Getting the Crap…


complex tech made simple

App Pick: AnyList

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I heard about the AnyList app on the Daily Tech News Show podcast during the Today’s Pick section. I’d been looking for an updated app for syncing shopping lists for a while. I was skeptical, but AnyList’s features and its freemium model won me over. We’ve been using it for a while, and it’s working well.

Note: Currently, there are no Android or Windows Phone versions of AnyList.

Free Features

The basic features of AnyList should work for most. You can create and edit lists and synchronize them among your own devices. You can also share individual lists among other user accounts. This allows you to share with your partner without having to also share your account. Meanwhile, your partner can maintain her or his own separate lists.

The same list on two devices

The built-in database contains most grocery items, and you can add items if you prefer specific brands or product types (like Vanilla Oreos). As you type, autocomplete offers quick, tappable suggestions.

AnyList manages categories in groups. So Dairy, Meat, and Product are in the Grocery Category Group. And you can add categories and sort them as you see fit. For example, I added Coffee and then sorted it so it would appear after Breakfast & Cereal. And this edit is available to anyone with whom I share the list.

Thoughtful convenience features are also available. You can keep your device from powering off while AnyList is open. You can set to double-tap to cross off a list item which can prevent accidental cross-offs when your finger mindlessly touches the edge of your screen. And you can tweak the colors of individual lists to help visually differentiate them.

AnyList Complete: The Premium Features

The premium features are not overpriced. Individual accounts are $7.99 per year and Family accounts are just $11.99 per year for everyone. And the renewal is not automatic, so you stay in full control.

The cost entitles you AnyList for the Web (a nice web-based app) and a Mac app. You can use the iOS mobile app and desktop browser extensions to import recipes from popular websites. This allows you to manage the ingredients in your lists including recipe photos. There’s also recipe scaling and meal planning.

In case you just gotta have the exact item, you can add item photos to remove potential confusion.

Your lists, recipes, and associated photos are all backed up to the cloud. This helps get the premium elements onto new devices by just logging into your AnyList account.

You can configure badge counts and protect lists with passcodes. And if you’re wild about themes, you have more options with the premium services.

More Than Groceries

While I’ve gone on and on about the features for groceries and recipes, AnyList can manage, well, any list that you can think of.

Find out more at

Quick Tip: Text Replacement in iOS and Mac

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Text ReplacementApple has baked in text replacement (aka, text substitution) in Mac OS X and iOS. This can take the drudgery out of typing frequent things like your email address whether on your Mac or iPhone (or iPad or iPod touch). You just need to know it’s there and how to configure it. Both of which are simple.

Mac OS X

  1. Click System Preferences.
  2. Click Keyboard.
  3. Click the Text tab.

To create a new replacement, click the plus-sign (+) under the list.

To edit an existing replacement by clicking once to highlight the row then click onto the text in either the Replace or With cells to change them.

You can delete a replacement by clicking to highlight the row and then click the minus-sign () at the bottom of the list to delete that item.


  1. Tap the Settings app.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Tap Keyboard.
  4. Tap Text Replacement.

To create a new replacement, tap the plus-sign (+) in the upper right corner. Under Phrase type the long text string (like your email). Under Shortcut, enter the short text string that will invoke the replacement action. Then tap Save.

To edit an existing replacement, tap the row. Then, like described above, edit the Phrase and Shortcut and tap Save.

To delete a replacement, swipe your finger to the left on a row to expose the red delete button. Tap Delete.

The Implications of a Delayed iPhone 7

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iPhone ?

Nikkei is speculating that the iPhone 7 won’t debut until 2017. And I’ve been wondering the same thing over the past few months.

So perhaps Apple will keep the iPhone 6 design around for a third year. Photos of alleged iPhone pre-production parts are appearing on the rumor blogs, and they look like … iPhone 6 designs. The most significant rumored changes are camera updates and no more headphone jack (which might lead to better water resistance).

Meanwhile, the rumor mill regarding iPhone’s switch to OLED displays puts that hardware change into 2017. Going with OLED displays on an “s” year just seems unlikely to me.

If this is all true, it will be entertaining to see what they decide to call the 2016 iPhone 6 iteration.

Also if this is true, it might allow Apple to dedicate some time and resources to Siri. Other existing and upcoming virtual assistants from competitors are making Siri look neglected. In fact, Siri’s original creators recently demo’d Viv which seems to be leaps and bounds ahead of Siri. Apple’s 2016 WWDC might include a huge push for Siri. Rumors swirl that the voice assistant might get its own SDK for developers to better implement the technology in their apps. Also, dedicated Siri devices could be on the way to compete with Amazon’s intriguing Echo product.

While that sounds positive, a delayed iPhone 7 could further impact Apple’s stock price. Apple continued to sell a huge number of iPhones this year, but it showed essentially flat growth from the previous year. Investors tend to hate that. And if there’s no shiny new technology to make up for an absent iPhone 7, the Apple stock will likely take another hit.

This is, of course, all speculation, and that’s fun. Time will tell, though.

Digital HD Movies and Your Options

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Digital HD banner with several digital movie service icons above it

I’ve been thinking a lot about digital movies recently, and what are truly the best options and ways to manage it all. Unlike buying digital music nowadays, digital movies are still controlled by digital rights management (DRM). While the iron-fisted approach to music DRM ultimately was its undoing, movie DRM seems to be much more liberal. However, it’s still very confusing. Doing research on this subject, I concluded that it would take a long boring article to fully explain the concepts. But I won’t. This is the quick introductory version with a concise bottom line to get you started.

Should You?

Should you abandon your physical media collection for digital copies? Lifehacker offers a great article on the subject. Read it and decide for yourself.


When I say “sources”, it’s a loosely defined term. The key concept is that these sources manage the digital rights over the movie titles. Sources include Apple’s iTunes, Amazon Video, Disney Movies Anywhere, and UltraViolet. Most of these sources also sell movies, but UltraViolet does not. UltraViolet exclusively manages DRM among several services.


Services sell movies and allow you to stream and download them. You can buy digital movies from many sources like iTunes, Amazon Video, Disney Movies Anywhere, Flixster, FandangoNOW, Vudu, and several others. You can also redeem digital HD codes included with Blu-ray and DVD media which usually direct you to a single redemption source’s web site.


Some sources allow sharing your digital collection. I was only able to find that Vudu offers the ability to share, but there might be others.


Services allow you to view your collection on a wide variety of devices like your desktop computer, laptop, tablet, and mobile phone. You can download the movies to the mobile devices for offline playback which is terrific for long plane flights or staying within mobile data caps.

Depending on your desktop computer, your streaming video quality might be limited. Without an HDCP connection to your monitor, you will not be allowed to stream high definition (HD) versions of the movie. You’ll be limited to standard definition (SD). Also, downloading to your desktop and laptop will likely require DRM software from the service.

Best Intersection of Services

Here’s where you’ll need to understand how services can and cannot work together. Amazon and Apple are pretty much isolated from what I can tell. If you buy a title from those sources, you can only watch them from those respective sources. Surprisingly, Disney plays well with several other services, including iTunes. But iTunes titles won’t show up in Disney Movies Anywhere. UltraViolet-managed titles work among affiliated services which exclude iTunes and Amazon.

Confused yet?

So here’s my bottom-line recommendation: Vudu.

Vudu works with Disney and UltraViolet. Vudu also shows both of those collections in its web site and mobile apps. Playback on your TV will require the Vudu app. That app can be found in Roku streaming devices as well as built into some smart TVs. The Vudu app is not included with Apple TV. At least not yet. You might have some success with iOS AirPlay, but AirPlay is not built into the Vudu iOS app’s video player.

Unfortunately trade-offs are unavoidable. But you can get a nice Roku streaming stick for $50. Sometimes less if you keep an eye out for deals.

I hope this helps get you started with digital movies in the smoothest possible way.

Post Script

I forgot to include Google Play in this article. Google’s service also seems to be isolated like Apple and Amazon.

Please comment if you have any information or experience to add.

iPhone Tip: Unique Ring and Text Tones

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iOS Sounds Icon

While most of the ringtones and alert sounds in iOS are pleasant (Owl City is rumored to have developed several of them), you might find some utility by having specific sounds for specific contacts.

Thankfully, the process is pretty simple.

First, get to your contacts. There are two ways to do this. You can open the Phone app and then tap Contacts in the navigation bar at the bottom. Or you can just find and tap into your Contacts app.

You’re ready to customize the sounds.

  1. Find the contact to which you’d like to assign a specific ringtone or alert sound, then tap that entry in the list.
  2. In the upper left, tap Edit.
  3. Scroll to find the settings for Ringtone and Text Tone. Chances are it says “Default”.
  4. Tap “Default” for either Ringtone or Text Tone. This will open the tone selection screen. Note that the Default tone name appears followed by the other available tones.
  5. Choose the sound you wish to assign to the contact. Tapping individual tone names from the list will place the checkmark next to the name and play the tone. Tapping a bunch of these in succession will probably draw the attention and ire of those around you, so be considerate.
  6. Tap Done when you’re happy with your choice.

Does Apple Music Still Mess With Your Song Collection?

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Apple Music Plus Your Song Colleciion Equals Confusion

After almost a year, can Apple Music be trusted to work with your existing music collection? The heated debate continues. But my take on it is: NO! Apple Music should not be allowed to touch your music collection.

However, if you haven’t meticulously curated your collection, then perhaps you won’t care when Apple Music randomly changes your album art or mixes up your studio and live tracks among other odd behaviors.

Apple Music manages (or man-handles) your music when you turn on “iCloud Music Library” on the General tab of iTunes Preferences.

iTunes Preferences

In my own experience, having iCloud Music Library on changed album art for a significant number of my songs. It also mixed up some tracks in completely illogical ways. I would find one of my songs, tap it, and something else would play. Some of my more obscure tracks never appeared in Apple Music at all, but I could find them on my hard drive.

Thankfully, just turning off iCloud Music Library restored my collection without having to retrieve everything from a file backup. But I have had friends who were not so lucky.

While I loved having my playlists synchronized on my computer and my phone, I had to turn off iCloud Music Library. I could not find a way to only sync playlists. And if I could, I would.

Otherwise, I love Apple Music! I pay for it, because the music discovery is terrific. The handpicked playlists are fun to explore, and the radio serves up terrific tunes. And just about all the tracks I want are just a search away. And using Siri to cue up music is just wonderfully convenient.

There’s always hope that iOS 10 and MacOS 10.12 will resolve the iCloud Music Library problems, but I’m not holding my breath…


Comcast Raises Its Data Caps

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You Got Comcasted

Comcast, who offers Internet services via its Xfinity brand, announced a significant increase in its data caps. Several markets were placed under a 300 GB per month data cap. With this limit, customers were allowed 3 no-cost overages in any 12-month period. After that, going over meant an extra $10 per 50 GB of data.

Starting June 2016, the cap jumps to a respectable 1 terabyte (1,000 GB) per month. Comcast claims its customers can stream 700 hours of HD video content without fear of exceeding the cap. For customers who do exceed the terabyte, the same $10 per 50 GB fee still applies. Comcast claims 99% of their customers don’t use 1 terabyte of data. They previously claimed this same statistic when they instituted the 300 GB cap. There is no word whether customers are allowed any complementary overages.

There has been a lot of negative attention on the Internet data cap, and it seems that entertainment giant actually listened.

I am a Comcast customer in Atlanta, and my family has been living with the data cap for a few years. The 300 GB cap just felt so restrictive. When we started to stream a Netflix show, I found myself doing quick mental check to get a feel for whether we were topping out our cap. One terabyte certainly lifts that constant feeling of dread.

Airtable for Lists and Reference

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AirtableApp: Airtable – Cost: Free

Sometimes you want to track a certain type of thing (perhaps ratings of your favorite coffees or brews). There are probably apps for that, but maybe they’re too socially connected or just downright confusing. Personally, I’ve been wanting to track favorite beers, but the apps I’ve found stink for one or more reasons. And using the iOS Reminders or Microsoft OneNote never really worked well. Then I heard of Airtable.

Airtable provides a fairly intuitive interface for creating simple or complex lists called Bases. It’s like creating a spreadsheet but Airtable makes it work like a charm in a tappable interface like your phone. For those who understand database concepts like tables and views, Airtable can become that much more powerful.

If you’re interested in this kind of app but databases sound intimidating, the folks at Airtable have you covered. The support section is thorough and surprisingly easy to grasp. The sample Bases have a refreshingly short learning curve, and once you take a close look, the concepts will just click for you.

Hey, I’m dense, and I figured it out.

Airtable Bases can be created and edited in app or online, and they’re always in sync. There’s collaboration tools and connectivity to online services like Dropbox, Evernote, and many more. If you keep your Bases under 1,200 rows (aka, records), then the service remains free. If you need more, then there are reasonable levels of service.

Airtable App [iTunes] – Android coming soon

iPhone and a Changing Marketplace

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$ iPhone

Just the other day, Apple reported flat growth in iPhone sales for the first quarter of its fiscal year 2016. Keep in mind the number for sales (and revenue and profit) are phenomenal, but it’s still the first lack of significant growth in the product line’s history.

Here’s a quick thought about a market factor that I believe will be a challenge for iPhone going forward: Carriers are dropping the 2-year contracts. And because of that, customers are seeing the true cost of their iPhones.

I’ve done the math for my family, and dropping the 2-year commitment and paying for our phones resulted in reduced cost over the same time period. That is based on our usage, of course. Your mileage may vary.

But the on-contract price of $199 or even $299 is mentally more appealing than $750 or $850. These higher prices are now being explicitly exposed to buyers. And while consumers are still buying at those prices, I suspect that they will do it less often in the future.

Other factors certainly play into this consumer behavior. Economic conditions around the globe are relatively volatile. The smart phone market is clearly maturing with fewer distinct and meaningful new features being added to the annually updated devices.

So Apple will need to consider dropping the prices of their phones (gasp!).

Apple’s leaders are not stupid. They’ve certainly been aware of these trends and what the company will need to do to adjust.

Just my two cents for today…

Non-Obvious Features Hidden in Your iPhone

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Hidden FeaturesBack in 2007, Apple revolutionized the smart phone industry with the iPhone. And at that time, the phone’s operating system was refreshingly simple. Since that time, the operating system (now called iOS) has become much more complex with a simple-looking interface. Some of the best features are hidden in that simple-looking interface.

Here are a few tips to expose some non-obvious functionality that you might be able to adopt into your daily usage.

App Switcher

Double-press the Home button and then use two fingers on two apps (one finger each) and swipe upwards to close both with one gesture. This requires a bit of practice and dexterity, but it works.


Turn the phone to landscape orientation (sideways) to expose the built-in scientific calculator.

To backspace (delete) a digit that you’ve entered, just swipe left or right across the number string.

The calculator in portrait mode limits numbers to 9 digits in length. Turn to the landscape, scientific mode to work with larger numbers.


When set for taking a photo, press and hold the shutter button for burst mode. This takes several photos per second. This is great for those action moments to get the perfect picture of the winning goal, touchdown, or slide into home plate.

While taking a video, notice the white circle within a circle. Tap that during the video recording session to take a still photo. While this isn’t hidden per se, it’s kinda hiding in plain sight.

You can activate the photo shutter with the volume keys on the side of the phone. You can also do this with the volume buttons on the EarPod headphones. This is good if you ever use the phone on a tripod and long shutter exposures (you’ll need a third-party app for long exposures, many of which are free).

Find the Owner

Press and hold the Home button and ask “Who owns this phone?” You’ll get contact information that should help you return the phone.


If you have the flashlight on and the phone auto locks, you can simply swipe up on the lock screen’s camera icon and the light will go off. This is probably more of a tip than a feature.


There are many hidden ways to view your email messages. Navigate to your list of Mailboxes, then tap Edit. You might find the ability to view only Flagged or Unread messages helpful. Also in this edit mode, you can reorder you mailboxes to have your primary service at the top of the list.


When you’re not in the Messages app and you receive a new message as a banner notification at the very top of your screen, you can swipe down while it’s visible to respond to the message without going into the Messages app.


On the Keypad screen, tap the green call button to display the last dialed number. Don’t worry, it won’t automatically call it.


In the Albums view, long press the plus sign to be offered to create a new folder or a new album.


[For iPhone 6 and later] From anywhere except the lock screen, lightly double tap (not press) the Home button. The top half of the screen will drop to the lower half allowing your finger to reach the items. Double tap again for the screen to return to normal.


From the carousel view of open windows, tap and hold the plus sign to view a list of recently closed browser tabs.

Quickly request the desktop version of a website by pressing and holding the reload icon in the URL bar. If you have a content blocker enabled, you can also choose to reload a page without the blocker temporarily disabled.


Spotlight appears when you swipe downward on any home screen (but not swiping down from the screen edge which shows Notification Center). It’s also available when you swipe to the left from the first home screen. It shows a search box, app suggestions, and (sometimes) news.

Enter a simple math problem to get the solution.

Type in a measurement or currency to get a conversion.


Clear iOS cache by tapping any single tab icon 10 times in the following Apple apps: Apple Store, Podcasts, Music, Game Center, and Phone. For example, tap the For You icon in the music app 10 times. Don’t expect any confirmation for this action. I guess you just have to have faith.

To clear iOS RAM, press and hold the Power/Sleep button until the Slide to Power Off prompt appears. Then press and hold the Home button until you’re returned to your home screen.

Touch ID

[For iPhone 5s and later] In the Setting app, navigate to Touch ID & Passcode. Now place a registered finger on the Home button. The entry under which that finger is registered will highlight while the finger rests on the button.


From the lockscreen, double press the Home button to open the Wallet app. THis gives you access to Apple Pay and supported payments and loyalty cards.

3D Touch

[For iPhone 6s and later] In Safari’s carousel view of open tabs, you can peek and pop any of the web pages. Press to peek. Press deeper to pop it fully open.

In Reminders, press a reminder to get a quick menu to add an alarm based on time or location.

Almost everything in the Music app supports peek and pop.

The drawing tools in Notes support 3D Touch. Deeper swipes make a darker, wider line.

Source:, BGR