Category Archives: Computers

Sharing lists

My colleague, Andrew Spittle, asks:

What do you and Amy use to keep track of groceries?

We use Listary. When we’re low on something, we add it to the list.

It’s quick, simple, and syncs instantly with Simplenote.

Inventory tip — To easily see when you’re running low on stuff, add the quantity to the beginning of the item. For example:

  • 2 Bathroom tissue paper rolls
  • 5 Dishwasher packs
  • 1 Brita water filter
  • 2 Snack Pack cups
  • 1 Bagel
  • Half jar peanut butter
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FaceTime audio calls are excellent

While I’m in Budapest, I’ve been using FaceTime audio–only calls with my wife on our iPhones.

Free WiFi access at our apartments means:

  • Amy doesn’t need to setup Skype. We can use the built–in iOS app.
  • I don’t worry about minutes.
  • Audio quality is great (as long as the internet connection is stable).

Here is the data usage from our calls so far:

  • 27 minutes (18 MB)
  • 5 minutes (4 MB)
  • 56 minutes (30 MB)
  • 9 minutes (7 MB)

Mac users can also use the FaceTime app if you aren’t an iPhone user.

How? In iOS, view the contact information, and tap the phone icon next to the FaceTime video camera icon.

FaceTime options

Happy chatting!

Track shared data usage for two with DataMan Pro

I installed DataMan Pro on my iPhone on January 2nd. While it was slightly uncomfortable ditching my unlimited (grandfathered) data plan from Verizon Wireless when I upgraded my phone, this app makes it a breeze to track my cellular data usage.

From left to right, and top to bottom:

  1. Current usage from this month
  2. Smart Forecast estimates usage for the rest of the month1, while the Balance displays how much cellular data I can use for the rest of the day.
  3. Stats: Usage by day
  4. Stats: Usage by hour
  5. Settings > Data Plan
  6. Settings > Data Plan > Add Usage
  7. Stats: Usage by month

Setup Tips and Observations

Data Plan — Review a few monthly statements. If your billing cycle starts on the same day every month, use the Monthly plan type. (e.g. 14th of the month)

For Data Cap, I just switched it from 1,000 MB to 1 GB (screenshot not shown) because 1 GB = 1,024 MB. Every bit helps!

Add Usage — To start accurately, log into the account with your service provider to verify your current data usage.2 Add the largest unit byte (whole number), then convert the decimal (probably from MB to KB) to add that last portion.

Multiple people — Amy and I share 2 GB of data, so we’re splitting that in half for each person.

Notifications — DataMan Pro includes push notifications at four configurable thresholds (called Usage Alerts). The defaults are 50%, 70%, 90%, and 100%.

Verizon Wireless can send email or text notifications when you reach certain preset thresholds (50%, 75%, 90%, 100%). I’m going to disable them because they reflect shared usage. We’re only concerned with individual usage.

In context, if I’ve used more data than Amy in a month, it’s up to me to ease up. She shouldn’t stress about it. :)

Turn off Percentage Badge — If you’ll primarily rely on push notifications, you probably don’t care to see the percentage badge on the app icon, so you can turn that off in Settings > Advanced.

Interesting trends — When I’m home for most of the day, which is usually the case, I don’t use much cellular data.

However, when I’m out and about, Rdio, Day One, and Tweetbot can use up quite a bit if I’m not careful.

I’ve since disabled cellular data for the following apps in iOS 7 (Settings > Cellular):

  • Rdio
  • Day One
  • App Store
  • Netflix
  • Newsy
  • Scanner Pro
  • TuneIn Radio

Quirks

I always forget:

  • Swipe left goes to Settings
  • Swipe up displays your data usage over time.

Conclusion

I’m blessed to be able to work from home with a fairly solid internet and Wi–Fi connection. When not traveling, I don’t need to pay another $10/month for another 2 GB of shared data.

DataMan Pro will help us stay strong or realize when it’s time to fork over some extra cash. I gladly paid $4.99 for DataMan Pro, and will buy a second copy for Amy’s iPhone.


  1. In other words, if I don’t change anything with my service provider or data usage habits (like disabling cellular data for certain apps), I’ll use too much data on my account. With Verizon Wireless, overage costs $15 per GB. 
  2. Note the timestamp. That doesn’t update in realtime, so you may need to check several times and make multiple adjustments with Add Usage until it matches up. After that, DataMan should match exactly with your service provider. Should. ;) 

I love Scanner Pro for iOS

I grabbed Scanner Pro for free a few weeks ago via 9to5Mac. Awesome timing!

Previously, I was using a new, regular envelope each month to keep small paper receipts for over a year — shoved into a shelf in my home office.

I’m on a purging kick, so I aim to shred old receipts that aren’t important.

For receipts worth keeping, capturing with this app is quick, and the scan quality is phenomenal.

Which receipts are worth keeping? Here are some examples:

  • Health–related co–pays, medication.
  • Car maintenance.
  • Non–grocery items (gadgets, non–trivial household items).

I’ve decided to scan all receipts, and I’ll archive the less important items into a ZIP file every month. I’ll also do the same in the rare case I take written notes.

If you’re intrigued, Scanner Pro for iOS is currently $2.99 in the Apple App Store — originally priced $6.99, about 58% off — for less than 48 hours.1


  1.  I’m not sure when the promotion began, so just snag it. ;) 

View an article with Instapaper Text only using the keyboard

As a happy, longtime Instapaper user, I need the Instapaper Text bookmarklet often when settling in for a lengthy read on my MacBook Air.

I’d like to share a tip that’ll save time of switching to your mouse or trackpad.

When the bookmarklet is saved to your browser, you can use it with the page you’re viewing by following these steps:

  1. Move your cursor to the address (a.k.a. location) bar by pressing Command + L.1
  2. Type the first few letters of the bookmarklet name (or the whole thing if you type quickly).
  3. Press Enter.

If you use folders in Instapaper2, you can take this a step further by saving the bookmarklet for those folders as well.


  1. Mac: Works with Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari
  2. Pro tip. If you send saved articles from Instapaper to your Kindle, don’t mix text articles with media so those particular entries aren’t wasting space in that periodical (Amazon’s term, not mine). I have video, audio, and photo folders as well. 

Unexpected upgrade to iPhone 5s

We didn’t plan on upgrading my white iPhone 4S 64 GB because it wasn’t a priority. Then, Amy dropped her phone and most of the front screen was cracked. Wah wah.

I’ve been out of contract for awhile, so I was eligible for an upgrade.

I chose the silver iPhone 5s 64 GB, we finally merged our Verizon Wireless accounts, and switched to a less expensive plan — at the cost of my grandfathered unlimited data add–on.

Reviewing my billing statements from 2012-07-08 through 2013-12-27, I barely reach 1 GB of monthly usage.

  • Average: 428.9 MB
  • Max: 974.4 MB
  • Min: 206.635 MB

I installed DataMan Pro for real–time monitoring and alerts, and I’ll make sure I keep it under 1 GB per month.

For reference, here’s how we switched things over.

Note: I forgot my restore password and didn’t save it into my password manager, so I couldn’t just restore the data onto my new phone.

Old iPhone 4S

  1. Transfer all media in Photos onto my laptop. (I use Lightroom for my photos.)
  2. Ensure I have backup codes for all online services with two–factor authentication.
  3. Follow these steps from Apple: What to do before selling or giving away your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch

New iPhone 5s

  1. Setup new phone — including Touch ID — and log into my Apple account for the various services.
  2. Reinstall apps, starting with the ones required for two–factor authentication. Sign into the App Store, then go to Updates > Purchased.
  3. Setup apps used for two–factor authentication.
  4. Setup other apps. Test.
  5. Reconfigure (read: silence) apps from Notification Center in Settings.
  6. In Settings > Control Center, turn off “Access on Lock Screen”. (Ignore if you’re cool with someone disabling your alarms.)
  7. Other configuration tweaks.

Mac menu bar minimalism with Bartender

I bought a copy of Bartender for these features:

  • “Show an app in the menu bar when it updates.”
  • “Menu bar apps still work the same.”
  • Minimalism.

It’s also easy to adjust its settings.

I hope Apple acquires them for direct integration with OS X. (Yes, Windows XP had some of these features.)

Fifteen dollars to help me focus? You got it. I should’ve tried it sooner.

Disclaimer: This is an unsolicited post, and I purchased the app with my money.

Fixing Google Calendar and Gmail in iOS 7

My Google calendars disappeared while comparing Fantastical 2 with the built–in Calendar app (iOS 7.0.3, iPhone 4S). I mentioned this before, and somehow “fixed” it:

I think I deleted and re–added the account, and all was well. Temporarily.

After some searching, here are a couple articles that explain why I was tripping:

  1. How to enable push Gmail on your iOS device“. You add an Exchange account for push e–mail. I originally set this up while using iOS 5, and probably followed the same steps over a month ago. Not sure why that continued to work until now.
  2. A new way to sync Google Contacts“. I was overdue in adding a separate CardDAV account, but was apparently built into adding a Google account process in iOS 7. Also not sure how that worked while I was on iOS 6.

How I fixed things:

  1. In Settings, then Mail, Contacts, and Calendar, delete my Google account (previously configured as Exchange).
  2. Follow the instructions from the support page, “Sync Google Calendar with your iOS device“. The notable difference is adding a Google account, not Microsoft Exchange. You can also turn on Mail or Contacts without configuring a separate IMAP account or CardDAV account, respectively.

Caveat when upgrading from Google Authenticator 2.0.0 to 2.0.1 (iOS)

If you upgraded to Google Authenticator 2.0.0 (see my last post) and recreated all your account tokens, I’d like to warn you.

Your old account tokens will be restored. This means it’ll be difficult to determine which ones are current.

Solution: Rename your current accounts before upgrading from 2.0.0 to 2.0.1 with these steps:

  1. Tap the pencil icon located at the top right corner.
  2. Tap on the name of each field to edit.
  3. When you’re done, tap the check mark located at the top right corner.

Google Authenticator 2.0.1 - Edit Step 1 Google Authenticator 2.0.1 - Edit Step 2

After you upgrade, you can confirm the new tokens still work, then delete the old ones.

Bye, Google Authenticator tokens

Update 2013-09-07: Google released a new version which restores the lost account tokens. If you’ve already re–added your account tokens, please see this caveat.

Before you update to Google Authenticator 2.0.0 for iOS, disable two–step (or wait until 2.0.1). It removed my tokens from the app, and I had to re–add them again. Boo.

To fix this with a Google account, you’ll need to do the following:

1. Go to Account → Security → Edit (under 2–step verification).
2. Under How to receive codes and across from Mobile application, click “Move to a different phone”.

As for the backup codes you printed, if you click the help icon (question mark) next to “Remove Switch to phone”, it says:

When you want to switch to a different phone, select “Move to a different phone” and follow the instructions to configure the Authenticator app on your new phone. This will not invalidate any of your existing application-specific passwords or backup codes.

Or, you can add your Google Authenticator Tokens into Authy. Thanks for the tip, James!

Dropbox: In Account → Security, click the Edit link next to Authenticator app.

Dropbox 2-step verification