iPhone WiFi sync needed, and oh the possibilities!

I’m growing a gripe about the iPhone’s lack of ability to sync wirelessly. This could be a stellar feature if done right – much better than USB syncing.

First, a note about my setup. My main Mac is a MacBook Pro. It lives everywhere – office, family room, kitchen, hammock…usually wherever I am when at home. I’m not a big cell phone (voice) user, so it isn’t strapped to my belt while at home. I don’t give the number out often, and my voicemail says firmly “I do not check the messages on this cell phone.” Yes, I’m wasting the excellent Visual Voicemail feature. Shoot me. When I’m at home, my cell phone (now iPhone) has always lived on the kitchen counter. That’s where the charger is. So a unique task is required to get my iPhone, USB cable, and MBP in the same place to sync. Bottom line, I don’t sync as often as I should because it’s inconvenient.

My recently-retired Treo 650 sync’d with Bluetooth, courtesy of the excellent Missing Sync software. That let me skip the USB cable. I’d use USB now and then to get a full backup, but Bluetooth was great for syncing contacts and calendar info. I’d usually bring the phone to my laptop when it was in the family room (adjacent to the kitchen), sit them together and sync while making dinner.

I was a bit upset when I learned the iPhone wouldn’t sync via Bluetooth. I suspect Apple’s thinking is that the iPhone syncs lots of sizable stuff – music and videos – that would take forever and a day over Bluetooth. So I don’t see Apple offering sync over Bluetooth.

Then it struck me – WiFi sync makes much more sense. It’s many times faster, and operates at significantly greater distance than Bluetooth. Rendezvous self-discovery would make setup a breeze. Long videos might take a while but otherwise this would be perfect. Sync could be started at either the iPhone or the Mac. Setup could be done anytime the iPhone was on the same subnet as the host Mac.

Then something else struck me – Automatic WiFi syncing. Why have to even start a sync manually? When there’s data to be synced, just do it. Perhaps poll periodically in the background, just a quick ping to check for new data before doing any real syncing. Or when joining a pre-determined home network. Or just when charging. Or maybe just small items (contact/calendar) when running on battery, then music/video/photos when charging. Imagine the convenience.

And there’s no reason iTunes needs to be open (a general annoyance already, plus we should be able to choose movies/podcasts to sync without the iPhone connected, but that’s another rant). Think of it like .Mac syncing, but locally and with fewer bugs…

Other nice things could happen too. Pretend for a minute there was a real RSS reader on the iPhone – I’m sure there will be someday. Viewed articles could be marked as such on both readers. This would be nice between Macs too.

Or how about syncing across multiple Macs? I don’t store my music/video/photos on my MBP. They’re on my Mac Mini, dedicated as a media server with gobs of storage. Adding this stuff to my iPhone now is a real chore. Why not sync my calendar/contact info with my MBP, and my music/video/photos with my Mini?

So think happy thoughts about WiFi syncing, and maybe it’ll happen!

Technorati Tags: ,

That little iPhone speaker

Brief kudos to iPhone’s tiny little speaker. I mean for iTunes use. Nobody will claim it’s of audiophile quality (or even stereo for that matter!). But I never thought about how handy a speaker on an iPod would be.

Tonight I was playing with Ariella on her playmat, winding her down for bedtime. She likes The Beatles. I grabbed the iPhone and played Yellow Submarine, all without leaving the floor. She loved it.

The speaker has also been handy when watching video podcasts or stupid YouTube videos. No reason to go find the headphones when I’m alone in a room.

By the way, does anyone else find themselves using YouTube just as an excuse to play with the iPhone? Most videos really are as dumb as they say…

Technorati Tags: , ,

More redesign underway…

I’ve done further editing of the site’s main CSS, and created my own header. The header is quite gothic, not my intent. I’ll let it sit for a day and review. I’m happy to rid myself of the near-default xblog header, and reduce the header height by half. Further changes to be made I’m sure. I’m thinking the green text may go. Hover text in the top menu will change. Possibly rounded corners on the main body. Kudos to CSSEdit for making the style sheet editing (possibly too) easy. Photos are my own, shot on a Canon 10D using an IR filter. Bulbs are heat lamps. Eyes are mine.

The iPhone CSS is unchanged; I like it as-is, odd bottom menu excluded. I don’t anticipate that menu being a high priority for iPhone visitors, considering there is little in the archive at this point.

Technorati Tags:

Optimizing my WordPress blog for iPhone users

I have no idea if anyone’s done this yet. But I’m a curious guy. I’ve optimized my WordPress blog for the iPhone. Making it compatible wasn’t an issue; the built-in Safari browser is pretty good. But I wanted iPhone users to find the blog immediately readable without the need to zoom in.

I didn’t want a new CSS for other web visitors, just something unique for iPhone users. I’m posting my methodology so others can hack it to bits take advantage of my solution.

First, I created an iPhone-specific CSS variant of my standard theme. First I got rid of the (admittedly ugly) graphic header. Then I made everything a max of 320px wide, the narrow width of the iPhone’s screen. Then I shoved the navigation menu to the bottom, just to get it out of the way (this could certainly be done better). Ok, that gave me an iPhone-optimized CSS. I named it style-iphone.css, and dropped it into my theme folder. You can view the CSS (far from beautiful, based on the xblog theme).

Ok, that part was easy. Now I wanted to get the iPhone to use it. So in the theme’s header.php I added:

<?php
$iphone_stylesheet = str_replace(“.css”, “_iphone.css”, get_bloginfo(‘stylesheet_url’));
?>
<link media=”only screen and (max-device-width: 480px)” href=”<?php echo $iphone_stylesheet; ?>” type=”text/css” rel=”stylesheet” />

So that basically changes style.css to style_iphone.css, and uses the new Apple-defined media type. In other words, this tells the iPhone to use this stylesheet, and everything else to ignore it. I put this after the normal stylesheet line, not sure if that was required or not.

Worked great, but I wanted the iPhone to zoom right into my blog instead of forcing the user to double-tap. That’s where the Viewport meta tag comes in. I wasn’t sure what Viewport might do to non-iPhone browsers, so I wrapped that in a PHP test:

<?php
if (strstr($_SERVER['HTTP_USER_AGENT'], “iPhone”))
{
echo ‘<meta name=”viewport” content=”width = 320″ />’;
}
?>

So my header.php now looked like this:

<link rel=”stylesheet” href=”<?php bloginfo(‘stylesheet_url’); ?>” type=”text/css” media=”screen” />

<?php
$iphone_stylesheet = str_replace(“.css”, “_iphone.css”, get_bloginfo(‘stylesheet_url’));
?>

<link media=”only screen and (max-device-width: 480px)” href=”<?php echo $iphone_stylesheet; ?>” type=”text/css” rel=”stylesheet” />
<?php
if (strstr($_SERVER['HTTP_USER_AGENT'], “iPhone”))
{
echo ‘<meta name=”viewport” content=”width = 320″ />’;
}
?>

(That first stylesheet line is unchanged, as a frame of reference.)

And voila. iPhone users now see a very readable, optimized blog. Users from anything else don’t see any difference.

I’m using a somewhat old WordPress (2.0.6); I’m not sure if the header in 2.2 is any different, but the solution shouldn’t be different.

I’m very curious what others think of this implementation.

Technorati Tags:

iPhone – Display Remote Images in HTML Messages option!

Ok, my first unhappy surprise.

There is no option to not “Display Remote Images in HTML Messages” as there is in mail.app. When you bring up an HTML email, remote images are automatically retrieved.

I’ve always viewed that as a security problem, since those images nearly always contain unique ID’s tying your email address to the message. I might go file a radar bug report on this right now…

Filed: Problem ID: 5305779