Friday, September 05, 2008

TUAW Hits on iPhone/iPod Touch Instability

When I first began writing here about my stability issues in the 2.0.2 firmware on my iPod Touch, I was disappointed that none of the big Apple blogs and rumors sites had touched on this issue, unlike other bugs and problems users were experiencing.

However, The Unofficial Apple Weblog has finally posted on the issue in a post today. The post was apparently prompted by a discussion on the iPod Touch Fans forum that includes a workaround. Unfortunately, that workaround requires a jailbroken device and some hacking in the terminal. As of this writing, there is no workaround for this issue, other than reducing the number of apps installed on the device or avoiding the device altogether.

I was pleased that the article on iPod Touch Fans called the issue with the watchdog process I discussed in my previous post as a design flaw, making a clear distinction between that and a bug. When adding 3rd party app support, Apple should not have included a timeout killswitch that renders the device useless until restored.

While TUAW has reported on the problem, there is still no response from Apple. Interestingly enough, one of the commenters said they had been in contact with Apple support and Apple engineers could not replicate the problem. I sent an email a few days ago in a desperate attempt to get an answer from Apple as to whether or not they knew about or were fixing this issue, but did not receive a response.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Update on iPhone/iPod Touch 2.0.2 Instability

NOTE: An update to this post (yes I have three posts on this issue now) is available here: TUAW Hits on iPhone/iPod Touch Instability

If you would like to read my original post on problems I experienced with my iPod Touch, please check this post: iPhone/iPod Touch Crashing in 2.0.2

Since writing my original post on this topic and after maintaining a stable iPod Touch for about 2 weeks, I decided to clear off some of the Apps I was not using. iTunes and the iPod started to be unresponsive in the middle of uninstalling the apps and I had to kill iTunes, and restart the iPod Touch. Needless to say, it never came back up and I had to reset it again. This time I tried the Backup I had made the night before, but iTunes claimed it was corrupt so I had to start from scratch once again!

Looking into this issue further, I found the best article I have seen so far on this problem. You can read it here. Incredibly, the article, a post on the Apple Support Forums addresses the issue in the 2.0.1 firmware and is hopeful that 2.0.2 would fix the problems. Based on other responses in the thread (and obviously my own experiences), the 2.0.2 firmware only exacerbated the instability.

To summarize the post, the main issues were problems with the device handling memory, and an unfortunate startup procedure for when the device loads or restarts. Many of the instability issues are created when Apps are installed and memory becomes scarce (whether being installed through iTunes or directly on the device, although the latter is riskier). Once an app is corrupt, restarting the device will cause Springboard, the main process responsible for the Home Screen, to rebuild the Applications map. However, the device will kill Springboard on startup if it takes longer than 5 minutes to load. Once it is killed, the device cannot fully start and needs to be restored.

Apple needs to address the memory handling capabilities of the devices, and additionally the underlying issue that if Springboard takes too long to load, the device decides to prevent loading. It would also be nice if they would acknowledge the issue now, even if they do not have a fix yet.

Monday, September 01, 2008

iPhone/iPod Touch Crashing in 2.0.2

NOTE: I have an update with additional information in a post you can read here: Update on iPhone/iPod Touch 2.0.2 Instability

Due to lack of publicity, I would like to address the topic of instability in the latest iPhone/iPod Touch 2.0.2 firmware. The issues with the firmware that have been well publicized are issues with the 3G wireless, and Apps freezing on loading due to the device's DRM authorization being lost during the upgrade.

However, one major instability in the firmware has not been widely publicized, and unfortunately, I have suffered from it with my 32GB iPod Touch. Apparently, the firmware becomes unstable if the total amount of space taken up my Apps and their data exceeds a certain amount (supposedly 500MB). Apparently I exceeded the limit by installing the American Heritage Dictionary App, which clocks in at a heft 300MB.

Once this space is exceeded, the device will reset at some point (with me it happened during iTunes synchronization). While resetting, it displays the little white Apple logo familiar to when the device is starting up. However, this screen never goes away.

The only way to get the device operational again is to put it into Restore Mode. This can be done while the device is plugged into a computer by holding down the Sleep and Home buttons until the screen goes blank and then continuing to hold down the Home button until the device appears in iTunes. You then must restore the firmware and start from scratch (Thus losing all the data previously stored on the device).

I attempted to restore from a backup but unless the backup is from before the space on the device was exceeded, the backup will fail. Additionally, iTunes has a bad habit of being too quick to delete backups before you get to use them and Time Machine does not backup the folder where the backups are stored (~/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup).

Until Apple produces a fix to this problem, I will not be using the Dictionary app and will be careful not to exceed the 500MB mark. Apple really needs to address this issue and additionally fix iTunes so it does a quicker job Backing up iPhones (A backup takes between 2 and 3 hours for me) and making sure iTunes isn't so quick to delete perfectly good backups. It would also be nice if Apple allowed Time Machine to back up the folder, since currently there isn't even a way to force Time Machine to back it up.

NOTE: Read my update to this post here: Update on iPhone/iPod Touch 2.0.2 Instability

Avoid High-Priced Home Theater Cables

If you've been to any of the big-name tech stores, like Best Buy or Circuit City lately, and looked at their supply of home theater audio and video cables--you know one thing. They can be expensive!

Monster Cable has pretty much cornered the market on audio video cables and have suckered everyone into thinking that any other cable is inferior to their own. However, as one study showed, there is no audible difference between a Monster Cable audio cable and...wait for it...a coat hangar! You can read the story over at The Consumerist. has a large supply of audio and video cables and many of them can cost under $10, which compares to Monster Cable's prices of $100-$150. Recently I wanted a DVI to HDMI cable to hook my MacBook Pro up to an HDTV. Monster Cable's cables went for $130-$150. Even looking at Target I would have needed a $20 Belkin DVI-HDMI Adapter and then a separate $40 HDMI cable. On Amazon I purchased a DVI-HDMI adapter and an HDMI cable for under $13 with shipping.

So the next time you are looking for a cable, check online first. It could save you plenty of money!