Archives for September 2007

Hack your iPhone: install applications with Installer.app and AppTapp

(By the way, when I talk about “hacking” your iPhone, I mean closer to “modding”. I’m interested in running third-party native applications on my iPhone, and don’t care as much about unlocking the iPhone to work with other carriers.)

I’m amazed at the pace of iPhone hacking. Even a week ago, you’d see multi-step guides to installing apps on an iPhone. Now there’s a program (Installer.app) with a front-end called AppTapp that does everything in a nice graphical user interface (GUI) for you. You don’t have to type a single command, but you will need an Apple computer (either Intel-based or PowerPC-based works).

Disable automatic sync in iTunes

First, plug your iPhone into your computer so that iTunes comes on. On the left-hand side of the screen under “Devices” click on your iPhone, and then on the page that comes up, click so that “Automatically sync when this iPhone is connected” is OFF. It looks like this:

Disable the synchronization in iTunes

(By the way, to grab a screenshot of a window on a Mac and save it to the desktop, you need to hit Command-Shift-4, then the space bar, then click a window. Sheesh.)

Download and run AppTapp

The combination of AppTapp and Installer.app lets you add applications to your iPhone with almost no effort:

– Make sure that iTunes isn’t running. Plug your iPhone into your Apple computer and make sure that iTunes didn’t start running.
– Download AppTapp to your Apple computer from http://iphone.nullriver.com/beta/
– Run it.

That’s pretty much it. iPhone Atlas has the best walkthrough I’ve seen if you want more details about AppTapp/Installer.app or what to do after you’ve run AppTapp. The short version is to update Installer.app first (touch the “Update” tab). Next you want to install the Launcher program (you can only see 16 icons on your iPhone, so installing Launcher ensures that one of those first 16 icons can access other applications).

After that, you’ve got a lot of options. The “Community Sources” package will give you even more choices for applications to install. Installing “OpenSSH” and “BSD Subsystem” is also recommended. Finally, if you install the MobileTerminal application, you can experience the joy of typing “ls” on your iPhone. Walking around with UNIX in your pocket is very nice. πŸ™‚ See the iPhone Atlas guide for screenshots and more info.

If you want to impress your fellow geeks, Lights Off was the first native game for the iPhone and it also looks great. My brother and I had a similar “turn the lights out” game when we were growing up, but it was called Merlin. Now you can play this game on much prettier handheld appliance. πŸ™‚

More Resources

If you’re a Windows person and can’t beg/borrow a Mac from anyone, you might check out iBrickr. It lets you manage ringtones and applications on your iPhone.

If you don’t want to go the AppTapp/Installer.app way on a Mac, you might also check out iFuntastic. iFuntastic lets you tinker with all kinds of things, from ring tones to applications to multiple “home screens.” Each home screen can have a different set of icons. Version 3 was released just a few days ago and the new version adds PowerPC support.

As always, back up your data first, and any of this could (in theory) break your iPhone. I don’t think anything I’ve mentioned would get you in trouble with lawyerfolk, but if you’re worried, you can always play it safe and stick with the built-in applications on the iPhone. If you see errors above or know of another interesting way to install native third-party applications on an iPhone, please mention it in the comments.

Hack your iPhone: back up your data

If you want to hack your iPhone, be prepared for the notion that you can lose all your data or (worst case) turn your iPhone into a useless brick — thus the origin of the word “bricking” a device. Normally if things go awry, the worst that will happen is that you have to restore your iPhone to its initial pristine state. That means that you’d lose your settings and data on the iPhone. So before proceeding with hacking your iPhone, make sure you save off your data as follows.

Windows users

Back up contacts – I don’t use Outlook or Outlook Express, so my contacts are stored using the Windows Address Book (found with Start->Programs->Accessories->Address Book). I exported my contacts as a WAB (Windows Address Book) file and a CSV (comma-separated value) file. Added: in iTunes, plug in your iPhone, click on the iPhone device, then under the “Info” tab, look for the “Contacts” section. Make sure that you check the box for “Sync contacts with:” and select “Windows Address Book”.

Back up photos – On my Windows XP system, iTunes doesn’t copy photos to my desktop computer (annoying!). And each time I plugged in the iPhone, a different dialog window would pop up (also annoying). It looked like this:

Microsoft wizard to suck down camera images

It turns out that these two annoyances cancel out. πŸ™‚ Go ahead and run the “Microsoft Scanner and Camera Wizard” and you can import the pictures on your iPhone and move them to your Windows computer pretty easily.

Back up settings – This sounds horribly low tech, but grab a blank piece of paper and walk through your “Settings” application on the iPhone and just write down each setting. It’s boring, but in 10-15 minutes you’ve got a record of every setting on your iPhone, so it won’t hurt if you have to restore your iPhone to a pristine state. Added: Any time you sync your iPhone to iTunes, iTunes also saves your settings, but I prefer to have a paper backup just in case.

Back up music – I don’t buy music from iTunes; I use MP3s from my music collection. So I had copies of the music on my iPhone somewhere else and didn’t worry about backing up my music.

Back up bookmarks – I use Firefox for my normal bookmarks and Internet Explorer for my iPhone bookmarks. I don’t have that many iPhone bookmarks, so I didn’t worry about saving a safe copy somewhere else. Added: in iTunes, plug in your iPhone, click on the iPhone device, then under the “Info” tab, look for the “Web Browser” section. I checked the checkbox for “Sync bookmarks with:” and selected “Internet Explorer”. Once IE has your iPhone bookmarks, then in Internet Explorer you can click File, then “Import and Export…” to open a wizard. Click “Next”, then “Export Favorites…” and “Next”. The following screen lets you export some or all of IE’s bookmarks (called Favorites). If you don’t change anything, you’ll select all the bookmarks, so just click “Next”, and then you can specify a file where the exported bookmarks will be saved.

Mac users

I assume that your iPhone syncs files to your Apple computer. To be cautious, make backups of whatever data you can by copying photos/file data to an extra-safe location. Any Apple users want to chime in with more specific advice?

Ready to go!

Okay, your data is backed up — you’re all set to begin hacking your iPhone. I’ve only had good experiences so far, but remember that things can go wrong. So back up that data first!

Attack of the gadget posts!

After that big post about SES San Jose 2007, I’ve got a hankering to do some gadget posts, especially about the iPhone. Expect, um, quite a few. πŸ™‚ If you only want to read my posts about Google or SEO, here’s a reminder of how to subscribe to only my search-related posts.

Okay, ready?

SES San Jose 2007 write-up

I’m really late giving thoughts on SES San Jose 2007, but better late than never! πŸ™‚

For much of 2007, we’ve been working to get more Googlers doing different types of communication. I really saw that effort bear fruit in San Jose. From the webspam team, Greg Grothaus and Shashi Thakur were first-time SES speakers and did a great job. Also from webspam, Evan Roseman spoke again. We also had SES veterans like Shuman and Amanda Camp, plus lots of other speakers.

I’ll try to post about all the Googlers working on communication at some point, but for now just look at the last 10-15 posts on the Official Google Webmaster blog. Pretty much every post was written by a different person. That’s a lot of different people talking on the official blog for webmasters.

The only panel I did was the “Are Paid Links Evil?” session. After the “Personalized Search: Fear or Not?” panel at SMX Seattle I had joked that Michael Gray was easier on me than Tim Mayer, so Michael probably came after me even more than he normally would have. I did my slides from scratch again so that they would be easier to release to everyone, not just conference attendees. I got approval to release the slides, so here they are. Lots of people wrote up the panel; Rand did a good job of documenting the session. I think people are familiar with Google’s stance and we’ve said pretty much the same thing on this subject since 2005, so I’m going to try to avoid getting pulled back into that discussion unless there’s something new to add.

It was great to see old friends and meet a few new people. I got to meet Kevin Newcomb, the new daily news editor for Search Engine Watch and we walked around the show floor chatting and checking out the exhibit floor. And somehow I’d missed talking to Kim Krause Berg all this time — thanks to Brett Tabke for getting us talking. Can you believe that Cre8asiteForums just turned five years old? It was fun just talking to lots of folks, including Xoogler Vanessa Fox. Joe Hunkins and I finally got to talk face-to-face, and spent our time discussing Techmeme and artificial intelligence (Joe asked Marissa Mayer about it as well).

Speaking of Marissa Mayer, someone asked her a question about a favorite topic of mine: search augmented by humans. I was very happy to see that she gave almost exactly the same answer I would have given. Actually, she probably said it better than I would. Lisa Barone summarized it thusly:

Google is often painted as the algorithm purist. That they believe in all algorithm, all the time and they don’t get humans involved. That’s not true. The algorithm is important because it’s the only way to ensure comprehensiveness. But once you have that base of algorithm, you can layer that human input into it. Now Google is starting to look at things like Google Co-op where users are layering results or Google Notebook where users are pulling information themselves. The best answer is to layer both the algorithm and humans together.

And Tamar Weinberg wrote it down as:

Marissa: Google is painted as the algorithmic purist. That’s not our view. The algorithmic approach is important. That said, once you had the basic algorithm, you can layer human elements into it. We have properties like Google Co-op where people can label items and Google Notebook which has human interaction. But you need to layer the two together – algorithms and human elements to achieve relevance.

See my previous post for more background and to read about how both Marissa and Larry have been open and pragmatic about the idea of “person + machine” instead of “only machine.”

I spent most of the Google Dance in the Meet the Google Engineers room; as you can tell from that photo, we probably had 30 engineers talking with webmasters and answering various questions. I think a lot of people really enjoyed the Google Dance, judging from the photos of hundreds of people dancing:

People dancing in Google cafeteria

I also saw new Googler Rick Klau in person for the first time at SES; he gave a great talk that drove home that you should be using the free MyBrand service if you use Feedburner. Let’s see, what else? Oh, DaveN hadn’t tried Google Reader since it turned kick-ass; I almost pulled him away from Bloglines until Ask rolled out a new beta version of Bloglines. And as long as I’m giving kudos to competitors, congrats to Yahoo for giving webmaster more control over url rewriting, and congrats to MSFT for announcing their upcoming webmaster portal, which will debut later this fall.

At last year’s SES San Jose conference we had a small under-NDA roundtable with about 15-20 different webmasters. We had another roundtable this year with about 20 people to pick their brains. πŸ˜‰ They gave us feedback on what Google should be working on, and in return we did some Q&A with them and they got dinner at the Googleplex and a tour. Somehow some Werewolf cards showed up, and after dinner we played Werewolf until about 10 p.m.

All in all, it was a good conference. The sessions were solid, tons of people visited the Googleplex to ask questions/dance/drink (maybe not in that order), and we got a lot of useful feedback.

Update: Mike McDonald and I did an interview at SES San Jose and ended up talking about invalid clicks, which was fun.

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