August 26, 2007

Speck update

Word is that Speck might be shipping a new holster for their iPhone case that I had reviewed recently, if this is true, I should have the revised version in a few weeks, and will post more on this as I get it.

Posted by Jim at 11:24 PM | TrackBack

August 16, 2007

iPhone hacking, first steps

Since before the iPhone first shipped, folks have been eagerly waiting to get one in their hot little hands, and break it. To tear it apart, find out what makes it tick, and make it better. I'm sure that many of you have seen the articles here and there about folks installing new applications onto the phone, a Terminal, then later games like Tetris and Tic-Tac-Toe, and now an actual Nintendo emulator and a version of DOOM. This is where things are now starting to get interesting...

Compiling applications and installing them on the iPhone is not for the faint of heart, but thanks to the hard work of many folks, it is now getting easier for lesser folks to get in on the fun. iPhone Central recently published an article called The iPhone Hacking Kit, step by step, and it is a great guide for those wanting to get in on the action. Even with this guide, I still had a few issues, though, but I will walk you through them.

First, I can't say enough good things about the developers who got this all working, and are still working to make things better. And the MacWorld folks did a great job at compiling information from several sources and bundling up a download that's easy to get and easy to use. The issues I had following the directions were minor, but had unexpected consequences. Please take a moment to review their article, and then my comments below.

My first problem was with the setafc command, part of the iphuc software, which is used to set the AFC (Apple File Connection) being used to talk to the phone. Normally, the AFC is restricted to only letting iTunes sync its data to the phone, and only a limited number of directories can be accessed. After jailbreaking the phone, the setafc command listed in the article opens up the phone so that all directories can be accessed.

Anyway, apparently you need to make sure that the values returned eventually get to zero for each parameter returned, even if you get no error message. Repeat the command a few times, exit iphuc and then Terminal, and try again, restart the phone if you have to. It is important to get these values to zero. My first time through, I thought I had everything done right, but ended up stuck in a mode where I couldn't get to the full file structure, and ended up restoring the phone's software. I think that if I'd worked it a bit more, I'd have gotten it, but it was late and I just wanted to get back to a fresh starting point.

The next trick, when you get to doing the putfile commands, you do need to specify the full destination path and filename at the end. So, when copying files to /System/Library/LaunchDaemons, for example, make sure that you add the filename at the end that you're putting there.

I ended up using Stickies to copy/paste a command to get the structure, then duplicated this a few times and copied/pasted in the file/path names to make sure they were all right.

Later in the article, you do some scp commands to transfer files to the phone. This is not a command you enter while in iphuc, or while ssh'd to the phone. Open a new terminal window, and enter those commands here.

With those tips, you should be able to get through this easily, and you'll be well on your way to overloading your iPhone with fun new things to do.

Posted by Jim at 9:53 PM | TrackBack

Speck iPhone ToughSkin

I recently picked up a Speck ToughSkin case for my iPhone, there are a growing number of cases available now, and I just couldn't stand having the phone in my pocket one more day...

A trip to the local Apple store only turned up a few varieties, and after scouring a number of sites for information, decided to order the ToughSkin.

The case itself looks great, from the pictures and information I could find, the case seemed like it was made of a fairly hard rubber or plastic material, and I expected it to be fairly rigid. Actually, it's a fairly flexible rubber, but is thick enough to provide ample cushioning which, it turns out, is a good thing.

The holster for the phone is nice, overall, and has a clip that can be locked in place to act as a stand, so that the phone can stand on a desk in either landscape or portrait mode, so you can surf or watch a movie easily. In fact, the clip is the best, and worst, feature of the case...

What I do not like about the clip is its total lack of clippiness. The amount of tension keeping the clip closed is negligible, the lightest touch can open the clip, which means that the simple act of bumping the phone can cause the clip to open, and in some cases cause the phone to drop to the floor. In the week that I've been wearing this, my phone, clip holster and all, have dropped to the floor twice. But, thanks to the nice rubber enclosure, has survived nicely.

My phone also dropped a third time when it became separated from the holster. This was likely partly my own fault, for not having the phone pressed into the holster properly. There are two tabs on either side of the phone case that fit into openings on either side of the holster, if you aren't careful, and do not have both of these firmly seated, the phone can pop out rather easily.

If you have no interest in a holster, this is definitely a nice case, it is available in both black and clear, I bought the black one and I think it looks very sharp. And as long as you can be careful, the holster isn't that bad, but as I'm always on the go, this may not be the optimal holster for my needs.

Posted by Jim at 9:03 PM | TrackBack

iPhone hacking, fun!

OK, I've got a few entries that I hope to bang out later tonight, I've been having a lot of fun/frustration tweaking my iPhone, and after finally having some successes today, wanted to get some of it down to hopefully help others.

Also a review of the Speck ToughSkin case for iPhone.

Posted by Jim at 6:23 PM | TrackBack

August 7, 2007

APC Back-UPS ES USB 650

A bit late, thanks to some vacation time last month, but as promised here is my review of the APC Back-UPS ES USB 650.

I've got this unit sitting under my desk at work, my primary system there is an older PowerMac G4, and as I mentioned previously, we've had a bit of a thunderstorm problem this summer, and power had been dropping on a regular basis. Not great for productivity. I'm happy to say that with this little guy under the desk, my desktop didn't lose power once while I was on the road. But, this unit also has a dark side...

To put it mildly, the software sucks. Big time. Yes, in my original just having opened the box report, I did say I liked the software. I still would, if it actually worked as it is supposed to.

When I first powered everything up, the software reported that the unit had a bit over half a charge, after running for a while, this number creeped up to 100%, but the 'time remaining' until full charge, a month later, is still unknown.

The software installs into the Energy Saver panel, which is cool, and lets all the power management settings be set there. A nice bar graph showing the power level is also displayed, but unfortunately clicking in the bar graph will actually let you move the bar, which serves no purpose that I can tell, since it is supposed to be reading the charge on the battery. This, with the unknown time to full, basically means that I can't trust the numbers being reported, and I really have no idea how much power the battery has.

Options are available to shut down the computer after the UPS has been on battery power for up to 15 minutes, or shut down the computer when a certain amount of battery power remains. Since the software can't seem to read the battery properly, I've left these off.

As I noted in my first report, there does not appear to be a way to silence the audible alarms using the Mac software. Apparently, the Windows version can do this, but for some bizarre reason the Mac version wasn't written with this capability.

Of course, the Mac software team at APC seems to be out to lunch, the software available via their web site indicates that it will work with Mac OS X 10.3.9 thru 10.4.1, and is dated over two years ago. Silly me, wanting to run this under 10.4.10! A call to APC indicated that the software 'might' work with 10.4.5. Lovely.

I installed a system using 10.4.1, installed their software, and of course it didn't perform any better, or offer any additional features. Their support person I reached on the phone said that I should be able to control the audible alerts from the Mac, but info in their support forum confirmed my findings, that this isn't possible.

The hardware isn't bad, but the software stinks, if you happen to pick up one of these, avoid the software at all costs until APC updates is.

Posted by Jim at 11:48 PM | TrackBack