Dash to Code widgets for your iPhone

15 10 2007

I was shocked that Apple didn’t do this right at the launch of the iPhone. Now, I’m still predicting they will do it, and soon:

When Leopard is released, its free developer software will include a copy of DashCode that will allow you to write widgets for your iPhone.

Most people know that widgets on Macintosh OSX are small applications that can be brought up on screen with a keystroke and dismissed with a click. They are lightweight applications, written mostly in the JavaScript language. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of these widgets available, written by Apple, Apple developers, and just plain folk. Compared with a traditional Mac application, widgets are much easier to write. Since they use JavaScript, many people who develop Web sites already know almost everything necessary to write a widget.

It’s not very hard to develop a widget by hand with nothing more than a text editor and some GIF graphics, but Apple made writing widgets even easier when it made the DashCode application available to its developer community. DashCode is an integrated development environment for creating widgets. With it, you can place your graphics and user interface controls, write code, give it a quick test run, set breakpoints, examine variables, and so on. It includes a library of controls and snippets of code you can use in your widgets. It’s a slick, easy way to develop widgets.

Widgets on an iPhone might be a very good idea. Apple wants to make sure that its phone remains stable. They don’t want buggy or malicious third party applications to overwrite important code or data on other critical parts of the phone. They don’t want a crashing app to crash the entire phone. And they don’t want apps to get access to parts of the phone they deem off limits – It doesn’t want to see apps that unlock the phone to make it able to work with other carriers, for example.

Widgets run in a “sandbox” that they can’t, in theory, break out of. They can have limited persistent storage, be required to use a fixed API for access to system services, and so on. And they are small, light, and almost all the internals necessary to handle widgets are already in the phone.

You already have widgets in your iPhone – sort of. The Stocks and Weather applications on your phone, though not internally implemented as widgets (I think) look exactly like the corresponding widgets on the Macintosh itself. And if you peek at the Mac, you can get an idea of the many, many kinds of things you can do with widgets. On the iPhone they will be able to access the Net, make a call, bring up a Web page, or bring up a map – JavaScript can do these things already. With a bit of work by Apple, they could be given access to contacts and perhaps control playing of tunes.

Why, oh why didn’t Apple give developers the ability to make third party applications from the start. I believe they DID intend to – in the form of widgets and DashCode. I believe they wanted, on day one or soon thereafter, to allow people to use DashCode to make widgets, let iTunes sync them into the phone, and have them appear as icons right on the home screen of the phone.

So why didn’t they do it? Because of security? Politics? Contractual constraints? Nah, it’s just that Leopard was delayed. I believe they have this all set up – a new DashCode with modifications to make iPhone widgets, that runs on, and requires, Leopard. When Leopard and the iPhone were being developed, they were going to come out at almost the same time. But when development resources got tight at Apple, they decided to get the phone out first and save Leopard for later. This pushed back DashCode for iPhone as well. And ever since, Apple has been taking flak on having no development system.

Widgets aren’t applications, they have many limits, and developers will complain that they can’t do everything or make the most efficient use of CPU resources, but you can make a heck of a lot of stuff with widgets.

That’s my guess on what’s happening. You are going to see, when Leopard arrives, a way to make widgets for the iPhone using DashCode. So get ready now, developers! Start making developing widgets now that do the things you want to have on the iPhone. I’m betting you will be able to get them into the phone very, very soon!


Bug in iTunes 7.4.x affecting iPhone and video iPods

17 09 2007

Here is a bug in the current version of iTunes 7.4.2 and the earlier 7.4 versions. I have an iPhone and see this. It will likely appear on video iPods as well. Videos watched to the end and deleted to conserve space will not be marked as viewed in the next sync. Here are the details.

When you watch a video podcast to the end, a dialog pops up asking if you want to delete the video to conserve space. If you agree to delete it and then sync the iPhone, the video is not marked as watched in iTunes. So, if you have a preference like “Sync 10 most recent unplayed episodes of all podcasts” set, it will not work – the video you deleted is not marked as played, and in the sync, it is simply copied back onto the iPhone in an unplayed state.

Earlier versions properly marked such deleted videos as played, and they would not be copied back.

Note that if you choose to keep the played video, when you sync, it will properly be marked as played in iTunes, and with the preference set as above, will correctly be deleted from the iPhone.

Do you also see this bug with your iPhone or video iPod?

The Apple iPhone’s Mystery Bell Symbol

24 08 2007

Does your iPhone have a tiny bell symbol embossed on it? Some do, and some don’t. This may be the reason why.

I was hanging out at the local Apple store Genius Bar today, and someone nearby said to me looked at my iPhone for about one second and said “Did you by any chance happen to buy this phone at an AT&T store?” I said “Yes I did, how did you know?”

He told me “I’ve seen a lot of iPhones, and it always seem like the ones from an AT&T store have a little white bell symbol embossed on the black silencing switch on the top left side of the phone. Ones from Apple stores don’t seem to have them.” Well, I thought all the phones had them, and I was surprised. I like the little bell!

Does your phone have the bell symbol on the switch? Did you get it from an AT&T store? Maybe it is a secret code meaning it came via an AT&T store, maybe not. Perhaps it is just on the first shipment of phones, or some other thing. What’s on your phone?

How my iPhone lost all its data in one fell swoop

14 07 2007

It happened to me, and it can happen to you, too. I was charging up my iPhone. All the data was there one minute, and gone the next. I was able to recover it all by re-syncing, but I don’t know if my nerves will ever recover. Here’s how it happened.


I have my iPhone synced up to an iMac, and this works fine. But I have several computers in the house. And of course, I can barely take my hands off the iPhone these days. I’m watching podcasts, watching movies, listening to music, and so on. Unfortunately, the thing needs charging, but I don’t want to let it go. So, I want to keep it charged as much as possible when I’m using it around the house. I have an extra USB docking cable, and to keep it charged, I plugged that cable into my MacBook Pro laptop, and then into the iPhone. I heard the now-familiar “plink” sound that means the phone has started charging. But then I noticed. Poof! Almost all the data on the iPhone had vanished!


What happened, was that in addition to starting a charge cycle, the iPhone had happily started syncing with the MacBook. The unwanted sync had, in seconds, erased all the music, movies, and podcasts on the phone, and matched it up with the media I had on the MacBook, which was almost nothing. iTunes was in the backgroung, and I hadn’t noticed on the computer screen that this was happening.


As I recall, this process can happen with an iPod as well. But I think when you plug an iPod into a different computer, you get a dialog box that asks you if you want to sync the device up with the new computer. This didn’t happen with the iPhone. It simply started to sync with the new computer. Apple, we’ve got a little buglet here! The phone should see it is on a new computer and ask before syncing to it.


After recovering from the near heart attack from suddenly having my iPhone go almost blank, I realized that all I had to do is plug the iPhone back into the original computer, and everything syncs back in. It went smoothly, but this was over 7GB of stuff, and it took a while.


There are a couple of things you can do to prevent this problem. You can not plug the phone into another computer. I could have used the charger that plugs into the wall, for example. Or, you can turn off the “Automatically sync when this phone is connected” chackbox that appears in the iPhone settings in iTunes. With this off, you can plug into the second computer to charge it. Another trick? Use a FireWire iPod doc cable for charging the iPhone to another computer. Since the iPhone does not have a FireWire port, the computer will not recognize it, but the phone will still charge.


Anyway, until Apple gets this little problem fixed, I thought I’d warn you about plugging your iPhone into another computer without paying much attention. Have fun with your iPhone!

Myallo Online Goes Mobile for iPhone

1 07 2007

The Myallo Online website at myallo.com has gone mobile with a new version of the site optimized for the iPhone at myallo.mobi .

“Myallo Online displays a personalized collection of news and articles from all around the Web, and we thought this would be great to have on the iPhone” said Michael O’Connor, site creator and longtime Apple software developer. “You can scroll through headlines with your finger, tap to read an article, and tap again to go to the article’s source site.”

“With the iPhone in hand, we are continuing to optimize the site to make the experience seamless. While the iPhone handles the myallo.com version of the site just fine, especially over the fast Wi-Fi network, myallo.mobi greatly reduces the amount of data, which keeps it responsive even over the slower cellular network”, said O’Connor. “ While optimized for the iPhone, myallo.mobi works well with any mobile device” he added.

About Myallo Technology: Myallo’s unique patent pending neural-network-like technology literally learns what you like, predicts your interest in articles of text, and ranks them according to your taste. The technology is currently available in the Myallo for Macintosh application, on the Myallo Online website, and is licensable for commercial use.

Myallo Online, at <www.myallo.com> and <www.myallo.mobi>, pre-reads hundreds of sites from across the Internet, predicts your interest in them, and shows you personalized pages filled with up-to-the-moment articles you’ll want to read.

Leptonic Systems Inc. is a corporation dedicated to creating “Software of Interest” for the Macintosh and the Web.

Written with an iPhone

1 07 2007

I wrote this entry on an iPhone with the WordPress web interface, but with a little difficulty. When I tapped in the text entry area for the body of the entry, the iPhone keyboard wouldn’t pop up. The phone didn’t recognize it as a text field. This was probably due to the way the field does visual text formatting. So, I had to switch to code mode, which presents the field as plain text. After that, there was no problem.

By the way, I’m having no problems typing on the virtual keyboard. As Apple said, the key is to trust the intelligence of the keyboard. Just go on typing away, completely ignoring the blatant mistakes you see yourself making, and in pretty much every case each word is fixed up as you hit the space bar. It is quite amazing!

iPhone Ringtones: Where did they go?

26 06 2007

The newest iPhone video came out today, and it shows an iPhone being synced using the iTunes application.

Something is missing, there is no “Ringtones” tab to be seen in the video, something we did glimpse in the January keynote video.

Uh-oh. Can you easily set up any tune you own as a ringtone? Will you have to stick with the set of ringtones that come with the phone, as seen in the guided tour video? Will you have to buy special ringtones from the iTunes store?

We need to know!