January 6, 2014

A Brief Moment of Technological Bliss

I call this: computers,iOS,phones,tech — Posted by KP @ 11:09 pm

Just before leaving work I had downloaded a sample of a book I was considering buying, thinking I would read the sample on the train, and probably buy the book when I got home.

I started reading the brief introductory chapter on the platform, and when the train arrived the conductor announced it was going local. Realizing I was already halfway through the sample, and that I liked it, I regretted not buying the whole book for what was now going to be an even longer ride home.

Then I set myself a challenge: could I set up a hotspot with my phone, connect my Kindle’s wifi to it, purchase and download the book, all before the doors closed and the train left the station? Thanks to the new cell reception in many midtown stations, I had a precious few seconds left at 59th Street, before heading north into the great underground wilderness.

I’m pleased to say that I accomplished my goal, and was so engrossed in my book that I nearly missed my stop. Sometimes, despite the obstacles thrown in our way by patent lawsuits and greedy wireless carriers, we can actually use our inventions to accomplish the things they should be able to do. [Hugs Verizon.] I’m sorry about all the things I said about you. They were all 100% true, and you deserved to burn in hell at the time. But I would be remiss if I didn’t also acknowledge when things cease to suck.

Telecommunications industry, you made my night.

October 14, 2011

iOS 5 for Stage Managers

I call this: phones,tech,theatre — Posted by KP @ 1:54 pm

Now that Apple has released iOS 5, here are a few new features I’m finding particularly useful for stage management.


If you’re a seriously anal stage manager with some disposable income, you may have already invested in some of the more robust and expensive task management apps like OmniFocus or Things, but if you like to keep your tasks more simple or cost-free, the Reminders app is a great addition. It also syncs with iCloud so you can see your tasks on all your iOS or Mac devices. One of the features of this app, and the new OS in general, that I’m most excited about is geofencing — the ability to have it remind you when you enter or leave a certain place (like your home or theatre) based on your GPS location.

I’m a heavy OmniFocus user, but I think I’ll probably be using Reminders to keep track of simpler short-term tasks like shopping lists. I also want to compare the geofencing abilities of Reminders versus OmniFocus.


Please note, the timer now has a “pause” function. I’m struggling a little with when you would use this — perhaps if the earth stops rotating for a few minutes while you’re on a ten? But I add it because it’s the kind of feature Phil Schiller is never going to bother to tell you about in a product launch, and you may have more inventive uses for the timer in your workflow than I do.


Week view in iCal!!!!!!

I don’t know about you, but I always have my calendar in week view on the Mac. With the Retina Display, I couldn’t fathom why I couldn’t have a teeny-tiny week view on my phone, too. Well now if you tip the phone sideways, you can. Only one minor nitpick from a stage management perspective: when you swipe to the side to advance through the days, it has a little division between Saturday and Sunday, denoting the new week. Of course the Equity week starts on Monday, and there’s no way to change this. So if you’re counting hours on your tiny screen, you may be a little distracted by having to break up the week differently than is indicated, but this is a very minor inconvenience compared to the awesomeness of having a week view at all.

Note: there is one roundabout way to do this: under Settings/General/Date-Time/International you can select United Kingdom, and that will fix your week start problem and leave you with a host of other problems in the formatting of your date, time, phone numbers, etc. Unless you’re British, at which point you’re totally set already and are probably wondering why we silly Yanks start the week on Sunday anyway.

Flags in Mail!!!

Finally! Seriously!! How hard was this? This is one of those things that even the simplest mail client on any device should be able to do. I could do a Let Me Tell Ye on this alone, but now it’s fixed and all is forgiven, so I won’t. You may now go about marking emails you need to follow up on, and when you look at them on your phone they won’t blend in with whatever other crap is in your inbox.

I should also mention that I’m having some issues with flag status updating between devices. So it’s more of a theoretical “finally” than an actual solution. It seems to work better on my iCloud account than on Gmail.

Notification Center

Finally iPhone users who don’t jailbreak can have a feature that other smartphone users had over 5 years ago — something we used to call a “today screen” back in the PDA days, which was even longer ago.

One of my favorite things about this little applet is that I was on a train last night and every time I looked at my notifications, the weather had updated with whatever city the train was passing through. I didn’t even notice it, it was just there. This would be great for the road — no more having to remember to update your weather app with where you are.

You can pretty heavily customize (for Apple, at least) the apps that appear on this screen, and how much they show you, and in what order. One problem is that you don’t have control over what calendars you can see. So say I have a work calendar (don’t be silly, I have six work calendars) and a personal calendar, but I don’t want to clutter up my notifications with my personal appointments — you can’t turn that off, even if you hide that calendar in iCal. What’s worse is that you can’t get rid of the birthdays calendar. So one day when I had three contacts with birthdays, that took up most of my 5 appointment slots, and pushed off things like, you know, the performance I had that night. You can have it show you 10 appointments, but then you’d have to scroll to see any other type of notifications. It would be great to be able to hide certain calendars from the notifications screen, and give them an order of importance, the way you can with what apps appear.

It would also be nice to get rid of that nasty linen background, but I assume we will have to jailbreak or wait for several years to pass before that happens. The linen, it grows on me not.

Find Friends

This would be awesome on the road. You’re on lunch break during load-in, and somebody finds a cool restaurant. See where all the members of your cast/crew are during the day and meet up somewhere. Nick and I once walked all the way around the campus of Minnesota State University Moorehead in like a foot of snow, on top of a sheet of ice, looking for our bus, and never found it. Now we could just walk directly to the location of our colleagues on the bus.

Otherwise it’s a little stalkerish, but this app would be amazing for keeping track of a group in an unfamiliar place, which is pretty much the definition of stage management on the road.


I don’t think of this as a big deal because I’ve had MobileMe and Google Apps for years, but if you haven’t been syncing your contacts, calendar, emails and bookmarks instantly over the cloud, you now have no excuse not to enjoy the convenience and security of knowing that your data is updated everywhere without you having to do anything.

July 8, 2011

For Web Developers: Easy iOS-specific Icons for Your Website

I call this: tech,web — Posted by KP @ 3:06 pm

You know how on iOS you can put a bookmark on your homepage? By default it seems to take a clipping of the screen to create an icon representative of the site. I’ve noticed that some fancy sites (Google sites come to mind) actually generate a specific icon that makes it look more like an app, and well, just more attractive.

Today I found an article that explains just how simple it is to add an image to your site, so that when people add it to their home screen in iOS it looks clean and professional.

The article goes into detail about how to have different icons for the three sizes currently supported by iOS devices (low-res, iPad and Retina displays), and how to assign different icons for different pages of your site, but if you’re OK with letting iOS scale the icon down for you, and only need one image for your whole site, it’s stupidly simple. Check this out:

  • Make your desired image 114×114. You do not need to add any fancy shine effects or curved edges, iOS will do this for you, because as I said, it’s stupidly simple. Mine looks like this. As I already have several icon-sized site logos for use in various things, it took me about 5 seconds to generate the proper image.
  • Save your image as apple-touch-icon.png
  • Upload this file into the main directory of your site. For example, the URL for my image is http://headsetchatter.com/apple-touch-icon.png.

That’s it. Now instead of seeing something like this:

Your readers can see this:

For end users

If you’re wondering how to add web sites such as this one to your home screen, open the site in Safari and follow this handy illustration:

July 3, 2011

Finally, Tethering the Way it Was Meant to Be

I call this: phones,tech — Posted by KP @ 11:27 am

…Overpriced, and with a data cap.

I’m just giving AT&T a little (well-deserved) shit there, but mostly I just want to say that finally, after way too many years of not offering the option at all, AT&T has gotten it right. Or, more accurately, has allowed Apple to get it right, since all AT&T is doing is collecting my money and allowing me to use the data I pay for legally. So, thanks for that.

The Tethering Plan Doesn’t Suck as Much as It Originally Did

First of all, if you missed the news, over the… well, I don’t know when, but it was when I was on tour… AT&T doubled the data cap on its limited data plans, which, if my math skills serve me, means that doubling 2GB to make 4GB is still infinity-times less value for your money than infinity-GB, which was the previous plan. But hey, it’s like 5 or 10 bucks cheaper. Anyway, this happened back around the time that Verizon got the iPhone, which was smart on AT&T’s part, but for one of the first times in my life, I genuinely felt warm-fuzzies toward the Evil Empire for giving me a data cap that at least sort of approaches the 5GB that most “unlimited” plans actually were in the fine print. I mean I’m locked into my contract with them anyway, and they gave it to me for free. Being on the road and having to sometimes use my phone data for things that really should have been able to be done at a hotel or venue’s wifi or ethernet, I could go through a GB in a day if I ran into a total internet fail when I needed to download large files, so suddenly having twice as much room for hotel/venue fail in my month was really great. And at home, forget it. I’d have to work really hard to ever approach that much usage.

So Today on the Train

I’m on the Long Island Rail Road right now. This brings me to the inspiration for this post. I took out my laptop, intending to blog about something else. I opened the lid, and the weather icon on my desktop immediately changed from cloudy to pouring rain. I was like, “how does it know that, it’s not connected to the…?” and then, right above my weather icon, I saw that my wifi was connected. And very carefully I moused over to it, thinking, “It can’t be… is it?” and opened the drop-down menu, showing that it was connected to my phone.

So basically what happened is, without any preparation or action on my part, I opened the lid of my laptop and pretty much as soon as the screen turned on, it had internet access.

Now what’s going on here is that Personal Hotspot and wifi are on on my phone. I generally leave both on by default, unless I’m worried about battery life. Also, having tethered over wifi before, my computer already is familiar with my phone’s network, and will join it by default when other networks it knows aren’t present, the same as it would do with any network it knows. Since wifi tethering became possible within the past year, I still use bluetooth a lot, mostly out of habit, and because I often have my wifi off when traveling to save battery life.

For whatever reason, all these factors have never come together for me before to create this beautiful effect of an instantanous, completely no-click tethering process. I’ve spoken before about how much I love the way Apple implemented tethering because it was previously a two-click process (pull down bluetooth menu, click “connect to network”), which equalled my previous favorite on the Treo 700p. This is fucking no clicks. Now, that may not always be what you want, but in this case that was exactly what I wanted, and it did it for me. It was one of those “I’m living in the future” moments, and tethering has been my wireless pet peeve for about 10 years, so to see it finally working as well as the technology is capable of (and legally, at that) is really heart-warming.

So, rock on, Apple, — and AT&T, I suppose you can rock on, too.

January 1, 2011

Let Me Tell Ye: iPhone Alarms

I call this: phones,tech — Posted by KP @ 2:33 pm

Dear Steve,
Let me tell ye: I understand you had some problems with the iPhone alarm app a few months back when we switched over from daylight savings. That was pretty well publicized, so I think most people were prepared for some strangeness. I wasn’t, because I was in a place (Arizona) which does not switch over from daylight savings, but I took all the precautions, and I was a little surprised (and woke up late) because my phone fell back for no reason, which had nothing to do with the publicized alarm app. That was weird. It also happened to at least one of my actors, so I’m not crazy.

Cut to this morning, New Year’s Day. I got up around 6AM to go to the bathroom, and decided I didn’t want to get up at 7:30, so I re-set my alarms for 8:30 and 9:30 instead of 7:30 and 8:30. I crawled back into bed, and the next thing I know it’s nearly noon.

Now my first thought is that maybe a diet of vodka, beer, champagne and popcorn could cause a person to sleep through their alarms. I tried really, really hard to think about whether my alarms went off at any point, or whether I recalled snoozing them. Didn’t sound familiar. So I looked at my alarm app, and both alarms were still set. The only way I could sleep through four hours of alarms would be if I actually turned them off early on, and they never went off again. I didn’t remember the alarms going off once, much less snoozing them every nine minutes for 3 or 4 hours.

So I got out of bed (feeling pretty well-rested, thank you), and got on the computer to visit TUAW and see if they knew anything about this. TUAW has been annoying me in recent months, and I no longer read it unless I’m specifically looking for something, so I missed their post last night warning of this problem.

Apparently if you use non-recurring alarms between Jan 1 and 3rd 2011, your alarms won’t go off. Just great, let me tell ye. And I never use recurring alarms because I usually have to go to work at a different time every day.

Steve. Seriously. It’s an alarm app. How hard is it to get it to work? I’m not much of a programmer, but I’m pretty sure the gist of it is, “Is it this time? If yes, set off the alarm. If no, do nothing.” It’s also pretty much the simplest, most feature-deprived alarm app I’ve ever seen in my life. It doesn’t do anything, how complicated could it be?

I have two requests:
#1: fix this shit
#2: if you know about it (and once the Australians try to wake up, you will), send out a text message or push notification and warn people. I wouldn’t have been upset if I had a chance to prevent it.

Gotta go, I need to email my cast and tell them about this so they come to rehearsal tomorrow. I don’t know how many iPhones we have on this tour, but to say half the people on the tour have one is probably a good estimate. Why does it seem like it’s become part of my job to manage the phone alarm bugs of my actors, in the same way that one would say “just a reminder, the A train isn’t running this weekend”?

Get it together.
Love, Karen

November 7, 2010

Hipstamatic: Acting Company Obsession

I call this: On the Road Again,phones,tech,theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:10 am

We are obsessed. Most of us. With the app Hipstamatic. In very brief, this is a $2 camera app for the iPhone that takes faux-vintage photographs. There are a ton of such apps, I already owned a couple of them, but Hipstamatic has been sweeping through our company like wildfire. We have several bloggers, and many more Facebook photographers, and most are capturing life on the road through the distorted lens of this app.

I think the reason is that Hipstamatic prides itself on being random and unpredictable. The viewfinder doesn’t actually show you exactly what you’re framing in your shot (like a real camera), and you can shake the phone to completely randomize the lens, flash and film effects put on your photo — you won’t know until after you take it what it’s going to look like. It’s not the best for accurately documenting things, but the casual photos it creates are much more interesting to look at.

Here’s an example of our truck loading into 42nd Street Studios in the rain last month, as captured by one of our actors:

I finally broke down and installed the app last night (I own the other app by the same developer, SwankoLab, which I’m honestly not that thrilled with, so I was resistant). On my journey of exploration, I went out to the stage, which seemed like an interesting subject. Here are a couple of our set:

Our office door:

Even the most mundane subjects seem more interesting. Check out my hotel room as I write this post:

This will probably get old after a while, but I think it will also result in some photos coming out better than they would have otherwise. I can’t wait till we get to the Hotel Arizona in Tucson. There’s something just not right about that place, and nobody understands what I mean. I think the vintage look of these photos will help to capture the mood it gives me.

November 6, 2010

Phoenix – Round 2

I call this: On the Road Again,phones,tech,theatre — Posted by KP @ 1:23 am

We’ve spent this week in Phoenix, AZ, where we spent a week two years ago with Henry V, playing at the Herberger Theatre, presented by Arizona Theatre Company (who will also welcome us to their other venue in Tucson next week).

One of the highlights of the Henry tour, it’s once again great to be here with Romeo and Juliet. Here’s our set, as seen from the spot booth.

Last night was our official opening here. We had done three morning shows for school groups, performing for thousands of students, but last night was the first show open to the general public. The artistic director of ATC, David Ira Goldstein, welcomed us and introduced himself to everyone before the show, and then provided champagne and conversation in the greenroom afterwards. Here’s a picture of him with the cast and crew (I’m in the middle in the green shirt).

It’s always nice to get such a warm welcome and personal interaction with the presenters who have brought us in.

Here’s a shot of our upstage crossover, looking from stage right to stage left. There’s so much room that we have a full-length black traveler between the back of the set and the crossover, with just a little hole in the middle for entrances within the set. This allows the crossover to be fairly brightly lit for quickchanges and general hanging out. You can see the line of chairs set up and draped with costumes. Behind them are the workboxes for props and carpentry, easily accessible.

And finally as a bonus, I have a new iPhone wallpaper. The booth that I call from is also the audio booth, and the console sits right next to me (unmanned, since all the show sound is run from our console backstage). The venue’s console is a PM1D, which is very pretty when it’s lit up in the dark. I found it made a very nice wallpaper. Click on the thumbnail to see it full size (it’s big enough for the iPhone 4’s retina display). Enjoy, use, steal, but please give me credit if you share it!

August 17, 2010

Why I Don’t Have an iPhone 4

I call this: phones,tech — Posted by KP @ 12:53 am

I have blogged a bit about my decision not to purchase an iPhone 4 when it came out. First here, and then here when antennagate happened, and a little bit here. It’s now been nearly two months, and I still haven’t got one.

The first reason is that I’m totally, completely broke.

But the real reason that I’m not simply a few hundred dollars more in debt than I already am, and the owner of an iPhone 4, is that I’ve never seen one. It didn’t dawn on me until this week. In my money-saving mode, I’ve spent the entire summer without going to a mall or electronics store, and especially not the Apple Store. I’ve never seen an iPhone 4 in person, or held it in my hands. And I do believe that’s why I haven’t been bothered by the fact that I don’t have one (except when taking photos and wishing I had a better camera and/or a flash).

So I think this is a good thing, but it makes me wonder if I should accidentally come into contact with one, if suddenly I’ll involuntarily waste a bunch of money. Probably.

I’m going to try to put that off as long as I can, mostly because I’m still convinced that it’s an inferior product and I should save my money and contract commitment for something better. And it’s a day ending in “Y” so there’s another new rumor this morning about the Verizon iPhone, specifically that code for it is included in the latest OS — apparently the source who leaked this info says that the unreleased model in question is a CDMA phone, but so far as I can tell in my not-a-phone-engineer expertise, there isn’t actually anything in the code that indicates what kind of radio it has. There are also steady reports of a new iPhone (which everyone seems to be assuming is Verizon’s) in January.

At this point, I’m beginning to take a personal stake in the Verizon rumors, because now I’m depriving myself of newer technology, hoping that in the end I benefit somehow from waiting. If the next iPhone to come out is on Verizon, that will have been a worthwhile wait.

July 21, 2010

Here, Have a Funny

I call this: phones,tech — Posted by KP @ 2:17 pm

In light of my recent posts about the iPhone 4 (here and here), I saw this today and had to pass it along.

I love the Steve-and-Bill comics, and if you can’t laugh at yourself for not being able to buy the latest and greatest phone, because it’s possibly not as good as what you already have, what can you laugh at?

July 17, 2010

Verizon iPhone Advice

I call this: phones,tech — Posted by KP @ 11:25 am

Yesterday my old buddy Nick posted on his Twitter the question that has plagued philosophers and Verizon users for months:

To droid or not to droid….that is the question. Should I still hold out hope for the iphone on verizon or just deal with it?

Other people have been asking that a lot on Facebook as well, and my answer to that question has changed a bit in light of recent events with the iPhone 4. First of all I want to clarify what I’m talking about. I’m disappointed a bit with the “death grip” issue, in which you can’t put your fingers in a certain place, or have to use a case. But that’s not really my concern. My concern is with the reports that even when not holding the phone at all, its reception is inferior to the 3GS. AT&T sucks bad enough as it is, I don’t need a phone that’s any worse at picking up what little signal I’m given.

I tried to express my thoughts to Nick in a series of 140-character Tweets, but that got old really fast. I tend to use sentences longer than 140 characters, never mind being able to express a complete opinion. So I said I would blog about it.

1. Is there Even a Damn Verizon iPhone?

We still don’t know. Just this morning I read some analyst say “when the iPhone 4 comes out on Verizon” as if it was as certain as the sun rising in the east. I have no doubt someday the iPhone will be available on Verizon. But the iPhone 4? Even if it was supposed to exist, the iPhone 4 is having enough problems that I don’t expect an unreleased model is ready to be boxed up and shipped to tens of millions more people anytime soon. Verizon, who in the past was notorious for delaying smartphones by as much as a year because they didn’t pass all their rigorous testing (which is why I left them, actually), is not the company I would expect to rush their biggest product ever out the door when it has a known flaw. Verizon has one selling point: their network. This flaw will make the network suck. Why on earth would they risk it?

In short, if there ever was or is supposed to be a Verizon iPhone, I believe the iPhone 4 is the least likely to be it.

2. Does the Purchaser Even Want an iPhone 4?

You read my blog, you may know me by now. You may have seen my liveblogs from the lines out front of the Apple Store at 5AM on launch day of the previous iPhones. You may know that I didn’t line up this year because I was trying to save money by trading in my 3GS at Radio Shack, rather than buying directly from Apple.

I do not yet have an iPhone 4.

I do not yet want an iPhone 4.

I mean of course I want it. It’s sexy. It has that nice retina display. I will use the improved camera constantly. But I’m waiting to see what really happens with the antenna issue, and with some people saying it’s better than the 3GS and some saying it’s worse, and Apple saying, “Nothing is wrong, nothing has ever been wrong, but we’re sorry, we screwed up, and we’ve fixed it. By giving you a free piece of rubber to put around your $700 phone, which has nothing wrong with it. Really.” I really don’t know what to believe. But sort of like Consumer Reports said, they can’t recommend the iPhone 4 because of reception issues, but also declared it at the same time the best phone on the market. And I think that’s probably a good way to describe the problem. Of course there are reasons to buy it anyway, but considering for Verizon users it doesn’t yet exist, and the Droid does, the potential of the iPhone 4 not quite being up to snuff is a little more important.

3. What Kind of Phone Does the Person Have?

A big question when the person is debating whether to buy a Droid now or wait for an iPhone is what kind of phone the person currently has. Is it old and crappy? Is it a dumbphone? Does it just plain suck and they hate it? Nick has been sick of his Blackberry for a while, so it makes me sad to see him waiting around for something that may not come. On the other hand, if the person has a decent phone that they still enjoy, there is more incentive to wait and see.

Cell phone contracts are two years. You can usually get the full discount on a new phone in 18 months (maybe it’s 20 or 22 on Verizon, I have no idea anymore). If it ends up being a year before the iPhone comes out, that’s 365 days of using a crappy phone — hundreds of thousands of calls, texts and email-checks on a phone you hate, and for what? Wouldn’t it be better to buy the Droid and be maybe 75% happy for two years, and then buy the iPhone? Or use it for a year and then shell out the money to buy the iPhone at the higher price after a year, if it’s that important.

My Recommendation

At this point, I haven’t had much opportunity to play with the Droid, but most people seem to feel that it’s a reasonable equivalent to the iPhone for those stuck on Verizon. For heavy Mac users like me and Nick, it might be a little more frustrating to not be able to enjoy all the Mac-specific features the iPhone offers, but it’s far better than nothing. Unfortunately I have changed my tune, and now recommend confidently, if you’re on Verizon and your old phone needs an upgrade, just get a Droid and be happy right now.

Nick got the Droid X, and has posted his review. It sounds like it’s already improved his life.

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