2013.12 News: More on Genealogy

Walker Crawford, who gave the presentation on genealogy back at our November meeting, has informed us that those who were left wanting more might well be interested in the talk "What Is Genealogy, Anyway?" at the upcoming meeting of the Dane County Area Genealogical Society, Thu. Jan. 2, 7:00 PM, in the chapel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 4505 Regent St. (intersection of Regent St. and Segoe Rd.).

The speaker will be George L. Findlen. The talk is an introduction to genealogy. It answers 4 questions:
  • What is genealogy?
  • Why do people do genealogy?
  • How do I learn how to do genealogy?
  • Where do I go to get records about my family?
A handout augments answers to these questions made in the talk. Old hands are validated in what they do; newcomers are informed of what they must do.

SWAG board member Jim Benes is also vice-president of DCAGS.


2013.12 News: Mac OS X 10.9.1 Now Available

Well, it took a bit longer than usual, but the bug-fix release for Mavericks is now available for downloading from the App Store, so if you're a cautious adopter who didn't download the new OS 10.9 the instant it became available, all those who did have now finished doing the gamma testing on your behalf, and it's probably safe to go in the water. Word is that the only significant fix was to some buggy e-mail handling in Mail, but there are tiny tweaks here and there in the rest of the system.



2013.12 News: Tim Cook on Discrimination

Apple CEO Tim Cook recently received an award from the United Nations and used the occasion to plead for greater acceptance and understanding of various minorities. His alma mater, Auburn University, posted this 13-minute video of his address. (I suspect Tim has chipped in a few bucks to them thru the years.)


2013.12 News: What the Heck Is an iBeacon?

What the heck is an iBeacon? It's one of the few Apple technologies that didn't get released with a lot of fanfare. But it sees you when you're sleeping; it knows when you're awake; and it might be the future of "push" advertising inside brick-and-mortar stores.


2013.12 News: Apple Picking

So that's what the kids are calling it these days! A light-fingered, glib-tongued young man was stocking up on iPhones at a downtown Madison bar when the cops moved in.

Given a choice of many possible cell phones to choose from, this young connoisseur preferred the Apple product. This is just one more indicator of why Apple is now the most valuable brand in the world, supplanting Coca-Cola, the previous #1, which had held the title for decades. Coke slipped to #3. (The answer to the Sam Bowie question is "Google".)


BTW, there's a good reason why Apple is the world's most valuable corporation. Even corporate raider Carl Icahn, the subject of this week's cover story in Time, who wants to get his hands on some of that $147,000,000,000 in cash that Apple's sitting on, admits up front that he has absolutely no quarrel with the way Tim Cook is running the company.


2013.11 Resource: Genealogy

Thanks to Walker Crawford for this month's presentation on genealogy. Walker was kind enuf to share his handout with us in electronic form, so you can use the links he's provided to follow up on his talk:

Popular Websites

Online Family Tree Sites

Ancestory — 14-day free trial / fee research
My Heritage — free up to 200 names

Family Tree Programs

Features to look for:
  • Ease in Navigation
  • Publishing
  • Mobile Applications
  • Timeline
Family Tree Maker — owned by Ancestory.com
Reunion — Mac program with accompanying iPad / iPhone programs

Attend DCAGS Meetings

Dane County Area Genealogical Society, 1st Thursday of every month
Contact Walker Crawford, 608.206.3182


2013.11 Tips: Dealing with New File Formats in IWork 2013

The lovely folx at Macworld have investigated (and now proceed to tell us about) things you should know about the new file formats in the 2013 release of Apple's iWork suite:
  • Pages (word processing and page layout = Microsoft Word)
  • Numbers (spreadsheet = Microsoft Excel)
  • Keynote (presentation / slideshow = Microsoft PowerPoint)

Bottom line: They may not be as compatible as you'd like with the old iWork 2009 suite, but they are now seamlessly integrated with iOS devices like the iPad and iPhone, and they are all completely synced with each other if you use iCloud storage. (Apple would really, really, really, really like you to use iCloud; users — even those who acknowledge the benefits — remain skeptical about surrendering control.)


2013.11 Tips: 10 Cool Features Hiding in iOS 7

Did you know you could use your iPad as a level or your iPhone as a flashlight? Time tips us off to 10 cool features that Apple threw into the latest release of its operating system for handheld devices but didn't make a big deal out of, so you may not have noticed them.

Not this one, however:


2013.11 Analysis: Don't Leap Too Quickly onto the IWork Bandwagon

Concurrent with the release of the new operating system for Macintoshes (OS X 10.9, known as Mavericks), Apple also issued the first new version of its iWork and iLife suites in 4 years (since the '09 versions). Now, it's a bit misleading to refer to them as "suites" any more. Since the advent of the App Store, Apple has unbundled everything, and now you can get the individual component programs of iWork — Numbers spreadsheet, Pages layout, and Keynote presentation — separately, for the low, low price of $20 each. If you want a "bundle" (or suite), as such, it doesn't exist, but you can assemble one yourself for a grand total of $60. This is a fabulous bargain, and the software is pretty doggone good.

So you might figure that the latest release of these 3 programs would be even better. After all, Apple has had 4 years to work on them. Just think of all the great new features they must have installed, the speed bumps, the bug squashes, the interface elegances.

Surprise! Not so. Apple has stepped backward, stripping down the programs to have fewer features. "Why would they do that?", you're probably wondering, and you're not alone. SWAG President Dave Weston (the quintessential early adopter) was carping at our recent board meeting that Pages no longer supports import or export of RTF files. RTF! Rich-text format! The lowest common denominator of text storage, readable by virtually every word processor on the planet ... except Apple's flagship word-processing / page-layout program. (Dave has promised us full-blown articles on his experiences with Mavericks and the new iWork programs.)

If there's a saving grace in all this, it's that installing the new iWork programs does not automatically uninstall their elderly forebears. You can try the new versions to see if you like them, and if not you can revert to the old versions. Be warned even here, however, that the file formats are not reverse compatible. Anything created with the new version will be unreadable to the old one.

For those who are completely adrift as to what all this means, we provide the handy cross-reference chart ginned up for a presentation on office suites at one of our in-person meetings a couple of years ago:


2013.10 News: Price Is Right

The latest iteration of the Mac operating system, OS X 10.9 ("Mavericks") is available today (in theory). It's free. Consult "Software Update" under your  menu if you're feeling lucky and want to join the other rabid Macaholics on the bleeding edge.

Me, I always wait a couple of weeks for the X.X.1 bug-fix release so others can do the gamma testing on my behalf.

PS: Apple has done this many times before, so (unlike Obamacare's websites) they know what kind of download volume to expect, and they're ready for it. Still, expect times to be slower than usual due to the traffic jam.


2013.09 News: So, iOS 7? 'Sup?

Time's "Techland" section gives ambivalent (but thoro) guidance on "6 Reasons To Upgrade to iOS 7 and 5 Not To".

There will be other coverage as well, which we may or may not edit into this blog posting.

Personally (this is Richard speaking solely for himself), I always wait a couple of weeks to see how loud the shrieking gets before making the leap myself.


2013.09 News: Last New Release of Mountain Lion

The current version of the operating system for Macintosh computers (OS X, not to be confused with iOS, the operating system for handheld devices) is code named "Mountain Lion", but its official number is 10.8. There have been several updates to 10.8 since it first came out, and these have gotten sub-version numbers tacked on. Up until today, you were up to date if you had sub-version 10.8.4, but Apple's taking one last kick at the can by releasing 10.8.5 in hopes that everybody will have it installed and in place, all neat and clean, when the new baby (Mavericks, 10.9) comes home later this year.

In case you don't get Apple's announcement directly, go to your  menu, select "Software Update", and click on the "Update" button for the software update that appears in the App Store window. The download will take about 5-10 minutes, depending on your connection speed. Then follow the on-screen instructions. A restart will be required.

We encourage everyone to stay up to date on the latest system software that your hardware is able to handle.


2013.09 Analysis: About the New iPhones

Here's how Time sizes up the new iPhones (5C and 5S) announced this week (but not orderable until Sep. 20, and not deliverable until some time after that).

And Macworld gives you 2 different takes on them:
And of course there's the ultimate source for all things positive, where never is heard a discouraging word, Apple itself:


2013.09 News: Apple Product Launch Today

Question: How can we be covering Apple's latest product launch when it's still only 9 AM Cupertino time?

Answer: It's not us, it's the scoop from the intrepid investigative reporters at America's Finest News Source®.

Lead paragraph: At a highly anticipated press event at its Silicon Valley headquarters Tuesday afternoon, tech giant Apple officially unveiled to the public a panicked and completely idea-free man.


2013.08 Notice: Nerd Nite Sep. 4

Are you a Mac-head or an iPod person? Does that make you a nerd? Sure it does, who are we trying to fool? So, been craving some nerdy learning, fun, and booze? Then you should come to Nerd Nite!

When: Wed. Sep. 4 • 8:00 PM
Where: High Noon Saloon, 701 E. Washington Ave.

The three awesome presentations will be:
  1. The Argument For Tragedy: or, How I stopped worrying and learned to love Star Wars Episodes 1-3
    by Ross Shenker
  2. How Not to Make Your Indie Game!
    by Brandon Smith
  3. Groupthink and Brainstorming: Bogus Business Buzzwords
    by Miranda Kolb
Also featuring the Dry T-Shirt Contest v. 2.0. The nerd wearing the nerdiest T-shirt (as judged by crowd reaction) wins a free beer. Bust out your best stuff!!!

See you there!


2013.08 Review: Jobs, the Movie

Jobs (2:08, PG-13)

Screenplay by Matt Whiteley
Directed by Joshua Michael Stern
Original music by John Debney
Produced by Five Star Feature Films
Released by Open Road FIlms

Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs
Josh Gad as Steve Wozniak
Dermot Mulroney as Mike Markkula
Matthew Modine as John Sculley
J. K. Simmons as Arthur Rock
Lukas Haas as Daniel Kottke
Nelson Franklin as Bill Atkinson
Elden Henson as Andy Hertzfeld
Brett Gelman as Jef Raskin
Giles Matthey as Jonathan Ive

They say there are 2 rules for success in business:
(1) Never tell everything you know.

That seems to have been the watchword for this biopic as well. It’s half of the story of Steve Jobs in business. It starts partway thru his career, in 2001, with the announcement of the iPod to an adoring auditorium full of Apple employees by a gray-bearded Jobs, seen in all his mock-turtlenecked skinniness only at a distance. And we get a glimmer (but only that) of the famous reality distortion field that legendarily surrounded him and made everybody in the vicinity want to believe what he was saying, support what he was promoting, buy what he was selling.

Almost immediately, tho, it cuts to the early, much furrier Jobs, a barefoot dropout on the campus of hippieish Reed College during the flower-child era. If the subtitle hadn’t made the time shift explicit, the strains of Cat Stevens singing Peace Train sure would’ve. (Later we get House of the Rising Sun; the nicely done sound track keeps pace with the internal chronology.) And here we get a look at the personal side of Jobs, the hyper-jerky side, as he seduces a coed and afterward, when she offers him a tab of acid and a few extra for the road, he takes her up on the offer because, he says, he wants to share it with “my only friend, my girlfriend”. Geez, dude, at least put your pants on before flaming the nice lady.

A bit later he throws his “only friend” out of the house when she says she’s pregnant. He refuses to admit that her eventual child, Lisa, is his (despite a paternity test to the contrary) and even refuses visitation rights, tho it would cost him nothing to accept but never use them. Yet, at the same time, he’s throwing himself heart, mind, soul, and other people’s hard work and ingenuity into a gargantuan project for his company’s next-generation computer to be called ... Lisa. Whom does he see as his real child? The subject is ripe for psychoanalysis, but the movie not only doesn’t beat you over the head with it, it doesn’t even remark upon it.

And that’s the way it is thruout the whole film — a fair amount of detail, but all on the surface, from the public record, no depth, and gaping lacunae all over the place. We get only the barest glimpse of why the original Apple 2 was considered so far superior to all its competitors at the time. John Sculley orchestrated Jobs’s ouster from Apple in 1985, and Jobs spent a dozen years that might as well have been in the wilderness according to the movie, since we see him only as hands weeding a garden during a few-minute montage before he resumed control of Apple by booting Gil Amelio in 1996. There is one flicker of him appearing before the logo of NeXT, his post-Apple company, but no mention whatsoever of his co-founding of Pixar Animation.

During the 2 tenures of Apple years we are treated to brief appearances by some of the famous names of the technical and creative geniuses behind Apple — Steve Wozniak (who comes off as the sweetest guy on Earth, a largely accurate reading, according to all accounts), Jony Ive, Jef Raskin, and Andy Hertzfeld. (I had a laff-out-loud moment when Jobs is introduced to Hertzfeld, looks him straight in the eye, and asks in all seriousness “Are you good?” Well, I guess there’s no way he could really have known how ridiculous the question would sound 20 years later.) But we never really learn why they’re good. We don’t really see their work (aside from a little smoke curling up from Wozniak’s soldering iron) or hear them explain their ideas. As with Steve Jobs himself, the movie is all about Steve Jobs.

And when the timeline has advanced as far as the opening scene, in 2001, the movie stops. It doesn’t conclude, it just quits. The last scene is of Jobs recording the voice-over for the “Think Different” commercial (which I consider the greatest of all time, better even than “1984”, which is reprised at about half length), and then he asks “How was that?” Fade to black.

No iPhone. No iTunes. No Mac OS X. No iPad. No cloud computing. No WiFi. No resuscitation of Disney. None of the subsequent triumphs. (I suppose it goes without saying that there is nothing about the failures, such as the Newton, eWorld, or Taligent.) Almost nothing more about his personal life. Nothing about his health problems. The only allusion to his death is the final title card “Steven Paul Jobs • 1955-2011”.

Instead, we get to see a lot of shots of rich white guys in suits sitting around a board room playing corporate money, mind, and power games. Big whoop!

We know about banks that are too big to fail. Maybe Steve Jobs’s life is too big to film. It’s hard to fault this movie for what it actually did — especially if you take a good look at the still shots at the end, where the actual men in Jobs’s life (and they were essentially all men) are shown right next to the actors who portrayed them, and you have to give a big shout-out to the superb job done by casting director Mary Vernieu. Ashton Kutcher as Jobs was every bit as good as Noah Wyle in Pirates of Silicon Valley, which is no small praise. But there was so much the film didn’t do that it leaves you feeling like you’ve just had a Jell-O banquet — lots of volume (over 2 hours running time), but strangely unfilling and unsatisfying.


2013.08 History: I Have a Dream

Not quite half a century ago, on 1963 Aug. 28, Washington DC hosted an event that went down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. And there was no doubt what the centerpiece and highlight of that demonstration was: Martin Luther King Jr.'s magnificent "I Have a Dream" speech. It was a masterpiece of eloquence, nuance, cadence, metaphor, evocation, and most of all effectiveness. It galvanized a nation and led to the adoption of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

For some unknown reason, this 50th anniversary of the march and Dr. King's speech seems to have crept up on us unnoticed. I've heard of no celebrations or commemorations planned around it. But the absence of public recognition is no bar to each of us individually being able to relive that historic turning point thru the wonders of modern technology: context, text, and video.

As you watch the video, notice that, for the first half of the speech, Dr. King is reading from his prepared text, which concluded with the stirring imagery from the Book of Amos about justice rolling down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. Then he looks up and realizes that his intended conclusion, while speaking to the aspirations of the people before him, was from the head more than the heart, and he begins to improvise. The second half of the speech, where he looks directly at us, was largely composed on the fly, making it all the more astonishing in its power and coherence.

This speech hangs on the wall of my living room, and I recite it aloud at least once a year. It is a family tradition I commend to all — especially to the families of 5 guys in black robes out there in DC, where they seem to have forgotten it.

Incidentally, the speech's concluding lines — taken directly from the funeral services of so many American slaves — are inscribed on Dr. King's tombstone: "Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last."


2013.07 News: Are You Smarter Than Congress?

You're probably aware that the approval ratings for Congress are now down in the single digits, below used-car salesmen and only slightly higher than child molesters (but closing in fast). Maybe you've even joined in the new national sport of scoffing at their cluelessness and ridiculing their ineptitude.

Well, don't let it go to your head, bub! It's entirely possible that you are engaging in practices just as stupid as Congress when it comes to your computer passwords. Read this article from Infoworld's Robert X. Cringely and ask yourself whether your password selection makes you smarter than a Congresscritter.

For further grins on the subject, treat yourself to a stroll thru the top 25 passwords used on the Internet, as described by PCWorld's Jared Newman, who mercifully follows up his chortling over their transparency with some helpful hints on how to do it right.

And, in case you, as an Apple loyalist, couldn't bring yourself to view something from PCWorld, you at least owe it to yourself to review this hilarious bad example that Newman quotes from Mel Brooks's movie Spaceballs.


2013.07 Tip: Immediate Gratification

During the Q&A section of tonight's meeting, someone asked what the differences were between the Mail program that comes with the latest version of the Mac operating system (10.8, Mountain Lion) and earlier versions. We went to Mail's "Help" menu and chose "What's New in Mail?"
to provide some answers.

One of the new features discussed was how to make a sender a VIP and it contained a clickable link
with instructions for doing so. As the demo guy, I clicked on that link, then followed the instructions to use a test e-mail from SWAG Secretary Holly McEntee as the springboard for designating her as a VIP. And that's where we left it at the meeting.

The gratification came when I got home and fired up Mail. Lo, there was a new "VIPs" mailbox in my sidebar, with a sub-folder for Holly within it, and all previous messages from her moved into it.
Bear in mind that this was my desktop computer, my iMac, not the MacBook Pro laptop on which I'd done the demo. Apple synced my 2 Mail programs up for me automatically.

2013.07 Tip: Mac Help for Mom

As recommended by Holly McEntee at tonight's SWAG meeting: simple explanations for how to use Macintosh features may be found at the Mac Help for Mom website.


2013.07 Offer: Free Apps, Free Games

Apple's App Store (no, the "App" stands for "application", not "Apple") turns 5 this week, and they're celebrating it by making 5 apps and 5 games available for free download.

The catch? They're only available for 5 days.


2013.06 History: Who's Yer Daddy?

On this Father's Day, we lean on our friends at Macworld to review half a dozen programs often associated with the Windows environment that were actually born on the Macintosh.


2013.06 News: Does Apple Create Crime?

The new iPhones due out this fall will include a so-called "kill switch" that will render the phone useless if stolen, according to this news story from CNN. In addition to the obvious benefit to the iPhone's owner, this will help to take a bite out of crime, as the article observed:

The overall crime rate in the city increased 3% last year -- but "if you subtracted just the increase in Apple product thefts, we would have had an overall decrease in crime in New York," Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne said.

If you think about it, it's kind of amazing that commercial products from a single vendor can have an effect of that magnitude on the crime rate in America's largest city.

2013.06 News: Meanwhile, Over on the Dark Side ...

The Apple developer and user communities may be abuzz about the soon-to-be latest look and feel of our favorite operating systems, OS X and iOS, but there's been a comparable shift over on the dark side, with Windows 8 featuring "tiles" as an interface paradigm. We may all agree that the Apple way is the best way, but occasionally it's good to have a reminder that it's not the only way. After all, if it weren't for points of comparison, where would we get a good laff and tender feelings of sympathy for our poor, benighted brethren in computing?

Anyway, for the genuine propellor-heads among us (or merely those who can't look away while driving past a car wreck), our siblings at the Madison PC Users Group are featuring a presentation on Windows 8 at their Wednesday-night meeting, a week earlier than ours, June 12 at 7:00 PM in the Community Room of the Village Co-Housing Community, 1104 Mound Street, and they open-heartedly proclaim "all are welcome". The housing complex is a few blocks from Meriter Hospital, and there's usually on-street parking at that hour. The community room is in the central building farthest from the street.

Those who show up will undoubtedly gain an initial exposure to the word skeuomorphism, that we'll be hearing a lot more about in the near future.


2013.06 News: The Next Operating Systems

Today Apple kicked off its Worldwide Developers Conference with a look at what's in store for the user interfaces on its computers (OS X for desktops like the iMac and laptops like the MacBook) and handheld devices (iOS for iPads, iPhones, and the iPod Touch).

The sad news is "no more kitties". They apparently ran out of cat names, so in a grammatically odd twist, they decided to go with a plural — Mavericks — the 1st in what will apparently be an endless string of California place names.

More coverage of the day's revelations is provided by the good folx at Macworld.


2013.05 Tip: Replace glass on an iPad or iPhone

I took my wife's iPad to JCD Repair at 5439 University Ave in Madison yesterday. They said it might take as much as two days, and that they'd send me an email when it was done and ready to pick up. About 24 hours later, I received the email, and went to get it. It looks like new (although it's the same iPad) and works just fine. The charge was $99 instead of the $149 I was expecting. I took it right over to West Towne, and had a ZAGG Invisible Shield applied. They do iPhones (and maybe other units, as well).

Dave Peterson


2013.04 News: A Little SWAG Horn-Tooting

A new method for communicating with my clients about my database standards and conventions is now available at Richard S. Russell's FileMaker Pro Design Blog. I can say in all honesty that everything I learned about how to put together a blog like that I learned right here on the SWAG blog. Thanks to Ken Doyle for setting this blog up in the first place, back when it was still the Mad Mac blog.

2013.04 Tip: Follow This Blog by E-Mail

In the lower right corner of this blog you will find a box that enables you to enter your e-mail address and go thru about 15 seconds worth of additional clicking on yesses and OKs to sign up to receive an e-mail message every time something's posted to this blog, which saves you having to keep checking back every now and again.

2013.04 Tip: Making Your Mailbox Work like a Mail Carrier

At every monthly meeting, during the opening Q&A session, we always get more questions about one program than any other: Mail.

Well, Mail has a lot of features and abilities, some of them less obvious than others, so when someone does a good job of explaining a few of them, we figure we've got members who'd like to know about it. Thus this link to an article on Mail in this week's Macworld.


2013.04 Tip: Making Spotlight Do More

If you're like me, you will often forget where you stashed a file and will need to go hunting for it. In particular, you may not remember what the file name was but you do recall a key word or 2 inside the file. That's what Mac OS's Spotlight feature is good for. There are 2 ways of invoking it:
  (1) You can click on its icon in the menu bar:

  (2) Or you can just type ⌘-spacebar.

Once you've got the Spotlight interface open, you type in what you're looking for, and without you even having to press "enter", Spotlight will produce a cavalcade of hits, organized by type of item:

If you slide your cursor over any of these and click it, your Mac will open that file for you. But what if you didn't really want it open? Suppose you just wanted to know where you left it, or to go to that location to see what else is there that might be related. Apple doesn't make it at all apparent how to go about this, but there's a trick to it. If you hold ⌘-option down, it will show you the location of the item. If you hit ⌘-R it will open the containing folder in the Finder.


2013.03 Tip: Type2Phone

During this month's presentation on the iPad user interface ("I Am Not a Mac"), I mentioned how much I detested the iPad's virtual keyboard, and one of the other members, fonder of the iPad than I am, pointed out quite correctly that I could get an actual physical keyboard that could wirelessly talk to the iPad using a Bluetooth connection.

All well and good, I remarked, but this runs afoul of 2 things:
(1) A major benefit of the iPad is portability due to compactness, and if I need a separate keyboard just to use it properly, that benefit gets shot in the head.
(2) Extra hardware costs money.

But something has recently come to my attention that resolves the 2nd issue and kind of addresses the 1st. It's Type2Phone, a $5 iPad app that lets you use your existing Mac keyboard (which you've presumably already paid for) to type directly to the iPad. That beats the pants off of shelling out $70 to $100 for a wireless keyboard.

How does that affect portability? Well, it doesn't, really, but presumably you'd only be using this app when you're at home, which is where your keyboard has to be in order to keep your Mac company, so you wouldn't have Hardware Item #2 bogging you down when you're out on the town. For that, you'd still be stuck with the icky virtual keyboard.

Or Siri. But carrying on long conversations with Siri isn't possible, and even just trying to do so gets you lots of strange looks. Fewer uneasy glances than 20 years ago, when you'd be mistaken for a CMI street person, but still ...


2013.03 Tip: Getting More Out of Spotlight

In this video, Macworld senior editor Dan Frakes runs thru a whole host of features available to you in OS X's Spotlight feature:


2013.03 Tip: Scheduled E-Mail

I tried to send out a mass e-mailing to some of my lists and friends at precisely the right moment this morning (1:59 AM) with these sentiments:
Happy π Day, 3/14 1:59

but I missed the exact moment. This prompted my friend (and fellow SWAG member) Jeanne Gomoll to inform me that "You can write your message for the next pi day right now and schedule delivery for the perfect moment." And here's how.


2013.03 News: Discount List Available

There's a new tab on the SWAG website, way over at the far right. It's called "Discounts", and it's a list of businesses that offer reduced prices for senior citizens. The definition of "senior" sometimes starts as early as age 50. It just came rolling into my inbox today, and I thot I'd publish it as a public service.


2013.03 Feature: Preparing for FileMaker Go

My favorite computer program is FileMaker Pro, a database manager from FileMaker Inc. (FMI), a wholly owned subsidiary of Apple. Not least of its many virtues is that it's 100% cross-platform compatible between Mac's OS X and Microsoft's Windows. You can create a database system on either platform and copy it over to the other platform, and it'll work 99% the same. (There are some annoying font-sizing differences due to Windows being less efficient at using space than the Mac.)

And now FMI has made the leap to iOS as well. That's the operating system that Apple uses for its hand-held devices, the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. Since iOS devices are mainly intended for consuming information, not creating it, there is no version of FileMaker Pro itself that works on them (at least not yet). What you get instead is something called FileMaker Go (not Pro). The bad news is, as mentioned, that you can't use it to create new databases; you can only use databases created on a regular computer using FileMaker Pro. The good news is that FM Go is free. You can readily download it from the FileMaker website.

My first project for FileMaker Go was to modify an existing database, Music Library, that I'd created for Madison Youth Choirs so that a person holding an iPad in one hand could rummage thru the library (multiple shelves in their own room) looking for appropriately themed music and tagging on screen the scores they were interested in. I won't go into all the detail here of what sorts of modifications were needed, but suffice it to say that a touch-based interface requires some substantially different approaches than a mouse-and-keyboard-based interface.

Still in all, the redesign went pretty smoothly until I got to what I figured would be the easy part: copying the database file over from my Mac to the iPad. And it turned out not to be easy (or intuitive) at all! So, after I tapped into the brains of people more knowledgeable than I, I had 3 different techniques that would work. In order to provide documentation for future users (mainly the me of 10-12 months from now), I wrote up my findings in the form of a couple of explanatory screens right within the database file itself. I herewith make them available to all (click to enlarge):

2012.03 Humor: Getting To Know Your IPad

Zits, by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman, for 2013 March 12:


2013.02 History: Productivity Suites

At the February meeting, I did a presentation on Apple's combination word processor and page-layout program, Pages. At the time I mentioned that it was part of a productivity suite called iWork, and indeed so it was when I acquired it a couple of years ago. But, with the advent of the App Store, Apple has unbundled the 3 components of iWork and is now selling them separately (only). Conversely, prime competitor Microsoft makes it damn near impossible to buy any of their equivalents as stand-alone programs; they really really really want you to spring for the entire Office for Mac 2011 productivity suite.

Here's a comparison (click to enlarge):

PS: The above chart was produced using Pages.


2013.01 Tip: Check "Purchases" First

I have both a desktop and a laptop computer. I had already downloaded the latest version of the Macintosh operating system (OS X 10.8.2, Mountain Lion) onto my desktop machine and finally got around to doing it on my laptop. I fired up App Store, clicked on "Updates", and OKed my way thru the various screens presented, one of which was my Apple ID account. I figured I had already paid for Mountain Lion for my iMac and shouldn't have to do so again for the MacBook Pro, but that they'd need to know who I was to verify my eligibility.

The download and installation took quite awhile. (If you intend to upgrade to Mountain Lion, I recommend you fire the process up shortly before retiring for the evening. That way it'll be waiting for you in the morning.) After it was done, I figured I should check to see what else might need to be upgraded, so I checked on the "Purchases" option in App Store. Sitting at the top of the list was OS X Mountain Lion, with the "Download" button active. I checked "About this Mac" under the  menu, and sure enuf, it said that I was running 10.8.2 already. I clicked on the "Update" button anyway, just to see what would happen, and it informed me that I had already installed 10.8, but did I want to continue with the download anyway? No, not really.

So I infer that what I just did was spend $20 I didn't have to spend in order to get a copy of Mountain Lion that I was already entitled to for free. (I tried checking my credit-card account on line, but if Apple has charged me that $20, the transaction hasn't cleared yet.) The moral of this story is that, when you shop the App Store, start by checking "Purchases", not "Updates".

2013.01 History: 50 Years Ago This August

Today, January 21, is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Here's what Dr. King was up to 50 years ago this August:
   "I have a dream"