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Tom Briant

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thursday Night Rant ala Dvorak (John, not Antonin)

MobileMe is going away, so hasten to download your old tax files!

Attention, all Mac users using MobileMe! If it hasn’t penetrated your thinking yet, you need to download your old tax files and whatever else you stored on iDisk, because it’s going away Saturday the 30th.

Your iWeb sites will go away, too. Time to find another hosting solution. NOW!

In other news, Google has labored mightily and brought forth a…7” tablet with 1280 x 800 resolution, 8 Gb of memory, and no cellular option. They intend to sell it for $199. The only way the iPad dies is if it chokes while laughing so hard at yet another vaunted “iPad killer.”

Google wants to compete with the Kindle for the low-end, low-margin tablet market. They hope to recoup the losses incurred producing and selling this gadget through your consumption of their hosted media and their bombardment of your eyeballs with ads, ads, ads.

Is it just me or do you also feel disappointed that Google didn’t come out with something awesome. Another tablet for media consumption is okay, but I expected more from them. Has “Do No Evil” been replaced with “Meh, we’ll settle for mediocre”?

Looking for an iTunes Server

No, I cannot find a better iTunes server than iTunes itself. Folks, this topic of a media server has bugged me. I mean, I live in a tiny condo so it’s not that important that I have music served from a central computer to the master bedroom, the living room and the kitchen. And the patio, playing music for guests waiting for their salmon burgers while drinking red wine. I just wanted to see if I could do it.

And the answer keeps coming back that no one has produced a program that can serve up media as well as iTunes Home Sharing does. Oh, sure, the Twonky software embedded in my spiffy new MyBook Live 2TB NAS will serve up music. As long as I pour the music together without folders into the designated Shared Music, it works.

And Twonky does connect to all my music clients. It connects to iTunes and to Linux’s Banshee and Rhythmbox. I don’t know about Amarok. Let me know in the comments.

Playlists in Twonky are another thing. It only works with static playlists and only occasionally. I’ve tried to set up static playlists exported from iTunes as .xml and .m3u and .txt files. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I have to dump all three formats of playlists into the Shared Music folder to get the Twonky to recognize them at all.

And no Smart Playlists, one of the really nice features of iTunes, for Twonky.

So if you want to set up an iTunes music server, my advice is to use iTunes. The current version 10.6.3 works fine with Windows XP Home on a 10 year old Pentium IV 2.8 Ghz computer with 1.5 Gb of memory.

As for a Web server for iTunes, I can recommendPulptunes. It works with iTunes’s central database to put your .M4a and .mp3 files up on the Web for playback. I’ve used the Windows and the Mac versions with no problems. Pulptunes is written in Java.

Pulptunes does have a Linux version, but you would face the problem of editing that itunes.xml file to get it to work with Linux.

Don’t forget that MacValley WON’T MEET ON JULY 4TH. Our July meeting on the topic of FaceBook and the Twitter is on Wednesday, July 11th.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mac Kung Fu: Is it worth the $22.00?

Just a brief entry here. Last night I bought Keir Thomas’ Mac Kung Fu, a collection of 300+ tips for the Mac. Keir put the focus on the latest version of OS X, 10.7; but a lot of it applies to 10.6 and 10.5, too.

Is it worth the $22.00? A lot of this information is available through Google searches and searches of and

If you’ve spent a lot of time in the past 10 years digging through Macworld magazine and MacLife magazine, then you probably know most of this stuff. But if you just came to the Mac (I’m talking you, the new owner of a MacBook Air), this book will put you ahead of the game. For about an hour’s worth of your time, you get these tips in three different e-book formats; PDF, .mobi for Kindle and .epub for iBooks.

Now various pirate sites have posted these files. Don’t Go There. Support legitimate writers and publishers by going to Pragmatic Programmers.


Thomas Briant

Editor and Media Manager, MacValley UG

Monday, June 18, 2012

Microsoft introduces the Surface tablets and leave a lot of questions

Microsoft held a press conference here in Los Angeles today. They supposedly borrowed ideas from Apple’s press events, but they missed a few of the important parts.

First, the conference took place at 3:30 PM here in Los Angeles. That’s 6:30 PM on the East Coast. I presume Microsoft didn’t want to rattle the markets. Otherwise, why not 10:00 AM like Apple does it?

Anyway, the Surface tablets look nice. I like the idea of a cover that doubles as a keyboard. MS also included a video port and a full-sized USB port.

Gizmodo has 5 unanswered questions for MS:

  1. Does this thing come with a cellular option? Wi-Fi is fine for hotel rooms, but a lot of places out in the field don’t have convenient Wi-Fi.
  2. MS told us the storage options, but didn’t mention amount of RAM, processor speed, or battery life.
  3. How much will this thing cost and when will you bring it to market? Again, vague answers. On cost, MS says, “competitive.” Competitive with the iPad and MacBook Air, presumably. And other Ultrabooks and tablets.
  4. As for when, they said they would bring out the Windows RT version with an ARM processor (similar to the iPad’s) when they introduce Windows 8. The Surface running full Windows 8 Pro with an Intel i5 Core processor (similar to the MacBook Air) comes out 90 days later. So it depends on when Windows 8 comes out. And so far, the most definite answer to that is “October.”
  5. How about the press trying out the keyboard? Microsoft said “No” to that, as this was a “look, but don’t touch” session.

I read Microsoft’s press release and looked at the pictures. Looks interesting. But where can I try one out? The Apple Store has branches just 20 minutes from me. The nearest Microsoft Store is down in Century City.

One question was answered today. The spec sheet for the Windows RT model mentions Office Home & Student 2013 RT. So MS has people working on Office for the ARM family of processors. That would include the iPad’s A5X. Could Office for the iPad be in the future? Stay tuned...


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Review of MyBook Live NAS

The MyBook Live Network Attached Storage (NAS) hard drive

by Thomas Briant

I recently bought a Western Digital MyBook Live 2 Tb NAS. I bought it to replace another drive that I dropped. My bad. This review will cover its utility as a networked storage device and the additional features it included, such as the Twonky media streaming software.

Initial Impressions

As a storage device, the My Book Live worked perfectly from the get-go. I read the instructions in the PDF manual on the installation disk. The Set-up programs for both the Mac and Windows installed the disk on my desktops and let me view the pre-established public shares.

When I wanted to access its Web-based Dashboard program, I ran into problems. I discovered this drive was a refurb. Someone else had set up the password for the Dashboard program. I couldn’t get into it.

I don’t blame Western Digital. I do blame Frys Electronics, where I bought the disk. They did not shrink-wrap the refurbed package and didn’t reset the drive for the next user.

Fortunately, Western Digital’s instructions in the PDF manual on the installation CD told me how to reset the drive with a straightened paperclip. With the power and network connection on, just stick the paperclip into the reset hole and hold it down for 4-5 seconds. The drive reset itself, showing the progress through changes in color of the front LED.

After that, I could access the Dashboard program through my Web browser of choice. I reset the password and set up a private share.


Using the MyBook as my Time Machine Drive

The PDF manual gave simple instructions for setting up the MyBook Live as your Time Machine backup drive. I accomplished this with no problems. Even before I reset the drive, I could use it as my Time Machine drive. It works without problems to my complete satisfaction.


The Twonky Media Streaming Software

I read the PDF manual on-line before purchasing it. The Twonky media streaming software particularly interested me. Could this solve the problem of streaming music to all my computers? Could it replace the free forked-daapd Linux software that I have used in the past?

The answer is: Yes, Twonky can stream music to Mac and Windows iTunes and to the Linux Banshee music player. No, it doesn’t have the features of forked-daaped. The music streaming, though, doesn’t conk out after two songs.

You access Twonky though the Dashboard. You have two settings: turn on Twonky and turn it on for iTunes. Twonky automatically scans the media files in the shared Public directory.

The developers of Twonky intended it for DLNA equipment, such as the Xbox 360 and PS/3 game consoles. iTunes is a fringe benefit.

I encountered two problems with Twonky. First, I tried putting my music into subfolders within the public Shared Music folder. This didn’t work. You have to put the files themselves into the folder all mixed together. Use iTunes to parse them apart when you want to play them.

Second, Twonky lacks transcoding capabilities. I could put .ogg music files (a Linux format) into the folders that forked-daaped read and it would automatically transcode them into a format that iTunes could read. No such luck with this version of Twonky. The .ogg files wouldn’t appear in iTunes.

When I used music files in the .mp3 and .m4a formats, then Twonky worked with iTunes. Oh, and the files can’t have DRM protection. That will only prove a problem with older music files that you bought from the iTunes Music Store.

So, to sum up, Twonky will stream your music to iTunes if you put the files into the Shared Music folder within the Public folder. You must use an unprotected format compatible with iTunes, such as .mp3 or .m4a.

Twonky sells the software for Windows, Mac, and Linux on their web site. The software versions are more current than the firmware version provided with the MyBook Live.


In Conclusion

The MyBook Live provides a very simple solution for a stand-alone network drive accessible from your various computers on your LAN. Western Digital’s instructions in the PDF manual give you all the information you need to get it up and running.

If you find you need to reset the device, you can easily do that with a straightened paperclip through a hole in the back.

The Twonky media streaming software works well. It is simple to setup and use.

All in all, a a good value. Available in 1, 2 , and 3 Tb capacities.

Monday, June 11, 2012

A few words about the WWDC keynote

Mac Pro: updated for faster Xeon processors. Still no Thunderbolt or USB 3.0 included.

MacBook Air: Updated to Ivy Bridge CPUs, more RAM memory, more SSD capacity, USB 3.0. The USB ports can accommodate both 2.0 and 3.0 at the appropriate speed when you plug in the appropriate connector.

MacBook Pro with Retina Display: One model available. 15.4” display with 2880 x1800 pixel display. 8Gb of RAM memory standard, configurable up to 16 Gb. Flash storage starts with 256Gb in 2.3 Ghz model, 512Gb in highest priced model, configurable up to 768 Gb of Flash storage.

No hard disk, no built-in SuperDrive. Thin is in.

Ports galore. 3 USB 2.0/3.0 ports, 2 Thunderbolt ports, one SDXC card slot, one HDMI port, one audio out port. Adaptors for Thunderbolt to Gigabyte Ethernet and Thunderbolt to Firewire 800 coming by the end of July. MagSafe 2.0 power port.

Yes, I want one. You want one. Lots and lots of people all over the world want one. Or Two. So you can understand why Apple decided to introduce the MacBook Pro with Retina Display as just one model, the most popular size in their line up.

Considering the demand for the iPhone with Retina Display and the iPad with Retina Display and now the MacBook Pro with Retina Display, maybe the Japanese and Korean factories turning out Retina Displays are taxed at their limits of capacity. So you might have to wait a while for a Retina Display MacBook Pro. Especially during the Winter Holidays this December & Lunar New Year next spring.

MacBook Pro with Standard Display and SuperDrive: Apple intends to sell the 13.3” and 15.4” MacBook Pros with a Standard Display and internal SuperDrives. Apple made no mention of the 17” MacBook Pro. (Apple has pulled the 17” model from the on-line store.)

iMac and Mac Mini: No upgrades at this time. To pull a opinion out of my ear, Apple would have to deal with the increased heat from the graphics circuitry in these space constrained models. I do not doubt they intend to deal with the heat problem in the next 4 years.

In 4 years, all models will have at least 4096 x 4096 displays or the capacity to drive a 4096 x 4096 display.

Mountain Lion:

Apple has narrowed the launch windows to “July”. It will cost you $19.99, but it’s only available from the Mac App Store.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

A few words about forked-daapd and its malfunction

As soon as I am cleaning up old business on a Saturday afternoon here in Los Angeles, CA…I should mention forked-daapd.

I recently tried setting up the most recent version of Ubuntu Linux, 12.04 Pangolin, and installing the version of forked-daapd, 0.19, in the repositories.

Well, it worked for 2 songs or 5 minutes; then it died. Same as before.

I don’t know why this happens. Julien Blache in France takes care of the updates to forked-daapd. He is a genius programmer in my opinion. With the European economic situation being dire, I assume he has devoted his attention to paying jobs.

I don’t know of a solution to the iTunes Music Server problem right now other than buying an older Windows computer and installing iTunes on it. Linux is not an answer as far as I know.

For those of you looking for an older Windows machine, I can suggest Discount Computer Warehouse here in Northridge at 8845 Shirley Avenue. For those of you on the East Coast, I can suggest PC Retro in the Washington DC area.

For those of you who have installed netatalk and avahi on your Linux boxes, well, I have used my Linux box as a networked drive with my Mac. The Cog music player worked well with this setup. Just drag and drop your Music folder from Linux onto Cog. Plays FLAC and Ogg as well as Apple’s M4A format and of course, MP3.

Tom Briant

Editor and Media Manager, MacValley UG

Oops! Thanks to Mad Mac in Madison, WI

I forgot to mention that Holly McEntee, the editor of the Mac Mad News in Madison, WI, prominently featured Jacqui Cheng’s article on backing up your iDisk files as soon as possible. That brought it to my attention and hence to yours.

Muchas Gracias, Senora Holly!

So back up your iDisk data promptly! LIKE NOW!

Tom Briant

Editor and Media Manager, Macvalley UG

It's time to backup all those old documents, pictures and media on iDisk before Apple deletes it

Dear Everyone:

Please take the time to read Jacqui Cheng’s article on Ars Technica before June 30th. It will give you instructions on how to back up your data from iDisk.

Remember iDisk? It predates Dropbox and Sugarsync. TurboTax and Quicken had the option to back up data, such as Tax Returns, to this site.

Tom Briant

Editor and Media Manager, MacValley UG

Friday, June 8, 2012

Tom's Big Post about his presentation 6-6-2012 on the iPad

Hello and welcome to the big post-presentation blog post! I’ll go through the topics I discussed and then on to WWDC rumors (yes, iOS 6 is coming!)

First, I covered 4 apps to use with your Mac to enhance your iPad, plus a neat piece of hardware that you can control from your iPad.

Type2Phone lets you use your Mac as a keyboard for an iOS device. Your iOS device must support Bluetooth keyboards (iPhone 3GS, iPad) and run iOS 3.2 or later. It’s available in theMac App Store

Type2Phone runs with 10.6.6 or later and works great with OS X Lion.

Printopia lets you print from your iPad to a printer connected to a Mac, whether locally through the USB port or as a network printer. You can also “print” PDFs or JPEGs to a Printopia folder within your Mac’s Documents folder or to a Printopia folder within your Dropbox folder. That way, you can share your work from your iPad to all your Dropbox connected devices.

Printopia is available directly from for $19.95. It installs as a preference pane in System Preferences. It requires OS X 10.5, 10.6 or 10.7. Your iPad and your Mac must share the same Wi-Fi network.

Q: What are Printopia's system requirements?

A: You'll need Mac OS X 10.5, 10.6 or OS X Lion on your Mac. Your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch will need iOS 4.2 or newer including iOS 5 and must be AirPrint capable. (Older devices such as the original iPhone, iPhone 3G and 1st and 2nd generation iPod Touch do not support AirPrint.)

Can you find other products for adding AirPrint to your Mac or PC? Sure. FingerPrint from Collobos Softwarehas versions for both the Mac and PC. PrintSharing from Avatron is an iOS app (as opposed Printopia and FingerPrint, which run on your Mac) and works with a Mac or a Linux (!) machine with CUPS installed. This means Ubuntu Linux will work with it.

But I can personally attest to Printopia working great. Download the free trial and give it a whirl for 7 days.

I next turned to AirServer, which enabled me to walk around with my iPad while displaying my presentation on the projection screen.

AirServer uses the AirPlay protocol, which enables you to stream audio and video from your iPad to an Apple TV or a Mac using 3rd party software. It offers a free 7-day trial, so try it out first. They also have a version for the PC.

The PC version is not as full-featured as the Mac version, but it does offer mirroring.

What iPads does AirPlay work with? AirPlay requires iOS 4.2. For mirroring, you need a iPad 2 or 3.

Now I have read that you can “jailbreak” your iPad 1 to make it work with AirPlay mirroring. “Jailbreaking” is done at your own risk and you could turn your iPad into a $500 paperweight. You have been warned.

I should mention AirParrot and Reflection, which compete with AirServerApp. AirParrot allows your Mac running 10.6 or 10.7 to mirror its screen to an Apple TV or a Mac with AirPlay capability. Reflection is a product that competes with AirServerApp.

I mentioned Air Display next, but couldn’t demonstrate it. Air Display lets you use your iOS device as a second monitor for your Mac. You can use your finger or stylus to manipulate text and images and files on this second screen. You can even mirror your Mac’s display, giving you a mini touchscreen Mac.

Microsoft Excel 2008 didn’t work out so well as a touchscreen application on a 9.7” screen, but try a paint application instead.

After I finished discussing those 4 apps to enhance your iPad, I turned to streaming music and video from iTunes to your iPad.

To stream music from iTunes, you need to set up Home Sharing in Tunes. Go to the Advanced menu in iTunes to set this up.


When you turn on Home Sharing, you get this:


You’ll need an Apple ID, which you created when you activated your iPad or bought music from the iTunes Music Store. Or you can create one on the spot.

Once you’ve set up Home Sharing on the Mac, it’s time for the iPad. Go to the More menu on the bottom of the Music app on your iPad/iPhone/iPod touch.


You want the Shared item at the top of the pop-up menu. You should see all the music libraries you can log on to, from your iPad’s local selections to the iTunes libraries on your Mac or PC. “Thomas Briant’s Library” resides on my Mac, while “Thomas’s Library” is on my Wintel 7 machine.


To show videos from iTunes, such as music videos or full-length movies purchased from the iTunes Music Store, go to the Video app. Under the Shared item, you’ll find your videos from iTunes.


The above illustration shows my shared videos from my Wintel 7 machine.

I then demonstrated four iPad applications.

Paper is a quick sketching application. It’s not as full-featured as AutoDesk’s SketchBook Pro and it’s not intended to be. I reviewed it here.

Kid’s Paint is a fun painting application intended for kids of all ages. I liked the ability to take a picture and draw on it. I reviewed it here.

Star Walkis just awesome. Apple chose it as one of the apps to demonstrate the iPad when it was introduced.

Finally, Angry Birds Space. This takes the birds and the pigs into orbit, where you have to deal with the effects of gravity. On the plus side, you can fire a bird around the back of a planet or asteroid to sneak up on the pigs!

As always, comments are welcome, but I will delete obvious plugs for products.

Tom Briant

Editor and Media Manager

MacValley Users Group

Attendance Jumps at MacValley’s June General Meeting

Last Wednesday evening was a landmark event for MacValley. We had one of the best presentations we’ve ever had. Tom Briant showed us what can be done with the new iPad, and it was stellar. He’ll have his blog on this up soon, and my advice is if you’ve got a new iPad, or if you’re thinking about getting one, read Tom’s Blog. He’s amazing. 

We had 35 people show up at the meeting. This may not seem like much to some, but this was the third straight month where our attendance increased. We had about four new people there. There was one man who joined MacValley in February. He was there with an older man. There were also three members who had not come to a MacValley meeting for years. And we had one couple that I never got to talk with. That’s a total of ten people. Plus 25 of our regulars. Wow! 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

First Look at Windows 8 Release Preview

Well, Microsoft calls it Windows, but it’s not Windows as I’m used to it. I set up this latest Release Preview on Virtual Box virtual machines on my Mac mini and my Wintel 7 machine Friday evening. Here’s my take on it.

The Metro interface with these large tiles is very interesting. At least it’s not a blatant copy of OS X, but real original work. Full screen applications if you have the Metro SDK.


The applications written for the Metro interface look great. I especially liked the News and Music applications.

Now if you did not write your application for the Metro interface, you end up on the Desktop page. Desktop itself is a Metro application.

Your Windows application ends up on a desktop resembling Windows 7 with a trashcan icon on the desktop and a task bar at the bottom. Your application’s windows float in the middle. You can change the desktop’s theme same as Windows 7.


You don’t have a Start button, which I think will frustrate many new users. It took me a while to realize two ways to accessing the Start page. I could hit the Windows key on the keyboard. Boom, I’m back.

Second, which tablet users will have to use, you hover your cursor in the lower left-hand corner of your screen. A miniature version of the Start page appears and you click or tap on it.

Now the Start page doesn’t present all the apps on your computer. On my Mac Mini’s touchpad, I tap twice with two fingers to make a button appear that will show a list of all apps. On my Windows machine, I only needed to to right-click on a blank area of the Start page for this list to appear.


I can tell that Microsoft has a lot of work to do yet. The Control Panel is still the same Windows 7 version. Wordpad is still a Windows 7 app. How MS Office fits into this remains to be seen.

As I mentioned, Windows 8 at this stage reminds me of OS X 10.1. At 10.1, OS X lacked original apps written for it. You could run an app for the older OS 9, get an app that would run in both OS 9 and OS X (the Carbon apps), or wait for a native OS X app.

When I got my first Mac in 2001, I could dual-boot it between OS 9.2.2 and OS X 10.1. I could run older apps in windows that resembled my HP desktop with Windows 98. So Apple eased the learning curve for me. I hope Microsoft builds in help for idiots.

I wonder how many users will insist on dual-booting their systems if their employers want to inflict Windows 8 on them.

I look forward to seeing the first Windows 8 desktops, laptops, and tablets. Will consumers get confused by tablets with the x86 architecture vs. the ARM architecture? “I wanna run MS Office on this tablet! Why can’t I run MS Office, which I paid good money for, on this tablet?”

Speaking of MS Office, will it come out for the iPad in November as speculated?

Tom Briant

Editor and Media Manager

MacValley UG

Friday, June 1, 2012

Insiders always get the best deals and here's how to become one

Where can you find a really good deal? -- 

Everybody’s oversold these days. Of course, you already knew that. But what you may not know is that a MacValley membership is about as close to a freebie as anything you’ll ever run across. 

Our yearly membership is $25. That includes a full-family membership, along with the MacValley Voice, our monthly newsletter. 

In the Voice every month we have wonderful deals and discounts listed. And that’s for members only. That means that any of our members can get some truly great deals on Mac & Apple related products  that are listed in the Voice. And those great buys will probably save more than the $25 cost of their membership. 

Now that is one fantastic deal. 

Cristael Bengtson

President, MacValley Users Group



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