Cool, useful calculator

I’ve recently been using a very cool calculator that can be accessed in Terminal.

To open the calculator, open Terminal and type “bc”, then hit “return.”

When in bc, +, -, *, and / all act as you would expect. ^ is used to raise something to a power.

The thing I love here is that you can assign variables. just use an = in between the two values.

I just tried a making up quick interest calculator (as pictured.) We’d love to see what you come up with. Let us know if you find any cool ways to use this command line calculator!

What is Spoken Tracks?

If any of you blog lovers out there are like me, it seems there’s just much more content than there is time to read it. It would be really nice to have it read to me on the go. Well, Lion has some built in tools that make it oh so easy to do. I’ve also used this tool to convert old classics in English literature into audio books!

With the new voice personality built in to Lion, “Alex,” the Mac is easier to listen to than ever. With just two clicks you can add your favorite text to iTunes and listen to it later.

1) Go up to the Application menu in your menu bar. (if you’re in Safari, you’d go up to the Safari menu.)

2) Drop down to “Services,” and select “Add to iTunes as a Spoken Track.” It will ask you to give the track a name.

3) Go in to iTunes and check in the playlist “Spoken Text” to find your new audio track!

Non Lion users can also create spoken word tracks. Automator has some easy scripts for building applications to do exactly the same thing, it will just take some more steps, and will have to be saved for another blog post.

Does your case charge? Mophie Juice Pack

So I have to travel for business next week. When I travel, I worry that my iPhone battery won’t last all day. The iPhone (I have a 4S) has great battery life; on a normal day I never worry about my battery; I’m usually on Wi Fi at work and home so I can go all day and into the night before I need to charge my phone.

But when I travel, I have longer days without access to Wi Fi (using 3G or 4G uses more power than Wi Fi). Plus, I’m using my phone more: to check flight status, keep up with what’s going on at work, and entertain me on the flight. True road warriors are probably worried about battery life all the time.

I have a great product that saves my bacon on long travel days. The Mophie Juice Pack. It’s a case for my iPhone that has a rechargeable battery in the case! I slip my phone in this case, and I basically double my battery life. I don’t have to worry about running out of battery on the flight, or finding a place to charge up during a layover. You’d think that this would be a big, bulky case.

My favorite feature is that it can charge up the battery in my iPhone; so when I get to my destination and head off to a meeting, I can pop my iPhone out of the Juice Pack and my phone is fully charged.

They have two versions. A Juice Pack Air with a 1500 mAh battery for $79, or the Juice Pack Plus with a 2000 mAh battery for $99.

Check out this video for more on the Juice Pack Plus and Juice Pack Air:

Handy Data Transfer Method!

Do you have an old Mac you’ve been meaning to get the data off of?

Using Target disk mode is probably the easiest way to get this done. For this, you’ll need a firewire cable (or Thunderbolt cable if you have a 2011 Mac or later) and a new mac to transfer the info to. These cables can be purchased at Expercom. Here’s how it works:

1) Boot up the old computer holding the “T” key. Let go of the “T” key once you see either the Firewire or Thunderbolt symbol (as pictured.)

2) Connect the Firewire (or Thunderbolt) cable to both computers.

3) Open the Finder and browse your connected Devices. You can find your devices on the side bar of the Finder or in the “Go” menu up at the top of Finder under “Computer.” (Shift+Command+C). You’ll see your old Macintosh HD show up in that list, probably showing up as an orange disc.

4) Utilize the drag-and-drop method over to your desktop or somewhere else on your drive and let the data transfer fiesta begin!

Safely eject your old drive before disconnecting and powering down your old machine.

Data backup, more important than you think.

Why do we need to backup our files?
We love how reliable our Macs are, but we feel terrible when someone brings their computer in for service and their hard drive has worn out, they don’t have a backup, and they have lost their documents, photos, or other important files.

Why do drives wear out? Hard drives are mechanical devices, with moving parts. Even though these days they are very reliable, they will wear out just like any other mechanical device. They spin at 5000-7000 rotations every minute, and we work them hard, so we can see why it’s usually not a matter of if, but a matter of when, our drive will eventually stop working. We are moving towards more reliable forms of storage (flash memory in the MacBook Air or iPad, SSD drives in the MacBook Pro or iMac), but most of us will still be using hard drives for years to come.

Sometimes your hard drive is working fine. but someone just accidentally deleted an important file or our laptop was lost or stolen. Either way, we always want to have our important information in two places–then we have a backup for when something goes wrong.

So what do we do? We can backup stuff onsite and offsite.

Onsite backups will protect against a failed or damaged hard drive. They are quick and easy to recover from.

Time Machine is the easiest way to automatically backup your computer. The first time you use it your whole computer is backed up. After that anything that has been changed is backed up every hour. Time Machine is easy to set up, recover from and is very much worth using. You can get an Apple Time Capsule to set up a wireless backup over your network or get a external hard drive. Then follow Apple’s simple set up guide to get started.

For Time Machine backups, all you need is a external hard drive. You can pick one up at Expercom for about $100. We have drives from 500GB to 3TB, portable and desktop varieties.

Offsite backups will protect against flood, fire or other natural disasters. They are also good in case of thefts where someone takes your computer and backup hard drive.

There are numerous offsite backup options available. A couple of the most common are Mozy and Carbonite. These are both online services that will automatically back up your files.

Mozy offers home, small business and enterprise backup options. The home option starts at $5.99 per month, and you can try it for free. You can get the small business option starting at $9.99 per month per computer, with small reductions for yearly plans, or you can choose the enterprise option with IT controls and customize it to fit your company’s needs. You might need to call or email them to get a price quote for this one.

Carbonite gives you two options, home & home office and small business. The home & home office backup plan starts at $59 per year, and the small business plans start at $229 per year. Both options offer a free trial.

LaCie CloudBox is an external hard drive that also offers an online backup service through their website. Anything saved to the external hard drive is also saved online.

These are just a few of the choices available out there. If you find one you like that you think others might be interested in, let us know and spread the word!

How to manage a bunch of iOS Devices

Okay, your school, church, or business has just bought a bunch of iPads. How do you manage all these devices? That’s a common question that we get asked here at Expercom. In the old days, we would have to connect each iPad one at a time to a computer, sync over the settings we wanted through iTunes, and then move on to the next iOS device. Thats a real pain when we are dealing with 10, 20, or 30 iPads or iPods.

Now we have a great App called Apple Configurator. It’s a free App from the Mac App Store that lets us manage a bunch of iOS devices.

 

Apple Configurator is perfect for the classroom or student lab where devices need to bequickly refreshed and kept up to date with the correct settings, approved policies, apps and data. Apple Configurator can also be used to personalize devices with data and documents for specific users. There are even some home users that have a bunch of iPads, iPhones, and iPod touches in the house that are using Apple Configurator to manage all of the iOS devices.

There are basically three ways this App lets you manage devices:

Prepare devices
• Configure up to 30 devices at a time
• Update devices to the latest version of iOS
• Create and restore a backup of settings and app data from one device to other devices
• Import apps into Apple Configurator and sync them to new devices*
• Use the built-in editor to create and install iOS configuration profiles
• Enroll devices with your Mobile Device Management solution for remote management

Supervise devices
• Automatically apply common configurations to supervised devices
• Quickly reapply a configuration to a device and remove the previous user’s data
• Import apps into Apple Configurator and sync them to supervised devices*
• Define and apply common or sequential names to all devices
• Restrict supervised devices from syncing with other computers

Assign devices
• Add users and groups
• Check out a device to a user and restore the user’s settings and data on that device
• Check in a device from a user and and back up the data for later use, possibly on a different device
• Apply custom text, wallpaper, or the user’s picture to a device’s Lock screen
• Import and export documents between your Mac and Apple Configurator
• Sync documents between assigned devices and Apple Configurator

* Installing paid apps from the App Store requires redemption codes from the Volume Purchase Program for Education or Business.

 

You can read more about the features of Apple Configurator here.

Price:
FREE, in the Mac App Store.

Is your MacBook Pro not going to sleep?

I’ve recently had a problem with my MacBook Pro not going to sleep while it’s plugged in. A few customers have recently come to me with the same problem, as well. Sometimes, I would notice that the fan would run all night, but I would open my computer up and nothing would really be going on that should make it stay awake.

The first place that I would encourage anyone to look for this is in System Preferences >   Energy Saver. Make sure “Wake for network access” is not checked.

The fix for me in this case was in the system preferences, under Print and Fax. I’d selected “share this printer over the network” a long time ago for one of my printers, but it was now keeping my Mac from sleeping.

If you’d like to dig deeper, you could run this terminal script to get an exact view of what your machine’s settings look like.

I tried typing the following query in the Terminal

$ pmset -g

It should give an output similar to what you see here (in the figure below), but if you’re experiencing the problem, you’ll see something like:

sleep                    0 (imposed by 35)

The application in reference for me ended up being this Print and Fax preference, but we would expect that other applications could also keep your computer from sleeping, and running one of these checks could help you get closer to the answer!

15 Years and counting! A walk down memory lane, plus a chance to win a 13-inch MacBook Pro

Expercom opened for business in May of 1997. It has been a great 15 years supporting the Apple community. It’s also a little crazy thinking of how much Apple has changed in those last 15 years.

In 1997, we were selling beige Power Macs, Performas, and even some Quadras. How many of you have even heard of a Quadra? Steve Jobs had just returned to Apple as an advisor, and wasn’t put in as interim CEO until later that year. How have things changed?

1997 2012
Apple revenue $7.08 Billion $108 Billion
Desktop Power Mac G3 iMac
Processor 233MHz G3 Quad 3.4GHz i7
Memory 32MB 4 to 32GB
Storage 4GB 1000GB+
Mac OS 8.0 10.7
Screen 640 x 480 CRT 2560 x 1400 LED
Laptop PowerBook 2400c 13-inch MacBook Air
Processor 180MHz PPC 603e Dual-core 1.8GHz
Memory 16MB 4GB
Storage 1.3GB 256GB
Screen 800 x 600 Active Matrix 1440 x 900 LED
Mobile Device Newton 2100 iPad (3rd Gen)
Processor 162MHz RISC 1GHz A5x Dual Core
Memory 4MB 16/32/64GB
OS Newton 2.1 iOS 5.1
Screen 480×320 grayscale 2048×1536 Retina Display

In 1997 we had never even seen an iMac (came out in 1998), an iPod (2001), Mac OS X (also 2001), an iPhone (2007), or an iPad (2010) before. My, how things have changed in 15 years. Can we imagine life without some or all of those devices?

Here at ExperCom, we have thoroughly enjoyed serving our loyal customers over the past 15 years, and we look forward to serving you for many, many years to come. Some of you have been with us for almost that long, and we appreciate every one of our customers; whether you bought something from us 15 years ago or your first Apple product today. We would not be here if it weren’t for you and we want you to know that 1) we recognize that fact and 2) we appreciate you very much.

To celebrate our anniversary, we are giving one lucky friend of Expercom a free new 13-inch MacBook Pro, worth $1199. Please enter on our facebook page by May 31st. Tell your friends. We hope YOU win!

In search of a better alarm clock. Part 1

The LARK Silent Alarm uses a wrist band that vibrates to wake you rather than using the jarring beeping/buzzing of most alarm clocks. The wrist band also uses an actigraphy microsensor to detect your sleep patterns.

The iOS app is used to set the alarm and keep track of your sleep history easily on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. Once you start using the LARK alarm, it will do a 7 day sleep assessment. Once you have done the assessment it will give you an action plan to improve your sleep.

If you would like even more coaching with your sleep, you can get LARK Pro. It was developed with sleep experts and a pro-athlete sleep coach.

I have been using the LARK alarm for a few weeks. I got it because I don’t like the alarm clock jolting me out of sleep in the morning. This does wake me up more gently, which I like. Although I don’t always sleep well, I wasn’t too interested in the sleep assessment until recently. Just this week, I was talking with someone that owns multiple businesses and only gets about 4 hours of sleep per night. He said that the sleep assessment has helped him sleep better. Some of the suggestions it has given him are what time is best for him to go to sleep and what type of pillow to get. After speaking with him, I will probably try the sleep assessment.

Overall I like the LARK Silent Alarm and find it helpful to see my sleep patterns and how much sleep I’m actually getting at night.

It would also be good for anyone that is deaf or hard of hearing and can’t use a regular alarm clock.

The only thing that I didn’t like was how the wrist band felt on my wrist. It wasn’t as soft as I would like and it seemed to irritate my wrist overnight. I found by moving it up higher on my arm, it didn’t bother me as much.

You can find it for $99 at our retail stores. Give it a try and let us know what you think!

Flashback malware: How can I keep my Mac secure?

We have had several customers ask us about the Flashback malware that has been getting a lot of publicity lately. One thing that we love about our Macs is how secure they are, especially when compared to Windows, Android, or other OSes out there. But with the increased popularity of Macs, we’ll probably see more attempts to go after Mac users.

We don’t want to take a casual attitude towards any security issue, and we are glad that Apple doesn’t either. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • We have not seen any customers that actually have been infected with Flashback (as of this writing). So although there is a lot of publicity, we hope that the actual problem is not as large as the press is making it out to be.
  • Apple patched this particular security issue in Java a while ago. So if you keep your Mac OS up to date, that is the best way to stay secure. If you haven’t run software update recently, do it!

Am I at risk?
Probably not, but if you would like to check and see if your Mac has the Flashback malware on it, you can download a free utility on github from programmer Juan Leon. This utility will check for the Flashback, but not remove it. If you have Flashback on your Mac, you can find some instructions at F-secure to remove it, or you can bring it in to one of our retail stores and we can help you out.

Beyond Flashback, what else can I do to keep my Mac secure?
The most important, and an easy step, is to make sure that Software Update is running regularly (you can check in your Apple Menu, System Preferences, under Software Update). We would recommend letting it check once a week. When it finds an update, make sure and install it.

You can get some security software for your Mac. Many ISPs (like Comcast) will provide you with security software, or here are a few good programs you can download:
Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition (Free)
Virus Barrier Express (Free)

Also, this issue was caused by a vulnerable version of Java. Java has seen other security issues in the past. If you don’t need Java anymore, you can disable it. The Java Preferences utility is in /Applications/Utilities; uncheck the boxes next to the versions listed in the General tab. Some programs still need Java, so be careful with this step.

Gatekeeper
We are looking forward to Mac OS X Mountain Lion, coming out this summer. Mountain Lion will include Gatekeeper, which will make Mac OS X, the most secure OS in the world, even more secure. Read more about Gatekeeper and what it will mean for security on the Mac here.

Update (4/11/12)

Apple has a new knowledge base article about Flashback, and it looks like they will provide a tool to remove it soon.

For now, security company Kaspersky Lab has a free removal tool that is easier to use than the instructions provided above.

Update (4/12/12)

Apple has a new item in Software Update that not only patches the Flashback vulnerability but also deletes all known variants. More information can be found by clicking here.

In short, make sure you run your software updates!