1. 29 August, 2009

    Snow Leopard impressions

    Its finally here! Apple touts being green at keynotes by talking about trimming the size of packaging  for their products.  Snow Leopard is no exception.  The box is considerably thinner than the iLife ‘09 box…any thinner and the disk will simply come in an envelope.  Anyway, in addition to the disk and obligatory apple stickers,Snow Leopard there is a small, full color booklet detailing Snow Leopard’s new features very concisely.  I love the installation instructions that go like this…


    Step 1. Insert disk and double-click on install Mac OS X.
    Step 2. Click Customize if you want to change  what’s installed.  When the installation is complete, your computer will restart.


    That’s pretty much it.  So I did, and in just under an hour from the point when I inserted the disk, to the finished reboot, I was basking in Snow Leopard glory.


    I was told that 1 program was non-compatible, SRS iWow plug-in for iTunes, which was moved to a folder called “incompatible software”.  This was expected since I scanned the posted list of software that wasn’t Snow Leopard ready the day prior.  I also knew that iStat menus and 1Password were going to need an upgrade (both of which are awesome programs that I will post blogs about in the future).  Not too surprising to see a few vendors caught off guard since the official release of Snow Leopard was supposed to be “some time in September” and it actually hit the street before the end of August.


    Now for the fun stuff.  Although Snow Leopard is billed as more of a refinement to OS X’s core services rather than a whole new OS with a quantum leap in new features, in addition to the refinements to the under the hood plumbing, there are some very welcome new additions.


    QuickTime X

    New to QuickTime are editing feature that allow you to save and trim video.  The trimming reminds me of how the iPhone 3GS trims video.  Also, QuickTime now allows you to easily share your video in varying resolutions to iTunes, MobileMe or YouTube.  Another new capability is to create screen recordings of your Mac desktop using QuickTime.



    The dock has some new tweaks including scrollable stacks that allow you to see more icons, and you can drill into folders in a stack.  Also, expose has been integrated into the dock so that by clicking and holding on an open application on the dock causes all of that applications to be shown in expose mode.  Not really a new feature, but a refinement in the GUI is that the context menu (i.e. right clicking) on a dock item now has a new HUD style pop-up.


    Better Preview

    The finder now sports a new slider control to easily scale the size of icons larger and smaller.  This comes in handy when you look at a collection of video files because you can now preview videos in place.  Simply hover your cursor over the icon and a “play” triangle appears allowing you to preview the video (with audio) as you look at your files in Finder.  One other point about the icon size scroller is that the setting is specific to each directory, meaning that you can have HUGE icons in your videos folder, but normal size icons in your other folders.

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  3. 26 August, 2009

    IE support…yeah, right.

    When I launched this blog, I checked how the page would render using several different browsers on different platforms to see if there were any issues that needed to be ironed out.  Looked good in Safari and FireFox on my Mac, Safari on my iPhone, FireFox in Linux, and even IE on Win XP.  Maybe its still not perfect, but I thought it was rendering pretty well across the board.


    Well, yesterday I received an email from a reader saying that the “Apple FanBlog” logo at the top right column was not rendering, and as it turns out, the visitor’s browser was IE.


    Hmmm…I thought to myself, “Do I really care then?”  After all this is an APPLE fan blog, not a Microsoft fan blog (is there such a thing? <evil grin>).  My guess is that readers of this blog are partial to Apple and either user Safari or FireFox for their browsing needs, even if that means using those on a PC they happen to have (be forced to use).  Am I wrong?


    So I guess what it boils down to, is that I could spend time/effort trying to make sure IE renders my Apple FanBlog just right, or I could spend that time blogging about cool stuff in the Apple universe.  Guess which one I’m going to pick. :-)


    That’s when I stumbled upon www.wedontsupportIE.com.  It’s a site that was founded by “aggravated designers”, and promotes browsers that, in their opinion, adhere better to standards including FireFox, Safari, Opera, and Chrome.  The site also has links to the download pages for these “better” browsers. Makes sense to me, and well, they also have a badge generator to put a nice “we don’t support IE” badge on your site, which was just what I was looking for.

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  5. 24 August, 2009

    Art Text 2…logos and web graphics made easy

    ArtText IconArt Text 2 by BeLight Software is an awesome program to quickly create logos, web graphics, buttons, and document headings.  With Art Text, you can easily apply glossy “web 2.0” type textures, gradients and other skins like chrome to fonts and objects.  The program also  gives you control over adjusting lighting, glow, and shadows.  But that’s just the beginning.  Other tools allow you to warp the geometry of the text and objects you are working with and to merge or intersect different layers to to get just the right object to work with.


    To get you started, Art Text opens with a selection page that allows you to select a sample to begin with.  There are over about 50 samples in each of the categories including: Headings, Buttons, Icons, and Logos.


    Although Art Text includes many fonts and symbols, since you can also use your own fonts, including dingbat fonts, the variety for your design is enormous.


    Once you have your graphic ready, it can be exported in many formats including JPG, PDF, TIFF, and PNG.  As an example of how easy it is to make a quick logo, the “Apple FanBlog” at the top right column of this page was made using Art Text in about 15 minutes.

    ArtText screen

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  7. 21 August, 2009

    MobileMe…keeping you in sync.

    MobileMeI’ve been using MobileMe for about a year now and often use its capabilities to illustrate just how elegantly Apple has integrated the iPhone to the Mac (PC).  MobileMe ties my Mac and iPhone together by seamlessly syncing my mail, calendar, and contacts between my iPhone and Mac, and adds several other capabilities like letting me find my iPhone when I’ve lost it under the couch cushions.

    Here’s a quick look at some of the MobileMe features I use the most.

    MobileMe provides account holders with a Push email account, which means that you don’t have to open the mail app on the iphone to see if you have new mail.  When someone sends you an email to your MobileMe email, its ‘pushed’ you your phone and you can see the red badge on the app icon indicating new mail before you open the app.  To keep things simple, I simply set all of my other email accounts to forward to my MobilMe email account so that any email I receive is pushed to my iPhone

    Calendar and contacts are kept in sync between your iPhone and Mac (PC) too.  Add an event to your iPhone calendar while on the run during the day and it will sync up to the cloud, then down to your Mac (or PC) to see later.  Or, add a contact to yourMobileMe address book on your mac and it auto-magically gets pushed to your iPhone.  

    Of course you can access your mail, calendar or address book on the web from any browser so even if the only access you have is an internet kiosk somewhere, you can still reach these resources.

    One of my favorite features of MobileMe.  Its easy to create a photo gallery in the cloud, password protected if you prefer, to share pics with your friends and family.  Even better, the pictures you snap on your iPhone can be sent direcly to that web gallery when you take them.  Your friends can even subscribe to your on-line photo gallery with RSS to be notified when you post a new pic, or directly into iPhoto on their Mac.  Now I can snap a pic on my iPhone when I’m out and about, have it zapped up to my on-line gallery and shared with friends and family in a flash.

    The iDisk is your own chunk of strorage space up in the ‘cloud’.  You can easily drop a few files there from your Mac directly from Finder like any other disk, then access those files from anywhere using your iPhone or another Mac or PC.  That comes in handy, but the feature I really like is the ability to email really BIG files that can’t be sent as attachments.  After adding a file to your iDisk, you can share the file by sending an email that contains a link to download the file from your iDisk.  These files can be password protected, and you can even set an expiration date for the sharing to expire.

    Find my iPhone
    Log into your MobileMe account and select the ‘settings’ button.  From this page you can select ‘Find my iPhone’ with several options.  The first is to simply locate your iPhone on a map.  Pretty handy when you can’t find it.  Hopefully it points to the phone being somewhere in your house.  That’s where the second option comes into play.  You can then send a signal to the iPhone that makes it sound a chirp, even if the phone is set to vibrate mode, so that you can find it between the sofa cushions.  If, on the other hand, it looks like you left the iPhone at the mall or on the subway, then that’s when the third option comes in, you can send a signal to the phone to perform a remote wipe to clear off all your data.

    All in all, MobileMe delivers a lot of bang for the buck and is definitely worth checking out.

    For more info here’s a link to MobileMe on Apple’s site: MobileMe

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  9. 17 August, 2009

    CardStar™ helps you juggle all those cards

    Have a wallet full of rewards cards and membership cards?  I have so many that I didn’t even carry all of them with me, and if I did have the card on me, sorting through my wallet at the register to find the right one was a hassle.

    App icon

    But wait…there’s an iPhone app for that, and its FREE.  Simply put, CardStar allows you to enter all those rewards and membership cards into your iPhone so they are always at your fingertips.  After selecting a merchant and entering the card’s number, CardStar creates a full screen card complete with bar code and the merchant’s logo.

    Sample card

    But what about that card for the local library or local merchant?  CardStar has you covered.  In an addition to a list of national merchants, each merchant category allows you to select “other”.  I used this for my local library card which has a very long barcode.  So long, that the bar code could not display the entire code on the iPhone when held in portrait mode…but when rotated, CardStar re-displays in landscape mode with the full barcode shown. nice.

    There are some more features like merchant info and to see this and the rest of CardStar action, check out the CardStar web site for a video.

    I use this app, and well, free is a good price.  So check it out today.

    Link to CardStar in app store: CardStar

    CardStar web site: www.mycardstar.com

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  11. 16 August, 2009

    Welcome to my Apple FanBlog!

    Thanks for visiting!  Let me tell you a bit about myself and what I hope to do with this blog.

    I’ve always been a bit of an Apple fan…ever since the days of using an Apple II at school before there even was such a thing as a Mac, but a few years ago my world changed when I bought my first iPod.  A 1st gen iPod Nano.  It was beautiful.  I was hooked.

    I transitioned from my windows PC to a shiny new iMac about a year and a half ago. As I have often told my friends, my only regret is that I didn’t switch sooner.  Then a year ago I got my iPhone and tied my Apple eco-system together with MobileMe.

    Now my digital lifestyle is elegantly integrated seamlessly like I never could have imagined.

    My intention is to use this blog to share my experiences with others whether it’s a tip or trick that I’ve picked up along the way, or perhaps my thoughts on a piece of software, iPhone app, or some add-on hardware, and to discuss the Apple news of the day.

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