Tag Archives: Apple

Odds and Sods: MailClark is out of beta, etc.

screenshot_102816_104525_amMailClark, the eMail robot for Slack came out of beta on October 27th. They have instituted reasonable pricing and even include a single eMail address for free, which should work for us at least temporarily. I was hoping that they would introduce nonprofit pricing,  but with the free address, and a price of $9.00 per month for unlimited inbound and outbound emails   we can probably afford it if necessary.

filemaker_cloudJust after buying our FileMaker 15 server license, FileMaker announced FileMaker for the Cloud. Essentially it looks like Amazon Web Services running an instance of FileMaker server.  Oh well. We’re pretty happy with our server running on a Mac mini,  with up to five users and have been deploying our nonprofit CRM to production, adding users one-by-one using desktop licenses for FileMaker Pro.   I still think there is a case for reasonable fixed pricing as opposed to subscription pricing,  and this is what we’ve got through TechSoup.

screenshot_102816_104818_amApple announces new MacBooks.  Fair enough.  Expensive though…. the least expensive MacBook, without the OLED touch bar is $1500 for 256GB SSD disk and 8 gigs of RAM.  The OLED touch bar adds $300.00 to the price! Oh and they upgraded Apple TV.   What about the MacBook Air,  Mac mini,  and the iMac?  Nichts, nada, silence….

 

Apple Downsizes. New iPad Pro and iPhone

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Apple is holding its March announcement, and it is an odd mixture of a sort of fashion runway theme, snake oil salesmanship, and religious revival. It was a bit disconcerting to see CEO Tim Cook slavering over the new colors for the watch bands for the iWatch. The whole presentation seemed to have a sense of desperation.

Incredible!, Awesome!, Epic!, Incredibly!, Biggest!, Unbelievably Thin! I keep thinking there should be a way to lend a greater aura of dignity to the whole proceeding, but always end up feeling a little queasy.

They are even claiming that  your iPhone will help you sleep better.

Two interesting segments of the presentation revolved around a new iPad and health-related software.

  1. The Health App is a dashboard for health data which consolidates health data from other sites and devices. There was discussion of ResearchKit, which uses the iPhone as a data collection device for research data, and a new framework called CareKit, which delivers.
  2. iPad. A new iPad Pro with a 9.7 inch display. They are saying they are targeting Windows users. There are over 600 million PCs in use today that are over 5 years old.  The iPad solves problems that you never knew you had. There is an available smart keyboard, and the Apple Pencil. The cameras have been upgraded to a 12 megapixels, and the ability to shoot 4K video. The front camera is 5 megapixels. Starting at $599 at 32GB, If you add an Apple Pencil, and a smart keyboard, the cost will approach a thousand bucks.

Outside of these two announcements there was the aforementioned discussion of new fabrics, styles and colors for the Apple Watchband, an upgrade to Apple TV, and upgrades to a few of the apps on IOS 9, including the lame Notes and News apps, and a new smaller iPhone. All this is accompanied by polite applause and accompanying whoops.

Pseudo-Sync for DropBox and iPad

I’m a Dropbox partisan. Dropbox works really well between multiple platforms as “personal cloud”. The wonderful thing about Dropbox is that it allows you to work locally on a file, whether you are connected to the internet or not, and then it will synchronize any changes that you have made to the source file in the cloud. This can legitimately be called syncing, because you end up with the same version of the file on all devices (and the cloud folder), once the changes have been made.

Except for iDevices. At least for Dropbox,

Even with the Dropbox app installed, the familiar syncing process that works so smoothly on desktops and laptops isn’t present on the iPad. The reason for this is that on actual computers Dropbox maintains copies of all files on all devices and the cloud. On the iPad that might be both a problem with storage space, and also a problem with the amount of data that is transferred.

This has come up with FileMaker files that are opened using the FileMaker Go app on the iPad. I’d prefer to go to the Dropbox app, find my FileMaker database file, and “Open in FileMaker Go”, which is, in fact the procedure that one uses to download and use the FileMaker file on the iPad for the first time.

1. Here’s the file shown in the Dropbox App.  It is called UCHealth.fmp12 and it is an exercise tracking application.

2. Choose the file, then, choose the Open icon (third from the right on the top, the box with the arrow).

Here FileMaker isn’t shown,  but if you tap the “Open In” application icon ….it will bring up additional options:

Tap the FileMaker Go icon, and the file is downloaded from Dropbox, and will be displayed in  FileMaker Go’s file listing for local files on the iPad

However, once the file is opened, it is copied to the iPad and it stays on the iPad. Changes to the file (new records, edited records, etc), are NOT synced back to the Dropbox cloud file.

The fix for this is a bit convoluted, but at least it works. It involves a manual copy of the file back to the Dropbox cloud.

1. In Dropbox, Delete the cloud version of the file. (If you are doing this next to your desktop computer you may see a notification on the desktop telling you that the file has been deleted from Dropbox.

2. In FileMaker Go – be sure to close the file.
a. Select the upper left menu, and choose Windows

Close the application window. (in this example, close the UCHealth application.)
That will bring you back to the file browser.

3. In FileMaker Go, choose “Device”  This will show the list of files that on the iPad.

4. Choose the upper right icon to “mark” the file. This is the (turned down page).
5. Choose the upper left “export” icon to export (square with arrow)

6. Choose “Open in Dropbox”

 7. Choose “Save”

Depending on the size of the file there may be a delay as the file is copied to the Dropbox. And of course, this process doesn’t work unless you are connected to the network.

This whole process isn’t elegant, and is only workable for a single person moving files around.  But it works.

Refurbished Desktop Computers

Refurbs are for when you have more time than money. I’m not sure about the exact figure, but in many cases, I think I’ve ended up spending several hours per unit getting a refurbished computer back online after a hard drive failure, or just having to spend hours updating Windows and Office so that I’m confident getting the machine on the network.

We got several “really good deals” from NewEgg, for refurbished Lenovo desktop computers at $214.00. These appeared to be of “office quality”, included Windows 7 Pro, and were nicely finished. Unfortunately, we have had 2/3 of the Western Digital Blue hard drives start to fail at some point. This has created no end of extra heartache for the users and an enormous amount of work for the IT staff.

NewEgg has been fine on returns, however, providing UPS shipping labels, and RMA procedures over the web.

OK….so much for NewEgg.  We’re looking at alternatives.  (we have more time than money).

Techsoup has Dell refurbished computers that are prepared by a third party. For example:


Dell OptiPlex 755 Core 2 Duo Windows 7 Desktop 2.0 Ghz – 2.6 Ghz 
$286.00 
Min of 160Gb drive
Min of 2Gs RAM 
Windows 7 Professional 64 bit. 
Also includes: 
Office 2010
Adobe Flash,Reader 

One advantage here is that if you need licenses for Windows 7 and Office, they are included in the price. You would spend the $286.00 on those if you bought at retail, and maybe quite a lot less if you have a Microsoft Open, agreement. But, it like getting the hardware free.

The Dell Outlet looks promising with several machines in the $315-$390 range which still include Windows 7 as opposed to Windows 8, and have at least 500Gb drives, and 4 Gigs of RAM. These have more up-to-date processors than the Techsoup machines, and are certainly not as old. Most Dell Outlet machines were either not delivered, or were taken back within the warrenty period.

I’ve had solid results with Dell Outlet computers at the workstation and server level; mixed results with standard desktop machines, and a real disaster with older SX-series Optiplexes.  The best seem to be the larger ones; towers or mini-towers. Smaller machines, “mini-desktops” may have suffer from the suboptimal cooling, and the older components may have reached their design end-of-life earlier than those installed in a larger case.

One thing we have often found is that dual monitors are wonderful, and this is something that I would recommend for anyone as a matter of course. If you need an extra monitor card, these can be found from NewEgg starting at around $35.00. Best to wait until you have received the machine, because there can be variations in the slots, and the available adapter space that aren’t evident from the web page.

On the Mac side, I’ve purchased several Macbooks, iPods, iPads, from the Apple Store. These have always worked flawlessly. The Refurb store has a 21.5 inch iMac for $1099, which is the model from September 2013. The cost is only $200 or so less that of a new, similar iMac. It includes 8 gigs of RAM, and 1 terabyte hard drive, and of course the Mavrick OS, and iWork. If you’ve got more money than time, and just want to get to work, this might be the way to go.

Vista to Windows 7 upgrade on Mac Parallels


Earlier, I did a couple of fresh installations of Windows 7 and found it agreeable, so now I’m upgrading the Vista VM running on my iMac with Parallels 4.0. This has presented various points of interest .

1. You can do an in-place upgrade from Vista to Windows 7, but not from Windows XP.

2. I had to increase the size of the Parallels Vista VM disk from 30 gigs to 48 gigs to accommodate the installation files for Windows 7. You do this in Parallels through the Parallels Image Tool which expands the disk partition size. Before doing this is will merge any snapshots that you’ve taken. I had only a single snapshot that I had created when first installing Parallels a year ago. Rather than allow this merge, which would have taken several hours, I exited out of the program, deleted the snapshot through the snapshot manager, then reentered the Image Tool and performed the expansion in a about 30 seconds.

3. I increased the available RAM from 1 gig to 2 gigs, at least for the installation, since it was a stated requirement to have more than 1 gig. I may crank it back to 1 afterwards.

4. Among the steps during an upgrade, there is “Gathering files, settings and programs” The count of these was 414,061. That is not a misprint. Amazing, after less than a year of running this particular Vista workstation how much crap you accumulate. I’m also wondering at how they calculate the percentage in the upgrade status screen (above) which doesn’t seem to correspond with the numbers.

My guess is one reason XP isn’t supported for an upgrade is that XP still runs nicely on smaller, older machines, and these are probably not good candidates for a Windows 7 upgrade… notwithstanding the fact that Win7 is supposed to have a smaller footprint both in disk space and memory requirements than Vista. Accordingly, any machine that can run Vista should be able to accommodate Windows 7.

Odds and Sods – Templates, Michael Jackson, Sarah Palin

The Odds and Sods get odder every day.

Templates for Mac Pages

A quick search on Google for Avery 5163 templates landed me at this page on B3n’s Mac blog which has a pointer to a host of free label templates in various formats. Even though Mac Pages isn’t represented, a template for Microsoft Word worked fine.

Wolfram Alpha

This computational search engine will automatically calculate the nutritional values of your breakfast. So, for example here’s my granola: This creates the following chart:

Cal Thomas & Sarah Palin

Now, here is a column which has something everyone can hate from either extreme of the political spectrum.

If Palin is to have a future in national politics (assuming she wants one) there are several steps she must take. First, she needs a complete makeover. The big media will never admit they were wrong in their judgments, but they might write stories about the “new Sarah Palin.” She should hit the books and learn as much as she can about the modern world, history and court cases. She should read newspapers so that when future interviewers hit her with questions, she can dazzle them like a “Jeopardy” champion.

The only guy who isn’t falling all over himself for Michael Jackson

Like the United States, Michael Jackson was spectacularly bankrupt, reportedly in the range of $800-million, which is rather a lot for an individual. Had he lived on a few more years, he might have qualified for his own TARP program — another piece of expensive dead-weight down in the economy’s bilges — since it is our established policy now to throw immense sums of so-called “money” at gigantic failing enterprises (while millions of ordinary citizens wash overboard, without so much as a life-preserver).

This from James Howard Kuntsler.

In this morning’s paper, someone said Jackson was “our Diana”.

Remote Access via iPhone and iPod Touch

Logmein now has a version of Ignition for the iPhone and the iPod Touch.

Logmein continues to provide terrific value for remote access. We’re using it extensively, with a combination of the free version for most workstations and LogMeIn IT Reach for our servers and critical workstations. Ignition is the desktop client which is slightly more convenient than accessing your Logmein computers from a web page.