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Archive for the ‘Portable Computing’ Category

Converting SageTV recordings to Zune/iPod/iPhone, version 2.0

Posted by onlydarksets on January 2, 2009

I posted a method for converting SageTV files to iPod/iPhone compliant files a while back, but a number of the files weren’t converting properly.  I also had problems with mencoder cutting commercials out of the files.  So, I retooled the approach, and I am now getting 100% success, using the approach outlined below.

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Posted in DVRMSToolbox, HowTo, iPhone, SageTV, Windows Mobile, Zune 2 | 6 Comments »

30GB Zunes don’t like New Year’s Eve?

Posted by onlydarksets on December 31, 2008

FINAL UPDATE: This is a self-repairing problem due to an infinite loop in the boot cycle that only occurs on the last day of a leap year.  To fix it, fully drain the battery, which will break the loop.  When you plug it in again, it will no longer be the last day of a leap year (since it is now 1/1/2009), so the problem will not reproduce itself.  More info here.

Here is the original post:

I woke up this morning (Dec 31, 2008) to about 20 new comments in the Hard Reset for the Zune post.  Everyone has the same problem – at midnight this morning, everyone’s Zune stopped working.  Pretty clear this is a bug with the first-generation Zunes…

UPDATE (10:00a): There is a “fix” – you manually disconnect the battery.  I, personally, don’t recommend this as it will void your warranty and could fry your Zune, plus, it appears to lock up again once you sync it with your PC.

Here are the details, courtesy of commenter Kevin:

“Your zune will need a “hard reset.”

To do this, use a small screwdriver to pop off the plastic shielding where the zune cable plugs into and remove the two screws on either side of the plug. Next pop the cover off and locate the battery plug at the top left corner of the zune, using your screw driver, pop the cable connection half way off, and do this to the other plug on the right side. Wait 3 seconds, then push down the right connector and then the left battery connecter. Your zune should start up immediately. Press the backing of the zune down (make sure headphone jack is aligned) and put the screws and cover back in place.”

Worked for me, but as soon as I plugged it in to sync it locked back up.

UPDATE (11:30a): Microsoft’s Zune support site has the following posted:

Customers with 30gb Zune devices may experience issues when booting their Zune hardware.  We’re aware of the problem and are working to correct it.  Sorry for the inconvenience, and thanks for your patience!

“May experience issues”?  Has anyone not experienced the issue?

UPDATE (2:30p): Interesting point by Ernie:

even if there is a download available, i cant even get my zune/computer to talk. i plug it in the usb and nothing happens. how can we load new firmware that way…?

I think the problem is that the 30GB Zune chokes on the date 12/31/2008 for some reason.  Draining the battery long enough resets the clock, but then as soon as you sync, the software sets the clock to the current time.  So, to load a new firmware, there would have to be a software-side fix that (temporarily) didn’t set the clock on the 30GB Zune to the current date/time.

UPDATE (????): Apparently I was right:

My Zune 30 is frozen. What should I do?

Follow these steps:

  1. Disconnect your Zune from USB and AC power sources.
  2. Because the player is frozen, its battery will drain—this is good. Wait until the battery is empty and the screen goes black. If the battery was fully charged, this might take a couple of hours.
  3. Wait until after noon GMT on January 1, 2009 (that’s 7 a.m. Eastern or 4 a.m. Pacific time).
  4. Connect your Zune to either a USB port on the back or your computer or to AC power using the Zune AC Adapter and let it charge.

Once the battery has sufficient power, the player should start normally. No other action is required—you can go back to using your Zune!

Posted in Zune | 32 Comments »

More task syncing with the iPhone (or WM)

Posted by onlydarksets on December 29, 2008

In addition to the many other options out there, I have been playing with a relatively new entry – Task2Gather.  This, like Zenbe Lists, is a Web 2.0/iPhone tandem where both components were developed by the same outfit.  For T2G, it’s Vito Technology, which is probably best known for developing several apps that make a Windows Mobile device behave more like the iPhone.  Recently, though, they’ve gotten into the iPhone app development game.

Task2Gather   Task2Gather_WM

Task2Gather (which also has a WM client) is different than almost every other task app out there, because it allows infinite nesting.  I have been playing with this for a while, and it’s really helpful for the way I work.  However, it also means that Outlook task synchronization is rather unlikely.  As a workaround, though, you can publish your task list as an iCalendar, and subscribe to it in Outlook.  It also supports multiple users, but that’s not something I have tested.

The app is very polished, and takes full advantage of the iPhone interface.  The screen is well laid out, the icons are informative, and the navigation is intuitive.  The “Logout” button is incoveniently placed, but it’s a minor inconvenience.

The only two “knocks” I have at this point are the lack of Outlook sync and the lack of off-line mode.  However, lacking Outlook task sync is becoming a fact of life with the iPhone, not a shortcoming of any particular app, and the developers are working on an offline mode, so I’m pretty excited about the potential here.  To further sweeten the pot, the iPhone client is only $0.99 until Vito completes and releases the off-line mode.

Download from the App Store (iTunes link).

Posted in iPhone, PPCs | 1 Comment »

ABC is 60fps in DC

Posted by onlydarksets on November 26, 2008

I’ve been testing out the new release of Handbrake to convert my SageTV recordings, and I couldn’t get the file to load to my iPhone via iTunes.  Thanks to G-Spot, I remembered that ABC shows are 60fps here in DC, and the iPhone tops out at 30fps.  A freaking error message would have been nice.

Posted in iPhone, SageTV | Leave a Comment »

Easing the jailbreak upgrade – aptbackup

Posted by onlydarksets on November 23, 2008

Anytime you upgrade a jailbroken iPhone, you have to reinstall all of the jailbroken apps (iTMS apps and settings are retained).  While there is no way to completely automate restoring the jailbroken apps and settings, aptbackup will automatically reinstall any Cydia apps.

UPDATE: Scratch that – it didn’t work for me.  I can’t say it’s “broken”, but I’m not about to troubleshoot how to get it to work correctly.

Posted in iPhone, Jailbreak | Leave a Comment »

Handbrake and low volumes

Posted by onlydarksets on October 27, 2008

I’ve been using Handbrake to put the kids’ DVDs on my iPhone.  It’s fast and very accurate, plus it will add the chapters in, which is great for those “I want to watch the scene where ________________ happens!” moments (which are frequent).  However, Handbrake converts the volume at a level that is too low.  The solution is to demux the audio, increase the gain using AACGain, and remux it.  I haven’t tried this yet, so I don’t know if it retains the chapter markings.

EDIT: I should have searched harder.  MP4Box removes the tags, so it will likely scratch the chapter markings.

Posted in iPhone | 1 Comment »

Why and How I Jailbroke my iPhone

Posted by onlydarksets on October 6, 2008

Or, “How I Got My iPhone to Do This”:


I finally broke down and jailbroke my iPhone.  My motivation was that June Fabrics developed PdaNet for the iPhone, but it was rejected by the App Store, so they released it on Cydia.  However, once I jailbroke, I found a wealth of apps out there that fill in most of the missing pieces.

Keep reading for the full details.

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Posted in iPhone, Jailbreak | 4 Comments »

The Problem with Pricing for Task apps on the iPhone

Posted by onlydarksets on October 3, 2008

I made a comment about TaskData (an app that syncs tasks directly with Exchange) being overpriced, and the developer, Phillip Zedalis, posted a response stating that he thought it was priced reasonably in relation to the other apps out there.  I actually agree that, relative to the other apps out there, it is priced correctly.  However, I think they are all priced incorrectly, and I wanted to expound on that.

First off, I strongly believe that Task synchronization should be handled by ActiveSync – it’s built into the ActiveSync specification, and Windows Mobile has no trouble doing it. There’s no technical barrier, so this is a business decision by Apple that baffles me, especially since they want to make inroads into the enterprise.

However, wishes are most certainly not horses, so that leaves us with no in-built Task support. Within the myriad of add-on Task apps out there, I see four classes of products:

  1. Those that sync with nothing.
  2. Those that sync with the cloud.
  3. Those that sync with Outlook (desktop client).
  4. Those that sync with Exchange.

Ideally, the leader should set pricing for everyone. In this case, I would consider that to be the best products in the fourth category (of which there is currently one – TaskData). However, pricing was set by the earliest products, which were in the first category. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I think it has artificially raised the prices for all of the Task apps.

The first category (see about 200 apps) is worth no more than $1.99. I don’t care how many bells and whistles it has – if the data is stuck on the phone, the app is of marginal use.

The second category (see Appigo’s Todo) should be priced at $4.99. The power is not in the app – it’s in the cloud. The fact that a different third-party app (would that be “fourth-party”?) allows you to sync to Outlook (which can then sync to Exchange) isn’t a huge justification for its current pricing – for example, what if ToodledoSync ceases being developed?

The third category (see KeyTasks) should be priced at $6.99. Again, the power is in Outlook, and I think a premium is warranted for one-step syncing to your enterprise calendaring/messaging system (OK, it’s really two-step, since Outlook has to sync with Exchange, but that’s a zero cost process).

The fourth category (see, of course, TaskData) should be priced at $9.99. Here, the power is in the app – true one step syncing with Exchange.

So, that leaves Mr. Zedalis with two options:

  1. Accept the current pricing levels, take your premium, and make fewer sales.
  2. Price appropriately, increase sales, and force everyone else to adjust their pricing.

I don’t know the right answer – without access to sales data, it’s not possible to say which is correct, and even then it’s just forecasting. Long term, though, it’s usually option #2. I’m not saying he’ll double sales, but the increase in sales should offset the price difference (and then some). Of course, this is only an academic exercise for me – it’s not my product.

Posted in iPhone | 2 Comments »

Move any file from iPhone to desktop via USB

Posted by onlydarksets on October 2, 2008

I found a way to copy a file (from any directory) from a jailbroken iPhone to any computer using the USB sync cable.  After typing this up, I did find one other reference to this process, although it seems to have a couple of extra steps that aren’t necessary (i.e., manzana).

This is handy in a couple of situations:

  1. Where you don’t have wifi (like work), so you can’t SFTP.
  2. Where the file is large (e.g., downloads from MXTube)

You need MobileFinder (or MobileTerminal) installed.  You do not need iTunes installed.  See the steps after the break.

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Posted in iPhone, Jailbreak | Leave a Comment »

Key directories on the iPhone

Posted by onlydarksets on October 1, 2008

Another dumping ground – this time for interesting directories in the iPhone file structure:

  • Voicemail: /private/var/mobile/Library/Voicemail/ (source)
  • SMS database: /private/var/mobile/Library/SMS/
  • Camera pix: /private/var/mobile/Media/DCIM
  • NES ROMs: /private/var/mobile/Media/ROMs/NES
  • Cycorder videos: /private/var/mobile/Media/Videos
  • Call history: /private/var/mobile/Library/CallHistory
  • Winterboard themes: /private/Library/Themes (link to /private/var/stash/Themes.xxxxxx)
  • Ringtones: /private/Library/Ringtones (link to /private/var/stash/Ringtones.xxxxxx)

Posted in iPhone, Jailbreak | 1 Comment »