iPhone Tip: use AirPlay with apps that don’t “support” it.

I’ve discovered an interesting thing about some applications on iPhone that don’t seem to directly support AirPlay such as Spotify:  if you chose an AirPlay-capable destination (such as an Apple Airport Express or an Apple TV) in another application that does directly support it (such as the Music/iPod player app) then go back to the application that doesn’t, the audio will be streamed to the device you chose in the other application.  This works for lots of things, even games.

I’m not quite sure why this is required.  The application that doesn’t “support” AirPlay is clearly using the standard iOS audio features otherwise this wouldn’t be possible.  On the other hand the AirPlay control that would normally pop up isn’t available for use.  It seems this is the case for any app (again like Spotify) that is using custom graphics for the standard audio playback controls.

Mac OS X Lion, iOS 5, and iCloud – exciting times

I’ve got to say that a week on from the release of iOS 5 and iCloud I’m pretty damn excited.  The level of integration I’ve wanted from the first day of having an iPhone 3G is finally here thanks to iCloud.

I’m trying an all-Apple solution full-time for a bit to see how it all works but so far I am impressed.   Why?

  1. iOS 5 finally means iOS devices can be completely PC-free.When I got my iPad (original iPad, not iPad 2) I was impressed but it wasn’t the type of device that should need a PC to work.   Before I could use it I had to plug it into a PC (and by PC I mean Personal Computer….not a Windows machine).  To get content on it I was pretty much OK but if I wanted a backup of that content again a PC was a requirement.  This was  a device crying out to be completely disconnected, independent.  That day is finally here with iOS5.
    I can say the same thing about my iPhone.   Over-the-air OS updates, WiFi sync, and a PC-free backup solution are all things I’ve wanted for ages (I’m not even going to get into the other improvements in the software like the new notification system).  Now they’re here with iOS 5.
  2. Pain-free syncing with Mac OS.With iCloud syncing mail, contacts, and calendars is now pain-free.   In the past I’ve used Google products for these things and for the most part they’ve worked well.  GMail is already web-based so that is nice but because it doesn’t support the concept of folders, replacing that with labels, using it via Apple Mail (whether iOS or Mac-based) has been kind of clunky at best.  That isn’t GMails fault.  I love the idea of using labels and am not a huge fan of folders but GMail’s implementation of IMAP, required to use if I want to have access via Mail, results in messages being duplicated (long story short: labels get their own folders.  If a message has multiple labels it appears in multiple folders).
    Calendar syncing was definitely the easiest of the bunch to implement.   Google Calendar supports the CalDAV standard as do iCal on the Mac and the Calendar application in iOS 5.   With a third-party application like BusyCal on the Mac it’s even better.   However now calendar sync is totally integrated with iCloud on Lion and iOS 5.  While I don’t gain much, and arguably  lose a bit in the calendar interface on iCloud vs. Google Calendar, I’m sticking with iCloud for the moment because of that tight integration.
    Contacts.  Ah contacts.  That has always been a mess with Google.   While syncing with Google contacts has been supported by the Address Book application on the Mac it’s never been intuitive.  Syncing with iOS has also been supported via iTunes but again it has never been intuitive.   Works yes.  Works well, no.   Those headaches are gone with contact syncing in iCloud.

With all that said iCloud isn’t perfect.  The web-based calendar application can’t subscribe to external calendars.  Sharing calendars between iCloud users is possible as is sharing calendars with the world.  It also unfortunately shares the ridiculous faux-leather user interface with iCal in Mac OS X.

And while iCloud is fantastic for storing backup data from my iOS devices, and apps that have specific support for it, I can’t just access it from finder like I could iDisk, or Dropbox, or any of the other cloud storage systems out there.  Maybe Apple has a plan for that in the future but paying for storage is a bit less useful to me without that option.

But again I’m pretty excited about what is happening on the Mac and iOS right now.   Apple continues to make things “just work” even if it isn’t with all of the features I might want.  I can live with that.

RTM and Appigo go at it over RTM API access

Well well.  It would appear that the folks at Remember the Milk and Appigo are in a bit of a dust-up over the Appigo iPhone/iPad app Todo.

Just a quick piece of information to make the story clear: the Todo app on both iPhone and iPad supported syncing with two web-based services: Toodledo and Remember the Milk.  As of 5/11/10 the folks at Remember the Milk shut off API access to Todo.  This was done without notifying customers.

The Appigo side of the story basically says that on 5/11/10 they were contacted via email from Remember the Milk and notified that access to the sync API had been shut off for Todo iPhone.   Appigo claims that the sync code for iPad was the same which is why they were using the same API key as the iPhone application.  They also claim that they have tried working with Remember the Milk to resolve the situation with no success.  Needless to say they have removed the RTM module from Todo and have worked with Toodledo to get RTM users 6 months free of Toodledo Pro.

I don’t know the details of the behind-the-scenes exchanges between the two parties but Appigo handled the situation, from a customers perspective, perfectly.  The status on the problem was matter-of-fact and cordial with no bad words for RTM.   Furthermore they worked with Toodledo to get RTM users a nice free period to switch over to Toodledo Pro if they want to try Toodledo.   Kudos to Toodledo for doing that.  Also a good way to get some new customers :)

Remember the Milk on the other hand come out smelling like a steaming pile on this one.  Emily from RTM, in the forums posted this:

Like many companies, our API is available for non-commercial use, with commercial use only available to select partners and products by prior permission. Third-parties who are interested in using the API commercially in a product can submit a business proposal for our consideration.

Appigo didn’t have a commercial license to use the Remember The Milk API for this app (and didn’t even apply for one); the first we became aware of the existence of this app was its launch on the App Store yesterday.

Unfortunately, despite being perfectly aware they didn’t have a commercial API license for any products beyond their iPhone app, Appigo chose to launch and advertise their new app with a Remember The Milk sync feature. The sync feature subsequently does not work, and this has resulted in a lot of confusion and disappointment for users. :(

We’ve given Appigo plenty of chances to do the right thing (they’ve been warned in the past about API terms violations), so we’ve been really disappointed in their recent behaviour. We take any abuse of the API very seriously, and have ended any relationship with this company; they will not have access to the API in the future.

We apologise to users affected. For any Remember The Milk users who were misled about this iPad app’s support for syncing with our service, if you upgraded to Pro on May 12 or May 13, 2010 to use this app, we will happily refund your Pro account payment (please contact us to request a refund; requests will be accepted until May 20, 2010). Any requests for refunds for the iPad app itself should be directed to Apple.?

It’s nice that RTM is willing to refund Pro payments for people who bought the iPad app on 5/12 or 5/13 but what about the folks using the iPhone version?  RTM is shitting on their customers.   I understand they need to protect their business but based on the Appigo side I find it hard to believe that RTM was working very hard to remedy this situation and the only losers are RTM customers.

A bit later in the thread of forum posts Emily says this:

It was a deliberate act on their part to abuse the API, and launch an app knowing they were not licensed to do so. They counted on the fact that if we terminated their API access after they launched this app, we’d have a bunch of upset Remember The Milk users on our hands. :(?

I already posted about why I left RTM and this whole thing makes me completely sure my choice was the right one.  What a company.  Sheesh.  They counted on the fact that RTM would have a bunch of upset users on their hands?  Why in the world would Appigo want to do that?  It makes no sense given that those affected would also be Appigo customers as well!   Why would they want to piss off those users directly?

If there are any other reasons needed here to *not* support RTM by paying them $25 for a stagnant product this is another.  What a crappy way to do business.  Good riddance.

The iPad – One Month On

I didn’t want to write about my experience using the iPad too soon because I really wanted to give a bit of time to see how it would fit into my daily routine. I also didn’t see the point in writing about what many others have already written about in-depth (such as Andy Ihnatko’s post here ). So what has my experience with the iPad been like so far?

First off I now understand why people who were able to see the iPad at the event where it was announced said you have to hold and use it to really “get it”. The screen and the speed of the device really makes it an interactive experience I wasn’t expecting. Browsing the web on the iPhone is mediocre at best. As revolutionary as it was Mobile Safari on a device with a screen that small isn’t what it could have been, what it is now with the iPad. Now, it literally feels like having the web in your hands. The iPad *is* that responsive.

Day to day i find myself mostly using the iPad mainly for two things:

  • browsing the Internet
  • reading books

As i said before browsing the internet on the iPad is a new experience. I have been especially enjoying it on Sunday mornings for reading the New York Times via their website while drinking my coffee. I’ve also tried the Editors Choice application that was available the day the iPad launched but as good as that is I like the website better. The full content of the paper is there and it looks like the paper.

The other thing I have been using the iPad a lot for is reading books. When the iPhone version of the Amazon Kindle app came out I bought “Quicksilver” from Neal Stephenson as I have been trying to read that one for awhile ( that’s a whole other post ). Reading on the iPhone was doable but lets say less than a spectacular experience on the small iphone screen.

It is a completely different story with Kindle on the iPad.  The large screen makes it a wonderful ebook reader.  The font size and page/text color are changeable.   There is a screen brightness control although it really is in the wrong place.  It’s located along with the  font/screen options but it really should have it’s own control right up on the toolbar.    That is an item I think people would be changing more than the other two (and on the Apple iBooks app the brightness control is right up front.

I could write a lot more but I think its sufficient to say that at this point the iPad had definitely changed the way I interact with the web.  I don’t need to sit down at a desktop machine or pul out my laptop anymore to get a good web browsing experience.  It is so nice to be able to sit down on the couch with the iPad in my lap and read the web like I read a book.   As far as I’m concerned it really is a game changer.