Thursday, July 29, 2010

Updating Apple Software on Windows 7

Since I moved to Windows 7 at work, I am still all Mac at home of course. I have noticed issues with upgrading software. Quicktime, Safari, iTunes, MobileMe Control Panel, and other Apple software doesn’t seem to be able to update with the Windows Apple Software Update Utility. If you get an error message telling you Software Updater can’t update your Windows 7 machine just follow these simple steps to install your programs.

Option 1.) Right click on Apple Software Update and choose properties then click compatibility and check Run this program as an administrator and click Ok. Then open Apple software update and attempt to update your software normally.

Option 2.) Click Tools and choose Open Downloaded Updates Folder. Then run each of the updates that are located in this folder down the list in alphabetical order.

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You should be able to install each component one at a time. After that rerun the Apple Software Update utility to verify you have the latest of everything installed. Hopefully after you have done this updates should start installing again at least until Microsoft changes something on Windows 7 again.

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Thanks to Tom for mentioning the run as Administrator option. I thought mine was already set but it looks like the Software Update Program being updated clears out the Run as Administrator Option.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

AT&T Reception issues and iPhones future

PastedGraphic-2010-07-25-22-29-2010-07-25-22-29.jpgI live in a city with pretty good AT&T 3G coverage. There are of course a few weak spots but for the most part it works pretty well. That is the most important thing for a phone. If you live in an area where you don’t get good AT&T coverage then the iPhone may not be the phone for you.
Now if you get coverage in most places but lack coverage at home AT&T is experimenting with giving away the http://www.wireless.att.com/learn/why/3gmicrocell/ for your home. You hook up the AT&T mini repeater to your home network and after it gets it’s GPS location and hooks up to AT&T you have a mini tower in your house. AT&T really failed on the initial rollout of these devices and in my opinion still don’t have it right. First they tried to sell them for $150.00 to customers who couldn’t get service at home. Now they are at least starting to give them to customers who can’t get service at home. However buyer beware, while AT&T is using your broadband Internet to hook the Microcell to their network they still charge you for minutes and 3G data usage counts against your data plan.
That is still a pretty big fail on AT&T’s part. One I have to pay for the service which is still over priced, then they may give me the device or make me buy it to get the service I already pay for to work in my home, and finally they charge me for the 3G data which is really using my bandwidth I already pay the cable company for. How many times does AT&T expect us to pay for a single service?
Of course if you are at home you can just put your iPhone on the WiFi network and not use the 3G for data at all. For an extra $20.00 a month you can get unlimited minutes on your Microcell so you don’t get billed for minutes while you are at home using your cell phone. There is also a limit of ten phones that can be paired with the Microcell.
intro-2010-07-25-22-29-2010-07-25-22-29.jpgHowever again they are charging you an extra fee for the right to use your broadband you pay for to help take pressure off their network that is being upgraded too slowly for the customers they are adding. With an increase in customers by 40% and a huge spike in data usage because we are changing how we use our phones, instead of dealing with it AT&T like other carriers in the past just try and discourage the use of their network by raising rates or adding data caps. Users want access to their content where ever and whenever and with cloud services like MobileMe and GMail keeping our phones backed up and in sync with our computers over the air we are just going to keep using more and more data. It is time the carriers pulled their heads out of the sand and started building out their networks faster to deal with future growth.
Placement of Cell Towers has long been a problem in the US. Compared to Europe we place our towers farther apart and some cities restrict their height and appearance so as not to be an eye sore. That comes as a cost to the end customer though in weaker signals and inferior service. Some HOA’s won’t allow cell towers to be put in their neighborhoods at all so some neighborhoods in Las Vegas only have minimal coverage if any at all because the towers are just too far away. So while part of the blame does rest with cell carriers who are more interested in profits than a top notch network part of the problem lies with local laws and ordinances that keep the companies from putting some towers up in the first place.
The Infinion radios in iPhone were designed for European market despite AT&T objection where the towers are closer and it is easier to get a strong signal. The latest radio in the iPhone 4 has improved sensitivity so that they perform better in an environment where cell sites are more sparse. The increased sensitivity is of course being marred by the detuning issue some users have experienced with their iPhones that I talked about last week in my Antenna Gate article.
If you get a weak signal in your home from AT&T you now have a choice and can use an iPhone if you wish. HOA’s that do not want large cell towers but want service should be working with carriers to create solutions that will meet the needs of the carriers customers and not make the neighborhood look bad. Why not a mesh of antennas on light poles painted to match the pole, or more palm tree towers and other towers that are designed to look like indigenous trees. It isn’t perfect but they blend fairly well.
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Carriers need to move on to the next generation of cell technology like LTE and build out very robust networks that can stand up to the high data usage demands of our modern world and let go of the old ways of doing things like holding back the users. Wired magazine just published a story last week about the strained relationship between Apple and AT&T that illustrates AT&T’s old idea’s brilliantly and how Apple has changed the rules of the game to the benefit of not just their customers but all customers by showing the handset manufactures they do not have to hobble their phones because the carrier asked them too.
The best thing Apple could do with the iPhone now is to make it available on T-Mobile and Verizon as soon as possible. It will help sales of the already smash hit iPhone and give consumers a choice of carrier. It will also spread the data load out across all carriers giving all carriers a chance to share in some of the pain. Pundits in the UK have talked about their five carriers they can choose from on their iPhone and plans that are customized for those that are data usage heavy or use a lot of minutes talking on the phone. That is what we were supposed to have here in the US due to the free market system. However handset manufactures signed exclusive deals with carriers to get their phone on the carrier and then we are stuck with a carrier we don’t like and a handset we love or a phone we don’t care for on a carrier we like. Few people if anyone get what they want.
Hopefully someday soon like in Europe we will be able to pick our handset and pick our carrier and have real choice. Then we will see who makes the quality handsets and who are the best carriers when users get to choose both independently.
If you like AT&T and your iPhone and live in a good coverage area like I do good for you. If you get weak coverage at home but do ok in other areas then take a look at a Microcell from AT&T. If you live in an area plagued by poor AT&T coverage or travel outside of AT&T’s coverage area frequently then for now the iPhone isn’t the phone for you. Write Apple and ask them to open the phone up to other carriers. Hopefully that will be happening soon and recent surveys indicate that millions more customers would buy an iPhone if only it were available on T-Mobile or Verizon.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Antenna Gate

201283-jobs-iphone4-flaw_original.jpgOk, I watched the press conference last week and I have been using an iPhone for 26 days now.  I have spent half of that time with and without the bumper case on my phone to see if I can tell a difference.  Remember I upgraded from an iPhone 3G to the iPhone 4 so the extra processor speed, upgraded display, upgraded storage, memory, cameras, and design made the new iPhone 4 a huge step up from my old phone.  So after one month of use how does the new phone stack up and is the antenna issue really an issue at all?
First I can say with our without the bumper I drop fewer calls than I did with the iPhone 3G.  I have to date only dropped 2 calls.  Which is far better than I have had in the past or with other carriers.  Now there happens to be an AT&T cell tower close to my home and our office has repeaters in the building.  Most of the time when I am out and about I notice I get between three and five bars with the new algorithm Apple included in the iOS 4.0.1 upgrade.  

As a side note if you are on a 3G or 3Gs iPhone I highly recommend upgrading to iOS 4.0.1, it makes the phone much faster than the 4.0 upgrade was except for loading text messages seems to be a little slow still but the email issues have been resolved and virtual keyboard lag was resolved.  

I live in a city with pretty good AT&T 3G coverage.  There are of course a few weak spots but for the most part it works pretty well.  That is the most important thing for a phone.  If you live in an area where you don’t get good AT&T coverage then the iPhone may not be the phone for you.  I will go in depth next week on this topic and options for iPhone users that live in weaker coverage areas. 

So Apple introduced the iPhone 4 with new features like an external antenna built into the metal band around the phone.  They introduced a more sensitive radio chip that can pick up weaker signals than the previous iPhones.  They attempted to make the iPhone a better phone and for the most part succeeded but there were a few people who complained loud about the external antenna and now that Apple has seen a string of successful products the media seems to be dying to see them fail at something.  A Microsoft exec even went so far as to call iPhone 4 Apple’s Vista.  Well, the difference between Vista and iPhone 4 is of course people are buying the iPhone 4.  

Is there signal attenuation when you cover the phone with your hand?  The so called iPhone death grip.  Yes, the signal does drop from reports about 20 db.  Now at home or in most locations where I have five bars it doesn’t impact me at all.  I have never dropped a call because of how I was holding the phone.  If I am in a weaker signal location where I am getting say three bars I might drop to one bar.  But I can still make and receive calls.  

The bars on a phone are a throw back to the days of analog phones when they told you how strong a signal you were receiving.  It would tell you if your call was going to be clear or if you might have a lot of static in your call.  Today all of our calls are digital just 1’s and 0’s.  The important predictor of completing a call successfully is the bit error rate (BER) which isn’t displayed on the phone at all.  I am not saying the bars are useless they do give you a little information.  How strong is the signal coming in gives you a rough prediction of your call quality over time.  If you have five bars you are less likely to drop the call than if you have only one or two bars.  Also if you have five bars you will use less battery power than if you only have one bar.  GSM phones will increase or decrease their output power based on the strength of the incoming signal in order to save battery power.  

The important thing is it’s not the number of bars that are the most important thing, it is do you have good coverage in the area you want to use your phone and can you complete those calls?  Testing has indicated the iPhone does a better job of pulling in a weak signal and making it usable than its predecessor that coupled with the detuning of the antenna when you hold it in your hand could account for a slight increase in dropped calls.  Fewer people using cases can as well.  

Apple has offered free bumper cases through September 30th and refunds to all users who bought a bumper for their iPhone 4 to make up for the issue.  They are reevaluating at the end of September to decide what the permanent fix should be or to keep giving away the bumpers.  Rumors seem to indicate they are looking at a process to Anodize the bands to put a layer of insulation between the users hand and the antenna to solve the problem.  

Why didn’t Apple see this in their early testing?  Well for one look how phones are tested in a testing chamber.  They are usually clamped into holder and held out in the room and tested.  When a human test subject is used to test the phone how are they holding the phone?  Do they tests different grips and left or right-handedness?  I bet they will start doing that now if they haven’t in the past.  

When the iPhones were field tested they were placed in cases to make them look like 3Gs phones so the users field testing never came in contact with the antennas when they are off campus .  On the Apple campus they have AT&T and Verizon towers right there so a strong signal you don’t see the attenuation problem.  So it is possible they didn’t really know about it until there were over a million phones in the field and they started getting data back from AT&T about dropped call rates.  It is also possible they knew but didn’t think it would be a big issue until the phone was in users hands.  Either way Apple is taking steps to deal with it now.  By offering full refunds within 30 days to those who aren’t happy so far the return rate has been about 1.7%.  They have also offered the free bumpers to customers as an option as well.  

RIM, Nokia, and Motorola weighed in on Monday criticizing Apple for dragging them into the issue by demoing the same affect on other phones and denying their phones suffered the same problem the iPhone does.  

First Nokia includes instructions on their phones how to hold it properly for the best reception.  While their PR people say they put antenna design above all other considerations when designing a phone.  Second a good friend of mine has a Droid phone and was suffering from dropped calls.  She asked me about this antenna issue and I was explaining where the antenna is located on her phone and she happened to mention she gets a lot of dropped calls and happens to hold her phone at the bottom where the antenna is located.  As an experiment she tried modifying her grip on the phone and she has not been dropping calls since.  So any company that says they do not have a problem with reception based on how you hold the phone is full of it.  This is a problem with physics and short of moving back to a mast type of antenna nothing is going to completely solve the issue yet.  The first Star-Tac cell phones had a pull up antenna and the engineers knowing some people wouldn’t extend the antenna installed a helical antenna inside the phone and a switch on the antenna.  If the mast was extended the mast antenna would be used and the helical turned off.  If the mast wasn’t extended the helical would be used instead.    

Every cell phone is a radio with an antenna and software to connect to a network of towers.  It is a complex process that few including myself fully understand and it is a miracle it works for the most part.  The iPhone is an excellent phone and if you live in a good AT&T coverage area a competent device.  If you don’t have good AT&T coverage it might not be the best phone for you.  

So long to the Microsoft Kin after only being out about a month Microsoft killed it off due to poor sales we hardly new ye.  So long also to the Google G1 Phone Google just announced this last week it is going away with no plans for a G2 replacement, that is disappointing.  So long Droid and hello Droid X  it seems like you were only around about 8 months before being replaced.  Thanks to Apple for kicking off a mobile computing revolution and thanks to Android and the others for keeping Apple pushing forward and improving the technology.  This is truly an exciting time to witness the advances in technology and I can only imagine what the next five to ten years will bring.

As far as Antenna Gate goes, if you like your iPhone get one, it is a great upgrade.  If you like your Droid or G1 and don’t want to deal with AT&T stick with what you have.  If you have a Palm Pre, well I would look for a better phone perhaps check out the HTC Evo if you are in one of the few areas with 4G coverage.  If you can live with AT&T and you want a great easy to use smart phone then come on over to the iPhone we have lot’s of great apps and all the iPhone owners are always happy to share their favorite apps and talk with a fellow iPhone owner and Apple strives to keep their customers happy despite having to use AT&T as a carrier.    

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Blogging on the Mac

Blogging on the Mac can be as simple or as complex as you choose it to be. Blogging can be a lot of fun and a truly rewarding experience. The first thing you have to decide is what you want to blog about. Pick something that is interesting to you and that you can write about on a regular basis. It took me some time to learn this important tidbit. Regular blogging is very important to getting repeat visitors to your site. My first six months of blogging I could have lunch with all of my readers because I wasn’t writing on a regular basis. As soon as I set a deadline for myself and started sticking to it I saw an immediate increase in traffic.
I started off by purchasing a domain name through godaddy.com. www.macguy.info serves as my home page and blog.macguy.info is redirected to paulmacguyscott.blogspot.com where my blog is hosted. Next step was to signup for blogger using my gmail account. Once I had the blog site setup and configured the way I wanted it to look I setup blog.macguy.info to redirect to my blog page.
Next to see what kind of traffic I am getting I went to Analytics.google.com and setup an analytics account so I can see how many hits a day I am getting, how my visitors are finding me and what country they are from. This is just of interest to me and it is only very general information but it gives me an idea of who comes to my site and sometimes what pages they are visiting.
Really the best source of feedback is comments on the blog itself, emails, or tweets I get from my readers. Some of them even give me ideas for future posts. As a part of regular posting process I started planning what topics I am going to write on ahead of time. Currently I build my schedule about two months out. I plan topics around certain dates that might be relevant. A review of study software in August right before students go back to school, or a look back on technology when a company hits a mile stone anniversary. Of course sometimes I shuffle things around if a big story breaks or an important issue comes up that needs to be covered.
Planning these ahead of time allows me to start researching and writing ahead of time as well. I can start putting my notes together or interesting bits I think of I want to write in file so i can keep track of it when I am ready to write it. I am also trying to write several articles a week and hold them until it is time to publish so taking a vacation or being busy with my day job doesn’t throw me off my scheduled posts.
Another option when news breaks is to just add an extra story for the week to my blog. Since this is all digital I don’t have to worry about a real deadline or how much space I take up. I can always add a bonus story if I like or just move the schedule around. Currently I plan about two months in advance what I plan to write so currently I just move stories around, eventually I might add extra stories to the blog as I have more time to write.
After the first few months of writing my blog in the web based editor on blogger I decided I wanted a better way to post. So I started looking at different programs that might help me focus on my writing and post my stories. I settled on MacJournal from http://marinersoftware.com/sitepage.php?page=85. It is a nice software priced at $39.95 and versatile. In addition to being linkable to several blogging platforms like Blogger, Word Press, Type Pad, and Live Journal you can create private encrypted journals to share your personal thoughts and writings for just yourself or perhaps a memoir for the future.
MacJournal lets me keep a local copy of all of my blog entries so I have a copy on blogger and a copy on my laptop that is also backed up to Time Machine and Mobile Me. For those keeping score that is four copies of my writing in three different locations on two different kinds of media. In a future post I will do a piece on backing up in depth.
MacJournal also allows you to add your tags and set publishing dates right in the Inspector. This saves time when uploading your blog post. You configure your site settings under share and when it comes time to post your blog you just click share, Send To “Name of your blog here” and it uploads and shows you the page in Safari once it is loaded. The only weak point I have seen with MacJournal so far has been it can’t upload images to Blogger. Any images I add to my blog I have to do on the web after I have uploaded the story. I hope this is something that can be fixed in a future revision. Once I have uploaded the images I can re download the story into blogger and update my local copy and it does download the images just fine although it doesn’t hold the formatting as it is displayed on the web.
If I am traveling and have a need to post in my blog I use BlogPress on my iPad and iPhone. http://blogpress.coollittlethings.com/ This is a great piece of software that allows me to blog while away form home. In April i wrote a story reviewing the iPad while on a cross country flight. Since the plane had WiFi I was able to write my story and post it right from plane. Writing a 2,000 word review of the iPad on the iPad was a good experience and one that showed me short of software development I didn’t really need to carry my laptop with me anymore if I was only going a few days. Now with Remote Access software I hardly ever have to carry my laptop anymore unless I just want to for some reason or I need to sync my iPad with my computer. BlogPress syncs right up with blogger and was the first iPad Blogging tool available on the app store. I just open it up and start typing. I even can add images right to blogger from the iPad. At the time there was on editing software for photos on the iPad so I wasn’t able to rotate the image the way I wanted the screen shot to look but it worked in a pinch.
If I don’t have my iPad with me but I am carrying my iPhone BlogPress runs on the iPhone as well. Now I can take pictures and write a story right in the field. With a Bluetooth keyboard it is easy to write from the iPhone. So now I can take my writing with me wherever I go. BlogPress will even let you save movies to your YouTube Account and link them to your blog. So no we can do pictures, movies, and text all live from wherever we are.
I blog because I like to write and I like to share information with people. I get a great deal of satisfaction knowing people are reading what I write and getting something out of it. For that I want to thank each and every one of you for visiting my blog and enjoying and learning from what I have written. Please keep the comments, tweets, emails, and Facebook posts coming. I couldn’t do what I do without you all.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Review of Maccsessorized

For those of you looking for a little Apple Geek bling look no further than our friends at Maccessorized. Maccessorized has a wide variety of Apple logo wear from t-shirts to dress shirts, messenger bags for your 15” and smaller Mac laptop, umbrellas and other Apple accessories. They give prompt service and ship orders quickly and the staff is friendly should you have to email them for anything. The shirts i ordered were high quality twill dress shirts that are very comfortable to wear with the Apple logo sewn on. The messenger bag is durable and has a padded pocket for your laptop and comes in four different colors. Maccessorized carries an array of bags in different styles to suit almost any taste. If you plan to carry a laptop in a bag make sure it lists the maximum size laptop the bag can hold and that it has a padded pocket to protect your laptop when traveling.

The website is easy to navigate and see what you are ordering as well as for completing your order. They include a review section so you can share with other prospective buyers your thoughts on the products you have ordered. They have a 30 day return policy for unopened items if you change your mind about an item you have ordered.

So if you are looking for some logo wear for your favorite computer, smartphone, tablet computer, or want to find some chic geek wear for your favorite Mac lover look no further than Macccessoried.com for your Mac wear needs. Don’t forget to Like Maccessoriezed on Facebook when you visit their site and share with your friends.