Fonzing my iPhone

This is fun.

I’ve had problems with my iPhone button on and off for months. Late Sunday, it stopped responding (again). No matter what I did, I couldn’t get it to click. I’d press dozens of times, and the screen would just sit there, taunting me. Restarting the phone every time I want to change an app is no fun, I must say.

Originally, I blamed the hardware. The button on my last phone wore out after about a year, too. Later, I blamed software. I thought maybe a badly coded app was sticking it to the OS. Then I updated iOS, and it happened again right after the update. My suspicion turned to iOS itself. But that wasn’t consistent. I’ve come full circle, now, back to hardware.

The most recent episode lasted until Tuesday, during which time my iPhone was essentially useless. Then I dropped it while trying to juggle the device and a few other items as I signed the paperwork to enter a local 5K.

Bingo. Dropping it on my foot jarred back into place whatever doesn’t work behind that button. Responsiveness for days. Or hours, at least. It stopped reacting to clicks again later that day. Bam! I clunked it hard on a table on the headphone-jack side. Back in business. Fonz, meet jukebox.

At least now I know how to fix it. Funny. We build these advanced devices that get more and more advanced all the time. And when they break, it’s still a swift kick or a good thump that fixes them.

Facebook and good enough

I recently updated the Google+ app on my iPhone, and it’s as stunning as it is useful. It makes the Facebook app look like the broken down amalgamation it is. The problem? You can’t be social without other people.

It frustrates me. Facebook is good enough, and that’s good enough for most people. But I care about my social media experience and I’m sick of dealing with Facebook: the games, the sticky social readers, the interface (mobile and desktop). I yearn for something clean, uncluttered. Facebook, essentially, doesn’t make me want to use Facebook. What Facebook needs is a 2.0 version that isn’t a kludgy cobbling together of everything that developers have added to the site over time. I don’t expect that to happen anytime soon.

Competition abounds: Twitter, Google+, Path. Even Diaspora. All of these elegant services have a user experience that doesn’t get in the users’ way. So, with the exception of Twitter, why do they fail to pull in users? I wish I knew. I bet their developers wish they knew, too.

Friends of mine on Facebook likely notice that I almost always post there from Twitter. Twitter doesn’t constantly tell me who played what word in the latest social crossword game. Yes, I block these things. New ones come on line all the time.

Facebook going public will only accelerate the monetization of interactions. That means more games, more ads, more of everything that I think gets in the way of social interaction.

The only solution? Diversify. Google+ isn’t the Facebook alternative. It is one alternative. Try Path (which is mobile-only), Pair (for something really intimate), Diaspora (if you want an invite, ask me, but it’s about to open to everyone), or Twitter.

I know the inertia of staying. But I also know Facebook’s interface bugs me more and more. So, who’s with me?

True digital native

I shudder to think what the future holds for girlie in terms of technology. How we rely on and interact with technology has changed fast in my lifetime, and the pace of tech evolution seems to accelerate by the year.

Girlie’s skill with tech started earlier than I expected: She’s been able to operate the slide lock on my iPhone since about 15 months. Since then, she’s grown into quite the adept. She zips through screens on our iPhones and iPad finding “her” apps. PBS Kids is a favorite, where she can find Dr. Seuss and Noah Comprende shorts. She also likes Youtube (and has a knack for finding Annoying Orange videos) and Penguins, which is a live cam of the California Academy of Sciences penguinarium. And Koi Pond.

She’s never known a world where she can’t video chat with her uncle and his cat on a mobile phone. Yesterday, she told me she wanted to see grandma on my iPhone. I forget just how she asked in her two-and-a-half year-old’s vocabulary, but she wanted to video chat with grandma. It’s as natural to her as ketchup on chicken nuggets.

Things change fast. I won’t recognize her world in 20 years. But, then again, I thought we’d have flying cars by now.

Odds and ends

I finally feel like I’m much closer to mended than broken. The course of antibiotics ended Tuesday and I stopped having the weakness I think the drugs caused. In fact, I ran 7 miles Wednesday.

So, I’m encouraged. Running makes me happy, and not running or hitting bouts of weakness when I did frustrated me.

Other than that, I’m just trying to get back to the business of life. 20120301-230438.jpg

I found a fun iPhone app, which can make whole comic books a page at a time. Doubt I’d make a whole book, but making single panels is fun. Girlie has starred in a couple of them, like this one. She likes the PBS show “Super Why!” and has taken to wrapping herself in her blanket like a cape. She runs around the house cooing “I’m super!”

The results, of course, are adorable and perfect fodder for ComicBook. The app has a straightforward simplicity, like a comic book. I highly recommend it.

In other ruminations, I look forward to this weekend for not one, but two!, date nights with Mrs. Blocletters. We have a more formal event Friday and another night out planned Saturday. Apart from making our sitter rich, it’ll almost be like those carefree pre-parenthood days. We take ’em as we get ’em.

Oh, and one last thing: I doubt I’d use it, but I halfway want to give these people my money just for proof of concept. It’s another iPhone app, this one called Zombies, Run! It turns exercise into a narrated game based in the zombie apocalypse. How cool is that? I just saw it hit the App Store, and looks like it’s also available for Android. Need a little motivation to run? Being chased by zombies can help. It’s $8, so some may think that’s a little steep. But, I stand firmly in the camp that good software is worth sacrificing a couple Starbucks runs.

Brain droppings

I suck at blogging anymore. What can I say? Being a dad, husband, runner, etc. takes time. That’s not to say I don’t take those responsibilities seriously, just that time spent on them crowds out less pressing activities.

Anyway, here’s what’s up.

I just finished the Millennium trilogy. Lisbeth Salander ranks high among the most original characters I’ve seen put to paper. The level of detail Stieg Larsson put into the three books reminds me of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I consider myself fiction shy and Larsson not only got me reading, but had me losing sleep.

In high rotation: “Love,” the Beatles remix soundtrack to the Cirque du Soleil show of the same name.

Mrs. Blocletters and watched “The Social Network” on On Demand, adding another Oscar contender to our list of seen-its. Ho-hum. I enjoyed it. But I walked out of “Black Swan” thinking “I’ve never seen anything like that before,” and I had no such feeling for the Facebook movie. I honestly don’t understand the Oscar buzz for it I heard this fall before “The King’s Speech” caught fire.

Things, a to-do manager I bought ages ago for my iPhone, gets a reprieve. The slow-as-all-get-out developer finally added repeating tasks, making the app actually useful. I had given up on it, but came back with the update because I paid $10 for the damn software and need to get my money’s worth.

I gave up on a spring marathon. Back pain kept me from the start of training for the inaugural Kalamazoo Marathon. Inertia got the best of me after the back pain went away. I want to run a marathon just for the hell of it (i.e., not a formal race) in the first half of this year, but we’ll see. I can still run seven or eight miles without too much complaint from the body, so the baseline remains.

Oh, and this weekend’s Coolest. Thing. Ever: Using a hack from YouTube, I made an iPhone stylus from a piece of a telescoping antenna and a bit of conductive foam. I stuffed a piece of foam, packing material for a $2 transistor I bought at Radio Shack, into the end of a length of antenna, also from the Shack, and voila, touch-screen love.

And our toddler is growing into a little girl faster than I can brace for it.

Back on the road

I’m not 100 percent, but my fractured foot is well on the mend. I now have my first two runs since early July under my belt and happily report both went well.

I logged the first Aug. 31 — a little over a mile in a little over 10 minutes. The second I ran today, about two and a half miles at a 8:42 average pace. I felt a little tinge of soreness in the injured foot after the first run. After today’s run, I’m happy to report no soreness (so far) in that foot.

What I did notice today, on a fairly hilly run: tightness in my chest. Two months off from running apparently made my heart soft and pasty, and my lungs stingy. I labored through the hills and found myself around the second mile looking for the finish line.

That’s okay, though. It’ll come back, as sure as the foot will heal.

Also, these runs served as a good test for Run Keeper, the new-to-me log app. It works with the GPS in my new iPhone, and seems to track pretty well. The distance it measured for the first run matched Gmaps Pedometer (what I had been using to calculate distance) almost exactly. For the second, longer run, it had a one-twentieth of a mile difference from GPed. While that difference could add up over a much longer run, it’s close enough for me. Plus, I can live with a little difference in exchange for not having to plot the maps myself when I get home. Run Keeper also keeps stats of pace, elevation, speed, calories burned and split times.

I have used the app Pace for almost two years. It records distance, duration and average pace, and calculates calories. I’ll likely still use it, doing double entry, since Run Keeper apparently doesn’t allow for tracking miles logged on a pair of shoes (like the 600-plus-mile Nikes I really should retire — but they’re so comfortable!), or miles logged toward a goal (like marathon training).

Anyway, to summarize: I’m back. And it feels good.

New iPhone impressions 2

Here’s a follow up to the last post. Now that I’ve had the iPhone 4 for a few days, a few more thoughts:

  • I can now duplicate the “grip of death,” getting the bars to drop. To get the effect, I have to hold the device just so with my left hand and without a case. I don’t really see this as an issue, since the idea of buying a $200 device and not wrapping a protective case around it is a bit alien to me. My 1st-gen case fits well enough to hold me over until Apple sends a free one.

  • The threaded email is long overdue. Having email on the phone match what Gmail has trained me to expect avoids a minor mental hassle. Having integrated inboxes is an added bonus.
  • I can’t emphasize much processing speed and battery life have changed in three years since the 1st gen version dropped. I never used Bluetooth or notifications with my 1st gen. Now, it’s the norm.

I did drop one call today. I had the case on the device at the time, so it wasn’t the dreaded antenna issue. Probably just a network hiccup. Of course, that could just be the fanboy talking. Dropped call or not, this is a stellar device. Its value lies in the hundreds of things it does, all well. That it also makes calls just ices the cake.

New iPhone impressions

I admit I did a little happy dance when the email from Apple to let me know my new iPhone was ready for pickup arrived this morning. Mrs. Blocletters bought it just two days ago for my birthday. At the time, they told her the wait could stretch for three weeks. Imagine my surprise.

First impressions:

  • The speed and display put the 1st generation iPhone I retired to shame.

  • I tried to duplicate the antenna issue and couldn’t. Maybe I just need to work on my “grip of death.” I don’t know.
  • The video and camera, both forward and backward facing, work as expected. I didn’t yet put the flash though its paces.

Maybe more thoughts later as I put it through a few days of use.