New UI for FIOS being rolled out ?

According to Engadget’s HD Blog Verizon has begun rolling out the updated FIOS UI to customers. The article says that Indiana, Rhode Island, parts of New Jersey appear to be getting the update first, but hopefully Massachusetts is not far behind (there was no sign of it this morning before I left for work).

Posted under Personal

This post was written by awk on July 19, 2007

iPhone – Battery Life

Although it’s been a little ad-hoc I’m noticing significantly improved battery life if I’m not within range of a Wi-Fi network or if I turn off the Wi-Fi on the iPhone. The problem might also be exacerbated by having a ‘check for new mail’ setting rather than having a manual check.

I’m noticing that after 9 hours after a full charge has completed (with the Wi-Fi disabled) I still have as near as makes no difference a full charge (I’ve had one very short phone call in that period, and mail is autochecking but using Edge to do it). Previously I would estimate that in similar circumstances with the Wi-Fi on (and mail autochecking) I would have significantly less than 1/2 a battery remaining.

The next less than scientific test will be to have the Wi-Fi on but the mail auto check disabled, that way it should be clear whether it’s directed usage, or just having it enabled that’s the power drain.

Posted under iPhone

This post was written by awk on July 17, 2007

Boston CocoaHeads Meeting

A little late (I was sick on Friday) but here are some notes on Thursday evenings CocoaHeads meeting in Boston.This was my first visit so I didn’t really have any expectations, mostly I expected it to be a chance to meet a few other developers. It was a smallish crowd (around a dozen) with a mix of some students, some developers from other large companies such as myself (and another colleague from Avid), some software contractors, and a couple of ‘independent’ developers who are actually earning a living from Mac OS X software (Daniel Jalkut of Red Sweater and Ken and Glen Aspeslagh from Ecamm Network)Some demos were given :

  • Jeff Dlouhy gave a demo of TabPosé a new feature he’s working on for Camino as part of the Google Summer of Code project. TabPosé is a neat looking idea, and though I’m not a big camino user (for some reason I seem contented with Safari) I can see it being ‘emulated’ in Safari in the future.
  • Ken Aspeslagh gave a demo of the weeks ‘hottest’ product iPhoneDrive. Ken and Glen wrote the product over the course of about 5 days and managed to get it out and ‘plastered over the web’ earlier in the week. It’s a great solution to the fact that the iPhone doesn’t have a ‘disk mode’ (unlike the iPod) and they got a lot of press for this product last week including a nice commendation from David Pogue apparently. Ken said that actually the toughest part of the whole project had been the ‘finder like’ portion of the UI which uses an NSBrowser in column mode. This isn’t a class I’ve played with but apparently it’s very ‘picky’ and doesn’t handle things like drag and drop at all well.
  • Dan Grover gave a demo of ShoveBox. It’s a small app which sits on the menu bar and provides a ‘drop point’ for ‘stuff’. Things can be ‘shoved’ in to the box and then organized, indexed and sorted. You can then pull things out again for use in other apps. It’s a little like the old Mac OS < X scrapbook, only way prettier and with 10 times the features. There was some general encouragement to Dan to ‘just ship’ and save some of the features he’s still trying to work the kinks out for V1.1 I think it was pretty clear for many of the developers in the audience that ‘getting things out there at V1.0′ is critical.

The meeting was great – it was a good opportunity to meet with other developers and talk about some of the issues facing small software developers. I look forward to going again and perhaps giving a demo of my own project !Oh and in one of those ‘small world’ moments – it turns out that Ken worked at Avid until about 2 or so years ago !

Posted under Development

This post was written by awk on July 14, 2007

iPhone – Cleaning Cloth

The iPhone screen certainly get’s a little ‘smudgy’ with fingerprints and the like, but it’s not really too bad when the screen is on since the display is sufficiently bright and clear that it’s not overwhelmed by the fingerprints.

However mindful that people will want to keep their iPhone fingerprint and smudge free Apple thoughtfully includes a black cleaning cloth (with iPhone embossed) with each iPhone purchase. What’s surprising is just how well the cloth works ! It’s way better than ‘some random bit of cotton’ (ie. my T-Shirt), it almost seems to be suede rather than cotton, perhaps it’s impregnated with something too ?

Clearly as much thought went into the cleaning cloth and the screen surface as all the other parts of the iPhone package.

Posted under iPhone

This post was written by awk on July 10, 2007

Theme Update

I’ve installed an iPhone Theme & Plugin so people viewing the site from their iPhone get a slightly more optimized view (regular browser users shouldn’t see much of a difference).

Except that the ‘homepage’ for is now just a list of posts – Welcome still takes you to the ‘about me’ stuff that used to be the front page.

Posted under Blog

This post was written by awk on July 7, 2007

iPhone – Mail Autocheck

One feature I actually miss from my Treo is a ‘window’ setting on the Mail Autocheck in iPhone. Mail on the iPhone will check for new messages every 15, 30, or 60 minutes (or manually). However there’s no restriction to that setting to say only check between 8am and 8pm. SnapperMail on the Treo would let you configure the days and period during a day when mail was automatically retrieved – outside of those times mail checking was manual.

The lack of a window means that unless you have the iPhone set to ‘silent mode’, when new mail is retrieved in the middle of the night the phone ‘beeps’ to alert you to the new message. Not enough to wake me up (it’s just a single trill), but enough to wake you from that nearly sleeping state if your phone is on the nightstand.

A small upgrade for the future Apple ?

Posted under iPhone

This post was written by awk on July 7, 2007

iPhone – Typing Trick

David Pogue published an invaluable trick for typing more quickly when there’s a lot of punctuation involved :

In a nutshell hold down the ‘.?123 key’ which transforms the keyboard layout from alphabetic to numeric/punctuation and then drag to the punctuation mark or number you want. When you lift your finger the character is inserted and the keyboard snaps back to alphabetic again.

The  same trick works for the ‘shift key’ to do uppercase characters.

Posted under iPhone

This post was written by awk on July 5, 2007

Shed of the Year

My brother (and father) built a ‘shebo‘ (a cross between a shed and a gazebo) in his yard a year or so ago. I don’t know if he can still enter it for ‘The Shed of the Year Competition‘ or if the competition is only open to construction completed in the past year.

He faces some pretty stiff competition though. This years winner is pretty fancy.

Posted under Personal

This post was written by awk on July 5, 2007

iPhone – Caller ID

The iPhone like most phones with a built in contacts list will translate the caller ID supplied phone number to a name and perhaps a ‘location’ (home, mobile etc.) using the contacts list. A cute feature of the iPhone is that if you have the same number multiple times with similar entries in the contacts list it combines the data in a sensible way.

For example I have an entry for Michele (Home) with our home phone number and for myself with the same Home tag. When someone from home calls me it says ‘Michele or Andrew Kimpton – Home’ onscreen rather than just picking the first match. It also recognizes the same surname on both entries and so removes that from the first name.


Posted under iPhone

This post was written by awk on July 5, 2007

Interview with Chuck Thacker

Chuck Thacker is one of the ‘grey beards’ of the computer industry having performed some splendid engineering and research at both Xerox PARC and Digital’s Palo Alto Research Center. CNet has an interview with him here.

A couple of pieces of the interview struck me :

I’d like to get your thoughts on the quality of computer scientists coming up through the ranks these days.
Thacker: I am actually quite disturbed by this trend. I worked on a project to try to figure out how to actually use computers more effectively in education in the lower grades because a lot of people now work on improving university-level education and maybe high school. That’s not where the problem is. The problem is in the very first exposure of a kid to education. It’s a hard slog because the education market is worse than the medical market in terms of fragmentation.

I wonder what the fragmentation is ? Does he mean in terms of educational approaches ? Hardware suppliers ? Software suppliers ? Too many points of contact with the education market purchasers ?

As a computer scientist, what do you see as the next big challenge, the next big hurdle for computer science?

So we need to look around and see what to do…The tradeoff is that it looks like the manufacturers are going to want to increase the number of processors on one silicon chip rather than increasing their complexity of a single processor. The problem with that is that we don’t know how to program it. We just aren’t very good at concurrence. One of the things that I say to my academic friends is that–to some extent–this is your fault because we hire a lot of computer science graduates with bachelor’s degrees. They have not learned anything about parallel programming.

The challenge of parallelism is undoubtedly one of the biggest hurdles the software industry needs to face. At university I worked with Transputers and Occam however that approach still didn’t succeed in part due to the fact that it was still too complicated (and in part due to British Technology Companies general failings). At Be we had a much lower processor count but still struggled with explaining to developers how to handle multi-threaded programming and concurrency. Now with multi-core CPUs the problem is becoming even more pressing and it’s certainly something that we’re challenged by at my current employer.

There needs to be continued research in the areas of concurrency, with a genuine focus on both the abstract science problems and on the practicalities of using the technology in todays software engineering projects. It might just be that Google has some of the most to gain from this and can in turn devote some considerable (hopefully public) research in the area. Google’s data-centers now contain many thousands of CPU cores all essentially working in parallel to perform work – admittedly the relatively constrained problem of search, but it’s a beginning.

Posted under Personal

This post was written by awk on July 5, 2007