iOS4.3 Home Sharing – How To

I have just updated my iPhone to iOS4.3 and was excited to try out Home Sharing, but it wasn’t as straightforward as I thought it might be. I had thought that you would send it from iTunes on your computer as you do with other types of sharing, but this is slightly different and has to be enabled on the phone.

Anyway, here’s how to set it up: –

1. Go into iTunes on your computer, to the preferences dialogue box, then to sharing.

2. Enable sharing as per the image below. Personally I like to add a password, and this is maybe what made setup on the iPhone more difficult.

iTunes sharing preferences for Home Sharing

3. Go to your iPhone and make sure you are on the same wifi network as your computer. Then go to Settings, then scroll down to the iPod settings, as below: –

Settings iPod Menu for Screen Sharing

4. Clicking on the iPod settings will take you into the following: –

iPod Settings Menu

5. You can see that Home Sharing needs your Apple ID and password. So enter that info: –

Home sharing settings completed in settings

6. Once this is done you can leave settings and go to your iPod and click the More button on the bottom right of the screen. You should now see a shared option with a little house icon! : –

iPod Application Showing the Shared Option

7. From now on it’s just a matter of selecting the library you want to see, then browsing your library as you normally would: –

Browsing the iTunes Library in Home Sharing

The procedure will be a bit different for iPods but if iPads are anything to go by, videos appear in a shared tab in the Videos application and in the iPod application you touch the Library in the top left of the screen, which then allows you to pick your iPad or a shared library.

So far I’ve found that streaming audio works great. Video seems to cache for a while before it starts playing, but also looks good. It looks like it will then be possible to stream to your TV with the appropriate cables although I haven’t tested that yet. If it works it will effectively allow you to use your iPhone/iPod/iPad as an AppleTV!

Very Cool!


Blackberry Playbook Review

I saw the Blackberry Playbook yesterday. In case you don’t know this is their tablet competition for the iPad.

It’s quite a bit smaller than an iPad with a 7 inch screen and large bezel, so it is a bit easier to hold and thumb type on. One thing that was particularly interesting for corporate use is that if paired with a Blackberry phone, emails get wiped if the two go out of bluetooth range, which is a nice security feature.

The things they couldn’t tell us included price. They said competitive…but with what? Galaxy Tab is similar sized but is more expensive than the iPad and the Motorola Xoom is priced US$300 more than an iPad! Battery life is the other big unanswered question and they just said competitive on that too. My guess judging by the weight, is that battery life will be about 4-5 hours which I don’t think is long enough now we are all used to the 9 or 10 hours of the iPad.

It’s big claim to fame is true multitasking which they show off by running video and games and other things simultaneously. Seems to me that although this makes a great demo in the real world you just wouldn’t use it. The user interface is nice though and the gestures are good. Overall I’d say better than a Galaxy Tab, but not quite an iPad.

Overall I’d say this is a corporate machine where security is vital and if you fit into that area, the Playbook is well worth a look.

iPad Review Australia

I am writing this about 2 weeks before the official iPad launch in Australia, but having used mine for almost a month. I didn’t want to rush in to a review as I wanted to be sure that I was back into my normal pattern of usage before I jumped to any conclusion.

The first thing to mention is that I am writing this on the ipad in the Wordpess app.
This seems to be working pretty well. I have is set up in landscape mode and I’m typing at a reasonable speed. Not quite as fast as a normal keyboard, but certainly fast enough to get by on.

iPad Quality
This is typical Apple. The construction is solid and seem very robust. There’s similar controls to the iPhone and iPod Touch, but there is a small microphone port by the headphone Jack, and a switch to lock the orientation (very handy).

This has been mentioned in other reviews but it is worth repeating, the speaker looks similar to the iPhone, but it produces considerably better sound in terms of volume and base. So much so that my initial thoughts of having to get a speaker system for the car, I don’t think is worth it now. I’m also using it for night time audio books for my son, where previously I would have plugged in my iPhone to some speakers.

I should also mention the screen. As I got this before the official release, there are currently no screen protectors available in Australia. I bought a silicon protector sleeve for the outside on eBay having heard that this scatches easily, but the screen I nervously left. What I have found is that it seems to be extremely robust and scratch resistant, despite some heavy use when typing and playing fruit ninja.

Lastly I should give the battery life an honorable mention. This is as long as is claimed, usually longer. It’s pretty amazing to watch a film, then see you still have 90% battery life left.

iPad Software
If your used to the iPhone or iPod Touch, this won’t take much getting used to. In most ways it’s extremely similar. I have found a few gotchas though where I look for things where they would be on the iPhone and they aren’t there. These include:

– Controls at the top of the screen rather than the bottom. This often means you have to take your hand off where you are holding it in order to activate the control you want. Somehow I would have preferred that the controls are placed within easier reach of my hands normal resting place.

– The keyboard. I’m constantly typing double full stop (period). Somehow I am used to the double space bar, but when I see the full stop I double tap that instead. I’m also never sure whether things are going to be capitalized or not, so continuously am hitting shift then realizing I should have as I’ve removed capitalization rather then added it.

– Browsing – Dont get me wrong here, the browsing experience is probably better than ANY device I’ve every used, but I find the tab menu thingy to be a little annoying and hard to follow. Why there isn’t just tabs at the top like a standard browser, I don’t know. It would really make a lot of sense particularly in portrait mode.

I am finding it hard to adapt to little issues too as when you go back to the iPhone you get into the text entry and menu habits again.

Highlights of the software really include browsing, which is just awesome, and this is a great device for reading those PDF books or documents you just never seem to get round to (I’d get the goodreader app for this as it really makes it a lot easier).

Recommended Apps
There are a few must have apps I think for the iPad. These are:

– Goodreader – a PDF reader that allows you to upload files from your computer, download files from the web, and provides a great reading experience. I buy a lot of PDF books and this finally gives me the experience I’m after to read them.

– Kindle – iBooks isn’t out yet, but the kindle app is great and has a load of books available even on the Australian store! I have to say that I think the kindle reading experience is better here purely for the size of the device. Also if your eyes are at all dodgy there’s a trade off for the extra contrast, and that seems to be. That fonts can’t be quite as big.

– VNC Viewer – I haven’t exactly used this one a lot, but it’s a great way to get a full Mac or Windows experience on your iPad. It’s also away to get flash on hour iPad if you really need it!

– WordPress – if you blog this is a really usable and portable way to write your posts and approve comments.

– Twitter client – I haven’t found a decent one yet. Twitteriffic I found to be very buggy on the iPad so much so that I have set up hootsuite in safari to handle my Twitter posts.

– Harbour master HD – This is a great, and free game. You guide the ships into ports and back out again. Sounds simple but it’s great fun and addictive.

– Lets Golf HD – If you like Lets Golf, you’ll love this. The larger screen really adds to this game and it’s worth the upgrade even if you already have the iPhone version.

– Fruit Ninja – I’m not sure if it’s worth buying the iPad version of this, the iPhone version is cheaper and seems fine. Again though it’s a game that really gains from the larger screen.

Using my iPad
So where am I using the iPad? This is the device that’s just left about for instant Internet access. I used to use my iPhone, but have found myself searching round for the ipad to get the extra screen size.

I’m also taking the iPad to business meetings. It really is a big advantage to be able to type notes in the notes app. Not only can you type reasonably quickly, but you can still see your client at the same time. They seem to respond much better when you do this as you’re not putting a barrier of a laptop screen up in front of them.

Games and video really shine too on the iPad. Games are just so much more enjoyable and immersive on the bigger screen and videos as great. I can’t think anyone would buy an in car entertainment system if they take a look at an iPad.

Lastly my ipad gets used for reading a lot. Reference books are great, but so are novels. I’m reading my son, kids books at night too, as it let’s me put the light down to try to get him off to sleep.

If your thinking of buying an iPad, these are great devices. You will use it more than you think and in ways that you can’t imagine. I have the 64GB wifi version which has stupid amounts of storage (I current have 30 films on it), probably you can get away with less. I would get the 3G if you can too. Much to my surprise, plans from Telstra and others are quite reasonable and flexible, and I do miss the access when I’m out and about.

My advice on the model would probably be a 32GB with 3G.
If you have an ipad and want to add anything, or want to ask any questions, please feel free to add comments.

iPad WordPress

Amazon Kindle – Review for Australia

I have just received my Amazon Kindle and thought I would give my impressions of what the device for use in Australia.

Firstly I should explain my motivations in buying a Kindle.

The first reason is that I, like many people, have a file on my computer called “to read” which just fills up and virtually never get read. Most of these are pdfs or Word files and I thought that the Kindle might mean that I get them off the computer and onto a device that is easy to read on. I also have a library of pdf reference books that I again need to get off the computer and actually read!

Second reason was that I like both the environmental benefits of not having a paper copy of a book. I’m sure you’ve seen the email signature that tells you how many litres of water it takes to make 1 sheet of paper. I have also seen some research on the energy requirements, and paper is higher than steel per tonne produced, which really surprised me! Well imagine being able to reduce that.

Thirdly, I have relatives coming over from the UK and the ability for them to read the UK papers is a big cost saving and convenience for them rather than buying international versions from local shops.

Lastly I would like to read more books and this might give me the ability to do so.

The ordering process on Amazon is seamless as usual, and a Kindle account is created for you so that you can buy books etc without having to enter your credit card. This is a great convenience and I guess we won’t worry about security at this point!

Converting files was a lot easier than Amazon made it sound. There are a few options: –

  • Amazon have a paid for service where you email them files and they convert and send them directly to your Kindle. This is the service you hear about most often, and I’m not sure why. I can only ever see using this if I want someone to email me a document when I am out somewhere (hopefully on a beach).
  • Amazon also have a free service where you email them files and they convert and email you back a link for you to download them to your PC/Mac. This seems ideal, as if you have emailed them, you are going to be at your computer and you typically get the file back in under 5 minutes!
    Using this service the conversion of pdf’s (Kindle doesn’t natively support pdf’s) was ok. With technical books there were some issues, but they are certainly readable.
  • Downloading Stanza and converting them from there. Stanza ( was bought by Amazon a few months back and has some great tools for converting between ebook formats. I found that this did the job, but code in the pdf’s seemed to execute rather than be shown as copy. I haven’t tested this on the Kindle yet, but Stanza’s desktop reader was executing both html and javascript.

When the Kindle arrived (30 minutes after the tracking told me it was still in LA) packaging was nice. Understated, almost playing on the environmental side but at the same time giving an almost Apple quality feel. You don’t want to keep the box like you do with an Apple product, but at the same time it’s very nice.

First impression of the product is really the screen. When you take it out of the box, there are some instructions on how to get started. At first glance I thought those were printed on the protective film, but they were actually on the screen! Graphics look incredible, very detailed with no obvious pixels. Yes, the screen really is stunning. I had seen mixed reviews of this feature, but I’m guessing that the people who don’t like it, may have a problem with contrast perception as the light grey background with black text is certainly different from the pure white of an LCD. However, as there is no backlight, it just doesn’t have the harshness of a monitor, and you really do get the impression you are reading a printed page.

I dutifully plugged the USB cord into my iPhone charger and left it for 4 hours. After that time the orange charge light was still on but I thought that it should be enough. Once I started to use the device though I was finding that the controls were very laggy. You seemed to have to press the next page button way too hard and sometimes it just didn’t seem to work at all (see later when this was resolved). I also noticed that the battery indicator was still showing that it was plugged in, which it wasn’t! After about an hour I started getting battery warning and shortly after it locked up with a “Battery Dead” type message on the screen.

My next option was to plug into a different charger and see how that went. Bad was the answer as it still wouldn’t boot up and the charge light kept going on and off. Frustrated I sent an email to Amazon support assuming that mine must have a fault. Their reply was: –

If you have a computer available, please try charging your Kindle using an existing USB port. Many 3rd party charges are not able to sufficiently charge the Kindle.

It worked, but I have to say that does give me a few problems, in that I have all sorts of USB chargers and seemingly none will work. I really don’t want to have to drag a laptop round with me just to charge a Kindle. Also the advertising saying that you can use it without having a computer is just not right, if you need a computer to charge it. I guess here that there is a good market for a 3rd party charging product.

Note here that the version I received did not come with a US power plug, so I couldn’t even use that and a converter. It seems that some may have judging by other reports.

After that little disappointment it did charge and rebooted. The good news was also that this seemed to completely cure the lag problems I mentioned earlier. Buttons are now responsive enough so you can just roll your finger over them and the page turns (yes I still think I’m reading a book).

I have now used the Kindle at night and during the day in the house, and at a McDonalds sat outside. The screen is very legible and you really do forget you aren’t reading a book. Usability wise I would say a big thumbs up from me.

Content however may be a different story in Australia in particular.To test what was available and the pricing I went into a local BigW and looked at their new and featured books and wrote down a list of any that I thought might be good. The list includes: –

  • The girl who kicked the hornets nest
  • The six sacred stones
  • I can see you
  • The Lost Symbol (Dan Brown)
  • The five greatest warriors
  • The scarletta factor
  • The Fiery Cross

Of these only one was available, which was very disappointing. It was a lot cheaper than a physical book, but we really need more content. The frustrating thing is that I know most of these are available in the US. Come on Amazon and publishers, get yourselves sorted out and embrace the future rather than clinging to your old business model.

I am hoping that I can buy in other formats and can use Stanza (see above) to convert to Kindle. However, I do have my doubts about this as this won’t work if the book is copy protected, and I’m sure they will be!

The content I did get was a newspaper and a few book sample. The newspaper is on a 14 day free trial (remember to cancel if you don’t want to be charged for it after 14 days). I have to say that although not the same as reading an actual paper, in many ways I like this better. It is more like a web experience with articles arranged into groups you can navigate through. I think for people used to a physical paper it may take some getting used to, but if you get your news from the web, it is great. There is no doubting the convenience too with the paper being delivered to you anywhere in the world! The one downside is that these aren’t cheap. I will probably not continue my subscription, but would if they were halve the price.

Book reading I can’t comment on too much. It really is just like reading a book with the added conveniences that it isn’t as big, it saves your place if you fall asleep reading it and you can set the text size and column width up just how you like it.

Overall, I have to say that I really am liking the Kindle. Even more than I expected. For me the big downsides relate to Australia, in particular: –

  • Doesn’t come with and Australian charger and you can’t use a standard USB charger. You thereefore have to plug into a computer to charge.
  • There is not enough book content on the Australian Kindle store.

There are things that I haven’t mentioned here including the basic web browser, which doesn’t work in Australia, wikipedia access which has been reported to work, but I haven’t been able to get going. However I am reviewing just as a reader for the moment and will hopefully get to those later!

*** UPDATE *** (after 10 days of use)

I have had my Kindle for about a week now and in general am enjoying it. However there are a couple of issues I have come across: –

– Septimus Heap book series was on the Australian store, I bought the first book and want to buy more, but it has now disappeared. I can only assume that Amazon didn’t have the rights to sell it in the first place which leads on nicely to point 2 below.
– The Australian Store just doesn’t have enough books on it. I am finding it hard to recommend the Kindle when the number of books I can get is so limited. I have bought 2 books so far and had sample chapters of about 5 more but you really have to choose by what you can get rather than what you want.
– I also have an audible account and should be able to play audible content. When I try it asks to validate the device with audible but when it goes to do this it tries to connect then fails. This means I can’t play audible content at all.
– I have tried converting quite a few technical pdf’s and despite my comments above, they don’t usually convert well enough to read. I really think they should have native pdf support in the Kindle, they have it in the DX, the iPhone has it, so I’m sure the device is capable enough. This would particularly help me (and many other techies) that tend to buy pdf books, and have a heap of pdf white papers we want to read on our computers. Having said that the problem is particularly when there is code in the books as it doesn’t keep the indenting, which makes it a nightmare to follow. Other books seem to convert okay, though native support would still be better (specially when there are side bars with additional info).

Having said all that, I am still enjoying reading on the Kindle, and it is making me read books socially rather than just work related topics.

*** UPDATE 25/11/09 ***

Updated software just coming through including PDF support. I will update this post when I have given it a try.

*** UPDATE 04/01/10 ***

I have finally tried the charging tip suggested by Andrew. It does seem to charge the Kindle quite happily if you plug into your printers USB input port (the one that reads the memory sticks on the front of the printer usually). It does lock the device while you are charging though, and I would advise turning the printer off before you pull the lead out, just in case.

Overall though I find charging through  the printer more convenient than via the computer.

I should also mentioned the books I have read so far. These are: –

  • Septimus Heap – Book One – This has now been pulled from the Australian Kindle
  • The girl with the dragon tatoo
  • The girl who played with fire
  • The girl who kicked the hornets nest – The above series was really entertaining and is definitely worth considering. The writing in the first leaves a bit to be desired but the story is good and after this one the 2nd and 3rd books were good. There is also a variety of styles here the first being a bit of a mystery, the second a thriller and the last a court room drama. Personally I liked the second best.
  • By reason of insanity – I really struggled with this one to about the 15% mark, from then on it has had me hooked. This is a courtroom drama with a serial killer and all sorts of things thrown in. It was only $2 when I bought it and once you get past 15% it is excellent. Looking forward to finishing it tonight.!

AWA DP747 DVD player review

I have just bought the AWA DP747 DVD player and have set it up and watched a couple of videos on it over the past 12 hours or so.

First impression was a good price for the features, which include playback of mp4 format video from a memory card or USB stick.

When setting up you get the typical Chinese, rather garish splash screen (I often wonder, do they think apples designs are drab and lacking in colour). Running the setup on the tv was painful though. I have connected my standard def but 16:9 format tv using standard yellow (video) and red and white (audio) cables supplied in the box. I am not sure that these connection are important, but I cannot select the tv format to be 16:9, the option is just greyed out. Other options are pretty standard, but that one means that I cannot get full use of the widescreen format (and let’s face it, the native resolution) of the DVD. I will try other connections over the next few days, but that is just annoying.

On the flipside, video reproduction seems good, and the discs themselves spin very quietly, making my foxtel iq seem even more annoyingly loud.

Mp4 playback was interesting in that it didn’t pick up a mac formatted disc, but when I moved a film to a memory stick, it worked well, again with good reproduction. I have yet to try an h.264 formatted movie with the m4v extension iTunes uses and will report back on that.

Overall I would recommend this DVD player if you connect by hdmi or component, or have a standard def 4:3 form factor tv. If like me you have a 16:9 tv and want to use standard video, yellow cable, stay clear as the squeezing of the image will drive you nuts!

UPDATE: 26 October 2010

This DVD player has just died, so you can get a rough idea that this one lasted about a year and a half. Overall it has been a good machine. The only problems I have come across are: –

  • It has crashed a few times, particularly when you try to access something when it is first starting up. Once it has done this it just locks and the only way to restart it is to pull the plug. Once you’ve done that a few times you just make sure you wait for 20-30 seconds after hitting the start button before you try and eject a DVD.
  • When it finally died, it did so with a DVD in the tray. To get that DVD out of a machine that had no power meant that I had to take the whole thing apart, literally! Even the DVD drive itself didn’t seem to have a manual way to eject so I had to take that apart too!