I'm Christian Boyce, a Mac, iPhone, and iPad consultant.
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More Siri Tips


I've discovered some interesting Siri features that I didn't find in the manual, which isn't surprising since there isn't a Siri manual. In no particular order, here are the tips:
  1. "Set a timer for 20 minutes." Everyone knows how to do that. But, after a bit, the timer is off the screen, as you switch to some other app or the iPhone goes to sleep. The cool thing is that you can say "Show me the timer" and it comes back to the front. Very cool. I am using that today as I cook my pumpkin pies.
  2. "Play some music." Everyone knows how to do this too. The cool thing is that you can say "Stop the music" and it will stop. Nice.
  3. "Make an appointment." Everyone knows how to do this too. Siri will ask "When is your appointment?" and you can tell it "4 PM tomorrow" or whatever you like. If you do it this way, Siri will make an appointment that has the title "Appointment." The cool things is you can change the title later. So, when Siri says "Here is your appointment, are you ready to confirm it?" you can say "yes"... and Siri will show it to you. Then, tell Siri "Change the title of the appointment" to anything you'd like. In fact, you can just say "Change the title to blah blah blah" and it will work. Siri knows what you're talking about because the appointment is still on her mind, so to speak.
  4. Still talking about appointments, how cool is this: you can say "Make a haircut appointment for 4 PM tomorrow" and it's done in one shot. Very cool. Especially if you want a haircut.
  5. Suppose you want to talk to your friend Dave Fournier, on the phone, and you want Siri to set that up. But, suppose also that you have Dave in your address book as "David." Doesn't matter: when you say "Call Dave Fournier" Siri knows out that "Dave" is short for "David" and she makes the call. Same thing with Tom and Thomas. And Chris and Christian, though I never call myself on the phone.
  6. In some cases, when talking to Siri, you can interchange "office" and "work", and "house" and "home", and "cell" and "mobile", but not always, and especially not tonight with Siri seemingly overloaded. There are many inconsistencies in Siri, so what works when you're asking for a phone number might not work when you're asking for an address, and this may be one of the reasons Siri is still a "beta" feature. Expect this to improve and become more consistent in the future.
(Yes I am surprised that Apple put Siri out before it was fully ready. Very non-Apple-like.)

By the way, I would not be surprised to see Siri show up on Macs and iPads someday soon. Makes perfect sense.

More tips as I find them.

UPDATE: I found them. Here's a terrific list of Siri commands, from The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW). Well done, TUAW.

UPDATE #2: Here's Apple's Frequently Asked Questions for Siri. Good stuff.

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Happy Thanksgiving


Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. I'll spend my Thanksgiving cooking a turkey in the Primo Kamado cooker on the balcony, doing a little online shopping, and keeping an eye on the key football games. Here is how I do it. You can do it too.

Cooking a turkey in the Primo Kamado
A Primo Kamado is a ceramic cooker, something like a Big Green Egg. I've cooked a lot of turkeys on my Primo over the years and they have all been delicious. Turns out that the preparation and cooking are much more important than the spices. There are probably fifty ways to cook a turkey on a barbeque but here's the one way I do it every single time.

Get your cooker going with plenty of fuel. Your turkey will cook for about three hours, maybe a little longer. Set it up for about 300 degrees F. You don't want flames to touch your turkey so put a pan down on a lower rack to block the flames or just put the coals on one side of your cooker and the turkey on the other. I have an old cookie sheet (a round one) that I put on the lower rack and it catches the drippings and blocks the flames.
  1. Start with a nice fresh turkey. Frozen is OK but if a fresh one is available, get one. I usually pick one that's in the 12 to 15 pound range. If you go too big you won't be able to fit it on the cooker. I've cooked brined turkeys, Butterball turkeys, plain fresh turkeys, and probably some other kinds that I don't remember and they all came out great.
  2. Take out the neck and giblets and do whatever you want with them. That's up to you.
  3. Cut the backbone out, using heavy kitchen scissors or poultry shears. Some people call this "butterflying," some people call this "splaying," some people call it "spatchcocking." Watch this video, and call it anything you want. The video shows how to do it to a chicken but it's exactly the same on a turkey, only harder. You will need some strength. Watch your fingers. The reason you do this is it cuts your cooking time almost in half.
  4. Cut off any extra fat and rinse the turkey off. Pat it dry with paper towels. You will need more paper towels than you thought.
Like I said, the preparation and cooking are more important than the spicing. I've made great turkeys using Dizzy Dust, Grub Rub, Texas BBQ Rub, and Bob Tallman's Ranch Rub. These are all fairly heavy on the brown sugar. You'll need a good bit, maybe half a bottle. You're going to apply rub inside and out, and under the skin, so plan accordingly. Pour a bunch of rub into a coffee cup or some other smallish container and put a spoon in it now because your hands are going to be all slippery pretty soon and you don't want to make a mess of your cupboards if you can help it. While you're at it set out another coffee cup and put an inch or two of olive oil in there. You'll need a brush to apply the oil later so you may as well get that out now.

First, run your fingers under the skin on the breast meat to loosen up the skin as much as possible. If you are careful you can get the skin completely loose from the breast. Get a spoonful of rub and put it onto the breast, under the skin. Do it again on the other side and pat it down with your fingers. You will almost always wish you used a little more rub so this is the time to do it right. Put some more in there.

Next, do the same thing with the thighs. The skin comes loose very nicely and you can dump a good bit of rub onto the thighs, under the skin. This takes a bit of time but it's worth it.

To this point you have not put any rub on the outside of the turkey. It is all under the skin, which is great because the rub you put on the skin isn't going to get into the meat nearly as well as the rub you put down under the skin.

Now put the turkey breast-down, exposing the inside of the bird. Brush the inside of the bird, and any part of the bird that is exposed in this position, with olive oil. There are three reasons for this:
  • It makes the skin brown up very nicely
  • It makes the rub stick to the bird
  • Olive oil makes a lot of stuff better and this is no exception.
After you've brushed everything you can reach with the turkey breast-down, sprinkle rub all over the bird, knowing that you are later going to roll it over and do the other side. Give it a good healthy sprinkling. Like I said, you will usually wish you'd used more.

Now you are almost ready to cook. Hopefully your cooker is ready to go. Put the bird onto the cooker with the breast up.

It will look something like this:

You can see the rub under the skin on the breast.

Take your olive oil and brush everything you can reach. Sprinkle with rub. Yes, the fire is going but it won't be so bad. Work fast.

Your turkey will look like this when it's olive oiled and sprinkled with rub.

Close the lid to the cooker and let time do its magic. A thermometer with a digital read-out outside the cooker will be very handy so get one of those if you can. Put it into the thigh and in a few hours have a look. When it's 170 degrees in the leg your turkey is done. In my experience that's going to take somewhere around three hours. That is probably less time than you expected but that's the whole point of spatchcocking.

It will look something like this when it's ready to come off. I use tongs to lift the turkey but be careful as the legs will be pretty loose and might come off.


Put it on a rack in the kitchen and let it sit for ten or fifteen minutes. It's impossible to carve when it's super hot, so let it cool down a bit. Then, carve it following these instructions. This is the finishing touch and it makes all the difference. Forget about carving it at the table. Carve it in the kitchen and bring out the cut-up meat. Everyone will be impressed and it will be a million times easier to serve.

Here's what it looked like when I'd carved one breast for transport to a friend's house.


Notice that the breast meat is cut much thicker than what you're probably used to. That's the right way to do it. Note that this kind of cooking does not result in a smoky flavor. What it does result in is a juicy, delicious turkey that looks and tastes great.

Practice on a chicken (cooking time: about an hour) and be an expert by Christmas.

Online Shopping Tips
My sister likes to get up early on the Friday after Thanksgiving and get deals at the stores. I like to sleep in and do my shopping online. Here are a couple of tips that will save you money while letting you shop from home.
  • Visit www.dealnews.com. Set up an account and have them send you emails when items you want are on sale. I devoted an entire blog post to them and here is the link. Hint: sort the list of deals chronologically. That way, when you check the site a second time, you can quickly see what's new since your last visit.
  • Visit www.retailmenot.com before buying something online. RetailMeNot finds discount codes which you can use to save money on your online purchases. This should be part of your routine. Find the item you want to buy online, then make a new browser window (File menu) and go to retailmenot.com to see if there is a discount code for what you're about to buy. I wrote about this site a bit ago and here is the link to that.
  • Visit Amazon.com and see what's cooking with their Gold Box specials and also their Black Friday specials.
You'll probably save money with these tips and you'll definitely get more sleep. For some people, the thrill of the hunt makes getting up in the dark and driving to the mall worth it. If that's you, tell me about it sometime after 9 AM.

Keeping Track of the Football Games
You're probably thinking "turn on the TV, silly." Turns out that I don't have a TV, so I keep up with the games in other ways. First, there's the ESPN ScoreCenter app for the iPhone and for the iPad. This keeps you up to date on the scores of the games. Next, there's the Watch ESPN app, for the iPhone and for the iPad. This one actually lets you watch the games right on your iPhone or iPad, with some restrictions based on your internet provider. I also use the Watch ESPN website to watch games live, but also to watch games I've missed, on my Mac. It is very cool to be able to jump to the 4th quarter of a game, or to rewind a game in order to see a key play. Even Monday Night Football can be seen this way.

I also use Yahoo's Sportacular app on the iPhone and on the iPad. These apps do a great job of keeping up with scores and they also provide written play-by-play, so you can keep up with a game without really watching it. Very handy stuff. With several key games this weekend, college and pro, you need all the help you can get.

So there you have it: turkey, shopping, and football. If that's not Thanksgiving in a nutshell I don't know what is. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and thanks for visiting the blog.

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Apple Airport 7.6 Update

Apple put out a firmware update (version 7.6) for its Airport wireless routers. It helps with AirPlay (that amazing feature that lets you show your whole iPad 2 or iPhone 4S screen on your TV, provided you have an Apple TV), and with network performance. Apple doesn't say much more about it, but I've installed it here on two Airports and so far so good.

Airport base stations check weekly with Apple for updates. When there is one, like this 7.6 update, your Airport base station's light will flash orange, on and off, and you are likely to get a message on your Mac's screen that there is "a problem" with your Airport. That's overdoing it-- they shouldn't call it a problem-- and you shouldn't be worried that there is something wrong. All you have to do is let the update take place, which it will do automatically if you simply click "Continue" when the box pops up, telling you about "the problem."

You can easily do this yourself. You're supposed to. Note that your internet will go down for just a moment after the update, as the installation requires restarting the Airport and while that's happening, you're offline. It won't take more than a minute or so for the restart, and less than five minutes for the entire process. So go for it.

(If you want to get straight to doing the update, locate the Airport Utility (in the Utilities folder, in the Applications folder) and do the update from there.)

Super-cool: you can update your Airport using your iPad or iPhone. Get the official Apple Airport Utility app and you're on your way.

Tap one of the Airports and you get a bunch of info, including an option to update firmware. So neat.

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iPhone 4S: First Impressions

I've had my iPhone 4S for a couple of weeks, long enough to know what I like and don't like.

What I Like
  • It's fast. I didn't think my iPhone 4 was slow, and it isn't, but the iPhone 4S is faster.
  • Siri is handy and fun. I use it all the time, especially to make reminders and to set timers.
  • In general, I like iOS 5, which comes pre-installed.
  • I really, really like the over-the-air software updates. This works extremely well.

What I Don't Like
  • The battery drains very quickly. iOS 5.0.1 came out yesterday and is supposed to fix "most" of the battery problems but my iPhone 4S still seems to drain more quickly than I'd like. The biggest problem is the inconsistency. Sometimes (tonight) the battery hardly drains at all. Other times it drains 5% an hour just sitting on my desk.
  • Some iPhone 4S screens have a yellowish tint. My previous iPhone (the iPhone 4) has a cool blue screen, which to my eye is nicer. This seems to be a problem specific to some of the AT&T iPhone 4S devices.
  • The sound quality for phone calls ranges from superb to terrible, without changing locations. Sometimes the sound is so great it's like having the other person right there in the room. Later, in the same call, the sound can be so bad that I can't continue the conversation. Hanging up and redialing solves it, but geez man. This has to be fixed.

Odds and Ends
Siri is beta software, and it shows. There are so many things that seem not-quite-ready. For example, Siri can read your text messages to you, but it can't read an email. It can tell you that you have an appointment at 9 AM tomorrow but it can't read that to you either. Here's an interesting conversation I had with Siri about it:

  • Siri requires an internet connection, something that wasn't made obvious in the promotional materials. When the internet is slow, Siri is slow. The slowness is a drag, not because I'm in a rush, but because when Siri is fast, it's indistinguishable from magic. When it's slow, the magic goes away.
  • Reminders are cool. But the Reminders app is harder to use than it ought to be. And why isn't it part of the calendar app? Reminders and To-Dos are pretty closely related. I think the Reminders functionality ought to be part of the calendar.
  • Notifications are also cool. However, Notifications are a lot of work to set up, and for some reason different apps have different notification methods by default. Some use the banner across the top of the screen, some use the larger "alerts" in the middle of the screen. There's no explanation why you'd want one app to show notifications at the top of the screen and others in the middle. Why not make them all the same, or at least give me that as an option?

Conclusions and Advice
It seems to me that the iPhone 4S, and iOS 5, were a little bit rushed. That's sort of funny to say, considering that many industry people believe that the iPhone 4S came out three or four months late, but I still think it was rushed. Siri's in beta (and that's the first time that Apple's released anything with a "beta" label), and there are battery issues, and there are sound quality issues, and there are more than a few clunky interface issues. If you're looking for pre-purchase advice, I'd say wait until Apple puts out iOS 5.0.2. Hopefully, that update will solve the rest of the battery problems, and maybe solve the sound problems too. The lines will be shorter then anyhow.

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iOS 5.0.1 update-- I like it

Apple released iOS 5.0.1 today. It supposedly fixes the issues that the iPhone 4S has with the battery draining much too quickly. As such, it is just what I've been waiting for. I installed it through the air via Apple's new iOS software update system:

1. Go to Settings
2. Tap General
3. Tap Software Update

You will get a warning about doing this without the iPhone being plugged in to power, but my updates (on an iPhone 4S and an iPad 2) went perfectly even without being plugged in. They devices went down about two percent during the update. If you have more than 2% battery left, go ahead and get the download through the air.

The update took about 10 minutes (Time Warner cable modem). There are no options, no choices to make except at the very end of the download when you can either "Install" or do it later.

Considering how buggy iOS 5.0 is, updating to 5.0.1 is a no-brainer. Go get it.

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