iOS4 Multitasking: Friend or Foe?

I was using the TomTom app on my iPhone 4 yesterday and was wondering when I was done using it, “is it still running?”  With iOS4’s new multitasking feature was the iOS4 ready TomTom app still depleting the battery by tracking GPS satellites?  Turns out the answer is yes.

Using iStat to view the running processes on my phone I saw indeed TomTom’s “US – Canada” was still running.  I was also under the mistaken impression that there could only be 4 running apps in the background.  Instead I kept launching apps and found 7 apps still running.

I’m not sure I like this behavior.  Prior to iOS4 I had a high confidence I knew what apps were running on my phone. The app I was using was consuming resources and when I pressed the home button I knew it exited (with the exception of select Apple apps).  Now, under iOS4, I see that I don’t know when an app has quit or wether it’s still running.  And more importantly, which apps are consuming battery draining resources? Apps that rely on Location Services (GPS) or music streaming are likely candidates.

I laughed at my Android friends who had to download task killers to put a stop to battery draining applications.  Please don’t tell me that day has arrived for Apple.  Also, will this introduce the notion of Quit to the iPhone lexicon?  I hope not.

iOS4 apps compiled for state saving aren’t an issue.  Their state is cached for quick re-entry and if the phone needs the resources they’ll get shutdown then.  But it would be helpful for Apple to better inform the user which apps are consuming more battery intensive resources.  In the case of Location Services an arrow icon will appear in the status bar. (Is there a similar indication for an app streaming data in the background?) But that will leaving you wondering, “which app is it?”  An app icon overlay would be helpful when you double-click the Home button and the multitasking user interface appears to better pin-point who’s currently using Location Services.

Tip: Quit an app by removing it from the multitasking user interface.  Hold your finger on the app icon until it begins to shake.  Then click the “-” in the upper left hand corner. Note, just because an app appears in the multitasking UI doesn’t mean it’s running. You will need an app like iStat to know for sure whether an app is running.

Use VLC to Open Files with QCP File Extension

Occasionally you’ll have a technical problem and a Google search fails to provide you a fix.  In this case a lot of the information was too old.

I was forwarded a voice mail from a Driod Incredible (a .qcp file).  I needed to play it in Mac OS X.  My google search offered:

  • Windows Media Player will play it natively (No in 9 and No in 11)
  • Quicktime (No)
  • Qualcomm has a player (it has been pulled from their site for legal reasons)
  • Various downloads to try on my PC but none panned out (should have done this testing in a VM so I could have easily rolled back the changes).

In the end, I tried it in VLC (Version 1.0.5 Goldeneye (Intel 32bit)) on the Mac and it worked.  I wasn’t able to drag and drop the file but was able to use the Open dialog.  Worked in VLC on the PC too.  Is this a harbinger of things to come?  Having to work with qcp files?

iPhone App Too Large To Update

I downloaded the updated TomTom U.S. & Canada v1.3 app from the iTunes store and expected it to be updated on my iPhone 3G v3.1.3  – just like every application before it.  But it didn’t work.  I was presented with a dialog “The application “US – Canada” was not installed on the iPhone “iPhone” because not enough free space was available.”  Huh?  It’s already on the phone. How could there not be enough space for it?  Is the new version that much bigger than the prior version?

Then I realized what iTunes 9.1 is doing.  It’s copying the new app to the iPhone; verifying the copy was successful; then deleting the old app and putting the updated app in its place.  Most apps are small so you’ve probably never noticed this before.  But because the TomTom app is so large (1.55GB) this didn’t work (although I’m not sure why, my iPhone is reporting 2.2GB free).

Clicking on the “More Information” link on the dialog takes you to an Apple web page with a laundry list of things that could be wrong.  While the most salient thing to do is under the section titled “Reinstall the application” this has you do more than you really need to.  Here are my instructions if you find yourself in this situation.

First, download the updated application into iTunes. (You’ve probably already done this. That is why you’re here, right?)

To remove the application from your iPhone:

  1. Touch and hold any application icon on the Home screen until the icons start to wiggle.
  2. Tap the “x” in the corner of the application you want to delete.
  3. Tap Delete to remove the application and all of its data from your iPhone or iPod touch. (This is what makes this process a bug. What if I didn’t want to loose my data? If you have user data associated with your app, contact the app seller to find out how to archive your data.)
  4. Press the Home button to save your arrangement.

To re-add the application to your iPhone:

  1. In iTunes, select your iPhone under devices on the left side bar
  2. Click on the Apps tab and re-select the app you want to add back in.
  3. Use the iPhone pane on the right to put the app back where the original was.
  4. Click the “Sync” button in the lower right-hand corner.

iTunes should solve this problem by alerting the user that it will need to perform a critical update and to not disconnect the phone until done (similar to the warning you get when trying to install software updates on battery power).  Otherwise, the process I’ve outlined will cause all the app’s data to be deleted.  In my case it didn’t matter.  But if it matters in your situation, you would need a way to do an in-place update when space is at a premium on your iPhone.

IMAX vs. IMAX Digital

IMAX Corporation in their infinite wisdom have chosen not to differentiate between (film based) IMAX and IMAX Digital.  More information on the differences can be found on Wikipedia.  In the San Francisco bay area the following cinemas have IMAX and their type:

IMAX (film based)

AMC Loews Metreon 16 – 101 Fourth St. San Francisco, CA 94103

Regal Hacienda Crossings IMAX – 5000 Dublin Boulevard, Dublin, CA

Digital IMAX

AMC Mercado 20 – 3111 Mission College Blvd. Santa Clara, CA 95054

AMC Cupertino Square 16 – 10123 N. Wolfe Road Cupertino, CA 95014

AMC Eastridge 15 – 2190 Eastridge Loop San Jose, CA 95122

AMC Bay Street 16 – 5614 Shellmound Street Emeryville, CA 94608

Update: Here’s a link to lookup theaters in your neighborhood.

Don’t Use Coolmax CD-350-COMBO Multifunctional Converter

From reading the reviews of this product on Amazon I likely inserted the Molex connector in the wrong orientation into the converter.  Instead of the female-corded end being made of hard plastic, it’s made of soft rubber.  I didn’t even realize it was being inserted incorrectly because there was enough give in the connector to give the user a false sense of correct insertion.  Of course I can’t test my hypothesis as getting it wrong will result in another fried motherboard. Buyer beware.

How many engineers does it take…

I just came across an old email and thought I would share a silicon valley war story. This may prove to be prophetic as we’re expecting a wafer from the fab soon… and then packaged parts… around Thanksgiving. Uh oh.

How many engineers does it take to pick-up a package from FedEx? 4

How many trips does it take to pick-up said package from FedEx? 3

Friday, November 28, 2008 Black Friday – The day after Thanksgiving.

  • We were expecting a package from Advotech with packaged parts. It was shipped Wednesday for Friday delivery.
  • Jarie checked FedEx tracking. Received in Sunnyvale at 7:26am. At 7:31am FedEx says, “Holiday – Business closed” Ruh-ro.
  • Jarie calls FedEx to find out what happened.
  • Gerrior decides to drive to FedEx in Sunnyvale. Jarie waits at Tagent for package – just in case.
  • At FedEx Gerrior encounters the surly Kathy. “We called all the businesses and you said you were closed.” I ask, “We’re a 10 person company. Who did you speak with?” She goes off to check only to find out they didn’t call and that businesses who don’t get daily pick-up are assumed to be closed today. The package is in an airplane shipping container. It won’t be opened until Monday AM. If I arrive Sat can I get it? No. If I arrive Sun can I get it? No. She tells me, in the future call the night the package is shipped to indicate we’ll be open for business (huh? What schedule is that?). She promises a refund. Gerrior leaves dejected.
  • Upon return to Tagent, Anno and Daniel have arrived. We all 4 decide to drive to FedEx to get the package… manpower to help move packages if nothing else.
  • Back at FedEx Kathy is pushing back and Jarie asks to speak to the supervisor.
  • Dave, the supervisor, and his assistant “Bruno” (we must have freaked Kathy a little when half the Company showed up) says he’ll have some guys at 3pm to get into the shipping container. We leave them a sample package to assist in looking.
  • We leave Sunnyvale and as we’re getting off the Whisman exit from 237, Dave calls and says they found the package. It was just inside the container.
  • We make a u-turn and drive back to FedEx.
  • We return to FedEx all smiles and handshakes and pick-up the package at 11:12am. The package says, “Fri – 28NOV Priority Overnight”.
  • Back at Tagent at 11:30am to begin work!

FedEx – when it absolutely, positively has to be there in 5 days.

Fail: Window’s “Destination Path Too Long” Dialog

You’re in the middle of copying a large directory between drives. You are then presented with this “Destination Path Too Long” dialog:

Destination Path Too Long

Thoughts that come to mind:

  • Can’t I rename it now?
  • Can’t Windows rename it now?
  • Can’t Windows show me a list of all the files that fall into this category?
  • Can’t Windows present the offending files in a dialog where I can copy the filenames and paths for easier resolution?
  • Does Windows really have to bring the copy to halt because of this? It’s already copied a lot of data – what’s the harm if it continues the copy? If I cancel later what’s the harm? Instead the machine is left waiting for me.

Let’s say the user really does want to continue the copy. Here’s the scenario they’re confronting:

  1. Write down the filename(s!)
  2. Press Skip and continue to babysit the long copy for other offending filenames.

Once the copy operation is “complete”, here’s the next steps:

  1. Search for offending file on the source drive
  2. Rename offending file
  3. Find the location on the destination drive
  4. Copy file to new destination
  5. Repeat this process for every offending file.

Ugh, no thanks.

Musings of a software engineer in Silicon Valley