Tuesday, August 26, 2008

iPhone Jailbreak Update

I ended up jailbreaking my iPhone! I have been using the iPhone dev team's PwnageTool. The process is as I suspected:
  1. Get the tool
  2. Get Apple firmware (tell iTunes to download but not install)
  3. Allow the tool to find and patch the firmware
  4. Force the phone into update mode
  5. Flash the patched firmware onto your phone
  6. Restore your phone
The tool really walks you though steps 3-5, so it should be straightforward. There are some REALLY cool Cydia/Installer Apps that aren't available in the App store. My favorite is MxTube, a tool that lets you download YouTube content onto your phone for offline viewing. I started working on an app that does this on your Mac...but more on this later if I ever get it off the ground. The coolest thing in my mind is the ability to ssh into your iPhone and tinker. I have also successfully used SOCKS proxy techniques on my phone to enable me to use 3G on my laptop. More on this in another post as well.

The downside of jailbreaking is that whenever Apple pushes a new firmware out over iTunes, you have to wait for a new PwnageTool update which can patch the latest firmware. It has been my experience that it takes them on the order of several days to get out the PwnageTool update. Luckily, the tool which supports firmware 2.0.3 just came out, so I will be using that to update tonight. Happy jailbreaking!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Comcast Firewire Audio Update

Okay, two updates. The first is that I have found a workaround to the issue! I posted it to the AVS thread first, so you can see that there, I am hoping to do a nice tutorial here soon.

The second update is also related to the forum: someone there works for Comcast and is working to get the issue fixed! If you have this problem, please see the forum post and reply to the guy there with the info he requests. According to them, the engineers are looking at the issue.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Comcast broke firewire audio in firmware update

I recently noticed my Comcast DVR (Motorolla DCT6XXX something) had different looking menus from before, indicating to me that the firmware had been updated. Incidentally, this breaks the firewire DVR goodness I have been using for months to increase my DVR storage space. I'm going to call Comcast and complain that they are breaking FCC rules here. The only thing I could find on the nets was this single forum post.

If anyone out there knows of a solution, please post comments here.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

No word from the community on 2.0 jailbreak

My RSS feeds are all coming up with nil on the iPhone jailbreak front. From what I can gather from reading comments in the few posts I have found, it looks like it doesn't brick your iPhone and works just as promised. I think I'm still going to wait just a bit longer for some good guides with more clear info to come out before I jump in head first. I'll be posting updates here as I progress in jailbreaking my iPhone.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

iPhone 2.0 jailbreak released!

That's right, the iPhone dev team have released the jailbreak they have been working on since the betas of the 2.0 software came out. It looks it is a MacOS X application that takes a Apple distributed firmware image (like the kind you get from restoring), and patches it somehow. This is as far as I have gotten, but I suspect you then force your iPhone into restore mode with some magic button presses, and load up the patched firmware. I'm not sure what opens up immediately, but looking through expert mode of the program, it looks like the all important Installer.app is unsupported as of yet. It looks like it installs the Cydia installer. I just found out about this, but Cydia appears to be an apt based package repository of iPhone ports of the usual GNU and BSD userland tools/applications. I think that a Cydia GUI frontend is installed instead of Installer.app, allowing for installation from the Cydia package repos.

I patched my firmware, but then quit out of the program when it reported a failure to enter DFU mode (that is, my iPhone wasn't anywhere near my computer let alone hooked up to it). I think I'm going to wait for the fallout, and see what the blogs have to say tomorrow morning. I don't want to brick my iPhone 3G, but this is just super exciting!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pandora update

There are several other pieces I saw in the blagosphere today that were relevant to what I was getting at yesterday about Pandora on iPhone. I just wanted to link back to them for reference.

I know yesterday I was going on and on about the seamlessness of the audio experience...well, on the drive home yesterday I finally got a skip in a song due to an AT&T deadzone. And it turned out that when I got service again about 10 seconds later, Pandora just skipped the remainder of the song and went on to the next track. So I guess it isn't perfect as I thought. While I'm on negatives, I guess I have a small feature request list too. It would be great if the app could continue to play in the background while I did other things (like the iPod app does). Presently, hitting the home button just quits Pandora and kills your music. And I think lyrics would be nice, but personally it would only add to the "wow they thought of everything" factor.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My Review of the Pandora iPhone app

The Pandora app has to be one of the coolest things to come out of the App Store. This little gem of a piece of software is a way to listen to everyone's favorite "Music Genome Project" powered Pandora online radio. I have been using Pandora on my PC off and on for a couple of years now, and through the simple thumbs up or thumbs down I give it about songs, it has really honed in on my musical taste. When I heard there would be an iPhone and iPod Touch 2.0 app for Pandora, I wasn't expecting too much. I figured it would be plagued by buffering/playback/network issues and a pretty bad user interface. In short, I expected it would be an unusable first cut at doing this kind of streaming. I couldn't have been more wrong.

The User Interface
The first thing you see when you load up Pandora is this minimalist load screen. It is clean, and has a nice Apple rotating dial thingy letting you know its thinking. The first time I loaded up Pandora, it asked me if I wanted to establish a new Pandora account, or if I was already a user. After selecting the latter option, I was prompted to enter my Pandora user info. To my pleasant surprise, the next thing I was greeted with was a list of my stations, which at the moment contains one station that is really perfectly tuned in on what I like.

I'll never really cease to be surprised by how good the iPhone SDK controls all look, and by making the controls available in the SDK the same as those from the toolkit Apple's own developers use, it gives the impression that the iPhone experience really hangs together well. Even these third party apps look really polished and like a true extension of the iPhone since it is all the same handful of really well made GUI components.

After selecting "Raj's Radio", it started playing my music. The user interface here is on par with what the native "iPod" app has to offer! It uses the same layout, and at first glance you wouldn't know that you aren't using your iPod app! It has cover art that is full resolution for the iPhone screen, and aside from the expected play/pause, skip, and volume controls, there are the Pandora ranking features (thumbs up and down), and an additional menu that allows you to mark a song or artist as a favorite for your Pandora account, or go immediately to purchase it in iTunes. This integration is something they could have skipped, but makes the experience that much better for people who are interested in downloading these tracks permanently. You can also "flip over" the cover art to reveal a Pandora specific feature which reveals how the song was selected to match your musical tastes, something familiar to Pandora users. For having expected them to really botch the look and usability of the interface, I was really impressed with how clean, iPod-esque, and easy the experience was.

The Streaming Experience
The look and feel is all great, but how does it perform as a streaming music player? I knew that 3G had enough bandwidth to support this kind of application, but I assumed that there would be some network issues, constant "rebuffering", or maybe some kind of lapse in playback as I drove around through deadzones etc. On, 3G, none of this was the case. The network fast enough such that I think it actually buffers one entire song ahead at the start of playback. Even when I hit a deadzone inside my parking deck about halfway through a song, it still finished playing it. As for streaming when you are on Wifi, it is completely seamless. There is about a 1-2 second delay between songs when you are on Wifi, feeling completely natural for an inter-song pause. On 3G this pause was a bit longer, I'd say about 5 seconds, but still quite tolerable.

The transition between Wifi and 3G is completely seamless too from a listening perspective due to the nice long playback buffer. In a test, I started in a building on campus with Wifi, listening to Pandora. I got in an elevator down to a parking deck, got in the the car and hooked my iPhone up to the car, and drove through campus on my way home. The Wifi handed off my iPhone gracefully from one access point to the next as I drove about a half mile towards the edge of campus, and then when I went out of range of Wifi, my phone picked up 3G service. Not a second of audio was sacrificed. No stutter, no rebuffering. Just like listening to my iPod. This thing is fucking brilliant. Forget satellite radio, this idea is poised to be an XM/Sirius killer when widespread cellular IP-based broadband ever becomes ubiquitous (i.e. when WiMAX or LTE or some sucessor catches on). This Pandora solution already makes satellite radio obsolete for its users.

For the purposes of testing, I did end up disabling 3G to see how Pandora's streaming would handle being on the EDGE network. I have to say, this is not to be recommended, but YMMV. On EDGE, I DID get all those rebuffering stutters in audio I was worried about. And more importantly, even when it would work, when using EDGE I could constantly hear that interference noise you get on speakers when your cellphone is transmitting...you know the one, the morse-code-esque beeping, it was non-stop, and loud enough to be heard over the music. No such problem on 3G. I WAS using an ancient tape adapter with a long wire (read: EDGE antenna :-) to connect the iPhone to my car, so this might not be an issue for everyone. I even saw a review on the App Store itself claiming that Pandora worked like a charm on EDGE, so it might work in your area. I'm going to stick to 3G.

Pandora is an awesome application for the iPhone 3G. It is blessed with an intuitive and good looking interface. The new 3G networking capabilities really make it possible to have a seamless audio experience, even driving around. It performs fastest on Wifi, but the difference is a 2 second difference in initial buffer time between songs. It buffers ahead enough to account for deadzones and handoffs, and even the Wifi<->3G handoffs didn't phase the music experience. I wouldn't recommend it for use on EDGE exclusively according to my one simple test, but YMMV. If I had to give it stars, I'd say easily 5/5.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

On the difference between jailbreaking and unlocking

Lots of articles in the blagosphere have been talking about "unlocking" the new iPhone, but have been using the term incorrectly. I really want to clear things up, because its annoying to see great sites like Ars Technica and Gizmodo screw this up. So lets get to it.

The act of "jailbreaking" your phone is making it open to third party applications which are not in the app store. This term comes from FreeBSD's chroot jail, a mechanism to segment a machine to different users as if each segment is its own machine. It is a "jail" because you can't break out of it and get into the juicy guts of the system, you can just access the segment you are allowed. Similarly, you can't access the inner workings of your iPhone, you just access the parts Apple allows, which is just their built-in functionality and anything they allow on the App Store.

There are somethings Apple probably wouldn't allow for use on the iPhone ever, like:
  1. An interactive shell/terminal application to access the system guts
  2. An ssh daemon, like OpenSSH (which would allow the iPhone to act as a proxy server to forward 3G over wifi to your laptop)
  3. A web server
  4. Custom XNU Kernel and extensions
To sum it up, since Apple wouldn't allow any applications that make your iPhone more into a general purpose computer instead of a consumer electronics device, you jailbreak your phone to do so. Since you now have a general purpose computer, you can do what you want to do on it, not only what Apple allows.

The jailbreaking process requires exploiting holes the iPhone software's "jail". In the past, this as been achieved e.g. by exploiting some bad TIFF image rendering code on the iPhone. Basically, you just load up a custom made corrupt TIFF image in Safari, which actually contains code. The bad rendering code will cause the iPhone to run the code, and voila, you have broken out of the jail they created for you. These custom made TIFF images then go on to install applications that allow you to access the guts of your system and do whatever you like, essentially rendering the already-in-place jail useless. Jailbreakme was a site that had one such TIFF image that works for older iPhone firmware.

Cellular phones in the US (and practically everywhere else) are typically configured so that you can only use a phone on the network from which you purchased it, even if there are no technical reasons limiting its usability on another network. This is why you can't easily take an AT&T phone you bought here and use it on the T-Mobile network, or take that same phone over to Europe and pop in a local teleco's SIM card to use it on that local network. This is called carrier locking of a phone.

AT&T and others do this so you don't buy a phone of theirs and take it over to another network. They want to retain their user base, and they want you to use their expensive international roaming services when you are traveling abroad instead of using a cheaper local service. There is no technical limitation that prevents any AT&T phone from working on GSM networks in the US (T-mobile), Europe (Vodaphone, O2, Orange, etc.), or anywhere else in the world. It is simply a way for carriers to protect revenue and market share.

Since there is no hardware limited technical issue, people figured out that by modifying the software that runs the phone, you can make it work on any e.g. GSM network worldwide. This is what's called "unlocking" your phone, and is actually how your phone comes by default from the factory. The carriers later lock the phones for use with their network. Some phones come with the capability to be unlocked by the carrier over the air, or by a code entered by the user. These are for situations in which the mobile operator allows you to use your phone on other networks, for example, in places they have no coverage and no parter carriers. Otherwise, there are various methods by which you can hack the device to unlock it.

In the US, unlocking your phone in a manner unapproved by your carrier was formerly thought to be illegal under the DMCA, as it circumvents a measure meant to enforce copyrights, but there has been an explicit exemption to the DMCA that protects your rights to use your phone on any network it will.

So are Jailbreaking and Unlocking related?

In the case of the iPhone, the answer is maybe. There are typically two ways to use a phone in an unlocked manner.

  1. Use a hacked SIM card. This is typically a thin adapter that attaches to your SIM card, and fools the phone into thinking that the SIM card belongs to the network to which your phone is locked, even though the card is from another network. It has been demonstrated with the latest iPhone 3G. This requires no jailbreak, since you are modifying a SIM and not the phone in any way.
  2. Hack your phone. This requires a jailbreak.

Option 2 is really the holy grail of unlocks, because it is a software only solution, requiring no SIM modification, a process which can require manual cutting with a razor and gluing of the tiny slivers of plastic we call SIM cards. The reason the software unlock requires a jailbreak is because in order to start "hacking" or doing anything useful towards unlocking your phone, you have to have control over what software it runs. This is the jailbreaking step. Once you have jailbroken your phone via an exploit, you can find software out there that hacks its way past the carrier lock.

But note that they are not one and the same. They are quite different things. Unlocking requires jailbreaking, but that doesn't mean that's the only reason to jailbreak. I, for example, want to jailbreak so I can run free games not available in the app store and use ssh SOCKS forwarding to get 3G my laptop. I have no intention of carrier unlocking my phone, but am waiting on a jailbreak to be released for my iPhone. More on this below.

Current status of Jailbreaking
The situation could get a little complicated in the future because of different revisions of the firmware on the iPhone, and now, two different hardware revisions. BUT, that said, all of the first generation iPhones can be jailbroken, regardless of firmware version number. Most of the software out there to do this support all revisions of the iPhone firmware up to the major 2.0 release that accompanied the new iPhone 3G. As of today, July 15, 2008, the latest iPhone firmware (iPhone 2.0) has been jailbroken. The bad part is, the jailbreak is unreleased as of yet, and is in heavy testing to work out any potential bugs. I am personally watching this closely, waiting for the release announcement from http://blog.iphone-dev.org/. If you are following this whole thing, I would suggest signing up for the RSS feed on that page so that you know exactly when they release the jailbreak.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Send SMS for free using AIM on iPhone!

In the US, just add a contact named +1(ten-digit-phone-number-here) to your AIM buddly list, and then IM this contact using the AIM application on the iPhone. Free outgoing SMS! Gotta spread the love to the original source where I saw this.

AJAX done right = desktop class application in a browser window

I just wanted to post a quick link to one of the coolest things I've seen online in weeks. This has to be the cleanest AJAX webapp I've ever seen. And its fast. http://280slides.com/

Google Docs' presentation app has nothing on this little gem. So they'll probably buy this 280slides company :-) Check this app out!

Got a 3G iPhone!

And I only waited in line one hour today! We got there an hour before opening, and were in the first batch to get in (I was the LAST person of the first batch!) After getting in I was in the store maybe an hour, and that was WITH some trouble porting my number. The thing I'm MOST excited about hacking soon is running the phone as a bridge / gateway / modem so I can "tether" it to my laptop to get HSDPA wherever I go! Alright, lets be honest, their 3G coverage sucks outside of big cities, but at least I won't ever be stranded without EDGE, aka connectivity anywhere. Hell, if AT&T doesn't catch wind of this, I might even drop my cable internet service.

There is something funny about still calling it "tethering" though, because these days the process is over wifi. It goes something like this: you jailbreak your iPhone (waiting on pwnageTool release), then install the requisite software on it to get it to forward traffic from HSDPA->802.11b. Then you just connect the iPhone and your laptop in an ad-hoc network and boom, 3G data on you laptop.

Technically speaking, there are several ways to achieve this at various layers of the protocol stack. If done as a purely L2, bidirectional forwarding mechanism, you have a bridge/AP type of setup. If the IP layer does this, you kind of a have a router/gateway setup. If done at the application layer, its like a proxy server. The easiest route on the iPhone is to do things at the application layer, because adding functionality to the data-link and network layer requires changes to drivers and the kernel code. Since not many are in the business (except for Apple) of hacking the XNU kernel code, we run a forwarding application at L5. I hope it is as easy as is described for the old iPhone.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

iPhone 3G announced!

Well, Apple finally did the official announcment, and the new iPhone will be released on July 11th. Notable pros over the older model are 3G, GPS, cheaper price point ($199 or $299), flush headphone jack (so you can use standard headphones without an ugly hack or adapter) and better battery life. Notable cons are increased data plan cost ($30 up from $20), and loss of text messages bundled in the plan.

People are bitching all over forums and blog comments about the increase in plan price, doing clever math like saying that $10 more a month for 24 months of contract + $200 for the phone actually ends up costing more than the current $400. I personally wouldn't even think of being so stupid, seeing as how the new data plan is FASTER. Obviously 3G adds value to the phone, value I'm willing to pay for. Saying the data plan price went up isn't an apples to apples comparison (no pun intended). Who are these cheap bastards that expect to get HSDPA for what AT&T charges for EDGE 's 2.5G offering? Better data plan = more cost for the data plan, nuff said.

AT&T DID drop the included text messaging, which is a bitch move; but its a 5 dollar cost to pick it back up, so in my mind the plan went up $5 on a phone that DROPPED $200 in cost. And lets not be assholes and forget that the phone has gotten more kick-ass while dropping in price.

UPDATE: Giz wrote a piece about this that was far more widely circulated than my humble blog. Check it out.

Monday, June 9, 2008

WWDC Live Audio Stream!

This is up right now at this moment:

I'm listening to them talk about the new iPhone software...hopefully they'll announce the 3G iPhone within a few minutes!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

GTA4 and new Ubuntu!

I picked up GTA4 for PS3 last night at got to play for about an hour. It seems pretty good, supposedly really sandboxy/open ended, but as of yet I'm running around doing missions with some loser Russian guy. As an interesting comparison, it looks to me as if the Xbox360 version of the game is sporting better graphics:

It looks much less blurry on the Xbox, but this is a pretty low res comparison, and who knows how they did the capture...it must've been done via component cables, so there is no indication how the purely digital HDMI would stack up against each other.

In other interesting news, the newest Ubuntu release (Hardy Heron) is out! I somehow missed out on the buzz over this release...but I'll have some reviews of features once I get it installed. It'll be a few days I guess because the Canonical servers seem really bogged down by the legions of users upgrading, and I'm getting about 50kb/s to the upgrade server at the moment.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Got to play with a MS Surface

I've not been a huge fan of Microsoft in recent years, what with switching to a Macbook for home and Linux at work. In fact, I haven't used a PC for more than 5 hour total in the past two years! But they have had this multitouch enabled Surface computer thing in the pipes that seemed really cool. And I have to say, it didn't really disappoint.

The AT&T store here in Atlanta has a store full of Microsoft surface computers. I will start by saying that it being Microsoft product running Vista meant that OF COURSE one of the machines was frozen. Thats right, out of a store with maybe 6 MS Surface machines, one was down, hung on the home screen and unresponsive to all touch. At least it didn't blue screen :-)

I tried several of the other machines that WERE working, and I checked out two of the apps they had. The first was a cellular coverage map application (very iPhone/Google maps-esque) that did touch scrolling and pinch zooming in/out, and little else. I poked around until I found my block in Atlanta, then I lost interest.

The second app was pretty cool, it was one that supports multiple phones being put upon the surface, and then bringing up menus, info, movies, data specs, etc about each phone (this was showed off in a MS demo video I saw as a potential app). It does so by visually identifying tags placed on the bottom of each device. Putting down a phone and selecting "colors" brought up a panel/window with a colored phone, and the panel was movable, rotatable, and resizeable. All the windows had this kind of similar feature with decent manipulation of the panels in a multitouch way, supporting pinch zoom in and out, scrolling, as well as multitouch rotation. The multitouch was pretty good...I think the touch detection, sensitivity, etc. need some more tweaking for responsive, but overall the experience was only SLIGHTLY hampered by the somewhat sluggish feeling of the response.

This kind of multi-user multitouch hasn't been seen before in the consumer arena, so I think it will be very interesting to see where this kind of technology is going. I really think that there are some untapped ideas here regarding collaboration, etc. If this could be coupled with more conventional interfaces like keyboards, I can see this technology really taking off for presentation/demo scenarios, technical group sessions, etc. I think it'd be cool as hell if a coworker and I could manipulate a couple of panes of code simultaneously with multiple keyboards, while still maintaining the multitouch movement capabilities to share a workspace.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

More HD comes to Atlanta

I noticed a brand new Disney channel HD last night...but no HD content spotted as of yet. Along with ABC Family, I guess this is part of some negotiations with ABC to roll out their HD stations.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

ABC Family HD comes to Comcast in Atlanta

Its nice that all these channels are going HD...but this channel is SO weird! It starts in the mornings with 700 club, then goes into episodes of Full House, Sister Sister, Sabrina the Teenage Witch...then ends the day with Greek or Kyle XY or some movie before going back to the 700 club...wtf! Family indeed...Greek isn't a family show at all. Not that I care, its just a weird ass mix.

The other thing that sucks is that the only truly HD content I've seen so far is 700 club. Everything else looks like crap (because he recorded before HD was around). Crap is a bit harsh, at least it looks like a lot of the older sitcoms they show come in at about a DVD quality instead of shitty 480i. Wikipedia claims that Kyle XY and Greek are HD too, but I wouldn't be caught dead watching those.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Using a WTR54Gv5 as a Wireless Bridge to Connect non WiFi devices to the net

I plugged the NMT up to the internet for the first time in a while to get the latest firmware. This is always an annoying process because while all the other internet capable devices in my entertainment center (PS3, Wii) have WiFi built in, the NMT does NOT, it only supports wired Ethernet. This means I have to run a 15 feet cable across my living room any time I want to use the networked functionality. I got to thinking that it would be nice to get my wireless signal to be picked up by some kind of small dongle with an antenna to pick up WiFi, and an Ethernet cable to go to the NMT.

This kind of thing is called a wireless bridge. It is kind of like an access point, except that it blindly forwards traffic both ways (wireless->wired and vice versa), whereas an access point does NAT and DHCP, and expects the WAN to be on a wired link and the LAN to be on the wireless. As far as hardware goes though, an AP has all of the right parts to act as a layer 2 bridge.

Because of the similarity to an access point, my idea of a small dongle was beginning to fall through, but a different idea was forming in my head: try to use an access point in this kind of bridge mode to make my NMT effectively wireless! It should be possible to do in software on an AP. I immediately started playing with two Airport "Snow" routers I had recently bought to see if they supported this mode out of the box, but they didn't (the newer Airport Extreme series CAN do this out of the box).

So I started looking at my other router, the Linksys WRT54G. I had read that this device was highly moddable with non-Linksys firmware available due to the fact that the device used Linux code, and Linksys released the source code to the firmware to satisfy the terms of the GPL. Clever hackers used this source as a starting point to create custom firmwares that can do lots of fancy things that the stock firmware cannot. One of these fancy things is bridge mode. This was the ticket...by reflashing the device to use the open source free DD-WRT firmware, I was able to use the WRT54G in bridge mode. Here's a quick guide on how to do this if you have a WRT54G, version 5 or 6. This is written from a Windows perspective, but the only difference with Linux or Mac is how you do the static IP assignment, and TFTP step. The static IP assignment, you probably know how to do on your OS. On Mac OS X it is System Preferences->Network->Show:Built In Ethernet->Configure Ipv4 using:Manually. And you can skip the steps that are setting the MAC address of the new firmware correctly. On Mac or Linux, first cd to the directory where you downloaded the dd-wrt firmware, then:

tftp -e

Then at the tftp prompt, you want to do this:

put dd-wrt-blah-blah-micro.bin

When it report success, you are done! Ctrl+d out of tftp, and the router should reboot and voila, you have a magically better router. Log in, and remember the username is root and the password is admin. To get the wireless bridging you desire, you can use either client mode wireless (in which the router DHCPs and NATs the wireless signal to its wired ports) or client mode bridge (in which the router simply does a layer 2 forwarding). I prefer the bridging, this way all the devices are on the same subnet.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Using older Airport base stations with Leopard

I wrote a while back that I can't get excited about Leopard on the Mac...and that's still true, I'm still holding out and using Tiger. But I did come across this tidbit for Leopard users with older Apple Airport basestation hardware. It turns out for a while there, there was no way to configure your older Airport (graphite and snow) on Leopard; the new Airport Utility was only compatible with the newer Airport Extreme and Express lines, and with Time Capsule.

Needless to say, people were pissed that their hardware stopped working with the update. The situation was bad enough that some poeople started selling old Airports: I even picked up two older basestations for a good price from a friend of a friend who had given up and bought the newer products (exactly what Apple wanted).

Well, it seems Apple has finally rectified this situation. Last week, they released a tool called the Airport Admin Utility for Graphite and Snow. This is a legacy compatible utility that lets you configure your older basestaions. Prior to this, a workaround was discovered whereby a version of the admin utility for OS 10.3.3 could be extracted from an old installer package, and copied onto a Leopard machine. It looks like Apple probably just repackaged and renamed this older tool to be officially Leopard compatible.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Using Ghostscript to Concatenate Multiple PDF Files into one

I haven't written here for a while, but I decided to post helpful tips I've come across. Have you ever wanted to take a bunch of PDF files and concatenate them all together, but don't have Acrobat Pro, or any other editor capable of doing this? Well have no fear. If you are a Linux/Mac user, the following command will do the trick, assuming you have Ghostscript installed:

gs -dNOPAUSE -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -sOUTPUTFILE=merged.pdf -dBATCH [list of files here]

I guess this will work on Windows too (if GS has a command line interface), but YMMV.

Monday, January 7, 2008

NMT has arrived!

Its been a while since I've posted, but the NMT has come in! It seems to be a pretty solid little device...it can definitely handle the HD stuff I've thrown at it so far (1080i MPEG2 cable TV). On the other upsides, its cheap and the development team is really VERY responsive. I posted a reasonable feature request to their forums, and they replied within a day saying they'd add the feature. Less than two weeks later, they released new firmware with my requested feature!

Now some of the downsides. Firstly, it can't decode all audio formats! The DTS audio technology has to be licensed, and since the manufacturer doesn't pay the fee, they just output the audio digitally as raw DTS without decoding. You need an audio receiver to do the decode. Luckily, I don't have any material that is DTS encoded. Secondly, the system is far from perfect in seeking, FF/RW etc. There is no backwards seeking for MPEG2, and the seek/searching is a little buggy in general. Sometimes when I press play during a fast forward, it will just return back to the beginning of the clip (REALLY annoying). Another issue I've found is that certain combinations of container format and audio codec cause the audio to not be recognized or played back. I've found that when I use VLC to transcode to their MPEG2 PS, any AC3 audio is not recognized. When I use ProjectX, the generated "m2p" file's audio is recognized. The terminology is kind of muddled for me, as there are MPEG2 PVA, PES, and PS...and I'm not sure what VLC or ProjectX are really doing under the covers.

So basically, this thing is really still a work in progress. It still has lots of issues and bugs to work out with the different container formats and seeking, but they are regularly releasing firmware updates and I am really glad that they were able to go ahead and release this product to the market.