The Boyce Blog: August 2008

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

I love football, part 2

The football season is finally here! And with that comes the complex time-management task of watching all the important games with a limited number of TVs in the house. My method: keep tabs on the games via the internet, and if a game starts to look interesting, switch over to it on the TV. I use this page on ESPN’s website because it lets you see the scores of all the games, real-time.

I particular like the “GameCast” feature, which gives you a graphic of the field so you can see where the ball is, and a description of the last play. Here’s how it looks:

You can open up a couple of “GameCast” windows and keep an eye on all of them at once. If you have a TV in the same room as your Mac you’re all set-- put one game on the TV, and watch the rest on the internet. When GameCast shows you that someone’s about to score, or that the game’s almost over but still very close, you’ll know about it in time to switch the TV to that game. Sort of the poor man’s “picture in a picture.”

This works for the Pro’s too, of course.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

iPhone, uPhone, we all scream at our iPhones

Especially if we’ve installed the 2.0 software, which you can’t avoid if you bought a 3G iPhone. Basically, the software’s not ready, but we’re using it. And that leads to very bad behavior. I spent most of the weekend with my iPhone connected to my iMac, trying to get it iworking again. And still it’s not right. Let that be a lesson to you.

Meanwhile, I can’t wait for the new iPhone 2.1 software, which supposedly solves all kinds of problems. I’d be happy if it just solves one: the one where one program crashes and from that point forward, NONE of your apps work.

By the way, the backups that the iPhone does during synching aren’t very useful. Don’t think that they will save the day for you. Odds are that they are corrupt in some way. Mine were. So, when I wiped out my iPhone and “started over” I was putting bad stuff back onto the iPhone. Nice.

Drop in on an Apple Store at the end of the day when the Geniuses are tired of trying to solve iPhone problems and you may get one of them to tell you something like “look, it doesn’t work right, we know it, and we want to see the new 2.1 software more than you do.” That’s what they told me tonight. I believe them.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Tip of the Day, August 25th 2008

Here’s one for all the Apple Mail users.

Ever send someone an email with an attachment? Of course you have. Most people write the message, then click the Attach button, then climb around in what some of you call “the dead-end box” (where you’re supposed to somehow track down the thing you want to attach).

Here are two methods that are a lot easier. You start in the Finder, not in Mail. In this example, I have a document I want to email, and I’ve clicked on it ONCE to select it. Here’s a picture, and you can see what I’ve selected.

Now we have two choices. One choice is to click and DRAG the document to the Mail icon in the Dock. When the Mail icon highlights, let go. Presto-- you’ll get a new document, with the attachment attached.

The other choice requires less dragging. Leave the soon-to-be attachment where it is (still highlighted) and go to the Finder menu (next to the Apple menu), slide down to “Services,” choose “Mail” and then “Send File.” It’s really just one move-- takes less effort for you to do it than for me to tell you how.

Believe it or not, I only “discovered” this second method TODAY. That Services menu has been around a few years, but it hasn’t been very useful... at least that’s what I thought. Now I think I am going to take a good look at Services and see whether I can “discover” something else cool.

The key to these methods is you start with the attachment, not with Mail. Try it once or twice and you’ll be a convert.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tip of the Day, August 24th, 2008

Did You Know-- ?

The Preview program that comes with OS X 10.5 can do some pretty spiffy things. In fact, it can do some of the things Photoshop can do, and some of the stuff that Acrobat can do, and a whole bunch of stuff that neither can do. And it’s free.

In Part I of this tip (today’s blog entry) I’ll outline some of the really handy features built into Preview. Part II will explain how to use these features. Email me and tell me which features you want explained first-- this is your chance to influence the blog.
You can use Preview to...
  1. combine two or more PDF documents.
  2. delete one or morepages from a PDF document.
  3. rotate one or all pages in a PDF document.
  4. crop one or more pages in a PDF document.
  5. mark up or otherwise highlight a PDF document.
  6. adjust color/brightness/shadows/etc. in a JPG document.
  7. adjust size and resolution in a JPG document.
  8. save documents as PDF, JPG, GIF, TIFF, PNG... and Photoshop format.
Pretty neat. Try some of these things on your own. If you can’t figure out how to make them work, do what researchers at the Christian Boyce Center for Advanced Macintosh Studies do-- namely, “guess.” In Preview, your guess is likely to be right.

That’s it for now. Vote for the features you want explained. We’ll follow up within a few days.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tip of the Day, August 21st 2008

Ever get a weird error message on your Mac and then try to tell someone (me) about it? The conversation goes like this:

You: “I got a weird error message on my Mac.”
Me: “Oh really. What did it say?”
You: “Something about an error.”
Me: “Right. Can you tell me a little more?”
You: “No, it just said there was an error. What do you suppose it was?”
Me: “Aaargh.”

Today we are going to learn how to take pictures of the screen-- of the whole screen, of parts of the screen, of particular windows. Here goes.
  1. Take a picture of the ENTIRE screen by holding down Command and Shift and 3. If the sound is up on your Mac you’ll hear a camera shutter sound, useful to those of you who have heard a camera with a shutter. The picture will be saved on your desktop with a name like “Picture 1.” From there, do anything you want with it-- open it, print it, email it.
  2. Take a picture of PART of the screen by holding down Command and Shift and 4. You’ll get a cross-hair cursor. Click and drag to highlight part of the screen, then let go. You’ll hear the shutter sound again, and there’ll be an icon with “Picture 1” (or 2, or 10) on the desktop, ready for you to work with.
Bonus: do Command-Shift-4, then press the spacebar. Your cursor will look like a camera! Move it until it is over the window you want to take a picture of, then click the mouse. Presto: a PERFECT picture of that window, edge-to-edge. No trimming required.

Double Bonus: do any of the above but also include the CONTROL key. When you do that, the picture is put onto the Clipboard, ready to be pasted into an email (or anywhere else). It does not save a copy on the desktop.

So... next time you get a weird error message on your screen, do this: Command-Shift-CONTROL-4, then spacebar, then get your cursor over the error message, then click. Write me an email, and paste the picture in.

It sounds complicated but after you’ve done it once or twice it becomes almost automatic. Sort of like breathing.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tip of the Day, August 20th 2008

Assuming you’re using Leopard (Mac OS X 10.5):

One of the very handy features introduced in 10.5 is “QuickLook.” With it, you can VERY quickly pop open a document and see what’s in it, without the delay of launching a program such as Preview or Word. Here’s how you use it.

1. Click ONCE on a document icon in the Finder. Here, I’m clicking on what looks to be a picture.

2. Now, with the icon highlighted, press the spacebar. Yes, the spacebar. Don’t ask me why it’s the spacebar. The document pops open, like so:

Any resemblance to Macintosh Consultants living or dead is a miracle, since this picture is from 1991.

You can stretch things from the lower right corner. You can go full screen with the two-headed arrow. You can add this item to iPhoto via the icon at bottom right. Or you can press the spacebar again and make the thing go back to being an icon. (Or click the x in the circle, top left corner.)

You can even double-click on the preview and open it up for real, if that’s what you want to do.

This works with pictures, word processing documents, email messages, you name it. Even Excel documents. Amazing.

Uncle Steve says "We'll fix it"

I hear that Steve Jobs sent “someone” an email saying he knows about the iPhone problem reported here-- the one where all applications (except the default Apple ones) open for two seconds and then slam shut. He says the problem will be fixed in September, via a Software Update. Yahoo!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

New iPhone Software! Yahoo!

Apple put out iPhone software 2.0.2 last evening. I of course installed it, and I of course am still having problems. If you were hoping (as I was) that everything would be fixed the next time Apple put out new iPhone software, you will be disappointed.

Apple doesn’t say much about this release. All they will tell us is “bug fixes.” That’s nice. They didn’t fix the bugs I care the most about, though. On the other hand, it’s free.

And it’s easy to get. Connect your iPhone to your Mac with the USB cable and when iTunes comes up you can check for updates right there. It took a few hours here-- more than an hour to back up my iPhone, then some more time to put the new software on, then a lot more time after that to put my old stuff back on. And it got stuck restarting-- that went most of the night, until the battery died. So then I had to do the “restore” which took another couple of hours.

Not sure what I got for my 18 hour effort but at least things are no worse than they were before. I think.

If you have an older iPhone I wouldn’t do the update. If you have a newer one I would, because (despite Apple’s secrecy) I think the improvements have to do with the 3G reception, which doesn’t do anything for the older, non-3G models. Just be sure you have plenty of time.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Living in a Modern World

In the olden days, you watched the Olympics on TV and you only got to see what they wanted you to see, when they wanted you to see it. If you were away from the TV you didn’t get to see it. Life was hard.

But NOW, you can watch the Olympics on your computer, and see what YOU want to see, when YOU want to see it. Provided that the event isn’t in the future. All you have to do is click this link. You’ll need the “Silverlight” plug-in from Microsoft, and if you don’t have it, you’ll get the chance to download it for free. Remember to install it after you download it.

I’m watching Poland vs. Germany in women’s team Table Tennis right now (LIVE). Smooth video, and NO ANNOUNCERS! It’s like being there (I think). You can also watch archived stuff, such as the men’s swimming relay race that was so sensational a couple of nights back. So give it a whirl and take advantage of this modern world we live in.

Friday, August 8, 2008

My iPhone Adventure

When YOU have Apple troubles, you call me. When I have Apple troubles, I call... actually, I call me too. At the moment, I am trying to figure out what makes the iPhone crash, and more importantly, how to make it work again. The kinds of crashes I’m talking about are the ones where an application opens part way, then dumps you back at the Home screen, and then NO applications work except for the original ones from Apple.

Here’s what DOESN’T make it work again:
  • Turning it off and on again via the top button (holding down until you see “Slide to turn off,” then sliding, then turning it on again). Problem is still there.
  • Force-restarting (holding the Home button, then pressing the top button until the iPhone restarts by itself). Problem is still there.
  • Deleting the last program you installed. Problem is still there.
  • Installing the 2.0.1 iPhone update doesn’t do it either.
Here’s what DOES make it work again:
  • Restoring via the “Restore” button in iTunes. It works, but it takes HOURS. First it backs up your iPhone, then it re-downloads and reinstalls the latest iPhone software, then it asks you whether you want to put all your stuff back on (and you’d think you’d be putting the problem back on too, but go ahead and do it), and then, when you say yes, you wait another hour or so while it finishes. Not the sort of thing you do between planes in the Phoenix airport. Though I’ve tried.
Research continues on this. It appears that the problem is in the iPhone’s software, not in the applications we add, because with a fresh install of the iPhone’s software the applications work fine. For a while. The question is, what’s causing the corruption?The next question is, how can we recover from corrupt iPhone software in a few minutes instead of a few hours?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Stuff I Like

Here’s something that I really like: anti-glare film from Power Support. The film is exactly the right size for whatever it is you want to cover-- in my case, my iPhone and my MacBook. The glare on my MacBook screen, especially, was a constant irritation-- but not any more! Wow, does this stuff work.

Took me two tries to get the bubbles out on the iPhone’s film but I did the MacBook right the first time. It even feels good to the tapping/sliding finger on the iPhone. I think it’s a little more slippery than the original glass. A bonus.

I wish they had it for the new iMacs but so far, they don’t. Bummer. But that doesn’t make the stuff that they DO have any less good.

You can get Power Support film via Here’s the link.

iPhone software 2.0.1, part 2

The good news: iPhone software 2.0.1 didn’t make anything worse. The bad news: applications still crash the iPhone, and once you’ve crashed with one application you can’t open any of the others- just like before. Turning off the iPhone and turning it back on doesn’t solve the problem- also just like before. I’m working here to figure out what WILL solve the problem. It would appear easier to figure out how to run a car on coffee grounds.

So, go ahead and do the 2.0.1 update, but don’t expect miracles. If I get an answer for the crashing, or for how to run a car on coffee grounds, I will let you know.

Monday, August 4, 2008

iPhone software 2.0.1

It’s here! They say it fixes some bugs. We’ll see.

Do yourself a favor and wait until I’ve tried it and given it a thumbs-up. Look for info here withing 24 hours.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

eBay on the iPhone

If you’re an eBayer, having eBay on your iPhone is about the handiest thing ever. Here’s what it looks like on the iPhone.

Click this link and get it.

Tip of the Day, August 3rd, 2008

Command-Spacebar. That’s it. See you tomorrow.

OK, here’s a little more info. When you press Command-Spacebar, you get a little search box at the top right of your screen. Looks like this:

Type something in, and as you type, Spotlight searches your hard disk(s) for matches. Big deal? Well, yeah, because it searches INSIDE documents in addition to searching document titles. So, if you’re wondering what you gave your nephew for Christmas last year, you can search for his name and find it in a document called “Naughty and Nice 2007.” Good luck finding that document some other way.

Of course you could do this by clicking the Spotlight magnifying glass at the top right of your screen, but Command-Spacebar is faster. By far.

Bonus cool thing: do a Spotlight search, then use arrow keys to run down (or back up) to the matching item you want, and then hit Enter. The item pops right up, whether it’s a Word document, an email, or a calendar item. Now that’s handy.

Try it.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Big Wednesday

Wednesday July 30th, 2008 was’s biggest day ever in terms of “site visits.” We had 50, which means that someone came to the site 50 times. Now, that could be ME going to the site, closing my browser, coming back a little later, etc., 50 times... but it wasn’t. I like to think it was Steve Jobs, Mom, my nephew, and 47 of YOU. So “thanks.”

The Boyce Blog page was the most-requested page on the site, even more than the home page. Which means that people are coming straight to the Blog without going through the home page. Interesting.

Today (actually, Wednesday) 50, tomorrow 100. Tell a friend. Let’s do it.

iPhone Improvement of the Day

The iPhone lets you program the Home button so that a double-click takes you either to the Home screen, to your favorite phone numbers, or to the iPod application. The first choice is simply what a single click does, so that’s not really “a choice” at all. The other two are OK, but wouldn’t it be better if the choices included...
  1. go to SETTINGS (which means I could set the brightness in a hurry)
  2. go to the program you were using before this one
  3. go to the FIRST page of the Home screen
That last choice needs some explanation. “Going to the Home screen” is a bad way to put things, because for almost all of us, the Home screen is really several screens. As it stands, when you press “Home” you go back to the page of the Home screen(s) that you were most recently on. I guess that’s good, but it’s not nearly as good as my idea(s).

Keep your fingers crossed for the iPhone 2.1 software. If it includes ANY of the things I’ve written about here it will be a big improvement.

I Thought I Was Going Nuts

All this week I’ve been showing people my iPhone and how to do cool stuff with the applications that I’ve downloaded. And all this week I’ve had trouble finding the applications. None of them seemed to be where I thought they were. I wasn’t sure, but it seemed to me that they moved overnight. (And that’s a real drag, consdering how hard it is to arrange the apps in an order that I like.)

The first time this happened, I thought “I need more sleep, I’m forgetting where I put things.” The next time it happened (Tuesday) I thought the same thing. Eventually, I started to consider another possiblity: my nightly synching of iPhone and iMac was messing things up.

Show of Hands: if your iPhone applications are moving around, is the correct answer....
  1. They aren’t moving around, you’re just losing your mind
  2. They are moving around, and Apple’s doing it behind your back
How many picked “a”? Frankly, that was my guess too. But last night, I saw my iPhone applications move around with my own eyes. And now I know how it happens.

Let’s say you have an iPhone program on the first screen, and let’s say you have five other screens. You would rightly expect to find those “first screen” programs on the first screen forever, or at least until you moved them yourself. But that’s not how it works! When you get updates for a program on the first screen, and you do it by tapping the “App Store” button (on the iPhone) and then the “Updates” button, the programs that you update go to the last page of you iPhone. The last page! It’s insane. And an outrage.

Given that (a) we can’t sort programs by name or date (or by anything else), and that (b) moving them around is a giant pain, you would think (c) that Apple wouldn’t be moving our apps (and not telling us about it either). But move them around they are-- just another in a growing list of “features” in the iPhone that are very, very non-Apple.