Wednesday, February 20, 2013

icloud login via the web

Most of you may be familiar with logging into iCloud through your iPhone or iPad. However, you may not know that its also possible to log in to icloud via the web using your apple id and password. Icloud login via the web gives you access to the following functions:

  1. Email - Web Based iPad-like email client. Send and receive email. 
  2. Contacts - Working replica of the contact app on the mac
  3. Calendar - Working replica of the calendar app on the mac.
  4. Notes - Working replica of the notes app on the mac
  5. Reminders - Working replica of the reminders app on the mac. 
  6. Find my iphone - Locate any ios or mac device associated with your account. 
  7. iWork - Download all of your iwork documents saved to icloud. 

This is a very useful collection of web-apps if you ever find yourself needing access to your iCloud data when using someone else's computer. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

How to extend your wireless network

I work in a small office that recently purchased a building across the street to provide warehousing and additional office space. We had a challenge to connect that building's network with our current network. There are a number of ways to go about doing this including vpn and remote desktop. However, the building is close enough that we decided to extend our wireless network to the new building.

We did this using products by amped wireless. The first step was to connect a wireless access point to our current router. The amped wireless access point AP 600EX comes with 30 feet of power over ethernet cable to easily hook into your router. It is also weatherproof so it can be mounted indoors our outdoors. We mounted ours indoors near a window pointing directly at a window across the street in the opposite building.

In that building, installed a wireless range extender (repeater) also from (AP600EX). We pointed this device directly across towards the other device in order to maintain a line of site. This device picked up the signal from the access point and re-broadcast it throughout the new building. I was also able to plug in an ethernet cable and route that to a switch in the new building to extend the connection via ethernet too.

The advantage to this set-up is that the new building is able to share the exact same network that the main building uses, which is much more convenient that setting up alternative connections that route through the internet. Its also relatively inexpensive for a small office. The repeater and access point together were just over $300 on

Friday, February 8, 2013

IT Tip of the Day

Here's a tip for anyone setting up IT in a small office. When you are setting static ip addresses, its crucial to start a spreadsheet of all devices on the network that use an ip address and keep track of those addresses. This includes not only pcs and notebooks, but printers too. You may be able to get away with randomly assigning an ip address and forgetting about it if you just have a few pc's, but what happens if your business grows. Eventually you will lose track of those ip addresses and then you will have a mess on your hands. It can be very cumbersome to go to every device on the network and check the ip address.

What is a ip address:

An ip address is a number that identifies a unique device on your network. In an internal network, each device will have its own unique ip address identifier. This can be either static, or dynamically assigned by your router.

You will also have an internet ip address that will also be either static or dynamic. Static is important to have if you plan to do any sort of remote desktop services set up on your server. Whats my ip? Visit to find out your current internet ip address.

Another type of ip address is your default gateway ip address. This is the address of your router that you use to access the internet.

How to find ip address:

Ip address lookup is different depending on what type of device you are using. In windows, there are a couple of ways to find it. You can open a command prompt and type in ipconfig. You will need to mostly likely look for your ipv4 address. This will also list your default gateway ip address if you have one.
Another way is to go to the network sharing center, then network connections. Click on your network device then click change settings of this connection in the menu bar at the top of the window. In the pop-up box, select Internet protocol version 4 and then click properties. You will see the ip address listed below.

How to change ip address:

You can change an ip address in this same window. Just type over the ip address that you see listed below. Make sure you record this ip address along with the workstation id in your spreadsheet so that you don't accidentally assign the same ip address to another workstation. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

RCA Universal Remote Codes: Still effective?

In the old days, RCA Universal remotes dominated the universal remote category. They were inexpensive, and they had the ability to control thousands of devices. However, programming these remotes were burdensome and required looking up special numerical codes for each device you wanted to control and then entering these codes into the remote. It was painful, but reasonably effective. If you wanted a more advanced remote, you needed to venture into the custom market. 

That changed when logitech released its harmony remote control, which allowed you to plug your remote into your laptop and simply enter the name of each device you own. The harmony remote would examine its database and automatically program the remote for each of your devices. You could even take that a step further and easily program scenes, which would allow to press watch tv for example, and the remote would turn on each device you needed for that task and adjust the necessary settings and inputs for you. It could even dim the lights if you had a remote controlled dimmer. 

The newest trend is the wifi remote app, which allows you to download an app designed to control a specific device over wifi. For example, the LG remote app allows you to open the app and control your lg tv over your home wifi network. The advantage to this is that you can control your device from any room in your house, and you always have your remote (your smartphone) in your pocket. However, the disadvantage is that you often need to open a unique app for each device you own, which can be burdensome. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Delete Cookies

If you want to delete cookies, you will need to do this in each browser that you use. I'll show you how below. Here is a definition of a cookie according to wikipedia,

 cookie, also known as an HTTP cookieweb cookie, or browser cookie, is usually a small piece of data sent from a website and stored in a user's web browser while a user is browsing a website. When the user browses the same website in the future, the data stored in the cookie can be retrieved by the website to notify the website of the user's previous activity.

 Some users see cookies as an invasion of privacy. However, they can also be useful for tasks such as security authorization when visiting secure websites. 

If you don't want any cookies at all, I would recommend using a browser with a private or incognito session. Google's chrome browser has an incognito browser that blocks cookies entirely as you browse.  However, you may find that for many tasks, certain websites will be unusable, particularly those with that require extra security. 

If you don't want to take it to this extreme, you can just periodically delete cookies from your browser. 

In Chrome, go to settings, advanced settings, and select the clear browsing data under privacy. You can select delete cookies and other site and plug-in data and then hit the clear browsing data. Make sure to deselect any other data that you don't want deleted. 

In Safari, select Safari, preferences, remove all website data. You can also hit the details button just below to select only certain sites to delete cookies from. Finally, you can choose the always button under block all cookies to eliminate cookies entirely from your future browsing sessions. 

How to Add a Column to an Excel Spreadsheet

In excel, there are multiple ways to do the same thing. For example, here are 2 ways to add column to a spreadsheet - Excel for Mac version.

  1. Right click the column header and then click insert in the drop down box - this will add a column to the left of the column you selected. 
  2. Click a cell and then right click and select insert. You will see a pop up menu like the one in the image below. Select entire column and select the ok button to add a column to the left of your selected cell. 
  3. Click a cell and click insert in the top file menu and then click columns in the drop down box - this will also add a column to the left of the column you selected.

To delete the column, you will perform the following steps. 

  1. Rick click in the column you want to delete and select delete in the drop down box. You will see the menu shown above. Choose entire column and select the ok button. 
  2. Similarly, you can also select a cell in the column you want to delete, then click edit in the top menu and the delete button. You will see the same pop-up menu as above. Select entire column and then select ok. 

The Perfect Device That Does Everything Well

The perfect device that does everything well......does not exist. There has been a lot of discussion on the new Microsoft surface pro. Microsoft has advertised this as a "no compromise" device that performs equally well as a tablet and a notebook computer. However, reviews so far have been mostly negative. The surface is not as good of a tablet as the iPad, and not as good of a notebook as a macbook....or even a lenovo windows notebook. As a tablet, its slow to start-up, lacks apps, and has poor battery life. As a notebook, the screen is small, the mouse is inadequate, at it doesn't work well as a lap device.

Is there a market for this device? Yes, I'm sure there is. But I believe it will be a relatively small market. Ultimately, we are living in a multi-device world. This idea that there is a unifying device that will solve every problem is a fallacy. Perhaps our technology will evolve in the future to allow this type of device....but I doubt it. There will always be unique advantages to specific form factors.

Unless you have an unlimited budget, I would recommend avoiding the surface pro. Depending on the type of work you do, a smartphone, tablet, notebook combo is still most likely the best option. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

iCloud Photo Sharing

Apples iCloud service includes a number of helpful features that help you with sharing photos on icloud. If you are signed up for iCloud, whenever you take a picture, a copy of that picture is automatically loaded into the cloud. iCloud stores a rolling collection of up to 1,000 photos. After 1,000 icloud begins to delete photos, starting with the oldest ones first.

To share them, go into the photos app, touch photo stream, then touch my photo stream. You will see thumbnails for all of your current photos that are uploaded to icloud. If you touch the edit button, you will be able to select photos by touching them. Select the photos you want to share and then touch the share button. From here you have a few options for sharing:

Mail: Touch the mail icon to email the selected photos.
Message: Touch the message icon to send a picture text message to a friend.
Twitter: Touch the twitter icon to share the photo to twitter - you need to add your twitter account to your iphone in settings.
Facebook: Touch the facebook icon to share your photo to Facebook - you will also need to add your facebook account to your iphone in settings.
Photostream: This is a new feature that allows you to create a photostream that will be automatically shared with contacts of your choice. You can also create a public photo stream if you like. Once created, your contacts will be notified anytime you add new photos to the photo stream. Its great for vacations when you want to keep your friends and family updated with your latest vacation photos.

As you can see, there are lots of ways to share photos using iCloud. Just remember, you still need to back up photos because icloud only stores the most recent 1,000.

Monday, February 4, 2013

10 Steps to Building the Perfect Home Theater

If you have the space, it is surprisingly easy to build a home theater that brings home the full cinema experience. And its relatively inexpensive too. Here are 10 steps to building the perfect home theater.

  1. Buy a projector instead of an LCD or plasma tv. Yes, LCD tv's are approaching 70" in size, but a home projector can easily exceed 100" in diagonal screen measurements. It gives you a true cinematic experience that LCD's still cannot beat. 
  2. Get a good quality screen. Its possible to use a projector against a blank wall, but a wall will never have the smoothness and reflective qualities of a good screen. I recommend Carada's brilliant white screen. Its a great little projection screen company based out of Alabama. 
  3. Buy an AV receiver with plenty of HDMI connections. Modern AV receivers typically have lots of HDMI connections, which enable you to connect multiple devices to your receiver. Get a receiver with at least 4. You can always expand with a switcher, but its less convenient. 
  4. Good speakers are almost as good as great speakers. Only a trained audiophile can pick up on the subtle improvements of extremely expensive speakers. You can still get great quality cinema sound from a good, but not great pair of speakers. I like the infinity primus speakers. Great value for a high quality speaker. Ideally you will want a center channel, front left and right, and rear left and right, plus a subwoofer for 5.1 dolby digital sound. 
  5. Let a subwoofer handle the heavy loads. You can really achieve a big booming sound by pairing bookshelf speakers with a good subwoofer. Set your crossover at 120 and let your subwoofer handle the dirty bass work on its own. 
  6. Buy a programmable remote. Harmony remotes are easy to program and you can set it up to turn on or turn off all of your devices at once. You can also set custom buttons that change depending on which device you are operating. 
  7. Don't overspend on cables. HDMI cables are one of the industries biggest rip-offs. You can get a high quality HDMI cable at for just a few bucks. 
  8. Get a wifi connected smart box. This can be a roku, apple tv, or even an xbox. You will get access to tons of online content including netflix, for a very reasonable price. You can also access your home photos and videos, hop on youtube, and even rent movies for instant streaming online. 
  9. Save your money and skip 3D. Yes, its a cool effect, but the gimmick quickly wears off. Moreover, there is very little 3D content produced each year to justify the expense. 
  10. Get some great sample material to show off your home theater to your friends. The new James bond movies are a great choice, combining huge sound with compelling action. Blu-ray is the highest quality, but a 1080p Apple TV is nearly as good. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Universal remote control for iPhone and android

It can be very challenging to manage all of the various devices in your home theater. Older technology required you to buy and universal remote control and enter codes that would control all of your devices. That has changed.

Wifi remote control allows you to use an iPhone, android, or ipad to control your device with a app. I have an lg tv that I can control with an lg app, an Xbox that I can control with the Xbox glass app, an Apple TV that I can control with the apple remote app, a directv box thati can control with the directv app, and a pioneer av receiver that I can control with a pioneer app.

However, this is not always ideal. I love using the directv app while i watch tv because it gives me quick access to favorites and i can find lots of info on upcoming shows. I love using the apple remote app because I can use the onscreen keyboard to type while searching for shows. However, I don't always want to close one app and open another to turn down the volume.

I don't think there is a universal remote that does everything well. Smartphone remote apps do amazing things that you could never do on a traditional universal remote. But a traditional remote can control multiple devices using a single interface. Change channels and volume on the same keypad layout. Logitech harmony remotes do this quite well.

You may also consider a universal remote add on device for the iPhone. Satechi is developing a device that blends smartphones and a traditional universal remote. It plugs into your iPhone and blasts an ir signal to the device you want to control. The app contains a huge database or remote codes so that you shouldn't have to learn codes for each device.

There is no perfect solution. The ideal scenario is most likely a blend of traditional and universal remote. However, you do have more options for device control than ever and you should be able to find a solution that works for you.