Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Touché

1670 words

A further detail that sweetened this year’s MacBook upgrade was the discount I could get

Well, I haven’t really received the money back yet, but let’s just suppose that will work out for the moment. At least their discount website looked as if they are making more of an effort to make this non-hostile than they did a few years ago: Back then they actually sent a cheque by an English bank - which meant that more than 10% of the refund were lost when trying to get the money. Unlike in the U.S. you can simply transfer money between accounts in Germany - and most of Europe - which is much quicker and cheaper than using cheques is. Luckily that message arrived at Apple’s discount programmes as well - presumably saving both them and their customers a lot of hassle and money.

… on an iPod when buying it along with the computer. That gave me a handy excuse for finally buying an iPod touch, so I can play around with the touchy interface.

Web

The thing I was most interested in was having a web browser in my pocket. There have been countless times when I just wanted needed to know something at the dinner table to make a point in an argument (or simply smartass around) and I couldn’t look it up. Having a computer for that would be inconvenient and antisocial, getting up and walking to a computer would be by far too much effort and having an iPod with a web browser fills that niche quite nicely.

Of course that works only when I’m near a friendly wireless network. My kitchen presents such a scenario but our department has a similar one which I could even benefit from thanks to the iPod’s built-in Cisco VPN support [why didn’t they include that in X.5 and let Cisco’s painful excuse for a software die a painful death?]

Things coming to my attention when doing a bit of casual web surfing here and there were that the network connection on the iPod doesn’t seem particularly fast and that its wireless reception seems worse than the MacBook’s. But in general it works. I am even tempted to say that with Mobile Safari one gets a rather capable web browser - even one that will list errors on the web pages! - for such a tiny device. And having the web sans Flash should be considered a feature rather than a shortcoming of the device.

Zooming around web pages is nice and fun, but it’s not that useful when you actually want to read stuff. For that having a touch equivalent of the space bar for a simple page down would be useful.

Applications

I will keep this short and perhaps add additional posts on applications in the future. My general impression is that Apple’s applications have been polished a lot. Both in terms of speed and in terms of looks. The way things swipe over the screen there is mostly smooth and very responsive. It seems effortless.

That’s quite an amazing feat? How many applications do you have on your much more powerful Mac which seem completely smooth and effortless when scrolling? Any? Sure, the desktop environment is much more demanding because a mouse and scroll bar let you scroll much more aggressively than you finger on a touch interface does, but still. I assume that a lot of focus has been put on making things cleverly asynchronous to achieve this feeling of fluidity on moderately powerful device like an iPod. I still enjoy rearranging applications on the main screen simply because it’s nice to see their icons wiggle around…

As for other applications, the iPod’s address book seems OK - certainly better than the one they have on their old iPods which loses parts of the data; the music player is fine although - just like many generations of iPods before it - it desperately needs a way to display album lists with full albums only (right now you end up with an entry for each album you have a single song of on the iPod, which means that putting a few compilations on there litters everything up); unlike its Dashboard sibling, the weather application is also quite good (localised, Celsius aware, umlaut capable); while I haven’t used it much, the YouTube app certainly beats the web page UI-wise but things didn’t load quite as rapidly as I’d like them to; The movie player is rather useless as the iPod apparently cannot play old QuickTime or current AVI files; the photo application looks nice, although I haven’t really used it yet; the mail client seems to check whether I have new e-mail only when I explicitly launch it - and then it’s rather slow; and I love the clock, could set timers and alarms there all day long.

Apple’s iTunes control ‘add-on’ application is a star as well. While it’s evil that they locked down access to iTunes by third party applications - thus preventing similar software from existing for years - their own iTunes control application is nice. Not perfect (again, I find it a bit slow at times, so slow that it may switch back to the currently playing screen while still loading a list of songs), but excellent for me not having to lift my butt when wanting to turn on a podcast that I can fall asleep to when already in bed…

AppStore

One nice thing about the AppStore that’s built into the iPod is that it has a rather neat way of downloading (or ‘installing’ as it prefers to call it) applications. Apart from that I am not too thrilled, though. Not only is it beyond my understanding why I need to enter a password to download a free application from said store, I also found the store itself less than fantastic.

And that’s just UI wise, not because of the licensing fascism that Apple are so keen on. To me the bottom line seems to be that on the one hand there’s crap by the boatload in Apple’s store and that the store doesn’t really help you find the good things. It’s too homogenous, it doesn’t let developers convince you in their own style, things just blur past.

Still, there exist nice applications in the store. I may add more detailed notes on what I like later on, but worth mentioning might be the iPod version of the Delivery Status widget, the surprisingly good eBay application [I mean eBay probably own the idea of a shitty web site, which leaves me amazed that they let you get around it so easily].

Add to that the odd game, the cool last.fm application, a dedicated Wikipedia app (which one is best?), Google Earth for the oohs and aahs, some application for transferring and storing files (recommendations?) and the geeky kick of TouchTerm (so you can ssh into your Mac and kill the WindowServer when it fucks up) and some fun can be had.

Typing

Typing on the ‘touch platform’ has been a big issue since day one. My typing ‘skills’ on the screen have improved but they still leave a lot to be desired. Certainly the recent 2.2. operating system upgrade helped the device a lot because now you can turn its rather dumb auto-correction feature off which otherwise forces you to pay a lot of attention just to ensure it doesn’t destroy the text you just entered.

In total, I’m less than keen on entering text on the device (which, I suppose, Apple is totally fine with as they seem to see their users as consumers anyway these days).

The big elephant in the room seems to be the question whether the iPhonerati will switch their passwords to be a-z only just because everything else is pretty inconvenient to enter on the iPhone?

Amusing sidenote: One of my passwords used to contain a § sign that can be easily typed on Apple’s German keyboards. The character is not ASCII, though, so, retrospectively, I’m surprised I could use it in a password at all. As you cannot type a § on the iPod, I couldn’t access the account with that password from the device. Less than ideal, I say.

I’m also rather annoyed by the fact that the iPod doesn’t let me enter proper quotes, ellipses or dashes. (I didn’t even hope for the Snowman.) Feels a bit like I’m back in the stone age.

Audio

A nice thing about the iPod touch is its built-in speaker that goes a bit beyond the alarm-only one old iPods had. Sure, the sound quality is rather tinny. But it’s good enough for watching a YouTube video or playing a game together.

Even with headphones - or the Dock’s line out connector - I found the iPod touch’s sound quality not particularly good, though. Both my iPod 3G and my iPod shuffle sound clearer and less ‘flat’ than the iPod touch. A bit of a shame for a music player.

Headphones

The iPod comes with very few accessories - no Dock, just some strange Dock ‘adaptor’ that doesn’t even fit into the Dock I have - but headphones are included. While my iPod 3G’s headphones were OK, I was never perfectly happy with them because they became uncomfortable in my ears after a while and because the plastic of their cables became very stiff in cold weather.

The (2008, 2G) iPod touch’s headphones however, fit my ears extremely well and the plastic around their cables seems much more soft and flexible even after riding the bike in the cold. Let’s hope (a) that I don’t accidentally destroy these headphones and (b) that when I accidentally destroy them, Apple haven’t redesigned them for worse.

Grease

And OMG, the old iPods were bad already, but the iPod touch totally beats them when it comes to giving me the impression that my fingers are grease fountains. I named the toy ‘Greasemonkey’ for the time being.

Want one? [Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

December 3, 2008, 0:03

Tagged as ipod, ipod touch.

Comments

Comment by d.w.: User icon

In every case, these were the first ones I tried, no idea which are best.

a dedicated Wikipedia app some application for transferring and storing files

I’d also recommend: * Instapaper (especially on a touch) * Cooliris is great for showing off the power of the device. * Cocktails (the visual feedback for relative ages of the recipes is genius) * DSL Reports speed test

December 3, 2008, 16:35

Comment by cpx: User icon

Korrekte „Anführungszeichen“ sind durch Gedrückthalten der “-Taste zu erreichen. Ellipse und Gedankenstriche fehlen allerdings. Den Schneemann ☃ gibt es auf der japanischen Kana-Tastatur: auf die Zahlentastatur umschalten, 1 gedrückt halten, ☆ auswählen und über den Pfeil der angezeigten Alternativen gelangt man zu zahlreichen Symbolen. Schneemann inklusive. Möglicherweise muss dazu die Korrektur aktiviert sein. (Kommentar wurde auf einem iPod touch geschrieben.)

December 5, 2008, 22:20

Comment by ssp: User icon

Cool, danke für die Tips…

Ich hatte nur das halten des Punktes für die … probiert und als das nicht funktionierte angenommen, daß für keines der Sonderzeichen solche Optionen existieren. Die Japanische Kana-Tastatur kannte ich noch gar nicht, aber da scheint sich ja noch einiges zu verbergen. U.a. auch die … über die 0 und römische Zahlen.

December 8, 2008, 15:27

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