iPad Tips

It’s been two months with my iPad and I’m still loving it. My poor laptop has become the desktop “office” computer and the iPad now gets carted around the house, yard, work, and bedroom when I want to surf, check e-mail and twitter, watch movies, or just goof off. And when I’m done with the iPad, I just leave it on the coffee table, breakfast bar, or wherever. Who cares?

1. Sometimes I’ll find myself at the bottom of my Twitter stream or a long list of e-mail messages. To rocket to the top, just tap the very top bar of the iPad. If you have two columns, like in Mail, you can tap above either column and it will only effect the one you want. Pretty cool.

2. Until iPads get support for folders, our apps are getting unruly. Many prefer to use Spotlight search instead of thumbing through 6 pages of apps. In preferences you can set the Home button to bring you to Spotlight with two clicks. Very useful.

3. An iPad case is nice (I’m still using Apple’s) but don’t waste money on a stand for your desk. Look around your house and I promise you’ll find something that will do the trick. I’m currently using a Gorilla grip tripod flipped upside down. It works great!

4. You can download any ePub file and use iTunes to sync it back to your iPad. Once you do, it’ll show up in iBooks just like e-books you’ve purchased. Voila!

5. Use the latest version of Handbrake to rip your DVDs or downloaded AVI files into MP4 files you can sync over to your iPad with iTunes. The AppleTV preset looks great. A previous version of Handbreak (0.94) included a bug that made its MP4s unreadable by the iPad.

3 weeks with the iPad

After 3 weeks with the iPad, I can report that it’s a perfect device for most tasks, but not so great for a few. The iPad is great for what you will do most of the time: surf the web, check e-mail, and use Twitter. It’s ideal on the couch, in bed, or in a car (with 3G). It’s perfect for sharing with others, like looking at photos, or passing it around to view someone’s Facebook profile. Kids of all ages love it, though it needs more parental controls and the glass screen makes supervision a must for the very young.

Right now, the iPad suffers a bit when working with Office files, mainly due to it’s cumbersome printing and file sharing. You can open .doc files from your DropBox account, for example, edit them in Pages, but cannot then save them back to DropBox. You must e-mail them to yourself. Lack of Flash support means viewing the web can sometimes be an adventure. Most sites work fine, but every now and then one doesn’t at all.

The iPad falls down with web video outside Youtube. Vimeo and many niche sites do not work, making video outside mainstream sources an iffy proposition. Also, the iPad does not support Photoshop files and other proprietary formats.

Overall, though, the iPad satisfies my needs 90% of the time. The most common question I get from skeptics is “Have you found anything useful to do with it yet?” The answer is: YES! It’s called the Internet! Just two years ago, the tech community was gaga over the premise of cheap, web-only tablets. Now we have the iPad, which supports the web PLUS iPhone OS apps. Most of the time, that’s plenty.


What iPad can’t do yet: Edit Photoshop and Illustrator files, edit Video and Sound files, view AVI and WMV files on the web.

What iPad can do that still surprises me: Create music with the Korq synthesizer and a virtual piano, listen to NPR on demand, watch streaming Netflix in bed, draw with or without a stylus, GPS turn-by-turn navigation, deliver NYT headlines, build custom databases, control my Mac or PC.

Printing from your iPad/iPhone

MacWorld reviews 3 printing apps for iPad/iPhone here. The sweet spot seems to be ePrint, an excellent app from Microtech that costs $3.

Jeff Merron also wrote this excellent companion piece about the entire iPad/iPhone printing situation. His final advice: try before you buy. To get the feel of printing from these devices, try a free app first. You may find that e-mailing files works just fine 90% of the time.

Steve Jobs’ open letter on Flash

The internet is abuzz today over this open letter from Steve Jobs about Flash. Many think it’s interesting that Steve has chosen this issue to write about and not other Apple-related issues, like control in the App store, and the 4-gen iPhone theft. I think it’s interesting to compare this to Job’s last open letter against DRM on music.

In both cases, it seems to me that Jobs isn’t writing to defend Apple as much as he is explaining Apple’s position on a certain technology. He is sending a message to business partners to follow his lead.

Apple researching invisible buttons

We all know Steve Jobs hates buttons. It must kill him that the latest MacBook pros still have a little battery life indicator button on the side. Now Apple has a solution to get rid of that button too. Apple has been researching invisible buttons, basically a capacitor behind a device’s outer shell that can read an input. An easy prediction is that the next MacBook pros will feature battery indicator lights that simply light up when you touch the battery. But what about when the device doesn’t have a visible battery compartment?

An interesting side effect of a button is, you know it does something when press it. Once you know what the button does, you know you can press it again and get the same result. Half the Mac laptops do not have removable batteries. The battery indicator button’s presence is the only indication that there is a way to show the battery’s life. So the question becomes, with no battery or button, how does the user know where to touch the device to see how much life is left in the battery?

Tips & Tricks (2010)

Creating Keynote presentations for iPad

Apple has posted this document which provides tips for creating a Keynote presentation on your Mac that will work well with the iPad’s version of Keynote. Among the tips are to use certain custom themes, certain fonts available on both platforms, and to choose the 1024×768 slide template. Happy presenting!

Posted by Mike Bass on April 25, 2010.

Access Alternative Time Machine Backups

Macworld recently posted this tidbit about accessing an alternative Time Machine backup, very useful for pulling files from an older drive..

Posted by Mike Bass on March 19, 2010.

MacBreak Weekly Podcast

If you are a Mac or iPhone user and interested in learning more, check out the excellent MacBreak Weekly podcast, available on iTunes. Each week, Leo Laporte hosts a panel discussion of Apple News, speculation, reviews and tips. Regular guests include Andy Ihnatko, Alex Lindsay, Scott Bourne, and Merlin Mann. Always entertaining and informative, the group end each podcast with their picks-of-the-week. I’ve been turned on to many, many new Mac and iPhone apps by the guys at MacBreak. Start listening now.

Posted by Mike Bass on March 15, 2010.

Twitter Apps for iPhone

I recently set my wife up with a new iPhone and had a chance to once again tryout all the various Twitter apps for the iPhone. Maybe it is just the stripped down interface, but I still prefer Tweetie.

Posted by Mike Bass on March 1, 2010.

A Few iPhone Tips

Predictive text can be annoying sometimes. You can turn it off for one word by simply capitalizing the first letter. Unless the word is the first letter of a sentence, the iPhone will assume your word is a proper noun and will not attempt to correct your spelling.

If you want to see where a web link goes without actually going there, simply tap and hold. An information bar will pop up. This works in both the Mail app and Safari.

You can’t create mail folders on the iPhone, but if you have an IMAP account (like MobileMe or GMail) you can create folders on the server. Head back over to your iPhone and you can access the folders.

In any application, Safari included, you can automatically scroll to the top of the page by tapping on the “top bar” which has the time and battery indicator.

When typing a URL, hold down the “.com” button and you’ll receive a pop-up with a few other domain suffixes: .net, .edu, and .org.

When your iPhone is locked (showing the “Slide to Unlock” screen), press the home button three times to bring up the iPod controls, all without unlocking your phone.

Posted by Mike Bass on August  4, 2009.

Missing Battery Menu options

After upgrading to 10.5.6, you may have noticed that the option to quickly change your MacBook’s energy settings to “Better Performance” and “Better Battery Life” disappeared. To make these changes you were required to visit the Energy Saver preference panel. What a pain! I can confirm that this was a “bug” with 10.5.6 that has been resolved with 10.5.7. After installing the latest Mac OS update, the battery options are back in all their original splendor.

Posted by Mike Bass on June 1, 2009.

Find Menu Commands

If you still haven’t upgraded to Leopard (a.k.a. Mac OS X 10.5), it’s time. Incompatibilities with Adobe CS3 and minor network glitches that plagued the 10.5.0 release have been squashed. Once you start using Leopard, you’ll find features like Spaces and Quicklook to be indispensable. This week’s tip, however, has to do with Leopard’s Help system. Did you forget where the Scripts command resides in Indesign? Quickly find any menu command in any app by clicking on Help and typing what you remember. Leopard’s Help system will display any matching menu items and point them out to you. Never search for a menu item again.

Posted by Mike Bass on September 1, 2008.

Should you Upgrade to Adobe CS5?

MacWorld puts that question to bed in this detailed report.

With CS5, Adobe shows once again that it keeps pace with, and even stays a step ahead, of our changing times. When thinking about upgrading to CS5, it’s reasonable to want to sprint, to take the shortest route to the fastest result at the lowest price. I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that way. But if you can, train for a marathon instead. Consider that the investment you make now will pay off in the future…

New MacBook Pros make it hard to say no

This week Apple released new 13”, 15”, and 17” MacBook Pros. The new laptops are simply stunning, offering high performance, long battery life, and good value. Apple is making it harder and harder to say no.

I’d convinced myself to get an iPad. Here’s my situation: I need high performance and portability. I like to drag my laptop all over the house and bring it on vacation for surfing and e-mail, but I also do some podcasting, music creation, and video editing. I own the last, fastest PowerBook G4 model Apple made in 2004, a great machine that has become long in the tooth and unsupported. My solution was an iPad for portability and everyday use, and an iMac for use in my home office. This would offer me an amazing portable solution plus a high-performance machine with a large screen for more demanding work. I could buy both machines for the price of a high-end Apple laptop.

These new MacBook Pros have me reconsidering. The new 13” MacBook pro has a battery life (10 hrs) that rivals the iPad and only gives up .6GHz and 250GB storage to the low-end iMac, both priced at $1200. A high quality 24” LCD monitor will run another $600 putting the pre-tax price tag of the MacBook Pro solution at $1800. The iMac plus iPad comes in at $1930.

There are still some things to consider. The iPad includes 3G connectivity ($30 addition per month). Plus, it’s a friggin’ iPad! The low-end iMac is faster than the .6GHz difference with the MacBook Pro indicates, but its screen is only 21.5”. The MacBook Pro is heavier than an iPad but would allow me to do video or music editing anywhere I please, offering true mobility. They may not be as cool as iPads, but the new MacBook Pros are superb machines and a great value.