Apple Programming

Nike+ Ipod : what do you do when you forget it ?

It’s great to take your personal trainer and motivator along, but it’s less great if something happens.

What do you do when you forget to take along your nike+ iPod on your run, or heaven forbid, what happened to me, your latest and greatest run of almost 5 kilometers doesn’t get saved because you mucked around with your music after finishing your run ?

You yell. You shout damnation. And then you google around and hack the darn thing of course !

DISCLAIMER. You muck around with YOUR iPod at YOUR OWN RISK. Nothing is guaranteed to work, this is a hack so I could get my run up there. I am not doing this cheat, I want to keep a log of my runs.

With googling, I found my first reference to hacking the iPod sport kit – it’s simple really. You first need to configure your iPod in diskmode, otherwise you won’t be able to access it. Then you can find the files you need. They are in xml, so you can open them in textmate or smultron or textedit. Go to the following directory (I used midnight commander, a port installed unix utility, you could use XFolders) :

/Volumes/<name of your ipod nano>/iPod_Control/Device/Trainer/Workouts/Empeds/<hexfilename of your linkmodule>

You’ll find, beside a bunch of other files that you don’t need to touch, two directories : ‘latest‘ and ‘synched‘. Any files that are in the ‘latest’ directory are not yet synced with the nikeplus website.

So what I did was to browse the xml files in the’synched’ directory, find one where the distance and time where close to what I needed, and copied that file to my desktop.

I then edited it in textmate, and changed the time and distance to reflect my most recent run, to the best of my recollection. I roughly calculated the duration by multiplying the minutes and seconds in the duration string by 60 000. My guess is that the durationString and distanceString are the voice items that your iPod speaks to you, with the more correct variables in the duration and distance properties.

<distance unit="km">4.8906</distance>
<distanceString>4.89 km</distanceString>

I also modified the start time lower down and deleted everything between the snapShotList property (this is when you press the center button to hear your status, it saves this as well) :

<snapShotList snapShotType="userClick"></snapShotList>

I also renamed the file correctly to the current date and start time to run, and then copied the modified file back to ‘latest‘ directory. Then I ‘trashed’ the iPod to remove it, restarted iTunes and waited with my fingers crossed to see if the sync would happen. It did, and it uploaded it just fine to nikeplus !

My guess is that somebody with a bit more time and more inclination could easily whip up a website or program that would allow you to fill in a form and construct for you the correct xml file to import… It would be really handy for when you forget your iPod or lose oh so precious run data from your last run.

Apple Windows

Joost mag het weten

They might not know it, but the name of the new p2p video over internet service called Joost (before it was called The Venice Project) actually has a meaning in Dutch. Joost is both a dutch name and part of a saying that you can use whenever someone asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to.

Joost mag het weten ! = Joost may know ! (where Joost is actually the devil).

I received an invitation by a friend yesterday (Thanks Kam!) to testdrive the new Joost beta (it exists for Mac or for Windows clients). You simply download the application and then start it up after which you register using a simple registration proces involving your email address (tip : use the email address you received the invitiation on).

If you have a firewall like Little Snitch or ZoneAlarm running on your computer, note that this is a peer-to-peer application and that it setups a mega-boatload of connections to other computers on the internet. From what I saw in Little Snitch, it certainly uses outbound tcp ports 80 (http), 443 (hhtps) and udp port 33333. You might need to open more ports, in the doc it states that if you want to use chat this uses tcp port 5223 both inbound and outbound.

You are then switched to full screen and immediately the introductory channel “Joost suggests” starts playing selections from the different content channels. There’s an anime channe (BONGO) and a sci-fi channel and a National Geographic channel and a sports channel and quite a few others.

It’s not immediately clear how to escape from the full screen mode, but if you move your mouse inside an overlay menu will popup with clearly defined icons – it won’t take you too much guesswork to find out how to window the screen or select another channel, most is self-explanatory. I proceeded to switch to the anime channel and selecting an episode I wanted to watch.

If you select a channel, it will start playing whatever is normally up next and will loop around when it reaches the end of the channel. Sorta like a normal tv, if you leave it on you get new content.

I was pleasantly surprised by the video quality – on my 24inch iMac the screen was probably to big for full-screen resolution, but it beat hands down the quality of the other video streams I received from the internet before.

When I was watching Ikki Tousen (Battle Vixen something, an anime involving a scantily dressed super-martial-arts girl showing gratuitous shots of her underwear every 15 seconds or so) sometimes the pixellation was very clear.

When I scaled it down to a window, it was pixel-perfect quality, my guess would be 640×480 size. Full-screen again in the sci-fi channel there was again some pixelation and one time some serious hiccup snowed the whole screen, but this cleared up in about a second or so.

For a free service, I can live with this. It’s not totally free, as you do get some adverts just before the episode starts (but I wasn’t sure if it was seperate from the episode itself or if it was actually part of the episode) and during the episode show. These in the middle adverts are unannounced – suddenly the screen goes black and you are thinking that the connection was cut when suddenly it starts up again and shows you the advert – it’s about 30 seconds long, so it’s tolerable enough.

The adverts itself don’t seem to have been targeted as yet. As far as I know, T-mobile is not available in Belgium (but is connected with Proximus), and the other one about candy I didn’t recognise at all.

Overall, I find Joost very intriguing and will continue to explore it (especially as I am a sucker for anime and sci-fi) but there is one caveat : it consumes up a LOT of bandwidth.

One hour of Joost video means you download about 320MB and upload (remember ? this is a peer2peer application) about 105MB.

Depending on how popular the content is, this can drop a bit but one thing is clear : anybody with a capped line (meaning that you can only download or upload a number of Gigabytes) will need to check regularly (ie. like a hawk) to see if he or she reached the limit (and stop before).

I’m in luck, since my ISP (Telenet) just consolidated it’s capping : before I could upload 2GB and download 10MB, since April they have declared that is is all one and I now have 12GB per month to do with as I please. Had I tried Joost then, I would have quickly used up my uploading limit.

One strange thing happened : after shutting down the Joost program on my mac, I tried regular surfing, and websites would load very,very slowly for a while. Either this is caused by extra traffic still trying to come my way or Telenet has implemented some traffic-shaping that limits your bandwidth after you use your line to the full in order to recoup some of the effort in sending you so much data.

Since I’m (for now) just about the only user at home, I rarely reach that capped 12GB limit. But if you have a few young un’s at home that like to download stuff or watch Joost or you yourself are a heavy p2p user, you should take care to avoid a nasty surprise and monitor your usage – almost daily.

A tip for window users : after watching, you need to shut down the Joost service in the lower right toolbar otherwise it will continue to send and receive data !

Apple Programming

Mac Automator

I discovered a new function in the mac ‘automater‘ – the graphical GUI tool that allows you to drag-n-drop parts to make a batch program.

You can actually save a created automator script as a plugin – the most useful in this case would be an iCal plugin. This allows you for example to create a script that can be launched at certain times (but your computer needs to be awake for it work, though).

Very cool – I used to do this via Cronnix, but this is better.

There’s actually heaps and heaps of automator actions that are becoming available all the time. It’s great ! You can create an automator script that will

  • import your photos from your camera
  • rename and resize them (if you have the correct programs installed)
  • and will upload them to your website
  • and create a backup .dmg file, ready to be archived on cd or dvd

I loooooooove my mac !

Apple Hardware Links TechScience Future

Using RFID to configure your wireless network

Apple has gotten a bright idea (and patented it right away too) : put a Radio Frequency ID (RFID) chip in your networking device, and bring them in close proximity to each other.

They’ll recognise each other, and can then configure the rest of the wireless network setup themselves : an extract from the MacRumors site :

The system describes using RFID tags in networking equipment that would communicate basic configuration settings when the devices got close to one another. The devices would then be able to establish a rudimentary network based on that information and be able to automatically finish setting up a more complex and secure wireless network.

Personally, I think it’s a damn cool idea, one of those “slap-your-forehead and wonder why nobody thought of this before” ideas…

I can already see it before me : you’ve bought a new laptop, you come home and unbox it, and bring it close to your router during the network setup. They see it each other and immediately set themselves up using the correct protocols and keys.

Still, two things need to be cleared up : one, RFID chips in their current state are notoriously unsecure, so Apple will need to secure them in one way or another, and two, there has to be a mechanism to agree on the router that you want to add a new client (a button to press ?).

Apple Pocketpc

Parallels USB support in beta 3106

I just booted into Parallels XP bootcamp partition and installed MS Active Sync 4.2. I had a beast of time finding it, with Windows Vista arriving they are phasing out that version and they are rearranging all their links.

Then I plugged my QTek 9100 in, and nothing happened. Hmmm. Oooh… click usb icon in Parallels bottom bar, select USB serial for Wizard, and woopdiedoo, I got a connection.

Now synchronising… It’s nice when technology just works !


Parallels Desktop for Mac

In December I took advantage of the offer that Parallels made (buy before dec 23 and get free major upgrades for a year) and bought the Parallels Desktop for Mac software.

This virtualisation software allows any Intel-based mac to run Windows (or another Intel-cpu-based operation system like Ubuntu or even Reactos) side-by-side in Mac OS X 10.4 at close to native speeds.
I previously had played a bit with Virtual PC (Microsoft) and Qemu (OpenSource) on my PowerPC mac mini, but the performance was very sluggish (more so with VPC than with Qemu, actually). But with my new dual-core 2 imac, I wanted to give it one more try, especially as with the latest beta, Parallels now can use your Bootcamp partition as a virtual drive.

This means you need to create only one (Bootcamp) Windows partition on your Mac and then in Parallels create a new virtual machine and indicate that it needs to use your bootcamp partition. It’ll install some drivers, and you’ll need to reactivate your licence once (if you have a Volume XP licence, this does not apply).
Disclaimer : Please note that this only works if you let Bootcamp install itself on your primary disk. I’ve seen lots of mac pro users on the boards who have assigned another partition or even another disk where it is not working. My guess is that these bugs/missing features will be worked out soon enough…

The result has blown me away. Windows XP is running at full speed in a (re-sizable) window on my imac. Using Activity monitor, I can see that while Windows XP is active, both my CPU’s are running between 50 and 60% of capacity, but that means there is plenty left over to run other Mac applications. When XP is not running, CPU usage is around 10 to 20% … I haven’t compared it against Ubuntu, though, so it just might be Parallels who is taking all that CPU time to ‘virtualize’.
I’ve installed all of my office programs in it, and everything “just works”. As a plus, most of the simple 2D games my son Tom loves to play (like “Putt-Putt at the zoo” and “Ollo Tomaat”) just work !
Next I will try out Coherence mode, which allows one to run windows applications seamlessly next to mac application, each in their own windows.

My one big wish for this software : to support 3D DirectX. That would be sooo cool, not needing to reboot in Windows but just be able to play DirectX games when I feel like it.

Apple Blog News Hardware

Busy with my new mac

I don’t have too much time right now.

I’m busy migrating my content from my mac mini to my new iMac, plus dual-booting into Windows XP to get a good dose of the latest graphical games there.
It’s a swweeeet beast… Guess which one I have ?

Ok, ok, for my own benefit (I just realised I use my own blog to find the hardware details of my stuff) :

Imac 24 inch consisting of an Intel Core Duo 2 (2.16 Ghz) , 2GB ram, 500 GB harddisk, Nvidia 7600 GT (256 MB Ram), AppleCare protection for 3 years).

Apple Links Websites Caught !

What's on your Ipod ?

Found via Vowe : Usage statistics on the play usage of ipods.

Very interesting, and I tend to agree with both volker and Duke : the current tools are not adequate enough to let you discover all of your music in a large music collection, and when you are mobile, most of the time you only want to listen to a subset of your music, well, at least I prefer so.


It's here ! Running other OS'es in Mac !

The first product is announced that will let you run other operating systems like Windows XP or Linux inside Mac OS X intel-based machines.

Meanwhile, Apple launches Bootcamp beta, a software solution that will allow you to dual-boot Windows XP and Mac OS X on your macintel.

Ow… I don’t have an intel-based mac – yet.

Apple Blog News

Dantz Retrospect disc has arrived

The Dantz Retrospect disc (that was supposed to come with the Iomega minimax) was in the mail yesterday morning. It took some time to solve this missing disc problem, but I got it. In a big part thanks to Harriett, the Apple After Sales support person.