The latest episode of Mac Power Users, ‘Syncing and Sharing” is now posted. It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 4 years since we last covered the topic and a lot has changed. David and I discuss the good and bad about iCloud, thing Dropbox is and is not good for, third party syncing services and how you can share information outside of iOS. David also tempts fate by talking bad about Klingons and Bat’leths
Today I received word that Tim Verpoorten, a pioneer in the Mac podcasting community and a man I was privileged to call my friend passed away. The photo is of Tim in 2011 at Macworld|iWorld and really captured his personality. He was always warm, friendly and willing to help.
Tim was one of the people who first inspired me to start a podcast. He was one of the original Mac Podcasters with his long-running MacReviewCast and review website Surfbits. When I ventured out into the podcasting space Tim welcomed me and was always willing to offer advice about audio equipment, microphones, recording techniques and more. I felt like I really got my "big break" in the Podcasting world when I was invited to join the MacRoundtable podcast, a show Tim co-founded.
Tim will be deeply missed. My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Alice an their family.
Last week I moved my site's RSS feed off FeedBurner and used the URI.LV service to help. URI.LV is a hosting service for RSS feeds that provides a "white label service" so that the subscriber remains subscribed to my feed while URI.LV's redirection allows them to provide me with additional analytics and social services. Although URI.LV has a free component to their service, their business is really setup for a pay model ($30 a year) which I appreciate because I want them to be sustainable and stick around. The developer has been very responsive and helpful in my interactions.
The goal in all of this was to have a seamless transition from one service to another without the readers of my site having to change anything. URI.LV has a tutorial on how to migrate off FeedBurner. FeedBurner provides redirection so your RSS readers should update with the new location of the feed automatically. Based on the statistics I can see it looks like that's happening but we're still in the 30-day redirection window so the real test will come next month when FeedBurner stops responding to requests for my feed.
The new RSS feed can be found here. If you want to manually update your clients or if you haven't subscribed to the site via RSS yet. If you've experienced any problems receiving posts in the last week, I'd appreciate you contacting me with the specifics so I can troubleshoot the issue.
Bradley Chambers released a series of video tutorials today "Learning to Love Evernote." I've had a chance to preview them and already picked up several tricks. In total, the package contains 10 screencasts for about an hour worth of content and covers the basics of setting up Evernote and goes through various workflows of using Evernote for storing specific types of content to give you a few ideas of the types of things you can do. The package is $4.99 and available in an iBooks author version for iPad or as downloadable videos.
I really like my accountant. He's a quirky, hipster guy who loves writing on whiteboards and drawing graphs. One of the things I like about him is he's very responsive to emails. Usually I the types of messages I send him need only a quick reply such as setting up a meeting, asking how a check should be written. As a policy, we don't do this type of business over email. While his replies are very timely I've noticed they almost always come with the standard "Sent from my iPhone" signature. As a geek, I appreciate this. But some clients may find it a little unsettling that this guy seems to never be in the office. (Or maybe he just handles all his email on the iPhone - how's that for inefficient?)
In my day job, I always want my clients to have the perception I'm at my desk, with my nose to the grindstone. (I am.) Handling messages from your iPhone may give the impression you're slacking off and never in the office. That's where creating professional custom signatures come into play. You can create a custom signature on iOS (and even different signatures for different accounts) that mirrors your standard email signature an no one will be the wiser when you're responding from your iOS device on the go. Here's how:
Select Mail, Contacts, Calendars
Create your signature
1. Choose if you want the same email signature for all accounts, or if you want to create different signatures for each account. I prefer different signatures for each account because some are more professional and require a lot of gobbly gook and some are just short and sweet.
2. Type your preferred signature to be displayed on outgoing messages
Tip: To avoid having to re-type your signature, copy your email signature from a previous message and paste it into the signature field.
You're done. Your custom email signature will now appear in Mail.app when you compose a new message. Wasn't that easy? Shouldn't you have done it long ago?
The recent update to 1Password 4.2 for iOS introduced several nice enhancements. One of the more interesting ones is adding the ability to share your passwords with others.
I’ll admit my first reaction at the idea of sharing passwords was negative. If you’re someone who has gone to the trouble of using a password manager like 1Password and go to great lengths to use randomly generated, strong, unique passwords for all your sites, why would you want to compromise that security by sharing your password? Passwords should not inherently be a social thing.
Then I thought about it some more. First, the folks at 1Password are really smart, so surely they figured out a more secure way to share this information (they did.) Second, there is certainly information within 1Password I want to share with family and co-workers for shared accounts. For example, we just created a new site for Mac Power Users (if you haven’t yet, go check it out.) We took the opportunity to change our hosting company which meant new FTP accounts, new logins, etc. I set all these accounts up but needed to share the information with David. Normally the way I would do that would be to copy and paste the information into an email or iMessage and send it off to him. The message would be encrypted and I’d probably separate the username and password into separate buckets for security, but it’s still not very secure. Then David has to take that information and create his own entries in 1Password. If I could securely send him the information I have stored in 1Password that he could then directly import into his 1Password database, it would certainly be better.
1Password explains the sharing process in detail on their blog. One thing to note, 1Password is very clear that although the information is sent in a method that isn’t human-readable, it can be read by someone who has access to a copy of 1Password. So the sender and receiver do need to find a secure channel for sharing items and preferably delete the messages once the transfer has taken place.
Aisha Tyler’s is so awesome, she broke our RSS feed. Temporarily at least. After a slight delay due to some technical difficulties, the latest Mac Power Users episode, workflows with actress, comedian, author, gamer, podcaster and all around “art shark” Aisha Tyler is now live.
By the way, if you haven’t already, take a minute and check out the new Mac Power Users site. More on that later...
I'm regularly asked the same question: “how do I extend the wireless (or wired) network in my home?” I figured it was a good time to create a post with all this advice and summarize it all in one place. So, if you're looking for ways to extend or improve the quality of the wired, or wireless network in your home, here are my thoughts:
1. Run a bunch of wire.
The absolute best way to extend your home network is to run wires throughout your home. That’s not a joke. Despite all the advancements in wireless technology, nothing beats a hardwired connection. When I built my new home I hardwired in two Ethernet drops to every bedroom and four to the living room and less than 18 months later I already wish I had more. I want drops next to every TV, drops on multiple walls of every room and drops in the closets for hiding away servers, printers and network attaches storage. All my drops originate at a cabinet in my utility room where I keep a multi-port switch and my cable modem. The biggest expense in running wire is the labor involved but if you have the resources, or if you’re building new construction or performing major renovations, absolutely take the opportunity to run wire everywhere.
2. Use Your Existing Wiring
I understand that for most people, running a bunch of wire is not a practical opinion. My next best solution is to utilize the existing cabling in your with a Powerline Network Adapter. These adapters use your home’s existing electrical wiring to carry network traffic. Powerline Adapters come in sets of two, one adapter is plugged in to power with an Ethernet cable connecting it to your router. The second adapter is then plugged in somewhere else in the home and can connect to the end-device whether it be a computer, router or device.
Typically Powerline Adapters have to be plugged in directly to the wall (no surge protectors) and connect to the same breaker box to communicate with each other. Powerline adapters are rated for different speeds, but in my experience in the real world, you can expect about half the advertised speed. A typical Powerline set will be rated between 200-500Mbps which is usually plenty for home data transfers. You can add multiple Powerline adapters to your network to extend your capabilities, but generally they have to be the same make and model to interoperate.
Here’s one common use: My grandparents have a large multi-level house and my grandmother recently replaced her computer with an iPad. They have a wireless network, but it’s located in my grandfather’s study which is on the corner of the lower level of the house. The wireless network was fairly weak and wouldn’t reliably reach the family room on the other end of the house. I installed a Powerline network and connected one device to the router in the study and the second adapter was tucked away in their family room on the other end of the house. I then purchased an inexpensive wireless router which I configured match their existing network (same SSID and security settings) and placed the second router in Bridge Mode so it wouldn’t assign conflicting IP addresses and connected it to the second Powerline adapter in the family room. Between the two routers they now have Wi-Fi coverage throughout their house and because the networks match, they can travel from one network to another without interruption. You can repeat this as necessary by adding additional Powerline adapters and wireless routers until you have appropriate coverage, just watch your wireless channels to make sure you don’t inadvertently create interference.
You don’t have to plug your Powerline Adapter into a second wireless router, you can use it to extend wired networks or individual devices. For example, at my parents home, I used a Powerline Adapter to add Ethernet connectivity to a TiVo. My parents regularly transfer shows between two TiVos in their home and were finding transfers using the 802.11g wireless adapter to be slow and spotty. The TiVo wireless adapter was also the only 802.11g device on their network and it would be nice to move to 802.11n only. We simply stuck one Powerline Adapter near their router and the second adapter behind the TV to connect their devices. Some Powerline Adapters will have multiple ports built in so we were actually able to connect a TiVo, Blue-ray player and Smart-TV using a single adapter since all the devices were in the same cabinet.
3. Upgrade your wireless network.
As you can see I’m a fan of wired networks, even if that network is being extended by using a non-traditional device like a Powerline Adapter. But in some cases, extending a network can be as simple as upgrading your existing hardware. If your wireless router is more than a few years old, or if you’re not using an 802.11n router, you’ll probably find a significant speed and range boost by simply upgrading your router. You’ll want to pay attention to devices that offer MIMO technology (multiple-input multiple-output).
As a general rule, I’m not a fan of combination devices with the router and modem built-in as I’ve found their range to be sorely lacking. Usually with these combination devices you can disable the wireless component or put it in bridge mode so your more sophisticated router will act as the dominate network device. Whether upgrading your device alone will be enough to solve your coverage problems will depend in your circumstances, but it certainly can’t hurt.
The other thing you can look at is the positioning of your wireless network. Wireless signals emanate from the base station in all directions, so moving a wireless network to a more central location may also prove helpful.
4. Extend your network wirelessly.
This is my least favorite of all options because in practical use I’ve found wireless extenders to behave very erratically and cause overall network performance to suffer. However I suppose sometimes there’s no choice. If you’re using an Apple Airport network, you can use an Airport Express to extend your network wirelessly by placing an Airport Express somewhere near enough to your primary base station where you still receive a strong signal but also between your “dead spots” so it can re-broadcast the signal to cover the problem area. For non-Apple networks you can buy wireless extenders and repeaters but usually you have to buy the same make and a model specifically designed to work with your router.
There’s no need to suffer with poor network quality in your home. Regardless of your circumstances there options for expanding your network coverage, hopefully one of the above will help.
This article first appeared in the April Issue of ScreencastsOnline Monthly Magazine. ScreenCastsOnline monthly magazine is packed with hints, tips, articles and links to streamable versions of ScreenCastsOnline tutorials and delivered monthly via Newsstand on the iPad. You can find out more at http://www.screencastsonline.com/magazine/
With Google killing off products and services I'm a little weary about the fate of Feedburner, which I've used to host my RSS feed for several years. I like the concept of Feedburner because it (in theory) offers additional statistics, social services and the ability to redirect a feed if I change hosts. Nevertheless, I've decided it's time to make this move and I'm going to be doing so over the next few days.
If you notice an odd behavior or problems in the next few days please drop me a note either on twitter or by email and let me know. In many ways this will be a trial run and if all goes well we'll likely be moving the Mac Power Users feed too (and that's a much bigger deal.)
I'm a die hard Trekie. So when 1Password posted their list (complete with video clips) of the five worst passwords from the Star Trek universe I was sucked in. Come to think of it, it is ridiculously easy to initiate self destruct.