18/10/2009

Reflections on the iPod Touch

I just bought a 32GB 3rd generation iPod Touch for £230. It's not bad for what you get:

On opening the box, you get the device, a syncing USB cable, a resizing thing for stabilising the device on an iPod dock, and a ditty pair of earphones.

The device has inbuilt Wifi and Bluetooth capability, voice control, Nike+ support, plus many apps to download.

The earphones were pretty small, and didn't fit well (they would keep falling out of my ear). The sound quality was half decent (better than many like it), and includes a microphone switch attached to the right ear wire for recording your voice, VoIP or for apps (It's supposed to feature a track switcher, but I haven't tried that yet). I found that switching them to my posh pair boasted much better quality but defeated the point of audio apps, as they have no microphone attached (there is ONE socket, designed for headphones or the special headphones/mic combo)

The iPod Touch can be viewed as a bit of a knock off of the iPhone. It's quite like it, except that the microphone has been shifted on the earphone lead, and there is no phone capability or 3G. The speakers are honestly very bad, being even worse than a laptop and having almost no bass whatsoever.

Included in the default app set are Mail (featuring IMAP), Calendar, Photos, Contacts, YouTube, Stocks, Maps, Weather, Voice Memos, Notes, Clock, Calculator, Settings, iTunes, Music, Videos, the Safari browser and the App Store. Everything you do cam also be searched for with the Search application. Note that you can have links to 16 apps on the screen at once, but once you download more, you can scroll left and right to see them all.

The built in App Store claims 15,000 applications, ranging from free to quite expensive (I've found ones that are £15). Some are clever, some are not. For instance I have apps for gaming (a clever plane fighter, a snooker application), fun oddities (drawing, tune maker), audio (Last.fm, Jamendo), communication (SocialBeacon, iDent, Facebook, IM), addictive apps (Yeti Penguin, bubble wrap) plus unique apps (Shaam, a tune recogniser, Bump, a quick information swapper), and Essentials (e.g. Google Earth, featuring double finger zooming and rotation, plus accelerometer field of view). Many of the apps use the inbuilt functionality of the iPod Touch: an accelerometer, the microphone (only if attached) and the multi-touch 3.5" touchscreen (a little bigger than that of a Nintendo DS).

The touchscreen is enough to use apps, and websites with a small footprint, but the Safari browser at least has a zoom feature, plus multidirectional viewing (that is, you can tilt the device to produce a portrait or landscape view). You get bookmarks, multiple "tabs", and fairly good compatibility with modern websites. What you don't get however, is Flash or Java, but there is a YouTube app built in which kicks in when you try to watch a video. However, obviously, this will not work on all videos (think Google Video, Vimeo etc) or let you play Flash games. A flash hack can be installed which gives you access to slightly more video sites (but no game sites) but you have to tinker quite a bit, which involves jailbreaking it.

Jailbreaking is done for the new versions using a utility called blackra1n (www.blackra1n.com) which enables you to install extra apps, hacks, and utilities. I for instance could install Quake, or the aforementioned Flash video hack. Also available are theming, NES and PlayStation emulators and many more. But the problem is that at the moment, it is a "tethered" jailbreak, which means that if you turn it off, or it runs out of batteries, you have to run the application again to start it up from recovery mode.

The Lithium Ion battery is supposed to last you for 6 hours of video or 30 hours of audio. I have not yet tested this claim.

Such media has to be uploaded through Apple's iTunes (currently available only for Windows and Mac OS X. For Linux you can use a Wi-Fi sharing app, but file transfers are slow), with the added limitation that you cannot use it for mass storage (as you can for regular iPods), for instance as a "drive" much like a USB flash disk. But the capability to sync your audio, video, podcasts and apps are available in iTunes (which helpfully converts files to its proprietary AAC format, so you can play them on your iPods, but note FLAC files cannot be converted, I had to use dbPowerAmp for Windows).

iTunes features a built in app to download and buy music and movies to watch directly on the iPod (note that Movies are still restricted by DRM, but with social pressure, music is now DRM free, for more information see defectivebydesign.org). You can also download podcasts, buy educational material from iTunes U, and listen to audiobooks. All of this functionality, plus syncing all of it from your iPod to your PC can be done by the Windows or Mac version of iTunes as well.

I hope that this has been informative, and that I haven't left anything out! I also hope that you will be able to make your decision on whether to buy one!

14/10/2009

Xenon Project looking for helpers!

I started a project some time ago, which is for now called "Codename: Project Xenon".

Xenon is a browser-based GUI designed to be implemented on netbooks. The difference between other netbook OSes and cloud systems is that not only can you test it online, it will also be installed on netbooks - which will update from the Web automatically, giving you updates, and ability to use it without being connected to the Internet due to a local web server instance.

It will have a very small footprint - being built on very few programs, and so will run on very low-end systems, so it will bring life to your old computers as well.

We are now looking for helpers to make this project a reality. If you are a designer or a programmer who can program using any combination of (X)HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP or MySQL, then we would like you to help us out. We are afraid pay is out of the question at the moment, until we start selling subscriptions to the web service, the budget is zero.

If you have any ideas to help the project along, then please give us feedback!

To apply, simply email: dan.dart@googlemail.com

To visit the main website of the project, click here: http://xenon.kevinghadyani.com
To try out the web based desktop for yourself, click here: Try The Desktop . Please note that it is nowhere near finished at the moment.
To view the SDK and programming procedures to help you, click here: Xenon SDK

Thank you, and have a good day!