I'm Christian Boyce, a Mac, iPhone, and iPad consultant.
I have just one goal for my blog: to make it

The best site for Mac, iPhone, and iPad tips, period.


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Tip of the Day, July 30th, 2008

See that row of keys across the top of your keyboard? The row you never use? How about making those keys do something useful, like opening your mail program, or Safari, or (yuck) Microsoft Word? Here’s how you do it using a FREE program called “Spark.”

Step One: go to versiontracker.com and download Spark. Here’s the link.
Step Two: double-click the download from Step One, and if things go right you’ll see something called Spark on your desktop. It will look like this:



Open that, revealing this. That’s the Spark application. Drag it to your Applications folder.
Step Three: open up the Applications folder and open up Spark. You’ll see something like this (without the shortcuts yet):


Step Four: click the little gear at top left, hold it down, and slide down to “Application.” Now you get another box:

All you need to do is fill in the box. Click where it says “click to edit” and then press the “trigger” key. Click where it says “Choose...” and choose a program to open. “Calculator” is a nice one-- why not make Calculator be F5? Try it-- there’s really nothing like getting your hands a little dirty.

From that point on, your key will work-- forever, for free. Pretty neat.

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Tip of the Day, July 29th, 2008

Supposing you wanted to put your Mac to sleep. Or to shut it down. Or maybe restart it. Do it the way the cool kids do: press the Eject button (top row of keys, a triangle with a line under it) while also holding pressing Control (either one of the Control keys). You get a box asking “Are you sure you want to shut down your computer now?”

If that’s what you want, hit Enter on your keyboard, and voila, the computer shuts down. If you want to put it to sleep, you can click the Sleep button... or just type “s.” Want to restart instead? Type “r.”



If you change your mind about shutting down/sleeping/restarting you can click the Cancel button... or, better yet, press the “Esc” key. Pretty darned neat. Once you get the hang of it, you can do Control-Eject and then Enter lickety split, faster than anyone can choose “Shut Down” with the mouse.

I “discovered” this tip accidentally. I was trying to eject a CD, and when I pressed Eject I got the “Are you sure you want to shut down your computer now?” box. I was surprised to see that box, so I cancelled and tried again-- with the same result! I kept pressing Eject and I kept getting the box asking me whether I really wanted to shut down. I was mystified. Mystified, that is, until I realized that Charlie the Cat, who I thought was sitting beside the keyboard, was really sitting on it-- more precisely, on the Control key, way off at the bottom left corner of the keyboard. When Charlie moved, the Eject key did what it used to do (Eject things). And that’s when I figured it out.

Anyhow, Charlie the Cat gets credit for this one. She’s not much of a typist so this is really a team effort.

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Groovy new search engine

There’s a new search engine-- www.cuil.com. It’s really cool. In fact, that’s how you pronounce it. Give it a whirl.

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And Another Thing

Speaking of making big improvements to the iPhone via some VERY simple changes: wouldn’t it be cool if you could scroll past the last page of your iPhone apps, and have it wrap around to the beginning? Currently, going from page 1 to page 7 takes six swipes to the left, and from page 7 to page 1 take six swipes to the right. If you could “wrap around” you’d be able to do either in ONE swipe.

Probably too late to get a patent on the “wrap around” idea but when you see it on your iPhone just remember you heard it here first.

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If I Were King

Why can’t I be in charge for just a few minutes? I know everything would be better for everyone. Here’s what I’d do to improve the iPhone (and I’ll bet it could be done in a day):

1. Provide the OPTION to sort applications by name. Or by date downloaded. A to Z, or Z to A, newest in front, or newest in back. User’s choice.

2. Provide an EASIER way to access the settings. On my iPhone, the settings are on page 1. So, if I’m using a program on page 7, as I was last night, and while I’m using that program I decide to adjust the brightness of the screen, the process goes like this:
  1. Press the Home button
  2. Swipe right (moving one page closer to the front)
  3. Swipe right again (another page closer)
  4. Swipe right again (another page closer)
  5. Swipe right again (another page closer)
  6. Swipe right again (another page closer)
  7. Swipe right again (another page closer)
  8. Tap Settings
  9. Tap Brightness
  10. Slide to adjust the brightness
  11. Press the Home button
  12. Swipe LEFT (trying to get back to where I was)
  13. Swipe left (getting closer)
  14. Swipe left (getting closer)
  15. Swipe left (getting closer)
  16. Swipe left (getting closer)
  17. Swipe left (getting closer)
  18. Tap the program I was using
XVIII steps! That’s about XV too many. By the time I’ve done all that, I’ve forgotten what I was doing. At least I got the brightness adjusted. You can bet I don’t do it very often.

3. Provide a QUICK way to get back to recently-used programs. That would help with the problem in #2 above. Scrolling through multiple pages, back and forth, gets old the first day.

4. Provide a QUICK way to move a program from page 7 to page 1. When everything was on one screen, as it was when the iPhone first came out, dragging an icon to place was easy. When you have to jump past six or seven pages to get where you’re going, it’s not easy at all. I end up doing the old “15 puzzle” trick, where you stash something down in the bottom of the screen and then pick it up later from another page.

The iPhone interface is only a year old but it’s creaking already. It worked at first, but in the new “App Store” world it needs some changes. If you happen to talk with Steve Jobs, mention this post. Thank you.

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Tip of the Day, July 26th, 2008

I would imagine that you have a few icons on your desktop. Maybe more than a few. Maybe a lot. Turns out that “a lot” is bad. The problem is that the Finder (which displays the icons) is not very good at dealing with a large number of icons at once. The effect is your machine slows down, just a little, for every icon on the desktop. Incredible, but true. So, if you want your machine to be fast again, reduce the number of items on your desktop. It’s OK to put a couple of folders onto your desktop, and to toss zillions of items into those folders, because when the Finder looks at the desktop it will only “see” the folders (not what’s inside).

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iPhone Stuff I Like

If you have an iPhone, even an old one, you surely know that (as of July 11th) there are gobs of new programs that you can add to an iPhone to make it do cool stuff. Being a “cool stuff” person, and also a “I would rather not pay for something if I don’t have to” person, I have tried just about every FREE iPhone application, and I’m here to tell you what I like. So here we go. Remember, they’re all FREE.

Remote
Lets you drive your iTunes library through the air, using your iPhone. Which means you can change songs, adjust volume, or just plain turn it off, all from your iPhone. You’ll need an Airport network, and it’s most effective when the music is being piped from your computer to a set of speakers far from the computer (otherwise, you’d just adjust things on the computer, right?).

AIM (AOL Instant Messenger)
It has your buddy list and everything, just like iChat. And it doesn’t count against your SMS limit, if you have one. Don’t know what an SMS limit is? Send me an email and I’ll tell you.

Cube Runner
It’s a game, of all things. A game where you fly around through a world of cubes. You try to avoid smashing into the cubes, and you do it by tipping the iPhone this way and that. Amazingly fun.

Movies.app
Specify a zip code and they’ll tell you which movies are playing, and where, and when. You can even buy tickets. Just what you need, assuming you need to go to the movies.

Shazam
Hold your iPhone up to the radio and Shazam tells you the name of the song, and the artist. A couple of taps later you’re buying the song from iTunes. Incredible.

Urbanspoon
Helps you pick a restaurant. Like a slot machine, with one wheel being cities, one wheel being the kind of food, and one wheel being how much money you want to spend. Shake the iPhone to spin the wheels. When the wheels stop you’ll see a restaurant name, and when you tap the name you’ll get reviews and a map. Neat.

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Blogging His Way to Millions

I’ve been hearing (from everyone) that the guy who runs Mac Rumors has quit his doctoring job and is now supporting himself via his daily blogging. Incredible. The key, of course, is traffic-- you need to have lots of people coming to your site so you can get advertisers interested in paying you to display their ads. The more traffic you get, the more money you get. Pretty simple equation.

We don’t have a lot of traffic. Not yet. But we can dream. Tell a friend to check out the Boyce Blog. Who knows, one day you may be saying “I knew him when.”

In the meantime, our advertising rates are going to be “among the most competive in their class.” Whatever that means.

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Hickory Dickory Dock

Apple loves the Dock. Actually, I think Steve Jobs loves the Dock. That’s one way that you can tell us apart: Steve loves the Dock. Plus, he’s a billionaire.

Love it or not, we’re stuck with the Dock. So here’s how to make the best of it. Start by opening up the Dock’s preferences (Apple menu/Dock/Dock Preferences...), and then...


  1. Turn OFF magnification. That will keep the Dock’s items from squirming around when you point at them
  2. Turn OFF “Automatically hide and show the Dock.” It’s easier to hit a target when you can see it. Plus, when your friendly neighborhood computer consultant comes over (ahem) he won’t have to mouse around the perimeter of your screen like a fool, trying to make the Dock appear.
  3. Position the Dock on the RIGHT. You ALWAYS have room to the right, and you ALWAYS run out of room at the bottom. So use what you have an excess of. (Positioning on the LEFT seems like a good idea until a window opens up and to the left... under the Dock... leaving you unable to click the close box.)
  4. Set the Size to LARGE. The Dock will adjust the icons to make them fit. Why squint if you don’t have to?

Special Note to Friends of CBoyce (“FoCB”): it’s OK with me if you do things your own way as long as you try it my way first.

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More iPhone stuff

I hate to say that I’m disappointed in the new iPhone, but I’m disappointed in the new iPhone. And in the new 2.0 software. The new phone just isn’t very much better than the old one. If you don’t have an iPhone at all, I say go get one. But if you have one of the original models, I say don’t bother with the new one.

My original-model iPhone, with the 2.0 software, locks up at least once each day. It never used to. And, the synching takes forever, and when you delete something from the iPhone it mysteriously reappears when you sync, AND when you get a notification on the iPhone that there are software updates, iTunes won’t know anything about it.

This is a GREAT time to be sitting on the sidelines watching it all play out. I am sure that in a few weeks all will be well, but I can tell you that it ain’t well now. Listen to the Voice of Experience.

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Shortcut of the day, July 16th, 2008

You can do a Google search without going to Google first. In Safari, look for the search area at the top right of the screen.

Type in what you’re looking for, hit Enter (or Return) on the keyboard, and there you are, a page full of search results. Sure, you can go to www.google.com and do the search there, but why bother?

Bonus Tip: there’s a tiny triangle pointing down at the far left of Safari’s search area. Click it and you’ll see the last ten things you searched for. Choose something from that list and you’ll do the search again. There’s also a “Clear Recent Searches...” option, in case you want to cover your tracks.

Double-Bonus Tip: try holding the Control key down and clicking on ANY word on a web page. A little menu appears, and one of the options is “Search in Google.” Which means that you can do a Google search without typing anything! Incredible.

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iPhone 3G

I don’t have one yet. Based on what I’ve read, I don’t really need one. The 3G network is nicely fast, when you can get it to work. I’ve read about a lot of people being surprised (disappointed) that 3G doesn’t seem to be in effect in their area even though AT&T’s map says it is. I don’t need that.

I know it’s “only” $200, but I’d still have to go to the store to get it, AND the service plan costs more ($10 more) per month. If I didn’t have an iPhone already I’d run out and get the 3G right now. But since I already have one... I’m in no hurry. The old one, once upgraded to the 2.0 software, is just as capable.

Advice: watch for used first-edition iPhones on eBay etc. I would guess that you could get one for $100.

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iPhone 2.0 software

Well, it’s here: the new 2.0 software for the iPhone. It comes installed on the new iPhone 3G, but it can be downloaded for free and installed on ANY iPhone. So I did it. You should too.

You get a couple of improvements:

1. It’s easier to delete a bunch of emails now.
2. Your iPhone now synchronizes through the air, so when you make a change to your iCal or Address Book it shows up on your iPhone without you having to connect with a cord
3. You get access to the new Apple iPhone Application Store, available through iTunes. Which means you can add programs to your iPhone without having to hack it.

My favorite free applications: a reader for the New York Times, and the Mobile News reader (which can be customized to show news stories for your favorite locations). I also like the talking Spanish-English phrase book from lastminute.com, and AOL’s AIM (instant messenger) which knows your buddy list and saves you money because the text messages you send do not count as “SMS” messages, which you pay for through AT&T.

Would you believe that there is still no copy and paste, that it still takes three taps to get to the brightness adjustment (and then two more, at least, to get back to where you were), and that there’s no voice-dialing? Not good. But what you get, you get for free, so I say get it.

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If I were you

I would never let my Mac sleep. Let the screen go black but keep the machine up and alive. Waking up from sleep has been a problem for Apple over the years-- sometimes machines won’t wake up at all, sometimes their keyboards/mice/printers won’t work, sometimes other problems. If you are connected to another machine (file sharing, or maybe a remote database) going to sleep will drop the connection, causing inconvenience at the least and maybe even data loss.

So do it my way. Go to the Energy Saver Preference Pane (Apple menu, System Preferences, Energy Saver)

and tell it you NEVER want the computer to sleep. Do what you want with the SCREEN sleeping (this will turn the screen black-- in between, you’ll see the Screen SAVER, which is a different affair altogether), but DON’T set screen sleeping to Never. You don’t want the screen to show the same picture forever because it’s hard on the screen.

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Shortcut of the day, July 10th, 2008

Press the space bar to scroll down in Safari. Hold Shift and press the space bar to scroll up.

This also works in Firefox.

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I love football, part 1 (of hundreds)

UPDATE: click here for the 2011 NFL Prime Time calendar in iCal format.

I love football, and I especially like the “glamour” games on Monday Night, Sunday Night, and now Thursday Night. I thought it would be handy to have the NFL Prime Time schedule in my iPhone’s calendar, so I got the info from NFL.com and massaged it into an iCal calendar (which then uploads to my iPhone when I sync). You can have the calendar without doing the work: just click the link below.

webcal://ical.mac.com/christianboyce/NFL%20Primetime%202008.ics

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iPhone 3G musings

You probably know that Apple is coming out with a new iPhone, the “iPhone 3G,” this Friday. It looks like the original iPhone. It’s actually a little thicker. It costs less to buy, but the service costs more. What’s a guy with an original iPhone to do?

Here’s what I’m going to do.

1. Download the FREE iPhone 2.0 software update on Friday July 10th. That will give my “old” iPhone new capabilities, and I’d tell you all about them here except that I don’t know what they are. Wait until Friday.

2. Fool around with the old iPhone and the new software. Maybe buy some stuff from Apple’s new “iPhone App” store, online, available via iTunes.

3. Wait for the lines to go away at the Apple store, then get the iPhone 3G.

4. Give “old” iPhone to newphew Spencer, assuming I can squeeze a few buckos out of his parents. The thing cost me $599, remember.

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Shortcut of the day, July 6th, 2008

Hit the Escape key (esc, at top left of keyboard) instead of mousing to and clicking on the “Cancel” button in any dialog box. Bonus Shortcut: Enter (or Return) almost always clicks the default button (the one with the heavier border) in a dialog box. Double-Bonus Shortcut: Command-D almost always clicks the “Don’t Save” button.

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Shortcut of the day, July 4th 2008

Command-click links in Safari to open them in new tabs. Here’s a link to practice with. Command-click it, and look near the top of your Safari window. You’ll see two “tabs” and you can click back and forth between them. Neater and cleaner than opening separate windows.

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Look at me, I'm blogging

I think, therefore I blog.

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