The Boyce Blog: March 2011

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Thursday, March 31, 2011

iPhone as Magnifying Glass


I don't know why everything seems to be printed in itsy-bitsy type these days but armed with my trusty iPhone I can read almost anything. It's ridiculously easy. I don't know why it took so long to come up with the idea but it did.

All you do is use the iPhone's camera app to take a picture of the tiny type. Then, tap the icon at lower left to display the picture. Then, "un-pinch" to enlarge. Problem solved.

For example: I needed to get some numbers from the back of an Apple Time Capsule. I took the picture on the left, then stretched it until it was big enough to read. See for yourself.



This works with an iPad 2 also though not as well since the camera on the iPad 2 isn't very good.

You can of course aim the camera at the tiny type, then touch the screen, then use the zoom controls to zoom in without taking a picture but that doesn't work as well because it takes two hands and you don't end up with anything permanent. If you need to take another look you have to return to wherever it was that you didn't take the picture. Take the picture to begin with and have it forever.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Scammers Everywhere, and They Know Where You Live

I was in Round Rock, Texas last weekend and while there I used my MacBook to bring up the Los Angeles Times website. I noticed a couple of ads that mentioned a "Round Rock Mom" and wouldn't have thought much of it except that the "Round Rock Mom" looked familiar. The reason she looked familiar is that I'd seen her picture many times before while reading the Times from home in Santa Monica-- but, in those cases, she was cast as "Santa Monica Mom." Hmm.

Here's how it looked when viewed in Texas...


And here's how it looked when viewed in Santa Monica.


I suppose they could be twins. But probably not.

I clicked the links and shockingly they wanted to sell me something. Here's where they took me:

After clicking "Round Rock Mom"


After clicking "Santa Monica Mom"

I did appreciate that they personalized things to my location either way. "EXPOSED" indeed. Scam-o-matic.

But wait, there's more! While in Texas, I accidentally clicked an ad and found myself looking at a web page telling me that I (me!) was "Today's Lucky Texas Visitor!" See, it says so right on the web page.

I wondered a little bit about the snowflakes and the "Holiday" reference at the top, but for a free Apple iPad 2 who's complaining? I scrolled down a bit and saw a list of previous winners, and what do you know, someone in my own neighborhood was on the list. I didn't know who she was but it had her name and picture and it said "Round Rock, TX" and that "proved" it.


Just for laughs I connected to my machine in Santa Monica and brought up the same web page, clicked the ad, and up came the same web page. Except this time I was the Lucky California Visitor! What are the odds of THAT! I had visions of me carrying an iPad 2 in each arm, looking like Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments. (Please click the link.)


I scrolled down a bit to see the people who'd won before, and what a surprise to see our new friend Jennifer Layton-- except this time she lived in Santa Monica.

After seeing Jennifer in two places, I couldn't believe it either.

Turns out it is not very hard for a website programmer to determine the general location of your computer, based on your IP address. Try this link and see if it "knows" where you are. I'll bet it's pretty close. Eye-opening.

The point is, don't fall for the old "Gee, there's a picture of someone from my neighborhood, that makes this offer so much more believable" trick. It's probably faked. If you want $84 per hour, or an iPad 2, you're going to have to earn it. Sorry to be the one to tell you.

Friday, March 18, 2011

How to Get an iPad 2

A friend sent me a link to a New York Times article called "How to Procure an iPad 2." The article was very interesting and made it sound like you could get one at Best Buy with minimal effort. Unfortunately, the article is wrong. So, read it if you want, but with a grain of salt. And like your Mom told you, don't believe everything you read. Even in the New York Times. Shocking.

I will bet you, however, that your Mom NEVER told you not to believe what you read here on The Boyce Blog. Your Mom was right. You can trust The Boyce Blog.

I did some legwork today, visiting the Best Buy in West Los Angeles in person, and calling Best Buy in Culver City, California on the phone. I got the same story both places and they told me that I would get the same story no matter where I went. The story from Best Buy is this:
  • They do have a waiting list for iPad 2s, but they are not adding names to it any longer.
  • The waiting list was available ONLY for people who came into the store, not over the phone.
  • Getting on the list meant making a $100 deposit.
  • A person on the waiting list could buy a single iPad 2.
  • The waiting list was closed three days ago.
  • Best Buy has not received an iPad 2 shipment since opening day, Friday March 11th.
  • The waiting list is several times larger than the initial shipment of iPad 2s, so it's going to be a while before they get through the list.
Well now. That's quite a bit different than what the New York Times reported. Based on the above, it appears that there is no sense in going to Best Buy for an iPad 2 anytime soon. No sense in camping out overnight to be the first one in the store, because any iPad 2s Best Buy receives will be going to people on the waiting list. No sense in calling them up to get on the waiting list because the waiting list is closed (and they wouldn't do it over the phone even if they still were taking names). No sense trying to order online because they aren't taking iPad 2 orders online at this time.

So, cross Best Buy off your list of places to go to get an iPad 2 before everyone else. You can't buy what Best Buy doesn't have. Eventually, they'll have them. But they don't have them now. UPDATE: they have them now (March 23rd, 2011). Use the Best Buy iPad 2 Availability Checker (thanks, www.obamapacman.com).

Target doesn't have any either. They haven't seen any since opening day, same as Best Buy. However, you can check Target's iPad 2 inventory. Don't get excited, you probably won't find an iPad 2 anywhere near you. But it is interesting to see how many Target stores there are.

Apple Stores might have some but they're gone in minutes. A week after launch, the lines are still longer than the supply. So, unless you're willing to be in line before 5 AM, don't plan on getting an iPad 2 at an Apple Store. At least not now.

It comes down to this: if you're wondering how to get an iPad 2, your best answer right now is "order one through Apple's online store." Do it that way and get the back engraved for free. Order the thing today and you can expect it in 4 to 5 weeks. I know, that's a long time, but do it that way and you can quit chasing the thing, letting you move on to other stuff, like figuring out which 3G wireless plan to buy.

Note: as long as you're here, take a look around. I've posted hundreds of Mac and iPhone and iPad tips and hints and shortcuts. Click this link to go to the home page.

Quick Fix for a Facebook Security Issue


Facebook has a nice little security hole, and someone has already done a "proof of concept" hack to show that it's easy to get into someone's account. The hack involves "listening" as people log into Facebook using an open network (such as what you'd find at Starbucks) and capturing names and passwords. Once that happens, the hacker has all he needs. He can log in with the captured Facebook credentials and post things and comment on things and delete things and generally cause a bunch of trouble. You don't want that.

Unfortunately, the person who developed the hack released it into the wilds, making it possible for anyone with a little knowledge to hack into other people's Facebook accounts. Fortunately, it's really easy to prevent anyone from hacking into YOUR Facebook account, and double-fortunately, here I am to tell you how.

First, go to the Account menu and choose "Account Settings."


Second, click "Change" in the Account Security section.


Third, make your settings look like this and click Save .

The most important one is "Secure Browsing (https)". The others are optional, but it would be interesting to know that someone has logged into your account, right when it happens, wouldn't it? If that does happen, make another trip to this same Account Security section in Facebook's settings and if it's not authorized, you can click an "End Activity" button to turn off that machine's access. Don't be alarmed (like I was) if you see something like this in Facebook's settings:



When I saw this, I thought "Whoa, who was accessing my account in Anaheim at 4:36 PM?" Turns out the location is VERY approximate. If you hover your mouse over the location, they show the IP address for that location, and it turns out they were off by a few miles. The IP they reported was my own. (You can determine your own IP by going to www.whatismyip.net).

Changing this one security setting takes less time to do than to read about. Do it now and you're all set.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

VIDEO TIP: How to Customize the Mail Toolbar

Mail is even better when you customize the toolbar to be just the way you like it.. This video tutorial-- less than two minutes long-- will show you how it's done. Click the picture to start the show.



UPDATE: I should have mentioned that you can customize the main Mail viewer window's toolbar AND the individual Mail message window's toolbar-- changes in one do not affect the other. So, customize Mail's main viewer window's toolbar, then double-click a message to open up a message window and modify that toolbar also. If you want.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Best Buy's iPad 2 Availability Checker


Best Buy sells the iPad 2, and they have a handy online iPad 2 availability checker where you can tell it which iPad 2 you want, enter a zip code, and find out whether Best Buy has it in stock at a store near you. They are not currently accepting iPad 2 orders online so if they do have it in stock you'll have to RUN to the store and get one (because you can't reserve it online). Still, it beats driving all over the place and making a bunch of phone calls.

UPDATE: Best Buy has changed their site a tiny bit. Now, when you follow the link above, you get to a page where they show the iPads, but then you have to click on a link to check availability for that particular unit. Of course, they don't have any iPad 2s, in any flavor, when I check, but who knows, you might get lucky. Here's a picture of what you're looking for. Bonus: click anywhere on the picture to see Best Buy's complete selection of iPad 2s. From there, click those "Check Shipping & Availability" links.



UPDATE 2: Target also sells the iPad 2, but it appears that Best Buy is a better bet. I went to a big Target in Los Angeles and they told me they'd received FIVE iPad 2 units-- not even one of each Wi-Fi flavor-- on launch day, and nothing since. They have no idea when they'll get more.

UPDATE 3: Best Buy has them now (March 23rd, 2011). Use the Best Buy iPad 2 Availability Checker (thanks, www.obamapacman.com).

Note: as long as you're here, take a look around. I've posted hundreds of Mac and iPhone and iPad tips and hints and shortcuts here. Click this link to go to the home page.

Friday, March 11, 2011

QR Codes: the Next Big Thing

This is a business card.



So is the black-and-white mess below. And the messy one is easier to put into your address book. That's because it's a "QR code," and it turns out it contains all of the information in the card above-- and you can read it using your iPhone's camera and add it to your address book without doing any typing at all. I'm telling you, it's the Next Big Thing.


The QR code format is rather broad. Storing name, address, and phone numbers is only the beginning. You can use a code, and your iPhone's camera, to generate a pre-addressed email, or to go straight to a website-- no typing required. And lest you think that this is an iPhone-only thing, it's not. Just about any decent smartphone can do it.

Obviously, there are two aspects to these QR codes: making them, and using them. I'll tell you how to do both.

First, let's make a QR code. You can search the internet for a QR code generator, but I've already done it and the best QR code generator is by Kerem Erkan, in the beautiful country of Turkey. Click the link and make yourself a code. It's fun. Here's one I made, using a Code Action of "Browse to a Website" (the simplest kind, but have a look at the other options in that Code Action menu).

In a minute, after I show you how to read a code, you can figure out which site I chose. When you create your own QR code, type in the desired web site URL, and then click the Generate Code button at the bottom. You'll get a nice big code-- click on it and drag it to your desktop for later use.

Now, let's figure out how to read these codes. What you need is an iPhone app called Qrafter. (There are nearly 200 iPhone apps that can read a QR code, but once again I've done the work for you and found the needle in the haystack. You want Qrafter.) It's free, so you have nothing to lose. Here's a bigger button to click.


While you're at the iTunes Store, have a look at Qrafter's screenshots.The main screen is shown below, and it could hardly be simpler. Just touch the giant "Scan with Camera" button, aim your iPhone's camera at a QR code, and in a second or two the image is recognized and decoded. It feels like magic, even after you've done it hundreds of times.



You can experiment with the Settings (at the bottom of the screen) yourself, but I recommend the options shown below. You'll also want to click the "Info" button at Qrafter's bottom right to learn a little more about the program.



Now let's go back and scan the codes we saw earlier.

Touch the "Scan with Camera" button and aim it at the first code... and you get all of my contact info, perfectly done, no mistakes. Scroll down a bit and you'll see a button to "Create New Contact" and another to "Add to Existing Contact." Touch the one that's right for you and all of my name/address/phone number info is added to your Contacts app. Easy, fast, and error-free.

Try the second code-- the one I generated with a "Browse to Website" Code Action. If your settings are like mine, you'll go straight to the website I chose. If not, you'll have to touch a button to "Open URL in Safari." Try it and see (and then change your settings so that "Scan and Go" is ON). Try the code you made and dragged to your desktop-- I think it will work.

You can use Qrafter to scan QR codes in magazines and other places too-- who knows what you've been missing.

So... now you know how to create a QR code, and you know how to read them. All you need to do now is figure out how to use them. Here's one way: I've printed up stickers with my business card info on them and stuck them to the backs of my business cards. Next time I have cards printed, I'll include the code, but the stickers work great.

Here are some other ideas:
  • Make a "Browse to Website" QR code with your blog or website address on it, and put it on your business cards or stationery.
  • Make a "Google Maps" QR code showing your business' location and put it on all of your company materials.
  • Make a "Free Formatted Text" QR code with additional information about a product or service, or a list of ingredients for a dish at a restaurant-- or send "secret" messages to your friends (secret, that is, until everyone catches on to QR codes).
QR codes are easy to make, easy to read, and they don't make typographical errors. They take you from print (the code) to the web, or to email, or to a phone call, or to a text message-- all with a simple scan of a code. Fast, accurate, easy, and bridging the print and online worlds-- that's a pretty tall order, but QR codes deliver, and that's why I'm convinced that QR codes are the Next Big Thing.

UPDATES: The "QR" in "QR Code" stands for "Quick Response." And, it turns out that you can store over 4000 characters in a QR code. That's almost enough to store the text of this particular blog post. Find out more about QR codes using this link to Wikipedia. Very interesting stuff.

iPad Guided Tours

If you have an iPad, or think you might want an iPad, you ought to have a look at these videos. As usual, Apple's made it look easy (and with the iPad, it really IS easy). Watch even one of these short videos and you'll think "I could use one of these things! I could do what they're doing! It looks like fun! I want an iPad!" And you'll wish you had time to watch every one of the videos.

It is interesting to compare these to Motorola's XOOM tablet videos-- watch one of those and you think "This is just a commercial!"

(It is also interesting to compare the experience of going to www.apple.com with the experience of going to www.motorola.com. I know, I know: totally different companies--- but geez, Motorola, why make it so hard to get started? Do I want "Motorola Mobility", which "delivers personalized information to meet the needs of consumers both in the home and on the go", or "Motorola Solutions", which "provides business and mission-critical communications products and services to enterprises and governments"? Just for laughs, try entering "Xoom" in the Motorola Solutions search box. I think you'll shake your head in disgust. What a horrible experience.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Google Instant Previews


It's not easy keeping up with Google-- they make changes all the time, and they almost never make a big deal about them. Google Instant Previews is a good example of that. What it does is show you "Instant Previews" (hmmm!) of each website in search results, which makes it a little easier, sometimes, to figure out which website you want to go to.

For example, here I've searched for Barbecue Recipes, and as expected I found a LOT of results: approximately thirteen million, four hundred thousand. I don't want to plow through thirteen million four hundred thousand websites. I don't even want to plow through the ten on the first page. I want, somehow, to find the right one on the first try. I'm looking for one with a nice layout, with pictures as well as text. Google Instant Previews can help.

Start by clicking the magnifying glass to the right of any item in the search results. I've drawn a big red arrow here to show you where to look.


When you click on a magnifying glass you get a preview of that site, and since what you've really done is turn Instant Previews on for everything on the page, all you have to do now is hover over each item in the listing. No need to click another magnifying glass-- in fact, if you do, you'll turn the feature off.

Here I've just turned the feature on, showing a preview of the second site in my search results.


Now I can roll the mouse around and hover over other items in the search results, giving me a quick idea of what each site looks like.


I don't like the looks of this site with the green sidebar-- no pictures, at least not on the first page. Based on the previews, I could make a decision about which site to go to, saving me a little time. I know, I know: don't judge a book by its cover. But I'm busy. Seeing the cover helps.

You can watch a nice video by Google Themselves that explains it a little further. Turns out Google Instant Previews is even handier on the iPhone. Check it out. Here's the link.

Safari Shortcuts That I Just Learned


I did a little experimenting today and found some new (to me) Safari shortcuts. Maybe they are new to you too. Try 'em out and see how they work for you.

Option-Down Arrow: scrolls down one windowful. Fantastic. No more "click click click" to scroll down.
Option-Up Arrow: scrolls up one windowful. Duh.

(Yes, the above do exactly what "Page Down" and "Page Up" do... but if you're on a laptop, you don't have Page Down and Page Up keys. And, even if you do have Page Down and Page Up keys, the Option-Arrow shortcuts may be easier to hit. You don't have to reach as far, that's one plus.)

Space bar: scrolls down one windowful. Same as Option-Down Arrow but easier to do.
Shift-Space bar: scrolls up one windowful. Same as Option-Up Arrow.

Command-Down Arrow: scroll to the bottom.
Command-Up Arrow: scroll to the top. This one you'll use a lot.

(Yes, these functions are handled nicely by "End" and "Home" but I kinda like Command-Down Arrow and Command-Up Arrow better. Command is not the same as Control, so be sure you're using the Command key (on either side of the space bar) before you give up on this one.)

Control-Down Arrow and Control-Up Arrow: same as Option-Down Arrow and Option-Up Arrow. Nice to have options but the Space bar method is the best choice.

Not Really a Shortcut, but Impressive Anyway:
Select some text on a web page. Then, go to Safari's Edit menu, slide down to Speech, and slide over and choose "Start Speaking." Your Mac will read the selected text out loud. Advice: don't select a lot of text the first time you do this. (There is a way to stop it-- Edit/Speech/Stop Speaking.)

Not New to Me, But Too Cool and Useful to Not Include:
Here's the scene: you want to download something from a website. You click a button that says "Download Now" or something like that. The download begins. And then you never find the thing you downloaded. Sound familiar?

Your problem is solved quickly and easily using the "Downloads" window in Safari. If the Downloads window is not showing, go to Safari's Window menu and choose "Downloads". It's a toggle, so if you choose "Downloads" from the Window menu while the Downloads window is showing, the window will close. FYI.

Notice the magnifying glass buttons at the right in the Downloads window. I've circled one in red below. If you click one of those magnifying glass buttons the corresponding file will be revealed in the Finder! That's way better than you shoving Safari out of the way, opening up a window in the Finder, and climbing around trying to locate the thing. Even if you know where downloads go, this is still the fastest way to find the file you want. Give this a try and you'll never go back to the dig-around-in-your-hard-drive method.

Friday, March 4, 2011

VIDEO TIP: Safari Bookmark Collections and Tabs

Click the picture and learn how to use Bookmark Collections and Tabs in Safari to speed up your web browsing. Guaranteed to save you time. Your friend(s) will be impressed.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

iPad 2 Unveiled


No better way to find out about the iPad 2 than to watch Steve Jobs introduce it himself. Watch the unveiling. You'll want an iPad 2 before the video's anywhere near finished. Worth watching to the end though so you can hear Jonathan Ive, Apple's Senior Vice President of Design, say "Aluminium" (1:04:15).

Certainly nice to see Mr. Jobs. I hope he's feeling better.