Browsing articles in "Tips, Tricks and Goodies"

Smartwatch. Must have?

Sep 23, 2014
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The Smartwatch era has arrived. Attempts have been made by companies like Samsung, but anyone who has one of those probably can’t remember where it is now. The original releases were bad. But that doesn’t mean we should write them off because of a couple of false starts.

Google threw their weight behind wearables by releasing a version of Android called Android Wear. This new operating system has been adopted by pretty much all major Android manufacturers. Even companies like Sony (who produced the Smartwatch 1 and Smartwatch 2 running their own OS) have switched to Android Wear for their Smartwatch 3. Motorola recently produced quite possibly THE standout Smartwatch for Android – the Moto 360 (sold out within a few hours). It looks like a watch rather than a small computer on your wrist – and with a standard strap size, you can do whatever you like with it style-wise. It too runs Android Wear and gives the wearer a suite of Motorola-designed watch faces (actually nice ones!) to choose from.

Moto-360

In my opinion, the first thing a Smartwatch needs to be is a watch. It needs to tell the time. Once you get behind the watch face you start to see what Smartwatches offer – a ‘portal’ to your phone. Notifications that arrive to your phone can be shown on your watch. This means that txt messages and Twitter notifications can be sent to your watch, but maybe not emails or Facebook notifications. It’s your choice. If you are in a meeting and your phone rings, you can manage the call on the phone by sending a quick “I’m in a meeting…” txt to the caller.

I wear a Sony Smartwatch 2 connected to my LG G3 phone daily. Over the past 6 months, I’ve found I’m not looking at my phone every 10 minutes. Big change. My watch passes on my notifications with far less effort on my part and interruption to others. My Sony Smartwatch 2 isn’t perfect (I don’t particularly like the hardware), but it has shown me how I would embrace a Smartwatch going forward (my Moto 360 will be here soon).

Enter Apple. The Apple Watch will be a great addition to the Smartwatch market. It gives a huge boost to the category and brings some new thinking to the interface. I’m sure it will still wow in true Apple style and quality of the build, but I prefer round watches (hence my excited anticipation of my Moto 360).

140909142343-apple-watch-620xa

The Smartwatch isn’t a must have for everyone, but for people who have notifications coming in from txt, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and even email, it’s a way of handling the volume without spending the whole day with your face lit up by a phone display.

https://moto360.motorola.com/ Android only, purchased from eBay or local parallel importers
http://www.apple.com/watch/ Apple only, coming 2015
 

Spark Tips – Liam’s top 7

Aug 11, 2014
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Since our winter release of Spark has just been rolled out, we’ve extracted Liam’s top 7 Spark tips to take advantage of some of the new great features (and some of the old):

Tip 1: 
Created a purchase by mistake? Easily delete the purchase by removing the supplier within the Purchase Items tab – click Update and you’ll see a Delete Purchase button appear.

Tip 2:
Befriend opening multiple tabs in Spark. Command + click (or right mouse click and select Open in New Tab) to open multiple areas of Spark at once. Liam’s suggestion: you might want to have the following open all at once making navigation between them quick and easy:
• Spark Home page (for a broad view of all your stuff)
• Workflow -> Work in Progress and click Go (for a view of all WIP jobs on the go)
•  Time Entry (to add your time and materials entries onto jobs during the day).
As long as the tabs are different areas of Spark you can open as many as you like!

Tip 3:
Want to bring across on your purchase order something that was quoted as materials or option/s on your proposal? Easy. When in the Purchase Items tab of a purchase, click the reveal arrow to see items on your proposal and toggle them across using the arrows.

Tip 4:
Ah, the Home page. Set that you’d like to display items on your home page under User Preferences and it will show you a set number of:
• Pending proposals created by you
• Jobs assigned to you
• Not Started and In Progress tasks allocated to you
• To Do job changes allocated to you
• Your timesheet snapshot for the past 7 days

Another tip: use the reveal/hide arrows for each section if you wish and the section heading names will take you to the appropriate search in Spark with the full item list.

Tip 5:
Speaking of User Preferences, if you tend to always be looking for ‘your’ jobs, proposals, tasks etc in Spark, then set Use My Name in Searches to Yes.

Tip 6:
Did you know you can set up custom pricing for a customer? Go to the Custom Pricing tab of a customer record and add products you want to set alternative pricing for. 

Tip 7:
Use the Notes field of a customer/supplier record to add in extra detail and you can then search this field. Very handy if you are looking for a list of photographers that specialise in portrait work, or specific equipment that your printer suppliers have.

Remember, your Spark monthly fee covers all the training, advice and phone/email support as you like so ask away….

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128GB, no really.

May 2, 2014
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A few years ago when you needed storage for your Digital Camera – you dropped into your local store and picked up a 32MB compact flash card, or, if you were splashing out, maybe a 64MB card! That’s megabytes.

Times have changed. Here is a micro SD card purchased for my smartphone.

128GB. That’s gigabytes.

Madness, but progress!

photo

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Password management with 1Password (and others)

Mar 4, 2014
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Passwords are considered a pain in the neck – and they are, but they are supposed to be.
In today’s digital world we keep our very important details online: our banking, email, personal photos, accounting, etc. Every one of these services are protected by a username and password. Usernames are pretty easy to guess, it’ll be your email address or something similar. This is fine, usernames are there to identify you over others in the system. The trouble starts when you start talking passwords. We have discussed passwords before and the latest version of Spark uses new password control which enforces good password controls. We know our passwords need ‘upgrading’ to stronger passwords, but how do we do it and still remember them?

Enter 1Password.

You can remember a single password right? If you can’t stop reading now. This is a prerequisite!
1Password is a password generator/storage app which runs on OSX, Windows, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Android. Think of it as a digital wallet for all your usernames and passwords. You have a master password which unlocks the wallet and lets you use a username and password to access a service – and then re-locks. The master password file itself is encrypted with a single password that you MUST remember. But it is only one, so you should manage. The master password file can be synced to all of your devices using DropBox (1Password has this integration built in). It works really well.

Once you have 1Password installed (apps on various devices and browser plugins) and setup, you can go to your critical services (think banking, email, accounting, Twitter, Facebook, AppleID etc), hit the change password button, and then use the 1Password browser plugin to create a new super-sized password. You don’t need to know what this password is as 1Password remembers it for you. This is the browser plugin after clicking Password Generator:

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 11.34.42 am

When you click Fill, 1Password will then prompt you for a name and it stores this entry in the master password file. You can store any personal information you like inside 1Password. Of course, you are now questioning how secure 1Password’s master file is. Well, short answer, it depends a lot on how strong the password is that you used to secure it. There is more information about it here.

1password

Using 1Password is simple. Go to the login page of the service you want to use and put the cursor into the login field. Next, choose the ‘key icon’ from inside your browser (or up in your Mac menu bar), and select the name of the service. 1Password will put the login and password into the login page for you. That’s it. Easy.

For mobile use, 1Password has a reader app which allows you to copy the password onto the device’s clipboard and paste it into the password field. Still easier than remembering a secure password and certainly easier than recovering from an account compromise!

1Password isn’t the only player in town. Here’s a good list to consider – but we do recommend 1Password if you are serious about passwords.

Siri. Your wish is its command

Jan 28, 2014
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So what or who is Siri you ask?

Siri is an intelligent personal assistant which started as an app and in October 2011 became integrated with Apple’s iOS (actually if you ask Siri “when’s your birthday”, it will tell you its first day on the job was 4 October 2011).  A little bit of history; Siri has been part of iOS since iOS 5 and was first supported on the iPhone 4S. Siri was added to the iPad (3rd generation) with the release of iOS 6, and is included on the iPhone 5, iPhone 5C, iPhone 5S, iPod Touch (5th generation), iPad (4th generation), iPad Air, and the iPad Mini.

Here are some tips and tricks to start your conversation with Siri (if you’re wondering about the name, it is Norwegian, meaning ‘beautiful woman who leads you to victory’):

Tip 1: Hold the home button down and  talk to Siri as you would to a person. Say something like “Tell my sister I’m running late” or “Remind me to call the doctor” Some commands to start you off:

• Internet search with “Google pictures of grumpy cat”, “show me pictures of a 747″, “What’s the phone number for Moo Chow Chow in Ponsonby”
“Show me a map of Ponsonby, Auckland” – now this works (just make sure privacy settings for Siri is turned on under Settings) however Siri can’t look up places or give directions in NZ at the moment – hopefully that service will be extended to us in the near future!
• Answer those tricky questions: “what’s 35 miles an hour in kilometres per hour”
Query your contact list by asking “what’s Jason Brown’s birthday?”
• Set alarms by saying “wake me up at 6am tomorrow” or “wake me up in 2 hours”
• If you’re recipe reading using your iPad in the kitchen telling Siri to “set the timer for 3 minutes” or “what is 2 pounds in kilograms” is very handy
• Wake up in the morning to ask “what’s on my calendar today“, “what’s the weather like in Wellington?” or “what is today going to be like?”
• Setting reminders is a breeze, simply say “remind me to buy an engagement gift for Sarah
If you aren’t sure, ask Siri what it can do for you – it will tell you.

Tip 2: After all this conversation, if you decide you’d like Siri to have a male voice on your iPhone, go to Settings > General > Siri > Voice Gender (if you’re using iOS7).

Tip 3: Tell Siri what your relationships are. For example, “Elliot Johnson is my husband“, “Benjamin Daley is my brother“. After you’ve done this, you’ll find saying “call my brother“, “what’s mum’s birthday“, “email dad” etc so much faster.

• If you don’t want to tell Siri what the relationships are, manually set relationships in your contact details instead – edit your contact card, tap to add related name, choose the label, tap the blue arrow to choose the contact person.
• If you have more than one brother, differ the relationship e.g tell Siri “Benjamin Daley is my youngest brother“.

Tip 4: The more you teach Siri what you were really meaning, the more it will learn and understand you. If you get a response that wasn’t quite right, hit tap to edit below a response then use the keyboard to edit the term.

TapToEdit

Let’s just assume now you’re on iOS7; Siri can now playback voicemails, return your last missed call, search Twitter & Wikipedia, and change app settings (e.g. turn on/off Wi-Fi). All you need to do is ask but for some of these functions it would help if you are in Australia, since they haven’t reached our NZ shores yet.

 Tip 5: Open settings easily by saying “open [app name]’s settings” for example “open Safari settings”. Asking Siri to “turn the Wi-Fi off” and “turn on airplane mode” is useful, just remember that Siri needs the internet to work so you’ll need to change your settings back manually to use Siri again.

 Tip 6: You can ask Siri to post a status on Facebook – “post on Facebook Cocktails are fine in Fiji” or “write on my wall Fiji is a balmy 28 degrees”. If you’re on Twitter, just say “tweet did you just watch Lorde on the Grammys? hashtag grammys”. You can even ask “what’s trending on Twitter” or “what are my friends saying on Twitter”. It’s just a shame this can be used by our Aussie friends but hasn’t extended to us in NZ yet.

Tip 7: Definitely try texting (useful when you’re cooking, driving, exercising…): “Text Heather I’ll be late home for dinner”, “text mum I’m on my way” etc. If you aren’t happy how Siri understood what you said, instead of confirming it, say “change it” or say “cancel” to abandon it (also try “append” to add on to the message). You can also punctuate using Siri – say “dot dot dot”, “comma”, “semicolon”, “open quote” & “end quote” to your dictation.

Tip 8: When you’re driving in the car, it is very handy to ask Siri to “read my mail” – Siri will check your new emails and give you a headline overview. You can also send an email, even send it to more than one person.

NeilEmail

Lots of easter eggs to be found too – try these: “tell me a joke”, “what is inception about“, “what’s the best phone”“I’m drunk”, “who made you?”, “do I look nice today”, “do you love me”, “does Siri stand for seriously”…Lastly, if Siri is upsetting you with pronouncing your name wrong, say “you didn’t pronounce my name correctly” to get an apology, say your name again and then choose the option you like the best, or say “from now on call me…[nickname]” or manually add yourself a nickname by editing your contact details in the Contacts app. Go on, give yourself the nickname you’ve always wanted from a BFF….

Top tips to become an iPad pro

Sep 5, 2013
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So you want to become a master of your iPad – here are some tips that will get your zipping round your tablet like a pro:

Tip 1: When it comes to typing, speed things up with some quick taps:
• Tapping the space bar with 2 fingers will produce a period and a space
• Tapping the space bar with 3 fingers will produce a period and a 2 spaces. Go on, try it with 4 fingers, 5 fingers too!

Tip 2: Master the alpha keyboard shortcuts:
• For a quick single quote (), touch, hold and select the comma key (,)
• For a quick double quote (), touch, hold and select the period key (.)
• WANT TO WRITE SOMETHING SHOUTY – double tap the shift key to turn on caps lock
• For a quick digit, touch, hold the .?123 key and slide to the digit you want. When you let go you’ll be back on the alpha keyboard.

Tip 3: On the subject of keyboards, if you like to hold your iPad in landscape mode and want to type with your thumbs, the answer is: split your keyboard in two! Un-pinch your keyboard to split it, and pinch it back together again (this is for those of you with iOS 5 or 6)

splitkeyboard

Tip 4: Every now again again you might accidentally delete some text – no problem, just hold your iPad with both hands, give it a quick shake and the Undo Typing button will slide in! If you want Redo Typing, simply shake it again.

undo

 Tip 5: Sometimes selecting text can be difficult but these tips should assist:
• To select a single word, double tap
• To select a paragraph, tap once with 2 fingers
• Drag the handles either side of the selection to adjust the area

Tip 6: If you need to take a screen shot of your iPad, hold the sleep/wake button down and click the Home button. The screenshot will be found in your Camera Roll album. And speaking of photos, if you want to set up your iPad as a digital photo frame:
• Prop your iPad up in it’s case, tap the Picture Frame icon that appears to the left of the slide-to-unlock bar on the lock screen and walk away – your iPad will now start display a photo slide show!
• If you want specific albums, events etc to be displayed, set all this up under Settings -> Picture Frame

pictureframe

Tip 7: If you have multi-gestures turned on under Settings -> General, you can:
• Use 4 or 5 fingers to swipe up to reveal the multi-tasking bar
• When you’re in an app, use 4 or 5 fingers to swipe left or right to move through apps
• When you’re in an app, use 4 or 5 fingers to pinch to the Home screen

Tip 8: And if you happen to have read this blog entry on your iPad, to scroll quickly back up to the top of a page, just tap once on the status bar (that’s the bar where the battery icon and time are displayed).

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Password: password

Aug 12, 2013
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Isn’t it frustrating logging into a site you’ve previously used and being told you have to change your password. Yet another password to try and add a digit or two to the end of in the hopes it passes the system checks to determine if it can be used – arrgh!

Attack!

Attempting to crack passwords by trying as many possibilities as time and money permit is called a brute force attack. Another method, is a dictionary attack – this is where all words in one or more dictionaries are tested. Lists of common passwords are also typically tested. Whereas you can’t influence the likelihood of an attack, you can influence your password strength to determine whether it is likely to be guessed or discovered by an attack, so if that site you’re trying to log into decides that your password isn’t strong enough, it’s in your best interest to change it.

Weak passwords

For most of you who read this article your password will be on the ‘most common’ list.

(source Xato.net)

So what is a weak password? What makes some passwords weaker than others? Here are our top tips for selecting yourself a strong password:

1. First and foremost, avoid any identifier (such as your name) and likewise any sequence with an identifier for example, mike123, msmith01

2. Default passwords are of course a big no-no. If your phone came with 0000 as the pin code, change it. Same with defaults such as password, admin, guest etc

3. Avoid something personally related to you – name of your fluffy cat, your home phone number, license plate, wedding anniversary….

4. Rule of thumb, don’t mix your name ANYWHERE into your password

5. We know it’s nice and quick to type but avoid the obvious keyboard combinations – qwerty, fred, asdfgh etc.

6. If allowed and if you have a terrible memory for long character strings of numbers, letters, uppercase and lowercase, choose 3-5 random words and string them together such as ducklongskaterobot

7. Avoiding using something your friends or workmates know you particularly like or dislike

If you’re having trouble remembering your newly created password, try an after-the-fact mnemonic – it doesn’t have to be sensible, just memorable. For example to remember dlsrw12h perhaps use the mnemonic ‘Dianne loves skiing rabbits wearing 12 hats’

And lastly, if you’ve recently been asked to make one of your passwords more secure – don’t just leave it at that password, think to all of your passwords and apply the same logic of making your password more secure.

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Pocket – how to manage your reading

Apr 22, 2013
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Sometimes there isn’t enough time to read everything that is sent to you. People email you links to articles which they say you “must read!” – but you can’t read them right now. Even with the best of intentions, you probably won’t read it. The main reason for this is because it falls off your radar.

Pocket has been around for a while. It was previously called Read it Later. Pocket is a system made up of a simple website, an iOS/Android app and some plug-ins for Chrome, Safari and Firefox. (Safari has a Reading list, but this works on all devices everywhere)

The concept is pretty simple. You create an account on http://www.getpocket.com and install the Pocket app on your iPad, iPhone and Android device. Next, add the browser plug-ins. These give you a simple one touch icon to your Safari, Chrome or Firefox browser which quickly adds the page you are currently looking at to Pocket.

Plug in

 

 

To look at your list of reading, open the Pocket app on your iPad, iPhone or Android device (or web browser) and read away. You can do this anywhere you get some spare time. Once you have read the article, click the “tick” icon and it comes off your reading list and goes into Archive so you can look it up later if you need to. There is a great little instructional video on the Pocket website.

Give Pocket a go – it really helps you with those websites which are a “read once” article. No need to make a bookmark in your browser – it keeps those clean. Oh, and it is free.

I want more speed!

Apr 16, 2013
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In the past the best way to speed up your computer was to add more RAM. Typically the motto was “you can never have too much RAM”. Lately that has changed. The rise of reasonably priced solid state drives (SSD) to replace the hard drive in your computer has meant that we can all get a major speed-up for our slightly older machines.

Why the speed boost?
Modern computer operating systems have a concept called virtual memory (VM). VM is used when you push your computer beyond the physical RAM limit and it starts to use your hard drive as extended memory. This isn’t good – accessing data from RAM is thousands of times faster than accessing data from the hard drive. (Hard drives are just spinning – magnets similar to an old record player! A SSD looks like a hard drive, but is all memory chips, no moving parts and FAST).

When VM is used off an SSD – it is quick. So even a Macbook Air with 2GB of RAM can keep up with a Macbook Pro in your studio (obviously not in graphical tasks as the Macbook Air has a pretty weak graphics card compared to a Macbook Pro or iMac).

Something to think about
If you have a Macbook Air – you already have an SSD. If you have a Macbook, Macbook Pro, Mac Pro or some models of iMac, you can get an SSD retro fitted (get your tech guru to check it out for you). The performance gain is huge! It’ll give you a little bit more life out of your existing hardware. Applications launch quicker, files open faster, Mail/Safari/iCal all operate far more smoothly. All pluses. (The only downside is the price per GB – a 256GB SSD costs around $450). This is a highly recommended performance boost for any computer. If you already have 8GB of RAM and are looking for a bit more speed, an SSD will beat more RAM hands down.

 

Discovering Chrome

Mar 21, 2013
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So you’ve heard someone mention it and now you are thinking what is Chrome all about? Short and simple, it’s a freeware (a.k.a free software) web browser developed by Google. Chrome first came on the browser scene in 2008 and if you want to get into tech-speak, it uses the Webkit rendering engine to display web pages. Webkit, an open source project started by Apple, was purpose built for Safari. Basically this means that when Apple make improvements to Webkit, Chrome is improved as well. Pretty much all browsers on mobile phones and tablets use Webkit as well, so reading in between the lines, Apple must be pretty chuffed with this uptake of Webkit!

As of Feburary 2013, Chrome has a 37% worldwide usage share of web browser making it the most widely used browser in the work according to StatCounter however Net Applications rank it as third behind Internet Explorer and Firefox – the take away of this being it’s up there for browser preference, so if you haven’t yet tried it, give it a go.

Tips for Chrome newbies: 

1. If you like to work with multiple tabs open, try pinning your tabs – basically this shrinks your tab to the size of the favicon leaving you more room to multi-task. Right mouse click on the tab and select Pin Tab.

 

 

 

2. If you like the way the favicons look as pins, declutter your Bookmarks bar for your favourite sites – just hit the star icon to the far right of the omnibox, then delete the name – this will put just the favicon on your bookmarks bar.


 

 

 

 

 

Favicons in the Bookmarks bar will look like this:

 

3. Type in an equation or conversion you want in the omnibox (which is the merge of the address bar and search box) and you’ll get the answer straight away.

Try a calculation:

Or a conversion:

 

 4. Browse in stealth mode – File -> New Incognito Window (or shift+command+N). This will allow you to browse undercover (i.e you can visit pages without leaving browser or search history behind).

5. The New Tab (command+T) page will display thumbnails of the 8 most visited website. Look to the bottom of the page to view the most visited sites, apps, recently closed (this one is useful if you’ve accidentally closed a page and can’t remember how you found it!) and visit the Chrome Web Store where you can install web applications as extensions to the browser.

 

 

6.  You can install themes or create your own theme to alter the appearance of the browser too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So just a few tips to get you started. It’s also worth having a nosey on Chrome Experiments, a site set up to showcase what can be created using the latest open technologies. Users create something they feel is fun and fast in JavaScript and submit it to the site showcasing their talent and creativity. Some of our faves are:

• Ellie Goulding Lights. Use your mouse to navigate your way through this colourful experience of Ellie Goulding’s single “Lights”.
The Exquisite Forest. An online collaboration art project between Google and Tate. Be warned, you’ll find yourself wanting to check out all the trees in the forest to see the animations and you’ve checked out the video to see what the concept is all about.
• Ball Pool. Shake, double click, drag and throw the balls around. Mindless fun for a few minutes – oh the sites people come up with eh!

The sites can also work in other browsers but some of them may say that some features won’t work, hence the nod to opening them in Chrome.

So there you are, a little bit of insight into what Chrome is all about. We love it as a browser option here at DA, let us know what you think!

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