Jun 25 2011

Installing iOS 5 Beta 2 in Windows

Apple pretty much assumes that everyone who is using their iOS beta has a Mac — which is a reasonable assumption, because the beta is really more for developers to make their application work with iOS 5 than for nerds like me who just want to use the features before they’re publicly available.  But I digress.

Since Apple doesn’t really provide any instructions or support for installing iOS 5 using a PC, I will tell you how.

  1. Download and install iTunes 10.5 Beta 2 from here (you will need to have a valid Apple developer account, which costs $99/year).  This step is very important! Even if you downloaded 10.5 Beta 1 to install iOS 5 Beta 1, you still need to download Beta 2, or the upgrade won’t work.
  2. Download iOS 5 Beta 2 from here (again, you’ll need a valid Apple developer account).
    • Make sure to download the correct version for your device. If you’re on AT&T, download the GSM version; if you’re on Verizon, download the CDMA version.
  3. Using 7-Zip, unzip the .dmg file, then unzip the file “2.hfs” that is inside of that.
    • Inside of that, there should be a file named something like “iPhone3,1_5.0_9A5248d_Restore.ipsw”.  Note its location.
  4. Plug your iPhone into your computer and start up iTunes if it does not start automatically.
  5. Sync your iPhone to make sure that you have all the data on it backed up.
  6. Shift+click on Restore, then navigate to that .ipsw file from step 3 and select it.
  7. Restore your phone.
  8. After restoring using that file, you will need to restore again using the backup from step 5.  This will take some time, but it will add all of your contacts, text messages, songs, apps, etc. back onto your phone.

And then you’re done! The only real glitch I’ve noticed is that during the last step, some applications seem to get lost in the ether, so you may have to reinstall them. You may also have to re-enter email passwords and the like.

Jun 17 2011

Upgrade Your iPhone 4 to iOS 5 Beta in 4 Easy(ish) Steps

Important Note: This is for iOS 5 Beta 1. I will provide an article for iOS 5 Beta 2 soon, though currently I am not sure if the workaround for non-developers listed below works for Beta 2.

There aren’t many good tutorials on this out there, so I’m making one. I actually made the instructions for my girlfriend to start out with, but I figured some other people out there might be interested too.

Caveat 1: I am not responsible for any damage/bricking/etc. that may occur from this — iOS betas are generally pretty stable, but sometimes bad things happen, so don’t blame me if they do.

Caveat 2: The beat is really only supposed to be for Apple developers. It will be buggy, and I have already found several bugs, in fact.

Caveat 3: It is possible that with the next release of the beta, Apple will patch any holes that allow non-developers to have access to this, which could brick your phone (restoring to a previous iOS is very hairy). If that happens, please do contact me and I’ll do my best to help you fix it.

Okay, with that out of the way, here we go! Note that this tutorial will also work for the iPad and the iPhone 3GS, but you will need to download a different IPSW file to do that, as mentioned above under step 3. Also this tutorial is assuming you’re using Windows, but there’s really not much difference (except that Apple doesn’t directly offer iTunes 10.5 even to developers as far as I can tell).

  1. Back up your iPhone using iTunes.  Just do a normal sync operation, this should handle it.
    • Just to be extra sure, you might want to copy that backup to a different location. You can find this backup using these instructions.
  2. Install iTunes 10.5 beta, from here (if that doesn’t work for some reason, there are other links listed here under “iTunes 10.5 (Windows x64(64-bit, 74.07MB)”).
    • If you have a developer account and want to get it in a more authorized way, you can — the Windows version is well-hidden under the iCloud downloads. iTunes 10.5 Windows Beta.
  3. Download the iOS 5 beta torrent here (or again, if you have an Apple developer account, just get it from there but see the third note below if you do that).
    • For AT&T choose the GSM version; for Verizon choose CDMA.
    • If you don’t already have a BitTorrent client, I recommend uTorrent.
    • If you do a Google search and get it from elsewhere (or from Apple’s developer site) as a .dmg file, you might need a special program to unzip that; go ahead and install 7Zip to do that. After you unzip it, go into that folder and unzip the file “2.hfs”.  That should have a directory named “iOS 5 beta – iPhone 4 – 9A5220p” which will contain the file iPhone3,1_5.0_9A5220p_Restore.ipsw — that’s what we’re interested in.
  4. Follow instructions here (basically fire up iTunes, hold down Shift while you click the Check for Update button, and select the IPSW file you unzipped above).

Tada!  Your phone will go through a few reboots, you will be prompted to activate it, and at that point you’ll be really scared because none of your apps, contacts, music, etc. will be on there.  Never fear — just run a restore from that backup you made in step 1, and you’re golden.

Happy upgrading!  And please, if any of this doesn’t work for you, or any links are broken, let me know.

Sep 8 2010

iOS 4.1 Preliminary Review

There were a few neat improvements in iOS 4.1. It had some smaller bug fixes of course, like fixing the proximity sensor so that you're less likely to hit the mute or end call buttons with your cheek while you're talking. Neither has happened to me, but my girlfriend did once suffer from the accidental mute issue. It also has a game interaction feature, where you can invite friends to join in on games, earn achievements (I couldn't personally care less, but there seems to be a craze over achievements in the gaming world), and that sort of thing.

But there were two big updates that really interested me personally: high-def uploads, and HDR photos.

High-Def Uploads

Now the built-in movie uploader (which can upload to YouTube) is able to upload in full 720p high-def. if you're on a WiFi network. It used to force the resolution down, so my first iPhone 4 test video actually got uploaded as low-def.

HDR Photos

HDR stands for "high dynamic range." You only really need to use this option if the photo you're taking has very bright and/or very dark areas that you want to come out better. The phone snaps 2 shots in quick succession and uses some magic to combine them into one good shot with (more) consistent lighting.

Here's an example, normal on left, HDR on right:


You can click the images for higher-resolution versions.  However, this doesn't really do much for photos that aren't high-contrast. Here's an example of a normal and HDR version of a picture with consistent lighting:


The second one actually looks worse, in my opinion — a little more washed-out (since it's darkening the really light areas and lightening the dark areas). So make sure to only use this option when you need it.

Jun 12 2010

iPhone 4 vs. HTC EVO

I’m deciding between the iPhone 4 and the HTC EVO.  I’ve wanted to try out an Android phone, but I’m really on the fence here. So I’m rounding up the benefits of each that are important to me (so I’m not including things like how the iPhone 4 supports wireless-N, or how the EVO has a 1.3mp front-facing camera as opposed to the 640×480 one on the iPhone 4, or how the iPhone 4 has a higher-resolution display).


  • Better battery life. The first iPhone and the 3G models had pretty crappy battery life, but this seems to get better with each iteration. All reports of the EVO say that its battery life is horrendous.
  • I’m already used to the interface. This is a minor quibble, but I already know how things work on the iPhone.
  • More refined user experience. Even with the modified version of Android that the EVO runs, the interface on the iPhone is more refined.
  • I’m already with AT&T.  I’m really not a huge fan of them, but neither do I hate them. Familiar devil, I suppose.
  • Better video chat.  The EVO has the front-facing camera, but the only real video chats supported are through Fring and Qik, and that doesn’t seem to work too well. Then again, realistically I’m not likely to use video chat a whole lot anyway.


  • Not a closed system. Anyone can make Android apps.
  • Integrated kickstand.  Yes this is lame, but could definitely come in useful, especially with video chat.
  • Better alert system.  It’s not limited to one alert message at a time like the iPhone. I suspect since this is a big flaw in the iPhone future updates might fix this though.
  • About $20/mo cheaper. That’s almost $250 per year, $500 over the life of a 2-year contract.
  • Tighter Google integration. You can actually have an app for Google Voice, and the built-in navigation system uses Google Street View, which is rather awesome.
  • Supports Flash. This can be a big one for web browsing. Apple, get the fuck off your high horse; HTML 5 is not going to replace Flash.

One big features I didn’t include with the EVO is that it’s 4G.  Frankly, I don’t care.  3G is fast enough for everything I want to do with my phone — if I’m going to stream HD video, I’m going to do it on my iPad.  Plus from all accounts I’ve seen, using 4G sucks the battery life out of the camera like a nympho just out of solitary.

My friend Eddy Webb at White Wolf just got himself an EVO, and posted about it if you’re interested in reading his take.

So far I’m leaning toward the iPhone. I’ve got 3 days to decide.

May 6 2010

Review: iPad

Work got me an iPad 3G, since a lot of our customers are likely to use one, and it would behoove us to have some on-hand to look at issues ourselves. It arrived Tuesday, and I’ve been putting it through its paces since then. Short version is, the more I use it, the more I like it. I’m sort of on the fence right now as to whether I’d actually buy it if work didn’t get it for me, but currently leaning toward “no.”

The Good

  • Interface – Nothing notably new here if you’re used to the iPhone/iPod Touch interface. Apple is really, really good at designing user interfaces. However, being on a bigger screen, all the apps feel like grown-up versions. The music player is more like the full iTunes, email is a lot more usable.
  • Speed – It’s fast. Notably faster than my iPhone 3G. Very responsive; it loads up apps quickly, and there’s very little delay in rotating the screen when you change orientations.
  • Music Player – Very close to the full iTunes experience, thanks to the extra room.
  • Battery Life – This seems to be pretty darn good, though maybe I’m biased because the iPhone has such crappy battery live. More testing will be required, but after a couple of days of moderate use (I’d say maybe 5-6 hours total) it was down to about 60%.
  • No Contract 3G Service – $30/mo for unlimited wireless Internet, $15/mo for 250 MB, and you can change that up or cancel it any time you want. Not exactly cheap, but not an arm and a leg either, and no contract.
  • Speedy Push Notifications – Though sometimes it’s about even, my iPad usually gets push and email notifications notably faster than my iPhone. E.g. when I get a new email via Gmail, my iPad usually knows even before my desktop web browser does, and maybe 10-15 seconds before
  • Full GPS – The 3G model has a full GPS chip. I’ve heard reviews that have said it seems to take a little longer to lock on than the iPhone 3GS, but that once it does it seems to hold the signal better. I’ve only used this a little, but it seems to work very well. I could definitely see using this as a replacement for a car stereo and GPS.

The Bad

Too much blank space between icons

Most of these things are really more “annoying” than bad. But I wanted to use the good, the bad, and the ugly as my headlines, so shut the frack up.

  • Weight – Its heavier than I thought it would be. Wihch isn’t to say it’s a brick, but it’s definitely solid. I can see this causing a bit of arm fatigue if you’re trying to hold it up for more than a minute or two.
  • Whitespace – One area where the interface doesn’t shine. The homescreen seems to have lots of empty space. The app icons should either be closer together, or larger, or some combination of the two. See picture.
  • Fingerprints – Like the iPhone, this thing is bad at collecting fingerprints.
  • Recharge Time – Probably due to having a bigger/better battery, the recharge time is a lot longre on this than I’d expected.

The Ugly

  • Audiobook Transfer – This is really odd and unintuitive to someone who’s used an iPhone. Instead of transferring audiobooks with your normal audio files, you transfer them as you do eBooks. When I first tried transferring, I noticed that the audiobook playlist I had didn’t even show up as an option for syncing. I added a non-audiobook file to it and it showed up, but when I synced the playlist it only transferred that one music file, not the audiobooks. Only after some searching the web did I find that you have to use the Books tab from iTunes on your computer, scroll down, and select audiobooks there.
  • Can’t Recharge From Computer – When I connect the iPad to my computer via USB, it lists “Not Charging.” Apparently you can only charge your iPad from either a wall outlet, or from a Mac. PC users are out of luck. This is a pretty bad issue.

Jan 31 2010

iPhone Voice Apps Over 3G?

From Slashdot:

Yesterday marked the announcement of the Apple iPad device, and with it came a new version of the SDK. In this new version, Apple has lifted the VoIP over 3G restrictions that limited VoIP traffic to wifi only. This morning, Fring announced that it’s iPhone app is 3G-capable starting immediately. No update is needed as apparently the app had 3G capability all along, but a server-side block prevented its use. Furthermore, apparently a 3G-capable version of Skype has been ready for some time now, and has been waiting for this restriction to be lifted.

This is an interesting shift, and if what this says is true — that the restriction was server-side and not in the SDK itself — then that actually means AT&T has decided to allow VoIP over 3G, not Apple.  Maybe now that Apple’s contract is nearly ended with AT&T, they’re starting to play nicer because (joy of joys) people will actually have a choice.