New Home Control Products

imageThe home control market is in the process of exploding. Many vendors are trying to create products that allow people to create their own smart home and control it from an application on their phone or computer.  Having more products in the market is always great, but determining whether those products really work in your home is another story. I had the opportunity to test a couple more of these products that I’d like to tell you about.

The first of these is called a Lutron Caseta dimming switch and remote. This switch replaces a light switch in your home with a switch that can be controlled from your iPhone, iPad, or android device. For the switches to work you have to have some type of a central home hub that provides control. The home hub I’m using is the Wink hub and I’ve written about it in previous posts.  The switches wirelessly connect to the hub and allow Wi-Fi connected devices to control actions. They give you the ability to be able to create what are called robots to perform functions in your home. An example of this is what I’m using to control my outdoor driveway lights. I installed one of the switches and created a robot script that tells it went to turn the driveway lights on and when  to turn them off.

The switch was easy to install by just removing the existing light switch and wiring this new switch in using the same wires and connectors that were in place. Once installed you use the app on your iPhone or android device to connect to the switch and pair it to the hub.  Once paired with the hub you have control over that device. Then you can create your scripts for how you want the light to function. You also have the ability to turn the lights on and off from any place that you’re on the Internet. This switch comes with a small remote but allows you to have remote control without the use of the phone. So far I’ve been very please with the switch and it’s ease of installation and function.

The other device I had the opportunity to test was a GE link lightbulb. This device is basically a lightbulb that imagescrews into a light socket and allows you to control the light in the same way as the Lutron switch did. It’s installation is even simpler in that you basically screw it  into a light socket and turn on the light. You then use the app, the Wink app  in my case, to pair the lightbulb with your system. At that point you have control of it in the same way as the Lutron switch.

One nice thing about the ability of the Wink hub is the ability to program conditional Robots. In my case, I have my lights set that when I turn a particular light on it automatically turns on this lightbulb. This allows me to control lights based upon the condition of other lights in the house. I can’t say enough about this lightbulb in the fact that it is simple to operate easy to install and works flawlessly. The bulb itself is an LED bulb and provides a nice warm light. This bulb was also relatively inexpensive at less than $15.

I really enjoy making my home smarter. When I pick devices to purchase I try to ensure that I select devices that have a good likelihood of being compatible with many other systems. That way I maximize my use of home control today and prepare for future developments that might come tomorrow.

Capture your iOS Device Screen on your Mac in Yosemite

Q:  Somewhere I saw that with Yosemite I will be able to mirror and capture my iPhone screen (if cabled to to my MB). You might have to show me how that works if I haven’t figgered it out by the time I see you.

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 5.59.52 PMA:  Yes, that is one of the new features in Yosemite.  Just connect your iPhone or iPad to your Mac using the Lightning connector and it will be automatically available as a video camera.  Run Quicktime and select “New Movie Recording in the File menu.  Now change the recording source to your phone .

Now the live view of your phone will show on the Mac and can be recorded if you like.

This makes it easy to record video of your phone screen to a file on your Mac.  Right now in Yosemite 10.10.0 it seems to be a little buggy. If you close iTunes before opening QuickTime it seems to work a little better.

Screen Shot 2014-10-19 at 6.14.53 PM

Windows 10 Technical Preview – On the Right Track

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 3.18.38 PMIt’s always good to see new software that looks like it’s on the right track. And it’s even better when a company like Microsoft finally listens to their customers and comes out with a preview of the next release of windows that looks like it’s on the right track. I recently had the opportunity to install the Windows 10 tactical preview on my virtual machine. I was very impressed with the ease of install and the ability to get it up and running quickly. Technical previews are not always this way. But beyond the installation, what I saw surprised me.

Windows 10 technical preview shows me that Microsoft has been listening to its customers. Finally!

Most of the real issues with Microsoft current Windows 8  have been addressed in this preview. All of the things related to the metro-based apps, the fact that they use full-screen, the lack of the start menu, the lack of shortcuts and the ability to do things with the keyboard, are all there in Windows 10. In fact, if you go out to the web and read all the things people hate about Windows 8, the majority have been fixed and windows 10. The old Microsoft would not have done this. The old Microsoft would’ve thought they knew better. But this preview is not from the old Microsoft.

There have been many changes in Microsoft and their windows development over the last couple of years. Some of those include new leadership. Rather than the combative attitude of Steve Ballmer who believed he knew better than all of his customers, we are seeing a Microsoft that understands that customers are the ones who drive use of their product. The changes in Windows 10 are a wonderful start. In fact, if Microsoft released this tomorrow, I would be willing to recommend to my clients that they go this direction, particularly on new machines or replacements for Windows XP. Today, I universally recommend Windows 7.

So I believe there’s hope here. Microsoft needs to continue this product development and get it out as quickly as possible. This is an all new windows. Not new in the way it works, actually it’s older in the way it works in that Windows 7 functions are used here much more than Windows 8. Windows 8 Will become the new Windows Millennium. The product and everybody wishes they skipped if they didn’t.

Microsoft didn’t say anything about price when they put out the technical preview. Microsoft needs to consider price when it releases this product though. I certainly cannot imagine Windows 8 users who have suffered through the use of Windows 8 would have to pay anything for a Windows but actually is something people want to use. So Windows 8 upgrade must be free. But more than that, Microsoft needs to reduce the upgrade price of windows. It needs to follow the direction of Apple and Google in providing free operating system updates. If Microsoft wants to grow their marketshare again, this is the way to make it work. But I don’t suspect it will be free for users of Windows below Windows 8. So let’s all hope that the price is something at least reasonable.

The real problem is what do you recommend to someone who needs a new PC now. I’m going to continue to recommend Windows 7, but I’m certainly going to tell them about Windows 10 and the good things Microsoft may have just around the corner.

Print Dialog is missing Features in Chrome

Q: From my laptop, using the Chrome browser. I can not print double sided from.  I can print double-sided from my stand alone computer. I can print double-sided from my laptop using Safari or Word. Is there something fairly simple that I can do to correct that Chrome problem  and be able to print double sided or should I just use Safari?

A: Chrome uses their own dialogue to do printing. When you go print from chrome the dialogue looks like this.Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 2.29.34 PMIf you click on the area that I have highlighted in red that says print using system dialogue, it changes to this:

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 2.30.13 PMThat’s the same dialogue Safari uses so if you can print double-sided in Safari now you can do it in chrome too.  In this case you would need to click on layout and select two-sided printing.

Having a problem with Your Mac? Start it up in Safe Mode to attempt a Fix

imagesStarting up in “safe mode” may help you diagnose problems you’re having with your Mac. In safe mode, the operating system does not load any application or process other than the base system functions.

Safe Mode is a way to start up your Mac that performs certain checks and prevents certain software from automatically loading or opening.

Starting up in Safe Mode does several things:

  • It forces a check of the startup volume, just like the First Aid feature of Disk Utility. You may see a progress bar on the screen during this check, and the computer takes longer than usual to complete its startup.
  • It loads only required kernel extensions.
  • It disables all fonts installed by the user.
  • It moves font caches to the Trash that are stored in /Library/Caches/com.apple.ATS/(uid)/  – where (uid) is a user ID number such as 501 (Mac OS X v10.4 or later).
  • It disables all startup items and login items in Mac OS X v10.4 or later.
  • In Mac OS X v10.3.9 or earlier, Safe Mode opens only Apple-installed startup items (such items may be installed either in /Library/StartupItems or in /System/Library/StartupItems). These items are different from user-selected account login items.

Taken together, these changes can help resolve or isolate certain issues that exist on the startup volume.

Here’s how to do it.

1. Shut down your Mac and wait 10 seconds.
2. Press the power button.
3. Immediately after you hear the startup tone, hold down the Shift key.
You should press the Shift key as soon as possible after you hear the startup tone, but not before.
4. Release the Shift key when you see the gray Apple logo and progress indicator (spinning gear).
To leave safe mode, restart your Mac normally without holding down any keys during startup.

Safe mode will often allow you to delete or remove something that continues to restart every time you restart the computer. It also allows you to run diagnostics or look to see if an extension to the operating system could be causing your problem. It’s not something you do every day, but it certainly can be helpful.

1Password: Even more valuable in iOS 8

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 1.11.51 PMThe new world of the iPhone 6 and iOS 8 is beginning to show its head. And for my money, it’s a pretty sight to see. One of the first applications to take advantage of some of the new features in iOS 8 is 1Password. I’ve used 1Password for years to store passwords on my computer and my iOS devices. It is always been a trustworthy addition to my computing environment and has saved my bacon in remembering a password many times. But one of the things that made it difficult to use was the inability to be able to automatically enter passwords on an iOS device. iOS 8 has changed all of that with the addition of extensions. And 1Password immediately took advantage of it.

On the same day that iOS 8 was released, AgileBits released a free update to 1PasswordIMG_1273 that took advantage of the new extension capability and also the expansion of touch ID use. In the past I would need to enter my master password every time I needed to get  into 1Password. With the update you have the ability to set the settings to allow you to use your fingerprint on an iPhone 5s or 6 to enter your master password for you and take you directly in to the program. This is such a huge time saver that by  itself would’ve been a great update. But Agilebits did not stop there.

Also in the latest update was an extension for the Safari browser that allowed you with a few taps to enter a password from 1Password into a website in Safari. Before this update it would’ve required you to go back-and-forth between 1Password and Safari a number of times to get both the username and password and enter it. Now, after configuring it, a few simple taps enter the password and you’re off to the races in Safari.

To make all of this new functionality work well for you there are a few settings you might want to consider in the 1Password for iOS application. First, you should go into the settings for 1Password and turn on touch ID. With that turned on you should set the amount of time before having to reenter your master password to something greater than just a few minutes. Remember, your passwords will be protected with touch ID anyway. I set the setting to 48 hours initially but I’m considering changing it to 30 days. This setting is the amount of time that passes before being forced to type in your master password.  In between that time period, you’ll only be asked to use your fingerprint to get in to 1Password.

IMG_1274With that said, you need to open the Safari browser and Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 1.19.56 PMtap on the small square with an up arrow icon in the menu bar. This is how you access the extensions in Safari. Be sure the one password extension is turned on so you’ll be able to use it from Safari.  You may have to tape More to add it in.  I also rearranged it by dragging the 1Password extension forward so that I can get to it without having to scroll after tapping that Icon.

Now, to use it in Safari all you have to do is go to a site that requires a password and tap on that same square with an arrow icon.  Then tap 1password. 1Password will now ask for your fingerprint to take you in to the program. Once you’ve entered it will bring up the passwords that fit the website that you’re on in Safari and you have the ability to touch one of those passwords and have it automatically entered in the browser.

The updates to 1Password prove that the extensions combined with touch ID that Apple has added and iOS 8 are going to be a huge addition for iPhone users. The ability to enter applications with only a touch and to extend Apple’s Safari browser will add many new functions and ease-of-use to the iPhone itself.

1Password is only the beginning. I look forward to all the other applications that will begin supporting these functions and features in the near future.

Posted in iOS

iOS 8 and iPhone 6 Impressions

Screen Shot 2014-09-21 at 6.33.38 PMApple has hit another home run with the new iPhone 6. I selected the smaller of the two devices because I felt like it better fit my lifestyle. The new iPhone 6 is dinner yet has a larger screen than my previous iPhone 5s. It also seems to be faster. But the real star of the show will be the new Apple pay when it becomes available in October. Apple pay will give us the ability to use our phone to make purchases securely. That’s the real killer feature of the new phone. So if you’re closing your contract or have a need or want to upgrade to a new phone, seriously consider the iPhone 6. It’s a very nice phone with a great screen and under contract still at a reasonable price.

Whether you purchase a new iPhone 6 or not if you have an iPhone, iOS 8 is a terrific upgrade. iOS 8 is compatible with iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPod touch 5th generation, iPad 2, iPad with Retina display, iPad Air, iPad mini, and iPad mini with Retina display. So it looks like the iPhone 4 is not going to make the cut. If you perform the upgrade directly from the phone it looks like it’s going to require about 5.5 GB of space for you on your phone. But if you connect your phone or iPad to iTunes, the free space on the phone requirements are dramatically reduced. I was able to update one device with as little as 2.5 GB free.
When you perform the update, there’s lots to like about the new OS. Unlike the last release, the look and feel of iOS 8 will not be dramatically different than iOS 7 was. Many people have a difficult time with the transition from iOS 6 to iOS 7 because the look and feel was a lot different. You won’t see that with iOS 8. The features in bedded in iOS 8 are a little more self. You have to take a look at the list of what’s available to find some of the new things. But it’s well worth looking at.
Some of the things to check out in the new update are:

  • Safari extensions
  • Updates to the Camera application
  • More extensive use of touch ID if you have an iPhone 5s or newer
  • Interactive notifications
  • Updates in the Messages app to allow you to send voice messages and video messages
  • Third-party keyboards
  • Easier ability to delete emails
  • Family sharing
  • Apple’s all new health kit

And those are just the highlights.Iowa State is an excellent update. And if you have a newer phone or a newer iPad it’s all free.

I always recommend making a back up of your device in iTunes before you start the update. And then allow yourself to to three hours for an average update. The larger the memory space on your phone the longer it will take.

And as always, if you feel uncomfortable with making the update yourself, or would like a little assistance, feel free to get a hold of me.

Posted in iOS