Traveling and Tech: Layovers made easy

Plane.When I travel I tend to drive. I prefer the sense of space and there’s something cathartic about putting in 11 hours or so behind the wheel of a car. Over the past three weeks, though, I’ve traveled by both car (as a passenger) and plane, and in both cases my travel was significantly delayed so I had a lot of time on my hands. Thank god for smartphones.

For the road trip, my girlfriend and I made our way up to NYC to visit some friends. It was a great little vacation, but we got caught in traffic outside every major city between North Carolina and the Holland Tunnel. I laid in the back of the car while our friend drove, playing Words With Friends with a couple people, reading forums, updating the blogs I write for, cruising Facebook, and watching ridiculous YouTube videos. It made the stop-and-go that is DC rush hour not only bearable, but almost enjoyable.

After being home for just under a week I left again, up to Ohio to celebrate my grandmother’s 80th birthday. I hopped a plane from Wilmington to Charlotte, wherein I was trapped next to a nervous flier. I don’t think anyone is truly comfortable with the bangs and clicks associated with flying, but nervous fliers stress me out. They’re always shaking, breathing heavily, whimpering any time the plane takes a quick dip. It is as awkward a situation as you can create – two strangers mashed up against each other, one of which will be in desperate need of some consoling. I’m sorry, but I don’t fly to console people. I queued up some Tap Tap Revenge, put on my noise-canceling headphones, and tried to ignore the fact that my seat was shaking from this person twitching.

We landed in Charlotte despite some thunderstorms, but my flight to Ohio was delayed by a solid two hours (I already had an hour layover). I started digging through the App Store for something to do and found Angry Birds (all of the addictive stories are true). I started downloading an episode of This American Life for the next flight, and flipped over to some Angry Birds. In between levels I could flip back and forth between Words With Friends and text messages from family members wondering when they should be at the airport.

None of this is new or thrilling, but when it’s you stuck staring at terminal screens, trapped in tiny coach seats, or staring at the ceiling in the back of a friend’s car, you start to appreciate just how great all of our tech can be.


Unlocking and jailbreaking your phone is now legal

Cydia.It may surprise you to learn that unlocking and jailbreaking your cell phone has to this point been against the law. It’s especially surprising considering some of the first news when a new iOS build is released is who can jailbreak it the fastest.

The legality, at least, will no longer be in question. Feds ruled to make it a legal practice to remove the barriers between you and the awesome powers of your phone. In reality, this doesn’t do much. It’s not like jailbreaking was being enforced in any serious way in the past. This also won’t change things for the current jailbreakers. They’ll keep going, hacking as they have in the past, and the people using alternative app stores will likely continue to do the same. The only people this really affects are the few entrepreneurs out there who will try to make a legitimate buck by opening yet another app store for interested parties.

If you are such a party, start looking for your new apps soon. Otherwise, as you were, folks. Nothing to see here.


Steve Jobs offers top three reasons apps get rejected

At today’s WWDC keynote, Steve Jobs outlined the top three reasons apps get rejected from the notoriously strict App Store.

First, the app doesn’t do what the developer says it does. I can get behind this. It protects the less tech-savvy users, of which there are plenty, from fooling with apps they don’t understand. Second is the use of private APIs. This is probably the most hotly contested issue with iPhone development. Jobs says the APIs are problematic because they often break every time the iPhone OS is updated. Sure, but they also give developers a lot more flexibility with the phone, and isn’t it in the developer’s best interest to release working versions of those apps for every update?

The final reason is that the apps crash. Having reviewed several apps myself, I know that replicable bugs are a big problem.

Jobs did say that 95% of apps get approved within 7 days.


Adobe brings Flash to the iPhone

Adobe Flash on the iPhone.Where there’s a will there’s a way, and Adobe’s found one. The iPhone was the only smartphone on the market that couldn’t comply with Adobe’s designs for Flash on every handset. Apple has refused to budge, insisting that blocking Flash increases security for the phone. There’s probably some truth to that, but it also isn’t out of the question to think Apple might have its own reasons.

Well Adobe got sick of waiting for Apple to cooperate, so it developed away around Apple’s blockade. For now the fix comes in the form of an additional export method for Flash programs. One option supports Flash, the other makes the program usable on the iPhone. This really opens some doors for Apple developers who might have otherwise shifted to other platforms for support.

To me this is just another great example of taking the control out of Apple’s hands. Sure, Adobe had to play by Steve Jobs’ rules, but it was still able to roll out a product that will have significant impact on the goods available in the App Store. Now what’s holding up that Hulu app?


NFS: Undercover Powerslides to the iPhone

NFS: Underground on the iPhone.Yesterday, EA mobile released their newest race title, ported for the iPhone. Need for Speed Undercover follows the plot and mechanics of most other NFS titles: infiltrate a underground smuggling/racing ring, race through a few cityscapes, destroy some cop cars on the way. The most interesting part of the game is probably the controls.

Unlike most racers, NFSU has no gas pedal. Your virtual driver just puts the thing to the floor and trusts you to handle the rest. Pressing the screen activates your brake while you steer by simply tilting your phone. As you can imagine, steering can feel a little mushy, a setback EA countered with fairly simple course design. Swipe your finger up on the screen for a nitrous boost, down to enter the Speed Breaker, which is essentially bullet time for cars. I’m glad to see they were thinking of controls when they designed the game. The iPhone as a gaming device can be fairly limited, but obviously there are creative ways to get around the drawbacks.

The only problem I see is the $10 price tag. Sure it’s a complete game, stuffed with 19 cars and a load of customization. Ten bucks still seems stiff for something that I would basically use as a time-killer on long trips in the car or while I’m waiting for a movie to start.

Source: CNet