YouTube Returns to the iPhone

It’s actually difficult to say that YouTube was taken away from the iPhone because technically it hasn’t been taken away yet for regular users. But, as soon as Apple release iOS 6, which could be as early as tomorrow, the built-in YouTube app will be gone. It was taken away at some point in the beta version of iOS 6 due to the contract between Google and Apple ending. Well, it is now coming back thanks to an app released by Google on the App Store today.

The good news with this version of the app is that it looks extremely good. YouTube on the iPhone has been the same ever since the launch of the iPhone. The new version makes accessing YouTube feel a little more up to date. It runs smooth, has a number of new features built-in and is actually great to use.

One thing I find disappointing at the moment is that Google hasn’t released a version for the iPad which could potentially leave users out in the dark when iOS 6 is released. But, there’s still a bit of time for Google to remedy this. My personal thoughts are that Google is just taking a bit of extra time due to the difference in screen size. The YouTube app on iPhone is far different to the version on the iPad and Google will need to take this in to consideration.

Of course, not only YouTube is being removed from iOS 6. Another big app which is part of the iPhone and iPad line is Google Maps with street view built-in. Simply put, Google Maps will be gone when iOS 6 is released as Apple has replaced Google Maps with its own mapping technology. This also means that the very handy Street View is gone. It is likely that Google will also release a Google Maps app for iOS 6 within the next few weeks. I believe that many people will download it. Google has years of experience with mapping technology and street view is extremely handy for getting more perspective on a place you are trying to find.

Apple Maps are not bad though. Essentially, it’s another mapping system. A few novelty features include the 3D flyover which looks amazing (Google now offers this as well). Also, the vector based maps work extremely well. iOS users will also benefit from the navigation functions built-in. Google withheld navigation from iOS users (not sure why… could be so that Android had the upper edge or that the contract simply didn’t allow it). Either way, iOS 6 users will get navigation with Apple Maps although note that it is only current generation devices only. From my understanding, iPhone 4 and older and iPad 1 (possibly 2 as well) also do not get it.

I look forwards to what Apple is announcing tomorrow. We should hear more of iOS 6, but also another important one is the iPhone 5 that is expected.

WordPress 3.4.2 Update now Available

One of the most important things you can do for your WordPress blog is keep it updated to the latest version of the software. The company behind WordPress make it quite a simple process to update thanks to the site structure and how the update package is provided.

You have a few options on how to upgrade. The easiest, but it does carry a bit of risk, is to use the automatic update service. If you are already running on version 3 of WordPress then the top tool bar should show a small icon next to your site name with a number next to the icon. This will show you how many updates are currently available. Updates that WordPress detects are core updates to the software as well as plugin updates and some theme updates. Click on the icon to proceed to the next screen.

When the next screen is showing, you will see it divided in to 3 sections. The top section is for the major updates to WordPress… ie, the core files. If you are running the latest version WordPress will tell you so but still give you the option to re-install over the top of the current install, or download copy of the files in zip format. The re-install is a handy way of refreshing the core files and can be used from time to time including times when you think your blog may have been hacked. A re-install of the software can wipe out some damage done by hackers although not all hackers attack the core files.

The second section is for plugins. If WordPress detects that you have plugins that are out of date then this is the place to update them. If you want to do all at once then click Select All and then click on the update button.

Below that you will find theme updates. I have only ever seen WordPress themes in there and not custom themes, so if you want updates for those you might want to check with the site you purchased or downloaded your theme from.

Risks of using automatic updates

Some of the risks involved with automatic updates includes file permissions. To get it working you might need to elevate permissions a little on your server. By doing this, you are more susceptible to attacks, so proceed with caution. Also with automatic updates they happen extremely quickly, which is a bonus in some ways, but if you want to reverse your decision it is always too late within a fraction of a second of hitting the update button. This could potentially wipe out any custom changes you have made.

Make a backup before updating

One way to cut down on risks is to make sure you are keeping regular backups of your content. I’ll go in to this in a lot more detail in a later post, but if you have backups, and keep multiple backups, you can more easily roll back any changes that an automatic update makes. Sometimes this can be a life saver although in most cases, actually in all cases for me, I have found the automatic way to be a good enough way forwards.

Manual updates

Another option to update is to do it manually. To do it this way you’ll need FTP access to your blog. This is also a little beyond the scope of this post but I will cover it in more detail in the future.

Why update

WordPress is updated by the team behind it for many reasons. One of the reasons is that they want to add more features to the software to make WordPress a better solution for its users. Another reason WordPress gets updated, and perhaps the most important, is that software is vulnerable to attacks. As weaknesses are found by hackers, WordPress needs to be kept updated to close those security loop holes. WordPress 3.4.2 was just released today and simply fixed a number of security holes that have been found within the software.

Expect to need to upgrade your blog every few months on average. The process tends to always be painless although it still doesn’t mean that you should prepare just in case some unique modification you have made or some obscure plugin you use isn’t compatible.

iPlayer for iOS now allows you to download content

The BBC has updated its iPlayer app for iOS devices. The biggest change is that the app now lets you download content over WiFi for viewing while off line. The app lets you download content for up to 30 days at a time.

There isn’t much more to say about the app other than a recommendation to grab it, if you’re eligible to download it (ie, pay a fee or be in the UK). The app plays any content from the iPlayer service and with the download option added, makes it handy for WiFi or WiFi+3G owners who might want to catch up with a show whilst on the move.

You can grab the app from the Apple App Store or via the iTunes App Store on your Mac or PC.

A look at the iPhone 5 and iPad mini

It’s that time of year when Apple will likely be launching a new iPhone. Traditionally, Apple released iPhones in June/July although after the launch of the iPad 2, they moved the launch date in to October (iPhone 4S launch that is). This year, it seems that Apple might be opting for a launch in September to change the timings a little so that the iPhone and iPad are about 6 months apart. This makes sense as Apple wants as many people as possible to buy both of its flagship iOS devices. By moving them 6 months apart it allows more time for people to save up and buy the next product.

A brief history of the iPad mini rumours

When the iPad launched in 2010 originally, it was quickly followed by rumours that an iPad mini was following that year. Of course, that never happened. The same rumours came about last year saying that an iPad mini was being launched in 2011… again, it didn’t happen. The same rumours have come up this year again and at the moment, it hasn’t happened although there’s still a few months to go before the end of the year. This time around it seems that Apple might indeed be launching a smaller iPad as larger media outlets have commented on rumours and also generated some themselves… or I should say “someone familiar with the plans at Apple told them”. This year, Google launched the Nexus 7. We’ve also had the Amazon Kindle Fire as well as other smaller tablets and the sales of those, although not as large as the iPad in terms of numbers, still show that there’s a lot of interest in the 7 – 8 inch tablet market.

Will the iPad mini be a large iPod touch or a mini iPad?

With the launch of a 7 or 8 inch iPad it has led many to question exactly how it will work. Will it run iPod touch/iPhone apps but stretched out, or will it run regular iPad apps squashed down a little? I think it will be neither of those although I’m sure there might be an X2 option or a shrink down option for those wanting some compatibility. What I think will happen is that Apple will launch another sized device spec for developers to work on in the interface builder in Xcode. One of the main things that keeps iOS apps working well is the touch targets that Apple recommends. If you increase the size of a regular app then you have a weird looking app, as seen on other 7 inch tablets. If you shrink down a regular iPad app then you end up with a bunch of touch targets that are uncomfortably small (in a lot of cases). This makes for a bad user experience which leads me to think that there will be simply another option to drag out in interface builder where developers can add more to what an iPhone app would have but take a bit of what an iPad app will have. It will create more work for developers as they will need to plan for 3 interface sizes, but the potential in extra sales could be what makes it a decent enough deal for developers. Some developers will probably sell separate apps for each screen size although some will just stick them all under the friendly + sign and call them universal for all.

My thoughts on the iPad mini

I quite like the thought of an iPad mini. After testing a Galaxy Nexus 7 tablet from Google recently, I can see why a device larger than a phone but smaller than an iPad is needed. For me, it will probably fall in to the consumption category rather than the creative category like the full iPad does (for me at least). Think of the price as well… rumours hint at somewhere between £250 and £300 which if Apple can stick to the lower end of that, they will be on to something very good… again. Lets move on to the iPhone 5 rumours…

What will the iPhone 5 bring?

Just like the original iPhone was a game changer, so was the iPhone 4. It added so much more to the smartphone that it was another instant hit. Apple added the Retina display, a gyro, a glass front and back and a funky antenna (that got a lot of attention for the wrong reasons). Either way, it raised the bar again, particularly with a new sleek design. The 4S was more of the same. Siri isn’t particularly exciting and has been in beta for far too long now. You also feel like a dork using it in public and it is quite limited to what it can do as Apple hasn’t updated it much. I quite liked the antenna changes on the 4S as that fixed the problems I had with the iPhone 4.

So will the iPhone 5 raise the bar? Apple will likely add a 4 inch screen to the device. In the past Apple has always put a 3.5 inch screen in the iPhone. The only thing that changed over the years was the resolution doubling which was a huge increase in quality. I guess they have also added that oleophobic covering to the screen at some point in time although I forget which generation that was, perhaps the 3GS.

A better camera will certainly be added. The iPhone 4S camera is quite amazing for such a small package and I expect that some fancy terminology will be used to explain the iPhone 5 camera. I think another jump in megapixels can be added, perhaps from 8 to 12 as well as a more refined lens. As Apple likes to keep the back of the iPhone flat, we wont be getting any fancy mechanical shutters that add a bulge to the back of the device. I also think that Apple might jump in to HD for the front facing camera. The 4 and 4S appear to use the same front facing camera, but as FaceTime is becoming more popular, I think Apple need to address camera quality on the front side here.

NFC has been rumoured and partly because of the iOS 6 having PassBook. PassBook would sit well with an NFC enabled device. Apple has often added unique features to latest generation smartphones. Last year, users got Siri and this year, I think NFC could be on the cards. AnandTech claims that the iPhone 5 will not have NFC and has quite a complex reason for it relating to how NCF works and the technicalities behind it. Although I can see why it wouldn’t work, I can also see a compelling reason why Apple would want to add some soft of contactless payment… other than QF codes, barcodes and manual codes written on the screen. The new iPhone leaked shots show a part glass back with the top and bottom looking to be some sort of RF window. There must be a reason why Apple added these in, assuming they are just for decoration and also assuming that the leaked parts are real of course. So, NFC is an unknown but could be something that differentiates the next gen phone even more.

The obvious changes will be a bump in CPU and GPU and the device will almost certainly use an A6 processor. There will be a few more pixels to handle as well as a general increase that we all expect to see between generations.

Back to the 4 inch screen… it has been called for. Android smartphone manufacturers have tried to differentiate by adding larger screens and now it seems that Apple might be breaking away from the 3.5 inch size. The main difference with the Apple way of doing it is that they appear to be keeping the exact same width (when held portrait) and instead will simply increase the height of the screen, perhaps by adding another row of icons to the home screen. By doing it this way, the phone keeps the same width which makes it just as easy to use with one hand as your thumb will likely still be able to reach all 4 corners of the screen.

What will that do to apps though? There have been a few ideas on apps and how they will be effected. As there will be now two screen sizes to contend with for the iPhone (and perhaps iPod touch) Apple could handle this a number of ways. First, they could simply add black bars on the top and bottom of apps. That would be unlike Apple though. An alternate option is that apps that can be stretched will probably be automatically be stretched. Think of apps like Mail or your contacts. They have tables in them with cells that run out of the bounds of the screen. Having a longer screen could simply mean that Apple adds another cell of data in to the visible area. Email tends to have 4 and a bit cells showing on the screen. That will probably just make the Mail app and other apps that use tables show another cell of data. As for graphics, could Apple stretch the screen out a bit? I’m not sure as this would also look awkward on some apps. Another option is that they could just throw in a tool bar, but I don’t think that will happen either. The only thing I can think of is that they will just encourage developers to work with a new Xcode, released on the date of the iPhone event and give developers a week or 2 to get apps updated to work with a new size and old sized screens. Perhaps a tool to specify (like springs and struts) what elements/objects can be stretched out for the iPhone 5 or what can be squashed if going backwards. This adds a bit of fragmentation in to the mix though as there are millions of iPhones around the world. But, if Apple stick with 4 inches then it is just a few years of fragmentation while devices get older and eventually break.

Adding the iPad mini and iPhone 5 in to the mix, that could mean that developers need to work with the following devices and screen sizes:

iPhone 3.5 inch iPhone 4 inch iPad mini (7.X inches) iPad 9.7 inch

I guess it’s hard to say that 4 screen sizes can be classed as fragmentation when compared to the number of screen size variations on Android (perhaps in to the hundreds), so I’m inclined to think that Apple will just provide some sort of options in Xcode for developers to work with.

Either way, I’m quite excited to see what Apple has been creating these last few years. All should be revealed September 12 where the iPhone is concerned. Perhaps October for the iPad mini… unless that becomes the new rumour for 2013, 2014, 2015… you get the idea.

Use your Webcam for Security in Your Home

Using technology you might already own, you can create a simple video security system by using your webcam, coupled with either a smartphone, tablet or even a web browser. The software is free to use (the desktop version if free… the app costs $4.99) and lets you easily broadcast live video from your computer (Mac or Windows) to a smartphone running the appropriate software.

What you need

To get started you need to make sure you have the following… a Windows or Mac based computer along with an attached web camera. To receive video you also need to have an iPad, iPhone or an Android powered device. Alternatively you can use a web browser on a remote computer to call back home and check your video feed.

Installation

The first step is to install the iCamSource software by visiting here. Installation is relatively simply and all you need to do there is follow the instructions found through the process. When installed, load it up, select the camera source (you can actually have up to 16 cameras streaming data if you view them with an iPad). Select a schedule (if desired… such as business hours when you might be out of your home) and then click the Start button. In most instances the iCamSource software will work with your standard router settings. Things only get a little more complicated if you have a more complex setup although instructions are provided on how to get it working on the website linked above.

The next step is to install the iPhone, iPad or Android app which are found under the name of iCam in the iTunes App Store or through Google Play. These apps cost $4.99.

To connect the two up you need to open up iCamSource on your desktop and specify a username and password. This can be anything you want although I suggest you make it complicated. When this is done, load up the app version on your mobile device and when prompted, enter the exact same username and password. The iCam (SKJM) website simply connects your devices together and if the passwords match, the can talk.

All you now need to do is just make sure push notifications are enabled on your mobile device, which they are by default, and when your camera spots any movement it starts recording images to your computer, sends a push notification to your phone via Apple or Google and notifies you of movement at home. You can then log in and check the live video stream (which also can have audio if your camera supports it) and see if it’s anything important.

What if your computer is stolen

Although it’s all well and good being able to capture on video if intruders are in your home, the main problem with that is if they steal your computer… the images only get stored locally. For that reason I recommend you use a service such as Dropbox and set the storage destination as a folder within your Dropbox account. As soon as images are captured (when movement happens) they will be saved in a Dropbox folder and then uploaded. As the images are fairly small in size they upload quickly and hopefully the power isn’t cut to the computer before they can be uploaded. Either way, adding them to Dropbox allows you to access the image on another PC if they computer had a chance to upload them which it probably did.

What kind of cameras work with iCam?

iCamSource is able to attach to many cameras at the same time. If you use iCam for your home then perhaps you want to have a camera around all vulnerable places in your home such as watching doors, windows and any other place where someone might get in. iCam doesn’t work with all cameras, but does have a healthy and growing list of IP cameras available. Some IP cameras have wireless functionality which means you can plug in a camera, configure it to attach to your wireless network at home and then configure iCam to connect to that camera wirelessly. Some IP cameras also come with night vision thanks to infrared LEDs which also helps when rooms are dark.

As iCam is only $4.99 to use with the only extra cost being that of extra cameras (should you have an iPhone, iPad or Android device already as well as a computer and a webcam) then it’s well worth testing out. Although it isn’t good being paranoid all the time about leaving your home, at least you can quickly check on an app and have a video streamed right to your device. Overall, an excellent product and idea.