Apple, Technology, Coding, and Me

Though I haven’t shared it with a lot of people, one of my long-term “goals” for a while has been to write an iPhone/iPad app. Finding time to work on it is the hardest part, between work, school, and life in general. However, it is not like things are ever going to get less hectic, so I just need to slowly make time to learn Objective C, Cocoa, and everything else I need to make a successful app.

I won’t be doing this myself (met someone else who is as big an Apple fan as me, haha), so we’ll be tackling it together. It’ll take a long while, and we still don’t have a complete picture of what the app will be, but that is still quite a bit away.

Relatedly, we will also be starting up a blog more devoted to tech based topics and issues. The whole iPhone 4 antenna topic has motivated me to research and write my opinion on technical topics, so this will be a way to hone our skills. Currently working on the layout and feel of things (at least for an initial release), I’ll let you know here when it is ready to go.

It is exciting (maybe the app we make is the next big hit), and being able to program is certainly not a bad skill to have in this day and age.

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AT&T and Unlimited Data

Well, as I am sure many of you have heard, AT&T has taken the step that all phone companies have been wanting to do for some time: removal of the unlimited 3G data plans. As usual, there is so much misinformation going around and people don’t bother to double-check your facts, so here is the most important point:

If you are a current iPhone user with the unlimited plan, you will not be forced into the new plans, even if you start a new 2-year contract.

As far as the tiered pricing goes ($15 for 250MB, $25 for 2GB), there are actually some plusses to it. Frankly, I could easily downgrade to the 2GB plan (my average monthly usage is about 800MB on the iPhone), but I’ll probably stick with the unlimited for the $5 difference. Also, this allows people who wanted an iPhone but didn’t want to pay $30 a month to reconsider. When I told my dad that he could get the the $15 plan, he immediately said he would be willing to get the iPhone. He’s just waiting for me to get the iPhone 4.0 so he can take my 3GS 🙂

What I do think is asinine is the new tethering option. You pay an additional $20 and you get no extra bandwidth?!? If AT&T had just made it so you get 5 additional GB with the tethering (so $45 per month for 7GB and the ability to tether), I think that would have made it an awesome deal.

By the way, all the people saying that they are going to leave AT&T because of this, I will just laugh when Verizon introduces the same thing. Trust me, it won’t take long.

As far as the 2GB with regards to the iPad, I am a little worried there. Most of my iPad surfing is at home, though if I decide to stream music and such while on travel, I can see that being used up. I’m torn as to whether to just keep my unlimited 3G plan and not cancel so I will be able to maintain it. Thoughts?

Apple iPad Review

Well, it has been exactly three weeks since I received my 64GB Wi-FI + 3G model.

BLUF: The iPad is an amazing piece of hardware that I would highly recommend. While your initial thoughts may be “why do I need this in my life and how will it benefit me”, once you start using it, everything just flows naturally.

Note: For the non-military folk, BLUF is Bottom Line Up Front

As a general note, I’m not going to harp on flash (I rarely use it except for Hulu, see below), and multitasking (which is slated to be released in Fall 2010).

Positives:

1) Screen – I know a common retort is “The iPad is just a big iPhone”, but that statement misses the point entirely. The extra screen real estate compared to the iPhone is game changing, and though it is hard to explain in words, everything you view on it looks sharp. It changes the way apps (and eventually web sites) will be able to display content to the user.

2) Applications – Apple isn’t stupid, and knew going in that most of what was not going to be pre-installed on the iPad could always be filled by the App Store. Netflix, ABC Player, AirVideo, GoodReader, NY Times (just to name a few) all provide added benefits to the iPad. The best part: the longer the iPad is out, the likelihood that even better apps will be released.

3) Portability – I travel a lot b/c of my career (approximately 25% of the time), and the iPad is a much more portable system than a laptop. Longer battery, faster startup, and a more convenient size (plus you don’t have to take it out of your carry bag for security) make it a more versatile piece of equipment. Also, it alleviates a common problem I have when travelling – I save my iPhone battery and don’t have to worry about running out while taking connecting flights that total a 9hr+ travel day.

As far as typing goes, it does take some getting used to, but in landscape mode, I can type at roughly 80% of my normal typing speed. However, I don’t plan on writing a 20pg test report on it ever. The keyboard is perfect for what you will be doing on the iPad 95% of the time.

And of course, what it does best is watching Netflix while lying on the bed/couch. 🙂

Negatives:

1) 3G – I purchased the $30 for unlimited data for 1 month to try it out, and I find it to be slightly faster than the 3G on the iPhone. However, on principle it bothers me that we have to pay an additional fee to use 3G when both devices are under the same company (AT&T). They should implement a system that allows you switch the 3G access between the two devices (maybe by exchanging SIM cards?) or through some alternative method. There are rumors of tethering being allowed with the iPhone OS 4.0, so maybe someone will come up with a clever solution for this?

2) Hulu – Probably the only thing I’d want flash for. If more television companies released apps like the ABC Player (which frankly is Hulu for ABC), then this really wouldn’t be a concern. There are lots of rumors that the Hulu app will be coming (and will include a subscription that will allow much more access). The open question is how much and what exactly will it provide me. If it could provide multiple seasons of shows, Netflix + Hulu would be an incredible combo.

Note: I wrote this whole post on the iPad 🙂

Apple Customer Service = The Best Ever

So, I had two important pieces of equipment near and dear to me have problems 😦

1) My battery on my MacBook Pro was dead. It wouldn’t hold any charge, effectively making it a desktop. I had forgotten to get the extended warranty on it, and the laptop is past the deadline (I purchased it back in Feb-March 2008)

2) My iPad (I’m not sure how I did it), had a pretty noticeable scratch in the middle of the screen. I was very very sad when I noticed it 😦

So I go ahead and make two appointments (one for the iPad, and one for the MacBook) at the Apple Store near my job. Given that the Apple warranty doesn’t cover cosmetic damage, coupled with the fact that my laptop was out of warranty, I mentally prepared myself to have to pay a good chunk of change ($130 for the battery, plus whatever it took to fix the screen).

When I arrive, I showed them my iPad and the crack. After inspecting it, the guy says he’ll see what he can do and goes to the back room for a few minutes. He returns with a new iPad (!!!) and while he reminds me that normally the warranty doesn’t cover it, they are giving me a break and exchanging it. Happy face 😀

With that done, I proceed to my next “appointment” with my MacBook Pro. They run their battery diagnostic test (which by the way, is pretty cool how they do it. They plug in an iPod with proprietary software which checks out the battery, connectors, internal parts, etc.). After confirmation that my battery was indeed dead, he went and provided me a battery free of charge, as well as a 1 year warranty on the new battery (!).

Apple could have (and definitely was entitled to) charge me for both services, and to be honest, I would have been fine paying it. However, I was impressed with how understanding and generous they were in approaching their customer’s problems. I guess buying an iMac, iPad, MacBook Pro, and all three generations of the iPhone helps out in the long run 🙂

Thanks Apple!

Update: For those with MacBooks, here is the site for optimal charging and maintenance.

First iPad Post

Well, I am blogging live from my iPad! I will be writing a full review in a couple of weeks, but I want to take it with me on TDY and try out the 3G first. So far, I love it 🙂 I have used Netflix more in the last few days than since I signed up 5 months ago. A lot of it has to do with the size of the iPad; it makes it such a great bed/couch companion.

Things are going well otherwise. I also need to post summaries of my last couple of classes (we have been focus on parables). I hope to have them up in the next couple of days.

If you have any questions about the iPad that you want me to answer, just post a comment!