Show of 01-17-2015

Tech Talk

January 17, 2015

Email and Forum Questions
  • Email from Desirable in Bathesda: Hi Dr Shurtz, I can’t get a .wmv file to play. Seems Apple would like me to buy Telestream (see below) and I don’t want to buy it if another way is free. I did download & install a video converter app but it still didn’t let me play the .wmv file. Any experience with this?  Thanks. Bethesda Listener
  • Tech Talk Responds: This is a very common problem encountered when Mac users have to play a Windows Media Video (WMV) files. When your Mac tries to open WMV files by default in QuickTime, you’ll receive an error message. The reason behind this it the fact that WMV files use Microsoft proprietary codecs that don’t work in OS X. Microsoft discontinued Windows Media Player for Mac in 2006, meaning there’s no longer a tailor made player for the WMV format for OS X. Here a are a few free solutions.
    • Flip4Mac Plugin — This is probably the easiest solution to watch WMV files because it enables QuickTime playback of WMV files.  This plugin, created by Telestream, allows you to import, export and play Windows Media video and audio files on your Mac. Download Flip4Mac Plugin: http://flip4mac-wmv.en.softonic.com/mac
    • VLC Media Player — VLC media players lets you play WMV files without the Flip4Mac Plugin, although it’s only a playback solution; it doesn’t let you edit WMV files in QuickTime supported apps including iMovie and Final Cut. The great thing about VLC Media Player, however, is that it’s lightweight and fast. Download VLC Media Player: http://vlc-media-player.en.softonic.com/
    • MPlayer OSX — MPlayer OSX is a simple but powerful video player designed specifically for Mac and can handle WMV playback. It features more options and preferences than VLC Player, with the only drawback being that the first time it plays a video, it has to build a font cache, which can take a while. Download MPlayer OSX: http://mplayer-os-x.en.softonic.com/mac
  • Email from Tung in Ohio: Dear Doc and Jim, I would love to record a song for my family using my PC. Is there a simple way to do the recording using my iPhone? Can I send them the recording using iMessage or Text Message or Email? We love to listen to songs at our Saturday night parties. Love the show, Tung in Ohio, a loyal podcast listener
  • Tech Talk Responds: Fortunately, you can easily create audio files on your iPhone using the Voice Memo utility. Simply open the utility and click the red button and start singing your heart out. It is normally used for memos. However, it can record songs quite well. After you record the memo, save it and then click the share button. You can send it as an email attachment to or as an iMessage. Have a great Saturday night party with your songs.
  • Email from Linda in Myrtle Beach: Dear Doc and Jim. I have a new laptop, but I wasn’t able to get true installation media, only recovery disks. How can I create a backup image of my new machine? A happy podcast listener. Linda in Myrtle Beach.
  • Tech Talk Responds: In the old days, you would get an actual CD or DVD of the operating system with each new machine. Now it is not available. You only option is create a new machine image as soon as you get your machine.
  • Initially disconnect your machine from the network. It still does not have all the security patches needed to be safe in its initial state. 
  • I would recommend using the free version of Macrium Reflect to make the initial system image. Download it from here: http://www.macrium.com/reflectfree.aspx. It may be a large download (~450 megabytes). The default options are fine for Macrium, though you don’t need to register unless you want to.
  • A system image will be large enough that you don’t want to use CDs or DVDs. I strongly recommend using an external hard drive to hold the image we’re about to create. Get a USB external hard drive. They are cheap and quite reliable. Just click the make image icon and follow the instructions. It is straight forward. Reflect images are stored as “.mrimg” – for Macrium Reflect IMaGe – files. Rename the back file with some like: Laptop New Image. It’s probably a good idea to save more than one copy of this image in a couple of different places.
  • Email form Nhan in Atlanta: Dear Dr. Shurtz, I have a laptop that I use for work at home. When my son visits, he wants to use it to check email and surf the web. Is there a simply way to give him access so that he can’t see all of my files and activity. Love the show, Nhan in Atlanta.
  • Tech Talk Responds: Of course, physical access means that he can get at everything quite easily because he could boot using a tool that would allow him to reset the Admin password. If he is trustworthy and you don’t think that we would be that sinister, you could simply create a guest account. You can then log out of your account and let him log into the guest account. This is what we do at home. I have two three accounts on my laptop: Rick, Mary Ann, and guest. This has worked quite well over the years. Of course I always have the latest version of anti-virus installed and operating.
  • Email from Lilly in Fairfax: Dear Doc. I have so many pictures on my iPhone. Is there a quite way to delete the ones that I don’t want anymore? I take many duplicate shots and need to weed them out. Thanks for a great show. Lilly in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: I do the same thing: take many and keep a few. There is a new app available called Purrge. With Purrge, you can delete photos faster, with less tedious tapping and more swiping. The app is currently discounted at 99 cents.
  • After launching Purrge and agreeing to let it access your photos, the app will play a quick 45-second tutorial video. Then you’ll see a grid of thumbnails that looks similar to the layout of the stock Photos app, although your photos are ordered in reverse, with the newest photos at the top.  Tap the Select button in the upper-left corner and then you can tap to select individual photos or swipe to select four across a row. Selected thumbnails received a big X. When you are not in Select mode, tapping on a photo expands it. You can swipe sideways to browse photos and swipe up to delete a photo. When viewing expanded photos, you can also shake to undo the last photo you deleted.
  • Your photos aren’t deleted until you tap the button in the upper-right corner. Doing so will open a dialog window asking if you are truly ready to “purrrrrrge.” Photos you delete with the app are placed in your Recently Deleted folder in the Photos app just as if you had used the Photos app itself; they are kept for 30 days before being permanently deleted.
  • Email from Don in Fairfax: Dear Doc and Jim. My son just graduated from a name school with a degree in computer science and it having trouble landing a job. All of the companies want experience and he has never worked. He is getting frustrated and I would like to give him some advice. What do you suggest? I enjoy listening to the podcast each week on the way to work. Don in Fairfax
  • Tech Talk Responds: What he needs to create is a portfolio of projects. Going to school and getting A’s is not what employers need. They want to see the ability of someone to complete a few technical projects. He could create a database application using MySQL. He could create a database driven website using PHP, MySQL, and Apache web server. He can get student versions of Oracle and create applications. He can create virtual servers; install open source software like Linux. He needs to pick a project that interests him and just do it. He can then joint user groups in the area and talk about his project at those meetings. He can also volunteer for projects at the users group. He must not ask for jobs, but when other users see his enthusiasm, opportunities may arise. He should subscribe in the free industry magazine to keep abreast of the field. Finally he should use the techniques in What Color is Your Parachute to conduct informational interviews with people in his desired field.  All of these techniques will place him ahead of the pack.
Profiles in IT: Susan Kare
  • Susan Kare is an artist and graphic designer who created many of the interface elements for the Apple Macintosh in the 1980s. 
  • Susan Kare was born 1954 in Ithaca, NY. She took painting lessons as a young girl.
  • She graduated from Harriton High School in Philadelphia in 1971.
  • She received her BA in Art from Mount Holyoke College in 1975.
  • She earned her Ph.D. from New York University in 1978. 
  • After graduation Kare moved to CA, where she took a curatorial job at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. But she quickly found that she wanted to be the artist.
  • Kare earned a commission from an Arkansas museum to sculpt a razorback hog out of steel. The razorback hog was the Univ. of Arkansas mascot.
  • In 1982, while working on this project in her garage in Palo Alto when she got a call from a high-school friend named Andy Hertzfeld, who was the lead software architect for the Macintosh operating system, offering her a job.
  • Kare’s first assignment was developing fonts for the Mac OS. At the time, digital typefaces were monospaced, a legacy of the way that a typewriter platen advances.
  • She is the designer of many typefaces, icons, and original marketing material for the original Macintosh operating system. Jobs named the fonts after cities.
  • She created the Chicago typeface, which was the most prominent user interface typeface seen in Classic Mac OS, as well as the typeface used in the Apple iPod. She also created the Geneva typeface, the original monospace Monaco typeface,
  • She created Clarus the Dogcow, the Happy Mac (the smiling computer displayed during boot up), and the symbol on the Command key on Apple keyboards. The command symbol looks like a castle outline seen from above.
  • Descendants of her work can still be seen in many computer graphics tools and accessories, especially icons such as the Lasso, the Grabber, and the Paint Bucket. 
  • After leaving Apple, Kare joined NeXT as a designer, working with clients such as Microsoft and IBM. Her projects for MS included the card deck for the solitaire game,  as well as numerous icons and design elements for Windows 3.0.
  • Many of her icons, such as those for Notepad and various Control Panels, remained essentially unchanged by Microsoft until Windows XP. 
  • For IBM she produced icons and design elements for OS/2;for Eazel she contributed iconography to the Nautilus file manager.
  • In 2003 she was one of the founding team of Glam Media (now Mode Media).
  • Beginning February 7, 2007, she has produced icons for the “Gifts” feature of the popular social-networking website, Facebook.
  • In August 2012, she was called as an expert witness by Apple in the company’s patent infringement trial against industry competitor Samsung.
  • Kare currently heads a digital design practice in San Francisco and sells signed prints at kareprints.com.
Marriot Finally Agrees to Allow Hotspots
  • Marriot had been blocking Wi-Fi hot spots on their properties in order to force guest to buy internet access. They said it was to protect guests from malicious activity. 
  • Actually, hotel Wi-Fi networks are being penetrated by hackers who want to steal information from executives. These networks are usually not even encrypted. A personal hotspot could be more secure.
  • Guest complained and threatened a class action a lawsuit. 
  • Marriott listened and decided to reverse course. They will no longer block personal hotspots set up with mobile phones. Marriot made the right choice.
App of the Week: Be My Eyes
  • The app—called Be My Eyes—asks people to do exactly as its name suggests. 
  • Volunteers can sign up to receive video calls from visually-impaired people when they need help identifying things. Volunteers can speak to their callers, seeing what’s in front of the blind person, to help them read labels, figure out if their milk has expired, read street signs, or whatever they need help discerning, like a one-way Skype video call.
  • The Be My Eyes website says that over 1,200 blind people have been helped so far.
  • The iPhone app first launched a few months ago in Denmark, but is now available for download in the US and other countries
  • Robocat says it is working on an Android version. 
Google Glass Moved Out of Google X
  • The Google Glass project is entering a new phase today as the company is moving it out of its Google X and turning it into a standalone project within the company.
  • Glass will now be overseen by former Apple executive and Nest founder Tony Fadell.
  • Just like before, the day-to-day operation will be run by Ivy Ross while Fadell continues to run Nest inside of Google. Glass will not become part of Nest.
  • Google will put a halt to its Explorer program on Monday, February 19. 
  • The company will, however, continue to sales to businesses, developers, and educational institutions and plans to invest in Glass at Work for enterprise developers and companies going forward.
  • Current Glass owners will still be able to use Glass as before, but they won’t receive any new software updates.
  • As for developers who are currently working on Glass apps, a spokesperson tells us that the company still encourages them to continue working on their apps. 
  • Given the uncertainty around the program and whatever changes may come in the next few months, it’s likely that many developers will put their efforts on ice until they hear more about Google’s plans for the platform.
  • A new version of Glass will likely be released later this year, most likely around Google’s annual I/O developer conference.
  • Google also shifted its Glass marketing away from consumers and toward business use cases. 
  • With Fadell in charge, we will likely see another shift in strategy around Glass.