Now that a new version of MacOSX is coming, I have to wonder whether I want to upgrade again. This is unfortunately just a theoretical question as I’m still on PowerPC and I was left behind on Leopard. I use this article by Alex Layne (hmm Leene?) as a guidance to have a look at Lion.
Mission Control / Exposé - I am a big user of Exposé, so I would probably like the subtle changes in Lion.
Mission Control / Dashboard - I use it everyday to check the weather, the activity browser or access the dictionary, but that is it. I never add new widgets. So the addition to Mission Control is not a big deal for me.
MissionControl / Spaces - another feature that I use a lot. I do not get the impression that the changes impact my usage.
MissionControl Launchpad - I do not see that I will use this. Normally I start apps through the Dock or through Spotlight. If I do not remember the name of an app I descend into Finder. Here Launchpad could be a replacement. It reminds me as Finder with an icon view. I guess it comes all down to gesture support, which I do not have anyway.
I do not see how the integration into Mission Control works out. Just a question of gestures as well?
Autosave, versions - sounds like a very interesting development. There were already some applications (Sandvox comes to mind) that had this idea implemented and I liked that.
Resume - sounds like a good idea as well. An application like Omniweb had this already.
All in all this does not sound like an impressive update. The OS just evolves slowly. I will keep up, but I am not under pressure to update.
I restarted my activity learing iOS. I bought the book “Beginning iPhone 3 development” by Dave Mark and Jeff LaMarche. This is much easier to follow than the CS193 course. I might pick-up that course once I got some more experience. Current book is mainly geared towards learning the interface libraries for iOS (iPhone). And I miss the library changes for the iPad.
I follow the corresponding forum for the book and created a FAQ for each chapter. So I can more easily see what kind of changes and suggestions have been made.
I am now at Chapter 9, so I am progressing well. Every day I work for several hours. Still some pages to go.
I already notice however that I miss some Objective-C basics. So I might also get a more basic book, before I start on my won project.
After trying several financial applications, I realised that I should formulate my requirements more formally. Several applications seemed to fit my needs, but failed after using them for a while. So with this post I will define my requirements. I might edit this post when I get more details.
One of the first experiments is to seen what can be done with the camera through the WebCam Monitor application. The application allows you to record audio and/or video through the menu-bar of the application Also the size of the video can be set in the menu (full, half, quarter size). This menu must also be used to record the video. My settings here are to disable audio and to use full size.
An addition there is a preferences window with multiple sub-screens.
The first screen is the Adjustments-screen, which allows to change the hue, saturation, brightness, contrast and sharpness. The problem is to know what these sliders do as there is no documentation. Normally hue and saturation refer to colors on a color wheel. I would not want to fiddle with these settings and take what I get as raw input. Brightness is related to the amount of white versus black. As I want to detect weak object, a large brightness seems logic without overexposing the image. I guess that contrast relates to the difference between dark and light. This seems import to see the weaker objects. I am not sure what sharpness exactly is. It gives the impression of smoothing over multiple pixels. I guess I have to experiment with these sliders to see what they do exactly and what are my best settings. I have the impression that this screen relates to the software of the WebCam Monitor application.
The second screen is the Compression screen. For some reason this screen a bit damaged. I might have to do a reinstall.
This screen seems to relate to the output. Whether the video is compressed and how. In fact I do not want any compression and I need only a few frames per second.
The third screen is called the SN9C102 screen, so I guess this is the interface with the chip itself.
This seems to be the more interesting screen, but still it is unclear what it does. Gamma is about the color, but what is the best setting? Exposure time sounds interesting, but what does it do in context to movie frames. Anyway more seems better. White Balance must be set thuis that there is no difference between colors. Gain must be low for bright objects and high for weak objects. The video format chosen will be close to native, thus CIF (352x288). I have also the possibility to chose VGA or Mpeg, but I rather take the most raw data. I do not know what Flicker frequency does. Rotate 180 is checked as the telescope creates upside-down images.
The SN9C102 Digital Zoom setting is simple. I do not want any.
Finally there is the sources screen. I set this one to the TAS5110D WebCam/Camera setting. The macam #0 does not seem to work.
In conclusion there are many unknowns and I must experiment. I would like to find a way to calibrate things.
The first thing for astrophotography is to have a detector. Naturally it is now possible to buy all kinds of official detectors, even for amateurs. It is however more interesting to do some experiments yourself with off the shelf webcams. So that is what I will try to do at first. And maybe I can find some interesting webcams on a local garage sale.
I have as additional stumbling block that the webcam must work together with my Mac. And that means that I not only can see the images, but that there is an application that can tweek the webcam.
I have three webcams around: the a Logitech QCVC-USB-1 (QuickCam VC), a Trust (can not find it) and an Macally IceCam. I never managed to get the Trust one working and the Logitech webcam stopped working after my transition to MacOSX. For Trust and my Logitech there are no official drivers. There are two driver sites for MacOSX available: macam and ioxperts. The macam-driver does result in an image with the QuickCam, but nothing can be recognized. I think it some digitisation issue.
So that leaves me with the IceCam by Macally. This camera is recognized by MacOSX as Product ID:0x6007 and Vendor ID:0x0c45 (Sonix Technology Co., Ltd.). According to the website it is a CMOS camera with a resolution of 352x288, so some 100k pixels. And it takes movies up to 30 fps in CIF.
The Icecam comes with an application called Webcam Monitor (version unclear, latest update 2/16/2008). This application says that it is connected with a TAS5110D webcam created by Taiwan Advanced Sensor. And I gather that this is the CMOS-chip itself. This one is connected to an USB-controller called SN9C101 created by Sonix. Unfortunately I can not find any datasheet on the sensor and the manual does not offer more info. I would like to know the sensitivity and the dimensions of the pixels. Similar detectors have sizes of 2,6 by 2,1 mm2 with pixel sizes of 7,25x7,25 µm2
Recently I did a presentation for people in town on astronomy. This was during “the night of the stars”, which is organised yearly in France. Some 30 people came and it was highly entertaining. And very successfull.
This event got me interested in astronomy again. The first thing I did was to buy a book, so my knowledge is up to date. I noticed some errors in my older books and science did advance a bit since then. Now I am chugging daily through the book.
I want to do a bit more hoewever. SO I got my old telescope out and I will start some experimenting with astrophotography. Stay posted for my experiences in this.
And again I have to look at my personal finance software. Midnight Software, the maker of ChaChing, has been acquired by Intuit. And the latest version of ChaChing was still not workable enough for me. So time to abandon ship and look for something else again. So I am updating my earlier list. This time I created a list of requirements in order to take a more logic approach.
As I have a lot of trouble exporting from ChaChing, it seems that no other app can read their export-file, I decided to start over again with a clean slate at the beginning of the year. I started looking at the staff picks on the Apple website. I created a set of QIF in order to test the various applications.
-1 CheckBook Pro is way to simple for my needs. I especially need some reporting options.
-1 Fortora Fresh Finance did look to simple, did not even download it.
-1 GnuCash is totally incompliant with MacOSX -> big fail.
+1 iBank - I was able to import my QIF-files successfully. And the across accounts reporting works as well. Clean application. I like it;
0 iCash is very nice. I think it handles all my needs. It has a more accountancy approach to personal finance, which I am not familiar with. The way accounts must be used as categories seems cumbersome. Unfortunately is not a great MacOSX-compatible application;
+2 iCompta - this application seems to fulfill my needs. I like the filter function, so I can see only the transactions I want to see;
-1 MoneyDance does not appeal to me. It looks not very nice;
0 MoneyWell is very nice as well, it seems to offer a bit more than I need. But it has the advantage of being file based. I have to manage three totally separate finances. Latest version does not want to start anymore;
0 Money works pretty well and offers a good export file. I think I could live with this app;
-1 MyMoney is not an Apple-like app, so I do not bother to look into it;
-1 Prospects looks very nice. Unfortunately the reporting is to limited;
-1 Squirrel - is not document based, so it can not handle my different finance sets. It did import my QIF’s well. For the rest it seems very nice, but I did not investigate to deeply;
-1 Stash seems to work pretty well. Unfortunately I miss reporting summed over accounts per categories;
Its seems that iCompta comes on top. I Bought this application. Now onto migration.
Last week I bought a new satellite receiver: the Strong SRT 6420. I chose this receiver as it has an integrated ViaAccess card reader, to that I could decode the french TNT channels that are broadcast by satellite. I found a good priced one at Transplanet. Ordering and delivery was swift.
Installation was pretty smooth. Took a while to find out that I had to put the smart card in upside-down, but then it found the TNT-channels pretty quickly. I had to do an extra step to find the other FTA channels, but that work as well.
But then I noticed that I missed the dutch radio channels on the same transponder as the dutch TV-channel BVN. So why?
I checked the list of found channels against what is listed on Lyngsat. I discovered that I miss some TV-channels as well. It seems that I miss the channels on transponder 103 (12460H). On this transponder one finds channels such as 123TV, Das Vierte and JambaTV. I have the impression that Strong just did sloppy work and forgot some channels. There is no other reason that I see.
I did ask the Strong email help-desk, but that did not offer any help, other than that it was designed for the free channels. So why does it support nearly all of them?
I am afraid that I mixed up the spring and winter courses of #cs193p. I expected the two courses to be very similar, unfortunately they turned out to be very different in their assignments. As I understand it, the spring courses were not recorded and will not be published on iTunes. So I guess I will revert to the winter course. Probably I will do however the assignments of both courses in order to gain some more experiences.
Wll, I nearly finished my assignment 2. I still need to clean up and do the extra bonus stuff. This assignment was already much more difficult. I had trouble getting into the task, as I did not understand it at first. In hindsight I am not sure why. I guess the description is rather difficult. But in the end I got the app running and it seems to work.
My main trouble was the memory management. It turned out that I used allocation methods that implied autoreleased objects. So I lost my objects after an event loop. Once I discovered this, I had solved the assignment.
At the moment I do not find my code very clean, so I will go through it once more and see whether I can streamline it a bit more. I will change normal declarations to properties (as also required for the bonus). And I still have to set up the delegates methods for the bonus points. I also need to think a bit more about the resilience against entering faulty expressions.
But then it will be done. I learned a lot from this assignment. It is surely not for the beginning programmer though.
I re-started learning Objective-C again. Last time was some 8 years back, so I really must restart. I am following the CS193p by Stanford as it is published in iTunes. I downloaded everything that I could find around this theme. So I also have some code examples available.
I finished the assignment 1A and 1B, the Calculator. Assignment 1A was pretty simple, as one only had to follow the text. Assignment 1B was already a bit more difficult, but I did not encounter any problems. I also did all the extras.
Now I only wonder whether my solution is any good. Unfortunately I was not able to find any code samples for comparison. Onto the next assignment.
A week ago I started learning iPhoneOS development. For the moment I am just using the free development tools from Apple. So I can not yet load apps onto an iPhone itself. Before I apply for a developer code, I like to see how for I get.
I started a bit coding with the MacOSX development book by Garfinkel, but that book seems very outdated. So I might buy a new book. I think I wait for the book by Hillegass, when that comes out at the end of this month.
For the moment I am using the Stanford CS193P iTunes University podcast. I already watched the first two podcasts already.
Before I continue I want to finish the first assignment on the Calculator. I am on the last assigments. So now I am trying to figure out how UISwitch works.
I am still looking for a final code example, so that I can compare my implementation with other ones.
After seeing all the information on the iPad I started wondering whether the iPad could replace my laptop (which is slowly failing me). This is a functional, situational and practical question.
First the situational question. At the moment I use may laptop sitting in the kitchen. The laptop is on the table, I am behind the table in front of the fire place. I should use an iPad in the same location. This does not seem ideal, although I might put a reclining chair in my kitchen. I guess I would like to have a stand. In the evening I would love to use the iPad on my couch.
the iPad surely seems capable enough. The speed seems great. People start to complain already about some missing things, but these seem non-issues for me. The video camera would be a nice addition, but I can do without (as I do now). No multitasking might be an important point, but I am not sure it is a real issue. Notifications will be enough for me. No flash is OK, I hate flash. I installed ClickToFlash to get rid of it on many sites. It is amazing what people use flash for. GPS is an interesting point. I see GPS as something useful while on the street and in the wild. So the question is where would you use this thing? The no HD output seems an extremely silly remark. This is not a video server! All in all, it seems very useful for me from a hardware point of view. And I am very curious whether the Bluetooth can be used for all kinds of interesting peripherals. It seems that the iPad will be used to connect to projector, so that is covered.
I am worried about the screen size though. Ten inch is really small. I find my 14 inch laptop screen already to small. But I might be confusing usage situations here. The iPad is not really for working!
The most important thing are however the apps. So the question is: is there an app in my dock that can not be replaced with an iPad app? Well, in my dock I have: Finder, OmniWeb, Safari, NetNewsWire, Mail, AddressBook, MarsEdit, iCal, iTunes, iPhoto, SandVox, Vidalia, Nambu, Billings and EverNote. Occasionally I use Mellel, Pages, Keynote, Last.fm, Calculator, ChaChing, NoteTaker, Preview, MacGourmet and various other small stuff.
If I look at my dock apps, I seem to be well covered by iPad support. How can I manage my files however? It seems there is a solution as a wide variety of attachments possible in Mail on iPad. OmniWeb is not there, but I can do well with Safari. Sandvox not available on the iPad would be a big pain. I need this app. Vidalia is not on the iPad, but that does not matter. For my occasional apps there would be no problem either. Mellel would be a pity, but I can convert to Pages. NoteTaker (Aquaminds) will be on the iPad. So from an application point of view I seem to be covered.
Another problem is multiple users. On my laptop I have now multiple users defined, which are all used. I am afraid the iPad is a personal thing. This implies that I would need multiple iPad’s. Bit expensive, but will give an interesting household.
The question that remains is a practical one. Is the manipulation of the various files easy enough? Is the on screen keyboard good enough for inputting messages such as this one?
Unfortunately we still need Mac for docking the iPad for backup and synchronisation. So I still must have a Mac around the house.
I guess I have to get one in order to find out whether the iPad can be a replacement in practice.
Today Apple will reveal it’s long awaited and discussed tablet. I hope the product will live up to the incredible hype. I have no idea what will come, but let me ponder it a bit.
The first thought is situational. At what times and places do we need another product? The first place was behind a desk with the desktop. For that you had to sit down on a chair behind a table. Very useful if you needed also other stuff around you (papers, mouses, screens, etc.).
When moving around and being on the road we got the laptop, or better portable (desktop). The idea was that you put it on your lap to use the product. However I guess that most people still used in combination with a chair and table. Using it on our lap was a good possibility on an airport, in a train, etc, but it was not really optimal.
For walking about and accessing information we got the smart phones. These are also great for using while sitting in trains and busses. No longer a need for laptops in those environments. The smart phone, or handtop, is really for using while standing up.
But couldn’t we do better? Are we really happy with what we use when sitting on our couches and rocking chairs? We can use a portable here or use a handtop. But is still remains awkward. Here, on the couch, is where I see a new possibility for Apple. A real laptop. This should be very similar to a newspaper, magazine or book.
Such a product should have a very simple interface that can only be used by the hand, or maybe two hands from time to time. For me it is clear that this can not be MacOSX, but should be a variant of the iPhoneOS. It should have very view buttons (on/off, sound). A camera is not a real requirement, but a useful add on for videophone. A size of 10 inch is nice to have on your lap, but it might be larger as well. But not smaller as it would be closer to an iPod Touch/iPhone. Wireless and 3G is required in order to use it on your lap when not at home.
Software would be similar to the iPhone, but with special applications for magazines, newspapers, LP’s, etc. Games would be an interesting category as well. Those can be the same as on the iPhone, but should really use the screen estate. One can image many classic board games on such a system. And naturally there is the iLapAppStore to feed all this.
So no MS Word, no Excel, no office whatever app, no terminal, etc. That is just not the purpose of the iLap. Now hoping that the pricing is reasonable.
The first thing to know is how good or bad the situation is. There is no real analysis. And there is only anecdotal evidence of bad experiences. How many false negatives and false positives are there? And how bad/good does that look on 100.000 apps approved? How many apps do we miss that we really need? Or are all bases covered? Does the user really care or is it all just a philosophical discussion?
The first question one has to answer is whether there needs to be an evaluation process at all. Why can’t it be as open as a standard computing platform, such as the Mac. Apple’s take on this is that a Telephone Platform is something different than a computing platform.
I have mixed feelings about this. I really want my phone to work in ALL circumstances. In fact I got rid of my Internet phone options as provided by several ISPs, to turn back to plain old telephony, in order to get better reliability. The same will hold for my phone, so no App should interfere with it. So not multiple apps running simultaneously either. Or make an exception for the phone app.
The same is true for the quality of the network. One wants that it works. And for the moment this might require restrictions on apps (think tethering) in order to reduce the load on the network. Most mobile operators have already enough trouble meeting this new demand.
The iPhone and iPod Touch seems to be used by any age group. I have seen kids walking around with an iPhone. Some would like to limit the access their kids have to some content. That is were rating systems can help. So if you have a rating for an app, then you can automaticly restrict access to those apps. Unfortunately someone has to rate the app then. And/or someone has to check the rates provided by the developers. This requires clear guidelines. Unfortunately this is a process which is subjective and will lead to false positives and false negatives. Another point where one can complain about.
And there is the trademark issue. Is Apple protecting itself here? Why do they need to check on this? Why is that differnet for this platform?
The false negative apps are the shaking baby app, the app that nicked phone numbers, etc.
And there are the false positives, where it is unclear why they are rejected. Airfoil Speakers is one of those.
And then there is the process itself. I see two subjects here.
Turn-around time - it seems that it can take a long time before a submitted app is approved. Although I have not seen any good statistics on this. And with 10.000 apps per week submitted, it is inevitable that some apps take longer time to be evaluated. Statistics at work here. You might complain and Apple might throw more people at the process, but your are still talking a Poisson process here. It would be nice however if Apple showed some statistics though. And developers just need to take these turn around times into account.
However Apple should create a separate process for handling bug fixes. This would guarantee some quality level of apps already in the store.
Communication - there seems to be a lack of good communication once an app is rejected. Why is an app rejected? What can a developer do? And again how bad or good is it in reality. Do we see only anecdotal evidence? Are some developers treated differently? One can image that Apple automates the work for cheap apps or less well known developers in order to reduce costs. Maybe they should create a paid program for developers who want better respons.
So for the time being only the road through the appstore is an option. And I discount the jailbroken road, as this has its own problems.
In the end it is all about quality for the end-user. And Apple does quarantee some extra level of guarantee in this way. And I highly appreciate this quality.
PS All links are just gathered from my morning fedd update.