Is HomeKit set to take off?

I don't think Apple said squat about it last Wednesday. But something is clearly happening here. For all its prettiness, this page is pretty vague. Also interesting that it's under /ios:

A bunch of great accessories here…

Yet Philips has only said:

We are working hard on integrating Philips Hue lighting system for the home with Apple HomeKit, in time for this Fall.

Whilst the details are being finalized we can confirm that existing Philips Hue lights will work with Apple HomeKit, and any necessary upgrade to the system will be fully supported… More details will follow from September 2015 onwards.

But I don't get why Apple would highlight this company's kind of silly products:

I'm just thinking, this space is gonna blow up this year.

Are domain registration, web site, and email hosting all connected?

A friend writes:

I had registered my domain with GoDaddy, with the domain registration (and private registration) paid up through 3/30/2019. Web hosting expires 3/30/2015. My understanding is that the expiration date for the hosting is irrelevant to me now, right? The site and email have been hosted on Gmail for years, so it doesn't matter that they're expiring on GoDaddy, right?

And then in 2019, do I just shop around for anybody who charges the least to re-register the domain?

I haven't uploaded new files to my web site in a while, but I believe the FTP passwords and settings date back to when I signed up with GoDaddy. Do they change?

Confusion on this is common, but easily cleared up:

Domain registration, web site hosting, and email hosting are three distinct and separate services.

GoDaddy is your domain registrar, and also your web site host. Google is your email host.

Of course you want to keep your domain going, presumably forever. And email for as well. Whether you continue to want a web site, we can discuss.

Domain: Shopping around for a domain registrar in 2019: I still really like and frequently recommend GoDaddy, who keep their prices pretty low. is great and the cheapest I've found. Hover is just a bit pricier, but the most clean and considered approach. The price difference between any of these is perhaps $7/year, so I don't choose strictly by price alone. I myself have domains at GoDaddy and Namecheap, and I'm happy with both, but prefer GoDaddy's customer service, though Hover's is better.

Email host: Google for Business (using their email et al. with your domain) is no longer free for new subscribers, but you are grandfathered into free. But if you did want to change email hosts, the other one I recommend is Microsoft Office 365 at $5/month or so, depending on the plan you choose. There are others, of course, but those are the two with the most moxy.

Web site: I assume you want to keep your web site live, in which case it'll be easiest to renew with GoDaddy. (Passwords for your site wouldn't have changed if you didn't change ’em; this would be a good opportunity for me to recommend making sure your email and web site admin passwords are strong.) If you did want to change hosts, that's doable but a longer discussion. If you didn't want a web site, then just let it expire, but I'd recommend exporting and downloading your content first.

Modern email hosting

My current email service stinks. Three different people reported to me recently that they had emails kicked back from my address address. I spoke to my host, who said they were doing maintenance over the weekend.

I really can't have an email address that is subject to occasional maintenance. Do you have a suggestion as to where I can host it? I was with Network Solutions but had problems with them as well. I'm seriously thinking about just going with my gmail address for business and everything.

Here's the scoop: We now have two excellent and similarly priced options for hosted email: Microsoft Office 365 or Google for Business.

I'm a Google reseller, and I've used and loved their product for years now. All my email goes through Google, and I can use any email software or the super-powerful Gmail web site to get at it. Great collaborative calendar stuff, and a whole ecosystem of third-party apps to tie into it.

Microsoft has made a quite amazing turnaround in the last couple of years, and their Office 365 reflects that. People who want a true Exchange experience (in many ways still the best in the industry) no longer have to own and maintain their own server. And if you pay a bit more, it can include your license for Microsoft Office, in keeping with the new software-as-subscription model adopted by Adobe and many others.

Really, I can recommend either of those solutions. Let me know whenever you want to make the switch. You'll never look back.

New Office for Mac, and "should I ditch my MacBook Air"?

H. writes:

I’ve been using a 13” MacBook Air for about 3 years, running Bootcamp/Windows/Office. I’ve been happy with it, other than continually confusing the shortcut keys (e.g., moving the cursor to the end of the line or jumping over a word) with those on my work PC. I wonder if it’s a good time to consider an upgrade and maybe switch to a PC. Do you have a recommendation for a replacement with the same size/form factor on the Windows platform?

This is funny: when I started googling "pc alter..." it filled in "pc alternative to macbook air." You ain't the only one, H.! 

I can't claim any experience with these, but just running with the top article — — I've heard that the Asus and Acer models are really great. You really can't go wrong with Dell or Lenovo either, but I think Asus and Acer tend to have better design.

But of course you know what I'm gonna say: Why not go with the best and see how little you need Windows? The Mac OS accommodates Exchange just fine, and it looks like there's finally a new Office for Mac on its way. ("Excel…now recognizes most Windows keyboard shortcuts.") You can download a preview if you're curious. 

Also, that new MacBook should be quite fantastic. Some reports suggest it may have performance issues, so I'm not going to recommend one unequivocally, but depending on your use, it could be the sleekest piece of kit you've ever owned.

Finally, if you need a current copy of Office for Mac, you can purchase a downloadable license from Amazon for $199:

I hope that helps!

Annotate images on the Mac

In the announcement of Yosemite, Apple touted the new Markup feature in Mail. Users of Apple's email app can now annotate images right in the New Message window. Nifty, but (wanh wanh) I don't use Mail.

Preview can handle all kinds of image manipulation and annotation, but Preview is not by nature a tool for creation.

Poking around System Preferences, I found this section of the new Extensions pane:

What’s that about? Turns out that’s how Apple Mail gets its new Markup feature, wherein you can annotate and draw on a picture right in New Message window. And other apps, such as Pixelmator, can tack features onto other apps. This is the same thing Apple did for iOS, letting you edit an image in Photos, using tools provided by third-party apps.

On the Mac, that means that apps have a way to add functionality to other apps, without resorting to hacks. So, for example, I can put a photo in TextEdit…

…and cilck this little arrow that now appears at the corner…

Click Markup to get a window like this…

Wherein I can annotate the image with text, circles, arrows, what have you; and also in some surprising ways, including adding a loupe effect…

That has a lot of potential, and very easy to access. I don’t know why we don’t see more apps adding these extensions. Currently, the only additional one I have is a Repair Tool by Pixelmator…

Screenshot 2015-03-05 16.37.17.png

…which I can use to make things disappear…

Screenshot 2015-03-05 16.38.19.png

(Not the most artful job, but you get the picture, as it were.)

This is all in TextEdit, the modest word processor that comes with every Mac. Since I don’t use the Apple Mail program, I just tried pasting this entire article into Gmail, in a web browser, and it worked! 

Create contact information from copied text

Screen Shot 2015-02-20 at 10.39.46.png

I've been looking for a smooth way to add contact information from text I've copied from a web site. The key is to use Apple's Data Detectors feature in TextEdit.

First, you want to set TextEdit to be always ready for this action:

  1. Open TextEdit.
  2. Go to TextEdit menu > Preferences…
  3. Turn on Data Detectors, at the very bottom of the New Document tab.
  4. (I also like to change my default document format to Plain Text, but that's not necessary to this procedure.)
  5. Close the Preferences window.

OK, now you're ready to do this anytime:

  1. Create a new TextEdit document.
  2. Paste in any kind of contact information, e.g. name, address, email, phone number.
  3. Hover over what you just pasted. See that little drop-down arrow? Click it.
  4. You'll see what to do from there!

Here's a quick screencast. Enjoy!

Be Vigilant: Phishing Works

A friend writes:

I received an email from a colleague this afternoon. She uses Google Drive to send big files. The email said, “Barbara is trying to send you a file too big for email. Please sign into Google Drive.”

Not thinking that I was already signed in, I clicked and signed in, and even gave my phone number. It only took a min for me to realize what happened when I was taken to an art gallery. So I'm changing everything, all credit and bank and passwords, etc.

But I'm guessing they could have sucked every bit of data out of all my Google info in a couple of minutes. Oy vey...

It's such a horrific — and tragically common — story these days. My friend has made the right move: Changing all his passwords, especially to all the major accounts such as Facebook, Apple, and Google, should secure him for the time being. Also, I think making sure you’re subscribed to a credit-monitoring bureau, and alerting them to such a happenstance, would be beneficial.

So just to make sure you know: Using a password manager such as 1Password [affiliat link], Dashlane, or LastPass helps immensely in these situations. You can use 1P to change all your passwords much faster than doing it manually, ensuring their all different and superlong. I even use 1Password to help me store the fake answers I create for the security questions.

What’s a “widget”?

That’s a reasonable question, given the silly history of the word:

a small gadget or mechanical device, especially one whose name is unknown or unspecified.

If you just want to know how it applies to your iPhone and Mac, skip the first few paragraphs.

In the software world, the story goes a little like this:

Yahoo bought a company years ago, called Konfabulator, who used the term to refer to a kind of mini-app. These little apps would show or do simple things — like weather, a calculator, a clock and calendar, a stock feed, package trackers — any single-purpose kind of information that you’d want to access or manipulate quickly. 

Konfabulator ran their widgets in a dashboard, an overlay on the rest of the stuff on your computer screen. You could have them floating on top or behind, or pop out from the side of your display, I can’t remember all the possibilities.

So Yahoo got ‘em and changed the name to Yahoo! Widgets, and pretty soon everybody was jumping on board. (“Widget" apparently has become a standardized term in software.) Apple put a Dashboard in OS X (still there but probably going away soon), Microsoft called them gadgets in Windows, you get the picture.

This year, Apple introduced a feature into iOS and the Mac, where you can add widgets to your Notifications screen. They are a very cool way to get quick information, and even to add notes and to-do items.

With my Philips Hue lights and the new Hue widget, I can even change the lighting scheme in my home! I just turned my office lights on and the den lights off, in two swipes and one click, without leaving my chair. 

Here’s how to add widgets in the Today view on your iPhone and on your Mac

Widgets I like:

There are more on the phone at the moment. We are waiting for Mac developers to release some goodies.

Note: I've used my App Store and Amazon affiliate links.

Photo Nov 12, 10 22 08.png

Password managers

I'd like your opinion on “Dashlane” the app that Google is pushing. Obviously I held off doing anything back in October about 1 Password when you were waiting to see about the releasing of iCloud Keychain… and I never tried the free LastPass.

A pal o' mine is a big fan of Dashlane. If you compare it against the other options, and prefer it, there is no reason not to use it. Also, because password management is so crucial to getting smoothly through a 21st-century day, I encourage anyone to jump on board with whatever service they feel suits them. As you say, Dashane, LastPass, and 1Password are still to my knowledge the top contenders.

I myself am a 1Password devoté, because a) it's integration with the Mac is non pareil, and b) it syncs with Dropbox, so I feel like I have the data in my control. Also, it's a one-time purchase rather than a subscription.

Which carrier should I choose for my iPad?

If I have my current phone plan through Sprint [or whomever], is there a reason that I shouldn’t get an iPad through them?

No, no reason at all, if you have been happy with their connection.

By the same token, the iPad is a separate bill, so you have no reason or obligation to go with the same carrier on the iPad as you have on your phone. In San Antonio, I generally recommend AT&T, but y'know, they're all bloody bastards who have finally caught up to semi-decent technology. There are only fine, subjective distinctions between any of them.