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AT&T Takes Care of Charlotte, Again

AT&TCHARLOTTE, NC – For the third time in the last year Charlotte, NC is getting in early on AT&T rollouts. This time Charlotte will be the second trial city for a Wifi Hotzone, provided free by the wireless giant. In past months North Carolina was the only state included in the initial rollout of AT&T’s Microcell product. And Charlotte was one of six cities promised an early deployment of HSPA 7.2 at the end of 2009. The first Wifi Hotzone was deployed to New York City.

Aside from the weak 3G signal in this area it’s hard to justify the site selection. The heart of Charlotte is a couple blocks up, running between College Street and Church Street. That’s where the banks are and the majority of the office space. Entertainment, shopping, residential – it’s just not present in the deployment area. Which leaves the two AT&T buildings that anchor the site as somehow being intrinsic to the selection.

AT&TPhotos taken by Murphy Mac in December of 2009 show two AT&T buildings that anchor the exact area AT&T plans to serve with their new initiative. One photo was taken in front of a sizeable AT&T office building located only four blocks from another AT&T building with numerous antenna arrays on the roof. But only EDGE connectivity is available at the location.

The area to be covered includes the new NASCAR Hall of Fame at one end, next to the large AT&T office building. The zone continues along Brevard Street ending near East Trade Steet, close to the other AT&T building previously mentioned.

The Hotzone coverage will also include parts of the LYNX light rail system, although it’s not clear if that’s only in the immediate area described or a larger portion of the line.

AT&T AT&T likely chose this area for its weak 3G signal. While the convention center and the NASCAR Hall of Fame are located in the zone there isn’t a great deal of pedestrian activity. The service is not targeted at indoor use and other parts of the city typically have much higher concentrations of outdoor gatherings.

The next Hotzone could be coming to Chicago according to various reports.

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iOS4 Camera Roll Caution

It might be a good idea to pull all the photos and video from your iPhone and back them up before upgrading to iOS4. It seems some people have experienced strange issues. If you search the forums at macrumors.com or discussions.apple.com for “iOS4 Camera Roll” you’ll see some threads.

In my case the dates of all the videos in the camera roll were changed to the date I installed iOS4. It doesn’t look like photos were affected.

I don’t see a way to fix this, it seems the proper date information has been wiped. My iPhone backup prior to iOS4 has already been overwritten. In my case I have about 4 months of videos that I’ll have to adjust manually if I want the right information.

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iPhone 4.0 – What’s Still Missing

iphone4dotoh
The preview of the new iPhone OS cleans up Apple’s todo list, but there are still features I’d like to see. Let’s get right to it.

Wifi Sync. They’ve been holding this one back for a while. Downloading podcasts directly to my iPhone helped a little. But I’m still expecting full sync via wifi. At this point I don’t understand what the hold-up is.

Someone always says, “Why do you need that?” Because my iTunes Mac is in the west wing in the media closet, and I don’t want to walk through the conservatory and the butler’s pantry just to sync some tv shows before going out to the pool.

Enable FM. My gym broadcasts television audio over FM. The iPhone has the capability already, why not turn it on? I don’t consider FM a threat to apps like Pandora. Anything that gets people listening to music can’t be bad for the world’s biggest music store. Turn on the FM please.

Latitude. I’d like to share my location with certain people via Google Latitude. The web version on my iPhone doesn’t cut it. Maybe with the new multitasking services Google will give Latitude for iPhone a try. And maybe Apple will say ok.

Google Voice. This might be the most interesting. As a phone the iPhone features haven’t really changed since 2007. Except for Voice dialing.
Apple’s arguments for keeping Voice off the iPhone made little or no sense. Their claim that they were studying it (they didn’t reject it) might be somewhat true. Some of the features of Google Voice could have been very Apple-like on the iPhone – implemented with the help of AT&T. Visual Voicemail was essentially the only voice feature that initially set telephony apart on the iPhone. And it probably wasn’t easy to get AT&T to cooperate.
So – maybe Apple is working on their own version of Google Voice features.
I don’t expect to see Google Voice on the iPhone. Google and Apple are crossing the streams. Dr. Spengler said that would be bad.

Streaming to Airport Express and Apple TV. The iPhone Remote app is nice, it lets me control my Apple TV as it plays over my stereo or streams to my Airport Express. I’d still like streaming from the iPhone directly to an Airport Express or Apple TV.

Default App. Like weather, stocks, clock or slideshow. It could kick in with autolock when the phone is docked. Deactivated by default to keep things simple.

Gesture Preferences. The iPad has brightness settings in the iBook app. It would be nice to bring up brightness in lots of apps, by using a four finger swipe or something like that. Exiting an app is a long round-trip just to change brightness. Better yet: Using the physical volume button with a finger on the screen.

What else?

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iPhone GPS Abroad

circleWorried about iPhone international roaming charges while traveling abroad, but you want to use the phone’s GPS? If “abroad” means Canada or the US you can use MotionX maps. Also – information on using the iPhone GPS without incurring data charges.

I’ve had lots of people ask me about using their iPhone when traveling abroad. Specifically, they want to know if the GPS will work without the SIM card installed (yes) or while in Airplane Mode (no).

MotionX GPS updated their iPhone app a while back with an extremely useful feature: The ability to preload a map cache for selected geographic areas. You can also select a range of zoom levels you wish to cache. The interface is as simple as dragging a circle around the area to be cached. You can also drag an oval shape if your travels are more linear-inclined.oval

Before the update I preloaded map tiles into MotionX GPS by dragging maps around an area of interest in advance of my travels. That wouldn’t be so bad if you didn’t have to repeat the procedure for every zoom level you might want to view while offline. Omissions were inevitable.

Of course as you select closer and closer zoom levels there will be far more tiles to download. The app lets you know how many megabytes you’re downloading and a progress bar lets you know when the cache has been built. You can also delete a cache when you don’t need it anymore.

tile_downloadCached maps improve performance while online as well, so maybe you’d download your home town. The maps will load faster when they’re already on your iPhone. Note that MotionX GPS works with Google and Bing map tiles but the preload cache feature only works with MotionX’s own maps. The MotionX maps have been fine for Murphy.

Your phone has a button to turn off data roaming, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t use the iPhone for voice or data. Instead of using Airplane Mode while in Toronto I removed my sim card to ensure I wouldn’t be charged international data rates. Airplane Mode turns off the GPS receiver. My hotel wifi connection gave the GPS enough information to get a fast fix on my location and from then on the GPS worked just fine. Without a cellular or indexed wifi connection it could take a very long time for the iPhone GPS to report its location.
Note: Turning on Airplane Mode turns off wifi too, but you can manually turn wifi back on while in Airplane Mode.oval

MotionX GPS isn’t primarily designed for tourists or finding restaurants. But to find your way around the streets in an unfamiliar city it’s more than adequate. The application is built for biking, hiking, running, etc. But the cache and other features make it useful in many situations. For $2.99 MotionX GPS is easily one of the best paid apps Murphy has purchased.

MotionX GPS ($2.99) has frequently been updated with useful new functionality since I purchased it. They also make a turn-by-turn direction product called Drive that Murphy hasn’t tried yet.

More on MotionX GPS:
Loading Google Directions into MotionX GPS
Intro to MotionX GPS

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Google Maps to GPX or MotionX GPS

mapWhile looking for a way to dump a Google Maps route from my Mac into MotionX GPS I stumbled into a web site called GPS Visualizer. They provided a form for processing a Google Map url, such as a directions page. The output was a GPX file that MotionX GPS could import.

From the beginning: First I went to Google Maps on my Mac and got directions from Point A (apple store 5th ave) to Point B (apple store broadway). Then I clicked on the Link link and copied the text in the link field. In other words, after clicking “Link” at the top right of the map I copied the text from the top field in the pop-up. (image below) linklink
Optionally, you might want to save the map to your own personal Google Maps before grabbing the link. In my brief experimentation fewer waypoints were dropped into my iPhone if I added that step. When I was done with the route on the iPhone I had to delete the waypoints one by one, so fewer waypoints means less cleanup later.

Here’s a look at the form I filled out on the GPS Visualizer site. I only needed to paste in the link and select GPX as the output format, as indicated.
visualizer

(Instead of using directions you can use the link from a place on the map, in which case MotionX GPS will import a waypoint)

Once you click Convert on the form above you’ll be given a link to download the GPX file. Check your Downloads folder and make sure the file name ends with .gpx – and fix it if it doesn’t. From there it’s all downhill.

iphone_mapThe GPX file is added to your iPhone by email. Send your downloaded file to gpsimport@motionx.com and they’ll reply with a specially created link. Open their email response on your iPhone and tap the link. That’s it, the GPX information is imported into MotionX GPS. You’ll see a new entry on the log page in MotionX GPS and when you open it up you’ll see something like the map included here.

There may be FAR easier ways to accomplish this — if you know one please let me know. But for now thanks to GPS Visualizer for offering a useful service. It looks like their site offers many other forms of conversion and map creation as well.

MotionX GPS is one of my favorite iPhone apps. It’s had many significant updates since I purchased it, highly recommended.

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