Tag Archives: Apple

Aaron Brazell

10 Power Tips to Help PC Users Switch to Mac

Seems like more and more people I know are making the switch from Windows to Mac. Apparently, no one cares that the economy sucks and pundits are telling them that people just like them, Joe the Plumber as it were, are saving their money and not buying bling products like Apple. Perhaps people are realizing that the total cost of ownership for a Mac is generally cheaper than a Windows computer, and that, for the headache that Windows often is, Macs are generally just simpler.

Now I’m not going to be a fanboi. I made the switch two years ago and I remember the awkward, out of body experience that happened for a few days (and it usually takes a few weeks for most people) afterwards. I do want to recommend powertips for Windows switchers who are just uncomfortable with their new Macs still. Learning the power efficiency tools will make your experience that much smoother and once you learn them, you’ll wonder how you ever did without them. Many of these tips are old hat to longtime Mac users, but if you’re an old time Mac user you should add your own tips in comments.


Spotlight indexes your hard drive looking for mail, applications, documents, dictionary definitions, etc. Anything that is on your Mac gets indexed by Spotlight. You can click on the magnifying glass in the upper right corner of your screen, or simply Tap Command (⌘) + Space. Start typing “Firefox” and it will find the browser for you. Start typing “Projected” and it will find that email that was titled “Projected forecast FY2009” in your Apple Mail. And so on.
Picture 1.png

Dock Management

I’m of the mindset that, because of Spotlight above, I don’t need the Dock infringing on my workspace. So I keep the Dock tiny (as small as you can make it in System Preferences > Dock) and keep only the quick-find apps I absolutely need in there. Anything else I can access via Spotlight.

Right Context Click

In Windows, power users rely on the right-click. You can still use a Two or three button mouse (as long as it is of the USB variety) on a Mac and keep that familiarity. In fact, it may be a good idea to start off that way before switching to the one button (or the new buttonless) mice or trackpad.

Context click can be accessed two (or maybe three) different ways, depending on your setup. The ubiquitous solution is to Ctrl-click. The legacy configuration method is to access System Preferences > Trackpad and configure the Two finger + Click method. This allows you to place two fingers on the trackpad and click the button.

The third, new method that is only usable with the brand new aluminum Macbooks and Macbook Pros is to configure the trackpad to accept a click in one of the bottom corners. Note that the new Macbooks don’t have a traditional button anymore. The trackpad is the button.

Personally, I use the lower right corner of the trackpad to activate the context click but I’m on a new Macbook.


Exposé is the tool that will artfully show you either all open windows from a single application or all open windows. Fantastic for quick switching or to find one of many many many open windows quickly.

Hand Gestures!

As a new Mac user, you really have to understand a few hand gestures on your trackpad. They will make your life super-easy if you get them.

  1. Two finger scroll – In a browser or any other window with scrolling, placing two fingers on the trackpad and moving them up or down will scroll the window.
  2. Four Finger Exposé – With the new laptops, you can now use the four finger trackpad gesture. Four fingers down moving up activates Exposé. Four fingers down returns things to normal
  3. Four Finger Application switcher – Four finger sweep to the left or right exposes all the applications open. This is in the form of Alt+Tab which is accessible still in OS X and also on Windows.


Spaces is my bugaboo. It’s so powerful and allows me to spread out my many, many, many windows across different desktop setups but it comes with the awkwardness of certain applications never wanting to stick on the proper space or having the application menu in one space and an application window in another one. Apple is doing a lot with Spaces to fix bugginess. Regarldess, if you have a lot of windows and apps, I suggest using Spaces.

Optimal layout is:

  1. Browser, Email and Calendar on Space 1
  2. Development and other productivity apps in Space 2
  3. 2 Spaces for porn (kidding!)

Use Apple productivity apps

Unless there is something specific about Microsoft Office that keeps you there (everyone else in the office uses it is generally not acceptable enough, in my opinion, but Jason Thomas does make good points about collaboration) then you have everything you need in iWork ’08, Mail.app, iCal and Address Book.

The mental roadblock for many Windows users is that Outlook provides access to everything in one place but, while that is true, Apple makes a pretty significant transparent effort at app integration. If you get an email in Mail.app that suggests a conference call on Friday at 3pm, you can click on the date and create an iCal meeting appointment. You Can right click on an email address and add it to Address Book. Pages opens and saves to Word. Numbers opens and saves to Excel. Keynote opens and saves to Powerpoint.

You lose superb Exchange collaboration (right now) functionality, but for most people, the drop-off is not too bad and the stability and integration between apps is exceptional.

Installing Applications

This is dirt easy. Literally. If you’re coming from the Windows world, you are used to “installing” applications. You have to go through a wizard that installs all kind of cruft throughout the Windows registry. With Macs, every application is self-contained. Literally, that means that in almost every case, installing an app means drag the app from a ZIP file into the Applications folder in your Finder (Windows Explorer in the Windows world).

Likewise, uninstalling an app is as simple as dragging it into the trash can. There is nothing else. No uninstaller. No half-done uninstalls because the process crashed halfway through. Simple drag and drop.

Shortcut Keys

Shortcut keys can be a bugaboo for most switchers, and they will continue to be after you make the adjustment if you have to go back to Windows ever. All your main shortcut keys in Windows are Ctrl something. Ctrl+C is Copy, Control+A is Select All, Control+V is Paste.

Most of these are identical on a Mac, with an exception. You use the Command (⌘) key instead of Control on OS X. Power users will tell you that it’s actually a more natural keystroke because of the proximity of Command to most of your other keys. Control is farther away and makes your fingers stretch more. Learn to use that thumb for easy access!

Quick Look

My final tip for the day is Quick Look. With most common file types including images, PDFs and documents, you can actually highlight a file in the Finder and hit the Quick Look button (The eye icon on the top of the Finder window) to get a quick preview of what the document is before opening. This has proven to be a huge boon when looking through large numbers of documents for one item specifically.

I know I’m not mentioning everything and there are certainly more advanced tips (like getting to know Automator, calibrating your battery, screenshots, Applescripting and anything Unixy), so feel free to add your own “Switcher” tips in comments. Would love to hear more from you.

Aaron Brazell

Even During a Recession, Small Businesses Still Should Consider Macbooks

I was talking to someone recently who just took a new job at a small web-company. She has been a Windows user all her life but she asked me what she should get in her new job. They were buying her a new computer.

Naturally, I suggested the new Macbook that Apple announced yesterday. The same thing occurred when my dad took a new job with a non-profit and considered getting a Mac, but it was nixed due to concerns over business application and utility.

To be clear, there is no better time to look at Apple laptops than now because the total cost of ownership is usually lower given that in most business environments, the selling point is Microsoft Office and Exchange/Active Directory integration.

Most purchasing managers will get caught in the trap of looking at the higher price tag for the hardware and assume that means that the TCO is higher as well. Let’s break it down though:

Dell Vostro 2510 Apple Macbook 2.0Ghz
Initial Pricepoint $899 $1299
CPU Equivalency Upgrade (2.0 Ghz) $75 $0
Office Software MS Office Pro 2007 – $320 iWork ’08 -$79
Extended Warranty ProSupport (3y) – $268 AppleCare (3y) – $249
PDF Creation Adobe Acrobat – $449 Built in Support – $0
Total Cost of Ownership $2011 $1627

Five Hundred Dollars in difference for the average small business. Not everyone needs Adobe Acrobat, but a lot do! Some companies are inclined to buy MS Office for Mac, but it sucks and iWork has almost universal compatibility. Mail.app has Exchange capability, or the Exchange server can turn on IMAP functionality to make mail clients other than Outlook work better across the board.

If IT purchasing managers take a step back and look at the reality of the purchasing, a hard look at Apple products is a strong move to tighten those belts.

Aaron Brazell

Hints at an $800 Apple laptop, Bloggers Report, Stock up 4 points

It was quite interesting to watch the market swing yesterday. Apple (AAPL) took a 20% hit on the market last week when it was expected that consumer spending on “bling” would be reduced. “Bling” stocks like Apple, Starbucks (SBUX) and other companies representing consumers “living the life” mentalities tanked with futures projections.

Picture 5.png

And then yesterday came. Duncan Riley had an exclusive reporting the imminent release of an $800 laptop from Apple, the first sub-$1000 machine ever in the line of Apple products. From there, well read blogs like VentureBeat, MacRumors and Gizmodo – to name just a few – ran with the story.

Later in the day, Engadget reported an October 14th event where Apple would announce their new laptop line. Former Engadget editor, Ryan Block, 9 to 5 Mac and Digital Daily – again, to only name a few – ran with the story.

The result was fascinating. The DJIA is currently down over 300 points indicating yet another bloodbath on Wall Street. However, Apple stock is through the roof, up almost 5 points at this moment.

I am in no way suggesting people should go about trying to manipulate the market by creating stories or otherwise fabricating false positive pressure on the market. That is a crime. However, it’s important for blogger to recognize their ability to affect the market for the positive or negative.

And the pressure remains on the top-tier bloggers to use that power wisely and recognize that their words matter. If ever there was a “responsibility” at the feet of these bloggers, it is now.

Aaron Brazell

Thoughts on MobileMe and Apple

As I’ve spent the past 24 hours wiping my Macbook Pro and trying to get back up to speed, I thought I’d give a few thoughts on MobileMe, Apple Mail and Push/Cloud technology.

This is relatively raw as I am much more focused on getting back to work than I am “getting things right” as they say in the journalism business. I’m a user. I’m a tech guy. I’m a Unix guy. I’m an Apple guy. Those are the lenses I see this world through.

MobileMe Saved My Preference Life

MobileMe saved my life in terms of preferences, contacts and calendar. It was absolutely beautiful to watch everything sync beautifully back into place on a fresh install of Leopard.

Apple Mail no Longer Handles TLS/SSL Authentication

Apple Mail no longer wishes to communicate with my mail server running Zimbra. Mind you, the exact same setting exist between a parallel install of Thunderbird, but Apple Mail will not authenticate against a TLS based server. It was mildly flakey before, but it worked. Now it simply will not work no matter what combination of settings I try.

Standardize around Protocols, not Products

If I have to use Thunderbird, it would be nice if I could connect to MobileMe to sync my address book. Others, apparently, feel the same way. Why is MobileMe contacts and calendars not running on a WebDAV server that any client can develop communication prototypes against? If I have to use Thunderbird as opposed to Apple Mail, I lose the selling point of MobileMe.

Likewise, Apple is building for the software on the Windows side with people complaining that you can only use MobileMe with Outlook. What about Outlook Express, Thunderbird, etc?

What about Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail?

Bad software development always starts with developing against the symptom instead of the root problem. A better concept for MobileMe would be to develop around standard protocols: POP/IMAP/Exchange for Mail, CalDAV for iCal, WebDAV/LDAP for contacts.

Just some thoughts for the Apple Team. There’s probably more I can’t address at this time. What advice would you give the Apple product teams around their products, particularly their productivity products?

Bonus: Why is the Mozilla team not supporting native Mac datastores (Address Book) on their Mac products”?

Aaron Brazell

Don't Buy the Coming Hype – Apple Botched the iPhone Launch, Not the Carriers

Possibly the worst public relations nightmare in internet history occurred yesterday. Hardcore fans wanting to buy the new iPhone 3G camped out over night, and in some cases for days, to be the first to get their hands on the new, sexy, shiny device from their perfect company, Apple.

What they got was unexpected. They got iFail, as it’s been called some places or iPocalypse as it’s been called other places. One person I talked to who worked in an Apple Store in Pennsylvania said that maybe 1 out of every six iPhones successfully were activated yesterday. In some cases, the ability to communicate with AT&T caused an incomplete software load, turning the phone into a cold, dead device.

MG Siegeler at Venture Beat hints at a conspiracy theory, whereby Apple can pin the problem on AT&T and opt-out of a contract.

The conspiracy has merit. Apple has not been happy with AT&T since the June 26 launch of iPhone 1.0 last year. At some point, Apple started realizing that an exclusive contract with AT&T was a failure, especially for those people in Canada who couldn’t get AT&T. Thus the unlocked iPhone trend began under Apple sanctioning. People could buy, for a much higher price, an iPhone that was not locked into the AT&T network and activate it with any compatible carrier. There’s merit to the conspiracy because Apple marketing is a precision machine that knows exactly how to communicate a message without sweating it. They could easily create a conspiracy and wash their hands clean of it at the same time. It doesn’t help that they are tight-lipped about everything. Everything!

You know what they say – if it looks like you’re hiding something, you probably are.

But now, let me throw some cold water on this conspiracy theory. You can’t blame AT&T when every other authorized carrier encountered the same problem. Rogers, in Canada, experienced a botched launch in their debut as an authorized iPhone Carrier. O2, the authorized carrier in the UK, had problems.

Don’t buy into the hype, I’d say. This seems to be Apple’s problem.

And frankly, this is why I will never stand in line to wait for any product from Apple. It’s not that I don’t love Apple. I do. I have an iPod and a Macbook Pro. My router is not a Linksys, it’s an Airport Extreme. My wife owns a Macbook. Trust me, we’re Apple nuts around here. But somedays, I think I’m the only one with any intelligence. Why would you buy a product from this company on the first day? Never do that. Never, ever.

At least now I feel vindicated in saying that. No one needs an iPhone that bad to have to get it on the first day. No one. It will be there next week after the kinks are worked out.

guest blogging

7 Funciones que le Faltan al iPhone 3G

Al fin Apple anunció el iPhone 3G -que se conecta a la red al doble de la velocidad que el modelo anterior, pero a este modelo le faltan algunas características importantes que muchos esperabamos.


1. Soporte Flash

El navegador Safari del nuevo iPhone todavía no utiliza Adobe Flash, así que al parecer el problema no era la velocidad de conexión.

2. Cortar-y-Pegar

Pues no, todavía no podemos cortar-y-pegar texto en el iPhone. ¿Tendrá Apple alguna preocupación con la seguridad del iPhone a través de cortar-y-pegar (y Flash -ver punto #1 arriba)?

3. Independencia de Proveedores

No hubo ninguna mención de un iPhone desbloqueado, así que parece que los usuarios en USA seguiran atados a AT&T, por lo menos hasta que salga la versión 2.0 liberada.

4. Cámara de Video o de mejor calidad

El iPhone 3G mantiene la misma cámara de 2 megapixels de su antecesor, sin soporte para video. Mientras tanto, Nokia ofrece un modelo con cámara de 5 megapixels.

5. Email Horizontal

Ok, ¿por qué no puedo voltear mi iPhone para leer los emails más cómodamente?

6. Sincronización via Wi-Fi

MobileMe, el nuevo servicio de sincronización de datos de Apple, será de gran ayuda para mantener mi laptop y mi iPhone sincronizados cuando esté en la calle (a un costo de US$99 al año), pero ¿por qué no puede el iPhone sincronizarse automáticamente cuando se conecta a mi red Wi-Fi? ¿Por qué hace falta todavía conectarse a un cable USB?

7. Modem

¿Por qué no puedo usar mi iPhone como un modem para mi laptop? Ya se conecta a Internet a través del celular y a mi laptop via USB o Bluetooth… entonces, ¿por qué no puede conectar mi laptop a Internet?

En conclusión… mas allá de la velocidad 3G y un GPS de verdad, no parece que el nuevo iPhone haga mucho más que su antecesor. Sigue siendo un excelente teléfono y una magnífica herramienta multimedia… pero no es necesariamiente una actualización obligatoria para quienes ya tienen un iPhone, sobre todo porque la gran mayoría de las mejoras viene en el software 2.0, disponible gratis para todos los iPhones.

Read this post in English at: 7 Missing Features from the iPhone 3G

Technorati Tags:

Aaron Brazell

How the Macbook Air is the future of Computing

2199248287_cf872cccc2_m.jpgIf you didn’t have a chance to see history made last week, you should go watch it. History was made with yet another computer company announcing yet another laptop with better specs than the generation before. Yet somehow, Steve Jobs’ keynote address at Macworld announcing the Macbook Air was different. Historically different.

There have only been a few similar occasions in history where the future of computing has changed so dramatically. The Apple II in 1977. The IBM PC in 1981. Windows in 1990. Windows 95. AOL’s unlimited internet access in 1994. The standardization of computers without floppy drives.

The Macbook Air defined a new standard in computers. Steve Rubel thinks it has to do with “cloud computing” and it may. However, I think the the standard is fundamentally more practical. There is no optical drive (CD ROM or DVD).

Since last weeks keynote, I’ve posed my thoughts to friends and colleagues and the general consensus is that people need optical drives and the lack of one would prevent them from purchasing. That may be, but the new standard has been set, much like the floppy drive, and the stake has been driven through the heart of optical media.

Let’s think about this. We don’t need optical media for backups – most of us couldn’t fit backups on the discs and we have external drives. We don’t need optical media for file transfer – we have thumb drives and the internet. We don’t need optical media for music – that’s what mp3’s and digital formats are for. Plus, increasingly people buy their music and movies online. What do we really need optical media for that can’t be achieved digitally.

As well, Apple has a vested interest in eliminating the optical disc. Optical discs are competitors to the iTunes store in the music industry. CD and DVD players are direct competitors to Apple TV, iPods and iPhones.

But it’s not just Apple that benefits from the demise of the optical disc. Microsoft benefits – they have Zunes and Xbox Live. Dell benefits – they can lower prices more by not including superfluous hardware. Cisco benefits from increased reliance on wireless networking (Cisco owns Linksys, the market leader in consumer wireless routers). Google benefits as a provider of decentralized (web based) services. The music and movie industry benefits as updating DRM schemes can be done in batch as opposed to mass producing new discs to support new standards.

Everybody benefits from the elimination of optical and that is why the death sentence, and thus history, was issued last week. Your thoughts?

Photo credit to Kenn Christ

Aaron Brazell

Something is in the Air

Macworld Expo is this week and, true to Apple form, they pulled it off perfectly. Complete with bait and switch. On Monday, there was a “supposed” leak of Steve Jobs’ keynote and many people fell for it. Notably, Steve Rubel (who has a history of being reactionary and wrong), called it reliable because it was released on Wikipedia:

The reason I believe it’s real is because it leaked on Wikipedia. And Wikipedia promotes anonymity. So it’s very hard to trace who placed the item and his/her motives. I could be wrong. But my gut is, this is the real deal and it’s a big moment in the history of public relations.


So come back tomorrow and then … ya’ll make fun of me for being gullible and believing stuff on Wikipedia.

We’re making fun of you, Steve. I don’t think you follow me on Twitter, but you should (I’m @technosailor). If you had, you’d know I called you on it yesterday (though I admit misquoting you on “the worst PR disaster” bit).

The point is that, Apple pulled a classic “bait and switch” and almost everyone in the tech community believed it, by nature of the fact that it was about the only thing on Techmeme yesterday. In fact, the keynote had absolutely nothing to do with what was leaked. Pocket Lint has the leaked notes.

I don’t want to pile on Steve though. I just want to point out that, in fact, Apple had a stellar showing at Macworld today announcing the new Macbook Air, which promptly caused some dyed in the wool Windows users to drool, as well as a host of other iTunes, iPod and iPhone announcements. So congrats, Apple, on a great day.

Aaron Brazell

The Apple Store: Where Intelligent People Go to Die

What is it about Apple that causes otherwise intelligent people to throw away all trace of common sense? We all know that Apple has done very well for itself, turning around from a mere 4% market share in its computer division in the 90s to having a very viable and sustainable (and diverse!) product line.

Steve Jobs is no dummy. Somehow he managed to break the digital music divide between consumers and the music industry with iPods and the iTunes Music Store. Then he came at us with OS X, the operating system that marked the departure of the Mac OS trying to emulate Windows to stay afloat and go back to its own philosophy about how an operating system should work. Then he gave us Intel-powered Macs which was a smart decision way too far past it’s time.

Now we have iPhones and video iPods and touch screen iPods and iWork ’08 and iLife ’08 and the list goes on. Apple is a smart company. But with any company that releases hardware and software, they are plagued by bugs, oversights and flaws that sneak into Revision A of the product. We all know not to buy revision A stuff. No one waited in line for Windows since the days of Windows 95. We know there are bugs. We wait. Smartly.

However, Apple products incite a certain stupidity in people that encourages them… no, forces them… no, not even that – compels them to go to the Apple Store and buy the newest product on the day of launch or soon thereafter.

Most recently, the Applegasm has surrounded the iPod Touch and the new video iPod Nano. Not long before that, insane lines across this great nation extended out from Apple and AT&T Wireless stores everywhere in anticipation of the iPhone.

Inevitably, the wait for OS X Leopard (the next-gen OS X operating system) will be notable when it is released sometime next year.

Smart people ask why. Intelligent people don’t ask, they just buy.

Apple makes good products, but they are not flawless and almost inevitably are worth the wait. For instance, folks who had an Applegasm over the iPhone for $500 or $600 can now get the same phone 3 months later for $300-$400. People who bought it at full price can get a $100 rebate.

Early adopters of the Airport Extreme router (of which I do own) claimed incompatibility with the Xbox 360 wireless adapter.

First generation Macbook Pro owners (of which, again, I am one) cannot enable their wireless adapter to be 802.11n compatible. Waiting for the second generation fixed this problem.

Early adopters of the iPod nano found that their screens were defective and cracked. I can testify to this as I personally owned a first generation Nano who had its screen crack.

Folks purchasing the brand new iPod Nano may be surprised to know that the old method of connecting Apple A/V cables to the device to gain “TV Out” access (watching video from the iPod on your television) no longer works and that a new component that is not yet available is needed to use this functionality. This has been confirmed by Apple tech support.

The bottom line is that Apple products, as with any computer company, need some time to settle and work flawlessly. Yet so many people ignore this when it comes to Apple. I’ve been frustrated in recent days by observing the reactions of some folks on Twitter and across the new media landscape as they throw away their common sense and exchange it for Apple lust. My frustration is increased knowing that many of these same folks do not need their brand new Apple device as only months earlier they had similar Applegasms over the iPhone, the 80GB video iPod, etc.

I personally know kids who would love to have a simple 2nd generation iPod Nano but live in a household that struggles to put food on the table. Is the insane gluttonous debauchery really needed? I’d encourage folks to give their used device to one of these kids if you insist on wasting money on the new Apple device that you really don’t need.

Finally, a sobering thought: For the $400 needed to buy a new iPhone, $100 (approx) it costs to have an AT&T plan to use it, you could feed 5 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo for a year (per UNICEF). Think about it.

Venture Files

Writing for B5 Media – Come on over to Startup Spark

Hello all, just wanted to let you know that I have been offered an opportunity to write for a great blog on the B5 Media Network.

The blog is called Startup Spark and is similar to Venture Files but is a broader version on all types of entrepreneurship.

I invite you to check it out and subscribe. This blog will continue but in the coming months I will be focusing this blog more on innovation topics and will be unveiling a new design.

So keep reading Venture Files and add Startup Spark to your feed reader and your daily viewing.

Technorati Tags: