iTunes 9 and other wonders…

Apple’s 09/09/09 Media event introduced some new things both expected and unexpected, many expected an iPod touch with a camera but instead there was an iPod nano with not only a camera but FM radio and a built-in pedometer! I was surprised about the FM radio as I never expected that to be added to an iPod. Here’s a few of the things Apple introduced today along with some thoughts / notes etc:

iPod shuffles – shiny rainbows

Now in multiple colours as well as a special edition stainless steel model. There were rumours that this tiny little iPod was going to be ditched but that didn’t happen. They also announced a new 2GB model along with shuffle-compatible third party headphones and controller peripherals. I’m not sure how much smaller you could make an iPod shuffle really. (iPod shuffle ?)

iPod nano – complete with camera

At first I didn’t think an iPod nano with a camera was that big a deal but after watching one of the video clips demoing the video features I found myself wanting one to carry around so that I could film things again. I’ve missed being able to film stuff since getting my iPhone 3G, however, there’s no way I’m buying yet another iPod so I’ll just have to look into getting an iPhone 3GS at christmas time instead! The nano’s video format is 640×480 pixel h.264 video and looks to be pretty good quality, it almost makes me wish Apple would just make a dedicated camera but I don’t think that will happen. (iPod nano ?)

iPod classic – memory bump

There’s nothing that different in store for the iPod classic, just a simple storage bump from 120GB to 160GB instead. I still like the classic iPod and the scroll wheel, it’s a great interface for accessing files. The iPhone / iPod touch’s touch screen is great but the scroll wheel is still very efficient I think. I wonder though how much time is left for these iPods? Probably still a fair bit, but once flash memory gets into at least 128GB sizes I think the iPod classic will be assigned to the history books. (iPod classic ?)

iPod touch – 64GB model and price drop

There was no rumoured iPod touch-with-camera announced, just a price drop on the existing model as well as a 64GB model announced. I think a new version with a camera is in the works, it just doesn’t make sense for the nano to have it and not the touch. Also the lineup is now 8GB, 32GB and 64GB, I’d expect to see it become 16GB, 32GB and 64GB when the new model is announced. That’s just my speculation though. Update: This press release from Apple about the new iPod touch updates paints a slightly different picture though, it indicates that the 32GB and 64GB iPod touches have the same internals as the iPhone 3GS, “The 32GB and 64GB models also include up to 50 percent faster performance and support for even better graphics with Open GL ES 2.0“. Interesting. (iPod touch ?)

iTunes 9

An expected announcement and one that took up the majority of the media event. iTunes 9 introduced a revamped interface (with it’s usual introduction of unusual / new interface aesthetics!) and a few other new features. One thing that’s disappeared though is the shopping cart feature, now you have to either add it to the also newly added Wish List feature or you have to use 1-Click purchasing! That’s a little bit scary.

There’s now also the option to share items on the store to either Facebook or Twitter, I was hoping for more integration with social networks, particularly last.fm but alas it’s not to be. One other thing I noticed is that iTunes now finally behaves like all other good Mac apps and will actually maximise when you click the maximise button! Previously this would toggle iTunes into it’s Mini Player mode, I’m really glad they’ve changed this.

Here’s a rundown of some of the new features of iTunes 9:

  • iTunes LP – Intended to introduce the digital equivalent of album covers complete with liner notes, lyric, videos etc. This is something that is long overdue, I look forward to checking out some of these. Another question though is how are these made? I’m pretty sure they won’t involve Flash but I’ll be keen to find out how they’re produced.
  • Home sharing – This basically allows you to easily share tracks between up-to five machines that you can authorise to play back songs. This seems really handy for households with more than one computer, drag and drop songs between shared libraries.
  • Redesigned iTunes Store – Improved navigation is one of the main tweaks, it now seems more like a web page with consistent navigation along the top of the window. You can also set an option in the preferences to use the full window when browsing the store, this basically gets rid of the list of options on the left hand side. It’s quite handy to get a bit more space when browsing the store.
  • iTunes Extras – Another long overdue feature! I’m not that impressed with the iTunes store’s video offerings, many movies are not available to rent until long after many other rental stores have had them. So these movies are only available to purchase, what’s more they’re a bit expensive too compared to picking them up in DVD format from somewhere like play.com or even at your local Tesco supermarket. Ok, rant over. iTunes Extras basically adds a bit more value by including the special features that you’d get on your regular (and cheaper!) DVD purchase. I’m a tiny little bit more likely to buy one now (I still probably won’t though).
  • Genius mixes – An interesting new feature, it finds songs that go well together and automatically makes mixes out of them. One thing to point out though is at first I couldn’t see where this feature was, you need to choose ‘Update Genius’ from the Store menu in iTunes in order to update and activate the feature.
  • Improved syncing – Undoubtedly one of the most sought after features by anyone who owns an iPhone or iPod touch and has a lot of applications on it, you can now organise the layout of all of your apps inside iTunes itself. It’s not quite how I’d proposed it but close ;)

iPhone OS 3.1

iPhone OS 3.1 for iPhone (and 3.1.1 for iPod touch) were announced too. It introduces a few new features that tie in with iTunes 9’s new features, nothing massively new but then again it is a point update. Amongst the various features shown on the iPhone OS software update page a couple of little tweaks caught my eye:

  • Remotely lock iPhone with a passcode via MobileMe
  • Warn when visiting fraudulent websites in Safari (anti-phishing)

Being able to lock an iPhone remotely enhances the already brilliant MobileMe feature of locating your iPhone via GPS and also remotely wiping a lost iPhone. Anti-phishing support in Mobile Safari is a great feature too, something all browsers need these days.

Anyway, enough writing about it all, I’m going to go and re-organise my iPhone apps :)

Post-install notes of Mac OSX 10.6 Snow Leopard

I thought I’d compile a few notes / points of interest of things I’ve noticed after installing Mac OSX 10.6 Snow Leopard on my development Mac. I’m going to keep updating this page and adding things to it as I come across them.

I use the default install of Apache & PHP and install MySQL from the installer from MySQL.com, I guess I should custom build and install these but it’s easy enough to work with the defaults anyway.

PHP under Snow Leopard

PHP under Mac OSX 10.6 Snow Leopard is version 5.3.0 and thankfully has the GD libraries enabled by default. Especially good for WordPress installs so that it can do image resizing for thumbnails etc.

I noticed I was getting an error relating to timezones on many of my sites, along the lines of:

Warning: strtotime() [function.strtotime]: It is not safe to rely on the system’s timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function.

The solution I used to this was just to restore the previous php.ini file, this showed in the /etc directory as ‘php.ini.default-5.2-previous’. Just rename it to ‘php.ini’ (replacing any existing php.ini file if it exists, it didn’t for me). You’ll then want to edit php.ini and look for the ‘date.timezone’ setting and put in your timezone info (PHP.net timezone page) and then restart Apache. Hopefully it should be fine after that.

I also started getting a lot of warnings on some of my development sites along the lines of:

PHP Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in…

These are warnings about old deprecated PHP4 era code, recent versions of PHP5 enable these warnings, but you can switch these off by adding an additional error reporting element to your php.ini file in the error handling section:

error_reporting = E_ALL & ~E_DEPRECATED & ~E_NOTICE

Just add the E_DEPRECATED part and then restart Apache and the warnings should be gone.

Apache

The version of Apache is 2.2.11, the latest available from Apache.org is 2.2.13 so it’s fairly up to date. If you think this is an issue then check out the release notes for 2.2.13.

MySQL

MySQL isn’t installed by default in Snow Leopard so you need to install it yourself. I simply downloaded the latest 64 bit Intel version from MySQL.com, they only show version for Mac OS 10.5 at the moment but it worked fine for me. The installer provides a startup item to make MySQL run at boot time and also a System Preference to control it, it’s worth noting that this is only 32 bit so it will make System Preferences restart itself into 32 bit mode, not a big deal though.

Booting 64 bit

There’s been a fair bit of discussion about Snow Leopard and it being 64 bit. By default Snow Leopard boots into 32 bit mode, however this doesn’t make that big a difference as 64 bit apps will run in 64 bit and access all the memory available on your system. One thing to note though is that the original unibody MacBook (which I have!) can’t startup in 64 bit mode, I’m not sure if that’s a big deal or not though really.

If you want to get into a really in depth examination of Snow Leopard’s 64 bit capabilities then check out John Siracusa of Ars Technica’s comprehensive review, beware though, it’s a lengthy read but it’s a great overview of the new technologies that are under the surface in Mac OSX 10.6.

Flash plugin out of date

The Flash plugin needs updated as the version that comes in Snow Leopard is an old version (10.0.23.1) which has some security vulnerabilities, just go to http://www.adobe.com/go/getflashplayer and download the latest version. There’s been quite a bit of coverage of this online, the gist of it is summed up in this post over on Daring Fireball. Basically the most up to date version of the Flash plugin was probably released after Snow Leopard’s final release version’s features were frozen, so basically Snow Leopard overwrites the newer version with an older version upon install.

It’s easily fixed by downloading the latest version, although I don’t know why Adobe don’t make the autoupdate feature of the Flash plugin a bit more aggressive. I can’t think of the last time I saw any prompts to update it, you can actually adjust the autoupdate settings via the Flash Player Settings Manager page on the Adobe website (which you probably never knew existed!).

Quick Look from Print progress dialog

I’m not totally sure this is a new feature to Snow Leopard, I may just have never noticed it before! If you hit space or double-click on a print job in the print progress you get a Quick Look preview of your document, even if it’s not new it’s quite a handy feature!

That’s my thoughts / experiences so far, I’ll add more to it as I come across things of interest. Anybody noticed any other new features / issues? Drop a comment if you want and I’ll maybe add it to the notes.

~~~~~

 

How to restore a MySQL database from your Time Machine backup

I’m writing this as much to remind myself as for anyone else really :) I generally run databases running on my MacBook which I use for sites in active development, I then transfer these databases over to a staging server which are then use by other people in the team and sometimes clients to input site content. Last week I imported content from the staging server and overwrote my local database thinking that the staging server was the most up to date, but as it turned out I was incorrect!

Fortunately I’m running Mac OS X’s Time Machine backup on my MacBook so I didn’t see a problem as I could just restore it from that. However, in reality it wasn’t quite as straight forward to do, so here’s what I had to do in the end to restore this database from my Time Machine backup.

Step 1: Find your local databases

Navigate to the location of your MySQL databases. For my MySQL install this is found at /usr/local/mysql but depending on how you’ve installed MySQL it might be elsewhere.

As you’ll probably see that’s not a location you can just regularly view in the Finder on Mac so you’ll need to use the ‘Go to Folder…’ option within the ‘Go’ menu in the Finder.

Once you’ve got to that location you’ll see the MySQL data folder which shows up with a red no-access symbol on it so you can’t actually navigate straight into it via the finder. Seeing as we can’t access the folder to restore a specific database we’ll just restore the whole folder from the Time Machine backup instead.

Image of MySQL's Data folder in the Finder

Step 2: Shutdown your MySQL server

It’s important that you shut down your MySQL server process before you continue. How you do this depends on how you’ve got MySQL installed. If you installed MySQL from the official installer for OS X downloaded from the MySQL website then you may have the a System Preference which you can use to stop it.

If you’ve installed MySQL another way such as self-compiled or via Mac Ports or you just want to use the Terminal then you can stop it from the Terminal instead. The following command can be used:

sudo mysqladmin shutdown

If you don’t have MySQL configured in your path in Terminal you may need to use the full path to the mysqladmin command:

sudo /usr/local/mysql/bin/mysqladmin shutdown

The path to those files may vary depending on how you’ve installed MySQL so if it doesn’t work then you’ll need to check the correct location. Note that I’ve also used ‘sudo’ in that command in case you need root privileges to stop the MySQL process. Check the MySQL documentation for your version of MySQL for further help.

Step 3: Rename your MySQL data folder via the Terminal

Image of file listing in OS X's Terminal applicationThe next step is to rename your MySQL data folder temporarily to avoid any clashes when restoring the data folder from the Time Machine backup. First you need to get into your MySQL directory:

cd /usr/local/mysql

You can then list all the files to check you’re in the right place:

ls -al

You should now see all the files including the ‘data’ directory where the databases are located. We can now use the following command to rename the data directory:

sudo mv data data-bak

Once that’s done you should see your directory happily renamed in both the Terminal and the Finder window.

Step 4: Enter Time Machine to restore your MySQL data directory

The next step is to enter Time Machine mode and restore the data directory from the backup. I’m sure you probably know how to enter Time Machine mode but make sure you enter whilst focused on the MySQL Finder window.

Image of restored files in Finder windowGo back in time a sufficient amount so that you’ll definitely be getting the version of the data that you want, highlight the data folder and click Restore. Because we renamed the data directory Time Machine will simply restore the data directory without any prompts. You should now see both the restored data directory and the renamed data-bak directory.

Step 5: Copy the database from the restored data directory

You can now copy the database from the restored data directory, this is done via the following Terminal command:

sudo cp -R data-bak/my_database_name data/my_database_name

The database is actually a directory containing other files so you need to use the ‘-R’ flag to recursively copy all of these across with the directory itself.

Step 6: Delete the restored data directory and rename the data-bak directory

Now that the database is restored and copied you can safely delete the restored data directory as it’s no longer needed at this point. Note: Be very careful using the ‘rm’ command! Bad things can happen if used incorrectly!

sudo rm -R data

You can then rename the data-bak directory back to it’s original name ‘data’, note that the ‘mv’ command doesn’t require the ‘-R’ flag:

sudo mv data-bak data

Step 7: Check file permissions / ownership

You may need to check the file permissions and ownership of the database that you have just restored to make sure that it will be accessible by MySQL when it is running. These may vary depending on your MySQL install method but they should be something like this:

drwx—— 60 _mysql wheel 2040 8 May 12:14 my_database_name

Basically the directory is owned by the user ‘_mysql’ and in the group ‘wheel’. If you need to change the owner then use the following command:

sudo chown -R _mysql data/my_database_name

Step 8: Start up MySQL

Once this has all been done, you can then start MySQL again using either the System Preference if you have it or via the Terminal command:

sudo mysqld_safe &

or with the full path:

sudo /usr/local/mysql/bin/mysqld_safe &

Step 9: There is no Step 9!

Hopefully you should now be able to access your newly restored database. As I said at the beginning, this is the method I used to restore a database myself recently, there may be other ways to do it but hopefully these steps might be of use to anyone else in the same situation.

How to make your Nokia N95 more like an iPhone

My recent switch to an iPhone after using a Nokia N95 for the last year and a half has been great, there’s a load of features on the iPhone that just make a load of sense.

I’d always been keen to try out the various apps available from the Nokia Labs website on my N95 so I thought I’d just do a quick post with links to apps that can make your N95 just a little bit more like an iPhone! These will also work on many other S60 Symbian OS Nokia phones and they are also free downloads from the Nokia Labs website!

Conversation

SMS management on the iPhone is great as it gives you a view that’s similar to that found in an instant messaging app like iChat / MSN etc. It’s great as it allows you to see the messages in the form of a conversation. The Conversation app from Nokia allows to you something pretty similar.

http://betalabs.nokia.com/betas/view/conversation

Contacts on Ovi

This app mainly provides an Instant Messenger experience but also adds some cool features like status updates and location updates. If you’ve been envious of the Brightkite app for iPhone then this is something similar.

http://betalabs.nokia.com/betas/view/contacts-ovi

Friend View

If you need a bit of a Twitter fix (ok, I know that you can get actual Twitter apps for Symbian!) or want more of a Brightkite experience then Friend View offers location and micro-blogging service.

http://betalabs.nokia.com/betas/view/nokia-friend-view

Nokia Audiobooks

The iPhone is, obviously, a great music player that will also play audiobooks with various controls. The N95 in comparison is an ok music player but isn’t up to playing audiobooks. However, Nokia Audiobooks fills that gap by allowing playback of highly efficient audiobooks by using tools like bookmarking and browsing chapters.

http://betalabs.nokia.com/betas/view/nokia-audiobooks

Set your camera to low quality and don’t record video

Ok, this last one is a joke. It’s true that in comparison to the N95 the iPhone camera is not great, it’s poor in low light and doesn’t support video recording at all. So if you want an authentic iPhone experience on your N95 change your picture settings on the N95 to their lowest and you’ll get something similar to the iPhone! (although probably still better!).

Macworld 2009 Keynote – Highlights

So, Macworld SF 2009 Keynote, where was the iPhone Shuffle!?!!? Devastated.

Oh well, I thought I’d point out some of the highlights of the announcements, at least the things I picked up from following various live bloggings of the event! So I guess it’s kind of a live-blog of live-blogging! I’ll possibly write some more at a later date if there’s anything that really grabs my interest.

iPhoto ’09

Facial recognition tagging support and syncing with Facebook and Flickr. Any photos that get tagged on Facebook will sync back the tags into iPhoto, I think my wife is going to like that feature as she is a major Facebook image uploader.

iMovie ’09

I was one of those people who liked the iMovie ’08 already, but this new version of iMovie seems to provide all the missing features that people were looking for. The new version was demoed by Randy Ubillos who was the guy who re-engineered iMovie in the first place, I hadn’t realised that he was actually the original creator of Adobe Premiere. So I guess this proves he knows his stuff.

Garageband ’09

The ‘Learn to play’ feature looks pretty cool. There are lessons for both keyboard and guitar from popular artists like Sting, Nora Jones and Fall Out Boy. As my daughter just got a guitar for Christmas I think that will be pretty useful. There are 9 free lessons included and you can buy more via a built-in store in Garageband.

iLife ’09 – Available now on the Apple store →

iWork ’09

Some nice new features, Keynote can be controlled via the iPhone / iPod touch using a new app that you can buy from the App Store. Pages has a full screen view, a bit like the edit mode in iPhoto, which makes full use of all screen area (I remember Mac OS 6 had this ‘feature’ built in, you could only run one app at a time!). There’s now linking between Pages and Numbers so data driven features in Pages can use Numbers as a source.

iWork ’09 – Available now on the Apple store →

iWork.com

Ok, so this is connected to the iWork suite but it’s a cool enough and notable feature I thought it was worth highlighting by itself, if for no other reason than to point out how dumb the iMovie in the cloud rumours were! iWork is initially a free beta but will eventually be a paid service (I think Apple learned a lot from the MobileMe launch!), basically you can share iWork documents online and people can view them in the browser and comment on them or download the file to edit and make changes. Very similar to Google docs.

Mac Box Set

As all the iWork and iLife apps only run on Leopard Apple have released the Mac Box Set which brings iWork, iLife and Mac OS X 10.5 in one pack for £149, that’s a pretty good deal. It’s interesting that there’s no mention of Snow Leopard here at all!

Mac Box Set – Available now on the Apple store →

17" MacBook Pro

The rumours were right of course, a non-removable battery! Now before you go complaining it’s for a very good reason. It supposedly provides 8 hours of charge and can be charged 1000 times (compared to 200 – 300 charge cycles on a regular battery).

Other key specs are up to 8GB if RAM, 320GB HD by default with 256GB SSD drive as an option, also an optional non-glare screen! 2.93Ghz processor, 60% greater colour range on the screen. I’m sure it’s going to generate a lot of discussion due to the fixed battery but as it’s less than an inch thick it’s pretty impressive, especially if it can run for 8 hours driving all of that screen resolution! Available at the end of January for US $2799 or UK £1,949).

17" MBP – Available now on the Apple store →

iTunes

All iTunes music will be DRM free by the end of this quarter! There is also new pricing ranging from $0.69 to $1.29. iTunes Music Store on iPhone / iPod touch can now be accessed via 3G network too. All songs will be in the 256k format too.

Some interesting statistics they told were: 6 Billion songs sold, 10 Milion songs available, 75 Million iTunes accounts. I think the flexible pricing was what it took to get the DRM free music, it was definitely needed seeing as Amazon MP3 store has had a lot more DRM free music than iTunes for quite some time.

Yikes, Macrumors.com Macworld Keynote live blog haxx0r3d

Macrumors.com Keynote Liveblog getting haxx0r3d

I had 3 web pages open with liveblogging of the event when suddenly random messages, rude words etc kept creeping in and then it went completely pear-shaped!

No Mac Mini, no iPhone Nano and no Snow Leopard demo!

Two updates that didn’t appear though were a new Mac Mini and the fabled iPhone Nano. Now the iPhone nano I was dubious about anyway but the Mac Mini I was sure was going to get an update, perhaps they’ll do a soft-announcement soon? Also missing was a demo of the OS X 10.6 ‘Snow Leopard’, a lot of people expected to see a demo or at least get some hint of features or progress. I think the Mac Box Set kind of indicated that there wouldn’t be anything being released in the near future.

Well, that’s my live-blog of live-blogging over, time to go check out the Apple website to read more about it all!

Is this the new Mock Mini, erm, I mean Mac Mini…

Macworld San Francisco will soon be taking place and as ever the rumour-mill is hot with talk of a revamped Mac Mini, along with the talk there are the usual sketchy photos of the supposed new products!

MacObserver linked to a post on Macenstein.com which shows one of these sketchy product shots, however, I took one look at it and thought "That’s been Photoshopped together"! It got me thinking that I should make my own mockup of a Mac Mini just to show how easy it is, and also how obvious the Macenstein shot looks to me.

Presenting the new Mock Mac Mini!

The world's fakest desktop computer

This is my version of the Mac Mini that Macenstein have published, the main thing I think looks odd is the thin gap at the top of the casing, it pretty clearly looks like the closed lid of the current MacBook / MacBook Pro. And that’s exactly what was used to make this mockup, just two images, the first taken from the current MacBook webpage and the second from a picture of the current Mac Mini:

Using Photoshop CS4 I simply duplicated the first image of the MacBook, flipped it horizontally, cloned out unwanted elements and then used Content Aware Scaling to resize the case and the background. I then copied and pasted the drive bay slot from the Mac Mini picture and blended that in.

Voila, one dubious unreleased Mac Mini!

Goodbye N95, Hello iPhone

It’s been 18 months since I got my Nokia N95 and I’ve enjoyed using it, the combination of a phone with a good quality still camera and also pretty good video camera along with wifi access has been great to use.

Since getting an iPod touch last christmas it was pretty much inevitable that once my phone contract was up that I would switch to an iPhone. Although the N95’s killer app is a great camera, the array of applications for the Nokia N95 pales in comparison to what is available for the iPhone and iPod touch.

In contrast to the N95 the iPhone’s biggest weakness is its camera, much lower resolution stills and no video support at all. However, overall the iPhone is a much better device so I will live with the camera as it is and will probably keep a pay as you go sim in my N95 and still make use of it for filming and photos. The iPhone’s killer app is the fact that there are many killer apps available for it due to the success of Apple’s App Store.

When I got the N95 back in June 2007 I called it my iPhone substitute, it’s served me well but I’m enjoying using my iPhone a lot. It’s sure to be the subject of a few blog posts in the months to come.

~Rick

Top ten useful Quick Look plugins for Mac OSX 10.5

One of the best new features that OSX 10.5 Leopard introduced was Quick Look. As the name suggests it lets you take a ‘quick look’ at the contents of a file without having to open up the actual software application.

Quick Look supports plugins so third-party developers can create Quick Look plugins of their own to give access to many other file formats. I’ve found Quick Look to be such an intuitive tool to use as well as incredibly time saving due to not having to wait for Microsoft Word open up just to check the contents of a Word document. A great boost for productivity!

Here, in no particular order, are 10 of the most useful Quick Look plugins that I’ve found. Please note, some of these require payment for full use:

BetterZip

Allows you to preview ZIP, TAR, GZip, BZip2, ARJ, LZH, ISO, CHM, CAB, CPIO, RAR, 7-Zip, DEB, RPM, StuffIt’s SIT, DiskDoubler, BinHex, and MacBinary files.

http://macitbetter.com/BetterZipQL-1.0

HD Quick Look

HD Quick Look lets you view the first frame of your AVCHD files. You can also view multiple files as a slide show, as an index sheet or full screen.

This is a really handy plugin for those working with AVCHD video and a perfect companion to Shedworx excellent VoltaicHD application for converting AVCHD footage!

http://www.shedworx.com/

Suspicious Package

It allows you to preview the contents of a standard Apple installer package without launching the Installer. Great for checking for any unwanted additional bits of software that sometimes companies like to add!

http://www.mothersruin.com/software/SuspiciousPackage/download.html

AppleScript

Gives a preview of AppleScript files.

http://www.kainjow.com/?p=77

FLV

Allows you to view Flash video files, please note that it requires installation of the Perian Quicktime plugin to make it work.

http://homepage.mac.com/xdd/software/flv/

EPS

Allows you to view EPS files.

http://www.eternalstorms.at/utilities/epsqlplg/index.html

Folder View

Allows you to see the contents of a folder.

http://homepage.mac.com/xdd/software/folder/

ColorXML

Enables display of XML files with indentation and XML syntax coloring.

http://www.macupdate.com/info.php/id/26194/colorxml-quicklook

SneakPeek Pro

Allows you to preview Illustrator, InDesign and EPS documents in the Finder, dialog boxes and other applications. SneakPeek Pro also allows you to see fonts, images and colors used in many CS3 documents.

It works with Illustrator files even if not saved with PDF compatibility. $19.95 but worth every cent if you’re a frequent Illustrator or InDesign user!

http://www.code-line.com/software/sneakpeekpro.html

GLColorCode

Adds enhanced source code colouring for various programming languages such as PHP, Actionscript, Objective-C etc.

http://code.google.com/p/qlcolorcode/

Review: Apple Composite AV cable for iPod Touch, iPhone, Nano etc

Picture of Apple's Composite AV cable for iPod Touch / iPhoneI just bought myself the Apple composite AV cable for my iPod Touch so that I could hook it up to my TV to watch BBC iPlayer programmes. At first I thought the £35 price tag was pretty steep, but seeing as I was at the Apple Store in Glasgow I thought I’d treat myself to something!

On closer inspection though I saw that it isn’t just an AV cable but it also has a USB cable which plugs into a dinky little power supply which comes with both UK and North American power supply connectors, so basically it can be used to charge your iPod and also means that you don’t run out of power whilst watching programmes on it.

Basically the AV cable enables you to watch or listen to any video, audio or images that are on your iPod directly on your TV, this also includes the YouTube application too. Image slideshows can also be viewed via the AV cable.

Those standard features are pretty awesome in themselves but the killer app combo for me is this:

  1. The BBC offer a version of their iPlayer specifically for the iPod Touch and iPhone
  2. The AV cable for the iPod Touch / iPhone can play the iPlayer content on your TV

Screenshot of BBC iPlayer for iPod Touch / iPhoneIt’s a pretty simple combo but it’s awesome being able to play all the iPlayer content on your TV instead of on your computer. The great thing too is that the iPlayer content via the iPod is actually better quality than the streaming Flash version that you would view on your computer due to it being delivered as H.264 encoded video rather than the Flash ON2 codec that the regular iPlayer uses.

Well, I can’t recommend it enough, the price tag might seem a bit high at first but it’s a high quality cable that provides a power supply and AV connections as well as the ability to use it as a regular USB iPod cable too. If you happen to live in the Uk and have access to the BBC iPlayer then it makes that accessible right in your living room.

The AV Cable is also available for Component video connections too, you can pick one up from the Apple Store online:

Composite AV Cable

Component AV Cable

~Rick

Adobe Open Screen: Will Apple make their own Flash Player for the iPhone?

Adobe recently announced the ‘Open Screen‘ initiative which further opens up the SWF format along with the FLV / F4V video specifications along with . The Open Screen FAQ explains the core deal:

  • Removing restrictions on use of the SWF and FLV/F4V specifications
  • Publishing the device porting layer APIs for Adobe Flash Player
  • Publishing the Adobe Flash® Cast? protocol and the AMF protocol for robust data services
  • Removing licensing fees ? making next major releases of Adobe Flash Player and Adobe AIR for devices free

The FAQ also explains why Adobe is opening up these specifications:

Publication of an unrestricted SWF file format has long been requested by the Adobe Flash developer community. The longstanding publication of the SWF specification has fostered a vibrant ecosystem of companies and developers who create experiences with Adobe Flash technology and by removing the SWF licensing restrictions we are allowing that growing ecosystem to use the file format for any purpose, including the ability to playback SWF content

Additionally, Adobe intends to make Adobe Flash Player and Adobe AIR for devices free, starting with the next major releases for devices, along with publishing the device porting layer APIs. As a result of these moves, OEMs, software developers, and content owners will be able to deliver content and applications built with Adobe Flash and Adobe AIR technologies without concerns about device restrictions. By removing the licensing cost and restrictions, as well as opening up the protocols and porting layer, Adobe is making it easier for developers and partners to deliver more engaging experiences to more of their customers, and ensuring that audiences can engage with content no matter what device or medium they use.

So, with that background detail out of the way I’ll get onto my main question:

Will Apple get involved in the Open Screen project and provide support for Flash, or at least Flash video, on the iPhone / iPod Touch?

Steve Jobs was recently asked about Flash support on the iPhone by saying ?there?s this missing product in the middle?. What he was referring to is that you’ve got the full Flash Player which is very processor intensive and best suited for desktop PCs and laptops and then you’ve got the streamlined Flash Lite intended for mobile devices. Steve Jobs’ opinion is that the full version is too intense for the iPhone whilst Flash Lite lacks a lot of important functionality.

Could Apple provide at least some form of Flash support on the iPhone / iPod Touch by getting involved in Adobe’s Open Screen initiative and implementing only the parts they wish to have for Flash playback but all within the confines of the Quicktime framework itself I can see how this could fit in on regular Mac OSX as well as on the iPhone / iPod Touch too. I think it presents a really interesting possibility.

I have another reservation about Apple’s willingness to support Flash though, perhaps it’s not in Apple’s interest to further the spread of Adobe’s Flash platform? Apple certainly don’t intend to allow companies to develop runtime environments of their own for use on the iPhone / iPod Touch as the terms of the iPhone SDK specifically state:

"No interpreted code may be downloaded and used in an Application except for code that is interpreted and run by Apple?s Published APIs and builtin interpreter(s)…"

So, that certainly seems to close the door for Java, Flash, Silverlight, etc, etc. Despite this possible reason I still think it is possible that Apple could provide native support for Flash video playback, at the very least, on the iPhone / iPod Touch.

~Rick