhone or laptop to check that voice mail. Sure, the voice message will be relayed to you as a sound file, but Google Voice goes one step further by actually transcribing the message. We can’t listen to voice messages in meetings, but we sure can check our email! Don’t want your voicemail delivered to your email? Have it transcribed and sent as an SMS message instead.

Of course, speech to text is tricky stuff. By far the best product I’ve used is MacSpeech’s Dictate software. I saw demonstrations of this in the middle of the Moscone Center at Macworld last year, and was amazed at the accuracy even amidst the loud bustle of a convention hall floor. However, it does require some significant training time (that is, you must train the software with your voice, and correct its mistakes for it to get better). Google’s speech-to-text technology has a low quality phone stream to work with, but requires no initial training, only correction to make it better.

I’d hate to be a big telecom firm in Google’s way, because Google Voice offers completely free domestic calling, with no annual or hidden fees whatsoever. International calls are mostly a few cents per minute.

The only downside is that Google Voice is available only to the members of a service once called Grand Central while it is in its earliest phase. Soon, though, it will be open to the public–with an invitation system similar to that used in the Gmail introduction.

Image credit: en.wikimedia.org

 
   
     
  From the Archives: Creating an Encrypted Disk Image  
   
 

Originally featured in Tech Tails #327, 8/15/06

I brought my PowerBook with me to New York City. When I travel with a computer, I am very careful about making sure important data is hidden away, and in some cases even encrypted. This is to protect my personal data in case the PowerBook is lost or stolen, or even if someone tried to access my computer over an unprotected public Wi-Fi network.

First, I’ve created a unique user on my computer, simply called “travel.” I only log in as this user while traveling. This user does not have access to the same Address Book, IMAP and POP email, documents folder or even iPhoto library as my regular log in. The user “travel” has it’s own password assigned to it.

If a thief has physical access to a Mac, it is fairly easy for them to get around the computer’s password. However, it would be almost impossible for the thief to open a password-protected, encrypted disk image, especially if you have selected a difficult password.

When I have folders I want to lock up as encrypted disk-images, I often use a program called Knox. Knox locks data into secure, password-protected disk images. It’s a great, easy to use program that I continue to recommend.
However, it’s possible to make a secure disk image without third party software—Disk Utility, which is part of OS X, can do this for you. I used OS 10.4 for this article; it should work just the same for 10.3 and even 10.2.

To make an encrypted, password-protected disk image, browse to the Disk Utility program, which by default is stored in the Utilities Folder. The Utilities Folder is typically found in the Applications Folder. Launch Disk Utility and select File> New> Disk Image From Folder. Browse to the folder you want to encrypt. A dialog box will come up, asking you to name the disk image you are about to create. At the bottom of the dialog box are two drop-down tabs. Select the “Encryption” tab and choose “AES-128 encryption.”

This is a very robust and fairly flexible encryption scheme. It allows passwords up to 255 characters. It is important to note that, if you forget your password, all data stored in the disk image will be forever locked up.

Name this Disk Image and select “Save As.”

Disk Utility will create the encrypted disk image, and typically will leave the new encrypted disk image on your desktop. When you try and open the disk image, a window will pop up, asking you for your password (unless you have saved the password to your keychain, in which case the image will just pop open.)
This method quickly creates password-protected disk images, but you can’t go back later and add new items to the disk image. Also, as far as I know, you can’t later go back and change the password on an encrypted disk image.

 
   
     
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