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Four Tips for New iPad Owners

Are you new to the iPad? Here are some tips that will help you get more from this amazing device.

  1. Get an Apple iPad dock.

    It will hold your iPad at the perfect angle for use as a digital picture frame (more on this later), or for viewing any kind of information that you'd like to see at a glance (such as your calendar, or a weather map, or a webcam, or whatever). There's a place in the back of the dock for connecting the charging cable that came with the iPad so while the iPad's in the dock it's also charging. In my experience, standing the iPad up in the dock makes a world of difference. It's neater and more useful to have it standing up and visible than to have it lying down flat and buried under papers etc., and you're more likely to use it if you can see it. It takes less room on the desk when it's docked as opposed to lying down flat, and always being charged is a big plus. The only downside is that the Apple iPad dock is not designed with a lot of wiggle room, so while you can use it with an iPad 2 or "the new iPad" you cannot use it if your iPad has any kind of case on it at all. Personally, I'd rather use the iPad without a case anyway. You can get Apple's iPad dock at the Apple Store for $29. Or, save $10 and get it from Amazon. Be sure to get a genuine Apple dock and not a knock-off. The knock-offs aren't nearly as good.

  2. Get some pictures onto your iPad and use it as a digital picture frame.
    The iPad's screen is gorgeous, way better than most "real" digital picture frames. You already have the thing, so why not use it to show off your pictures? There are several ways to get pictures onto your iPad, including: use the camera, sync them from iPhoto on your Mac, save emailed photos (tap and hold on a photo in an email, then tap "Save Image"), open images in Dropbox (then tap the "Share" button and choose "Save Photo"). Use the Settings app to configure the Picture Frame, then put the iPad to sleep (or just wait for it to go dark). When you wake it up, don't swipe to unlock. Instead, tap the flower icon (see below). That starts the slide show. Stop by tapping anywhere on the screen. Of course this is a lot better if you have the Apple iPad Dock to stand the thing up in.


  3. Learn a couple of semi-advanced techniques.
    Here's one: with the iPad awake, double-tap the Home button. The screen slides up, showing you the apps you've used most recently across the bottom. Swipe those apps from left to right, revealing the brightness slider. Adjust the brightness as desired then tap anywhere on the screen to make it slide back down. This saves you a trip to the Settings. (Bonus hint: keep the screen dimmed as much as you can and you'll save the battery. You'll also save your eyes. (If you're not dimming your iPad at night you're needlessly tiring out your eyes.)
    Here's another: the iPad rotates the image on the screen when you rotate the iPad itself... but it can't tell that you've spun the thing if it's flat on the table. If your iPad doesn't seem to rotate properly try tilting it up so it's more on-edge. It will rotate then. (If it still doesn't rotate, someone's turned off rotation. Look in the Settings, under General for "Use Side Switch to:" and if it is set to "Lock Rotation" just slide the side switch the other way and you'll be fine. If the setting says "Use Side Switch to: Mute" it means you have to look somewhere else for the rotation lock. Luckily, you already know how to do it: double-tap the Home button, swipe left to right, and at the very far left, just past the brightness slider, there will be a big button. If it has a picture of a lock on it, tap it to unlock it. There, that's that.


  4. Get "iBooks" from the App Store (for free), and after that get the iPad Manual (it's also free).

    Here's a link to the iBooks app, and here's a link to the official Apple iPad Manual. You'll learn a lot if you read it, I promise, and it gives you a nice introduction to what the iBooks app is all about.

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What to do about the Flashback trojan

Bad news and good news about Flashback.

First the bad news. There's this thing called Flashback and it will mess up your Mac big-time. You could get it simply by visiting an infected website. Flashback will inject code into your browser and the modification lets the bad guys collect information as you visit various websites. The information could include, for example, your online banking username and password. Ugh. You don't want this to happen.

Now the good news. Flashback is reasonably easy to detect, and reasonably easy to protect against. Let's start with detection. This AppleScript will let you know whether your machine shows signs of being infected by Flashback. Download it, expand it (if it doesn't expand automatically), and then double-click to run it. You can read the code here, then copy and paste it into Apple's Script Editor if you'd prefer to run it that way. Thanks to macstuff.beachdogs.org for the script.

(Flashback creates various files, some of them invisible, and the AppleScript automates the process of looking for them.)

If the script tells you that your Mac is Flashback-free, that's that-- except not quite. Now you have to stay clean. The easiest thing to do is to run Software Update (under the Apple menu) until it tells you you're up to date. That may take a few iterations. The reason this works is that the Flashback program takes advantages of security holes in early versions of Java. Apple has patched those holes and provides the patches via Software Update.

If the script tells you that it found malware you have to take action. Unfortunately it isn't easy. Here are directions but they're not for the meek. Get help if you aren't comfy with Terminal. You could easily make things worse if you make a wrong turn.

Now for some background on Flashback.
  • The Flashback trojan has been around awhile. Its name comes from one of its early infection methods, which involved putting up a fake "Adobe Flash Updater" dialog box and fooling people into installing something bad. Flashback's creators have modified it several times; each variation is given a letter designation by those in the computer security business, with this most recent one being "Flashback.K."
  • Technically, Flashback isn't a virus (it doesn't spread from machine to machine), and it isn't even technically a trojan horse (because you can get it just by "driving by" an infected website. Most people will call it a virus but you will know better. Previous versions were trojan horses but the latest version is not.
  • There's some debate about whether there are really 600,000 Macs infected by Flashback.K. I've seen one instance of it. Most likely the sky is not falling but it is smart to carry an umbrella.
  • Flashback will not install itself if it finds anti-virus software on the Mac because it wants to keep a low profile (good luck with that now). My personal favorite is Intego's VirusBarrier X6 as it is the least intrusive of all of them, and it comes from a company that is focused on Macs. You can download VirusBarrier X6 from Amazon for $49.95 (good for two Macs, and compatible with OS X 10.5, 10.6, and 10.7). Order the VirusBarrier 5-user Family Pack on disc from Amazon for about ten dollars more.

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