Saturday, October 31, 2009

Power Support Screen Protector Film for iPhone

The iPhone's screen has always been known for it's scratch resistance. (Did you see PC World's torture tests?) But I'm a bit obsessive about taking care of my stuff. When I got my iPhone 3GS, I figured I'd better get some kind of case and screen protector. The Apple Store was seething with iPhone shoppers, and getting tech help looked like an MMRPG, so I body-surfed over to the wall and grabbed something called a Power Support Clear Air Jacket for iPhone. This turns out to be a nice, minimalist (essentially invisible) case for the back of the phone, and I may give it a brief review soon, but the coolest thing about it turned out to be the included Film Set. (Disclosure — I don't have any ties whatsoever to Power Support).

I grabbed the clear crystal film first, and used it for several weeks. But I got to wondering if the glare when I used the phone outside could be reduced with the matte film, also included. It was indeed more matte, but after a few weeks I found that the matte film felt and looked just a little thicker and a little less smooth, especially when using sliding touch gestures (like unlocking the phone). So I went back to the crystal film.

Mini-Review: The films are tough and protective, and after 5 months of use I'm just starting to get a few almost-invisible scratches and scuffs. It’s easy to keep them clean, and if this stuff isn’t as oleophobic as the 3GS screen, it comes close. Unless you’re eating fish and chips, it’s easy to wipe off minor finger grease on any soft cloth.  FWIW, I’ve almost never used a case that covers my screen, and I keep the phone in my pants pocket. I don’t put keys or coins in that pocket, though, and when I set the phone on a desk or the car’s cubby, I try to keep it face up. I do drop it occasionally, but not too hard!!! I would have to give these films a 5-star rating for functionality and toughness. (I haven't tested their mirror film, and their website says they have a privacy film coming soon.)

Mini-Tutorial: This brings us to a few hints and tips for using this product. Putting the film on a brand new clean phone in a clean environment is a piece of cake. You can partially apply the film, check the alignment, and re-lift and re-locate if needed. I like to align the long edge of the film first, lower it to check that the holes for the receiver (phone) and home button align well, realign if needed, and then lower into place. The film is thick enough never to wrinkle, tough enough to rub down vigorously, and it adheres via simple cling, meaning it is neither going to slip around nor leave an adhesive around the edges (or on removal).

But the strengths of this product are hidden a bit in the way you can change films and troubleshoot air bubbles and the dreaded dust motes if your phone isn’t pristine, or when you change films. It turns out it’s easy to lift the film off using a piece of ‘invisible’ type clear tape, like Scotch brand invisible tape. Don’t just claw at the edges with your fingernails, as this may permanently deform the edge just a bit. And do lift the tape off the film gently when you’re done.

As for bubbles and dust, Power Support has a nice video that shows how to deal with isolated bubbles or dust. (Dust is usually the culprit in bubbles you can’t wipe away). The essence of removing a bit of dust is the use of a second piece of invisible-style tape, in what we might call the tape-tap method. I like to lift the nearest corner using tape 1, then insert tape 2 adhesive-side up, and just touch it lightly to the film in the area where the dust is sitting. Since most of the film is adhered to the phone, tape 2 pulls off easily. As they note in the video caption, the only trick is not to touch the adhesive side of the film or the screen with your fingers.

Finally, I found two more hints for changing or cleaning films. First, change the film in a closed bathroom after you run the shower for just a couple of minutes (don’t turn the place into a steam bath). I like to put the phone down on a clean towel, well away from the sink, and polish the screen with the black lint-free cloth Apple supplies. (Any sunglass or optical shop has equivalent cloths for sale).

If you already have more than few dust motes stuck under your film, and especially if it looks like you recycled a piece of wrapping tape, the simple tape-tap method may be inadequate. But don’t despair. Again I favor a humid, closed bathroom. Clean the phone's screen with the lint-free cloth and a drop of optical cleaner (household window cleaner will work if you polish away 100% of the residue, or get some from your sunglass or optical shop). Next, wash the dusty film under the tap with a drop of clear liquid soap or dish detergent between your palms. Rinse very thoroughly, getting your hands clean in the process, dry your hands, and tap the edge of the film on a clean towel a few times to shake off all but the smallest water droplets. Now move over to where the phone has been sitting away from any splashes. Align the film, apply half way to check the alignment, and ease into place. At this point the water droplets form a film that disappears as you rub with your lint-free cloth, and most or all of the dust should be gone. The tape-tap method can be used for any dust that remains.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The cable doesn't plug all the way into my iPhone

This solution started with my first trip to the Genius Bar at my local Apple store. The wide, flat plug on the sync cable was no longer sitting evenly in its socket on the bottom of the phone, and the problem (a bit hard to express in a search phrase) hadn't got me any hits on Google, the Apple support page, or several Mac blogs.
So I was a bit apprehensive when I showed up for my appointment, and the store was chaos. It turns out if you talk to any person in a store t-shirt, they'll help you get your appointment confirmed and someone will hook you up with a genius. In my case this took just a few minutes.
My genius heard the problem, looked into the sync slot, and grabbed a narrow pointed steel instrument like a scribe or awl. With this, he dug around in the slot (quite casually — apparently my paranoid image of fragile pins in there was wrong) and pulled out a bit of good old fashioned pocket debris resembling white cotton or pre-washed paper. Voila, the plug went all the way in and seated squarely!
He mentioned that this was a common problem, and also the most common reason people couldn't get their earphone jack all the way into the phone. (Well, maybe the second most common reason, as standard earphones are famous for not fitting the phone's recessed socket.) I didn't ask how they got the debris out of the headphone jack, but it's worth knowing this happens. I'd imagine the universal Apple tool, a straightened paper clip, would work to clean out the sync cable socket, but you're on your own to clean out the earphone socket.
Finally, hoping not to have this happen again, I found a $5 black rubbery 'port protector' online that seats into the sync socket. It is sitting on my desk right now, because I found, for me, it has two limitations. First, it tends to come out when I pull the phone from my pocket. Second, I have to set it aside (and it's pretty tiny) whenever I plug in my phone. My rating: Good idea, but only for neatness freaks who love keeping track of cable tips and port protectors.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

How to Manage Photos on an iPhone

An hour or two looking at posts on this topic suggests that lots of people are puzzled by several aspects of managing photos on an iPhone. And many of the online answers are brief, for example, "Use iTunes" or "You do it with iPhoto." Here's what's working for me. By the way, these are Mac solutions with iPhoto 9, iTunes 9, and an iPhone 3GS. Some may work on Windows, too, but some may not. The questions tend to fall under these headings:
  1. How do I delete photos from the Camera Roll on my iPhone?
  2. Can I delete photos from the Photo Library on my iPhone?
  3. How do I get photos off the iPhone?
  4. How do I put photos on the iPhone?
  5. What if my iPhone Photo Album thumbnails are wrong?
Can I delete photos from the Photo Library on my iPhone? In brief, no. The Photo Library just collects all the photos that live on the phone in one place; think of it as a View All bin.

How do I delete photos from the Camera Roll on my iPhone? This, on the other hand, is a good idea. Apple Support points out in this article that you will speed up your syncs if you keep the Camera Roll empty after uploading photos to your computer. Think of the Camera Roll as just that, a roll of film. Once you upload your recent photos to the computer and sort them into organized folders or albums that sync back to your phone, you don't need them in the Camera Roll.
But how do you do it? If you use iPhoto (Mac) to manage your photos — see the next section about using iPhoto — when you select the phone in iPhoto (by the way, I click on "Hide photos already imported" and click off "Autosplit events after importing") and click on Import All or Import Selected, you'll get a "Delete originals" or "Keep Originals" option that comes up afterwards. The Delete option will clear out the Camera Roll. Don't hit it the first time or two you do this if you want to make sure your images are safe in iPhoto.

If you don't use iPhoto, you can do a very similar step after importing using Apple's Image Capture application (in the Applications folder). Finally, note that individual photos can be deleted from the Camera Roll right on the iPhone (if you don't want to save them). When you click on a thumbnail, the full-screen photo toolbar has a little trash can in the right lower corner.

Getting photos off the iPhone: Unlike some phones, the iPhone can't do this by Bluetooth connection or wired drag-and-drop. If you've Googled this, you find you can use iTunes (Windows and Mac). You plug your phone into your computer, run iTunes, select your phone in the sidebar, and set Sync settings under the Photos tab.
But here's the part that is less obvious. Under the Photos tab, when you click the checkbox to turn on the Sync option, you can choose from a popup menu that says either "Choose folder" or "iTunes."

If you want to sync to a folder, create a folder on your computer (maybe under Pictures) called something like "iPhone photos." Then choose it under Photos in iTunes, run a sync, and the photos from your phone should show up in that folder. Dave Taylor has some great hints, with pictures, about using folders for iPhone management on his blog. It should be possible to create subfolders (on your computer), sort the photos into them (on your computer), and sync again. At that point, the subfolders and their sorted photos should show up as photo albums on your phone.

If you want to sync to iPhoto (Mac), think for a minute about the settings. If you use iPhoto with a camera, the many events and albums you've already created will all sync to your iPhone if you select "All photos and albums." Although the iPhone stores photos pretty effectively, you may want to think twice about a phone with thousands of photos or dozens of albums and events. Instead, I clicked the All option off, and selected a few individual iPhoto albums (see below for info about using iPhoto to organize albums for your phone). In my case, I didn't sync with any events, because I use events as large-capacity but crude organizers. If you live by Events rather than albums, you'll proceed accordingly.
At this point, you can manually create some iPhone albums (or events) in iPhoto, then drag your imported photos (from Last Import, for example) into these to organize them, then choose these iPhoto albums or events in the iTunes sync options. The albums or events show up on your phone after a sync. It's almost easier to do it than to describe it, but it isn't as simple as most things Mac or iPhone.

Getting photos onto the iPhone: After you've worked through the Folder or iPhoto method of getting photos off your phone, above, the answer may seem obvious. If you use the Folders method, drag photos you want to load or organize onto your phone into the appropriate folders on your computer. If you use iPhoto, import the photos into iPhoto (if you haven't already) and drag them to the iPhoto albums or events you sync with your phone. In either case, run a sync (in iTunes) afterwards.

What if my iPhone Photo Album thumbnails are wrong? Personally, I ended up switching from the folder method to the iPhoto method so I could use iPhoto to organize my phone photos. If you use Folders, you'll use the Finder (Windows directories) to organize them. But after a massive re-sync, the little thumbnails were mismatched, or even blank, next to the albums on the phone that show up below Camera Roll and Photo Library. The solution here was the old reliable: Reboot the iPhone.

How to Uninstall TechTool 4 eDrive under SnowLeopard

Some web chatter suggests people are having trouble uninstalling TechTool Pro's eDrive after they install Snow Leopard. Here's what worked for me...
First, let me note that if you want to keep TechTool, they say you should upgrade to version 5. I would hope that version will work with 10.6 as it's now a month after the snowy one's release. Also, if you like eDrive, by all means don't uninstall it, but do by all means upgrade your TechTool. Finally, I did make a full bootable backup on an external hard drive before I did this, and you should too.
Background: TechTool is a powerful and well-regarded program as far as most reviews I've seen, and I had no problems with it. I also had no occasion to use it in the last two or more years. Call me lucky, but I had no drive corruption or system malfunctions, and I'm too cheap to keep upgrading a program that I don't use at least once a year. By the way, I have an alternate program, DiskWarrior, which, although it doesn't perform the many tasks TechTool does, has stood me in good stead for occasional severe directory problems, is very highly regarded, easy to use, and fast. Oh, and it has a free Snow Leopard upgrade (v4.2) if you already own 4.1. I'm not suggesting it's a good idea to go without a Mac maintenance app to augment Disk Utility.
The problem: It appears the eDrive partition, which TechTool creates to be a bootable emergency disk, no longer 'hides' itself under Snow Leopard. Likewise, I wasn't able to find a useful suggestion to uninstall it at the TechTool website forums. (It may be there; I just couldn't find it.) The suggestion I saw there, to use the TechTool install disk and click on the eDrive section to access an Uninstall function, didn't work because there was no pane that came up under eDrive. (Is this a product of 10.6 being on the hard drive on which it's trying to see an eDrive? No idea.) The only clear answer I did see in the Help forum at TechTool said not to use version 4 with Snow Leopard.
Other solutions: If you want, you could leave eDrive visible, and you could just ignore it and give up the <10GB drive space it uses. You might be able to erase it so you had a small partition on which to install a second, stripped-down version of Snow Leopard as an emergency boot disk. I haven't tried that. Again, I did this because I didn't want eDrive sitting there, and I couldn't afford to upgrade the TechTool program it stores. Again, if you want to update to TechTool 5, I assume you'll get eDrive functionality back, although I can't prove that either! Finally, some posts online noted that simply 'erasing' the eDrive didn't delete it, which makes sense, as it's a partition, not a file.
What I did: Since I couldn't access an eDrive pane from the TcchTool startup disk, I took these simple steps:
1. I made sure my bootable backup on an external Firewire drive was 100% current and bootable.
2. I opened Apple's Disk Utility, selected the internal drive with the eDrive partition, and deleted that partition.
To do this second step is pretty simple. Select the entire base drive (not a named partition), click on the Partition tab, scroll down to the part of the graphic labeled eDrive, select it, and hit the minus button below the graphic.
Finally: If you've had good luck upgrading TechTool instead, please post a comment. I expect that should work. If you have another solution (or another scenario) regarding eDrive deletion, please comment also.

About Me

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My first Mac was an original 1984 128K, my favorite Mac was the IIci, but the best Macs are the ones I use now.