Category Archives: Home Tech

Is it Time for Mailbox?

About a year ago, I tried a slick new iPhone App called Mailbox as a replacement for the default Mail app. I was drawn in by rave reviews, a slick, clean interface, and the promise of an app that played nice with Gmail, which handles the e-mail for The main feature of Mailbox is numerous swipe gestures that help you quickly get to “Inbox Zero”, a state of nirvana for which you are rewarded with a zen image of the day.

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 7.06.39 AM

You can short swipe right to archive a message, long swipe right to delete it, or long swipe left add it to a list (To Buy, To Read, and To Watch are the defaults, and you can easily add others). But the killer feature is the short swipe left, which allows you to “snooze” a message. This gets the message out of you inbox for now, but brings it back in the future. So you get to Inbox Zero by pushing off the emails that you need to deal with, just not right now.


Though there were many aspects of the app that I enjoyed, especially the snooze feature, I had been using the Apple Mail app for so long that it was difficult to get used to the new interface. Further, at the time there was no app for my Mac, so I was using two different interfaces. I eventually gave up.

But then, three things happened. First, Mailbox was acquire by Dropbox, which means they now are well-funded. Second, Mailbox released a public beta of their Mac app in October. And third, I got an e-mail stating that I’d get another Gigabyte added to my Dropbox account if I downloaded the new Mailbox iOS app and signed in with my Dropbox login info.

I have been using Mailbox for about a week. While the interface is still different from my trusty Mail app, it is a bit closer with the new release. Having the Mac app working in conjunction with iPhone and iPad apps has helped immensely. But it’s the “playing nice” with Gmail that has sold me this time. It searches through archived e-mail as quickly as if it were on the device. And when I delete something, but want it back, undo actually works (it doesn’t for me on Mac Mail-believe me I’ve tried to fix it!).

So I finally hit the Help Me Get to Zero button yesterday. I was afraid, because the default badge for Mailbox  shows you the number of messages in your Inbox, not the number of unread messages. My number said 10,000. I think it’s stops counting at that point, because I actually had 16,000 messages in my Inbox. By clicking the button, Mailbox took every read message in my inbox and archived it. I never would have done this with the Apple Mail interface, because searching through archived messages was always spotty.


So I reached my first Inbox Zero image of the day (that’s actually it above). When you click on it in the apps, you get to see the full image. Then sit there and reflect on more important things.

Happy 2nd Birthday, Mailbox. It’s definitely worth a try, if for no other reason than to grab 1 GB for your Dropbox account. There is even an Android app for you now, Peter.

Apple TV for only $75 today

One of my favorite pieces of tech is on sale for 25% off today at It’s refurbished, but that shouldn’t matter a bit, since it comes with a full Apple warranty.
With Apple TV you can easily see your own photos and movies on your TV, listen to your iTunes collection on your stereo, or enjoy services such Netflix, Pandora, HBO GO, flickr, MLB.TV, and much more.
But the newest cool thing is Airplay, which allows anyone with an iOS device on your network to stream content to your TV or stereo through the Apple TV. So instead of showing you the latest pictures on their iPhone, you can view it on the big screen.

Addressing Christmas Cards

Every year we go through the ritual of revising our Christmas card list. It’s always been a manual process in Excel because my wife must have each card addressed exactly right. A card could be addressed to Mr. John Smith, The Smiths or the Smith Family, depending on John’s success with women.

After seeing a few other friends’ address management methods using Microsoft Word, then hearing one couple talk about what an organizational mess their handwritten cards were, I decided to do what I should have done years ago: create a method to rely on the same address book we use on a daily basis to generate our list. We use Contacts (formerly Address Book) on our Macs. Contacts syncs via iCloud to our iPhones and iPads and, after years of syncing nightmares, I believe this technology is now nearly flawless.

So the issue at hand was to print address labels from a group in Contacts exactly the way my wife would like them to read. The solution is to set a custom field in Contacts for Christmas cards, and use that field to print the labels.

HINT: if you are not as persnickety as my wife about how the labels read, you can’t print labels directly out of Contacts. Just set up a group that has all your card recipients, highlight it, then print and choose labels. It will print a label for all addresses by default, so change it on the Labels tab to Home only.

Continue reading Addressing Christmas Cards

Malware hits the Mac

Malware is targeting Macs. But only if you are duped. It’s a problem that has effected major sites such as A user visiting an infected site will see a pop-up that looks like it came from the Mac Operating system rather than the website. If the user is tricked into entering their computer password, the software will install itself and act like a virus protection program called Mac Defender (it can also go by other names). It claims the users computer has been infected and tries to get the user to register the software by entering credit card information. An elaborate fishing scam, but all you need to know is that you should shut down your browser if you see it, and be wary of the last website your were viewing. Read this article and be careful out there – CNET News via @cnet.

Hello, I’m a Mac.

As personal computers invaded our lives in the 1980’s and 1990’s, there began a geometric rise in intrafamily tech support calls. Only a gifted few could sit on the phone with a 60-something, divine what was actually taking place on the screen of the remote PC based on exceedingly inadequate descriptions and a certain penchant for clicking the mouse when no click was requested, and eventually come to a graceful conclusion to the problem prior to slamming the phone down in frustration. Sadly, I am gifted.

So when Steve Jobs returned to Apple around the turn of the century, and brought with him the bones of what would become OS X, the new Mac operating system, I was intrigued. Now what the new Macs could do was cool, but it was more what they didn’t do that led me to buy an iMac for me on my birthday in 2002. I bought it in 2002. And it is still sitting, working, in my guest house eight years later.

Since that day, now almost eight years ago, when I bought my first Mac, I have directly influenced over 100 purchases of Macs. Indirectly, who knows. The reason: I stopped supporting PC’s four years ago.

Yep. Cold. Well, I gave my family a few weeks notice, but that was about it.

It was what they didn’t do.

Call Joe

I have eight brothers and sisters and we all share a cabin in the mountains south of Lake Tahoe. This cabin has one of those old, rear projection “big screen” TV’s in an oak cabinet. We were ever so shrewd to demand that it stay when we bought the place. Now I have no idea how we are going to extract the monster when it dies.  And it is very near dead.

Well, on top of this behemoth sits a pile of more recent innovations. A nice Marantz A/V Receiver hooked up to  Cambridge Soundworks surround speakers. An Onkyo five-disc DVD player. A Pioneer Karaoke player complete with two mics (we all love to perform, just not in public). And an old DirecTV receiver. Add to all this the old PC running Windows XP which I stupidly gave a wireless connection to the broadband router so that it could be better located.

Now all of my siblings know that I taught myself how to program a computer in the ninth grade. I was always the kid who could not stand to walk by a blinking VCR without setting the clock. And now I can tell them why the grey bar at the bottom of their iPhone screen no longer contains icons. Or why they can see the Karaoke on the TV, but hear the DirecTV over the speakers. They know all they need to do is call. And they always call. Especially from the cabin.