Google+ July 2013 ~ High Tech House Calls

Do Dogs Really Miss Us?

Friday, July 26, 2013

15 ways to improve your iPhone's battery life by Zack Whittaker for Between the Lines

Summary: While the iPhone is booming in popularity, its battery still isn't that good. But by applying

Making the most out of your iPhone's battery

Enterprises and business users love the iPhone because of its back-end management and security features that allow employees to bring their own from home (BYOD) and use it in the workplace. The one thing that lets the device down from full marks is its battery life. Compared to the old business favorite BlackBerry, the iPhone's battery life is far from comparable.

Here are 15 simple things you can do to make your iPhone run that little bit longer.

Turn off auto-brightness
Some, including Apple, believe that the iPhone's "auto-brightness" feature will help conserve battery life by dynamically and automatically increasing or reducing the brightness of the screen, based on how light it is around you. Yet others argue this alone can actually lead to battery draining.

It may not be easy to read your iPhone's screen in direct sunlight, and you may not get the most out of your high-resolution display, but this is about conserving your battery rather than anything else.

The best practice seems to point to disabling the auto-brightness. Go to Settings => Brightness & Wallpaper => then reduce the brightness to 10-25 percent, or whatever feels comfortable.

Disable system Location services
Location services use GPS for location-aware apps and services. While it's useful knowing where you are on Google Maps, what you don't see is what is going on behind the scenes. Ads are being displayed based on your location, traffic data is being downloaded, and your iPhone is always pinging out to see where you are to keep an eye on which time zone you're in. All of these things are unnecessary and churn up your battery life.

Go to Settings => Privacy => Location Services. When On, scroll down to System Services, then uncheck all of these items. When you're not using Location Services, such as GPS, then simply turn it Off.

Disable push email
Push email is very useful for when you're running against the clock. Emails are downloaded automatically and instantly from the server when they arrive, rather than waiting for you to 'send and receive.' But if you don't mind waiting that long, you can reduce the download cycle so your iPhone isn't constantly listening for new email. Instead, it will run a schedule every few minutes that helps in conserving the battery life.

Go to Settings => Mail, Contacts, Calendar => under Fetch New Data set Push to Off  then scroll down and set the 'fetch' schedule to Every 15 minutes so that it runs the 'send and receive' schedule every quarter-hour.

If you need certain email accounts to push email to your device, select Advanced and confirm the setting for each separate account.
a few system tweaks, you can improve your iPhone's battery life considerably.

Disable Wi-Fi, Bluetooth when you're out and aboutWi-Fi and other wireless radios should be disabled when they're not being used as they use a significant amount of battery life. If you are not near or not using a Wi-Fi hotspot, or sending items to other devices using Bluetooth, these can and should be turned off.

Go to Settings => Wi-Fi => set to Off. Also, go to Settings => Bluetooth => set this to Off.

Disable unnecessary push notifications
Applications use notifications to inform you of what's going on in the world, such as new email, text messages, reminders and who is responding to you on social networks. But these notifications turn the iPhone's display on, and often include audio and vibrations.

You can customize when you receive notifications through by going to Settings => Notifications. You can suppress audible and vibration notifications, as well as those that turn on the display so they arrive silently. But these can still be included in the Notification Center so these can be checked when you periodically check your phone.

Reduce auto-lock period
Reducing how long it takes for your iPhone to turn its display off helps conserve the battery life. When the smartphone is put down on a table, for example, it can take a minute or two -- perhaps even longer -- for the display to turn off. This means the display can quietly chip away at the device's battery life while it's not actively being used.

Go to Settings => General => Auto-Lock => set this to 1 Minute or 2 Minutes. The shorter time period, the greater the benefits to your iPhone's battery life.

Disable vibrations
Vibrations are useful to enable, particularly when you're working in loud environments or even very quiet ones, so you can leave your iPhone on silent and receive a buzz in your pocket when a new message or notification has come through. A physical motor spinning in your device causes these vibrations, but this uses precious battery life. These can be limited or disabled altogether.

Go to Settings => Sounds and select whether or not you want to enable vibration when your phone rings, or if you want it enabled while it is set to silent.

Disable 4G (and LTE) connectivity
While 4G is much faster than 3G cellular connectivity, it uses a lot more battery power. Long-term evolution (LTE) uses an entirely different hardware radio and often drains the battery even quicker. When not using high-bandwidth applications, streaming videos, or tethered to a laptop or tablet, disable 4G and LTE connectivity. You'll receive slower (albeit still rather fast) download speeds but it will also help conserve your iPhone's battery throughout the day.

Go to Settings => General => Cellular => Set Enable 4G (or Enable LTE) to Off.

Close unused or dormant apps regularly
 Some iPhone apps don't completely close when they're not longer being used. Instead they lie dormant in the background. When using memory or battery intensive applications, these are still churning up power in the background. It's suggested that when you no longer need to use an app, close it down completely.

On your iPhone in an unlocked state, double-press the Home button => touch and hold any open app until it enters a 'wiggly' state => then tap the red close button on each app that you no longer need. You can then return to your device by pressing the Home button again.

Install a battery-monitoring app
Many Android phones already include a feature that determines which installed (and in-built) apps are using the most battery life, allowing you to close them and conserve power. But iPhones do not contain this feature, leading many to third-party apps to monitor device usage in order to extend the battery life.

There are plenty of applications in the App Store that monitor battery usage, but only a few — such as Battery Doctor — will work out which apps are using the most battery power so you know when to limit their usage.

Be aware of where you put your iPhone
Almost above all else, keep your iPhone and its internal battery within the operating range, so that it doesn't get too hot or too cold. An iPhone will generate heat depending on what it is being used for, so keeping it at a level temperature is important.

The warmer your iPhone gets, the faster the battery will deplete. Sometimes it's better to keep your iPhone out of your pocket and carry it in your bag — carefully to ensure the screen or case doesn't get knocked about or damaged — or even clipped to your belt. Some cases will also result in the device getting warm, so choose your accessories and cases carefully.
Check for iOS updates regularly for unfixable bugs

In some cases, software bugs have led to complaints that battery life decreases quicker than normal. These bugs occasionally work their way into Apple's iOS, the software that runs on iPhones and iPads, but can often be fixed with a software update. Normally, iPhone users are notified automatically when an update is available, and the change log will note if any bugs persist, particularly those relating to battery life.

Adjust human behavior: pick up your phone less!
While it is often tempting to pick up your phone and check to see if there are any messages, notifications, or missed calls, one of the easiest ways of keeping your battery ticking over is to stop picking it up every few minutes. Putting your phone to 'sleep' and 'waking' it up will drain battery life.

Cheat, and buy an external battery
If all else fails and battery life continues to be a problem, consider an external battery pack. Some external batteries will extend the battery life of your iPhone for twice the ordinary length, if not longer. There are some wrap-around cases that clip to your phone and can be activated with a switch, though these will make your iPhone thicker in size and heavier to carry. Others plug into the charging port at the bottom to give your iPhone additional juice.

Why not sign up for my newsletter? We will never sell or sell your email address. Unsubscribe at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the newsletter.
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for our Email Newsletter

For Email Marketing you can trust

Carl Thorne
Expert Computer Consulting 

Seven reasons to buy the new Google Nexus 7 By Matthew Miller for The Mobile Gadgeteer

Yesterday Google announced the new Nexus 7 device that leapfrogs the iPad Mini, for now. I own

The new Nexus 7 comes in 16GB ($229) and 32GB ($269) WiFi models that will be available on 30 July. A LTE model that works on T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon will be available in the future for $349. With my smartphones now all having tethering capability I went for a 32GB WiFi model that you can pre-order at Best Buy now, but am still considering the LTE model too.

Reason #1: I need Android in my life

I use Gmail, Google+, Google Play Movies, Google Maps Navigation, and more Google services on a daily basis and have now integrated their services into my life. I love my HTC One, but as a smartphone reviewer I jump between a lot of mobile operating systems. Having a Nexus 7 gives me a portable, consistent Android companion that helps provide Google services even if I am using a Windows Phone 8 or BlackBerry 10 device for my smartphone needs.

Reason #2: Android OS updates

The new Nexus 7 launches with Android 4.3 and like the previous model and Nexus smartphone line, it will get the next versions of Android first. We will likely see Android 5, aka Key Lime Pie, sometime before the end of 2013 and you can bet the Nexus 7 will get that update.

Reason #3: The price is right
The WiFi only models are $229 and $269, which are more expensive than last year's Nexus 7 offering for a lot more device. When you look at the iPad Mini at $329 and $429 though, the Nexus 7 is attractively priced.

I understand the iPad Mini has a slightly larger display, but the new Nexus 7 blows the iPad display out of the water. You can look at comparable Amazon Kindle Fire HD unit and see they are similar in price, yet the new Nexus 7 offers an optimal Google experience rather than an Amazon one.

Reason #4: 9 hours of HD playback

My daily commute consists of 2 hours of train riding and I can be found on an airplane about once a month. I like renting movies from the Google Play Store and with the 3,950 mAh battery on the new Nexus 7 it looks like I can travel across the country and be covered for entertainment.

Reason #5: High resolution display
The new Nexus 7 comes with a 1920x1200 pixels LCD at 323 ppi, which is a jump from 1290x800 pixels and 216 ppi seen on last year's model. As most of my smartphones now have pixel density like this, my eyes are spoiled by high resolution displays.

The iPad Mini has a 163 ppi display while the iPad 3 that I enjoy using has a 236 ppi display. I can't wait to see the new Nexus 7 display in person next week.
Reason #6: Qi wireless charging
Nokia spoiled me with wireless charging in the Lumia 920 and now I want that in all of my devices. I have three Qi wireless charging pads at home and in the office and find it much more convenient to just set down a device on the pad rather than messing around with a microUSB cable and figuring out which end is up to plug it in.

Reason #7: Stereo speakers

The HTC One is a device that has also spoiled me, with its fantastic BoomSound front facing speaker system. The new Nexus 7 has stereo speakers with Surround Sound powered by Fraunhofer and if it is anything like the amazing sound found on the Chromebook Pixel I will be impressed.

While I use headphones on my commute and airplane, I also often show videos from YouTube and Facebook to my family with my HTC One so having good speakers is important to me as well.
last year's Nexus 7, but just pre-ordered a new 32GB WiFi model at Best Buy yesterday and here are seven reasons I made that decision.

Hands-on with Chromecast, Google's $35 streaming gizmo by Jeremy A. Kaplan

The challenge: Over 200 billion videos are watched online every single month, accounting for much

Google wants to change that, with a new gadget called Chromecast. It’s likely one of the easiest ways you’ll ever find to pump videos, photos and whatever from a cell phone, tablet or laptop onto that ultrahigh-definition HDTV you plunked all that cash down on.

And at just $35, this marvelous Google gizmo is a steal.

The device, essentially a thumb drive with a big head on one end, plugs into a spare HDMI port on your television. The fat end has a Micro-USB slot: Plug the included cable in and link it to one of the USB ports in back of your computer (trust me, you’ve likely got one) and the gadget immediately powers up. It’s not as elegant as I had first hoped -- there’s now some minor cord clutter behind my TV set -- but it's basically idiot-proof.

Beyond that, set up couldn’t be easier. Switch inputs on your TV and you’ll see a screen that walks you through the set-up process, which involves downloading an app to your phone or tablet and pairing it with your TV via your home’s Wi-Fi network, making sure to match the code Chromecast shows you on TV. It couldn’t have taken me more than 5 minutes.

Once you’ve installed the app on your device -- it works on Android and will soon be on iOS, meaning your iPad and iPhone too -- any Chromecast-enabled app can beam videos to your television with the press of an icon. At present, that’s just three apps,Netflix, YouTube, and Google Play, but Google swears other content partners are working on it.

To test it out, I played Danny Boyle’s new film “Trance” from Google Play Movies. Pressing the little Chromecast button in the top-right corner sent a signal to the cloud, which in turn sent a signal down to the dongle behind my TV. The app was responsive, and pressing pause and play on my phone almost instantly affected playback.

Quality on screen was great, although that depends mostly on the content you beaming. If it’s a crummy YouTube video, it’ll look even crummier in high definition on your TV.

Content sources are limited at present. Google clearly wants you to buy movies from Play, rather than from Amazon or Apple or any of the wealth of others out there. But Chromecast is built into a new version of the Chrome browser as well (the version for Macs, PCs and Google's Chromebook Pixel), so you can surf to Hulu or, fire up a video, and beam that to your television.

Because a simple bit of software and your Wi-Fi network are all it takes to control playback, anyone else in the room is essentially holding a remote control. That's right, their smartphone can also control the playback. Say your friend hates the YouTube video you’re playing. (“The Kardashians? Really?”) he can fire up YouTube on his phone and, as long as he’s on your Wi-Fi network, a banner will pop up offering him info on the show and play and pause controls.

In other words, the battle for the remote control just got crazy.

An entire world of other gadgets offer similar functionality to Chromecast, albeit at far greater prices. The Roku 3 streamer costs $100 bucks, for example, but it builds in a vast array of content sources, from Vudu and Hulu and HBO to Pandora and NBC and PBS and Fox News. And MLB. And music.

In addition, the odds are good you’ve already got some or maybe even all of this functionality. Many television sets come with built-in apps for streaming content from those sources, and if not, there’s a good chance your Blu-ray player does. My Sony BD device has a ton of built-in apps, for example.

So do you need Chromecast? Google’s gadget does just one thing, but it does it incredibly easily, and flawlessly well. I found it easier to surf content in the familiar environment of my tablet than to use my clunky TV remote on those built-in apps.

Getting to Hulu content via the Chrome browser feels like jumping through hoops, of course. But the convenience factor was nice at the same time: Simply press beam and your TV will magically turn on and tune to the right channel.

And at just $35, that’s hard to beat.

Why not sign up for my newsletter? We will never sell or sell your email address. Unsubscribe at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the newsletter.
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for our Email Newsletter

For Email Marketing you can trust

Carl Thorne
Expert Computer Consulting 

3 solutions for people who hate Windows 8 by Kim Komando

Q. I really can't stand Windows 8, Kim. I've had my new computer for about three months and I just don't get it. I still haven't figured out how to do half of the things I need to do and the stuff I have figured out makes zero sense to me. I've stuck to using my old Windows Vista desktop to get things done instead. There has to be something I can do to make Windows 8 less of a pain in the keister, right? -

A. I hear you, Lara. Windows 8 has no shortage of annoying layout quirks and confusing new features. I would know; I wrote the book explaining the new stuff you have to learn with Windows 8!

You don't have to tackle this alone, though. Microsoft and independent developers alike have made plenty of tweaks you can add to Windows 8. They don't make it work exactly like Windows 7 or XP, but they work wonders.

Let's explore what these tweaks are. I'm sure we can find something that will make you feel excited about using your new computer, Lara!

There's also a nuclear option you can use to completely get rid of Windows 8. I'll tell you about that too.

1. Give Windows 8.1 a try
Last month, Microsoft issued its big mea culpa to Windows 8 users. It's called Windows 8.1 and it reverses many of the changes that people hated about Windows 8.

It brings back the Start button, gives you the ability to boot to the Desktop and more. It gives you more choices than Windows 8 did. The best part is that it will be a free upgrade when it comes out later this year.

You don't have to wait to see if you like it, though. You can download it and try it out right now. I'll tell you exactly how to do that. Then learn what settings to tweak to make it work like you want.

2. Tweak Windows 8
Sadly, Windows 8.1 might not fix everything you hate about Windows 8. Luckily for you, app developers and programmers are a few steps ahead of Microsoft. If you can think of something you don't like about the operating system, there's probably a cure for it.

Programs like ClassicShell and Start8 are made specifically to make Windows 8 easier for fans of earlier versions of Windows. They bring back the Start menu. And you can relocate your menus back to where you expect them to be.

 If you don't want to do the work yourself, give Pokki a shot. It's a game center for Windows computers, but it changes some of Windows 8's menu options by default. It might make it easier for you to find the stuff you need.

3. Go back to Windows 7
As Windows XP users know, Microsoft likes to let old operating systems linger. XP was released in 2001 and its "End of life" isn't arriving until next year. If you're an XP user, click here to learn how it will affect you.

Sure enough, support for Windows 7 is supposed to last until 2020. Who knows what sort of changes will happen to PCs by then?

Even if you've already bought a Windows 8 machine, you can reverse course to 7 at no charge. You just need a computer with downgrade rights and a Windows 7 CD. Microsoft will help you activate Windows 7 without a fee.

If you don't have a computer with downgrade rights, you can do it yourself. Some online stores are still selling copies of Windows 7. You can buy it, wipe your computer and install it. Of course, that's a lot of work, so I would use that as a last resort.

Short of that, you can add new parts to your older computer to make it feel like new again. I'll help you do that in this must-read tip.
Your last option is to break away from Windows altogether. Here are three alternatives you can choose.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Metro hater's guide to the Windows 8.1 Preview

Summary: Are you a desktop diehard? If you've got no use for the Start screen and Metro-style apps, I have some good news for you. Windows 8.1 has a handful of interface tweaks you can make that will put the Windows desktop back in charge. Here's what you need to do to make the preview work like Windows 7 (almost).
By Ed Bott for The Ed Bott Report | July 23, 2013 -- 02:00 GMT (19:00 PDT) 

In announcing the release of the Windows 8.1 Preview, Microsoft executives said, “We’re listening to feedback.” That’s a polite way of saying they were trying to avoid being splattered by a barrage of rotten tomatoes.

Some of the most vocal complaints—sorry, feedback—came from longtime Windows users who wanted the good parts of Windows 8 without sacrificing the familiar Windows 7 desktop. Responding to that complaint was the impetus behind Microsoft’s decision to restore the Start button in Windows 8.1 to its traditional place at the left side of the taskbar.

The good news: Windows 8.1 has all the user-interface pieces you need to bring the desktop to the foreground and make the Start screen recede far, far into the background.

The bad news: Windows 8.1 doesn’t have a magic “make Metro go away” button. Desktop diehards will need to spend a couple minutes (really, that’s all the time it takes) to tweak the Windows 8.1 Preview into submission.

Here’s what you need to do to make Windows 8.1 as desktop-friendly as possible. Note that all of the features I describe here are new or significantly changed in Windows 8.1 compared to Windows 8.

Step 1: Uninstall unwanted apps.

Your focus is on desktop apps. You have no desire to use any of the 20-plus built-in Metro apps and no plans to download any from the Windows Store. To reduce the chance that you will inadvertently launch one of the built-in apps, uninstall as many as you can. Windows 8.1 allows you to uninstall all of those apps in one operation; that’s a big improvement over Windows 8, which made you uninstall each app separately.

Step 2: Adjust the look of the Start screen.

Windows 8.1 includes an option that allows the Start screen to share the same background as the desktop. Personally, I find that setting somewhat distracting, so I leave it off. Instead, I recommend removing the pattern and adjusting the background color to something neutral. This dialog box isn’t in PC Settings, where you might expect it. Instead, you have to go to the Start screen, click the Settings charm, and then click Personalize.

Step 3: Tweak the Start screen settings to suit your preferences. 

Right-click any empty space on the taskbar and click Properties. That opens up the familiar-looking Taskbar And Navigation Properties dialog box, with a Navigation tab that’s new to Windows 8.1. Options here allow you to bypass the Start screen at sign-in, show the All Apps screen when you click or tap Start, and disable the two hot corners at the top of the screen.  

Step 4: Arrange the Apps screen.

You’ll probably want to avoid the Start screen completely, but you can’t avoid an occasional visit to the Apps view. It replaces the All Programs menu with a full-screen list, organized into groups. You have several sorting and grouping options in Windows 8.1 that aren’t available in Windows 8.

Step 5: Pin your favorite desktop programs to the taskbar.

This is actually one thing Windows 8.1 does better than Windows 7. From the Apps view you can select as many desktop programs as you want and then click Pin to Taskbar from the command bar at the bottom of the screen.

Step 6: Set your default apps.

This is a step a lot of people overlook. By default, Windows 8 sets several common file types to open with Metro-style apps. Windows 8.1 follows in that tradition. You can use the awkward and confusing Default Programs option in the desktop Control Panel. But it’s much, much easier to use the new Defaults option, which you’ll find in PC Settings under Search and Apps.

Don’t forget to change your default browser here. If you use Chrome or Firefox, the desktop version of your preferred browser becomes the default. If you use Internet Explorer, be sure to visit the Internet Options dialog box using the desktop interface. On the Programs tab, under Opening Internet Explorer, choose Always In Internet Explorer On The Desktop, and also check the box beneath that setting.

There, you’re done.

That was probably more complicated than it needs to be, but the end result should be a system that is far more tolerant of your desktop habits, with far less Metro style.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Apple Back to School Offer

Sobering Crash Video Test Between "Older" Car and "New"

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Modern Entrepreneurs Cut Costs with Mobile Offices

By Matthew O'Connell, IDG Creative Lab

In order to thrive, entrepreneurs need to stay determined, agile, and under budget.  When you’re building a business from the ground-up, brick-and-mortar office space can be more of a barrier than a benefit.  There are a lot of overhead costs to maintaining an office, and many entrepreneurs have found that they can do just fine without it.  Some get by with little more than an Intel inspired Ultrabook™ and a solid work ethic, while others require a bit more of a presence.

Mobile offices provide a range of cost-effective alternatives to leasing office space while retaining a lot of the benefits.  The most common ways to step into the mobile office environment are either by using shared office space or a virtual office service.

Shared Office Space

Shared office spaces have been popping up all over the place in recent years, especially in big cities.  You can get anything from a reserved desk to a private office, depending on your needs and budget.  These spaces foster professional atmospheres and usually provide standard amenities like coffee stations and water coolers.  Some shared spaces allow freelancers or individuals of any profession to grab a desk, while others cater to certain industries or companies of a certain level.  With the rising popularity of these spaces, it shouldn’t be difficult to find one that suits you.

Virtual Office Service 

Virtual office providers offer a number of services to support entrepreneurs.  One great benefit is a global network of meeting rooms that can be reserved on a per-meeting basis.  They also provide prestigious downtown mailing addresses with mail forwarding service, local phone numbers that are forwarded to your mobile, and sometimes even a receptionist to take your calls.  This is ideal for the mobile professional who needs a home base without a huge bill.

Whether you’re in a coffee shop, a shared office, or on the road, it’s important to recognize certain precautions and best practices for conducting business in a mobile environment.  Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind:

Secure Your Data

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
Entrepreneurs often don’t have the safeguards, legal teams, and resources that employees at enterprise companies take for granted.  It’s a good idea to get an Ultrabook with fingerprint or facial recognition technology, like the Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon, to help keep your information safe.  That way, if your Ultrabook is misplaced or stolen, a data breach will be much less likely.  It’s also good practice to encrypt your more sensitive data.  While that may seem like a hassle, there are programs that make encryption a much easier and faster process than it used to be.

Use the Cloud

You’ll likely have one main Ultrabook for all of your important tasks.  Don’t bog down the hard drive by storing all of your files and programs there.  Use cloud storage for your data and cloud-based software programs for your software.  That way your computer stays clean, and as an added bonus, you’ve got another layer of security if your Ultrabook falls into the wrong hands.

Timer 2.0.1: Replacement for iPhone Clock App?

Timer 2.0.1 If the iPhone Clock app's single timer is too limited for you, Timer is an elegant, easy-to-use app that lets you configure and customize multiple timers, quickly accessing any of them with a tap.

The iPhone’s stock Clock app is versatile, offering instances of a world clock, an alarm clock, a stopwatch, and a single timer. Unfortunately, each of those features is pretty basic: For example, the timer mode offers just a single timer. 

I don’t know about you, but I often need more than one timer—when I’m cooking, for instance, I need to keep track of multiple dishes, each with its own schedule. Similarly, while I occasionally need a timer with an arbitrary length, more often than not I’m tracking the time of a specific task that I perform regularly: my favorite frozen food in the oven, laundry cycles, intervals at the gym. The Clock app requires me to reconfigure its single timer for each task. 

Timer gives you 15 timers on an iPhone 5. 

If, like me, you find the Clock timer to be too limiting, you’ll want to check out App Cubby’s free Timer (App Store link). This easy-to-use app offers a slew of configurable timers (15 on an iPhone 5 or fifth-generation iPod touch, 12 on older devices) so you always have the right timer for a particular activity—steeping tea, cooking pizza, working out, you name it—at your fingertips. 

For each timer, you can choose either a specific length of time or opt to be prompted for the duration on the fly—on my iPhone, I’ve got nine timers pre-configured, with the remaining six open. Tap any pre-configured timer to start it; tap any ad-hoc timer to be prompted for the time (setting the time automatically starts the timer). 

Tap and hold any timer—pre-configured or open—and you can choose that timer’s alert sound; you can also choose a button color, as well as a text or graphic label. These options make it easy to quickly find the right timer—for example, my frozen pizza timer displays a slice of pizza on its button. You can also give the entire app an alternate skin if you’re not a fan of the stock look. (Though Timer is free, you can purchase, for $1 or $2, UI bundles of themes, sounds, and graphics to further customize the app and timers. If you’re crazy for these add-ons, $10 gets you everything currently available, as well as all future add-ons.) 

While a timer is running, its button “glows” and you see, on the button itself, the timer counting down. You can have as many timers running concurrently as you want, making Timer perfect for cooking. When one finishes, you hear whatever alert sound you’ve configured for that timer; you also see an onscreen alert, and the timer’s button flashes until you tap the button to stop it. 

Timer lets you pre-configure the time, label, color, and alert sound for each alarm.
In a clever “Why don’t they all do this?” touch, Timer’s timers don’t stop at zero. Rather, once a timer reaches zero, it rolls right on through and counts up, so if you missed the alert, you know exactly how long ago the timer ended. My only complaint here is that I wish Timer added a minus (-) sign when counting up to make it even clearer that what you’re seeing is “stoppage time.” 

One other minor complaint is that when an alarm ends, its alert sound plays only once. Granted, the timer’s button continues to flash and, as I noted, the timer counts up, so it’s easy enough to figure out that a timer is done, but if I set my phone down on the kitchen counter and go to the next room, I occasionally miss a timer alert. I’m guessing that App Cubby chose this approach because, with the capability to have up to 15 timers, you could end up with multiple alerts playing over each other, with no way to tell which sound goes with which timer. Still, I wish the timer configuration screen included an option to repeat the alert sound until you stopped the timer. 

Really, my biggest complaint—which is more compliment than criticism—is that I wish there was an iPad version of Timer so that I could use the app on even more of my devices. It’s a flexible and easy-to-use way to track your timed tasks. 

At a Glance
If the iPhone Clock app's single timer is too limited for you, Timer is an elegant, easy-to-use app that lets you configure and customize multiple timers, quickly accessing any of them with a tap.

Make a fake email address to avoid spam by Kim Komando

There are many reasons to create a fake email address. Maybe you want to avoid spam, or want to sign up to play an online game without receiving its newsletters. Or perhaps, you simply don't trust any site with your personal information.

You could create a second email address to give out in these situations. But then that's another inbox to check and manage.

If you've ever dreaded giving out your email address, look no further than MailDrop. It's a site that lets you create a fake, temporary and disposable email address to ensure your personal security.

Better yet, you can make up whatever email address you want to give out. You could be something simple like, or pay homage to your favorite internet sensation - dog and cat beards - with

So, the next time you see "Please enter your email address to continue," put in your new MailDrop address instead of your real one. When the time comes to check that inbox, just enter the address at the top right hand side of the MailDrop page.

It's also important to note that every email address is a public inbox. Anyone who knows your address could check your email. Make sure you don't use MailDrop for any private or sensitive emails.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Switch to Mac: Buying your first Mac

Christopher Breen @BodyofBreen
You’ve thought long and hard about it and have decided to make the switch from your Windows PC to a Mac. The hard part’s over, right? You just traipse down to a promising-looking electronics boutique, slap down your credit card, learn the secret handshake, and you’re a Mac owner.
Not exactly. There are still questions to be answered. Where are Macs sold? Why would you choose one store or another? Should you skip retail stores altogether and purchase the thing online? Is it possible to purchase an older model for less money? And are post-purchase protection plans worth the money? Read on for the answers. 

Where can you buy a Mac?

Unlike some PCs you may have purchased, Macs aren’t sold everywhere. Apple maintains tight control over who can sell its products—increasingly so since the Apple retail stores were launched.
The source: Speaking of Apple retail stores, there are hundreds of them. To find the one nearest you, visit Apple’s Retail Store page. If you don’t have one within easy driving distance, you can shop for your Mac at Apple’s online store.
Third-party retailers: Apple isn’t your only choice. You can buy a Mac in person at a Best Buy store and online at such retailers as Amazon.comMacConnection, and MacMall. Also, Apple has established a network of Apple Authorized Dealers. These are stores that are granted permission to sell and service Apple products. Unlike Apple’s own stores, which rarely offer discounts, third-party retailers will sometimes sell Macs for less, though you’ll never find them offered at a steep discount.
Government and educational discounts: Apple does offer discounts for government agencies, military personnel, and educational use. And the company usually offers a “Back to School” deal where you can get something like a free iPod touch when you purchase a new Mac. (These deals are usually offered in the late spring or early summer.) 

If you’re a student, a school’s faculty or staff member, or a parent of a college-bound student, you may quality for Apple’s education pricing. 

Is it better to buy directly from Apple?
Like any smart retailer, Apple wants the lion’s share of the profit when selling a Mac, and so it provides itself perks that it doesn’t share with other retailers. To begin with, when you order online, you can custom configure your Mac—add more memory or storage, for example, or upgrade the processor. You can also choose to sign up for Apple’s One to One service, where for $99 a year (extendable to three years total), Apple will not only transfer data from an old Mac, but also offer training on a drop-in basis at an Apple retail store. 

Shop at the online Apple Store, and you can customize your Mac’s configuration.
Apple sells refurbished models for a discount (more about this later), which is something other retailers can’t do. And Apple performs many repairs and replacements on-site, whereas Apple authorized retailers often have to return problem products to Apple for exchange or repair. 

The third-party advantage: Apple doesn’t hold all the cards, however. When purchasing a Mac from Apple’s online store, Apple will charge state sales tax where applicable. Some other online retailers don’t (though you may still owe money to the tax collector). These retailers offer the same warranty that Apple does. Additionally, some physical stores with “Apple authorized retailer” status will migrate data from one Mac to another for free. In a small store, it’s easier to establish a personal relationship with the owner and employees. And those people aren’t limited to telling you only what Apple wants you to hear. They often have advice for working around issues that Apple employees can’t discuss.
What about refurbished Macs?
Because all returned Macs eventually make their way to Apple, the company has the ability to repair and restore returned units. These weren’t necessarily broken computers—Macs are returned for a variety of reasons. Regardless of the state the Mac was originally in, it’s brought up to like-new condition, equipped with the same warranty as a new Mac, and priced, on average, a few hundred dollars less. Some refurbs are of current models, while others may be of the previous generation or two. You can find Apple’s refurbs on the Apple site. 

Is an AppleCare extended warranty worth it?

With the purchase of an Apple product, the company offers a one-year limited warranty and 90 days of free telephone support. AppleCare is an add-on service and support plan that extends the coverage on your Apple product. 

What it covers: For Macs and Apple displays, this coverage extends to three years total from the original purchase date. For iOS devices and Apple TVs, coverage is extended to two years from purchase. If you purchase an Apple display at the same time that you buy your Mac, AppleCare coverage for the Mac also covers the display. 

The coverage includes phone support for the length of the plan, carry-in service to Apple retail stores and authorized service providers, drop off at UPS stores in the United States for iPods and iPhones, direct mail-in service, on-site service for desktop computers, and parts delivered to you for things that can be easily replaced (new cables or input devices that were bundled with your purchase, for example). During the coverage period, repairs are done for free except in instances when it’s clear the problem was caused by user negligence. (Hint: iPhones that are stored in back pockets plus restrooms can be a dangerous combination.) 

What it costs: The price of AppleCare depends on the device for which you purchase coverage. For example, AppleCare for a Mac mini is $149, an iMac’s coverage costs $169, a 13-inch Retina display MacBook Pro or MacBook Air is $249, and a 15-inch Retina display MacBook Pro is $349. 

Whether AppleCare is worth it depends, of course, on whether your Apple product has serious problems during the coverage period. If it operates trouble-free during that time you may feel like you’ve thrown away your money. However, if a display goes bad or a motherboard gives up the ghost, you’ll be thrilled to be covered when you learn that you’d otherwise pay three times the price of an AppleCare plan for the repair. 

When it’s definitely worth it: A reasonable rule of thumb is that if your Mac has a built-in display (a laptop or iMac), it’s worth paying for AppleCare, as repairing a display is never an inexpensive proposition. AppleCare for an iOS device is a tougher sell, as problems with those devices usually surface within the first six months, though the AppleCare+ plans that cover such devices include coverage for two “accidental damage due to handling” incidents. If you drop your device and shatter its screen, for example, you can have it replaced for $49 plus applicable tax. 

There’s a reason many Apple users’ eyes have a slightly fanatical glint. Apple makes great stuff that’s fun and easy to use. It's hard to not be enthusiastic about a new Mac. Now that you know where to get yours (and how to protect it should something bad happen), welcome in. The water's fine.

Passwords aren’t dying any time soon. Here's how to manage them effectively.

Tony Bradley @bradleystrategy 

It’s tough to keep track of all of your passwords. In spite of advances in biometrics, and increased attention on the value of two-factor authentication, passwords remain the primary means of digital security. They're also one of the weakest links in the security chain. If we can’t get rid of passwords, we need a better way to manage them. 

Remember when passwords were going to die out? Bill Gates told an audience, "There is no doubt that over time, people are going to rely less and less on passwords. People use the same password on different systems, they write them down and they just don't meet the challenge for anything you really want to secure." 

That was in early 2004. Nearly a decade later we still rely heavily on passwords, and passwords still suffer from all of the same weaknesses Gates described. 

I used to be guilty of recycling the same password across virtually every account as well. The sites and services I use broke me of the habit because the password policies are so different from one to the next that it became very difficult to even find a password that meets the requirements of all of them. 

Fair enough. It’s a horrible policy anyway. Security best practice suggests you should use different passwords for different sites. Just as you don’t use the same key for your front door, car, bike lock, and safety deposit box, you don’t want to have the same password “unlock” all of your information. If one site or service is compromised and an attacker gets access to your password, you don’t want it to be a universal key to your entire online identity. 

Passwords are literally the keys to your online world. 

Apple recently unveiled details of the new Mac OS X, “Mavericks.” It is available only to developers right now, but one of the features Apple is adding is designed to help you choose more secure passwords, and manage them effectively without writing it on a sticky note pasted on the front of your monitor. 

iCloud Keychain basically takes the password storage and management features of the existing Keychain feature and moves them to iCloud, where they can be accessed by and synced across iOS devices as well. The Mac OS X system running “Mavericks,” and any iOS devices with the upcoming iOS 7 will be able to auto-fill complex passwords from the iCloud Keychain.

That’s awesome for users who live and die by the Apple ecosystem, but it won’t work for someone using a Windows PC with an iPhone, or someone using a MacBook Pro with an Android smartphone—at least not yet. It’s a good solution, but an Apple-centric one. 

PasswordBox is a new service that functions much like iCloud Keychain, except that it works cross-platform. PasswordBox is available on Mac OS X and Windows, and it’s available for iPhone, iPad, and Android mobile devices. 

Like iCloud Keychain, PasswordBox stores passwords in the cloud using strong encryption to protect them from unauthorized access. When you need to log in, PasswordBox automatically retrieves the appropriate credentials. PasswordBox is free (for managing up to 25 passwords) and provides tools that let you share your credentials with family or friends—should they need the information if something happens to you—without directly revealing your passwords. 

There are other services out there like 1Password, and LastPass that let you manage secure passwords more effectively. There is some concern about storing the keys to your digital life in the cloud—but it’s probably more secure than writing it down on a piece of paper and shoving it in your desk drawer, and it gives you access to your passwords any time and anywhere, from just about any device.
Despite Bill Gates’ prognostication, passwords don’t seem to be going away just yet. Make sure you choose secure ones, and find a tool that lets you remember and use them more easily.

Our top five Dropbox tricks

Macworld Staff @macworld
(This article is Mac OS specific)

If you asked Macworld editors to name the technologies they can't live without, you’d inevitably hear about Dropbox. This file-synchronization service lets you access your files from anywhere—not just your Mac, iPad, and iPhone, but also any Web browser. It provides easy cloud-based backup, too. But all that’s just the beginning. Here are five of our favorite ways to use it: 

1. Share big files

Anyone who passes around photos, videos, or other big files has most certainly discovered the puny file-size limits of most email servers. Dropbox can help. First, make sure you’re running the very latest version of the app by downloading it from Dropbox’s website. Then, in the Finder, find a file in your Dropbox folder, and Control-click, right-click, or two-finger-click it. In the contextual menu that appears, select Share Dropbox Link. (In older versions of Dropbox, choose Dropbox -> Share Dropbox Link.) Select this option to copy a shareable URL for the file in question to your clipboard, ready for pasting into an email message or a chat window. Recipients don’t even need a Dropbox account to use links. There’s no quicker way to share large files.—Lex Friedman
To share a big file, just Control-click an item in your Dropbox folder and choose Share Dropbox Link (circled) from the contextual menu. 

2. Synchronize app settings across Macs

If you maintain more than one Mac, you know the annoyance of setting up the same app again and again to work just the way you like it. That’s where Dropbox can help. Store an app's preferences in Dropbox, and as you make changes to settings on one computer, those settings also get updated on your other computers. Not all apps let you store preferences in Dropbox, but some notable ones do, including AgileBits’ $50 1Password, Running With Crayons’ free Alfred with the £15 Powerpack add-on (about $23), Bare Bones Software’s $50 BBEdit, and Smile’s $35 TextExpander. Once you get used to it, you’ll wonder why more apps don’t support this great feature.—Dan Moren
3. Share a folder

Need to collaborate with a group of people who use Macs and PCs? Dropbox offers an easy way—the shared folder. First you need everyone to sign up for a free account at Then, in the Finder, Control-click (or right-click) on a folder inside your Dropbox folder. In the contextual menu that appears, choose Share This Folder. (In older versions, choose Dropbox > Share This Folder.) Your browser will open to, and a window will prompt you to type in the group members’ email addresses along with a short message for them. Once this is done, the group can add, delete, and edit files in the folder, and the files will stay synced. Since you can access Dropbox through a browser, group members don’t need to download any software to participate.—Scholle Sawyer McFarland
You can see all your shared folders by clicking the Sharing link (shown on the left) at 

4. Compile a photo album of an event

Lots of people upload pictures to Facebook or other services, but not everybody’s Web savvy. For example, at a relative’s recent 50th wedding anniversary, plenty of folks were snapping pictures, but they weren’t sure how to share all of them. My solution? I used the free service Send to Dropbox to create an email address where people could send photos, which I collected into a folder. Then I sent everyone a link to that folder. Easy peasy, and everybody with an email address and Web browser can take part, without having to install any software.—Dan Moren
Need to collect photos from a group of people? The free ‘Send to Dropbox’ service lets them email their images directly to your Dropbox folder. 

5. Resurrect previous file versions with Dropbox

Have you ever accidentally deleted an important file from your Dropbox folder, or pressed Save and immediately regretted it? Then you’ll be glad to know that Dropbox automatically saves versions of your files from the last 30 days, letting you roll the clock back to an earlier version, or even restore a completely deleted file. 

To find earlier versions of files, Control-click (or right-click) on one in your Dropbox folder in the Finder and select View Previous Versions. (In older versions, select Dropbox > View Previous Versions.) Or if you’re viewing your Dropbox folder on the Web, choose Previous versions from the contextual menu. You’ll see a list of numbered versions in reverse chronological order. Dropbox includes other useful information, too: who edited the file, the device on which that editing was done, the date the snapshot was made, and the file size. You can see the contents of any version by clicking its name (Version 44, for example). When you find the one you want, select the radio box next to it and click Restore at the bottom of the screen. 

Dropbox automatically saves versions of your files from the last 30 days. Select one and click the Restore button to roll back the clock. 

If you want to resurrect a deleted file, the process is slightly different. Visit your folder on the Dropbox website and click the trash-can icon immediately to the left of the search box. This toggles between showing and hiding all deleted files. Deleted files and folders appear in gray and with the Kind deleted file, deleted document, deleted folder, and so on. To bring back a file, click it and find the version you want. Then select that version and restore it. 

If you end up using this feature a lot, consider signing up for Dropbox’s $39-per-year Packrat service. It saves unlimited undo history and is available for Dropbox Pro and Dropbox Business users.—Jonathan Seff

How to get started with AirPlay

Dan Frakes @danfrakes 

AirPlay (formerly called AirTunes) is Apple’s technology for streaming media over a local (usually in-home) network. It lets you stream audio from any Mac or iOS device to any AirPlay-enabled audio system, or video from a Mac (of recent vintage) or an iOS device to an Apple TV (also of recent vintage). 

AirPlay works over any modern ethernet or Wi-Fi network (for video over Wi-Fi, that ideally means a fast network using 802.11n technology). The sending and receiving devices also need to be compatible with AirPlay. 

How you set up and use AirPlay depends on the devices involved and on whether you’re streaming audio or video. Here’s how you can get up and running. 

(Note that these instructions assume AirPlay and your local network are working correctly. If not, Apple provides AirPlay troubleshooting information). 

The basics

At its simplest, AirPlay is a convenient way to get audio from your Mac or iOS device to a speaker across the room—or across the house.
Though most people think of AirPlay as a wireless technology, you can also stream audio over a wired network, or between wired and wireless devices—for example, from an iPhone to an ethernet-connected AirPlay receiver. But AirPlay is also a relatively inexpensive way to set up a whole-home audio system—at least when compared with a custom-installed setup or something like a multiroom Sonos system. 

Compared with Bluetooth‚ the much more common approach to wireless-audio streaming‚ AirPlay has a number of advantages. For starters, Bluetooth uses lossy compression, while AirPlay is lossless, so, assuming that you’re streaming high-quality audio to begin with, AirPlay offers better sound quality. And while Bluetooth audio streaming is limited to devices no more than about 30 meters apart, AirPlay lets you stream from as far away as your Wi-Fi or wired network can reach. Finally, while Bluetooth allows you to stream to only a single Bluetooth receiver, AirPlay lets you stream audio to multiple speakers or receivers simultaneously. 

Compared with Bluetooth‚ the much more common approach to wireless-audio streaming‚ AirPlay has a number of advantages 

AirPlay does have a couple drawbacks: For one thing, streaming is limited to Macs and iOS devices—very few non-Apple devices can transmit over AirPlay (at least not without employing third-party software or hacks); and for another, AirPlay gear tends to be more expensive than the Bluetooth counterparts. 

Audio options

Streaming audio over AirPlay requires a Mac or an iOS device on one end, and an AirPlay-compatible receiver on the other. The simplest AirPlay receiver is a dedicated AirPlay-enabled speaker system. These speakers have network capabilities—usually Wi-Fi and ethernet—built in, along with special circuitry that allows the speakers to receive AirPlay-audio signals. Similarly, some recent home-theater receivers have AirPlay built in. 

Alternatively, you can use Apple’s AirPort Express as an AirPlay receiver. The Express will take any AirPlay signal it receives and send that audio through the unit’s output jack‚ and, from there, to any speaker system or other audio component connected to that jack. (The Express can output either an analog- or digital-audio signal.) For example, you can connect a set of powered computer speakers or studio monitors directly to an AirPort Express. 

Another possibility is to connect an Express to your existing stereo system; you can even build your own AirPlay audio system using a compact amplifier or an amp/digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and a set of unpowered speakers. 

Finally, if you already have an Apple TV (second generation or later) hooked up to your home-entertainment system, that Apple TV can serve double-duty as an AirPlay-audio receiver. One caveat, though: The Apple TV can output only a digital audio signal. 

Make the audio connection

Before you can stream audio to an AirPlay destination, you must configure your AirPlay receiver. How you do so depends on the kind of receiver you have. 

AirPlay-enabled speaker system: Most dedicated AirPlay speakers are easy to set up. Often, you just connect an iOS device to the speaker via a USB cable, and then use a dedicated iOS app to configure the speaker to join your local network. Other models create their own Wi-Fi network; you join that network on your iOS device or computer, connect to a built-in Web server on the speaker, and then reconfigure the speaker to join your network. In either case, the speaker will come with a setup guide for performing this procedure. (During this process, you can also—and probably should—give the speaker a useful name, such as Kitchen Speaker; this name is how you’ll identify the speaker when using other devices on the network.) 

AirPort Express Configuring an AirPort Express as an AirPlay receiver is a bit more involved, but it’s still fairly easy. If the Express is already a part of your network, you launch AirPort Utility, select the Express, and click Edit. Next, click the AirPlay tab, check the Enable AirPlay box, give the Express a useful name, and then click Update. 

In the AirPort Utility, clicking Enable AirPlay configures an AirPort Express to act as an AirPlay receiver. 

If you’re setting up a new Express unit, you’ll first need to follow the setup wizard to configure the Express to join (or extend) your existing network, and then you’ll perform the same steps for enabling AirPlay. 

In either case, you can also enable a password so that anyone who wants to stream audio to the AirPort Express must provide that password. If your AirPort Express is on a network accessible by other people, a password is a wise idea. Once you’ve set up the Express, you’ll then need to connect it to your audio system using an analog- or a digital-audio cable.
Apple TV See “Streaming video,” below. 

Streaming audio

To stream audio, you should first turn on your audio system and make sure it’s set to the correct input (if it has more than one). Your next steps will then depend on the type of transmitting device. 

iOS: Apps with AirPlay controls: Under iOS 4.3 or later, apps can provide an AirPlay-selection control right in the app. This button, which looks like the AirPlay icon, is usually found next to the app’s volume-level slider. When you tap the button, you’ll see a list of all AirPlay receivers on your local network; tap one of those receivers, and after a few seconds of connection time, the app’s audio will begin playing through your AirPlay speakers. Note that when streaming audio from an iOS app, you can choose only a single AirPlay destination at any one time.
This iPhone screen shows a list of speakers and devices on the local network configured to receive AirPlay audio. 

iOS: Other apps and systemwide audio: Some apps don’t provide an AirPlay-selection control; or perhaps you want to stream all of your iOS device’s audio, regardless of the app. In this case, you can take advantage of iOS’s systemwide AirPlay control. Double-press the Home button to access the task switcher, and then swipe to the right until you reach the volume slider; next to the slider is the standard AirPlay button. Tap it, and then tap the desired AirPlay destination. 

Mac: iTunes audio: To stream your iTunes music, simply click the AirPlay button near the top left of the iTunes window (next to the volume slider), and then choose the desired AirPort destination. To send audio to multiple AirPlay-equipped devices simultaneously, click Multiple and then select the speakers you want to stream to; you can control the volume level of each speaker independently in this menu. 

Mac: Streaming all audio: If you want to stream all of your Mac’s audio‚ not just iTunes‚ to a single AirPlay destination, open the Sound pane of System Preferences, switch to the Output screen, and then select your AirPlay destination in the list; after a few seconds, audio should stop playing through your Mac and start playing over AirPlay. 

(Alternatively, you can press Option and click the systemwide volume icon in your Mac’s menu bar. This will reveal a list of output and input options; you can choose your AirPlay destination under Output Device.) 

A couple caveats here: First, because of slight transmission delays, you may find that audio and video are out of sync if you’re watching video on your Mac while listening to the audio for that video over AirPlay. Second, whenever your Mac isn’t actively streaming audio, the AirPlay connection sleeps; once you start streaming audio again, it can take a few seconds to reconnect.
Airfoil for Mac lets you stream audio from any individual app. 

Mac: Other individual apps If you want to stream audio from an app other than iTunes—say, an Internet-radio broadcast you’re listening to in Safari—but you don’t want to stream all your Mac’s audio, you’ll need to turn to third-party software. Rogue Amoeba’s $25 Airfoil for Mac lets you choose any currently running app on your Mac; that app’s audio is then streamed to the AirPlay destination(s) of your choosing. The included Airfoil Video Player even allows you to stream a video’s audio while keeping that audio in sync with the video playing on your Mac. 

Video options and setup

If you have a recent Apple TV, you can also stream video over AirPlay from a recent Mac or iOS device. Specifically, you need a second- or third-generation Apple TV (one of the small, black models). However, the requirements for your Mac or iOS device differ depending on the type of video streaming you’re doing—I cover these requirements in "Streaming video," below. 

To enable AirPlay (for video or audio) on your Apple TV, navigate to the Settings screen, select AirPlay, and then make sure that the AirPlay is set to On. To prevent just anyone from hijacking your Apple TV, you can choose between an onscreen code (which means that anyone who wants to stream to your Apple TV must first enter a code that appears on the TV screen) or a traditional password.
If you’d like to give your Apple TV a descriptive name, go back to the main Settings screen, select General, and then select Name. Choose one of the default names, or choose Custom to enter a custom name. 

Streaming video 

When you want to stream video to your TV, you should first turn on your television and make sure it’s set to the appropriate input for your Apple TV. Then use the procedure below that corresponds to your video source. 

iOS: Video from individual apps Many video-oriented apps, such as Netflix, YouTube, and Apple’s own Videos app, allow you to send the app’s video to an Apple TV. While a video is playing, just tap the AirPlay button (usually located next to the playback controls) and choose your Apple TV. 

Alternatively, on any iOS device that supports AirPlay mirroring (see the next item), some apps—higher-end racing apps are a good example—can use AirPlay to display primary video on your TV while showing a secondary screen on your iOS device. Many of these games have an option in the app’s settings screen to enable AirPlay. 

Whichever method the app uses, switching to your iOS device’s Home screen or to another app usually stops streaming. 

iOS: Mirroring the device’s screen: If you have an iPhone 4S or later, an iPad 2 or later (including the iPad mini), or an iPod touch (fifth generation or later)‚ and you’re running at least iOS 5‚ you can instead mirror your device’s screen on your TV using AirPlay. When mirroring, everything you see on the device’s screen will appear on your TV, including the Home screen and any apps you’re using. This feature is more useful when your iOS device is in landscape orientation, as a landscape-orientation screen is a better match for today’s widescreen TVs. 

To enable mirroring on an eligible iOS device, you double-press the Home button to access the iOS task switcher, then swipe to the right until you see the AirPlay button next to the volume slider. Tap the button, choose the desired Apple TV, and, finally, switch the Mirroring option to On. 

Enabling AirPlay mirroring on an iPad 

Mac: Streaming video from iTunes Most Macs that can run iTunes 10.2 or later support streaming iTunes-hosted video to an Apple TV. Just click the AirPlay button (in the upper left corner of the iTunes window, adjacent to the volume slider), and then choose the desired Apple TV. Now any video you play in iTunes will be shown on your TV instead of on your Mac; if a video is already playing in iTunes when you enable AirPlay, the video will stop playing in iTunes and, after a few-second delay, start playing on your TV. 

Mac: Streaming video outside iTunes If you want to stream non-iTunes video—say, movies in formats that iTunes doesn’t support, or videos you don’t want to add to your iTunes Library—you have two options: video mirroring (see the next item) or third-party utilities. Beamer ($15) is a good option for the latter. When you launch Beamer, it asks you to choose which Apple TV to stream to; then you drop any supported video file (AVI, FLV, M4V, MKV, MOV, MP4, WMV, or VOB files) onto Beamer to begin streaming it. 

In addition to letting you stream video that resides outside of iTunes, Beamer is also useful for streaming video from older Macs that officially don’t support AirPlay for video. Beamer even streams subtitles and 5.1 audio. 

OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion's AirPlay-mirroring menu 

Mac: Mirroring the Mac’s display As with recent iOS devices, you can mirror your Mac’s entire display to your TV over AirPlay, provided you’re running OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion on a compatible Mac: a mid-2011 or newer iMac, Mac mini, or MacBook Air; or an early-2011 or newer MacBook Pro. 

On any of these Macs, whenever OS X detects a compatible Apple TV on your local network, a new AirPlay menu appears in the menu bar, and an AirPlay Mirroring pop-up menu appears in the Displays pane of System Preferences. From either menu, choose your Apple TV to start mirroring; while mirroring, the icon for the systemwide AirPlay menu glows blue. 

When mirroring your Mac’s display to an Apple TV, you can choose the resolution of your display‚ and, thus, of the mirrored signal sent to your TV. Choose Best For Display (in System Preferences) or This Mac (from the systemwide AirPlay menu), and your Mac’s display remains at its native resolution. This setting will make for the best appearance on your Mac, though the mirrored image may not fill your TV screen. Choose Best For AirPlay (in System Preferences) or Apple TV (from the AirPlay menu), and your Mac’s display resolution changes to a 16:9 ratio that best matches your TV’s native resolution. This is the way to go when you want to have the sharpest image on your TV.
When mirroring your Mac’s display to an Apple TV, you can choose the resolution that’s the best fit for your Mac or for your TV. 

System Preferences also offers a Scaled option, which lets you choose any non-native resolution that’s supported by your Mac’s display, though this option often results in a blurry image on both your Mac and your TV. 

Don’t have a Mac that supports AirPlay mirroring? AirParrot is a $10 utility that lets you mirror an older Mac’s screen to an Apple TV. On both older and newer Macs, AirParrot also allows you to use your TV as a second display for your Mac. 

Stopping the stream

Whichever type of streaming you’re doing, with whichever device, you can stop streaming by using the same AirPlay control or menu through which you originally started your streaming: Just switch the selected output or destination back to your iOS device or Mac. When mirroring a Mac’s display, just choose Turn Off AirPlay Mirroring (from the systemwide AirPlay menu) or Off (in System Preferences). 

Alternatively, if you’re streaming from a particular app, quitting that app usually stops streaming. Finally, when streaming to an Apple TV, you can usually stop streaming or mirroring by pressing the Menu button on your Apple TV’s remote. 

There is another class of Airplay-compatible output devices: audio and Home Theatre receivers. Several receiver manufacturers including Denon, Marantz, Pioneer, and Yamaha include Airplay compatibility in many of their receivers. 

I've always had a receiver as the heart of my Home Theatre system in my living room. Having Airplay capability in the receiver means that I don't need to use up another connection just to get it.