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August 17, 2007

Hmmmm...blogging from iPhone

Very interested to see how MovableType 4 works on this here iPhone. The authoring tool has a slick UI that seems like it would be a problem for a browser on a mobile device.

So far this seems good. Since you can't select text it does make any of the buttons where you highlight something and click to bold etc. unavailable.

What I really want is to have an email address that will make the subject the title and the email body the post body. Surely that exists, and maybe even can understand a photo attachment?

Am I just not looking, or on the wrong software?

Posted by mike at 2:12 PM

iPhone Dock Extender Cable (with USB data sync)

Buy a Dock Extender Cable for iPod or iPhone at CableJive

It was only a matter of time. Since I picked up the iPhone I've had a nagging thought about about making the dock extender cable I hacked together iPhone-compatible.

So after a few long nights of poking around at it I've put together the iPhone/iPod Dock Extender Plus, or a cable that is compatible with the iPod and iPhone that does everything that the original hack did but also includes USB data connectivity and a workaround for a special trick Apple seems to have thrown into the iPhone dock.

How? Well, everything is almost the same, except the pins that you have to connect.

Using the original iPod dock extender cable with the iPhone only worked on Firewire-powered devices (ie the Bose SoundDock), and not so great because the iPhone doesn't recognize the device so you're constantly warned about it. It does charge, play music, and provide iPhone control.

Using the original iPod dock extender cable on the iPhone dock was a complete failure. The phone wouldn't charge (even though the pins for USB power are connected).

My first ideas was to add in USB data connectivity (pins 25 & 27). Still doesn't work connecting to the dock, but I discovered that if I connect the iPhone to the extender cable, and connect the extender cable directly to the Apple-provided iPhone sync cable, bypassing the docking station, that the iPhone charges and syncs as expected. Hmmm. A bit of a mystery.

Curiosity got the best of me and I ended up ripping the iPhone docking station apart to see what was going on inside. I discovered (although the ripping apart wasn't strictly necessary for this) that pin 7, an undocumented pin previously unused is accepted on the connector where the iPhone sits. It is not passed through to the USB cable on the back of the dock...but perhaps that is the mystery.

Sure enough, if you connect pin 7 (along with 25 & 27 for USB data and 16 & 18 for USB power) the iPhone works perfectly through the extender cable connected to the dock (I had to buy a second one since I trashed the first one trying to get it open).

So there you have it. An iPhone Dock Extender Cable, or better yet a iPhone/iPod Dock Extender Plus, which does everything that the original cable does plus it adds in USB data connectivity.

I've had a lot of requests for putting together a cable that has USB connectivity...mostly for automobiles that use the USB data connection to get playlists etc.

Now you have it.

For reference, the pinouts diagrams and site to get the connectors.

Posted by mike at 8:00 AM

August 16, 2007

Trashed iPhone Docking Station

As a part of this iPhone hack I ended up ripping apart my iPhone dock to solve a mystery about what pins are used. Let's just say the dock doesn't come apart nicely. There were no screws, was just a matter of brute force breaking the plastic. In the process I trashed the circuitry and broke off the aux audio output jack.

Figured I'd get a little bit of satisfaction by posting a photo. I set the aux audio output jack back on the board to make it look like it should if disassembled less destructively.

Do I eBay this? I've sold a variety of broken things (Palm with cracked screen, non-functioning digital camera) and am always surprised that there's someone interested.

Posted by mike at 11:55 AM

August 14, 2007

The New iMac on My Desk

The FedEx guy came early this morning with a large box from Apple. As I had previously promised, a new 24" brushed aluminum iMac is now on my desk.

The last time I had a desktop computer was in early 2003, more than 4 years ago. While I will still use my laptop a lot, especially on the go, it is really nice to have a desktop and the things that come with a machine more permanent affixed.

The 24" glossy screen is, as Steve (Jobs) would say, stunning. I found myself feeling particularly productive today when working on code because you can just see so much of it on the screen at one time. My 15" MacBook Pro laptop screen isn't as clear, and can't show anywhere near as much at one time. Being able to see another 40 lines of code vertically, and have two separate editor windows and a browser all lined up horizontally is really nice.

The new Apple keyboard have a similar feel to a laptop keyboard, without the surface of the laptop to deal with. The touch is very soft. It was a little strange for the first hour or so, but after that I really like how quiet it is and how little effort it takes to hammer out text.

With almost a terabyte of storage (750GB internal, 250GB external) I'm slowly getting all of my data back under control. For the past year or so I've had to spread my data across various machines, external drives, and backup DVD/CDs. Nice to have space to organize all of that and have it readily available. I don't have to keep my music on a separate external drive anymore!

The processor and graphics power on this machine are also very nice. Definitely noticed the speed in launching apps and the display. It's hard for a laptop to compete with the kind of processor and high-end graphics card that come with a desktop.

The bottom line...it has been awhile since I upgraded to a new machine and was wowed by the experience. This new 24" aluminum iMac has done it for me.

More later on the new software that came with this, thinking about going without Office for a bit and seeing if Pages, Numbers, and Keynote can get me through.

Posted by mike at 12:30 AM

August 8, 2007

On Owning a Larrivée Guitar

The UPS truck came by today to drop off a large box. Inside it was a hand-made Larrivée guitar. More specifically, the OMV-03RE, a grand concert with venetian cutaway. Very, very excited to have this guitar. It is no longer made, but the specs for the LV-03RE are similar.

How It Happened

Skipping back..for the past several years I've been wanting a second, small-body acoustic guitar to juxtapose against my huge Guild JF30 jumbo. I've looked at many guitars, and played a few, but it never was quite the right guitar or the right time.

A few weeks ago I was in Portland, Oregon, where the Tri-met train drove past the Apple Music Row acoustic guitar shop every morning and afternoon. One day I stopped in and found some very nice folks who were very knowledgeable and helpful (ask for Chuck, he's the most friendly, knowledgable, and approachable guy I've ever encountered in a music store). After some discussion I spent a litte time in a sound room playing the Larrivée grand concert cutaway and really, really enjoyed it.

I loved playing the guitar, but I just wasn't sure. After more conversation with the folks there I left the guitar shop with a business card, and spent the rest of our time in Portland boring Heidi with details about the experience. On the night we left Portland I realized that I really didn't want to go home without the guitar, but it was too late. I was a little worried, there was a limited number of these grand concert cutaways made. I emailed at my first chance, and with a follow-up phone call the guitar was on the way to Boston.

Why Larrivée

First, and most important, I love playing this guitar. I really like the tone of it and find the size a very nice break from the huge body of my Guild jumbo. It is hard to put down.

Second, I've been listening to other folks play these guitars for years. Some of my favorite folk artists (David Wilcox, John Gorka, Christine Lavin, Bruce Cockburn) have spent some chunk of their musical careers (songwriting, touring, recording, etc) with a Larrivée as their preferred guitar. I like this idea, of playing a guitar that I hear regularly in recordings from other folks.

Third, Jean Larrivée is a fantastic guitar maker. He still goes out and hand picks the timber used in making these guitars (doesn't rely on a third-party supplier for pre-cut wood). His building techniques are his own, and have been honed over the years by what he thinks makes a good guitar, not by what other guitar makers are doing.

If you have a few minutes, the video, I Build Guitars, is a nice look at Jean talking about the process showing some of their facilities in Vancouver, BC, the shop where my guitar was made.

Posted by mike at 11:42 PM

MySQL Takes Another Step (Away from Open Source)

In the ongoing effort to convert more users into paying customers, MySQL announced today that they are no longer making the source code tarball for their Enterprise server publicly available. You could see this coming from a million miles away.

Back in December 2006 I pondered on the changes with the MySQL database splitting into two offerings, the enterprise and community editions:

The source for the enterprise edition will still be available:
we will continue to make all releases available over our BitKeeper tree and as source code tarballs
So it appears that those willing to compile from source will still have access to the enterprise edition. This is very important (in my eyes) to keep MySQL in the open source space. Without it MySQL AB becomes a commercial company that has an open source offering.

So where does that leave MySQL now, are they still an open source company, or have they crossed the line? Today's announcement has this point about GPL compliance:

The GPL requires us (like anybody else) to hand out the code to those whom we give the binaries, which in the case of MySQL Enterprise Server is just the customers.

So this may be true technically, but it doesn't seem to fit with the spirit of open source. When I think open source I think freely available source, not source I can get once I've paid for a license. Is this just a lack on my part of really understanding open source?

I'm sure that folks will point out that the announcement confirms that enterprise source is still available on Bitkeeper. If true, the source is technically still available, but it is now just a little more difficult to get the source and turn it into a working binary.

And I can only guess, but somewhere in the MySQL master plan there must be another blog post planned to ease folks along about closing off the enterprise source in Bitkeeper. After all, we should not expect to get the code for enterprise software like MySQL for free, it is for paying customers.

And then there's only one thing left in the plan to convert folks to paying customers...cripple or do away with the community edition. The marketing message (one example) already suggests that the community edition is experimental and not for production. This might deter some folks from using the freely available community edition, but there are definitely more serious measures that would ensure it won't be used in environments where a licensed version could be used. Perhaps it is the long release cycle, or letting the community server get unreliable with community contributions. Perhaps it is introducing limits in data storage or server capabilities. Am I just being paraniod? Why is it easy for me to imagine this coming down the road?

Why does this matter to me? I don't know. I admit I'm not anything special in the open source community. I've been using open source since the early days, but haven't made any earth-shattering contribution or raised a flag of commitment or dedication to open source. I suspect it has something to do with having used MySQL since it first appeared in the open source stack and having been an advocate of it for many years now. I'm still sorting out why these changes at MySQL seem to always touch a nerve. I have many friends who work at MySQL and respect them a great deal. They are bright folks who work hard. This is definitely not about them.

[I also realize that the enterprise licenses are not expensive when compared to other proprietary software vendors. But that's not the point is it, the relative cost of a license isn't a factor in whether software is open source or not.]

Posted by mike at 8:34 AM