Posts Tagged ‘iphone’

Gizmodo wrote up a piece on an important difference between computers (e.g. the new MacBook Air) and the iPad.The gist of which is: creation is greatly hindered on an iPad or iPhone. While I’ve edited photos on my iPhone, they weren’t quality/skilled changes but simple template driven adjustments. I’ve done research on my iPhone but never delivered a product that encompassed a gamut of databases and files/reports.

Could an iPad replace a librarian’s computer? Doubtful. Results would take more time to deliver and would leave out inaccessible Internet resources. We can easily digest information on an iPad, find a title, call-number, or even a citation. Yet, doing a full background search on a corporation, a legislative history, or finding a medical article from 1934 would prove tedious if not impossible. A research project can involve dozens of PDF, word, and image files, I can only imagine the pain of organizing and sifting through them on a touch surface.  The same headaches go with spreadsheets or power point presentations. Lastly, would you even attempt to catalog on an iPad?

I look forward to the day when we can do research with touch screens or projected images (see Minority Report); but that day isn’t today.


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The title of this entry is a bit of a misnomer. The Library of Congress hasn’t put out a video game, although it would be fantastic to have an LOC board game; rather, they have released an iPhone app.  The application is a virtual tour of the library, taking adventurers into the deep and mystic rooms of knowledge and history. The application is optimized for the iPhone 4, containing rich graphics, sounds, and interface structures. In short, a free must download app.

I decided to tackle the app in the most rigorous testing regime I know, as a video game. Here’s the opening scene:

The LOC is epic and luckily the app serves as a Virgil, casting light onto a certain path. After reading the opening scene I knew this journey was not for the weak of heart. Thusly, I finished my sandwich, braced myself, and tapped “explore”. Without hesitation the game was afoot! Gracing my screen was a list of levels, luckily I didn’t have to unlock them- I could travel wherever I wished:

I’m no fan of spoilers or jumping ahead, so the main reading room was the only place to start. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t craving excitement or adventure, as it so happened, I had found it:

The initial screen contained a detailed history and description of the Main Reading Room/ Level 1. The beginning textual mission could have been better displayed if the font were adjustable, as it stands its hard to get a paragraph onto one screen and it becomes difficult to visualize. However, this is quickly remedied by the audio mission.

Sheridan Harvey gives life to the Main Reading Room and engages my imagination. She calls the Main Reading Room the “living heart of the library” and she truly makes The LOC an inviting place, as anyone 16 or older with a valid ID can use the space and materials. She would be perfect for audio books too! After my encounter with Librarian Sheridan the game had me. I was ready for the next mission: photos!

The text and audio description prepared me for a battle with living statues. These high quality images put me in The LOC, feeling the DC sunshine light up the room and bask me in a fountain of olden days. It’s easy to click onto each image, zoom in and out, and learn.

The last mission, link, is exactly what is sounds like: related links to supplemental information. How often do we go to presentations, read an article, or visit a blog with related links? It’s great to have but I bet dirt to donuts that the percentage of actual related links clicks is less than 10%. This mission didn’t challenge me as the others before it had. Yet, minus related links, The LOC app/virtual tour left me pleased to have spent a portion of my lunch break wandering the Main Reading Room, listening to Sheridan’s tales, and mingling with greatness of past times. I look forward to the next levels and expect the same captivating lessons.

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Apps, ideally, are designed to take advantage of a mobile-phone’s interface: touch-screen, small screen real estate, accelerometer, etc. Functions that the web, ultimately, cannot equally provide. The Transportation Security Administration has an app that is both useful and functional for the iPhone.

The “status” list displays all delayed airports in the USA. While I always recommend checking your flight status with your airline and flight number this is a handy option nonetheless.

Tapping into the airport will give you delay information. It’s a great tool for when you’ve volunteered to pick up a friend from the airport and find yourself sitting in the parking lot wondering, “how long is this gonna take.” Moreover, the bottom icon to the right, “Wait Times”, gives a run down of time needed to get through airport gates/security.

What self-respecting TSA app would go without a feature that details carry-on items and travel tips? The typical stuff is provided: how to dress, how to pack liquids and how much, what to expect, what is forbidden, acceptable IDs, traveling with kids, etc. Yet this app goes a step further and offers a search function. As you can see nun-chucks are going to have to go with checked-luggage.

I can easily see myself using this app when traveling to/from home. And being useful for family and friends who often ask about what they can or can’t pack. While most of us won’t use this app everyday or even every few months, the TSA app is a must download, given the information it provides, ease of use, and constantly updated data.

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Freedom to Tinker

The Digital Millenium Copyright Act is a thorn in the side of exploration and freedom of use. It effectively criminalizes using owned works/software outside of normal/intended means. For example, if you buy a song on iTunes and it is protected by Digital Rights Management (DRM): it is locked to your account, your computer, and only to a number of devices that support playing it,  iTunes, iPods, and perhaps a few other devices. You are also restricted to burning the album or songs to a limited number, 3 or 5 CDs or so. CDs don’t last. I’ve had to purchase my favorite albums a number of times, despite my immaculate care, they became unplayable. The music purchased can only be used in the way they want. Want to remix it? You’ll have to get a different version or illegally free it from DRM. Want to play it on a non-Apple/non-iTunes device, same thing. While it’s easy to circumvent the processes in place, it is technically prohibited. Additionally, as far as I can tell, there is no easy way to resell music.

The latest DMCA news involves the Apple iPhone. There’s a world of uses for the iPhone some of which may only be discovered or tapped into if used outside of its design/intended purpose. Jailbreaking could lead to illegal actions, but jailbreaking shouldn’t be illegal. If one were inclined they could download applications without paying for them, that’s obviously illegal. However still considered illegal would be connecting wirelessly to printers or finding ways to make it more efficient and user-friendly. I bet one could turn the iPhone into a full-blown computer, simply by installing a full operating system and connecting it to a monitor and keyboard. Maybe the iPhone would be great for checking in books and scanning shelves via RFID. However, you’d have to install an RFID scanner and software onto the phone. Perhaps the only way to do that would be via jailbreak.

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Two years ago I wrote a post on how I decided to pick a blackberry curve over the iPhone. I’ve lived in regret ever since. My friends who have had their iPhones the last two years remain happy (At&T issues aside) and are certainly ready for the next iteration. Moreover, the old iPhone remains in constant comparison to mobiles currently being released and even those in prototype phases. Any phone worth its mettle looks like an iPhone and offers functionality that Apple popularized and nearly perfected.

I went with the blackberry and it has been problematic (T-Mobile issues aside). Within the last year the phone has proved sluggish, unreliable, and in varied states of freezing. Hardly a day goes by where the curve’s battery isn’t pulled for a hard reset. It’s limited in OS functionality, application availability, web browsing, music or video playing. The curve’s only good use is text related. Twitter is fine and messaging/e-mail is OK. However, it’s a smart-phone and should be able to do a little bit more.  Attempts to perform outside basic text usage proves cumbersome and clunky. I’ve taken a good share of pictures on the device and the Google Maps application has proven useful, perhaps the only two redeeming qualities; yet in this day and age a phone with a usable camera and map isn’t much about which to get excited. Especially when considering the sluggishness that coincides with using any of these features.

All is not lost. Today Apple is holding their World Wide Developers Conference [IGN live blog] and the obvious news being the release of a new iPhone. The standard I hope that they set though will exist in the cloud, leading to seamless integration/syncing of several devices we use everyday: phones, computers, and the web. Mostly though I want a cellphone that can navigate my public library catalog, allowing me to search and request items without problem. The blackberry browser on the curve supports this but it never really works.  Blackberry had their two years and failed, time to move onto a brand that has rarely let me down.

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Does it matter that Android devices hold 2nd place in the cellular marketplace? There’s been some fanfare surrounding Apple’s drop [Apple’s Arrogance Stokes Android Gains] and some bloggers are making some sort of big deal out of it: reasoning that Apple is no longer as mighty as they once were and that the iphone is no longer the device it once was. Let’s be honest though, Apple products have always been niche products. Back in the 80s they held the personal computer marketplace in their hands, but their proprietary hardware and software couldn’t beat out the “open” hardware and software powered by Windows/DOS.  To this day the Apple OS remains a tiny percentage of the PC world.

What we’re seeing play out now is nearly the same story. Apple has a machine with software that only they control. Whereas Android is free for the tinkering and available to any company who wishes to put out a hand-set. Sure, Apple has stockholders focused on endlessy making billions of dollars, and as of late Apple has been doing that very well since the ipod boom. However, Apple or should I say Steve Jobs is more concerned with his product. Moreover, the aesthetic influence Apple controls is abundantly obvious. Look at any cellphone that’s worth it’s mettle and it resembles an iphone in more ways than one. Once the new iphone design is officially released this summer a new batch of copycats will be on the horizon in no time. Apple sets the bar.

Obviously Apple cares about their dominance in the cellphone race, a race that didn’t even start until they entered. Apple is in a familiar position, last time with the Macintosh, but now the iphone is a mature device and it’s direction is constantly scrutinized. Will the iphone ever be top-dog and does that even matter?  Apple users constantly desire their products and Apple is pushing boundaries/markets as time goes on.  They are making oodles of cash, influencing the competition, and in constant media attention- slipping a few percentage points means little.

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My first cell-phone was the original Sidekick and I was happy with it, text, e-mail, and the Internet were awesome. Then I slowly downgraded phones, from a RAZR to a ROKR to a nameless call and text only Samsung. Recently though, I  have arrived at a crossroad of sorts when deciding how to handle the end of my contract and the cro-magnon nature of my current phone. Additionally, I am beginning my career as an information professional and use technology to maximize my efficiency, communication, and to regularly check baseball.

It should be mentioned, that I have grown up a HUGE Apple computer fan. In school we used Apple IIs, at home I had a 33 MHZ Performa, then a first-gen imac, to an ibook, in high school I bought a cheap Apple Newton on ebay, and now I type away on my Intel-based Macbook, while listening to my ipod. I followed the 1st iphone release and followed the 2nd release more religiously, reading continuous live feeds. So why won’t I own the next iphone or even the old one?

Like all things, money is at the root but is not the final or most important factor. But I’ll begin with that. The cost of unlimited text, Internet, and a decent amount of talk-time on a cell-phone can range in monthly price depending on your provider. After doing a cost comparison with Billshrink– I found that an AT&T rate vs. the Tmobile rate (I know, no 3G) would be well over $500 more a year (3G isn’t worth that much). Now I could get the old iphone and hack it for use with Tmobile. However, the cost of picking up the old iphone can be outrageous, check Ebay. The new iphone that is being subsidized with a two year agreement at $199 is an eye-catcher, but the insane monthly rates keep me away.The Blackberry Curve comes to me at no cost and with a $50 rebate- so they pay me $50, give me a free high-end phone that retails on Ebay for over $300, and with a monthly plan that isn’t a rip-off. Additionally, the service that my friends have had with AT&T has been horrible, text messages and voicemail being received late and calls not ringing in.

Form, design, and coolness factor play a big part too! I’ve handled several iphones and ofcourse was dazzled by how smooth it looked and felt. Touchscreen is something I had to adjust to but it wasn’t a big deal. However, the iphone still feels oversized for my taste in cellphones. After handling the Curve it just-plain felt good in the hand, typing on a QWERTY keyboard and hearing a click-click-clack was natural and comfortable too.  While I like the iphone design and handling, my preference goes to the Blackberry. It’s lighter than the iphone, fits better in my pocket, and handles well. In the end, Blackberry has been making cellphones and PDAs for a long-time, comfort in use shows.

Functionality is an arena where the iphone is catching up and in some aspects may be beating out the Blackberry. I use a Macbook and know that syncing it to the iphone will be easier than with the Curve. The browser on the iphone is better because the screen is bigger, but the Curve gives you the option of their native browser or Opera. I don’t use Safari at home, sticking with Firefox and like options in browsing, as some websites handle better in different browsers (i.e. online classes in WebCT or Blackboard ). The important things though are already handled well by the Curve: baseball, Internet searching, text, e-mail, placing calls, office and PDF documents, etc. The Curve already has a slew of applications and modifications available for it as well.

Phew what a long rant …. I am not ruling out my possibility of getting an iphone in the future, 3rd generation or 4th. In all likely hood I will convert in time. As it stands, Tmobile and the Curve are priced better than AT&T and the iphone, and my preference in style and function is with the Curve.

Lastly, I am a man of conviction, and if I can avoid AT&T I will:

see here : https://theliskid.wordpress.com/2008/06/29/att-american-traitors-tricksters/

and here: https://theliskid.wordpress.com/2008/02/28/billboard-liberation-front/

oh and here: https://theliskid.wordpress.com/2008/02/13/what-the-government-doesnt-want-you-to-know/

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