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Archive for the ‘Technical’ Category

Experiment: Turning an iTouch + MiFi into a No Contract iPhone

11 Apr
Turning iPod to iPhone Apps

Out of sheer frustration from the lack of AT&T service on the iPhone 3GS in some parts of San Francisco and at home, I started looking at alternatives in service without signing up for another contract. In this quest, I stumbled upon Virgin Mobile and their MiFi card for only $149.99 which is the exact same MiFi card as sold on Verizon and Sprint for much more. I thought I would connect through Virgin Mobile MiFi (uses the Sprint network) when AT&T didn’t have service. This is a reposted from my personal blog.

This post is long overdue, if you googled iPod Touch and MiFi together, you would have come across a LifeHacker article which details how to use this combination as a solution. While having two devices is not ideal, I find it’s much better than when I was using my iphone which had NO SERVICE at home. At best I had intermittent service to send and receive occasional texts but not enough bandwidth to have a conversation without sitting in perfect stillness or contorting my body by a window to get the signal. Ironically, I pulled the SIM card out of my iphone and put it in a Motorola RAZR and the RAZR received phone calls. The calls weren’t perfect on the RAZR yet I had enough of a signal to hear a conversation. On the iphone people would cut in and out that I would miss half the conversation and was completely frustrated between that and the dropped calls.

Apps to Talk & Text on the iTouch
First, I’ve tried several voice over IP (VOIP) apps on the iphone and forwarded my google voice number to the VOIP apps. These apps usually make you select a new phone number without the option to port in an existing number. I use google voice (GV) for the business and forward it to a phone number with a signal or answer calls on the computer. A previous guest post on GenJuice details how to make free voice calls, video chats, and texting.

Here are the apps I’m using to give the iPod Touch cell phone functionality.

Textfree with Voice by Pinger

Textfree with Voice

I was using the beta version when Pinger introduced voice-functionality at TechCrunch Disrupt last year, it crashed a lot and I received the servers were not available dialogs. It has since improved, then added the ability to received free incoming calls, send picture messages from a textfree email address which is [your_username]@textfree.us, and facebook chat from within this app. Sometimes, calls take a bit longer to connect because GV will route the call to all of my available numbers. I haven’t tested how quickly calls come through if you dial the number directly. The caveat with this free app is if you don’t use the app for 30 days, you will lose the number you selected and I still occasionally get the Textfree servers are not available message.

Pros:

  • Free incoming calls
  • Send picture messages
  • Facebook chat within the app
  • Notifications popup on the screen when you get incoming texts
  • Calls sound pretty good when using home WiFi
Cons:
  • Takes awhile for incoming calls to activate even after you click answer when using the MiFi card to connect to the internet.
  • Calls on 3G are still somewhat hollow sounding for the recipient.
  • Can’t receive MMS or picture messages to your iTouch unless the sender sends the message to your Textfree email address.

Skype

Skype

I pay $2.99 a month for unlimited outgoing calls to the United States and Canada on Skype. I don’t need to call internationally which is why this plan works for me. I also signed up for the SkypeIn or an online phone number which was about $12 for three months before I learned Textfree had the free incoming calls. Dropping the online phone number since I can receive calls via my computer on Google Talk.

Pros:

  • You select the number that will show on the caller ID for your outgoing call. I like this because my GV number is what people see call their mobile or landline either from my iTouch or the desktop version of Skype.
  • Video calls on the go when in a good 3G area or ideally on WiFi.
Cons:
  • Voicemail – there is currently voicemail on Skype and I don’t know how to get rid of it. I prefer the GV voicemail since it transcribes my messages.
  • Calls when in a non-3G area don’t sound very good.
GV Connect

GV Connect by Andreas Amann

Of the Google Voice apps I’ve tested, I like GV Connect over the app released by Google. In composing a new SMS or text message, you can type in the name of the person you want directly in the TO field, tap out your text, then send. In the Google Voice app, unless you have the number memorized, you have to go to the address book to select the person first, then select text, before you can even tap out your message. It was too many steps, come on Google, really!??

Pros:

  • Sending a text uses my address book without having additional steps.
  • Select which phones to forward calls and texts to from within the app.
  • Select do not disturb directly from the app.
  • Regular updates to the app to fix bugs and add features.
  • Integrates with Talkatone if using that for VOIP.

Cons:

  • Not a VOIP app.
MiFi

MiFi

This app doesn’t add calling or texting capabilities, I had to add it because I use it to check battery life on my MiFi card and to see the signal strength. It supports MiFi from Virgin Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint.

Measures:

  • Connectivity bars (0 – 5 bars)
  • Battery level (0 – 4 bars)
  • Data received and sent (in/out)
  • IP address
While the experience with the iTouch and MiFi is not ideal, it was good enough for me to put my AT&T account on hold until announcements of the iPhone 5. I will detail that later along with the other apps I’ve tried and ultimately deleted from my ipod because they didn’t do what I wanted well enough.
Have you tried these apps on your ipod or ipad? If you have better suggestions for a VOIP app let me know in the comments, I would love to try them out!
 
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Posted in Technical

 

I Just Want to Create a Frickin’ iPhone App! (Part 1)

15 Mar
Hand Things Down’s first iPhone application

Hand Things Down’s first iPhone application

We had a big deadline, yesterday, to have an iPhone app running. For those of you who who’ve heard about the multitude of hurdles that you have to cross in order to get an iPhone app working, I will summarize my experience over the past couple of weeks. I am not even talking about submitting an app to the Apple App Store, only to get it running on a device.  If you read no further, know this: DO NOT WAIT until the last minute and think you can do this in an hour; there are logistics that involve faxing(!!) and people at Apple, so it will take days. Hopefully some hints, here will help to trim that down.

Here are the steps (from memory):

  1. Join the Apple Developer Connection (developer.apple.com).  This is free and it will give you access to bunch technical information and videos (but not all!). This step is quick and painless.
    1. Find your way through one of the Dev Center links or just go to developer.apple.com/programs/register.
    2. Be sure that the email address and name are what you want to use because they will verify subsequent information, later (in the certificate used to run your app on your actual device).
    3. You will need to verify the email address through the email they send you. This is automated, so it shouldn’t take long.
  2. Once you have registered, you can also download the iOS SDK so that you can develop an application and run it in its simulator. This, of course is the same SDK you’d use for iPod Touch and iPad development.
  3. You have to have Mac OS Snow Leopard (10.6.4) or later to install the SDK… expect an upgrade from 10.5 to take 2-3 hours, after the update patches that might be required, are also applied.

  4. To run your application on an iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad, you need to join and pay for the “iOS Developer Program.” This process isn’t specific to iOS; you will be able to opt into one of Apple’s three developer programs, iOS, Mac, and Safari. The first two cost $99. and the latter is free.
  5. I needed to register our company as the “developer” so that any applications are released under the company’s name, rather than my own. Apple wants to verify that it is a legitimate entity; so they sent an email asking me to fax proof of the company’s validity (Fax?!! Really, Apple?! Really?!!). They manually review the paperwork before anything else happens. By taking the time to read this blog-post, you can avoid the time and frustration I had to go through (they never processed my fax):
    Apple Dev Program company paperwork request

    Apple Dev Program company paperwork request

    Call Apple Developer Support at one of their phone numbers—for the US, call (408) 974-4897 or (800) 633-2152, Mon-Fri, 9:00AM-7:00PM CST. Tell them that you’d faxed your paperwork in 3 or 4-days ago. If you are nice, they will send you an email where you can attach your paperwork and email back!

    That little tid-bit might save you days of waiting. If you are an individual developer, then this might not apply.

  6. You will get another confirmation email, “Information Received Regarding Your Enrollment,” from them as soon as the support person does whatever they do. You’ve yet to pay, however. I had to wait for another 2-days to receive an “Apple Developer Program Enrollment Update” email. If you do not receive this email, you can try writing your support contact again or try the link that you will eventually get, to see if you can proceed: developer.apple.com/ios/enroll/purchaseProgram.action. It took me two days to get this email. I was then able to pay.
  7. The next day I received an invoice and the confirmation email “Thank You for Joining an Apple Developer Program,” and I was no longer beholden to the black-box procedures of Apple (as far as I know… see my next posting). Now I have access to the additional technical information and I am able to go through the logistics of deploying my app to my iPhone, for the first time.

Total time, for me: 11 days, most of it waiting on Apple!! Hopefully this post will allow you to cut a week off that time. Happy programming!

 
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Posted in Technical