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User Journal

Journal Journal: Apple iPhone 2

Pending questions regarding the iPhone:
  • Can the iPhone route Internet traffic to a laptop, particularly sharing Edge with a laptop over WLAN?
  • Can ISV's ship complementary software for the iPhone? It is running Mac OS X, and thus technically this should have a chance; but does Apple provide APIs for third party software to smoothly integrate with the remaining phone software, and to smoothly interact with the touch screen interface? Will the iPhone be another target in Xcode?
  • Will Apple provide battery replacement for when the battery finally deteriorates?
  • Will Cingular provide a good deal on a second phone account, to use those times you desperately need to make a call but find that your iPhone's battery is empty?
  • Can I add more memory? If not, is 8 GB sufficient to make a useable portable device? Media takes lots of space. Will Apple compress the media on export to the phone:
    • re-encode music to take less space?
    • reformat high-quality photos to the limited display capabilities?
    • re-encode movies to take less space, given the limited display capabilities?
  • Media output: can the iPhone share photos and movies on a TV, or more importantly, an external display such as a projector? If so, it makes a good presentation device. Can it share media with Apple TV (for when visiting a friend's house)?
  • Can it print? Internet information is very useful printed. Bluetooth printing, or a printer shared via Airport?
  • Can it save information from the web, such as important web pages, and maps?
  • Can it use a GPS device for interacting with Google maps?
  • Can it run mapping software in combination with a GPS device?
  • Can it provide VOIP, in particular Skype?
  • Can it access external storage (such as Airport Extreme's disk sharing)?
  • Since sometimes we need the versatility of a laptop, can the iPhone transfer your working set over to a laptop once you hit the limitations of the iPhone?
  • Can you retrieve your media from the iPhone and onto another computer, or is it locked?
  • Will it offer instant messaging, such as iChat, or Skype? If so, will it permit you to see the accompanying video streams, even if you can't send video?
  • Will Apple support and maintain older models of the iPhone, even after newer models ship? The software is complex, and if the Mac space is an indication, the iPhone's software will receive upgrades over the years. Apple has traditionally forced people to buy new appliances to receive substantial software upgrades, although they've shipped minor firmware updates. This question is quite relevant for the Apple TV too. I personally would be willing to pay for software updates, just as for the Mac, so that I needn't deal with disposal of an obsoleted device (or Apple had better make it easier to dispose of its devices).
  • Does it sync information without using .Mac?
  • How compatible is it with iPod accessories?
  • Will it support an accessory market?
  • Can it easily connect to car radio systems?
  • Will Cingular charge standard fees for a data rates, etc? Or will they charge a premium for the rates for when using the Apple iPhone?
  • How many features of the iPhone will be disabled once you roam on other networks? For example, the visual voice mail might be specific to Cingular (or require Edge).
  • Does the iPhone have Mac OS X's keychain management? The keychain is quite wonderful, for storing certificates for encrypted e-mail, for storing web passwords, and for storing secure notes.
  • Can the iPhone send and receive encrypted e-mail?
  • What types of e-mail attachments can the iPhone handle? Pictures, and PDF?
  • In the case of theft: does the iPhone have secure storage to protect my data; does the iPhone help with tracking its location?
  • Does the iPhone include Spotlight search?
  • Can you import media to your iPhone via e-mail and web browsing?
  • Can you purchase content from the iTunes Music Store, directly from the iPhone?
  • BitTorrent support? :)
  • If I sell the iPhone, can I be sure that I removed all of my data via a permanent deletion?
  • Does the iPhone have a firewall? This is quite relevant in the case of installing third party software.
  • I can I print to PDF, to save receipts from purchases made over the web browser?
  • Can I play movies created with iMovie on the iPhone?
  • Can I install new media codecs on the iPhone?
  • Is there a chance that video cameras transfer a compressed movie to the iPhone, from where it can be shared with others?
  • Can the iPhone share files with other iPhone users? If not, can a third party add this feature? Can iPhones detect each other (adhoc networking), and share information automatically? Can iPhones help arrange dates via social networking?
  • Can you transfer photos from your digital camera to the iPhone? This is slightly redundant, since the iPhone includes a 2 megapixel camera, and if you want to transfer photos to the iPhone you probably want to reduce them to 2 megapixels.

Things that I'd be interested to know:

  • What processor(s) does it use? Please be x86 or PowerPC, and not wimpy Arm!
  • Is the GSM software running on the same CPU as Mac OS X?
  • How much of the source-code base is shared with Mac OS X Tiger (the workstation version)?
  • How many of the features of the iPhone's software will we see in Mac OS X Leopard (the upcoming version of Mac OS X)?
  • Does the iPhone's Safari include bug fixes that we're hoping for from Leopard?
Technology (Apple)

Journal Journal: Apple's innovative Time Machine 4

On Monday Apple announced an upcoming Mac OS X feature called Time Machine. This is a very innovative feature, and one which the world has desperately needed. Several backup products already exist (I use pdumpfs for its sparing use of disk space via hard links), and thus you may wonder why I find Time Machine so innovative. Not a single person has pointed out the innovation, and Slashdot's commentators completely missed out, and worse, many ignorantly criticized Apple for copying VMS's versioning file system when Apple's solution is nothing of the sort.

First, Apple's solution isn't a versioning file system. A versioning file system is good for revisions, but not for backups, because a versioning file system normally stores the revisions within the same file system (to shared disk blocks) and thus on the same disk. For backups, you want the files on a separate disk, to survive disk failures. Apple claims that they put their files on a separate disk, so that rules out a versioning file system.

For the backup, Apple implements a traditional periodic, automated backup system. It copies the files to an external disk. The small fraction of people identified by Apple that already backup their files probably use this approach.

Apple's innovation, and it is massive innovation, is related to the restoration of data. Not the restoration of files, but data. The problem with backups is that they operate on files, rather than the units of data that interest people. For example, an address book may store all of the database records within a single file; if you want to restore a single record from a backup, you either must replace your current file with the older file, thus losing all of the intervening changes, or try very hard to extract a subset of the records from the old file, and merge them into the new file. The file restore experience is very frustrating. Apple provides the ability to restore subparts of a file, to merge into your current file. This is fantastic. You can see it in action on their animated demo: they restore a single address-book record, and they restore a set of photos to iPhoto. In both cases, the applications work with Time Machine to recover old data, and to merge that old data with the current version of the file. And it does more: in the case of iPhoto, it maintains consistency across all of the files that store the data; iPhoto stores images as individual files, but stores their meta data within a central database, and thus the restore process recovers the old pictures, and adds their meta data back into the database. None of this is possible on the operating system level because it only understands files --- Time Machine requires support from the applications. Apple announced that they provide developer APIs to integrate the Time Machine into all applications. I can imagine OmniGraffle permitting restoration of a layer, or a particular graphic, from an old version of a file into the current version. Or for Microsoft Excel to permit restoration of a single sheet or graphic of the spreadsheet. For applications that ignore Time Machine's APIs, you'll be stuck with boring whole-file restores.

This is even better than normal undo-redo histories of applications. How many applications let you selectively undo or redo an action from an arbitrary location in the stack? This Time Machine lets you restore a record of data from an arbitrary location in the stack (within the extent of data integrity).


Journal Journal: Slashdot censorship

When I browse the comments at threshold -1 (moderation disabled), I see many more interesting comments than with moderation enabled. The moderation seems to promote like-minded cattle. It is really lame. I recommend for all to read Slashdot with the moderation disabled.

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