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Keeping Tabs on Friends & Family

Sometimes it’s important for loved ones and friends to know your location. Whether it is for safety reasons or just because you just like knowing where they might be while running errands, iOS 8 and your iPhone make it super-simple. There are two ways to let your friends know where you are at any given time with iOS 8 and an app you use every day: Messages.

Simply launch the Messages app on your iPhone and tap into a conversation or create a new one. Once there, tap on the Details button in the upper right. Once you’re on the Details screen, you can send or share your location with the two blue buttons.

  • Send your location immediately:

Tapping “send my current location” will immediately send a map image with your location pinpointed by a red pin. The location will show up on your friend’s iPhone right away, just like any other photo message.

  • Share your location details with people over a prescribed amount of time:

If you’d like to give your friend rights to see your location over a select period of time, choose “Share My Location”. You’ll be prompted to select from the following options: Share…

1.) for One Hour
2.) Until End of Day
3.) Indefinitely

Once chosen, your friend will have permission to see where you are for that period of time. Now you’ll be able to “bump” into your best friend while out and about. I use this feature when traveling long distances so my hosts know when to expect me without having to send a text saying “be there in 5 min”. Super-easy and no more effort than using your Messages app. Hooray for not needing to install another app!

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Keychain Access, an Essential Tool

I have been doing more onsite installations and lessons down here in Key West. So many times as I start to help a customer we run into the password roadblock. I was at a customer’s home yesterday and needed to set up her email and iCloud account. I asked for the administrator password for her Mac and she went to a little pile of sticky notes and tried to find the right one and the scene was repeated for each password we needed. I then proceeded to show her Keychain Access and I could see the light bulb hovering above her head as she understood the value of this app from Apple.

Mac OS X supports what are known as keychains: secure storage lockers for certificates, passwords, or any small bits of information to be kept private. The primary purpose of a keychain is to remember passwords for various applications and accounts such as mail and ftp servers, web sites, or encrypted disk images. The basic idea is that a single password, the keychain password, is used to unlock access to all passwords stored in that keychain.

I keep Keychain Access in my dock and use it all the time to find passwords, banking information, or secure notes. To find Keychain Access you follow this path: Finder > Applications > Utilities > Keychain Access. I do recommend that once you find it that you drag it to your dock, because once you start using it, you will wonder how you ever lived without it.

With the advent of iCloud and OS X 10.9 Mavericks, Apple made Keychain even more valuable as iCloud Keychain lets you share your Keychain in the iCloud so you can access it from all of your devices. I wish there was an app like Keychain Access on your iOS devices but still, it is awful handy to have your device automatically remember your password for websites, etc.

When you launch Keychain Access you will see that the window is divided into three panes. The top-left pane lists keychains accessible to you. Below this is the Category pane. Here you can choose to view specific kinds of things stored in the keychain: passwords, secure notes, certificates associated with your account, encryption keys, and certificates used by your Mac. The largest pane, to the right, displays the contents of selected category items—for example, all of the items that have a password associated with them. Except in the case of certificates, you can double-click on one of these items to open a window where you can view the item’s attributes: name, kind, associated account, location (a website or network address), as well as its access control.

Keychain Access can do a lot of useful things. For example, if you’ve forgotten a password and would like to recover it, Keychain Access is the place to go. To learn the identity of a password, select All Items or Passwords in the Category pane, then find the the item you want the password for and double-click it. In the resulting window, enable the Show Password option. You will be prompted for the password for the login keychain which is either your login password or the administrator password (which will be the same if you are an admin user on your machine). Enter that and click Allow, and the password will be revealed in the Password field.

I have just scratched the surface of this great utility, perhaps we will go into some more technical detail in our sister eNewsletter, Tech Tails or in a future issue of Kibbles & Bytes. But if you are not using Keychain to its full potential, I suggest dragging it to your dock and checking it out!

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App Review: Tetris Blitz

2014 marks the 30th anniversary of the most important technological development of all time: Tetris. There are probably many of you out there that will insist that the Macintosh computer was the most important tech release of 1984, and I will grant that it is a close second, but I am still standing behind the classic tile-matching puzzle video game.

For those of you who don’t know, Tetris is a very simple game in which any of seven different blocks, which are every possible combination of four smaller square blocks that have adjoining sides, fall from above and your job is to move them side-to-side and/or rotate them in order to complete horizontal lines which disappear when completed. The ultimate move is to leave only one vertical line incomplete and drop the “line” piece in to complete four horizontal lines at once. This is a Tetris and you will be rewarded with big points, flashing graphics, sound effects, and the satisfaction of a job well done.

Tetris was originally developed by Alexey Pajitnov in the Soviet Union, and was the first video game exported from the USSR to the US. Its popularity skyrocketed when a version was released for the Nintendo GameBoy in 1989, and versions have since been released for just about every console, operating system, personal electronic device, and has even been played by using the windows in a large building as the blocks.

While the 8-bit NES version will always be my favorite, I have been playing a new version on my iPhone: Tetris Blitz by Electronic Arts. This version takes the classic gameplay and condenses it into a two-minute speed round in which the goal is to score maximum points. They have added a number of power-up blocks which trigger different actions, such as lasers that burn up several lines for you or masses of blocks that drop all at once. You can play in single player mode, head-to-head against strangers or your Facebook friends, as well as in special tournaments which often have different rules or game mechanics for added variety. This app is free, but employs what has come to be known as the freemium model, which means that there are a fair number of in-app ads and in-app purchases that are available. If you can learn to ignore these, this app is a fun addition to the Tetris family and only wastes uses two minutes at a time.

The best part? Tetris is good for you! According to research, playing half-an-hour a day for three months boosts general cognitive functions such as critical thinking, reasoning, language and processing and increases cerebral cortex thickness. It has also been shown to be a potential therapy for preventing PTSD as well as a way to help quit smoking. See here for more information.

Download Tetris Blitz for iOS FREE here!

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Apps For Valentine's Day

Every year after one of the most masculine days of the year (Super Bowl Sunday), we have Valentine’s Day to maintain balance in the world. That’s right it’s that time of year again. If you’re an extremely prepared individual, you most likely have every aspect planned out for a extraordinarily romantic Valentine’s Day. However, if you are like many of us, you just realized you still have nothing planned: no card, flowers, dinner reservations… Keep reading, because we are here to help! You’re just a few taps and swipes away from making it look like you spent months putting together the perfect day.

Here are just a few apps to get you thinking about the upcoming celebration.

1. Red Stamp – FREE

Email, text, tweet, post to Facebook and Instagram, or go old school and mail personalized paper photo cards or notes right from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. The perfect way to say “I’m thinking of you this Valentine’s Day.” Red Stamp is packed with hundreds of modern artistic designs to set your Valentine’s Day card above the rest!

2. OpenTable – FREE

It’s mid-afternoon on Valentine’s Day and your date asks you where the two of you are going for dinner. You reply that it’s a surprise, and it is. The problem is, it’s a surprise to you too since you forgot to make reservations. See what local favorites are still serving and save yourself a seat with OpenTable.

3. Vivino – FREE

Impress your date with how much you know about wine and find the perfect complement to your home cooked meal. Vivino uses your phone’s camera to help you research wines while you’re at the grocery store wine aisle.

4 Yummly – FREE

A recipe discovery app that allows you to filter recipes by the ingredients you have on hand. Because who doesn’t want to come home to a home cooked meal?

5. 8 Tracks – FREE

Get lost in the music! Simply enter any artist, genre, activity, or mood and 8 Tracks will find a playlist just right for the occasion.

6. Match – FREE (offers in-app purchases)

If you’re single and would love to spend the holiday on a first date then it is the perfect time to get on that dating site that your friends keep recommending. There’s no harm in putting yourself out there.

And as always there are many, MANY more apps out there to help you plan a special day. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Black History Month - The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad was a huge network of people who helped fugitive slaves escape to the North and to Canada. It was not run by any single organization or person. Rather, it consisted of many individuals — many whites but predominently black — who knew only of the local efforts to aid fugitives and not of the overall operation. Yet, it effectively moved hundreds of slaves northward each year — according to one estimate, the South lost 100,000 slaves between 1810 and 1850.

An organized system to assist runaway slaves seems to have begun towards the end of the 18th century. In 1786 George Washington complained about how one of his runaway slaves was helped by a “society of Quakers, formed for such purposes.” The system grew, and around 1831 it was dubbed “The Underground Railroad,” after the then emerging steam railroads. The system even used terms used in railroading: the homes and businesses where fugitives would rest and eat were called “stations” and “depots” and were run by “stationmasters,” those who contributed money or goods were “stockholders,” and the “conductor” was responsible for moving fugitives from one station to the next.

For the slave, running away to the North was anything but easy. The first step was to escape from the slaveholder. For many slaves, this meant relying on his or her own resources. Sometimes a “conductor,” posing as a slave, would enter a plantation and then guide the runaways northward. The fugitives would move at night. They would generally travel between 10 and 20 miles to the next station, where they would rest and eat, hiding in barns and other out-of-the-way places. While they waited, a message would be sent to the next station to alert its stationmaster.

The fugitives would also travel by train and boat — conveyances that sometimes had to be paid for. Money was also needed to improve the appearance of the runaways — a black man, woman, or child in tattered clothes would invariably attract suspicious eyes. This money was donated by individuals and also raised by various groups, including vigilance committees.

Vigilance committees sprang up in the larger towns and cities of the North, most prominently in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston. In addition to soliciting money, the organizations provided food, lodging and money, and helped the fugitives settle into a community by helping them find jobs and providing letters of recommendation.

The Underground Railroad had many notable participants, including John Fairfield in Ohio, the son of a slaveholding family, who made many daring rescues, Levi Coffin, a Quaker who assisted more than 3,000 slaves, and Harriet Tubman, who made 19 trips into the South and escorted over 300 slaves to freedom.

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