Monthly Archives: December 2016

Configuring an Apple TV with an iPhone

Apple has developed a reputation over the years of producing products that “just work” and are easy to configure and use. With the introduction of iOS 7, Apple provides a quick and painless way for you to configure your Apple TV using just your iPhone.

The third-generation Apple TV enables you to stream a variety of content from the Internet or an AirPlay-enabled device that is connected to the same network. For example, this means you can load a video on your iPhone and transmit it to your TV through the Apple TV.

To facilitate easier set up of the Apple TV, Apple added iBeacon, a new feature to any iDevice using the iPhone’s iOS 7. Using the iDevice’s built-in Bluetooth wireless technology, iBeacon enables an iPhone or other current iDevice (iPhone 4s or later, iPad third generation or later, iPad mini, or iPod touch fifth generation) to connect with a third-generation Apple TV that is running the 6.0 version of the operating system. It also uses Bluetooth to transfer all the information needed for the Apple TV to connect to your local wireless network. And iBeacon transfers the information needed to connect your Apple TV to the iTunes Store, so you can purchase music, movies, and TV shows and display them on your TV through the Apple TV.

After you unpack your Apple TV, use an HDMI cable to connect it to your television and then plug it in to a power outlet. Your Apple TV then powers on for the first time. A setup screen appears that prompts you to choose which language you want to use during configuration (for example, English, Spanish, and so on).

Now you’re almost ready to use your iPhone to configure your Apple TV. First, you need to make sure your iPhone is unlocked (swipe the lock bar on the bottom of the screen and, if necessary, enter your passcode) and is connected to your local wireless network.

You also need to enable Bluetooth. If you haven’t already done so, open the Settings app on your iPhone, tap Bluetooth, and then move the slider to the right so that the background becomes green.

The next step is to lightly tap your iPhone once on the top of your Apple TV. After you do this, move your iPhone where you can still see the screen, but make sure it is within 8 inches of your Apple TV. After tapping wait for a prompt to appear on your iPhone asking you if you want to proceed. Tap Yes.

On your iPhone screen you should now see the prompt to enter your Apple ID and password. Enter those and then click the OK button in the dialog box. You now see two prompts: The first asks if the Apple ID should be saved on the Apple TV, so you can make purchases from the iTunes store, and the second asks if the Apple TV can send diagnostic information from the Apple TV back to Apple. After you answer those questions, the Apple TV begins the configuration process. Though your setup screen won’t change and it may look like nothing is happening, configuration is happening; just be patient. It should take roughly 1 minute. When the configuration is done, your Apple TV is connected to your local Wi-Fi network and your iTunes Store account is set up. When this automatic setup is complete, your Apple TV is ready to use.

If your chosen wireless network is hidden (that is, not publicly broadcast), or if several Wi-Fi networks are in range that your iPhone can connect to, you may get the following message during setup: “There was a problem connecting to the network. The Wi-Fi network you are attempting to join cannot be found.” If this happens, just press Menu once on the Apple TV remote, select Other, and then, using the remote, begin to enter the name for the wireless network you want to use. When the Apple TV recognizes the network you enter from the ones available on the iPhone, it automatically proceeds with the setup.

 

Remote Alternatives – Or Other Ways to Control Your Apple TV

Now that your Apple TV is ready to use, you can choose between using the remote that came with it or one of two alternatives that make it easier to operate.

The small remote shipped with the Apple TV offers a range of services but it isn’t very user-friendly. If you read the reviews for the Apple TV, one of the complaints you see most often is that the Apple TV ships with a minimalstic remote control. It has only three input buttons and four directional arrows that make it hard to quickly set up or navigate your system. Because the remote doesn’t have a keyboard, inputting passwords and moving through menus is clumsy and time-intensive. Using the remote, you see four tabs on your TV screen that you need to bounce back and forth between to enter required information like network names, passwords, and so on. Needless to say, this process can be incredibly frustrating when entering complex words or phrases (like a password with uppercase and lowercase letters, numerals, and symbols)!

But don’t despair…there are two available options that can improve the remote’s usability.

Bluetooth technology comes in handy again because you can use it to improve the control of your Apple TV. Just about any Bluetooth-enabled keyboard can be used. If you don’t already have one, you can buy Apple’s wireless Bluetooth Keyboard, which works well.

To pair your keyboard with your Apple TV, make sure the keyboard is in “pairing” mode by pressing and holding the power button until the small light on the top right of the keyboard blinks.

Then, use the arrow and select buttons on the Apple TV remote to go to Settings -> General -> Bluetooth, and the Apple TV looks for and displays any Bluetooth devices within range that it can pair with. You should see the Bluetooth keyboard in the list. Select it using the remote. You see a four-digit code appear on the TV screen. Enter the displayed code on the Bluetooth keyboard and press the return key. This pairs your Bluetooth keyboard to your Apple TV, and you can now use it when you need to control the Apple TV.

Go app to offer secure access to database content

For a business of any size, having a custom iPhone or iPad app developed is an expensive and time-consuming undertaking. Typically a far more cost-effective, versatile, and efficient solution is to develop a custom database using FileMaker Pro 13 and then grant employees access to it from an iOS mobile device using the FileMaker Go app.

In fact, the latest editions of FileMaker Pro and FileMaker Server, as well as the companion FileMaker Go app, work even more seamlessly together and can provide customized database management solutions to companies in a wide range of industries.

FileMaker’s main attraction, especially for small businesses, is the capability to quickly and inexpensively create highly customized and branded solutions for handing a diverse range of tasks.

To see a small sampling of what’s possible using the FileMaker platform in conjunction with the FileMaker Go app, FileMaker has created a demonstration website.

As you’ll discover, most tasks that previously involved completing or accessing information from paper-based forms, spreadsheet data, and/or that required any type of data collection can now easily be handled using a custom database created with FileMaker Pro and accessed using FileMaker Go.

Companies have implemented FileMaker-based solutions related to point-of-sale applications (that involve processing credit card payments and capturing signatures in the field); time management and scheduling; guest list management for events, sales and customer management; Customer Relationship Management (CRM); invoicing; inventory; asset management; resource scheduling; project management; time billing; and on-site job estimates.

Using FileMaker Go with an iOS mobile device enables information to be collected and shared from anywhere—whether it involves manually entering data using a mobile device’s touch screen and virtual keyboard, capturing signatures on the touch screen, taking photos using one of the mobile device’s built in cameras, or scanning barcodes.

The same FileMaker Go app can also access and display data from a centralized database, or present customized reports on an iPhone or iPad’s screen.

When FileMaker Go is used, everything is managed from a secure server, and the FileMaker platform offers total control over who has access to what data. As a result, it’s never before been so easy to automate a wide range of tasks and ensure that everyone in a company or on a team can access the precise information they need, when and where they need it.

It’s important to understand that there are countless stand-alone database applications available for the iPhone or iPad, as well as for Macs and PCs. Many of them offer some level of customizability, but this is often limited. Plus, each database on each device or platform typically needs to be managed separately, even though it’s often possible to sync data between devices and platforms.

FileMaker has changed this database management approach entirely, allowing for one database to be custom created and then securely accessed by PCs, Macs, and iOS mobile devices, or any web browser.

FileMaker, as a company, is a subsidiary of Apple. The FileMaker database platform has been around since 1998, and has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide for PCs and Macs. The latest edition of FileMaker Pro, which was released in December 2013, represents a major evolution in the platform, with greater emphasis on ease-of-use, flexible design, as well as mobile device and online integration.

FileMaker Pro 13 offers more than 50 new features, including major improvements to its database design tools that require far less training to use than ever before.

The ability to access FileMaker databases remotely using an iPhone or iPad has allowed companies to envision and implement entirely new ways in which this database platform can be used to collect and disseminate information. In fact, as of February 2014, more than one million copies of the FileMaker Go app have been downloaded from the App Store for use in conjunction with FileMaker Pro 13 and FileMaker Server.

Now, within just a few hours, any company can use FileMaker Pro 13 to create a customized database solution that will be fully compatible with PCs, Macs, and iOS mobile devices, and also be accessible online. Yet, all data remains encrypted and secure.

FileMaker Pro 13 continues to be a complex application that has a learning curve associated with it. However, a wide range of free and fee-based training materials (which you can learn about by visiting http://www.filemaker.com/support/training) are readily available in book, online, and video form. Once a custom database solution is created, it can be accessed and used by anyone with ease and virtually no training.

FileMaker Pro 13 includes 16 predesigned templates that can be fully customized to meet a company’s most popular database-related needs. Using one of these templates speeds up the “getting started” process. However, someone who understands how to use the FileMaker platform can just as easily create a fully customized and highly complex database application from scratch using the latest collection of tools that’s offered.

When most people think online search

When most people think online search, they think Google. That’s what’s happened to the online search market – it’s dominated by one (very good) player, with a few minor competitors (Bing and Yahoo!) picking up the scraps.

But it wasn’t always this way. There was a time when Google was just an interesting experiment, and users had a dozen or more viable search engines and directories to choose from.

So strap on your goggles (not your Googles!) and get ready to take a trip into the search engine past – way back into the mid-1990s!

 

Searching the Internet – Before the Web

The Internet today is primarily the World Wide Web – that “www” in all website addresses. But the Internet was around long before web pages and hyperlinks became common, since the 1970s in one form or another.

Users back in those pre-Web days still had the same issues that users today face – namely, sorting through all the junk to find the golden nuggets of information they needed. Just as now, information back then was stored on a multitude of servers around the globe, and being able to search those servers for specific information was an essential task.

If you’ve never seen the pre-Web Internet, know that it wasn’t pretty. There weren’t any fancy graphics and clickable hyperlinks, which means that all the data back then existed in text format only. And there weren’t any search engines per se, not like Google or Bing, anyway.

So how did users search for information before there was the Web? They used one of four primary tools:

  • WAIS, which stands for wide area information server. This tool let you use the old text-based Telnet protocol to perform full-text document searches of various Internet servers.
  • Archie, which was a client for searching for files across multiple FTP sites. (The word “archie” is the word “archive” with the “v” removed.) FTP sites still exist, but Archie is long gone.
  • Gopher, which was a tool for organizing files on dedicated servers. Gopher was surprisingly popular in universities across the U.S., which is where most of the information back then was housed. (Gopher was created at the University of Minnesota – home of the Golden Gophers.) Each Gopher server contained lists of files and other information, both at that specific site and at other Gopher sites around the world. Gopher worked similarly to a hierarchical file tree like that used in Windows Explorer – you clicked folder links to see their contents and navigated up and down through various folders and subfolders.
  • Veronica. When you wanted to find information on a specific Gopher server, you used a Gopher client for that server. But when you wanted to search across multiple Gopher servers, you used Veronica. Veronica was the Archie for Gopher servers. (Archie and Veronica – get it?) This software client functioned kind of like one of today’s search engines – you entered a query and clicked a Search button, which generated a list of matching documents found on various Gopher servers.

These tools were all rather primitive, at least by today’s standards. And after the Web came along, these old tools went the way of the horse carriage and buggy whip.

 

Enter the Web – and Web Directories

With the advent of the World Wide Web in 1994 (or thereabouts), data started migrating from Gopher and FTP servers to Web servers. Boring old text documents got dusted off and spruced up with graphics and hyperlinks, and Microsoft and Netscape started battling back and forth about who had the better Web browser. (This was after Mosaic paved the way, of course.) In short, the Internet was stood on its head as the Web became the dominant infrastructure – and as millions of new users flooded the Internet monthly.

As the number of individual Web pages grew from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands to millions, it became imperative for people to quickly and easily find their way around all those pages. With the explosion of the Web, then, came a new industry of cataloging and indexing the Web.

The earliest attempts to catalog the Web were all done manually. That’s much different from the way today’s search engines do it, with automated web crawlers and indexing software. Instead, back in the day, real honest-to-goodness human beings physically looked at individual websites and pages and manually stuck each one into a hand-picked category. When they got enough Web pages collected, they ended up with what was called a directory.

It’s important to know that a directory (and there are still a few around today) doesn’t search the Web, it only catalogs chosen Web pages, which themselves represent a small subset of everything available. But a directory is very organized and very easy to use, and lots and lots of people back in the mid-90s used Web directories every day.

In many ways, those Web directories looked and worked like traditional print Yellow Pages. (Which are also facing extinction today, by the way.) When you wanted to find something, you clicked through the various categories and subcategories on a given directory site until you ended up with a list of pages recommended by the directory’s editors. You didn’t get the magnitude of results you get today, but what you got were choice. It’s the old quality versus quantity thing.

Smart Glass with Xbox One

If you are currently using Xbox 360 and would like to know more about using Smart Glass, then I encourage you to check out my book “My Windows Phone 8.” There is an entire section that covers using Smart Glass on Windows Phone 8 devices.

 

Supported Devices

Although the Xbox One is capable of running various apps, the Smart Glass app does not run on the Xbox One console. Instead, it runs on the device that will act as the second screen. Supported devices include:

  • Windows Phone 8 devices
  • Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets
  • Windows 8 PCs
  • iPod Touch (4th and 5th generation)
  • iPhone (3GS, 4S, 5, 5C, and 5S)
  • iPad (2, 3, 4, and air)
  • iPad Mini (generation 1 and 2)
  • Android (4.x and higher, tablets require at least a seven inch screen)

 

Installing Smart Glass

The procedure for installing the Xbox Smart Glass app varies depending on the type of device that you are using. Generally speaking, the Smart Glass app is installed in the same way that you would install any other app. For example, if you wanted to install the Smart Glass app on a Windows 8 PC or on a Windows RT tablet, you would simply log into the device, open the Windows Store, search for and install the app.

In order to work correctly, the Smart Glass app does have to be connected to your Microsoft account. The interesting thing about this however, is that Smart Glass appears to work even when a different account is actively being used on the Xbox One console.

To give you a more concrete example, my wife and I both have profiles on our Xbox One console. Last night, my wife was playing Need for Speed Rivals while I was working on something on my Surface RT tablet. Out of curiosity, I opened the Smart Glass app. Even though it was my wife who was logged into the Xbox One console, a message saying “Hello Brien” popped up at the bottom of the screen (without disrupting the game) as soon as I opened the Smart Glass app. In other words, the Xbox One console was smart enough to realize that I have a profile on the console even though I was not the one who was actively logged into the console.

Incidentally, this behavior can be changed.  From the Home screen, click on Settings. When the Settings screen appears, go to Preferences. The Preferences screen allows you to choose which (if any) Smart Glass connections will be allowed. For instance, you can choose to accept Smart Glass connections only from profiles signed into the console.

Another thing that I noticed right away was that Smart Glass for Xbox One is a lot more responsive than the Xbox 360 version was. The Xbox 360 version of the Smart Glass communicates with a remote datacenter, which relays a signal to the Xbox console. In contrast, the Xbox One version of Smart Glass communicates directly with the Xbox One console without the need to relay the signal through a remote datacenter.

 

Using Smart Glass with Your Xbox One

Smart Glass has a variety of different uses. Its actual functionality is context sensitive, meaning that Smart Glass behaves differently depending on how you are currently using your Xbox One.

 

Home Screen Navigation

One of the most basic things that you can do with Smart Glass is navigate the Xbox One home screen. Smart Glass can display a set of controls that mimic those of an Xbox One controller. You can use these controls to navigate the Start screen, just as if you were using the controller. In case you are wondering, the Smart Glass controls cannot currently be used for playing games.

 

Browser Control

Xbox One includes Internet Explorer. The browser actually works surprisingly well, but entering long Web addresses through an Xbox controller can be a bit tedious. However, Smart Glass can augment the browsing experience by turning your mobile device into an on-screen keyboard. This makes browsing the Web or entering information into Web forms much easier.

 

Movies and Television

Although it does not work for every movie, Smart Glass provides timed synchronized content for some movies. For example, you might see facts about the movie or quotes from actors or from the director as you watch the movie.

The same basic concept also applies to television shows. HBO for example, provides Xbox Smart Glass enhancements for many of their shows.