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The Switchfoot Tour Shirt

Today's shirt is the Switchfoot tour shirt:

It's a pretty nice shirt.  I don't usually buy those shirts with all the tour dates on them, because it severely dates the shirt.  However, this one was a bit better because it just lists the cities and not the dates, plus it had the coolest front of any of their shirts.

I got this shirt at last fall's St. Paul, MN stop of the Appetite for Construction tour.  I remember enjoying this show alot because Relient K played for a good hour or more and it was so good that I almost forgot that I still had Switchfoot left to go.  Of course, Switchfoot brought just as much excitement, variety, and rock 'n' roll as Relient K, if not more.  It was a great tour and a great pairing of some of my favorite bands.

Also, it became another meetup of one of my friends, Kim, who works a lot on the inReview.net website.  Kim started helping out at what was then cMusicWeb.com in 2001 by doing our first interview with Switchfoot, and she's been doing interviews ever since.  She was in town to visit family last fall when the Appetite for Construction tour came through, so she joined me for the concert.  It was fun to hang out and enjoy some live music again, something we hadn't done since we finally met in person in April 2006.  Without Kim's constant help, there definitely wouldn't be a website.

Kim also encouraged me to get a really cool book of photos taken by one of Switchfoot's roadies, and she even introduced me to the photographer and we got it signed by them.  Then, after that, i decided to go through the signing line after I found this hilarious poster and absolutely needed to get it signed:

For those who have not seen Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums, this photo is a parody of a photo of the characters from that movie.  Throughout the photo, each member of Switchfoot is represented one or more times.  It's hilarious!

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The delirious? Soccer Jersey

OK, so I'm already breaking one of my rules for the T-shirt blog posts.  I'm not currently wearing this shirt.  But, this is one of my more rarely worn shirts, the delirious? jersey:

Just in case it's not immediately apparent, this is an actual soccer jersey made by a company in Brazil.  (This is one reason why I don't wear it often, because that type of fabric feels weird to me.)  It has a UK logo and a red stripe on the front as well as the "delirious?" and "d:" logos, plus a "DELIRIOUS?" and "5" on the back.  This is one of my most prized shirts, partially because I bought it directly from the UK webstore for a bit more money than I usually spend on a shirt, and partially because it's my all-time favorite band.  (I also don't wear it much because it's a bit small for me, to which one of my roommates remarked, "Dan, most of your shirts are a bit too small for you.")

I mostly wear this shirts to concerts, mostly because those are special events.  I wore it last week to the Music Builds tour in Chicago, where Switchfoot, Third Day, Jars of Clay and Robert Randolph & The Family Band rocked the ampitheater.  (Incidentally, I also got another shirt which looks like it'll be rather tight on me, my first T-shirt ever from Jars of Clay, who are one of my favorite bands as well, but that's another blog post.)  The show was great, and I got to spend the weekend with my two youngest sisters.

However, today, August 30th, is also an important day on the delirious? calendar.  Here's a clip from their biography on h2g2:
The next major event, although horrific, shaped the history and gave us Delirious? as they are today. On August 30, 1995, Martin was driving his wife Anna, and Jon (Anna's youngest brother) home from a late night gig. They'd almost reached Littlehampton when they had an accident - as a result of tiredness from the long journey, Martin fell asleep and drove the car straight into a wall just around the corner from his house. Jon and Anna escaped with minor injuries but it took the rescue workers a few hours to get Martin out of the car, and it took a couple of months for Martin to rehabilitate in hospital as he had suffered a broken leg. During this period he spent a lot of time on his own thinking things through. He also read Bill Flannagan's U2 at the End of the World, and this inspired him into a decision, to which the others agreed. They found a bassist - Martin's brother-in-law Jon (In fact, he's Tim and Stew's brother-in-law as well. Confused yet?) - and on April 1, 1996, Delirious?, and their own independent record label Furious? Records, was born.

A song based on this part of the delirious? history is the song "August 30th" and is on their King of Fools album.  It is a rather terrible event to remember, but it's likely that without that experience the band would probably never have became a full-time band and would have just stayed a church worship band.

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Bus and Rail Directions via Google Maps

I just noticed that, a week or two ago, MetroTransit announced that route and trip information for their buses and trains throughout the Minneapolis/St. Paul area is now available via Google Maps.  The program, dubbed Google Transit, has been active for a year or two in such major markets as Portland and Chicago, among many others.  Here's a trip I just queued up:

On the right side of your trip, you have a map that shows the transfer points and the routes taken, as well as any parts that need to include walking.  On the left side, there are three options of similar trips leaving at the time, but notice that only the first one (which is selected) uses the light rail - the others route you down University Ave. and down Snelling Ave.  Below the trip you've selected it gives you details of each leg of the trip as well and most locations even include a Street View of the corner.

Why use Google Transit? First of all, with MetroTransit's website, you had to look up the address and then route it.  Google Maps is smart enough to figure out the address for you so that saves a step.  The map details are much better and gives you a road view as well as a sattelite view, which gives you much more data about where you are going.  And many say that MetroTransit's website is terrible, but after visiting some other sites for other services, I've found it to be fairly competent.  Still, though, the Google Maps interface for the exact same data gives you all of the route information that you can get at MetroTransit and a bit more in an easier-to-use package.

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The St. Thomas Shirt, Take 1

Today, I'm starting off a new feature. Every couple days (or whenever) I will post a T-shirt that I currently own and am actually currently wearing. (The picture may have been pre-recorded, though, on account of not carrying around a good camera at all hours of my life.) I'll post a couple comments on the shirt and then give you a little background on where it came from. And just to make sure I can outdo myself, I'm going to do one of my most boring shirts first! Without further ado, here's the first one:

Yes, this shirt was purchased at my alma mater, the University of St. Thomas. Shortly before graduating, I received a gift certificate from my work-study employer for the UST Bookstore, so I figured I should by some UST merch (besides my uber-cool, limited-edition UST hat). Therefore, I purchased a couple T-shirts that just say "University St. Thomas" in big letter on the front. I usually wear these on pretty boring, low-key days because I'm not that huge of a fan of my alma mater, although I made the best of it.

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Pixar and Nintendo Saving the World? Heck Yes!

Since I have nothing exciting to post at the moment, why not just copy stuff from someone else's blog? Here's some from a great post by my friend, Joe:
Because that’s what this movie is about: WALL-E is the protector of EVE and the life she carries inside of her. It’s one of the most beautiful — and perhaps unexpected — metaphors for life, and the role of a husband to protect his wife and family, that I’ve ever seen.

This is just a tiny bit of a great article, so go read it already. Also, check out Joe's blog for more great stuff about gaming, life, and cool movies. Who knows, you might even find Joe and I doing some sort of discussion podcast sometime in the future. I know, that sounds scary. I'd probably get bored listening to it myself.

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Strong Bad's Quest for the Ultimate Game

Most of my readers are aware of my love for the website HomeStarRunner.com, which is an animated internet cartoon.  Over eight years ago, two brothers started posting their animations online, and now they work full-time creating new content based on their own world of characters.  These cartoons are not always safe for the kids, in my opinion, but then again, they're probably better than most of what's on TV for kids these days.  Feel free to head over to their website to get an idea of the days of fun that await you, and one of my favorites is the "First Time Here?" link in the top right of the main menu.  But this post isn't really about that, it's about games.

Strong Bad, one of the main characters on the site, is an avid fan of games.  Like, old school.  The cartoons are filled with old game references, from the floppy disk labels on Strong Bad's desk to this whole e-mail episode about how he'd make a game.  Of course, it's even more apparent that the creators of the site are fans of old games, from silly arcade games like Trogdor to adventure games such as Thy Dungeonman and Peasant's Quest.  But it isn't about these old games that run via Flash and look like you could run them on your 386, this is about the new hotness coming later this summer!

I'll be honest.  I've played very few computer games in the last couple years, partly because I haven't had time to do so, and partly because not many games have stood out to me as worth my time.  I have kept up a bit with franchises I've frequented over the years, looking at if Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 or 3 was worth buying and continuing to get games in the Myst series.  I got SimCity 3000 a while back, but why get SimCity 4 if I can't even get anywhere in SimCity 3000?  A friend got me a couple Grand Theft Auto games a year or two ago. I've only played them for a couple hours because I really don't have the time, but just driving around and exploring can keep me entertained for hours in those games, which is why I like them.  Also, because I play games very little (mostly when I'm not connected to the Internet), there's little incentive to pay for a game that costs more than $10, or at least that's the price I hold myself to.  (The other benefit is that $10 games usually work on your not-so-new computer.)

The other reason I've not played games is that they rarely make games of of the kind they used to these days.  (Or, at least, I don't hear about them.)  Another set of games I loved to play back in the day were kinda like Myst games, except generally more silly and more interaction with other characters.  I enjoyed playing through King's Quest 7, the demo of Space Quest 6 numerous times, as well as even an old text adventure game called Humbug.  Joe Bowar also got me into some LucasArts games like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and from there I got Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, another point-and-click game where Indy asks the right questions and pick up random items to get him out of scrapes and solve the ancient mysteries.  During college, I got into the Monkey Island series, where wannabe-pirate Guybrush Threepwood goes on cartoonish, blundering voyages through the Carribean.  Somewhat sadly, these games are no longer made anymore, or I might be playing them.

This brings me to this summer's excitement.  The folks at independent game developer Telltale Games, which is founded by a number of ex-LucasArts employees, have teamed with Strong Bad and all the folks at HomeStarRunner.com to release a game based on the online cartoon.  It's called Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People and it's fully 3-D, but it retains a simple point-and-click system.  Throughout the gameplay previews that I've seen, Strong Bad and characters, all voiced by the characters in the cartoon, continue to make hilarious little quips.  In most cases, it seems you control Strong Bad, who gets "missions" to do via e-mails, just like the cartoon.  The game looks amazing and brings the 2-D animation to life in beautiful 3-D.  I'm sure it's tons of silly shenanigans - for proof, just look at this infomercial-style teaser:

Another great deal is the price. I don't know exactly how long these games really are, but the game is distributed in "episodes" that take at least a couple hours to play through each. Each episode goes for about $9, and the entire 5-episode series will most likely go for only $30 or $35, if not less. In this day and age where game content is a bit slim and prices are high, I think these prices are aggressive and benefit from being a small, independent company who distributes primarily via the Internet, while still keeping the gaming experience exciting.

And, finally, I have to hand it to The Brothers Chaps, who created the Homestar Runner cartoons, for keeping true to their roots and staying independent. I've heard they've been offered the ability to be on Cartoon Network or get sweet placement elsewhere, but they did not want to change their style and compromise their product just to make a buck. In the same way, I'm glad they chose the able hands at Telltale Games to make their game instead of going for the big money by licensing an arcade game for EA. Also, it's great to have them so involved that they're doing all the voices and most likely contributing ideas for the game.

In conclusion, mostly because I've been a fan of Strong Bad, Homestar, and even Homsar for years, I'll probably get into SBCG4AP. I'm also going to have to check out more Telltale Games products, too, because I see they just announced some episodic games starring Wallace & Gromit, another set of hilarious characters I love (although it looks rendered instead of claymation, which is understandable due to cost but a bit disappointing). Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People's first episode will debut sometime in August, unless they push the date back even further.

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Lightning, Red Bull, and Big Red

On a more personal note, we had a really fun night last night.  After dinner, we wanted to head down to the Store Arch Bridge to see the Red Bull Illume exhibit.  We saw a large storm coming, but we decided we'd risk it.  When we got to the exhibit, we found that the photos didn't start projecting until sundown about 9:30pm, so we decided to wait it out.  But there was a huge wall cloud coming from the northeast, so we decided to take shelter in the Guthrie Theater building.  The new Guthrie is a spaced-aged design that is tons of fun to explore and includes many great overlooks of the Saint Anthony Falls area, so it was an ideal place to watch the store blow over.

First we stood out on the Endless Bridge, which is a cantilever stuck 178 feet out of the side of the building and puts you right above the center of the beautiful downtown river area.  We watched a huge wall cloud move across the sky and even withstood 70mph winds for a minute or two.  Then, of course, the rain started pouring, so we went into the indoor part of the Endless Bridge.

After hanging out in there for a bit, we went up to the Dowling Studio space, also known as the "Yellow Box".  This was an even higher overlook of the river area, but all the windows were colored a bright yellow.  I'd never been in this space, but it was really fun to watch the sun set and lightning flash through the sky in this alternate yellow world.  After the rain fully subsided, we went back to the Endless Bridge to see the lightining flash through the sky in its real bright purple hue.  It was amazing to see because you could see lightning for miles around in all directions.

Towards the end of that, we watched the huge lit-up photos from the Red Bull Illume exhibit turn on and it looked amazing.  (You can see a photo taken from the same spot on the home page of the Red Bull Illume site if you browse the photos at the bottom a bit.)  We then went down there and found some amazing photos, most of extreme sports of all kinds.  They were amazing, and if you have time some evening to come down in the next week, you really should do it.  The exhibit seems to be open pretty late, because the photos were still lit up at midnight when Isaac and I left the theater as well.

That's right, Isaac and I actually had to hurry past the Red Bull exhibit because we wanted to catch this weekend's blockbuster film, Hellboy II: The Golden Army.  In usual St. Anthony Main theater fashion, we walked in 3 or 4 minutes late for the start of the film due to 10 minutes of ticketing lines, but the rest of the experience was positive.  The second installment of Guillermo Del Toro's Dark Horse Comics adaptation almost matches the first one, although most of the "character development" revolved around a romance of some sort for almost every major character.  It was nice to see more of Doug Jones's Abe Sapien character, although he rarely kicks butt.  Del Toro goes a bit overboard, in my opinion, with the sets and otherworldly characters, making some look too much like Pan's Labrynth, which brought me a bit out of the Dark Horse Comics characters, I think.  Ron Perlman continued to do a great job as the reluctant but prideful superhero, Hellboy, while I felt Selma Blair's character continues just to be an emotional wreck.  The theater was pretty packed, but who knows if the series will warrant another installment or if Guillermo Del Toro will be doing it after the next four years or so on the Hobbit projects.  All in all, it was an entertaiing film, but definitely not one I'm gonna run out and buy on DVD (just like the last one).

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iPhone Day at the Mall of America

Yesterday was the launch of Apple's updated iPhone 3G, and since I work just across the street from the Mal of America, one of the largest malls in the country, I had a pretty prime spot for the retail madness that was the updated iPhone.  So here's what yesterday looked like for me.

First, I had a meeting before work at Starbucks, so we passed by the Mall of America Apple Store, where there was about 70 people in line at 7am.  The store opened at 8am, a couple hours earlier than usual, in order to take care of the demand, so the folks in line didn't have too much longer to wait.  About 5 minutes before 8am, we went by again and the amount of persons in line had actually doubled.  Then I went to work.

During the morning, a couple co-workers were trying to get an iPhone.  Pete took the morning off and got to a local AT&T Store at 7am, but was told that the store only had 20 iPhones and the line was already there to get those.  I think he went to another AT&T store and was there for a couple more hours working to get an iPhone, but in the end, only the 8GB iPhones were still left.  He was working to see if he could trade up later as he was told that some AT&T stores were getting more stock that afternoon.  Josh only started looking at about 7:30am, and after seeing the line at the MOA Apple Store, he thought he'd check the AT&T store.  He still had to be at work around 8am, so he decided not to wait in that shorter line either.

Sometime around 7:30am (CDT) nationwide the iPhone activation servers started to get flaky from the overwhelming traffic.  Like I said, Pete got an iPhone, but the activation process was not working, so neither his old phone nor his iPhone now worked until he could get it activated.  Also, because of the cheaper price being subsidized by AT&T, they were doing all the signing up and getting it activated in the stores, which made the lines long because it took 15-20 minutes or more per person to get signed up.

Over the lunch hour, Josh and I walked around the mall seeing if we could get an iPhone.  We walked into an empty AT&T store and were quickly told that the had completely sold out of the 140 iPhones they had.  At the Apple Store around 12:15pm, we found about 60 people in line, and we knew that it'd take an hour or two that we didn't have to get through the line, so we went back to work again.

Mid-afternoon, David came by and showed us a brand-new, working iPhone 3G that he got after over three hours at an Edina Apple Store.  It was fun to play around with it a bit, but of course the best part of the new iPhone is the downloadable applications, and I was not about to fill David's phone with applications he didn't want.  (I hope one of the co-workers will buy Super Monkey Ball because I really want to play it.)

After work at 5:15pm, I walked past the MOA Apple Store again and found about 50 people in the line outside the store.  I asked one of the guys at the front how long he'd been in line, and he told me about an hour.  I also tried to check up at a downtown Minneapolis AT&T store on my way home, but that part of downtown is a ghost town by 6pm, so I couldn't even get into the building, and the skyway store was probably closed anyways.

As far as the iPhone goes, I'm glad that the iPhone App Store is finally here so that other developers can fill in the functionality gaps for me and entertain me with innovative games.  However, AT&T's updated monthly rates are, as my friends say, "hella expensive," such that whenever I get an iPhone I'd be paying $25-$30 more per month - and that's a hefty price to pay.  Therefore, I'm still in no hurry to upgrade to an iPhone over the Palm Treo I currently have, but once I get an iPhone, I will enjoy the enhanced experienced delivered from my mobile phone.  And, who knows, by then, they'll probably have the newer and better one out.

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The Search for the Perfect Watch

I love watches.  I've had a watch for most of my life, and I just like the fact that the watch makes it so easy to check what time it is.  (In my case, it's nice because I can get it up close and look at it really easy too.)  I didn't have a watch for my senior year of college, and I guess I got by just fine, but I really do like a good watch.  My most recent watch buttons are not working, so I'm going to ramble on a bit about what I want and how I cannot seem to find it.

For at least the last decade, I've been using Timex digital watches.  I think I started out with a large digital Ironman watch, and I just loved the functionality.  Of course, the alarm is great, but some of my favorite features are the stopwatch and the countdown time.  I actually use the countdown timer every week to remind me that my load of laundry needs to be changed every week.  Also, you can keep track of the time in another time zone, so if you're traveling around a bit, you can remember what time it is at home.  These are the features that make the digital functionality a must-have.  Plus, the Timex watches are all laid out the same, so once you know how to change settings and o things on one, you know them all, and they're very intuitive, such that I've almost never referred to a manual.

For the last seven or eight years I've had Timex's analog-digital hybrid watches, which I've also loved.  These feature a great analog display on a metal armband and case that has a digital display inside the bottom of the face.  It looks really stylish, but also is very functional.  I got the metal armband because the cloth armbands would, after time, start to get damp and smelly from sweat, but the metal, I've found, just starts getting deposits of dead skin cells and gunk in the cracks of the band, so I guess it's a little better.  I also love the Indiglo nightlight technology that lights up the entire watch face for great viewing at night, which is another thing that Timex seems to have perfected in the watch space.

So what's the problem?  Well, I think I take pretty good care of my watches.  They say they're "water resistant", but I've found that's not the case as much as I'd like.  All the analog watches have the dial on the side that you use to adjust the time on the watch and that dial has rusted out on every single watch I've had.  It's not like I'm wearing them while swimming or showering, but I do wear it while doing dishes or in places where my arm might get a bit wet, and taking off the watch and stowing it away from water would be a big nuisance.  Somehow, on the watch I had 4 or 5 years ago, clouds of water formed underneath the watch's clear covering and then the watched stopped completely shortly after.  On this current watch, it's been working like a champ for almost four years, although the buttons have been getting a bit rusty and it's been reacting a bit to my skin.  But, just last night, one of the buttons has completely stopped working such that I cannot use any of the digital features of the watch besides the current time.  (I can't even turn off the alarm that most likely goes off every morning at 5:27 am.)  I did have the battery on this watch replaced once within the last year, and it has worked really well.

What I would like to find is a watch that lasts for much longer.  I'd rather not have the buttons and face get tarnished or rusty.  Also, I want something simple and stylish, not complicated-looking.  I want to know if there are better digital watches out there.  I'd even be willing to forsake the stylish analog part in the place of a professional-looking digital watch.  Anyone have a watch you use and like that has these features?  What's your experience like?

While looking around, I was intrigued by the Casio Wave Ceptor digital watch.  It's got a square design and a big time display, plus all the usual options.  But, at the hefty price of $160, there's a bunch of extra cool features.  The watch gets its time updated from the atomic clock in Colorado automatically and it also includes a battery that recharges via light from the sun.  These are both interesting developments, especially the second, because I expect that's where the price increase is.

My problem is that these features leave a lot of questions, and I tried to look around on the 'Net a bit, but I couldn't find any good answers or places to get these questions answered.  First, if at some point I had to replace the battery, how much does a rechargeable battery cost?  Second, if the battery will last for a long time, is the construction of the watch good enough that the buttons and case won't wear out before the really nice functions?  I've only paid $50 or $60 for my earlier watches, so if I'm going to pay much more, it's going to have to last for most of a decade.  There are other similar models without the recharging capability that I might look into, but I'd love to hear input that anyone has.

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The iPhone Looks Cheaper and Faster Than Ever

On Monday, Steve Jobs and his regular stable of Apple executives made a nice event around the iPhone - the newest in their three main product lines at Apple. As expected, the iPhone has 3G wireless in it, which means it should be faster and sound better for talking, but it still remains to be seen whether it'll be much better than the first one. The main takeaway, however, is that the iPhone Software 2.0 and the App Store will be making iPhone experience better and more powerful for both new and old iPhone users. Last year Steve Jobs announced that developers would be able to make web apps to reach iPhone customers, but this year a majority of the developers at Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference were there to develop programs to run exclusively on iPhone and iPod touch.

The first event of the morning keynote was to talk about the exciting new enterprise features of iPhone 2.0, and included high praise from large corporate IT managers about how great it was to be using iPhone. Steve Jobs announced that 35% of Fortune 500 companies participated in their corporate beta program, which is pretty crazy. Apple is really going to be quickly beating RIM's BlackBerry in no time if they continue to take an aggressive stance such as they are right now. (In other corporate-related news, it was announced in another presentation that day that the next version of Mac OS X will include full Microsoft Exchange support, so Apple's even making it easier to use Macs at the corporate desktop.)

Scott Forstall came up and gave much of the same iPhone developer information that he gave three months ago, and there was not a ton of new information there. He demoed creating, testing, and debugging an application and then invited a whole host of iPhone developers onstage to demo and talk about their applications. Sega's Super Monkey Ball again made an appearance, as did games from Pangea Software that were ported from Mac OS X, Cro-Mag Rally and Enigmo. The first two games used the built-in accelerometer to control the game by tilting and turning the iPhone around. Enigmo just used intuitive touch controls but had very complex gameplay that reminded me of Sierra's old Dr. Brain games. A Spanish game developer called Digital Legends Entertainment has also started a "fantasy action-adventure game".

Forstall also brought up developers from companies such as eBay, Associated Press, and MLB.com up to showcase their applications as well. eBay and TypePad basically had slightly more streamlined versions of what you could find on the web. Associated Press also featured an improved news browser and also gave a way for users to submit pictures and stories right within their application. Major League Baseball showcased a really nice version of their GameDay stats board designed for the iPhone as well as the ability to watch video clips taken just moments before right on the iPhone. A couple medical apps were shown for both teaching and diagnosing purposes and a social network showed off a program where they used many of the phone's location and mapping functions to find nearby friends in real time. The most fun, though, was probably Moo Cow Music's neat little program called Band that allows users to play a simulated instrument right on the iPhone's screen. The neatest was the "12-Bar Blues" area, which has all the instruments necessary to be a full blues band on your iPhone screen. The application demos were a bit long in parts, but most were really interesting to see innovative ways to use the iPhone. A later poll of developers at WWDC found that most people are going to give apps away for free, but it seems most will be under $10, which means I might buy a couple games or other useful programs when I get an iPhone.

The last geeky, developer-focused announcement was that Apple is putting together a notification service for iPhone developers to use. All real-time notifications while the program isn't running will have to go through Apple, which can be a downside for a developer, but the upside for the iPhone user is that all the cell phone's resources are given to the application that are running. It seems that developers will have to run a server-side service to push the notifications themselves and Apple may not deliver them as real-time as some developers may like, but this seems to be a creative, diplomatic way to allow programs to notify users of new information without slowing down and crashing the phone.

Steve Jobs returned to the stage to talk about a couple new features of iPhone 2.0 software, such as better language support, better reading of MS Office documents, the ability to delete and move multiple items at a time, search for contacts and a scientific calculator. All of the features so far are going to be available with iPhone 2.0 software, which will be released sometime in the next month and will be a free upgrade for iPhone users and a $10 upgrade for iPod touch users.

Of course, the most exciting announcement (but the least geeky for a developer conference) was an updated iPhone with 3G wireless support. The phone looks a bit sleeker with the tapered edges and black plastic back, but is just a tiny bit thicker. The recessed headphone jack is gone, so you can listen to your music with any headphones you like without an adapter. Plus, the best news is that the 8GB iPhone is $199 and the 16GB is only $299, although we'll talk a bit more about that later. The back of the iPhone is a black plastic and the 16GB ones are alwo available with a white back.

Loading web pages, at least in their tests, was at least 50% faster on the next-generation AT&T network that is available in most U.S. cities. The battery life has also been improved, although turning off the 3G features and GPS will greatly improve the battery life overall. If you turned off all the phone features, the iPhone can play music for up to 24 hours. They did not show turn-by-turn directions with the GPS, just that it gives a blinking dot where your phone is on the Google Maps application. However, things such as GPS, Wi-Fi and 3G network use will drain the battery in a couple hours if they are on and used heavily throughout, so there are options to turn these off.

At the end, they fed the overhype by showing a cheesy, Ocean's Eleven-style that touts the 3G iPhone as finally here. The only problem is: Who cares? Must cell phone customers don't even know what 3G wireless is and what it means, so why name the phone after the 3G features? Only major cities in the U.S. have 3G wireless coverage, so if you're not in one of those places, the major benefit will be of no help until they build out their 3G network. And, although the iPhone 3G looks cheaper with that $199 price tag, you'll be paying more than the difference with the more expensive 3G plans that are as cheap as $70 per month. Of course, this only really applies to the U.S. - in the rest of the world, Apple needs this to compete because 3G phones and service are everywhere. The $199 price is subsidized by AT&T by at least a couple hundred dollars, so it looks like it will be much harder to get an iPhone here in the states without immediately signing an AT&T contract.

In the end, I think that the iPhone 2.0 software is an amazing and much-needed update to the iPhone's functionality. The iPhone 3G is slightly better, but for most Americans, there's not much extra built into the iPhone hardware that requires you to upgrade.

What am I going to do about all this iPhone business? Like last year, I'm waiting for a couple things. First, last year I decided to go with a different phone, so I'm waiting for my two-year contract on it to play through. Second, I want to see what kind of apps come out of the iPhone App Store and if they fill the holes the iPhone software currently has for me. And, well, I'm still a bit apprehensive about switching to AT&T. I've had very little real problems with Sprint in the last 4 years or so and I've been a good customer of theirs for 7 years, and it doesn't sound like AT&T is better. Fourth, I'm not sure if I'm going to like having the annoying GSM network side-effects (that annoying buzzing from time to time in nearby speakers). The major reason to have an iPhone is because I'll no longer have to carry a phone and an iPod on a regular basis though. Most likely, I will be getting an iPhone in 2009 because there's very little enticing competition on the horizon, at least from what I've heard.

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