How to view PDF and other files on your iPhone and iPod Touch

This article was originally written in April 2009. A few new apps have appeared since then, but one, GoodReader is now my daily go-to PDF reader right now. I touch on a few of the new apps here, including GoodReader, but you’ll be back on this page if you want to check out Stanza — a great eBook reader.

I have to read a lot of fiction in the next few months. A lot of Science Fiction to be precice, and it’s so I can cast an informed ballot to help select the best of the genre at this year’s World Science Fiction convention (WorldCon).

As a member of WorldCon, a packet containing this year’s nominees arrived in my inbox earlier this week. Lots of PDF, RTF, DOC and TXT files, for many diverse categories including best Novel, Novella, etc. Not small files by any stretch.

So, to avoid culling a small forest by printing it all out, I decided to try and read them on my iPod Touch. In the past I’ve enjoyed reading on my previous portable device, the Palm T|X, so figured that I should give it a try on the Touch. And that got me wondering, is there an iPhone or iPod Touch app to read pdfs? I’m happy to say the answer is yes, but.

The dilemma, how to get just under 200mb of data on to this little sucker. Well, I solved it, two ways. Here’s how: Continue reading “How to view PDF and other files on your iPhone and iPod Touch”

Major Tom cover version — official free download available

You’ve likely heard it in the Lincoln MKZ commercials, but last night I finally paid attention to the ad and listened… and heard this awesome version inbetwixt shows. So obviously I had to find it somewhere.

After scouring Google videos and all, I’d finally resigned myself to having to listen to it through this track.

Then, good friend and uber-tracker-outdoor-dude Ranger Bob found the official download of Shiny Toy Guns cover version of Peter Shilling’s Major Tom (Coming Home).

Update: Embedding the flash player version here for instant listening gratification.

Give it a listen, then check out the original in the Peter Shilling YouTube videos. Who wins? I like the new one 🙂

5 favourite iPhone & iPod Touch applications

I recently bought an iPod Touch to replace my very cool, yet aging Palm T|X. The iPod Touch doesn’t yet ‘fit me like a glove’ but I’m sure after time it will, and I’ll document my experiences with it here.

Previously I’d written that I was rather unimpressed with the ‘WiPod’ as I called it then. The feature set looked limited and the price was rather high.

My how much difference a year and a half makes. This is a very functional device that I’m beginning to really appreciate.

But today, I thought I’d share my five favourite iPhone / iPod Touch applications. Even though I’ve had mine under a month, be assured that I’ve been scouring the iTunes Applications store over that month. You may not agree with me, or maybe I’ve missed YOUR must-have application; please let me know in the comments below.

But, since I found that app store so handy, it has to be the first application on my list:

  1. The iTunes Application Store: Here’s where you purchase your iPhone & iPod Touch applications. The store is searchable, and breaks the available applications down by categories, as well as ranking them by popularity and ‘new-ness’. But you don’t have to spend a lot to get more functionality on your device; many applications are only $0.99 (in your local currency!). And, there are often ‘lite’ free versions available too. A must have application, and since it’s shipped with your device, you’ve no reason to not explore it further.
  2. Flight Control: Currently one of the hottest casual games for the iPhone & Touch. Deceptively simple…aircraft appear at the edge of your screen; simply touch them and drag a ‘flight path’ to guide them to a safe landing on the appropriate runway. But wait,another plane has appeared, and now another! As you can guess, your airspace quickly gets complex. A very simple game to play, but much more difficult to master. Well worth the $0.99 it’s currently priced at.
  3. Evernote: A very cool application that mates up with the PC/Mac partners. Basically, Evernote lets you clip anything to an online storage vault. You can then view your docs via any browser, or through OS specific desktop applications. Unlike social bookmarking sites such as, Evernote actually clips the web page, preserving the state of the page at the time it was clipped. A rather generous free account is available, as well as a paid one offering more storage capacity.
  4. Google Apps: Since I tend to do a lot of my work ‘in the cloud’ Google Apps is the application suite for me. The iPhone / iPod Touch implementation is quite effective at getting me access to my ‘office suite’ of tools. Mostly I use it to display and review documents I’ve created and stored there. Since it’s browser based, it uses Safari, which is great for displaying and manipulating text, but is a pain for text entry.
  5. Safari: The default browser. For me this is an essential tool, for what is the point of being connected and not being able to surf the web? The browser works as expected. Depending on which orientation you hold the device on, pages can be rather tiny, but a simple multi-touch zoom makes them easily readable. But don’t get me started on keyboard entry for passwords and other logins…I must have fat fingers as I’m always mis-typing my logins. For text entry, it’s barely functional. I hope the recently announced 3.0 OS upgrade will address this.

Given that I’ve got over 70 apps currently installed, and I appear to have a voracious appetite to download and try out new ones, I’m sure I’ll be making another post like this one in the future.

Now these are just my current top five. What have I missed? What are your favourite iPhone apps? Please add yours in the comments section…I’m always looking for something new to download and play with 🙂

Best music player ever. Songbird 1.1.1 now with watched folders.

I’ve written before about Songbird, the free, open-source music player based on the Mozilla / FireFox platform.

Basically Songbird rocks.

Well, now there’s extra-new-and-improved Songbird goodness as the update was released this evening, with the one significant feature it’s been lacking up ’till now — the ‘Watched Folder’ feature.

To quote from the songbird release email:

Watch Folders
You can choose to watch a folder hierarchy for changes and the content will auto-magically be imported in your library. If a file is removed from the watched folder, the corresponding track will be deleted from your Library.

Of course, this isn’t the only new feature in Songbird, but for me, it’s the most important.

If you’ve not tried Songbird as an iTunes replacement, give it a go…it’s really worth the investment, for Mac, PC and Linux.

Wondering why people follow me on Twitter?

About 6 months ago I got curious as to why people were following me on Twitter. Basically I asked them… and then found out some rather interesting things, both about why they were following me and also about the evolving etiquette around Twitter interactions.

This has turned into a two-part post. Initially I was going to address both the process I used, and the results, but once I writing about the process, I realized the post was  too long to digest at once. So, I’ll get to the numbers in the next post.

On to the process.

How do I know when someone’s following me?
If you look under the Notices tab on your Twitter Settings page you’ll see the checkbox beside ‘New Follower Emails:’. Check it and you’ll be automagically emailed every time someone starts following. Simple ‘eh? Without this feature, knowing when someone started following me would have been much more difficult.

Asking the question…it’s all in the question.

Initially, I thought a simple DM (Twitter Direct Message) along the lines of ‘hey, thanks for following me, how’d you find me?‘ would suffice. But no, it’s too simple, and didn’t really get much of a response. I think it tended to put people off by it’s brevity, and it was generic; it looked like the DM could have been generated by an Auto-DM script.

Auto-DM is currently considered bad form as many people interpret the Twitter to be at its best with live interaction, and the DM channel to be reserved for interaction that may not be of interest to all of  your followers.

So, I settled on this process to review candidates to survey:

  • Click on the link to the new follower’s profile in the New Follower Email.
  • Check out the followers details: location (if any), interests, web page, tweeting history and content to see if they’re interesting to me.
  • Look for a ‘message follower‘ link under the Actions section of their profile. If it’s not there,  they don’t want to be sociable, so I won’t bother them by following them back. In my case, when I follow you, it’ll say ‘message bgrier’ as indicated in the image to the right.
  • If the profile or a quick review of recent tweets reveals that all this follower is writing about is a ‘new moneymaking system’ or ‘SEO secrets’, then I’ll use the link on the line below it and block them from receiving my updates. I effectively vanish from their ‘following’ list. I have no time for these type of spam accounts.

Over the period of my informal survey, both my ‘tweet’ frequency and my follower counts have increased. I don’t think one is a significant result of the other, as during this period, Twitter has gained a lot more publicity, and spam-follower activity has increased. The tweet frequency may have had a small impact.

Regardless, it’s interesting data and is displayed in cool charts 🙂 As you can see in the TweetStats chart below, I have been increasing my online activity.

And my follower count has also grown, as indicated in this TwitterCounter chart.

All right. I’ve seen significant growth of followers over the last few months, and of those, a pretty good segment of people have taken a moment or two to explain why they followed me. Digging into those details will be the subject of my next post, but in the meantime, let me ask you a question.

Why do you think people are following YOU on Twitter? Post your answeres in the comments below.

Logitech G15 Keyboard upgrade (v1 – v2)

Logitech G15 Keyboard (version 1) After a lengthy email exchange with Logitech customer support (started October 22, 2007), I’ve just received my replacement Logitech G15 keyboard (affiliate link).

The key problem (pardon the pun) was that the black paint on a few of the keys was wearing off, allowing the backlighting to shine through obscuring any key lettering. This keyboard was around a year old..maybe less.

Now, since I’d started the process, Logitech updated and revised the G15 with:

  • Logitech G15 Keyboard (version 2)Reportedly improved keyboard paint
  • Orange backlit keyboard (the first one was blue)
  • Reduced the number of programmable Gkeys from 18 to 6(!)
  • Reduced the size of the LCD display by appx. 40% though keeping the number of pixels HxW
  • Removed the ability of the LDC display to swivel
  • Removed the volume control wheel

Frankly, I was hoping for them to send me another v1 G15. I was comfortable with the desktop footprint it had (huge), I liked the availability of all those programmable keys, and I liked the size of the LCD display.

But now I’ve got a v2, and here are my initial impressions:

  • Key depress feel is soft…maybe mushy?
  • Keyboard sits differently on my desktop…I have to hunt initially to place my fingers on the home row properly
  • Keyboard footprint is smaller. I like this. I now have more desktop space for my mouse and Wacom Bamboo tablet.
  • LCD Display is very slightly out of alignment in it’s housing. Not too noticeable, but when I do it’s a minor annoyance.
  • The keyboard drivers and software were easy to install and setup
  • Logitech maintained compatibility with LCDStudio, so my custom displays run properly
  • Not sure I like the smaller LCD display…we’ll see how it goes.
  • I *think* I’ll like the orange backlight. It seems to glare less.
  • The volume buttons work ‘ok’, but the wheel seemed nicer — like the wheel on an iPod. Upside is I can still use the wheel/spot on the Wacom Bamboo 🙂
  • Marketing: the Box and some online literature do NOT mention that the keyboard has 2 USB ports. I was worried because the v1 G15 does have these, and I didn’t want to lose the ability to plug in thumb drives..etc.
  • Am I missing the extra 12 macro keys? I’m not sure yet. The keyboard layout is different, but since I also have a Nostromo n52 keyboard, I’m sure I can map any missing functionality over to it.

Conclusion: For now I’d say I’m satisfied. The process took a while, I’m not convinced the paint on this keyboard will last better than the last. The reduced LCD display size could be an issue…but I’ll reserve judgement on it for now…and I think I like the orange backlight.

Modding my Xbox…

[ This item originated at my previous (now defunct) blog — copy retrieved from the Internet Archive]

A while ago I managed to lay my hands on a refurbished Xbox for a fairly reasonable price. Great, methinks. A game console and a DVD player, all rolled into one. And hey, it’ll even play music from the built in hard drive too¦ but not stock from the factory. No, my friend, you have to void the Microsoft warranty and mess with the happy technology that lies buried within your game console. Once you do that, you then have unlocked the power of your Xbox, and created a Monster¦here’s how I did mine¦ Continue reading “Modding my Xbox…”