Tuesday, October 28, 2008

iPod Touch: A Major Mystery Solved, and New Toys

The Great Crashing Mystery and the new toy are intertwined, so I'll start with the new toy first and then show how it led to Solving the Great Crashing Mystery.

The latest free new toy to be installed on my Touch is Google Earth. I installed it via App Store; it's currently #1 in the top 25 free apps.

After installation I tried to run it and it crashed almost immediately. And it crashed every time I tried to start it. I was already having to deal with a crashing web browser (Safari) and the New York Times news browser, but a crashing Google Earth was just too much. So I went looking at the Google Earth reviews in the App Store and it wasn't long before one commenter remarked that he stopped the Google Earth crashes by resetting his Touch; that is, by turning it off. So I did that, and lo and behold Google Earth no longer crashed.

Not only that, but Safari and the New York Times news browser stopped crashing as well. I have no idea why they were crashing before, or why 'rebooting' the device solved the problem, but I'm certainly a lot happier. I have a half-baked theory based on my some past experiences and a few facts I know about what runs the Touch. My theory is based on the fact that an embedded version of Mac OS X is running on the touch. I believe that being a Unix derivative it still needs swap. And I believe that the swap is fixed in size. As I've loaded new applications, music, and video on the Touch that swap area become constrained, unable to grow contiguously when 'heavy' applications, such as Safari, the New York Times news browser and Google Earth demanded more swap space than could be provided. So when those applications hit the swap limit they crashed. Rebooting (hard off then on) the Touch allowed the OS to re-init the swap space in a new area. And now those applications can run with more swap without crashing. Again, this is just my personal theory.

One application I really enjoy is Stanza, and with its last update to version 1.5 it acquired a cover-flow capability for showing the books in its library. You can see my collection of Doctorow books below.

Oh, and one other good effect of rebooting. Battery life is better, especially while surfing the web. Again, I have no clear idea why, but perhaps it was thrashing and the reboot allowed the system to sort itself out with regards to memory usage. I really need to get the SDK and start digging into the Touch.

Minor Touch Tip

I stumbled upon this by accident, but screen captures can be had by pressing the power button and the home key simultaneously and then quickly releasing them. The screen will go briefly white, then the original screen contents will return. If the volume is turned up you'll also hear what sounds like an old 35mm SLR going off. The screen captures can be found under Photos | Saved Photos. They can be pulled from the Touch by plugging the Touch into your system and allowing Windows to 'Download pictures from a camera or scanner.' Or at least it can under Windows XP SP3.

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