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iPhone Review

I haven’t had a cell phone worth writing about for two years. My venerable Sony i610 is now history, enter iPhone 2.0. Joel just did his review of the Nokia n71 so I hope there is room for one more geeks perspective on the iPhone.

My last Apple device, a 40GB iPod, was not worth the price of admission. The hard disk failed before I got my moneys worth. With a phone, you just need it to remain reliable for the length of the contract. That’s a minimum requirement. We will see how this device holds up long term.

Size & Feel

It’s larger than my last phone but much thinner. Walking around with the device in my pocket feels more comfortable than the Sony. In my hand it feels too slippery. It could really use some texture around the edges to help the user keep hold of it. I’ll be getting some sort of slip cover to help with this.

It does get a bit warm if you start using the networking or push the CPU.


It’s no computer keyboard but it works well. I’m writing this entire post on the phone. Since it’s slower than a full sized keyboard it may be helping to keep the word count down. I’ve never had a cell phone/PDA with a full keyboard so I can’t compare it to that experience.

The auto correction works well. You can mostly trust it to do the right thing even if you fat finger stuff.


It rocks. I’ve given the phone to a few people to do simple tasks like take a photo. So far I haven’t had to show them how to do anything.

Battery Life

I was really worried about this because of the reviews I had read. I have used the device now in two very different ‘modes’ with very different battery life results.

First I went to a 4 day conference in Orlando.  This involved traveling for most of the day, using airport and hotel WiFi, G3 data when there was no wifi, push e-mail etc. At the conference I got about 5 hours of screen on time each day before the battery went out. It’s clear that the biggest battery sync is video. You can just watch the bar go down over as little as half an hour. On my 2 1/2 hour flight to Orlando I switched back over to audio to save the battery. If this sounds like your typical usage then you might want to consider another device. If I was going to use the device like this ever single day I would want to double the battery life.

If I use the iPhone like I used my old phone I can go 4 days between charges! The WiFi is left on but does not auto connect. I only use the phone to make a few calls and texts. Most of that time I was in an area with no G3 coverage so that may have helped. 4 days is better than my old phone so I’m pretty happy about that.

Overall I think this works out well for me. The device is powerful and I can use it in when I’m on the road to stay connected. When I’m near a computer (which is most of the time) I can set it to have long battery life. Its a nice trade off, a super powerful device in your pocket when you need it.


When an app launches the browser you can’t return to that app from the browser. This is now a common task, send the user off to the Internet. Some mechanism needs to be added to return directly to the app that launched the browser. Twitterific is a great exception to this. The embedded apps need to learn from this.

The contacts interface sucks. I should be able to get to search from anywhere in the contacts list. As it is I have to scroll to the top of the list. In fact. Plus they have a bug where typing shows way down in contacts. The new 2.1 firmware totally fixed this issue. I would still prefer if the search view was the default view for contacts. I rarely scrolled through the contacts on my old phone.

If your using the Phone app and the phone rings, how do you answer it? There needs to be a button that indicates the current or incoming call.


This is really a mixed bag. Getting the UI right on the phone requires thought. I haven’t found the a todo app yet that I like, I may have to write one. A good note taker app would be nice too. The built in one is trying to be a little too much like paper.

The real kicker is the Remote app. This lets you manipulate iTunes over WiFi in your house! So if your in the garage all you need is some cheap speakers and an Airport Express and you are in business. Finally a good way to get online radio in the house.


It’s not as bad as some have said! Not for the serious 24-7 business user, ideal for more casual users. The 2.1 firmware fixed many issues. Go get one.

Python Project

I want to do a project in Python. It could be something from scratch or maybe a contribution to an existing project.

  • It could be something to do with media
  • It could be a todo list web application I’ve been thinking about doing, perhaps on Google’s App Engine
  • It could be something that runs on embedded systems.
  • It could be something to do with model airplanes in some way

I just don’t know exactly what I should do. I have programmers block.

Suggestions welcome…

YUI CSS Kicks Ass

I was looking for a color picker widget over at Yahoos YUI site. I have been there before mostly to watch the videos on Javascript. Douglas Crockford is obviously the man when it comes to Javascript.

Anyway, I saw a link for a video on YUI’s CSS component and I was just a little bit interested. I though it was probably just another CSS reset. There was some vague promise of Grids and I couldn’t imagine how they could make that easy so I still didn’t think it looked promising.

Wow was I wrong. If you haven’t seen this then you need to go check it out. Nate Koechley and crew have done a seminal piece of CSS work here. Here are the highlights:

  • They provide a reset for all styles and fonts in all major browsers, including IE6. You are leveraging all the cross browser testing done by Yahoo
  • Everything (fonts, boxes etc) is sized with em’s or percentages of em’s so the entire page will scale gracefully for 508C
  • The Grids can be nested. You can do 2, 3 or 4 columns in a variety of width ratios (e.g. 2 columns: 1/4, 3/4 )
  • Its really simple to use

At work we have struggled with CSS. We don’t have a full time web designer to work for us. So the devs do all the html & css. I’m fairly handy with this sort of thing but have no where near enough time to produce the level of product that you can get with YUI. Other devs have even less patience for this sort of thing. For us this make a whole lot of sense.

We are really sensitive to the semantic markup of the page and the use of em’s for 508C support. We want it to be nice to use not just live up to the letter of some spec. I started using em’s when we first did the style sheet but I was about to give up because it was getting so difficult to use. Now its going to be easy to provide the kind of experience and cross browser compatibility that I have wanted all along.

Just go to Yahoo’s home page and increase the font size. Look at how smoothly that works and realize how hard that is to set up. Now realize you can do that to your site and still get work done faster than before. Your developers can pick this up in an hour or two and start building better stuff.

260 Build Update #3

On with the Sheeting. I did the Belly Pan, Hatch, both H-Stabs, Rudder and Turtle Deck in that order. Then I got help from Dan to do the wings.
I used the method I like best for spreading the glue is a small foam roller that you can get at Walmart. This really gets a nice thin layer of glue evenly all over the sheet. Just keep rolling until the sheet turns a uniform color and you don’t see any big globs of glue left on it. For the wings I think I used 6oz of glue and at least 1oz of that is waste that ends up in the roller. So at most there is 1.25oz of glue on each skin. Each wings had at least 400lbs on it.

I put parchment paper between the shucks and the skins. The upside of this is glue can’t get through the skins. The downside is the parts tend to move around very freely until the weight is applied. Take some care and time to align the part with the shucks so its sits square. I used about 300 pounds of weight on all of the other parts in the form of various concrete blocks I got for a few cents each at Home Depot. Even with all that I didn’t get good adhesion around the edges of some parts. I guess the gap between the shuck and the part was just wider there.
You want to take some care with the rudder sheeting alignment. I just joined the Fin and Rudder sheeting parts with masking tape over the plans so that they covered up the whole rudder. Put the foam over the plan and make some reference marks so you know approximately where you want the sheeting to lay down. Try and get the seam to run through the area that will be cut out for the hinge line. Don’t do anything stupid when cutting off the excess sheeting. Use a sharp blade and then a sanding block to make it smooth. I chipped some parts with a dull blade and I’m regretting it now. A hobby saw works well for the curves.
So I’m sure you can see the holes in some of the parts. The hatch, belly pan and turtle deck are all cosmetic parts. They don’t contribute much in the way of strength to the model. So they make great targets for lightning. I’m going to guess that I saved about 5oz off the airframe and much of that is from behind of the CG. This technique leaves the part fully sheeted so its easy to cover but it avoids large chunks of foam and the glue that goes with it. Here is the HowTo:

Mark a reference line down the center of the part and the center of the sheeting.

Make a template of the boundaries of 1/2 of the part.

Draw your cutouts on the template and cut them out. Be smart, do triangles or cut in the same direction as the surface curvature.

Place the template on the reference line and mark the cutouts. Flip and repeat for the other side.

Cut out the foam with a Dremel router or hot wire tool. IMPORTANT: Keep the tool perpendicular to the surface. Put cutouts back into place with a loop of tape.

Place overlapping strips of masking tape on parchment paper and cut out shapes.

Use the template to position the cut out tape over the part.

Then just spread glue as normal, peel off the tape and carefully align the foam part with the reference mark on the skin. Set up the part in the shuck as normal. When the glue dries you will have to pull out the routed foam pieces, none of mine stuck to the wood.

    I tried a few different procedures on the hatch and belly pan. The above steps are more involved but the result is the best. The turtle deck isn’t trimmed yet and it weighs 2.5oz (72g). 20g of foam was removed. I don’t know how much I saved on glue because I had to work fast and didn’t get the parts on the scale.