Thursday, September 10, 2009

iPhone 3GS + E92 BMW 335i via Bluetooth

I had been trying to pair my iPhone 3GS to my car for about 24 hours now. Having navigated my way through the menu systems on both the phone and the car, I figured it should be easy: just pick a PIN and enter it on both devices. And yet I failed. Many, many times. I rebooted the phone. I rebooted the car. I Googled. They were obviously talking to each other, since the phone could see the car, and the car knew when the phone wanted me to confirm the PIN. But pairing failed over and over again.

It turns out, not surprisingly, that reading the instructions would have been sufficient. There were two points I missed in the instructions for the car:
  1. I didn't have the ignition on to the second stage. This may not have been critical, since, as noted above, there was clearly some communication going on, but I did it anyway. Specifically: ‘Switch on the ignition, and, in addition, press the start/stop button without operating the brake or clutch pedal.’ To be honest, I had never done that before, and didn't even realise it was a feature.
  2. This is the critical bit. When entering the PIN using iDrive, it is not sufficient to enter the PIN and just wait, which I had been doing. About a dozen times. The label ‘Confirm passkey’ that appears on the screen during PIN entry isn't just a label, it's a menu choice. So the sequence is: enter the PIN, select down on the controller to highlight ‘Confirm passkey’, and then select that with the controller.

What I had been doing was getting to the final step, and then letting the whole process time out. Repeatedly.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

iPhone: I bit the bullet

A year ago I decided to see whether I could get by with an iPod touch as a PDA. On the whole, that worked out pretty well. An additional benefit was that it let me stall for a while on my inevitable iPhone purchase. The lack of 3G network connectivity has hurt (it turns out I was quite over-optimistic about how easy it would be to get by with WiFi alone), and many times I've thought how cool geo-location would be (or, at least, reliable geo-location—sometimes the iPod knows roughly where it is), but on the upside I feel pretty good about denying Telstra 12 months of utterly obscene data charges.

About two months ago, I snapped and went on an expedition to buy an iPhone. It proved challenging. At last count, I think I had my name down on waiting lists at no fewer than five Telstra retail stores. On Monday, I, uh, snapped again—logged on to the online Apple Store, ordered a phone, and it was delivered the next day. (Of course, it wasn't really delivered the next day, so much as a courier dropped by my house when I wasn't at home, and I picked it up from the depot myself the day after that. But that's another rant.) I don't know what kind of supplier-retail dynamic is really going on there, but clearly there is stock, though apparently Telstra stores can't get any of it. (As an inevitable post-script, I got a call from a Telstra store the day my iPhone was delivered to tell me they had one for me. You couldn't make this up.)

It turns out that, despite my skepticism, changing over from an older GSM phone to a 3G phone really is a simple matter of turning up at a Telstra shop and getting a new SIM card. I also signed up for some data, though I literally can't bring myself to admit how much, nor how much I paid for it. Needless to say, it hurt.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Parallels Desktop 4

Here's a neat way to force an upgrade path on your users: don't just freeze development on old versions, ensure that they don't even run after an operating system upgrade. I had been putting off upgrading to Parallels Desktop 4 for a while now. As I use it so infrequently, it seemed hard to justify the price. I upgraded to Snow Leopard this week, and, as it turned out, needed to run Parallels Desktop this evening. Version 3 won't even launch under Snow Leopard. Fair enough, maybe there's a genuine technical explanation. So I investigate upgrade pricing (which isn't too bad, to be honest), and download version 4. Then the fun starts.
  1. I launch the installer. After a couple of clicks, it informs me that one of my virtual machines is suspended (as opposed to shut down). Apparently the installation can't proceed, but it's prepared to wait for me to shut it down. Of course, we've already established that I can't even launch Parallels Desktop 3. Catch 22. I can't launch the old version to shut down the virtual machine, and I can't install the new version until the virtual machine is shut down. (For the record, Google did manage to find me a Parallels knowledge base article on how to solve this.)
  2. Now the installer is happy to proceed. It gets to a dialog where it tells me it's "Preparing Parallels Desktop 4 for Mac". It sits there for about 20 minutes, using about 0.5% CPU. I force quit the installer.
  3. I run the installer again, this time racing through the dialogs as all my virtual machines are apparently in a satisfactory state. It gets to a dialog where it tells me it's "Preparing Parallels Desktop 4 for Mac". It sits there for about 20 minutes, using about 0.5% CPU. I force quit the installer.
  4. Figuring that installing Parallels Desktop to run Windows XP, I should maybe just try to be more like a Windows user, I reboot the machine. I run the installer again, and this time it installs the application in a few minutes.
Ah, Parallels. Still comedy gold.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Time Capsule, AppleCare and Priority "Tools Down" Service Fee: Worth every cent

I installed Snow Leopard on my MacBook Pro two nights ago. In fact, I left it installing and went to bed. The next day, I finished off the installation and left the machine running on my desk for a few hours. Later, I tried to grab a document from it over the network, but couldn't connect to it. Figuring it might just need a reboot, I went to shut it down. After a minute, I got a screen that you really don't want to see: the grey shutdown colour, with a darker grey circle and bar through it in the middle. Not comforting. I forced the power off, and went to reboot: same screen. Ugly stuff.

Presumably the recent Snow Leopard installation was a coincidence, and I just had a dead disk. Browsing to the Time Capsule from a different machine showed that the most recent backup was mid-morning, so there would be zero data loss. It turns out I didn't skimp, and paid for the extended AppleCare Protection Plan at purchase time, so the machine still has over a year of warranty remaining. All that remained was avoiding the multi-week diagnosis–waiting for parts–repair timeline that usually ensues. Next Byte offer a priority "tools down" service, where (for $A 175) your machine goes to the front of the queue. I figured since the parts and labour would be covered by Apple that I would fork out for it. I did, and I had my laptop back within 24 hours. It's currently restoring from the last Time Machine backup, which (even though I've jacked it into a spare Ethernet port) I presume will take overnight.