#306 Readability, Growl, LookTel Money Reader, Chess-Wise, Cropper

George and Jim talk about the Safari addon Readability from readability.com, in Dumb Question Corner, Adam Hobden asks about Growl (growl.info). LookTel Money Reader looktel.com for reading bills when you can’t see, and staying with the accessibility theme, Scott Howell shows us how Chess-Wise lets you play chess on the iPhone using Voice Over from marcelnijman.eu. Josh brings us an Android rebuttal, and Caleb tells us about Cropper for Windows from cropper.codeplex.com/. In Chit Chat Across the Pond Donald Burr of Otaku no podcast joins us to talk about iOS development.



Hi this is Allison Sheridan of the NosillaCast Mac Podcast, hosted at Podfeet.com, a technology geek podcast with an EVER so slight Macintosh bias. Today is Sunday April 3rd, 2011 and this is show number 306. Well I finally got our taxes done today – gee that was fun. I always enjoy it, you know? I especially enjoyed it while partway through the process TurboTax was insisting that I was going to owe $45,000 when I was done. That was really swell. I have used TurboTax for decades it seems, but I’ve got to say the upsell in the product was REALLY REALLY annoying this year. you’re going along clicking no, I don’t have any farm loans, no, I don’t have any Ottoman Empire compensation income, no I don’t produce any squid-based products in my home, and suddenly the next button turns into YES! I’d like to upgrade to the Premium version of TurboTax to make SURE I don’t have any squid-based income! Sheesh. it did it about 15 times while I worked on my taxes, and I’m just not in that good of a mood while I’m working on them, you know??? anyway, let’s get down to some more fun tech and forget about those icky taxes. Jim Sewell’s going to start us off with a follow up to his question last week.

Jim Sewell on Readability from George

=========insert Jim==========
Hello Allison and the Nosilla Castaways!

Jim here again. After my rambling pseudo question about Safari Reader mode last week I thought I would follow up with everyone. Near the end of the show George from Tulsa mentioned the Readability plugin. I almost dismissed this as I’d seen that Safari’s Reader mode was based on the plugin but much like the Made for TV programs based on a true story, there is a lot of difference between the original and the copy.

With a little more research I found that Safari even lists the Readability addon in the acknowledgements… but it’s not the same. When I try the Reader mode on the Podfeet home page the option is grayed out. Readability, however, does a respectable job on thinning out the page and giving me just the meaty parts.

On another page, one of the mega news portals with ads everywhere, the Reader mode was grayed again, but Readability says “Readability is currently intended to be used on individual articles, not homepages. If you’d like to try rendering this page anyway, click here to continue.” The thing was that this page had no meat, like these portals usually are, so it was just gibberish, but it was readable gibberish!

So, the problem to be solved was that I needed to send clean web pages to Evernote without all the advertisements and junk. The solution, thanks to George from Tulsa for making me take a second look, is the Readability plugin from readability.com. I love the Apple community, especially the cool ones that hang out at the Nosillacast Podcast hosted over at podfeet.com

Very cool that George was able to solve your problem on the spot, Jim! By the way, Readability is available from readability.com

Dumb Question Corner

======insert music=============
Adam Hobden asked a dumb question on Twitter. He wrote,

can you help me with a dumb question? What is growl and why do I need it installed? Thanks for your help, Adam

What a wonderful question! Growl is one of those things that’s been around for so long and is woven into so many products that I actually forgot that it doesn’t come with OSX. Growl is an application that allows other applications to alert you when something happens. How about some examples? Let’s say you’re sharing a Dropbox folder with your sister, and you want to know when she drops the vacation photos into the folder, Growl will bring an alert up on screen. Or what if you’re using an FTP client to push some files up to your web server? Growl can show you an alert when the file transfer is complete. If your chat client is hidden, Growl will pop an alert to the front showing you that someone is chatting you up.

So now you know why you care, let’s talk about how it gets installed. You can go to the Growl website at growl.info, download and install it, but to be honest I’ve never done that before. I think most people get Growl because an application bundled it in. As I thought back I was trying to remember which application bundled it in on my latest install, but I couldn’t remember. It wasn’t that far back either, I did the new install in December.

The way it’s supposed to work is you install an application like Adium (a great chat client) and it says, “hey, you wanna have Growl notifications? Click yes!” Since I enjoy the service that Growl provides, I assume I saw that request pop up somewhere in the installation of my 60 or so critical applications and of course said yes.

So then I started reading the Growl website and learned something very interesting. Right on their front page, in big, bold, underlined, red letters it says, “If Growl was installed on your system without you knowing about it, please see this page for an explanation.” The Growl installer is available to software developers in two forms – one that can’t install on it’s own, and one that offers to install. Some application developers disobey the rules, and don’t give you a choice of whether to install Growl. The Growl people HATE this. They hate it so much that page gives you detailed instructions on how to delete it, and tell you which programs misbehave in this way.

And guess what the first one they list is? My precious Dropbox. There’s quite an explanation of how egregiously Dropbox disobeys the rules, including installing an old version of Growl, and putting it in the wrong Library. Dropbox isn’t alone, Adobe Creative Suite 5 installs Growl without permission too. Another one of my favorite applications, ZumoCast, installs Growl without permission.

I’m disappointed in those application developers, and have a much greater appreciation for the folks at Growl – that it’s very important to them that your rights be preserved, your right to install software when you agree to it, not when someone else tricks you into installing it.

One of the things I really like about Dumb Question Corner is how much I learn when I double check what I thought I knew. Thanks for a great question Adam! If you have a question that you think is too dumb to ask, I guarantee there’s someone who has the same question, so send it in and let’s figure it out!


This week I was chatting with Lore Schindler about the fascinating work she does at the Brooklyn Avenue School in East Los Angeles working with kids with visual impairments. She’s been creating podcasts to teach how to use an abacus as a way of tracking complex math when you can’t see. How cool is that? Anyway, we were writing back and forth and she mentioned how excited she was to learn during her One-on-One lesson at Apple this week that you can actually create screencasts using Quicktime. She then said that she’s planning on creating some video tutorials to add to the ScreenSteps tutorials she already makes for her teachers! She confessed that perhaps I’d had a slight influence on her in that! I can see how someone with the teaching gene would really love ScreenSteps and find ways to use it that even I’ve never thought of. In fact, now that she knows how to make video tutorials, I wonder if she knows that you can actually embed videos from online video sites, right into your ScreenSteps tutorials? That way she can have both forms of media in the same document. If you haven’t yet checked out ScreenSteps, head on over to ScreenSteps.com and download the free, 30 day trial. Once you’re hooked, it’s only $40 for the Standard version or $80 for Pro! Oh, and check out Lore’s blog at svenlore.blogspot.com.

LookTel Money Reader

I have a really quick review for you of an amazing application. Problem to be solved: you’re blind, and you have to identify your US paper bills. Other countries make bills different sizes, but in the US they’re all the same size. Blind people for years have employed techniques like folding them differently, and there are some expensive tools out there to read money.

Pat Dengler from yourmacdoctor.com sent me an application called Money Reader from LookTel. Launch Money Reader, and in a few seconds the camera aperture opens. Hold a bill in front of the camera, and instantly Money Reader will tell you the denomination.

I read the reviews of Money Reader – it’s only been out for a very short while, and out of 47 reviews – it had 46-5 star reviews, and 1 4-star review. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that. many of the reviews mentioned other applications that required you to take a photo first before they can identify the bills, but with Money Reader it identifies them live without having to record an image. I bought Money Reader from the iTunes Store and it works flawlessly. I tested Money Reader by holding bills at ANY angle, showed it ANY part of the bill even the smallest part of the artwork with no numbers showing, I held the bill close and far away, and Money Reader flawlessly reported the size of the bill every single time.

I did some reading on the LookTel website and they have some amazing products in work. One they’re working on lets you put a sticker on an object, say a medicine bottle, take a photo of it, make an audio recording of what it is, and from then on your iPhone can tell you what it is. Or what if you could take a picture of your house, record with voice that it’s home, and then have your iPhone identify it as your house for you? They have a lot of fantastic ideas, I can’t wait to see these applications when they come out.

Money Reader is a grand total of $2 in the iTunes Store, and you can read more about all of their products in work by visiting their website at looktel.com.

Scott Howell on Accessible Chess-Wise for iPhone

========insert Scott=================
Here is a brief demonstration of the first accessible chess game for the iOS platform. Here is a direct link to Marcel’s site: marcelnijman.eu. Link to the game in the iTUnes store: itunes.apple.com

Thanks Scott – this is cool on so many levels. I love your delivery, I love that you’re highlighting such an awesome developer who took on an interesting challenge and wailed on it, I loved that you kept losing those pawns too! I’m fascinating by how fast you have the voice set on Voiceover. I always figured it must take forever to do anything if you’re blind because you’d be waiting for the computer or phone to finish reading to you, but at that speed I bet you’re as efficient as a sightling!


I hate to waste time. I bet you do too. If you have to save a document, do you let go of the keyboard, and then draaaag the mouse all the way up to the far upper left, and the click on File, and pull down to Save? I bet you don’t, you simply hold down command-s. If you want a new window in Excel, do you use your finger on the trackpad go up to File, new window? no, you just hit command-n. How about a new tab in your web browser? command-t, right? You hate to waste time and energy when you’ve got important tasks at hand like watching the Friday video again on YouTube, right? Well then why do you type the same blocks of words over and over again instead of using TextExpander to do it for you? Why do you type your signature? or answer the same question over and over again by hand? Why not let TextExpander type those things for you? It’s one of those things once you start using you’ll be amazed how many things you can use it for. I’ve expanded 4200 snippets since January saving me over 7.6 hours! Head on over to smilesoftware.com and buy yourself a present of TextExpander, and while you’re at it check out all of their other cool products!

Android Mocking

As you may recall, I did a little tiny mocking of the Android OS last week regarding how hard it is to do a simple screenshot vs. the iPhone. Josh wrote in with a quick note saying you just get an app to do it. I figured we should have more fun than that and asked him to record a rebuttal. He didn’t end up recording, but let me read to you what he sent in:

Allison – I tried. I really did for about the past hour try to get a decent recording for an audio rebuttal, but there my apartment walls are thin and there is too much going on today. Between my ums, dogs barking, ambulances, and neighbors remodeling I can’t get anything decent and I’m running out of time.

But your request did make me think more about the whole android vs ios thing. First I have been an Adroid owner since november 2008 with the G1 and I have had an Ipad since April of last year. I currently have the Tmobile branded G2, I believe that is known as the HTC Magic elswhere.

So here we go…

  • Android shipped with notifications, IOS did not.
  • Android has had tethering and wifi hotspot capabilities without root almost a year know. IOS only a few weeks and that is only on the phone not the tablet. To get this capability you had to update your os and pretty much jump through the same hoops your friend would for an android screen grab. All Android devices can have this capability if the hardware supports it.
  • Did I mention the android os updates over the air with out plugging in?
  • Oh and did you hear we just got cloud storage and music streaming?

One more thing regarding the screen grabbing. My grandfather, 84 years old, and missing two fingers with limited mobility in 3 more due to a table saw accident a few years back. ( never work without the emergency guard ) Cannot take a screen shot on an iphone. He can with some difficulty on an ipad. And very easily on a rooted droid.

So that’s all I got to say for know about this. And next time I will submit some audio. Promise : )

Thanks again for the show. follow me @joshua0wens on twitter
or @rentachef ( a more professional me that is kind of like Honda Bob, but for dinner instead of your car.

Caleb on Cropper for Windows

Ahoy Capt. Allison and fellow Nosilla Castaways! This is Caleb from … um … no where in particular, yet. Allison, you recently did a review of a simple one thing Windows app and that reminded me I have one of those too!

First, a problem to be solved. I am a ‘Slider’ and no that doesn’t mean I jump dimensions with John Rhys-Davies [ imdb info: imdb.com/title/tt0112167 ]. I *slide* between Mac OS and Windows OS. That’s not the full problem, I use a Logitech S530 wireless mouse and keyboard for Mac as my main input. Lucky for us sliders Windows actually recognizes our keyboards and supplants the Command key with the Windows key. So what the heck is wrong? Well since the keyboard is for Mac and Apple thought ahead and built into the OS a really good screen shot system they didn’t need a Print Screen button. Without this key taking screen shots on Windows, from the keyboard, is a non starter.

So what is the solution? Find a Windows keyboard? Yeah I could, but I already have one that works, albeit not perfectly. So I scrounged around on download.com for screen capture utilities. There were loads of them, but there was one that caught my eye, Cropper [ download.com page: download.cnet.com ]. It sounded like just what I wanted! A small app that skips the “Print Screen” kluge and allows me to pick just the parts of the screen I want! This is especially good since it means skipping an image editor in the work flow. Better yet it’s free and open sourced! You can find the latest version at cropper.codeplex.com/

I would normally use lots of pretty pictures to help explain the interface … but taking a screen capture of a screen capture utility proved more challenging than I thought. Thankfully there is a screen shot on the CodePlex page so please refer to that if you need help visualizing. When you launch Cropper it displays a box with a flag on the upper left corner which will tell you the length and height of the box in pixels, it also adds a little icon in the system tray too. Just inside the capture area, but still in the upper left, you’ll see some text which will say what capture mode Cropper is in. Cropper by default supports BMP, PNG, and JPG file types; it will also capture to the clipboard or can be sent directly to a printer. Changing options is a simple right click in the capture area or on the system tray icon. The contextual menu that pops up is simple and the options are easy to figure out.

Using Cropper is blissfully simple. Launch it or un-hide it from the system tray, a normal left click on the icon will do. A left click and drag will move the entire capture area around the screen. To resize the capture area either left click and hold the bottom right corner, or left click and hold either the bottom or right edges to control them individually. Once you have resized the capture area to your liking, press the enter key! You’ll hear a click and your image is captured. If you have it set to output an image file it should show up in My Documents > Cropper Captures. Now you have the joy of screen capture with much less hassle.

One last note. There are now a group of plugins for Cropper, which allow for exporting to flickr, Picasa, Facebook, and more. There is also now options for taking time delayed captures and capturing an AVI file (although that one is still kinda experimental). It is nice to see a simple useful app get some love.

Thanks for listening and lets help keep Allison in user content. 🙂

Honda Bob

Are you tired of asking your friends for rides to and from work while you take your car into the dealer to get it fixed or have regular maintenance done on it? Can you imagine a world where someone came to your house when it was convenient for you (instead of convenient for them) and fixed your car right in the driveway? Well you can live that dream, if you move to Los Angeles (or Orange County right down the road) and buy a Honda or an Acura. Yes, the intergalactically famous Honda Bob will drive to your house, fix your car, and clean up after himself. Sure you have to listen to some bad jokes along the way, but that’s a small price to pay for quality care for your cars, isn’t it? Enjoy all this Honda Bob Goodness by giving him a call at (562)531-2321 or send him an email at [email protected]. HDA Bob’s Mobile Service is not affiliated with Honda, Acura or Honda Worldwide.

Chit Chat Across the Pond

Donald Burr of Otaku no podcast joins us to talk about iOS development
Getting started:You have several choices, depending on how serious you are about this (i.e. how much money you want to spend).

  • You can download XCode (the development environment) for $4.99 from the Mac App Store
  • This gets you the necessary software to develop and test iOS and Mac apps using an emulator
  • You won’t be able to test on “real” hardware with this method
  • You can join the free Apple Developer Program
    • This gets you access to additional content, including session videos from WWDC
    • It seems like they are only letting you download the older version of XCode (3.x)
  • You can join the paid iOS developer program
    • $99/year for individuals, $299/year for corporations
    • This will get you (in addition to everything else above) a Developer Certificate (public/private key pair)
    • GUARD THIS WITH YOUR LIFE – if it gets out, then people can impersonate you
    • Will need to be installed (Keychain Access) onto every machine you intend to use for development
  • You must join the paid iOS program if you want to:
    • test your code on “real” hardware
    • distribute your apps to friends/beta testers so that they can help test it (“ad-hoc distribution”)
    • sell (or give away) your app on the App Store

    OK, you’re a developer… so now what?There are two approaches you can take towards building your app, again depending on how serious you are about this.Use an app builder:

    • If you are afraid of having to deal with code
    • Like the programming equivalent of Legos
    • “Block based” application building
    • Pre-coded modules that perform various functions (RSS reader, audio/video player, Twitter feed, etc.) that you snap together
    • Think Automator
  • Really easy to put together a pretty functional app
  • Can be extended using scripting language, so it is customizable
    • Again, back to the Automator analogy, think “Automator actions that let you run shell/perl/python/Applescripts”
  • Often support multiple platforms
  • A great way of getting your foot in the door
    • Make a pre-built app so that you can get listed in the app store now, then start writing your own app for Version 2.0
  • Future of these tools was put in question when iOS 4 came out (new developer restrictions), however Apple seem to have backed down on this stance
  • The ones I know about:
    • Red Foundry
    • Really easy to get into
    • Drag and drop graphical building block type environment (very much like Automator)
    • Extensible using RFML (their own markup language)
    • Can only generate code for iOS devices now
    • Including universal binaries (both iPhone/iPod touch and iPad)
    • They’re working on Android and Windows Mobile support.
  • This is the one I would recommend, unless you need multiplatform support RIGHT NOW.
  • Appcelerator Titanium
    • Really weird and confusing
    • Not graphical at all
    • You write code in JavaScript, it translates it into a native binary
    • No GUI drag and drop building blocks
    • However it is cross platform
    • Generates binaries for both iPhone/iPod touch, iPad and Android; as well as Mac, Windows and Linux desktop apps
  • Only recommended if you need cross platform support RIGHT NOW.
  • GameSalad
    • Another drag-and-drop type environment
    • Geared specifically toward game creation
    • Special functions to handle moving graphics around, detecting collisions, physics engine, etc.
  • Generates games for Mac, iOS, and web (Flash?).
  • All of these are “freemium”
    • You can create and distribute a basic app for free, but paying gets you extra features/support (push notifications, advanced metrics, etc.)
  • I’m sure that there are others out there…
  • One thing to bear in mind is that these tools generate “almost, sorta, kinda, more or less” iOS apps
    • They look close, but not exactly to, what a hand-coded iOS app would look like
    • Sort of akin to how Open Source/multi-platform apps look on the Mac (e.g. OpenOffice)
    • Unavoidable
    • Red Foundry is probably the best (i.e. makes apps that are the closest to what a native iOS app would look/feel like)

    Writeyour own code:

    • Harder to get started with, but offers the most flexibility
    • Must learn Objective C
    • There are many great books on the subject
    • Training classes too (some of them are even free!)
  • Must learn Cocoa Touch and iPhone API’s
    • Again, great books and classes are available on the subject (some even free!)
  • A lot easier than programming other systems (Windows, Unix, etc.)
  • The tools do a lot of the work for you
    • Interface Builder – you draw out your UI’s
    • But you still have to write the code behind your UI
  • Excellent build/test/debug environment
  • Huge library of API’s
    • Core Data – database driven apps
    • Core Motion – accelerometer and gyroscope
    • Core Location – determine your position as accurately as you want (hardware permitting)
    • Core Audio – professional level audio manipulation
    • Media access and manipulation (audio/video, camera, photo library, etc.)
    • …and much more…
  • The development environment comes with an emulator that you can test your code in
    • Emulates both iPhone/iPod touch and iPad
    • Various OS versions
  • However certain types of code can only be effectively tested on “real” hardware
    • Location based – the emulator makes it appear as though you’re always at 1 Infinite Loop
    • Core Motion – no accelerometer or gyro’s in the emulator
    • No cameras available in emulator
    • etc.
  • You can test your code on up to 100 devices
    • They don’t necessarily have to be your own
    • “Ad Hoc distribution” lets you distribute your apps to friends, coworkers, etc. to test
    • The more testers you can get, the better!
  • All you need is their device’s UDID
    • Available in iTunes (click the “Serial Number” text until it reads “Identifier (UDID)”
    • There are free iOS apps to easily extract a user’s UDID on the device itself
    • “UDID Helper” (free) lets you email that information directly from your device
  • As a paid developer, you get early access to the latest builds of iOS
    • Useful for testing
    • Best if you have 2 or more devices – keep one at the current “release” OS, and one that has the latest beta/RC on it

    Getting your app into the app store:

    • Not as onerous as it once was
    • Everything is automated and done via iTunes Connect web app
    • First time you log in, you’ll need to fill out a bunch of financial stuff (your tax ID, etc.), provide a bank account (where sales or iAd revenue will be deposited) and if you desire, sign up for iAds
    • Apps are submitted by a web form
    • Along with the app, you submit description, keywords, age rating, and artwork
    • 57×57 icon for the device
    • 512×512 icon for the app store
    • One or more screenshots (from both iPhone and iPad, if your app supports both devices)
  • Used to be that you never knew how long your approval/rejection would take
    • Some developers waited months
    • Google Voice took years
    • Not so any more
    • Took me about a week between the time I submitted, and the time I got approved
    • Average seems to be a week or 2
    • They do get busy around the holidays though, so beware!
  • They keep you informed every step of the way
    • If your app is rejected, they will say why (“uses undocumented APIs”, etc.)
    • They are usually rather vague, but you can usually figure out what they meant
  • Go back, fix, and resubmit
  • Once your app is approved and appears on the store, you can track your metrics, income, etc.
    • Neato graphs and charts
    • Free vs. paid apps
    • Breakdown by market
    • Download data in Tab-delimited value (great for Excel weenies 😉 )
    • All this is accessible on the go using the free iTunes Connect app
  • Apple takes care of all the bandwidth/server costs for hosting and distributing your apps
    • Even for free apps – i.e. you pay nothing
    • For paid apps, they take a 30% cut (you get 70%)
  • For corporate customers, you can distribute your app separately from iTunes
    • A concern if your app is only useful if you are an employee of your company, or it contains/accesses sensitive information, etc.
    • Not sure how this works – perhaps you set up a kind of “app server” on your corporate LAN, and employees can pull it from there

    Things to realize

    • Only use public API’s
    • Tell the story of Cameras+ and WiFi Stumbler
  • Loose lips sink ships
    • Technically when you joined you signed an NDA
    • Discussing your code, the APIs, the app submission process, etc. in public is okay
    • Since now anyone can download XCode
  • Stuff like iOS betas, etc. however should be kept to yourself
  • You have the potential to deal with a global audience
    • If possible, code your app with internationalization in mind
    • Hire translators (or bribe them, etc.)
  • The app store is NOT an ideal advertising mechanism
    • Yeah, people can find you by searching, etc., and if you’re REALLY lucky (and your app is particularly good), you’ll become a Featured App for a brief period, but the chances of this are pretty slim
    • Get a website, get listed in Google, use social networks, word of mouth, etc. – standard “how do I publicize (X)” type stuff
  • Really take a look at iAds
    • A great way to make some coin on your free apps
    • The reaction to iAds seems to be favorable – they’re not too obtrusive, in your face, etc.
    • Be sure and put something like “Ad-supported” prominently in your app’s description, so that people know what they’re getting into
  • Don’t price yourself out of the market
    • Typical app pricing “comfort zone” is around $.99-$1.99, maybe $5 or $10 tops
    • Anything more than that and people get leery (and also they go to the competition)
    • You might be able to get away with it if your app is particularly good, serves a niche function, or you are a well known company (e.g. OmniFocus for iPhone/iPad)
  • Try to avoid “double dipping”
    • If you don’t start with iPad support right out of the gate, then when you add it, instead of making an iPad-specific version of your app, instead update your existing app and make it a “universal binary”
    • This makes it easier on you too – you don’t have 2 separate versions of your app that you have to maintain, debug, etc.
  • Don’t make your users pay twice for your app, this tends to make them rather angry
  • The one exception is that a case can be made if the iPad version of your app offers a distinct advantage, or sufficient new functionality
    • e.g. Brushes vs. Brushes HD – additional screen size on the iPad version allows for more/better artist’s tools
  • Minimize your expectations
    • Don’t expect to make over $9,000 your first week
    • I approach it like the way I approach podcasting
    • I do it because it’s fun, the money might come later down the line but it’s not a priority


    That’s going to wind this up for this week, many thanks to our sponsors for helping to pay the bills: ScreenSteps, Smile, and of course Honda Bob. Don’t forget to send in your Dumb Questions, comments and suggestions by emailing me at [email protected], follow me on twitter at twitter.com/podfeet. If you want to join in the fun of the live show, head on over to podfeet.com/live on Sunday nights at 5pm Pacific Time. Thanks for listening, and stay subscribed.

    12 thoughts on “#306 Readability, Growl, LookTel Money Reader, Chess-Wise, Cropper

    1. Allister - April 3, 2011

      Just a small point of rebuttal to Josh’s Android rebuttal. One word. “Rooted”. One word reply, too. “Jailbreak”. Same thing. He’s not comparing apples with Apples.

      But beyond that, you simply cannot compare iOS to Android: http://sittingduck.co.nz/blog/2011/03/08/not-even-looking-for-droids/

    2. George from Tulsa - April 4, 2011

      Sigh. I have to disagree with Allister and agree with Josh.

      Good ole’ Leo Laporte often tosses out some real insights. And this one just flashed by, but it is so accurate.

      Our gadgets and operating systems have become like “sports teams,” and we’ve become rabid fans. Drooling. Down here in OkieHoma it can be downright scary to be caught in a dispute among OU Sooner, OSU Cowboy, and, yes, UT Longhorn fans. Funny, they’re rarely arguing about academics.

      Because I have an iPod Touch, an iPad, too many Macs to count, and a Nexus One running Gingerbread, Android 2.3.3, I think I can comment somewhat knowledgeably about the differences between iOS and Android.

      A huge difference, and one which should definitely not go unsaid, is: the Nexus battery is easily replaceable! That’s right, I’m not at the mercy of the battery. When my battery dies, I won’t have to choose between sending the phone in for an expensive transplant or tossing it out. In fact, I bought an extra battery, and since it holds a charge a really long time, I can swap anytime.

      By contrast, my iPod Touch 1 Gen battery is deceased. I called TechRestore to ask about replacing it, as I did when my 40GB iPod battery died, and the guy on the phone politely giggled the message: don’t bother. So I bought a Mophie case and use the 32 GB iPod Touch that cost hundreds of dollars as a remote for my AppleTV.

      Charging on —

      The reason users “root” their Android devices is (usually) to eliminate krudware put on phones by Telcos and individual manufacturers. I’m very happy with the “pure” Android interface Google puts on its Nexus phones, and others want that same experience, not one kludged up by phone companies or manufacturers trying to differentiate essentially identical devices.

      Which is pretty much the same reason iOS users “jailbreak” their gadgets, except the evil claw they’re escaping is Apple.

      In spite of theological differences, I have friends who have iPhones, and I have no desire to burn their user manuals (if they had one). In absolute honesty, there’s very little difference between the capabilities of iOS and Android. The differences that matter to me are the replaceable battery, the $50 a month I’m not paying AT&T for a lower level of service than I’m getting from T-Mobile while T-Mobile lives, my ability to connect my phone through a USB cable to ANY of my Macs and copy off pictures, downloads, and copy on and off music and even movies. No iTunes necessary. No danger connecting the phone to a computer that is not its normal “host” will reboot all its content. No problem connecting to any computer with a USB port to charge, and move content off and on.

    3. Donald Burr - April 4, 2011

      Rooting an Android device is hard. Yeah, some devices now have “easy” rooting methods available. But many dont. And when your carrier decides to upgrade you, you’re usually SOL, because they invariably close the security hole that let’s you root in the first place. I’m sorry, but this is too much like “do a funny dance while waving around a rubber chicken” for my taste (and I suspect the same for many other people).

      The only reason I see for haul reaming an iOS device is if you want to thumb your nose at The Man. Now that the app store is as big as it is, I just don’t see anything compelling in the Cydia store that would make me want to jailbreak (trust me, I’ve looked).

      I’ve owned a number of mobile platforms, including a blackberry, palm pre, and several flavors of Android devices. Still, when the iPhone 4 came out on Verizon, I switched, even though it meant getting raped by my carrier (sprint) because my contract wasn’t over yet. My problem with Android, webOS, blackberry, etc. Is that I still find it WAY too easy to get my device all crudded up to the point where, for example, it takes a full MINUTE (or more!) to bring up the phone app or answer a call (by which time it went to voicemail anyway). Or have my phone randomly come to a screeching halt while I’m in ypthe middle of something. Or have it randomly reboot for no apparent reason. Compare that to my new Verizon iPhone. Even after attacking it with my full load out of apps, data, etc., how many problems have I had with it? ZERO. Zip. Nada. Nein. Bupkis. I want a device that works out of the box, and doesn’t require one to have a Ph.D in astrophysics, or do a funny dance to appease the gods of technology to get it to work.

      That having been said, I’m also all about giving criticism where it’s due. Yes, android dis have notifications first. And they still have the best notification system in my opinion, bar none. HPalm webOS is a close second. Whereas iOS is dead last. IOS notifications get all in your face, and if you accidentally dismiss one, it’s Gobelin for good. Compare this to Android, where for each type of notification, you get a small icon in your task bar. Totally unobtrusive, yet it still manages to let you know that it’s there waiting for you. Swipe down and a panelslides in giving you more details about your pending notifications. And they only go away when you’re good and done with them. Fantastic implementation. I sincerely hope that Apple has a notification system rework planned fir the upcoming iOS 5.

    4. George from Tulsa - April 4, 2011

      Hey, Donald Barr, you make some good points.

      I’ve not had to “root” my Nexus One. From what I’ve been reading this week, Google is even taking more control to keep the telcom and manufacturer krudware off from the get-go. I have followed how rooting works, and it can be one click easy, with one click back to get an update.

      And as to updates, I get mine off the net. Google posts them. I download them as a zip file, connect my phone, copy the zip file to the phone, and run the install. Gingerbread is pretty slick!

      There’s lots of krud on the Android market. Amazon is tempting users by offering free normally paid applications each and every day. Have to admit, I took the free full version of Angry Birds, but also have to admit (or crow!) that I’ve not used it enough to get past level 1. May never crack that egg; there’s only so much time to waste.

      That said, my phone would only krud up if I just kept downloading junque. But at least with Android, if I want to delete an APP to make space, I can do so right from the phone, then if I want it back, no problem, I’ve already paid and all I have to do is reinstall over the air.

      Now if AT&T ( Boo, hiss! ) does get to buy T-Mobile, maybe much Android benefit will evaporate. What’s that benefit? Right now, doing everything I need for $50 a month less than an iPhone would cost.

      Unlimited net, check.
      Tethering, check.
      Unlimited text, check.
      Unlimited SMS, check.
      AND very rare to “drop a call.”

      Apple user that I am, I’m amazed anyone would stand in line for days, in the cold, or heat, just to buy a mass produced product of any kind. It would have to be “life or death” before I’d stand in line that long for anything.

    5. Donald Burr - April 4, 2011

      Just to clarify: You will need to download and install XCode *even if* you choose to use one of the “app builder” tools (such as Red Foundry, Appcelerator, etc.) to make your app. The reason for this is that the XCode package contains tools you’ll need to properly “sign” your binaries and upload them to Apple. Needless to say, if you want to sell/give away your app in the app store, you’ll also need to join one of the paid developer programs even if you use the “app builders” method.

    6. Allister - April 4, 2011

      So far, Android is better because it has an interchangeable battery, the plans are cheaper and if hacked a disabled person can do screen captures. But let’s not hijack Allison’s site. Happy to carry this on over on my site (link in previous comment).

    7. Donald Burr - April 4, 2011

      Is a swappable battery really that important to you? I mean really?

      When I had my Android phone, I did get myself a second battery. And I used it, maybe, a grand total of two times. Why? Because it was such a pain to do. First of all, you have to remember to charge both batteries before heading out. That means plugging your phone in at night, waiting for battery #1 to charge, then prying it all apart (including any case, sleeve, etc. you might have on it), slapping in Battery #2, putting it all back together, and waiting for it to charge. Then when it comes time to actually swap batteries in the field, I have to shut my phone down (thus interrupting anything I’m doing — mobile hotspot, downloading, or even [gasp!] a phone call!); peeling the phone apart (something darn near impossible to do with one hand, I might add), again removing any sort of case that might be in the way; swapping batteries; putting the phone back together (reassembling the case if applicable); turning the phone back on; and waiting the (anywhere from) 3-5 minutes it takes for the phone to finish booting and settle down into a state where it is responsive enough to where I can actually use it.

      What a pain.

      I did end up getting an external battery solution (which is pretty much de rigueur when it comes to most Android devices), but I went for an external solution (in my case, a Tekkeon TekCharge MP1800 external battery pack). I could easily connect this up to my phone via MicroUSB while it was still on, thus not interrupting anything I’m in the middle of doing.

      Funnily enough, ever since I went to the Verizon iPhone, I haven’t really had the need to use it. My battery lasts me the whole day, from the time I leave the house until when I get back at night. Now I will admit that I don’t regularly fly to exotic overseas destinations like Tokyo or Paris (or even not-so-exotic domestic destinations such as Tulsa), and if you do so regularly you might need a 2nd battery. Your mileage may vary (if you’ll excuse the pun).

      I had the same worry (oh no! am I going to need an external battery?!) when Apple took swappable batteries away from the MacBook Pro line; but in the same vein, I find that my 13″ MacBook Pro battery lasts me throughout my typical day (again with the caveat that I very rarely, i.e. never, am traipsing around the globe).

    8. George from Tulsa - April 4, 2011

      Hey, Donald, I listened all the way through your Chit Chat. Superb.

      And, yes, a second battery is really important. I bought a tiny charger that holds the extra battery in my pack. I only have to charge the extra every week or so, and have gone longer.

      Me? I carry a charger in the car, and put it on the chargers in the office. So I try not to run out of “juice.” But my son in law was out in the boondocks in someone else’s car, no charger, and navigated there with Android’s great turn by turn free voice nav. The extra battery is what brought him home! Of course, that’s an exaggeration, but it did come in handy.

      Apple’s “internal only” batteries are going to result in the landfills filled with Apple gear. I’ve replaced batteries in every laptop I’ve had, and my new Air is the first which will require “service” to recharge. It was far easier to just order a battery from OWC or Amazon or even Apple, and put it in myself.

      About a year ago I saw a pro photo shoot. Those folks brought along a generator they were running to keep their Apple gear going.

      Saw that Apple is now rethinking external batteries. Looks like they’re going to sell boosters! And, of course, put HyperMac out of the business, again.

      Charge on!

    9. Lore - April 7, 2011

      First, thanks for the mention on your show, Allison! I loved that you used it as an ad for ScreenSteps, on of my favorite applications to create tutorials. I was was out walking, listening to your podcast, when I suddenly heard my name! How cool is that (as you’d say)! I also loved the review of the Money Reader app–it is fantastic. I’m also going to re-listen to your ChitChat with Donald–I’ve been wanting to learn more about how ‘the normal people’ might create apps for iOS. Thanks for giving us such information packed and fun shows!

    10. Allison Sheridan - April 7, 2011

      Aw thanks Lore – glad it made your day!

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