Wednesday, June 17, 2009

New iPhone software - now with podcast speedup

WARNING: This blog entry was imported from my old blog on (which used different blogging software), so formatting and links may not be correct.

The new iPhone 3.0 software was released a little under an hour ago. The upgrade was trivial. I clicked the Check For Update a few minutes after the release, and it downloaded the new OS in around 3 minutes! I recently switched ISPs so I have really good bandwidth now - but I had expected a lot of traffic on Apple's servers to slow things down.

The update looks really good. I tested a few of the things I have been looking forward to -- I personally don't care about the feature highlights listed on most sites, such as MMS, Copy and Paste, etc.

The first feature I've been waiting for is the ability in the browser to open a link in another window. With tabbed browsing I'm used to just ctrl-clicking on links such that pages load in the background, and when I'm done with the current page I go read the other tabs which by then are fully loaded. On the iPhone on the other hand I haven't been able to do this, since there hasn't been a way to open a link without throwing away the page you're on. But in 3.0, it's there - just click and hold a link and you get the option to open the link in a new page. It's not as good as tabbed browsing - it instantly jumps to the new, not yet loaded page, but it's trivial to jump back and keep reading while the new page is loading.

The second feature I've been waiting for is improved iPod controls. The primary usage for my iPhone is as an iPod - while running, doing chores or driving - and I listen to a lot of podcasts. With 3.0, the scrubbing feature is improved - it's now a lot easier to jump to arbitrary points in the podcast. I like to listen to This Week in Technology for example, but I'm getting really, REALLY sick of the 5+ minutes of Audible commercials in each and every episode. This is the DVR generation -- if a commercial is longer than 30 seconds I'm going to start resenting you. In 2.0 it was difficult to either fast forward (too slow, then too fast) or jump to arbitrary points in the podcast. With 3.0 it works really well - I just place my thumb on the scrollbar and lean it to the right then left to tweak the final endpoint.

Another iPod improvement is the ability to play podcasts at a faster rate. For the Java Posse some volunteers (thank you!) set up a server which would download our podcasts, apply audio processing to speed up the podcast, and then release these as faster versions of our episodes - called the Tempo Posse. This is no longer necessary with 3.0 - there's a button you can click to cycle between half speed, full speed and double speed playback:

I don't think this will run the Tempo Posse out of "business", because I looked at our download stats the other day and nearly half of all episodes are downloaded outside of iTunes! Are there really that many Zune users? ;-)

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