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?

Continue reading “How Can You Move the Mouse on a Mac a Precise Distance?”

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 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

Great $50 Sports Headphones from Sennheiser

Sennheiser lmx 635i headphonesYou’ve been hearing me review Bluetooth headsets for the last few months, and while the Jabra Sport+ Wireless Bluetooth headphones work great for Steve, no matter what ones I try work just fine UNLESS I put them in my Spibelt which is how I carry my phone to jog, wash the car, or walk the dog. I still like the Avantree Jogger Sports Bluetooth Headphones when I’m watching podcasts on my iPad at the gym, but the instant they touch my body they start to cut out.

I decided that after testing so many Bluetooth headsets, wired was the only way to go. I guess I should mention the problem to be solved here – it’s not high audio quality I’ve been looking for, it’s simply that the wires bang around hitting my hands when I’m jogging, or get caught on a rear view window when washing a car, or get pulled when two adorable white labs jump up and yank my brand new iPod Nano off my shirt and crack it. Of course those are theoretical examples that could have happened wearing my iPhone headphones. Continue reading “Great $50 Sports Headphones from Sennheiser”

LastPass vs 1Password – Which One is Right for You?

1p_vs_lpWe’ve talked before about the importance of using a password manager in this age of constantly hacked services. There’s no perfect solution yet, but we’ve been able to prove time and time again that letting a human pick passwords is pretty much the most flawed approach you can take. We can’t remember passwords, and we can’t even invent random ones, so we fail from both sides. We cannot be trusted. If you use a password manager, can choose to have it create random passwords your brain would never think of, and which you can never type. We’ve also talked about using Bart’s awesome xkpasswd tool to generate random and yet typable passwords.

I’m betting that many of you are in the camp of “yeah, I know I should use a password manager, and I’m really really going to get around to that soon.” Sort of like the old days when we all knew we should be doing backups but it was just too darn hard, so we didn’t start doing them until it got as easy as plugging in a backup drive. Now there’s really no excuse not to use LastPass or 1Password.

You may recall that I have been a LastPass user for a few years, but I’ve been frustrated because they were never able to fix the problem I had that it would stop logging me out when I was idle, which was enough to push me to 1Password. Now that I’ve used both for a while I’d like to walk through each one and give you some pros and cons so you can make your own decision. Remember, they’re both GREAT services, and you will not go wrong either way. I remember when Dorothy was trying to decide and she made a big pro/cons chart for herself, and in the end flipped a coin. She ended up choosing 1Password and so did Bart, which might be all you need to help you decide.

1Password is available from, while LastPass is available from Let’s dig into each of them, pros and cons: Continue reading “LastPass vs 1Password – Which One is Right for You?”

How Facebook is Ruining Real Life for Me

Misteltoe on my stockingI’ve heard a lot of people say that we’re too connected these days and that what we’re missing is real, human interaction. For the most part I disagree with that. Because of the Internet and social media, I’ve got friends all over the world. I mention the usual suspects often, but there are so many more that I often don’t mention. Here’s an example. My decision to buy the Olympus OM-D E-M10 camera was largely driven by Steven Goetz. Steven is a listener to the podcast, a camera enthusiast, and someone who enjoys helping other people spend their money. He researched options for me, advised on lens choices, and pretty much goaded me into pulling the trigger. Steven lives in Canada, I consider him a friend and yet we’ve never met.

I could describe a lot of other wonderful people from the internet who help me every day, who enrich my life and whom I’ve never met in real life. Some people say it’s not the same, and they’re right about that. In some ways I share MORE with people I don’t know in “meat space”. Bart is one of my closest friends, with whom I have shared more than I have with my “real” friends, and yet we didn’t meet for the first 4 years of our friendship and that was only a brief visit a few years ago. I’m a little more guarded with my real life friends than I am with Bart.
Continue reading “How Facebook is Ruining Real Life for Me”

Does the Internet Stop When Your Phone Rings?

airport extreme with Uniden phone and a lightning boltI’ve been given flack in the past for my belief that an engineering degree gives you an advantage in the tech space, but I’m going to say it again. First of all, before you write your hate mail, I do believe it’s possible to gain the tools necessary to be quite good in the field without an engineering degree, and many people DO gain that ability. However, I still believe that because engineering schools pound into the students certain ways of looking at things, especially around how to do a controlled experiment, engineers get a leg up on diagnosing problems.

So why am I bringing this up again? This week Steve and I solved an interesting problem and it was fun how we solved it. A couple of years ago we switched from Time Warner cable over to Verizon FiOS. I had no problems with Time Warner, they just didn’t offer the speeds of FiOS. About six months ago I noticed a problem with our connectivity – we lose our internet connection whenever the phone rings. This wouldn’t be an issue for normal people, but if you’re on a Skype call and the phone rings, you’re gone. Not exactly what a podcaster is looking for. Luckily it never happened when I was on anyone else’s show but a few times when Bart and I have been chatting I’ve lost him for a brief while, maybe 10-15 seconds while my Internet took a coffee break. I should point out that Skype very gracefully recovers when this happens, we don’t have to reconnect because it does it automatically. Pretty impressive actually. Continue reading “Does the Internet Stop When Your Phone Rings?”

Dumb Question Corner – Can AT&T and Verizon Phones Work on Each Others Network?

Steve Davidson has our Dumb Question for today. Here’s what he wrote:

A few years ago, when I bought my iPad 2, those of us in the US had to decide at the time of purchase whether we wanted a GSM iPad 2 (to use on AT&T’s network) or a CDMA iPad 2 (for Verizon’s network) — or get a Wi-Fi-only version (which I didn’t want). Apple built two internally-different iPad 2’s. Once you picked one flavor of iPad 2 or the other, and you were stuck with that carrier (or it’s lesser Sprint or T-Mobile radio twin) for the life of the device.

My impression from reading the specs. on newer iDevices (iPhones and iPads) is that Apple is now making then with all/both carriers’ radio types. It looks like the hardware is capable of either (no internal differences), so you aren’t locked into one carrier or another (unless you buy a contract that way). The Dumb Question is this: “Is that right? Is this Utopian future really here today?”

If so, that gives the consumer a lot of freedom. For example, when when the new iPads come out, I could just buy one and decide later which carrier I would prefer — or get a monthly plan from the start, and change my carrier later. The various carriers would have to compete to keep my business. Or I could get my wife an off-contract iPhone 6 Plus, and pick the carrier that gives us the best voice and data plans.

Oh, She Who Answers Dumb Questions, please enlighten me!

Computationally yours,

Continue reading “Dumb Question Corner – Can AT&T and Verizon Phones Work on Each Others Network?”

Backing up a Drobo – The Adventure Continues

diagram showing 2 drobos, switch, Mac mini, iMac, Belkin dockWhen last we left our heroes Allison and Steve, we were trying to set up a second Drobo. If you didn’t hear last week’s show, the problem to solve was that we wanted a new Drobo and to use our old Drobo to back up the new one. We made a slight error by putting the old drives in the new Drobo just to test the speed, which reconfigured them so they couldn’t go back into the old Drobo without erasing them. We were partway through the process of copying all of the data over our network to a 3TB USB drive as a holding place till we put the new drives in the new Drobo and put the data back. With me I hope?

Copying the data from the new Drobo with the old drives over to the USB drive spanned about 5 days, but we weren’t feeding it data that entire time. Remember we were using a USB 3 drive but Steve’s iMac only has USB 2. While it was copying, we bought a Belkin Thunderbolt Dock from Amazon. This dock plugs into one of the iMac’s 2 Thunderbolt ports, and gives him 3 USB 3.0 ports, 2 Thunderbolt ports (so he actually gains one) plus gigabit Ethernet and FireWire 800. By the way, it was $159 new on Amazon, but we noticed they had them used for $125 so we went that route.
Continue reading “Backing up a Drobo – The Adventure Continues”

Free Way to Recover Voicemails from an iOS Backup

I’ve gotten reports of people upgrading to iPhone 6/6+ recently and when they restored from backup, their saved voicemails didn’t come back. There are paid-for tools online to recover your voicemails, but I went on the hunt for a free way to do it. Mike Reyes wrote up instructions on how to do it from the Terminal that gets the job done. It’s a relatively geeky path and I thought it would be helpful to have a more visual version of his instructions so I wrote up a full tutorial here:

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