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Capture Perfect Photos With Burst Mode

Have you struggled with getting the perfect photo? How many times have we all struggled with a group photo you have to take multiple times because someone blinked, someone yawned or that toddler in front just wouldn’t stay still? Taking photos of animals like dogs and horses can be equally frustrating. One moment it’s the perfect shot, the next they moved or you just keep snapping that photo at the wrong time.

The more an object for your photo is moving the harder it is to get the perfect shot. Images get blurry, you capture just half of the body or any number of other factors that take your photo memory from frame worthy to trash can bound. I’ve long considered myself an average photographer. I’ve purchased a few high end cameras over the years but I never practiced or used the cameras long enough to understand what the settings really do and why. Thanks to the iPhone I really do look like a better photographer than I really am!

Professional photographers shooting sports or even wildlife have been using burst mode features on their cameras to take photos in quick succession for decades, but it typically meant this feature also went along with a very expensive camera set up. Film cameras required a motor to advance the film quickly enough, but now everything is digital. A burst mode simply needs enough processing power and storage space to record frame after frame. Your iPhone or iPad has this capability and is incredibly easy to activate burst mode.

The secret hidden trick to using burst mode on your iPhone or iPad is less hidden than you might realize and it’s likely you activated the feature a times without even realizing it. Rather than pressing the shutter button once, just hold it. The longer you hold it down, the more burst photos you will get. You’ll hear a distinctive and continuous sound of the shutter quickly taking photos.

Your iPhone can capture 10 frames per second, so just 2.5 seconds of photos can turn into 25 in burst mode. Sometimes the only challenge to burst mode is sorting through all of the photos and selecting the ones that you want. Do note that Photos appear stacked when your looking at them. When you select the photos you will want to then look for the word “select” so that Photos will then display all of the images caught during your burst.

Once you have hit “select” and start to look through all the photos you will see the typical circle image in the bottom right hand corner. As your going through the images simply tap on the circle for any photo you want to keep, it will then display in blue. Once you hit the Done button you will then be asked if you want to keep just the favorites you selected or if you want to keep everything. I normally keep just the ones that I have selected as my favorites.

One warning. If you use iCloud Photo Library or My Photo Stream to sync photos between devices it might take some times for all the photos in the burst shots to move from iPhone to Mac. Whoops, one more! If you are using My Photo Stream to transfer photos to your Mac only those photos that you’ve marked as a favorite will transfer. To set it so entire bursts transfer automatically, open Settings > Photos & Camera and enable upload photo bursts.

Give bursts a try this summer, you never know what unexpected photo moments you might end up discovering.

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It's A Mesh

Most of you probably have a single Wi-Fi router that might be an Apple Airport Base station or the DSL or Cable modem provided by your internet provider. Your router might be in one corner of your house, or like me down in the cellar. By the time your Wi-Fi signal finds its way up to the other corner of the house you may find that the speed is slow and your signal is not particularly reliable.

The solution to this has been to add an extender or something like the Apple Airport Express to extend the network. That works but it can be a bit complex to set it up so that you have reliable signal. With Apple apparently exiting the wireless network router business (the Airport Extreme was last upgraded in 2013) it is time for a new paradigm in home networking.

Enter mesh networking. A mesh network could solve most, if not all, of your Wi-Fi problems. It’s basically a system of multiple Wi-Fi stations that work together to blanket every corner of your home with a strong, reliable Wi-Fi connection.

Unlike your cable modem router or Airport Extreme that loses signal the farther you are from it, mesh nodes piggyback on one another to create a continuous wireless link throughout your home, making dead zones rare.

Mesh networking has these advantages:

  • Using fewer wires means it costs less to set up a network, particularly for large areas of coverage.
  • The more nodes you install, the bigger and faster your wireless network becomes.
  • They rely on the same WiFi standards (802.11a, b and g) already in place for most wireless networks.
  • They are convenient where Ethernet wall connections are lacking
  • They are useful for Non-Line-of-Sight (NLoS) network configurations where wireless signals are intermittently blocked.
  • Mesh networks are “self configuring;” the network automatically incorporates a new node into the existing structure without needing any adjustments by a network administrator.
  • Mesh networks are “self healing,” since the network automatically finds the fastest and most reliable paths to send data, even if nodes are blocked or lose their signal.
  • Wireless mesh configurations allow local networks to run faster, because local packets don’t have to travel back to a central server.
  • Wireless mesh nodes are easy to install and uninstall, making the network extremely adaptable and expandable as more or less coverage is needed.

How does a a mesh system work? First, you connect a primary base station to your broadband modem via ethernet cable from the modem to the primary base station. Then, you connect satellite stations or nodes in areas where you might get weak coverage. These nodes can be connected to ethernet if you have your house wired for ethernet but who does that anymore? Otherwise, they plug into the wall for power and gain their signal wirelessly.

Let’s say your primary base station is downstairs in the kitchen, and you have a satellite station in the upstairs bedroom. When you are in the bedroom and watching Netflix on your MacBook, the primary base station retrieves the streaming data and bounces it to the satellite station, which then beams it to your Mac in the bedroom in what’s known as a hop.

Importantly, in addition to expanding your Wi-Fi range, a mesh system helps your device automatically connect to the strongest station as you move around in the house. When you’re in the kitchen, your iPhone will automatically get its signal from the station there; when you move to the bedroom, your iPhone will seamlessly switch to the station there.

We sell the Eero mesh network and there are also similar systems from Google, DLink and others. Eero is very easy to set up with their iPhone app which will walk you through setting up an account and adding nodes around the house. The app monitors your network so you can see what’s happening, check device usage, diagnose and fix issues and even set up parental controls to limit usage, say in your teen’s room. With parental controls you can create an “internet pause” or just shut the whole thing down. Just like with the AirPort Extreme you can also set up a guest network.

While you are awaiting Apple’s HomePod, if you are like me you have Amazon Echo. Eero will also work with Alexa where you can ask Alexa to pause the internet or find your iPhone.

Mesh networking is the way to go if you are updating your network, having problems with coverage or installing a new network. It is probably overkill if you live in a studio apartment but you could still buy just a single unit to take advantage of the ease of set-up and tools for managing your Wi-Fi.

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Summertime Advisories

Summertime is just around the corner, and when Mother Nature decides to cooperate, those hot summer days spent basking in the sunshine are not far off. Living in the information age, naturally we love to take our portable devices with us everywhere we go. How else are your friends going to know you spent your day on the beach sipping margaritas in the sunshine if you don’t bring your phone or tablet and snap of few photos of the occasion?

With this in mind, it’s crucial to be conscious of the effects direct sunlight and excessively high temperatures can have on your electronic devices. iPhones for example are designed to run from 32-95 degrees Fahrenheit. However, prolonged exposure to direct sunlight can raise the temperature to critical levels if left unattended and unprotected for too long. This can cause a number of issues in both the long and short term. Issues ranging from a sharp decrease in overall battery life to permanently damaging the display.

However, if you happen to notice your device is hot to the touch here are some steps you may consider to prevent long term damage:

  • Remove your device from any protective cases
  • Close out of applications you don’t need running
  • Turn off Bluetooth/Wifi
  • Keep it out of excessively warm environments
  • Do NOT put your device in the refrigerator or freezer to counterbalance the temperature issue.

Lets keep those devices cool and dry this summer!

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Where Do I Find My Photos?

Have you ever spent what feels like hours looking for a specific photo? You might remember some foggy details about the photo like where it was taken or who was in the photo, but perhaps you don’t remember when you took that photo. I have definitely logged hours in the last year trying to find a photo I remember partial details of, but can’t locate the actual photo within Photos. I would love to say that I am the super organized photographer, but I am far from that. I do not create albums unless I need to create one for a specific event. I don’t even delete the bad photos on a regular basis. This leaves me to scrolling through literally thousands of photos looking for just the right one. Honestly I’ve just never taken the time to really organize my photos. Thankfully, in some regards there is no need to have an extensive organizational program with a few simple built-in features within Photos. With basic information like who is in the photo, where the photo was taken or even how the photo was taken, you can quickly narrow down your search.

People

By default most photos are simply organized by date. This is helpful for a quick search through photos, but it’s not terribly specific. You might find dates associated with some photos are simply the date it was downloaded to Photos, it might not actually be the date it was taken. Photos has a surprisingly accurate system for facial recognition. It’s located under albums and simply called People. Without having to specifically tag individuals within my Photos I had default faces generically categorized. I also found it interesting that as I looked at the pictures of my kids, they were actually separated by age. Both my kids had a few different sets of photos depending on their age, kind of neat! However it’s not efficient to have multiple categories for one person, so I simply renamed each group according to whomever was featured in the photos and merged to a single group per person. You can easily ‘tag’ people in specific photos by selecting the photo by double clicking, then select the ‘i’ with the circle around it to tag a face. The photo will now be easily found under people and the individual’s name.

Places

For this feature to work you do need to have location services turned on within the camera app on your phone. You can make sure this feature is turned on by going into Settings > Privacy > Location Services. If you select the ‘places’ option under albums a map shows up. The map shows the number of photos in a generic location. For example in my album it showed 483 photos taken in the Florida area. I simply double clicked near the photo in the Florida section of the map and it begins to break down the locations, I ultimately double clicked the state of Florida 3 times and it showed a how many photos and where photos were taken when I was in Florida this winter. Double clicking on the little bubble above a photo with a number it will open all of the photos taken. This is very handy if you know you want to look back for a specific photo taken in a location. Even better, I didn’t have to do anything other than make sure location services were turned on.

Depth Effect, Slow-Mo and More

Another built in organizational feature that requires nothing on your part to organize is how you took the photo. I take a lot of depth-effect photos, so if I want to only look at those pictures I just have to scroll down to Depth Effect under albums. Instantly I can see all of the photos that were taken using this effect. The same goes for Panoramic, Slow-Mo and Selfies. I know I rarely remember how I specifically took a photo or when I might have used an effect such as Slow-Mo, so it’s fun and easy to look up some of these images.

Taking advantage of some already built in organizational features within Photos can really reduce your time and headaches when looking for a specific photo. Even better, you don’t have to spend extended periods of time setting up some more in depth and basic organizational options. A few simple clicks can make your life significantly easier and even better makes you look a lot more organized than you perhaps are.

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Some Philips Hue Lighting Tips

I got back to Vermont and on my list was putting in some HomeKit gear for this house. I chose Philips Hue for lighting because I may want to take it with me to another location which is why Philips might be the choice for those that are renting or transient.

Right now, the best bargain in Philips Hue is the starter kit that includes the hub and two white bulbs. Grace was laughing at me because I also bought some color lights, light strips and other cool Hue gear. But in this article I want to go over the initial set-up of a Hue system and how to group your lights.

First step is to take the hub and connect it to your router. I have an Airport Extreme sitting on a shelf with a growing collection of hubs (Arlo, Kevo and now Philips). Fortunately, I haven’t filled up all the ethernet ports on the Airport Extreme so after running the power cable I just plugged in the ethernet cable to the Airport. The next step is to screw in the light bulbs. In this case, it took a couple of aging hippies to screw in a bulb.

Once you have the bulbs in place make sure they are switched on. Next, download the Philips Hue app from the App Store. Once you have the app, you can have it search for the hub. Once it finds the hub you are set to go. Press the button on the hub and the app will find your newly installed bulbs. You are done and you can use the Hue app to control your lights but what you really want is the Apple Home App and Siri to control them.

One thing to be careful about is naming. I started out naming my lights hallway for the hallway lights but Siri, HomeKit and Hue will be confused if you have two hallways or like me two houses with hallways so Grace and I spent a little time arguing about what the most appropriate name should be. For Siri or for Amazon Echo you want to make these names easily understood and usually one word.

So your lights are now connected and you can dim them and turn them on and off with the Hue. Next, in the settings section of the Hue app activate HomeKit and Siri. This will allow the lights to be controlled by the Home app. Since I also have an Amazon Echo in my house, I also went to the Alexa app and had the Echo also discover the lights. Once this is done you have a lot of control over your automated lights. You can turn them on by asking Siri on your iOS device (or Alexa). If you have set up your Apple TV as a HomeKit hub you can turn the lights on and off remotely, too.

You can also create scenes and automations. Things like having the lights come on at sunset or off at a certain time. You can also use geo-fencing so the lights come on when you arrive home and turn off when you leave. That works great if you live alone but is a bit annoying to your housemates otherwise.

So, I put in five Hue colored lights in our living room which actually used to be the Small Dog offices before we outgrew it. It sort of got the name “west wing” because it was west and no relation to the White House. So, as I was adjusting these lights I found that it was a real pain to have to adjust the color of each light individually. I could tell Siri “Turn west wing lights to purple” and that would work but if I wanted to fine tune the colors I needed to group all the lights together so they act as one light. I could not find out how to do this. I googled, I downloaded 3rd party apps but I really wanted Siri to control them as one.

So, I was up at our S. Burlington store and asked Erich to demo some Smart Home gear in our new Home Automation section. By the way, if you have not been into our S. Burlington store lately you should check out all the cool renovations that were done while I was in Florida. Anyway, as Erich was demoing he casually mentioned grouping. I said “whoa!” and had him show me. The googling was wrong, there IS actually a very easy way to group your Hue accessories if you are using HomeKit.

To group your accessories you simply go to the home screen of HomeKit and press on one of the accessories, i.e. a light. That gives you the control screen for that accessory. You can dim and turn on and off and adjust color for colored lights. There is also a “details” button. Press that button and you have more options including naming the light, assigning it to a room, toggling whether it is included in HomeKit favorites and if you scroll down you can group it. Clicking on “Group with Other Accessories” button will allow you to choose which lights go together. You can then name that group and you are ready to go. Instead of five individual lights, I now have one button for all the west wing lights.

I have a lot of fun setting up Hue lighting and it is very simple and very versatile but thanks to Erich for solving my grouping dilemma!

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