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ATPM 15.09
September 2009





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The Zippy Quest for Jazzy Flash

Forget computer media! I got a bunch of Video 8 tapes (and in PAL format no less!) that I’ve got to figure how to digitize. Dang, I knew I should have worked harder to get them onto the Mac (and then onto one of the above-mentioned snazzy magnetic products) back when I had my 6100 AV. Boy, this article and these comments really date us geezers!

—Angus Wong

Life in a Post-Apple World?

Seriously my favorite thing about my Mac is…no blue screen of death! Woooohooo!!! It was the blue screen of death that ended my PC-ing days and converted me to a Mac user. Over five years later and I am happy as a very happy plum tree. From my MacBook Pro, to my current MacBook…from my first iPod…to my iPod touch…to my new iPod nano that will arrive this Friday…(and the Apple/Nike sports kit that just arrived) I am a happy camper. Happy I say…happy! My computer loves me. It doesn’t take five minutes to boot up, it doesn’t have useless IE that crashes every other important download…and it doesn’t give me blue screens of death. I haven’t had a virus, a worm, a trojan nor, had the hard drive corrupt, and I have not had to re-install the operating software. My software did not take two hours to install.

I love my Mac because my Mac is nice to me.


Taming the Two-headed Monster

Here are some further hints about glitches related to sleep and also Dock location and a comment on mirroring.

I found that pulling the plug on the second monitor while the computer is asleep causes problems. (The cursor arrow registered on the screen but didn’t appear on the screen—like an invisible ghost, still functioning but invisible!) This is easily correctable. Simply reverse the process. Put the computer to sleep using a touch of the off switch followed by the “s” key, plug the monitor back to the way it had been, and reawaken it. You can avoid the problem in the first place by attaching and removing the external monitor only while the computer is on or entirely off.

Next issue: Dock location. As mentioned, you can shift the menu bar to a different monitor in the preferences, thus changing the primary monitor, by dragging the menu bar stripe in the diagram to whichever one you prefer. The Dock location will be determined by the entire available screen area, rather than just the primary screen. Thus if you set your primary monitor to be above the secondary (by dragging in display prefs) and Dock is set to “bottom,” then it will pop from the bottom of the primary screen to the bottom of the secondary screen, as secondary is now the bottom screen of the two. Once I had a bug cause the Dock not to shift as predicted, but after I rebooted it came up as expected.

Lastly, I sometimes leave mirroring unchecked when doing presentations, so I can read my notes on one screen while the slide show is on the other, for the audience to see.

—Uncle Pea

A Bird in the Palm Is Worth…

This was an excellent wrap-up. I’m going to keep an eye on Wes’ columns in future ATPMs. Thanks!

—David Zatz

Blinking Cursors

This article provides a vivid snapshot of what it’s like for technocrats entering into corporate life.

As someone working at megabank, I’ve opined numerous times to the powers that be, suggesting that it will become increasingly difficult to attract young talent if you are going to make them check their iPhones at the door. It’s a problem every lumbering, fear-mongering, and penny-pinching megacorp is going to have to face.

The CTO of BP gave a great talk on this very subject. They started a program where new employees are basically given some cash and told to buy whatever computer they want. All the corp apps are in the cloud, and the corp doesn’t take any endpoint security position on the end-user machines. It’s a security retreat, but it’s also a recognition that you aren’t going to be able to attract the techno-elite with your hokey beige boxes.

I also feel that my employer’s choice of computers and software is cramping my style. However, I’m a PC tablet user.

Mac users are always comparing their home or hip creative agency machines with those used by mostly older, less techno-focused folks at megacorps and believing that they are comparing Macs to PCs. It’s naive.


Tethering a Mac to Your Cell Phone

Your mileage may vary, but I have had little difficulty connecting with my MacBook Pro (Mac OS X 10.5.6) and my Sprint Blackberry Curve using built-in Bluetooth on both. Adding data to my Blackberry plan cost $15 a month. It is very useful for checking e-mail and light surfing/commenting when I’m on the road, and it even saves me charges at hotels with pay-to-play Internet.

Once both are configured, connection is simply a matter of opening the MacBook Pro, choosing the Bluetooth/Blackberry connection via the modem icon, and getting online. In areas with a good Sprint signal, I sometimes just leave the Blackberry in my belt holster, and it looks like I’m connecting by magic.

My wife uses a Verizon USB data modem to connect her MacBook. Again, configuration was straightforward using VZ Access Manager, which comes with the modem or is a free download.

We are about to switch to a Verizon MiFi, which combines the data modem and a small WiFi hotspot in a single device, allowing up to five computers to get online if they are within 30 feet or so of the device.

I haven’t started using the MiFi yet, so I can’t report on how well it works, but using the Verizon USB modem last year we drove from Texas to western New York and were only out of range of a signal for brief periods in the eastern mountains.

I’m hoping the MiFi will provide the same quality of cellular access, but make connecting easier via WiFi for our computers, iPhone, and even our iPod touch.

Based on my experience only, tethering is more convenient (you usually have your phone already with you) and is cheaper, but the dedicated data modem seems to deliver faster and more reliable connections at greater cost (approx. $60/month). I see that Sprint now has an occasional use plan—$15 for a 24-hour period—but I’m not sure which modems or phones support such a plan.

Incidentally, iPhones do not yet support tethering in the US—at least officially—but are supposed to get that capability later this year.

—Oliver Texeira

• • •

I just checked the EVDO page and followed a link to Verizon’s data map. According to the map, my house is well within range, but my husband’s USB modem says there is zero connectivity of any kind. This is what is so frustrating. Ever since cell phones have become ubiquitous, we have run into this issue of promises of excellent signal strength only to be disappointed, even experienced signal degradation after cellco’s were no longer obligated to rent tower space to each other.

I have asked AT&T in the past about data signal strength (at the time, my home was on the edge of their coverage map), and all they could recommend was signing up and paying for a contract, buying the hardware, and seeing if I had a signal. If not, then they will refund my money. Anyone who has try to get their money back from a telco knows how frustrating this can be. Personally, I find this solution unreasonable, and it’s kept me from trying the service out.

—M Geiger

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