iPhone Laser Range Finder — my new product

I’ve been busy here in Hong Kong coming up with some new gadgets, and the first one is now ready through Makible.com. An iPhone / Android laser range finder attachment.  Simply place this against the wall, snap a picture, and the app will tell you the distance.  Pretty cool stuff. Available Now        ]]>

Facetime as a security camera in one simple command line

Facetime (Free on your iPhone/iPad or .99¢ on your desktop) is a nice high resolution way of doing face-to-face conferences between any two people in the Apple iOS environment.  Want to Facetime grandpa from the iPhone?  It can be done (with a wifi). But with such a nice interface, the question has arisen throughout the net “Can I use Facetime as a Baby Monitor?” and “Can I use Facetime as a security camera”.  The problem was that Facetime required you to actively accept an incoming request, much like you have to pick up a phone to speak to someone who is calling you. Intrepid hackers moved quickly to find a solution to the auto-answering Facetime question.  A simple Applescript solution has been posted for a few months now that enables, when running, Facetime to answer an incoming call without any human interaction.  But after just a few minutes of playing with this script (hanging up, reconnecting, failing, etc) I discovered it wasn’t the be all end all of answers. Wouldn’t you know, there is a much more elegant solution, thanks in large part to Apple’s foresight (and possible future software upgrades).  Hidden in the preferences for Facetime at the configuration file level is a function for Auto Accept incoming calls.  Typing this simple command for example would enable your Facetime to start automatically anytime Steve Jobs sent you a request, simply by opening your terminal and typing in this line: defaults write com.apple.FaceTime AutoAcceptInvitesFrom -array-add [email protected] Now the slightly more confusing bit is that you should probably have a second Apple ID tied to the Facetime you intend to use as a security camera.  I used a second email address and registered a new Apple ID to tie to that computer running the auto-accepting Facetime. But I can confirm it works.  I have a monitor now set up in the living room so I can check on the boys as they terrorize the nanny and the neighbor kids.  Works so well that I’m now thinking of getting a higher resolution camera (Logitech 1080p Webcam Pro C910) to record their crimes for future prosecution.  ]]>

Trapped and injured in an earthquake? There's an iPhone app for that

Dan Woolley was trapped under the rubble of the Haiti earthquake without much information about what to do.  He was in pain, but not sure of his overall situation.  He needed help, and believe it or not, it was just a finger slide away. His iPhone. Woolley used his iPhone as a flashlight (a totally under-appreciated function) to diagnose his foot as broken.

Then, he used the instructions from (a medical) app to treat the excessive bleeding from cuts on his legs and the back of his head.  Woolley used his shirt to tie off the three-inch gash that was opened on his leg and a sock to bandage the back of his head. He said he also looked up ways to stop from going into shock.
Woolley also used the notepad function to type out his last notes to his wife and kids, should he not make it.  But he survived and is back doing the talk show rounds this morning. On a slightly more serious note, there are several iPhone applications on sale today with the proceeds going to benefit Haiti earthquake relief.]]>

How to download a Youtube video with Safari and convert it for your iPhone

  • Find the Youtube video you want.  
  • Click PLAY.
  • While the video is playing, goto the top of the page and open WINDOW–>ACTIVITY 
  • Take a look at all the elements of that page (you may have to click the ‘carrot’ to display)
  • Find the one that is still ‘moving’, i.e. getting bigger and bigger in size.
  • Double-click on that item specifically.
  • A new window will open up and the file will download to your harddrive.
  •   The file will likely be a FLASH .flv movie, but you can convert it with Quicktime Pro or VLC or any number of other programs, converting it to an m4v for your iPhone if you want. Here endeth the lesson.]]>

    Slingplayer for iPhone

    From the about fricking time department, word has come from the TUAW that the much anticipated Slingplayer application for the iPhone has been submitted for approval with the overlords at Apple HQ. Slingplayer is a tool of many an expat used to ’sling’ back television content from a central location (i.e. their parent’s house) to their current assignment overseas. It’s also used by people in offices, geeks in college, and plenty of other folks who need to move their video content from one place to another (myself included).

    When the iPhone first came out, we heard rumors that Sling would do an application, but that was off/on/only if jailbroken/on/off/on again, or something to that effect. There are already several other live TV apps for the iPhone that are out, but few that will have the functionality as basically getting your cable TV on your iPhone.

    And this is the week I got rid of cable in the house. I think the Slingplayer is still in a pile of cables behind where the Comcast box once stood. Guess I have to rewire things.


    Using your cell phone overseas (how to do it cheaply).

    Although I’ve not gotten a stamp in my passport in about 18 months, in recent years I’ve spent literally hundreds of days overseas away from the convenience of my landline phone and US-based mobile. I’ve tried a wide variety of means to stay in touch, but I think I’ve finally come up with a formula that makes a bit of sense. And since the New York Times is writing about the same thing today now is as good a day as any to share my thoughts.

    In the old days, I would take an unlocked GSM phone and simply buy a UK or DE or HK SIM card upon arrival in a new country, giving me a local phone number where I could be reached. Unfortunately this did not help me with making calls back to the US, which usually required calling cards (that ended up being quite expensive). Pay as you go also was quite expensive on a minute by minute basis. For example, a week in the UK would easily run me £100 in phone charges. And added to this is the fact overseas Pay as You go numbers often disappear after lack of use of 6 months or so (which is now an issue).

    Now my setup is much cheaper.

    First, Skype. I have Skype, Skype Out and Skype In set up. I have a phone number in London and one in Hong Kong that people can call and it will ring on my computer if my computer is turned on. If my computer is not turned on, then it forwards to a number of my choice. I can also use my iPhone and Fring should I be without a laptop (rare). Note, both computer and iPhone require an internet connection, but since I usually have that in the hotel it’s not really a big issue.

    Second, the unlocked phone is still around. I usually have that as the recipient of my Skype calls so I don’t have to pay the massive data roaming charges using my US phone overseas. I also like the freedom to call friends ‘in country’ without having to pay roaming. But now that I’m not using it as frequently the costs have definitely gone down quite a bit.

    So now for international calls, I will use Skype in the hotel which is only pennies a minute, and for local in country calls I use my country-specific mobile phone. For calls from other countries to me they are routed to my ‘device of the moment’ so people can continue to reach me on my consistent Skype In number and not have to memorize whatever pay-as-you-go number I’m using at the time.

    During my last week in London, my phone charges were £10 total. Quite a savings.


    Live TV on the iPhone – Some new developments

    While poking around the app store yesterday, I came across a few new applications that have tremendous promise.

    France 24 in the news section offer live streaming of the France 24 (think CNN of France). The buffering is pretty quick and the quality is not bad. France24 is a different take on some of the news out of Europe and this lets you watch them on your iPhone via wifi pretty easily. Free app and worth a download.

    France24 is only on limited cable systems in the US, with service in Washington and New York that I know of. They had some great coverage of some stories like the Bettancourt rescue in Columbia and they also have some good culture shows from Europe that are worth watching.

    TVU is p2p video streaming company that allows you to watch tons of content from around the world, some of which is probably not authorized by the copyright holder. The app is in beta and released, but will likely have a few new developments that will make it much more useful (such as widescreen, which I haven’t figure out how to use just yet. Lots of Chinese channels (as I’ve said before, the Chinese are light years ahead of the US on IPTV — light years). Amazing what developments can be done when DRM is not the first consideration.

    We’re still waiting for livestation.com to come out with their app (in development) and I guess we are still waiting for the Slingbox app, promised for months and months (but no where in sight just yet).


    Sirius XM Bankruptcy: Told you so…

    Next target, rock and/or roll..

    Next target, rock and/or roll..

    When I published my thoughts on how the iPhone would kill Sirius / XM, I was linked in the Sirius XM financial messageboards (probably by some shorts). Needless to say some of the longs went after me screaming ‘this guy is a moron’ and some other harshness. Even today when I talk about how amazing it is to play radio on my iPhone, I get some radio purists come in an whine ‘but but but, HD radio is better because…’ or something like that. (It reminds me of the guy who told me mp3’s would never take off because they didn’t sound as good as CDs).

    Anyway, SiriusXM are preparing to file for bankruptcy. Told you this would happen.

    It’s not really the iPhone that is the killer, directly. It is the mountains and mountains of debt that were attached to Sirius. These guys borrowed BILLIONS to put their birds up in orbit. It just never made sense–NEVER MADE SENSE–to recreate the broadcast radio model up in space with a hugely more expensive infrastructure, not when a simpler hack together system is available to deliver more content easier (iPhone tethered to a car stereo). And with more and more 4G services being planned (wimax, LTE) I can understand why investors were running scared about satellite radio.

    Sadly, a bunch of truckers are going to be really depressed. One of the strongest fan bases for satellite radio is long haul truckers who got their fix of news, information, music and even trucking stories no matter where they were in the USA. I suspect many of them are going to have some withdraw pains should the service shutter.