Confessions From An iPhone App Slut

They do a lot, but I suspect they would do more if there wasn’t such a stringent approval process from Apple–the controlling psychotic girlfriend of computing.

apple-iphone-3g.jpgAfter a few weeks with my new toy cellphone I am an iPhone app slut. There, I’ve said it. It’s out in the open now.

Apps are the little plug-in programs that extend the functionality of the iPhone. They do a lot, but I suspect they would do more if there wasn’t such a stringent approval process from Apple–the controlling psychotic girlfriend of computing.

Most paid apps cost $.99, though they do go higher. There are thousands of free apps too. In my role as an app slut I hardly ever pay. Of the dozens I’ve installed my total expenditure is still around $5.

Many of the apps take websites and customize their content for the phone’s smaller screen. We’ve got one (a very good one–no BS) at the TV station. The Times, Huffington and lots of other publishers have them too. I also have a few for weather data.

Oh–speaking of that the iPhone has no Flash or Java plug-in. That’s a major deal. There are a few weather applications I use daily which need Java&#185. I am suspicious this too has a lot to do with Apple’s control freak mentality.

Apple also prevents apps from running in the background. That means a GPS logger only logs when it’s the only thing running! Answer a call or look at an email and you have to restart the app. Maybe there’s a technical reason for this, but we’ve all come to expect multitasking and Verizon is heavily promoting it’s Droid’s ability to do that.

When the Google Map product just announced for Verizon’s Droid phone gets ported to the iPhone it will surely need to be downloaded as an app. This will happen. It probably won’t happen until the Droid has received the full benefit of its exclusivity and coolness.

I was playing with using the iPhone as a radio in the car, bringing in the NPR shows I like without the static I now get. My idea was flawed because NPR’s app is horrendously flawed (after using it a minute or two the buttons become extremely unresponsive) and Internet reception can sometimes be spotty.

Even if you lose the signal for just a second or two the NPR stations’ software sees this as a new connection and gives you a pre-recorded underwriting spiel before restarting the program. Sheesh!

On the other hand I’ve taken photos with the iPhone’s reasonably good camera (using an app called Tripod to steady the shot in low light) and had them posted on Facebook (using its app) seconds later. Very cool.

I downloaded the Joost app last night. It’s a video service claiming 46,000+ videos.

Don’t let the numbers fool you–that’s not a lot.

I watched a black and white Lone Ranger episode I’d watched as a kid. Even then I recognized very distinctive rock formations that amazingly showed up in every town the Ranger and Tonto visited. They were there last night! Now, with the Internet, I understand most of the episodes were shot in LA’s Griffith Park.

Joost suffers from what every video site suffers from–bad search. There’s just no good way to search video yet. That’s not an iPhone specific problem. Netflix and Hulu and, to a lesser extent, Youtube haven’t figured this one out.

The iPhone is a very good video player. It’s large enough, with a display dense enough, to make viewing a full show a reasonably enjoyable experience.

My secret friend from the San Fernando Valley said last night, “It’s the best toy I’ve ever had.” That’s a defensible position. This is a lot of fun and a lot of function.

I’m curious if Verizon/Motorola/Google’s entry into the market will force Apple to loosen up a little? I believe there’s a lot of potential being held under wraps, because even though I’m an app slut, Apple isn’t!

&#185 – Java is not javascript nor are they similar (One upper case, the other lowercase). The iPhone does javascript.

Down On The Mountain

Wuh-wuh-wuh-wuh… nothing. Wuh-wuh-wuh-wuh… nothing. Wuh-wuh-wuh-wuh… nothing. The motorized cart finally did start just as I began to panic.

Helaine and I were on our way down Sleeping Giant after our hike to the top when she complained about her glasses. “I really can’t see the rocks,” she said. Probably glare. I told her we should look for polarized lenses.

We will now.

A few minutes later she tripped on one of those rocks she couldn’t see and fell forward to the rock strewn path. Both her elbows were bloody as was the heel of her right hand. Her cheek was a little red–it had scraped the ground.

“I need to sit down,” she said. So we headed to the side of the trail where she sat on a convenient small boulder with a flattened top. She was a little nauseous–a little woozy.

She sat for a few minutes until two young women came by, asking if there was anything they could do. By this time I was concerned, so I left Helaine with them and began to run down the mountain. I would later find out the young women were nursing students from Yale. I can’t begin to thank them enough.

It’s the Friday before the 3-day Columbus Day weekend. I got to the ranger station and found vehicles, but no people. Like an idiot I walked through the parking lot next to the station yelling, “”Ranger!”

There was an emergency number on the door. I pulled out my cellphone and called the DEP dispatcher. A little less than five minutes later an officer (Officer Wirth, I think) in an ECON POLICE car drove up.

He opened the ranger station, went to the garage and attempted to fire up a little utility vehicle so we could drive to Helaine. Wuh-wuh-wuh-wuh… nothing. Wuh-wuh-wuh-wuh… nothing. Wuh-wuh-wuh-wuh… nothing. The motorized cart finally did start just as I began to panic.

By the time we got to Helaine on the trail she was on her feet and walking down with the nursing students. She was feeling a little better. Still, she got into the cart and drove the rest of the way to our car.

She’s home right now watching the Phillies. She’s got a headache, feels a little sore and has bandages on her elbows and hand, She’ll be OK. We’ll probably be back walking on the mountain before the weekend is up.

When you love someone you worry about them. I worried about Helaine.

We are both grateful to the three strangers who took the time to help us out.

Joshua Tree National Park

We had accomplished everything we set out to do in Palm Springs. And yet, we had one more full day. What to do?

I asked Larry in the hotel office. He’s done well suggesting two restaurants over the weekend. He did it again today, recommending Joshua Tree National Park.

We headed east on I-10. Once we passed Indio, the palm trees stopped and the desert became more scrubby and ugly. Joshua Tree was another 25 miles away.

I got off the freeway in Cottonwood, turned north and headed into the park.

Most national parks have a gate you go through… in essence a toll booth where the daily fee is collected ($15 per car). Not here. A friendly sign at the ranger station asked you to turn in and register.

The ranger asked me a few questions and then she proceeded to mark a map with sites appropriate for Helaine and me. Light hiking – OK. Scary heights – nope. Photo ops – please!

First stop was a stand of chollo cactus. These are particularly nasty plants, if you get near them. They pierce the skin easily and hurt like crazy. They’re called teddy bear cactus by some, “But don’t hug them,” the ranger had warned.

The chollo grow in a very compact stand. Where they grow, there are hundreds, but the area they inhabit ends sharply.

The rangers have created a path through the chollo. Lots of photo opportunities for me and an excellent chance to see this species up close for everyone. This was the prettiest part of the park.

Joshua Tree is nowhere near the prettiest park I’ve been in. I still wouldn’t have turned down the opportunity. It features broad valleys and meadows marked with the scrubby vegetation most of America’s deserts feature. The valleys are surrounded by mountains and often rocky outcroppings.

Of course there are also stands of Joshua Trees. From a distance, they resemble tree we might have in the northeast, but up close it’s instantly obvious they’re built for the desert. They grow 30-40 feet tall and can live a few hundred years.

Originally, I was going to drive in the southern park entrance, explore, then turn around and head home. The ranger suggested otherwise. We drove all the way through the park from south to north.

A few miles from the exit, I stopped to photograph some interesting rocks. It wasn’t until I really looked closely that I realized a man and woman were rappelling the rock face!

I moved close enough to hear him shout instructions down to her. Maybe she was his student? This was an interesting place for a classroom and scary enough for Helaine to look away.

If you’re one of the rappellers and somehow find your way here, drop me a line. I’d be thrilled to send you the higher quality original files I have.

We exited the park in the town of Joshua Tree, CA. Without the National Park Service to protect it, the land was speckled with buildings and other artifacts of 21st Century life. It was not pretty at all.

We turned west, headed into Yucca Valley and then down a long steeply descending road into the Morongo Valley. Before long we were back here in Palm Springs.

As a kid, national parks were totally foreign to me. Even if given the chance, I probably would have said no. It takes a certain personal seasoning (in other words, age) to go somewhere and just enjoy those things that make it different and distinct.

That’s what we did today.

Joshua Tree isn’t my favorite national park, but it was well worth our time this beautiful early fall afternoon.