First Look: iOS 5 Beta 1

At the beginning of WWDC 2011 yesterday, Apple announced iOS 5 and iCloud, along with Mac OS X 10.7 Lion (again).

Apple claims iOS 5 includes over 200 new features, previewing ten of them yesterday.

Let’s look at a few of these features, as well as a few of the bugs that I hope will be fixed by the next beta release.

Warning: iOS 5 betas supposedly cannot be downgraded to iOS 4.x, particularly on devices that have a baseband (iPhone, and iPad 3G). While I have not tested this, and I have written an article about how to downgrade betas in the past, there is no guarantee that my method will work this time. Download and run the iOS 5 beta at your own risk.

With that in mind, I’ve only upgraded my iPad 2 to the iOS 5 beta. My iPhone remains on iOS 4.3, and as such, this post will only cover iOS 5 as seen on the iPad.

The iOS 5 home screen, as seen on my iPad 2

There are a few things to notice here. First, a new app called Reminders (no, it’s not an App Store app, it’s built-in; I have no need for a to-do list app and would never install one =/). There is also a new app/folder called Newsstand. I’m not entirely sure which one it is, as it appears in the multitasking tray (probably a bug), but it opens like a folder.

My Social folder, containing the new Messages app

In iOS 5, Apple is introducing the new iMessage service. Apple is also adding the Messages app to the iPad and iPod touch in order to allow usage of this service (however, iPads and iPod touches still cannot send regular SMS messages). iMessage is an instant messaging service provided exclusively to users of iOS devices, that gives SMS-like messaging, with the ability to send media, receive read receipts, and see notifications that indicate when the other user is typing. It feels a lot like the old iOS Messages app, while adding a lot of features similar to those found in Windows Live Messenger.

Game Center in iOS 5

In iOS 5, Apple has enhanced Game Center, adding the ability to have an avatar for your profile. Furthermore, they are also adding official support for turn-based games, which will probably bring many promising offerings once iOS 5 is released this fall. Until then, games that leverage this functionality most likely will not appear in the App Store, as Apple does not accept apps written using a beta version of the iOS SDK (much like how Game Center was utterly useless in the iOS 4 betas since no games supported it).

Newsstand

Much like the new functionality in Game Center, there isn’t much to see here either. No apps support the functionality offered by Newsstand yet, and the Store button is disabled. Newsstand is supposed to be a collection of newspaper/magazine apps. It is also supposed to be capable of pushing updated content to these apps. Most likely, there won’t be much to do with this until after the official release either.

A couple of screenshots of the Reminders app

In what I consider to be a questionably stupid move on Apple’s part, iOS 5 now includes a built-in to-do list app called Reminders. Considering something of the sort could exist perfectly fine on the App Store (and, in fact, many things of this sort already do), I’m really wondering why Apple bothered with this one. Nonetheless, you can see a couple of screenshots of it in action above. You set up tasks that the app can remind you about either by time, or, in what may be the one interesting thing about this app, by place. Supposedly, when you’re at a certain location, it can deliver a reminder. Anyway, the first screenshot above shows my list of reminders, and the second shows those tasks which I have completed (even though I just threw that up on the spot, it’s pretty accurate about what I do and don’t get done).

The emoji keyboard on iPad… finally!

As seen above, Apple has finally enabled the emoji keyboard for iPad (well, they’ve enabled the ability for you to enable it). Just go into your keyboard settings, and add the Emoji keyboard like any other. Then annoy your fellow iOS users to death with emoticons. 

The split keyboard

While on the topic of the keyboard, Apple has added the ability to split the keyboard in iOS 5. Hold the keyboard dismiss button to access the option to do so. Some people I’ve spoken to love this feature. I, however, find it dismally annoying. It makes me really prone to typos, by both making the buttons smaller, and by putting them in unusual locations. I hate it, and will still be using the regular keyboard, but your mileage may vary. Also of note, you can undock the keyboard to move it up or down the screen as you wish, while keeping both halves attached and the buttons their usual size. This feature may be useful for some, but I will be leaving the keyboard in the tried and true location of the bottom of my screen.

The About menu in General Settings

Okay, there’s a few important things to notice here. First off, the build number of this beta is 9A5220p. Second of all, there’s an option to change the device name… on the device itself. In addition, there is a Diagnostics and Usage menu, which gives you the ability to turn the option to send such data to Apple on or off (something normally done in iTunes).

These next two observations are quite significant. Why would Apple give you the option to do these things on the device itself?

Apple has finally dropped the requirement of having a PC or iTunes. iOS devices are now completely independent. When you open the box of an iOS 5 device, it will no longer greet you with the familiar “Connect to iTunes” screen. It will instead prompt you to set up the device… on the device itself. As pointed out in the keynote, this is the logical conclusion to their theory that we are living in a “post-PC era.” To enhance the independence of the device from iTunes, you may also delete music directly from the device in the Music app. There is also a Usage menu in General Settings that provides an overview of the amount of storage used by a given app, along with the ability to delete a given app outright, or to dump its data (I greatly appreciate this feature; I commonly download videos using Terra Web Browser then have it open them in VLC. VLC can play the videos just fine, but it gives no way of deleting the copy of the video that Terra dumped in its documents folder. And considering some giant douche forced Apple to pull the VLC app, that’ll never be fixed either).

Over-the-air updates

As seen above, Apple has also introduced over-the-air updates in iOS 5. Supposedly it will also be more efficient than the previous update mechanism, as it will only download that which has changed, as opposed to an entire firmware image. It does, however, seem to be somewhat buggy at this point. While I don’t know if it’s even really enabled in this beta, or if it’ll allow you to update between betas, it claims I’m not connected to Wi-fi, even though I am.

As a side note, as much effort as Apple has put into removing the dependency on iTunes, I wonder why they’ve also added Wi-fi syncing with iTunes now.

While I think it’s broken in this build as well (either that or the iTunes 10.5 beta is broken), there is an iTunes Sync option in General Settings that allows you to sync over Wi-fi, although it claims that iTunes is never available to sync to.

 

iCloud

Furthering the theory that we are living in a “post-PC world,” Apple has introduced iCloud, their cloud storage service. As seen in the Mail option above, Apple is now giving away @me.com e-mail addresses for free. It also includes the former MobileMe service of Find My iPad. It also introduces the ability to sync your bookmarks, notes,contacts, calendars, and reminders, as well as Photo Stream, a way to store your photos in the cloud (why it gives Photo  Stream a separate menu, I don’t know; the only option that menu gives is yet another on/off slider). By the way, did anyone notice that Apple changed the slider images? Personally, I liked the old ones better. As seen immediately above the big red Delete Account button, you can also back up your devices straight to iCloud. However, this disables automatic backup with iTunes, so I left it disabled.

Twitter integration in iOS 5

iOS 5 now features direct integration with Twitter, allowing single sign-on for all Twitter apps, a most welcome addition after Twitter’s basically made developers of Twitter clients bend over and take their crappy web-based authentication. Apparently iOS will be spared the awful experience, as you can add accounts directly in the Settings app.

Posting to Twitter from Safari

You can also post to Twitter directly from certain apps, including Safari (pictured above) and Photos. However, photos tweeted from Photos seem to be in highly reduced quality.

While I find this functionality both well-implemented and convenient, I’m slightly worried about the precedent that it’s setting. If Apple is this accepting of third-party software out-of-box, this may eventually introduce Facebook support in iOS. Considering I do not use Facebook, I would find this to be unnecessary bloat. And for those that do, if I really need to scare you with what may happen, this could lead to crapware in Macs down the line. What I’ve always enjoyed about Mac OS X is that Apple makes both the hardware and the software, therefore wants to make both work well together, not loading a ton of crapware onto Macs out of box. While this is somewhat different, it is setting a precedent that I’m concerned may lead to such things.

A notification in iOS 5

As was probably the most (over-?)hyped feature of iOS 5, Apple has included a revamped notifications system. While I’ve never used MobileNotifier, I’ve seen screenshots/videos, and the fact that Apple has hired its developer, Peter Hajas, is apparent (while talking about Apple hiring a jailbreak developer, let me add a bit to my rant on Sony by saying Apple is setting an excellent example of how Sony should’ve handled their argument with Geohot).

Notification Center

Apple has also provided Notification Center, a summary of recent notifications. It allows you to open the app that created them, or to clear the notifications created by a given app.

Lock screen notifications

Notifications on the lock screen have also been improved. You can swipe across one to go to the app that created it, and it now handles multiple notifications better.

Notification options

Notifications in iOS 5 are also incredibly customizable. You may select whether they appear in Notification Center, whether they appear on the lock screen, and even how many messages appear in Notification Center. Furthermore, it is also of note that Apple has not completely removed the old notification system. You can configure an application to use the old notification style by setting it to use “Alerts” instead of “Banners.”

Thank you for reading my review of some of the many changes in iOS 5. While not pictured, a couple of other things are of note, such as the music app having been split into two on all devices. The music app on iPad has also been redesigned. The one thing that really, really peeves me about iOS 5 thus far, and I really hope is a bug that Apple plans to address, is the “lock out of device upon X incorrect passcode attempts” functionality. For one thing, syncing with iTunes no longer resets this lockout. Furthermore, even if it did, if Apple really plans to cut the cord and sell to users who don’t own a PC or a Mac, they’ve gotta at least make that functionality an option. My password would take millions of years to bruteforce, and I’d rather some stupid kid playing with my devices not prevent the person intended to access the device (me) take millions of years to get into the device owned by the person who actually knows the password. I don’t need a software-enforced lockout to keep my stuff safe. Besides this (hopefully once again a bug that will soon be addressed), my only real disappointment with iOS 5 is that it hasn’t provided a unified way to access files across apps (as opposed to the Open in… functionality that gives me a mild measure of trouble in VLC). Storage space is finite, and having to make a copy of a large movie just to watch it, as opposed to being able to just watch the copy that I downloaded from its present location, is quite annoying.

In summary, while iOS 5 has a couple of critical bugs, and lacks one feature I really wanted to see, it’s certainly moving even further in the right direction. The best mobile OS on the market today, and most likely for the entire foreseeable future, has gotten better with messaging across devices, sexy new unobtrusive notifications, finally gaining complete independence from the PC, and built-in free cloud backup and syncing.

Tic Tac Toe

Justin Daigle (.com) Tic Tac Toe is the first two-player game I’ve ever written (sorry, you do have to have two players; maybe the ability to play against the computer will come in a future update, depending on how bored I get over the summer).

I shouldn’t have to explain how to play it.

It requires .NET Framework 2.0 or newer, which you should already have if you’ve run any of my previous applications.

This also means it will run on stuff as old as Windows 98, which I decided to try for some reason.

http://justindaigle.com/files/scr/e9c5e02f.png

Anyway, here’s the download link: http://justindaigle.com/files/TicTacToe.zip

By the way, this post has nothing to do with the current iPhone Dev Team blog post of the same name.

AutoUsr 3 + Slots 3 + War

Today, I’m releasing three applications. Two of them are updates to previous applications, the other one is brand new.

The first one is AutoUsr 3, something I said I’d release, then decided not to, then was just going to get rid of.

However, in testing JDC War, I found AutoUsr 3 quite indispensable, so I decided to release it.

You may also notice that the application’s name has changed from AutoClickr to AutoUsr.

This is because it now supports key presses as well as mouse clicks via ClickScripts (see below).

Along with numerous smaller changes, AutoUsr 3 is now equipped to bypass some anti-cheating mechanisms, and is also scriptable via ClickScripts.

Furthermore, ClickScripts are able to perform more than their name might imply. They are also capable of simulating key presses (in my tests, I was able to manipulate TweetDeck in my browser window to the point of sending a tweet via a ClickScript).

ClickScripts can be written using the built-in ClickScript Editor (shown below).

Download: http://justindaigle.com/files/autousr3.zip

The next release is of one of my longest-running projects, Slots 3.

It’s been completely rewritten in C# (both previous releases were in VB.NET) and updated with new graphics.

I think I’m getting good at this.

Download: http://justindaigle.com/files/slots3.zip

The final release is of a completely new application.

It’s my take on the card game of War, written in about five hours a few days ago.

Download: http://justindaigle.com/files/jdcwar.zip

Considering this last game can get quite lengthy, I highly recommend using AutoUsr during gameplay.

Sonyfication

Sonyfication [SO-nee-fi-key-shuhn]: (noun) 1. Referring to Sony’s practice of removing features previously used as major selling points of their products. 2. The action of becoming like Sony in this respect.

Yeah, I know I’m late to write something up about this whole Sony thing, although up until now it never really concerned me. That said, even though I do not own a PS3, PSP, or any other Sony product, I still strongly disagree with what they’re doing, and so should you. They removed OtherOS, a major selling point of their hardware. As if this weren’t enough, they removed it from hardware they had already sold. This would be analogous to buying a car, then in the middle of the night, the dealer comes and takes the engine right out of it. “Oh, well who buys a PS3 to run Linux on it anyway?” Uh… I would. I wouldn’t have much other use for it. I’m not exactly much of a gamer. “Nobody’s forcing you to update.” Once again, wrong. Sony is. From what I can tell (I do not own a PS3, nor will I ever own one), if you don’t update, you can’t use PSN. Wouldn’t bother me much, since I do have a 360, and I never use XBL, but the point still stands. Sony is trying to blackmail you into surrendering a feature you bought your hardware knowing it would have.

Anyway, I really wasn’t planning to use this post to talk about Sony. I only did that to better establish a definition for the word “Sonyfication,” which seems like it’ll be seeing more widespread use in the coming months.

Why?

Another company has recently employed Sonyfication.

Who?

Spotify.

If you don’t follow me on Twitter (which you really should), I had about a six-post rant on what Spotify is doing. I’ll re-post some of it here.

http://www.spotify.com/se/blog/archives/2011/04/14/upcoming-changes-to-spotify-free-open/

Above is a link to the blatant act of Sonyfication. See what they did? Unlimited listening (albeit with advertisements; kinda like radio) was the big promotional feature for Spotify Free accounts, but they’re taking them away and demoting them to Spotify Open accounts (which have extremely draconian limits on them). I worked hard to find someone to give me an invite to get that account too.

Wow. These Sony douchebags are being a real inspiration for worse to a lot of people. How can I help get Spotify back in line?

http://twitter.com/justinrdaigle/status/58610671843147776

cd /Applications && rm -rf Spotify.app (/cc @Spotify)

Retweet that. (for the less geeky among us, it changes to the Applications directory then deletes the Spotify app when input into Terminal).

Also, for the record, I didn’t actually uninstall Spotify. I believe I’ve got the rest of this month to enjoy it before they totally screw themselves over.

While I’m at it, I’m not the only one concerned about this. Peter Sunde (one of the TPB founders) sees Spotify’s decision as their doom.

http://twitter.com/brokep/status/58477025098346497

Oh, @spotify is thinking of committing suicide:http://www.spotify.com/se/blog/archives/2011/04/14/upcoming-changes-to-spotify-free-open/

Go RT that as well.

We can force Spotify to go back on their decision. If we let them know just how much we like our unlimited listening, and threaten to stop using their service if they take it away, they’ll be forced to give it back.

Just RT those tweets I linked to above, and tweet around some links to this blog post (make sure to add (/cc @Spotify) to the tweets so they see them).

And of course, feel free to stick it to the man while you’re at it. Rebel. Register as many Spotify accounts as you need to listen as much as you want. We will win this.

Even if you don’t use Spotify, show them your discontent anyway. Sonyfication is spreading, and selling a product on a feature that’s later removed may soon become a common business tactic. Don’t let that happen. Show Sony, Spotify, and anyone else that tries it that Sonyfication is wrong.

The Test Button

Presenting The Test Button. Separating the dumb AutoClickrs from the smart ones.

So what’s The Test Button?

It’s an application that tests for what I call “dumb” auto clickers.

By “dumb” auto clickers, I mean auto clickers that click the exact same location at exact intervals until the user manually stops them.

Like AutoClickr?

Like AutoClickr 1 and 2.

As I said earlier, The Test Button separates the dumb AutoClickrs from the smart ones.

AutoClickr 1 and 2 are “dumb” in that applications like this one (as well as most applications AutoClickr can be used to cheat at) can easily detect them.

I’m currently developing AutoClickr 3, which will add the ability to make itself less predictable.

Anyway, I’ll release AutoClickr 3 at some point in the near future. Meanwhile, here’s the source and executable for The Test Button.

http://justindaigle.com/files/TheTestButton.zip ( Executable)

http://justindaigle.com/files/TheTestButtonSource.zip (Source)