iOS 4 Upgrade: Workaround for Stuck on “Backing Up iPhone” step

June 22nd, 2010

I tried updating my iPhone 3G to iOS 4 today (along with millions of others no doubt). The update downloaded fine, but then iTunes tried to backup my iPhone before installing the update, and got stuck on the “Backing up your iPhone” dialog. Well not technically “stuck”, but glacially slow. Like, 1 pixel of the progress bar every 30 minutes. It would have taken all day (and then some) to finish.

After trying a few things, the workaround was simply to hit the Restore button in iTunes. This then “restored” the iPhone using the already-downloaded iOS 4, then copied all my apps back from iTunes. (I had to sync my music manually afterwards.)

The downside was that I lost my app data, which was a bit of a downer, but at least I was up and running with the new OS. And it’s nice to start with a clean slate in a way. My iPhone feels a bit snappier now – not sure if it’s because it was wiped, or if iOS 4 is faster. Anyway, loving it so far.

This forum post outlines the procedure.

Update June 23

I was slightly irritated to discover that my entire Camera Roll was empty upon restore. Turns out that the Camera Roll is backed up by iTunes, but it didn’t restore them from the backup (no idea why). Fortunately I was able to find an old backup of my iPhone on my Time Machine disk from a few days ago (when it was still iPhone OS 3), and use this excellent tool to extract all the Camera Roll photos from the backup:

iPhone / iPod Touch Backup Extractor

I had to temporarily copy the backup folder back to ~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup/ so that the extractor app would find it. Then I just extracted the “iPhone OS Files” entry to a folder, and my Camera Roll images were inside a Media/DCIM folder inside there. Phew!

More info here.

Apple really could be more explicit about the iPhone backup process – i.e. what’s backed up, where it’s backed up, and the backup file format. Sounds like they’ve changed the whole backup system again in iOS 4 so iPhone / iPod Touch Backup Extractor no longer works. Grr!

Lesson learned for next time: Always import your iPhone Camera Roll using iPhoto or Image Capture before you upgrade…

Apple Just Released Mac OS X 10.6.4, Photoshop CS3 Works Again

June 16th, 2010

I finally took the plunge on Tuesday and upgraded my iMac from Leopard to Snow Leopard. Oops! Bad move, mister. My Photoshop CS3 started crashing on launch.

Whose fault was this? Sounds like you could blame Apple or Adobe, but personally I’d say Adobe after reading this forum post. Adobe should have followed Apple’s guidelines on serial number length.

For the record, my iMac’s serial number is “SystemSerialNumb”. Why? Because Apple replaced my logic board 2 years ago. Why didn’t they give the logic board a proper serial number? No idea, but it seems a bit slack of Apple.

Anyway, all this is moot now because Apple have today released Mac OS X 10.6.4, which works around the issue. Yay! This just a day after I upgraded to Snow Leopard. Talk about lucky timing for me! Some poor sods have been stuck with no Photoshop since March because of this problem.

One other unrelated problem with Snow Leopard: Google Analytics no longer works in Safari 5. I get the error “This page has encountered an error that may prevent it from working correctly.” Could be a problem Google’s end though.

Problems aside, Snow Leopard seems lovely and fast so far. I can’t point to anything specific, but the whole thing just feels snappier somehow. Finder windows come up more quickly. Mail brings up messages and message lists faster. Browsing other Macs on the network is smoother. I no longer get a slight lag when typing into a form in Firefox. Apps launch more speedily. I also love the new Dock pop-up menus – they suit the Dock much better than the old grey menus that are used in the menu bar.

Ooh, and I’ve just noticed that some apps, such as TextEdit, auto-correct text as you type (for example, “teh” -> “the”). Nice! For reference, you can toggle this feature by right-clicking and choosing Spelling and Grammar > Correct Spelling Automatically.

Overall I’m a happy camper with Snow Leopard. πŸ™‚

How to Schedule an Automator Workflow with iCal

May 11th, 2010

In my first Automator tutorial I showed how to build and run a simple Automator workflow.

In this tutorial you learn how to create a scheduled Automator workflow that automatically sends birthday greetings to people in your Address Book. Along the way, you’ll learn:

  • How to use Automator to find contacts from your Address Book
  • A really easy way to send birthday greetings with Automator, and
  • How to schedule Automator workflows in iCal, so that they run automatically on a regular basis.

Ready to automate? Let’s get started!

Tip: You can click any of the screenshots below to enlarge them.

1. Create the workflow

I showed the basics of starting Automator and creating a workflow in my last tutorial. As before, start Automator then click the Custom icon to create a custom workflow, then click Choose:

Fire up Automator, then click the Custom icon to create a custom workflow

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Opera Mini for iPhone Review

April 16th, 2010

Opera Mini is Opera’s cut-down Web browser for smartphones. Opera recently built a version of Opera Mini for the iPhone/iPod Touch and submitted it to the App Store, practically daring Apple to reject it. (Apple are known for rejecting apps that compete with their own built-in iPhone apps.)

Well, despite speculation to the contrary, Apple recently approved Opera Mini on the App Store, so you can now download it for free and use it as well as (or instead of) Safari on your iPhone. So how does it stack up? Here’s my in-depth review of Opera Mini on the iPhone.

Starting Opera Mini

When you first start Opera, you get a start screen much like Opera Desktop’s “Speed Dial” screen. This allows you to have up to 9 sites instantly accessible by tapping icons. It’s very handy for frequently-used sites:

The search box

Opera has a search field top-right, just like Safari. However, rather than just searching Google, Opera also lets you search Amazon, eBay and Wikipedia, and you can add your own search engines too. Nice touch.

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iPad Launch Roundup

April 5th, 2010

No doubt you’ve heard that the iPad was launched on the weekend. Naturally most Apple blogs have been falling over themselves to post hands-on reviews, opinions and pics. Here’s the cream of the crop:

Why some people will never buy an iPad

Even before the iPad went on sale, Cory Doctorow stirred things up with a debate about the closed nature of the iPad and its OS. Personally I agree more with John Gruber’s stance on the matter – the iPad is a tool, not something to hack on – although you have to respect Cory’s commitment to the principles of open computing.

Hands-on reviews of the iPad

Before the iPad was officially launched, Michael Arrington managed to get a first look at a chained-to-the-desk iPad via an app developer. Cheeky!

On launch day, Engadget breathlessly covered the frenzy at the New York Apple Store, and Joshua Topolsky gave us a nice thorough review of the iPad’s hardware, software and battery life, and also took a look at the official iPad accessories.

Now that the early adopters have their mucky paws on their iPads, more hands-on reviews are coming in. Leander posted his positive first impressions over at Cult of Mac, then followed it up later with a useful iPad review “for the rest of us”. John Biggs of CrunchGear gave his first impressions (“Groundbreaking or not, it’s still amazing“).

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News Roundup: Cut-out Jobs, Odd Apple iPhone Film Ban, no WP7 Copy & Paste, & More

March 29th, 2010

Here are some interesting and fun Apple stories I’ve read in the last week or so:

  • Make a cut-out Steve Jobs: With a bit of work and lots of patience, you can create your very own turtlenecked Apple CEO cubee using nothing but paper, scissors and a scalpel. And if that whets your appetite, why not make your own Apple product launch, complete with baying Apple fans? Essential accessories for any desk. πŸ™‚
  • iPad apps: Looks like the iPad is going to hit the ground running app-wise when it launches next week. Mac Rumours revealed various apps from the yet-to-be-launched iPad app store, as well as Filemaker’s Bento for the iPad. Meanwhile, Boy Genius Report has a list – with screenshots – of 60 upcoming iPad apps. Can’t wait to see what other apps the iPad will have at launch.
  • Apple bans protective films from its stores: For some strange reason that no-one can fathom, Apple has banned all sales of films that protect the screens of iPhones, iPods and more from scratches. iLounge follows up this story with a selection of possible theories from readers.
  • Windows Phone 7 won’t have copy & paste: Engadget reports that WP7 won’t have the ability to select, cut, copy or paste text or other content. It appears Microsoft copies Apple in all things – not just when adding features, but even when it comes to leaving features out. πŸ˜‰ Talking of missing features, it sounds like a future version of the iPhone OS may finally bring us a unified mailbox.
  • Watching movies on your iPhone: James Cameron has opined on the stupidity of watching films on your iPhone (as did David Lynch in no uncertain terms a while back). However, if, after all that, you do fancy watching a movie or two then MoviePeg looks like a very handy iPhone accessory to have. Clever design too!
  • Opera Mini for iPhone coming soon: Here’s a video of it in action – looks super-fast (assuming you don’t mind Opera’s servers caching all of the sites you browse). The question is: Will Apple approve it?
  • The dangers of carrying a Mac Pro: Finally, if you’re 4ft 6in tall, don’t even think about carrying a 40-pound Mac Pro up a flight of stairs…

Oh, and before I forget: Happy 9th Birthday, Mac OS X! πŸ™‚

Review: Sygic Mobile Maps for iPhone

February 28th, 2010

When I first bought my iPhone in 2008, I was looking forward to turn-by-turn navigation thanks to its built-in GPS capability. Unfortunately the built-in Maps application can’t do turn-by-turn (although it can plot you a route and give a list of directions). What’s more, Apple’s SDK agreement prevented developers from selling their own turn-by-turn apps on the App Store.

However, with the release of iPhone OS 3.0 last year the restriction on turn-by-turn navigation apps was lifted, and since then we’ve started to see some very capable apps appearing for iPhone.

Sygic Mobile Maps was the first iPhone turn-by-turn navigation app available here in Australia. It was launched back in June 2009. Since then many others have sprung up here, including TomTom (with an optional car kit for charging, better sound, and better GPS), Navigon, CoPilot and more. (Here’s a good, if slightly out of date, comparison chart.)

I decided to go with Sygic because:

  • It uses the same Australian maps as TomTom (Whereis), which are reputed to be the best
  • It offers an impressive range of features, including multiple alternative route options, auto map zooming, signposts, lane assistance, and lots of customisation options
  • It seems well-liked among the iPhone community, and Sygic do seem to listen seriously to customer feedback – they frequently release lots of updates with added features and fixes
  • It’s cheaper than many other apps such as TomTom. (Even better – it’s currently on sale at AUD $59.99.)

Mobile Maps in action, showing a signpost, speed cameras, and current speed limit. (No, I wasn’t driving at 121 km/h – this is the demo mode!)

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iPhone Game Review: Trivial Pursuit

January 25th, 2010

Last year Electronic Arts released an iPhone version of the popular Trivial Pursuit trivia quiz game. Here’s my review of the “International” version of the game (I’m not sure what the other versions are called).

The game features a single-player option, as well as 2 multiplayer options: “Pass ‘n Play”, where each player takes turns with the same device, and “Wi-Fi Multiplayer”, where each player has their own device.

A basic question pack is included, and you can also buy additional packs within the game.

The questions are all in multiple-choice format, with 3 options given. Most questions are text-based, although sometimes an image is shown along with the question.

The question screen

The game’s 3D graphics are very nicely done, and the interface is easy to use. Sound is limited to the odd clicking sound and some pleasant, if repetitive background music (which you can turn off, of course). Read the rest of this entry »

Underworlds revisited

December 22nd, 2009

Back in June I reviewed Underworlds, a role-playing adventure game for the iPhone. In the review I mentioned a few niggles with the game, including:

  • Short play time
  • Linear game play
  • A single character class
  • The limit of 10 character levels
  • Fiddly movement controls

Since then, Pixel Mine have released a free update to Underworlds that addresses practically all of these issues. I have to say I’m impressed, considering it was a free update. What’s more they’ve even lowered the price of the full app from $5 to $3!

The new version has:

  • More than double the content
  • A new city (called Termon) and lots more dungeons to explore
  • A higher level cap (raised to 50) so you can grow your character more
  • Thousands of new items, as well as new quests and creatures
  • A revamped interface with better controls
  • A quest log so that you can remember what you’re supposed to be doing
  • A mini-map overlay in the dungeons so you don’t get lost

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My Super Collection of iPhone Sync Errors

November 27th, 2009

Is it just me, or does iTunes come up with a different excuse for not syncing with the iPhone each and every day?

Don’t get me wrong – syncing is pretty reliable on the whole, and whenever an error does occur, a resync or reconnect usually sorts it out.

Still, I’m amazed at the sheer number of things that can apparently go wrong during syncing. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, does it? I must get an error dialog of some sort at least once a week.

So I started collecting them (sad I know). Here’s the collection I’ve built up so far, over the last few months…

The iPhone sync error hall of fame

First up, we have the good old Microsoft-style “‘unknown error occured’ followed by unhelpful number” dialog:


…and its close “iPhone with no name” cousin:


Hurrah – a slight improvement! It got the iPhone name right on this day, and gave me a whole new exciting random number to ponder over:


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