Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Standards : How do you like them Apple ? (continued)

So, we are back to our iphone standards woes. If, like my wife, you shoot between 100 and 500 pictures a months, it will still take 20 to 100 months to fill up the camera roll. But that's still a lot to scroll through, so I am making a few Album folders within iTunes, and grouping the pictures by month. Which means that I remove the old pictures from the camera roll. Which also means that when the "10000 glitch" appeared, the camera roll was looking empty for some time until the update. Had to plug the phone to the comp to be sure everything was still there.

So here's the big question : how could we reach 10'000 pictures in the camera roll so quickly ? The answer is, broken software. As I am suspecting more and more after seeing this "10000 glitch", the software quality is much below the anticipated quality from a company as notorious as Apple. I have never owned a Mac, out of hatred. But I have always heard good feedback and was looking forward to that phone from a software point of view.

And I am so disappointed. This phone reminds me those cheap scripted games that are pretty much like a movie. You can not access the contents of the phone. There are no folders, no documents. It is thus impossible to upload a file. Even more ridiculous, for a very long time it was impossible to cut and paste text. Even my Toshiba (!) phone could do it... By the way, I know most of this is possible with add-on software, but not always free, and never well integrated. I even read some enthusiast saying that : "If the iphone doesn't support it, it means we don't need it". The same person probably acclaimed the release that featured the never seen before cut and paste capability. Which reminds me how safari lacks a "search" function...

So, back to software quality. Even though there are no folders, Safari at least gives you the ability to save images to the camera roll. And so does the iphone OS by allowing you to make screenshots, pressing both the square button and the power button simultaneously. Which has a high probability to screw up your camera roll ! Yes, this is the culprit. I found out that every now and then, when saving pictures from the web or making a screenshot, the software smartly creates a new 1XXAPPLE folder inside the DCIM root folder. So instead of 10'000 pictures, all we needed to get to the infamous 110APPLE folder was a dozen of screenshots or saved files...

Now the story wouldn't be complete without some more ranting from my side. So here it goes : when I realized that this picture stuff was happening i filed a bug in the iphone developer section of apple developer connection (the Apple developer resource center, like MSDN for the windozers, if I'm not mistaken). Of course I never had any reply, but that update I mentioned was fixing part of the problem : Apple decided to work around the issue and allow the camera roll to display files with out-of-specifications names (i.e. 4 letters 5 digits).

Unfortunately, it looks like something in the 3.x update completely screwed up the battery life for some phones in some circumstances. Not my case, but it still resulted in a last update, the latest and greatest 3.1.2 iPhone OS. And what a mess it is : it features a very nice bug where the phone is not detected as a storage device anymore (neither by PCs nor Macs). Remeber the thin obfuscation layer I was mentioning in the previous post ? It looks like it is broken, oh my ! After a few days posting on the apple forums, I met someone who found the cause for this issue : it only happens if there are PNG files in the camera roll. Well, not any PNGs, it needs to be very specific ones, but at least I was not the only person with the issue.

And to my knowledge, the problem is still not fixed today. So what do you do when you want to extract the pictures from your glitched phone ? It depends on budget and policy :
  • strict policy : you wait for Apple to sort it out
  • loose policy, no budget : you use a free application to send all the pictures (e.g. Pixelpipe, or any of those wifi sharing apps)
  • loose policy, low budget : you buy a <30$ software to extract the pictures from the 1XXAPPLE folders (e.g. Touchcopy)
  • high budget : you buy a real digital camera and repeat after me : I phone with my phone, iphone will just phone.
Okay enough joking. If you can manage to copy those PNG files to your computer and erase them from the iphone using a third-party app, the phone will appear again as a storage device, after you unplug (from the computer) and reboot it.

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