A while back, I retired my iPhone 3G to the bedside table after buying an iPhone 4. I use the 3G pretty much as glorified clock radio-iPod Touch. I have a few radio apps on it and the Digital Clock app. I also have it set to sync and back up over Wi-Fi to my main iMac so I manually initiate a sync when I need to update Podcasts and apps and what have you.
This manual syncing has become tiresome. (I mean, if I used a traditional clock radio, I wouldn’t have to update its content manually, right?)
It’s simple enough to write an AppleScript to sync a connected iPhone but I want the script to run on a regular basis without me having to fire it. I like to listen to Podcasts in the evening so sometime during dinner would be a good time to update the 3G with any Podcasts that have arrived during the day. For this, I can create a launchd agent to fire the AppleScript that syncs the 3G in the background.
I had cron already set up (I followed this post), and I can confirm the script works really well (as you can see, I changed the script with “4S” for my device). Obviously, you can use this script without cron as well — it’ll simply sync with iTunes, but I guess it sort of defeats the purpose of this tutorial (unless you have a way to launch AppleScripts remotely). Doug also posted a similar script for automatically updating expired podcasts, which you can check out here.
According to reports surfaced on Apple Support Communities, many users are experiencing WiFi connectivity issues on devices running the latest iOS 4.3.3. These issues are nothing new to iOS — you might remember the problems with the original iPad and WiFi routers last year — but this time it appears they’re affecting iPhone and iPod touch models as well. The story is very similar to last year’s reports: a device fails to connect to a network or is unable to navigate; the WiFi icon doesn’t appear in the statusbar even if the device is actually connected; the device randomly disconnects from a network. You can read more about what users are reporting here, or here.
Personally, I did notice my iPhone 4 keeps disconnecting from my home network (running on an AirPort Extreme station) a few times every day. It’s kind of annoying as the disconnection lasts between 30 seconds and 1 minute, but like I said it’s not happening more than 3 or 4 times a day — surely not “all the time.” On my iPad 2, WiFi signal is stable (doesn’t drop) but it’s lower than before even a few meters away from my router. Again, these are issues I wasn’t experiencing on iOS 4.3.1 or 4.3.2 and definitely seem to fall in line with Apple Support Communities’ discussion threads.
Most of the times, though, there’s no need to panic. If iOS really has a WiFi bug, you can stay assured Apple will fix it soon with a software update — if the reports will get stronger in the next weeks, Apple will issue a new version of iOS like they did before. Several users, however, forget that having a proper network configuration helps a lot when having to deal with multiple mobile devices; if the issue is not in the network, resetting your iOS settings to factory usually helps in resolving all WiFi connectivity problems. If the issue persists (like on my iPhone), then it’s certainly something Apple will have to take a look at. [via ReadWriteWeb]
During the past months, I’ve stumbled upon several Mac apps that enable to turn your computer into an AirPlay receiver. None of them, however, provided the same amount of stability and functionality I’ve found today in AirServer, a $3 app that easily turns your Mac into an AirPlay device for audio, photos and videos. Since Apple introduced AirPlay with iOS 4.2 back in November, many have wondered whether it’d be possible to use the streaming features of the protocol (for music and other kinds of media) on a Mac, rather than on iPhones, iPads, and Apple TVs. The number of Mac apps that came out promising to bring AirPlay on the desktop was quite overwhelming: from simple utilities to stream music to more complex solutions like Banana TV, developers didn’t even refrain from creating similar alternatives for iOS devices, turning an iPad into a receiver for video. And if that’s not enough, remember a few weeks ago a hacker cracked the encryption keys used by Apple in the AirPort Express station — opening the door to even more apps with AirPlay / AirTunes integration.
AirServer brings some clarity and unification with a $3 purchase and a simple package that runs in the menubar. That’s it, no UI. Heck, the icon can be removed from the menubar, if you want. What AirServer does is simple: it turns a Mac into an AirPlay receiver for anything. Provided you have an iOS device (or another Mac) to start a streaming session, you’ll be able to listen to music (or any other audio) or watch videos and photos coming from AirPlay on your Mac’s big screen. I have an iMac at home, and AirServer is just perfect on it: I can fire up Instacast on my iPhone and listen to my favorite podcast on better speakers (pardon me if I don’t have external speakers); I can find a cool YouTube video and instantly beam it to my Mac without sharing any link; I can take my entire Camera Roll and show photos of my last vacation to my (poorly sighted) parents on the iMac. Now we’re talking.
As for quality, I have tested AirServer on two different local networks with pretty good results. Videos stored on device start playing almost instantly; music quality was great, with a couple of lags on my slower home network in a 2-hour playing time; photos stream just fine with responsive touch controls as you swipe. AirServer takes a minimal footprint on your Mac, and I’ve also noticed it reproduces the fading effect you get on the iPhone when you change your audio source. Overall, the app is stable and I was pleased to see an update was issued a few hours after I bought the app.
To sum up: at $3 you get an AirPlay receiver for Mac that supports audio, videos (even from Youtube and other apps) and photos. If you love AirPlay, get AirServer.
How great would it be to control everything in our homes using only iOS devices? I’ve always dreamed to fire up my Espresso machine remotely using an iPhone app, or being able to close all my windows from an iPad with live webcam feeds. I know, crazy futuristic stuff that current home automation techniques haven’t fully addressed yet, especially when it comes to security concerns and reliability. But ask Solstice Multimedia about it: the Denver-based company with a decade-long experience in telecommunications and residential services thinks that turning your house into a full-featured iPad-controlled system is totally possible. They even promote a 3,400-square- foot model home with two iPads built-in at $718,000. Okay.
Price of the model home itself aside, the iOS-based system relies on a dual-iPad setup that will cost you roughly $5,000. Optional audio, video and security equipment will take the cost to $60,000 — that’s a whole lot of equipment, right? I assume so. Apparently the system’s “brain” is built into the home’s “mechanical room” with WiFi connection to the 2 iPads, but a third device can be used to control everything without having to touch a screen on your wall. So, basically, the iPad is the engine, and mechanical parts take care of lights, motorized blinds, cameras, and other stuff. The Denver Post reports:
A model home in the Overlook neighborhood in Lone Tree’s Heritage Hills is equipped with two built- in iPads that can control all of the electronic systems in the home, including lights, motorized shades, music and television systems, baby monitors and closed-circuit cameras.
“The iPad has brought the entry-level price point down significantly, because an 8-inch in-wall touch screen before cost upwards of $3,000 or more,” Deatherage said. “Now we can get a $500 iPad and still provide most of the functionality that an in-wall touch panel can give.
I’m pretty sure Apple won’t release an iHome anytime soon, so if you’re willing to automate your living room using iPhones and iPads this might be your best chance yet. Go take a look on Solstice Multimedia’s website. [via Cult of Mac]
Back in March, a series of reports from several blogs and publications claimed a WiFi-only iPad connected to an iPhone via Personal Hotspot was able to receive GPS data through the established connection, even if the iPad itself didn’t have any GPS capabilities. If GPS data was being transmitted thanks to Personal Hotspot, many speculated getting a 3G iPad was basically useless as the last advantage of internal GPS could be replaced by an iPhone and proper tethering. With Personal Hotspot and wireless GPS data transmission, many said, users could install navigation software on a WiFi-only iPad and obtain GPS points thanks, again, to Personal Hotspot and iOS 4.3. However, while the reports about WiFi iPads displaying semi-accurate locations in the Maps app were accurate, rumors about GPS and Personal Hotspot were quickly debunked as, it turned out, a WiFi iPad couldn’t rely on tethering for location purposes for more than a few minutes, as also demoed on video here. Rather, it seemed like a WiFi iPad could get location info while on the move thanks to WiFi access point and hotspot discovery — considering the recent debate on Apple and location cache, this doesn’t surprise anymore.
As it usually happens in the Apple community, though, what started as an inaccurate report or a simple proof of concept eventually turned into an app available for download on the App Store. AirLocation, a $0.99 universal app released today, enables WiFi iPad users to achieve the workflow described above: once connected to an iPhone using Personal Hotspot, an iPad running AirLocation will be able to fetch accurate GPS data from the iPhone and update your location in real-time as you move. AirLocation will have to run on the iPhone as well in order for the whole setup to work. I’ve personally tested the application during a 20-minute car trip to Viterbo, my town, and it really works as advertised: although AirLocation doesn’t come with all the features of the Maps app for iOS, it does keep track of your location in real-time on the iPad using GPS and it didn’t stop working after a few minutes. I could see the blue dot indicating my location moving on screen at the same time of the iPhone, which was transmitting data via Personal Hotspot.
AirLocation doesn’t come with many functionalities, but it does one thing well: getting accurate GPS data with iOS 4.3′s Personal Hotspot. Get it here.
If you’ve been intrigued by what exactly is different between the WiFi, GSM (AT&T) and CDMA (Verizon) versions of the iPad 2, well iFixit has you covered yet again with some very nice comparisons of the internals of those three base models. The above photo shows you the logic board of the three (WiFi up top and 3G below the ruler) but iFixit also documents the other key vitals of the iPad 2 on their site from the various antennas, 3G chips and the headphone jack.
The key differences to note are that the CDMA model has an additional antenna compared to the GSM variety and it also uses a Qualcomm Gobi dual-mode radio with integrated GPS that actually supports both CDMA and GSM, but the GSM compatibility is unused by the iPad. As for the GSM models, they use an Infineon GSM chip and a Broadcom GPS chip. Interestingly the hardware for both the CDMA and GSM iPad 2 follows the iPhone 4, in which the GSM versions used that Infineon and Broadcom chips whilst the Verizon CDMA version used the single Qualcomm one.
When I was in high school, I remember we didn’t have iPhones with wireless sharing capabilities or music streaming apps like Pandora and Spotify. But we did have some iPod Classics, and sharing headphones with friends asking you to listen to your “new songs” was normal. And sharing headphones was annoying: you were forced to mess with cables, you didn’t get the full quality of a song, you always ended up with broken earbuds after a few days. Though, like I said, that was normal.
We have better ways of listening to music nowadays: streaming aside, we have portable Bluetooth speakers like the Jambox and iPod nanos that fit in every pocket and are relatively cheap. Eavesdrop, a new app for the iPhone released a few days ago, aims at taking the whole “local music sharing with your friends” concept a step further by enabling you to broadcast your iPod.app library over WiFi and Bluetooth. (more…)
Jeff Carlson at Tidbits has a great piece about many iPhone and iPad owners’ recent question: should your next iPad be a 3G one, or can you just use Personal Hotspot through your iPhone? In short: it depends on how much data you use and how many devices you could be able to connect to the Personal Hotspot. But overall, the hotspot functionality of iOS 4.3 sounds like a great plan if you already have an iPhone and know you’ll be doing a lot of iPad 3G surfing.
So, in the end, the Personal Hotspot approach will be cheaper for AT&T users who use lots of data, and more expensive for those who can stay within the lowest limits. And it’s exactly the reverse for Verizon Wireless users, for whom the Personal Hotspot approach is slightly better for lower bandwidth users, but more expensive once you go beyond 2 GB of data.
Personally, I’ve grown accustomed to having an Internet-connected iPad whenever I need it, whether that’s on a familiar Wi-Fi network or taking advantage of near-ubiquitous 3G coverage (in Seattle, where AT&T’s coverage is generally good). As for ease of use, the fact that the iPad remembers the iPhone’s network password, and that the iPhone switches into Personal Hotspot mode easily, leads me to think that adding the extra step of enabling the hotspot wouldn’t be onerous.
From my experience with 3 Italia’s network, I can say my next iPad is going to be a WiFi-only one. The setup is easy and the iPad remembers the Personal Hotspot password, plus you can leave the hotspot set to “on” even when you’re not using so you won’t have to re-enable every single time. The iPhone won’t consume battery and everything will be left as it is. Personal Hotspot is just too good for me to ever want a 3G iPad.
PhotoSync, a universal $1.99 app available in the App Store, has quickly become one of my favorite tools to enhance my iOS devices’ photo and video sharing capabilities. The app, which requires a free Mac companion software to be installed from the developers’ website, allows you to share photos and videos from your iPhone and iPad libraries between computers and other iOS devices running the app. PhotoSync can send multiple photos at once or sync entire libraries with iPhones, iPads and iPod touches, as well as PCs and Macs. (more…)