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: