Monthly Archives: November 2009

From Muggle Mouse to Magic Mouse: Fixing the Little Bug in Apple’s Magic Mouse

Quick post here: bought an iMac in the summer, a nice 24 incher.  Got a good deal b/c it was a certified refurb (used for Apple demos and what not).  Shipped the bad boy to Israel with all our other stuff.  Little did I know, Apple was coming out with a new version of the iMac in October.  This one came with more speed, memory, and toys, the crown jewel of which was the Magic Mouse.

What truly magical device: it is basically a touch response mouse, no buttons, no scroll wheel; just a sleek surface that you can click, scroll, squeeze, slide, and gesture on to make things happen.  Reminds me of what I love the iPhone for.  Check out this demo:

Problems in paradise.  My “older” iMac was not seeing the mouse as “magic.”  It picked up the bluetooth signal and functioned like a regular old wireless mouse, but no multitouch or gesture recognition, the whole reason I bought it in the first place.  This was frustrating.  The reason I pay so much for Apple products is they usually just work, right out of the box.  This was not going to work for me.

I went digging through the ether for any explanation of how to fix my new toy.  Found this great article Give Your Magic Mouse More Gestures and even downloaded the demo version of a software that adds extra gestures (will let you know how that goes once I get the magic back in my mouse).  Google also revealed this article about Magic Mouse Not Working for Some (mainly those of us who bought free standing Magic Mice, rather than new iMacs).  But it was on YouTube that I found this great video and a new blog that I plan to frequent: Technizmo.

The issue is this: if you own an Apple computer that did not come with the Magic Mouse, your copy of Snow Leopard needs a firmware update to work with the magic mouse.  You can get it here.  Many thanks to Technizmo for showing me this (would have been nice if Apple included this little fact in the instructions).

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Google Wave Let Me In … Now What?

It finally happened, I got a Google Wave invite from my good friend and colleague, social media guruess Alin Wagner-Lahmy (feels like being asked to the prom just a week before the big night).  For those of you who live under rocks (and you too Mom), Google Wave is the latest innovation from Google Labs.

It allows users to engage in a real-time, editable conversation, which appears on each participants screen.  As Google says, email was invented 40-years ago; Google Wave is what email would look like if it was invented today.

That’s great stuff, but think about it: what does email really allow us to do?  Whenever a new technology comes along we need to look at the tasks we are doing with old technology and see how the new offering changes that.  Here is my simplified list of tasks that can be accomplished with Old-mail (email):

  • Sending 1-to-1 communications, similar to letters
  • Sending 1-to-group communications, similar to … well email chains
  • Filing conversations and information
  • Data storage and search
  • Advertising, solicitation, and spam

Now what does Google Wave bring to the table that changes all that?  For one thing, the 1-to-group communications become a lot smoother.  My biggest pet peeve about email is the Reply All snippet.  You know the guy.  After a detailed starting message, and then maybe an insightful question/reply or two, he sends the simple reply all “thanks,” to which the original message owner replies, “your welcome,” to which snippet guy replies, “can’t wait to get this done,” (still replying all, still clogging everyone’s inbox).  But that isn’t even the worst thing about email.  Then there is fracture gal.  She’s the one who asks an important question, but only to the message originator, so that by the time someone hits reply all to include the rest of us, we have half the conversation and have to send a few messages back and forth just to clarify what we missed.

Google Wave eliminates these issues by keeping a single copy of the conversation for everyone.  Edits made to the conversation can be replayed so you never miss anything, but more importantly, there is no clutter b/c everyone participating in the wave sees the same thing.  This has so many uses beyond just eliminating clutter and adhering to Inbox Zero principles (look for a future post “GTD with Google Wave”).  Some quick applications that come to mind:

  • Virtual conference documenting, feedback, and interacting
  • Business meeting and  classroom note-taking
  • Crowdsourcing a book or other projects
  • Party and event planning
  • Family tree, multimedia albums or mommy books for the kids – invite the grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins, et all to Wave on it
  • Public Waves proposed legislation … see what the people really think!
  • Others?

This is a new technology.  When the wheel came about we had to stop dragging our wagons in the dirt.  When the printing press hit, copyist positions and the work of monastic librarians changed forever.  After the Internet the third world became the virtual workplace.  We must define what Google Wave will do to email.  Some places I have sought direction:

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Death and Facebook

An old friend died last week.  The circumstances of his death are still not clear: he was in good health, lived alone, and was getting ready to celebrate his 35th birthday that same week.  We hadn’t really hung out in a few years, having gone our separate ways in life, but we’d see each other on Facebook, trade a chat every now and then, and keep generally informed of each others’ life milestones.  When my father told me the terrible news I was shocked; wanting to get a sense of what was happening in his life prior to his death I went to his Facebook page.

His November updates all seemed positive.  My friend had been a survivor of childhood cancer and possessed a courage that I always admired him for.  On November 10th he posted the status update: “22 years ago this Nov. was my last chemo-therapy treatment.  I have been Cancer free since then; Life is good ♥.”  Prior to that, in response to someone asking him how things were going he said, “Life is good – Had a great day so far and it’s not over yet- ♥ this life.”  The final update he posted, just 6-days before his birthday on November 14th, went as follows: “Going to be having a Tattoo party soon at my home.  My two friends are going to come here and Ink people if you want to get something let me know asap and we will work something out.  These are the people that have worked on me so to see their work look at my photos :-)”.  That was the last Facebook update he ever made.  Police found him in his apartment on November 21st.  The unofficial report, through the grapevine of concerned friends, said that he had been dead for at least four to five days before being found, they did not know the cause of death, and an investigation would be conducted.

Looking at his Facebook page now is a surreal experience.  On his birthday he was already dead.  No one knew that fact until the next day.  Earlier in the week, on his Wall, there was a string of posts wishing him happy birthday, (I remember getting similar birthday posts from “friends” on Facebook, some of whom I hadn’t seen or spoke to in years, wishing me well – part of Facebook etiquette, I guess).  After about 20 or so birthday wishes, the RIP messages began, many more than the birthday wishes.

People posted quick messages like, “RIP brother, you will be missed,” multimedia messages with links to YouTube videos of Pearl Jam’s “Black” or other appropriate songs he would have liked, and some more personal notes, (I have yet to post my note).  What strikes me about this aspect of the tragedy is how we as people are finding new ways to grieve, digitally.  The Facebook Wall has become the virtual wake, if you will, where those of us not local enough or not close enough to be there in person can express our sadness and love to the departed.

When a user dies on Facebook, that persons profile can become “memorialized” by notifying Facebook about the user’s death.  Here is what Facebook says about a memorialized profile:

When a user passes away, we memorialize their account to protect their privacy. Memorializing an account removes certain sensitive information (e.g., status updates and contact information) and sets privacy so that only confirmed friends can see the profile or locate it in search. The Wall remains so that friends and family can leave posts in remembrance. Memorializing an account also prevents all login access to it.

The process for reporting a death to Facebook is as follows:

Please report this information here so that we can memorialize this person’s account. Memorializing the account removes certain more sensitive information like status updates and restricts profile access to confirmed friends only. Please note that in order to protect the privacy of the deceased user, we cannot provide login information for the account to anyone. We do honor requests from close family members to close the account completely.

These mechanisms are in place to preserve the integrity of the person’s profile and provide the emotional outlet for friends and family.  Someone must have worked with Facebook to clean up my friend’s account b/c many of the birthday messages are now gone.  I’m kind of glad.  It was unsettling to see that string of messages knowing they were posted after the fact.  I’m also glad that I can now go leave my parting words for my friend in the hope that perhaps they’ll bring a little comfort, comfort to those looking at his profile, family, friends, whoever.  Also, I hope this blog post serves as a source of information about handling a death on Facebook and a tribute to my friend.  His legacy of courage and love of life will always live on through those who knew him.

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What to Do When Your iPhone Only Works on Speakerphone?!?!?

So at first I thought it might be pocket lint.  You know, a nice good ball of blue and white lint that got stuck in the earphone jack, but after troubleshooting with the help of many websites and YouTube videos (like the one below), I realized we had a bigger problem here than I thought.  What am I talking about you ask?  My wife’s iPhone, that wonderful little device that we love for so many reasons (many of them having nothing to do with the phone part) stopped working properly a couple of months ago.  Her earpiece went dead and she could only hear people talking if she put her phone on speakerphone.

After a little research I found out that this problem is quite common.  The phone gets stuck in “earphone mode” and thinks that earphones are plugged into it, hence it sends no sound to the earpiece.  Here are the few solutions that I came across in my attempts to fix this annoying issue:

1. Plug and unplug your iPhone headphones (repeat 7 or 8 times as needed)

2. Clean your iPhone headphone jack with the stick part of a Qtip (cut with a scissor) and dipped in Windex

3. Adjust your proximity sensor settings

4. Turn your phone of and on; make sure Bluetooth is off; restore factory settings

5. Restore firmware and reboot the phone (most drastic)

Even after trying all of these “solutions” my wife’s phone is still stuck in earphone mode.  Even #5 didn’t work (I thought maybe b/c the phone is jail broken/unlocked that restoring the IPSW would help – nope).  Is the speaker just broken?  Do I need to return the phone to Apple (that means a trip to the US b/c the two Apple stores here in Israel don’t even have iPhones yet)?  Does anyone have any other suggestions?

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“#Prayer” What G-d Looks for on Twitter and the Spirituality of Computing

IMG_0146When I go to conferences for lawyers or technology, I tend to be pretty visible.  I’m the guy with the big white knitted yarmulke, strings hanging from my belt (they’re called “tzitzis” and are a commandment from the Torah to wear to remind you of your obligations to G-d), and a smile.  That being said, I don’t do a lot of blogging on here about my religion or my views on G-d.  Not to say these aren’t important to me, they are the bedrock of my life, but this blog has always had posts about Apple computers or websites and the like.  Then it occurred to me: this digital thing we do is really VERY spiritual.

At it’s essence, all digital code is a series of 1’s or 0’s.  The infinite number of sequences manifest in various digital permutations such as images, applications, and functions that we know as computing (for any computer scientist out there that can correct my simplified understanding of how digital code works, please leave your comments below).  Jewish thought tells us that entire world is made up of varying degrees of G-d either revealing or concealing Himself.  Therefore, everything in existence is either a 1 (revelation) or 0 (concealment) of G-d.  At it’s core, computing mimics this axiom.  So it is fair to say that computing is a tool that allows us to better understand how G-d operates His universe (for any Torah scholars out there that can correct my simplified understanding of how G-d reveals and conceals Himself … you know the rest).

This is an idea I have been thinking about for sometime now, but it was only recently that I felt compelled to put it on this blog.  See I got to thinking: one of our most powerful messaging mediums today is Twitter.  Are people using Twitter to pray?

I put in a “#prayer” and was surprised to see that the answer to my question was, sort of.  There were definitely prayers on there, some pleas for good health, others for no more marital problems, some praying for money to get married with links to sites to donate money.  But there was a lot of other stuff on there too.  Church groups were using the #prayer sign to announce prayer groups or church functions.  Others used it to talk about Veteran’s Day (which is today by the way – Happy Veteran’s Day!) and sometimes, #prayer hashtag was just added to a post having nothing to do with prayer at all, leading me to ask does  adding the #prayer hashtag to your tweet count as a prayer in itself? There’s even an article about sending Tweets to the Kotel (Wailing Wall).  All of this lead me to the conclusion that people are using Twitter for spiritual activities just like they use it for anything else.

The whole thing reminds me of that scene in Bruce Almighty where he corals all the prayers he’s receiving into a giant email list and then just hits Reply All to answer them.  Are we expecting the same thing to happen with our Twitter prayers?  According to the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, a person’s personal prayer to G-d, in their own language without any formality, is one of the most powerful ways to build faith and connect with the Almighty.  Perhaps Twitter then really is an answer to the need people feel for prayer, especially prayer they want to share with others.  I guess a private blog written to G-d on a daily basis would be more akin to what Rebbe Nachman was talking about.

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Installing Snow Leopard and the Mac Heist Bundle

snowleopard_1So I finally installed Snow Leopard on my relatively new iMac.  I had bought the 24” beast back in June so I could ship it to Israel with my stuff in early July.  Of course this was a few weeks before Snow Leopard hit the street in August (Mom, if you’re reading this, Snow Leopard is an upgrade to Apple computer).  There was a promotion that Apple ran for purchasers of a new Mac within a certain time frame, which allowed you to get an upgrade disc for $9.99 (rather than $29.99), but you had to be in the U.S. to get it.  On my latest trip to the States I picked it up and only installed today.  Don’t really notice that much of a difference yet, guess it’s maybe subtle things like stack.  What have been the noticeable benefits you have gotten from Snow Leopard?  Leave a comment below.

The other news today is that MacHeist (one of the coolest things on the web) is giving away a new bundle for the next 4-days.  It includes the following applications:

Shove Box a handy little app that lets you put snippets of information and notes to yourself in a top-bar interface.  There is a sorting window that looks a lot like most Mac mail or to-do list managers that lets you quickly process things.  Speaking of “things” while on my Mac the program known as Things is usually what I use for this type of stuff so we’ll see how Shove Box improves on that.  My problem is I have too many task organizing tools between Things, Toodledo, Outlook tasks, and pen and paper that I can get bogged down in deciding which to use rather than just getting things done.  Perhaps another post about this soon?

 

 

Write RoomBilled as a “distraction free” writing environment, this is really just a simple text editor.  Nothing more.  Not sure how this will help me, but willing to give it a shot …

 

 

Twitterific again, a streamlined application that is based on the minimalist concept.  Not sure why I’d use this over Tweet Deck, which has become my monitoring station on Twitter.  The main thing it boasts is ease of use and speed of tweet, enough to make me check it out, but not sure if it is enough to sell me on it.

 

Tiny Grab – now this looks promising.  It functions a lot like a PC program Snaggit that I use all the time at work.  Allows you to grab images (doesn’t seem to do it for video) from your screen and easily create a tiny URL for them.  Could be very useful for blogging.  The interface requires you to hit COMMAND + SHIFT + 4 to grab the image.  Looking forward to trying this one.

 

Hoards of Orcs – billed as a “tower defense game” (yes, a game … on MAC!) you have to defend your village against, well, hoards of orcs coming out of a portal.  I’ll download this one just to have a Mac game for once that doesn’t require Cross Over Games.  Looks very basic though so not sure how much I’ll really get out of it.

 

Mariner Write – a MS Word alternative, this seems to be the Holy Grail of this bundle (Mac Heist is only releasing the registration code after 500K downloads of the bundle happen – we’re about half way there today).  This software provides a simple, word processing interface that can open and output to MS Word.  If I didn’t already love and use NeoOffice this may be really exciting.

 

 

All in all this bundle is a bit underwhelming, but hey, it’s free!  And as an old friend from college used to say, “the beauty of free stuff is you can always throw it away if you don’t want it” (or in this case delete it).

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I’d Love to Say Bon Voyage to Vonage (but I just can’t quit you)

How many times do I hear this in a business meeting, “Mike … I can’t really hear you.  It’s breaking up.  Are you on a cell phone?”  No, I am not on a cell phone.  In fact, I am on a cordless phone, sitting in my home office in Jerusalem.  The problem?  Vonage.

VOIP sounds like a great idea in theory.  Make calls on the Internet for a fraction of the cost of what phone companies charge.  I love the concept and if I can ever get my Vonage phone to work right, I would be one happy customer.  And when I am a happy customer, I am an advocate (see Apple – although there is a post a brewin’ about MobileMe uninstall let me tell you).  The problem with Vonage is that I hear people perfectly, but they hear me choppy.

There are plenty of instructions on Vonage’s FAQ page about how to deal with this problem.  They include:

  1. Plug your Vonage unit right into your modem rather than a router
  2. Keep the Vonage box at least 4 feet away from any other wireless device (is this even possible in a home office?)
  3. Change your bandwidth settings via the profile page (did that – didn’t work)
  4. Pray (no, it’s not on their FAQ but seems to work with most other things)

I am now going to attempt to rearrange my home office to try my last hope in #2 up there.  Wish me luck.  If it doesn’t work Vonage, I’ll be looking for a better alternative.  Magic Jack comes highly recommended.   Anyone have any luck fixing the choppy, one-way audio problem?  Your feedback would be most appreciated.

 

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