there’s a theramin in my iPod!

I just found a new Coolest iPod Application. Theramin-ator. A multitouch theramin. On my iPod. Fracking awesome. I just spent the last half an hour playing with it, and it’s pretty sweet. Especially once you start getting the hang of the multi-touch controls. You drag a finger (or fingers) around on the “control pad” to simulate moving through the theramin’s fields. Horizontal axis is frequency, vertical is volume. Frequency ranges from a skull-rattling 40Hz to a brain-melting 2000Hz. Volume goes to 11, natch. And you can tweak the properties of the theramin while playing – pitch range, waveform, etc… Very cool.

It’s probably a good thing that it doesn’t record the sounds because I’d have to start an @dnorman Theramin Music Hour Podcast, full of wacky Star Trek theme music and transporter sound effects…

ps. yeah. I get how lame I am for playing with a theramin simulator for half an hour on a friday evening, then blogging about it…

Google Earth on iPod Touch

Google Earth. On my iPod Touch. Seriously. This app is fracking amazing. Pinch to zoom or rotate. Tilt the iPod to tilt the view. The controls are so smooth and intuitive that I was actually disappointed when the view didn’t rotate as I spun my chair around. Maybe on a fancy schmancy iPhone 3G? Still – VERY cool app. Well done, Google Earth team!

what’s on your iPod/iPhone?

I’d guess that the applications, and their arrangement on the menu screens, tells a fair bit about a person. I’ve been slowly gathering a frighteningly long list of apps – games, utilities…

My current favorite add-on apps? Twinkle. Wurdle. X-Plane. Cube Runner. Asphalt. Countdown. Line Rider. Seismometer. And the shortcut to Google Reader.

iPod Touch keyboard add-on

Real keyboard, connected to iPod Touch via USB through iPod Camera Connector accessory.

I want this. Well, maybe with a slimmer keyboard. Possibly a foldable version of something the size of the Apple Wireless Keyboard (pictured below). Doesn’t have to actually BE wireless, though. I’d be FINE with a USB cable, and even with slapping rechargeable batteries in the keyboard to prevent an additional power draw from the iPod Touch…

Apple Wireless Keyboard - perfect companion to my iPod Touch? Please?

This would make the Notes app much more useful. And the WordPress app. And email. etc… etc…

iPhone/iPod Touch native app for WordPress

Well THIS is the best mobile blog posting interface I’ve used. Thanks to Automattic for the app!

It also supports offline writing of new posts (but not of editing existing posts without an active connection). Very cool. I’ll be using this app a LOT!

Here’s a screenshot of the blog post/edit interface:


16GB just ain’t enough

When I got my 16GB iPod Touch, I knew I’d run out of room. I just didn’t realize how soon I’d do it. Moving from my previous 30GB iPod Video, I had trimmed my music collection – purging all files of questionable origin – and was able to fit everything quite comfortably within 16GB.

But now, with a bunch of TED Talks, some movies, presentations, a schwack of podcasts (I think that’s metric. or is it imperial?), and a bunch of photos, I’m starting to hit the ceiling. 16GB just isn’t enough.

It should have been a sign, when the week after I bought my 16GB iPod Touch, Apple released a new model sporting 32GB of storage. Sigh. I’ll go through my music collection and trim some of the old crap I never listen to (or just set it not to copy to the iPod). Hopefully that’ll give me some more breathing room. I have a feeling I’ll be needing some free space once the apps built on the SDK are released, all wanting some room to store stuff…

Oh, and don’t get me wrong – I love my iPod Touch in a way that is entirely unhealthy. Perhaps unholy. It’s like my own minitiature Clarke Monolith, but with wifi and web browsing built in. Love. It. I’d just like some more room for my stuff on it, that’s all…

on flash on the iPhone / iPod Touch

There’s much wringing of hands about the announcement from Apple that the iPhone (and iPod Touch) would not be getting Flash in the foreseeable future. I’m actually pretty happy that Flash isn’t on the way. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good Flash website or video as much as the next guy.

But try this: on your Mac, open Activity Monitor. Let it process for a few seconds to get a baseline reading. Then, open a Flash website. Watch the change in Activity Monitor. On my 8-core Xeon Mac Pro system, a Flash website easily chews through 50% of a 3 GHz core – over a gigahertz of CPU without breaking a sweat.

That’s more CPU than is available on my iPod Touch, which only sports an embedded 400MHz Arm chip and 128MB of RAM. And, even if the Touch could muster up the horsepower to run a Flash site, it would suck the battery dry pretty quickly, and crank out more heat than would be healthy for the little device.

No Flash? No big deal. I don’t think it’s an evil conspiracy, nor a ploy to force Adobe to cater to Apple. It’s a decision based on something very simple and pragmatic: adding Flash would detract from the overall iPhone / iPod Touch user experience. People would start complaining about crappy battery performance, overheating iPhones, and sluggish UI responses. Better to just say no to Flash (at least in the current incarnation) and find a better way. For video, the iPhone chipset can handily decode higher quality (but non-Flash) video without breaking a sweat.

I’m hopeful that tomorrow’s SDK announcement is going to bring some very cool stuff. I’m also hopeful that whatever apps are made available (even if Flash is one of them) that I won’t have to worry about battery life when running them.

Thoughts on iPod Touch

hand scannerI’ve had an iPod Touch for almost a week now, and aside from driving people on Twitter nuts by exclaiming how unbelievably awesome it is, I have some thoughts on how it could be better. Nothing groundbreaking, I’m sure, as anyone who spends time with it will likely come up with a similar list. The short version is that I LOVE it. In an unhealthy way. I haven’t been this impressed by a piece of technology since my first Newton MessagePad 120. And before that, my Amiga 1000. It’s that much of a game changer. [ed: both of those technologies are now defunct?] My iPod Touch has quickly become a very powerful mobile email/Google Reader/Twitter/Flickr/Blog platform. I’m not sure I could give it up now.

Software Improvements

  1. Notes sync – if I enter a page of notes into the iPod Touch Notes application, they stay there. Unless I email a copy out. And the only way for text to get INTO Notes is by typing it on the Touch. No way to add, say, a schedule, or travel itinerary, etc… without typing it all manually. wtf? It would be ideal if Notes either synced with a folder in ~/Documents/Notes or were managed by iTunes directly – for this to be a truly useful feature, I need to be able to DO stuff with the notes, not just write stuff down. Getting Notes both onto and off of the Touch are pretty important.
  2. Wifi toggle. I try to save the battery as much as possible, which means spinning down wifi when I won’t be using it (while on the bus, while it’s idle, etc…) but currently each toggle requires about 5 taps. Home > Settings > Wifi > On/Off > Home. It would be handy if there was an icon on the Home screen to just toggle wifi.
  3. Temp on Weather icon. The Calendar icon shows the correct date. Why doesn’t the Weather icon show the current temperature when it’s available?
  4. Copy/paste. Of URLs, text in emails, text in Safari. Not essential, but would make things easier when sharing stuff.
  5. GReader offline app – Gears? SDK? I’d love to be able to load up my RSS feeds in the morning, read them on the bus, and sync stuff when I get to the office. Like Gears does, but without the laptop.
  6. Photos sort by date not filename. Seriously. Why would I sort by filename? Want to show a series of photos? Hope you didn’t rename any of them in Aperture, because the order will be all messed up. Bizarre.
  7. Sketch app? Perfect cocktail napkin!
  8. Flash. Not 100% essential, but it would be great to be able to interact with Flash apps and view Flash Video.
  9. Display name + contact info on unlock screen. If I lose it, and it’s locked with a PIN, how will the honest person who finds it know who to give it to? I’m not going to put a sticker on it. (and if a dishonest person finds it, it’s gone either way)
  10. Ability to have files (pdf, etc…) copied onto the iPod for access without a network connection
  11. Ability to cache multiple locations and sets of directions in Map for use without a network connection. Having Maps is really cool, but a bit useless if I need an active wifi connection to get any details out of it. It caches some stuff, but not enough to make it really useful when offline.
  12. Safari should remember usernames and passwords – doesn’t have to be full Keychain integration (or at all) but this would be handy for browser-based authentication that doesn’t use cookies (wifi hotspots…)

Hardware Improvements

  1. Volume control without touch screen. The double-home-button-tap trick is really nice and elegant, but still requires that I dig the Touch of of my pocket and look at the screen. Every iPod I’ve had before would be just as easily controlled by blindly tapping a button and/or spinning a wheel.
  2. Camera.
  3. Microphone – ability to record audio.
  4. STUCK PIXEL!!! AAAAAAHHHH!!! 5 days after getting my iPod Touch, it developed a dead pixel. A really obvious one, too. The flashing-colours website fix works for about half an hour or so, then it creeps back. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had a stuck pixel on any of my displays. (jinx 1234!)

Nothing too earth shattering, and certainly nothing to cry about (well, except maybe that stuck pixel. sniff.). You’ll have to pry my iPod Touch from my cold, dead hands. And even then I’d probably give up a pretty good fight.