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15 Boring but Useful Websites

This list of various websites that are boring but useful was culled from the comments of a recent post on Go Fug Yourself. To read all the comments and suggestions, here’s the link: Your Most Boringly Useful Websites

If you don’t know Go Fug Yourself and you like smart writing about dumb fashion, I highly recommend you check it out:

Please note all the sites below have not been vetted by me, so do your due diligence.


1. A View from My Seat,
“You can search for venues all around the country and browse through photos people have posted from various seats/sections in that venue so you can see what you’re getting. I used this site to make sure that the ‘cheap’ seats for Hamilton were worth the kajillion dollars I spent (they were).”

2. Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab,
Amazing (and free!) resource for all your pesky grammar, formatting, and citation needs.

3. Citation Machine,
Will generate citations in your preferred format (MLA, APA, Chicago…) for you. You just fill out a form with basic info of the source.

4. Acronym Finder,
“As a writer/editor who works in IT, this is my go-to site when I come across an acronym that I can’t remember.”

5. Percentage Calculator,

6. Metric Conversions,

7. Manuals Online,

8. Just Watch,, and Can I Stream It,
Think of something you want to watch and find out where in the streaming/cable universe it can be found.

9. Down for Everyone, or
Is that website down for everyone, or just for me?

10. This to That,
If you want to glue something to something else it tells you what glue works best.

11. Small PDF,
“It just automatically compress pdf to the smallest file possible, great for sending email attachments!”

12. Still Tasty,
“Tells you how long something will keep in your fridge or freezer before it goes bad and kills you/tastes terrible.”

13. Time and Date,
“As much as I travel, I still don’t know which state has which time zone, do they observe Daylight Saving Time, etc. When I was a paralegal, I used it to calculate due dates for pleadings.”

14. Print Friendly,
Makes any webpage printer-friendly.

15. Forvo,
“As I am obsessed with languages, one of my favourite websites is, where people upload files of themselves pronouncing names, phrases, nouns etc., in their native language.”

Free iPhone Wallpaper Shows Inside of your iPhone

IFixit has just created free iPhone wallpaper that shows you the inside of your phone. Imagine how cool your phone will look, with a lock screen or home screen showing what’s under the glass.

This is for iPhone X, but scroll down to the bottom of the page for links to other iPhone models. Plus there are instructions on how to set it up on the phone.

If you’re curious to see iFixit’s teardown of the new iPhone X, it’s pretty cool too. And of course don’t forget if you want to do your own repairs on your iPhone or Mac, iFixit is the place to go.


Troubleshoot Netflix Streaming Problems

Whether you watch Netflix on your iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple TV, the quality of the video is determined by the speed of your Internet connection.

Netflix recommends 25 megabits per second (Mbps) of download speed for Ultra HD quality, 5 Mbps for HD, and 3 Mbps for SD – and 1.5 Mbps is the lowest recommended speed.

So how do you tell what your actual internet speed is right now? Visit Netflix’s Web site for a quick report on how much bandwidth you have. If what you see doesn’t match with what you think you’re paying for, call your Internet service provider and make sure your connection is working properly.

So What Is a Retina Display?

You’ve seen and heard Apple talking about the iMac with 5K Retina display, the MacBook Pro with Retina display, and so on. But what is a Retina display, and why should you care?

Retina displays are high-resolution screens on which graphics are extra sharp and text is super crisp.

The LCD screens used in Apple’s displays use a grid of “pixels”—the smallest possible dot whose color can be controlled—to create all the text and graphics you see. Today’s iPhone 7 Plus screen can fit 401 pixels into each inch. As pixel density goes up, the pixels get smaller. With a 72 ppi (pixels per inch) screen, it’s easy to see each individual pixel in a character, but the higher the pixel density, the harder it becomes to pick out separate pixels.

When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone 4 in 2010, he said that for a screen that’s held 10 to 12 inches from the eye—about the distance at which many people hold their iPhones— the human eye can’t resolve individual pixels if it’s about 300 ppi. At longer distances, it becomes harder to discern small details, so most people won’t be able to pick out pixels on a screen viewed at arm’s length, such as an iMac display, if it’s about 220 ppi.

So Apple says a “Retina display” is any screen whose pixel density is high enough that someone with 20/20 vision cannot see individual pixels at the standard viewing distance used for that device.

For the Mac this is about 220 ppi. Larger iPads have a pixel density of 264 ppi, and the iPad mini checks in at 326 ppi. From the iPhone 4 through the iPhone 7, pixel density stayed at 326 ppi, but the iPhone 6s Plus and iPhone 7 Plus are 401 ppi. The tiny Apple Watch screen is about 330 ppi.

If you suffer from eyestrain, reading on a Retina display will likely be easier and less tiring, since the words will be clear and crisp, without any of the fuzziness on the edges that you see on lesser displays.

Last, the words “Retina display” are an Apple trademark. So you won’t see any other manufacturers claiming that their products have Retina displays.

Mac Mail Mystery, starring Verizon and AOL

It was a rainy day in New York City. I emerged from the 1 train at 79th St, for an appointment with EW. She had spent two hours on the phone with Apple, and two hours with Verizon. She was at her wits’ end. Her mail was sometimes disappearing before her eyes from her iPad and iPhone, as if a ghost were moving her inbox messages to her trash.

I surveyed the scene. Two iPads, two iPhones, one Mac. An unusual circumstance: she had a email address. Verizon decided they don’t want to host email any more, so they’ve given that dirty work to their subsidiary, AOL. Every customer with a email address can keep it, but will be checking their mail at AOL. I figured this tricky business could confuse a computer’s mail program, since it’s an AOL in Verizon’s clothing.

The devices looked kosher. They were all set up for IMAP. Synchronized mail. As it should be.

The Mac was another story. It was set up for POP. Downloaded mail, not synchronized. But that alone didn’t explain the disappearing mail. Then I found it: the Mac was set to delete mail from the server, one week after downloading it. Culprit found. I’ve seen it before. I’ll see it again The thing to do was save the downloaded mail into On My Mac, remove the account, add it back as IMAP, and copy the saved mail back into the server folders. Easy peasy.

Except it wasn’t. The Mac insisted that because the email ended in, it had to be set up as POP, because that was all Verizon had offered. Even AOL’s own tech support page said that POP was the only option for people using Apple Mail.

But I don’t take no for an answer from computers. Apple’s done their damnedest to keep you from customizing your Mail setup, but I faked it out by putting in bad account info. Then I got to the manual setup page, and put in the AOL IMAP and SMTP server information with the email address.

The account loaded up. It matched the iPad and iPhone. I left EW breathing easy.

I went to my next client, to work on my next case.

image by m01229 courtesy Flickr Creative Commons

Customize Your Mac Laptop with Skins from RedBubble

I just found out about RedBubble, which sells artist-designed objects including:

  • “skins” for laptops
  • laptop sleeves
  • iPhone cases
  • t-shirts and other clothing
  • home accessories like pillows and mugs
  • stationery items like notebooks and greeting cards

I just bought a “skin” for my 11” MacBook Air — it’s a piece of printed plastic that adheres to the top case, and gives my laptop some personality.

They have all the Mac laptop sizes available. Most cost $20-$25.

There are thousands of designs to choose from…florals, geometrics, patterns, photographs, animals. Here are a few designs I thought were cool:


Geometric a01

Succulent Circles

Bowie Bird

And the design I chose, because I like the geometrics:

snww kyttyn



Cooper Hewitt Museum Lets You Save Images with its Pen

I went to the Cooper Hewitt Museum recently and played around with the Cooper Hewitt digital Pen that you can borrow free with admission. The Pen lets you “collect” specific images from your visit to look at later.

Here’s what the Pen looks like (image from Cooper Hewitt site):

You just click it to a wall tag (just like in the image above) and that artwork is saved to your “collection.”

Your admission ticket has a URL and code on it so you can access your “collection” later.

Here are some examples of what the “collection” images look like, compared to mine. (Images on the left are the Cooper Hewitt’s; images on the right are mine. Not all are the identical items….)




The museum images are better if you want flat, full-object views that are perfectly lit. Mine are better if you want to see the pieces in context or zoom in really close.

The best part is that along with the image itself, the museum provides a wealth of detail about the object, including date, dimensions, who owns it, and similar items in the collection.

Of course what the museum really wants you to do with the Pen is share the images via social media, and each image in your “collection” has links for email, Pinterest, Twitter, and Tumblr.

I hope there are future uses for the Pen (and coordinating website with images) that let you do more — think how useful a resource it could be if from this image in the collection you could get links to other sites with other images, historical background, artist info, and so on.

Apple Watch can’t display battery level when you need it

So, get this:

  • If you have an Apple Watch that has been reset to factory state, you can’t do anything with it until you pair it.
  • In order to pair it with an iPhone running a current version of iOS, its own watchOS version must also be current.
  • If you need to update watchOS, you need to use the Watch app on an iPhone. The watch must be on its charger, and the battery level must be at least 50%.
  • But, when it’s in “update” mode, the screen simply shows an Apple Watch logo, and can’t do anything, including show you the battery level.
  • So your iPhone, which has the Watch app, simply says that it won’t install the update until the battery level is at 50%.
  • Meanwhile, the watch is in a mode where it tells you nothing. It can’t even tell you if it’s getting a charge from the charger. There’s no chirp when you attach it, or anything.
  • The Watch app also won’t tell you the battery level, or if the watch is even getting a charge.

So Apple has designed this product in such a way that, if its software out of date, you have to wait a completely unknown amount of time in order to be able to set it up, and your iPhone is tied up during that time. You can’t even know that it will eventually get there, since you can’t see if the watch is getting a charge.

Come on, Apple. You’re the user experience company. Can we have a battery indicator during a watchOS update?

Image from Apple’s website.

Why you might run older versions of macOS

macOS (or OS X, or Mac OS X, as it has been variously called) has had 13 major versions. Each brings with it new capabilities, but each also drops some older ones as well. Here is a non-comprehensive list of some of the things I might use an old version of macOS for:

10.0 Cheetah, 10.1 Puma, 10.2 Jaguar, 10.3 Panther: These are so old I have no occasion to run them.

10.4 Tiger: Last version to include Classic environment, which enables running MacOS 9 software on Macs with Motorola PowerPC CPU’s.

10.5 Leopard: Last version to support to support printing to AppleTalk printers on a network. Last version that runs on Macs with Motorola PowerPC CPU’s.

10.6 Snow Leopard: Last version to include Rosetta, which enables running software written for Motorola PowerPC CPU’s. Last version to support iSync, which synchronizes address book information via USB or Bluetooth with older mobile phones. Last version that runs on Macs with 32-bit CPU.

10.7 Lion: Last version that runs on Macs with 32-bit EFI ROM.

10.8 Mountain Lion: Last version to support Sync Services, which synchronizes address book and calendar information between the Mac’s Calendar and Contacts applications and other Mac Apps (such as Entourage and Outlook 2011). Last version to support fully manual configuration of Apple Mail.

10.9 Mavericks: Last version that performs acceptably on hard drives (as opposed to solid state drives). Last version to support download headers only in Apple Mail, rather than entire messages.

10.10 Yosemite: Last version to support “unenhanced” iCloud notes syncing used by older iOS versions.

10.11 El Capitan: Last version to support Apple Java 6. Last version to support somewhat manual configuration of Apple Mail settings. Last version that runs on Macs with older wireless hardware (Broadcom 4300 series).

h/t to the Wikipedia articles on the various individual versions of macOS for reference and memory-joggers.

Migration Assistant and the MacBook 12″

The MacBook 12″ is a truly elegant computer: it’s ridiculously thin and weighs only two pounds, and has a beautiful screen. It’s underpowered in most other regards — it has one lonely USB-C port for both power and devices, and is generally kinda pokey — but if you want the ultimate portable Mac, it’s that.

If you’re setting up a new one, and want to use Migration Assistant (the option during setup that makes it easy to copy everything from an old Mac), you’re gonna face some challenges, because the MacBook 12″ doesn’t have Thunderbolt. Even if you have a USB 3 C-to-A cable, the older Mac only will offer Target Disk Mode over Thunderbolt, not its USB port.

So, here are the options available for Migration Assistant with your new MacBook:

  • The easiest solution is to back up the old Mac with Time Machine to a USB external drive. (If you’ve already got a Time Machine backup drive, good job! Just plug it in and choose “Back Up Now” from the Time Machine menu at the top of the screen to make it current.) You can then plug this drive into the MacBook and use Migration Assistant with it. If price matters, external hard drives are cheap. If speed matters, then you want an external solid state drive.
  • If you have a Time Capsule backup, you can use Migration Assistant with that instead. Be warned that it might take a LONG time (hours or days) if you’re doing it over Wi-Fi.

Or, if you are a power user, you have an option to bypass Migration Assistant entirely, provided your old Mac is running the latest operating system (currently macOS Sierra 10.12.3), and is a 2012 or later model (that is, it has USB 3). Put the new MacBook into Target Disk Mode, and attach it to your old Mac with a USB 3 C-to-A cable. From the old Mac, erase the drive of the MacBook using Disk Utility, then use Carbon Copy Cloner to copy the entirety of the old Mac to the MacBook. (If the old Mac isn’t up to date, you can still clone it, but the MacBook won’t start; you can fix this by creating a Sierra boot disk on the old Mac, and boot the MacBook from that so you can upgrade its operating system.)


About IvanExpert

IvanExpert provides superior Mac, iPhone, and iPad support for small businesses and home users in New York City. We provide on-site help with a range of Apple computer and mobile issues.

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