Create and Sync Notes on your Desktop, Phone, and the Web with Simplenote

Ever have an idea that you’re sure is going to make you rich, only to have forgotten it by the time you get home? Or how about the time you spent all week making a list of things you need the next time you go shopping, only to forget where you put it when the time finally came?  With Simplenote for iPhone (and other iOS devices like the iPod Touch), that’s all in the past.

Simplenote is a simple text editing service that allows you create, save, and view text notes.  The service can be accessed in a variety of different ways. The easiest way is to simply set up an account online and use the browser text editor. There is also a desktop application that you can download. This application saves your notes to your computer with the option to sync to your online account, which can be useful if you are in an area without WiFi.

The Simplenote app for iPhone and iPod Touch allows you to write and read notes on the go while syncing to your online account. (I’m actually writing this review with my iPod touch.)

Simplenote for iPhone and iPod Touch make it easy to add notes on the go.

A new feature to Simplenote is the addition of tags – these allow you to set one or more tags to each note. These tags can aid in searching for specific notes. Also, it’s now possible to look through older versions of notes you’ve created.

Tags can be useful when searching through lots of notes.

I have been looking to a program/app like Simplenote for quite some time. The whole interface is simple and fast, but it comes with a compromise: you won’t find auto formatting or spell check here. Simplenote probably wouldn’t be the best thing to write your next big novel on, but it works great for quickly jotting down information for use at a later time.

App Review: Logitech Touch Mouse for iPhone and iPod Touch

Readers, I have a confession: I am lazy. If I sit down to watch TV and lose the remote, I really hope there’s something good on because there is no way I’m getting up to push the button on the TV to turn the channel (how archaic, do I LOOK like I’m elderly?).

I recently got a laptop with HDMI output and a streaming Netflix account. The problem? Every time I want to pause, rewind, or change videos, I have to go over to my laptop and do everything from there.  But, no more!

Enter Logitech Touch Mouse app for iPhone and iPod Touch. This app uses your wireless network to turn your iPhone/iPod Touch into a wireless trackpad, complete with right, left, and center clicks, multi-touch functions, and a keyboard. Using my iPod and this app I am free to sit wherever I want and control my laptop, whether I’m across the room or just out of arm’s reach.

Basic trackpad with left, right, and center click. Keyboard icon on the bottom left, and settings and disconnect icons on the bottom right

Setting up Logitech Touch Mouse is super easy. First, download the app from the App Store (it’s free!). Next, on whatever computer(s) you wish to use the app with, go to logitech.com/touchmouse and download the Touch Mouse Server. Read the brief set-up information and install Touch Mouse Server, an icon should appear in your system tray.

Now open the app on your iPhone/iPod Touch. All of the computers with Touch Mouse Server running will be displayed.  Click the one you wish to control and push Connect.

This screen shows all the computers with Touch Mouse Server running. Clicking your computer will connect you to it.

From here, everything is pretty self explanatory. The click buttons are labeled “left”, “right”, and “center”.   Note: You may have to go into the settings to turn on the center button. The small icon on the bottom left will pop up a keyboard for inputting text.

Pushing the keyboard icon on the bottom left brings up a full keyboard.

There are a few items in the setting menu worth checking out such as tracking speed and scrolling speed.

You can access various option by clicking the settings icon (gears) on the bottom right.

Conclusion

This app is incredible, especially if you have a Home Theater PC (HTPC)  hooked to your TV. I have yet to find any problems or bugs in Logitech Touch Mouse, and the app is surprisingly responsive. With strong signal you will experience almost zero lag.

If you want to see more about installing and using Logitech Touch Mouse, check out the video below.

Comparison: Motorola Droid vs. iPod Touch

A friend of mine recently asked if she should buy an iPod Touch or a Motorola Droid.  While these are two completely different products, one being a wifi-enabled MP3 player and the other being a full-featured smartphone, a choice definitely still exists.  So without any further adieu, here’s what I had to say about the two of them!

I bought my 16GB iPod Touch two summers ago and I used it like crazy.  Since I didn’t have a smartphone back then, I basically used it for everything.  The apps are fantastic, battery life is great, and let’s not forget that the Touch is still a really nice MP3 player.

On average, I used my Touch 90% of the time for apps and the internet, and the other 10% was for music/audiobooks.  The one real downside of the Touch is that a wifi-only device, so once you hit the road you won’t be able to use most of the internet apps.

I bought a Droid about two weeks ago.  It’s amazing.  It’s exactly the type of phone I’ve always wanted – highly customizable, very fast, and has huge potential for growth.

Since you’re trying to figure out which one to buy, here’s some things to keep in mind about the devices:

ipod-touch-large

– Both have apps.  Touch has way more, but Droid’s app store (called the Android Market) is steadily increasing.  The nice thing about Android phones is that the app market is completely open, which means there are no barriers to entry for a software developer (unlike Apple, who requires an arduous approval process).  If a developer wants to make something for Android, boom, it’s done.  Huge potential for growth here.

– Both support the basics.  They can both play music (although the Touch is probably more refined when it comes to a straight MP3 player).  They both have apps like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, email, web browsers… pretty much anything you can think of.

droid3-vert

– Battery life will be much longer on the iPod Touch, but keep in mind the Droid is also a full-featured cell phone which uses most of the juice.

Here’s where they’re pretty different:

– Touch has Google Maps, but no GPS (and you can really only use the maps when you have a wifi connection).  The Droid uses your cellular network and has a built-in GPS, so not only can it show you maps, it can also do turn-by-turn navigation (which is free!).  It’s a straight-up GPS, and I used it on my last trip to Minneapolis as a total replacement for my old GPS.

– Droid has a cellular network. This was implied before, but this means you’ve got an internet connection anywhere where you go.  Verizon’s network is really impressive, and you’ll browse websites on the Droid just like you would at home.

ipod-touch2

– Touch is much simpler and easier to use.  For a person like me this can be frustrating (I like menus! And settings!), but you can’t beat it for ease of use and using it for what it was intended – enjoyment.  The Droid, on the other hand, lets you customize basically every facet of the phone (and the things you can’t change can typically be modified with apps from the Android Market).  This is a blessing and a curse – even I found the Droid to be a little daunting when I first started using it.

– Droid has a camera (5 megapixels), the Touch has no camera.

– Both are touchscreen devices.  They both have “virtual keyboards”, which are keyboards on the touchscreen, but the Droid has an actual slide-out physical keyboard.  I’ve never had one of these before and I really like it.  A lot of people complain about the keyboard though, so your mileage may vary.  The Droid offers both landscape and portrait virtual keyboards in almost all applications, but the Touch only offers landscape virtual keyboards in applications that support it.

droid2-open

– As for size, they’re about the same dimensions but the Droid is much thicker (again, the cell phone is the reason for this).  The Droid is heavier than the Touch.

– Droid supports a bunch of Google services out-of-the-box (Android was designed by Google).  This means that Gmail, Google Calendar, your Google contacts, and several other services are automatically synchronized to the phone and are deeply integrated.  This makes it really easy to manage your data.  Touch can do these things too, but it’s more “added on” and not as smooth in my opinion.

– Total cost of ownership: the iPod Touch costs around $300 and that’s all you’ll every pay to use it (excluding purchases from the app store). The Droid costs $200 with a new 2-year contract, and you’ll need a voice plan (starting at $39.99/month) as well as a data plan ($30/month). That puts the total cost of ownership for the Droid at about $1,040 for the first year (includes price of the phone) and $840 for successive years (network charges). Plus tax.

Overall, I’ve loved both of these devices.  I still use my Touch (mainly because Audible.com DRM-encrypts their audiobooks and they don’t support Android yet – that’s another rant altogether) but for all intents and purposes, the Droid gets all of my attention.

I love being connected everywhere I go, and the Droid does a fantastic job of integrating all my Google services, Facebook, Twitter… everything.  It’s a fantastic device.

A Not-So-In-Depth Review of Apple’s Snow Leopard

Apple’s brand new operating system, Mac OS X version 10.6 Snow Leopard, was released Friday, August 28, 2009. We’ll take a look at some of the new “features” of the OS, and what you can expect when upgrading.

Some Mildly Important Info:

If you’re looking for a really ridiculously detailed review of Snow Leopard, by all means please check out Ars Technica’s review. It’s a whopping 23 pages long and covers everything you would ever want to know.

My review will not be like that…at all. In fact, I wouldn’t even be qualified to talk about some of the deep, gutsy portions of the OS they go into. But here’s a little info about me so you understand where I’m coming from:

I’m a graphic designer. I own two MacBook Pros (the 1st and 2nd generations), a Mac Mini, and I use an iMac at work. I’ve been using a Mac since 2005, when Tiger was the default OS. I tend to run my Macs pretty hard, using the Adobe Creative Suite 4 daily.

The Actual Review:

There’s not much in terms of new features, which will make this review short and sweet. The focus on Apple’s part was to really clean up the OS under the hood and make it a truly 64-bit system. We’ll start there.

Cleaning Up

Snow Leopard is smaller and faster, thanks in part to Apple ditching support for PowerPC processors. It’s unfortunate, but if you’re still using a G4 or G5, welcome to 2009. Apple touts its new install will give you back up to 7GB of hard drive space. This is mostly correct, but as it turns out, Apple changed the rules of the game a bit and is calculating hard drive space in the same way the hard drive manufacturers do. So, instead of a 600GB hard drive being seen by the OS as 560GB, it’s now seen as 600GB. It’s kind of arbitrary, and it’s nice that Apple is now aligned with hard drive manufacturers, but I’m sure there will be some backlash. For more info, see this link.

64-Bit, sorta

Snow Leopard is now 64-bit! Unfortunately, that doesn’t really matter too much right now. There aren’t a whole lot of programs that will be running natively, and in fact, Snow Leopard itself doesn’t even boot into 64-bit mode by default (hold down 6 and 4 while starting up to do that). It’s a step in the right direction, to be sure, but we’ll have to wait a bit longer to reap the benefits.

Exposé

This is one of the best new things about Snow Leopard – Exposé finally has some attention paid to it. Snow Leopard now gives you the ability to click and hold on a dock icon, and it will run Exposé for windows of just that app. And to top it off, Exposé finally arranges icons in a grid-like way, instead of the haphazard flying windows from previous versions.

QuickTime

QuickTime X is better. It’s sleeker, faster, and gives you some editing capabilities, as well as the option to upload videos directly to YouTube. Cool.

Google Integration

I’ve used things like Spanning Sync and Google’s Collaboration to sync things like my Gmail and Google Calendars, but now finally Apple allows you to natively sync your Google Contacts and Google Calendars with Address Book and iCal, respectively. It works like it should.

Printers

I just purchased a new laser printer last night, plugged it in, and it worked. Now, this used to happen anyway, but Leopard previously used a generic printer driver to communicate. Now, Snow Leopard fetches the correct printer driver from the almighty Interwebs and installs it automatically. This feature has been around for a long time on Windows (going back to XP), but it always seemed a little clunky to me with all the extraneous little pop-ups throughout the installation process. This is streamlined, and to be honest, I didn’t even know it was happening. I plugged in, went to print something, and my printer was there in the list and ready to go.

Accessing printers over a network is just as easy. Any time you access a print dialog box, Snow Leopard lists available printers for you (even the printers that aren’t installed on your computer). If you choose a shared printer that you’ve never used before, your Mac simply finds the correct driver, installs it, and you’re ready to go.

Some Other Stuff

Apple’s Snow Leopard site touts some other new features: MS Exchange support, faster startup and shutdown, quicker Time Machine backups, etc.

Bad Things

I’ll be honest, I haven’t run into any nightmare situations since installing. The one problem I did have was with fonts. I use a third-party font manager, Linotype Font Xplorer. That program does a little tinkering with font locations, so when Snow Leopard reinstalled all the system fonts, I was getting a lot of duplicates or missing font errors. It only took me about 10 minutes to fix, but keep that in mind if you’re a designer-type or someone who uses some third-party programs to manage system assets like fonts.

The End

Other than that, I’m pretty happy with how things are running since I upgraded. The transition was seamless and, in my opinion, well worth the $49 I spent on the Family Pack. The $29 option is quite reasonable as well, especially considering the performance enhancements. As I said earlier, there aren’t many new features, but a lot of care went into refining what was already a great OS.

My only question is: what will Apple do with their OS now? Will Snow Leopard just keep getting refined or will there be a game-changing OS in the not-too-distant future? Let us know what you think in the comments.

http://arstechnica.com/apple/reviews/2009/08/mac-os-x-10-6.ars

How to Add an OS X 10.5 Computer to a Windows Domain

This article will guide you through the steps required to connect a computer running OS X 10.5 to a Windows domain, allowing you to login using your Active Directory credentials. Since Active Directory is so widely used, it is useful to be able to set up any computers running OS X to authenticate through it.

Step 1: Open the Directory Utility tool, which can be found under Applications -> Utilities -> Directory Utilities or by searching for it through the Finder.

osx_windowsdomain_directoryutility

Step 2: Click on the Services tab, and make sure the Active Directory service is enabled. You may have to click on the lock in the bottom left corner and enter local administrator credentials to be able to make changes. Next, click on the Configure button.

osx_windowsdomain_configure

Step 3: Enter in the address for the Domain you wish to connect to, and a name for the computer you are working on. Under the Advanced Options, you can check ‘Create mobile account at login’ and uncheck ‘Require confirmation before creating a mobile account’ if you want the computer to cache credentials locally, allowing users who have previously logged in to login even if there is no network access. Click Bind and enter proper network credentials. The computer should now show up in Active Directory under the name you gave it.

osx_windowsdomain_domain

Step 4: Ensure that the login preferences are set to require a user to type in a username and password. This can be configured by navigating to System Preferences -> Accounts and clicking on the Login Options tab.

osx_windowsdomain_login

That’s all there is to it! Any user logging in will now be authenticated through Active Directory.

Apple’s App Store Hits One Billion Downloads

app_storeAt approximately 2pm on April 23rd, 2009 the 1,000,000,000th application was downloaded from Apple’s App Store since it first launched only nine months ago.  Although the App Store has had its fair share of problems (and it seems that developers are still getting stuck in the application approval process), this statistic is a significant milestone for the company.

Which applications do you like the most?  Some of my favorites are Tweetie, Pandora, and Air Sharing.  Share in the comments!

[via Apple]

How To: Fix Your Wireless Mighty Mouse’s Bluetooth Connection

An issue that’s been popping up around the blogosphere recently is losing the Bluetooth connection with an Apple Wireless Mighty Mouse on Mac OS X. Essentially, the Bluetooth connection will be working fine and then – without warning – it will stop, leaving the user with no mouse support whatsoever. Here’s a simple way to reactivate the connection.

While this is by no means a comprehensive guide to permanently repairing the Mighty Mouse (talk to Apple for that), it will at least reconnect the Bluetooth device so it can be used.

Courtesy Apple Inc.
Courtesy Apple Inc.
  1. Once the mouse stops, CMD-Tab until Finder is your active application.
  2. Press FN-CTRL-F2 simultaneously to highlight the Apple logo on your menu bar. Release the three keys.
  3. Navigate down to ‘System Preferences’ with the keyboard’s arrow keys and hit Return.
  4. If the search box is not already highlighted, use your TAB key to select it.
  5. Type ‘Bluetooth’ and hit Return.

Oddly, once the Bluetooth menu is accessed, the Mighty Mouse should reconnect and work properly. I’ve had to use this process a few times recently, but I’m hoping Apple will be fixing the problem via Software Updates in the near future.

Are you having any trouble with your peripherals? Do you have other solutions? Let us know in the comments.

Flashreview: Power Support Anti-Glare Film for iPhone/iPod Touch

filmIn this day and age, you don’t buy electronics (especially touchscreen electronics) without investing into some form of screen protection.  For  devices such as the iPhone or iPod Touch, screen protectors can also improve the responsiveness of the device by improving the screen’s traction.

The product: I stumbled upon Power Support’s Anti-Glare Film for the iPhone/iPod Touch, which is available from Power Support USA as well as the Apple Store.  This product boasts a “custom-fit film that will reduce the visual impacts of glare and finger printing while providing scratch protection”.  Included in the package were two anti-glare films (one for the front and another for the back) as well as a pre-installation film which was for removing dirt and dust from the screen. Continue reading “Flashreview: Power Support Anti-Glare Film for iPhone/iPod Touch”