iPod Review – Five Years Later


I got an iPod for Christmas in 2005. I’m going to review it now. Wait, 2005… Is that a typo!? No…

I’m still using the first iPod I ever got. My wife gave me the 5th generation 30GB iPod with video. And yes, I did review this iPod back in 2007. So what? I’m reviewing it again.

I love this iPod. I have not felt the urge to upgrade or replace it. It works as well as it did 5 years ago when I got it. The interface is simple and easy to use. It does one thing, and it does it well.

I use this iPod almost every day. At least, every day I drive. I’d guess that 98% of its usage is in my car as an audio player connected to my car stereo. I have no desire to get an iPod touch, as I actually think the interface would be much more difficult to use while driving. In my previous review I did mention something about this:

The iPod interface also requires you to look, or at least be able to feel around and guess where to push. Other players (with actual buttons) allow you to memorize where the buttons are and what they do. I could operate my Rio while driving and never take my eyes off the road. This seems to be a big concern with the iPhone as well, it will require visual attention to be able to use it.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been using the old iPod interface for so long, but I feel much more at ease using it to navigate for music playing than I do for my iPhone. It’s all spin and click, no typing or swiping.

I still on occasion have an issue with the iPod not turning off, but it happens seldom enough that it’s not really a bother. Battery life also seems a bit shorter than it used to be, but hey, it is 5 years old and has been used a lot. The battery does hold a charge, so that’s good. The only really bothersome thing is that at some point it got confused and started showing the wrong artwork for some of the files on it. So I’ll be listening to Sleep and it shows album cover art for Cat Power. I’ve gotten used to it. A restore might fix that, but I’ve never had the energy to do one.

I don’t need apps, or wifi, or a camera, or anything except a music player, so as long as it holds out, I’ll keep using the 5th generation 30GB iPod for my automotive audio needs.

(And yes, I do realize that by posting the sentence above, it will somehow cease to function within a matter of weeks. I’ll let you know when that happens.)


Twitter Apps Reviewed

There are a lot of choices in Twitter apps for the iPhone (and now the iPad) but how do you choose which one you should use?

Obviously there is one criteria that is most important when looking at Twitter clients… Which one has the cutest icon?

Twitterrific Twitteriffic: I’m not a fan of birds, but the name “Twitter” and “tweet” and what not, it’s part of the Twitter brand, so it makes sense. This icon is probably cute if you like birds, but as I said, I don’t like birds.

Twitter Twitter for iPhone: This is the “official” Twitter client, and it’s not very cute. Another stupid bird. I’m not a fan of birds. Couldn’t they make a cute bird instead of this goofy silhouette bird?

Twittelator Twittelator: OK, this isn’t even a bird, it’s an egg! How is an egg cute? I guess if you don’t like birds (like I don’t like birds) then maybe Twittelator would be cute. Well, cuter than a bird anyway. (Though it appears to be a bird egg, so maybe it will be a bird someday.)

TwitBird TwitBird: Another bird? And this is really the most uncute bird of them all. It’s worse that the “official” Twitter for iPhone bird. Who wants to look at this bird? Not me! (The bright orange sunburst is sort of nice though…)

EchoFon EchoFon: Finally, not a bird! It appears to be a word balloon type thing. I suppose that’s better than a bird, but as far as being cute, this is not cute. Unless you somehow think word balloons are cute. Plus, it’s just one word balloon, not two, so it’s not even a proper conversation, it’s just one person shouting.

Osfoora Osfoora: Like EchoFon, Osfoora has an uncute name, and an uncute icon. Not one, but two word balloons! If one isn’t cute, how are two going to be cute? At least it looks like a conversation, which is what Twitter can and should be, unlike the one EchoFon balloon that looks like just one person talking.

HootSuite HootSuite: Finally, a cute bird! It’s an owl, and I really like owls. I like when they turn their heads around and rip apart mice. Owls are cool. HootSuite has a cool looking owl. It’s a bird, but not a stupid bird like other apps have. Owls are the best birds.

Brizzly Brizzly: OMG! From what I can tell, this is a bear wearing a bird costume! How freakin’ cute is that!? I mean, bears are way cuter than birds, but this bear has stepped it up a notch by masquerading as a bird, but he’s not really a bird. The cute-o-meter is almost up to 11 on this one!

Seesmic Seesmic: Home Run! It’s a raccoon! I mean… Come on! How cute is that little raccoon!? He’s got big eyes, and he looks a little startled like maybe you scared him, and he’s wearing a mask, because he’s a raccoon!

Wow, things got exciting at the end, eh? I mean, a bear and a raccoon battling it out for the supreme titled of Best Twitter App (based on how cute the icon is.) It’s a tough decisions… Bear or raccoon? I really don’t think you can go wrong with either one.


Mobile Phone Photography

With so many people carrying phones with them almost everywhere, and with these phones having better and better cameras, and with these phones having the ability to run applications that use these cameras, Mobile Phone Photography is a genre worth recognizing.

(I’m mainly going to touch on iPhone related stuff, but other platforms have their own apps and features.)

The iPhone camera is simple as heck, you launch it, you frame your shot on the screen, and you push a button. It’s probably the simplest camera you’ve ever used, and with good reason. There are numerous iPhone apps that allow you to use the camera to take a photo and immediately upload it to some online service such as Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, etc. I’m not going to cover every iPhone photo app out there, but I’m just going to outline a few of the apps I’ve used on the iPhone.


Best Camera from well-known photographer Chase Jarvis is a step-up from the basic camera app with a set of effects you can apply to your photos. You can shoot the photo directly in Best Camera (or open a photo from the library on your phone) and apply a number of effects and then choose to just save it or email it, or upload it to Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, or thebestcamera,com.The upload feature is simple to use, and I like it so much I often use it even when I’ve take a photo and modified it with other applications. Best Camera also lets you view images other have uploaded to the site. (Best Camera is $2.99 at the App Store.)


Hipstamatic is, well, how do I describe it… it’s like an old-timey 1970’s cheap plastic camera that turns your iPhone into a toy. Sort of. I first heard about this app when a co-worker mentioned she knew the guys behind it. If you’re a design-nerd, there’s a lot to love about this one… and if you’re just interested in an interesting camera experience, you’ll find that too. Hipstamatic is this “virtual camera” which hints at a future where more and more of the camera will be customized using software. I’ve heard the guys on TWIP talk about this idea of “a camera with a sensor and a lens mount, where everything interesting happens in software, possibly from 3rd parties” and this is like an early view of that. Hipstamatic also features the ability to swap (virtual) lenses, film, and flashes, which, when combined, create unique images. (Hipstamatic also features the ability to buy more lenses and accessories directly in the application, which is brilliant from a software developers point-of-view.) One annoyance about Hipstamatic is that you can’t open an existing image taken with other camera apps and apply effects to them, it’s sort of an all-inclusive affair where you take the photo in Hipstamatic and you process it there. (To the developer’s credit, I think this is intentional, but it annoys me.) Also, like many of these apps on the iPhone, it can’t easily work with the full resolution image, but often uses a scaled-down version, due to memory constraints and what not. (These are things that should go away in the future, as hardware/software advances.) Hipstamatic also has a community, and contests, and if you really want to get into, well, you can really get into it. See? Here’s a cat photo I took. (Hipstamatic is $1.99 at the App Store. Base-price, without additional accessories.)

photoshop Mobile is a great little free app that lets you do minor edits (contrast, saturation, crop, straighten, etc.) and apply effects to your images, and save them to Adobe’s web site. Personally I really don’t care about the web site, but Mobile is a free app with a few nice features, so if you want to install it and try it out, it’s pretty painless. ( Mobile is FREE at the App Store.)


Plastic Bullet is a great new app from Red Giant Software that lets you take a photo, or select one from your library, and apply effects. Again, we’re going after that “plastic toy camera” idea that is all the rage (See Hipstamatic above.) Plastic Bullet is simple, simple, simple. It shows you 4 completely random variations of your original image, and then you can either choose one, or generate 4 new ones. It’s never the same twice, so if you see one you like, save it! Stu Maschwitz is the main guy behind Plastic Bullet, and while it doesn’t do all the fancy uploading and sharing stuff, there’s a Flickr Group, and maybe keeping it simple like that is good enough. (Plastic Bullet is $1.99 at the App Store.)

I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick look at Mobile Phone Photography on the iPhone. It’s an interesting future, and I’ve got a few follow-up posts planned, so stay tuned!


Good Riddance 2008!

Hey Hey, it’s 2009! I am hoping for the best and a better year than 2008.

Here’s my recap, and because my memory is crap I will use the internets to remember things that I did or that happened to me in 2008.

In January we had DrupalCampWisconsin and it was cool. Personally, I was still getting over the passing away of my Dad the month before…

I spent February recording songs for the 2008 RPM Challenge. That was a lot of fun… an experiment in forced creativity. I’m not 100% pleased with what I produced, but more pleased that I did it. I will do it again in 2009.

March brought us the first MilwaukeeDevHouse, held at Bucketworks… People showed up and had a good time. All good…

Then there was April… I worked on a fairly large project, a Behind the Scenes video which premiered at the Majestic Theater in Waukesha… that was a trip! It was also when I decided to produce a documentary film (see Balancing Act) of course to offset all that, my cat was diagnosed with skin cancer, and needed surgery I could not afford, but got anyway… Luckily, she’s been good since then (and the fingers are crossed!)

Up next… May! We ended up moving in May. That was a major pain in the ass, and I miss living near the lake, but we are in a better place now, and the neighbors are not completely insane.

Now June, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times… We took a nice trip out East to visit relatives and to take an actual vacation. (Gasp!) I know… me? vacation? Yes, it happened… I got to play in the ocean, and do other vacation stuff, it was all good… Until my birthday, the worst birthday I’ve ever had. We missed our flight, I had to buy new tickets, Emma lost her camera, we had to go to Chicago instead of Milwaukee and have Milt pick us up… Disaster Birthday. Oh also, Bucketworks got destroyed in the flood, just like others in Wisconsin (and elsewhere) so hey, good times all around!

In July I spent every waking minute working to make up for taking a vacation in June. I don’t remember much… Oh wait, I think I remember being on hold with the IRS for 2 and 1/2 hours. That was not cool… Taxes? Paid off? Estimate 2010.

August saw the gang at Z2 building a new office. Any minute we didn’t spend doing client work, we were on ladders, hanging drywall, painting, putting in flooring, and packing and moving things. The office turned out great, so that’s all good. Oh wait, August is also when I decided to volunteer at a non-profit to help them rebuild after storm damage and dislocated my elbow (and toe) when a ladder I was on slipped. This made August officially worse than June, and I still can’t straighten my arm, and I’ll probably be paying medical bills until 2010. August sucked it so bad.

September was very depressing. I was dealing with having only one working arm, and living in fear of the medical bills to come, and setting up our new office, and planning for BarCampMilwaukee3, and… ugh, it just sucked, ok?

BarCampMilwaukee3 happened in October, and that was good! I learned a lot, and met new friends, and made new connections, and Bucketworks held up fine (except for the toilet exploding at 2AM, which I fixed) and my arm was doing a little better (out of the splint but still weak and not straight.)

November brought me a DSLR camera, which I love, and we had MilwaukeeDevHouse3, and that was fun, and hey, it brought the United States an election, and change, and so on, so now I am getting hopeful, even though my arm still hurts. I sure do like taking pictures though. Oh, Maddy and I missed Thanksgiving because she was sick, so we sat on the couch all day.

Along comes December, the end of the year. December seemed to go really fast. I took a crazy trip to New York/New Jersey which was crazy, and maybe it’s just me and traveling that is crazy, and maybe I shouldn’t. The holidays came, and they were ok, the best part was spending time with family. And the Wii. Definitely the Wii.

So without the cancer, and the injured arm, and the medical bills I can’t pay, and the taxes I still owe, and losing things, it was an OK year I guess…

(Dear 2009, please kick 2008’s ass in the AWESOME! category.)


iPod Review – One Year Later

I’ve had an iPod for just over a year now, so I thought I would make a few notes on it. I know the iPod is a beloved product, and the music player in some people’s minds, but it, like any other product (by Apple or otherwise) could use some improvements…

I have the 5th generation 30GB iPod with video. It was given to me by the lovely Dana. Before the iPod I was using a Rio 500, and an iRiver IPF-180T.

I had one annoying issue with syncing my iPod, but other than that, it’s been pretty much problem-free.

Now, in comparison, the Rio 500 still beats the iPod for bookmarking. The Rio has a button that will set a bookmark in any MP3 file. No so with the iPod. It does not support bookmarking of any audio file. This is annoying, especially as it was a feature I used daily, and had to give up on when I moved to the iPod.

The iPod does remember what is playing when you turn it off and continues from there (of course my cassette player did this in 1975 as well) but this fails when you plug your iPod into your computer! So if I’m half way through a podcast, and then want to charge or sync my iPod, it forgets where I was after ejecting, and I’m back at the home screen, and damned if I can remember what I was listening to. Sucks…

The iPod interface is simple, but I know at least one other person who has one that occasionally will not turn off, and has said “Couldn’t they just put a damn ON/OFF button on it?” Sometimes mine won’t turn off, so I just put it in my bag and hope it turns off automatically after a few minutes.

The iPod interface also requires you to look, or at least be able to feel around and guess where to push. Other players (with actual buttons) allow you to memorize where the buttons are and what they do. I could operate my Rio while driving and never take my eyes off the road. This seems to be a big concern with the iPhone as well, it will require visual attention to be able to use it.

The Rio kicks the iPod to the curb in regards to bookmarking, but that’s about it. As for the iRiver, the one I have is a cheap, low-end model, and the interface is horrible. The advantages it has is that it can record using a built-in microphone (I wish mine had an audio input though) and has an FM tuner. You can also combine these and record live from the radio. I guess it also plays WMA files, but I don’t have any of those. I mainly use it as a cheap, portable recording device, even though the quality is fairly poor in noisy situations. (I did use it to record myself snoring once.)

In summary, I do love the iPod, but it’s not the ultimate player. It could use some improvements. I’m not sure Apple will ever improve it to my satisfaction, but I thought it was worth critiquing.

(This post just talks about the iPod as an audio player. I plan to follow-up with it’s use as a video player as well.)