Why I almost didn’t get an iPhone

While Apple has got a lot of things right in the iPhone, here are a few annoyances I have with the platform/gadget.

AppStore is cool, but Apples rules and rights of refusal are not. There are many stories of weird rejections and strict rules against improving on the experience with apps that cover basic functionality Apple itself already have developed solutions for. This means that nobody can create a better music player (with better codec support, integrated Last.fm scrobbling or other nice features), a better video player (again maybe including support for commonly used “internet-codecs”) or release a better browser or calendar..

It also means Apple, or rather Apples app-judges, can refuse to distribute an app even without giving a reason why. I know this is “the Apple way” but it's stupid and frustrating. Even Microsoft would know better 😛

I already mentioned it, but it's a major annoyance for me; the lack of codecs the i*-experience can handle (iTunes, iPhone, iPod). If you are like me and have a lot of FLACs lying around, you're pretty much left to your own devices. There are various solutions to this, mp3fs being one, but nothing would be better than if iTunes could just get it right and convert my FLACs directly for me when sending to the portable gadget.

The connector required for charging is also a minus, not the biggest one, and one that will probably resolve itself anyway, but it's still less than optimal.

I don't think Apple will ever fix the two biggest, most important issues I have with the platform. And if you are now laughing and saying that this is to be expected when you sell out to a vendor of proprietary software and platforms, you're of course right 😉 But there are simply too many things going for the iPhone right now, and the Android needs to grow up before it can be a viable alternative. (It probably will in time.)

Why I will get an iPhone

(As English is our new official company language, and my tweets are now mainly English I think I'll switch to primarily blogging in English. This might change back without warning.)

I've been weighing it back and forth for a while. Which smartphone will be my first, after the Nokia N93 fiasco some years ago? (Symbian S60 seemed so cool back then.) Well, I think I've come to the conclusion that it'll be an iPhone 3GS. Here is why.

I like Android as a mobile OS, probably more than iPhone OSX. But, and this is an important objection, there is no comparably cool hardware devices out yet to run Android. The iPhone 3GS hardware is awesome, has a fast GL capable 3D chip and a speedy ARM CPU. A colleague, who recently got himself an HTC Magic, said that after getting accustomed to the graphics/3D capabilities of the iPod Touch (1st gen) he wasn't exactly bowled over by the Magic.

Then there is the camera features, or lack of, on the Android devices so far. Neither the HTC Magic nor the HTC Hero have very sophisticated camera features. They're decent enough for sure, but one thing the N93 actually did pretty well was to eliminate the need for bringing a pocket digicam. I still have a decent amount of “in the moment” snaps and vids, shot with the phonecam. This includes the need for a proper flash/camera led. Are you listening HTC? The Samsung 7500 something rather will feature a 5 megapixel camera, but megapixels aren't everything, it could be good though.

Another factor is the amount of available addons, cases, cables, gadgets, stuff and weirdness for the iPhone family. This is of course not something one can blame Google or HTC for, it's just a matter of Apple selling so many devices that the 3rd party manufacturers are sprouting around the platform.

The AppStore and the amount of awesome apps and games is another strong reason to get the iPhone. Multitouch and the aforementioned 3D chip launched the iPhone/iPod Touch as a gaming platform in its own right. Sony is forced on the defence and just launched the “PSP Go” as a countermeasure (I don't think it's a good counter though, more on that later). The AppStore is mostly a win for everyone, it's an effective content distribution platform with a massive potential customer base.

Summing it up, when I want the iPhone it's not simply as an advanced smartphone. The iPhone will enable me to bring one gadget that does a lot of things well enough that it eliminates the need for other gadgets in my pockets. No longer will I need a separate mp3-player, I can shoot photos and short videos, I can surf the web efficiently with a browser that works (the Android also covers this bit well), I have a mobile gaming device with a good selection of cheap and cool games on the go. Throw in a GPS and I'm pretty content. This is also why the PSP Go will not succeed. It might be a decent gaming platform (but less so than the Nintendo DS), but it still lacks the other features of the iPhone.

With the iPhone platform, Apple has done a lot of things right, it mixes an attractive OS, good application support, a decent mix of features with a properly sized hardware platform (Nokia has failed on the latter point so many times). At the moment I cannot see any real competition for my kroner. Now I just need to choose a provider. Any thoughts why choose one over the other?

There are sore spots with the iPhone / Apple experience. These will be the focus of my next post..

mp3fs in OSX

As I have not found a quick and easy guide on how to use mp3fs in OSX I'll write this in english.

mp3fs is a very nice idea and a smooth way to use a vast library of lossless archived CDs in the awesome FLAC with silly mp3players without native support.

The concept of mp3fs is a FUSE filesystem which converts FLACs to mp3s on the fly (CBR only as of now) via lame. Thus you can have the original FLACs stored, and expose a folder structure of converted mp3s to whatever you want. In my case iTunes.

This is all pretty easy under Linux, but in OSX there are a few hurdles along the way. First one is that the current OSX patch for mp3fs is only compatible with the Macports version of MacFUSE (currently 1.7_1). So any currently installed MacFUSE package (via DMG or otherwise) has to be removed.

Once this is done installing mp3fs and MacFUSE is as easy as installing the mp3fs port. Here is a step-by-step working guide (tested with OSX Leopard 10.5.7).

1. Install Macports (http://www.macports.org/install.php).
2. Open your favourite terminal.
3. “sudo port install mp3fs”
4. Make yourself a nice cup of your favourite hot beverage.
5. Create a mountpoint : “mkdir mp3fs”
6. Mount the mp3fs : “sudo mp3fs /Path/To/Your/FLAC/Dir,BITRATE /Path/To/Your/Mountpoint -o allow_other,ro”
Example : “sudo mp3fs /Users/denis/Music/CDRips,256 /mnt/mp3fs -o allow_other,ro”
7. You now have an mp3fs filesystem at /mnt/mp3fs 🙂

Running “mp3fs” with no options will show usage (no manpage yet), and running “mp3fs /Dir1,256 /Mountpoint -h” will show you FUSE mountoptions, one of these is -d for debug which could come in handy.

Thanks to the coders of this nifty little FUSE fs, and to the guys patching it for OSX. Any chance we could have a cleaner patch that would also work with newer MacFUSE versions?

How to read Mac .dmg images in Linux

How to read Mac .dmg images in Linux (via dmg2img) :

Quick Guide that was tested on Ubuntu Linux Jaunty Jackalope.

1. Download and compile DMG2IMG http://vu1tur.eu.org/tools/download.pl?dmg2img.tar.gz (http://vu1tur.eu.org/tools/) :

wget -O dmg2img.tar.gz http://vu1tur.eu.org/tools/download.pl?dmg2img.tar.gz
tar xfz dmg2img.tar.gz
cd dmg2img
make

2. Convert the DMG to IMG with dmg2img :

./dmg2img file.dmg

3. Install hfsplus :

sudo apt-get install hfsplus

4. Mount the image as a loopback device :

sudo mkdir /mnt/macimage
sudo mount -t hfsplus -o loop file.img /mnt/macimage

Voila.