DoubleTwist is a universal media hub that is now available as a public beta for Mac OS X. DoubleTwist is like iTunes except it works with not just iPhones and iPods but also with other portable media players.
Not only will DoubleTwist transfer the media to your player for you but it is also capable of converting nearly any video format to the correct format for your device.
The only thing I would suggest to the developers of DoubleTwist is that I don’t want to have to drag and drop media to my device, I would rather set a list of parameters based on ratings, how recent it was last played, etc. and have DoubleTwist transfer it for me. Essentially I want a true iTunes alternative.
The obvious best usage of Google Gears has always been with Gmail, but up until now you couldn’t use Gears with Gmail, but now you can start syncing to your hearts content.
The feature is still within the Google Labs feature set but because this functionality seems to be such a perfect fit for email I’m sure it will become a standard feature sooner or later (although with how long it takes Google to take things out of beta nothing would surprise me).
To enable it:
Sign in to Gmail and click ‘Settings’.
Click the ‘Labs’ tab and select ‘Enable’ next to ‘Offline Gmail’.
Click ‘Save Changes’.
In the upper righthand corner of your account, next to your username there will be a new ‘Offline’ link. Click this link to start the offline synchronization process.
Apple will be continuing to improve the iPhone experience thanks to their subscription based accounting and some of those lucky enough to have iPhone firmware 2.2 beta 2 have been able to bring us some insight into what we will be seeing in the upcoming firmware release.
One of the most interesting features (and possibly the reasoning behind the denial of Podcaster to the app store) is the ability to download podcasts directly to the device. The feature will be a huge improvement in my mind (since I live off of podcasts) but unfortunately the feature doesn’t seem to be working properly in the most recent build.
Apple is also going to try and get more people to rate applications by popping up a window asking you to rate the app during the uninstall process.
While browsing the App Store on the phone you will be able to view more than one screenshot of the application.
The last of the features that have been outed is the ability to view Google Maps in Street View mode by tilting the iPhone into landscape mode. Along with this feature Google Maps will also be able to support public transportation data and walking directions.
I’ll be honest with all of you, I really loved the iPhone when I first purchased it (June 29, 2007) and I knew that Apple would be eventually adding new features through software updates but I never thought that I would be seriously considering the possibility of not bringing my laptop with me when I go on trips. The iPhone does almost everything I need it to and because of that I might be able to go without the laptop on trips. Apple really has made a great product and shows no sign of slowing down with its improvements.
Google Blogoscoped was sent a cartoon from Google showing off Google Chrome, an open source browser based on WebKit with Google Gears built in. The Google browser has been long rumored but never confirmed, but this is the first proof that it is coming. In fact, the first beta of the browser is supposed to be posted sometime today, at launch it will only be for Windows but will have Mac and Linux versions soon.
You can view the entire comic here but it’s a little long so unless you want to look through 38 pages you might as well get the bulk of the details listed below.
Chrome will run each of its tabs in its own process therefore when one tab crashes it won’t take down the whole browser. It also should give the browser an overall performance boost. This design will need more memory up front but in the long run will actually save memory since most users tend to multitask and open/close lots of tabs.
Google Chrome will display tabs at the top of the browser window rather then under the address bar. The search box and address bar is being called the “omnibox.” The search bar though will be able to detect site-specific searches and remember them so users to easily use them again from the browsers search box.
Chrome will have a Opera style Speed Dial-like page which will give users quick access to their most frequently visited sites and search engines.
The browser will also have a “Incognito” mode in which the window that you choose to enable this feature on will not record anything you do there (“porn mode” if you will).
Google will continually download a list of known phishing sites and list of malware sites to your computer, which will be used to warn users if they are about to visit one of them.
It isn’t a surprise that Google would want to release their own web browser but it will surely cause an odd relationship between Google and Firefox, since Google basically funds Firefox entirely, that search bar in the upper left hand corner isn’t just there because it’s handy.
I don’t know if I’m going to choose Chrome over Firefox when it is made available for the Mac, but since I don’t use very many Firefox extensions it all comes down to how comfortable Chrome feels while using it. I’m not sure if I’m going to be too fond of the tabs above the “omnibox” but who knows. I’m happy to see a lot more competition in the browser space and I hope that this will do nothing more than force most of them to become more and more standards compliant.
Google has announced that they will be doing an App Store-like marketplace for Android phones. This will allow users of Android phones to download applications directly to their devices, it will also allow developers to program applications for Android devices and sell them directly to users.
Developers will be able to make their content available in the marketplace hosted by Google. The marketplace will feature a feedback system similar to YouTube (let’s hope it doesn’t attract the same type of commenters). Developers will be able to get their content in the marketplace by registering as a merchant, uploading and describing their content, and publishing it. This means developers won’t have to go through the approval process like they do in the iPhone App Store. I do hope that this decision will not bring about a lot of sub-par applications and the worry of malicious applications is overwhelming (to me at least).
Apple has come up with a solution to not having background applications on the iPhone, the ability for developers to push notifications to the device through Apple’s servers. This feature had been promised to have a September release date but in the latest version of the iPhone SDK (2.1 Beta 4) the feature was pulled.
Many have thought that this meanse we won’t be seeing push notifications until next year but I don’t see that as very likely. I think we will still see push notifications this year but I don’t know if it will be released in September, October is a much more realistic time frame.
Applications like AIM and Twitterrific are dieing for functionality like this since both of them would benefit greatly from being able to send notifications to its users. But, I guess they’ll have to wait at least another month before they’ll be able to put that functionality into their apps.
What I find very odd though is that it push notification was put into the SDK and then pulled out, it would seems much more logical to me for Apple to keep it in their but instead tell developers when they will be able to include it in their applications. This way developers would still be able to build apps around it but Apple would still be able to change it if they needed to. The only reason I can come up with for Apple pulling it is if they need considerable changes to the code, the kinds of changes that would break any developers app if written against the old code. It may be that Apple realized that how they were doing it initially would just eat too much battery life from previous generation phones and would have to be changed to keep those users happy.
I’m really looking forward to push notifications on the iPhone and although I want it as soon as possible I would rather wait an extra month or two and still have decent battery life then to get notifications in September and have terrible battery life.
Yesterday Apple released a beta version of iPhone OS 2.1 to developers. Along with the 2.1 beta firmware a new version of the iPhone SDK has also been seeded.
The new beta versions cannot be used to submit applications to the App Store at the moment, this may be due to some changes in the firmware itself.
This new version has added a bunch of core Location features that track the direction you are heading and the speed you are traveling. These new locations services seem to point to the possibility of turn-by-turn directions in the near future.
Apple has also implemented a very early version of the push notifications service which should be available this September. This addition points to a September release of firmware 2.1 which would make me guess that we will see 2.0.1 very soon with bug fixes to tide us over until 2.1 is ready for the masses.
There isn’t much more details available about 2.1 but I’m hoping that it will bring some updates that will improve power efficiency, once we are all getting notifications pushed to us all the time our battery life will definitely take a little bit of a hit, but if Apple will be able to manage essentially the same battery life on older phones along with push notifications being turned on they will deserve a kind pat on the back.
One of the biggest issues developers have had with building App Store apps is that they can’t release betas to users. But, Apple is going to be fixing this problem by allowing developers to have closed beta programs with up to 100 users.
The beta apps will still be distributed through the App Store and developers will need to get the serial number of the beta testers iPhone and activate that iPhone as a beta testing phone.
This new functionality will be great for developers that would like to have a little bit more real world testing under their belts before they release the app to the public.
The folks over at Gizmodo have spent some time with iPhone software version 2.0 and the pre-release version of iTunes 7.7 and post a video along with a small gallery of screenshots.
They say that both iTunes 7.7 and firmware 2.0 are rock solid so you shouldn’t worry about instability issues when it is finally released. The App Store is not up yet so the video doesn’t show any of that, the new push data feature is there along with parental controls, the BCC field in Mail, etc.
iTunes doesn’t have very many new features except for the “Look for iPhone & iPod touch Remotes” option, age gaming restrictions, and “Automatically Check for Available Downloads.”
So we are just a short (or long) 8 days (assuming it will come on the 11th) away from finally being able to get our hands on all of these new features. I’m really excited and since I just purchased an iTunes gift card I’ll be ready to start downloading apps as soon as the App Store hits.
After writing my post yesterday about Fire Eagle I recieved an invite from Chad Dickerson (thank you very much) and have spent the past day playing around with some of the applications that use the service.
I’m only going to mention two of the applications that I use because I don’t really have a use for the others. The first application (which is actually a group of widgets) are called “fire widget.” They include a location updating widget, a weather widget, and a Flickr photo widget. The location updating widget does just what it says, allows me to easily update my location from within Dashboard. The Weather widget shows me the weather of the most recent location from Fire Eagle. The last widget is the most interesting one, it displays photos from Flickr that have been geotagged near my latest location from Fire Eagle.
The other application that I like is called Metosphere, it allows me to geotag locations with reviews, alerts, events, etc. (I’ve never used it and probably never will.Metosphere also allows me to report graffiti or something that needs to be repaired in a city (I’m not sure where the info goes but at least gets the information out there) seemingly so that it will get cleaned up/fixed. My favorite thing about Metosphere though is the ability to see nearby events coming up in my area.
Now what I’d like to see is an application that updates my location by remembering Wifi networks that my MacBook connects to and if I connect to a new location it asks me where I am so that if I connect to it again it can automatically update my location with the data.
I talked a little bit about integration with the iPhone in my last post and I want to write a little more about that. I think that with the iPhone’s clear focus on location based services and Fire Eagle being a way to push that data into the cloud and use it on applications that live on the phone, in the phones browser, or on the desktop we can see some serious things happening with Fire Eagle in the next 12-18 months.
Many people think that Yahoo isn’t that good at putting new products infront of users and monetizing it, and they’re right. But, what they don’t realize is that Yahoo is way ahead of the curve in location based services and they don’t have to put it infront of users because other developers will.
The product is called Fire Eagle and what it does is allow developers to hook in and use location data to give information to users.
How it works is a user has an application that periodically updates to the most current location, the data is stored on Fire Eagle. The data can be grabbed by a GPS nav system, a cell phone, or even your laptop triangulating Wifi signals. The data is sent to Yahoo Fire Eagle and is stored.
The magic happens when you start to think about what that data can be used for. A Dashboard widget could use that information to give you weather information for the city you are in. An application on your cell phone could alert you when you are in a store with someone you know. Maybe even your GPS nav system will let you know that you are near a grocery store and give you a list of things that you need to buy.
Many of these application have not been built yet, but they can be with Fire Eagle.
Why Yahoo is doing this right is because it allows users the ability to control what applications are able to see what data. So let’s say I want a weather application to know what city I’m in, but I don’t want it to know my exact coordinates, Fire Eagle allows you to choose how close you want an app to see where you are, from exact coordinates, to zip code, to city, to state, and even country (I’m not sure how useful that last one is but it is still available).
I haven’t seen a single other developer platform out there that is doing this kind of thing, so from what I see Yahoo is way ahead (if anyone knows of any others please let me know). Obviously there are still some kinks that need to be worked out (that’s why it’s in beta), there isn’t anything that Fire Eagle does special when a location gets stale (other then offer a timestamp through their API) so the last time your location was updated could have been 2 weeks ago and it’s possible that you could still be there, but probably not. The other thing that the developers working on Fire Eagle need to think about is what happens with two updating applications get conflicting data at the same time or when a user is at a location that doesn’t have a city name.
So, there’s still a lot to be worked on, but Yahoo is farther then anyone else. The site is in beta so to get access you need to request an invitation code (I requested a few days ago and still haven’t recieved mine yet). But, this is really going places, I’ve read a few articles talking about it but I haven’t really seen any that bubbled to the top and became big news (and I think it should since everyone seems to think that location based services is going to be the next big thing).
Fire Eagle and the iPhone
The last thing I wanted to mention is the idea of Fire Eagle and the iPhone. One of the biggest problems with getting your current location with the iPhone is that it uses a lot of batter life, Apple has done a lot to keep that from becoming too much of a problem (like turing off GPS when it isn’t being used) but Fire Eagle could make this even better. What if every time you used a location based service on the iPhone, the application checked Fire Eagle for your latest location instead of going straight to the GPS? If the timestamp on that data was in the last (let’s just say) 5 minutes, they wouldn’t even need to fire up GPS to get your location. But, if the application did need to turn on GPS, it could push that information to Fire Eagle allowing other applications to use that data without turning on GPS. (Just a thought).