Welcome to SEAL

South Essex Apple Link is an Apple user group run by enthusiasts with a collective deep understanding of the Apple technologies and it’s user community. SEAL welcomes Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad and Apple TV users across the whole of Essex and surrounding areas.

We meet monthly in Wickford, Essex. Visitors are welcome (there is a small entrance fee), for more details see our About page.

Next meeting: Friday 10 May 2019.

January 2014 Meeting Report

The January meeting included the SEAL Annual General Meeting. The committee was re-elected for another year, thanks to the committee members for standing. The AGM included reports from the Chairman and Treasurer and a useful discussion of plans for the coming year.

We watched and discussed the iOS 7 tip videos on In-App Purchases and Location Services that DavidB has recently made. DavidK gave us a demo of the iOS game BADLAND which was picked as one of Apple’s Best of iTunes 2013.

Apple’s Best of iTunes doesn’t cover the Mac App Store. The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) have a long list of best Mac Apps of 2013 so if you’re looking for Mac Apps that might be worth a gander.

Robert then demonstrated some of the changes to Notifications in OS X Mavericks including some features that are less obvious like notifications from web sites, selectable “snooze” time for calendar and reminder alerts (click and hold the Snooze button) and the configurable do-not-disturb period. A complete list of new Mavericks features (including Notifications and much more) can be found on Apple’s See everything the new OS X can do page.

We also had a brief news discussion, this included:

December 2013 Meeting Report

At our last meeting of 2013 everyone brought along Christmas food to share. We had an Apple Quiz, Ben got the most questions right, impressing everyone with his knowledge of past and recent Apple history.

During our show and tell segment, DavidK demonstrated the recently released iOS game Clumsy Ninja which features an impressively animated ninja character to interact with. The game is free with optional in-app purchases.

Ben brought along two original Clamshell iBook Macs (one in Tangerine and the other in Blueberry) from his Apple collection and told us about the history of these interesting machines and about the current collector’s market for them.

The meeting also included a discussion of the month’s Apple news including:

  • Apple deploying iBeacon technology at US stores.
  • The results of the one-off product (RED) auction which featured products designed by Jony Ive and Marc Newson.
  • Western Digital updates the SmartWare software supplied with their external hard drives to fix problems with Mavericks.
    We’d like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. If you haven’t been to one of out meetings before, why not make a resolution to visit us in 2014!

November 2013 Meeting Report

At the November meeting we explored the new features of Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks (a free upgrade available now from the Mac App Store for everyone with Mac OS X 10.6 or later and compatible hardware) and helped members decide whether they should upgrade. Some of the features demonstrated were:

  • Tabs in the Finder making it easy to switch between folders and allowing the Finder to be used effectively in full-screen mode.
  • Tags, a new way of organising files in the Finder which also extends to files stored in iCloud.
  • Enhanced dictation which enables long-form dictation and doesn’t require an Internet connection.
  • Improved support for multiple displays allowing multiple full-screen applications to be displayed and the menu bar and dock to appear on any display.
    The meeting also included a discussion of the month’s Apple news including:

  • The announcement of the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina Display.

  • Apple offering iLife and iWork free with new Macs and iOS devices and free updates to current owners of eligible earlier versions.
  • We highlighted to members that hard drive maker WD have warned that some of the utilities included with their external drives can cause data loss on Mavericks.

October 2013 Meeting Report

At the October meeting the main topic of discussion was the recently released iOS 7. Several members had downloaded the new operating system on a variety of devices including iPhone 5, iPhone 4 and iPad. Key features demonstrated were:

  • Control Center
  • Blocking of calls and messages from unwanted contacts.
  • New camera features including square photos, filters and easy access to HDR.
  • New Safari features including bookmarks available in new tabs and easy access to Private browsing.
    DaveK pointed out a some handy tips on the iOS 7 keyboard:

  • When entering a URL or e-mail address, the .com button is no longer available on the keyboard. However, if you touch and hold the full stop (.) button a selection of top level domains (including .co.uk and .com) are displayed for you to select from.

  • To quickly enter a number in the middle of entering text, press and hold on the number key (123) then drag your finger to a number and let go. The selected number will then be entered and the keyboard switched back to text mode saving two taps.
    DavidB has produced a video demonstrating some of the new iOS 7 features and tips on setup:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XudJcdTGGvg

It was mentioned that the iOS game Temple Run Oz is currently available for free via the Apple Store app. Free downloads are regularly offered via the Apple Store app so it’s worth keeping an eye on. DaveK showed us Temple Run 2 (the base game, Temple Run Oz is themed after the film Oz the Great and Powerful) to give an idea of how this type of endless runner game works.

The meeting also included a discussion of the month’s Apple news including:

Q&A September 2013

These questions were asked at the September meeting:

  • I’m trying to add a custom ringtone to my iPhone but it’s greyed out in iTunes, how do I do it?
  • How can I add a keyboard shortcut to an application menu item when there’s more than one menu item with that name?
    Q. I’m trying to add a custom ringtone to my iPhone but it’s greyed out in iTunes, how do I do it?

A. Click a song in your iTunes Library which you wish to convert to a Ringtone for use on your iPhone. Choose File>Get Info (Command and I) and select the “Options” Tab. You will see two boxes “Start Time” and “Stop Time”. Ringtones can’t be any longer than 30 seconds so in the “Stop Time”, change this to 0:30 and click “OK”. This will give you a 30 second clip from the start of the song. If however you would like a 30 second clip from later in the song, this can be achieved by adjusting both the “Start Time” and the “Stop Time”. This is very useful if there is a long intro until your favourite part of the song.

Now, select File>Create New Version>Create AAC Version (other format options will be displayed if you have selected other formats in Preferences such as MP3 etc.). This will essentially create a duplicate of the song and will only be 30 seconds in length. Drag this to the Desktop. It will probably have the File Extension “.m4a”. In order for it to be recognised in iTunes as a Ringtone, change the File Extension to “.m4r” and then either double click it or drag to iTunes for it to be added under “Tones”. This can then be synced to your iPhone. Don’t forget to correct the Start/Stop times of the original song file. “Start Time” can be set to 0 and the “Stop Time” box unticked.

Q. How can I add a keyboard shortcut to an application menu item when there’s more than one menu item with that name?

A. An example of this problem is adding a shortcut to the Center option of Align Objects on the Arrange menu in Pages. If you try to add a keyboard shortcut just by referencing the Center menu item name the shortcut is added to the Center option of Text on the Format menu instead.

To get over this issue add the keyboard shortcut as follows:

  1. Open the Keyboard preferences pane within System Preferences and choose the Keyboard Shortcuts tab.
  2. Click Application Shortcuts in the list and click the add (+) button to add a shortcut.
  3. In Application select the application you want to add the shortcut to, in this example, Pages.
  4. In Menu Title type the menu name, followed by the sub menu (if any) and then the name of the menu item separating each with “->” (that’s a dash followed by a greater than symbol) to give the full path to the menu item. In the case of the pages Align Objects/Center menu this would be “Arrange->Align Objects->Center”. It’s important that each name is typed exactly as it appears on the menu.
  5. Click in the Keyboard Shortcut field and type the key combination you want to use. I chose Option+Command+C.
    Your chosen Keyboard shortcut should now appear against the menu item.

This tip was tested on Mac OS 10.8 Mountain Lion. I understand in 10.7 (Lion) you need to use “>” as a separator instead of “->” and this trick is not supported in 10.6 and earlier.

September 2013 Meeting Report

A discussion of the big news of the month including Apple’s iPhone announcements kicked off the September SEAL meeting.

Key topics from the news discussion included:

  • Apple’s announcement of the iPhone 5s and 5c.
  • The M7 motion processor and new camera features included in the iPhone 5s.
  • iWork and iLife applications now being included with the purchase of new iOS devices.
    We had planned to hold our first beginners section at this meeting but, as everyone attending was an experienced Mac user, we decided to hold that over for a future meeting.

For the remainder of the meeting members showed interesting products and tips in our Show & Tell section:

DavidB Demonstrated two useful features of iOS 6 both of which are useful if you’re lending your iOS device to someone or letting a child use it:

The restrictions option in General Settings can be used to limit access to certain apps (for example you could block Safari) and features (such as in-app purchases). You can block access to apps, music and videos based on their content rating too. A PIN is set so the device owner can unblock features or alter the restrictions settings. Apple have a help article about Restrictions on their site.

David also demonstrated the Guided Access feature which is located in the Accessibility section of General Settings. This allows you to lock the iOS device into a single app and then control if touch and/or motion controls are available. It’s also possible to block access to certain areas of the screen to prevent accidental activation of commands. Apple also have a help article about Guided Access.

DavidK then showed us a couple of interesting iOS applications:

Opera’s new Coast web browser is designed specifically for the iPad. This free browser has a minimal user interface so you can concentrate on web content and allows you to browse between pages using touch gestures.

Groceries is a shopping list application which allows you to compile your list from common grocery items (or you can add your own), it learns what products you commonly buy so you can easily add them to your list. The app keeps your list grouped by supermarket aisle to speed up shopping.\

Questions and answers from the September meeting covering creating ringtones in iTunes and assigning applications keyboard shortcuts are now available.

August 2013 Meeting Report

At the August SEAL meeting we had a lively news discussion and two interesting presentations on web design software. Don’t miss John’s video on the RapidWeaver Stacks plug-in at the end of this report!

Key topics from the news discussion included:

  • Apple announcing a take-back programme for third party iPhone, iPad and iPod USB chargers.
  • Reports of the easy accessibility of saved passwords in Google’s Chrome web browser.
  • The security of user’s data on the Internet following reports of XKeyScore, an NSA tool which was revealed to easily interrogate a huge database of Internet messages and usage data.
    The rest of the meeting focused on creating websites with your Mac.

Ben started off with a presentation of iWeb, Apple’s web design application that was included in the iLife suite. Although it’s not currently available with new Macs or on the Mac App Store, iWeb is still a useful program. Ben explained how it can continue to be used on Mountain Lion and with your own hosting even though Apple’s Mobile Me hosting service has been discontinued.

Ben then demonstrated how iWeb can be used to quickly create an attractive web site and how flexible it is to work with the supplied templates or your own design. This amazing YouTube video shows Apple’s home page being recreated in iWeb, a testament to its surprising power.

If you’re interested in iWeb, here are some sites which continue to provide information and advice for iWeb users:

iWeb FAQ
iWeb for Musicians

Apple has some support resources available:

Apple Support Communities
Tutorial Videos

Robert then demonstrated RapidWeaver, a template-based web design program from Realmac Software. Robert showed how a site can be built up from different page types to include features such as a blog and photo gallery. Once the site was complete he changed the look and layout of the site by selecting from the included templates.

One of RapidWeaver’s most powerful features is the facility to add new page types and templates through plug-ins. SEAL member John was scheduled to demonstrate the powerful Stacks plug-in at the meeting but unfortunately was unable to attend the meeting. John has very kindly produced the following video about using Stacks:

http://youtu.be/Tlo-YzWbeTA

July 2013 Meeting Report

July’s SEAL meeting kicked off with our usual discussion of the month’s news. A few highlights were:

  • Apple’s digital dashboard patents which point to greater integration of iOS devices with cars.
  • The iTunes Radio service and the terms with music publishers that were revealed.
  • Apple’s statement on customer privacy following the PRISM revelations.
    SEAL member John then gave us a very interesting presentation on screencasting with the Mac. This involves recording a video of your Mac’s screen as you preform actions, you can add a commentary if you wish. John started by showing how you can make a basic recording using Quicktime X which is included with Mac OS X.

He then went on the demonstrate Screenflow, an application which captures video from your screen and audio from your microphone and then allows you to edit together a complex screen cast. Screenflow includes features such as zooming in on certain areas, editing to remove mistakes or slows sections, the ability to highlight the mouse pointer and show key presses. The end result can look really professional.

In the Q&A section we discussed whether anti-virus and other security software is required on the Mac and what performance should be expected from an iMac hard disk. A summary of the answers to these questions are on the Q&A July 2013 page.