August 21, 2014
Frankly, I thought Quicken for Mac had been abandoned by Intuit. It’s long been a second-class citizen compared with its Windows versions, with longstanding complaints of bugs, slow updates, poor support, and file format incompatibilities. Still, it was Quicken, the name brand of personal finance software.
While Intuit did release Quicken Essentials 2010 for Mac, it had a very stripped down feature set, and everyone hated it. So users either used Quicken for Windows in Parallels Desktop, or quit Quicken in favor of iBank or even easier-to-use online services like Mint (which I’m a fan of, despite it now being owned by Intuit). Or some kept using Quicken 2007 for Mac, despite it taking nine months for Intuit to retrofit it to run on OS X 10.7 and later.
Which is why I was surprised to read that there is now Quicken 2015 for Mac, which Intuit released today. Is it any good? I’m skeptical but hopeful. It’s the first software I’ve seen released with a “vote for your favorite new feature” list in lieu of those features actually being included; notably online bill pay is missing, and there is no mention of whether you’ll be able to send your backup file to your accountant who uses the Windows version.
Undoubtedly there will soon be reviews, but if you’re a Quicken fan, you’ll probably want to check it out. It’s a substantial rewrite for modern Macs and offers mobile device integration. There’s no free trial, but Intuit offers a 60-day money back guarantee (at least if you buy it from Intuit, not sure about the Mac App Store). It can import your Quicken 2007 and Essentials 2010 files, as well as Windows Quicken files.
August 4, 2014
Last week I checked out Tonality, the new software from Macphun that makes it easy to edit black-and-white photos. Whether you’re an amateur photographer (like me) or a seasoned pro, if you’re interested in b&w images, check it out.
There’s a free trial, cost is $20 for the basic version (through the Mac App Store) or $70 for the pro version.
For more info, check out my article on Tonality in TidBITS.
July 24, 2014
By now we all know it’s important to move around during the workday, not just sit in the same spot for hours at a time.
I’ve been using the free Time Out software on my Mac for years. I can set it to ask me to take a break after X minutes, and I can set the break itself to X minutes. It’s been very useful and I recommend it. However I’ve used the software for so long that I’m now habitually clicking the “Skip Break” button regularly.
Note that there are lots of apps named Stand Up in the iOS App Store; look for the one with the white arrow on the yellow background, made by a company called Raised Square. (Or use my link above.)
Now that I’ve been using it for a few days, here’s why I like it (and a few things I think could be improved).
- Very easy to use.
- Lets you change the color, if you’re not into super bright yellow.
- You can set the hours and the days you want alerts. So mine is set for Mon-Fri only, from 9 to 6 only.
- You can set it to only alert you when you’re at one location. So it won’t bother you when you’re at a movie, at a restaurant, anywhere other than the location you’ve designated.
- The regular alert sound is fine; if you want other alerts you can pay $1 in-app.
- It doesn’t force you to take a break, it just reminds you to do so. And if you say you can’t take a break at that minute, it doesn’t re-remind you a few minutes later.
- It does have “don’t bug me for X minutes” buttons, but the only options are 30 minutes, 60 minutes, or 90 minutes. I wish I could set this for some other options.
- I wish I could set 2 locations — my work and my home — since I work in both places. Right now I have to update the app when I move between the two.
I like the simplicity of Stand Up! — it does one thing very well. I can see them adding some more features and functionality while still keeping it easy to use.
July 21, 2014
Some of us have older MacBook Airs and MacBook Pros, and some have newer ones. And unfortunately the power cords aren’t the same! So we have a lot of Apple MagSafe converters, to let us use the old power cords with the new Macs.
However we keep losing them, because they are so tiny. To solve that issue, we just purchased a bunch of these MagCozy rubber holders, at $7 for a pack of 2. They attach to any cable, so that your little MagSafe converter is never far from your old power cord.
Ivan also has one on his keychain, so he’s always got a MagSafe 2 converter with him!
Highly recommended. And they come in 7 colors (including glow-in-the-dark). Plus the company also makes a LightningCozy, a DisplayCozy, an EtherCozy, and some others. Check out the Cozy Industries website.
Thanks to TidBITS for turning us on to these. Check out their article on Six Useful Apple Accessories.
Photos from the Cozy Industries website.
July 14, 2014
The New York Times has a bewildering panoply of options for reading the paper digitally, including an almost-unknown but very awesome “Replica Edition” in which each page of the daily paper appears exactly as it does in print. (Hat tip to Dan Okrent for telling me about that, as I almost certainly would have not found it otherwise.)
Here’s the rundown. Most or all of the below offer a small amount of free usage monthly, but require subscriptions, explained later, if you want to read past your monthly limit.
Continually updating news:
NYTimes.com web site: All the news. Content changes throughout the day. Included with a digital subscription or home delivery subscription. Also partially available with a lower cost Top Stories/NYT Now subscription which allows reading only certain selected articles (about 40 per day), or an Opinion subscription which allows reading only the Op/Ed section.
NYTimes iPhone app: similar content to web site, formatted for iPhone; included with a digital subscription or home delivery subscription. (Also available for non-Apple phones.)
NYTimes iPad app: similar content to web site, formatted for iPad; included with a digital subscription or home delivery subscription. (Also available for non-Apple tablets.)
NYT Now iPhone app: a “lite” (or, if you prefer, “curated”) app offering selected content. Included with a digital subscription or home delivery subscription, or a lower-cost Top Stories/NYT Now subscription. Content changes throughout the day. No iPad version.
NYT Opinion iPhone app: Just the Op/Ed section. Included with a digital subscription or home delivery subscription, or a lower cost NYT Opinion subscription. Content changes throughout the day. Not supported on iPhone.
One day’s news, as it appears in the print edition:
NYTimes Today’s Paper: Sort of like NYTimes.com, but allows you to read what’s in the final daily print edition, instead of continually changing content. Once the day has been downloaded, it can be read without an internet connection. On an iPad, Today’s Paper behaves like an app, but you actually access it through Safari. Included with a digital subscription or home delivery subscription. No iPhone version.
New York Times Replica Edition: This is the coolest way to read NY Times on an iPad, in my opinion, but it’s provided by a third party, and doesn’t appear to be an official part of the NYT digital products lineup. It provides the day’s paper exactly as it appears in print, classifieds and TV listings and Macy’s ads and everything, on your iPad or iPhone (or Mac, but I don’t recommend that as it’s super ugly there). The Replica Edition is almost completely impossible to discover and set up; it is scarcely referenced on the NYTimes web site, and the instructions are wrong. It’s included with a Replica Edition subscription or a home delivery subscription, but not a digital subscription; however, a Replica Edition subscription includes a digital subscription to the NYTimes.com web site, but not the NYT apps. Confused yet?
To get the Replica Edition: if you don’t have a home delivery subscription, first subscribe to the Replica Edition on your computer (click “Sign In” at the upper right). If you do have a home delivery subscription, instead sign in here to your NY Times home delivery account on your computer; then scroll all the way down to where it says The New York Times Replica Edition, and click the “click here” link next to “For online access from your computer.” You need to do this once, even to read on an iPad or iPhone; you can close the pop-up window that appears with the paper in it. Now check your email for your Replica Edition username and password (which is different than your NYTimes.com username and password); the same email also includes iPhone/iPad setup instructions, but they’re wrong, so ignore them.
Once you’ve got your Replica Edition username and password, install PressReader on your iPad or iPhone. Tap the menu button in the upper left, and tap “Accounts” and then “Sign In”. Enter your Replica Edition username and password, and you should see “the New York Times Digital” appear under “Linked Services”. Tap the menu again, then tap “Publications”. You should see “The New York Times Digital” with a thumbnail of today’s paper beneath. Tap the thumbnail, then tap Download. Once it’s downloaded, you can read it without an internet connection. Tap the headlines to read a single article. Going forward, all you have to do is open PressReader, tap the New York Times, and download the day’s newspaper.
NY Times Archive: In your computer or mobile browser, you can search all articles since 1851; then you can pay to read them a la carte, or, if you are a digital or home subscriber, read all you like before 1923 or after 1986, or read up to 100 per month between 1923 and 1986 before having to purchase a la carte. Strange, I know.
TimesMachine: See a replica of the print edition of any issue of the New York Times from 1851 through 1980. Works best on a computer browser, but can be used on iPhones and iPads. Included with a digital subscription or home delivery subscription.
NYTimes The Collection iPad app: Just style and fashion coverage. Free. No iPhone version.
NYTimes The Scoop iPhone app: NYC food, drink, and events. Free. No iPad version.
NYTimes Real Estate iPhone app: Title says it all. Free. No iPad version.
There are also a plethora of subscription options. They are:
Home delivery: Includes digital subscription for all apps, Today’s Paper, Replica Edition, Archive, and TimesMachine. Price varies by location and frequency. In NYC, Monday-Friday is $7.20/week; Saturday-Sunday is $7.60/week; Friday-Sunday is $8.70/week; Monday-Sunday is $13.30/week.
Digital subscription: Includes NYTimes.com, Today’s Paper, Archive, TimesMachine, plus iPhone apps for $3.75/week, iPad apps for $5.00/week, or both for $8.75/week.
Replica Edition subscription: Includes NYTimes.com; not clear whether it includes Today’s Paper, Archive or TimesMachine. Does not appear to include NYT iPhone or iPad apps (other than PressReader, which is required to use it). $4.99/week.
Partial content subscriptions:
Top Stories/NYT Now: Includes NYT Now app and selected articles on NYTimes.com only. $2.00/week.
NYT Opinion: Includes NYT Opinion app, and Op/Ed articles on NYTimes.com. $1.50/week.
Here’s a page with a chart of what’s available for which digital subscription; scroll down to find it. (Keep in mind that even though the Replica Edition exists, it’s not mentioned in that chart.)
Photo by samchills from Flickr Creative Commons.
July 9, 2014
I just switched our office to QuickBooks Online for our accounting. It’s one of these new categories of applications called “cloud services” (because everything runs on a server off in the cloud somewhere; you’re not running actual software on your machine). This category is also referred to as “Software as a Service” or SAAS.
Here are my pros and cons about using QuickBooks Online on my Mac for our small business.
- I can do our accounting from anywhere – not just on the machine that has the software. This is the real reason I switched, because I’m working from many more locations than I used to.
- I can set up a login for Ivan, so he can check on our finances at any time, he doesn’t need to ask me to look things up.
- It works just as well on the Mac as on Windows (for once)!
- Our accountant can log in too, for free.
- There’s an iPhone/iPad app!
- The design has a lot of wasted white space, so I find myself scrolling a lot.
- It’s a web app so it’s a little slow.
- There’s a lot of mouse clicking and not so many keyboard shortcuts.
- It’s $27/month which adds up…
Summary: I’m glad we switched, because the flexibility is worth all the other trade-offs.
If you have questions about QuickBooks Online and the Mac, get in touch!
Photo is from the QuickBooks website.
June 26, 2014
Amazon just announced a mobile phone, which they are calling Fire Phone. Should you consider switching from your iPhone or Android? Here’s the overview.
What’s it cost?
$199 with a 2-year contract from AT&T
What’s cool about it?
Here are the top 4 things that make it interesting:
- Point it at a book, movie, or other object and its Firefly image recognition will let you order it immediately (from Amazon of course).
- 3-D display, which they are calling “Dynamic perspective.” It can tell where your head is, and adjusts its display to make things look like they’re in 3D.
- There’s a “Mayday” button on the phone that instantly connects you by video to an Amazon employee who can show you how to use your phone.
- Comes with a free year of Amazon Prime.
What’s not so cool?
If you aren’t interested in buying lots of stuff regularly, there’s no burning reason to ditch your iPhone or other smartphone.
And some articles and reviews that sum everything up:
Yahoo Tech: Amazon’s Fire Phone: 5 Key Features, by Rafe Needleman
This quote says it all: “It makes the world your mall.”
TidBITS: Amazon Announces Fire Phone to Heat Up Mobile, by Josh Centers
“Amazon’s Fire Phone boasts some notable technology and will likely benefit from Amazon’s promotion, but it doesn’t break significant new ground. Like the Kindle and the Fire TV, one of the Fire Phone’s primary design objectives is to make it ever easier to buy content and products from Amazon.”
New York Times: Amazon Fire Phone’s Missed Opportunities, by Farhad Manjoo
“Amazon’s new gadget is less a phone than a pocketable cash register hooked directly into the retailer’s intelligent warehouses. And it’s not cheap….For people who aren’t looking to be hooked so intimately into Amazon’s brain, it’s hard to see what this phone offers over the iPhone…”
Ars Technica: Amazon Fire Phone hands-on: Double vision, by Sam Machkovech
“Our general takeaway was one of shrugging our shoulders and remarking on the Android features we missed. Whether the phone’s unique features, particularly head tracking and comprehensive Firefly searching, prove disruptive enough to win doubters over remains to be seen.”
June 23, 2014
This week Stephanie Kwolek died at the age of 90. She was a chemist at DuPont and invented Kevlar, used in bulletproof vests as well as in firefighter gear, on bridges, in fiber-optic cables, and in building materials. Her work with Kevlar began in the 1960s, when there were not many women in science and technology.
The New York Times obituary of Kwolek discusses the numerous awards and honors she received, including the National Medal of Technology.
I like to recognize women in science and tech, because they are out there! By acknowledging them and making them more widely known, I hope young girls will be inspired to enter those fields.
In fact there is a children’s book about Kwolek, published in 2013: “The Woman Who Invented the Thread that Stops Bullets,” by Edwin Brit Wyckoff. Look for it if you have an 8-year-old girl or boy!
June 20, 2014
An article in the New York Times today discusses how the iPhone and other smartphones now have a way to make the device unusable if it’s stolen — a so-called “kill switch.”
In Apple’s iPhone and iPad, it’s called Activation Lock. It prevents other people from using your phone, turning off Find My iPhone, or wiping your phone.
But you need to set it up ahead of time! Don’t wait until it’s too late.
Here’s how to set up Activation Lock on your iPhone or iPad.
- You must be running iOS 7.
- Enable Find My iPhone: On your device, go to Settings > iCloud, sign in with your Apple ID, and turn on Find My iPhone.
And once you’ve set up Activation Lock, here’s what to do if your iPhone or iPad is lost or stolen:
- Sign in to icloud.com/find from any computer.
- Put the device in “Lost Mode” to set a 4-digit passcode and display a custom message on the screen.
- Optionally, from here you can also remotely erase your phone.
For more info go to Apple’s support page on Activation Lock.
Photo by Jim Crossley from Flickr Creative Commons.
June 12, 2014
The Lower East Side Ecology Center just posted a list of new e-waste recycling events for the summer. Here’s the list. Hours are 10 am to 4 pm.
Saturday June 14th: St Marks Ave between Underhill and Vanderbilt Ave; Prospect Heights, Brooklyn 11238
Saturday, June 21st: 5th Street, drop off at 6th Ave end, Park Slope, Brooklyn, 11215
Saturday, July 12th: Tekserve, 119 W 23rd Street, between 6th & 7th Avenues, Chelsea, Manhattan, 10011
Saturday, August 16th: LaSalle Street at Broadway, Morningside Heights, Manhattan, 10027
Sunday, July 13th: Queens Botanical Garden, enter parking lot at Crommelin Ave, Flushing, Queens, 11355
Saturday, July 19th: College of Staten Island, 2800 Victory Blvd, parking lot 6, 10314
Here is the list of accepted electronics. (Hint: Don’t bring a toaster oven or an air conditioner.)
Important: If you’re recycling a computer make sure the hard drive is either wiped or removed first. They say they erase or destroy drives themselves but I wouldn’t necessarily trust them on that.