iPhone Problem

I have an iPhone 3GS and despite various horror stories, I have kept up to the updates and have always been pleased with them. Until yesterday!

I plugged the phone into my MacBook Pro last night with the intention of transferring some photos to iPhoto. Bluetoothing would be easier (a task I accomplish regularly with my Nokia N95 + Mac) but that seems to be a feature that iPhone + Mac finds impossible (it might be me? – but I doubt it). Anyway, a box popped up with iTunes saying that an update to the iOS (4.2.2 I think) was ready – would I like to install it. As usual, I said ‘yes’.

Again as usual, it also prompted me (luckily) to synch recent purchases/updates on the iPhone with iTunes. That done I proceeded with the update/installation of iOS 4.2.2. And it never ended. The phone ‘froze’ and after an hour, I decided to unplug it and eventually, to restore factory settings. But the phone was well and truly frozen – nothing was happening. I left it on all night and nothing happened.

So this morning I attacked the support forums.

They are well worth browsing – but don’t, like me, ignore the essential information! Most of those discussing my own and similar problems said to make sure that ‘you’ were using the most up to date iTunes. I glibly assumed I was using the most up to date iTunes, because I have an auto-update switch ticked somewhere. However, when I was about ready for booking a genius appointment at the (not so) local Apple Store, Sharon made me check iTunes. When I say ‘made‘, I do of course mean ‘forced, coerced and/or shamed‘ me into doing it.

At that point, where the box came up and said ‘there is an update waiting for your iTunes’, I remembered it popping up on Sunday last – but I was busy then with something else so I told it to go away (postponed it!).

Anyway, iTunes updated and then, when I plugged in the iPhone, it began the restore process; followed by the re-synching process and ultimately by me giving up a huge sigh of relief. Phew.

I’m not altogether clear WHY iTunes HAS to be updated BEFORE any updates to peripherals but I do know now just how symbiotic the ‘i’ products are. I’d not previously understood just how reliant on iTunes the iPhone was and it has made me open my mind to the dark-side of Apple. Were Microsoft not prosecuted by the EU for making IE an essential part of their OS?

Last week I was told off by Ron Mitchell (told off is a bit harsh, smiled at would be a better description) for not backing up my ‘play’ Moodle installation before trying to install a new module – but I haven’t learned have I?  My advice then, to anyone reading this is ALWAYS make sure you have BACKED UP, or problems like mine above, become a crisis.

Here’s a drumming monkey I made last week!

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iAccessibility

I read this post http://behindthecurtain.us/2010/06/12/my-first-week-with-the-iphone/comment-page-1/#comment-9947 by Austin Seraphin last week. I wanted to blog about it at the time, but my preparations for work in Prague prevented me from doing that. I did comment on Austin’s blog at the time though:

Thank you for sharing this.

I am a sighted iPhone user and reported upon these functions when they were introduced on the 3GS. I’d thought they were tremendous. To read your commentary of actual use and to understand more deeply, the pleasure these functions give has been enlightening.

Thank you.

I also noted that there were many others commenting who like me were very impressed with his post. So thank you Austin once more, for that food for thought.

Any regular readers may remember that I’d blogged about the iPhone 3GS’s voice over function back in January https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/iphone-3gs-accessibility/. In that post, I cited another blind user’s view of the then new iPhone accessibility functions. http://www.nillabyte.com/blog.php?b=280 Since January there has been an upgrade to both the phone and the operating system. What’s more, there has been a new and very popular device launch and the iPad is now amongst us and several of the updated features are available on that too.

IOS4 provides new and extended accessibility features.

Which means that the 3GS’s capabilities are improved – with the addition of (for example):

* Touch Typing – here, the user just draws their finger across the keyboard to hear each letter read out. Once the letter needed is found, the user simply lifts his or her finger to select it.

* Bluetooth wireless braille displays are supported too. Just pair up any one of 30 devices, choose one of the 25 supplied Braille language directories and off you go!

And not all improvements are for those with sight impairments or blindness. The deaf or hearing impaired can also be helped by using features such as:

* Face Time – which provides better access for the deaf with the new ability to communicate by phone using sign language

* Optional mono-audio – which if hearing is limited in one ear, can route both right and left channels into both earbuds

See http://www.apple.com/iphone/features/accessibility.html and http://www.apple.com/accessibility/iphone/vision.html for much more.

But these in-built features are not the sum of what iPhones can do to help learning become inclusive. There are many Applications [Apps] that do similar, sterling work.

A selection of these:

* SpeakIt http://appshopper.com/utilities/say-it (£1.19) is a great way of vocalising text on the iPhone. Cut and Paste (or type) text into the window and it will read it back to you in one of several voices. The resulting file can be emailed!

* iConverse http://www.converseapp.com/ (£5.99) ‘iConverse is an educational tool designed for young children and individuals with communicative disabilities, and also toddler-aged children who have yet to master language.’ At it’s simplest you upload a photo, annotate it and the software reads out the annotation.

* Google Voicehttp://www.google.com/mobile/google-mobile-app/ (free) simply click the microphone icon and speak your search term. No fiddly spelling and pretty accurate.

* Soundnotehttp://soundnote.com/ (£2.99) is an iPad App. It is a note pad. However, the killer feature is that it also records audio. Lots of audio. So, a learner (lets say a dyslexic learner) can make brief notes as he or she listens to the speaker (teacher?) whilst recording the entire class. The recording can then be saved.

What are you using? How are you using it?

iPad stuff

A small thing that I find irritating about my iPad is the way I have to hold the device to type.  Here I am now, typing into the ‘documents to go‘ interface and I’m not comfortable.

I want to sit (I’d envisioned myself sitting) cross legged, with the pad on my knee to type. Now that would be relaxing after a day on a normal keyboard (straight beck, eyes level with the screen etc.) but I can’t. Why? Well, when I cross my legs and put the pad in a comfy position, it slides down to my tummy and I can’t easily get to the keyboard without hunching up. I can do it ok if I hold it with one hand and type with (just) the other but otherwise (faux leather cover on or no cover on at all) it slips down. So typing with two fingers, i.e. both hands, is not as comfortable. Just saying!

Perhaps someone could design an ‘iPad knee perch’? (10% commission please).

I bought an iPad Camera kit yesterday. It wasn’t a necessity, after all I can get photos onto the iPad in any one of a number of ways but I was attracted by the saving (£19$29 – as opposed to £25 at home) and the fact that the kit included a USB adapter and an SD Card reader. Although I’m happy with my purchase, I realise now that I should have done a little more research – and adjusted my expectations accordingly. The USB does not allow anything other than cameras equipped with PTP to be connected and any SD Card contents other than photos cannot be read. So it does what it says on the tin and I have used it for my convenience several times already. Fair enough.

Perhaps someone could design an’ iPad Camera Kit pouch’? (10% commission please).

All this got me thinking about how I could take photos with the iPad. There is no camera (dammit) but that shouldn’t be a barrier! I found a free App called EZ Cam Lite. I think that there is a paid-for version, but I probably won’t bother. The whole thing is a real faff and the results not really any bettter than the old 1.3 megapixel shots we used to take. The idea is that you connect both the iPad (no camera) and the iPhone (with camera) via bluetooth and as if by magic the iPad becomes a camera. Actually the idea if fine – you could have the iPhone (with camera) turned on in one room while you sit in another room with the iPad (no camera)  viewing input from iPhone’s camera. Which might be ok if you have no baby alarm for example but the shots taken are truly awful. The one good shot I took was posed and close-up. Why I would use the iPad for that, when I had the iPhone anyway will forever remain a mystery to me.

This experiment was a real example of tailoring need to fit the technology (like the guy who finds a crutch and wonders who’s leg he can break?).

Beware: when bluetooth is turned on it sucks all the life out of your batteries. I’ve been getting a day or two out of intermittent use of the iPad but since using bluetooth, battery life drops remarkably.

I’m still liking the sociability of the iPad. It’s quick and convenient to pick up and use for all sorts of things. Don’t let me put you off with my (apparent) negativity :0(

iPad

Two very generous friends bought me a 32gb WiFi/3G iPad recently. I have thanked them personally for their generosity, but don’t feel it appropriate to name them here. You know who you are – thank you.

I had originally decided to wait for the next iteration of the iPad as I’m not a great follower of hype. However, the iPad did appeal to me in many ways: First of all, it seemed to be the fulfillment of everything I’d hoped for when the Asus ‘eee’ was first seen in Autumn of 2007. I’d wanted something small and manageable that I could work on whilst travelling. However, the ‘eee’ failed on a number of points – too fiddly keyboard, too small a screen (I can’t have it always, I know), crap battery life and a strange operating system (mine was linux). What’s more, my power pack failed fairly quickly too so my ‘eee’ has been redundant for a couple of years now.

I then tried the iPod Touch. Never mind the screen size (I know that I’m contradicting myself, but read on), actually working on it was ‘sort of’ ok. I couldn’t be too adventurous; it wasn’t a fully equipped laptop after all – and (unlike the ‘eee’) never tried to be. But the Internet, via WiFi was ok and I was at least able to communicate, make notes and access ‘stuff’ (and Apps etc.). I found the onscreen keyboard to my liking, so it worked for me.

Then came my love of the iPhone. My original comparison with the iTouch wasn’t good but with the advent of the 3Gs, it became a tool of choice. Because I’d mastered the onscreen keyboard earlier, there were no teething troubles either and the 24/7 (ish) access via 3G and/or WiFi made it a must have tool.

Now, before I go on, I have to say that much of this ‘Apple worship’ started in June 2009 when I got my first (there you go – I must be having another at some time) MacBook Pro. THAT is my first tool of choice. THAT is what I do real work on. But THAT struggles with the Vodafone 3G stick that I have (I blame Vodafone) – I still need something that keeps me in touch with the world when I’m travelling.

So – the iPad looked like it might be the tool I needed.

Part of me thought that it was a product that was rushed to market. Some things didn’t seem to add up. Anyway, my first touch was at Ashton Sixth Form College just before they launched their MoLeNET Academy. First thoughts: a bit heavy? A bit slippy? Brilliant graphics? Perfect size (this was what I’d hoped for – something with a reasonable screen) and – very Apple(y). Touch screen (yes please); finger scroll, two finger zoom, longish battery life etc. in fact everything I’d hoped for. But – (now I’m back to the iTouch negatives) no camera. This is a product that cries out for a camera. Open call to Apple – put a damn camera into iTouch and iPad – please.

Now, because I didn’t want to ruin the iPad before I started, I had to wait until I got the various covers and condoms required to protect it. Just why screen protectors are not supplied with the product I have no idea. But I bought one and had Sharon fit it (because [apparently] I am a fat fingered oaf!) I also bought a rubber condom to cover the slippery back surface, but have now discarded this because it was no less slippery. This is a fault. I know it’s cool and groovy (etc) but unless you have a tight grip it could easily fall on the floor (and break?). Older people, those with poor motability etc, may just find the product unusable. I replaced the condom with a leatherette pocket from Amazon:  and this was a much better choice although it does increase the bulk slightly. http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41eceW9bm2L._SL500_AA300_.jpg

So on Saturday last, I began my journey of iPad exploration.

It still feels a little heavy, but reassuringly so. It’s not that easy to just hold and work with, but with a table, or on my lap on crossed knees its fine. I’ve had to update many of my Apps (this was pretty automatic as iTunes recognised the new connection and the Apps that could be updated seemed to jump out and say ‘update me please’)! There are other Apps that sell iPad specific versions, but so far I’ve not seen the need to do this.

I think I’ll write a little more about the iPad and its use to me when I’ve had more time to play. But for now I’m neither underwhelmed or overwhelmed. Watch this space.

iPhone CPD – Apps

I drove over to Burnley on Wednesday to attend a MoLeNET training event that was designed to show us what an iPhone could do in the teaching and learning environment. I sort of feel OK with the iPhone now and what it can do – despite much earlier reservations [see below], but I don’t think that you can ever know everything – which the day proved.

Elaine Coates and Mick Mullane were the presenters and they started with a very simple overview of how the various bits worked – that sounds simple but even regular iPhone users miss some of the functions – as might be seen on this address I shared with Mick (for the day’s blog). We moved on to the inbuilt features such a clock, alarm, calendar etc but then Mick took over to introduce his favourite features; maps and compass. We spend quite some time investigating those features and at lunchtime we set off in search of a near-by GeoCache. Because of the biting cold (is it really May?) I didn’t stay outside for the ‘find’ but I did make a find of my own – 2p -!!

The most interesting bit for me was discussion of our favourite Apps and how we might use them. With so many people in the room, it was hard to keep up with them all – but ones I remember and/or download there and then were (top four are all FREE):

  • Mental Note http://appshopper.com/productivity/mental-note-lite Which looks like the indigenous Notes facility, but allows images to be added, drawing to be added, audio to be recorded as part of the note (be careful when emailed, this comes as an extra attachment)
  • Layar http://site.layar.com/company/blog/layar-is-back-on-iphone/ Which is a great way of seeing what’s around you when you’re out and about. A stab at AR. With local points of interest, near-by Tweeters and maps – it could be a fun way of meeting new friends, finding new places or simply being a geek.
  • GeoCaching http://www.geocaching.com/iphone/ The ‘lite’ version of which we used at lunchtime. This (and Layar) is something I could see being used with students on location and awareness projects. I may even have a go at a bit of GeoCaching now.
  • ZBar http://zbar.sourceforge.net/ Our discussion had moved on to QR codes and many said that the iPhone really wasn’t the best for reading them – but ZBar has been great for me works every time (fingers crossed)

Of course, there are other Apps I regularly use and the best of these are:

  • SpeakIt http://appshopper.com/utilities/say-it (£1.19) is a great way of vocalising text on the iPhone. Cut and Paste (or type) text into the window and it will read it back to you in one of several voices. Resulting file can be emailed!
  • TuneIn Radio http://www.tunein-radio.com/index.html (£1.19) Radio  The iPhone doesn’t have a built-in radio and chasing a channel via Safari isn’t the best or mist convenient way to listen. When you get fed up of your MP3s – TuneIn.
  • Tube Exits http://www.tubeexits.co.uk/ (59p) If you’re travelling in London, Tube Exits is a must. It helps you to plan a route from A > B > C etc. but then tells you where to stand to get on a tube train to more easily find the exit at your destination. Just knowing which side the door opens is a great boon to me.
  • Quick News http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/quick-news-uk-free/id316696944?mt=8 (Free) is a great way of keeping up to date with snippets of news. You can choose from a huge variety of sources such as the BBC; digg; The Guardian; The Mirror; The Times and Metro (many more) – so you are not tied to just one opinion.

Plus – many, many more …

We also had a great overview of the Accessibility features on the iPhone from Luke, an Apple employee. This was much more in-depth than the presentation I saw in December and thoroughly engaging. Thank you Luke. Mick was kind enough to mention the work i had done on this too. See previous Eduvel post for links: https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2010/01/04/iphone-3gs-accessibility/

The most enjoyable bit of the day, as always, was meeting old friends and colleagues such as Mick and Elaine, John Whalley (another MoLeNET Mentor), Geoff Foot, Jo Crumblehome, Ronan O’Bierne – as well as those I’ve just met this year: Jason from the Sheffield Academy and Adam from the Ashton under Lyme Academy. Thanks to everyone for making this such a great day.

Extras:
Some of the following (previous) postings about the iPhone (include Podcasts):


http://dsugden.posterous.com/my-first-apple-day-1http://dsugden.posterous.com/my-first-apple-day-2
http://dsugden.posterous.com/iphone-trail-day-three
http://dsugden.posterous.com/my-first-apple-day-four
http://dsugden.posterous.com/my-first-apple-day-6
http://dsugden.posterous.com/my-first-apple-day-goodness-kn
http://dsugden.posterous.com/iphone-one-week-to-go
http://dsugden.posterous.com/iphone-story-final-chapter
https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2009/12/16/apple-pros-and-cons/

Mobile WP test

Coffe and cakeHaving had my problems with WordPress this last week or so, I’m surprised that I feel impelled to try out the WordPress App on my iPhone. But here I am tapping away (portrait) on the screen.

As readers of my earlier posts will know, I’m quite a fan of the iPhone’s onscreen keyboard so this isn’t much of a challenge – especially in landscape, which is what I’m on now.

WordPress seemed to return to normal last night and I was able to delete the errant code that was showing on my ‘Back to work’ post, which I think was well received.

Well – that ‘sort of’ worked.  I’ll have to try harder – Iost some of the post somehow. This is written online.

I’ll get it right one day.

iPhone 3GS Accessibility

iPhones have a unique screen reading capability.

This can be very useful for those who are blind or visually impaired. I was very impressed when I first saw this demonstrated at the Apple offices in London. As soon as I’d got my own iPhone to play with – I checked it out. Apparently, all of this works with the latest version of  the iTouch too (but not the 8gig version)

Basically there is a VoiceOver function and a Zoom function.

These can be accessed by clicking on Settings >> General >> (scroll down now) >> Accessibility.  See the image flow below to check your progress.

Screen shots of setting up accessibility functions on iPhoneThe VoiceOver and Zoom functions cannot be used at the same time.

Things to remember when using VoiceOver:

  • To navigate the phone whilst VoiceOver is active, you have to change the way you ‘touch’ the screen. To activate an App or an instruction, you have to first of all tap the required function and then double-tap to open or activate it.
  • To scroll up and down or to flick right or left you have to use three fingers on the screen.
  • When the phone has closed down (i.e. there is no active screen) it is reactivated by touching the home button. The VoiceOver function defaults to read out the time (always present on the opening screen), so you know immediately where you are. One tap at the bottom of the screen tells you what to do next – double-tap to unlock – and the phone opens at whatever screen you were last on and tells you which that was.

Try going to Safari and opening a web page (try a BBC news page). As you tap through the news reports the voice over function will read back the text.

The Rotor

By rotating two fingers (your finger and thumb) on the screen as if you were turning an actual dial, you can change the way VoiceOver navigates the text.

“For example, a flick up or down might move through text word by word. But when you choose the “character” setting, each time you flick up or down VoiceOver will move through the text character by character — perfect when you’re proofreading or editing text.”
From http://www.apple.com/accessibility/iphone/vision.html downloaded 04/01/10

and

Entering text

Writing text can be a real trial. You have to ‘tap’ each letter to select it and then ‘double-tap’ to use it. This can be hard work with the small on-screen keyboard for sighted users, so it could be very difficult for those without sight. As a sighted user, I got into it fairly quickly but it’s a very slow process and quite frustrating. It would be interesting to hear what others think?

Zoom

Although most pages can have their size increased by using Apple’s unique ‘pinch and spread’ function – not all respond to this. The Zoom function is therefore quite useful for some sight impaired users as it works on all screens.

Once the function is turned on, you just double-tap with three fingers to activate the toggle. Drag three fingers around the screen to move the magnified image. It is suggested that another double-tap will allow the user to increase or decrease the size of magnification – but I’ve been unable to do that (doh). (Added later — To increase and decrease the level of magnification, you must do a three-finger double tap, keeping your fingers on the screen after the second tap. While keeping your three fingers on the screen, move up to increase magnification and move down to decrease magnification. Lift your fingers off the screen when the desired magnification level is reached. From http://www.nillabyte.com/blog.php?b=2 – below)

See also:
http://www.nillabyte.com/blog.php?b=280
(Report on iPhone Accessibility function use)

http://maccessibility.net/iphone/apps/
A list of Apps that work with VoiceOver

For much more help – visit: http://www.apple.com/accessibility/iphone/vision.html

Zoom

Although most pages can have their size increased by using Apple’s unique ‘pinch and spread’ function – not all respond to this. The Zoom function is therefore quite useful for some sight impaired users as it works on all screens.

Once the function is turned on, you just double-tap with three fingers to activate the toggle. Drag three fingers around the screen to move the magnified image. It is suggested that another double-tap will allow the user to increase or decrease the size of magnification – but I’ve been unable to do that (doh).