The MacValley blog


Welcome to the MacValley blog, your first stop for all the latest MacValley news and views.


Tom Briant

The MacValley blog

Editor: Tom Briant


Click here to email Tom

Click here for Tom's profile



To search the blog posts please use the box below

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Few Words about the Kindle Fire

In my opinion, the Kindle Fire is a classic case of “hit ‘em where they ain’t”. The price point of $199 and the size factor make it plain you have an alternative to the Wi-Fi 16 GB, particularly if you want to think of your tablet as a service like a cell-phone or ISP. You often get a discount on a cell-phone when you buy a mobile phone contract. My Wi-Fi equipped router came free from AT&T. I expect that AT&T has made up for the cost of the router through charges on my phone/TV/Internet bill.

So I would expect the same with the Kindle Fire. Amazon will sell it to you at a very nice price for you to consume entertainment with it. You would get TV and movies through Amazon Prime. You get a free deal on Amazon Prime with the initial purchase, just like the free deals with premium TV. You would buy music through Amazon MP3. Amazon would offer you books and magazines. You could also shop for other merchandise through Amazon.

Amazon, of course, would recoup the cost of the Kindle Fire through your purchases.

Amazon’s use of its cloud servers strikes me as the most interesting part. The Kindle Fire only comes with 8GB of storage. You would store your music and books and magazines in the cloud, and you would rent your own little piece of it from Amazon. Cha-ching!

To make use of the cloud, Amazon expects that you would stay in proximity to pervasive Wi-Fi.

Amazon’s interface differs from other Android tablets. So far, I’ve read positive reviews of this interface, based on what reporters at Amazon’s New York press conference saw. They didn’t get to touch. It’s like Fashion Week, gawk at the models all you want, photograph them, too; but you don’t get to take one home.

Amazon will release it on November 15th. So I’m waiting for the reviews and for the chance to touch one at Staples.

But I’m still budgeting for an iPad next year.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Jonny Evans of Computerworld speculates about the ipad 3

Go here for speculation about the iPad 3.

News and Views

LaCie has announced the first sub-$1000 Thunderbolt peripherals. They are a pair of hard drives, one for $399.95 featuring two 500 GB hard drives and another for $499.95 featuring two 1TB hard drives. You have the option of setting them up as RAID 0 or 1. More details here.

Apple has taken the criticism of Final Cut Pro X to heart and released a major rewrite. They also offer a 30 day free trial! Want details? Go here.

When is iOS 5 coming? Well, according to analysts (not just bloggers in their underpants), iOS 5 Gold Master should go out to the contract factories between Friday, September 23, and Friday, September 30. More details? Go here.

Finally an iPad joke: "L.A. restaurants installed table-fixed iPads Friday, letting people place their orders by themselves. Waiters will be laid off. When Charlie Sheen saw the story he apologized to the executive producer of Two and a Half Men and asked for forgiveness and reincarnation."

Thanks to Argus Hamilton for that bit of levity and we'll see you later

Defeat the Hackers and don't give them access to your Lion Passwords

Apparently Apple goofed and allowed the changing of passwords without requiring the administrative password. Bad mistake.

But has instructions on how to deter possible hackers. Go to here for the whole story.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Synergy2 for Mac and Windows-one idiot's experience

Synergy2 for this idiot and his Mac

When I say “idiot”, dear reader, I don’t refer to you. I refer to me, and my quest to learn how to use Synergy2 with my MacBook and my Windows 7 box.

Right now, at 11:54 am, I enjoy qualified success, typing on a MacBook’s keyboard and a Magic Trackpad while writing this blog post on M$ Word 2010 on my Windows 7 box.

The Secret Sauce to making this arrangement work

Last night, I finally turned on my Mac’s Firewall under 10.6.8. I had relied on my router’s firewall for security. I had thought (silly me!) that any signal that made it through the router could get to my Mac.

Well, turning ON the firewall enabled the signals from Synergy on my Windows box to get to my MacBook. First problem solved.

The other piece of the puzzle, the other dollop of secret sauce, was to use QuickSynergy from Google Code as my Mac’s GUI for Synergy. I have tried using SynergyKM, which looks nice, but doesn’t work for me. QuickSynergy solved the second problem.

QuickSynergy is brutally efficient. It only cares about setting up your Mac’s keyboard and pointing device(s) as the server for all the other machines using Synergy.

Now Synergy2 doesn’t always work for me. Sometimes I have to turn QuickSynergy on and off several times. And some times I need to reboot both systems to get them to cooperate.

On the Windows side, I use the software for Windows provided by

The Next Step

I would like to know how to get my Windows keyboard and pointing devices to control my Mac. It’s a question of intellectual curiosity. I have a way to do it with the Win2VNC program from Sourceforge. I use it with OS X’s built-in VNC server and it works great.

As for connecting Mac to Mac, I use Abyss Soft’s Teleport preference panel. Version 1.01 for PPC and 10.4, and Version 1.02 for Intel and 10.5/10.6. It works great, much better than my experience with Synergy2 between Mac and PC. That’s why I’m getting another Mac as my next computer!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sharing a keyboard between PC and MacBook using win2vnc

I'm writing this blog post on my MacBook, but I'm typing on a keyboard attached to my Wintel PC. How did I do this? Simple. The open-source (but donations accepted) program Win2VNC.

Win2VNC works like this

On the Mac side:

1. Go to System Preferences. You will set up the Mac's built-in VNC server.
2. In System Preferences, you want to go to Sharing. Open it up.
3. Click on Remote Management to activate it. But you're not done yet!
4. Click once on Remote Management. You will now see a panel that says that Remote Management is ON. You will see the IP address at which other computers can access it. Write this down! And finally Computer Settings.
5. A dialog sheet will slide down with several settings. You want the one that says "VNC Viewers may control screen with password"
6. Click on the button to the left of that phrase to activate password control.
7. Now enter a password and click on "OK". You're good to go on the Mac end.

On the PC side:

1. Go to to download the installer for win2vnc. It's less than a megabyte in size.
2. Go to where you downloaded it and launch the program.
3. Installation will be done in a moment.
4. Go to your Windows Start menu and start up win2vnc.
5. It will ask you for the IP address of the Mac, which is the server.
6. It will then ask you for the password.
7. You can now move your mouse from screen to screen.
8. Where you have the mouse pointer is the active screen. You can type using the Windows keyboard on your Mac!

Tom Briant typing on a shared keyboard

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A free alternative for the Mac for M$ One Note

If you bought yourself or your child a new Mac recently, Congratulations! Hopefully the child uses the computer to get good grades, not just high scores in Angry Birds.

Now one computer tool that the competition, M$ Windows, offers is One Note. It's a very nice program. And Apple doesn't have a version of it. Not in Office for Mac.

Now you could get Windows running on your child's computer for the cost of buying Windows 7 and Office for Home and Student, but that seems...ridiculous. Why did you buy Apple and Macintosh to install Windows?

Fortunately, you have alternatives to One Note. One in particular, Growly Notes, won't cut into your kid's budget for gas or food or laundry. That's because it's free!

Anyway, Growly Notes gives you a virtual notebook with

Notebooks-like the ones you lug from class to class

Sections-like the dividers in the 5 section Mead notebooks, you can divide up your notebook

Pages-individual pages for, say, each day's lecture notes

Notes-the entries you make on each page. You can type in notes, you can “print” to Growly Notes from the PDF option on your Print dialogue, and many programs will have the Services menu to send text to Growly Notes.

Take notes on your classes, organize them, and tag important points or questions.

Here are some suggestions for how to create and organize your class notes:

You can take notes while using another program. Choose Window/New Floating Note Window. The note goes in the Scratchpad. When you’re done you can cut and copy it to this notebook.

Create lists with Insert/Bulleted List and Insert/Numbered List. Or just click anywhere on the page and type *, -, or 1 to get a new list. To make lists within a text note like this one, use the Lists popup menu on the Ruler (Format/Ruler). Use the Tab key to indent further, Shift-Tab to indent less.

Tables are useful for keeping ordered sets of information. Use the commands on the Table menu.

Tag important notes using the commands on the Format/Tag submenu. You can find all tagged notes quickly using the Find Tags tool on the toolbar.

Create simple illustrations using the drawing tools, found on the View menu.

I copied that list of ideas from Growly Notes built in Students template. The program comes with several templates that you can use immediately or adapt to other uses. I would recommend the Students and Moving Checklist template to students based on my family's experience.

Growly Birds Notes bears a resemblance to One Note. The programmer, Chris Mason, worked at Microsoft and knows how close to make a program resemble a M$ product without getting the legal department on his case.

I'll write more this week on Growly Notes and how it compares to more expensive programs such as DevonTHINK and Circusponies Notes.

By the way, if you decided to go ultra-cheap and take a old Dell notebook and install Ubuntu on it, I'd recommand Basket Note Pads. It's the Linux answer to One Note and Growly Notes.



Blog Archive