Aug 28, 2008

iPhone 3G and wifi connectivity

iPhone has an interesting way of handling wifi connectivity. It can discover the presence of wi-fi networks and ask the user which one he or she wants to join. That's great.

Now let's say that you are planning to spend some time in a place with an existing but WEP-protected wi-fi network. And that you have obtained the network's key by email. Can you create an entry on your iPhone with that network's credentials before you connect to the network? No!

The iPhone needs to be physically receiving the networks signal in order for the user to be able to sign in. In order to sign-in you need the network's key. Which could be a hard to remember hexadecimal string. No problem, you think. You could cut and paste it from your email. Not. The iPhone does not support cut and paste. Thus your alternative is to write down the key on a piece of paper!

The iPhone 3G: rediscover the charm of paper notes!

Aug 9, 2008

What's missing from the iTunes interface for the iPhone

An iPhone screen management utility.  An interface where I could use the mouse to move different iPhone applications to different screens.  This would be much more practical and efficient than dragging them with my finger, one screen at a time, on the iPhone itself.  Oh, and it would be nice if I could label the screens and also add vertical and horizontal lines to separate blocks of applications on the same screen.

Jul 28, 2008

Does Apple get it?

As an Apple customer, I am delighted that the company is doing well with its iPhone 3G sales. At the same time I am puzzled, to say the least, about Apple's attitude toward the consumers.

The iPhone "is here" proclaims Apple. Well, it's not. The inventory update after 9 pm on Saturday July 26 was full or red dots (iPhone not in stock) for every Apple store in the country. If the iPhone is here, where is "here"?

Today I went to an Apple store that was shown, last night, to have available iPhones. I stood in line half an hour before it opened. I was the 20th person or so. The store had only a handful of while and black 16GB phones. Customers with a double digit position in the queue had no chance of getting an iPhone today. I left.

I am not in a hurry to buy an iPhone and I will wait for the inventory to return to some reliable level before I return to an Apple store. I am puzzled, however, by Apple's attitude.

Doesn't Apple realize that it's irritating to let customers know that a store has iPhones even if that means that the store has only 5 or 6 pieces to sell? Doesn't Apple realize that customers end up driving repeatedly to the store and leave disappointed and frustrated and that the environment also feels the impact? Why Apple doesn't offer an online purchase channel for the iPhone?

Having consumers line up only to be disappointed and frustrated is not the brightest marketing idea that Apple had.

Feb 15, 2008

The time-free time table

I commute to work and back home out of the Ogilvie transportation center in downtown Chicago. The train station has a big, electronic dot-matrix display showing the train departures for the next hour or so. The display shows the departure time, the train and track numbers, the destination, and whether the train is ready to board or not. At the bottom of the list, the display shows the current date.

Is there something missing from this picture? Yes! The display doesn't show the current time! There is a big ornate clock in the station but is not visible by someone who's consulting the electronic timetable. I think that Metra - the train operator - could and should do something about this. Here are two suggestions:
  1. Add the current time at the bottom of the electronic time table.
  2. Add a count-down column on the electronic time table, showing how many minutes remain until the departure of each train.

Feb 14, 2008

Who needs Sudoku?

Sudoku, according to Wikipedia is a "a logic-based number placement puzzle". So what happens to Sudoku when you remove the logic from it? The answer is simple: it becomes a voice mail menu.

I have now access to four different voice mail systems: one at the firm, one at the college where I teach, one on my cell phone, and one at home. Consider the two most frequent functions: play a message and delete it. All four systems have different numbers assigned to these functions. Here's the matrix:

At home: 5 to play; 6 to delete
At firm: 2 to play; *D to delete
At college: 3 to play; 7 to delete;
On cell: 7 to play; 3 to delete

Two systems have opposite functionalities. Pressing 3 at my college's voice mail system will play a message; on my cell phone it will delete it.

Voice mail systems today are just elaborate mp3 players. It's all software. It should be easy to allow a user to determine keypad functionality from a web-based interface. Why is this not happening?

Feb 12, 2008

How to create a distribution list in Outlook, not!

A few days ago I sent a company-wide email asking for managers to nominate some of their group members for a specific event here. I received many responses listing names of employees. Thus I decided to put together an Outlook distribution list with the email addresses of the nominees so that I can communicate with them directly.

Sure enough, I got to the new list editing window. I moved it on the right side of my monitor and then I tried to go through my inbox so that I could read the names of the nominees from each message. Guess what! The distribution list editing window blocks all other action on Outlook while it is open.

I guess I would have to write the nominee names on a piece of paper, then open the distribution list and type them there.

Nice job, Microsoft, thank you.

Feb 7, 2008

Windows cannot find 'internet'

This welcoming message marked my re-entry into the wonderful world of computing a la Microsoft. A very thoughtful world, actually, from the computer's point of view: why make the computer work for the user when it's easier for the user to work for the computer?

I don't have a prejudice against Microsoft or its products. I keep an open mind and maintain good faith. But it's the 21st century: no operating system should allow a pop up window to tell a user that the 'internet' cannot be found. This is bad design.

In my case, the pop up appeared after I typed "internet" in the Start > Run command line. I was hoping to launch Internet Explorer that way. No luck. In order to do so from the command line, you need to type the entire name of the actual executable: iexplore.

Don't type "iexplorer". Windows cannot find that either.