“HAL, I won’t argue with you anymore. Open the doors.”

Did you know that the iPhone has built in voice commands?

The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) recently featured ‘Voice Control’ as part of its iPhone 101 series.

To activate ‘Voice control’, hold down the Home button for 2 seconds, and state your command after the beep.

The iPhone understands the command ‘Call’. You can say ‘Call Home’ or ‘Call Julia Gillard’, or any other contact on your phone.

You can also control the iPod feature. Try ‘Play Jack Johnson’.

If you are enjoying the song that is playing, Try ‘Genius Play more songs like this’.


Like Dave found out in 2001: A Space Odysey, you may find that your iPhone has a mind of its own.

When I asked it to play Cat Empire, my phone decided to ring Ian Lennon, instead.

Perhaps I need to review the instructions at TUAW and read the tips at Apple Support.




What I Learnt On 14th June in other years

14th June 2021 Quokka Selfies
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Would you like to make free calls from your iPhone?

There are a number of apps that allow VOIP calls from an iPhone. Today, Robyn showed me Viber.

VOIP stands for Voice over IP. It is the protocol used to transmit voice over the Internet – the most famous implementation of which is Skype.

Are VOIP calls free?

If you are calling from one VOIP user to another, a la Skype, then there is no charge for that call, apart from the usual data charges associated with using the Internet.

Therefore the best time to use VOIP is when you have a Wifi connection, particularly is someone else is paying for it. You may be able to log on to a free wireless network, such as at McDonalds and other cafes. Sydney Airport now has free Wireless Internet, as does some Sydney Public Transport. If you have a Wifi connection at home, you will be paying some charge for the data you use. You will usually have spare capacity in your broadband ‘cap’, which then makes the marginal cost of VOIP free. 

Generally, the cost of the internet data will be less than the cost of a regular phone call.

You can make a VOIP call from your iPhone without a Wifi connection, in which case you will be using some of your 3G data allowance. For many of us, there is plenty of spare capacity before we reach the ‘cap’. However, the amount of data you use is something to keep an eye on. 

If you have a free WiFi connection, using VOIP while overseas is fantastic. However, don’t use VOIP overseas through a roaming 3G connection – data charges can be astronomical.

There are a number of competing VOIP networks with iPhone apps.

I looked at Facetime, Skype, Truphone and Viber today. 

VOIP is most effective when you call someone else who uses the same VOIP network – So Skype to Skype, for example. Truphone and Skype both allow you to make cheap calls to normal landlines or mobile phones, using a PrePaid model. You need to have credit in your Truphone or Skype account to enable this.



Facetime comes pre-installed on iPhone4 and iPad2, and is not available for iPhone 3GS and iPad. It is also available on an iMac or MacBook.

On an iPhone, users are identified by the phone number. On an iPad or Mac, by their email address.

It is available over WiFi only – and will not work if either user is on 3G.

Incoming calls will ‘ring’ even if the Facetime app is not running.

In the limited circumstances when you and the person you wish to video call are both using an iPhone4, iPad2 or Mac, and are within a WiFi network, Facetime is effective and easy to use.



Skype is the market leader in VOIP, and is available on the iPhone and iPad, as well as for Mac and Windows desktops and laptops. Skype allows conference calls and video calls, and works over WiFi and 3G. You can make ‘SkypeOut’ calls to normal landlines or mobile phones if you have prepaid some Skype credit. These calls are very cheap, particularly when calling from overseas.

Skype users have to register a username and password to be part of the Skype system.

On the iPhone, incoming calls will ‘ring’ only if Skype is running in the background ie the user will have had to have opened the Skype app each time they turn their phone on.



Viber is a relative new comer to the field, and is iPhone only.

It is very easy to set up – users are identified by their mobile phone numbers, and on first using the network are sent a ‘one time’ security code via SMS.

The Viber App emulates the usual iPhone app almost exactly. It is clearly indicated if someone in your contact list is also on the Viber network. 

Viber works over WiFi and 3G. I have found the quality of sound on the calls to be very good.

Incoming calls to a Viber user will ‘ring’ even in the app is not running in the background. That is a very significant advantage.


Truphone, like Skype, is available on most phones and desktop systems. Like Skype, you can use it to make cheap calls to landline and normal mobile phones.

To receive an incoming call on the iPhone, the app has to be open and running in the foreground! This is a show-stopper for incoming free VOIP calls.


I think Facetime, Skype and Viber all have a place on your iPhone. To a very large extent, it depends on what your contacts are also using.

Viber is particularly good for iPhone to iPhone calls, when both caller and recipient have installed the app – it is very easy to set up and use.

I keep credit in my SkypeOut account, and use Skype when away for long distance calls to normal phones,and for Video calls back home when not on a WiFi network

FaceTime is good for video calls when on WiFi.



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Internet access on the go using your iPhone as a modem.

Apple released an upgrade to the iPhone operating system this week (iOS 4.3), which makes it easy to create a ‘Personal Hotspot’ using your iPhone.

This means that you can use your iPhone to give your laptop or iPad access to the internet. This is of particular advantage if you are using the non-3G enabled iPad (Robyn take note).

It is easy to activate  ‘Personal Hotspot’.

Open ‘Settings’ on your iPhone

Select ‘Personal Hot Spot’


You will see that a random password has been supplied. Change it if you like.

Slide the switch to turn Personal Hot Spot On.

That’s it.

If you have an iPhone 4, your phone will be discoverable as one of the WiFi networks available to your laptop or iPad(on the Mac, this is from the Airport menu). Up to 3 devices can network via WiFi.

You will also be able to use the HotSpot via a USB connection or Bluetooth – so you could provide internet access to 5 devices altogether.

(If you have an iPhone 3 or 3GS, only the HotSpot or Bluetooth options are available – the WiFi option does not work on these older models)

Make sure that you have a good data plan before using your iPhone as a hot spot. Excess data charges can be vey high – especially overseas!


What I Learnt On 13th March in other years

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In 1988, at age 22, Lieutenant Will Carling became the youngest ever captain of the English Rugby team. In all he played 72 test, 59 as captain, and lead the side to four Five Nation championships.

He was the unsuccessful captain in the 1991 world cup final at Twickenham.

You won’t find Will Carling in this photo.


As a rugby player, he has had quite the celebrity status. At one time the press linked him romantically with Lady Di. Today, 14 years after his retirement, he has 45,000 followers on Twitter. (warne888 has 325,000 followers. Between warne888, willcarling and tlembke we have 370,003 altogether.)

Last Tuesday, these twitter followers were entertained to a blow by blow account of Will’s pursuit of a person who had absconded with an iPad he left behind on a train.

Using the ‘Find My iPhone‘ service in MobileMe, he was able to track the culprit to their apartment block. ‘Find My iPhone‘ is available free online and also as an iPhone or iPad app. It tracks the location of an iPhone and displays it on a google map. (Unfortunately, it can only pinpoint location within a few metres. It is not accurate enough to tell you that the phone is in the back pocket of the pants you wore last week and are now in the bottom of the dirty clothes basket)

WIth ‘Find My iPhone‘ you can send messages to your missing iPhone/iPad, tell it to make noises so you can find it in your home, remote lock it, or remote wipe it (if it is stolen).

The UK’s Daily Telegraph completes the story using Will’s tweets- 

The drama begin after Mr Carling left the portable device on a train on Tuesday.

Using ..’Find My iPhone’.., he narrowed the location of the thief. He then door-knocked 18 doors and left letters appealing for the thief to give back his iPad, but had no success.

“On an adventure! Left my iPad on train yesterday, Doh! Have now tracked it down to a building in Woking. On my way! Could be interesting!,” he tweeted.

“Used the Mobile me tracker. It is in a block of flats! Managed to get in & knock on all 18 doors! No answer surprisingly. So left notes :-O.”

But then the situation took a dramatic turn after he saw that the thief had fled to the local train station, in a situation he described as “like Enemy of the State”, in reference to the Hollywood movie staring Will Smith.

Mr Carling then called police, where he became involved in a “priceless” conversation with the operator, who was clearly a fan.

“The olice (sic) have been notified. So all go in the iPad rescue. Cracking line from the Police lady who was talking to me about old rugby players … priceless :),” he wrote.

He then continued: “Can’t believe this. Mobile me is now showing my iPad near the station round the back of some shops- has it been dumped???”

“Just sent the moving iPad a message telling them they are being tracked! quoted Police crime reference. Shall update soon…..

“The iPad was locked, so they will not know whose it is (unless they have hacked in!) so watching it moving as I type…..”

Mr Carling, who now manages his own management company, later added: “breaking news. iPad is ‘heading’ towards the local Police Station. Feel like a real spy…….

“Just sent the ‘moving’ iPad a message ‘you are very close to the Police Station now….’ would freak you out if you had hold of it….:-).”

To his relief, he then told his followers that he had success. Police had phoned him saying his iPad had been handed in.

It remains unclear if the person who took the iPad was the thief or a good Samaritan who handed it in.

“Result! Police have just called, iPad has been handed over! It was handed into Woking Station. 

Tracked it all on Mobile me – weird / awesome …,” he said.

After turning up at Woking Police station, he was denied a picture with officers but he later posted a photograph of his stolen iPad. He thanked police for their help.

“Rescued iPad! Might check the finger prints on it! Ha ha,” he told his followers.

Mr Carling could not be reached for comment last night. A spokesman for Surrey Police was unavailable for comment. No arrests have been made.


(NB This story could also have been titled ‘iPad left on train – later handed in to police’, but it would have been less dramatic)


What I Learnt On 14th February in other years

14th February 2015 A Valentine’s Day Present
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Today I finally defeated the God King – freeing mankind from our struggle against repression, and securing the Infinity Blade for the forces of good!

The game Infinity Blade was released for iPhone and iPad on December 9th, 2010. It became the fasted grossing app on the App Store,  selling 271,424 copies in four days. 

It is a role playing game based around sword play. You swing your sword by swiping your finger across the screen. You also dodge, block and parry. You come up against successively stronger opponents, building up experience, gold and stronger weapons as you proceed, until you confront the God King himself. If (when) defeated by him, your son follows in the quest to avenge you.

My eleventh bloodline defeated the God King, after 102 other victories against all manner of opponents. At Level 25, I am only the 26,667th highest rated player! (iSutan, at level 45, has 4,622 victories!)

As the video above demonstrates, the backgrounds, animations, and characters in Infinity Blade are superbly realised. It is an excellent demonstration of the potential of the iOS system. It is one of the first big budget studio produced games specifically for the iPhone – the list of credits is longer than that of most movies. Just as well then that it sold so well – at US$5.99 a pop, the first four days worth of sales alone give a gross of US$1,625,829.76. (In Australia the games sells for $7.99)

For the record, our families favourite games on the iPhone are:
  • Millie – Snail Mail
  • Alex – Tris
  • Will – Doodle Jump
  • Oliver – Flight Control
  • Cathy – Oz Weather (!)

What I Learnt On 9th January in other years

9th January 2012 TUAW Best of 2011 AwardsTUAW Best of 2011 Awards
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