January 2nd, 2011 Meeting

Happy New Year everyone and welcome to the January meeting notes.

Backup Reminders by Thomas Leroux

Tom waggles his finger at everyone about backing up their systems and asks everyone if they’ve been doing their backups.  One at a time, the majority of the members said yes.

Tom mentions that while Time Machine can work between two partitions on the same drive, it’s not recommended since they are both on the same hard drive, and losing one automatically means losing the other.

Audio is then played of failing or dead hard drives.  Sounds everyone should hope they never have to hear as it means

Rule of Thumb: If you turn on your hard drive and it’s making funny sounds, make a back-up immediately.

Tom warns people to stay away from LaCie hard drives due to frequent crashing issues.

The Seagate XT series is recommended for back-ups.

The Seagate Momentus series is also recommended.

TextExpander by Thomas Leroux

An application which allows the user to abbreviate long and/or oft-used bits of text, whether Internet slang, an e-mail tagline or signature, or even a a paragraph or more.  Individually, they are called snippets.

As an example, let’s say you like to type “in case of emergency, break glass”.  You can assign the abbreviation “icoebg” to it, and each time you type the abbreviation on your keyboard, “in case of emergency, break glass” will replace it on the screen.  It can do a lot more than this, and examples can be found in their FAQ.

You can program hundreds upon hundreds of items such as that one into TextExpander, but be wise when choosing your abbreviations so as not to confuse the computer.  “is” is a word, and should not be used as an abbreviation for “internal system”

Requirements: v3 runs on MacOS X 10.6; v2.8.1 runs on MacOS X 10.4 and 10.5.

TextExpander is frequently included in bundles and has a 90 day money-back guarantee.  If not happy after 90 days, you get your money back.  On its own, it costs $34.95 US, and at the time of typing this, it was not available on the Mac App Store.

There is also a version for the iPhone and iPod Touch called TextExpander Touch, and according to Smile Software, the iPhone version will work on an iPad, but you should expect it to look and feel like you’re using it on your iPhone.  It goes for $4.99 on the iOS App Store.

Both versions are updated fairly regularly.

Tom demonstrated how TextExpander could be used to insert certain information into a database, and he also demonstrated how to fill out an e-mail with pre-determined information.

  • Comes with a commonly used mistakes list where it will auto-correct typos.  This list can be manually edited.
  • Wiill synchronize with your DropBox and is shareable on all your connected machines.
  • Can automatically capitalize the first letter of a sentence.
  • Can be restricted to certain applications, including chat programs.
  • Snippets can be organized into groups.
  • Search-enabled.
  • Creates an icon in your Menu Bar.
  • Shell scripts can be written for it.

Warning: Do not use it to store passwords.  If you wish to store passwords, use an application called 1Password instead.  It specializes in password protection.

Note: The developers love receiving e-mails pertaining to requests.  They thrive to make TextExpander even better with each new release.

At this point, Dave Rostenne picks up where Tom ended.

Dave points out that there is a built-in feature on the Mac that allows you to do what TextExpander does, but “it’s not as good as TextExpander,” he adds.  “Use one or the other, but if you want expandability and DropBox synchronizing, go for TextExpander.”

For those of you interested in checking out the built-in substitution feature:

Select the System Preferences > Languages & Text > Text

Question asked: Is there an easier way to view those substitutions?
Answer: If you go to the System Preferences > Language & Text > Input Source, there is an item called “Keyboard & Character Viewer” under input methods which you require to turn on.  In your Menu Bar, if you select the nationality flag, you will see options for the Character and Keyboard viewers.

Character Viewer: Gives you a list of all possible character you can manually insert through this utility.  When typing text, select one of the symbols, and press the Insert button.  Possible categories include:

  • Punctuation
  • Symbols
  • European Scripts
  • African Scripts
  • Middle Eastern Scripts
  • East Asian Scripts
  • Southeast Asian Scripts
  • North American Scripts
  • Miscellaneous Scripts
  • Archaic Scripts

Keyboard Viewer: Displays a graphical representation of your keyboard.  Keep it open when you type, and each key you type will be displayed.  Pressing the special keys (Shift, Command, Option, and Control alone or together will reveal extra characters.

By inserting the special characters in TextExpander, you can define it to a special shortcut key.  Here’s a quick example:

Select the “Create New Snippet From Selection” from the TE menu bar while a bit of text is selected.  A window will pop up to allow you to define a shortcut for it.  Anything from a fraction to a symbol.  Press OK and you’re good to go.  It’s that easy.

Osmos game demo by Dave Rostenne

Produced by Hemisphere Games, the game Osmos is a simple to play game for both Mac ($10) and iOS devices ($4.99).

You are a mote (def. a tiny piece of substance), and your goal is to become a bigger mote.  You do this by absorbing smaller motes than you.  Your means of movement revolves around ejecting matter behind you which acts as a propulsion system.  Elect too much, and you begin to shrink.  The graphics are brilliant, and the gameplay starts easy, but progressively gets harder.  Just remember that it is a physics-based game.

Dave proceeds to demonstrate how to play Osmos off a Mac for the next few minutes, showing everyone how easy it is.  For those who were around in the late 1970s-eaerly 1980s, the physics behind the propulsion is very reminiscent of the game Asteroids.

Questions & Answers

Question: Does the camera kit for the iPad work with the iPod Touch?
Answer: No.  The ports are of different sizes.

Question: is there some way that you can do a file compare on a Mac?
Answer: File Buddy

Question: Do I have to log off to log someone else in onto my computer?
Answer: No.

Dave Rostenne demonstrated the process, from creating the account, to switching to that account via the Menu Bar.

Select  the System Preferences > Accounts

Select an account, then press on the Login Options.

Turn on “Show fast user switching menu as”

A menu with account names will show up in the upper right corner in the Menu Bar.

Select an account from that menu and enter its password.

Question: If you’re loading/playing a video on YouTube and you switch to another account then back, will the video stop?
Answer 1: No.  The video will continue to load/play.
Dave demonstrated, loading up and playing a YouTube video, then switching back and forth between accounts.
Answer 2: What could be happening is that the account may be closing to open the new account.  If that happens, in Safari, select History > Reopen Last Closed Window to reopen the closed window.

Question: Does MacTVision work in Canada?
Answer: No.  An alternative is Netflix

Segued Netflix demonstration by Thomas Leroux

Netflix is an Internet streaming movie and TV show service that became available in Canada in the latter part of 2010.  The price is $7.99 / month.

Pros:

  • You can stream your movies and TV shows via your Internet connection.
  • Netflix suggests other titles based on your viewing patterns.
  • It works on your iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, new AppleTV, and MacOS.
  • It supports High Definition (HD).
  • Unlimited viewing.
  • Video scanning (forward and back) to get to a specific spot for playing.
  • DropBox-friendly.

Cons:

  • Streaming eats up bandwidth, so if you have a small limit, expect your bill to go up.
  • Not smart enough to recognize two users’ favourites to suggest appropriate other titles.
  • Still in its infancy in Canada, so it doesn’t have a lot of the current titles.

It should be noted that these are just the pros and cons that were brought up at the meeting.

INTERMISSION

Oft-Asked Question: What is DropBox?
Answer: File synchronizing done properly which allows you to sync information between machines, be they only yours, or to share with friends.

Question: How do I get something into your DropBox?
Answer: You need to be invited to that specific folder.  Here’s how to invite someone to your DropBox via your Finder:

Open your DropBox folder (located under your User account on your Mac)

Create a folder;

Select the folder;

Right mouse click on the folder.  A pop-up menu will appear.

Under the DropBox sub-menu, select “Share this Folder”.

Your DropBox web page will open in your default web browser.

Under “Invite collaborators to this folder”, type the e-mail address of the person you wish to give access to this folder.  Below that, you can even send a small message to the individual, maybe to explain why you’re inviting this person.

Click on the Invite button and you wait.

The invited person gets the invite and it’s up to this person to accept the invite by following the instructions.  The sender will get a message upon acceptance.

Upon acceptance, both the owner and the invited will share access to any file that is placed into that folder, up to a maximum of the DropBox’s default size.  Even a folder can be copied over, or even created within that folder.

At this point, you can drag and drop a web link from a Netflix movie to the shares DropBox folder.

Tom then showed everyone how to get DropBox by accessing the site.

END OF INTERMISSION

And we are back to Netflix.

Tom mentions there is an RSS feed for Netflix which works with Apple Mail.  If you click on one of the messages in the RSS feed, you can opt to view the movie from there.

You can actually drag the web link from the video’s header in the RSS feed to your system to create an alias.

Go to Watch Instantly RSS

Go to Apple Mail.

Add RSS Feed.

Copy/paste the above link and voila.

Question: Can you search by language?
Answer: No, but there is a foreign language section.

If you begin to watch a video and you pause it, it can time out and close.  But it will remember where it was paused when you reopen the video.  Netflix does all the remembering for you.

According to Tom, he has yet to see first-hand the removal of any movie or TV show from the Netflix service.

Other Items

Dave Rostenne has ample Apple accessories for giveaways, and several members won iPhone and iPod accessories.

Tom showed how he uses a MiniDV case for an iPhone stand.

Terry showed off his blinking Bluetooth headphones by Shure which he got for Christmas a year ago.  The headphones come with a microphone and exceptional battery life.  They can be used wired and unwired with an audio device.  Price:about $180 at the time of purchase.

Terry then showed off his JamBox speaker/speakerphone, a portable Bluetooth device with excellent quality sound.  The device is from a company called JawboneIt comes with a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery which lasts for a very long time with a battery failure warning built-in.  It also comes with a USB/Mini-USB for charging, as well as a headphone jack.  Price: $199 US.

Question: When did WiFi first come out for an iPad?
Answer: From the start.

Question: I want to buy a laptop – how would I sync two computers together?
Answer 1: When powering up your laptop for the first time, you will be asked whether you want to sync with another computer.  But it’s not that easy.  For small things, DropBox will do it.
Answer 2: Synk by Decimus Software will sync multiple devices’s contents.  $40 US for standard / $60 US for pro

Question: Can I wirelessly connect a receiver via WiFi?
Answer: Not if it has no wireless capabilities, but you can get Apple’s AirPort Express where you can plug in speakers.

Question: Is there a drivers repository?
Answer: Go to Google and type in the driver and its exact number.

Quick Demo: Mark Bell shows a home-made video of his Christmas LED lights arrangement at his home, pointing out it took over 8,000 lights and some lasers.  They all work to the sound of music.  He said he pre-programmed the lights to work with several songs, and it takes 3-4 hours to program a new song.  In total, 32 channels for the lights, 16 of which were for the tree itself.

Link to the video is pending. Come back soon.

Thank you to everyone who attended, and we hope to see you at the next meeting, on February 6th, 2011.

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