Daily tip: Search notes with Siri

sirinotesLast year I explained how to create and edit notes with Siri on the iPhone. To create a new note, tell Siri, “Create a new note,” “Make a new note” or something similar. You can give a note a title at the same time, for instance, “Make a new note packing list” or “Create a new note places to visit.” That becomes the first line of the note. To update a note say, for example, “Update my note toothbrush, deodorant, book, tickets, camera.” If you’ve got more than one note, Siri will ask which note you’d like updated by providing a list.

That’s great, but you can also search notes just as easily. Here’s how.

1. Search by date. Activate Siri and say, “Find notes from March, 2013” or “Find notes from March 7, 2013.” You can also ask, “Find notes from yesterday.”
2. Search by keyword. You can have Siri search your notes for a specific word by saying, “Search notes for ‘x'”, where “x” is the term you’re looking for. Siri returns the results as a tap-able list.

You can also ask Siri to list all your notes. This is much faster than using Apple’s Notes app manually.

This post is part is one of 31 tech tips I published in March, 2013You’ll find the rest here.

Daily tip: Disable iOS Mail sounds

emailsounds

One of my most effective productivity tips [1. You could also, as reader Kit Pierce points out, switch it to manual check.] is to disable email alert sounds. Few things are as distracting and demanding as that little beep. Fortunately, it’s easy to switch them off on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. Here’s how.

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap Sounds.
  3. Tap New Mail. A new screen appears. Select None.

That’s it. Now you can keep your push mail account active without hearing that little “Ping!” every time a new message arrives. While we’re at it, let’s disable Mail notifications, too:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap Notifications.
  3. Tap the appropriate email account, then move the slider to the Off position.

That’s it! No more pestering sounds or messages every time a new email arrives.

This post is part is one of 31 tech tips I published in March, 2013You’ll find the rest here.

Daily Tip: Geocaching gets gadget-addicted kids outdoors

williamnavigatingModern parents face a challenge that’s unique to their generation: kids with constant access to video games. The bulky Atari and Intellivision [1. By the way, if you had an Intellivision in 1979, you were BAD. ASS.] consoles of my childhood required a television and a living room. But that’s changed.

Today, they’ve been replaced by portable computers the size of a magazine or a deck of cards. Not only are these devices smaller, they’re easier to use. A 7-year-old uses an iPad as effortlessly as we played with Barbie dolls and baseball cards. For the kids, they’re great fun.

For the parents, they’re fierce competition. What’s a concerned caregiver to do?

Geocache.

Geocaching is a global treasure hunt game that that combines the outdoors, some orienteering skills and GPS tracking into a fun, family-friendly past time. People have planted small caches, often Tupperware boxes filled with goodies, at various locations all over the world. Others seek them out by using the supplied clues and the GPS coordinates. Some caches simply contain a logbook to sign and date. Others contain swappable items to take home, clues to another hidden cache or a “travel bug” that can be moved from cache to cache.

It’s a lot of fun and satisfies mom’s and dad’s desire to get the kids up and moving outside, and the kid’s desire to fiddle with a gadget. Here’s an overview of geocaching and tips on how you can enjoy this fun, active game with your children.

What is Geocaching?

The game was started in May, 2000. A GPS enthusiast named Dave Ulmer in Beavercreek, Oregon wanted to test the accuracy of the Global Positioning System, and hid a bucket full of trinkets in the woods. He shared its coordinates online, and within a few days people began to find it. Within a week, people were excited by the idea and began hiding their own stashes and sharing the coordinates. Thus, geocaching was born.

Briefly, geocaching is a game of hide-and-seek. One group of participants creates and hides a cache, recording its GPS coordinates and any hints s/he might want to share. Another group uses GPS-enabled devices to find it. Those hiding the cache are often cryptic with their hints, as a big part of the fun is hunting around.

How to Get Started?

foundit

The definitive source of information is Geocaching.com. There you’ll find all sorts of useful information, but really all you need for a first-time experience is a GPS receiver and directions to a cache. This page will produce a list of caches around you. Print it out, grab your receiver (and the kids) and get going. Of course, my kids like to use my iPhone.

Geocaching with an iPhone

Geocaching.com is the best online resource, and it has also produced the best iPhone app for geocaching (also available for Android and Windows Phone 7). The app will note your location and suggest caches in the area. They can be sorted by distance to your location, difficulty (some are harder to find than others) and size (from micro to shoebox size).

Once you’ve picked one, have the kids navigate. Hand over the phone and let then lead the way as the app’s map guides them in real time to the target. It’s a bit like playing “X marks the spot” with the Marauder’s Map. It’s a thrill to see yourself get closer and closer, to match the real-world surroundings with the objects on the map, to use a compass to confirm your path and to finally come upon the hiding spot. Many caches are lightly hidden with leaves or brush, so there’s a mad dash to be the first one to see it. Finally, someone calls out, “I’ve found it!” and we all gather around.

signed

Now it’s time to sit on the grass and open the cache. Some have little trinkets that can be taken home. They all have a logbook to sign. Flip through the pages and you’ll find signatures from out of town or even out of the country. Remember to replace things neatly so that the next group can have fun with it, too.

My kids love the anticipation and being able to “man” the iPhone. And I love getting them outside. Many cachers place their boxes in especially scenic areas. In fact, that’s a big part of the game: being led to a beautiful or out-of-the-way spot that shouldn’t be missed. Some people even leave stories explaining why they chose a special spot.

Tips

The weather is warming up here in the northern hemisphere, so it’s time to try your hand at geocaching. Follow these tips to ensure success on your first time out.

  1. Bring a pen Sometimes the pens in a cache gets lost or stolen. Bring one of your own so that you can definitely sign the logbook. Your cache may be wet, so an all-weather option like the Fisher Space Pen is best.
  2. Do research before hand Guarantee success by doing some research at Geocaching.com before you leave. Find something in your area and read the online logs from recent visitors to ensure that the cache is still there, easy to find, doesn’t require arduous hiking and contains what the description says it does.
  3. Charge your iPhone GPS apps devour batteries like a fat kid at a pasta bar. Better yet, use a battery case like the Mophie Juice Pack for extra oomph.
  4. Pack for a hike Bring water, sunscreen, snacks, layers, etc. Whatever you’d bring for a day hike.
  5. Take pictures It’s great fun to look back on the caches you’ve found, as well as the gorgeous scenery.
  6. If you see it, keep quiet Kids LOVE to be the one to find the cache. Don’t beat them to the punch.
  7. Emphasize the fun and beauty of where you are Part of our goal here is to wean kids off of the electronic teat. Point out critters you see. Emphasize the view. Have a snack on a fallen log. Collect curiosities to bring home.
  8. Create a treasure chest at home My kids keep their “treasures” as the call them in special containers at home. This further emphasizes the fun of geocaching.

Letterboxing – an alternative

Letterboxing is geocaching with a twist. The fun here is collecting stamps, and it’s aimed directly at kids. Each “letterbox” you find (the equivalent of a cache), contains a logbook, a rubber stamp and an ink pad. Each box has a unique stamp.

Those seeking a letterbox also bring a stamp of their own, one they use at each outing, plus their own notebook. Once a box is found, you use its stamp to mark your notebook, and then make your stamp in the box’s logbook, as well as your name and date. Many people custom-make stamps that have meaning to the area, region or state in which the box was found. After a summer of letterboxing, kids have a notebook full of all sorts of interesting stamps.

So there you have it, a great activity that includes exercise, family time, the outdoors and gadgets. Don’t forget to go out while you’re traveling, too. It’s fun to find caches in other states and countries! Now get geocaching and have fun.

This post is part is one of 31 tech tips I published in March, 2013You’ll find the rest here.

Daily Tip: Trimming QuickTime files

Apple’s QuickTime Player can handle basic trimming, so you don’t have to open software that’s overkill for such a simple task. Here’s how to quickly trim a video clip in QuickTime Player.

  1. Open the clip you’d like to trim.
  2. Select Trim… from the Edit menu, or hit Command-T
  3. The timeline appears (below). Now it’s time to perform the edit. But first a look at the controls.

qtTrim

On the far left is the Play/Pause button. Next is the timeline. This will disappear after a few seconds of playing, and return when you stop playback. As your video plays, the red playhead (which actually acts as a scrubber, meaning you can click and drag it back and forth) moves from left to right.

A yellow highlight surrounds your clip with a handle at each end. This is used for defining the portion of the clip you’d like to save. Finally, the Trim and Cancel buttons appear on the far right. The Trim button executes your edit while the Cancel button exits trim mode with your video untouched. Now, here’s how to trim the clip.

  1. Play your clip (or drag the playhead) until you find the spot at which you’d like your video to start.
  2. Click and hold the yellow handle until it meets that same spot. A timestamp appears to aid your precision.
  3. You can trim the end the same way: click and drag the yellow handle at the end of your clip.
  4. Once you’ve got the portion you’d like to keep within the yellow highlight, click Trim.

If you’re not happy with the result, select Undo Trim from the Edit menu (or hit Command-Z). Note that this method is non-destructive, meaning QuickTime Player asks you to save the trimmed result as a new file.

This post is part is one of 31 tech tips I published in March, 2013You’ll find the rest here.

Daily Tip: iOS-style folders in Mountain Lion

Apple’s iCloud lets you store documents and other files on its servers for sharing across compatible devices. It’s extremely fast and handy, especially if you want to work on one project on several Macs or iOS devices.

On the Mac, compatible applications show a dialog box upon opening that lists documents that are stored in the cloud. There are two views available: list view and icon. While in icon view, you can sort document thumbnails into iOS-style folders. It’s an easy way to keep things organized and quickly find what you’re after. Here’s how.

  1. In the Open window, click icon view in the bottom toolbar.
  2. Your files are presented as thumbnails, along with their titles and modification dates.
  3. To create folder, simply drag and drop on file on top of another.
  4. A new folder appears. By default, it’s named “Folder.” Click the title to customize it.

cloudfilespreview

That’s it! There are a few things to note. First, all documents in the Open window are sorted by modification date, including folders. That means you can’t force folders to always be listed together. You can right-click (or Control-click) on a folder to rename it or duplicate it and its contents. Finally, folders also appear in list view. Double-click the folder itself or single-click the white disclosure triangle to reveal its contents.

This post is part is one of 31 tech tips I published in March, 2013You’ll find the rest here.

Daily tip: Use special characters for a stronger iPhone passcode

Using special characters for a stronger iPhone passcode

The iPhone’s passcode feature offers front-line security to your device and its contents. If you’re not using a passcode, you ought to seriously consider it. I know that typing it over and over is a pain, but I guarantee it’s less painful than losing a phone that’s wide open.

There are two types of passcodes available: simple and complex. A simple passcode is restricted to four numbers, while a complex passcode can be longer and include letters. For a little extra security, use a special character.

10.alternate_characters_on_iphone

You can access special characters on your iPhone’s keyboard by pressing and holding on certain keys. For example, tap and hold I, O, U, E or C for a pop-up menu of available special characters. To choose one, simply slide your finger over it and release. Now, here’s how to use them with a passcode.

  1. Tap Settings, General and then Passcode Lock.
  2. Move the Simple Passcode slider to the Off position.
  3. Tap Turn Passcode On and create a passcode, using the special characters as described above.

Now you’ve got a lengthy passcode that includes non-English characters. Well done!

This post is part is one of 31 tech tips I published in March, 2013You’ll find the rest here.

Daily tip: Print a PDF right to iCloud

I love OS X’s ability to print to PDF. I often do it with emails that I want to reference or easily share. What’s really great is that, with OS X Mountain Lion, you can print to PDF and send the result directly to iCloud for instant, near ubiquitous access across your compatible devices. Here’s how to print an email as a PDF and send it to Preview via iCloud.

  1. Find the message you’d like to save and click Print.
  2. The Print sheet appears. Select Save As PDF in the lower left-hand corner.
  3. The Save As sheet appears. Select a destination. In this case, choose iCloud from the drop-down menu.
  4. A new sheet appears. Create a title and fill in the rest as desired. Ensure that iCloud (Preview) is selected.
  5. Click Save.
Select Print, then click Save as PDF in the lower left.
Select Print, then click Save as PDF in the lower left.
The Save sheet appears. Pick a title and select iCloud from the drop-down.
The Destination sheet appears. Select iCloud from the drop-down.

 

A new sheet appears. Fill in as desired and click Save.
A new sheet appears. Fill in as desired and click Save.

That’s it. The next time you launch Preview, select Open from the File menu and click iCloud on the resulting window. Your PDF will be waiting for you.

For extra bonus points, you can password-protect your PDF as you create it. Before clicking Save, click Security Options. You can opt to require a password to view, edit or print the resulting PDF. When you try to open the file on Preview, it will require a password as you’ve directed.

This post is part is one of 31 tech tips I published in March, 2013. You’ll find the rest here.