apple, mac, tips, windows

Getting Text From Apple Pages on a PC in a Pinch

The other day I brought a .pages file into a classroom. The problem is all the computers at the school use MS Windows, which can’t open .pages files. Did I panic? Yes. Was all hope lost? Nope.

It turns out that the .pages extension is just a fancy compressed file. That means you can simply change the “.pages” extension to “.zip” or “.rar” and get at the file contents.

The simplest way to get at the text from there is to look in the folder called “QuickLook.” There should be a PDF in that folder with everything in the file. If you need to edit the text, you could simply copy and paste it into a new file. If you are using adobe acrobat it will probably have formatting oddities, so another option is to upload the PDF to Google Docs, which will allow you to convert, edit, and print the file.

If you are feeling really adventurous, there is a final option. The “index.xml” file contains the text and styling of the .pages file. It will look mostly like a bunch of code, but if you go all the way to the end of the file, you’ll find the text is in there.

Of course, none of these are the ideal way to handle .pages files. It is obviously much simpler to export the file as a PDF, RTF, or DOCX file. Just know that if the options are limited, there is still a way to pull a save off.

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apple, boneheads, technology

iOS 5: Why I finally Jailbroke My iPod

First, I want to say that I love my iPod Touch. In Japan it was a constant companion. It was my map, my music, my entertainment during long commutes, my study aid, and a few other nice things along the way. Each very of iOS has brought with it a slew of enhancements that make it easier and more enjoyable to use. Unfortunately, each iteration of iOS brings something else as well, preloaded BS apps. While the available storage options have climbed, there is still just a scant 64gb peak. That means the iPod Touch and iPhone is more of a storage hill than a mountain.

This is a minor inconvenience. In the first version of iOS Apple decided users needed to have an app that let you watch YouTube (rarely use YouTube), write crappy Notes in sub-standard font, and told you about Stocks (I have better options) and the Weather (same as stocks). At first it didn’t seem so bad, but then came FaceTime and Game Center (neither have felt so much a single tap from my fingers).

Now comes NewsStand, yet another thing that I won’t use trapped on my iPod. This time Apple outdid itself, though. While none of their crappy and useless (to me) app are deletable, they at least allowed those apps to be put out of the way in a folder that I never had to worry about opening. NewsStand, on the other hand, spurns every effort to tuck it away.

Fast-forward to this very instant. As I type, my iPod is restoring from a backup. Once that finishes I’ll be the proud owner of a jailbroken iPod Touch. For the longest time I ignored jailbreaking, because it was just too much of a hassle for me. That changed with iOS 5. I want at least a third as much control over the device I own as Apple current holds over it. Hopefully, I’ll get that.

I really hope that Apple gets their act together. Until then I didn’t really see anything in iOS 5 that was worth the annoyance of the new crap they jammed it up with.

iPod Touch, I love you, but if you keep it up, it might be time we see other people.

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Safely Erase Your iPhone Before You Sell It

A while back I posted about a guy discovering that through forensics you could get tons of data off a used iPhone. There was a method to wipe iPhone data, but it require jailbreaking the iPhone and then doing a much of command line stuff. I doubt the average consumer did it.

So now the same man has delivered a much simpler system. Jonathan Zdziarsk has created an app for the iTunes store that securely erases your data from the iPhone. It is called, of course, iErase.

Zdziarsk describes just how easy it is to use:

Q. I am selling my iPhone / iPod. What should I do?
A. Before running iErase, you should reset all of the information on the iPhone. The most thorough way to do this is with a full restore, or a quick way is to “Reset all Settings” on the phone. The restore process only performs a quick format, however, and doesn’t wipe everything, and the “Reset all Settings” process only deletes your personalized files, and doesn’t even format the device. In both cases, you’ll want to follow up your restore by running iErase. Once your personal data is removed – keychain passwords, configuration files, email, etc., iErase will then wipe over all of that to ensure it is beyond recovery.

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apple, ipod touch, japanese

Japanese in Your iPhone (or iPod Touch)

The Japanese dictionary app called, simply enough, Japanese is being updated. Version 2.0 is coming out soon. The developer, CodeFromTokyo, has said the app will be submitted to Apple this week.

I’ve been studying Japanese seriously for about a year now, I’ve already spent about a week with a beta version of 2.0 and I feel like it is safe to say that this app is an amazingly useful study companion. Why?

Japanese is based on Jim Breen’s freely available EDict, like a pile of other apps. What makes Japanese different from those other apps is what it does with the dictionary and what it adds to it.

Lets take a look at just few of things that I like. Bear in mind these are screenshots of the beta version, so some things might change.

This is the beginning of the entry for for 素晴らしい. As you’d expect you get the furigana, any alternative pronunciations, and the translation. You’ll also get the new example sentences! Example sentences are really important because you can see if it’s the right word and how to use the word.

Tapping on the sentence sends you to a page showing the sentence complete with furigana.

Many, but not all, kanji also have a stroke view where you can see the animated stroke order of kanji. This is really helpful if you want get props for well written kanji. Sadly this seems to be my primary area of praise from Japanese folks…

One of the most useful features is the conjugations, which show not just the formal and informal conjugations, but also also things like the て, ない, and a handful of other forms.

Of course if you are looking at a kanji you can also see a list of popular compounds. You can also search by radical or even grapheme. But even more impressive is that you can search using conjugated words, a feature that I haven’t seen in any iPod/iPhone dictionary.

The dictionary also lets you write notes for a word or kanji and even create lists of words which can then be practiced in a flash card function.

The truth is that a lot of the features in this app, along with it’s speedy search, make it the dictionary in the iTunes store to beat. I don’t think there isn’t room for improvement, but I can wholeheartedly recommend it over any other dictionary. The features, along with a very responsive developer, make this my dictionary of choice, hands down. Down, I say! (….oh man, it’s a little late for me to be blogging)

If you like it you can buy Japanese
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mac

MacBook Pro Battery is Not Charging

mac battery not charging My MacBook Pro has had it’s fair share of power issues. First was the charger melting, then the battery went from fairly healthy to only holding a five minute charge. Those two problems solved I’ve been given a new one to tackle.

My MacBook Pro flat out refused to charge the battery. The message was straightforward and honest. “Battery is not charging.” I noticed it a while back, but the issue always seemed to work itself out eventually given enough time. Then it started to get progressively worse, until it finally refused charge at all.

If your MacBook or MacBook Pro won’t charge the battery it may be the charger. The only sign I had that the charger was the culprit was the that the little LED light stop turning on. It powered the computer just fine, but for some reason it gave the battery the cold shoulder.

The problem was solved with a call to Apple. They mailed a replacement charger and all’s well in the world again. So it seems that the whole magsafe thing has been nothing but trouble for me. The moral: while Apple does make good computers their chargers seem to be a constant source of grief for me.

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Are iTunes App Store Prices Too Low?

I just read an article asking a question I’ve been wondering about myself. It asks if iTunes App store prices are too low. App Developer Craig Hockenberry is worried that customers are being trained to want it all for $0.99 or less. To a degree this is a legitimate problem, but only to a very small degree. People want things are cheap as they can get them, this is always true. If you sell something for $100 people will say it should be $90 you can sell the same thing for $90 and people will say it should be $70. That is life.

What I don’t like seeing is developers whining:

We have a lot of great ideas for iPhone applications. Unfortunately, we’re not working on the cooler (and more complex) ideas. Instead, we’re working on 99¢ titles that have a limited lifespan and broad appeal. Market conditions make ringtone apps most appealing.

Before commencing any new iPhone development, we look at the numbers and evaluate the risk of recouping our investment on a new project. Both developers and designers cost somewhere between $150-200 per hour. For a three man month project, let’s say that’s about $80K in development costs. To break even, we have to sell over 115K units. Not impossible with a good concept and few of weeks of prominent placement in iTunes.

But what happens when we start talking about bigger projects: something that takes 6 or even 9 man months? That’s either $150K or $225K in development costs with a break even at 215K or 322K units. Unless you have a white hot title, selling 10-15K units a day for a few weeks isn’t going to happen. There’s too much risk.

Don’t make excuses. Produce apps that are worth more than $0.99 and people will buy them. Not as many people, of course, but that is just simple supply and demand. At $1 people who may not have any need for an application will buy it anyway, just to check it out or “just in case I need it one day.” But at $4 dollars you’ll lose nearly all of those folks.

I would hope that a developer would understand that they can’t sell the same quantity at higher prices. How many people own the free application Firefox? Everyone needs a browser and it is free. It gets downloaded like like it is porn, as of July 2nd Firefox 3 was downloaded 28,340,281 times. How many units of Adobe’s $1,800 Design Premium do you think have sold? Is ten percent of Firefox’s downloads (2,234,028) too optimistic? I think so. How many people need a full design suite? How many need it badly enough that paying almost $2000 is necessary? If the price was $20 I bet you a Zune that Design Premium would be sitting (unused) on way more computers.

But this is old news. What’s the real problem? The answer is simple. Most of the apps in the iTunes store are crap. People are hesitant to pay $10 or more for an application that has only screen shots and a few shoddy reviews after seeing so much garbage. Applications are not mature on the iPhone / iPod Touch yet. Worse is that developers don’t seem to have many worries about releasing (and often charging for) applications that are still in beta stages. Worse still is that many of these stay in beta stage.

I finally purchased my first game for my iPod Touch. At $8 I Love Katamari seemed like a steal. However after downloading it I discovered the game has bugs that make it unplayable and now I see that it is the developers who were stealing, not me. On the other hand, even though it has its flaws I feel that the $20 I spent on the Japanese dictionary called (you guessed it) Japanese was worth it. Though even that application is not to the standard that I would ask of a desktop app. I bought it because it was the best option and has the potential to be worth the price I paid.

My challenge to developers like Craig Hockenberry, put up or shut up. Don’t give us excuses why you are putting out crap. Don’t blame users and talk about us like we are pets that need to be trained. Put out something that is compelling enough to buy.

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Remove the Arrows in iTunes

terminal application
There used to be a preference to remove the arrows that linked to the iTunes store. That option disappeared from the preferences in iTunes 8, but you can still reach it through the magic of the terminal. And don’t worry it is easy. Open the Terminal application (look in the applications folder, then the system utilities folder). Then just paste this line into the terminal and hit return:
defaults write com.apple.iTunes show-store-arrow-links -bool FALSE

Want those goofy annoying arrows back? Easy.
defaults write com.apple.iTunes show-store-arrow-links -bool TRUE

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Please Ignore iPhone 3G Component Cost Reports

I’ve been seeing an increase in the number of “reports” [1] [2] about the new iPhone component cost. People seem to think this is some sort of useful information. It isn’t. Having only component costs is pointless. But what’s worse is that these reports are just an imaginary breakdown with a guess at the components and their prices. This makes it completely silly. Even if you had all that information it would still be pointless until products begin to magically do the following all by themselves:

  • research and develop
  • license technologies used in it
  • assemble
  • package
  • ship
  • store
  • promote
  • sell

component cost is just a fraction of a significantly bigger number. It might be useful if you have a good idea about the costs for the above, but considering no one has actually broken down an iPhone yet these reports are a bit hasty and most likely misinformation.

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Wipe That iPhone Before You Sell It

I mentioned before that the data on your iPhone can be recovered. That is still true. There is no proven method to securely wipe the iPhone as of this writing.

However, the same man who wrote the scary forensic tool for the iPhone is letting people in on how he prepares items for resale:

* Perform a full restore, but be sure to set the device up as a “new phone”, rather than restore from a backup (of course). This destroys the live file system only, but isn’t really necessary. I do this to be extra safe that no writes to the device occur after wiping (and if they do, will not include any of my personal data).
* Jailbreak the device using something like iLiberty+ and obtain shell access via ssh.
* Find a copy of ‘umount’ for the iPhone. This can be found on the RAM disk, or in other places. Don’t ask me for it. Now force both mount points into read-only mode:

# umount -f /private/var
# mount -o ro /private/var
# mount -o ro /

NOTE: The GUI will be non-responsive when /private/var is mounted read-only, so be sure not to try and use it.

* Wipe both partitions clean by copying /dev/zero over them. Ideally, /dev/random would be better, but it will heat up the CPU considerably and take a much longer period of time. Unless you are trying to hide information from the CIA or some other organization with the resources to perform low-level NAND recovery, a single /dev/zero wipe will suffice:

# cat /dev/zero > /dev/rdisk0s2; cat /dev/zero > /dev/rdisk0s1

* After complete, force the device into recovery mode (Home + Power until “Connect to iTunes”) and then perform another full restore.
* If you are paranoid about a low-level NAND recovery, use /dev/random and repeat these steps about seven times – or simply take a sledge hammer to the device.

To find out more you should visit his website. Remember, it is your identity, and you only get one for free so keep it safe.

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