Ready For My Closeup

Ready For My Closeup

DanielByrne [warning! Flash site with JavaScript auto-expand full-screen window] came to Happy Cog‘s New York office to shoot me for an upcoming feature story in .Net Magazine, “the UK’s leading magazine for web designers and developers.”

What can I say? I’m a sucker for the gentle touch of a make-up pad. Or of anything, really. I love this photo (shot by Byrne with my iPhone) because it captures the fact that I’m still really a four-year-old. It also shows what a genuine photographer can do with even the humblest of tools.

[tags]photos, photography, shoot, danielbyrne, photographer, zeldman, jeffreyzeldman, profile, bio, interview, .net, .netmag, .netmagazine, .netmagazineUK, myglamorouslife, iphone, candid, shoots, shots, Apple[/tags]

Phoneless

Two weeks out of warranty, my iPhone 1.0 becomes a turnip.

Cost to replace an out-of-warranty iPhone 1.0 with a refurbished version of the same model: $199.

Minimum wait time to receive the $199 replacement at the 57th Street Apple Store: two hours. That’s 120 minutes, folks.

Can I leave and come back? No.

Cost to replace my old iPhone with a new model: also $199.

Minimum wait time to receive the new model at the 57th Street Apple Store: one hour.

I don’t want the new model but one hour is better than two.

Alas, though I’ve got a dead phone, I also have a hungry toddler. I can’t wait here that long.

The Apple Genius recommends that I make an appointment and come back.

First available appointment? Tuesday.

Today is Saturday. My phone, my connection to the world, is dead. I can’t replace it at the Apple Store unless I devote the afternoon to the project.

Lightbulb: AT&T stores sell iPhones. There are AT&T Stores all over this city. I don’t have to wait in this airless giant gerbil cage all day!

Availability of iPhone at nearest AT&T Store: nil.

How about at this other AT&T Store? Nope.

Or this one? No iPhones here either.

A tropical storm hits New York, ending my quest, sending me home soaked and phoneless.

I will have to go back to the Apple Store some other day, and queue as if for Madonna tickets.

I love this phone, but I’m starting to have my doubts about the company that makes it.

[tags]apple, iphone, applestore, scarcity[/tags]

Maybe that’s why they call them Kodak moments

It was the last day of our daughter’s first year of school. Party time. All the three-year-olds dressed like dolls; teachers relieved and sad; parents misty-eyed, promising to stay in touch over the summer.

Our children have three teachers. One is leaving for graduate school, the second is off to have a child of her own, and the third—a wonderful woman—will have to be taken out of the school in a box.

The teachers stood together for the last time, hugging each other and our children.

Moments like these are once in a lifetime. Fortunately I carry an iPhone. Unfortunately, my iPhone’s camera is once again taking blanks instead of photographs.

For those who have just missed the photographic opportunity of a lifetime because of this unfortunate iPhone bug, here, once again, is the method that will remove the corrupted file and get your iPhone taking photos again:

  1. Sync iPhone. This also creates a backup of the notes and other items that don’t get synchronized anywhere else.
  2. Go to Settings, General, Reset: “Erase All Content and Settings.”
  3. Once complete, reconnect the iPhone to begin syncing with iTunes.
  4. iTunes will ask if you want to sync from backup. Choose not to. Instead, “Set up as new phone.” This sounds scary, but it’s really not. (You don’t lose your phone number or anything. It’s just a dumb, needlessly scary Apple label.)

From resourcesforlife.com, whose solution this is: “You will lose notes, SMS history, and iPhone settings as well as data that is normally synchronized. However, corrupted system files (such as the internal camera roll files) will be replaced with fresh non-corrupted versions and everything should work.”

I didn’t post this to complain about not getting to photograph the last day of our kid’s first year of school. Nor did I post it to take a swipe at Apple for building an amazingly creative, industry-leading product that is, however, a computer, and thus subject to bugs and glitches.

I posted it because every six months or so, when my iPhone’s camera stops working, I forget how to fix it. Now it’s on my website. When the camera starts failing around Christmastime, I’ll know just where to look.

[tags]apple, iphone, camera, software, bug, whitebox, photo, photos, disappearing[/tags]

Usability problems with .Mac sync

I’m afraid this is another of those entries outlining bizarre design decisions and perplexing usability quirks in the otherwise brilliant world of Apple computers and phones. The problem is sync. It can be done, but it often goes wrong, even for smart people who understand computers, haven’t hacked their equipment or broken the law, and are kind to dogs, cats, and children.

Here’s a particular setup: .Mac account. Tiger laptop at home, Leopard iMac at office.

On both Macs, you need to refresh your subscriptions (Calendar: Refresh All) before you sync for the first time at that location. Otherwise, sync deletes the subscribed calendars’ information. Just wipes it clean away.

And even if you Refresh All first, sync may wipe away your data, just because.

Fortunately, after sync erases your data, hitting Calendar: Refresh All again reinstates it, downloading saved data from .Mac.

Why does syncing on either Mac remove all the calendar events from subscribed calendars? It’s the opposite of what any user could possibly want. There’s not even a conceivable edge case where a user would expect “sync” to mean “I’m bored with my life. Surprise me. Make my calendar data disappear.”

One doesn’t sync to lose data. Losing data by syncing is the exact opposite of what a user expects—which also makes it the opposite of what the Macintosh experience promises and usually delivers.

.Mac sync is either partly broken; or correctly designed, but to absurdly limited scenarios; or designed so counter to a user’s expectations that it should only be run with instructions, which Apple does not provide.

Apple does not provide instructions because instructions imply a learning curve, and Apple’s pitch is that its stuff just works. One nevertheless expects at least a slight learning curve when using, say, GarageBand or Keynote. But not with sync. “Sync now” seems pretty self-explanatory, and no user doubts what’s supposed to happen.

Sync does give you a warning before dumping your data, and that warning provides a clue to what’s going wrong. It tells you that syncing will remove x number of items from your calendars, and even lists which items they are. In Leopard, it goes further, and shows you before/after views of items that will change.

Significantly, there is generally no change at all between the before and after views. Probably the “change” is to a part of the database that the user doesn’t see, and has to do with differing file formats or differing time-stamp conventions between Tiger and Leopard. A less buggy or better conceived interface would hide this non-information from the user instead of asking her to think about it.

Do I really need to see that “Lunch with Jim at 1:00” is going to “change” to “Lunch with Jim at 1:00?” Probably not, since, from my perspective as a human, the two items are identical. It’s lunch. With Jim. At 1:00.

If “Lunch with Jim at 1:00” is “different” from “Lunch with Jim at 1:00” to my Macintosh because Leopard and Tiger encode or store calendar items differently, or because Leopard and Tiger time-stamp event creation dates differently, that’s not information I need to know and it’s not a before/after view I need to see.

Before/after seems cool, and probably is if your data is actually changing. For instance, if you’ve changed one of your friend’s photos, it would be nice to compare the before and after views and decide which photo you prefer. But I’ve never seen before/after work that way. Changed photos just get changed. Before/after only seems to come into play on my networks when “Lunch with Jim at 1:00” is changing to “Lunch with Jim at 1:00.”

The irrelevancies I’ve just described must be endured, and the sequence (Refresh: All, then Sync, then Refresh: All again if data was lost during sync) must be performed in the order described, before syncing the iPhone. If, in a moment of derangement, you plop your iPhone onto its dock before doing the herky-jerky data dance I’ve just described, you will lose data not only from your iPhone, but also from .Mac, and then you will never get your data back.

Your mileage may vary.

There are always 100 people for whom everything works correctly, and some of them are always moved to tell me it works for them, and to imply that I’m somehow to blame for the obvious usability problems I’m clearly describing.

They are followed by a dozen Apple haters who want to believe that the lengthy and detailed description of a specific usability problem proves Apple makes bad products, and anyone who claims to enjoy using Apple’s hardware and software is a “fanboy.” Juvenile homophobic and misogynist name-calling often accompanies these messages of hope.

Here’s what I am actually saying.

On my two-Mac setup where one is on Tiger and the other on Leopard, I can make sync work, but I must carry out actions in exact sequences, and know the tricks to undo the damage that syncing inflicts on my data due to bizarre design decisions on Apple’s part.

A few times I have irretrievably lost data, although I was able to manually recreate it by emailing colleagues and asking, “When are we meeting?”

It reminds me of running an old analog mixing board in a dirty, smoky recording studio. Everything’s cool if you know which faders you must never touch, which inputs are dead, and how far to the left you can pan a sound source before shorting out the system.

There’s genius in the concept of sync, and it works magnificently when you’re, for instance, syncing just one iPod to just one Macintosh, always the same iPod and Macintosh.

It gets weird when syncing from home to office via .Mac across operating systems, and weirder when you throw hot iPhone action in.

How should sync work? Just like you think it should work. Just like the two arrows circling in on each other (sync’s icon) imply that it does work. Hitting sync at any time on any networked device should cause all the latest changes to be stored on .Mac and downloaded back to whichever connected device you’re using.

There’s a whole other discussion to be had on why the iPhone is supposed to sync to only one machine, (Sure, iPods do that because of DRM restrictions; but competitive PDAs can sync to any computer: home, office, you name it. Likewise with digital cameras. The iPhone is a phone, an iPod, a digital camera, and a PDA, but its syncs like an iPod, not like a digital camera or PDA, and that’s just dumb.) but we’ll save that one for a rainy day.

Sync long and prosper.


Addendum: Another crazy thing is that subscribed iCals from Basecamp don’t update upon refresh in Leopard. In iCal in Tiger, subscribed Basecamp iCals correctly refresh automatically when one selects Calendars: Refresh All. But in iCal in Leopard, subscribed Basecamp iCals do not refresh, period, no matter what one does. In order to “sync” Basecamp iCals in Leopard, one must delete the calendars every day, and subscribe to fresh copies. When one does this, one gets fresh calendar data, but sync fails due to “conflicts” that do not load in the frozen Conflict Resolver and thus cannot be resolved. This of course is not what Apple intended. It is, by any reasonable measure, an idiotic and self-defeating system. The basest ape would not design such a system. Obviously the system is not operating the way Apple intended. How does one fix it? Apple isn’t telling.

Comments are now off, but you can read what others had to say when comments were open.

[tags]dotmac, .mac, sync, iphone, imac, laptop, macbook, macbookpro, apple[/tags]

Everything that can be iPhonelike, will be

From A Touching Story at CES in Business Week:

The Apple iPhone’s impact was widely evident at the Consumer Electronics Show, as new touch-screen devices could be found everywhere.

Hello? This was inevitable. But can they all do it as well as Apple does it? I think we know the answer.

I’m waiting for Apple to …

  • collaborate with Canon or Nikon on a great digital camera whose interface is iPhone-like (instead of incomprehensible icon and push-button driven), and
  • release a land line phone that works like the phone/contact part of the iPhone, and syncs to any computer I own.

It will happen. It’s inevitable.

The iPhone is too great a leap forward in interface design to be confined to, well, the iPhone. But with all the patents that went into the iPhone (and all the design thinking that only Apple seems able to do), copying a touchscreen is not going to cut it.

Indeed, calling it a touchscreen interface misses the point of its smoothly integrated, intuitive multi-functionality.

Apple will surely partner with leading brands to bring its interface wizardry to all the devices that frustrate us, from cable boxes to remotes of all kinds.

And then they may even fix sync.

[tags]design, apple, iphone, touch[/tags]

Morning has broken

A technological lament in eight Tweets.

1 – Since Leopard time-stamps differently, syncing iPhone between Leopard + Tiger Macs means constant “replacement” of same files.

2 – 365 “old” calendar events get deleted; 365 “new” ones replace them. Same with 1GB video files. “Old” one is deleted; “new” one gets written.

3 – “Calendars” and “subscriptions” are also different between Leopard and Tiger, causing data loss when you sync.

4 – Choices: Update all Macs to Leopard (even though CS3 is wonky in it). Or sync iPhone only to one Mac (home OR office, not both). Or buy PC?


This would seem to end things. But then JZ pipes up:

(5) – : @zeldman – Seems to me that you need .Mac. Sync your phone to just one computer and then sync both computers to .Mac.


So one wearily continues:

6 – .Mac sync fails between Leopard + Tiger due to changes Apple made between OSes. .Mac freezes instead of syncing. .Mac useless now.

7 – Obviously Apple requires you to “upgrade” all your Macs to the same OS version, otherwise everything (including iPhone) is half-broken.

8 – It’s the kind of stuff that’s supposed to happen to the John Hodgman (PC) character, not the Justin Long (Mac) guy.

Rimshot!

[tags]getamac, justinlong, johnhodgman, mac, pc, sync, dotmac, .Mac, iphone, leopard, tiger, iphone, compatibility[/tags]

iPhone “disappearing photos” bug

No moving parts. No gears to wear down, no pads to replace. The code-powered device is an engineer’s dream and a user’s delight—until the software heads south.

Take my iPhone. Please. This morning, it stopped taking photos, and none of the approved means of restoring erring iPhones to sanity—restart, reset, restore—is of the slightest use.

Oh, there is still a lens on the back of the iPhone, and there is still a Camera icon at the top right of the Home screen. Clicking that icon still initiates camera-like functionality. I can still frame my subject in the glorious full-screen viewfinder, still press the shutter button at the bottom of the viewfinder window, and still enjoy the satisfying shutter click sound effect when I do so.

But I will not have a photo to show for my efforts. For the device does not actually take photos any more.

White box outline hack

Yesterday it was a camera. Today it simply emulates one.

If I try to view my photo(s) in the Camera Roll section, the iPhone tells me it contains “No Photos” and advises: “You can take photos using the camera.” Awesome suggestion, dudes!

If I navigate to the Camera Roll from inside the Camera (by pressing the blue outlined camera roll icon at the bottom left of the Camera’s viewfinder window), I see an empty white box indicating where the photo I’ve taken would be if the iPhone had not obliterated the data the moment the shutter snapped. (For that’s what it seems to do: take photos and immediately obliterate their data.)

If I take five photos before pressing the camera roll icon, I see five empty white boxes indicating the five photos whose data the camera deleted. Take ten photos, see ten empty white boxes.

I discovered this bug after using the iPhone to take photos of my three-year-old wearing a bathing suit and angel wings (she dressed herself). They were the best photos I ever took whose data was immediately obliterated.

88 photos, 96 tears

Yesterday the camera worked beautifully. During a long and wonderful day, I ended up taking 88 photos with the thing, all of which I synced to iPhoto, and a few of which I uploaded to Flickr. And I think it’s the number of photos I shot yesterday that sent my iPhone on a first-class carriage to Bugland.

I have noticed in the past that the iPhone is most likely to act up after I take a lot of photos—more than, say, a dozen.

Sometimes when I’ve taken a lot of photos (for instance, at a wedding or concert), iPhoto doesn’t sync. Instead, it erroneously tells me that the iPhone contains no photos. Usually, though, restarting the Mac restores proper sync, and no photos are lost in the process.

Here, every photo I take is immediately lost.

The standards fixes don’t

None of these help:

  • Restarting the Mac doesn’t help.
  • Restarting the iPhone doesn’t help.
  • Resetting the iPhone doesn’t help.
  • Even restoring the iPhone’s software—the court of last resort—doesn’t help.

Firmware problem? Hardware problem? Dude, I just work here.

Pin the bug on the lug

Mac fans are like Maoists. We are masters of cognitive dissonance. (Look it up.) If an Apple product delivers a less than satisfying experience, we assume the person reporting the problem is a fool. If not a fool, he or she must be an apostate.

You’ll have questions. Am I running the latest version of the iPhone’s software and firmware? I am. Am I running the latest version of iTunes? I am. Did I erase my iPhone lately? No. Was my iPhone “jailbroken” (i.e. hacked)? No. It’s a standard iPhone running Apple’s iPhone OS and nothing else.

Did I drop the iPhone, hold it under water, boil it in oil? No, no, no.

Do I think busted iPhone functionality is an earth-shattering problem? No, I think it is a luxury problem. Not only is it the least of the world’s problems, it is the least of my problems. Still. I saw at least a dozen things I absolutely had to photgraph today, and shot not a one. And that makes Sonny blue.

Thanks for sharing

Options. Be proud that my iPhone is “special.” Disdain photography. Cultivate an inverse snobbery that fools no one. (“You take … pictures? Really. How quaint.”) Or bring the damn thing to the Apple store nearest me and demand a replacement. That sounds like the winner.

It’s all fun and games until someone loses a photo.

[tags]apple, iphone, bugs, firmware, updates[/tags]

To be of use to others is the only true happiness. Although a 160 GB iPhone would also be nice.

I was hoping Apple would announce a new generation of iPhones with hard drives sufficient to hold an entire music collection plus a handful of videos. Failing that, I was hoping Apple would announce a new generation of iPods that were exactly like iPhones (sans the phone), with hard drives sufficient to hold an entire music collection plus a handful of videos. What Apple announced was an iPhone without the phone.

So I bought a 160 GB iPod Classic. I already have an iPhone, and you can borrow it when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

The Classic holds my digital music collection (currently, 31 GB) plus five or six movies digitized at high enough quality to play on a Cinema Screen, and has acres of drive space to spare. I feel that I will never fill it up, although I’ve thought that about every hard drive I’ve ever owned, and I soon filled them all.

The Classic is new and shiny and I almost never use it because the classic iPod interface feels prehistoric after using an iPhone. (Indeed, half the things I do on a computer feel awkward compared to doing them on an iPhone. Click on a friend’s street address in your iPhone. Wow! Now do the same thing on your computer. Ick.)

There are about five movies my toddler loves on the Classic, but she won’t watch them on the Classic. She wants the iPhone and asks for it by name, like cats do for Meow Mix.

The Classic is good for plugging your whole music collection into your stereo. Or it will be when the dock arrives. The Classic does not ship with a dock, and no dock is made for it, but you can order a $50 Universal Dock from Apple. The order takes four weeks to process plus another week to ship. Be kind and call those five weeks a month. A month after unpacking my new Classic I will be able to hook it into my stereo and charge it at the same time—something I expected to be able to do on the day it arrived.

The frustration of that wish is not tragic, but it is not particularly smart marketing, either. This, after all, is a product for people who ardently wish to carry their entire music collection plus a handful of movies in their pocket. Wish fulfillment is the product’s whole reason for being. (Well, wish fulfillment plus the execrable state of air travel, which can turn a jaunt between Chicago and New York into an odyssey of despair and boredom. Carry a Classic and those five hour delays fly by, even when nothing else is flying.)

The guaranteed nightmare of even the shortest business trip aside, what do you do with the Classic? Well, I sometimes bring it to the gym. Because sometimes at the gym, it takes a while to find the right groove. The iPhone’s 7.3 GBs aren’t enough to hold a sufficient musical selection to ensure a great workout.

On the other hand, I can’t answer a business call on my iPod. So even though the Classic gives me lots more music to choose from, I mostly bring my iPhone to the gym.

No iPod is an island, or should be.

Did I mention that the iPhone has a gorgeous, high-resolution screen and the iPod does not? Then there’s the whole gesturing with your fingertips business. How nice that feels, and how weird and slow and un-Apple-like it now feels to go back to the clickwheel that once felt so poshly smart and modern.

I tell you this. If Apple can put a capacious, chunked-out hard drive on the iPhone—even if doing so makes the phone a tad clunkier—the company will have on its hands its hottest convergent technology box yet. And I’ll be the first in line.

Only 95 shopping days ’til Christmas, Steve.

[tags]apple, ipod, iphone, comparison, shopping[/tags]

Client input, iPhone constraints

In Issue No. 245 of A List Apart, for people who make websites: Sarah B. Nelson of Adaptive Path shows how to create collaborative work sessions that actually work, and Iconfactory’s Craig Hockenberry concludes his remarkable two-part series on designing and coding with the iPhone and its new brethren in mind.

Web type, iPhone content

In Issue No. 244 of A List Apart, for people who make websites, father of CSS Håkon Wium Lie advocates real TrueType fonts in web design, while Iconfactory’s Craig Hockenberry (developer of Twitterific) describes in detail how to optimize websites for iPhone.

Web content is mostly text. Web interfaces are text-based. Design consists chiefly in arranging text to aid communication—guiding readers to the words and experiences they seek. Better typography means better web experiences. Improving typography without resorting to image or Flash replacement and their attendant overhead is a consummation devoutly to be wished. Will browser makers rise to Håkon’s challenge?

Apple’s iPhone is the new frontier in interface design, offering rich computing experiences while dumping established techniques like mouse use and copy-and-paste. Its browser component, by contrast, pretty much provides a normal desktop experience via the standards-compliant Safari browser and small but high-resolution screen. For the most part, then, designing web content for the iPhone simply means designing web content. Ah, but there are tricks that can help your site more smoothy accommodate Apple’s new device. Some can even improve the web experience for all users.

Craig Hockenberry seems to have found them all, and he shares what he knows in a two part series that begins in this issue. I have known Craig since 1996; we collaborated on web-oriented Photoshop filters before Adobe figured out the web. He is a brilliant, funny, and modest man, and now you can get to know him, too.

Both articles are bound to produce thought and argument. Both are at least somewhat controversial. I love them both, and admire both writers. It is a pleasure to share this issue with you.

This issue of A List Apart was produced by Andrew Fernandez, technical-edited by Aaron Gustafson and Ethan Marcotte, art directed by Jason Santa Maria, and illustrated, as always, by the amazing Kevin Cornell. Krista Stevens is acquisitions editor. Erin Kissane edits the magazine.

[tags]design, webdesign, alistapart, håkon, chockenberry, truetype, fonts, typography, webtype, webtypography, apple, iphone[/tags]