Archive for category iphone

Why Closed Systems Like iPad Will be Successful

wire fence

Wire Fence

There’s lately been much discussion about closed vs. open software systems, particularly as it relates to the smartphone, tablet , and video game system markets .  The iPhone and iPad (and to an extent their desktop/laptop systems) are seen as “closed” since Apple tightly controls how applications are developed, approved, and sold on those platforms.  Other systems such as Microsoft and Google are seen as more “open” since they do not have such controls on applications developed for their products.  Which approach is better and will be the most successful?

Most techies (and therefore most discussions recently on the web) think everything should be open…that having the    flexibility, choice, and freedom is the only way to go and is the BEST way for everyone.  Most people, though, are only casual tech users or even tech ignorant and they don’t care- they just want their gadgets to work like an appliance without fussing over it.

Since the market for casual or non-tech users is much larger than the market for early adopters and tech savvy users, systems like the iPad will appeal  to the casual market and be incredibly popular.  Most people don’t want to mess with files, folders, anti-virus software, backups, driver configuration, and third party peripherals – they just want to instantly have their gadget turn on, have apps which launch quickly, and have a consistent and pretty interface to the internet and social networks.

The concept of “technology appliances” meet these goals.  They can be expanded within constraints set by the manufacturer, but these gadgets are now web enabled, which makes them much more powerful even with these constraints.  The information is open but is presented within a constrained, consistent, easy-to-use interface.

Open systems like Google’s Android OS are great for techies and can be infinitely configured, tweaked, and controlled but that does lead to more crashes, instability, battery usage, and a general mistrust of what apps are really doing.  They can do anything and aren’t filtered by a single source, but instead rely on the community for this function- it may take some time for a rogue piece of software to be discovered and for others to get the word out about it.

While the technical elite will still buy these closed platforms for curiosity and review, it will be the huge masses of casual technology users who now have a web-enabled computer appliance which is easy to use that will make systems like the iPad hugely successful and popular over the coming years.

How to Develop iPhone Apps For Free

There’s an interesting (and free) resource if you’re interested in learning how to program the iPhone- how about a class from Stanford University including video lectures, pdf’s of lecture materials, and other reference materials? The class web page can be found here: Stanford iPhone Class

iphone appsStanford actually offers many free classes via Apple’s iTunes U program and a summary of these classes can be found here: Stanford iTunes classesAll you have to do is subscribe via iTunes and you get access to a wealth of materials.

The iPhone development class has been offered for a while and is very popular (millions of downloads).  I’ve downloaded the first couple lectures and found them very interesting and a great way to expand your knowledge with only your time investment.  One catch- in order to actually work the assignments you need access to a system running MacOS 10 and the iPhone SDK (free from Apple’s developer site).  You’ll also have to learn a new programming language (Objective-C).   A summary of the steps can be found in this article: 8 Steps to iPhone Development.

There is a .NET development environment called MonoTouch by Novell, but this does cost $399, a convenient (albeit expensive) alternative for Microsoft developers which still requires a Macintosh to do the actual development.

Give it a try and maybe you’ll develop new skills or create the next great iPhone and iPad application.


Teching Across the Country

Portable technology can make traveling much more effective, efficient, and enjoyable than anything possible just a couple years ago.  Smartphones, 3G cellular, wi-fi networks, and web services are revolutionizing how we plan and execute personal travel.  After reading my experiences, comment below on your thoughts or experiences using technology while traveling.

travelHere’s some products and internet services we used during a recent week long trip to California.

  • Apple iPhone:   We all know what an incredibly useful  “portable brain” the iPhone is.  The goal was to use it exclusively for logistics and looking up information on the go.  From trip itineraries to directions to neighborhood data it worked…pretty good.  The biggest problem was getting a reliable 3G signal in the Bay Area, and AT+T was spotty at best.  Fortunately, there were plenty of wi-fi options available.
  • TripIt (  This company has an amazing free service- simply forward your travel itineraries to the website as you receive them and it parses them into a customized, time sorted list for you to refer to with tons of useful information and related links added.  The smartphone application is particularly useful because you can refer to it anywhere and update it easily.  This has replaced pages of printed itinaries and sticky notes.
  • Handbrake ( This PC application allows you to easily convert video to various formats, including the iPhone.  This in conjunction with iTunes content provided hours of video diversions.  Watching video on the iPhone still isn’t perfect (some sort of holder would be nice)- but the ability to have travel notes and entertainment in one portable package is appealing.
  • Audible audio books ( I listened so several Audible books on the iPhone while traveling and found it a fun experience to lay back and just let the words flow into my brain, erasing hours of boredom.
  • MotionX GPS for iPhone (  This iPhone application provides voice turn by turn directions for a couple dollars per month.  We used it to navigate all around Northern California.  It worked well but lacked live traffic information.
  • Yelp ( This is a community based, location aware review site in which members  submit reviews for any business or attraction.  You can look up nearby restaurants and such on your iPhone and read useful reviews and tips for the businesses and get directions.  Fantastic!  We used it all the time to find restaurants, grocery stores, coffee shops, hotels, and bars which looked interesting.
  • Weather Channel iPhone (  We used this app to track incoming rain fronts in California to help plan our activities.  On the way home we tracked a large snowstorm to help prepare for the trip home.
  • Google Maps (traffic view  The Google maps traffic view was very useful planning trips around the bay area.  Unfortunately due to the poor 3G coverage, we also had to refer to regular AAA paper maps for some navigation!
  • (  This is a location aware real estate app (available on the iPhone).  As we walked around various neighborhoods, Zillow was useful to compare house values and houses for sale based on our location.
  • ( We used the mobile enabled website to check into our flight and get a coveted “A” zone boarding pass.

One thing which technology didn’t help- the tangled mess of cords needed to charge our cell phones and laptops 🙂  I look forward to really good wireless charging stations just now coming onto the market.

Which websites and applications do you find useful while traveling?  Comment below and share your thoughts.