Bluetooth pairing for car and iPhone, Audi GSM phone system

It was with some amusement recently that I found out I could pair my iPhone with my car, given that the dealership had sold me a cradle for my old phone when I bought the car some years back. In fact, Bluetooth pairing had only ever been a few seconds away, despite the cost of a cradle, which only fitted one phone and therefore ensured I didn’t upgrade that phone!

It turns out that in the Audi system at least, Bluetooth is built in to the system if you have got a dash mounted GSM preparation, or a centre armrest version… as long as you buy the car with GSM phone preparation, it should work.

All you do to get your iPhone connected is switch bluetooth on and let it look for devices. The Audi appears in the list very quickly, and you enter the default password (1234 in most cases). Once done the phone will work through the phone system, allowing you to make and receive calls hands free and with no need for cables or cradles.

There is a delay in the system copying your phone book to the car, and in my case with over 400 entries it took simply ages – I believe three days went by before it finally completed. Voice dialling and voice control is not activated which is no big loss; the Audi system is pretty unreliable if you are driving at anything like normal speeds as it mis-hears almost everything you say. Using a multi-function wheel you can easily scroll through your contacts (which get displayed in your driver’s information panel in the centre of your dashboard) and make the call that you need. When the phone rings with an incoming call you simply press a button to answer it.

It couldn’t be simpler… but it took three years to find and only then through a chance conversation with the salesman who got my new car sorted (Stansted Audi, name of Bert Wildman).

I wish I had known before. In short, don’t buy a cradle unless you crave voice dialling features, use bluetooth instead.

Apple iPhone case, protecting your iPhone

picture of iPhone in a caseOne thing that won’t have escaped anyone’s attention about Apple products since the days of the early iMacs and iPods is that they are pretty. Jonathan Ive has been shaping the look of these gadgets for a long time and is still making them extremely desirable just form their look. Design is very important of course, and needs to be blended with equally good functionality. This is why I believe Apple products do so well.

However, one problem with having such lovely design is how to keep it looking lovely. For example, my 3rd Generation iPod has a shiny chrome back cover, which suffers enormously from smudges, scratches and generally getting bashed about. I keep it in the case it came in, but somehow even sliding it in and out of that has introduced wear and tear. Of course, it is a good few years old now, has had new batteries (see my article about replacing an iPod battery) and gets used almost every day. It is bound to suffer wear and tear, and I should expect no less.

The problem has moved on now though, as I also have my iPhone to protect. There are literally hundreds of cases designed to look after your iPhone, and some are remarkably expensive affairs by comparison to others. The ones I’ve seen or used include wallet type ‘fold over’ where you slot the phone in the top and there is a front flap which opens and closes like a book to reveal the phone controls, clear plastic cases that snap on, and various types of rubber or silicone rubber sleeves which you wrap around the phone.

The issue with the wallet type has been that the phone can easily slide out of the opening at the top since there is no strap to keep it in. Thus, casually hoding the case the wrong way up can result in a nasty fall to whatever surface is below. In Matt’s case that has been everything from carpet to concrete. Not good. They also require more manipulation to answer the phone and are much more bulky in your pocket. If, like me, you keep your phone in your jeans pocket then that’s not a good thing!

The clip on plastic covers also increase bulk somewhat, although not drastically. They do also protect the device, but they look, well, odd. It somehow destroys all of that lovely design work and you end up with something akin to a cheap underwater housing for a disposable camera. They are low cost, and they look it, too, IMO. The one exception for me *might* be the InCase ‘slider’ for iPhone and iPod touch.

So that leaves the silicone rubber covers, and at the moment that is what I’m using. There are lots on the market, some in funky colours, some with reinforced ribbing, some with built in screen protectors and so on. I’ve looked at most and discounted most. There’s even one made from a material designed to protect helicopter rotor blades whirring at high speed in a sandy environment. Nice. The one I am using is in fact very cheap and soft feeling that covers most of the phone, but not the front glass. This hardly affects the overall bulk, allows easy access to the controls and essentially is just plain black. It looks smart to me. I also cover the glass with a stick on screen protector (around £3.00) which is probably overkill, but I feel better about keeping my phone in my pocket with these sorts of things on. The touch screen operation is not affected in any way by such a protective cover.

The only downsides I can find are that the rubber material doesn’t slide easily over cotton and thus getting the phone out of a pocket invariably brings the pocket inside out with it! I also have two rather large holes on the iPhone itself – the headphone socket and the dock connector – and these are susceptible to that dreaded of all afflictions – pocket fluff. No matter how clean your garments, fluff collects in the pockets! The worry is that the fluff will lodge in the sockets on the phone and prevent them working as they should.

So far, one month later, that hasn’t been an issue, thank goodness.

Phone covers are pretty personal things, and different people will want different ones. I’ve found the rubber cases to be better for lots of reasons than the leather wallet types, but I guess you’ll have to make up your own mind. For what it’s worth, I spent less than ten pounds on a rubber case and a screen protector film. I’m happy with the protection, knowing I’ll never use the phone as a helicopter rotor blade, unless in some MacGyver moment I am thrown into a survival situation and that’s what I need to do to escape. Alernatively, I’ll just ring for help…

Dension Firmware update, Dension Config files, How to update Dension ICE>Link plus, Download Dension Firmware

Today I finally did what I should have done a year ago – I created a block here with just the Dension firmware files in it for people to download as they need. You will see each of the early firmwares there on the left hand side, plus a zip archive with all of them together (to save you having to get them one at a time). Also in there is the configuration files for various car makes, plus the .pdf on how to run the updates.

If anyone wants to send me the very latest Dension files I’d be pleased to add them to the list.

Dension have done a poor job in providing these files for their customers, in my opinion. As time marches on, more improvements to the firmwares will have been made, but a lot of folk seem to want to stay with a version that works for them. For me, that was version 2.05, but I removed my Dension ICE>Link a year ago in favour of the Alpine head unit and KCA420i iPod adapter – a far superior experience when playing your iPod in your car.

However, I believe the Dension product is brilliantly innovative, if somewhat poorly supported. I will continue to host these files as long as I can.

Replacing your iPod battery, how to get the case off an iPod, open iPod 3G

All things come to pass – and this weekend it was the passing of my original iPod battery. I’ve been using the iPod pretty constantly for a couple of years now, most recently in my car. Whilst the Alpine KC420i does in fact charge the iPod I have been noticing that the iPod isn’t charging too well, and on occasion the car head unit tells me there is no CD changer attached. Of course, CD changer means iPod in my set-up!

On further inspection I found that the iPod was able to charge, and did in fact reach a full charge after about four hours constant charging. It didn’t stay charged very long though, draining in about an hour or so when playing back.

So, I figured it was about time for a replacement battery and so I bought one from It was a little more expensive from them compared to other places, but it did include some tools to help open the case up.

Looking at the iPod case it is hard to see how it all fits together. However, the tools supplied were excellent. Shaped a bit like flat headed screwdrivers with a bend in the end of them, the nylon tools are designed to help you prise open a side of the case and carefully release the catches therein. The instruction book that comes with the battery is small, so expect to get your magnifying glass out to read it. The content of the book is superb mind you and the details are very precise. I liked it so much I have got the .pdf version here! This is somewhat easier to read, and the pics are in colour.

Easing the tools into the crack along one side of the iPod is a bit tricky at first. I chose to get the angled tip of the tool pointing downwards into the silver back of the ipod. This seemed to be the easiest way in, at which point I slid the tool along the length of the iPod, looking for any of the clips holding it together. I then used the other tool the other way up to firmly but very carefully push inwards and lever the front white case off along the side. This was a lot easier than I had anticipated and the side came away fairly quickly, although I was quite surprised at how much force was needed – you don’t need much, but you do need to be firm.

Once one side was released the other edges came away easily. Aware of the ribbon cable connector attaching the two halves together I worked on a flat surface from then on.

The hard drive inside the unit is attached by means of a flat connector. Imagine two flat surfaces joined together by a connector between them – this is how the iPod drive gets fitted to the logic board. Removing this is a little worrying, since there is only a flat copper coloured piece of material indicating where anything is joined. Fortunately for me there was a small rectangle which looked a different colour and so I used the nylon tools to gently lift the connector ribbon and the connector itself just popped out.

Moving the hard drive to one side the battery is then revealed. There is a three pin connector which needs taking off first – this is a bit tricky unless you have got fingernails (I don’t) or tweezers (also, none available). So for me it was a case of looking carefully at the connector and seeing that it was only the top of it I had to hold on to when I pulled. Again, the force required was more than I had anticipated, but if you are looking for some pliers in order to get a better grip then you are trying too hard. Once released the battery could be lifted and then twisted around in order to free the cables which were underneath the logic board edge.

In good old fashioned Haynes manual traditions, reassembly is the reverse of removal. Carefully tuck the new battery wires under the same edge of the logic board as the original and lay the battery itself into the space for it. Re-fit the hard drive… for me there was a small click as the connector joined the logic board again. I was a bit sceptical that I had it all lined up correctly at first, but it went in easily when I had it in the right place.

The last part is to replace the cover – be very sure that the new battery wires are not sticking out at all as you will easily pinch them and damage it if they are. The front cover just snaps on to the base and that’s all there is to it.

Other things to watch out for are really to be very careful of the connector between the front and back of the iPod – this looks very fragile and you don’t want to be playing around with it – don’t try to remove it!

Once back together, cycle the power on the iPod (you know, flick the ‘Hold’ switch across and back then hold the play/pause and menu buttons for about 6 seconds), then put it on to charge. The new battery came with about a quarter charge on it, so now it is in the adaptor getting a full top up.

I reckon that I will fully charge and then fully discharge this battery before I then start the usual abuse of partial charges and discharges that it will receive for the rest of its life.

Replacing an iPod battery is not as scary as you might think. This one cost me ��18.99, but the cost for a service to do it for me would be nearer ��50 all told. I’m happy that I saved ��30 and would feel pretty confident to change an iPod battery in the future.

Thanks to iPod World for the supply of decent instructions and good tools to help make the job easy – and scratch free!

ICE>LINK software, Dension config files, iPod in your car, update ice>LINK

Following on from previous posts, you can now download all versions of Dension’s firmware here, including versions 2.03, 2.04, 2.05, 2.06, 2.07 and 2.10. Included in the zip file are the config files for all of the head units that Dension supported, both OEM and aftermarket. Additionally there are the update instructions and the start update.mp3 file.

Click here to download them all – it is a 4.1MB download…

Edited – Feb 18th 06, Check out the page for Dension files – all versions in the updates library are now listed individually, along with the config files and a .pdf about how to run the updates. Hopefully this will help folk get to the exact update they want more swiftly.