NewsRush 1.0.2 Promo Codes

Promo codes for NewsRush (yet another RSS reader for the iphone). The app is not quite ready to be promoted yet but hey it’s free. Gonna just keep posting promos until they become worth something.


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Promo Codes for NewsRush, Yet Another iPhone Google Reader RSS Client

NewsRush is just another RSS client that syncs with Google Reader. It still has a long way to go in terms of stability, features, and general polish but it’s a start. The good news is you get it for free.


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Leverage iPhone Custom URL Schemes with Remember the Milk

One of the great things about having remember the milk on the iPhone is portability. You have access to your tasks anywhere with the wonderful official iphone app but it doesn’t have tight integration with mobile specific tasks like call or sms or email someone right? Not quite.


The trick is to use custom url schemes. You can add tasks to RTM with the url set as a custom url scheme and it will launch the designated app. With the quick add task syntax, it would be like:


call for appointment tel://5559898


text bob sms://5559898


Those custom urls can be clicked from the task’s url field and will launch the designated application. Unfortunately, mailto: doesn’t work too well (you get “mailto” prepended the address) but for calls and text it works great.

Apple Does Not have an Open Platform and No, He Doesn’t Have it Backwards

There’s been a fresh outbreak of Adobe bashing regarding an announcement by one of their engineers on Adobe’s decision to stop putting resources behind tools to cross-compile Flash into native iphone applications.


He says “open platform” which means, there aren’t any fashion police dictating what can or cannot be made available. I hate Flash as much as the next guy, when it comes to all the pain involved on the mac platform, but taking the side of Apple lobbing hand grenades from their gated community takes some serious double think.


Interesting. Apple has responded publicly to Adobe’s Mike Chambers’s claim that Flash is an open platform:

“Someone has it backwards — it is HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, and H.264 (all supported by the iPhone and iPad) that are open and standard, while Adobe’s Flash is closed and proprietary,” said spokeswoman Trudy Miller in a statement.

Spot-on.

[From Daring Fireball Linked List: ‘Someone Has It Backwards’]

There is nothing wrong with protecting standards of taste or setting out rules as long as they are fair and consistently applied. In the case of Apple’s app store approval process, that’s rarely the case. Applications that were once approved can be pulled at a moment’s notice or retroactively pulled (meaning once approved apps may be rejected pending a policy change).


What’s even crazier is that pushing the boundaries of taste isn’t the only taboo for applications targeted for the Apple app store. Interface elements or innovative apps that push the boundaries can also be at risk simply because they fall afoul of some Apple design aesthetic while of course being exempt from such restrictions themselves.


I don’t like towing the line that friends of Apple are enemies of Adobe Flash and vice versa. The fact is after decades of bashing Microsoft for all the liberties they’ve taken with their monopolistic advantages, we are faced with much scarier personal concerns about privacy, ownership and freedom with which companies such as Apple and Facebook seem less concerned about than their own commercial interests.

You Say the Android is an iPhone Killer

Yeah, a variety of android phones have already sold millions. I also heard that Google has a new android phone too. Motorola and Sony are betting on android for their flagging cell phone fortunes too. It’s not going to kill the iPhone though. Or maybe I should say it’s not enough to kill the iPhone. Sure, consumers are going to be faced with a staggering array of choices and competition will be fierce. If you want to look at it as a zero sum game, China is the big winner because that’s where all these phones are manufactured. However, that’s not going to be how it plays out.


I’ve had some hands on experience with android phones and I think they are pretty cool. Certainly a much more enticing offering than a Windows Mobile cell phone. I’d rather use a Nokia from the 90s if that was my only choice. The android is open source and cutting edge (have you used the Google Goggles app?). Less restrictions. Even though it’s from google, the domination of the iPhone gives it that underdog appeal. In the end, there are people who are going to prefer the android over the iPhone just as a matter of preference. There are probably lots of iPhone owners using them despite hating Apple just because it’s the most compelling product out there.


Still, the iPhone has many distinct advantages even with Apple trying to exert an inordinate amount of control on what’s allowed on the platform to their own detriment. Let’s look at some of the advantages starting with the weaker ones.


App Selection


This is probably a short-lived advantage. Sure, Apple might have ten times as much apps than any given android phone but half of those apps are Twitter clients and 90% are junk apps created from source code copied from Apple tutorials. The number of apps is something that will change dramatically when a platform takes off. It also doesn’t take into account the freshness of apps. If updates and new apps aren’t coming as quick as they used to, consumers will feel it sooner than the numbers.


App Quality


This to me is the biggest advantage I see right now. Apple developers are keener to design and user interaction as a rule, especially the veterans with experience developing for the mac platform. Phones might rival PCs of a decade ago but the limited resources and interface quirks make it that much more important that developers can turn weaknesses into strength. I think Apple will continue to maintain a competitive advantage in this arena even as android continues to improve.


Economies of Scale


Apple has decades of experience building the whole package from software to hardware. It’s the reason why they almost went out of business. However, it’s hard to beat a company focused on quality with complete control from screws to pixels under the leadership of Jobs and Ive. While android may have an army of open source programmers, Apple has a wider variety of software spread out over diverse areas of expertise. Not only that, they have formidable retailing might with both stores and e-commerce.


Just looking at the OS, the foundation powering the iPhone is the same one powering macs and will be the same one powering the rumored iTablet. It’s such a rich playground for experimenting with interaction that one platform can’t fulfill. However, whether it be macs, tablets or phones, Apple can pick and choose what architecture to deploy on and that makes a world of difference.


All the handset makers may benefit from the common platform of the Android OS but they still make hardware separately.


Android


The strength of android is strength for Apple whether it’s the raw competition or interface inspiration. Even macs borrow good ideas previously spotted in the Microsoft Windows world. Android phones will continue to get better and keep Apple on its toes.


In short, it’s full of win for everyone as long as you pick the right 2 year contract for you!

WordPress for iPhone is Finally Out

This release was long in the making. Now you can type entries in landscape mode and moderate comments from anywhere. Although there’s nothing like a full-sized keyboard, this will do good for emergencies and those occasions when you really need to write something on the go.

The iPhone in Japan

Some people think the iPhone is struggling in Japan. I never thought it would take off in epic proportions like the US because even Japanese kids have cell phones that classify as smart phones by global standards and it’s been like this for close to a decade. The things missing from the iPhone are not only TV reception (yes, this is a standard feature) or electronic wallets (as in real money charged and yet another standard feature), you can’t browse the majority of “keitai” or cell phone only websites in Japan with an iPhone because Mobile Safari gets treated like a PC and rightly so because it is. Although the iPhone did add emoji/emoticon support there is still no intra-carrier compatibility so the support is limited.
For a really good analysis you can read Nobi Hayashi’s excellent summary of the situation:

Although Apple nor Softbank releases the real number of shipment, today, it is strongly believed that they have shipped more than 300,000 and possibly near 400,000 units in Japan.

Interestingly, despite the negative press, Sankei Shimbun did release one of the most successful iPhone app in Japan after that article in which you can read the full Sankei Shimbun newspaper.

Also on January 11th, 2009 they looked back how iPhone did in the first six month and seem to have concluded it wasn’t that bad after all; I was in San Francisco that day and didn’t get to read the article but I was interviewed for the article.

Now let’s talk if 400,000 (or 300,000) is a strong or weak number.
I think this is not at all a weak number especially if you are talking about 2008.

In December 2007, accumulated number of cellphones in Japan surpassed 100,000,000. Today, more than 90% of Japanese adults have one or more cell phones. And some analyst have started warning the slow down of mobile phone sales in Japan.


nobilog returns: My view of how iPhone is doing in Japan by Nobi (Nobuyuki Hayashi)

Quite simply the iPhone isn’t a keitai (Japanese for cell phone) just as Japanese baseball isn’t baseball. The rules are the same and so are the origins but there’s a fundamental difference in the context. Despite my misgivings about the iPhone performing well in Japan, I was definitely waiting in line early morning the day it went on sale to Japan. I ditched my cell carrier of close to a decade to make the transition and I’ve never looked back. It was one of the best decisions I made. I remember waiting in the long line at the electronic store that sold the iphones. People were lined up in a long winding queue. Most of the people and by that I mean 95% at least, were men in their 30s or above. There was excitement in the air and the place was bustling with enthusiasm and strangers talking to each other. Then the storm passed just as quick as it came. It only took a couple months for the iPhones to get fully stocked despite coming to the Japanese market 1 year late and building all that anticipation. People with enough money simply used the iPhone as a PDA with phone capabilities and hung on to their old cell phones for all the important stuff.


However, I always felt that the iPhone would do well for the enterprise market and the older crowd (kind of ironic considering how hip the iPhone is considered everywhere else). It’s really not a matter of technology or aesthetics when it comes to the iPhone’s lack of true popularity in Japan. It’s more the role of keitais as social appliances in Japan. Younger Japanese mostly use their keitai for social networking sites as well as a large portion of internet usage. In fact, there are many young girls who don’t have a home PC or even an internet connection because their keitai suffices for most things.


For business people, stuff like emoji and not being able to access social networking site is not an issue. Not having an electronic wallet or TV aren’t really deal breakers either. Being able to check your email on the go, browse the internet, even read documents like word, excel, and pdfs while out and about are major pluses. Organizations that adopt the iPhone can even develop their own custom applications to sweeten the deal even more.

Really Getting Things Done with the iPhone Remember the Milk App

I’ve been a longtime user of the Appigo’s Todo App and it was a wonderful application. However, Remember the Milk just came out with their very own native RTM iPhone application. RTM even hired a new developer to make this app. Needless to say, I haven’t looked back since the original announcement.


First off, the app is free but you need a $25 pro account to use it beyond the 15 day trial. Appigo’s Todo costs $10 upfront and also allows syncing with RTM Pro accounts but also syncs with the free web service Toodledo. Pick your poison. Frankly, I have a hard time understanding how detractors give these apps crappy reviews because they feel somehow violated by developers trying to earn a living by charging. They pay $500 for a phone but balk at another $25 or $10. There are cheap and free options out there so please move on. If you can’t squeeze at least $25 worth of value out of a great GTD service/system, then you’re probably not getting a damn thing done. End of rant.


Why did I move on from Appigo’s Todo despite using it daily and being a big fan of the app? I was always a fan of RTM before the iPhone but more of a casual user. I was on the lookout for something better than a pen and paper solution but portable. Try reorganizing, sorting or searching on a pen and pad todo list without spraining your wrist. Portability was key because the time I spend on trains (especially short transfers) or walking around are the precise moments when I have that extra bit of time to review tasks. Also, walking and seeing the sights stimulate thoughts and planning (many philosophers and academics get great ideas while on walks).


Right now Remember the Milk is possibly the most ubiquitous todo service out there. You can add tasks via email, Firefox (with the Gmail extension), twitter, and much more. You can even hack together your own with their API. What’s more the web app is first class. I really don’t need a complicated system. I just need a timeline of tasks that I can to plow through. Add it, do it, and forget it. Simple as that.


Why GTD? (veterans can skip this)


The major benefit of any GTD (Getting Things Done) system is externalizing the things you need to do in order to achieve the things that matter to you without having to load these things in your brain constantly. If you’re in the middle of writing something up and a coworker or boss passes an assignment to you, you just say “ok”, add it to your task list and go back to what you were doing like nothing happened. If something mundane like “oh yeah, I ran out of milk today” crosses your mind in the middle of the day, just add that to the list too. The important thing is to keep these things out of your mind so you can focus on the task at hand and if something crosses your mind, safely scoot them to the side without completely forgetting.


Why would you want to subject yourself to this discipline?


  1. Constant feedback: you will know what your day is worth.
  2. Better planning skills: you will learn how to break down big projects into a series of little tasks that will take you farther than you’ve ever been.
  3. Less procrastination: A great deal of foot-dragging happens when you don’t know how to get from A to B.
  4. Increase your capacity: You’d think that too much GTD will rob you of what little free time is left. Not so my friend, you’ll get more done in less time, meaning more time for you. Whether than means taking on more tasks is up to you. Maybe it means more work output or maybe it means making time for that hobby project or secret ambition.

Lately, I’ve been involved with a variety of extracurricular activity despite a demanding work schedule but it’s been a breeze so far. I even find the time to read a couple books a week and go to a couple parties not to mention organizing a couple.


The RTM iPhone App



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What exactly makes the iPhone app so special?

  1. Fully featured: you can even make “smart lists (saved searches)” right within the app, not to mention RTM’s award winning language aware repeating tasks (i.e. “every last Friday”), tags, etc.
  2. Seamless syncing: they really did a great job with the syncing. It syncs at start up and in certain intervals while using the app. You rarely have to manually sync it unless you’re obsessed. Also, the state of syncing rarely gets messed up. For example, you can add something, complete it, sync it and it’ll all go through to the web service. I also use it on the commuter train that goes underground, overground, and through tunnels. It never fails me. Syncing is also faster than third party solutions (obviously).
  3. Stable: The developer really knows his stuff when it comes to creating a stable experience I really don’t remember when and if this app ever crashed. You can even add tasks while syncing without missing a beat.
  4. Nice interface: Some people don’t like the white text on blue header but this app is gorgeous.

Some things I miss from Appigo’s Todo:

  1. Quick add: one tap, input and done. I really miss this since my defaults for new tasks are “Inbox” and “due today”. This will cover a lot.
  2. Less tapping: Sort of related to the above. Appigo really optimized their app to save on extra tapping or dragging to add items, this is something RTM can still improve a lot.
  3. Missing icons: I really wish tasks had little “repeating” icons and tags under the title. I’m sure these will eventually come.

But why RTM?


It’s simple to use, just your tasks organized in actual lists or smart lists which are nothing more than saved searches that change as tasks come and go. It’s also fully featured. Their recurring tasks functionality is quite good, supporting every conceivable option you could need. You can use tags to organize tasks that span across various lists and use a variety of smart lists to cut across them so you have a variety of contextual lists. Their approach is very similar to the UNIX school of thought, “give people simple, polished building blocks so users can combine them to make great things”.


The team is top notch and responsive to community needs, clean design, and a sense of humor.


I was initially on the fence when the app first came out but it didn’t take long for the RTM team to make me a believer. Appigo did a really great job with their app and without it I wouldn’t have gone so die hard GTD if they hadn’t given me exactly what I wanted, a great iPhone GTD app that synced with RTM. However, if you already have an iPhone and love RTM, this app’s for you.

iPhone Sanyo Eneloop KBC-L3 Battery Longevity Roadtest

One of the biggest shortcomings of the iPhone is the dismal battery life. This is big problem if you’re on the go a lot and don’t have ready access to chargers or go partying. This leaves iPhone owners making hard choices like, should I find the restaurant I’m going to on the iPhone or accept one more phone call? Kind of ridiculous when you think about it.

I’ve been looking for a good solution (as in a spare battery) so I decided to check out Eneloops. These batteries are amazing. They have low self-discharge (hanging on to 85% of their charge sitting on a shelf for a year) and high output. So I bought the most compact Eneloop KBC-L3.

I fully charged the iPhone yesterday morning and set off about my day to see how long it would last on an Eneloop alone without plugging it into a computer at my desk or any other power source. The iPhone lasted 24 full hours after installing 5 apps, browsing the web, checking Facebook, going through Flickr through an iPhone app, and downloading emails. The Eneloop gave me roughly 1.5 full charges. Not bad. Definitely, enough power to last for a heavy night out or an extended amount of time on the road.

The only “issue” I had is, that I would have to press the Eneloop’s charge button 2-3 times to re-initiate charging when the iPhone ran really low. This is not an issue with the larger Eneloop KBC-L2. Has something to do with the heat/current setting off the safety switch. If you need something for the road, I highly recommend it.

So Much for the iPhone Revolutionizing Local Social Networks

When the iphone 3G first came out, one of the big promising areas was supposed to be location-aware social networks as evidenced by the release of native applications by Loopt and Whrrl among others. The fact is we’re still waiting for a revolution to happen. Maybe if everybody in the world had iPhones and also went through the trouble to install these apps, there’d be a fighting chance but otherwise you can’t expect much. Maybe if the Facebook iPhone app with their millions of users decided to leverage their presence to facilitate more location aware connection services but then again Facebook is a “social utility” and not a social network so they say.


The iPhone itself is not going to revolutionize location aware social networking. It certainly puts the internet in the pocket and spare batteries in your other pocket but location aware social services have quite a few challenges to overcome.


True Ubiquity


For any location based social network to succeed it has to be by definition available everywhere be it your desktop, cell phone, iPhone, PDA, etc. It could be browser based but then you need some way of making it aware of your location. The iPhone would be perfect for this if everyone had an iPhone but that’s unlikely to happen, unless you only roll with hardcore mac fans then it might mean something.


Push Notifications without being Pushy


Another difficulty with location awareness is that you and your circle are more or less on the move throughout the day. Location-based services need to get that information to your friends without it being overwhelming or irrelevant. It wouldn’t mean much to know that Jenny is looking to have casual drinks around Times Square when you crossed to New Jersey state line on the way home from work. Pushing information to the right users when they want it is more of a challenge than meets the eye. Making the service too tame means less opportunities for the social networks to have any meaning but too much means alienating your users.


Privacy


Knowing where someone is at any given moment poses all kinds of security risks unless you’re talking about close friends and/or colleagues where you have roughly the same amount of information on each other. If enough of your activity is logged people will eventually notice patterns whether they try to or not.


At the end of the day, we already have an ad hoc local social network, it’s called your office, your school, your home, and we have the ultimate social application for location aware networking also known as the cell phone. It’ll be hard for location based social networks to gain momentum on providing users real opportunities to reach out to others in the here and offer something that plain cell phones don’t.