Yet another roundup of iPhone apps, including Metro Paris and Facebook for iPhone

I’ve always been the “in-between” guy -depending on who I’m talking to, I’m either an expert or an amateur at a particular topic…. the topic is the same, I am the same, what differs is the background and expertise of whoever i’m talking to.  Whether it’s wine, drumming.. or technology.
So the fact that I’ve finally got an iPhone is near-luddite to some friends, and eye-rollingly geeky to others.  The one advantage, however, is I can usually rely on others to have paved some of the way for me.

Which is why I’ve been a bit surprised at how lame some of the iPhone functionality is, giving the massive adoption rate and couple of revisions its gone through.  Yes, Virginia – I’m over the honeymoon phase, and onto the phase where I try to answer my iPhone in my pocket in 3C weather with gloves on, and I miss the call because the only way to answer is to have a bare finger slide across the screen.

I guess I should have known that the battery wouldn’t hold up to several hours worth of Gmapping (useful when wandering around the outskirts of Paris looking for an apartment), but I was pleased to see it will stay alive over night if it’s on 20% of its battery power.

App switching speed is not what is advertised on the slick apple campaigns – but I knew that.  However, it’s really stunning how poorly some apps deal with Edge data transfer rates (app developer’s problem, I know, not Apple’s).  There are several apps – Bookmakrs for example – tht stall on Edge even though it’s only transferring text!

Music streamers also choke, but that I can understand.  If I’m walking around downtown Paris – bathed in 3G connectivity – my Last.FM will stall every other song.  LiveRadio (Orange’s internet radio app) has a lot of promise, but the load time for the radio station lists is terrible – and it hangs while trying to load, so if you want to answer a phone call during that time, for example, no can do.

Which brings me to my short list of iPhone desires:

  • No copy and paste?…..
  • Streaming radio apps that do not cut off when you switch apps.  Is it that hard to create a background process?  I ask this honestly, not facetiously…..
  • Fast preview loading.  If I want to see a list – of radio stations, bookmarks, whatever – load the text list quickly first.  Once I’ve decided what I want to see, I can wait a little longer to load the full text / image / media.
  • Some sort of password management / keychain.   Wow, wouldn’t it be col if there was an OpenID app for iPhone (haven’t looked yet…)
  • What’s with the volume on the iPod?  My phone calls blow my ears out, but my music – with decent volume on my iPod, sucks on the iPhone….

And so as not to end on a sour note:  As predicted I have become addicted to my iPhone and so here are my essential apps, in case there is anyone stil out there who has yet to get an iPhone or yet to get one of these apps:

  • Facebook for iPhone:  A Facebook junky mostly because my main network is all my friends I left behind in San Francisco, this is a great tool for me.  I saw the ripple effect happen among my friends when they saw my automatic update “Greg installed Facebook for the iPhone”….
  • WritingPad:  A “cursive” way of writing (but don’t think Palm Pilot’s old styls shorthand) that is faster and more reliable.  Works with built-in email, but not other applications.
  • Last.FM / Pandora  / Live Radio:  Three great streaming services – when you have wifi or 3G at your beck and call.  The last is an Orange (France Telecom)-specific app for subscribers only – and to be honest, it’s a bit of a dog.  But it gives you essentiallyt eh same access to online radios around the world that iTunes does – which I have not yet seen on another app (doesn’t mean I’ve done a bunch of searching).
  • Glacon Lite (link opens your iTunes): an addictive and short game.  And for those wondering what the other addictive, colored-ball game is – reMovem Lite.  Also a good one.
  • Metro Paris:  A great iPhone version of the indispensable RATP interactive map.  My biggest complaint is that the iPhone app does not include the full RER lines.
  • Fring:  Initially a Skype (and other chat / VOIP service) gateway, it’s now an all-social-web aggregator/sharing/kitchen sink.  Haven’t tested the latency of Skype voice calls….
  • WordReference (iTunes link): a must for living and working in France
  • NetNewsWire:  Although the only thing really feed is my wife’s blog, and The Daily Blah (no, not that one…)
  • Bookmarks (iTunes link):  An iPhone app for your booksmarks.  If you’ve got hundreds like I do, you need this to browse them effectively.

Websites with good mobile service:

  • MonRAPT: a simple interface for looking up routes.  A free alternative to the full app described above – designed by my friend Shakaman here at
  • iBackPack: A CSS hack you have to put into yoru BackPack pages that renders them nicely for the iPhone.

And one to leave on – a new app I discovered putting together this list – Leaflets….. looks good…..


ineation – Drupal en français

Very cool:  Inéation, a slick, in-depth blog dedicated to Drupal, entirely in French.  W00t to the francais crew.  Courtesy of DrupalCon Paris 2009 co-conspirator Alexandre Eisenchteter.

Drupal 5 to 6 (and clearing the cache in Drupal 5)

It’s been almost a year – kay, 10 months – since Drupal 6 came out.  I’m just now spending a bit of time upgrading a personal site, and there are at least 4 core modules for my site that are not available for Dr6.  And my guess is that they will not be available.  So now I have to figure out how to upgrade my functionality:

  • Media handling – mostly locally-hosted audio files
  • Media display – displaying a playable file that is related to the main node (the CCK Node Reference field will only display a link, and node a playable file – in Dr5, at least).

So, as is with many Drupal sites, a simple upgrade is now turning into a re-architecting.  This is hapening all around me with sites we are working on, and sites others are working on.  And we’re halfway (?) to Drupal 7 already.  So the other thing that is happening all around me is that developers are saying if they have a Dr5 site, they will wait until Dr7 to cme out before upgrading.  But now I’m a little worried – I want to add a couple of things to my site, but if I do, I want to make sure they are minimally in good shape for Dr6, so that they will live on in Dr7….

Clearing cache in Drupal 5:  On a side note, while I was cleaning up my personal site, I came across this simple cheat to clear the cache (very helpful if you, for example, change the location of your logo and favicon files, etc).  As mentioned in the notes, I removed the Drupal goto because it was causing an infinite loop.

Apache not starting on MAMP

One of those nights where I wanted to spend an hour working on a site – you know, really quick-like – and I ended up spending 3 (count’em – three…) hours f@cking with my MAMP server.

I’ve got several folders of sites on my local computer, and I switched from one I had been working on recently to another new folder of a site I had just downloaded.  And in my MAMP dashboard, MySQL was working fine, but Apache would not start.

Three hours later and lots of testing, let’s just skip to the answer – the enclosing folder (not the actual html docs folder I was pointing to in the MAMP prefs, but the enclosing folder) had an accented character in the folder name.  Yes, like the accent over the “e” in frusté, for example…  (Or perhaps more to the point, emmerdé)

This may be obvious to the Linux heads, but to a Mac user like myself, it took hours of narrowing down the problem. Add to that the fact that MAMP/Apache would not reset even after you changed the folder it looked at until you actually restarted MAMP (i.e. using the MAMP button to cycle the servers did not help).

Sigh.  Now I’m where I wanted to be… oh, 3 hours ago?

Max allowed packet problem with MAMP

Holy crud – that took a while to figure out.  I was trying to work locally on a project, and kept running into the “max_allowed_packets” error when importing the database (I was using PHPMyAdmin, but this comes up elsewhere too).  I knew that the default was 1M, but I had a hard time figuring out where to change this number.

It took me a while and a lot of attempts at difference solutions to find the answer – presented to me in a forum.  The key is to replicate the original MySQL conf file (which MAMP apparently removes) with a larger max.

Quoted below (from “weotch”) in case the link ever rots, but here is the original:

“Ok, I think I found my answer. I copied
/Applications/MAMP/Library/share/mysql/my-small.cnf to
/Applications/MAMP/db/mysql/my.cnf (notice that I renamed it). Then I
tweaked the settings I needed to in it and restarted MAMP. Golden!”

Special mobile session of the SF Drupal Users Group

This one is close to my heart – a special SF Drupal Users Group next Monday focusing on mobile integration with Drupal sites.

Please join us on Monday, Nov 10th at PariSoMa for a special mobile-focused San Francisco Drupal Users Group meeting.

Mark Burdett will give an overview of a project he is working on that integrates mobile functionality with a Drupal site:

  • Register by phone
  • Post by phone
  • SMS alerts (covering the basics)

Maurice Carron will then give us a showcase of another site he has worked on with similar and additional functionality:

  • Content delivery (incl MMS)
  • Compatible device source transcoding
  • Wap theming

As usual, beer and sodas for the first dozen or folks.

SFDUG – Mobile integration on Drupal sites

Monday, Nov 10
1436 Howard St, at 10th

MobileTech for Social Change

This looks to be an exciting barcamp – Mobile Tech for Social Change.  I’m going, partly out of general interest (I’ve been fascinated by mobile technology for a while, particularly what the rest of the world is accomplishing ahead of the U.S.).  I’m also going because I want to support the Openmoko movement.

I’ll put aside my raised eyebrows at  $25 barcamp (it goes to food, apparently) – but the fact that there is no link to the wiki from the registration page is a little clunky.  Get the real deal at the wiki.