Sunday, 30 November 2008

"Update All" Has Returned To The App Store

I updated my iPhone to 2.2 today and was very pleasantly surprised to see that the ability to update all the applications at once has returned.

Upgrading A Jailbroken iPhone From 2.1 to 2.2

To upgrade an iPhone that has been jailbroken on version 2.1 to version 2.2:
  • Open up iTunes and plug in your iPhone
  • Sync and backup your iPhone
  • Open up iTunes and click Restore to restore the factory default, this should also ask you to upgrade to 2.2
  • Use QuickPwn to jailbreak your fresh 2.2 install
  • Restore your backup
NOTE: You can also use AptBackup from Cydia to backup your jailbroken apps.

iPhone Tethering Done Right: PdaNet

Tethering an iPhone to another device, usually a laptop, is not allowed. AT&T contracts ban the practice (though this is rumoured to be changing soon). However, when you're stuck without a decent WiFi connection, an iPhone tether is a tempting proposition. Sadly, since it is banned, Apple have not made it easy.

Most solutions revolved around something called a SOCKS proxy. A proxy is just an application that runs on the iPhone that the tethered device communicates with in order to retreive data from the web. Despite it's simplicity, there is a major drawback: every application that needs to use the internet must have SOCKS compatibility built in. Many applications do, but the implementations are usually hasily added and tend to be buggy (even Firefox has issues).

If you were lucky enough to acquire the NetShare iPhone application (a SOCKS proxy that was available on the App Store for a very short period before being removed by Apple) you do not need to jailbreak your iPhone to be able to tether a device. However, most people will need to do this. However, this is really easy these days and quite safe. A tool such as QuickPwn will do the job with very little fuss.

Once your iPhone is jailbroken, you have a number of proxy server choices. From the NetShare style 3proxy to the old school SSH server. However, there is a much better solution: PdaNet. This is not a SOCKS proxy, it acts more like a software router, passing all your network traffic over the iPhone's internet connection. This means that your applications don't need to have SOCKS built in.

There are a number of issues with NetShare. Sometimes the DNS setup doesn't work very well (especially using an Ad-Hoc network on a Mac). It will also heavily drain your battery. You will need to plug it in for it to last for any long period (i.e. over an hour). You also have to pay to use it with encrypted websites (i.e. HTTPS) - but there is a way around that. Just visit the link printed at the bottom of the PdaNet screen on the iPhone, pretend to buy the software, but stop when you hit the payment screen. You can then browse any site you want without paying!

However, it's definitely the best tethering solution at the moment. Though you might also like to try solutions like proxifier for making SOCKS proxies easier (and more reliable).

Facebook Group Email Limits

Facebook do not allow group owners with more than 5000 members to message all their members at once. Facebook have made this decision to stop people from acquiring large Facebook groups in order to spam the members. A group with over a million members would be incredibly valuable as there is a very direct and clutter free communication channel with the members.

However, I think that Facebook have missed a trick here. They have been struggling to find a revenue model for a while now and allowing this kind of marketing might give them a stready income stream by charging companies who want access to their group members. For example, say a million people sign up to the 'I Love Sprite' group. Sprite would have no way of sending a message to these users, despite them all having expressly shown their interest in Sprite.

Facebook could charge Sprite to message their users. This fee could also help to pay for decent quality control and to enforce any rules they might have. Facebook is already proficient at rejecting low quality ads (though they do have a inventory problem), this shouldn't be difficult for them.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Facebook Loses Data

A schoolboy mistake from the king of social networks today. They sent me this email:

Please reset your email notification settings

Unfortunately, the settings that control which email notifications get sent to you were lost. We're sorry for the inconvenience.

To reset your email notification settings, go to:

The Facebook Team

Made me chuckle

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Spotify Rocks

Spotify is a new music service that lets you listen to unlimited amounts of music for free. They have an impressively complete collection and you have complete control over what you listen to. The only caveat: it's ad supported. However, the ads are sparse (about one 30 second add for every album you listen to).

I was initially skeptical about having ads. I hate radio stations that will have you listening to adverts all day long or TV stations that play a few minutes of ads every 20 minutes. But adverts in Spotify are rare enough that it doesn't bother me. If you don't like the adverts, you can pay a subscription at £9.99 a month or a day pass for £0.99 (for parties perhaps?). I think the £9.99 a month is a little steep, but luckily I'm happy with the ad-supported version.

They have most of the music I like to listen to. However, they often don't have the obscure first albums (produced by tiny labels), which is a real shame. I expect this will change if Spotify gets big. There are a couple of big names who are not available. The only one I have really missed is Metallica's new album.

Each artist has links to similar artists. This is nice for finding new music, but doesn't appear to be particularly clever. That said, exploring is effortless because songs are played instantly and the browsing interface is very well designed. Songs and playlists can be sent to friends using special URLs, but these have to be emailed or IMed, it would be much better to have a more tightly integrated social network. I'm sure this will follow later on.

At the moment, Spotify is invitation only. I have a few spare, leave me your email and I'll send you one if I have one left.