Choosing the Right Mac Mini

top view of old and new Mac MinisI’ve mentioned a few times that Steve and I have an aging Mac Mini connected to our family room entertainment center. It’s a 2009 Mac Mini with a screaming Intel Core 2 Duo processor with 2 whole GB of RAM. I have to admit that we haven’t used it too much over the years, but I was never sure whether it was because it was severely underpowered or because using a real computer connected to a TV is painful.

I bought this Mac Mini to replace the awful first generation AppleTV that I sold to Jonathan Cost for $50 so very long ago. I had tried to hack the AppleTV into submission when I realized I was wishing it was a real computer. The 2009 Mac Mini doesn’t have an HDMI port, so I had to buy a dongle that took the USB audio out and the Display Port out from the Mac and converted it to HDMI, which allowed us to connect into our A/V Receiver via HDMI. We got the Apple Bluetooth keyboard and trackpad and we were in business.

The big problem with this setup is that the OS X text is wee tiny on the 50″ TV so we have to be pretty desperate to watch content that can ONLY come from a Mac to use this setup. With a current AppleTV, a Roku and a Chromecast, we really have little reason to have the Mac Mini any more.
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How to Export LastPass Vault and Import to 1Password

LastPass logo with arrow pointing to 1Password logoA while back I published a post about how to get your LastPass data out of your vault and move it over to 1Password. The process is a little bit weird to follow so I created a tutorial on it and published it today. You can find it at the link in the shownotes or look under Mac or Security tutorials in the left sidebar.

I hesitated to publish this when I created it more than a month ago because Pat Putnam discovered a problem that neither of us can solve. Using the web browser plugin from LastPass, you tell it to export a CSV file. It’s supposed to open a save dialog box, but for some people (including Pat) instead it splats your passwords onto the web browser window. I’ve been unable to find a pattern to why this happens to some people on some browsers, and I even enlisted John F Braun of the Mac Geek Gab to help me noodle it out but he was unable to solve it either.

I decided that for those of you for whom this works I should publish it, and hopefully someone reading this will write to me and say, “hey dummy, all you have to do is…”

Play Flash on the iPad Using the Puffin Browser

Looks like a Puffin bird - red beak, black and white and puffyOn Monday night my daughter Lindsay called me with an emergency. She and her husband Nolan were out at a restaurant and had planned to do their Fantasy Basketball draft on ESPN using their iPads and iPhones. When they went to the ESPN website on their iOS devices, they were faced with a Flash interface. I don’t know if you’re into Fantasy sports, but my kids take it VERY seriously, and when it’s draft time, it’s intense.

When Lindsay called me, I told her that I remembered that there was at least one browser for iOS that would allow you to surf sites with Flash. From what I could remember, these browsers render the Flash in the cloud and then deliver it to your iOS device without Flash. I did a quick search in the app store and found the Puffin browser.

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Command-C Lets You Copy and Paste Between iOS and OSX

Command-C logo artworkAs you know I’m good buddies with the SMR podcast guys, Robb, Rod and Chris. Their communication tool of choice is WhatsApp, mostly because it works on Android, Windows Phone and iOS so there’s never a compatibility problem. It’s fine for a chat client, supports text, audio, video, and photos. There’s one huge problem with it though, you can’t use it from the desktop, not even from a web interface. If I’m sitting at my Mac with a perfectly good keyboard in front of me, it drives me bonkers to have to type on the iPhone.

On occasion, I’ve gotten into such heated discussions with them that I’ve dusted off my Bluetooth keyboard and connected it to my iPhone but that’s kind of a pain too.

Today I got an email from a user group talking about how long the line was to buy an iPhone 6+ at the Manhattan Beach Apple store. He said it was about a hundred feet long and he had to wait 2 hours to get a phone. That’s pretty crazy – 41 days after launch and there’s still giant lines! Anyway, this is just the kind of long form text I wanted to send to the boys but there it was locked away on my Mac and I wanted it on my iPhone. Wouldn’t it be cool if I could copy from my Mac and paste into my iPhone or vice versa?

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Unprotected WiFi Fun

Cloak VPN logoAndy sent in a link to a really interesting article over on medium.com about exactly how easy it is to be hacked if you’re using open wifi networks. Mauritius Martijn takes a trip to a random cafe in Amsterdam with Wouter Slotboom who uses a small black device to spoof the wifi network in the cafe. Bart has been warning us for years about his but reading exactly what this guy was able to do is pretty chilling.

One of the things that makes it so easy is that our devices will automatically connect to a network which we’ve already connected to in the past. So imagine you’ve been to a Starbucks and connected to the wifi network called Google Starbucks, his device can tell you’ve been attached to that network in the past. All he has to do is create a hotspot called Google Starbucks and your device will auto-connect to that network. Once your device connects to his network, he has access to all of the traffic you send – user names, passwords, everything. You are owned. Continue reading “Unprotected WiFi Fun”

Capturing Imagery of a Partial Solar Eclipse

This week there was a partial solar eclipse around 2 in the afternoon in Los Angeles. Steve suggested a play date up to the hills in Palos Verdes where we’d have a nice view of the city and the Santa Monica Bay, he could take video, I could take photos, and we could maybe play with his DJI Phantom Quadcopter with the GoPro camera attached.

Steve's cardboard duct tape and electrical tape filterWhen Steve and I went on the Mac Mania Cruise in Australia, we were lucky enough to see a total eclipse of the sun. Steve bought me a very nice solar filter for my DSLR, but too late before the trip he realized that if he wanted to take video, he too would need a filter for his video camera. We had been issued official paper solar sunglasses for viewing the eclipse on the cruise, so he cut one in half, used a stiff paper program guide he found on the ship, borrowed some duct tape from our good friend Wally, and fashioned up a filter of his own to fit over his Canon HFS100 camcorder.

He’s great at keeping track of things (ok, maybe not his wallet and keys) so he actually still had his goofy filter. The duct tape when we were on the cruise 2 years ago was starting to get weird, but by now it was really starting to fall apart, so he dressed it up with a fresh coat of black electrical tape and he was ready to go.
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A Little Rocky Trying to Use ApplePay for the First Time

touched showing on Passbook with a credit cardLike so many others I had to go out right away and try ApplePay on the iPhone 6 on day one. I knew I’d have to put in my credit cards first, so I opened up the languishing Passbook app and tried to scan in my credit card. The little box kept bouncing in and out but never recognized the card. That’s when I realized that I probably had to upgrade to iOS 8.1, right? Duh.

After the upgrade to 8.1, I immediately saw the change in Passbook, you get a new option on top to add a credit card rather than another kind of card. Unfortunately they sucked all the fun out of adding the card by offering to let me use the card already on file with Apple. Of course that’s the one I wanted. I decided to try my backup credit card. I have to have a backup because Citibank is ALWAYS claiming I’ve had unusual spending and blocking my card, like if I buy something from Apple they stop my card. Seriously.

Anyway I tried my second Citibank Mastercard, and it didn’t work, got a popup suggesting I call the bank. Oh well.

So now it’s time to go on the hunt for somewhere to spend my money via ApplePay. As luck would have it, my son Kyle and I were driving around on Tuesday and so I convinced him to stop by Walgreens because they take ApplePay. Unfortunately he thought I meant CVS (who don’t take ApplePay), so he missed the turn to Walgreens and he was hungry so he wouldn’t go back. I should have made him go to MacDonalds because they take ApplePay, but he wanted El Pollo Loco who don’t. I missed day one. He told me to quit my whining, I’d be going to Starbucks the next morning anyway and I could use it there.
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How Can You Move the Mouse on a Mac a Precise Distance?

A little while ago, good friend of the show Slau wrote to the Mac Geek Gab boys, Dave Hamilton and John F Braun with a very interesting request. Dave included me on distribution thinking I might have some ideas. Here’s Slau’s original question:

MoveMouseIcon that I spent 2 hours creating for people who can't see.Hi Dave and John,

I have an issue that I’ve been trying to solve for quite some time. In fact, it would help a great deal of blind Mac users such as me.

I’m trying to find a way to move the mouse pointer in fixed increments (pixels or inches, whatever) using only the keyboard or preferably the numeric key pad. While there’s a way to move the pointer using Mouse Keys (within the Accessibility pane of System Preferences), the result is based on factors like delay and speed and vary according to how long you hold down the key so results aren’t exactly repeatable or translatable from user to user.

With VoiceOver, it’s possible to read the mouse coordinates in inches relative to screen or window but it’s not possible to enter coordinates manually. An example of where moving the pointer manually would be helpful and even necessary is when there are invisible elements on screen that are not recognized by voiceOver but need to be clicked. One can navigate to the closest recognizable element and then manually move the pointer from there. I’m thinking there might be an AppleScript or something that could perform the mouse pointer movement and it could be triggered by a keyboard shortcut. What do you think?

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On Ada Lovelace Day I Honor Kirschen Seah

kirschenAda Lovelace was an English mathematician who lived in the 1800s. She is often described as the world’s first computer programmer because of the work she did on Charles Babbage’s early mechanical general-purpose computer. Her notes include what is recognized as the first algorithm to be carried out by a machine.

I only know about Ada Lovelace because Kirschen Seah of freerangecoder.com told me about her last year on Ada Lovelace day. Kirschen explained that this day was created to encourage people to write about those women in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math who have inspired us. The hope is by celebrating Ada Lovelace’s accomplishments along with other outstanding women in STEM, we will be able to encourage more girls to go into these scientific fields.

I’ve worked with a lot of brilliant scientific women over my 35 year career but I’ve chosen Kirschen Seah herself to honor on Ada Lovelace day. Kirschen is a computer scientist, a bicycle mechanic, a photographer, and a pilot. I’m inspired by her not just for her accomplishments in industry but because of her relentless enthusiasm towards encouraging more girls to join the technical disciplines. For example, she works like a mad woman on Take Your Daughter to Work Day to help develop experiments and design contests to stimulate young minds. When you hear her talk about how much fun she has helping them you cannot help but feel the thrill she gets from stirring young minds to show them what they can do.

I got to see her excitement first hand this year. During Macworld Expo, App Camp For Girls was looking for volunteers to help young women in the program to get a taste for programming. You could not have kept Kirschen from volunteering to help if you’d had an army to help you. When she came out of the session she was so invigorated by the amazing young minds she’d met and clearly she had gained energy by being allowed to help them reach their goal to become programmers.

Kirschen brings such excitement for engineering and computer science that her presentations are positively infectious and she’s done more to encourage young female minds than anyone I know. Thank you Kirschen for being a role model for so many young women and for being a role model to me.

If you want to learn about more incredible women inspiring young women to join the STEM fields, check out findingada.com.

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