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#700: Scroll With Momentum, Magnify On The Fly, Extend an AirPort Network, Get LOST


Happy Tuesday,

Well, the world has seen iPad. Reactions are mixed, particularly on the name, but reaction around the offices was overwhelmingly positive. I am pre-ordering as soon as they become available, and can’t wait to get my hands on one.

I’m really not sure how useful it will be to me, but I am very interested to see how this new software ecosystem develops. The device is clearly too large to fit in a pocket and does not support phone calls or multitasking, but it’s a whole new category; we are fortunate to be able to witness its evolution. No one really knows how it’ll turn out.

It’s too bad my mother got a Kindle for Christmas. Something tells me it’s going to end up on eBay!

Thanks for reading, and keep in touch.


  Scroll With Momentum Without a Magic Mouse  

I bought a Magic Mouse last week and absolutely love it. It has good heft, perfect weight distribution, and meaningful tactile and audible feedback; it lacks the side buttons of the Mighty Mouse, which drove me nuts, and there’s no longer a scroll ball to constantly clean.

It brings the useful and elegant scrolling with momentum feature of the iPhone OS to Mac OS X, and the execution is spot-on. Gestures capability just puts it over the top, though I find it difficult to two finger swipe to the right. I particularly love the swiping feature to sift through days in iCal, go back and forward in Safari, and move forward and backward through my inbox.

Scrolling with momentum is available for most all of us running 10.4 or higher, even without a Magic Mouse. I found a utility called Smart Scroll that enables this cool feature and many many others that you’ll soon find it difficult to live without. The software has a fully functional evaluation mode, and is $19 if you choose to keep it.

  Magnify On The Fly  

One of the things that makes the Mac OS intuitive is Apple’s use of universal symbols. Apple also extends these symbols to most of their software titles, creating a cohesive environment. The most common examples are Apple’s use of ‘+’ and ‘-’ symbols for adding and deleting, magnifying glass icon for searching and the gear icon for changes or additional options.

While the use of these universal symbols adds to the usability of the OS, they are sometimes overlooked. The symbol that I find is most commonly overlooked is the magnification slider found in Finder and in iPhoto. Just yesterday a customer emailed support with a screenshot of iPhoto. It appeared that he was looking at single large image, and he was writing because he couldn’t get himself into “thumbnail view” despite having clicked on ‘Photos’. I immediately looked at the lower right of the screenshot and saw that his magnification slider was slid all the way to the right, which is the highest magnification. He was in thumbnail view; his thumbnails had just been blown up to the full window size. By dragging the slider back towards the left, he was able to view the pictures in a more traditional thumbnail size.

This slider can come in pretty handy, though! Not only is it nice to temporarily blow thumbnails up to a more viewable size, or scale them down to a mini-size if you have a ton of photos and want to scroll through them quickly, but it can also easily be used in Finder when viewing a Finder window in icon view.

Try it out! Open a new Finder window by clicking on the smiling blue Mac-face in your dock (or, if you love menus, you can go to the Finder and to File > New Finder Window). Now navigate to a folder with many documents or pictures in it; it’s much more fun with pictures! Get yourself into icon view by selecting the icon that looks like four squares on the top left of the Finder window. You should now see the slider on the bottom right and you can play around by dragging the slider to the left and right and watch your icons grow and shrink.

Being able to resize photos and documents on the fly makes it even easier to find the item you want quickly. If you’re rocking Leopard or Snow Leopard, check out the Quicklook feature (select a document or picture in Finder and press the space bar) which helps fine-tune the process even further. Play around with it and have fun!

  Extending an AirPort Network  

Many of our clients with large houses or outbuildings want to get maximum wireless coverage without running or burying ethernet. Apple’s AirPort Extreme, AirPort Express and Time Capsule devices make excellent wireless signal repeaters to cover large distances. If you have an existing AirPort device, you can add another to extend your network.

First, run Software Update on your Mac, and make sure you have all the available updates. Many updates improve wireless performance and security, so you want to have all of those installed. Then open Applications > Utilities > Airport Utility, and double-click on your current AirPort Extreme, AirPort Express, or Time Capsule, click on the Wireless tab, and check “Allow this network to be extended.”

If you do not already have a password on your network and want your network protected, set the password now before you add any other wireless devices. You should use WPA2 Personal for maximum protection. Once you have saved those settings, the AirPort device has restarted, and you have rejoined the network, you can move on to setting up the next device.

To set up another AirPort device, make sure it is new or unconfigured. If you have an existing device and wish to reset it, you can do a hard reset by holding down the reset button for about five seconds while the device is plugged in. If you have a new AirPort, you will also want to install the updated software that comes with it since AirPort Utility 5.5 is not yet available via Software Update.

Next, open AirPort Utility, and select your new or newly-reset device. Click “continue” and it will walk you through the setup process. When it asks how you want to connect it to the internet, choose “Join an exiting wireless network.” Choose your network from the list, and if necessary, type in the password. Then you should be able to check a checkbox to allow clients to join the extended network. Complete the setup wizard, and let the device restart. If you did it correctly, the AirPort light should be green on the device.

I recommend a central location for your first wireless router, avoiding refrigerators, big chimneys, and any other architectural details that could cause gaps in the network. Try to avoid wireless phones, especially if they operate on the 2.4 or 5.8 gigahertz bands. New DECT 6.0 phones operate on a different frequency than wireless networks, and will not interfere. Before you deploy another AirPort device to extend your network, you should use a laptop to make sure you have good wireless signal in that location; otherwise the next router won’t be able to connect and extend the network.

You should also keep in mind that every device extending your network will halve available bandwidth since network traffic will double. Repeater devices copy everything the extending device does, and vice versa. Adding a third device will again cut throughput in half, so only extend a network as much as you have to. I also recommend using the newest possible AirPort gear for your entire network for their dual-band capability, which lets them operate simultaneously on the 2.4 gigahertz band for older devices and the 5.8 gigahertz band for newer devices. I only use AirPort Express units when wireless music streaming is desired, since they can only operate on one frequency band at a time.

All this aside, the very best way to extend your wireless network is to connect satellite base stations by ethernet, as there is no loss of bandwidth. But that’s a topic for another time!

This is a service Small Dog’s Consulting branch performs often. If you’re in Vermont, you can email to make an appointment.


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