The Boyce Blog is written and maintained by Mac, iPhone, and iPad consultant Christian Boyce.
The blog has one goal: to be

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

Have a suggestion? Have a question? Email me. I mean it.
Or call: 424-354-3548.

Show iOS 8 posts. Show iPhone posts. Show iPad posts. Show Mac posts. Show all posts.

Great Deals on New and Closeout Macs


MacMall is having a 72-hour sale on Macs (MacBook Pros, MacBook Airs, iMacs). Check it out and save a pile of money. Contact me if you need help with choosing a model.

If you're choosing one for ME, I like the 21.5 inch iMac with the 3.6 GHz Core i5 for $1099.

Still have questions? Email me. But first, join the mailing list. People on the mailing list go to the front of the line.

Help me spread the reach of The Boyce Blog by sharing it with your friends. These buttons do all the work.

Automatically Open Multiple Websites, Part 2: your own AppleScript


Last time, we saw how we could open multiple websites with a single click. Problem is, the websites that we opened with one click were the ones I chose. So, now we're going to learn how to specify which websites get opened.

We're going to write an AppleScript, and we're going to use Script Editor to do it. You can find Script Editor in your Utilities folder, which is in your Applications folder. Bonus shortcut hint: click on the Finder in the Dock (or the Desktop, or some other Finder window so as to bring the Finder to the front). Click on the Go menu and slide down to "Utilities." Presto.

Find the Script Editor in the Utilities folder and double-click it. You'll get a blank window. Copy the text below and paste it into the blank Script Editor window.

set the_URL_list to {"http://www.apple.com", "http://www.christianboyce.com", "http://macrumors.com"}

repeat with a_URL in the_URL_list
open location a_URL
end repeat

The result will look a lot like this:

Click the Compile button and it will look like this.

(Compiling checks for mistakes and prettifies the script. Your script could look different than this but don't worry about that-- unless you get an error. In that case, go back and be sure you copied and pasted the right stuff.)

Just for fun, click the "Run" button. You'll see three web page load: www.apple.com, www.christianboyce.com, and www.macrumors.com.

Assuming that the script works and that you got three web pages when you clicked "Run," it's time to customize it to open YOUR websites. You can probably tell that the place to do it is right at the top. Go in there and do it! Just remember these rules:
  1. Each website must be surrounded by double-quotes.
  2. Separate the double-quoted websites with commas.
  3. No returns please. Let the Script Editor wrap the text for you.
There is no limit to the number of sites you can enter. Try a couple, and then click Compile, and if you don't get an error, click Run. Add the rest of the websites that you want to open, and Compile, and then Run. If it works, you're ready to save it. Here you have to be just a little careful, because there are various ways to save your script, and only one of them is the right one for our purposes.

What we want is to wrap this script up in a double-clickable application that does its thing automatically. So, when you go to Save As..., change the File Format to Application. Name your script anything you'd like, and put it somewhere that you can find it. For now, let's put it on the Desktop. Now you can quit the Script Editor, because we're done with it.

Look for the script you just saved. Here's what it will look like:

(Yours might have a different name. That's OK. But the icon should be like this one.

Technically, you're done. When you double-click the script it will launch your preferred browser and load up your web pages. That's two clicks, and that's not much work. But, we can cut that work in half by putting the script into the Dock. So do that. Remember that putting something into the Dock doesn't mean you can throw away the original. Put the original-- your script-- somewhere safe and that's that.

Still have questions? Email me. But first, join the mailing list. People on the mailing list go to the front of the line.

Help me spread the reach of The Boyce Blog by sharing it with your friends. These buttons do all the work.

Automatically Open Multiple Websites, Part 1


(There's nothing I like better than saving people time and trouble by showing them a better way to use their Macs. These simple AppleScripts will save you time and trouble day after day after day.)

I am willing to bet that you have a bunch of websites that you look at every day.

Let's pretend that every morning you have a look at Time Magazine, Google News, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times. Even if you use a bookmark for each site there's enough mousing around that just opening the sites takes a measurable amount of time. It might not be much, but it all counts. And, you actually have to do the work-- it doesn't happen unless you do the work.

What if you could click a single item in your Dock and have all four of your news websites open, each in its own window, in a nice neat stack on your screen? Wouldn't that be cool?

Of course that would be cool. And, it's totally doable. In fact, I've done it for you, along with two variations (one for Mac-related news sites, and one for sports news). I did it with AppleScript, a very powerful feature of the Mac OS, available on every Mac.

Click to download the AppleScripts. You'll get a disk image. (If you're using Safari the disk image will probably open automatically. If not, or if you're using Firefox, look in your Downloads folder for something called "URL_AppleScripts.dmg" and double-click it.)

Eventually you'll see the three items shown below. They're AppleScript Applications. Double-click each one to see what it does. Drag the ones you like to your Applications folder. Then, from there (that is, from in the Applications folder), drag them to the Dock. Now a single click in the Dock will trigger a multi-page masterpiece.

Of course you are probably thinking it would be even better if the sites that opened were the ones YOU liked, not the ones I like. That's easy to do, and I'll write that up sometime soon. If you're in a hurry, tell me and I'll help you out right away.

In the meantime-- isn't this neat? One click opens four websites, neatly, quickly, efficiently. Who could ask for more?

Still have questions? Email me. But first, join the mailing list. People on the mailing list go to the front of the line.

Help me spread the reach of The Boyce Blog by sharing it with your friends. These buttons do all the work.

Papa's Got a Brand New Bag-- from Kensington


I bought this Kensington Contour Roller bag in January 2006 to carry my laptop (at the time, a PowerBook G4 15 inch), and some CDs, and a bunch of floppy disks(!). It had pockets all over the place, so I also put in some pens, some business cards, some cables, and a bunch of other stuff. It was a fantastic bag and I used it every day in my travels to customer locations. The collapsable handle has been really handy, especially in airports.

Five and a half years later, the stitching on one of the handles is starting to come loose. Turns out that the bag has a limited lifetime warranty, and when I contacted Kensington about it they shipped me a new bag, free of charge, no questions asked. Incredible. The new bag is here now, ready to go into service tomorrow. I was willing to buy another ($99 list, less than that at Amazon) because I felt I'd gotten my money's worth but wow, they replaced it for free! I could hardly believe it.

I love the bag, but I especially love the customer service. Way to go, Kensington. "I feel good."

Here's a link to Kensington's site, with more info about the bag. (Their link to "Buy from online retail partners" doesn't get you a very good price though-- use this link instead.)

Still have questions? Email me. But first, join the mailing list. People on the mailing list go to the front of the line.

Help me spread the reach of The Boyce Blog by sharing it with your friends. These buttons do all the work.

Accept Credit Cards on Your iPhone, with Square


Being able to accept credit cards is good for business. It's convenient for customers, and it's fast for the vendor. Unfortunately, for the small businessman, accepting credit cards has been an expensive hassle. Not anymore-- thanks to Square.

Square provides, for free, a credit card reader that fits into your iPhone's headphone jack. Use the Square iPhone app to enter the amount of the bill, swipe a card through the Square reader's slot, and you're on your way to getting paid. Start by going to Square and signing up for an account. All you need to provide is a US-based mailing address, a US-based bank account, and a Social Security Number. You can sign up as a business or as an individual, and even without the card reader, you can accept credit cards by manually entering the credit card's number. The card reader will arrive in a few days and at that point you'll be all set. There's nothing else to do.

The Fees
Square's fees are simple: no set-up fee, no monthly fee, no monthly minimum, no variable rates. Just 2.75% on every scanned credit card, and 3.5% + 15 cents for every manually-entered credit card. (For those new to this credit card stuff, a scanned card number is less of a fraud risk to Square than a manually-entered card number is, so they charge less for that.)

Why Square?
Square's fees are competitive with those from other "merchant services" companies, so price isn't really the reason to use them. Where Square really shines is in ease of set-up, ease of use (iPhone app), clear reports, and excellent customer service. It could not be easier to set up, the iPhone app is super-convenient, the reports tell you everything you need to know, and when you need help from Square it's easy to get, and fast.

Here are a few screenshots taken from my iPhone. This one shows some work that I'm going to charge for.


If I'm on-site, the customer gives me a credit card and I scan it. The customer then signs her name with her finger, right on the iPhone. It's wild. One more touch and the card number is sent to Square (so yes, you need to have internet access, either WiFi or through your iPhone's cellular data network). Approval is immediate (assuming it's a good card) and a receipt is emailed to the customer. The whole affair is fast and fun, even for the person paying.

Here's how it looks when you don't have a card to scan. Just type it in and Authorize.


Here's a stock photo from Square themselves showing the signature screen. Yes, they compute tips for you, if that's what you'd like.


Here's a screenshot showing how nice and clean the Square iPhone app is. If I tap the Sales History button I can see how I've used Square, right on the phone.


It's not blurry when you look at it on the iPhone.


The money gets to your bank account in about three business days. First it goes to Square's system, then it's sent to your bank, and then it's in your account. There are a couple of holds and delays along the way but it ends up in your bank account in about three days.

I Know What You're Thinking
"That's nice, but I have no need for that." Oh no? Wouldn't it be cool to be able to accept credit cards at a garage sale? Or at a bake sale? Or at some other kind of fund raiser? Of course it would. Wouldn't it be nice if your pool man or plumber or the neighborhood kids who cut your grass and wash your car accepted credit cards? Tell them about Square and they can. Yes, they'll need an iPhone (or an iPad, or-- ugh-- certain Android devices), but that's hardly a bad thing. They can read The Boyce Blog (or play Angry Birds) on their iPhones when they're not scanning credit cards.

As long-time readers of The Boyce Blog know, we only recommend things that we use ourselves. We switched to Square six months ago and we've been thrilled with it ever since. I highly recommend Square.

This, by the way, is my 300th blog post. How about that.

Still have questions? Email me. But first, join the mailing list. People on the mailing list go to the front of the line.

Help me spread the reach of The Boyce Blog by sharing it with your friends. These buttons do all the work.

Save Money on Your AOL Bill


(This one is for AOL users. If you are one, read on. If you aren't one, read on anyway. I'll bet you have at least one AOL-using friend that can put this information to use.)

Actually, I could have called this "Eliminate Your AOL Bill." Keep reading.

Once upon a time, AOL (America Online) was the Number One way for people to get online. AOL provided software, an email address, and a phone number with a modem at the other end that would answer your dial-up call and put you on the internet. That was a long time ago.

AOL charged for that. It makes sense that they did; if nothing else, all of those phone lines and modems cost AOL real money. So you paid, maybe $19.95 per month, maybe $14.95 per month, and if you have an AOL account that is more than a couple of years old, you probably are still paying. But you don't have to.

Turns out that AOL will give anyone a free email address. And, if you already have an AOL address, you should check to see whether you're paying for it or not. If all you want from AOL is an email address, follow this tutorial and quit paying them. It's really easy.

Step One: use Safari (or Firefox, or whatever) and go to www.aol.com. (You can do this on your computer or your iPhone or iPad. Even the PC people can do this, so tell a friend. Your friend will thank you.) If you're already checking your email on AOL, look for a tiny "AOL" link at top left. That'll do it.

Step Two: click where it says "SERVICES" The red arrow shows you where. You're not going to click and hold and slide down the menu that drops down. You're just going to click on "SERVICES" and let go.



Step Three: in this screen, click where it says "Account Updates." It's nice and bold, at the top left. Red arrow, man.



Step Four: you'll have to sign in (if you haven't already), and you'll have to supply the secret answer to your secret question. I can't help you with those things-- that's why they call them "secret." Once you've done that, you'll see this screen. Click where it says "Change My AOL Plan."


They'll ask you whether you need a dial-up connection or not. Hopefully, you know the answer to that. (If you're not sure, contact me and I will help you find out. Hint: if you're one of my customers, you do NOT need a dial-up connection. You have a high-speed connection already.)

Step Five: Now for the fun part. They'll tell you at the top what your current plan is. If it says anything other than "Current Plan: $0.00/month" you're about to save some money.

Here's what you might see:


Scroll down the page and you'll find the Free AOL plan. That's the one for you. Click the big orange "Get This Plan" button and that is that. You'll see something like this when you're done:

So... what are you missing by going with the free plan? Just a couple of things, which you probably don't need:
  • No "live" technical support
  • No dial-up access (but so what-- you have your own high-speed connection, yes?)
  • No McAfee security (also, so what-- the version AOL is "giving" you isn't compatible with Macs!)
In other words, you're not missing anything. So get rolling here and save yourself some money. You'll keep your email address, and your email will keep right on working, without interruption. You just won't be paying for it anymore. Even a few bucks a month add up.

If a few bucks a month don't matter to you feel free to click here, or use the PayPal button below. Heh.





Still have questions? Email me. But first, join the mailing list. People on the mailing list go to the front of the line.

Help me spread the reach of The Boyce Blog by sharing it with your friends. These buttons do all the work.

Favorite Steve Jobs Links



I thought I'd put a few of my favorite Steve Jobs links here, all in one place. Enjoy.

Playboy Interview, February 1985. Long, meaty interview with Steve Jobs, at the time head of Apple. Fantastic reading. Three months after this interview was published, Jobs was out of Apple, fired from the company he started.

MacWorld Expo 1997 Keynote Speech. Jobs is back with Apple, thanks to Apple's acquisition of NeXT. Gil Amelio (the Apple CEO who oversaw the acquisition) is out, and Apple is operating without an official CEO. In his first big public speech since his return, Jobs outlines his plans for bringing a reeling Apple back to health. He is particularly gracious in giving thanks to the outgoing Board members for working hard under difficult circumstances. Watch and listen as Jobs alludes to "the crazy ones" that Apple makes computers for (soon to be the theme of some very memorable ads). Great stuff throughout.

Stanford Commencement Address, 2005. Twenty-two minute video (counting the introduction by Stanford's President John Hennessy). Jobs' pancreatic cancer had been diagnosed the previous year, and the perspective it gave him is evident throughout the speech. Highly recommended.

Original iPhone introduction, MacWorld Expo 2007. "This is a day I've been looking forward to for two and a half years." Steve Jobs at his very best. Part 1 here. Part 2 here.

Still have questions? Email me. But first, join the mailing list. People on the mailing list go to the front of the line.

Help me spread the reach of The Boyce Blog by sharing it with your friends. These buttons do all the work.

Christian Boyce on the Radio


I'll be on the Digital Village radio program Saturday, September 3rd 2011 at 9 AM, talking with hosts Doran Barons and Ric Allan about Steve Jobs and his legacy. Should be an interesting program. Click here to listen live. If you miss the show, use this link to listen to a recording.

Still have questions? Email me. But first, join the mailing list. People on the mailing list go to the front of the line.

Help me spread the reach of The Boyce Blog by sharing it with your friends. These buttons do all the work.