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Thursday, October 29, 2009

iPhone Stocks App Tips

iphone stocks icon
There's this thing called "The Stock Market" where people with extra money place bets on companies, and if things go right they cash out with more than they went in with. It's sort of like betting on the NFL, except it's legal in every state, and harder to handicap, and if you lose you can always wait around and hope that someday things will turn around and you'll end up winning. Anyway, Apple provides an app for Stocks on every iPhone, and this very day I "discovered" a couple of features I didn't know about.

Let's start with the basics: start up the app and you get this screen.
basic stocks screen with dollar deltas

That's pretty simple: you can see, for example, that AAPL (Apple) went up $3.95 today, and GOOG (Google) went up $10.75 today-- a good day for both. But who had the better day, Apple or Google? Well, if you're My Mom the Math Major (MMMM), you can work the percentages out in your head, and you probably already have. For the rest of us, a simple tap on a green button (of course, they might be red-- that's when it's NOT a good day), and you see the day's gain as a percentage, like so:
basic stocks screen with percentage deltas

It was a better day for Apple than for Google, but not by much. They basically rose with the rest of the market.

Tap a green (or red) button again, and you get this strange looking bit of info-- which turns out to be the "Market Capitalization" (or just "market cap"), the product of the share price times the number of outstanding shares. Wow, look at Apple go.
basic stocks screen with market cap

But that's not the half of it.

See that little chart across the bottom? I'm sure you've figured out that you can touch "1d" to show the day's ups and downs, "1w" to show the week's, etc. But did you know you could swipe left (or right) to get to other screens, with more info? Yup, you can. Try it and see. Here's what you get:
basic stocks screen with more info

Swipe again, and you get a list of news article concerning the company. (In a nice touch, the three screens-- chart, info, and news-- go "all the way around" so you can keep swiping in one direction and come back around again to the beginning. Too bad this feature is missing on the iPhone's Home screens.)
basic stocks app with news

Touch one of the stories and you're taken to the full story, in Safari. Here's an example:
a story about Apple

This would have been enough for me to write about, but then I tried rotating the iPhone while in the Stocks app, producing this:
stocks app sideways chart

And THAT would have been enough for me, until for some reason I touched the chart, and then I touched it in two places, giving me THIS.
stocks app with two point comparison

Amazing! Now it's easy to see the stock's performance: how much it went up, what that is as a percentage, and from when to when.

Try dragging your finger along the chart. It's fun, especially if you own Apple stock! Note: if you swipe left or right on this screen you will bring up the chart for your next stock.

Much of this is new since iPhone 3.0, but that's no excuse for only discovering it today! I guess I'll have to spend more time turning the iPhone sideways and touching and tapping everywhere as I search for hidden features I should have known by now.

(Did you learn something here? Click the Share button and tell a friend! Did you know all of this already? Send me an email and tell me.)

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Another Time-Saving Safari Tip

Safari icon
Part 2 of a continuing series, apparently.

Ever come across a word you don't know on a web page? Unless you're my Dad, I'm sure this has happened to you. Assuming that you're not my Dad, when you do find a word you don't know, do you stop what you're doing and reach for the dictionary? I'll bet not. Luckily for the rest of us (the ones who aren't my Dad), Safari offers a shortcut to look up the word using the Mac's dictionary. All you do is hold the Control key and click on the word. You don't even have to select the word first.

Here's what it looks like when you do:
Safari Contextual menu
Slide down to "Look Up in Dictionary" and presto, it's done. (The dictionary came with your Mac, by the way. It's been sitting around, probably unused until now, in your Applications folder.)

Those other options are fun too: Search in Spotlight finds the clicked word in documents on your Mac, Search with Google looks up the word (or, if you've selected more than one word, it searches for that phrase), Copy copies, and Speech says the word out loud (you have to slide over a bit more to make that happen). Here's how it looks when you slide down to Speech:
Safari Contextual Menu with speech

If you've programmed your mouse to have a "Secondary Click" you can use that instead of Control-clicking. Many mice are set up to use a right click, like on a PC, to display the contextual menu, so you might try it yourself. You can change the way the right click works by going to System Preferences and then Mouse. Otherwise, it's Control-click for you, a two-handed move but still a lot faster than reaching for the dictionary.



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Monday, October 26, 2009

Time-Saving Tips for Safari 4


You probably spend a lot of time with Safari. Use these tips and you'll have more time for other things.

Tip #1: Send a web page link via email
You would not believe how many people ask me how to do this. My own mother asked how to do this tonight (sorry, Mom-- I should have shown you this a long time ago!). Here's how simple it is:
  1. Go to the web page in question
  2. Choose File/Mail Link to This Page
Safari File menu
That's it! Your Mac will create an email with the web page's address already in it. All you do is address it and click the Send button. Since you will probably already be on the desired web page this tip boils down to a single step. Can't get simpler-- or faster-- than that.

Tip #2: Open another window
Believe it or not: you can have multiple windows open in Safari. You can have as many as you'd like, and they can all be showing different sites. This can be very efficient, saving you the time you might spend clicking the "Previous" and "Next" buttons and waiting for pages to load.

One way to make a new Safari window: choose "New Window" from the File menu (shortcut: Command-N). Another way to do it: hold the Command key down while you click a link in a web page (super handy when you're clicking links from a Google search). If you don't get a new window, it's because you got a new tab, same idea with less clutter. You can adjust this in Safari's Preferences, under "Tabs." Try checking and unchecking that top checkbox-- its effect will be listed in the dialog box.
Safari Preferences Tabs section
Tip #3: Reduce the time you spend typing web addresses
The odds are that you spend too much time typing each web address into Safari. Here are a couple of ways to reduce the amount of typing that you do, saving you GOBS of time.
  1. Set your home page to something you like. There's no point in having landing on Apple's website every time you launch Safari if all you're going to do is go somewhere else right away. Pick a site you go to a lot and set it as your home page (Safari/Preferences.../General/Set to Current Page).
  2. Don't click at the end of the current URL and then carefully delete all the way back to "http://www." That takes too long. Instead, click on the "favicon" (the little picture just before the "http"), selecting the entire URL-- and then type right over it (no need to hit Delete).
    Favicon icon
    And, when you type, don't bother typing "http://www" and don't bother typing ".com". Safari will put those in for you. In many cases, you can simply type something like "amazon" or "dealnews" or "christianboyce", then hit Return on the keyboard, and you'll go straight to that site. (If that doesn't work, as it won't for most Verizon internet subscribers, add the ".com" (or the ".org" or whatever) before hitting Return.
(These tips are for Safari 4-- if you don't have it, go get it, for free, using this link.)

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Best Free iPhone Dictionary

icon for Dictionary.com iPhone app
You really ought to have a dictionary on your iPhone. You can get this one-- Dictionary.com-- for free, and it's terrific, so what are you waiting for? Click this link and start the download. It's big (35 megabytes, not that it will make much of a dent in your 8 or 16 or 32 gigabyte iPhone), so do it from your computer and sync it into the iPhone. May as well start the download while you read the rest of this review.

(With a name like "Dictionary.com" you might guess that you'd need an internet connection to use this program. Good guess, but wrong. Only the Word of the Day and the audio pronunciations require an internet connection. FYI.)

You know how people are always saying that you can't get something for nothing? Next time they tell you that show them Dictionary.com on your iPhone. Look at what you get for nothing:
  • 275,000 word dictionary
  • 80,000 word thesaurus
  • Audio pronunciation
  • Word of the day
  • Handy list of recently looked-up words
Seems like a lot to me.

Let's look at some pictures. Here's how the program looks when you start it up: very simple and clean. The buttons across the bottom are easy to figure out, and obviously the big box at the top is where you type the word you're looking for.
Dictionary.com main screen

To look up a word, touch either the Dictionary or Thesaurus button, and then enter your word. A list of matching words appears as you type. Here's what it looked like as I typed the first bit of "recession":
Dictionary.com live search

This "live search" is a real time-saver as it means you don't have to completely type out a word. Type just enough for Dictionary.com to display it in the list (which scrolls) and then touch it. It's faster to touch a word in a list than to type it all the way out, especially for the kinds of words you're likely to be looking up in a dictionary.

Here's how it looks after I touched "recession" in the list. The speaker icon does what you think it does: it says the word out loud. Very handy, and a nice use of the technology.
Dictionary.com word looked up in Dictionary

Here's something nice: when you touch the Thesaurus button, it remembers the word you were looking up in the dictionary. So you don't have to type it again. A small thing, but it could have been overlooked. Way to go, Dictionary.com!
Dictionary.com word looked up in Thesaurus

Gee, look at all of those ways to say "recession" without actually saying it. Good to know that there are so many other ways to describe our current economic situation. I like "big trouble" the most.

Touch the Recent button and you see a list of the words you've looked up recently, and how. The blue circles with white chevrons were looked up in the dictionary. The yellow circles with the white chevrons were looked up in the thesaurus. The blue circle with the white "w" means "Word of the Day" (see below). Touch any of the words and of course you will look them up again. Touch the symbols in the circles to "do that" again. Easy and obvious.
Dictionary.com recent words

Finally, here's what happens when you touch the Word of the Day button. Actually, it's only what happens on October 21st, 2009. Your word is going to be different because you're going to be touching the button on a different day. I'm sure you get the idea.
Dictionary.com word of the day

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the Dictionary.com iPhone app. Simple, easy to use, handy, and free-- without ads, other than the entire app being an ad for the very useful www.dictionary.com website. Your download should be finished by now, so plug in that iPhone and sync.


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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New Apple Stuff, Today!

new iMac, new MacBook, new Mini, new Magic Mouse
Actually, some of this stuff isn't really "new." It's more like "revised." But hey.

And most of this stuff wasn't in the stores today, though it will be in about a week. I found that out by visiting a few Apple Stores this afternoon, in search of a Magic Mouse. I'll get one, and when I do, I'll review it here. That looks to be about a week away.)

I couldn't find a new iMac (or a Magic Mouse) anywhere, but I did see the new MacBook at the Apple Store in Santa Monica and there are a few notable differences between this one and the one it replaces:
  • It's shinier
  • It has the no-button multi-touch trackpad, like the MacBook Pros
  • There's no FireWire port at all
  • The bottom has a no-slip texture coating on it (no rubber feet to fall off)
  • 250 GB hard drive vs. 120 in the old one
  • It has a longer-lasting battery
  • Curvier shape (looks more like the MacBook Pros, though still on the plastic-y side)
Here are a few notable similarities between this machine and the one it replaces:
  • Same $999 price
  • Same 13 inch screen (1280 x 800 pixels)
All in all, it's better than the machine it replaces, but not wildly, fantastically better. If you want a new Mac laptop this is the cheapest way to go, and based on the specs it gives the $1199 13-inch MacBook Pro pretty good competition. Unless you can't live with a plastic laptop (or if you need a FireWire port) the new $999 MacBook looks like a better deal by far.

I'll write more about the new iMacs and Mac Minis when I get more information, but in the meantime here are a few nuggets of info:
  • The Magic Mouse looks to be really, really cool. And every new iMac comes with one
  • The Time Capsule, and the Airport, were updated today too (faster, and longer range)
  • The new iMacs can take up to 16 gigs of RAM (4 gigs are standard)
  • The 27-inch iMac is wall-mountable (and it's bigger than any TV my family has ever owned)
  • The new iMacs come standard with a no-numeric-keypad wireless keyboard
  • The new iMacs come with an SD card slot (for your camera card, unless your camera card isn't an SD)

(By The Way: It must be fun to announce a record-setting quarter on Monday, and then put out a whole slew of new products on Tuesday. I wonder what they'll do on Wednesday.)

(It must also be fun to put out a whole bunch of new stuff without any advance notice at all, and without making any big deal about it, as if this is something they do every day at Apple so it's hardly worth mentioning.)

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Anti-Glare Film for the iPhone

Power Support Anti-Glare Film
Power Support Anti-Glare Film is the best $14.95 you can spend on your iPhone. It does a great job of cutting glare, it protects your iPhone's screen, it cuts down on fingerprints, and it feels great as you tap and drag. You ought to get some. They come two to a package so find a friend and split the cost. Here's an Amazon link to the Power Support Anti-Glare Film Set for iPhone 3G/3GS, and here's a link to the Power Support Anti-Glare Film Set for the original iPhone. Get the right one: the sizes are just slightly different.

I wrote about Power Support's anti-glare film in August of 2008, when I was using it on my original iPhone, and I loved it then. When the iPhone 3GS came out I thought I'd give the 3GS' new "oleophobic" screen a try without using the film, with bad news/good news results. The bad news was the iPhone 3GS' screen picked up fingerprints like crazy. The good news was they were easy to wipe off, on (for example) a pants leg. The other bad news was the glare on the screen was distracting, and the other other bad news was the screen wasn't protected from scratching. All that, and it didn't feel nice to drag my finger across it.

Today, after being every-so-slightly irritated with glare and smudges every time I used my 3GS, I finally applied the Power Support Anti-Glare Film. It's fabulous, better than I remembered, and I am kicking myself for not doing this sooner. No glare, smudges are a thing of the past, it feels great under my finger, and there's at least some protection against a scratched screen. Worth the $14.95, and more.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Boyce in the Wilderness

Fifteen months and 120 blog entries ago I started writing The Boyce Blog. One of the reasons I did it was to experiment with the blogging concept, in particular how a single person's writings-- a voice in the wilderness-- would be discovered out on the web. How long would it take? Who would the readers be? Would they come back for more? We've figured that out, and more. Now we want to see how things go if I come right out and ask. So here goes.

First, if you find The Boyce Blog interesting, informative, fun to read, or anything else positive, would you please use the "Share" button and tell a friend? You can "Share" this site via email, Facebook, Twitter, and a whole lot of other ways. Start by either mousing over or clicking the button.

Bookmark and Share

Second, if you're using Twitter, and you'd like to know when new Boyce Blog entries are posted, it would make great sense to follow me on Twitter. We offer discounts and extra timely tips via Twitter, more than just the Blog, so it's in your best interest to sign up. It's free, and it's fun. Start with this link.

Finally, if you're an Amazon customer, you might be interested in knowing that Amazon purchases originating on this site provide support to The Boyce Blog, at no cost at all to you. Just start your Amazon shopping by either searching in the box below or by clicking anywhere on it and Amazon will know you came from here. It all adds up and we appreciate your support.



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Thursday, October 8, 2009

iPhone 3.1.2 Update

3.1 iPhone software logo
Apple released updated iPhone software, version 3.1.2, this very afternoon. The previous version was 3.1 and no I don't know what happened to 3.1.1. This update takes a lot less time than the 3.1 version and it is supposed to help the iPhone to wake up from sleep more reliably, to connect to the AT&T cellular network more reliably, and to show video without crashing more reliably. I never saw any of those problems but I guess someone did, and the new software is here to fix it.

Assuming you want the update, which is free, all you do is connect your iPhone to your computer with the USB cable, wait for iTunes to launch, click on your iPhone in the left-hand side of iTunes, and then "Check for Update." It's a big button-- you can't miss it-- and it looks like this:

check for update button

Click it, follow the directions, and you're all set. You will be asked at the end whether you want to update your carrier settings, and you do.

The whole process took about half an hour for me, and my iPhone seems to work at least as well with this update as it did without, so I say go ahead and do it.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Make the Web More Readable

readability logo
Don't you hate it when you're trying to read a story on a web page, and everything else on that page is trying to distract you? "Click here!" they say. "No, here!" "And here!" It's enough to drive you bonkers.

Here's an example, taken from tonight's USAToday.com. More than half of the page is a distraction.
usatoday.com screenshot

It would be nice if there was a way to hide everything that wasn't the story. Turns out there's a way, and it's called "Readability." And it's free.

Here's that same USAToday.com page, after the Readability treatment:
after readability treatment
Quite a bit nicer. And all it took was a click.

There's some one-time setting up to do, but it's only a couple of steps, and from then on it takes just a click to magically transform a messy web page into a readable form. You don't have to go through the setup for every site-- you do it once and then it just works, for any site. Setup takes only a couple of minutes, and here's how you do it.

First, go to the Readability page on the Arc90 website. Here's what it looks like.

Once there, follow the two-step instructions. You'll end up with a customized "bookmarklet" on your web browser's bookmarks bar (it will look like a regular bookmark). Now you're ready to modify a web page.

Just for fun, let's test with the same site I showed above (click the link). That brings up the cluttered, distracting page. Now click your "Readability" bookmarklet, on the bookmarks bar. Presto, change-o! The site changes to the "readable" version. Pretty darned neat.

Most of the time it works like magic. Sometimes it doesn't, and I guess that's why Arc90 calls Readability "an experiment." When it doesn't work, or when you just want to go back to the way things were before the Readability treatment, you can click a button at the top left of the converted page to reload the original page. There's no harm in trying as you're only converting your own local copy of the page, so why not give it a whirl? I use Readability all the time and once you try it I think you'll like it.

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

How to Eject a Stuck Disc


(above: international "eject" symbol, at the top right of a keyboard near you)

One of these days a CD or a DVD is going to get stuck inside your Mac. That's a total drag, but it's easy enough to get it out. Try these moves before you bring it to the Apple Store:

  1. Press the Eject key and keep it down a little longer than usual. No?
  2. Restart your Mac, and right after you hear the chimes hold down the mouse button. No mouse button? Hold the clicker on the trackpad. No clicker, because you have some new-fangled multi-touch trackpad? Press and hold where you would normally press for a click. Keep it pressed until the disk comes out.
  3. Restart your Mac, and right after you hear the chimes hold down the Eject key until the disk comes out.

If the disk is still stuck send me an email and we'll figure out what to do next.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

NFL Prime Time iCal calendar

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

I wanted an iCal calendar of the prime-time NFL games (Monday Night Football, the Sunday night game, the occasional Thursday night game) but I couldn't find one online. I did find the entire NFL schedule, but that was way more than I wanted. Solution: I imported the entire NFL schedule, then wrote an AppleScript to remove every game whose starting time was before 4 PM. Simple. Here's the script, for educational purposes...

-- By Christian Boyce, macman@christianboyce.com

tell application "iCal"
set the_games to every event in calendar "NFL"
repeat with i from 1 to (count of the_games)
set the_start_date to start date of item i of the_games
set the_day to word 1 of (the_start_date as string)
set the_hour to character 1 of time string of the_start_date as string
--
if the_hour is not greater than 3 then
set the_event_id to uid of item i of the_games
delete event id the_event_id of calendar "NFL"
end if
--
end repeat
end tell

and here's the NFL Prime Time calendar, ready for you to click on and import.

Note: you will get the chance to put this calendar's events into one of your existing iCal calendars. That's probably not a good idea. Choose the "New Calendar" option when asked and I think you'll be happier.

Thanks to http://www.southendzone.com/ for the entire NFL schedule in iCal form.

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