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Tom Briant

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Editor: Tom Briant


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Friday, January 28, 2011

Cristael and Arnold reporting from Macworld and thereabouts

MacValley Blog: MacWorld 2011: Road Reports

Monday, January 24th: Everyone should take a trip to San Francisco at least once a year. When you arrive in SF, go get yourself some clam chowder at Neptune’s Palace, located at Fisherman’s Wharf. Then drive your car over the Golden Gate Bridge, get off the freeway on the Marin County side on the Sausolito Exit, and drive up to the observation points that overlook the bridge. Bring your camera and take lots of great shots of the Golden Gate with the city of San Francisco in the background.

Do Nots: Do not drive to San Francisco via Bakersfield and Fresno. During the winter months, there are blankets of fog that can can get so thick that schools are closed. Saturday evening, Arnold and I drove through banks of fog in black darkness. The only way to figure out where we were going, was to follow the red lights of the cars ahead of us. And Sunday was not that much better, even though we drove in daylight. You don’t get to see much of the scenery when you’re driving through major fog banks.

Do give yourself two or three days to make the drive, and if you want to have an exceptional trip, take Highway 101, like we did last year. We meandered through a few side excursions in Wine Country, and we had a great scenic trip. Lots of beautiful scenery and equally beautiful horses. Also, there were great views of the Pacific Ocean all the way up the coast. Sure beats driving through fog.

Wednesday, January 26th

We've had an eventful two days since we got here. On Wednesday we went to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View (which is not far from Apple headquarters in Cupertino). This is one huge museum, with sections on the precursors of computers, the Eniac computer, the early 1950's mainframes, and so much more. There was even one section on putting together a computer program that beat International Chess Master Gary Kasparov.

We saw an overwhelming number of computers and mathematical 'machines', going right on back to the time of the Ancient Greeks. The oldest known object that could be called an ancestor of the modern computer is the antikythera, a 2000 year old object that was recovered from the ocean by divers in 1901. There was a short movie about this astounding object. But the Computer History Museum only had pictures of the antikythera, as the device itself is in the National Archeological Museum in Athens.

The antikythera has wheels and cogs and teeth that all look like clockwork. In spite of being at the bottom of the ocean for two millennia, the device, or what is left of it, is as finely machined as a nineteenth century clock.

The antikythera (named after the Greek island where it was found in deep water offshore) was used to predict eclipses of the sun and the moon, to track the movement of the planets, and to predict the dates of upcoming ancient Olympics.

And about 150 years ago, a British mathematician named Charles Babbage designed a "Difference Engine", which was actually a mechanical computer that was programmable and even had its own printer. Babbage never finished the machine because the British government cut off his funding. But he did complete the drawings that were needed to build it.

In this century, two of Babbage's difference engines were built from his drawings, and one of them is in the Computer History Museum. It weighs five tons, has about 8,000 parts, and the whole thing is hand cranked.

And speaking of ancient objects, in one of the many display cases, there was an original Apple I computer. This had the single word 'Woz', in black ink. Nearby were two Apple II computers, both without their monitors. To learn more, go to the web site at

Thursday January 27th

Today was the first day of MacWorld 2011. When we walked through the doors and onto the Exhibition floor, it was jam-packed. Some of the larger exhibitors have returned to MacWorld, including HP and Xerox. And over a hundred small kiosks line the floors of Moscone Center.

People were literally wall-to-wall, and they were buying all kinds of goodies. It was a treat to see the crowds, and to squeeze through the aisles to look at all the fun Mac stuff. I bought items from a couple of the venders, and I'll be bringing them to show at the February 2nd meeting.

The best news of all is, at MacWorld it is raining Prize-Drawing prizes. Many of the venders are being very generous with donations. And Arnold, Andreas Cerny and I all won prizes galore at the User Group gatherings. All these prizes will, in turn, be donated to the MacValley prize-drawing, to be won by some lucky MacValley prizewinners at our upcoming meetings.

Tomorrow I'm going to be back on the exhibition floor, scouting out still more prizes for our prize-drawings. Oh, my feet! And Arnold is taking pictures of all the action.

One day down, two days to go.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Accessing NTFS formatted hard drives

I got this in the inbox today. Paragon's NTFS for OS X has dropped in price from $39.95 to $19.95. So if you want to move a terabyte or two of data onto your Mac and Ethernet is a bit too slow, try this software to access your Windows-formatted external hard drive. Go to this location for it.

tom briant
editor, MacValley Voice

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Using Windows 7 themepack pictures with OS X

If you’ve seen Windows 7 in a store, you’ve seen the beautiful desktop pictures that come with it. How could you get them on your screen without a Windows 7 PC?

Here’s how to put the pictures from a Windows 7 themepack on your Mac’s screen:

1. Download and install The Unarchiver. These themepacks are just ZIP files at heart, but I found the native OS X unZIP support insufficient. Go here to download The Unarchiver.

To unZIP this program, the native OS X unZIP application is sufficient.

Now unZIP it and put it in your /Applications folder.

Now double-click on it to start it up. You will see a Preferences with three buttons across the top: Archive formats, Extraction, and Advanced.

For right now, just select All formats by clicking on the “Select All” button at the bottom of the Archive formats window.

Now you can start downloading Windows 7 themepacks. Go here to the Windows 7 themepacks download point at Microsoft.

You’ve downloaded one, but you’re not there yet. Now you need to change the file’s extension from .themepack to .zip. Click once on the .themepack to highlight it. Now press Command + I to open a Info window.

Go down to the name and extension. Change the extension to zip from themepack. You’ll get a warning window at this point. Just click on the button for zip extension.

Now to unZIP the files. Just double-click on the renamed themepack file. You’ll get a folder with the name of the themepack. Open the folder.

Inside you’ll find a .theme file and a folder named “DeskTopBackground”. Inside that folder you’ll find JPEG pictures that you can use as your background.

To add pictures to your desktop, right-click on your desktop and click on Change Desktop Background…

You want to add a folder to your list of pictures, so click on the “+” sign just below the list of picture folders. You’ll get a File Dialog box. Maneuver to the location you put your new picture folder. Click on the folder. You’ll see thumbnails of the pictures within. Either pick one or display them on a rotating basis.

Have fun!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Finally Got into the Mac App Store-not that simple

Discovering the Mac App Store

I finally got the Mac App Store to work after some frustration. I’ll tell you what I did to finally download Angry Birds and Sketchbook Express

First, you have to have the right log-in and password. I couldn’t use my iTunes store log-in and password. They didn’t meet Apple’s new security standards. The password must contain at least 1 upper-case letter, a punctuation symbol, and some numbers. It must be at least 8 characters in length.

Second, I still couldn’t enter my password into the box that the App store puts up after you choose an app to download. What in the World?!

So I Googled it. “Use the Google” to quote President Bush. The answer came back. Did I have Unsanity’s Fruitmenu installed? Yes, I did. Okay, turn it off, log out and then back in, and try again.

Now I enjoyed success and could enter my password to obtain applications.. I downloaded two applications, Autodesk’s Sketchbook Express (free) and Rovio’s Angry Birds (paid).

I still haven’t figured out Sketchbook Express. If you have and have created some artwork, upload it to me at my e-mail address. I’ll run it in the Voice. Hey, why don’t you do a presentation on this app for MacValley? Again, e-mail me.

As for Angry Birds, oh, yeah, I quickly figured that one out. It’s a Blast! Birds versus Pigs.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The CES in full swing and notes on the February Voice

The Consumers Electronic Show in Las Vegas is in full swing.

The big winner in hardware this year? ARM. They have licensed their designs to both makers of Android tablets and to makers of Windows products.

Yes, Windows has diverged from the x86 platform to the ARM platform. The reason? Power consumption. That’s the reason Apple went to its A4 chip for the iPhone and iPad. It’s a design licensed from ARM.

They demonstrated Windows on ARM and it’ll come out…when? Still got to recompile a LOT of code for Windows 7 , or more likely Windows 8, to appear on a tablet using an ARM chip at its heart.

The 800-pound gorilla is, of course, Steve Jobs and Apple. Every tablet maker in a booth knows that their product must compete not only against the iPad 1, but the forthcoming iPad2. Android Honeycomb must compete against iOS 5.0.

The Mac App Store

It looks great, but I can’t get into it to buy Angry Birds! So if you have gotten into the store and made a purchase, please tell us about it in the comments section!

I have two more weeks to go before The Voice goes to press, so I’ll keep trying it. I want to try out Angry Birds.

Note: I just noticed that Angry Birds will not run on my 2006 vintage MacBook. Darn!

The Voice goes to Press

I’m working on articles for the Voice. I’ve written an article on importing Outlook Express for Windows e-mail files from your old Windows XP box. Apple Mail does not import Outlook Express directly, and you have to go through a conversion process. I outline this process so that even the least experienced user should have minimal trouble importing their mail into Apple Mail.

If you bought a Mac because your old Windows XP box finally gave up the ghost and died on you, I have an article for you. As long as your old XP box can come up to a blank screen with a blinking cursor, I think you can get data from it using a Ubuntu Linux CD and a USB drive. You’ll need a flash drive for a few files, a USB hard drive for a lot of files, such as your music and photo collections.

And if you share a printer with someone who has a Windows 7 machine, I have an article on how to share that printer between you. Particularly if it’s “their printer” and they don’t want to unplug it from their Windows 7 machine to give you access.



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