Play Pandora From Your iPhone Through Remote Speakers

I love listening to Pandora but don’t like the way Pandora sucks up the CPU on my laptop especially when I am using Google Chrome. I often use my iPhone to listen even when sitting at my desk, but I also don’t always want to use my headphones. A dock is nice but then I cannot use my iPhone. I want it all! Lucky for me and you there is a simple and relatively inexpensive solution. Buy an AirPort Express for $99. An AirPort Express is a device sold by Apple for playing iTunes through a remote stereo and some other neat features like setting up a remote printer or to extend your wifi network. The setup is pretty easy if you choose the right options. You have to install the AirPort Utility software to connect to the AirPort Express in order to configure it. The software found the AirPort Express without any problem and I answered the questions to extend my wifi. I figured why not extend the wifi, it could help boost the signal in other parts of the house. Unfortunately after the reboot the AirPort Express it did not restart and the AirPort Utility software could not detect it. I tried a reset of the AirPort Express and that did not work. The instructions say to press the reset button for 1 second, but later on on I figured out it was more like 30 seconds to do a reset. I am not sure if a reboot of my laptop was required or if the AirPort Express just took a long time to sort itself out with the bad settings. But the utility software does make temporary changes the AirPort on your laptop to get things going. A reboot of my laptop and the AirPort Express was discoverable again. A second attempt also failed and I was convinced I had a dud device. On the third attempt I decided to do a manual setup to see diagnostic information. When I selected the “extend the wifi network” option it said that my router was not compatible. This was the main issue and why the express setup did not work. It should have given an error during the express setup and told me do a manual install. I did do a manual install and chose “join the network” instead . The manual install does require a few more steps, but soon enough the AirPort Express had a nice green glowing led which indicated all was well. (After the working manual install I did reset the AirPort Express to the default settings and ran the express setup and chose the “join a network” option and had no problems setting the device up in under 5 minutes.) The next step was to test from my laptop. I fired up iTunes and selected the remote speaker. The AirPlay icon for the remote speakers is on the bottom right of the iTunes status bar. Sweet music!

The final test was playing Pandora from the iPhone. You do need to have iOS 4.2.1 for AirPlay from your iPhone or iPad for this to work. Start Pandora and once again on the bottom right of the interface is the same AirPlay icon. Select the remote speaker and away you go. I can now play Pandora through the remote speaker and still have my iPhone in my hand. As an added bonus you can also control the volume from your iPhone.

To play Pandora from your Mac or Windows machine you will need to buy some more software from Rogue Amoeba called AirFoil $25. AirFoil will allow you to play any sounds from you laptop onto the remote speaker. Another option is buy PandoraJam $15 which is a small interface for playing Pandora but also allows you to direct the music through the remote speakers.

When using AirPlay from your laptop you can choose multiple speakers, so you could have multiple devices throughout your home and play music through all of them simultaneously. Unfortunately from iOS devices you can only play through a single device at a time. Maybe this will change later.

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Been busy!!

I find it hard to believe that so much time has gone by since my last post. All I can say is that I have been BUSY!!! In the intervening months I have been on many projects and even flew to Boston for one project that will finish at the end of the year. I really enjoyed my Boston trip, and wish that I had had more time to explore the city. But I did manage to eat out at some fine old establishments and had some great food. One reason for no updates, is because I ran out disk space and had to drop a new drive into my MacBook. As a result I only re-installed my development software. But I am back in action and ready to do more updates, with useful information for developers.

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More Interface Builder Woes

Sometimes I find when I am using Interface Builder the view I want to edit disappears.  You open the xib file click on the view you want to modify and nothing happens.  I have tried multiple clicking, clicking really HARD but I always get the same result. The view will not appear.  The issue appears most often when using a second screen, the view you want edit is on the second monitor, but you are semi unplugged at a coffee shop.

The easiest way to fix this is to click (gently) on the view you want to appear.  Now hit Cmd W to close the window.  Now click (normally) on the view and it will magically appear on your screen.

This has happened to me pretty often so I thought I would share the solution.

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Flash a Flashlight

One of the things I noticed with the iPhone 4 was that the flash could be turned on like a “torch” when you were shooting a video.  I immediately thought of using it like a flashlight.  But being busy, and thinking that all the flashlight apps would be updated to use this new feature I initially left.  A few days later I decided that I may as well try my hand at a flashlight app seeing as there were none in the iTunes store.  A short big of coding later, I had a basic version working.  I was not 100% happy with it as you could see the “camera” aperture image open.  But it worked.  I wanted to get iAds built in as it is pretty easy to do that, but did not have time and want to be one of the first apps available to use the flash.  I submitted the app and the following day the first led flashlight app appeared.  7 days later my app was approved along with about 10 other flashlight apps.  I had some traction on day one, and six reviews, so I was quite happy.  Unfortunately on day two the app basically disappeared from review and was now with all the other flashlight apps.  There are few flashlight apps that are now in the top 25 of utility apps that get all the attention and so now will be downloaded more, and hence will get more attention.

I have still not managed to figure out that magic formula to get an app noticed.  I decided to go ahead anyway and build in the iAds as planned and submitted the update to Apple.  I changed the icon too, hope that will make it more noticeable.

You can download the “Flash a Flashlight” app here.

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Thoughts on iPhone 4

I have now had my iPhone 4 for nearly two weeks and wanted to give my feedback.  At first I thought it was just another iPhone, slightly smaller, with a nicer display.  But I have to admit that I have been using it even more so than I had my old phone.  It took a while to get everything sorted out like getting my SplashID passwords migrated and my complicated setup for email and shared calendering working.

But here is what I love about the new iPhone 4 and that is the multitasking, which I had mentioned in my first post on the iPhone 4.  I love being able to switch between email and browser.  I do not use push email, as I get mail at all times of the day and night, so first thing I do in the morning is start the mail app and then I switch to the browser to read the news while the mail app downloads mail.  I know you could do this in the past, but I switch back and forth between the mail app and the browser frequently as the email often has embedded links, but now the browser loads much faster and does not refresh the page.

I also find that I am taking way more pictures with the camera and short video clips.  The picture quality is great and I always have my cell phone on me.  I look forward to the day when they offer optical zoom on an iPhone camera.

The speed of the phone is also great, so loading reference apps makes it so much quicker to look up things immediately and then because of the multitasking going back to the app is all that much faster.  I still think that the user should be able to choose what apps to run in the background.  Every now and then I do a clean up of apps that I know I will not use for a few days.

I have not used Facetime again, maybe I will if my wife gets an iPhone 4.

The antenna issue is not an issue for me,  I have seen the signal strength bars go down, but I do not seem to hold the phone the “wrong way”.  If I do notice low bars I change my finger positions, but it is never an issue for calls.

Syncing with iTunes is also going much quicker, which is an added bonus as that means my phone will be backed up more often.

All in all a great phone, you should buy one.

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iPhone 4 Day!

Today was iPhone 4 day!  Yesterday for some very lucky folks.  Yes it is a great phone, and a big upgrade compared to my old 3G.  So there were a few upgrades for me that other people have already experienced with 3GS like the compass and voice control.  Finally multitasking, I knew what I was giving up when switched from Palm Treo all those years ago, but I did miss listening to the radio or Pandora in the background while I checked my email or surfed the web.

The display is truly crisp.  You can see the difference with the images and text.  I plan on testing some of my apps to see if upgrading the images is worth while.  I was so impressed with the 3G display, but now that I have used the Retina Display the 3G is not so great anymore.  It is amazing how quickly we become used to superior quality.

The phone is nice and fast, so responsive, I used my 3G quite a bit for small tasks and think that the new found speed is going to result in me using the iPhone 4 even more.

Having multitasking again is great.  If I remember correctly on the Treo you had to hold down a button to get back the home screen if you wanted to keep an app in the background.  I seem to remember that I had to consciously make the decision.  On the iPhone 4 all the apps are put into the background automatically, which I don’t really like as I now have to consciously remove them.  Maybe I will forget what is running in the background and let the system handle it.

Facetime is great, I tried it and it worked well so long as you do not pan too quickly.  Being able to switch between the front and back facing cameras is a fantastic addition, especially when you are trying to take a picture of yourself and friends.  The flash is a another nice addition.  I noticed that you can make the flash stay on when you do a video shoot.  No doubt someone will make a better flashlight app.

I had been reading that people had been having problems with the signal strength based on the way you hold the phone.  I am a lefty and this has not been and issue for me, my hands are usually quite dry so that could be a possible reason.

I took a couple of shots with the camera.  It works pretty well, but I find that images can easily become over exposed as can be seen in the photo I took with the rear facing camera.

I found the video quality to be great, and being able to record in HD is a big plus.  But also noticed the same washed out issue with the video as you can see in this short clip I took.  BonePony at Rhythm on the Rails.  I need to try the camera under different lighting conditions.  In general the colors seem to be enhanced to give a livelier image quality.

The one extra software feature that you can purchase is iMovie which you can download from the iTunes store.  iMovie will only run the iPhone 4.  This is very much reduced version of iMovie on the Mac, but you can make some cool little presentations.  I need to play around with that some more.

Time to play some more.

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SafetyWeb is Live

SafetyWeb is an app that I worked on quite a while back, but it was not released to the iTunes store as I was waiting for the marketing material to go with the application. It took just 7 days to be approved and that was with one rejection for using bad keywords. It is a neat application for parents of kids who are online. It allows you easily monitor their public information, or make sure that their information is not public. The app flags posts that are public, or have key words that are deemed to be warnings. SafetyWeb does require a subscription and also provides newsletters to help parents keep up to date with the trends and issues in the online world. You can download it here.

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iPhone ordering Woes

I tried to order my phone online as soon as I woke up and had issues like the many other tens of thousands of people.  I tried the Apple website and then tried the AT&T website, which failed too.  I soon realized the issue was with AT&T and after exacerbating the issue by having multiple browsers open I decided to call AT&T.  After all, being the old company they were I figured that they probably had a mainframe that took the orders and that by bypassing the web the line would be shorter.  I was talking to a rep in no time, but had to get transferred  to the dreaded ordering process system that was a mess.  I was told it was a 5 minute wait, but after 40 minutes I gave up and called my local AT&T store.  Once again I was talking an employee quickly and they told me that the system was down, but that they were taking orders at the store manually.  10 minutes later I walked into a nearly empty store and placed my order and they ran my credit card using the old paper process.  10 minutes later and I was done.  Later that morning I was called by the sales rep as he was placing my order and had forgotten the CVV code for my card.  This was a good sign that my order was going it.  Sure enough about 2 hours later I received an email confirm and I verified online that my order had been placed.  Now for the waiting and the hoping that AT&T will ship on time.  I am not sure if AT&T will ship the phone or simply send the order to Apple.  But here is to waiting.

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New AT&T data plans

As of tomorrow there will be two new data plans from AT&T. I have to admit that at first I was disappointed to hear the end of the unlimited data plan. AT&T has been under fire for many years as there service can really be below par in some cities. They have often blamed heavy data users for hogging the bandwidth. Unfortunately the data hogs are not likely to switch from the all you can eat plan to a metered plan. So in the short term I do not for see better experience for most of us.

The new plans start at $15 for 200MB and then $25 for 2GB. After reviewing my data usage I realized that I typically use less that 200MB. So I could save myself $180 over a year. The other nice thing is that when you do go over you simply start a new 30 day cycle, so there are no big penalties that can happen when you go over on your voice minutes. It would be really nice if the family plans would allow you to share your data plan like you can share minutes.

As there is now a much cheaper data plan getting an iPhone is now more of an option for a much wider range of consumers. I wonder though if AT&T will make you buy a more expensive plan to get a new subsidized iPhone.

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Off to WWDC

WWDC is Apples big developer conference held once a year in San Francisco. This is my first time attending and I am looking forward to learning more about development for the various Apple products. The conference is typically focused on the iPhone and now the iPad too. This is also when the new iPhone is announced and we most likely will not be disappointed seeing as Gizmodo has already spilled the beans. I know there are going to be surprises and seeing as Google offered its developers a free phone I wonder if Apple will try to match them. I for one am looking forward to a better integrated camera. Plus the voice dial as I am still on a G3. I would say that I am a heavy user, so multitasking Is going to be a big plus for me. Better battery life is also always a plus. I have downloaded the WWDC app and now need to decide what sessions to attend.

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