Apple


Last year I wrote a document for a friend who was switching to a Mac. It was a basic ‘what you need to know’ rundown. Since then I’ve had a few other people ask for it, so I’m posting it here in case anyone wants it.

This is for Windows-users who are using a Mac for the first time. If you know anything about Macs, you’ll probably find this too basic for your needs. But for everyone else, let’s get started!

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* Let’s start with the Menu bar at the top of the screen. In Microsoft Windows every window gets its own menu (FILE, EDIT, VIEW etc.) and it moves around with that window. On a Mac there is always ONE menu bar at the top of the screen and it changes to show the APPLICATION you are currently using. Click a window for another application and the menu bar changes. THIS IS THE BIGGEST Mac/Windows difference! Make sure you understand this and you’ll be past the biggest hurdle. To recap – In Windows a menu bar refers to a WINDOW, on a Mac the only menu bar refers to the APPLICATION.

* Also note that “Finder” you see in the Menu Bar  is the name of the Desktop and all the windows that search the computer. It’s always running when the computer is on and is the same thing as Window’s “Explorer.” Go ahead and open ‘Address Book’ but clicking it on the Dock (down at the bottom of the screen) and see how ‘Finder’ changes to ‘Address Book.’ Now click on the Desktop and it changes back to ‘Finder’ again.

* On the far left of the menu bar you’ll see an Apple Logo. That’s usually called “The Apple Menu” and it never changes no matter what you’re doing.  There are several things in there, but here are the 2 most important items in that menu:

1)     Shut Down and Restart are obviously useful items. (Although “Sleep” is listed in there, you can put the laptop to sleep just by closing the lid.)

2)     System Preferences

* Click on System Preferences now. (It’s the same thing as the gear-box icon at the bottom of your screen.) If you ever need to change any setting on your computer, this is probably where you’ll do it. Try this trick: At the top of the Preferences box is a text-entry field with a magnifying glass in it. Let’s say you want to change your log-on password but you don’t know where to do it. Just type “Password” in that box and see what happens.

* Now, the mouse pad. Obviously it moves the cursor, but now you’ve got multi-touch! Go to a web-site that’s bigger than your screen, like a news site. Put 2 fingers on the mouse-pad again and move those 2 fingers up and down. Quick scrolling! This is critical knowledge for laptop users. Go into System Preferences and it will teach you more multi-touch tricks there. You can do stuff like scroll through photos or go back to a previous website without any clicking or buttons.

* The bar at the bottom of the screen with all the icons is called the DOCK. It contains shortcuts for your most-used programs. All Mac programs live in the ‘Appilcations’ folder. Find that in Finder (on the left side) and take a look. That’s where they live, but you can drag programs on to the dock to add  links to them, drag them around to change where they are, or simply drag them off to get rid of them. Everything on the dock is a shortcut…erasing it won’t affect anything else. The program still lives in the Applications folder. To access all your programs, click on the Finder (Happy face on the left of the dock) to open a new Finder window. On the left you’ll see an “Applications” folder. ALL of your programs are in there. Just put the ones you need all the time on the Dock. In fact, let’s start with ‘System Preferences’ (looks like gears). Now, you know how to get there in the Apple Menu, right? So I say, let’s save that space on the Dock. Just grab the gears and drag it off the Dock and let it go!

* You can put folder on the Dock too, but they have to live on the right over by the trash-can. Find one and drop it on there and click it. It’s a fast way to access stuff. Do you miss your Windows Start Menu? Drag a copy of the Applications folder onto the Dock. Then right-click it (read more if you don’t know how, I’ll explain it soon) and change that Applications folder to “List” view. Boom! Instant Start Menu! (But personally, I prefer ‘Grid‘ view myself.)

* There is also a section for the Dock in ‘System Preferences.’ Go in there and play around with the size and other options. You can turn on magnification, which lets you then shrink the Dock even further. It gets bigger when you mouse over it. There is a setting to “hide” the Dock, but I don’t use it. The Dock can often tell you things (like, when you have a new e-mail) and you won’t see that if you’ve hidden it.

* Next, look at the happy, blue smiley face on the left side of the dock. He is the “Finder” and he will always be there. You can’t remove him. Click him and you will see your computer’s contents. He is like “My Computer” on Windows. Look for the “Documents” folder or the home folder (it will have your user-name on it). These are all unique to your account. Files in those folders won’t be viewable if someone else logs on to a guest account on your computer. Stuff you put out on the top level of the hard drive will be viewable to guest accounts.

* You might notice that the Finder looks a lot like iTunes. It works a bit like it, too. You can even make those purple ‘Smart Folders’ for your files, just like you can in iTunes.

* Programs that are running have a black triangle under their icon on the Dock. Try this experiment: Click on the blue compass called “Safari.” That’s the web browser. You’ll get a web browsing window. Once it’s open, click the red arrow at the top left part of the widow. The window closes, just like the “X” button on Windows will do. Simple, right? But look! Safari is still running…just look at the black triangle on the dock. This is pretty important: Closing a WINDOW does NOT close the PROGRAM! That is another difference from Windows. On a Mac, the program can be running even though no windows are open. This matters, because you could end up with ALL of your programs running if you don’t quit them properly when you’re done with them.

Here’s what you should do to quit a program. First, click on the desktop. Look up in the upper left…do you see the Apple logo? Next to that it says “FINDER.” That’s the program you are in. Now click on Safari in the dock again and WATCH next to the Apple menu…it will change to “SAFARI.” If there are any Safari windows open, click the red dot to close them. The menu STILL says “SAFARI” because it’s still running. Click on the “Safari” menu and select “Quit.” NOW the black triangle disappears and your web browser is no longer running. (Command-Q on the keyboard also works for quitting. This is a big time saver.)

* Want to right-click the trackpad button? You can still right-click with it even though you’re on a Mac. Go into SYSTEM PREFERENCES > KEYBOARD and MOUSE. Click the TRACKPAD tab. Find the box that says “For secondary clicks, place two fingers…” and turn that ‘on.’ Now, put 2 fingers on the track pad and click with your thumb. Right-click! Works just like on Windows. You can buy 2-button mice as well. I always use Logitech mice with my Macs, I like them even more than Apple’s own mice (which are cool, I admit.)

* When you move the mouse over the dock you see the names of the programs. Please open these programs:

Safari

iTunes

Address Book

iCal

Once you’ve done that, please hold the Command key (by the spacebar with the little squiggle on it) and AS you hold it hit “tab” again and again. Maybe you know this from Windows. Maybe not. Either way, make sure you learn this trick now and you’ll use the mouse a LOT less to switch between programs…VERY useful on a laptop! Practice this for a minute.

* Now, what to do if the screen gets too crowded? Switch back to iCal. Now go up into the “iCal” menu and select “Hide Others.” Everything else should vanish. It’s just hidden, though. Use Apple-tab to pick something…it comes right back! Conversely, use Command-H to hide the current program you are in rather than all the other programs.

* Just so you know, if you click the yellow button in the upper left corner of a window, it shrinks down to the Dock.  (Like Window’s ‘minimize.’) You should know what that does, but if you’re using Command-Tab and Command-H, then you should never need that button! Seriously, if you’re minimizing windows, YOU ARE WASTING TIME. Learn how to hide programs using command-H. It’s much, much faster.

* And since you’re probably wondering, the Green button up there makes the window either full screen or back to a smaller size, depending on what it currently is. I rarely use this, but that’s what it does.

* Here’s an advanced trick. You still have other programs open, right? Use Command-Tab to switch to one of the programs BUT do NOT LET GO of the Command key! Instead, move your “tab” finger to the “Q” key. That will quit that other program without even switching to it. A quick way to quit programs you’re not currently using.

APPLICATIONS

I’m going to explain the programs that are currently on your dock. (Remember, there are more in your Applications folder. These are just the ones that are out on the Dock at the moment.) Feel free to move them around or change them, but here’s what you’ve got right now:

FINDER: Always there, like “My Computer”

DASHBOARD: Little floating programs. This is accessable from a the keyboard, so I usually take this off my Dock and just use the keyboarda. See System Preferences to set the key.

MAIL: Like Outlook. You can plug in more than 1 e-mail account. So if you have gmail and yahoo, just program them both in here. Most mail services have a website explaining how to setup their service in ‘Apple Mail.’ Just google them and I’m sure you’ll find a walk-through.

SAFARI: Mac web browser. You can also download Firefox if you prefer it.

iCHAT: Use this instead of AIM. Put your AOL name and password into it. It supports some other services too, but I’m not familiar with that. Explore the menus.

ADDRESS BOOK and iCAL: These 2 programs and mail all add up to work like Outlook does. It’s 3 programs instead of 1, but they all talk to each other, so it works as if it was 1 program. This is useful. For example, if you put someone’s name and e-mail in Address Book, then Mail knows it and you can type their real name in Mail and it will change it to their e-mail address. If you put their IM name in Address book than Mail knows that too and will put green dots by e-mails that are from people who are currently online in your buddy list!

PREVIEW: This program views things like photos. It’s also useful for re-saving photos in different formats. This is actually more than just a view. You can alter the color of photos, crop, and quite a bit more. It’s a handy, if basic, photo editor. But if you just want to LOOK at a photo, be aware of ‘Quick Look’ which is even faster. Select any file in Finder and hit the Space Bar. It will preview it without opening a program. Hit the Space Bar again to stop Quick Look.

iTUNES: You know this one, it works the same as on Windows. The only difference is that it can see Address Book, iCal, and iPhoto and copy data from those programs to an iPod.

iPHOTO: Just like iTunes but for photos. You can import photos from cameras into here or just drag photos onto it to import them. I highly suggest iPhoto for your pictures instead of random folders like many people do.

iMOVIE: Simple video editing software.

GARAGE BAND: Use loops to make your own royalty free music.

SPACES: Simulates virtual monitors. Imagine having 2, 4, or 16 monitors. Spaces lets you switch between them with the one screen you have. This is “off” until you turn it on in System Preferences. I wouldn’t worry about this too much if  I were you…more useful for power-users like computer programmers. Even I don’t have much need for this.

TIME MACHINE: A fantastic back-up utility. It allows you to restore a single file rather than the entire hard drive. So you if accidentally erase something, you can get it back. This feature requires an external hard drive, which is tricky with a laptop. I suggest getting one and making sure you plug it in every couple of days. Make sure that it’s “bus powered.” This lets you use the hard drive without plugging it into a wall…it will be powered from the computer. It will back-up what’s new whenever you plug it in. This is also ‘off’ until you turn it on in System Preferences.

In “Applications” you will find other programs, play around with them and see what’s what.

NOW…more fun stuff.

* Go to SYSTEM PREFERENCES -> Expose & Spaces

“Dashboard” should already be set to F4 and “All Windows” should already be on F3.

Set the other 2 options to F5 and F6. Now go out and open up 3 or 4 program and play with you F3 to F6 keys. Learn what they do!

For example, the ‘Show Desktop’ button is super useful! Here’s the cool part. Let’s say you have a photo on your desktop that you want to put in a text document. Hit the ‘Show Desktop’ button, grab the file (keep holding that mouse key!) and hit the button again to get back to your text document. Then just drop it! Almost ANYTHING can be done in OS X by just dragging and dropping. Forget all that “Import/Export” stuff…just grab a file and drop it in your document! It works almost everywhere. You can even grab a document from Finder and drop it on the program you want. Have 2 JPEGs? Drop one on ‘Preview’ on the Dock and the other on ‘iPhoto.’ No more right-click-and-open-with-this-application stuff…just drop the file on the program you want!

* And now…DASHBOARD.  Hit F4. These are quick little programs you might need from time to time. They’re called “Widgets.” To open more, click that + symbol in the lower left when the Dashboard is open. To CLOSE one, hold the “Option” key and mouse over it. An “X” will appear that you can click. There’s only a few programs in there right now, but if you get online, go to the Apple menu and pick “Mac OS X Software.” That will take you to the Apple web site and you can  find tons of free widgets. Little mini games…utilities…things that check E-Bay for you…whatever, there are hundreds of them.

* Hit Command-Esc. Use the arrow keys, return, and esc. That’s all you need to control it. I’ll let you play with that, you should be able to figure it out…it’s just another way to access the media on your computer. Escape will exit it.

* Once you’re online, go the Apple menu and select “Software Update.” You get free updates from Apple this way.

* You also shut down the computer using the Apple Logo menu. Closing the lid just puts it to sleep.

* The magnifying glass in the upper RIGHT is called “Spotlight.” It’s a super search feature that finds EVERYTHING. Even text within files…it looks inside stuff, not just at the name of the file. You can have a text layer in a Photoshop document and it will find it. It’s amazingly better than what you’re used to now.

* Lastly, Use F3, F4, and F5 to control volume and you eject CDs with the button on the far upper RIGHT on the keyboard.

Feel free to contact me at any point if you have ANY questions. I’m happy to help with any Mac stuff so don’t hesitate to write.

So the internet has been talking about this iPad thing for a few weeks now.

The iPad
Who, me?

The general public seems to be pretty excited about the whole thing. A big iPod touch? Cool!

Many hard-core tech-types are less than impressed. A big iPod touch? Lame!

Somewhere between the two we can find a new, third demographic. The technical-folks who understand why the iPad is cool. People like Dan Moren and Mike Monteiro. Mike came up with a rather brilliant graphic which compares today to tomorrow. That one graphic explains everything you need to know. Go back and click on Mike’s name if you haven’t already. I’m serious.


He’ll know if you don’t click it.

What I’m learning from these people is not that the iPad itself is cool, but rather it’s cool because of what it’s going to lead to. It’s the fact that the iPad’s descendants will eventually be used by 90% of people and the iMac’s descendants will be used by the other 10%. The era of the PC (and Mac) is coming to an end.

This is an important concept but I think it’s difficult to explain to people because it doesn’t have a name.What doesn’t have a name?” you ask.


Don’t you start with that, wiseguy!

There are two main “things” that are important to this concept, I think. One is the fact that the iPad (and iPhone) hides the file system and other computer-y type details. The other one is its single-minded one-task-at-a-time workflow. I’m pretty sure that’s all there is to ‘it!’

Really, it’s just those 2 things. But look at the most-used words associated with the iPad in the general media.

  • Multitouch touch screen
  • No physical keyboard
  • Closed system
  • DRM
  • iTunes ecosystem and app store
  • Multitasking?
  • iWork, iTunes, iPod, and iWhatever
  • No camera, no flash, no Verizon

Not a single one of those has anything at all to do with “it!” So it’s no wonder people are having a hard time with the concept. It’s something only a few people are talking about, and when they do, they don’t know what to call it.

We can solve one part of that problem here and now. We need to name ‘it.’

Once we do that, I think this will be a lot easier to talk about. For example, I can imagine a Dell tablet running Microsoft software on the Verizon network that has as physical keyboard and plays flash. Is that the opposite of the iPad? It is if it lacks “it.” It’s not the opposite if it does have ‘it.’

Once again. We need to name ‘it.’

I’m not very good at this, but here are a few of my ideas for ‘it.’ You would say: The iPad has…

  • Monofocus
  • Stack-Top View
  • Digi-Ritalin

These aren’t very good. You can do better.

Go!

Companies want to sell their products to as many customers as possible. The fastest way to do this is to target different price ranges with different versions of your product.

This is why Toyota makes Lexus cars, Nikon has SLR and point-and-shoot cameras, and why McDonalds has something called the Premium Crispy Chicken Club Sandwich.

It’s all so they can take money from the frugal as well as the rich.

Percentage of my readers who were paying attention

People are fairly used to the idea that more money gets you more features. When you buy a Macbook Pro you understand that you’re getting a Macbook + “more stuff.”

“It’s ok, little bro. You can live a very fulfilling life without firewire!”

We get that. It makes sense.

The software world does the same thing. Even if you’ve never used them before you can instantly undertand the difference between Final Cut Pro and Final Cut Express by their names alone. Here are some examples.

Final Cut Pro, Aperture, Photoshop, and DVD Studio Pro
&
Final Cut Express, iPhoto, Photoshop Elements, and iDVD

The basic idea here is the same as it is for hardware. When you buy DVD Studio Pro you can do everything iDVD does + more. And for the most part, that is how things work with all of these programs.

This is all a very long way of explaining what it is that I still don’t like about Aperture. (Oh good lord, he’s still on about that, is he?) I’ve recently been trying to move from iPhoto to Aperture, and at first I didn’t like it. Then I learned some more about it and I did start to like it. Finally, this week, I went back to not liking it.

This got me thinking about my likes and dislikes of the applications pictured above. I realized that I’m most frustrated when I find things that the basic programs do but their pro counterpart won’t. Once I buy the top level application, shouldn’t I be able to stay there? Why should I ever be tempted to fire up the smaller program for any reason whatsoever? But it happens.

I’m not alone, either. Just ask my wife (the Photoshop teacher) about Photoshop Element’s Selection Brush, Quick-Fix mode, or Batch Processes. She’d love to tell you all the reasons why Photoshop should have these hidden away as options somewhere. (And don’t bother explaining how to do these things with Photoshop’s tools. Of course it’s possible, the point is that these are unique ways of doing these things and you shouldn’t have to give these things up just because you moved up.)

On the other hand, I find that DVD Studio Pro goes above and beyond what’s expected. It features a ‘Basic’ mode which re-arranges its windows to be a bit more like iDVD’s setup.

iDVD

DVD Studio Pro’s “Basic” Mode

I certainly don’t expect this level of accommodation from every program, but it’s a strong sign that the DVD Studio Pro programers feel the same way I do. It shows in the rest of the program, too. There’s nothing in iDVD that ever tempts me to return there from DVD Studio Pro. Quite simply, DVD Studio Pro gets it. And Photoshop, despite a few issues, does fairly well on this front as well. The Adobe programers seem to understand this idea, even if they’re not 100% perfect at it.

But Aperture…hrnnnn

What!? What did I do?

The fact is, I was never able to fully say that Aperture is ‘better’ than iPhoto in every way. Better in a lot of ways? Yes, most certainly. But better in every way? Well, not quite. Not in the same way that some of these other programs are “better” than their counterparts.

So what’s missing? There are, of course, the obvious features. iPhoto’s location maps and face-recognition being the big two. The message-board consensus on the ‘net seems to be that people don’t even want these ‘consumer’ features in their professional program. They’re quite sure about this.

But what about Aperture’s ability to print books? That sure seemed like a ‘consumer’ feature when it was just in iPhoto. Now that the pros have it they’re happy to print portfolios with it or sell albums made from it. That was something that consumers used to print Disney World photo books back in the day and then the Pros found other uses for it. I’m convinced that ‘Faces’ and ‘Places’ features would similarly be put to use by hard-working photographers in ways that consumers don’t currently use them. Photographers tend to be pretty creative people, after all.

But” you say. “But those features are new to iPhoto and Aperture hasn’t been updated yet!” First off, you’re always yelling, do you realize that? Secondly, I actually agree with this argument. Why shouldn’t I just suck it up and wait for Aperture 3.0 to come out?

If these were the only things then I really would just wait it out. But the problem is, it’s not just those 2 features. It’s all the little things too. For example, when iPhoto syncs with my iPhone it puts the photo in chronological order. That makes sense. Aperture, on the other hand, doesn’t really care what order they show up in.


Birthday followed by the Birth!
I seem to remember it differently.

It’s the same thing as the other ‘consumer’ features, I suspect. iPhone syncing is not a very ‘pro’ feature so Aperture just doesn’t worry about it all that much.

Here’s the point where you all point out how wrong I am and how I totally don’t understand Aperture at all and I can fix all of these problems in the settings. Please educate me if you’re able to. I love to learn. But for the time being I’ve switched back to iPhoto. It doesn’t have all the advanced editing features, but honestly I’m doing just fine with Photoshop for that stuff. If Aperture would commit to being “iPhoto + more” then I would be back in a heartbeat. But that doesn’t seem to be their plan.

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Outside of my own little problems I still find these larger concepts very interesting. If you make two versions of your software and the cheaper one contains features the ‘pro’ one doesn’t, why is that? I understand removing things from menus and tool bars if they won’t be widely used. UI bloat is the worst enemy of pro-level software. But why not hide these features away where they can be enabled if the user so desires? A Photoshop user should never envy an Elements user, after all.

The New York times ran a technology article by Sarah Perez comparing Apple’s iPad to Google’s Chrome computer operating system.

I’m going to refrain from talking about the subjective arguments and just focus on 2 glaring factual errors. Luckily for me, both are contained within the same sentence!

Perez writes

But no matter what the real truth is, consumers won’t care. Once they find out that video websites like YouTube don’t work on the iPad, news sites like CNN lack video, and the TV portal Hulu is beyond reach, the iPad will, in their eyes, just NOT work.

No Youtube? Well let’s just fire up Apple.com and take a look. Oh, look! A photo of the iPad, right here on the front page! Hmm…what’s this?

I don’t see anything

No no. Look closer. Here, let’s zoom in.

Oh. That’s inconvenient.

Ok, so that’s just one teeny tiny little mistake. How could we expect Perez to be familiar with Apple.com, after all? I’m probably asking too much, aren’t I? And anyway, what about CNN.com? Its website uses Flash to play videos, after all, which we all know the iPad can not display!

Here, I’ll load cnn.com on my iPhone which is also Flash-impaired.

Let me break this down for you…

Oh. Hm. That seems to be CNN video playing on my iPhone. Well, the aspect ratio is a little weird, but I’m not sure I can classify that as “lacking” video.

Finally, we get to the 3rd item: Hulu. Here, Perez has a point; Hulu.com will NOT work on an iPad. Well, good job on that one, but a 33% success rate for that single sentence isn’t really the best track record. School children fail tests with higher scores than that.

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There are many other things that I consider wrong with this article, but I’ll leave the endless minutiae to more dedicated bloggers. The only thing I want you to remember is that Sarah Perez seems to write about Apple products without testing them, talking to experts about them, or even opening up Apple.com in her web browser.

I think you can take that information and make a good guess about how well the rest of the article goes.

Yesterday, Apple introduced their newest creation. It is a super-sized iPod that they are calling the iPad.

The iPad

Shiny!

Many tech writers and bloggers are debating what the purpose of this device is. These writers already own a laptop and a smartphone. Why would they need this 3rd device? The answer resides within the fact that many tech writers are your typical ‘gadget-guys’ who have a special relationship with with their tech toys.

Yes, many of them may be married or have children, but their gadgets stand apart from their family life. Much like hunting or golfing is for other men, technology is something these guys “do” with their male friends as a hobby. Their life is split into two parts: “Family” and “Technology.” (And of course the problem is only compounded for the tech writers who don’t have families.)

There’s nothing wrong with that (we all need hobbies!) but it gives them all a somewhat singular perspective. I’m a bit different. I see my life as split into a “Work” half and a “Family” half. My technology is filed underneath those categories. Not beside them. So when I look at a new gizmo I don’t ask “what does this do for me?” Rather, I ask myself “How does this fit with my family?”

The Family, during a more windswept time

As a multimedia professional, the cameras and computers I choose for my family are very important to me. Like, I dunno, I assume a gardener wants his or her front yard to look really nice. Likewise, I’d be kind of ashamed if I didn’t make sure my family had the right tools for both consuming and creating media.

(And recall that my wife is also a visual media professional. This is important stuff around our house!)

So, for an example of what I mean, consider an iPhone. An iPhone is useful to me but it’s also critical for taking Samantha on airline flights. We’re never going to let her have a computer or TV in her bedroom, but this amount of indulgence is ok because it serves a purpose.

Wait. Am I supposed to be kicking a seat? Whatever.

So an iPhone can take on very different roles depending on who you’re applying it to. My point is that these tech guys are looking at the iPad as a personal device. They have a laptop and an iPhone and they’re good to go. What they’re not doing is looking at it as a family device. For some of us, things are a bit more complicated. Here’s our current computer setup:

Tower – Laptop – Laptop – iPhone – iPhone

So you see that we have 3 computers for 2 adults. Throw in 2 iPhones and you have a bit of overkill. But we’ve found that we need each of these devices for various scenarios. Family vacation; Jeff business trip; Lori visits relatives; we both have a special project at work that needs a laptop. There is a different need for each of these situations and we’ve found that we need 2 portable computers to make it work. We also need the Mac Pro tower because of the amount of horsepower our home media projects require.

The 2nd laptop isn’t often used, but it’s used enough that we need it. However, I noticed something interesting when we got our iPhones. They didn’t remove the need for a 2nd laptop but they did greatly reduce that need. It’s not enough of a change to discard one of our laptops, but I did notice a difference in our usage.

What this means is that I can now envision our future family setup looking more like this:

Tower – iPad – Laptop – iPhone – iPhone

This would likely satisfy our needs and it’s at least $1,000 cheaper. (Possibly more depending on the laptop we’d buy.) When we do need both laptops it’s usually because one of us is traveling and wants something for media consumption. Not creation. So in this world we’d still take the laptop on vacation with us instead of the iPad (as it’s for editing photos and videos to send to family) but when I’m just traveling for business I’d use the iPad as something to entertain me on flights.

This usage of an iPad only became clear because my life is more complicated than a single man living by himself. And I only have a 3 year old daughter! Imagine a family with 3 teenagers. As the complexity of the system grows, the chance for an iPad to replace a piece of that puzzle only gets larger. This is not something that would be apparent if you just live with an iPhone and a Macbook Pro.

~ ~ ~

Does this mean I’m buying an iPad? I have to be honest and say that I’m not. Just because I can imagine this future it doesn’t mean it’s worth spending money on now. This is something I’ll consider when my laptop needs to be replaced, but that’s still several years off. And who knows what will exist by then?

My ultimate point is that there are millions of individual situations but many tech writers tend to be pretty similar to each other. So we miss out on hearing about some of these alternate lifestyles when it comes to technology reviews. I hope that by sharing my thoughts I can add another perspective to the mix.

I have to stop now because if there’s one thing that talking about Apple products can do, it’s putting babies to sleep. And she just can’t take any more!


Please…no…more…snrx…

If you’re not currently the parent of a 3 year old girl you may not know that Tinkerbell is really popular right now. And I mean super popular. Like, pants-wetting popular.

And no, sadly, that’s not just an expression.

Seeing as how I own both an iPhone and a 3 year old, it was only a matter of time before I acquired Disney’s Fairies Fly game for the iPhone. (iTunes link)


I just made your iPhone less cool! Hee hee!

You know how a human being can eat almost anything if hungry enough? I can now tell you that a human being can also play almost anything if bored enough. And so this weekend I played Fairies Fly.

Ok, so here we go. It can’t be that bad, right?


Oh god. Rainbows.

Yeah yeah. Let’s get on with this. There was an intro video about the wonder of nature which I’ll spare you. Here’s our selection screen.


I have to unlock autumn!?

Well that’s just great. I know that unlocking special content is an annoying ‘feature’ of video games we all have to live with. But I didn’t think it would extend to games aimed at people who can’t even pour juice for themselves.

In fact…

Seriously?

I can’t even choose all the fairies yet! What the hell. What if I want to play as Vidia?

Oh, uhm…wait. No, I did not just identify a Tinkerbell character by silhouette alone. Sure, I’ve seen both Tinkerbell films 4,000 times each by now, but it’s not like I’ve been paying attention or anything.

Come on, get real.

Ok. Fine. I’ll play Silvermist.


Yay, flowers!

So the game is pretty easy. You tilt the phone to fly higher and lower while you try to collect flowers.

It’s sort of easy but also kind of fun.


Motherf***er!

Oh my god! Bees!

I just got hit in the face by a frick’n bee! This is not cool!

They’re not stopping! You can try to avoid them, but they’re everywhere!


No! Stop! Leave me alone!

Ok. So that didn’t go so well.

Listen, uh…let’s just keep this our little secret. You don’t have to tell anyone that I crashed and burned on the Fairy game.

Nor do you have to tell them that I know who Vidia and Silvermist are.

And…well, I’d better stop talking now.

Stupid Photography Tricks: The Cell Phone Light

Today’s digital cameras are amazing in low light. You can even get good images in dark, candlelit restaurants! But photography is the art of light. Without it your photos are flat and ugly. You have a flash, but using it gets you the stink-eye from the maître d’.

What do you do?

Luckily, I’m betting that you and most of your friends are carrying around one of those ubiquitous little toys; the Smartphone. Turn up the screen brightness, open up a blank web browser and you’ve got yourself a cool, blue light!

Click photos to enlarge them.

You’ll see that I don’t really light the scene. The camera is still doing the hard work of shooting in low light. But your cell phone can give your subjects’ face a nice cool highlight that looks pretty neat.

You’ll still need a high ISO, a low-temperature color balance, and a slow shutter speed. (Using a water glass as a monopod works great for that!) You’re probably going to be shooting at 1/8 of a second, so your subject needs to freeze. Pure candids these are not.

But with the right amount of practice (and luck) you can pick up some awesome shots in really dark places! This restaurant was so dark the menus were hard to read, but I got this photo anyway.

Yes, they are kind of an odd look and not right for every situation, but you’ve got the phone there with you. You might as well use it for something! Plus, you have to admit this is cooler than anything I could have done with a camera flash:

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