How Your Mac Can Make And Receive Phone Calls On Your iPhone

One of the much ballyhooed features of iOS 8.x and OS X Yosemite is the ‘Continuity‘ option which lets Mac or iPad make and answer phone calls through your iPhone. That’s a handy new feature. While working on your Mac or viewing the iPad, instead of digging through purse, pocket, or backpack to make or receive a call, the calls can be handled by whatever Apple device you’re using at the time. Leave the iPhone where it is.

It’s a great idea whose time has come but there are a few caveats. First, all the devices need to be running iOS 8.x, and OS X 10.10 respectively, all need to be on the same Wi-Fi network, and for Mac users, you need one that supports Bluetooth low energy mode. If your Mac is too old then you’re out of luck. No calls for you.

Unless you add HandsFree to your Mac.

This clever Mac utility works much the way Bluetooth in your car works with your iPhone (or Android smartphone). It gives you an option to make and receive phone calls– from your Mac– through your iPhone, so it works much like Continuity on newer Macs.

Here’s what happens. A phone call comes in to your iPhone, which alerts your Mac with a pop up window. One click declines or accepts on the device you want.

HandsFree

Your Mac becomes a handsfree phone, and works about the same way as Continuity on newer Macs, and similar to Bluetooth in a car.

There’s a built-in menu to search Contacts to make a call, or you can use the dial pad. Calls will use your Mac’s built-in microphone and speakers (but you can use earbuds or a headset, too).

Preferences are many but not overbearing; mostly easy to setup, and configuration is self explanatory.

HandsFree Setup

As an added bonus you’ll also be able to see notifications for low battery on your iPhone, and any missed calls.

Once setup and installed you’ll be able to use your Mac to receive and make phone calls through your iPhone (or other Bluetooth-equipped smartphone), pretty much exactly the way it works in a Bluetooth-enabled car.

Mostly.

Bluetooth connectivity can be finicky sometimes. When it works, it works great. When it doesn’t, troubleshooting to find a solution could become a full time job. For me, on my older iMac with a new iPhone, it works fine, and couldn’t be easier to use.

HandsFree on a Mac

Not bad, priced right, and there’s a trial version to make sure it works on your Mac and smartphone.

Apple Cheapens The Mac mini

Hot on the heels of a record breaking financial quarter, customers now have a chance to examine Apple’s newest Mac mini. It’s not good news. Robin Harris:

  • Soldered-on RAM replaces the SODIMMs that have been used for years, doubling the cost of add-on memory.
  • The barely useable thumb indents on the removable bottom plate have been removed.
  • Unusual T6 Torx security screws now make it difficult to open the door to the interior.
  • The two former SATA ports — which allowed two-drive configurations — are now a single SATA port and a new socket that may support a PCIe flash drive.

Apple went cheap.

Puppy-sized Spider

It’s called the the ‘birdeater.’ It’s a spider the size and weight of puppy and far bigger than the average adult hand. The video is scary.

Known as South American Goliath birdeater, the humongous eight-legged creepy crawly creature has a body the size of a fist and a leg span the size of a small child. Harvard entomologist Piotr Naskrecki recently encountered one while taking a nighttime stroll through a rain forest in Guyana.

Zombie-proof Log Cabin

I’m not sure why modern society has such an attraction to vampires and zombies, but if you fear a zombie apocalypse, here’s what you need. A zombie-proof home with a guarantee.

You hear the horrifying groans. Decaying hands scrabble at the door, trying to find a way in. They want to eat you. You sit down on the sofa, kick your feet up and open a can of Spam. No worries. You’re inside a Zombie Fortification Cabin from Tiger Log Cabins. All you have to do now is wait in safety and comfort for the zombie apocalypse to blow over.

As if.

The ZFC-1 is a log cabin kit designed with the walking dead in mind. The structure consists of three connected buildings. It comes stocked with reinforced slit windows, walls and doors; a barbed-wire surround; an escape hatch on top; and a living room with Xbox, TV and sound system. It comes with an arsenal storage unit to secure your anti-zombie weaponry. There’s also a toilet system, garage, kitchen area with microwave and an upper deck with a full view all around so you can keep an eye out for the oncoming horde. A garden section means you won’t have to take over an abandoned prison to start a small produce farm.

Price? More than $150,000 with installation, security cameras, solar panels.

A Few Words About Mac Text Editors And CSS

As a long time web developer I have a growing collection of Mac-based tools of the trade, including the aging but oh-so-useful BBEdit text editor, the must-have MAMP for local Mac development, and a whole list of add on utility apps which accompany the trade; Coda, Transmit, Yummy FTP, TextMate, CSSEdit, the usual graphic and media culprits from Adobe, and a few apps that work well cross platform– Textastic and Transmit for iOS, and others.

The only problem with using developer tools for the Mac is CSS, which seems to be the ugly stepchild of development tools. Every notable text editor for the Mac incorporates CSS, but few do so as elegantly as the discontinued CSSEdit, a Mac-only CSS editor of great renown. I’ve often said the only thing missing from CSSEdit was a decent text editor. The developer introduced Espresso, a text editor for the Mac with some of CSSEdit thrown in, bolted on, but otherwise less than the original.

Most text editors come with features, functions, syntax, and a range of tools which are programmer specific, as opposed to website development specific. It’s as if HTML, XML, JavaScript– and especially CSS– are second class citizens in the tool trade. The best CSS editor for the Mac was– and remains– CSSEdit, despite the advances of little brother Espresso.

What made CSSEdit such an advancement over text editors with CSS syntax and tools as an afterthought was the ability to edit CSS in a live preview instant updating mode using the CSS from a website. A few Mac text editors can do something similar, but none have the ease-of-use inherent in CSSEdit.

CSSEdit for Mac

Though the aging CSSEdit does not handle CSS3 very well, here’s an example of a CSS-specific issue not addressed by newer versions of Mac text editors. Minify; compressing text to reduce file size. Doing so often requires yet another utility app. CSSEdit, though, could expand minified CSS properly to make for easier editing from within the app. I can’t find a similar function in Espresso or most other major text editors with CSS editing functionality.

An older version of Panic’s popular Coda text editor paid homage to CSS with menus of CSSEdit-like features, and the multi-pane windows made it easier than most editors to view changes to code in preview mode, but CSS in the latest version is handle inline instead, rather than from a suggestive menu of CSS options.

Looking back, my original desire was to have a modest text editor built-in to CSSEdit for the Mac with an upgrade to handle CSS3 (instead of the Espresso solution, which is a comprehensive text editor with CSSEdit-like functions seemingly bolted on). In the more than four years since that great app was discontinued I’ve tried a few dozen text editors, some CSS specific, but none have captured the capability and ease-of-use that came with CSSEdit.

I’m a firm believer than nothing improves without change, but there are times when change does not improve the status quo.

Thinner, Lighter, Faster

That pretty much sums up Apple’s new line if iPhones and iPads. James Kendrick noticed that Apple didn’t give much love to the new iPad mini 3:

While it was evident Apple believes the iPad Air 2 is a big play for the company, the new iPad mini 3 didn’t have much of a launch.

The new little iPad only got a few minutes of discussion at the event, and wasn’t demonstrated at all. This was probably due to how little has changed from the iPad mini 2. Apple added Touch ID — the secure fingerprint reader —and a gold option. Everything else in the iPad mini 3 is exactly the same as the iPad mini 2.

That new Touch ID sensor results in the iPad mini 3 starting at a cost of $399, which is $100 higher than the iPad mini 2. Adding the same Touch ID sensor that’s on the iPhone is a good feature, but not at that price.

It’s a no-brainer. Apple makes more money on the iPhone 6 than on the iPad, but it does say that Apple is interested in making more money than making iPad mini customers happy.

Long Cars That Don’t Fit

A look at 23 long cars that won’t fit in the compact spot in the parking lot.

With the consumer in mind, automakers are constantly striving to make bigger, better, and more efficient vehicles. When legroom is a must, car buyers look for cars with a little extra length. At 16 feet or longer, each of these cars are as long as a two-story building is tall: without the roof of course. These cars don’t have a chance of fitting in the compact spots

Save the Ford Taurus and Chevy Impala, they’re all luxury cars of the Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Mercedes, Jaguar, Maserati, Lexus class.

Robot Overlords

Dilbert on what to expect when machines oust people in the workplace.

Dilbert

A Few Words On Shopping At The Mac App Store

There seem to be two schools of thought about using the Mac App Store to buy apps. On one hand, many Mac users have no problem with the store because the selection is broad, prices are decent, plus, purchase, installation, and updates are mostly painless. On the other hand, Apple places restrictions on app capabilities (which drives away experienced Mac users), and does not provide a try-before-you-buy option.

The question I have is simple. Why does Apple run the Mac App Store for app developers instead of for Mac customers?

The basics are there for a good shopping experience, but the detail, polish, follow-through, and experience are not. The Store is good for developers but less so for users. Here’s why.

First, search. It’s abysmal on the iTunes App Store and just as quirky on the Mac App Store. Click on the Photography category. Select See All. What you get are apps displayed by Name or by Release Date.

What customers truly want and need are search options for popularity (most downloads), ratings (stars), and multiple search criteria (ratings, date, price, etc.). Apple doesn’t provide such category search options. Type the word ‘photography’ into the Mac App Store search field and more sort options are available, including Relevance, Most Popular, Release Date, and Customer Rating. But search criteria cannot be mixed.

This type of search display favors exposure to new apps vs. popular or highest rated apps. Why? Obviously, Apple wants Mac users to explore the Mac App Store and not buy or download only those apps with the highest ratings.

Second, standards. The information displayed on the Mac App Store about an app is convoluted at best. Screenshots often are cluttered with boxes, arrows, and advertising text. Many Mac apps which are priced at more than $3.99 do not have a trial version (smart developers provide a free but limited feature version to try; most do not). Who wants to plunk down $49.99 for an app without a trial option? Links to app developer’s websites often are nothing more than a Facebook or Twitter page or an expired domain.

For all the curated apps in the Mac App Store, quality control over the customer’s actual shopping experience appear to be overlooked as Apple prefers to court developers vs. customers.

Finally, I understand Apple’s desire to curate and ‘sandbox‘ Mac applications for security, but sandboxing also reduces higher functionality for more experienced Mac users. What I want to see in the Mac App Store are better search capability with multiple search criteria, a mandatory trial version functionality (one week should be sufficient for any app), improved curation of screenshots and app developer support links.

Why doesn’t Apple implement those three right away? Because the Mac App Store isn’t there for the shopper and customer as much as it is for the developers to help Apple grow the Mac brand.

Step 1: Ala Carte TV from HBO

What’s the next step toward television on demand vs. paying the cable company for TV shows that are not viewed? HBO CEO Richard Plepler:

It is time to remove all barriers to those who want HBO. So, in 2015, we will launch a stand-alone, over-the-top HBO service in the United States

The first crack in the ancient system cable TV uses to control content.

Falling Oil Prices A ‘Catastrophe’

So says Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al-Saud who remains richer than rich thanks to high oil prices.

Unlike those in the oil business, my plan is not to complain as oil prices drop.

Can’t Find Airport In Hawaii

AP:

Mokulele Airlines is the first commercial airline to offer service out of a west Oahu airport that’s at a former naval air station. On July 1, the airline began offering three roundtrip flights a day to Kahului, Maui, out of the Kalaeloa Airport.

The problem is that visitors cannot find Kalaeloa Airport. Why not?

There’s no airport sign on the freeway, and the road to the airport has a series of merges and turns through some unpopulated areas.

Hawaii isn’t known for the clarity of road signs.

This Mac Graphic App Is Not Illustrator Or Photoshop, But, Man, What An Absolute Bargain

Every now and again a Mac app comes along that fills a void; either a gap where no comparable app exists, or a gap where the established industry leaders dare not go. Mac using graphic designers know the value of Pixelmator vs. Adobe’s flagship Photoshop. What about those who use Illustrator? Is there a comparable vector-based bargain tool?

Take a look at Affinity Designer. You’ll pay more in a few months to rent Illustrator than it costs to buy Affinity Designer outright. What you get is a bargain-priced tool, with professional level capabilities, worth of a few hundred five star reviews.

This new app uses an artful blend of vector tools delivered in a Photoshop-like presentation. Sure, it imports PSD files, but also handles PDFs, SVGs, AIs, EPS files, and even Freehand (remember that blast from the past?).

Unlike Pixelmator, Affinity Designer handles CMYK as well as RGB, LAB and other color models with full ICC color management at 16-bits per channel. And, yes, the tools are completely familiar to anyone who’s used Adobe’s flagship monthly rental suite.

Affinity Designer Screenshot 1

Affinity Designer has tools which blend both vector and rester in editable layers, complete with pen tools, curve editing, geometric operations, smart shapes, textures, masking, and customizable brushes.

All the OS X basics are built-in, too, including OpenGL support, Core Graphics, Grand Central, and 64-bit power with multiple core processor capability.

Yet, for anyone who’s ever used any app from Adobe, Affinity Designer is instantly familiar.

Affinity Designer Screenshot 2

Let me be clear about one thing. Affinity Designer is not Illustrator, and not some funky blend of Photoshop with vector tools tossed in. It’s more like the Pixelmator of vector-based graphic design apps; bargain priced, but with enough tools to get plenty of professional use.

It doesn’t have the rich set of tools and add-ons you’ll find with Adobe’s far more expensive apps, but it is surprisingly robust considering the nominal price tag. If you’re a graphic designer wannabe and balk at Adobe’s monthly rental fees, you’ll be pleasantly surprised and impressed with Affinity Designer’s capabilities; especially the price-performance ratio.

High recommended, but with one caveat. Affinity Designer is Mac App Store only, so there’s no try-before-you-buy option. That is sorely needed.

iPhone And iPad Knockoffs: ‘Lazy’ and ‘Theft’

Steve Kovach with interview details from Apple’s design honcho Jonny Ive interview.

An audience member asked Ive how he feels about companies copying Apple designs. Ive called it “theft” and laziness. He said Apple designers give up so much to design products, that it’s offensive when someone copies.

So, imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery?

Ive:

There is a danger…I don’t see it as flattery. I see it as theft. (Talking about copying desings in general). When you’re doing something for the first time and you don’t know it’s going to work. I have to be honest the last thing I think is “Oh, that is flattering. All those weekends I could’ve been home with my family…I think it’s theft and lazy. I don’t think it’s OK at all.

2,000 HP Nissan GT-R Trashes Lamborghini

Video from Justin Hyde on a race between cheap and expensive.

Last weekend, the fall Texas Invitational held its King of the Streets competition that drew 42 of the highest-power Lamborghinis, Vipers and Nissan GT-Rs available. This year’s winner: the Alpha Omega GT-R of AMS Performance, driven and built by Ivan Phipps, featuring at least 2,000 hp from the 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-6, enough power to set a new 1/4-mile record for a GT-R at 7.7 seconds/186 mph.

Bombs That Killed

Interesting list of movies that totally bombed in the U.S. but killed it at the box office overseas.

Spoiler Alert!

  • John Carter
  • The Golden Compass
  • After Earth
  • Poseidon
  • Waterworld
  • The Wolverine
  • Pacific Rim
  • The Mummy 2
  • MIB 3
  • Chronicles of Narnia
  • The Last Airbender

I wonder why foreign movie audiences like disastrous movies more than Americans?

Free: Recover Lost, Deleted, Or Corrupted Photo Files From Your Mac, USB Drives, Or SD Cards

Who among the Mac faithful has not lost a photo or two? Or, 100? It happens and it’s usually not the Mac’s fault, though I’ve had that happen, too. It happens less these days, but mass storage media is prone to occasional file corruption, and if you’ve just taken a few hundred photos of a holiday gathering or vacation, there’s a distinct intestinal sinking feeling when you find out they’re missing.

How can you recover lost or deleted photos from your Mac, USB drive, external disk drives, or SD cards?

Exif Untrasher is the odd and not-so-memorable name of a free Mac utility that specializes in recovering JPG photos on almost any storage device that connects to your Mac, and it couldn’t be much easier to use to find those photos you’re sure you had but just don’t seem to be there anymore.

Open Exif Untrasher, choose the storage volume to scan (it just needs to be connected to your Mac).

Exif Untrasher

Then, click the Start Data Recover button and Exif Untrasher begins the scanning process.

Remember, it’s looking for specific files; more specifically JPG photos that are not visible in the Mac’s Finder (and perhaps not even visible in your camera’s SD or flash card).

When it finds files that match they will be copied to a location you choose.

Exif Untrasher

There are only two real negatives to using Exif Untrasher. It does not work on any photo files except JPG; that means no RAW files, often used by advanced photographers. Second, it does not always work which means the photo files may be corrupt or deleted beyond the ability of the app to find the files. If they’re gone, they’re gone.

When it works, Exif Untrasher is a life saver (so to speak) and quickly finds and copies photos by the hundreds that are not visible in the Mac’s Finder or on the storage device (I’ve tried it on both SD and standard flash storage cards, but not my Mac).

This is one of those utilities a photographer should download and keep handy. I can count on one hand all the times my storage media has deleted photos of its own accord, and all but one time where utilities like Exif Untrasher could not retrieve them.

And it’s free.

8 Annoying iPhone Default Settings (with fixes)

I love these lists, but this one from Jason O. Gilbert is down at the bottom of the usefulness barrel.

Many of the default settings of the iPhone can be worrisome, imperfect, or downright annoying. Here are eight settings that I would change first thing to make your iPhone experience a bit more pleasant

Some of these are good for improving battery life. Another Spoiler Alert!

  • Stop telling people your email is “Sent from my iPhone.”
  • Give yourself a distinctive ringtone.
  • Put all your Apple apps into their own folder.
  • Make sure those apps don’t eat your data.

Others, such as Do not track don’t do much.

10 Things To Know About Fast Food Drive-thrus

For me, the first one on the list is that fast food and drive-ins are no longer fast, no longer cheap, but Brad Tuttle came up with others.

Here are some fascinating factoids that’ll make for great conversation the next time you’re waiting on line at the drive-thru—and that perhaps will even influence what you order.

Probably not, but here’s the official Spoiler Alert!

  • Drive-thru is slower
  • Afternoon drive-thrus are faster
  • The first drive-thru was not McDonald’s
  • McDonald’s first drive-thru was 1975
  • Wendy’s drive-thru is fastest
  • Chick-fil-A is most accurate drive-thru
  • Starbucks has drive-thrus
  • Chipotle does not have a drive-thru (yet)

Cheap: How To Replace The Mac’s Dock And Work Faster With A Tabs-based Launcher

We need to give credit where credit is due. Apple should receive kudos and props for being disciplined enough not to monkey around with the basics in OS X. The Dock in OS X Yosemite has more functionality than ever, but it’s still just an app and document ‘dock’ which works well for a few apps, but comes up lame and limping for Mac users with needs beyond the basics.

Enter Tab Launcher, a Mac utility with floating, movable, customizable, Dock-like app icons where tabs rule.

This is one utility which is so good, so useful, and so inexpensive that it can replace your use of the Dock entirely. Think of how good the Dock would be if it had tabs and multiple docks. Here’s how it looks and how it works.

Tab Launcher Mac

Instead of a Dock of icons (which get smaller the more icons or documents are added), Tab Launcher gives you options to customize smaller ‘dock-like’ docks with tabs. The tabs display whatever app icons you choose, and displays the currently running apps.

Tabs can also be folders so you can navigate through documents. Each tab icon can be customized. If an app in the tab is running, moving the screen pointer over the tab will display a visual preview of the app.

Each app also has controls over color, sizes, style and tab names, and each can receive a keyboard shortcut, too.

Tab Launcher Preferences and Configuration

Tab Launcher is at once familiar– it’s a dock-like bar attached to a window, it contains app and document and folder icons, and each one launches with a click. But the Dock has a visual limit which Tab Launcher does not. The more app icons you add to the Dock, the smaller they get. Tab Launcher uses customizable tabs so you can actually have more apps, documents, and folders in a much smaller screen space.

Just as Path Finder makes it easy to replace the Mac’s Finder with even more features, Tab Launcher makes it easy to replace the Dock with something more functional. Considering all it does, this is one inexpensive Mac app.