The Boyce Blog: March 2010

Find it on Amazon.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Nice iPad Video reviewed the iPad and produced this very nice video that tells you all about it. Yes, the narrator speaks too rapidly, but you're in control-- put your mouse over the video and pause it if you need to (I did). Or grab the time (above the little stripe showing how much you've watched) and drag it back to the left to make the guy back up (I did that too).

PCMag: Apple iPad video review from Reviews on Vimeo.

First iPad Review(s)

David Pogue reviewed the iPad. Actually, he reviewed it twice. Worth a quick read.

Monday, March 29, 2010

iPad Video Tutorials

You may not have heard but Apple has something new called the iPad and it's coming out April 3rd (this Saturday). They've made some sales tools, I mean instructional videos, and you can watch them via this link. Warning: the videos are very well done and you may find yourself ordering an iPad after watching them.

Kids, take note: look at the hands in these iPad videos. Take care of your nails and you too could be an Apple "hand model." It beats working. Trust me.

Option Key tip #7: Option-Click

Ever click a link in Safari, hoping to download a PDF, and instead of downloading it opens up in the browser (or worse, in Acrobat)? That's a drag. Try it fifty times and fifty times it's the same-- you don't get a copy of your own.

Unless, of course, you hold the Option key when you click.

Here's a great example (he said modestly). Suppose you're looking for tax forms on the IRS website.

You find the form you want, and now you want to get a copy and save it to your hard disk. Without the Option key, when you click the Form 1040 link you see the form, but you don't have the form. Here's what it looks like in your browser:

Nice to look at, but it's not "yours." Try it again, but this time hold the Option key when you click the link. Presto!The file is downloaded to your Downloads folder, or to your Desktop, or wherever it is your downloads go. From there it's just another PDF, something you can double-click and open.

BONUS: Actually, you can do more than double-click and open it. You can fill it in! Try clicking on the 1040 form and typing. It works. And since it's "your" copy of the 1040, you can save it for later. Nice.

BONUS 2: If you can't find the file, and you're using Safari, go to the Window menu and choose "Downloads" (if you're using Firefox you'll find Downloads in the Tools menu. It works about the same way.). Safari's Downloads window will look something like this:

Double-click the 1040's icon to open it, or click once on the magnifying glass to reveal it in the Finder. You're on your own from there.

And that's seven.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Please please please backup your Macs

Another hard drive bit the dust this week. This one was in a three year old MacBook. Fortunately, the machine had been backed up regularly using Time Machine. When the hard drive died we replaced it with a new one, started up from a Snow Leopard DVD, connected the backup drive, and copied everything from the backup to the new drive. It took about an hour to get the old drive out, the new drive in, and to set up the transfer from the backup, and another hour to actually do the transfer (giving us the opportunity to go for pastrami sandwiches). Without the backup we would have had to send the drive out for data recovery, leading to a big bill and several days of being without the machine. With the backup, it was no big deal.

I hope you're getting the message: hard drives eventually wear out. If yours hasn't yet, consider yourself lucky, but get an external disk and back your stuff up anyway. If you have questions about how to do it click this link and read all about it. If you're still stuck send me an email.

iTunes App Store Wish List

All of a sudden, the iTunes App Store has a "wish list" feature. Didn't used to, and it made shopping for apps a little harder than it had to be because you had to write down the names of apps that you thought you might want to go back to. Now (as of a week or so ago) it's all built in. Here's how it works:
  1. Start iTunes and go to the "iTunes Store" section
  2. Find an app that you want to add to your Wish List"
  3. Click the little triangle to the right of "Buy this App" (or on free apps, to the right of "Free App"), revealing a menu
  4. Choose "Add to Wish List" as shown in the picture below.

Note: if you add a free app to your Wish List you'll get this message:

They're probably right-- it's free now, but might not be when you decide to buy it. Just download the thing now and decide later whether you want it.

To see the items in your Wish List you go to the far RIGHT side of the iTunes window, click the tiny arrow to the right of your AppleID, and then choose "Wish List." Easy. Here's what it looks like, with the Magic Finger showing you where to click.

When the Wish List comes up it will look something like the picture below. And no, these aren't really things I want. They are just here to help you get the idea. If you really want to buy me something make it something involving coffee, chocolate, and whipped cream.

Neat stuff, and I think I will be using this quite a bit to help me remember various apps that I want to compare. Thanks, Apple. Very nice of you.

Option Key tip #6: Option-Drag

The Option Key Tip-a-Palooza continues with one of the handiest tips ever, namely the Option-drag technique. Basically, it comes down to this: when you drag things around they move, right? Right. Except if you hold the Option key! If you hold the Option key when you drag stuff you'll make copies.

Here's an example, using iCal.

Suppose you have an appointment on Tuesday, like so (light week):

Let's say you have such a great time eating ice cream on Tuesday that you want to do it again on Wednesday. If you drag that appointment to Wednesday it moves to Wednesday, and it's gone from Tuesday. Looks like this when you're done.

If what you really wanted to do is eat ice cream on Tuesday AND Wednesday you can do it-- just hold the Option key down while you drag! Here's what it looks like as you do it.

And here's what it looks like when you let go. I'm hungry.

This is much, much easier than entering an event twice. Or even copying and pasting. And it works in a lot more programs than just iCal, including...

The Finder (Option-drag to duplicate a file or folder)
Microsoft Word (highlight some text, Option-drag to insert that text somewhere else)
Microsoft Excel (highlight some cells, Option-drag (grab the EDGE of the selection) to copy those cells elsewhere. Great for headings!)

That's six.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Few of my Favorite Apps

No, I'm not finished with the Option key Tip-a-Palooza. I just thought this iPhone appsfire thing was too cool not to share. You can find some neat apps by clicking here and going to the website. Or you can just do everything exactly the way I do it and make your iPhone just like mine.

Yes, those apps are on MY iPhone. I have many others but these are some of my favorites. Click anywhere on the picture to go to a larger view, where you can click on the individual apps and try them or buy them. Eight of these apps are free, by the way.

Here's John Coltrane performing "My Favorite Things." Enjoy.

Option Key tip #5: Rotate the Other Way

You took this photo...

and now you want to rotate it so the label is readable, right-side up.. If you're using iPhoto, the Rotate Button looks like this:

If you click that button three times the picture rotates, in 90 degree steps, to the proper position. Yay. But, if you press the Option key, the Rotate Button changes to rotate the other way, so you can turn your sausage right-side-up in a single "Option-click."

It doesn't sound like such a big deal to save two clicks, but all those clicks add up. Ask someone with carpal tunnel syndrome.

This "Option-click" technique works in iPhoto, Preview, iWeb, and probably a bunch of others. It is worth experimenting. The nice thing is, the button's picture changes to show it's going to rotate things the other way when you hold Option.

Here's the properly-rotated picture, done with a single Option-click. Tasty stuff.

And that's five.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Option Key tip #4: Address Book Groups

You probably know that Apple's Address Book lets you create "Groups" of people, and you might also know that a given person can be in multiple groups. For example, you might have a Family group, a Soccer Team group, and a Christmas Card group, and your brother might be in all three of them. That's pretty neat, but unless you have an incredible memory there's no way you're going to remember which groups your brother is in. And there's no indication in the Address Book that a given person is in any group at all, let alone an indication of which one(s).

Unless of course you hold down the Option key. Of course.

In the picture below I've found a person's card, clicked on it in the "Name" column, and then held down the Option key. That produces the yellow highlighting, letting me know in an instant that Mom is in the "Mass email list" group, the "test group" group, and the "California" group. Let's face it, that's pretty cool.

And that's four.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Option Key tip #3: Close All Finder Windows

Our Option Key Super-Tip marathon continues with Tip #3.

Here's the situation: you have a mess of Finder windows open, like so--

Now you want to close them. So you either go to the File menu and choose "Close Window" or you click the red button at the top left of the first window... and then you do it again... and again... zzz.

If you really want to close them all hold the Option key when you go to the File menu and you can do it in one shot. See below.

(on the left: the regular File menu. On the right: how it looks when you hold the Option key.)

Bonus: if you hold the Option key and click ANY Finder window's red close button you will close ALL Finder windows. Very nice.
Double Bonus: this Option key technique works isn't specific to the Finder. It also works in Safari, Mail, Microsoft Word (but only if you use the Option-click-the-red-button method-- the Option-click-File/Close method does not work), and Microsoft Excel (same restriction as for Word).

That's three.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Option Key tip #2: Battery Menu

If you hold the Option key down before you click on the battery icon (10.6 laptop users only) you will see "Condition: Normal" (I hope) or "Replace Now" or "Replace Soon" or "Service Battery." And, if you actually do choose that "Condition: " menu item you'll get a Help screen that gives you some explanation. Pretty neat.

That's two.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Option Key tip #1: Airport Menu

You really ought to get to know the Option key on your keyboard. It helps you do all sorts of neat stuff. I am going to write Option key tips until I can't think of any more, or until enough people ask me to stop. Anyhoo, here's Option Key tip #1.

If you are using Mac OS X 10.6, and you make use of Apple's fabulous "Airport" wireless networking, you can learn a lot of things by holding down the Option key and clicking on the Airport menu. Here's a picture of the Airport menu. It's up by the clock, at the top right of your screen.

(double-size... blurry, but easier to see)

Normally, when you click on the Airport menu it shows you the available networks. With the Option key, and Mac OS X 10.6, you get that, but you also get a lot more. Looky here (Blue Pointing Finger added for emphasis-- you will probably not see a Blue Pointing Finger on your menu):

All of that mumbo-jumbo would help someone (someone like me) figure out why you might be having problems with your internet. Some of the more interesting info:
  1. This Mac is connected to the Airport Base Station (or other wireless access point) via 802.11n. It doesn't get better than that. 802.11g is also common, but not as good. If yours shows "n" be happy.
  2. The Transmit Rate will either be 130 Mbps (for newer Apple Airports, and other wireless access points with "n") or 54 Mbps (for older Apple Airports, with 802.11g). If it's NOT 130 or 54 you probably have a problem either with your Mac's Airport card or with your Airport Base Station. I saw this just the other day-- a customer's Transmit Rate was bouncing all over the place, between 2 Mbps and 20 Mbps, lousy either way. Another Mac in the same room showed 130. Conclusion: hardware problem with Mac #1, and a trip to the shop to replace the Airport card.

Try holding down the Option key and clicking on YOUR Airport menu. Mom, this won't work for you-- your system is only 10.4. Sorry.

UPDATE: you can get some of this info on 10.5 Macs too. Worth a try.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Time Machine to the Rescue

One of the best features of Mac OS X 10.5 (and 10.6) is Time Machine. It's automatic backup software, built into the system, and it works really well. It's easy to set up, and you can forget all about it after that-- until the day you need it. You'll be very, VERY happy to remember it that day.

Hard drives aren't made to last forever. One of my customers found that out last week, when her iMac's hard drive simply stopped turning. The machine was only two years old! Replacing the hard drive was the easy part-- but, as my customer said, "What about all of my stuff?" Luckily-- or, really, good on us for thinking of this a long time ago-- we'd been backing up the iMac with Time Machine, and we were able to restore all of her stuff to the new drive. Years of email, thousands of photos of grandkids, a big address book, a full calendar-- all restored in a few hours and with minimal fuss. No one likes having her Mac break down but getting everything back feels pretty good.

If your Mac is on 10.5 or higher, and you want to start using Time Machine, you'll need to get a big external hard disk to store the backed-up data. You'll want something much larger than the drive you're backing up, because Time Machine keeps multiple backups of your stuff (multiple versions, from multiple days) and more hard disk space equates to more days of backups. Here's a link to a nice drive from Seagate, makers of the best drives around. This one's 1.5 terabytes, which is about 1500 gigabytes, available from Amazon for about $120.

Here's a picture.

So, you get the drive, you plug it in, you get a message asking whether you want to use the drive with Time Machine, you click the Yes button, and that's it. Easy. Depending on how the disk is formatted you may have to reformat it for use with Time Machine but that's not a hard thing to do. If you need a hand with that I know a guy but I think you can do it yourself.

Apple has a very nice article about Time Machine via this link. Worth a peek.

(Note: besides helping you recover from a major hardware meltdown, Time Machine is also great for when you need to get an older copy of a single file-- maybe the current one's become damaged, maybe someone threw it away, who knows. Time Machine has rescued me more than once, mostly helping me bring back trashed files that I didn't think I'd ever need again. It's quite the little safety net.)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Nice Deal on 1Password touch

You can get 1Password touch for your iPhone or iPod Touch for free right now. It's usually $4.99. Go get it while it's free. You can figure out whether you want it or not later. I think you want it. Here's the link. And here's a video that shows how it works.

In a nutshell, 1Password (both the iPhone version and the Mac version) stores login information for websites. It does more than that (one feature that I like: password-protected notes, where you can store things like the combination to a padlock or your secret cheesecake recipe.) It's easy to use, and it's not too hard to keep your iPhone and your Mac in sync, which means you can store a password for a website using your Mac, and then retrieve that password using your iPhone later. I did this exact thing last week, when paying my truck's registration fees in person. Turns out I forgot my proof of insurance papers, so I pulled out my iPhone to log into my insurance company's website in hopes of getting the documentation. Naturally I didn't know the user name and password-- but 1Password did! I looked up the info in 1Password, went back to my insurance company's website, and used the name and password to log in (and to get my proof of insurance emailed to my iPhone). That saved me more than an hour-- I would have had to drive back home to get the info. 1Password (on the iPhone) to the rescue.

You may be thinking "but I use the same password for everything, why would I need this?" The answer is "because using the same password for everything means that if your password is stolen for ONE thing, in effect it's stolen for everything." So you really ought to use different passwords for everything.

(A compromise strategy: use one password for your financial accounts and online shopping, and another for everything else. Using this strategy, if someone gets your email password, or your password for the New York Times website, your bank accounts are still safe.)

Whether you are keeping track of two passwords or two hundred, 1Password will remember them for you. It remembers, the name of the website, the name or email you use to sign in with, and the password. All YOU have to do is remember the password that unlocks 1Password. 1Password does the rest. And, because 1Password will lock itself when your iPhone goes to sleep, you don't have to worry about having all of your passwords in one place, unlocked.

In combination with Dropbox (see my post on that) you can keep 1Password synchronized across multiple Macs. That's what I do, and it's great. If I create a login for a new website, or change a login for some other website, I know that my other machine will know about the change. VERY handy.

The Mac version of 1Password, which I recommend, will cost you $39.95. Sometimes you can get a deal-- in fact, "now" is one of those times. Use coupon code "iSlayer" at checkout and save $7.99, or 20%, making your actual cost $31.96. Here's a link to the 1Password website-- watch the video, and at the very least download the free trial.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dropbox-- cboyce says "Thumbs Up."

This is Dropbox. You want it. Here's the link. They have a little video there, right on the first page. It's worth watching-- it explains the whole thing. However, if you'd rather have ME explain it for you, read on.

Suppose you have a laptop and a desktop Mac. There is bound to be some item that you would like to have with you on both machines-- maybe it's a book you're working on, maybe it's a folder of website files for your 30th high school reunion, maybe it's a checklist of things you need to do when you go on a trip. In my case, it's all of those things. Problem is, it's practically unmanageable. If I put exact copies of the documents on my two machines, and then I use a document on Machine A, I have to remember to copy it back to Machine B. And I never remember.

This is a job for a computer. And good software. Enter Dropbox.

Dropbox keeps designated folders on my Macs in sync. If I add a document to one of those folders on one of my Macs I know it will show up on the other Mac in an instant. If I make a change in one of the synced documents Dropbox makes sure that those changes make it to my other Macs. I don't have to have all of my machines on at the same time to make this work-- if one is off, Dropbox will notice when I turn the machine on later and will sync things up right away after that.

Dropbox shows up like just another folder, and you can make as many folders as you want inside of it, and name them what you want to name them, just like any other folder, with the exception being that any item in the Dropbox folder will always-- ALWAYS-- be kept in synch on all of my Macs. And, believe it or not, on my iPhone too. (Click here for the iPhone app.)

Did I mention that Dropbox is free for the first 2 gigabytes? Did I mention that it keeps backups of the things you put in it? Did I mention that you can share files with PCs too? I should have. Anyhow, now I have.

I've shown Dropbox to a lot of Mac users and every single one has said "I want that!" Now they have it. And so can you. Go get it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Apple's first iPad ad

Apple showed its first iPad ad last night, during the Academy Awards. (I think they showed the first iPhone ad during the Academy Awards three years ago-- that worked out pretty well.)

Here's a link to the ad. I'm not sold on the iPad, nor on the ad. It's a bit noisy for me-- I was hoping for something a little less frantic. Oh well.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Christian Boyce Radio Program Archive

Radio station KPFK FM 90.7 in Los Angeles had me on their show March 6th, 2010. Here are links to the audio archive: one link for the first half hour, and another link for the second. It's an interesting show so I recommend you listen to both. However, the interview with me is in the second half.

Friday, March 5, 2010

iPads coming soon

(from Apple's press release)

Apple today announced that its magical and revolutionary iPad will be available in the US on Saturday, April 3, for Wi-Fi models and in late April for Wi-Fi + 3G models. In addition, all models of iPad will be available in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the UK in late April.

Beginning a week from today, on March 12, US customers can pre-order both Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + 3G models from Apple's online store ( or reserve a Wi-Fi model to pick up on Saturday, April 3, at an Apple retail store.

(posted via iPhone, using BlogPress)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Christian Boyce on the Radio

There's a terrific radio program called "Digital Village" on Saturday mornings in Los Angeles. The hosts (Ric Allan and Doran Barons) discuss technology and its impact on communication. It's always interesting. You should check it out.

This Saturday, March 6th, I'll be Digital Village's featured guest. I'll be talking about last month's Macworld Expo, and iPads, and iPhones, and Macs.

The show starts at 10 AM Pacific time. My portion of the program begins at 10:30 AM, roughly speaking.

Three ways to listen:
  1. Tune your radio to KPFK, 90.7 FM.
  2. Click this link and listen over the internet (or go to and try the various options).
  3. Wait for the interview to be archived and for me to put up a link to it here.
Depending on how things go there might be time for some phone calls. Here's KPFK's phone number: (818) 985-5735