contact us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right.

blog

Filtering by Category: Apple

Double-Duty Dongles

John Federico

Chances are that if you have a MacBook Air, you have dongles.

You know, things like USB sticks, ethernet adapters, video cables for external displays and, thanks to it's two lonely USB ports, probably a USB hub. Or two.

I got fed up with carrying my Bag O'Dongles and in the process of looking for yet-another-dongle, stumbled onto a whole category of products to help with this first world problem.

The saga continues.

This past weekend I was prepping for a big pitch and was going through my gear bag to make sure I had everything I needed, which typically includes no less than three video display adapters: HDMI, DVI and (believe it or not), VGA. You'd be surprised how many times I show up to give a presentation and the only available input is VGA.

Again, I was fed up with carrying all this crap, so I jumped on Amazon. Behold, my newest find: a combination Thunderbolt to HDMI, DVI and Display Port adapter. For less than $20 bucks, too. ($17.99 at the time of this post.)

Sure, I still have to carry a VGA adapter, but now I can leave my DVI and HDMI dongles at home and simply carry this one replacement.

I'm a happy geek.

WANT: iPad Mini. NEED: iPhone 5.

John Federico

I really want an iPad mini.

The only reason I upgraded from an iPad 2 to the iPad 3 (or whatever it's called now) is because I could get LTE tethering from Verizon, which has been a gift from the universe on the few occassions that I've needed it.

However, ever since I got the first iPad and gave my wife my first generation Kindle, I've missed the smaller form factor of the Kindle eReaders.

Read More

Tether your Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200 to your Mac

John Federico

A while back I wrote a post about my experience searching for pre-paid mobile broadband. I ultimately chose Virgin Mobile USA as my provider but one thing that bugged me was that I had to use the MiFi 2200 mobile hotspot since there were no drivers for their USB dongles for OS X Lion.

I've always known that the MiFi could be tethered to a Mac using its USB cable, but I also thought that the drivers for Lion weren't available.

As it turns out, I get the best of both worlds with the MiFI.

Either the drivers were recently update during an OS X Software Update or I just plain missed the fact that you can tether the MiFi 2200 to your Mac running OS X Lion. (At least using 10.7.2. I haven't tried to tether using earlier versions of Lion.)

The process is simple:

Read More

Shooting 720p Video using an iPhone 4S

John Federico

The combination of the new backside illuminated camera sensor and A5 processor in the iPhone 4S makes for a powerful, high-quality consumer video device that shoots full-HD.

But what if you own a device with only 16 GB of storage? That 1080p video will eat that up fast.

If you want to shoot at 720p, which is still very high quality, grab the latest version of FiLMiC Pro from the app store.

Read More

Amazon Adjusts to New App Store Rules with Clever Marketing

John Federico

Apple has been asserting control of its App Store rules by asking app developer to remove the "purchase" buttons for third-party stores in certain apps. The most obvious ones impacted by this have been the Google Books and Kindle apps.

Last night, I discovered a bit of clever marketing on Amazon's part in response to this change.

Read More

Why did Twitter partner with PhotoBucket? iOS 5.

John Federico

Twitter has gotten into the photo sharing game, but not on their own - they've partnered with PhotoBucket.

Apple's WWDC Keynote (which is happening as I write this) tells us why: Twitter is going to be heavily integrated with Apple's iOS 5, the operating system for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

Having worked with for a company that was (and still is) an Apple partner, I can tell you that it probably went down like this:

"Hi, Twitter? Yeah, this is Apple calling. We want to integrate Twitter pretty deeply into iOS 5. You cool with that? Oh yeah, and we're going to announce it next month."

In the interest of secrecy, Apple likely waited as long as they could before contacting Twitter. Once the company understood the time horizon for getting into the photo sharing game, they most likely decided to partner in order to meet the WWDC deadline.

The details of how it really happened will surely surface over the coming months but I'll bet that's how it happened.

How to Accept Meeting Requests on the iPhone

John Federico

Lots of folks rely on their mobile devices to help manage their schedule throughout the day. You're probably one of them. I know that I couldn't manage without my iPhone, MacBook and iPad.

The one piece of my workflow that's been bugging me ever since I stopped using Microsoft Exchange and migrated over to Google Apps (Gmail, Google Calendar) is the ability to manage my calendar on my iPhone.

Sure, I can create events on my calendar and even invite people to those events. However, when someone accepts one of those meeting requests, I'm not explicitly notified via email or on my iPhone - I have to check the calendar to see if someone has accepted. It's not ideal, but I can live with it.

The flip side to that equation is what's been driving me nuts: accepting meeting requests on my iPhone. If you're not using Exchange, meeting requests show up as an attachment, usually with the name "meeting.ics", indicating that it's an iCalendar file.

Tapping the icon results in...nothing. I can't open it in the iPhone Calendar app. I have to quickly respond to this person with a message like "Confirmed" just to make sure that we lock down the time and date of the meeting, then officially accept the request and put it on my calendar when I get back to my Mac.

Given that the iCalendar format is a standard used by Apple within iCal on the Mac and on the iPhone, it seems ridiculous to me that I'm unable to respond to meeting requests.

A quick Google search proves that I'm not alone. The last time I performed this search I found a mention of an app buried at the end of a forum thread that was released that very day to solve this problem.

It's called Calendar Happy and yes, it makes me very happy. ;)

Read More

Adobe is Running Scared from Evolving Standards

John Federico

Buy this from SpreadshirtLike the iPhone and iPod Touch that came before it, the iPad runs the same slimmed-down version of Mac OS X complete with it's multi-touch controls, icons and menu bar.

The iPad also shares with its forebears a lack of support for Adobe's Flash. Flash is an application runtime environment (a nerdy way of saying "software that lets other software work") that competes with the native applications on the iPhone, so it would make business sense that Apple might exclude it from the native capabilities of the "iPlatform".

More likely however, is the fact that Flash is buggy, crashes often and can suck up CPU cycles like crazy.

Case in point: now that I'm running Google Chrome on my MacBook, I can see how often Flash crashes as the browser will remain functioning but indicate that the plug-in has crashed. These are crashes I used to blame on my browser - Safari, Firefox, Opera, Camino - all of them. Shame on me.

Given how maniacal Apple is about the user experience and stability of the iPlatform, it's a no-brainer for them to exclude Flash - competitive issues aside.

And now, with the triumvirate of the iPhone, iPod Touch and soon iPad, Adobe is getting a little uncomfortable. If there's one company that can utilize its momentum and marketing prowess to shift an industry from de facto standards to web standards, it's Apple - and in this case, that web standard is HTML5.

Apple did this for the Webkit rendering engine that now powers Safari and Mobile Safari, but also Google Chrome, Android and soon a variety of other Webkit-based browsers for mobile devices like BlackBerry. They did it for video with H.264 and soon, they'll do it for HTML5.

Read More

I just can't quit you, iPhone.

John Federico

As I've mentioned in the past, I have a love/hate relationship with my iPhone. I love the usability, the applications, the ease in which it connects to Gmail, Google Calendar, Exchange and even the way it feels in my hand.

But I'm intensely frustrated by the short battery life.

It sucks and I'm not the first to complain about it. The poor battery life has created something of a market opportunity for a number of companies as there numerous products that have cropped up to juice up your iPhone on-the-go like the Mophie Juice Pack, the iPWR Superpack, the Kensington Mini Battery Extender and my favorite, the FastMac iV, among others.

I didn't want to have to lug around yet another piece of kit so this past week, I decided to take drastic measures and go back to the BlackBerry, specifically a BlackBerry Bold. I bought a used one on eBay for a reasonable price and when it arrived yesterday and I opened the box, it was like reuniting with a long lost friend. That is, until I attempted to actually use it.

Setting up the BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) for email was a complete disaster. Apparently, Microsoft made some changes to Hotmail/Windows Live Mail recently that required BlackBerry customers to login and reset their accounts before they could continue to use their devices with the Microsoft services. It wasn't until late last night that I was able to set up my Gmail account via IMAP. Or so I thought.

See, BIS doesn't actually implement IMAP the way it's intended. IMAP is supposed to be a synchronous mail protocol that allows you to store your mail on the server while storing a copy of it on your client. Changes on the server are reflected on the client and vice versa. BIS retrieves your mail and delivers it to your BlackBerry and let's you read, respond to and delete mail while having those changes reflected on the server. Working with your inbox on your desktop is another story.

If you read, respond to or delete mail from your inbox using a desktop client or web browser (Gmail in my case) the changes are not reflected on the BlackBerry. Effectively, you are now managing two inboxes. I posit that Research in Motion (RIM), the company that makes the devices, doesn't want to fully implement IMAP into BIS as it could cut into sales of their BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES).

Having already started down this path, I decided to continue. I remembered that BlackBerry got in bed with Yahoo a few years ago allowing Yahoo to implement fully synchronous mailboxes. I forwarded my primary email address to my ol' Yahoo Mail address and adjusted my desktop workflow accordingly. This actually worked fine - I used this setup when I had my last BlackBerry a few years ago. (Tip: it's worth every penny to sign up for Yahoo Mail Plus and get rid of the ridiculous, untargeted and highly annoying ads.)

Next, I installed Google Sync so that I could keep my Google Calendar and Google Contacts in sync with my BlackBerry. It was simple to install and sync'd properly on the first try. I did the same using Remember the Milk for BlackBerry. This was also simple to install but managing tasks using the default BlackBerry application is horrible. The interface just isn't meant to facilitate the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology.

What else? Twitter, of course! I had heard about a great BlackBerry Twitter client called TweetGenius and immediately dropped $4.99 for a license. It was well worth it as any of the other clients that are available are pretty basic (though I'm judging them against Tweetie and Twitteriffic on the iPhone which probably isn't fair).

Finally, I decided to take a stroll through BlackBerry AppWorld. It's quite limited compared to the iTunes App Store but I found a few gems. Qik for BlackBerry is awesome (and doesn't require that you jailbreak your phone to use it). Viigo is a great kitchen sink type application that lets you read RSS feeds, check the weather, find local businesses and bunch of other stuff.

With that all wrapped up this morning, I went about my day. At 3:00 PM, all seemed to be fine. I had been running on the same battery charge for more than 24 hours and still had 70% left - and this was after heavy usage performing software installations, setting things up, etc.

Then, in my mind, it all came grinding to a halt. Google Sync proceeded to add duplicate entries to my BlackBerry calendar each time it sync'd. I then realized that I would have to upload or sync all my contacts to Yahoo Mail in order to have easy access to them. And finally, I discovered that the new and improved Bold browser didn't display the advance version of Google Reader. (Which was my own fault for not testing it beforehand...).

That was it. After less than 48 hours, I pulled the plug on this grand experiment.

The BlackBerry is a great device, but switching required me to change too many things in my daily workflow. I'm pretty much wedded to the Google Apps - especially Gmail - and had a difficult time giving it up for Yahoo Mail. I didn't want to deal with my calendar syncing problems nor manage my tasks in the pathetic BlackBerry Task List - I just wanted everything to work. Right now.

A relatively quick phone call to AT&T support and swap of my SIM card and I was back using my iPhone. This evening I even purchased a FastMac iV External Battery Pack.

My BlackBerry Bold will make someone else very happy when they win the upcoming eBay auction.

How to Upgrade to an iPhone 3G S for $199

John Federico

My wife has been reluctant to get a smartphone - I think she can sometimes be intimidated by technology. Over the past year I 've been guiding her toward an iPhone - it's consumer friendly, even for those who aren't technically inclined. Still, she wasn't ready to get one.

Today, out of the blue, she called and said, "Honey, I want to go to the Apple Store and buy an iPhone today." I have no idea why she had the sudden change of heart, but I informed that there would be a new one released soon and that we should pre-order it.

I jumped on the AT&T Wireless site and ordered an iPhone 3G S for the lovely price of $199. I opted to pick it up at a local store so they'll tell me when and where to go. When it arrives I'll swap the SIM cards and voila! - new iPhone 3G S for me! ;) 

Apple better damn well make good on their claim of "better battery life."

Buying Software for Jailbroken Hardware

John Federico

So, yeah. I jailbroke my iPhone. I did it primarily so I could use Qik and uStream and so I could add Search functionality.

A funny thing happened after I did that: I found some software that I can't live without. But therein lies a dilemma.

You: Wait - how is finding something you love a bad thing?

Well, that software requires that I purchase a software license.

You: Okaaaaay. So, just buy it!

Not so fast. Think about the premise for a moment: a developer wants me to purchase his software for a phone whose manufacturer may block me from using that software at some point in the future. It's kind of like buying a car and wondering if gas stations will continue to sell the kind of gas you need to run it.

I'm supportive of software developers, especially small, innovative shops that deliver valuable tools. I think it's great that they've found a market and can make some money for their creativity and hard work but as a buyer, it can be hard to reconcile that kind of risk.

OK, so it's not a huge risk. The software only costs $9.99. (That's like, my espresso budget for a couple of days.) But it did make me think.

The software is called IntelliScreen and it's made by a company called Rock Your Phone.

From their site:

Need to know where your next meeting is? Do you have any new email? What about a quick glimpse at your SMS/Text messages or weather? Want to catch the latest news, but Safari is too slow? IntelliScreen allows you to glimpse at your critical data on your iPhone "Slide to Unlock" screen!

Features:

  • View Calendar, Email, Text Messages, News, Sports, and Weather from your iPhone "Slide To Unlock" screen
  • Taskbar Icons for Missed Email, SMS, and Phone calls
  • QuickView
  • View/Mark Read/Mark Unread/Delete your Emails and SMS from the Lock Screen
  • 2 IntelliScreens
  • Double Tap the Clock Area to goto Page 2
  • Hide IntelliScreen with a Swipe to the left on the Clock Area
  • Swipe Right to get it back
  • Customizable Alert Reminders
  • Don't forget about a missed call, unread email, unread SMS, or repeating Calendar Alerts

 

Quite simply, it rocks. It's become an indispensible tool for me. (And no, I have no ties to the company whatsoever, financial or otherwise.)

Consequently, I downloaded another one of their apps called "MyProfiles" and yes, I will buy it, too once the trial is over. It costs $4.99.

From their site:

Find yourself constantly changing the settings on your iPhone depending on what you're doing or where you are? How about getting alerted when a critical email comes in from your boss? What about being able to sleep at night without being disturbed, unless it's a call from a loved one? Wish you didn't have to keep changing the auto-lock function when you're charging at your desk? Do all of this and more with MyProfiles!

Profile your iPhone!

Adjust how your iPhone behaves based on time, location, connected devices, low battery, and more.

Features:

  • Custom alerting of email based on Subject, Sender, Sent Only to You, and Mail Accounts.
  • Custom alerting of SMS messages and missed calls based on caller phone #.
  • Modify the Vibrate Pattern so you can be quietly alerted to a specific email.
  • Repeating Alerts for Email, SMS, and Missed Calls.
  • Silence Calls via WhiteList or BlackList
  • Escalating Rings and Vibrate 1st then Ring
  • Adjust WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, Push Email, Auto Lock, and 3G based on Location, Time of Day, and more.
  • Automatic rules engine to enable profiles
  • Vibrate, Sound, or Flash Alerting with Alert Quiet Time
  • Manual Override Profile by holding down the home button and pressing up and down on the Volume buttons.

When do I really have to stop and think about buying software for a jailbroken iPhone? Probably when the price hits almost $30.

pdaNet is a software application that's been around for awhile for Palm Treos, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry and is now available for jailbroken iPhones. Created by a company called JuneFabrics, it enables you to connect to the AT&T 3G network using your iPhone and a Wifi enabled computer that supports the creation of "ad hoc networks." The Mac does this easily - I'm unsure about Windows and Linux.

From their site:

pdaNet has been one of the most popular software for Windows Mobile phones and Palm OS phones. It is now ported to the iPhone! The latest version turns your iPhone into a true WiFi router for your computer (MAC or PC), and allows your laptop to go online wirelessly through the 3G network on the iPhone. It also supports USB tethering for Windows users.

While there has been quite a few other third party software (iPhoneModem, NetShare etc. and also the built-in OpenSSH) that tether your iPhone through a junky SOCKS proxy solution. PdaNet, on the other hand, is miles ahead! Here is a list of what PdaNet can do:

  • You will get FULL Internet access on the computer! (Instead of only applications that support Socks proxy.) In technical terms, all applications make direct TCP/IP connections to the server. Since there is no proxy involved, that also means less problems and less delays.
  • VPN connections are supported on the computer.
  • You don't need to configure anything on the computer end whenever you connect PdaNet. No proxy settings, no extra software installation, no messing with static IP assignment, no switching settings back and forth when going back to your home's WiFi router.
  • Yes it will connect at 3G speed if your phone has the coverage. Feedback from our users shows pretty fast speed even for the 2G version.
  • WiFi Router Mode supports PC, MAC, Linux or anything devices that supports ad-hoc WiFi connection. See WiFi setup instructions.
  • USB Tether Mode makes things even simpler. It allows you to with one click from the computer end. See USB setup instructions. USB mode even allows your computer to go online using the iPhone's WiFi Internet connection.
  • PdaNet runs in the background so you can still use other iPhone features when PdaNet is connected.
  • PdaNet has a built-in "insomnia" feature so you can turn off the phone when PdaNet is in the foreground and it won't drop your active connection. This will conserve battery.
  • When PdaNet is connected, you can SSH/SCP to your phone using domain "my.iPhone".

However, once again, a software update for the iPhone could render the application useless. Additionally, it's really meant for the person who occassionally wants to connect their laptop to the interwebs. If you're going to connect often, get yourself dedicated hardware and a service plan or suffer the rath of AT&T who will most certainly suspend your account for a "Terms of Service" violation.

Would you buy software for your jailbroken iPhone? Have you already? Why? Tell me in the comments.

Gadgets for Christmas

John Federico

Once again, Santa was good to me. I'm grateful that my family is so thoughtful and generous.

So, what gadgetry was under the tree for me this year? 

iHome iP9BR Clock Radio & Audio System for iPhone & iPod, Black

This is the one that works with the iPhone and allows for incoming calls. Previous models did not. I set it up so that I wake to an episode of The Bigg Success Show each morning.

 

 

 

Livescribe Pulse Smartpen, 2 GB

The day that my Mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas was the day that LiveScribe released the beta of the Mac desktop software for their Pulse Smartpen, so I added it to the list. (My Mom picks one or two things off my lengthy gadget list each year, as her budget allows...)

I'm looking forward to putting it through its paces. If you haven't seen it in action, be sure to check out these videos:

The Pulse comes with a single-subject spiral-bound notebook which is better suited for students than business use. I ordered a set of Moleskine-like journals that should be here in a couple of days. 

Of course, in a pinch, you can also print your own LiveScribe Pulse-compatible paper.

Freehands Fleece Gloves for the iPhone

 

Before you judge the geekiness of these gloves, try using an iPhone in the dead of winter. Not practical.

The thumbs and pointer fingers flip open (and stay open thanks to the magnets that are sewn-in) so that you can use the touch screen on the iPhone. They are perfectly suited to the task at hand. (Pun intended)

  

Mini Espresso Maker

Those of you who follow me on twitter know about my addiction obsession affection for espresso. It's tough to find the elixir of life when you travel to, say, the boonies of western Pennsylvania. To help with my search for the perfect shot on-the-go, my wife gave me a Mini Espresso Maker from Restoration Hardware which should work just great. I haven't tested it yet but will give it a try over the holidays, just to make sure I know how to use it properly when traveling.

Into the Cloud

John Federico

Cloud from the Inkscape Tutorials blogToday is the day I moved completely into the Cloud.

After having my netbook (an Acer Aspire One) for a few weeks, I've been trying to determine my optimal workflow. Today, I realized I had a couple of holes that needed to be filled.

Here was my original setup, BN (Before Netbook):

  • Productivity: Office 2008; iWork (Keynote, Pages, Numbers)
  • Corporate Email: Microsoft Exchange (Entourage on the Mac with occasional use of Outlook Web Access)
  • Calendar: Microsoft Exchange (Entourage on the Mac with occasional use of Outlook Web Access)
  • Contact Database: OS X Address Book
  • GTD: Remember the Milk Pro Account
  • Personal email: Google Apps (as spam filter and mail archive) forwarded to Mobile Me, then using this effective workaround to send email from my domain.

I used over-the-air (OTA) sync for everything (calendar, contacts) and had push email for both my personal and corporate email. I like the OS X Address Book for contacts instead of Entourage/Exchange because I enjoy having people's photos appear in their contact entry and when they call on my iPhone. ;)

Over the past few weeks, I've begun using ThinkFree Office for reasons you can learn about here. It's been a pretty seamless transition and has really helped me use the netbook effectively.

Today however, while in a meeting, I realized that I needed to send personal email from my netbook. That's when the fun began.

The first problem with Mobile Me is that you can't set the "FROM" address to use your own domain. (Hence the above workaround.)

The second problem is that the Mobile Me online Address Book just plain sucks. I needed to get an email address from my contact database and it was such a painfully slow experience. Even on a fast Mac using Safari, it takes an inordinate amount of time to load.

That's when I realized that I needed to go into the Cloud a bit more deeply in order to get my workflow right. So, here's my setup as of this evening:

  • Productivity: ThinkFree Office Netbook Edition + ThinkFree Office for Mac
  • Corporate Email: Exchange (Outlook Web Access for the netbook + Entourage on the Mac)
  • Calendar: Exchange (Outlook Web Access for the netbook + Entourage on the Mac)
  • Personal Email: Google Apps
  • Contact Database: OS X Address Book syncing with Google Contacts
  • GTD: Remember the Milk Pro Account syncing with Todo from Appigo on my iPhone (thanks to Brad Feld for the tip)

What I lost:

  • OTA syncing of my contacts. I now have to sync my contacts with a cable between my iPhone and my Mac. Any additions to my contact database while on-the-go with the netbook will have to be done on my iPhone (if I want to use them while away from my Mac) then sync'd up when I get back to my desk.
  • Push email for my personal mail account. 

What I gained:

  • The ability to send and receive email from my own domain from any modern browser.
  • Access to my contacts in from any modern browser and natively on my Mac.

Those simple changes should allow me to get the most out of this little experiment. I'm sure more of my computing will move into the cloud, at some point.