iPhone 3.0 – First Impressions

Well, I’ve been running the new iPhone 3.0 software update for a whole 3 hours now. What have I learned thus far?

Firstly, it is that Apple can’t handle everyone updating their phones at once. The update is of course delivered via iTunes, and it’s pretty much acting as if it was a self-inflicted DOS attack on the iTunes store. It’s timing out constantly, letting you in occasionally. Which is a bit frustrating if you’re trying to use the store in general. It’s very worrying if your phone appears to be blank because it hasn’t yet been authorised by iTunes (it has already, but for some reason it needs it again for this update). Oh well. I guess Apple will learn their lesson from this one, as it has to shaft their sales on iTunes for the day quite nastily.

Okay, so having passed through that hurdle, I got it up and running, and tried sending my first iPhone MMS. I’ve been waiting for this feature for a while, seeing as I had it on every one previously for the past few years. The interface for doing this is really nice, just click the camera button, and if you’re happy with your shot, it will put it as a thumbnail into the flow of the conversation. However it then turned out you have to wait for O2 here in the UK to turn it on. It failed a couple of times, then a little while later I got a couple of texts from them to say “it won’t work until we turn it on for you”,”okay, we’ve turned it on” (Got a tip from @jturnbull that this would happen when I was moaning about it on Twitter, which was most appreciated). Sent it again after this, and it worked fine.

That’s the moaning part of the post over now. What else? Well, it’s a few little things thus far. I’m a big podcast listener, so I was impressed to find a new little feature they’ve added, which is for podcasts only (not ordinary music tracks). You can now play them at half or double speed. The double speed could be useful for talk podcasts, as it seems to still be a sensible understandable pace, so you could speed-listen if you want. As someone who occasionally gets massive backlogs of listening, this could be rather handy for me.

Spotlight, a search feature from Mac OS that has been added to the iPhone, works beautifully. Just scroll left from your home page, and start typing. It’s searching and finding words in my email very quickly, and it is something I see me using a lot. Cut and Paste works fine. And the new voice recording application is nice, saves files to the phone, lets you email them to people, and they also show up in your phone folders on iTunes. It is a bit quiet though, be prepared to talk fairly loudly. It just isn’t as powerful a mic as say the N95 has (which if you’re so inclined, and I’m not, is a boon for concert bootlegging).

Finally for now, you can sync Notes to iTunes. However what you don’t seem to be able to then do is to find them on your computer. Which is kind of the point of syncing them (okay I lied a little about the moaning ending). I seem to recall that they may add something proper to handle this in Mac OSX Snow Leopard, but they maybe could even have just added something in iTunes for now.

So it’s not a bad start, couple of frustrations, some nice little twizzly bits to keep me occupied. However I’m not really expecting too much to begin with, as the real meat of the 3.0 update is in what it offers developers. Lots of potential in that, and that potential will start to be realised over the following weeks and months as developers start to both update their existing applications and write new ones that take advantage of the expanded feature set on offer.

Windows 7 Beta works with Virtualbox on Mac OSX

A little experiment tonight, decided to see if I could get the Windows 7 Beta running on my iMac using Sun’s Virtualbox software. I’ve been meaning to try out Virtualbox for a while, and this seemed like a good method of seeing just how versatile it is.

Basic result of the experiment is that it works, although it took an age to install (not from having to fix things, just the sheer time to run the install). Have run a couple of things in Windows 7 and had a look about, and thus far it all looks okay.

So, if you want to have a go yourself, here’s how:

1) Download and register for the Windows 7 Beta. You have until January 24th 2009 to do this. I downloaded the 32-bit version of the .iso file, so can’t comment on the 64 bit version. Make sure you note down the Registration Key you’re given before you download the file, as you’re really going to need this.

2) Download and install VirtualBox for Mac OSX.

3) Run VirtualBox, opt to install a new Windows system, and choose Windows(other) as the type you wish to install. Use a new blank hard disk image, and save it.

4) Go to Settings for your install, click on storage then the CD/DVD-Rom tab. Check the box for mount CD/DVD drive, select ISO image File, and point this at the .iso file you downloaded from the Windows 7 site, and click on OK.

5) Click on the green arrow for Start to start the install. Set aside a good hour or so, particularly if you’re not blessed with memory. Make sure you’ve got your registration key to hand from step 1 before you start, otherwise you won’t get very far.

And that is pretty much it, the install will chug along, and then you’ll be started on Windows 7. I’d suggest this might work also on a reasonably powered Linux box (Virtualbox is available for Mac, Linux and Windows).

A couple of tips for iTunes playlists

So I guess now is the time to mention I’ve got an iMac and an iPhone now. I’m loving both of them, so glad I got them. Having done so, it meant it was time to return to using iTunes, which I hadn’t been for a couple of years, whilst all my computers were mainly running Ubuntu. I found it rather frustrating to use under Windows, particularly when syncing with an iPod. However on the Mac it works fine, and I’m enjoying it again.

So now I can sync playlists to the iPhone, I’ve been playing about with setting up smart playlists for my tastes. I’m quite happy with this one, to work through all the stuff I haven’t listened to:

Unplayed Playlist in iTunes
Unplayed Playlist in iTunes

I’ve set the time of each track to be in the range of 2-20 minutes, so it misses out some samples and short tracks, and also misses out large mixes. The Rating is not 1 star is for another reason. My wife normally has pretty good music taste, but there are a few artists she enjoys that just aren’t my taste. So I’ve arrived at this solution to miss them out: Give them all 1 star. This will still include anything unrated (most of my collection, because I’ve just moved to the Mac). However it also allows me to give her a playlist of her own, ideally for when I’m out of the house:

Partners Playlist in iTunes
Partners Playlist in iTunes

This way everyone is happy! So, how do you set up your playlists in iTunes (or indeed in Amarok or other music software)?