Sunday, May 16, 2010

Your iPhone, You're Doing it Wrong: Part 2

It’s true. You depend on one program to manage and sync all of your photos, apps, movies and contacts and then don't know what the hell to do when you want to do it all over again on another computer. Shame on you!

This will be the final part 2 in the series on how to stop doing that. In first part, we covered the set up. In this second part, we will be covering the programs that can replace iTunes, the ones that I use on a regular basis. It isn't just one program, and that's a good thing. When we have one piece of technology that is so intricately involved with probably too many aspects of our lives, we want options. You want the ability to switch programs for one that has more or less features to another without losing any data as painlessly as possible. Options people; get some.

I use four programs on a regular basis with my jail broken iPhone 3gs. One for managing my music, one for migrating files between my iPhone and pc, one for books (yes, I read) one for contacts and calendars. I'll be going over some photo stuff last since its still in the experimental stages.

The easiest is first, and that’s Sharepod. I’ve tried other applications for managing my music and play lists and this one is, by far, the bestest and easiest! However, I am open to suggestions if there is something better out there. Sharepod is free and a stand-alone application, meaning that you don't have to install anything and possibly worry about admin rights to get this up and running. It has drag and drop capability for adding music to your device AND the play lists that are on it! You can also use this as a media player. There is a bit of light photo integration, but it’s just to view them and back them up and not to drag and drop them somewhere or add more photos to the iPhone. Still, Sharepod is an extremely powerful music manager and gets two thumbs up from me!

Like Sharepod, iPhone USB explorer is also awesome! And, also like Sharepod, iPhone USB explorer is free and stand-alone. It’s just like using windows explorer to navigate around your iPhone, only you don't need to worry about SSH or any IP address issues. It is, however, barebones software. I would like the ability to bookmark directories within the program, like I am able to do with current SSH programs out there. But the ease of use outweighs the extras that are missing. Use this if you want to transfer or backup any data quick and painlessly! I use it to back up all my applications I have installed on my iPhone. With using SSH in the past, I ran into some IP address issues at some free Wi-Fi spots. But iPhone USB explorer doesn’t need SSH permissions or IP address information! Its plug and play, and simple.

For books I use the powerful combination of Stanza the iPhone app and Stanza the desktop program. Stanza is an awesome iPhone eBook app and is free; I highly recommend it. With it, you will have the ability to carry around tons of books in one small convenient package; your iPhone. over time functionality has been added as well as removed from this app. back in the day you were able to dump any eBook into a specific folder on your iPhone, via USB transfer, and the app would be able to read that folder when you launched the app from your iPhone and it would add that book to the app's library. They removed this functionality at apple's request, but then they released the desktop program that can transfer the books from your pc right to the iPhone app's library. Very quick and convenient. You can also add other repositories and your own discretion.

Changing phones can be a pain in the butt. The biggest pain is the migration of all contact information from your old phone to your new one. In preparation for losing my phone (knock on wood), getting a new one or just having to restore the thing to its original virgin state, I began using Google sync for contacts and calendar only. I don’t use it for mail, because we’re going to be setting it up for push and I believe that this way will save some battery life. First things first; back up your contacts and calendar. This might be the first time you’re doing this and you might lose some data. What I did was actually make a backup of all my contact info and then wipe all of it off my iPhone, but you might not be comfortable doing that. Anywho, swing by here to follow the directions for setting up Google as an exchange server and turn it on for contacts and calendar and set 'fetch new data,’ in the mail/calendar settings, for push and your half way there! The other half being the setup and addition of contacts and schedules to your Google contacts and calendar. The first sync you do with your new exchange server will push some of the contacts and calendar information to you Google contacts and calendar, it will push over more info if you never messed with the contact groups on your iPhone. This sync method will only grab your contacts from the iPhone’s ‘my contact’ group. Google contacts does have extremely good search functionality! It will blow away any search functionality that is currently on your iPhone, however. Personally I have all contacts and calendar schedules managed with Google and it works great! I also export the contacts on a somewhat regular basis, from Google, for extra backup security.

***experimental!! Warning!! I am not a pro on what you are about to read yet!! I will update when the process is finalized!! Proceed at your own risk!!***

Right, last bit of business: photos/videos. This is the newer territory for me so I probably shouldn't even be posting about it, but I’ll just post what I have done so far. my end goal with photos is to regularly take the photos off of my iPhone, dump them to my computer and upload them to Picasa (yes, I know, more Google stuff. I just wanted to take the free route instead of using Flickr). I will then use Picasa’s newly updated mobile interface to search through the painfully organized pictures using tags and names in order to get to the picture I want. So far, I have used only 1 of 2 programs to get the photos off the phone: Kodak easy share. The other program, which I haven't tested for moving the pics yet, is Picasa 3. The Kodak software did a great job with transferring all my photos and videos from my camera roll as well as the other photo libraries I had. It even kept the rotation info in the image's exif data, which is the biggest pain in the rear thus the most important part of the transfer. Every other program out there, for pc at least, just brings them over and then you are stuck having to rotate all the photos yourself. I am now in the process of using only Picasa 3 to painfully tag all the photos and then will sync it to the cloud. The final step, of what has turned into a photo debacle, is the iPhone app that will essentially be replacing the photo viewing app on my iPhone. I have searched the web in its entirety 3 times over and have come to the conclusion that Google’s own newly designed Picasa web app... it pains me to say... is the only app worthy of stepping up to the plate for this one. It’s the only "app" that is able to search the tags. A native app would, of course, be better, because it would have caching abilities and a quick slick interface designed specifically for the iPhone, but beggars can't be choosers in this world.

And that's it. I hope you found this a little bit helpful, especially since all the programs I described above are free. Please feel free to ask question, voice concern's or provide alternate suggestions for the programs I have chosen above within the comments below. Good luck! :P

ps: here is the lifehacker post that inspired me to do the photo reorganization.

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