Category Archives: Tech Stuff

Magic Mouse magic

I’ve been using an Apple Magic Mouse for a while and it works quite well for me, until, it doesn’t. Let me explain.

Bluetooth connection
The Magic Mouse connects to one’s Macintosh computer via Bluetooth, a short range wireless protocol. I routinely carry my MacBook Pro to other places in my house leaving my Magic Mouse behind and when I return the Magic Mouse does not automatically connect. Every once in a while it does but it’s rare. I can connect by going to the Bluetooth menu, choosing Richard’s Mouse, and choosing connect but there’s an easier way to connect the now disconnected but running Magic Mouse:

Click the mouse.

I can’t believe I never knew this. No doubt you did but in case you didn’t try it.

Battery corrosion
Recently my Magic Mouse started tracking badly, very much like an old Apple mouse with a dirty “ball” (yes, old mice had balls, well, one ball). So, I went up to the Bluetooth menu to see what the charge on the Magic Mouse’s batteries were. They showed 100%. Still, I decided to swap the batteries out for a new set and upon putting in the new set the mouse tracked perfectly. This seemed odd to me so I took out the new batteries and replaced the old and the mouse continued to track perfectly.

Uh oh.

This discussion at Ask Different led me to the answer: Magic Mouse disconnects randomly.

Specifically, the discussion of batteries in the first answer by Coyote.

It seems that the battery contacts in a Magic Mouse can become corroded over time and simply taking the batteries out, or, more simply, rotating them in place, can clean enough of the corrosion off to make a better contact.

When I put my original (seemingly bad) batteries back in, I had changed their position and made better contact.

This is amazingly simple and no doubt related to my post and thousands of comments on Canon DSLR error 99 problems being caused by corroded body/lens contacts.

Battery level
While you’re up in the Bluetooth menu you may notice that your mouse is showing a battery level of 100% but the alkaline batteries you have in it are a month old. How is this possible? Another excellent discussion at Ask Different explains: How is the battery level calculated in the magic mouse? and explains why my Magic Mouse was showing 100% charge on its Duracells even as they were a month old.

Bottom line: with alkaline batteries installed in the Magic Mouse, the mouse’s battery level indicator is like a car gas tank that reads full until you have a few miles left.

What is F-stop?

Dylan Bennett explains a lens’s aperture rating or f-stop. Even if you get this stuff or even if you don’t you’ll find something of interest in this video which is well made.

I don’t fully get the math but I know how to use lenses and I get that there’s math involved in talking about the relationship between focal length, iris size and the amount of light getting let in at various iris sizes. If you watch it until the end Dylan will share a nice trick for understanding how to calculate a range of f-stops from the numbers 1 and 1.4.

Here’s another take on it at wikipedia with enough information to make your eyes stop down to f/44.

Aperture also affects depth of field as Dylan says, check out this image that demonstrates it:

plane DOF 2

Note that the image on the left has the largest aperture (f/2.8) and the image on the right the smallest aperture (f/32). Note that more of the plane is blurred with the larger apertures and more of the plane is in focus with the smaller apertures. The images on the left have shallower depth of field, the images on the right have greater depth of field.

[via PetaPixel]

Technical notes on shooting the new Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, ASC, uses RED ONEs and EPICsto expose The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Because of its many locations and logistical demands, the 160-day shoot was broken up into several stages. The production started in Sweden shooting all the winter exteriors and a few interior sets, and then went to Zurich for two weeks to shoot the banking scenes, as well as exteriors and interiors. The team then returned to the U.S. and shot all the remaining interiors on stage at the Paramount lot and the new RED Studios for some 10 weeks. Because the story also takes place over so many seasons, the filmmakers then returned to Sweden in mid-March, and also stopped off in London for two weeks to shoot scenes there, made a stop in Norway and then ended up in Sweden again.

Fascinating how this stuff gets made.

[via Coudal Partners]

Google TV

Google TV product manager Rishi Chandra: ‘Android is going to be a successful operating system on TVs’

Watch the video. Nilay Patel interviews Rishi Chandra on GoogleTV, Android’s future as an OS for televisions, cable boxes, DVRs, and other TV add-ons.

Not a single mention of AppleTV, iOS, or any of Apple’s work in this area except to say that they believe Android will dominate in the tablet area (toward the end of the interview).

If you listen to the interview, the complexity of the various things Google is doing sounds much like listening to Steve Balmer talk about how Windows will be integrated into everything. As many know, Microsoft is having difficulty in this area and while Android may be doing well as an OS, the universe of gadgets that run various flavors of it is a mess.

I love the simplicity of AppleTV, AirPlay and using my iPhone or iPad as a remote. Did you see those Google TV remotes? Ugh.

No doubt the internet is affecting the future of broadcast and cable TV and it may be a wide open market right now. I can tell you that the Bravia operating system Sony builds into its TVs is awful and I stay out of those menus on my TV as much as possible. I want to use my Sony TV as a dumb flat screen for some future Apple device (AppleTVX) that controls everything simply and easily. No doubt that’s coming soon.

Speculation on future AppleTV

Guy English: How I’d Build an Apple Television Set

The piece of Guy’s essay that appeals to me most is this:

So if you’re in an Apple based household the odds are good that your new Apple TV will be able to talk to one of your other devices and get the required network info from it. I’d bet heavily that this capability makes its way into AirPort devices and Macs. “Want to let this device on your network?”, is exactly the level of simplicity that Apple tends to aim for.

Setting up and using an AirPort network is much simpler than any of the other wifi routers I’ve played with over the years and my guess is that Apple is going to continue to make it simpler to add new devices to the network, including the AppleTV. It’s easy now and it will be even easier which is part of the puzzle of making a living room appliance that’s easy to use and integrate with other devices you already own.

I’m not entirely convinced that Apple will get into the flat panel TV business but I’m convinced that they’ll expand the capabilities of the current AppleTV, turning a Sony or Samsung flat panel TV set into a dumb HD screen, which is fine by me, I hate the menus on my Sony Bravia.

[via Steve Splonskowski]

Talk to the wrist

Apple’s Work on Wearable Computer Concepts Includes Wrist-Wrapping iPod with Siri

Imagine an iPod Nano wristwatch that’s also a bluetooth-connected communicator. Makes perfect sense, the question isn’t if Apple will make this, more like when.

Not sure I want to have even a short phone conversation talking to my wrist but for some things I think it might work out quite well. Bring up a todo list, a shopping list, a music list (on the phone, not the iPod), and more with voice using Siri.

Amazing comment thread at MacRumors, a few are asking why one needs a wristwatch, assuming that if one has an iPhone one can always get the time from it. Man, am I old. Not only do I wear a wristwatch, I wear an analog wristwatch (and it’s not an iPod with an analog screen on it).

Libraries adapt to a changing world

Libraries Make Room For High-Tech ‘Hackerspaces’

“We see the library as not being in the book business, but being in the learning business and the exploration business and the expand-your-mind business,” he says. “We feel this is really in that spirit, that we provide a resource to the community that individuals would not be able to have access to on their own.”

This is the spirit of a community computer user’s group, I love it.

More on iPhone 4S battery issue

In my last report on this I noted that an Apple phone support person (Patrick) had me completely reset my iPhone: back it up to iTunes, reinstall iOS5, then sync my stuff back onto it.

When I did this yesterday it seemed to be helping, a single full charge lasted all day and while I wasn’t using Siri heavily (Siri was down yesterday) I did various things with the phone during the day.

Last night when I went to bed I noticed that the phone was at 78% charge and I left it unplugged to see if standby mode would wipe it out again. The phone was connected to our wifi network and to our AT&T macrocell so I assume that it’s nightly maintenance connections got made and it was active during the night.

The good news is that this morning it has a 76% charge on it, only losing 2% overnight.

No doubt the update to iOS 5 will improve battery life even more but there is now no doubt in my mind that completely resetting the phone helped a lot and people who have this problem should at least do this step, it can’t hurt.

I may eat these words in the next few days: I’ll be in New York tomorrow and I have a friend coming to visit who’s an iPhone user and who will want to mess with this new phone. My phone will get a good workout and we’ll see if Patrick’s “fix” is what I think it is. But I’m a lot happier today than I was yesterday, and this is a good thing. Of course, having electricity in the house (finally) doesn’t hurt.

Possible fix for iPhone 4S battery issue

I’ve only had my iPhone 4S for a week but I noticed early on that it was sucking battery juice much more rapidly than my iPhone 4 with the same apps and iOS 5 on it. Unfortunately, we lost power for almost a week so it was tough to get it charged regularly to test various things. Today the power came back and I was on the phone with Apple and we made the appointment for me to get down to the Danbury Apple store to swap the phone for a new one.

But, Patrick, my excellent Apple phone support person asked me if I’d tried backing up the phone, then using iTunes to restore it to factory settings minus my apps and data. In other words, clean it off and reinstall iOS 5 from scratch. No one had recommended I do this and he thought if I did it it might give me a baseline to see if the problem with battery was my apps sucking juice, iOS 5 sucking juice, or underneath it all a problem battery.

It was worth a try so while we were on the phone I backed it up again, then reset the phone to factory settings reinstalling iOS 5 in the process. I did not migrate my stuff back.

I got on our network, got it on our AT&T micro-cell, got it up and running, charged it to 100% and put it to sleep and went outside to carry the bags of now defrosted tomatoes from our garden to the trash (boo, we lost all our frozen vegetables).

I came back in an hour later and the phone was still at 100%. This was a good enough sign for me and I then synced all of my apps and stuff back on, checked things out to make sure the sync worked correctly, charged back up to 100%, put the phone to sleep and went outside again.

Two hours later the phone is at 97%. This is a great sign.

I may still have a problem phone and given my calls to Applecare I’m sure I’ll be able to swap it for the next month, but, I’m going to stick with it for a while and wait for the iOS 5 update to come out and see what happens.

The short of it is, if you’re not getting what you think you ought to out of a charged battery try reinstalling the system, it may help. It can’t hurt.

Ask Different

Ask Different

Ask Different is a brilliantly built discussion site that allows people to ask questions about their Apple products and get a variety of answers and tips from others.

I first heard about it back here and I decided to subscribe to its RSS feed for a while to see what kinds of questions and answers were being put up.

In short order I figured I might be able to answer a few of the questions so I registered and posted an answer. That led to another and pretty soon I was hooked, less on being a know-it-all (I know much less than most people posting there) but on the challenge of attempting to explain in words the answers to various questions (one can also post screen shot images there).

Questions and answers are rated, much like Amazon or eBay reviews might be and in this case it’s less about a popularity contest, more about helping folks find the credible sources and to support well written questions and answers. Brilliant.

I’ve learned quite a bit from this feed, not just answers to my own technical questions but also about the types of questions and problems people are having in the Apple world. Ask Different could easily turn into a more up to date and fluid source than Apple’s support area or Wikipedia (Apple products) for these types of things. Certainly a parallel source for more specific questions.

Many of my Mac and iOS using friends who read this blog could easily become addicted to this so I’m warning you, be careful.

Video of a man making a vacuum tube

These two videos take some time but if you like this kind of view of fabrication you’re gonna love it. The piano music goes well with it but gets long after a while. Turning sound off helps but then you miss the occassional sound of the fabrication tools.

Note: I originally posted this on January 8, 2008 with a link to video but I’m re-posting today with embedded video.

[via Justin Blanton]

[via Product by Process]


Apple’s ‘Assistant’ Seen as Key Feature for New iPhone Hardware

Apple has been thinking about virtual assistants for years. Some of you may remember their mock up called Knowledge Navigator that included a visual person in the form of a guy with a bow tie. That bow tie guy is an assistant who understands natural language and figures stuff out.

We’re starting down that path with this new assistant.

Apple is using speech to text technology from Nuance Siri to power Assistant. Here’s Siri’s demo I posted about earlier. Apple’s assistant technology will be built into iOS 5.

My guess is this kind of assistant will be part of all Apple products at some point.

Mounting Digital Photos On Acrylic

My friend Edward and I saw the Joel Meyerowitz show of his large ground zero images at The Tremaine Gallery in Lakeville, Connecticut and we were both impressed by the way the images were mounted and hung. The above video shows the process.

This isn’t something I want to do with my own images; I prefer traditional matting and framing and enjoy the process of doing it myself, but this mounting system was perfect for the large scale ground zero images in this show.

[via Zapong]


Great stuff. Glen creates hacked Kindle for his sister who has cerebral palsy.

This reminds me so much of the early days of what is now called assistive technology: Hacked Apple IIs, HyperCard running X10 controllers, big switches, and the Closing the Gap conference where we all shared this stuff. This was my life for close to twenty years.

For a more elegant solution for iPad, see Assistiveware.

[via Endgadget]