Sunday, September 30, 2007

iPhone Success: Just a Little More Grief

D'oh! Looks like the phone works fine but just not with iTunes. I can make and receive calls, watch YouTube videos, surf the web from my WiFi connection. Just can't sync with iTunes so no address book, music, or video.

Grrr, it's always something.

Ok, here's the deal. Via the iNdependence program, I activated the re-virginized iPhone with my Mobifone SIM card. iTunes didn't like that at all and gave me the IMEI error message above. I'm using iTunes 7.4.2 on the Mac so I figured maybe I should downgrade to 7.4.1 to see if that made a difference. Luckily I wasn't able to find this version of iTunes since it would have been a waste of time. I put back my old AT&T SIM card and re-activated the iPhone using good old iNdependence. After that I was able to sync everything with iTunes again. This is nice, but not great. I still want things to work with Mobifone. So I swaped the Mobifone SIM back in and tried to sync, but iTunes wouldn't have it. This time it complained that the phone wasn't activated. Aha! I just need to activate the Mobifone SIM again. So back to iNdependence for another activation with the Mobifone SIM and it looks like we're golden.

So my advice is to stick with iNdependence and avoid all the AppTap/minicom drama. Follow the iNdependence readme (with the original AT&T SIM card in your phone) and this will keep things simple.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Restore iPhone without Firmware Upgrade

Through a myriad of programs and lots of mucking around with my iPhone, I ended up hosing it pretty well. I'm not sure what went wrong, but it got to the point that even the original AT&T sim card wouldn't work.

The problem is I want to restore the iPhone but I don't want to upgrade the firmware to the latest 1.1.1 version since I'm hearing that it may do bad things to a hacked iPhone. Unfortunately iTunes won't ask you if you want to restore with the current version, it wants to force you to upgrade to the latest version. I then found this great article that did the trick for me. You can use a hidden option in iTunes that allows you to select the firmware version you want to restore to. You just hold down the option key (shift key on Windows) while pressing the restore button.

I've now re-virginized my iPhone! Thank you iPhone Atlas!

Now I can retry this again with the minimal number of steps. The best guide I've found is this one from MacApper.

I got down to the 'minicom' step and somehow the minicom session got screwed and I ended up with a totally non-responsive phone. iTunes wouldn't even recoginize it. It seemed like the phone was in some sort of slow motion. It would reboot after maybe 5 minutes and the home screen would show up with my custom picture of the family and everything. The phone seemed to be about as useful as a brick at this point. I then read this tip. You can restore the phone by holding down the sleep and home buttons and then release the sleep button at exactly 10 seconds (keeping the home button held down). This actually worked for me and I was able to restore my phone one more time using iTunes and the option key hack mentioned above.

Ok, this time I'm going to skip the minicom step and just use INdependence to get SSH onto the phone instead of the AppTAP method described on MacApper. Turns out this works!

Using INdependence I activated the phone, did the jailbreak, and installed ssh. I then copied over anySIM to my phone's /Applications directory like this:

$ scp -r root@

I also did a chmod +x on the directory by ssh-ing to the phone.

$ chmod +x /Applications/

I then restarted the phone and ran the anySIM program from the Springboard (home screen of the iPhone) and it finally worked. Whew!

The odd thing is that with this method, you don't have all the normal Unix commands on the iPhone when you ssh over to it. Even commands like ls, passwd, and rm are missing.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Tesla Ups Range: 245 Miles per Charge

I just received an email from Michael Marks, the new CEO of Tesla Motors, indicating that they have confirmed the range of 245 miles per charge for the 2008 (first model year) of the Tesla Roadster.

This is great news. They had previously indicated that the range would be closer to 200 miles, so I'm very happy with this news. The disappointing news is that the cars won't start shipping in earnest until Q1 2008. Mine is number 97 so I probably won't be cruising around in my Tesla until next summer. I'm not really too disappointed. I would rather they take their time and make a great (and safe) car.

Check out the official Tesla blog for the details.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Personal VPN Protection for WiFi Hotspots

Now that I'm spending a lot of time on open WiFi networks so I decided to spring for a personal VPN. The crew at WiTopia has been providing this service for a few years. Why do you need this? If you're using a WiFi hotspot at the airport or the coffee shop, all those network packets are out there for anyone to snoop. (Sure the ones to your bank are encrypted with SSL, but whose to say the SSL connection is really going to your bank...)

Last week I was chatting with my wife who was having problems with our home computer. Before I thought better of it, I had IM'd her the password for our home computer. I actually woke up in the middle of the night when I realized what I had done. Anyone snooping packets at the cafe could have used the password to log onto our computer and snoop around. I got up in the middle of the night and changed the password (and checked to make sure there were no strange logins to the computer earlier that day.)

The folks at Witopia offer the service for only $39.95 per year. If you work for a big company, you probably already have a company VPN and don't need a personal one. (Unless you don't want the mother ship snooping in on your traffic either.)

Another benefit of using this service is that your traffic is tunneled to the US before going out into the internet at large. This means that if you're in a country that blocks certain sites or services, you can get around those restrictions. I recently met a pilot who travels to Dubai where Skype is blocked. He uses Witopia so he can call his wife back home while on lay overs in Dubai. Very cool.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Typing Vietnamese on Mac OS X

Tôi học tiéng Viẹt. (I'm learning Vietnamese.)

I'm learning Vietnamese and recently decided I need to start writing up some of my vocabulary so I will remember it. Back 1994 when I first started learning Vietnamese you had to run these totally hokey add ons so you could type the accents and the special characters.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Mac OS has support for Vietnamese (and most other languages) built right in. Here's a one page summary of how to do this. Basically you just select Vietnamese in the system preferences and then you can type Vietnamese and easily switch back and forth between English and Vietnamese keyboard mappings.

(This doesn't seem to be the case for Windows. Everyone I've met here seems to use some sort of add on to make this work in Windows.)

Vietnamese is a rare Asian language that uses a westernized script. Like Chinese, Vietnamese is a tonal language. This means that words have a different meaning depending on how you say them. In English we use tones very differently. For instance, we use an up tone to indicate questions. When you say "Are you sure?" your voice goes up. In Vietnamese there are 5 tones that are written as accents. The accents are always on the vowels. Here is an example with the letter e: è, ẻ, ẽ, é, and ẹ. The first 4 go above the letter, the last goes under it. There are other accent marks but these are not tonal but indicate different sounds. For instance the letter 'd' makes the 'y' sound so the Vietnamese word 'de' sounds like 'yea'. However, the letter đ sounds like the English letter d as in dog. The Vietnamese word đi (dee) means to go. Vietnamese is missing some letters that we have. They don't have J or Z. There are a few special versions of certain vowels: ă, â, ê, ô, ư, and ơ. I won't even try to explain in text how to pronounce these, right now this is the hardest part for me. The tones are much easier than trying to figure out the difference between the sound of a versus ê. Oh well, practice makes perfect, if you practice perfect. And therein lies the rub.