Our Apple consulting firm needs a full-time IT consultant who is intimately familiar with Mac OS X present and past, Mac-based networking, and other platforms such as Windows (to the extent that’s needed to integrate them with Macs, or to run a virtual machine). Other helpful knowledge will include:
- iOS (applicants should own at least one iOS device)
- iCloud, Dropbox, and other sync engines
- OS X Server
- Google Apps and other cloud solutions
- the usual apps such as MS Office and the iLife suite
- the essentials of DNS, e.g., to configure a zone file on a registrar’s web site
- strategies for on-site and off-site backups
- productivity apps and techniques
- command-line administration
- surprising, clever, and nifty tech — a bit of “Wow, that’s cool.”
Applicants must be friendly, patient, considerate, and groomed.
Must have reliable transportation, mobile internet (smartphone counts), and a phone plan with unlimited texting.
Résumés as PDF or HTML only, please.
I gotta admit, until Apple made their big June presentation, this year had been ho-hum for this nerd. New iPad — yeah, cool, whatever, but wasn’t there supposed to be a whole mess of tablets, each cooler than the next? Meh. Even when they finally shipped, they failed to impress.
Then we got a faceful of geek downers: WikiLeaks persecuted, Sony’s networks disabled, and hacks and security breaches every day. Unfortunately, it’s time for me devote a whole ’nuther couple of newsletters to the darker side of the Internet. I am even gonna beg that everyone either read ’em, or otherwise educate themselves on keeping their data secure.
But I want to do the FUN STUFF FIRST!
<p>Nothing like a good Apple keynote to stir it all back up again. Last month, Jobs and Co. unveiled their next generation software, with good, solid material for iPhone, iPad, and Mac, and even for this new-fangled internet the kids are on about all the time. </p>
For the phone and tablet, we’re getting a bunch of new features in the fall. You can read about all the goodness in iOS 5, but among my favorite bits are quicker camera access, wireless syncing and backups, notifications all grown up, and instantly legible articles in Safari. Bold & italics in email, too… Hey, anyone wanna know how I just did that on my iPad?
There are some hot ’n’ heavy rumors about built-in voice control and voice-to-text transcription. These goodies, as well as turn-by-turn navigation, already distinguish Android from the Apple devices. Perhaps these boons will be bestowed upon the iFaithful this year. Perhaps typing on the iPhone will no longer suck quite so bad.
Perhaps iPhone will come with a flying rainbow gumdrop pony.
One other credible guess is that a new iPhone will hit in time for the holidays. Nerds and analysts predict a refresh of the current phone, with faster “4G” Internet.
By the way, in case this whole “3G/4G” thing has you muddled, you’re not alone. The phone companies have deliberately confused you. Here’s the scoop:
<p>”G” does stand for “generation,” not of the iPhone, but of cell phones in general. It mostly refers to the internet on your phone. </p>
- 1G was the first consumer-affordable cell phone network. Remember the big bricks in the 80’s, with fat rubber antennae and batteries with lives shorter than a ballpark hot dog?
- 2G was the first digital cell network. Think your first cell phone: candybar-size, with a black-and-grey screen. Made phone calls, and we thought it good. This second generation eventually featured the mobile internet. The first iPhone was advanced 2G, featuring slow, but functional, web surfing.
- 3G is where most of us are now. Darn good internet, serving most people’s needs. The second, third, and fourth iPhones have all been 3G.
- The term “4G” is controversial. It actually refers to a specific standard for super-fast wireless internet… that doesn’t actually exist in the real world, at least not in a commercially available form. The cell phone companies, unwilling to wait for this tech to become viable, have instead rolled out networks that are indeed faster than 3G, and called them “4G.” The nerds have moaned and groused, but they don’t got the money, honey.
Make sense? All the other major cell phone manufacturers and carriers have successful 4G [sic] products. The main beef with the current lineup is real sad battery life. I want to guess that this issue prevented Apple from releasing an iPhone in June. If they can get a faster phone, with a faster connection, and uncompromised power supply, they’ll have the competition beat once again.
Credit to Engadget’s primer on the subject.
<p>To date, the iPhone models have been iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3G S (for “speed”), and iPhone 4. Most pundits are guessing at “iPhone 4G.” </p>
If you own an iPhone 4, and don’t find yourself thinking, “Gosh, I wish this was faster,” then perhaps you’d want to wait ’til next year for an upgrade. Owners of older phones might look to the autumn to renew their contract and get a spankin’ new subsidized jobby. And remember, you can always ditch your old phone on sites like Gazelle for a tidy sum.
(Another prediction calls for a 4G iPad this autumn, but I bet against it.)
<h3>The Mac</h3> <p><img src="http://www.downloadatoz.com/resources/201104/26/imgs/os-x-lion-150x150_128x128.jpg" alt="lion logo" title="" align="left" height=15%" hspace="12"/>The Mac operating system is getting a big makeover, too. Mac OS X 10.7 is nicknamed Lion, and I will spare you any feline puns now. You’re welcome. </p> <p>The big new features, coming to Macs in July as a <i>download in the Mac App Store (!)</i> are listed <a href="http://www.apple.com/macosx/whats-new/">here</a>. I am curious to see whether the average Mac user takes to things like full-screen apps and document grouping, but Auto Save, Versions, and Resume rank up with Time Machine and Spotlight as major moves forward: imagine never ever losing work again! Perhaps it won’t be fail-proof at first, but I like to imagine it’ll be close enough to save our collective butt consistently. </p> <p><a href="http://www.apple.com/macosx/whats-new/mission-control.html"><img src="http://images.apple.com/macosx/whats-new/images/gestures_missioncontrol_screen.jpg" alt="Mission Control" title="Mission Control in Lion" height="30%" align="right" style="padding:5px;" /></a>On the geekier hardware side: The latest refreshes of iMacs and Pro laptops feature the new, blazing-fast <a href="http://www.apple.com/thunderbolt/">Thunderbolt</a> data port, and this is big news for the near future of computing. We want to move stuff <em>quick</em> between computer and backup or other storage. Conventional hard drives feel slow, and so does USB, compared to the new solid-state drives (SSD) that started appearing in the first MacBook Air in 2008. SSDs are now common, though still comparatively expensive; Thunderbolt connections will increase demand for faster storage, which will bring prices down. </p>
What this could mean for you: getting hundreds of pictures and videos off your camera in seconds, copying high-def movies to your media jukebox in a snap, and backups happening so quickly you don’t even think about it.
Last I heard, inventory of Mac minis, MacBook Airs, and Mac Pros is dwindling, and I think we are getting ready to see at least new Mac minis with Lion Server and Thunderbolt. I have been holding out for a new media server and a new laptop. I’m saving up!
I also want to state here and now my own most ridiculous prediction: a slim rack-mountable server appliance to replace the Xserve (R.I.P. 2011). I want a solid-state drive to boot quickly, and two 500GB hard drives for data. And I want Windows guys to pee themselves when they see it.
<p>As to when I recommend you upgrade, it’s easiest for me to hold to my <a href="http://j2mac.com/2009/09/so-far-snow-good-10-6-in-brief/">recommendations for prior versions</a>: If you really need to, OK, but if you can hold off until Apple’s goes through a couple of revisions, you’ll increase your chance of a smooth transition. Server owners, especially, should wait at least until 10.7.2 or thereabouts. </p> <h3>The Maybe</h3> <p>The real curiosity in Apple’s presentation was <a href="http://www.apple.com/icloud/what-is.html">iCloud</a>, an online service to succeed MobileMe, and then some. It will cost exactly nothing.</p>
The things iCloud purports to do include:
- sync your contacts, calendar, and other data
- store documents for easy access on any device or computer
- automatically backup any photos taken on the mobile devices to the internet, making them instantly available on all your other devices and computers
- automatically sync anything you purchase in iTunes between devices.
In addition, for $25 a year, we’ll get iTunes Match, which will be a bit of magic I’ve craved for years — the ability to store music I already own so that you can play it anywhere. This will not be limited to stuff I’ve bought through iTunes. Any mp3 or AAC file I have on any computer will either be uploaded to Apple’s servers, or matched against a track already hosted by iTunes.
As I mentioned in this blog post, Apple’s history of online services has been at times spotty, ill-conceived, or poorly implemented. This time, they seem to be serious about learning from their mistakes, and their new giant data center in North Carolina speaks to a new dedication to keeping our stuff safe and accessible. ICloud sounds like a serious, considered utility aimed to solve some very real, very new problems.
That said, “cloud computing” means using all of the online services pertinent to one’s work and lifestyle. Apple mostly creates solutions for individual consumers, and just a few for businesses. Just as MobileMe never became “MobileUs,” iCloud is not intended to be “weCloud,” and the marketplace for online solutions for businesses large and small continues to grow and thrive. Besides the obvious lifestyle applications, I’m totally jazzed to see how businesses can use all this shiny new Apple tech to keep bringing in the bacon. We know we’ll have a good soundtrack while we fry it up.
In a couple of days, I’ll put out two security emails. Please stay tuned!
Before I get to my announcements and tips, I want to tell everyone about some new promotions. We hope you’ll like these new, more affordable ways for you to get Chicken Soup for your Macs.
At the end of 2008, I said I was going to make some improvements to our service. Today, I’m proud to formally announce our new web site at j2mac.com, a place for you to connect to us, and to get information that we hope you find helpful in your computing life.
First, right away, I’m excited to tell you about our new, incredibly handy Schedule page. There, you’ll find up-to-date calendars for me and Erick.
Whenever you want to schedule some time with J2, please call 210.787.2709, or email us at email@example.com. You can pick an available time — a blank spot in one of our calendars — and call or email our new scheduling coordinator, Denise Rangel. When Denise books your appointment, we are able to see it immediately on our iPhones. Denise has freed up a great deal of time for us to concentrate on doing what we do best. Many thanks go to Lynn Gosnell for helping inaugurate this new system.
For me, the most fun and useful part of j2mac.com is the searchable blog, which lets us post commentary on the tech solutions and answers that we employ. Check it out when you have a chance; there are all kinds of tidbits for Mac and iPhone users, and lots to help any surfer get more out of the internet.
We have also begun to create histories of the work we do for you. We keep the documentation online, viewable to anyone in our organization; we also share your sheet with you (and only you), and you can call it up from a web browser any time. I’ll send you a link when we first create your doc.
I recently discovered another powerful online gizmo that I didn’t even know I had: Check out this Client Information Form that folks can fill out online, giving us basic contact information but lots of other things we need to know, such as your internet service provider, current models of computers, etc. We are also going to send out some polls and surveys — check the sidebar to the right of this page for the latest one!
That’s the stuff that you’ll see — what web site designers call the "front end." Behind the scenes, we are using some fantastic online devices that I’ll describe below. They have saved us time, sped up our process, and helped us kept each other informed and up-to-date.
All of these tools are readily available, and easy to set up. But here’s the amazing part: They are all free. 100% of zero dollars. Beyond what I was already paying for my web site hosting, I haven’t had to spend a dime making our working lives more productive and more efficient.
And now, I wanna tell you how.
Better, stronger, faster, and way cheaper
This is a promising time on the internet. As recently as 6 months ago, many of the wishes I have been expressing for years — for easy, affordable services that would let us get to our files and other stuff from any ‘net connection on earth — remained unanswered.
When the second iPhone came out, and Apple promised wireless syncing via the MobileMe service, I hoped that Mac users finally had an alternative to Microsoft’s expensive and complicated Exchange service, with its "push" email, and collaborative address book and calendars.
Email itself has always had drawbacks. It’s inefficient for quick dialogue, and it doesn’t let you involve a whole bunch of people in a town hall-like forum. But instant messaging, through AIM or iChat or what-have-you, feels invasive and annoying to many people.
Oddly, I think we have given up on easy collaboration and sharing of documents. I used to work for a newspaper, and it amazed me how unwieldy the process of editing an article was: getting a document attached to an email, saving it on a server, printing it out so others could read it, emailing the writer back an attachment… That was seven years ago, and most production environments are still doing things that way.
Well, I hate to be maudlin and melodramatic about this, but I’ve gotten my answer, and it is Google Apps.
With Google Apps, the members of my organization can see each other’s calendars, and schedule each other. The appointments show up immediately on our phones. We can email each other address book cards, or look up client contact information online. We can keep client histories as Google Docs, publish them for the appropriate client’s eyes only, and reference them on our phones when the need arises. We can publish spreadsheets so people can calculate, for example, the cost of setting up a small network in their home or office. And those forms I mentioned earlier? Incredibly easy to create in Google Docs, and when someone submits their reply, it automatically sends their answers to a spreadsheet that holds everyone else’s responses as well!
We can even video chat with each other, in a plain ol’ flippin’ web browser!
Google’s new service is either totally free — that’s the flavor we have chosen — or if you need the beefier version of it, with 24/7 tech support and greater storage per user, it costs an extremely reasonable $50/year. Their cost comparison with Microsoft Exchange is enlightening.
In addition, we are taking advantage of a more new-fangled service called Yammer, which enables the three of us to message each other in a running narrative that we can all see. Yammer is based on the idea of Twitter; both are geared toward short messages, and rely heavily on text messaging for posting and receiving updates. This is, for me, an important substitute for email, which is too cumbersome for quick updates while on the go. Yammer’s cost? You know it: $0.
I almost hesitate to mention the phone-number service I am using, because it’s now no longer accepting new sign-ups. I hope that Google re-opens GrandCentral to the public soon.
The new website itself is powered by WordPress, possibly the most accessible and versatile blogging and web publishing system available today. One can publish a WordPress blog for free, or as in our case, it’s a plug-in included with my $4/month GoDaddy web hosting package that I’ve had since the beginning. It took a few days to massage the design into a form I mostly liked, and I took a few months to sit on it, tweak it, and work out the kinks — and I finally feel like it’s a functional extension of this business.
I cannot overstate my gratitude to the guys at Swirl for helping me put a new face on our business — Carlos Zapata gave us a hip new logo, and Jason Risner’s photography makes us look way better than we deserve.
I have posted more information on these services and the way we use them on the blog, here and here. Again, this whole on-the-go, location-agnostic way of working was not possible two or three years ago, certainly not with the minimal effort and expenditure we have spent.
A little learning, a lot of savings
This last year has taught me so much about how to use these new services to communicate with my team, manage my tasks and priorities, stay in touch with my personal and professional relations, and save money in the process.
I know that so many of our clients are paying more than they need to for email and web site solutions that don’t even give them what they need. And I know that many people feel that they aren’t using the technlogy that they’ve invested in to its full advantage.
Let J2 help you, your business, and your household get more for less. Please call us at 210.787.2709 to schedule a consultation.
With gratitude and respect,
Welcome 2009, and welcome to Phase 1 of J2v2!
I’m so very pleased to announce a new appointment-making system up here at J2 HQ. As ofthis Tuesday,Lynn Gosnell has assumed the post of scheduling coordinator. It’s pretty cool that, with some of the amazing web services that have come out in the last couple of years, Lynn — a die-hard Mac fan, as well as writer and editor — can do this from pretty much anywhere — or at least from any internet connection.
Lynn has already made it possible to respond to client inquiries much more quickly than I could by myself. And I have enjoyed putting the mechanisms together to make a complete system. They run something like this:
First of all, GrandCentral (note: see Update below) gives us a permanent phone number (210.787.2709 for your scheduling pleasure). When Lynn wants to take point, she just signs into GrandCentral and points the service at her phone number, and then all calls will go to her. You can even point it at multiple phones, and it will ring in both places simultaneously. We can do custom greetings, custom ringing, spam archiving and blocking… the features are phenomenal.
And guess what? GrandCentral is free! They started out a couple of years ago, got some good press from people like David Pogue, and then the dream of every modern web startup came true: Google bought ‘em.
Yet, while phone is a crucial piece of this puzzle, I think we would all agree that voice calls can take time — valuable time — to accomplish decisions that can be made much more efficiently. To that end, email has become the de facto preference for many of us, and text messaging (SMS) works well for others.
What if we could combine email, a collaborative calendar, and shared documents? Enter Google Apps. With 7+ GB storage per user, built-in IMAP support (a requisite for email on the iPhone), and super-easy asset sharing within one’s domain (e.g. j2mac.com) — and, yes, it’s free — Google has built a digital oasis where once was a desert. I have been floored with how well Google Apps has integrated into my business and into the organizations of our many clients who now benefit from this service.
In Google Calendar, the three of us can add to our respective calendars with ease. Lynn can manage mine and Erick’s calendars. We can each keep personal calendars whose event details are hidden from the others, though the “free/busy” information is available. And I can embed our layered calendars onto this siteso clients can see our upcoming availability. I like that someone can send us an appointment request such as “Ted Stevens, retrieve deleted emails, Thursday, 1pm-4pm” and we can copy and paste that into Google Calendar’s Quick Add field. How sweet it is!
We’re starting to use Google Docs to keep a history of our work for each client. We can see these docs on our iPhones, and anyone is welcome to ask us for a link to their J2 document.
Finally, a more new-fangled service called Yammer has enabled the three of us to message the others in a running narrative. Yammer is based on the idea of Twitter; both are geared toward short messages, and rely heavily on text messaging for posting and receiving updates. This is, for me, an important substitute for email, which is too cumbersome for quick updates while on the go. Yammer’s cost? You know it: $0.
Again, this whole on-the-go, location-agnostic way of working was not possible two or three years ago, certainly not with the minimal effort and expenditure we have spent this last week.
Phase 2 is a new look, comin’ your way shortly.
Update: Lynn Gosnell has decided to pursue other projects, so we will have a new scheduling coordinator soon. Also, GrandCentral is no longer subscribing new members.
p>My j2mac.com email, calendar, and docs are now all managed by Google Apps. I’m pretty impressed. Setup is easy. They even gave specific instructions for GoDaddy’s domain manager. And things like syncing calendar (with Calgoo) and address book (with Apple’s iPhone-Google sync) make business so much easier. I’ve also signed a couple of other folks up on it, too.
So if anyone has been using my j2worldofmac-at-gmail address, please delete it and stick with info-at-j2mac.com. It’s official!
Please come to Luca anytime between 11am and 4pm, and stay as long as you want. I'll be discussing and presenting and helping the whole time.
p>Lunch and beverages of all sorts from Luca's fantastic menu will be available for purchase.
p>Don't forget to RSVP! I need to give a head count as soon as I can.
p>Looking forward to seeing y'all!
p>As always, check my blog at http://themacwhisperer.blogspot.com/ for
updates and news.
Would you rather I call or e-mail questions to you?
What is your billing policy regarding questions by phone or email or whatnot, i.e. when you’re not on-site?