Monthly Archives: February 2011

iOS 101: How to Use Multitasking on Your iPhone or iPad

Since the release of iOS 2.0, users were annoyed that Apple hadn’t yet implemented multitasking — the ability to run more than one application at a time — on the iPhone. Fast forward two years to the release of iOS 4.0, when Apple finally introduced the feature. Some users may not yet have a good grasp on how to use iOS multitasking, yet, though. For those users, here’s multitasking explained.

Activating Multitasking

When you’re running an application that supports multitasking (all of Apple’s apps do, as well as many from the App Store), all you have to do is exit the application like you normally would, using the Home button. The application is automatically suspended and is waiting in the background for you to open it back up again. Not all apps are actually suspended though; there are some applications which will continue running even when they’re closed, such as music players and navigation apps. There’s no need to treat these applications differently, though. If the developers of the app have included support for running in the background, it will happen automatically.

The same thing happens when you receive a call on your iPhone; the application is suspended and sent to the background, ready for when you finish talking.

Returning to an App

When you’re ready to go back to an app waiting in the background, simple press the Home button twice quickly. This opens the multitasking bar, which shows you all the applications which are currently open on your device.

Simply tap an app’s icon to open it back up. It will open as usual, but will resume from exactly how it was when you closed it (if it supports auto-resume). For instance, if you were using a to-do list application, and you were halfway through editing an item, the app will open at the editing screen again and you’ll be able to carry on from where you were. This also happens if you come back from a call. The app you had open when the call came in will return in the same place it was.

Close Running Applications

In some rare cases, you may want to stop an application which is waiting in the background. To do this, open up the multitasking bar with a double-tap of the Home button. Then, find the app you want to close, and press and hold its icon. The apps in the bar will wiggle, like when you organize the Home screen, and red minus icons will show up above each app. Just tap a minus icon, and the corresponding application will be closed. It won’t be in the background, so the next time you open it, it will start from the first screen again, not from where you were when you last had it open.

More Multitasking Bar Features

The multitasking bar also houses some other useful features. If you swipe your finger to the right, a set of controls appears which allow you to control any music playing on your device, as well as lock the orientation of the screen. The iPad also features two sliders, one for the volume and one for the screen brightness. The iPod controls work with your device’s iPod music as you’d expect, but they also work for a music application running in the background. For example, start listening to the Pandora app and the controls will work with Pandora.

To stop your screen rotating when you turn the device (useful for reading in bed), tap the grey icon on the left. That’s the orientation lock switch, which determines whether the screen will rotate or not.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

Add a Second Priority Inbox to Gmail for Your Most Important Contacts [Gmail Tip]

We’ve shown you a few ways to make the best of Gmail’s priority inbox, but blogger and venture capitalist Fred Wilson reminds us of another lesser-known feature: You can actually add a fourth pane to your inbox view for any extra labels you may want. More »







How To Attend A Funeral [Etiquette]

Sadly, most of us will be called upon to attend a funeral at some point in our lives. These occasions can be pretty stressful (what do I say? how do I act?); our sister site Jezebel offers tips to help you get through them. [Jezebel] More »







Tax Write-Off “Cheats” That You Won’t Feel Too Guilty About [Tax Time]

Write off “business pet” expenses, deduct the costs of volunteering your time, and expense home improvements: a former IRS officer lists at Get Rich Slowly quite a few clever ways to “cheat” on your taxes. [Get Rich Slowly] More »







Zinc Is Probably the Most Effective Cold Treatment Known to Medicine [Illness]

The moment you’re semi-sure you’re getting a cold, get some zinc lozenges. That’s the result of a meta-analysis of 15 different scientific studies of the mineral, and cut the length of coughing and sneezing days by 40 percent. More »







In-App Subscriptions Could Go Way Beyond Periodicals

Apple today introduced in-app subscriptions in the iOS App Store, and while the announcement seems aimed at publishers of periodicals like magazines and digital newspapers, there’s little reason to expect subscriptions to be limited to those apps alone.

By expanding the availability of in-app purchasing to more application types, Apple could usher in new revenue models for apps offering online gaming, tiered customer support, in-app currency, premium content and software-as-a-service (SaaS).

An easy example of how this might work would be a pay-to-play MMO along the lines of World of Warcraft, which would charge users a monthly subscription fee. A developer could make their game strictly limited to subscribers after a trial period (like The Daily is now), or provide ongoing access to additional premium content for those who hold a recurring subscription, and basic, free access to all other users.

Apps could also offer tiered customer support on a subscription basis. For example, Shane Ketterman, editor of TCGeeks, suggested to me that app developers might offer a $4.99/month subscription package that would guarantee lifetime upgrades and 24-hour customer support. Such packages are commonplace with desktop software, after all. Obviously, this would only appeal to a limited subset of iOS users, but it could be popular among enterprise customers.

Devs could even choose to wall-off special sections of their apps behind subscription-based pay wall or provide varying levels of access to SaaS customers, as Ken Seto pointed out on Twitter. The just-launched ZenDesk web-based customer support iPad app, for instance, could offer differing levels of access and feature sets depending on a user’s subscription level, just like it does on the web.

Apple’s press release detailing the in-app subscription model was key to use “publishers” throughout when referring to the parties who would be implementing the feature, and even specified that it would be “available to all publishers of content-based apps on the App Store, including magazines, newspapers, video, music, etc.” While it’s unclear whether that means uses like those mentioned above will fly (the “etc.” leaves a lot of wiggle room), it’s obvious Apple intends this model to be used by music and video-based apps, too. Subscription-based music services like Spotify (and now Last.fm) will then possibly have to comply, which could be bad news for their revenue share, but good news for user convenience and adoption. Netflix and Hulu, too, might have to begin offering an in-app subscription option, although it isn’t clear whether Apple’s use of the term “publisher” in this context includes large-scale distributors like the companies I’ve just mentioned.

Small producers like Majek Studios, on the other hand, which produces an ongoing web series specifically for the iOS platform, seem like exactly the type of content providers Apple is referring to. The availability of in-app subscriptions could be a huge boon to independent producers like Majek, since it provides a dependable, recurring revenue stream for ongoing film and video projects.

In-app subscriptions open up a realm of new possibilities for iOS revenue models, but Apple is clearly keen to keep tight control over which of those possibilities it allows to see the light of day. Here’s hoping they open it up to a variety of different implementations, because I think it could user in a new level of platform maturity for Apple’s smartphone operating system.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

Apple Officially Launches App Store Subscriptions

Apple finally released official details regarding App Store subscriptions Tuesday, and it’s the same system that launched alongside News Corp.’s “The Daily” on Feb. 2. Under this system, subscriptions in the App Store must be sold using the existing in-app purchasing system found in iOS. Publishers now must offer subscriptions for purchase within their apps if they intend to have a subscription option at all, cutting Apple in on their revenue and possibly threatening the external store model employed by Amazon and others.

Publishers choose a weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, bi-yearly or yearly subscription period, and customers can then decide how long they wish to subscribe for, and are charged the appropriate amount depending on their choice. Subscriptions are managed through their personal iTunes account page, and customers are free to cancel any auto-renewals at any time. As expected, Apple takes a 30-percent cut of any subscriptions purchased through the App Store.

Apple is quick to point out that publishers can still offer subscriptions outside of their apps, too — so long as they also offer the in-app subscription method:

Publishers who use Apple’s subscription service in their app can also leverage other methods for acquiring digital subscribers outside of the app. For example, publishers can sell digital subscriptions on their web sites, or can choose to provide free access to existing subscribers. Since Apple is not involved in these transactions, there is no revenue sharing or exchange of customer information with Apple. Publishers must provide their own authentication process inside the app for subscribers that have signed up outside of the app. However, Apple does require that if a publisher chooses to sell a digital subscription separately outside of the app, that same subscription offer must be made available, at the same price or less, to customers who wish to subscribe from within the app. In addition, publishers may no longer provide links in their apps (to a web site, for example) which allow the customer to purchase content or subscriptions outside of the app.

Apple seems to have relented regarding the ability for publishers to provide free access to existing subscribers, something the company was originally reported to have opposed. That Apple is preventing publishers from including in-app links to subscription or store websites may result in even more bad blood between them, however. It almost ensures most customers will just use in-app purchases to subscribe, since the cost to them is the same and it’s far more convenient. The wording of the release makes it seem as though apps such as Amazon’s Kindle could also eventually be affected, though a new recent update to that app was approved overnight and the link to the Kindle Store website remains in place.

Publishers will also get names, email addresses and zip codes of subscribers (although customers will be able to opt out). That’s a bit of a compromise, since Apple had originally been reluctant to provide any data at all to publishers, according to reports. Under the new system, publishers can even seek additional information about customers, providing they make clear that it’s a choice, and that that data will fall under the publisher’s privacy policy, not Apple’s.

This press release definitely strikes a more starkly informative tone than the short, jubilant ones Apple is generally known to release. The company’s outlining of very specific details regarding the new in-app purchasing mechanism suggests that it wants to tread very carefully, with publishers and end users alike. What do you think? Is this fair, or is Apple asking too much from its publishing partners?

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

How to Get Turn-by-Turn Navigation on a MacBook Air

When choosing between a MacBook Air and an iPad 3G, you might think you’re giving up GPS if you go with the MacBook.  That may not be entirely true, depending on what you want to do with GPS.  There are plenty of Mac-friendly Bluetooth GPS receivers and data loggers that can provide both realtime and recorded GPS data to your MacBook Air.

The one I’ve been using most late is the Columbus v-900 Bluetooth Data Logger ($99 on Amazon). Once paired with your MacBook Air, you can track your movements, record waypoints, and even plan a route.  Voice-guided, turn-by-turn navigation with live, updated routes is also possible on a MacBook Air thanks to an application titled RouteBuddy.

Pairing Your Bluetooth GPS Receiver

As with all Bluetooth devices, paring with a Mac is straight forward and easy.  Once this setup task is complete, the GPS receiver will be accessible to GPS-enabled software like RouteBuddy.  To pair the Columbus V-900 GPS receiver (and most others, too), follow these simple steps:

  1. From System Preferences, click on Bluetooth in the Internet & Wireless section.
  2. Click on the “+” icon in the bottom left corner of the device list to add a new Bluetooth device.
  3. Select the device from the list and click Continue.
  4. Once paring is successful, click Quit.

Once pairing is established, you’ll have to access it through your software of choice, since OS X does not have the same CoreLocation service available to it as iOS does. And because connectivity to the receiver over Bluetooth happens via the serial interface, only one application at a time can access GPS information.

Making location available to RouteBuddy is easy. It just knows that a valid GPS receiver has been paired and turned on, and starts using it automatically upon launch.

RouteBuddy for Mac With Detailed Road Maps and a POI Database

RouteBuddy and its iOS companion app RouteBuddy Atlas are the perfect pair for planning and documenting a trip.  The Mac version can do turn-by-turn navigation, and the iOS version focuses primarily on topographical maps and creating waypoints and tracks.  The road maps that RouteBuddy uses are based on Tele Atlas mapping data, the same service that Google uses for its maps, and the one acquired by TomTom in 2007.  Once you’ve purchased and installed RouteBuddy for Mac (currently on sale for $59) and the detailed road map of the United States (sold separately for $39), you’ll need to install and register your map with the software.  Once complete, you’re ready to create your first navigable route:

  1. Select two or more Waypoints that you want to create a route between.
  2. From the Map menu, select the Create Route menu item.
  3. Double-click on the resulting route to change the order of the destinations if more than two waypoints were selected.
  4. Select the route you want to use from the drop down list of selections in the library on the left.
  5. Click Start to begin your turn-by-turn navigation.

There are several other ways to create a route from within RouteBuddy, too.  You can even connect to RouteBuddy Atlas (available for free from the App Store) on your iOS device via WebDav to access the waypoints and tracks you have recorded, and import them into RouteBuddy for Mac. When navigating, RouteBuddy will even recalculate the route if you don’t follow the turn-by-turn directions exactly, just like a dedicated GPS navigation device.  The points of interest database is quite extensive, with over 4 million items.  The smaller size of the MacBook Air’s screen makes it a perfect choice for use with RouteBuddy, but always remember to keep your eyes on the road, no matter what device you’re depending on to get from point A to point B.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

Introduction to Virtual Networks

Project crossbow, the virtualized network stack is a gem of [Solaris11|Nexenta|OpenSolaris]. Jeff Victor has written a good three part introduction to the gains of virtual networks and examples on to how to use Crossbow together with zones, well worth a read:

Virtual networks part 1
Virtual networks part 2
Virtual networks part 3

Xcode 4 Icons

Well, now that Xcode 4 is GM, it has the same icon as Xcode 3.25. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be an issue, since a GM release means you can throw out the old one and use it full-time.

Only, you may not be able to with all of your projects. Xcode 4 GM has a few issues that make it hard to go full-time with it, including a linker error that can only be worked around by turning some level of code optimization, a change that makes it hard to debug. A few of these problems impact projects I’m working on, so as a result, I have to grudgingly use Xcode 3.25 for some tasks.

Despite a small handful of problems, though, Xcode 4 is where I want to be whenever possible. Having multiple identical icons in your Dock can be a bit of a pain.

Unfortunately, I didn’t save the old Xcode 4 installers. If I had, I would have just gone and stolen the old preview icon and continued using that. Since I didn’t, I did the same thing I did for beta iOS releases and made a customized version of the app icon for Xcode 4. If you want to use it, you can download it here. To install, you just copy the .icns file into Xcode 4′s app bundle, replacing the existing one. And, no, replacing the icon file with a new one doesn’t cause problems with Xcode 4 due to code signing, though I feared it might.

This is what it looks like:

Xcode

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