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iPhone 3G vs. iPhone 3GS

In the market for an iPhone? Tempted by the 3G at $99? Wondering whether the 3GS is worth an extra $100? Wonder no more. The answer is yes, it’s worth it. Here’s what you miss by not getting the 3GS.

  • Better camera for still pictures (3 megapixels vs. the 3G’s 2 megapixels, autofocus, exposure control)
  • Video recording and editing (and built-in sending to YouTube and/or email and/or MobileMe)
  • Voice control (for dialing, for playing songs)
  • Faster web browsing (and faster network performance in general)
  • Compass (for knowing which way the map should be oriented)

The compass bears a little extra explanation. Most people think that the built-in compass is a toy, something for Boy Scouts maybe. Certainly not something useful to a city-dweller. As it turns out, the compass is something that turns out to be VERY useful. You might not use it directly, but some of the neatest apps on the iPhone rely on it. Here are a couple worth checking out, for those with a 3GS already:

Map (built-in app). When you show a map, and tap the location button, it shows where you are. Tap it again and it spins the map around so it’s oriented the way you’re facing. Can’t do that without a compass.

New York Nearest Subway (pending approval from the Apple Store). You see a map of the subway system at first... then you tilt the iPhone up as if you were going to take a picture. You see the picture-- and you also see, overlayed, the subway stations that are in that direction. You also get the distance to them. This makes it very easy to find a subway station.

Click here to see a video of New York Nearest Subway in action.


Pretty neat. And it is only for the iPhone 3GS, because it relies on the compass to know which way you’re aiming.

It’s easy to imagine a whole bunch of compass-using apps, such as one that would show gas stations or ATMs or bathrooms in the direction you’re facing, or another that would tell you the name of the mountain you’re looking at. These apps don’t exist today but I am sure they will soon (even if I have to write them myself).

My advice to anyone choosing between the 3G and the 3GS is “get the 3GS.” The extra $100 will hurt the moment you spend it but you’ll be glad you did it every day after that, multiple times a day.

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It's "iPhone 3GS," not "iPhone 3G S"

iPhone 3GS
I don’t know if it’s official or not but it appears that the new iPhone-- previously known as the “iPhone 3G S”-- is now known as the “iPhone 3GS.” The space between the “G” and the “S” has disappeared. Not sure when this happened but I’m glad of it, as it was awkward to type the other way. I point this out as a public service announcement.

Rumor has it that Steve Jobs didn’t like the space, and that all references to “iPhone 3G (space) S” on the Apple website were changed to “iPhone 3GS” within a day of his return to full-time work. I can’t tell you whether it’s true or not but it’s a nice story anyhow.

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Newspapers Around the World

Here’s a website that shows you newspapers from around the world.

Newspapers from around the world

Point to a city and see the front page of today’s paper for that city. Click on a city and you’ll see the front page zoomed in. Look around (top right) for links to that newspaper’s website etc. Really fun. Thanks to my friend Gene for showing the site to me.

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Take better pictures with your iPhone

iPhone camera icon
iPhone pictures often look shaky. People blame the iPhone, and get used to lousy results. That’s a drag, because the iPhone can take really good pictures. Here are some very nice pictures that were taken with an iPhone. Here’s another iPhone photo gallery.

Turns out that shaky pictures aren’t caused by the iPhone. Shaky pictures are caused by you. That’s because the iPhone takes a picture when you let go of the button, not when you touch it-- the opposite of what you’d expect. So, as you stab quickly at the shutter button, trying to take the picture at just the right moment, you’re knocking the iPhone around and you’re probably not even paying attention to what you’re doing when you take your finger off the button-- and, as you now know, that’s the moment of truth.

Since the picture’s going to be taken when you let go of the button, the trick is to already be holding the button while you wait for the perfect moment to take the picture. Press and hold the iPhone’s camera shutter button as you compose the shot, and then, gently and controlled, let go. Click! Result: a very nice, no-shake picture. Try it. It will work for you.

Note: even if you’re not gentle and not controlled, it’s hard to shake the iPhone by taking your finger OFF of the button. You probably won’t shake it no matter how hard you try. I’m telling you, as soon as you try this method you’ll take better pictures, so try it right now!

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Look over there

We’ve made two small-but-important improvements in the Boyce Blog set-up. Look to the left, under the “iChat Status” button, and you’ll see categories where you used to see months. Click a category and you’ll see all of the blog entries that match. We’ve categorized every entry, so this should be pretty handy for you. This is a free upgrade.

We’ve also added an “RSS Feed” link. Click it and see what happens. If you get something that looks like the picture shown below, great-- we’ll keep going. (If instead you get something asking you about Mail, cancel and wait for the next installment.)

Notice that the RSS Feed version of the Boyce Blog gives you an article count (sort of interesting), a search field (very interesting), and an Article Length slider (very useful, and lots of fun).

Christian Boyce RSS Feed 1

Drag the slider to the left and you get something like this:
Christian Boyce RSS Feed 2
Drag it all the way to the left and you get something like this.

Christian Boyce RSS Feed 3
Click a story (in bold) and you’ll see the entire article, on the original website. Neat.

RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication” and it’s a lot bigger than the Boyce Blog. You will see RSS links on many sites, and you’ll see RSS buttons in the address bar of many websites. All you do is click. It’s a neat way to scan a lot of articles. Click one and you get the whole thing.

Here are a couple of examples.
Click the RSS button on the New York Times website...
New York Times address bar

and you get this.
New York Times RSS

Click the RSS button on ESPN’s site...
ESPN address bar

and you get this.
ESPN RSS
Really neat.

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Charge your iPhone the RIGHT way

You’re probably thinking “what a waste of time-- what’s so hard about charging an iPhone? Just plug it into the wall, right? Right?”

Wrong. Well, technically “right”, except my way is even more right. And my way is “plug it into the computer.” Here’s why.

Plugging into the wall charges the iPhone. That’s all it does. Plugging into the computer will also charge the iPhone, but does more:
  1. It creates a backup, automatically, of everything on the iPhone. If you lose the iPhone, or it breaks, you can connect the new one to your computer and load your old data. This leads to This Important Tip: connect your iPhone to your computer every day.
  2. It allows you to synchronize contacts and calendars without using Apple’s $99 MobileMe service for through-the-air synching.
  3. It allows you to bring in music and videos and iPhone apps, through iTunes and the iTunes Store.
You already have the right cable-- just pull it out of the AC adapter and plug it into the computer.

Note: if you have multiple computers you will have to decide which one to use for the charging. Pick one and keep using it. It’s possible to set things up so you can sync and backup from one computer, and charge from multiple others-- tell me you want to know how and I’ll send you a note.

Naturally it is OK with me if you get an adapter to let you charge the iPhone in the car. In fact, I think that’s a great idea. Just be sure that you buy an adapter made specifically for the iPhone. If you get one that was made for an iPod you’ll be able to connect it just fine... but it will drain, rather than charge, your iPhone.

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iPhone Maps Super-Tips

iPhone Map app icon

They don’t give you much of a manual when you buy an iPhone, and that’s too bad because there are lots and lots of cool features that aren’t obvious right off the bat. The Maps app is a case in point. Here, then, are some hints for using the Maps app. Try ‘em.

Tip #1: Use the Current Location button.
See where the red arrow’s pointing? That’s the “Current Location” button. Touch it, and assuming you have either cell phone or WiFi coverage (or both), you’ll see a map with your location indicated by a blue pin and a blue circle. Knowing where you are is a huge advantage, even if you end up calling someone to get directions rather than do it all yourself. Note: the Current Location button is happy to oblige at 10:02 PM, and even later.

iPhone Map page (US)

Tip #2: Use the Search feature.
You can see my location indicated by that blue pin and the blue circle. (A small circle indicates good accuracy. A large circle indicates bad accuracy.)

This is Google Maps, friends, so you can search for anything. I think I’ll look for a nearby place to get coffee, but you could search for ATMs, books, hamburgers, gas stations, whatever. Start by tapping where the red arrow points.

iPhone Map street level

As soon as you touch the Search field a little keyboard shows up. Type what you want, then tap the big blue Search button.


iPhone Map search window

Looky what I found-- some coffee places, indicated with red pins on the map. Super. The nearest one has a little label showing you what it is. You can click on the other red pins to find out what they are too. This leads us to our next tip, which is...

Tip #3: Touch the white chevron in the blue circle (highlighted here in red, though it won’t be on your iPhone). This will lead to more info.

iPhone Map Coffee locations

Here’s what you get-- phone number, home page, address, and some handy buttons for getting directions. Usually, the one you want is “Directions To Here.” For now, let’s just go back by tapping the “Map” button at top left.

iPhone Map Info

You may have noticed another little button at the left side of the pin’s label. That indicates “Street View,” the amazing photographic representation of the place. Touch it (circled in red here).

iPhone Map click to show street view

When you touch that button you get Street View, which in this case looks like so:

iPhone Map street view

(Yes, it’s sideways. Street View is always sideways. Just rotate the iPhone.)

Tip #4: drag around on the photo in Street View to show the other side of the street. Or, when you’re viewing down a street, tap the big arrows in the street to “drive” in that direction. Street View is sort of a gimmick, but when you’re trying to find the Coffee Bean it can be handy to know it’s a white building with a tree in front.

Tip #5: touch the circle (highlighted here with the red arrow) to get out of Street View and back to the map.

Tip #6: tap anywhere other than on a pin or its label to hide all the labels. You’ll see something like this:

iPhone Map hide pins

Tip #6: Tap the Page Curl button. I’m pointing to it with the red arrow.


iPhone Map page curl

Look at all those options.

iPhone Map page curl options

Showing Traffic is handy (green is fast, yellow is not so fast, red is bad). The Map view is what you’ve been looking at the whole time. The Satellite view shows you an overhead photo of the map. The Hybrid view shows you the Satellite view, with the Map view drawn on top of it. Use the List button when you want directions in list form rather than graphically.

If you tap the Show Traffic button you get something like this. Note that they don’t show traffic on surface streets unless they happen to be state highways, and they won’t display freeway traffic everywhere (such as out in the country). It’s hard to complain though, considering it’s a free service. Thank you Google.

iPhone Map traffic

Looks like it’s going to be a smooth drive. 10 PM is like that.

One more tip for you.

Tip #7: double-tap with one finger to zoom in. Double-tap with TWO fingers to zoom out. Sure, you can pinch and un-pinch, but double-tapping is easier, at least for me.

Here’s the map after a couple of one-finger double-taps:

iPhone map double-click zoom in

And here’s the map after a couple of two-finger double-taps. Pretty neat.

iPhone Map zoom out

In case you wondered, the purple pin is a pin I dropped myself. That’s an option under the page-curl button. You drop a pin when you want to remember where you were.

OK, that’s it. Lots of little hints that add up to Total Maps Mastery. I could do the same thing for every standard iPhone app, and probably will, but it’s going to take a little while. Send me a note and tell me which app you want to know more about and I’ll prioritize by popular demand.

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New York Times iPhone news reader

I still prefer a “real” newspaper to any electronic version, and if you ask I’ll get all poetic and tell you why. In the meantime, here’s one of my favorite iPhone apps: The New York Times reader. By the way, it’s free. It would be a bargain at twice the price. Heh.

You can click any of the pictures here to go to the iTunes Store and download the program yourself. FYI.

(In case you were wondering why I don’t just use Safari on the iPhone and go to www.nytimes.com, the answer is that it’s a lot more convenient to have the news formatted to fit the iPhone automatically. Plus, as you will soon see, the iPhone app has features the website doesn’t.)

The New York Times reader’s been around from Day One of the App Store, and it’s been improved over and over. At this point it’s a very handy and nice reader, with easy navigation, a simple search feature, a button to email a story to a friend, a button to save a story for future reference, an easy way to make the text bigger, and so on and so on and so on.

Here’s what it looks like when you bring it up-- nice, fresh news, “updated moments ago.”

iPhone New York Times headlines

(Yes, there are ads, but you can ignore them. )


Here’s what you get when you click on a story.

iPhone New York Times story


If you need larger print, click the big T. Here’s how that looks:

iPhone New York Times zoomed in



See that Envelope icon at the left? Touch that to email the story to someone. See the Save button? Touch that to save the story for future viewing. You’ll see a “Saved” button in the first picture here-- that’s your list of saved stories. Nice.

Want more? There’s more.
You can, on the first screen, touch the Search button and search. Here’s an example:

iPhone New York Times search



Need your news categorized? Touch the “More” button.

iPhone New York Times category

From there you can choose a section and read all about it.

I like it. Free, always up to date, always with me-- a terrific thing. It doesn’t pile up when you go on vacation and it doesn’t come off on your hands. About all you can’t do with the NY Times iPhone app is wrap a fish in it. Maybe in a future version.

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Safari 4 Tip of the Day

Usually, when you close a Safari window, you mean to do it. But sometimes you make a mistake and close the wrong one. That’s when you say “Come baaaaaack...” and of course it doesn’t.

Next time that happens, try this:

Go to Safari’s History menu and choose the well-named “Reopen Last Closed Window.” It looks like this:

Safari Reopen Last Closed Window

And it works.

Right below “Reopen Last Closed Window” is “Reopen All Windows from Last Session.” That one’s great for when you quit Safari and then regret it (this is especially bad when you have lots of windows open). Start Safari up again, choose “Reopen All Windows from Last Session,” and you’re right back in business.

Try these things out before you need them. Muscle memory and all that.

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Great deal on VirusBarrier X5

The debate over whether there’s a need for anti-virus software on Macs rages on. Some people saying that anti-virus programs slow down your Mac, and are expensive, and basically a waste of time and money since there aren’t any Mac viruses (not true, by the way). Other people say that there are zillions of Word and Excel viruses, and even though they don’t affect a Mac like they do a PC they will cause trouble for people with PCs when you pass on an infected document through email.

The second group of people are right, and they’re even more right now that we have an inexpensive, unobtrusive anti-virus program. It is called Intego VirusBarrier X5, and it costs $69 direct from the manufacturer. However... as of this moment, a 5-user pack, which normally costs $199, now costs $99. Half off, roughly speaking. It was a good deal when it was $199 for 5, a great deal at $99 for 5.

If Microsoft Word asks you to save the Normal Template every time you quit it that’s a sign of being infected. Get a copy of VirusBarrier and the problem will go away.

Virus Barrier X5
Note the USB connector on the end of the “syringe.”

Here’s a link to Intego’s store. Here’s a link to a 30-day free trial! Can’t beat that.

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Interesting Airport-HP AiO interaction

I hate to sound like a broken record-- I mean, a corrupted MP3-- but HP’s Mac software is the worst. Love their printers, love their scanners, hate their software. Ugh.

Anyhow, they do make some interesting machines, and one of them is the HP All in One (AiO) Photosmart 3310. It prints, it scans, it faxes, and it copies-- and it can do it all over a network. It’s pretty unusual to be able to scan over a network, and in practice you still have to walk over to the 3310 to put your stuff on the glass so all you really get scan-wise is the convenience of being able to scan without connecting your laptop to the scanner with a cable. That’s nice-- when it works. When it doesn’t work, like it didn’t yesterday, it’s the pits.

The situation: Apple Time Capsule serving as the wireless base station, with firmware 7.4.1 on it. HP AiO Photosmart 3310 connected to the Time Capsule with an Ethernet cable. MacBook Pro connected to the Time Capsule wirelessly (802.11n, you geeks). I could print but I couldn’t scan. Every time I tried to scan I got a message about “unable to contact the 3100.” That’s nice.

I uninstalled the HP software using their own uninstaller. Then I found about thirty more pieces of HP software that the installer left behind (I also found a four-page HP document that tells how to delete the software, which is everywhere). My suspicion was that something was corrupt and that completely deinstalling, then reinstalling the latest version of HP’s software, would solve the problem.

Turns out I was wrong. After all of that the scanner still didn’t work over the network. Hmm.

My Friend Google helped point me in the right direction: the problem involved the firmware on the Time Capsule. Very interesting. I tried upgrading to 7.4.2-- no good. Then I rolled back to 7.3.2... and it worked. I think most of us see that orange light blinking on the Time Capsule and think “let’s do the upgrade, it will make things better” but in this case, no.

I can’t remember seeing another manufacturer’s stuff break when Apple does upgrades (other than La Cie’s, come to think of it). If you have a choice, I’d steer clear of HP, unless you are willing to put up with things that stop working for no obvious reason. Or unless you like having me in your office fixing things. In that case, then by all means get an HP. Or several.

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