Scripting News for 7/1/2007

Problem solved — Readable websites on an iPhone 

Scott Mace sent some advice that worked, that made it so that my example page looks good in Safari on an iPhone without the user having to adjust the resolution.

Open this page on the iPhone, you’ll see it reads quite well.

If you don’t have an iPhone, here’s a screen shot. 🙂

The trick is to add a <meta> element to the page:

<meta name="viewport" content="width=320">

View source on nytimesriver to see how it works.

Here’s a thread where this is discussed.

PS: The same page looks good on a Blackberry too.

Is Apple breaking my headphones? 

Jason Kottke reports that you can hack up your “third party” headphones with an Exacto knife to get them to work with the iPhone.

Excuse me, but I like my headphones as they are, and the iPhone is a pretty lame iPod, crippled if you ask me, so I’ll stick with my 60GB unit and hope that some other manufacturer gets their act together and teaches Apple some manners with their customers’ money.

Can you imagine the meeting at Apple where they decided that they had the market power to force their customers to get new headphones! Such chutzpah.

Is Apple breaking the web? 

If the iPhone were some little obscure thing then pages like this wouldn’t be such a concern. Screen shot.

Viewing it by iPhone, it’s an RSS reader, viewing this site, that’s why it showed up in my referrers. Not clear why it can’t be displayed in Firefox on my Mac laptop.

Attn TwitterGram devs 

If you’re working on the phone to TG connection, this new web service, twitterGram.newPhonePoast, simplifies the problem; makes it easier to implement the connection.

A picture taken with an iPhone 

I keep forgetting that it’s a camera too.

These guys were interested in my iPhone

Click on the pic for the Flickr photo page.

iPhones that didn’t activate 

I was getting ready to do a podcast on why the iPhone is important and totally worth obsessing over, but maybe before we go there, we should take a look at this number.

According to an unscientific Engadget poll, 38 percent of iPhone users have not gotten their phones activated. An unactivated iPhone is useless, you can’t enter numbers into the contact list while you’re waiting, you can’t surf the web over wifi, or watch YouTube videos or find out what the temperature is in Cupertino.

Steve Rubel is one of the 38 percent. And since he cancelled his Verizon account, he no longer has a cell phone. Not a good situation for a guy like Steve. He’s in PR. (Steve writes: “I actually have a backup phone from Edelman but it’s my personal phone that wa cancelled.”)

Thomas Hawk’s iPhone isn’t working yet either. He describes waiting on hold endlessly with AT&T. Like Steve, his first memory of iPhone is going to be a wasted weekend trying to get started.

For what it’s worth my activation went smoothly, took just a few minutes.

Rex Hammock: “Perhaps setting up a cell-phone account is a process, not a purchase.”

22 responses to this post.

  1. Anecdotal evidence: My fiance’s iPhone did take about 12 hours to get activated with service, but the phone was otherwise completely operational. We surfed the web using our Wifi network, loaded youtube videos via wifi, synched over his music etc. I’m not sure what might have been different about his activation issue. It might have been that he was already an AT&T customer, but on a very old plan, so they ended up having to manually delete his old plan to add in the new plan. but anyway, he’s at least one customer who had an inactive iPhone that was still usable for the other features.


  2. I know one person who had a small problem–no hold-time or anything, just a hiccup that resolved overnight. But some amount of the 38 percent must be people reselling the phone.


  3. Posted by jay on July 1, 2007 at 7:58 am

    i’ve been a mac user for most of my computing life, but who would believe that a windows xp machine would save the day & enable me to activate my new iphone

    even though i spent a good deal of time reading up on the iphone & preparing for my upcoming purchase – i really had decided to wait a few days for more phones to be shipped to the at&t stores – however, on chance, i stopped by the local store around 8:30 on friday evening and fortunately they had several phones available.

    i wasnt able to start the activation process until about 10 pm and immediately ran into problems tying to activate on my g4 ibook – i went online to make sure i had the latest version of itunes, only to find that i had 7.2 and needed 7.3 – proceeded to download only to find that i had os x 10.3.9 and i needed 10.4 !

    i had missed the fine print on the mac requirements for os x 10.3.9 or later for itunes, but 10.4 for the 7.3 download – was i ever steamed – how was i going to activate at 10:30 with no store open to download the correct os -anyway after blowing $500 plus on the phone jobs & co still wanted me to pony up another $130 for the os

    fortunately my son had his dell with windows xp with the proper service pack so that i could download itunes 7.3 and activate the iphone –

    about 11:30 i got everything activated & synced & was on and i will say it has exceeded my expectations –

    while i’m not a tech guy, ive grown up with macs and databases and spreadsheets in my job as a budget analyst and i pride myself on knowing details like the os so i’m still somewhat ticked about the os requirements being buried in fine print

    of course, i’ll have to wait for the copy of 10.4 i mail ordered until i can sync on my laptop & load up with photos and music from my laptop – but as a mac guy, its strange to have to admit that a dell made my newest apple experience possible


  4. Oh, but now I see the poll should eliminate gifts/resells. Oops.


  5. Well, it took all afternoon, but it was a combination of Apple not confirming an email address and me not having the right one in my iTunes account. I have to say, the support personnel for both companies were patient (they bounced me back and forth 4 times).

    38%? That’s a problem, but (and I’m not being a fanboy here) companies other than Apple would be far worse.


  6. Posted by jason on July 1, 2007 at 9:51 am

    That engadget poll is pretty meaningless, you don’t even know if the people who vote have an iPhone. I activated two on my existing at&t family plan replacing two blackberry pearls and no problems.


  7. Nice fix, that name=”viewport” content=”width=320″ thing,
    However – this seems like the wrong way around to me …
    Sureley you can’t expect every developer to adjust their pages for every new device out there …
    To me, it looks like the iPhone should accomodate for this, or have some options like “view full width” instead of “view full page” and stuff like that …


  8. Posted by Paul Roundy on July 1, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    That is a worthless poll. 38% of 9749 non-vetted respondents doesn’t tell us anything meaningful, especially if Apple sold a couple hundred thousand units this weekend.

    FWIW, mine activated in under 2 minutes.


  9. Posted by John Starta on July 1, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    Ugh!! I sincerely hope use of this meta element setting the screen width to 320 dies on the vine. I’m not real keen on website owners/developers arbitrarily making decisions for their readers/users without asking. We’re suppose to empower the user, not imprison them. I bought the iPhone because it has a full browser and prefer seeing the entire web page presented completely intact in a smaller size and then zooming in/out (flick/pinch; or double tap) on the portions that I wish to read.

    The benefit of the full browser, not to mention the multi-touch environment, on the iPhone is completely lost if web sites start presenting themselves in [crippled] pseudo-mobile WAP-like format. Mobile versions of web sites suck! Which is why having a full web browser on the iPhone and being able to see the entire web page as it was intended is revolutionary.

    Website owners/developers PLEASE don’t move back to the stone age of mobile WAP-like web pages because some are unwilling — er too lazy — to use the zoom in/out gesture (flick/pinch, or double tap).

    It’s bad enough that some sites haven’t adapted and are automatically redirecting iPhone users to the mobile version of a site when we really want the full non-mobile version. This meta element is another step backward.

    Google Reader is a great example of a site doing this automatic redirection without asking and doesn’t permit one a choice. Which is completely the wrong user experience.


  10. Rafe Colburn said AT&T said it’s important to keep the iPhone connected to iTunes because AT&T has the phones in a queue to activate, and if your iPhone isn’t connected when its turn comes up it loses its spot in line.

    Pass it on.


  11. Posted by Karl on July 1, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    Dave – I think the RSS reader page is not apple “breaking the web” – I think they’re just using a web app that’s on the public internet *as the rss reader* for everyone who wants an rss reader on their iPhone?

    What does that page look like FROM your iPhone?


  12. The advice didn’t come from me. Maybe from the other Scott Mace, who works at CalendarHub? Otherwise the advice came from someone else.


  13. Posted by Chris on July 2, 2007 at 12:14 am

    38 percent from a self-selected Engadget poll? Give me a break. If your iPhone activation went smoothly, you’re not very likely to bother to respond to a poll like this.


  14. Posted by siphon on July 2, 2007 at 12:23 am

    That RSS reader page is, in effect, software for the iPhone. Can I connect up to your Mac and use your copy of NetNewsWire?

    In addition, it’s on .Mac, Apple’s pay internet service. For-fee and membership internet services are perfectly legitimate. But in this case, Apple can limit access by device rather than by fees.


  15. Posted by Nick on July 2, 2007 at 1:26 am

    You can, apparently–but perhaps unsurprisingly–get to see the RSS web-app by spoofing the user-agent string:

    But I can’t see why anyone would want to do that on a desktop/laptop when highly sophisticated programs like NetNewsWire are available, and even Safari in Mac and Win versions has quite a nice built-in reader.


  16. does the Safari Browser support Flash?


  17. Apple is not breaking the Web. The page in question is just a RSS reader; when the iPhone’s Safari gets an RSS or Atom URL, it uses this service as a way to reformat RSS as HTML so it can be displayed.

    In fact, it’s a very clever little way to get Safari on iPhone to handle RSS!

    My guess is, the engineers who designed this were thinking, “how can we run up a decent RSS-reading hack RIGHT NOW, because we didn’t have RSS in the spec and, if we ship without it, at least One Famous Blogger is going to be Massively Unhappy. And my guess is, they figured nothing but an iPhone or a DOS attack would really care.

    In the future, I think the Best Practice for tools like this will be to either open then to all comers (even if you don’t foresee anyone wanting to use the thing) or bury them at obscure URLs.


  18. Regarding the headphones issue, and the web application as well, the most effective way to send feedback to companies that don’t provide the features that you want is by not buying their products in the first place. If you buy their products in spite of their perceived flaws, you just reinforce their behavior, which in this case is that they DO have the market power to force their customers to buy new headphones.


  19. Posted by Jake on July 2, 2007 at 6:50 am

    FWIW, CNNMoney reports 500,000+ phone sales and fewer than 2% have activation issues.


  20. AT&T has again screwed up its long-term customers. Although the same cell service is offered on the same cellular system, AT&T is refusing iphone service to existing “old AT&T” customers unless they pay an additional $130.00 a month. Apparently when the “New AT&T” bought Cingular it acquired Cingular billing system and all “old AT&T” customers must move to the new billing system at an additional $130 per month to be able to use the iphone.

    Can AT&T say “Class Action” suit fast enough. I asked that to Todd Trask, an AT&T manager in charge of iphone activation, and he agreed that the billing system was the issue,

    Again Corporate America is building us a Pinto. I never taught that Apple will be a part of that. Unless AT&T takes care of its long term customers, Steve Jobs should use that as an excuse to get out of the Apple-AT&T deal.

    Someone at AT&T made a calculation that it was worth shafting long term customers in exchange of quick profits.

    I hope that some of our Supreme Court justices read this and get a live effect of their decision last week to protect Big Business.

    Any lawfirm out there that wants to file a class action suit, please email me.

    Thank you


  21. Posted by elle on July 2, 2007 at 8:39 am


    There’s a good reason regular earbuds and iPhone earbuds aren’t interchangeable – the built-in mic.

    Take a look at the 1/8″ plugs and you’ll see why they aren’t interchangeable and why they shouldn’t be.


  22. Posted by Paul on July 2, 2007 at 10:40 am

    On the Headphones (they can work without butchering):

    It’s been documented in various places (reviews and on Apple’s site somewhere) that the headphone jack is a little different than standard headphone jacks in order to accommodate the mic as well.

    Many headphones will work fine, but some will require a little adapter (apparently available at the ATT shop or Apple shop or maybe even Radio Shack (not sure)).

    However, the bottom line is that all headphones are supposed to work if you get an adapter that gets you through the recessed jack port. My non-Apple headphones are working fine, but I have read this in numerous places (I think it was in either Pogue or Mossberg’s review as well).

    So I know it’s a pain, but I think you’re a few bucks (and the dreaded trip) away from using your favorite headphones (FWIW).


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