My Revised Ebook on Setting up Apple's Wi-Fi Routers

For a decade (!!), I've been writing and revising a book on using Apple's Wi-Fi routers. Long ago it was Take Control of Your 802.11b AirPort Network, and the current, fifth edition has the moniker Take Control of Your Apple Wi-Fi Network. This latest update (a bit late and all my fault for that) brings the title up to date for 802.11ac, the newest and fastest flavor of Wi-Fi, as well as OS X Mavericks, iOS 7, and Windows 8.1.

The book's designed for any home or small-business user who finds that the basic information Apple provides isn't enough. While I fully agree configuration has never been better for Apple's AirPort Extreme, AirPort Express, and Time Capsule base stations, if you want to configure network layouts or network details outside of quite standard arrangements, you might feel at sea. This book is designed to help.

I go through how to set up basic networks and more advanced ones, including creates pods of Ethernet-connected or Wi-Fi–linked base stations (and mixed groups), as well as walking through all the networking settings and how to use them for specific tasks. I fully explain the ins and outs of AirPort Utility both for OS X and the similar, but more limited iOS version. And I tell you how you can make the Eye of Sauron appear on your Mac.

For instance, you can choose a static, unchanging local address for any computer or device on your network through DHCP Reservations. It's several steps with a few choices, and I take you through that. The book also explains frequency channels and the various Wi-Fi/802.11 standards, and how to site your equipment ideally and troubleshoot it when it doesn't work.

For more details on the book—which is available in DRM-free PDF, EPUB, and MOBI that you can use anywhere without restriction—and a downloadable excerpt, visit the Take Control page. At $20, it could save you an amount of frustration you can't stick a price tag on.

 

Apple's Next Products

I have no special knowledge beyond following Apple as a company for 15 years and using its products since the early 1980s. I have a feeling now for what direction Apple might take, even though I've never been able to predict a specific outcome.

What Apple won't do

There is no iWatch. A watch has never made any sense, but it's the only thing that analysts and Apple's competitors have, apparently, been able to think of as a next logical device to make. The history of technology is littered with failed computer watches; Microsoft has gone through two bad iterations itself. If Apple's partners or spies have seen an iWatch, it's more likely a feint to throw competitors off. Apple does put out false scents!

Apple is not going to buy a cellular operator. This comes up again and again. T-Mobile would have been the only firm that would have made any sense in terms of scale and availability to purchase, and besides Sprint attempting to acquire it, owning a carrier puts Apple in direct conflict with other carriers. It doesn't need the hassle and competitive trouble.

No one should expect an integrated Apple television set. For years, the only companies not losing money on TVs are the companies that are vertically integrated to make the screens and the TVs, like Samsung. Many companies lose money making TVs, but they can't exit the industry because they need to sell integrated entertainment systems, and the loss of revenue would reduce their scale of operations, too. People don't spend enough on TVs nor turn them over fast enough to represent a market worth entering at the scale Apple would need to. Sorry, Gene Munster.

What Apple could do

A wearable hub that doesn't present itself as a thing you wear on your wrist. Apple's Health initiative shows the direction. An iOS device is the heart of Health, and expect a wearable thing that integrates with smart clothing (particularly sportswear that could track heartrate and other factors). Instead of delivering another visual display with limited capabilities, like a watch, Apple more likely would deliver information through haptic, vibratory, and aural feedback. An Apple wearable will more likely be an iPod nano style device that plugs into clothing, and uses Bluetooth for comms, than a watch.

A Retina MacBook Air. This has certainly been on their road map all along, but the time is coming where some tradeoff or transition point will occur: they will either be able to produce an Air with an efficient enough display and battery to keep the weight the same, or they will eat a few ounces and make it heavier to get the better display on board. Instead of a "12-hour" battery, buyers might be fine with an "8-hour" Air with Retina, too. It seems like this could be a fall 2014 item, but I wonder if they'd wait till February 2015 for cost issues and alignment with when they introduce Mac hardware.

A revised Apple TV that incorporates a base station. The Apple TV is essentially already a base station, and with a little more processing power or a co-processor, it could easily handle an AirPort Express's function alongside its TV features. As a base station, an Apple TV could better manage throughput and other factors.

 

Two Squarespace Image Placement Tips

I've been using Squarespace for months and have been quite happy with how it takes care of so many Web page and site details for me, while also affording me the chance to customize. (I have beat the heck out of adding CSS tweaks.)

Images were still driving me batty, though. Inserting images into a post and resizing them seemed inconsistent and problematic, but I worked through. I finally went to the community forum and knowledgebase sites Squarespace operates and dug around until I found the answer to of the biggest problems. 

You can drag and drop from the New Content Block list into a post.

In the corner of a post, there's a + icon. Click it, and you get a list of the various kinds of content blocks you can add to a page. If you just click a block, it's inserted at the end of the post. This is a pain because you then have to drag an image (or other item) up through the post, and in Firefox on Mac, at least, it doesn't scroll for posts. (It does when you're editing a page's layout.)

You don't have to do that. Just click +, and then drag the block into the page where you want it to go . This doesn't let you set up a left or right float, but it will let you put a block in as an "insert" or "row."  

Resizing an image requires using the left/right handles, not the bottom handle.

When you have an image in a post, the left/right handles resize it proportionately. The bottom handle crops it, after which point, the left/right handles crop left or right! This drove me nuts. To reset proportionate resizing, double-click the bottom handle. 

 

Dropbox Manages To Get It Right

A disproportionate percentage of my life (and probably all of yours) has been spent managing the bad customer service offered by most companies, technology and otherwise. It's worth calling out a company that gets it right.

I've had a Dropbox account for years, but I foolishly had the company convert my normal, free account into a Teams business account for a review two years ago for Macworld in which I looked at several cloud-storage options for businesses. I asked the PR folks if they could convert my account back later, and it didn't happen — I didn't follow up and forgot about it.

Recently, I received email that my account was expiring and I realized I need to take action. I guessed I was well above my 2 GB initial account size even with referrals and other upgrades that Dropbox offers. I can't accept free services or products except for testing, and should be paying for a premium account. (Normally, I cancel or abandon services after testing, or have just a 30-day account set up and then can start paying.)

I emailed Dropbox tech support about the issue, fearing I'd lose my history of deleted files, short-term revisions, and the like, and have to start a new account from scratch. I would lose any data, but it seemed a shame.

Instead, Dropbox took care of it like a boss. I have Growl installed in Mac OS X, which integrates with Mountain Lion's Notifications feature. This gives me little transient feedback notices when stuff happens in the background that is useful to know if I'm watching, but I don't need to go back and check on.

Dropbox messages start to come through. First, the account drops down to not enough storage. Then it jumps to 85 GB of storage. A few more messages come through indicating someone is mucking about on the backend. I log in via the Web, and see I can now upgrade and pay for a 100 GB-level account (about $10 per month or $100 per year). I do so.

By the time I'm done, I've received email from Hannah at Dropbox explaining that she's converted my account and added 85 GB for 14 days to ensure I have enough time and space to upgrade my account during the transition. The technical part worked perfectly; so did the wetware side.

Dropbox has become like oxygen to me. It is something I barely think about, except when it goes pear-shaped (which is rarely, fortunately). I throw stuff in there, and I expect it to be available everywhere, nearly instantly. I barely use file attachments in email or any other file-transfer methods because of its option of sharing a link to any file. It's nice to know they can execute on this end, too.

It's a sad thing that competence seems so outstanding, but it's true.

Bonus! Finder-Based Sharing

Just before this, I had the nice experience of an invisible upgrade from Dropbox that improved the user side of things. Dropbox has long required a round-trip to the Web site to complete many tasks. The company added Finder-based link-sharing a while back, but it requires Control-clicking a file or folder, selecting Dropbox from a submenu, and choosing Share Link, and then being taken to the Web site to complete the operation.

Dropbox improves Finder-based contextual actions.

Dropbox improves Finder-based contextual actions.

Now it's all in the Finder. Control- or right-click on a file or folder, and three options appear that were previously in the sub-menu. Copy Dropbox Link creates the link and puts the result in the Clipboard. One operation. Less friction.