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Tom Briant

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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The February 2012 Voice is up

The February 2012 Voice is up. Come look at it. Tell me what you think of it.

In the iPad column, I posed the question of whether Microsoft's Office 365 is Big M$'s answer to's Onlive Office service and app. Well, it isn't.

I Googled "Office 365 iPad" and got a review of it from an Australian Web site, Box Free IT. Read it here Not surprisingly, Office365 works best with Internet Explorer on a Windows PC, not an iPad running Safari.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Four Ways MacWorld–iWorld Got Better This Year.

1. There were 243 exhibitors showing off (and selling) their products at MacWorld this year, vs. 220 last year and 210 the year before.  Let's hope this trend continues.

2. More of the exhibitors had really neat and interesting stuff to show off.

3. The "iFan" pass ($75) replaced last year's "User Conference" pass (about $150).  This price cut proved to be a smart move by IDG, the company that produces the MacWorld expo.  This year, the iFan presentations had lots of people attending, whereas last year's user conference presentations were attended by only a few people. Kudos to IDG for figuring out that – at $150 – the "User Conference" was over-priced without the Steve Jobs keynote.

4. Attendance looked strong to me.  On the last day of MacWorld - January 28 (Saturday afternoon) - hundreds of people were still in line for tickets to the exhibit hall. I was really surprised to see that so close to MacWorld closing time. Note: An article published January 27 (Friday) said that attendance had declined. Based on how many people I saw, I doubt that claim.

So what were the neat and interesting products at MacWorld? Lets start with the ollo-clip™. It's a lens that clips onto the corner of an iPhone 4 or iPhone 4s. The ollo-clip™ can work as a wide field lens, a fish-eye lens or a "macro" lens that lets you photograph tiny objects only 1/2 inch away from your iPhone. You can find out more at

Another really neat product is called iBallz™.  iBallz™ are used to protect your iPad™ from damage if you drop it.  You need four iBallz™ – one on each corner of your iPad™ to cushion the impact when your iPad™ falls to the floor. You can find out more at

A humorous product is Intoxicase™. It's an iPhone case with a built-in bottle opener - perfect for opening beer bottles. Intoxicase™ comes with an app that lets your iPhone keep track of how many bottles of beer you've opened, and will help you call a taxi if you've had one too many. Their booth at MacWorld had a sign that said "Dude, your bottle opener is ringing." You can learn more at these two web sites:

A unique stand for iPads  is called the Tablet Tail™. It has suction at one end to stick to the back surface of your iPad, and is has a tail that resembles a whale's tail fin at the other. The tail is flexible, allowing you to tilt your iPad at just about any angle.  You can learn more at

Those are just a few of the many neat products I saw at MacWorld.

There were also many learning opportunities at MacWorld, even if you purchased "Expo Only" pass (the cheapest).  One learning place was called "MacWorld Live", where Mac experts gave presentations on subjects like "E-publishing your book" and "Fixing Your Mac Yourself".  The other learning place was called "MacWorld / iWorld Music Studio", where you could learn about things like "Creating Drum Beats with Your Mac", "Mac for the Guitarist" and "Building Your Own Project Studio".

If you purchased the iFan pass ($75), many more learning opportunities were available, such as "40 OS-X Tips in 40 Minutes", "Backing Up Your Mac", "The Magic of Keynote" (Keynote is Apple's software for creating slide-show presentations), "Getting to Know Siri" and "The Fine Art of iPhone Photography".

Well, this is what I had time to write before the MacValley Users Group meeting on Wednesday February 1.  Come to the meeting so see some more really neat stuff about MacWorld. And I will be writing more about MacWorld because there is lots more to write about.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Cristael Bengston reflects on this year's Macworld/iWorld

We just got back to our hotel room from the final day of MacWorld-iWorld 2012. To cap off MacWorld, we had dinner at a Chinese restaurant. Elena-Beth hosts this dinner, informally, every year. This year there were seven of us enjoying one Chinese dish after the next, all of them delicious.
The biggest  memories of MacWorld-iWorld that I’ll bring home with me will be first, elbowing my way through the crush of people in the aisles, secondly, watching the demos of hundreds of different projects, third, talking with so many of the exhibitors about donating prizes to MacValley, and of course, the thrill that comes when one exhibitor after the next said to me, “Sure, we’ll be glad to help your group out.” 
Where last year was slow and almost desperate, this year was totally upbeat. There was a wide variety of exhibits, and there were a lot of people over 40 and up who were seriously buying products at this MacWorld-iWorld. This was a year when I really felt at home with the people around me, who were all ages, all kinds. 
I guess what I’m feeling is an optimism that’s in the air here in SF MacWorld. It really motivates me, and gives me a boost for the coming year.
Best of all, we’ll be bringing home some goodies from the show to share with folks at our upcoming meeting on Wednesday.  
See you at next Wednesday's meeting!
Cristael -- 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

San Francisco - Cold, Foggy, Shabby, Crammed with People, Glorious and Beautiful

Every year when we come to MacWorld, I'm always reminded that San Francisco is a city of contrasts. One block has homes that are on every tourist's Facebook entry, while a few blocks over are abandoned buildings, covered with grime and graffiti. One day you have sunshine and temperate weather, the next day it's raining, dark, cold, and seemingly deserted. 

And of course there's the fog. 

But there are also beautiful sights to see, and a lot of art and culture all over the place. While we haven't taken in much of the music that's available -- we'll save that for another year -- we are busy getting in all the tourist stops we can, along with an exhibition at the Asian Art Museum, "Maharaja: The Splendor of India's Royal Courts".  So this afternoon should be one of those days when we come out of a museum with our memories stuffed full of beautiful and priceless works of art. There's nothing better than that. 

And last night we had a bowl of clam chowder at Pier 39 that was pretty good. We keep trying new restaurants down at Fisherman's Wharf. 

But best of all, yesterday we went to the Winchester House. It was built and built and built by Sarah Winchester, the widow of the man whose company manufactured the Winchester rifle, the gun that won the west. It's said that Sarah built the house to appease the spirits of all those gunned down by her husband's rifles. 

That lady must have seen thousands of haunts, and she built rooms for almost every one of them. Most of them are small, cabinet-sized rooms, while a few are large enough to be comfortable and livable. Of course, the only person who lived there was Sarah herself. She had a ballroom built, but no one ever danced there. There are music rooms that had instruments such as pianos, organs, and violins, but only Sarah heard the music that she made. 

Sarah Winchester was a brilliant woman and a trained musician, but she lived in a era when women were not allowed to have lives of their own. So she created a vast, lonely, and downright spooky home, that was her lifelong labor. 

The most interesting spots for me were the doorway that opens to the outdoors -- one story off the ground! Watch that first step; it's a doozy. There are staircases that go nowhere, and there is a seance room where Sarah is said to have communed with good spirits every night at midnight. 

Yet Sarah was a practical woman. She grew extensive orchards, and shipped fruits to companies that in turn sold jellies and jams and other fruit products over a wide area. She had elevators installed, and one of her elevators worked on hydraulics. She had her own water supply, irrigation systems, and gaslights that were fueled by acetylene that was made right on her own property. She also had indoor plumbing that was very advanced for those days. And we saw a small gasoline engine that ran an electric generator for the electricity that was installed in the early 20th century. 

We took the general tour through many of the 160 rooms in about one hour. It was like a room a minute. And we also took the behind the scenes tour through the basement with its enormous furnace, and through the stables where she kept her carriage horses in cozy comfort. Presumably, they had no problems with the spirits in the stables. 

Arnold's just come back, so we're off for another day of sightseeing. 

More to come!

Cristael & Arnold

Monday, January 23, 2012

The New York Times asks Why No US Made iPhones?

President Obama asked Steve Jobs at a gathering of high muckety-mucks in Silicon Valley, "Yo, El Jobso! Why not build iPhones in the US?" Steve answered, "Ain't gonna happen. Ever. "

Why is this? Well, the New York Times did a story on this topic, which I suggest you read.  Even if you prefer Windows to OS X, the chances are that your computer or significant portions of it came from Asia. Why is this? It turns out it's not just the cheap labor, or the regimented working conditions. It's the ability to hire on masse thousands of workers in a day. It's the ability to have enough "industrial engineers" with the equivalent of a community college degree, to supervise the production lines.

Look at these pieces expanding on the NY Times piece in TUAW and The Atlantic Monthly, too.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

On the road to My Presentation on February 1st

I'm presenting 5 tips (and 3 Bonus tips if time permits) on February 1st.

One tip I'd like to advise you about is: Knowing How Much Free Space lies on your Hard Drive and Just What Does Lie on your hard drive?

You can use the Finder and various Terminal commands to do this, but a couple of free programs make it easier (at least for me).

The first is Omnigroup's OmniDiskSweeper 1.7.2. To download the program, go here.

This program presents a column view of your chosen hard drive or partition's files. At the left hand side, you see the folders at the root of the partition or drive. Click on one and see its subfolders in the next column. See another folder you want to check out? Click on it and it displays its subfolders in the next rightward column.

It's great for digging into your files and seeing what hogs space, but what if you want more display options? Then I suggest you download Jgoodies' JdiskReport 1.4.0. This version is Universal, so it should work with 10.7. The developer wrote it in Java, so it runs a little slower than OmniDiskSweeper. On the plus side, the developer has versions for Windows and Linux, too.

Once it digests your file structure, it displays a pie chart of your folders. At the top of the display, the program displays 5 button: Size, Top 50, Size Distribution, Modified, and Types. Click on them to see a different view of your hard drive's contents.

Once you know what files take up too much room, whether it's a CD you ripped in lossless, space-hogging AIFF format instead of M4A or pictures in TIFF format instead of JPEG; BE CAREFUL WHEN DELETING!

If you access these files from within iTunes or iPhoto or Mail, you want to use these program's Delete feature to delete these files. You're working within a database, just like taking books from a library. You have to check out at the counter first before removing the books!

So I hope to see you in the audience on February 1st. Depending on how much time we have, I look forward to your comments. If you can't make it and have a comment, please contribute those thoughts!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Saturday, January 21st-Getting Ready for the Presentation

I'm getting ready for my presentation before MacValley on Wednesday, February 1st. I look forward to seeing you there.

The topic will “5 tips for getting your Mac to run smoothly”. I'm basing the presentation on Joli Ballew's classic book “Degunking Your mac, Tiger Edition”. So thank you, Ms. Ballew. Your book still covers the heart of the problem with using a Mac. You build up digital clutter as you use it. You put stuff on the Mac's desktop and don't put it back in its proper folder after you finish with it. Mail comes in and just sits on your hard drive.

I'm guilty of it, you're guilty of it. So I'll show you how to do something about it Wednesday, February 1st.

Apple introduces Digital Publishing tool,

Apple released Ibooks Author this week. I haven't tried it. If you have tried it, put your comments down below.

I have read Serenity Caldwell's articles on-line at She points out that only one readily available piece of software, Google Code's Sigil, lets you directly edit ePub books. Sigil has only one developer, who's creating versions for Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X. So Sigil is not optimized for Mac OS X. It's at version 0.5 right now, so don't expect perfection.

A Statement of Editorial Policy

As Editor of the MacValley Voice, I plan to emphasize housekeeping this year. Digital housekeeping, as in keeping your Mac running in top form. As in keeping your records in order. Perhaps even keeping your house in order.

I own a lot of books on this broad topic, from Joli Ballew, David Allen on Getting Things Done, and the Flylady and her crew on the topic of personal housekeeping. You'll see quotes this year from them in my articles.

I don't have the resources to review every new piece of software or hardware. I hope to get an iPad and a new Mac Mini so that I can cover 10.7 Lion and iOS 5.

I welcome comments from all, especially my fellow MacValley members.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Two New Gadgets for your MacBook Air

In surfing the Web, I came across two gadgets that will enhance your MacBook Air experience. You can buy one now and the other one will come out this fall.

You can buy AOC’s 16 inch monitor right now. I read a review of this device in  You just plug in this monitor to a USB port (after installing the downloadable Mac driver) and you’ve got a second screen handy for presentations to small groups. It costs $129 to $139 depending on the on-line vendor. 

I just checked at and they do have it in stock. Check your store to see if they have it set up for display.

The second device is Belkin’s Thunderbolt Express Dock, available in September 2012. Let me quote from the press release:

LAS VEGAS - January 8, 2012 - Belkin today unveiled new details about its upcoming Thunderbolt Express Dock. The latest version of Belkin's Thunderbolt Express Dock is currently on display in Belkin's booth, LVCC South Hall #30651, at the 2012 International CES.
The Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock enables Macbook and Ultrabook users to instantly access multiple desktop peripherals with one cable. The dock allows users to simultaneously connect to multiple USB devices, watch movies in Full HD 1080p, transfer volumes of data in seconds, and view online content at gigabit Ethernet speeds. The dock provides an easy transition from a desktop workstation to unrestricted mobile productivity.
"People purchase MacBook Airs and Ultrabooks for ultimate portability, but constantly plugging-in and unplugging numerous cable-connected peripherals is an annoying and time consuming ordeal," said Martin Avilla, general manager of Belkin's Core Business Unit. "The Thunderbolt Express Dock provides a much-needed solution that creates a cleaner, faster, more productive workspace and reliable connectivity to desktop devices and the Internet."
Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock - $299
  • Quickly connects into a desktop workstation and instantly accesses multiple devices with a single cable
  • Adds reliable, gigabit Ethernet connectivity to your laptop
  • Includes three USB 2.0 ports, one Firewire 800 port, one HDMI port, one 3.5mm Audio port, one gigabit Ethernet port and two Thunderbolt ports (one upstream and one downstream) for daisy-chaining to another Thunderbolt compatible device.
  • Utilizes Thunderbolt Technology for data transfer rates of up to 10Gbps bi-directionally
The Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock will be available in September 2012 at select retailers worldwide and on

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

MS Office 2010 comes to the iPad as a rental

The introduction of Siri in the iPhone proved that Apple has figured out the client-server conundrum, off-loading heavy computing chores such as answering spoken questions to a hot, noisy, powerful server in a huge server farm in North Carolina and then returning the answers lickety-split to the cool, hip client of an iPhone. It does this without requiring a lot of intervention on the part of the user. Indeed, it took sufficiently fast and ubiquitous wireless connections to  make it happen.

With that in mind, let me point your attention to two services offering Windows 7 on an iPad along with Word 2010, Excel 2010, and Powerpoint 2010: and is a Silicon Valley startup which has an app in the iOS App Store for its service offering. It only offers Office so far. From what I see, they offer the Windows version of Office. offers Windows and console games from its servers to several kinds of clients. They started out with games to prove that they could bring this client-server relationship with full-motion video. Now they will release an iPad app on Thursday, 11/12/2012. got to test this setup. Aside from some latency issues inherent to any client-server setup, it worked pretty darn well. 

To make a successful client for a tablet (whether iPad or Android) requires two things. First, you have to get the engineering down right. You want to make it as close to running a native application as possible. Second, you have to get the legal aspects down right. As I haven’t heard of any cease-and-desist orders from Microsoft, I presume they’re cool with this.

I would think at this point that Steve Ballmer has to think, “Why didn’t I think of this? Providing Office as a service instead of striving to sell a full-blown copy?”  

If these services take off, I am sure that Microsoft will offer its own Office-as-a-service to those who buy Windows 8 tablets. I am sure a lot of Windows 7 Ultrabook owners, strapped for storage space due to using SSDs, would gladly pay for access to such a service.  

And I am sure that Cloudon and OnLive will introduce Windows and Mac clients for users of MacBook Airs and Ultrabooks. Think fast, Redmond.

Tom Briant

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Obvious has occurred

A Silicon Valley Startup named Cloudon has done the obvious, at least in retrospect. What if we raised a bunch of money and hosted Microsoft Office for Windows 2010 on a bunch of servers? Users of iPads and Android gadgets could use Dropbox to gain access to files with their Dropbox accounts.

So far, this sounds like a great idea. got to test the site out. Within the limitations of a an application designed for mice and running from a remote server, it worked pretty well. You do use a remote-access application of some sort to get to MS Office. No, I don't know what kind of application it is. But you can go to the iOS App Store and get CloudOn for free now. But their Web site says they are "sold-out" I guess they maxed out the servers.

Could you duplicate this yourself using LogMeIn or even VNC with a Mac or  Windows machine running a desktop version of Office? Sure. Would it work as well as Cloud On? Well, Your Mileage May Vary.



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