Author Archives: Ellen

The Apple Difference

appstoreI recently found some notes and tasks from March 2008 – 18 months ago – and it really brought home to me how Apple has changed the mobile software world.

Our biggest problem at that time was that people didn’t know they could buy programs for their smartphone or PDA. Apple’s fixed that one – even people who don’t own a mobile device know “there’s an app for that”.

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Could Apple Do This? Would they?

appstore12I’d been thinking about how much Apple is able to do – when they want to – with iPhone App distribution, because of how they set it up.

And I’d been thinking about how much I’d like – both as a user and a developer – trial versions of iPhone apps. But I know what a can of worms is opened by giving developers the ability make and unlock trials.

And then I thought – could Apple handle trials themselves, completely, by making all apps in the iTunes App Store free for the first few days, and then processing the payments if the apps were still installed after that?

The answer, of course, is that I don’t know. I have no idea if this would work or even be possible. I’m sure there are a ton of issues and implications to be thought through. It may be technically impossible, financially unfeasible, or just a lot more trouble than simply letting developers handle trials on their own.

But I can’t help thinking how cool it would be if Apple pulled it off.

It’s clear that no one else could do this with their app stores – no one else has that kind of control. Or – let’s face it – the guts. And it seems to me that it would be very much Apple’s style: here’s a better way to do something, we can do it, let’s do it. And if it turns the existing software distribution model upside-down, that’s just a bonus.

Any thoughts? I can’t tell if this is a good idea, a terrible idea, or something in-between. And it’s probably just wishful thinking on my part. But it would – in my opinion – be a huge benefit to both iPhone developers and users.

(Here’s the short URL for this article, if you want to share it. We’re working on the better “share it” thing; apparently it’s incompatible with something else we do.)

No, Bob. “Password” Isn’t a Good One.

oopsHi Twitter Management,

Correction: This post was originally meant to be tongue-in-cheek, where we would offer Twitter employees a free copy of eWallet to keep track of their passwords. It’s not an offer for the general public.

It looks like you’re having a little problem with your passwords. I know you know that using “password” isn’t a good idea, but I imagine you’ve all probably been pretty busy lately.

We’ve got this program called eWallet – you may have heard of it. It not only lets you store passwords safely so that you don’t have to pick the ones anyone can remember – and hack – but it also has a built-in password generator so you don’t even have to think of one. It’s network compatible, so your trusted employees (though you might want to rethink them as well, from what I’ve been reading) can all use it, and it’s compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch, Blackberry and Windows Mobile phones.

I’d be happy to give you a copy! No charge – consider it thanks for giving us all yet another way to feed our internet addictions. Just get in touch with our Customer Service guys, and we’ll get you your copy.

A Snail Mail Story

Someone here – and I won’t name names – forgot to pick up our physical mail for a few weeks. Like 12. And none of us noticed.

If we’d done this years ago, we’d be in trouble. Our phones would have been turned off, as well as our internet, and we’d have racked up some serious late charges on the credit cards, if not had them cancelled as well.

But since we’ve been moving more and more of our bills to electronic only, it turns out that ignoring our paper mail for over two months wasn’t a big deal. Macworld sent a few testy “reminders” about our bill, and at least a few of us now have bigger than usual piles of stuff to read, but the only real problem was that Marc had ordered some live tadpoles to be sent here, and by the time we found them, they weren’t live anymore.

Sorry guys.

But it pointed out very clearly how unimportant physical mail has become. I wonder how long daily delivery will hang on.

iTunes Gift Card Blocking Workaround

gcI’ve seen some complaints online recently about people no longer being able to buy iTunes Gift Cards to be sent by email, or that iTunes Gift Card amounts are now being limited. In fact, our account is one of the ones affected by this: our company iTunes account suddenly became unable to buy Gift Cards on iTunes. We get the message:

This account is not currently eligible to purchase Gift Certificates. However, you can purchase iTunes Gift Cards from the Apple Oline Store at or in Apple Retail stores.

A little research (links here and here) makes it clear that

  • Other developers and users are seeing this as well
  • Apple is acknowledging it, but not yet publicly providing very specific info or resetting the affected accounts
  • It looks very much like it’s an anti-fraud action by Apple

Now, before everyone leaps to the wrong conclusion, I’m completely in favor of this. I’ve seen plenty of credit card fraud, and whatever anyone can do to fight it has my complete support.

So, to help out anyone who’s affected by this and hasn’t figured out what to do about it yet, here’s our simple workaround that Julie figured out.

  1. Go to the nearby drugstore and buy iTunes Gift Cards
  2. Email the codes on them to whoever you need to

I hope Apple will be able to come up with a solution that lets us go back to doing everything online, and I’m definitely still hoping that Apple will implement “Gift this App” for iTunes apps. But meanwhile, the above works fine.

Our 12th Anniversary!

12 YearsToday is our 12 year anniversary! Yes, we’ve been making and selling mobile and desktop software for 12 years. How amazing is that?

I wish I could take credit for it all, but I’m a little too honest for that. We’ve been smart – I’ll never downplay that – but we’ve been very lucky too. I never know what the future of mobile software will be like, but we’ll be trying hard to keep up with it, without compromising our commitments to high quality software, in-house development, ethical business practices, and world-class tech and customer support.

Of course we couldn’t have done it without our many supporters: writers, reviewers, customers, beta testers, friends, colleagues, supporters, partners, and everyone who send us suggestions, information and kind words. Many, many, many thanks to everyone.

And particularly to the people I never remember to thank (at least not on the blog) – the committed, talented, and patient people who make up Ilium Software. To develop, test, release, maintain, support, distribute, market and sell the stuff we do is an amazing accomplishment, especially given how many of us are really making it up as we go along. If you’re reading this, please join me in celebrating this incredible accomplishment.

Julie’s got a week of sales and giveaways planned, so be sure to stick around. The sale has already started in our online store, and the first blog contest will be posted soon, with lots of chances to win great prizes!

AND – we’re on Twitter. Better late than never, I hope. Check us out at

Adventures in Formatting

With help from Marc, Dan and Lee, I learned a really bad – albeit effective – way to format a hard drive yesterday:

Formatting by Ellen

It turns out that:

  • It’s a lot easier than you’d expect to snap hard disks.
  • They break into many, many little pieces that fly everywhere.
  • And the pieces are extremely sharp.

If you’re wondering whether we take our data security seriously, yes, we do. That’s my personal blood on the disc pieces and the desk.

I don’t recommend trying this.