iPhone owned

This is the first time I’ve been back in the States since the iPhone was released, and after getting a chance to play with one yesterday, I decided I had to go out and buy one today. The problem is that AT&T-locked JesusPhone doesn’t work in Germany without a little bit of hackery, and Apple’s just-released-last-week 1.1.1 firmware is reported all over the internet to brick hacked iPhones. Would an AT&T store in Mount Pleasant, SC turn over so many iPhones that they would already be selling boxed 1.1.1 models?

South Carolina isn’t exactly a technology hotspot, so I took a bet that I could buy a boxed iPhone with an older, perhaps original 1.0, firmware (flip-flops and sundresses, on the other hand, sell like hotcakes here). I won my bet and within an hour of getting home, I had a completely unlocked iPhone with a myriad of cool unofficial apps, thanks to tools like iBrickr and PACAY. My new iPhone now has a youtube viewer, OpenSSH, BSD utilities, a wifi stumbler, flickr uploader, and a completely cool Over The Air application installer.

The device is incredibly well built and solid. It’s smaller than I had imagined, but the screen is definitely adequate for browsing. The touch screen obviously lacks tactile feedback, but it’s also the most accurate touch interface I’ve ever used. I’m able to type much faster than I ever could using normal keys and T9.

With it unlocked and freed from Apple’s proprietary grip, the iPhone is very special. Free and open source software on such a beautiful piece of hardware is very exciting, but when Apple sets out to hamper such innovation and creativity, I can’t help but think of their past mistakes with closed systems. Things could have turned out very differently had MacOS been a little more open early on, and things may very well turn out similarly if Apple doesn’t change their ways. Here’s to hoping Google’s gPhone will be the IBM PC ...

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A downside of VoIP

I live in Germany but maintain a US-based VoIP number through a VoicePulse.com account. The VoIP account allows Rebecca and me to cheaply call the US, and gives our friends and family a “local” US number at which they can reach us in Germany. I’ve got a standard digitally cordless analog phone (heh) that plugs into a Fritzbox supplied by my ISP - 1und1.de. The Fritzbox is a wonderful piece of kit that works as a DSL modem, DHCP-enabled router, WIFI AP, and has two analog telephone adapters (ATAs) built-in. Since 1und1 gives us a free German VoIP number, the FritzBox handles three incoming and outgoing phone lines - my VoicePulse US number, my 1und1 Germany number, and my standard analog line supplied by Deutsche Telekom. Any incoming call lights up all phones connected to the FritzBox. Add in mine and Rebecca’s mobile phones, and in one apartment we have five phone numbers between the two of us. It only seems slightly overkill.

The downside to all of this global connectivity is that people can no longer assume we’re physically tied to a location based on our phone number. When I signed up with VoicePulse, I chose a Charleston, South Carolina area code + prefix. A few years ago, this number identified you to a certain area determined by your phone company. Now, with US number portability and VoIP, locations and numbers are completely detached. My Voicepulse number can ring at a Starbucks in Hong Kong just as well as it does here in Stuttgart.

Quite often our US line will ring anywhere from midnight to 2AM CET, which means we’re likely already in bed or about to be. Midnight to 2AM CET is 6:00-8:00 PM EST - prime-time for telemarketers or overly eager bank representatives to call. I usually just conduct whatever business they are calling to conduct and then politely explain that they’re actually calling Germany, and that I’m anywhere from 6 to 9 hours ahead of them. “Please note this in your system,” I would say. That seems to ...

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Streamburst is brilliant

I just came across Streamburst via Techcrunch. Within minutes, I was happily downloading In Search of the Valley at a blistering 8-9 megabits per second, probably the closest I’ve ever gotten to topping out my 16-megabit ADSL connection. By the time I finish this blog post, a full DRM-free 1.1 gigabyte DVD-quality movie will be ready to watch, all for $7.99. That’s brilliant.

I went to ISOTV’s website, added the downloadable movie to my part, and paid using paypal. I was then presented with three download options:

I could choose to download any or all of the three formats, reminiscent of allofmp3.com. The encoding itself is DRM free, and I can choose to play the movie on whatever device I want.

What’s the catch? Streamburst prepends the movie with a 5 second clip showing who originally purchased the movie:

I’d much rather see my name on a movie than the completely pointless FBI warning on Hollywood releases. Streamburst also supposedly adds some sort of invisible, durable watermarking that is intended to be persistant through re-encodings.

I absolutely hate DRM. I hate it so much that I don’t even use some iTunes credit. I think audible.com would be an awesome service if it wasn’t for its DRM. I have 2 audible.com book credits that I’ll probably never use. It’s really that much of a pain in the ass, although admittedly it is probably worse for me being a desktop linux user. Like most people, however, I just want to be able to play my media on any device I want to use. I don’t want to be locked into a single piece of hardware or software to play back media that I’ve legally purchased.

Is this Streamburst going to stop piracy doing this? Absolutely not. I can easily clip the 5 seconds of my name and transcode the video into another format easily. However, I did just spend $8 on a movie I was interested in but not enough to purchase the DVD ...

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The iPhone hath cometh

Jobs announce the iPhone

I am impressed. After months of rumor and speculation, Apple Computer has finally announced the iPhone. From the stream of pictures coming from sites like Engadget, the upcoming iPhone looks even more impressive than anything Apple fanboys have conjured up in Photoshop. The hardware features are outstanding - high resolution 3.5” tough screen, 2 megapixel camera, bluetooth, quad-band GSM, Wifi, and either 4 or 8 gigs of onboard memory.

Most impressive, however, are the software features that Apple is touting for the device. This device runs embedded OS X, complete with Safari and support for push-IMAP. Wow.

It will only be a short matter of time before someone pulls together some killer mashups. Imagine being able to throw in a bluebooth GPS receiver into your backpack and having a portable navigation unit based on Google’s image and routing data. Within seconds you could pinpoint yourself on an up-to-date map (with satellite view, too), figure out using Google Local where the closest Chinese restaurant is, and place a phone order for lunch, while you leisurely find your way walking to the restaurant - all from the same device. Wow.

Of course Apple is going to wow the public with their announcement, but not even Apple will be immune to first iteration bugs and design flaws. How will the device provide feedback response, since there will not be (or will there?) tactile feedback? One of the things I hate the most about the 3rd generation iPod was the lack of feedback on the buttons - will the iPhone suffer from the same fault? Will the touch screen stand up to daily use and the obligatory encounters with keys and coins? Will the battery life be what Apple claims?

The iPhone won’t be available for at least another 5 months, but the timing of today’s announcement was as brilliant as the device itself. Anyone who is in the market to buy a high-end smart phone will do himself a favor by holding off for just a few more months. Non-Cingular customers up for contract renewal may think twice about sticking with ...

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