Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Book Review: OS X Mountain Lion Pocket Guide

This is the best book out there for the intermediate Mac user who wants to know “What can Mountain Lion do for me?” Beginners need not apply here and this isn’t a how-to book. It’s a list of the more technical functions and implementations and in particular what’s new in Mountain Lion. No fluff here, it’s all good.
This is the type of book every help desk should have handy for a quick reference to common questions of end users. The table of contents and index lets you quickly find the function you need and typical of the pocket series: an appendix with useful keyboard shortcuts.
A short review for a book short on pages but long on information
Pros: includes just the essentials
Cons: not for novices
Five out of Five Dogcows

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Book Review: The OS X Mountain Lion Pocket Guide

If you are already familiar with the Mac but want to know the key features in order to maximize your usage of this new cat, this is a great book for you. The OS X Mountain Lion Pocket Guide covers those functions you are most likely going to use and may not be as intuitive as they seem
Missing from this book is handholding and screenshots as this is all meat without any fat weighing the book down. The table of contents helps the reader hone in on the topics and functions they will be most interested in without long-winded explanations. While all of Mountain Lion’s 200 new features aren’t covered a large number are covered with just enough detail to make them useful such as Airplay, Notifications, and dictation.
Need to get up to speed on Apple’s latest cat quickly? This is the book for you.
Pros: Straightforward and right on target
Cons: Not a comprehensive guide
Four out of Five Dogcows

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Book Review: OS X Mountain Lion the missing manual

Books in the Missing Manual series are consistently the most comprehensive books for novice and intermediate users. In its usual brilliance, this hefty volume covers most every feature of the new operating system along with a few tips and tricks along the way.
As Apple makes minor revisions to its operating system, Pogue has gotten a bit lazy in updating screen shots and some information in the book. Numerous screenshots show pictures from Lion and earlier operating system versions. A novice user might get confused by these subtle variations. This edition, more than any other edition I’ve seen in Missing Manuals had errors caused by not updating certain sections.
That being said the major new features are covered extremely well and the guide to dictation was valuable. The chapter covers the exact syntax of commands and expertly discusses what dictation can and can’t do. I would have liked to see more direct highlights of new Mountain Lion features so readers could hone in if they are upgrading from Lion.
New users might be overwhelmed by the depth and breadth of the book. It covers most every function and doesn’t easily sort out what you “need” to know and what is “nice” to know.
Overall a great tome on everything OS X Mountain Lion, but be careful about the errors.
Pros: Great coverage of Mountain Lion
Cons: Occasional annoyances referencing Lion features
Four out of Five Dogcows

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Book Review: Macintosh Terminal Pocket Guide

This small guide gives Mac users a very basic introduction to Unix commands.  This book is designed for the do it yourselfer that has always wanted to, but afraid to, open the terminal program and check out the shell.  

The commands and options are generally given a context of how you might use the commands in the real world. In particular this book was extremely well laid out making it clear to the reader the commands, options, outputs and results of each section.  Many books I've previously read on the subject suffer from text overload but this book had a great use of typefaces, shading and style to make it a clear and straightforward read.

Unix commands can be overwhelming and just downright scary if you don't understand them right and enter them in correctly.  This book empowers the reader to explore without messing up their systems and risking damage.

Four out of Five Dogcows

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

GigaOM: With xPrintServer, print from iPhone or iPad to almost any printer

In this post for GigaOM/TheAppleBlog, I review the xPrintServer which allows Airprint to be enabled on both USB and network printers that don't directly support the protocol

Sunday, November 04, 2012

GigaOM: Yelp’s flaws become Apple Maps flaws in iOS 6

In this post for GigaOM/TheAppleBlog, I look at some of the reasons Apple Map data may be flawed and it points to Yelp

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Book Review: The iPad for Photographers

When I first got this book I expected it to be about alternatives to the camera app…or about how to take great photos with an iPad. This book is neither. This is a book for experienced photographers adding the iPad into their toolkit. The book covers advanced photo editing programs as well incorporating the iPad into their routines.
The first chapters cover how to use an iPad to assist with your current process such as storing photos, backing them up and using them to control your advanced camera. Other chapters cover apps for editing, rating and tagging photos as well as videos. Even though I’m only a novice photographer, the tips and tricks in this book are invaluable for anyone who wants to shoot photos on the road but not take a whole laptop with them.
The chapter on building an iPad portfolio and sharing photos was really valuable to anyone who wants to show off their digital work and includes very specific suggestions of apps and processes. Finally, the last chapter covers a list of apps that photographers would use on location, in the studio and on the road.
If you are looking for a book on taking photos with the iPad, this isn’t for you, but if you want to use your iPad along with your digital camera to make your photos even better this book is for you. The writing is crisp, clean and direct (though some of it went over my head).
Pros: For the pros!
Cons: Not for those actually taking pictures with their iPad
Four out of Five Dogcows

Sunday, September 23, 2012

GigaOM: Hands-on review- Zomm Wireless Leash Plus

In this article for GigaOM/TheAppleBlog I review a device called the Zomm Wireless leash that tracks an attached device via Bluetooth in case the device is lost or stolen

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday, September 02, 2012

GigaOM: Great travel gadget- iKeep charges iPhone, micro-USB devices

In this post for GigaOM/TheAppleBlog, I review a great portable iPhone and mobile device charger called iKeep.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hardware Review: Wave Cradle

While many of us personalize our phones with stylish cases and decals, we leave these works of art simply lying on a desk or bedside table ignoring the balance of form and function they provide.

Fortunately WaveCradle saves us from iPhone mediocrity. The primary purpose of WaveCradle is to enhance and amplify the audio output of your iPhone without the use of speakers or other extra hardware. The WaveCradle uses natural acoustics to direct the sound to the listener via its curved design. When listening to music or a phone call, the audio output is noticeably louder without being distorted. This won’t replace a traditional speaker but for casual desktop use it works great.
Just like your iPhone, WaveCradle isn’t just functional but a dream to look at. It comes it two styles, classic and low profile, as well as three different colors (I opted for traditional black). The sloped bottom makes it look like your iPhone is lounging in the lap of luxury rather than carelessly laying down on a table top. Your iPhone stands at attention ready for action, but at a slight recline just to let you know it likes to let its hair down on occasion.
My only complaint with the WaveCradle is that there is no pass-through for charging. To charge the iPhone while its in the cradle, you have to garishly cover the front with your charging cable. Ruins the illusion of perfection!
You’ve got to put your iPhone down sometime, so you might as well add some functionality.
Pros: Stylish way of storing your iPhone and amplifying sound.
Cons: No charging pass through
Four out of Five Dogcows

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Hardware Review: Prizm Stand

Apple’s iOS devices are simple, elegant and just work. However, one flaw of their design is they lack an integrated stand: they simply can’t stand up on their own. Enter the Prizm Stand: the logical choice for displaying your iOS device. Although these stands are not specifically designed for the iPhone and iPad, I can’t imagine a better pairing of two products.
The stand is comprised of two pieces of aluminum in a variety of attractive colors that provide a stand to hold your tablet or phone. The brushed metal design matches the iPad and iPhone perfectly (but doesn’t come in white!). The stand comes together by simply crossing the metal pieces into a scored slot. The lightweight aluminum make the stand lightweight and portable and the phone stand actually fits on your key chain.
When devices are held in the Prizm stand all ports are accessible, including the bottom dock and the device can be held in a portrait or landscape orientation. In addition, I had no problem using the Prizm with a variety of iPhone and iPad cases: even my thicker “extreme” cases The cradling is secure and reliable, but unfortunately is not adjustable: one position is all you get.
The attractive colors frame the iPhone and iPad extremely well and instantly draw the eye. This is the type of stand that impresses people and if you want a conversation piece on your desk or to draw people to your Macworld booth this is the way to go. I can also see this stand working well for using your iPad as a picture frame. Personally I’ve used both the tablet and the phone stand for travel: works great to prop your iPad at the coffee shop or on the plane to do some hands free reading.
The best feature is the price: $24.95 for the phone stand and $29.95 for the tablet stand. This price makes it easy to buy the stands in a variety of colors depending upon your mood. My favorite was the green, but it comes in a total of 11 colors.
Pros: Attractive, simple design that frames and supports your iPhone and iPad
Cons: Not adjustable

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Hardware Review: NuScribe Stylus

While Steve Jobs hated the stylus and worked hard to make the iPhone completely usable without one, in some circumstances you simply need a more traditional way to interact with the iPhone. Typically I like using a stylus in cold weather when taking off my gloves would just be too cold, or sometimes my hands are dirty or wet and I don’t want to touch the screen. In my day job, I often take credit cards via Square and customers feel more comfortable signing with a traditional writing device rather then their finger. My female friends tell me a stylus is indispensable when you’ve got long nails because the touchscreen isn’t always friendly for those with long or manicured nails.
The NuScribe stylus is a great writing instrument in and of itself. Sleek and simple, it has the right amount of weight to hold it comfortably in your hand. As a stylus, it just feels natural. The NuScribe feels just like a pen and because it’s a pen and a stylus, I use it everywhere. I’ve got a pen when I need to write and a stylus when I need to use my iPhone. Since the ball point is on the opposite end of the stylus nib, it’s unlikely you’ll accidentally use the pen portion on your iPhone screen. I remember my Palm stylus had pen marks for when I pressed the wrong button on my stylus/pen combo.
The stylus nib is always exposed, so in a purse or pocket you have to be careful it doesn’t get damaged. Ideally it would have some protection, but that protection would probably detract from its ease of use.
The price of the stylus is inexpensive enough that if you lose your pen (or it walks off your desk), it won’t set you back too far. And, yes, it works great with Draw Something!
A great multifunction stylus that lets bridges your digital and analog world at a price that won’t need a carrier subsidy.
Pros: Works great as a pen and basic stylus
Cons: Need to be careful with the stylus nib
Five out of Five Dogcows

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hardware Review: Flygrip

Some inventions are so innovative and well thought out that you simply can’t imagine life without them. Somebody had to invent the wheel after all. While theFlygrip isn’t quite as groundbreaking, I can’t imagine using my iPhone without it.
The Flygrip will attach to practically any iPhone case with a very strong adhesive (Flygrip will provide a basic bumper case at a nominal charge if you don’t have one). That’s one of the things I like about the Flygrip–the ability to bring my own case (and in fact, it isn’t iPhone specific and will work with any phone)
While attached the Flygrip adds minimal bulk to the back of the case and can be used as a horizontal or vertical stand for your iPhone–perfect for those tiny airplane tray tables or really any situations in which you want an easy viewing angle.
The killer feature of the Flygrip is the ability to hold your phone with one hand when the Flygrip is extended. Instead of using a “death grip” to hold your phone, you easily mount your iPhone between your fingers and wear it like you would a ring. These leaves all your fingers free to text or swipe. A few minutes of using this in mass transit and I was hooked on the Flygrip. Holding my phone with my hand instead of between my fingers seems so 20th century now. With all the advances of the iPhone, we still hold our phones just like we did 100 years ago. Join the 21st century and get yourself a Flygrip.
One caveat about the Flygrip. While I absolutely love it, the adhesive had trouble with extremely cold weather. A subzero Kansas winter caused my first Flygrip to detach, so be careful with weather extremes. Additionally, the adhesives didn’t work well on a soft shell bumper cases or any case with significant texture. It needs a solid flat and clean surface to adhere, leaving some cases unable to work with the Flygrip.
Pros: Awesome way to hold your mobile phone and use an existing case without adding much bulk
Cons: Doesn’t work with all cases and may fail with extremely cold temperature
Five out of Five Dogcows

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Hardware Review: Fitbit

As the weather starts turning nice and we start shedding the layers of clothing and blankets, many of us have noticed some of the inevitable winter weight gain. The Fitbit is an affordable solution to track your exercise and overall fitness.
The Fitbit is about the size of a small money clip and can be put in your pocket via a clip-on or worn around your wrist. Along with the Fitbit monitor is a a docking/charging station that creates a wireless port connection on your computer. When your Fitbit tracker is within range, the docking station uploads data to the Fitbit website so you can access tracking via the web and the iPhone app.
The tracker is a high-tech smart pedometer. It looks not only at how many steps you’ve taken but how many stairs you’ve climbed and monitors your sleep for you. Taking in account your height, weight, and age, it determined how many calories you are burning based on your activity and basal metabolic rate. Compared to more advanced analyzers such as a heart monitor or the BodyMedia Fit Core, the numbers were consistent. You can easily track your progress throughout the day and set goals for yourself.
The iPhone app also include a calorie tracker, but the database was very limited. Instead I used Loseit! Fortunately the FitBit has an API ( that allows other programs to interact with your Fitbit. Combining the FitBit with LoseIt! made it very easy to track what I ate everywhere. Other apps include the ability to use the Aria Wi-fi enabled scale so that way you don’t even have to enter your weight.
Similar to such popular social apps as Foursquare, the Fitbit website allows you to compete with friends and earn badges such as having walked 250 miles or your best number of stairs in one day. This gamification makes it easy to create incentives to go a bit farther each day or climb a few more stairs.
According to the Fitbit specs, the device’s battery life is a minimum of three days and average is five to seven days. My personal experience matched that as I would usually only dock it on the weekend and had no problems with battery life. The charging must be via the dock so travelers could have problems if they don’t bring a laptop on a long trip. The Fitbit will only sync with the dock connected to a computer since it has no inherit ability to directly send data to the Fitbit website.
My only major concern with the device was its very small size. When I’d go to the gym or get on the elliptical at home, I’d forget to clip it on when I changed clothes. It was a habit I had to train myself to do: always put on the Fitbit. Once or twice the device had a near fatal run-in with the washing machine as I’d forget to take off the Fitbit before throwing clothes in the hamper. A frantic run to the basement saved the Fitbit before someone pressed the start button on the washing machine.
For $99 the Fitbit delivers a great way of tracking your fitness progress and keeping you accountable. The long battery life and the web interface and APIs make it easy to connect with others working on their fitness and track a variety of factors that can contribute to better fitness. Use this in connection with your own weight loss journey and have fun with your process. It makes working out almost enjoyable!
Pros: Fun, flexible and powerful way to track your progress
Cons: requires a computer for syncing, small size makes it forgettable at times
Five out of Five

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Book Review: iPhone 4S Portable Genius

This book is a great comprehensive guide to the iPhone 4s and iOS 5.0 in general. The books is organized in a question format with chapter titles such as “How do I configure my iPhone” and “How do I connect my iPhone to a Network” making more of a functional organization than simply a list of features. This allows the book to be used as a reference manual to skip the stuff you already know, and the chapters are further divided on a more functional basis.
Each concept is presented with an excellent description and screen shots so you know you are doing it right and can follow along with the book. Everything is covered in this book: basics, intermediate and advanced topics; not just setup and sync but video editing, iCloud and troubleshooting.
The Genius series is a great product line from Wiley. It retains all the knowledge of an Apple genius without the attitude and the long wait to get to the bar. Purchase this book and go to a real bar with your spare time! Just don’t leave your iPhone there.
Four out of Five Dogcows

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Book Review: iOS 5 in the Enterprise

If you’ve ever heard how cool it was to remotely manage a pride of iOS devices (would they be a pride since they are running the iOS equivalent of Lion?) iOS 5 in the Enterprise is for you.
The book starts off with reviewing multiple device configuration via iTunes directly and along with the iPhone Configuration Utility (iPCU) and all the really cool ways you can limit and lock down features. Want to remove the ability to install apps from an iPhone? There’s an app for that. Well not an app, but a setting in iPCU. Moving up from iPCU is Mobile Device Management and application servers and then finally applying these configurations via wireless and Over The Air (OTA).
The book covers configuration primarily for readers using iOS 5 and MacOS Server 10.7, but also will be useful for users of 10.6, iOS 4 and third party products such as Jamf’s Casper suite. It is not really a hands-on how to guide despite the title. In the introduction the author clearly states “If you’re looking for a cookbook of how-tos, I will tell you now, this is not the book for you.” Instead, the book gives a broad overview and identifies the pain points and tips you’ll need to pursue things yourself. Included in each chapter are links to Apple and third party guides about how to create these detailed configurations on your own and what to watch out for, identified in the side bars as “Big Scary Warning”
After reading this book, I wasn’t confident I could go out and do this myself, but I was confident in pursuing the subject more. The book is more of a coach on the sidelines saying “you can do this,” “you know this” (It’s a Unix system). The author’s humorous and laid back approach to technology really empowes the reader and doesn’t suffer from the dry and stale approach most technical books tend to suffer from.
Until I read this, Mobile Device Management of iOS devices seemed like a big theoretical construct I’d have no interest in. I’m not in an Enterprise after all. Now, besides the ultimate cool factor of these remote configurations (and the fact that Lion server is so inexpensive) I can see use cases within a family or a small business with just a few iOS devices. Enterprise is too narrow of a focus and I’d like to be able to instantly configure and remotely manage the iOS devices in my household or organization. If you are responsible for more than a few iPhones, iPod Touch and iPads in your family or business, this book is a great way of determining if you should be managing these devices via a central interface.
Pros: Great overview of centrally managing iOS devices, easy to read and understand
Cons: Title confusion – the book is neither hands on nor restricted merely to the “enterprise.” Home Office, Small Office and residential readers who have a few devices in their home will find great value in this book.
Five out of Five Dogcows

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Book Review iPhoto ’11: The Macintosh iLife Guide to using iPhoto with OS X Lion and iCloud

Great guide to iPhoto that includes iCloud, Lion and Photostream functions
iPhoto is a great program and understanding the basics is intuitive and easy. To really extract the power of this program, a guide like this helps.
Unlike many tech books, this focuses on practical applications and where to use them rather than a list of features and how to use them. Detailed real-life examples are used to explain confusing (at least to me) concepts such as histograms, gallery effects, and raw. I also found extremely helpful the last sections of the book focusing on printing photos and using the greeting card, calendar and postcard functions. Again, this was about getting stuff done rather than what it could do.
This guide is updated to include all the new features of Lion, iCloud and Photostream as well as the modern ways to use Facebook, Flickr and photo sharing.
Each topic was presented with deleted screenshots and explanations without overwhelming you with details. On average, each topic was about two pages and just enough to understand without getting lost.
Outstanding guide to getting the most out of iPhoto as quickly as possible
Pros: Perfect guide to using the best and most practical features of iPhoto
Cons: Won’t make you look that much better in your own pictures
5 out of 5
Four out of Five Dogcows

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Book Review: Fitness for Geeks

“Getting in shape: using agile and other development methodologies” If you know what agile is and want to get in shape, this book is for you!  Unlike other fitness books that focus on just one aspect of getting (or staying in shape) this book is a great broad overview that doesn’t tell you what to do, but empowers you with the information to do it yourself. No wonder, since it’s part of the Maker series affiliated with that great DIY publication and culture. I’ve been on my own weight loss journey and really wish I had this book when I started.  No “program” for losing weight or getting in shape is included but rather various modalities such as diet, exercise and sleep and analyzed.  In each section the reader is empowered with various alternate theories on the subject (when is a good time to eat, what is a good sleep schedule, etc)  and since this is a book for geeks, a whole slew of smartphone apps, websites, and electronic gadgets are included to assist you along the way. Readers looking for a how to guide or a diet program won’t find it in this book.  Just like a manual for programming won’t make you an expert coder, this book provides you all the objects you need to assemble the right set of changes for yourself.  A great example of this was the sections on fasting.  I’ve read mixed theories of a 16/8 or 15/9 fast vs a 24 hour fast,  etc.  After reading the book I felt comfortable experimenting a bit more and playing around with my windows of meal times. Programmers and other tech geeks:  this is the book for you!  You are used to this style of writing and deriving benefits from a set of feature guides and menu options.  It’s up to you to put all that together to make something worthwhile. Think of it as hacking your body and this is about overclocking your aging processor and lack of RAM.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

GigaOM: Quick Tip: Backing up iOS to iCloud and iTunes simultaneously

In this article for GigaOM/TheAppleBlog, I cover how to backup your iOS device to iCloud and locally at the same time.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

GigaOM: The three-year itch: Why Apple needs to do more to keep older systems secure

In this article for GigaOM/TheAppleBlog, I review recent security updates for the Mac and Apple's refusal to support older operating systems .

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Monday, June 04, 2012

Book Review: iPhone Obsessed

With the amazing capabilities of the modern iOS devices, the camera that you have with you is often the best camera to have because, well it’s always with you.

iPhone obsessed, while written primarily for the iPhone 4 and 3GS camera, still applies to any iOS device with a camera. Although some tips and tricks for finding a great photo are included, the book’s focus is on apps and procedures to take a good photo and turn it into a great one. It’s all about post-production without a desktop. Use your iOS device to perform advanced manipulation that rivals some of the best desktop programs.

What I really liked about the book is QR codes in every section taking you to the app for purchase as well as online videos and tutorials that go into greater detail if you are interested. No long URLs to type: smart!

As a very novice photographer, some of the language and techniques used were a bit above my level and this book is written for photographers well-versed in concepts such as filters, lens flares and blurs. The audience for this book is experienced photographers wanting to take some of their techniques to iOS devices. This is the book when you’ve mastered Instagram and Hipstamatic and want more, much more.

Overall a great book and the apps and procedures reviewed should definitely improve the quality of my shots.

Pros: QR codes extending the book online, details of how to use the apps to make great photo manipulations
Cons: Requires photography knowledge

Four out of Five Dogcows

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hardware Review: Garmin ANT+ Adapter for iPhone

For those of you looking to take off the pounds for the swimsuit season, Garmin has a great iPhone-compatible solution to track your workouts and keep you accountable.

First, the Garmin Fit™ App for iPhone allows you to track your workouts in real time like many other apps. The real magic comes in with Garmin’s ANT+ Adapter for iPhone ($49.95) which allows you to interact with other fitness devices via a standard similar to Bluetooth. Garmin’s own heart rate monitor ($60.00) and Foot Pod ($69.99) interact with the ANT+ adapter and feed real time data into the Garmin Fit™ iPhone app, showing not just the distance you did, but how hard you worked out and how many calories you burned, so you can adjust your workouts accordingly. The app allows you to track your improvements and lets you strive for a bit harder, faster, or stronger workout. A third monitoring device made by Garmin and compatible with the iPhone hardware and software solution, the Speed/Cadence Bike Sensor, I didn’t test since I tried the Garmin solutions on internal gym fitness equipment.

Although it’s easiest to buy all your products from one place, the fact that the ANT+ adapter uses an established standard means you can interchange the Garmin Fit app and monitoring product as well as mix and match devices and apps that comply with ANT+. Standards are always easier to work with than proprietary solutions. Many gym devices already support ANT+ so you may not even need additional equipment besides the adapter.

While I am by no means a runner or fitness guru, the combination of the hardware and software gave me the data I needed in a way to understand it in order to improve my workouts and increase my cardiovascular fitness while losing weight.

Before I got the Garmin solution, I used a separate heart rate monitor with a watch. This was very difficult to use because any tracking required me to type the information into another application and that data was only a summary. I couldn’t see exactly how long I was at my target rate or adjust my workouts to exceed my goals.

The quality app combined with the Garmin fitness solution is an excellent combination for anyone looking to monitor their workouts a bit closer to maximize effectiveness.

Pros: Easy to use affordable equipment for monitoring your workouts to maximize effectiveness

Cons: You still have to work out!

Four out of Five Dogcows

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Hardware Review: Jabra Sport Headphones

Being a reasonably active person who loves listening to music (and occasionally picking up a call) while working out I was very excited to hear (pardon the pun) about the Jabra Sport Bluetooth headset. These are great workout companions and all around excellent handsfree for your iPhone.

The Sport has 3 basic functions: Bluetooth audio, FM radio, and handsfree phone. All these functions are integrated into an extremely lightweight set of earbud style devices that are rain, dust and shock resistant.

The Bluetooth audio had great sound, but it was often a bit too low to listen to at the gym. I had trouble getting them to fit correctly into my ear. Fortunately a set of Yurbuds came to the rescue and I was extremely happy! The FM radio was good for gyms that broadcast the TV audio system on a close range frequency. Now I could watch TV and do the treadmill at the same time.

As a handsfree accessory for my iPhone, it was very easy to make and receive calls. Voice Control worked like normal which is to say not so great (no iPhone 4s with Siri test with!) Even while on the run, callers could hear me well and I could hear them. I was able to hangup on a caller and end the conversation from the controls on the earbud.

In general as a Bluetooth accessory, this device had some great added features that made it a delight to use. The device uses lights as well as verbal signals to tell you when you are paired, powered on, powered off, and connected. This is a great feature since the device is in your ear, you can’t easily see if it’s properly working.

Besides difficulty with the sound levels, as a glasses wearer the device’s wrap around style did cause some interference. I’d have to put the Jabra on first and then my glasses; not a major inconvenience, but a minor annoyance.

The killer feature was the way it tracked battery. When the battery gets low it announces battery low over your audio (but not during a call). As it gets lower the warnings get faster. Additionally the device taps into a underutilized iOS feature that tracks the battery level of a Bluetooth handsfree device. The icon shows up next to the Bluetooth icon and is in the shape of Apple’s original Bluetooth handsfree for the iPhone. Now I could see exactly how much I had left and when I need to recharge. Nothing is more frustrating than your tunes cutting out midworkout. With 4.5 hours of talk time and 3 hours of music you’ll have to charge it often, but it uses a standard micro-usb port as well as includes an AC adapter for charging independent of a computer.

Overall great sound with a set of killer features that make this a welcome addition to your workout.

Pros: Lightweight, durable and great hands-free wireless functions
Cons: Not always loud enough, difficult to fit in some ear and eyeglass configurations

Four out of Five Dogcows

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Hardware Review: Tank case for iPhone 4/4s

When I think of a tank, I think of something that is extremely impractical for everyday use and in that sense the Casemate Tank indeed fits the bill: big, bulky and impractical. While it appears to protect your iPhone well, it’s simply isn’t competitive with other similar products.

This case is unique - typically extreme cases have a hard plastic interior and a softer silicone exterior to absorb impact and protect the headphone jack, dock, and volume switches. The Tank has a hard shell with integrated internal softer silicone protectors for the headphone jack and dock which are where moisture sensors are located. Because it’s integrated, you can’t chance the color when you want to try something different. The volume switches are protected but the speakers, microphone, rotation lock and camera remain naked and exposed to the world. This was an poor compromise in my opinion. Why only protect some parts if you are already adding bulk in the exterior?

Another feature of extreme cases is an integrated screen protector. No worrying about applying plastic to the screen with bubbles and lint trapped underneath. The drawback of the plastic overlays is they do impact the vibrancy of the screen as well as the general sensitivity. The case uses an accordion plastic overlay that can easily be pulled back to provide extra protection when not in use and full access when retracted.

On first glance this seemed like a great feature. This accordion plastic was thick and easily withstood direct impacts. A plastic overlay simply can’t protect like that. Unfortunately this for me was its greatest downfall. That thick plastic wasn’t fully transparent so anytime I had to read anything, I’d have to go through the process of retracting the plastic - even to answer the phone and see who was calling. I found myself too often keeping the plastic retracted and thus leaving my screen fully exposed.

One great feature of the Tank is an extremely well engineered belt clip. The iPhone fit tightly into a full cradle style clip. There was no risk of this slipping out like I find too often with other cases that are only gripped on the sides or the ends. The actual clip portion of the belt clip was several inches long and attached securely to my side. As a big guy, this was the first and only belt clip I was confident wouldn’t slip off when I got down or sat up. Since the screen faces outward in most belt clips, that screen protector is a great feature while it hangs on your side.

My problem with the Tank is that I’m the type of person constantly using the phone to play games, answer emails, check social media and even making phone calls. I can’t imagine going five or ten minutes and not using my phone for something and thus got extremely frustrated having to constantly move the screen protector out of the way. If you are that type of user, you’ll find the Tank about as practical as going grocery shopping in an M1.

However, if you keep your iPhone in your purse or book bag, that thick plastic will keep it well protected as it bounces around and bangs against keys, books and miscellaneous change. The belt clip was outstanding if you keep your phone more to your side than in your hand. You--with the self discipline not to be checking your phone all the time--I envy you.

If you check your phone constantly, the Tank is an exercise in frustration. However if screen protection is your ultimate goal and you don’t check your phone that often, the Tank may be your secret weapon to avoiding screen replacement. The best offense is a good defense as they say.

Pros: Great belt clip, outstanding screen protection
Cons: Not all ports protected, regular users will fine the screen protection too cumbersome

Two out of Five Dogcows

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hardware Review: PadPivot

iPad and tablet stands seem to be a dime a dozen lately. Everyone is trying to create the better mousetrap, but the power of crowds has achieved the ultimate and most versatile iPad accessory out there: the PadPivot

I saw PadPivot at Macworld 2011 and it was being pitched via Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a crowdsourced funding project in which someone comes up with an idea and needs to convince people to give them money in order to take the product to market. The idea has be great for people to dish out their hard earned money with little or nothing in return. This isn’t investing because the donor doesn’t get a stake in the profits generally or shares. They might get a token premium like a T-shirt or coffee mug. The PadPivot is a great success story because it had to have such wide appeal.

One of the key features I immediately noticed is how with a few simple steps it compresses to the size of and thickness of a mobile phone making it easy to carry in your pocket, in your tablet sleeve or in a carry on. When it isn’t on the road with you, the PadPivot is a simple iPad stand with a groove and stabilizer to make sure it doesn’t fall over yet leaves room for your docking connector. Great to keep besides your computer or to use it to display pictures while charging.

In motion is where the PadPivot shines. When fully extended it forms a concave surface that you can place on your thigh or even your arm. Even a big guy like me had no problem getting the PadPivot to stay put on my leg. A grippy pad holds the tablet onto the PadPivot surface. It’s a loose fit, like a sticky note - enough to stay put, but can easily be knocked or bumped. The goal is to give you a bit of stability to keep your hands free and prevent the tablet from sliding off. This made typing very easy without a surface to place the iPad on since both hands could type instead of one gripping the iPad. This is a ‘killer app’ on a plane, with no room on that tiny tray table to prop the iPad up put plenty of room on my leg.

If you do have a flat surface upon which to put the PadPivot, you can use it to hold an iPad or iPhone to view content at a proper viewing angle of about 80 degrees.

Though I’m not a gamer, the PadPivot has a smooth and full range of motion to it allowing you to expertly drive that car or spacecraft and take full advantage of the accelerometer without worrying about your grip on the iPad.

If you travel at all with your iPad, even across the room, you’ll find the PadPivot an indispensable tool for keeping your focus on the iPad rather than holding it.

Five out of Five Dogcows

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Book Review: #tweetsmart: 25 Twitter Projects to Help You Build Your Community

Although the title doesn't clearly hint at this, this book's primary audience is growing your business or audience using twitter. Each chapter is a short and simple way of using twitter to "build your community" but in reality it's about getting your message across. The projects are easy to implement and are specific enough to give you a clear plan of action, but allows you to play with the variables as well as have some advanced promotions. A brilliant book full of ideas. View it as a cookbook for your social media team. "Steal" the ideas directly or use them as launching points for other ideas Five out of Five Dogcows

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Book Review: iPad 2 for Seniors for Dummies

iPad 2 for Seniors

I’m not sure why they call this for Seniors because this seems like the average Dummies book. A good quality guide that covers all the major information you need to know. This book is extremely comprehensive and a novice might find it a bit intimidating. It’s geared more towards a intermediate user that already feels somewhat comfortable with an iPad

The one “senior” aspect of this book is the typeface. It’s BIG. Obviously it’s designed for those that may have trouble seeing. The book is designed for person that may not feel comfortable with technology which includes not just seniors but really anyone.

Having worked with seniors, I think this book presented too much information too quickly and the average novice might get overwhelmed with so much to do and configure on the iPad, and the books goes way beyond the basics.

Overall, for a senior that already feels comfortable with technology and is eager to learn, this book is a good fit. For novices or those afraid of technology, this may be too much.

Pros: Lots of details, big type
Cons: Maybe too much for information presented too quickly

4 out of 10

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Book Review: iPad for the Older and Wiser

Ipad for the older and wiser

If you are giving or supporting an iPad for someone who is a baby boomer or older, this is a great book!

This book is specifically designed for senior adults who may not always feel comfortable with technology and face certain physical challenges when eyesight and mobility begin to fail. Unlike “dummy” style books, this book respects their life experience and doesn’t talk down to them.

Each chapter focuses on tasks rather than functions. Instead of presenting Safari, the chapter is entitled “Browsing the Web”. For novices who didn’t grow up with these terms, focusing on what the iPad can do rather than what it is called is vitally important.

The chapters state requirements as far as technology and skills. This way you’ll know if you have exactly what you need to proceed. During the explanation tips and tricks are given about how to use the iPad, but not as many tips on efficiency or shortcuts. Newbies will love that because they may simply not know all the great things the iPad can do and don’t want to get bogged down with a “simpler” way of doing it. They are just trying to learn the basics. In particular I think the color coding of this information was great. Red backgrounds for warning and green for tips makes it an easy read and less intimidating with too much black on white text. The ending of the chapters have a summary and a quiz to reinforce the learning. Outstanding

The one major flaw of this book is the print size. It’s bigger than the average manual but honestly, if your target market is older people with potential eyesight issues, I think the text should be much larger. Also, this is written in the UK and some of the British spellings and terms might throw American readers a bit

Pros: Focuses on tasks rather than technology, easy to understand for novices without talking down to them
Cons: Text should be larger

9 out of 10

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Book Review: iCloud Visual Quickstart Guide

Visual Quickstart Guide

With the imminent demise of MobileMe, it’s time more of us move to iCloud and Lion, but with Apple thrusting this upon us, not all of us feel comfortable changing the way we’ve done things with MobileMe for years. Fortunately this book will alleviate your fears and make you a master.

The book, although multiplatform, focuses primarily on the Macintosh usage. Each aspect of iCloud is covered: mail, notes, iMessage, contacts, calendars, reminders, iPhto, iTunes, backups, documents, and search functions.
Each chapter gives an overview with objectives and then clearly organizes the information with tips, screenshots and easy to read diagrams.

The audience for this is beginner and intermediate users, although since the service is so new, we are all pretty much beginners and can learn from this book.

Missing is troubleshooting ideas when things go wrong, but this is a “quickstart” guide and not a comprehensive manual.

iCloud is fairly straightforward and not a huge leap from MobileMe, but it is different and this book explains to both new users to the product and migrating users everything they need to know to be successful

Pros: Covers the transition to iCloud and all the functions it entails
Cons: Can’t bring back the functions we miss in MobileMe!

Five out of Five Dogcows

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Book Review: iPad at Work

Forget about playing Angry Birds and watching Netflix, this book is all about business and rightfully so. David Sparks is a legend in the Mac community and his books are always spectacular! If you use your iPad for a business or non-profit, this is a must have.

The organization of the book is extremely focused. Each chapter covers a different aspect of what a user might need to do with their iPad such as writing, contacts, or presentations. Instead of showing you the basics of the iOS apps included in the iPad, David takes a holistic approach suggesting not just a variety of alternative apps but discussing suggested workflows and how to optimize these workflows for your individual business. No stone is left unturned here: billing/invoicing, databases, project management and more business specific concepts.

The chapters start with the coverage of the primary iOS apps as well complimentary or alternative apps. Each app is given a QRcode making for easy downloading on your iPhone. What a thoughtful and smart idea, but that's MacSparky--the online identify of David Sparks. Great screen shots and succinct writing make this a quick and easy read and allows you to skip over the concepts you aren't interested in. Don't skip. Even if you know contact management or word processing, the tips and tricks to optimize usage are well work the short reads.

The appendix of the book includes industry specific suggestions for law, medicine construction and more.

A seriously awesome book by an industry luminary!

Pros: Organization and content focused on business
Cons: Absolutely none

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Book Review: Teach yourself visually iMac

I'm not quite sure what the target audience is for this book, but I know it fails to adequately speak to any audience. The hallmark of this book is extensive screen shots for each topic and no matter what the topic is, it only takes 2 pages. Every aspect of using an iMac is covered including iPhoto, iTunes and other iLife apps.

My biggest concern with this book was that it was too advanced for a novice audience and too basic for an intermediate or advanced reader. For example, a novice doesn't need to know about DHCP numbering schemes but an intermediate or advanced user doesn't need to know about how to shutdown the computer.

The organization of the chapters is simply bizarre. The author's flow is based on setup rather than usage. The starting chapter includes setup and networking and moves to sharing with other users, a clearly more advanced concept, and then swings back to running applications and then organizing files or folders. Waiting until chapter 5 to talk about web surfing really doesn't make sense to me. Most users want to hook up their computers and immediately surf.

Later on in the book, information about remote connections and printer sharing are included, but given the same amount of space as sending an email or watching a DVD on a Mac. Different concepts require different amount of space to cover, so a new user might easily get overwhelmed they didn't understand some of the more advanced concepts.

I'd like to say the topics were covered well but they weren't. The illustrations were extremely busy with as many as 8 flags on one screen requiring a legend and color coding to decipher.

Pros: Comprehensive
Cons: Coverage of topics inconsistent, confusing illustrations, too much information for a novice and not enough for an intermediate user

2 out of 5 Dogcows

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

iPhone 4S Portable Genius

iPhone 4s Portable Genuis

This book is a great comprehensive guide to the iPhone 4s and iOS 5.0 in general. The books is organized in a question format with chapter titles such as “How do I configure my iPhone” and “How do I connect my iPhone to a Network” making more of a functional organization than simply a list of features. This allows the book to be used as a reference manual to skip the stuff you already know, and the chapters are further divided on a more functional basis.

Each concept is presented with an excellent description and screen shots so you know you are doing it right and can follow along with the book. Everything is covered in this book: basics, intermediate and advanced topics; not just setup and sync but video editing, iCloud and troubleshooting.

The Genius series is a great product line from Wiley. It retains all the knowledge of an Apple genius without the attitude and the long wait to get to the bar. Purchase this book and go to a real bar with your spare time! Just don’t leave your iPhone there.

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right

Book Review: Privacy and Big Data

With Google not just changing its privacy rules, but these slowly becoming a political and election issue, this book gives a short (75 page) overview of not just how we got here but how other countries deal with this issue.

The book doesn't offer many suggestions about how to approach the issue nor does it take sides in this great debate. An unimpassioned, direct approach is what you'll find here. You might want to get out your tinfoil helmet after this read because the authors paint a grim picture on our lack of privacy not just here in the US but all over the world.

This is not a technology book but more of a short essay on issues that business and governments face in their need to obtain data to protect citizens or to maximize profits - balanced against the rights of citizens and their need to feel like eyes aren't always on them.

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right

Monday, February 27, 2012

GigaOM: An iPhone case with a little something extra: insurance

In this article for GigaOM/TheAppleBlog I cover a kickstarter project that is an iPhone case that includes insurance

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Friday, February 17, 2012

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Friday, February 10, 2012

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Sunday, February 05, 2012

GigaOM: Quick tip: Use Notification Centre as an app launcher

This article I wrote for GigaOM/TheAppleBlog describes a way to use the notification center as a shortcut to your apps. This also appeared on Lifehacker

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

GigaOM: 5 tips to make a new Mac user’s experience as pleasant as possible

In this article for GigaOM/TheAppleBlog, I cover 5 tips to make a new Mac user’s experience as pleasant as possible, especially for switchers

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sunday, January 08, 2012