Friday, August 31

Social networking is so hot right now

I'm just back from Kenya and it's been so long since I posted, sorry, so while I pile all my dirty safari clothes into the washing machine, here's a quick post. Demetri Martin from The Daily Report explains social networking. At last, I understand!

Sunday, August 12

My iTunes favourites: now scrolling near you

Apple has launched three new widgets that let you show website/blog visitors what you've purchased, what you've reviewed, and how you've rated tracks in iTunes. Only really makes sense if you get most of your new music from iTunes, but that's looking more and more like everybody these days, and certainly includes me.

Check it:

Friday, August 10

Facebook layout gets unmanageable when...

Facebook layout gets unmanageable when...
Originally uploaded by thatjonesboy.

OK Facebook, I like an easy introduction and a structured look as much as the next guy, but don't you think it's time to lose the fixed-width page and allow some additional columns and column widths?

Act soon or all your long tail of Facebook Platform developers will get no love and you'll be yesterday's social network sooner than you can say "Lame third-party template editors are killing MySpace."

Jesuswalks and other stealth iPhones

Dang that Dave@netx out-cools me every time - why didn't i think of giving my cracked iPhone a cooler name than "Alan Jones' iPhone'? Mmyeah Dave, I declined the invitation to share my personal data with Uncle Steve too. Way too many Boston, KISS and ELO tracks for one thing, and I didn't read the iPhone terms of service agreement closely enough to understand just how naughty I've been by cracking an iPhone to use as my iPreciousss in .AU.

I dont think so Steve

I don't think i'll let Apple know that a) my iphone is cracked, b) is called jesuswalks and c) has tasteless early nineties rock on it.
 blog it

Thursday, August 9

Yahoo! still stays still for the camera

This is the earliest digital photo I have on online storage. Uploaded 10 December 2000, it's from a holiday to the NSW ski fields, looking down on some ducks that were skating around on the frozen lake in front of our hotel.

Anyway, for the last seven years it's been hosted with Yahoo! Photos, where it did almost nothing except take up 200k of disk space. Nobody much came and viewed it, nobody emailed it to a friend, nobody happened across it while browsing popular tags, nobody made a new friend as a result of viewing it, and crucially, nobody ever printed it out on a mug or a mousemat.

Not because it was a bad photo necessarily (though it might be) but because Yahoo! just failed to grok the social networking 2.0 wave that it helped touch off by launching web 1.0 market leaders like Yahoo! Messageboards, Yahoo! Groups and Yahoo! Bookmarks. Rather than grok it, Yahoo! was swamped by the wake of social networking 2.0 as it powered on past, floundering in the backwash of early precursors like eBay and Geocities, then by Flickr, MySpace and Facebook.

What is MySpace but Geocities with easier page editing and friend-finding? What is Facebook but Yahoo! Groups with an open API and some ajax? And what is Flickr but Yahoo! Photos plus social networking?

So in a few weeks my little duckies will be migrated across to live with my other photos on Flickr, where for the first time they will get pageviews, comments, favourites and other forms of sticky social interaction. All my little duckies will be in a row. Yahoo! had to pay reportedly USD35M for this to happen, when it probably had 4-5 years of breathing space to see this coming and just build it themselves.

Flickr was acquired in 2005, and since then, have we seen further significant innovations from the Flickr team? No, not really. It's taken them nigh-on two years to wait for management to summon up the courage to jam the two services together, fer chrissakes!

Should they add video uploading and sharing as a matter of urgency? You know they should. Will someone eat their lunch if they don't? Of course they will. Do they already know that, and are they constrained from doing it due to organisational lethargy and lack of dev resources?

Well, it wouldn't be the first time...

Monday, August 6

Activating an iPhone in Australia, and first impressions

Can't believe it's taken me so long to commit this to the blog, but here's my iPhone story...

Good friend Ben Keighran very kindly stood in line several times at Apple Stores across the Bay Area to finally snag me an 8Gb iPhone at the end of July. For the man in the midst of securing a Series A finance round from a big Valley VC firm, setting up offices in the US for the first time and recruiting an exec team, this was no small time penalty for him, and I thank you again, Ben!

Then Wyatt Zoi, a relative of a Bluepulse staffer, very kindly agreed to schlep the iPhone home to Sydney for me a week later. Wyatt and I had never met before, so we agreed that I'd meet him at the arrivals gate with a sign with an iPhone on it, so he could recognise me.

So there I was, at 8am on a Sunday morning, only one day back in Sydney myself after trekking in the Himalayas, and half-dead from the 'flu. But I had a big colour laminated sign with an iPhone on it, and for every arriving traveller who assumed I was insane, there were two who looked at me and grinned, figuring out for themselves why I was there and what the sign was about.

Excuse me, would you be the man bringing my iPreciousss?
Waiting at the airport with my custom iPhone sign so Wyatt could recognise me.

Wyatt, Bearer of the iPrecioussss
Wyatt, bearer of the iPreciousss, grinning at my lunacy.

iPhone, out of the Apple bag
Transferring the iPreciousss from Wyatt to me. Fortunately, he was immune to its power, and I didn't have to gnaw it from his cold, dead fingers like you'd have to do to take it off me at this point.

Got the iPrecious!
I have the iPreciousss! See how its magical powers are making the reflective panels on my backpack glow with a spectral silver light? (OK, that could be the flash I guess).

At home at last. The box is so small! How does Steve cram so much geeky goodness into such a tiny box?

Alec points to indicate how awesome the iPreciousss is
The unpack experience is a whole new level of geeky deliciousness. It looks so fantastic in the box it's a shame to take it out. I felt like Arthur pulling the sword from the stone.

Sadly, I had heaps to do when I got home - friends coming around for a party, food to prepare, garden to prep, beer to chill - so I really didn't get to play with the iPhone until 48 hours later, which nearly killed me.

iPreciousss! pre activation
It already had some charge when unpacked, but I had to leave it here for the rest of the day while I entertained friends. Curse them!

Getting the iPhone activated in Australia wasn't too bad, once I found iActivator, a gui app that puts it all together and even gives you an interface so you don't need to use command line. Step-by-step instructions and a download here.

However, I found I kept getting an error message on the final activation step. So if you try this at home kids, make sure you (1) use Activity Monitor to quit iTunes Helper as well as iTunes before you begin; and (2) make sure you launch iTunes again before doing the activation step in iActivator. Then it should work like a charm.

Update: thanks to Steve Fenech over at the Daily Telegraph for the heads-up on iNdependence, another new GUI activator app. Haven't tried it yet, but worth a try.

iPhone? Nah, but awesome as the first PDA/Video iPod
It's an extraordinary device. The presentation when I took it out of the box made me feel like I was stealing something from the cold, dead hands of an alien astronaut from the remains of his ship, or removing the sword from the stone that would make me King of all England!

So many things have been well thought through in the industrial design. I love the resolution and brightness of the screen most of all, and the way the necessary external buttons are tactile, but really low profile so they don't distract from the beautiful shape at all. I love that there's absolutely no gap or difference in height between the chrome metal casing and the glass, god knows what the failure rate must be at that point of assembly.

The touch interface and supplied apps obviously have some more evolution to do but hell, this is version 1.0 people! I can't believe how polished it all is for version 1.0.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love it if I can get this iPhone to work with my .au SIM card at some stage, but if I can't, I'll be happy to have this as my main iPod until the .au iPhone is released.

Since it's not 3G and I can't run my own Java apps on it, use a cut-down fast mobile-specific browser like Opera Mini or even install a custom ringtone, it's not much of a phone, and so I've decided I don't actually miss that functionality a whole lot. And the camera in my SE K800i phone craps all over the iPhone's camera.

But as an iPod, I'm totally comfortable with what it cost to buy - it pwns the rest of the iPod family. I can't believe Apple wouldn't make this the interface for all future video iPods.

If I was Apple was rebrand and restructure iTunes. It's way more "iSync" now than "iSync" is, and obviously "Tunes" doesn't really reflect everything it now manages. The interface stiller flects playlist management, and that's only part of it now.

I'd rebuild iTunes from scratch, since some of the core may still be third-party stuff they acquired to get iTunes built in a hurry. It's still mentioned in the copyright notices for the product so I'm guessing it's still in there.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love it if I can get this iPhone to work with my .au SIM card at some stage, but if I can't, I'll be happy to have this as my main iPod until the .au iPhone is released.

Tell me, have you played with any third-party apps yet? Has anyone you know tried to reskin theirs? (like, why? but still, some people have!)

Sunday, August 5

Hacking the iPhone

hacking the iphone
Originally uploaded by thatjonesboy.

Yes, I'm sure it's possible to hack an AUD$650 Apple iPhone in order to use it as an 8Gb Video iPod with web browser. It's just most Mac users haven't hacked anything in a very long time, if at all, and like me, they may be out of practice.

So, some tips:

  1. Before you begin, work on your justification. Practice answering this question:
    “You spent how much on this and even if you successfully activate it, you cant use it as a phone?”

  2. The documentation you need will be called "README", will be in the file you've downloaded once you've figured out how to unzip it. It will suffer from poor typography and layout.

  3. When the instructions refer to something called "Terminal" they're not referring to something where business and first class passengers like you get to board first.

  4. Limber up. Mac users are unused to hacking things. They are used to shiny, beautiful things that work intuitively. You are about to risk turning a shiny, beautiful thing that works intuitively into a shiny, beautiful thing that protects your table top from hot coffee.

  5. Wash your hands before you begin - you don’t want fingerprints on the world’s most expensive beer coaster.

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