Volitans Software

Rumor: iPhone OS 4.0 to Add Third Party Multitasking

According to AppleInsider, Apple is adding the ability for third parties to multitasking. They say no details are available, but its a “full-on” solution.

This is very exciting, as it will fix the biggest flaw of the OS right now. As AI points out, its not a technical problem, as many Apple apps (iPod, Messages, etc) run fine in the background. Its a political problem. The current arguments for it (battery and resource usage) are red-herrings, because they both apply to the Apple apps as well- and the decision to use them are up to the user.

I’m very interested in seeing how Apple manages this. I expect the home button to be the primary means of interacting, with only one third party app allowed to run. There will also be a requirement to have a menu bar icon to alert the user that there is an extra app being run.

Regardless of how its done, this is great news for the platform. Once less reason to use the Andriod platform. The next thing to change: unsigned apps.

SMART Utility 2.2 is Out

I’m please to release version 2.2 of SMART Utility. The biggest features are opening and saving SMART data reports, printing, and better support for SSDs. Get it here.

Full release notes:

– Added support for saving and opening drive reports in native format

– Added support for printing SMART reports

– Fixed bug where scanning capabilities that would cause an error

– Fixed bug where in rare cases scanning SMART data would cause a crash

– Improved debug log formatting

– Moved log files to a subfolder

– Now log window updates live

– Updated smartctl engine to 5.39 providing more fixes and recognizes more drives, including SSDs

– Updated eSellerate embedded engine to 4.0.0.7


Steven F Gets It All Wrong

In his recent blog post Steven writes

This is such a perfectly encapsulated nutshell of exactly why Apple does not allow third-party background processes on the iPhone.

He gets it all wrong. If this is why Apple doesn’t allow third-party background apps on Touch OS X devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad), then Apple has failed at UI innovating. Palm, as well as the Android, have very poor interfaces for allowing background applications.

Mac OS X (which the iPhone OS is based on) can handle background processes just fine. Obviously, the interface for dealing with them is poor for a small touch device. So a new interface needs to be created. I don’t know what Apple has in mind, but I will tell you how I’d do it.

Double click the Home Button, and up comes a popover listing all running applications- iPod, Mail, Safari, Twitter. Each has a little X next to it to kill the app. Tap on the app and the popover flips over to reveal a widget for that app (ala the iPod that currently pops up on a double click). Heck to assuage the nonsensical battery life arguments (let me choose what and how my battery life is- that is why Mail and the iPod can run in the background if I want), a maximum of 4 apps can be running.

I think that solves the problem once and for all. After finally allowing multitasking (just like the finally allowed copy and paste), Apple has only one more hurdle for the perfect phone- unsigned apps. Android won’t stand a chance once those two things are checked off. I’m anxious to see iPhone OS 4.0 to see how they really do implement background apps.

Thoughts about the iPad

So I’ve had some time to digest the iPad announcement. For the time leading up to the official unveiling, I was unimpressed with any idea of a tablet. “Why would I need one?”

Well, color me impressed. I could definitely see using this around the house or on a long distance trip to surf the net, play games, even type on it. Sometimes it would be nice not to look at a small screen, or lug around a big laptop.

Now, I don’t like the fact that it still doesn’t allow unapproved apps, but I’m hoping that changes with time. However, the ability to run iPhone apps, as well as apps specifically designed for the iPad will be very cool.

I will probably wait for revision B in any case, but I will probably pick one up.

SMART Utility 2.1.2 is Out

Few bug fixes. Get it here.

– Fixed a crash on 10.4 Intel systems with Growl 1.1.6 installed (related to Growl Framework 1.2)
– Fixed bug where certain drives would only show “calculating…” for short tests
– Improved Estimated Time Remaining for short tests

SMART Utility 2.1.1 is Out

This one’s mostly bug fixes. Get it here.

Full Release Notes:

– Fixed bug where on new installs scans every 50 seconds instead of every hour
– Fixed bug where polling preference time shows unknown time
– Fixed bug where error window would not open on some drives
– Fixed bug where reading health would cause an exception
– Fixed bug where outputting debug message would cause crash in self test log
– Fixed bug where with French localization where main window and tests window would not localize self test error statuses
– Fixed default opening tab for preferences
– Fixed a small memory leak
– Improved debug log information output
– Now Main window saves its position
– Updated help with changes to polling as well as two new FAQs
– Updated eSellerate embedded engine to 4.0.0.6
– Updated Growl framework to 1.2 (which is 10.5 only but should still work for 10.4 Growl installs)

Update: Apple Gives in to Rogue Amoeba

In an update to this post I made a view days ago (where Apple rejected their already approved app because it used images of Apple computers), Apple has reversed course and now will allow the app. Apple, via Phil Schiller (Senior Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing), has stated that they are changing their policies regarding trademarked images.

Its good to see them backpedal because it was a horrible decision in the first place. It was covered far and wide, and was very bad PR for Apple. On top of that, it hurt the UI of the app- something Apple is supposed to be know for.

However, RA is not jumping back into iPhone development:

The problems of the App Store go well beyond our own relatively minor case. We pushed this update to Airfoil Speakers Touch out because we wanted to restore functionality we had to take away from our users. We’re happy to be able to do that.

That said, the App Store and iPhone platform still have myriad problems, detailed in many places. Among other issues, the potential remains for months of effort to be wasted as an app sits in limbo, or is never even released. As well, the long lead times needed before updates reach users are still in place.

At this time, we don’t believe it makes good business sense for us to commit much in the way of resources to the iPhone. We’ll make sure our existing applications continue to function, of course, but that’s all we have planned for now.

I have to agree. There still are many problems with the App Store, none of which is fixed by this decision. Slow review process, unknown risk as to whether an app will be approved, inconsistant reviewing- these all still exist. And they still don’t see the problem:

Schiller does manage to admit that Apple has made mistakes. Sadly, he doesn’t say it loudly enough. In a Social Networking era when transparency is not only beneficial to a company but almost essential to maintaining a happy customer base, Apple still can’t manage genuine “openness” where it most counts. I’m sure Misters Jobs and Schiller grudgingly decided this interview was a necessary (if bitter-tasting) step in damage-control. But it’s dripping with convoluted and downright unfriendly corporate-speak.

And its not just openness- though that will help tremendously. Its even having a process in the first place. There really needs a second way to get apps on the phone. Apple can still have its App Store with visibility and ease of use (for buying and selling). But for those apps that Apple doesn’t like but users do, iTunes should allow installing any .ipa files.

App Store Full of Buggy Apps

Paul Graham makes a very interesting point in his article about the reasons the App Store is failing:

By breaking software development, Apple gets the opposite of what they intended: the version of an app currently available in the App Store tends to be an old and buggy one. One developer wrote:

I believe that they think their approval process helps users by ensuring quality. In reality, bugs like ours get through all the time and then it can take 4-8 weeks to get that bug fix approved, leaving users to think that iPhone apps sometimes just don’t work. Worse for Apple, these apps work just fine on other platforms that have immediate approval processes.

I had not considered that because Apple takes so long to approve updates, that most apps in the App Store are very buggy since no updates can be approved. Whereas on the Mac, an update can be pushed right away to fix a bug, the APp Store takes an unknown amount of time. So the tendency to roll as many fixes and changes into one update is overwhelmingly strong, because who wants to wait 3 months for 6 updates, and instead to 1 update every 3 months.

Just another reason the approval process is broken.

Another iPhone Developer Quits

Rogue Amoeba has announced they are also leaving iPhone development. In their case, they tried to submit a bug fix release, but Apple complained about them “using Apple’s image” in their app. First off, I don’t understand why Apple wouldn’t want them to use the images. I mean, that provides UI and image consistency across apps and devices. Second, they got the images from APPLE PROVIDED SOURCES. I just don’t understand this.

The situation is getting more dire everyday. I thought this would be a weekly thing, and now its happening daily.