> Enjoy the bleeding edge on that 27" iMac!

I try not to jump into the vanguard of the shock troops of consumerism to be mown down by experimental hardware designs. Just a general policy I have. Because 'bleeding' and 'edge' are two words that describe only hurt — is there really an upside to this concept? If there is, no one ever seems to just come out and nail it. Having the latest, most crappily engineered and untested thing is a luxury which, however questionable, appears to just go without saying on this world.

So, I've advised against buying the new 27" iMac, which simultaneously violates two of my cardinal rules of Earthly computer hardware purchase: Never buy the first available prototype of a new enclosure; and, Never buy the first available installation of a next-generation CPU in an old enclosure. Manufacturers, including Apple (some might even say especially Apple) hew pretty close to the heat tolerances of these components they use, in the rush to achieve their latest avant-garde design. Apple cuts engineering corners, and it affects first-generation product reliability, as we've seen with the capacitor problem in early, large white iMacs, and now the cracked or DOA Intel Core i7-based 27" iMacs.

Lest anyone think this is a new development, I should point that the very first Macintosh ever invented didn't even have an internal fan, despite being offered in an almost unprecedently small, and thus hot, enclosure (for 1984). Unsurprisingly, the first generations of Macs had a habit of frying their own power supplies after a few years, and then burning up the replacements, a few years after that. The 'novel' idea of fan-based cooling wasn't welcomed to the Macintosh until 1987, with the Macintosh SE.

> Unzip iWork documents

Exactly as it reads above — if you want to poke around inside an iWork document and examine its structure (which is XML-based), all you have to do it unzip it.

> Check apps for Snow Leopard compatibility

The Unofficial Apple Weblog pointed me to SnowChecker, which will detect all of your apps and compare them with an online compatibility database. It doesn't really detect them all — it didn't pick up on any Adobe apps, for example — but for a cautious upgrade-shy fellow like myself it's a good indicator of the current state of things.

My verdict: this cat is not ready for primetime yet. Which means it isn't ready for my Mac.

> Get info for multiple files in one window

This is mostly useful for finding out how much disk space is taken up by several different files, without putting them in a folder together or moving them around.

Select the files in the Finder, then, instead of Command-I (Get Info), use Control-Command-I (Get Summary Info).

> Fail to use the new iMac as a TV

In case you heard about the fact that Apple's new 27" iMac can also double as an external monitor, and you were getting excited about all the different kinds of devices you can attach to this thing — don't. The iMac will only accept DisplayPort input. This 'feature' is designed not for your convenience, but to promote an Apple-favoured standard with little prior presence in the marketplace. DisplayPort might eventually achieve wide adoption, but by the time this feature becomes generally useful, your iMac will almost certainly be obsolete.

> Avoid guest accounts on Snow Leopard

Using guest accounts on Snow Leopard could cause your entire main account to be wiped. That's right — wiped. Still feel comfortable out there on the bleeding edge?

> Bank on Apple's nonexistent credibility

Erm. Something tells me that Apple — a company whose name is becoming increasingly synonymous with corporate censorship and interference with interoperability for user control — is unlikely to win any kind of widespread consumer support for its new universal connection standard. Rather, the best survival chance for any new interoperability protocol would be if it weren't mentioned in the same breath with the name of the most notoriously willful foe of interoperability of the 21st Century.

> Prolong lithium-based battery life

Lithium-ion and lithium-polymer batteries have a few key differences, according to this Battery University guide, but the main danger to laptop battery remains the same.

With the nickel-cadmium or nickel-metal-hydride batteries common in the 90s, you would need to discharge fully quite frequently to avoid the 'memory effect', which should be called the 'forgetfulness effect', because it happens when batteries forget that yes, they actually do have more power left, and quit prematurely, thinking they're out of power. That's an act of forgetting if I've ever seen one, but with lithium-ion and lithium-polymer, you don't have to worry about it; frequent shallow charges are not only safe but less stressful and healthier for the battery. You only have to discharge fully maybe once a month and that's only to give the software gauge a chance to recalibrate to the size of a full charge.

However, this is all scribbling in the margins of battery life. Charge or discharge frequency were never really the main thing killing laptop batteries. From what I have witnessed, people have just been killing their batteries by leaving the mains adapter plugged in way too long, sometimes for days. I've seen some random internetling claims that lithium batteries can be safely left docked indefinitely, but the Battery Guide article says nuts to that: forcing a battery to remain in a state of full charge with constant heat applied for an indefinite period is just a great way to age your battery chemistry at a far accelerated rate — even lithium.

Bottom line: you can read that whole article, or you can just not work with your laptop plugged in unless your battery actually needs charging. This single factor explains most of the differences I have observed between the battery life of different laptops in different environments.

> List what's been removed from Snow Leopard

An informal list has formed at Waffle [via Daring Fireball]. The knifing of PowerPC support was widely expected, but the dropped creator code adherence is going to spark a bunch of people to falsely believe that their system can no longer open their oldest files anymore, when the truth is that it has merely forgotton how to figure out which app to open them with.

I can understand clearing out the cruft, but adhering to creator codes made the system more intelligent about how to open your legacy files, so that really wasn't cruft at all, was it?
UPDATE: Looks like I'm not the only one who was shocked at the braindeadness of the creator code move: see more details and complaints about this issue here and here. ]

> Solve Exchange/iPhone bug by turning off security

Nope. Not kidding. That really is Apple's official, recommended solution to the recently reported 'surprise policy enforcement' that results in a broken Exchange functionality for any iPhone that is upgraded to firmware 3.1.

Apple doesn't let you downgrade your phone, so if you leapt early, you got burned — big-time.

> Fiddle endlessly with Photoshop CS4

If you're feeling incredibly obsessive about small gains, take a look at this beyond-comprehensive list of ways to use Photoshop CS4 at its very, absolutely fastest. [via Daring Fireball]

The simplest tip on that list is more likely to make a perceptible difference for the average user than all of the others, combined:
"Photoshop requires at least 2 GB of free hard-disk space, but more is recommended. The OS volume should contain at least 20 GB of free space to ensure that the virtual memory system has plenty of available hard disk space."

> Launch any app from the keyboard in Snow Leopard

Never have looked too kindly on increasing my third-party background app load (a very risky category), just to get more keyboard shortcuts in OS X. So, I'm very much looking forward to assigning keyboard shortcuts to launch apps, natively in 10.6 (via macosxhints.com); at least, whenever I eventually, cautiously, pull the trigger and actually switch to Snow Leopard!

Which is something I definitely recommend you avoid, until at least the third 'point update'. Rather than jump into bed immediately with all four big Apple cats (Jaguar, Panther, Tiger, and Leopard), I hung back, watched and waited, until versions 10.2.3, 10.3.4, 10.4.4, and 10.5.3, respectively, to finally do the deeds.

You can ascribe my caution to the ridiculous-but-undeniable fact that it takes this planet at least three attempts to get any new computer engineering to work in such a manner that nobody will need to pay a huge upgrade tax in the time and energy spent identifying mysterious new bugs.

Refusal to participate directly in the bleeding edge treadmill is definitely the way to go. If you have trouble letting go of the immediacy of it all, repeat after me:

"An operating system is a serious piece of engineering. Not a fashion accessory. An operating system is a serious piece of engineering. Not a fash—"


Restore SMS history from one phone to another

I haven't upgraded my iPhone yet to 3.0. I suppose when I do, I'll have to decide whether to attempt to save my SMS history.

(I really must find a quicker, easier way to post links to this blog, probably involving removing this mandatory 'Read on' custome code I appear to have added at some point.)

iPhone 3.0 Push Destroys Battery Life?

Yes, according to french news site Hardmac.com: "Some users have been complaining that the battery life of their iPhone 3G was dramatically reduced following installation of iPhone OS 3.0. It seems that the firmware is draining more resources when the Push option is activated." Although, according to the Apple Discussion Forums, all that may be needed is a reboot and possibly recreating your push email accounts, and your former battery life can be recovered.

(Drain the battery at least once fully, too.)

Real Far Away From an Arcade in 1970s Japan

In an early sign of where things started to go wrong on this planet, some '70s and '80s arcade games acquired a habit of opening with a copyright prayer, by which I mean, an appeal to an entity that could never realistically intervene in the situation. It's a lot like writing a disclaimer on your forehead that your hairstyle is not to ever be seen outside the immediate environs of your skull. You'll run into this kind of magical thinking all the time on this world. These games hail from an era when such absurd lightning-in-a-bottle claims had less legal bite than they do today. But even now, controlling copyright is still as empty a prayer as controlling perception itself. I'm doing all this, for example, on one of the most locked-up software platforms in history. And still, I can have my way with it. And my way, in this review of the third row of my Cydia apps for a Time Walker's iPhone series, is to rescue the relevance to this planet of early video game history, by aiming you at the emulators of interfaces from the dawn of man/machine.

By this point in history, the 'rainbow' from Apple's crest, has fallen. MAME beams a broad spectrum of decades-old arcade games through nearly every type of computer or handheld you can name, except the iPhone. In fact, you could fill encyclopedias with the gaming knowledge that is excluded from this device by Apple's prohibition on emulators. There is certainly no performance argument for it. The 1983 vector game above, for example, plays great, and had me torquing my body in sync. (But the standard mame4iphone controls are not ideal for this one; it seems to have been coded with some sort of flightstick in mind.) So I used Cydia to install MAME to my jailbroken iPhone, then the Cydia version of 'Discover' to transfer my zipped ROMs to
on the iPhone. Then start mame4iphone, and play! If you don't have any ROMs, 'Googling' MAME v3.07 Beta 5 ROMs should turn some compatible collections up.

From M-4 to Space Invaders

Another fascinating game that you can play with mame4iphone, M-4 is essentially Space Invaders, only released a year earlier, in 1977, by Midway, before Taito turned it 90 degrees and replaced the mirror-image opponent with the now-famous drone armada. Even with a one-year head start and the same basic toolset, M-4 faded into obscurity, while Space Invaders seems to have inspired the first arcade gold-rush. Why? M-4 was, after all, a pretty smart machine for entertaining the human brain, presenting a single opponent that not only targets you through a reactive (i.e. player-destructible) shield, but evades your fire. Space Invaders dispensed with the evasion, instead borrowing Breakout's deep, if abstract, player-reactivity to graft onto its own, more concrete world of eroding shields and fungible enemy formations. In Space Invaders you are pitted consistently against the consequences of your own actions, rather than against just a half-competent AI. As it turns out, that's an even smarter way for a machine to attempt to entertain a human brain, as demonstrated by all the copycat hits that followed, from Asteroids and Missile Command, to Space Panic, Pac-Man, and even, Tetris.

In features, if not in proximity to the most seminal moments in game history, the Super Nintendo (SNES) emulator for the iPhone is more advanced. You can play in portrait mode, with a layout similar to MAME's, but also in landscape with the controller keys overlaid transparently (as above). I prefer landscape, though I wish they had positioned the game screen a little higher and the keys a tad lower. (It's not as hard as it looks to play with your thumbs covering a part of the screen, but considering the overall use of screen real estate, it just doesn't seem necessary.) The SNES emulator also has an array of options, most having to do with sacrificing stuff to make it faster. As with MAME, I found that turning off the sound produces the greatest uptick into playability. And also as with MAME, you can transfer your Googled SNES ROMs to your iPhone at

Super Mario World is the crowning glory of an alternate branch of games — which I call 'clockworks' — and which developed alongside the whole reactive branch rooted in Space Invaders. In a clockworks game, it's as if the 'periodically rotating' aspect of M-4's innovative shield undergoes runaway evolution, whereas the 'player-editable' aspect of it that was cultivated in Space Invaders, instead becomes vestigial, or even disappears, altogether. Player absorption is achieved by presenting a series of decisions made spatiotemporally complex by the cyclic movements of dangerous screen elements, like turtles that bounce to and fro, and platforms that raise and lower to different metronomes. Navigating clockwork was prefigured somewhat with Pac-Man's ghosts (though they are an attempt to seem intelligent so anticipating their routes feels like cheating), and then debuted as a distinct, unapologetic style in 1981 with Frogger and Donkey Kong, evolving into the Super Mario series to great acclaim, pitting humans all the while primarily against the undisguised gears of the machine. Kind of obvious now why this lineage succeeded best when paired with a radical concentration of 'cutesy' graphics. More than other interactive methods, a clockworks needs be humanised.

The one emulation test that didn't reward me with a fun and interesting experience was psx4iphone. The PlayStation is a much more advanced console than SNES, and a decade beyond most of my MAME ROMs. I ransacked my inherited collection and managed to turn up two PlayStation games: Tenchu, and Bushido Blade 2 (pictured). So after ripping them to .bin/.cue files with Toast for the Mac and transferring them to my iPhone at
I discovered that Tenchu didn't work (no video), and that Bushido Blade 2 worked but could not be made to play at an acceptable frame rate, with or without the music. Basically, this is a FAIL but I kept psx4iphone on my phone, and on this list, because both Tenchu and Bushido Blade 2 are fairly sophisticated 3D games, and I don't yet have any sidescrolling, PSX games in my possession on which to perform the test in 2D. If you have managed to make a PSX game play acceptably on the iPhone, which game was it? There is little reason not to venture into arcade (MAME) or console (SNES) history on the iPhone, but you'll likely not get much playability on the PSX front.

NEXT: FOURTH ROW - CoverFlow for your contacts,
and the best iPhone RSS reader.
Posted via Pixelpipe.

[Published originally at The Laroquod Experiment.]

Cydia Apps for a Time Walker's iPhone - SECOND ROW

This iPhone screenshot is from an episode of a TV show called Flashpoint, which I discovered on my hard drive, and with which I discovered that the most common video container in the world (anything ending in .AVI), is unplayable on this 'iPhone' handset! It took a little bit of screwing with to get right, but there is an MPlayer app on Cydia you can use to watch this forbidden format. With a few skips and jumps, and provided you don't sic it on anything too hi-rez, it works. But MPlayer expects you to upload its data to an oddly placed folder. I recommend setting this up not as a folder, but as an alias pointing somewhere inside the standard Media folder (just so it doesn't become too difficult to back up all your media at once). Here's how.

iFile to /var/mobile/Media

Use iFile to navigate to your /Media folder so that what you see is pretty similar to the above. (You may not yet have as many folders in there as I do.) This folder is where most of your jailbroken iPhone apps will look for files. You can get to it by various routes (because of preinstalled aliases, which display in iFile in blue), and they are, starting from the top: (1) /private/var/mobile/Media, (2) /var/mobile/Media, (3) /User/Media, and (4) ~/Media — all of those paths lead to the same /Media folder. Once you get there in iFile, tap 'Edit' in the top right corner, then tap the big '+' to create a new folder inside your /Media folder.

Create /MPlayer folder

Fill out the first two fields as shown above. (Case matters.) 'Directory' is a contemporary synonym for a Mac-style folder. The rest of the fields should default to what you see. Tap 'Create'.

iFile to /var

Tap the top left button a couple of times to navigate iFile back to the /var folder, and then tap 'Edit' and then '+' again.

Create /media alias

MPlayer ignores your /Media folder and instead looks for its files in /var/media. Fill out the screen as above to create an alias instead of a folder at /var/media and to point that alias toward the /User/Media/MPlayer folder that was just created two screenshots ago. Now tap 'Create' and exit iFile, and your MPlayer is set up. Just use Discover to transfer your AVIs to your /Media/MPlayer folder, and start MPlayer!

Start MPlayer

If you've done the setup and transfer right, your vids should show on MPlayer's list, like Flashpoint appears on this one.


Rather than rotating itself breathlessly with every jerk of your hand like a mental cat chasing a laser pointer, MPlayer opts to simply mix and match orientations in one view, and I have to say, I don't mind the result. It does everything it needs to do without much of a mode switch, which is actually superior to the built-in player. (Apple's screen reorientation acts like its got all the CPU power in the world, but the reality is it gets easily confused and stuck for long moments at forty-odd degree angles.) Run MemTest (that's fourth row, I'll be posting more on it soon) to clean your memory right before playing your video: it can help performance.


The most featured Cydia app is Cycorder, and for good reason: it does for creative video output what MPlayer does for input. You see, one of the video creators to whom access to the iPhone is officially denied is you, because Apple thinks the iPhone hardware's video capabilities are too poor for your tastes! Personally I find the results produce a visual feel that can be quite involving, and sometimes even a little eerie. (Both those links were, like the entirety of this article, written and captured entirely with this handset, and uploaded with Pixelpipe, which you can find in the App Store. And the 'PPVideoEnabler' app that patches Pixelpipe to read your Cycorder vids is available on Cydia.)


So, you're watching AVIs without conversion on the iPhone. It's not perfect but it basically works for most 350MB-or-below TV episodes. And you're lifestreaming video like you're a roving eye out of Max Headroom. Why not bust out of the same format prison, in sequential art? What you call, comic books. Pictured is just a smattering of comic book files discovered on my hard drive, and then, 'Discovered', via wifi, to my iPhone's /Media/Comic folder, where iComic (also on Cydia) looks for them.

iComic options

Select a .CBZ file. (Unfortunately, iComic doesn't do .CBRs yet, but the conversion process is fairly trivial.) Note that you have the option to skip to your last position, or pick pages from a list.

iComic portrait

In portrait mode, iComic just got completely out of my way like a movie player and immediately filled my screen with pure comic. Which transmogrified into pure frustration, when nothing I tapped or swiped appeared to turn the page, or even exit. I was stuck on page one! Turns out the controls are very simple, if not iPhone-intuitive. Tap bottom corners to page forward and back. Tap top left corner to return to the list. It's a bit picky about accuracy, which seems unnecessary. Anyway it looks great, and in landscape mode, you can even read it...

iComic landscape

Not too shabby. And you can pinch and squeeze to your heart's content. The actual comic book pictured, by the way, would likely not be accepted to the App Store, due to mature themes that appear to have bounced out this artist, and this one, and this one. So odious to me is the news of such barrings that I don't plan to submit Hypothesis to Apple at all, and will instead be looking into how to assimilate iComic and codistribute via the free culture the way these artists have done.


On free culture: there are hundreds of thousands of free eBook files out there in various formats, and though you aren't wholly prevented from accessing most of them without jailbreaking, you are still placed at an annoyingly far remove from whatever personal collection of .TXTs or .RTFs or .PDBs you already have. Besides, THEY ARE JUST TEXT. This really should not be that complicated: have a file, read a file. You can get back to that ideal by installing this Cydia app textReader, and then transferring your eBooks to the iPhone's /Media/textReader folder.

textReader portrait

Fonts are adjustable, and the app will do landscape, if you swing that way! But it does not read all formats. I seem to have inherited a lot of TomeRaider files, for example, and have yet to find a way to read them on this phone. 8(

NEXT: THIRD ROW - Google Reader, Classic Gaming
Posted via Pixelpipe.

[Published originally at The Laroquod Experiment.]

Cydia Apps for a Time Walker's iPhone: FIRST ROW

You are looking at an impossible screen. This game Planetfall is under something called 'copyright', and is no longer sold on this world in a modern form. It could easily be converted, but this 'modern' iPhone is under lock and key, and refuses to open its filesystem to the kind of view that will allow you to make that decision. I know it's going to sound like a grim fairy tale of a dystopian grotto zone, but the iPhone indeed protects by default the commercial viability of millions of commercially *dead* works, blocking them from your view, wherever possible. Protecting zero sales isn't logical: even a supercomputer couldn't do it. This is a serious flaw: not because it isn't important to behave legally, but because the law of this land is functionally insane. Thus, a device that forces you into compliance with it, is also functionally insane, and so is using it.

To my kind, it all sounds very much like publishing a dictionary from which has been struck all words containing the letter S. Because somebody claimed to 'own' that letter 30 years ago and then *disappeared*. And yes, there really is an elaborate system out there keeping track of it all. Massive resources are expended by globespanning 'corporations' attempting to control the uncontrollable, I shit you not! (If telepaths ever do develop on this rock, it will probably become necessary to lobotomise them.)

With jailbroken file browsers like iFile and Discover (available via Cydia), you can get off Apple's meds and free your iPhone's mind by opening a portal into its filing system and transferring whatever you want, whenever you want, sans velvet handcuffs. Both iFile and Discover can transfer files to and from any iPhone's folder by connecting wirelessly to a standard web browser. I definitely recommend this over installing more complex and thus less secure filesharing like Netatalk. Don't do it! It's unnecessary. iFile is the best file browser I have seen for this device. Screen space is used efficiently. Files can be created and moved with ease, even alias pointers created. It feels like a full mobile Finder! But iFile invariably chokes when transferring large files (if it's >30MB I don't bother trying), so I've taken to using the Discover app for wireless transfers (which it has a habit of always performing flawlessly), and then iFile for the actual browsing. BTW if you see an app called Discover in the App Store, that's not it! What I mean is the Cydia version that is not only free but also unconfined to a tiny windowless cell in your filedungeon.

Training you in how to interpret every file you will see under the hood is beyond this post, but my rules of thumb are: (1) Don't copy anything to a location you don't understand; (2) Don't let free space get below 100MB; (3) Try to keep all your data in '/var/mobile' (it's the iPhone's user data area, also referred to as '/private/var/mobile'); and (4) Don't manually delete or rename anything you didn't put there manually. In this way I have begun copying any media I discover that is effectively outlawed, to this phone.

We need to engage with these abandoned works, because in such a suffocating intellectual polity, the best solutions are left aside simply out of fear of breaking rules. I would also advise installing Backgrounder, and using it to enable background processing (the blocking of which is yet another abuse of Apple's power) for Discover, so that you can transfer files while checking email, &c. Backgrounder is so useful and liberating that it turns even some App Store apps like IM+ Lite (the instant message app that couldn't notify you of instant messages), formerly crippled by Apple's nonsensical regime, into useful programs at last.

NEXT: SECOND ROW - Upgrading an iPhone into a full media citizen
with video recording and playback/upload of well-known video formats.

Posted via Pixelpipe.

[Published originally at The Laroquod Experiment.]

Cydia Apps for a Time Walker's iPhone - INTRO

I feel like I am already familiar with certain apps on this iPhone device, although I've never used them before. If your brains were to spontaneously explode, for example, over a square kilometre, your memories would lie disconnected on the ground in an amplified map of their former positions inside your head. Tiny differences in cranial coordinates would translate to much larger differences over a square kilometre. Someone - maybe even the next 'someone' to squat in your now-empty skull - could even decode that map.

Well, okay, so the analogy isn't perfect. But in crosstemporal terms, it all makes sense and this is roughly what has happened to me, and why I keep stumbling over stray sense memories connected to things, like the App Store apps on the iPhone. An iPhone which, according to the first clear memory I do have, I discovered lying beside me on the pavement, and then conveniently used to upload my experiences here, in case I again lose even this tenuous grip on chronology.

So this is really for my own future reference, more than anyone else's. If you too are from another planet, then maybe you'll find some use in this, because there are 18 apps (pictured above) on this iPhone that I have no inkling of, whatsoever. Further research over the last 24 hours has uncovered that they all have one source in common: 'Cydia', a grey market app store that can only be installed on what they call a jailbroken phone. Reading back in the blog and putting two-and-two together, I suspect that Cydia was left incompletely explored by my predecessor, and so I'll be opening all the icons on that cavern wall, one row at a time, and posting the results of my explorations here. Perhaps then continuity can be restored.

NEXT UP: FIRST ROW - Opening up the filesystem and background tasks on the iPhone.

Posted via Pixelpipe.

[Published originally at The Laroquod Experiment.]