Category: Guides

Hacking Hulu to your TV

So you’ve discovered a great show on Hulu, but those old guys at the network it’s from decided that they don’t understand technology and haven’t given Hulu to rights to view it on a TV or mobile device… This happens more than it should.

I’ve got a way to “hack” any Hulu show to your TV. If you’ve got an Apple TV and a Mac  it is easy.

  1. Set up your Apple TV to allow screen sharing.
  2. Fire up your Mac.
  3. Select your Apple TV in the AirPlay menu (if you don’t see an AirPlay menu, open the display preferences).
  4. You can mirror your screen or use it as an additional screen. I prefer the extra screen so I can still use my laptop for other things at the same time.
  5. Open hulu.com in a new browser window and then make it go full screen.

That’s it. Your Hulu video will play full screen on your TV, regardless of what rights it has. I suppose this trick could also be used for people who aren’t Hulu Plus subscribers too, or even for other sites that don’t have TV streaming options.

In theory this would probably work with Chromecast or other casting devices in combination with a compatible computer. I’ve only tested the Apple TV solution, so that’s all I can speak for from experience.

Have you tried something like this? Let me hear about it in the comments.

How to Use Dashes

A big part of my job lately has been copy editing. It’s not exciting but it is important. Most of the time it’s just correcting little things like extra spaces (there’s only ONE space after a period!), writing out acronyms or fixing capitalization. One of the most common mistakes I come across is the misuse of dashes. Below I’m going to cover the most common dashes and how to properly use them in your writing. Once you get these down, someday a graphic designer will thank you for your well-typed copy.

When most people think of a dash, they probably think of a hyphen (-). Technically it’s not a dash but it is closely related. Hyphens are used in certain compound words like mother-in-law. Most people don’t have issues with using hyphens.

En dashes (–) on the other hand are often misused, or rather not used. These dashes are meant for a range or passage of time, like 8–10 p.m. or Nov. 12–15. Most people end up just putting a hyphen but the correct character here is an en dash. Another thing to note is that you don’t put spaces on either side of an en dash.

The em dash (—) is the largest dash. It’s purpose is to break into a thought. Often times this break is in the middle of a sentence and plops an idea or description in the middle of another thought. The most common mistake here is to use to hyphens instead of an em dash. This is incorrect usage that, like the double space after a period, results from the limitation of typewriters back in the day. Some modern word processor programs will auto-correct a double hyphen to an em dash but it’s a good idea to get in the habit of typing it yourself.

Now that you know a little more about which dash (or hyphen) to use, you probably want to know how to insert them. This Wikipedia article shows the keyboard shortcuts and HTML character codes. You can find a little more reading on the subject of dashes at WikiHow too.

iPhone Tip: Typing Shortcuts

I love shortcuts. On my computer I’m constantly using key commands to avoid moving the mouse and save myself a few seconds here and there. After a while that time really adds up. It only makes sense then that I’m always looking for shortcuts and time-savers on my phone as well. I’d like to share one of those shortcuts with you.

It’s a little-publicized feature of iOS called keyboard shortcuts. Basically it takes advantage of the auto-correct feature and allows you to have common phrases replace your custom shortcut text.

For example, if you find yourself typing “birthday” a lot, why not set up a shortcut of “bday” that will automatically correct itself into “birthday” on the fly. It’s extremely simple to set up and even easier to use.

Path to Keyboard Settings

To get started, navigate from Settings > General > Keyboard. You’ll want to make sure “Auto-Correction” is switched on. After that swipe down to find “Shortcuts.” These are the ones currently enabled on your phone. By default there should be a couple such as “omw” that turns into “On my way!”

Keyboard Settings Screen

To add your own shortcut, just tap “Add New ” below. Add your phrase, such as “by the way” and then the shortcut you’d like for it, such as “btw.” Hit the save button in the upper right corner and you’re all set. Anytime you type your new shortcut it should auto-correct into your phrase. It’s a great way to save yourself some time.

Add a new shortcut screen

Foursquare Tips: Lists

When foursquare announced lists a while back I got really excited. It seemed like such a cool way to build up a collection of hot spots. A few days later I all but forgot you could make them. The problem was, I just didn’t have a need. Around my town there’s about a dozen lists for “Best Mexican Restaurants” that all have the same 5 or so places. Why do I need to make yet another list of the same old spots.

Then foursquare launched the #VisitUS challenge. It was a really cool contest that would award a few cities badges based on user-sourced “best of” lists. About Foursquare has a good write-up on it. That’s when I created my first useful list. I collaborated with a friend and we gave Kalamazoo a city guide, foursquare style. Kalamazoo didn’t end up winning a badge but it was a great exercise in creating lists.

Fast forward a few months and I actually pulled up that list again and shared with a couple of friends who were in town for my wedding. They had never been to the area and wanted to know where to go for food and fun. The list was perfect, it was already created, offered and easy way to share the info and gave them directions to and info about each place on it.

This re-ignited my passion for foursquare lists and I set out to make another. This time I planned to make a list of disc golf courses in Michigan (yes, disc golf is an obsession). It was mainly for my benefit. I liked the idea of exploring the state and playing disc golf along the way. I used review websites to compile nearby courses I was interested in playing and then found them on foursquare so I could add them to my list. It’s quickly grown from a small list of nearby courses to a giant list of courses all over Michigan.

the "save" button menu on foursquare.com

Making lists are easy. Adding new places to your list are even easier. Here’s a quick how-to so you can start creating your own lists. When you come across a venue you’d like to add to your list, just click the “Save” button. A menu will pop up listing your current lists (and a “Create a new list…” option if you don’t have any). Just select the list you want it saved to and you’re all set. You can do this on the website (see screenshot) or in the mobile app. It’s the same basic procedure either way.

If you’re creating a brand new list, a dialog pops up for you to add a name to your list. Don’t worry, you can always change it later.dialog for creating a new list on foursquare.com

Editing your lists is easy too. Just navigate to your list on the website (pull down menu under your name > lists) and then hit the big orange “Edit” button. You can then put the venues in a certain order, add tips or photos and remove venues. Near the top of the list you can edit the name and description of your list and use the search box to add more venues. When you’re all set just click “Finished Editing.” Be sure to share your list when you are done.

a list in edit mode on foursqare.com

Do you make a lot of foursquare lists? Maybe you just like to follow them. What lists are your favorite?

 

iPhone Tip: Emoticons (Emoji)

So you’ve got your shiny new iPhone and you’re wondering how your friends get those cool smiley faces to show up in their texts. You’ve tried the ol’ : – ) but it’s not turning into the little yellow guy. Have no fear, I’m going to let you in on the secret.

If you look through the App Store you’re bound to find a bunch of apps that claim to add an emoticon keyboard for you. Some of them are even paid apps. I have great news for you. You don’t need them. All they do is enable a hidden feature in iOS, which you can easily do all by yourself. So before you waste a buck, read on.

It is extremely easy to enable the Emoji keyboard and give yourself a ton of little emoticons to spice up your texts. Go to your phone’s Settings. Then scroll down and tap on General. From there you will navigate to Keyboard then International Keyboards. Once you’re there you can tap Add New Keyboard. You’re looking for Emoji. That’s it. You’re done.

When you load up any text field you’ll notice your keyboard will have a new globe button on it. If you tap the globe it switches to the Emoji keyboard. There are a lot of options in various categories for you to enjoy. Keep in mind only other iOS users will see these. What are you waiting for? Go give this a try!

Living in the Cloud

With the recent release of Google Drive, “the cloud” is once again all anyone can talk about. There are plenty of options but now that the big boys like Apple and Google are on board, just about everyone is starting to use some form of cloud storage.

I’m personally a huge fan of the cloud. I love having access to stuff anywhere, anytime and on any device. I actually use multiple services to maximize free space (and because I’m a little too paranoid about my data to put all my eggs in the same basket). Here are a few popular cloud services I’ve tried out:

Dropbox – I started using Dropbox a few years back at an independent contracting gig. It was a really simple way to transfer files between my laptop and the office desktop I was using. It was even more useful to have a shared folder with other team members so any of us could get access to the latest files at any time. Since leaving that job, I still use Dropbox all the time. It’s simple enough that I really don’t have to do anything at all. I love that it works across so many platforms so effortlessly. There’s been multiple times where I’ve needed a file when I wasn’t near my computer and could still get to it with someone else’s computer through the Dropbox website (This isn’t just a feature of Dropbox but most of the cloud services). When you sign up for your free account you get a decent chunk of space (2GB) and you can earn more space with referrals (up to 16GB total). There are paid accounts that up your storage space considerably, but I haven’t reached a point where that’s necessary yet. I think they also have “team” packages with lots of space designed for sharing on a project or in an office.

CX – This one is almost completely a clone of Dropbox (I’m not sure which came first, maybe Dropbox is the clone). They have the same effortless synching between devices and  CX works across plenty of platforms too. What I do like is their style. It’s bright, it’s fun and it’s very clean. The other big advantage to CX is the space. You start with 10GB, which is the largest free amount I’ve come across. You can even earn up to another 6GB by referring friends. If you’re looking for space, you can’t beat CX.

Google Drive – Google finally rolled out the much-rumored Google Drive. It essentially upgrades Google Docs to 5GB that you can use to store all of your files on. They’re accessible online (compatible formats can still be opened/edited like old Docs) and there is a nice desktop app that behaves (as in effortlessly synching) exactly like Dropbox and CX. There’s an Android app that I haven’t tested and apparently an iOS app is in the works. I’ve been an avid user of Google Docs for a while now so Google Drive is a nice upgrade for me. Google has a bit of an edge with integration. They’ve already announced a few partnerships (Lulu for example) and a number of browser plugins to extend it. I think done right, they can grab a lot of market share with tie-ups like these.

iCloud – This is Apple’s take on the cloud. Like many things Apple does, they don’t want you to even realize it’s there. They want to give you what you want when you want it without having to worry about where it lives. I haven’t come across many apps that are integrating with it yet but I’m sure they are coming. All of my iPhone pics are automatically available via photo stream in my iPhoto when I pop open the laptop. It’s stupid simple and for that I have to recommend it. Your mail, contacts, calendars, bookmarks (for Safari), photos, docs and even iPhone backups work without you having to do anything (beyond enabling it). As an added bonus they’ve added “find my Mac/iPhone” into the mix so you can locate your misplaced device. The downside is your synching is mostly limited to Apple products and services. If you’re using any of those though, it totally rocks.

Cloud App – This one is very different from the rest. It’s something I use nearly everyday but not in the same way. Basically it’s a service to share files. You just drop a file on the little cloud icon in your menu bar (on a Mac at least), it uploads and generates a tiny URL for you to share. You can even have it auto upload screen captures (again, on my Mac at least). One of the really cool features of the app is “rain drops.” These are essentially plugins that extend the usefulness of Cloud App to other apps. My favorite mail client, Sparrow, also integrates with Cloud App for sending attachments. I couldn’t find a definite total space limit on Cloud App’s site but you are limited to 10 files a day at up to 25MB a file. For most things that’s perfectly acceptable. They’ve got pro plans that up that space and add other cool features like custom domains for sharing. This isn’t something that will replace your Dropbox but I use both everyday for very different work flows.

Those are just a few options that I’ve personally been using. Each one is a little bit different and for me at least, no one service can do it all. I like each for specific reasons and will continue to use them all. Since you can try them all for free, I suggest you do and find what works best for you. Do you have a favorite I didn’t mention? Tell me about it in the comments.

Starter Kit: Casual iPhone Games

The next installment of my “Starter Kit” series is all about casual iPhone games. Mobile gaming, especially for the iPhone, has become a HUGE market. There are all types of games and with the power these new devices offer, some of the games are absolutely stunning. Not only in terms of graphics but in gameplay and mechanics. I’m going to start with casual games. These are great for just about anyone and usually don’t require much effort or time commitment and while some are great looking, it’s usually more about fun than killer graphics. Think of these as “standing in line” or “waiting in the doctor’s office” kind of games. I’m sure I’ve missed many (there are literally thousands), so please feel free to share your favorites in the comments.

Action Hero: This is a good-looking side-scroller. You run along jumping, ducking and punching your way across the top of a very long train. As most of the games listed here, it’s a good way to kill a little time. Check out Action Hero.

Air Hockey: There are a bunch of these and each have a little plus and little minus. I’ll just suggest you check out Super HockeyGlow Hockey 2Touch Hockey: FS5 or Air Hockey and let you make up your own mind.

Angry Birds: If you haven’t heard of Angry Birds, you’re probably living under a rock. This is pretty much the most popular casual game of all time. Basically a bunch of punk pigs came and stole all your bird eggs. The birds decide to go all kamikaze on the pigs and their forts for vengeance. That’s a basic description but this addicting game has you sling-shotting a variety of birds, each with their own abilities, at the pigs. It’s a ridiculous amount of fun and hard to put down. It’s so popular there are lots of different versions. I recommend the original Angry Birds (free and paid full version), Angry Birds Seasons (free and paid full version) and the latest, Angry Birds in Space. There is also Angry Birds Rio (free and paid full version) but I’m not as big of a fan of that one.

Doodle Jump: This one has you tilting your phone to direct the doodle guy to various platforms and bonuses like trampolines or jetpacks all with the hopes of reaching new heights. It’s nice to see a simple game with an interesting control scheme. Check out Doodle Jump in free or full paid versions.

Draw Something: This one is one of the hot games right now. It’s a super simple version of Pictionary you play with your Facebook friends. It’s turned based, so you pick your word, draw it and send if off to a friend. That friend watches your drawing, guesses the word (hopefully) and then picks their own word, draws it and sends it back. It’s fun to make drawings and laugh at them. Since you’re drawing with your finger on a tiny screen they can be quite hilarious. There’s a free version with ads and paid version without ads and more words to choose from.

Flight Control: This frustrating but oh-so-fun game turns you into an air traffic controller. You draw paths for airplanes to reach the landing strips. It sounds easy but only certain aircraft types can land on certain runways and some are faster than others. It gets progressively harder the longer you play. Another great game to kill time with and another great game that is hard to put down. It’s also available in free and paid full versions.

Fruit Ninja: This one is great. You use your finger to swipe across the screen to destroy fruit. It’s really a lot of fun. Fruit Ninja Lite is free but you’ll probably enjoy the extras the full version can offer.

Jetpack Joyride: This is one of my favorites. You’re a dude with a jetpack (already cool, right?) and you’re using that jetpack to navigate through a lab all the time collecting coins, avoiding electrofied-balls-of-death and completing odd missions. You can use the coins for upgrades to your wardrobe and jetpack too. It’s a blast and probably the game I come back to the most. Check out Jetpack Joyride.

Line Runner: Stickman games are very prevalent in the App Store. This one is a side-scroller where you have to avoid obstacles by jumping and ducking. It’s simple and fun and probably harder than you’d expect. Check out Line Runner.

Mr. AahH!!: This is a really simple game. You’re a little guy on a string and you’re trying to land on the next platform. The platforms are different sizes and sometimes there’s wind to factor in. The closer you land to the center target area the more points you get. Sometimes the most simple games are the most frustrating and addicting, as is the case here. This one has a free Lite version and the full paid version.

Rope’n’Fly: You take your guy from building to building via rope. You try to avoid falling to your death on the ground. Sometimes you can hop on a plane and ride it for a while. The object of the game is to get the farthest. I enjoy it a lot. Another easy to play for just a few moments or quite some time. I especially like some of the achievements in this one.  I’ve only played Rope’n’Fly 3 but there is a Rope’n’Fly 2 as well.

RunStickRun!: You’re a stickman on the run. Jump from platform to platform in this simple side-scroller. It’s fun, but nothing too fancy. I’ve still spent a bit with RunStickRun! and had a good time.

Safari Party: This is one of those “swap to make a group of matches” kind of games. It’s kind of like bejeweled with cute little animals, although the gameplay is slightly tweaked. It’s fun and a favorite of my Fiance’s (probably for the animals). Check out Safari Party.

Scramble with Friends: The turn-based games with your Facebook friends is a very popular category. This one is a scramble game, where you get a grid of letters and you try to connect letters to make words. The longer the words the more points. I like this style of game to begin with, so the added element of competing with friends was a nice addition. There is an ad-supported free version and an ad-free paid version for this as well.

Stickman Cliff Diving: This game is extremely frustrating. That said I find myself playing it often. You’re a stick figure and you’re diving off cliffs. Before each round you’re given a certain time of dive you should be attempting. If you complete the dive correctly you move on. Simple in theory but difficult in practice. Stickman Cliff Diving is worth wasting some time on.

Temple Run: In this one you tilt your phone to “steer” a guy running through ruins. You swipe to make sharp turns and jump or duck. It can definitely be frustrating but also a lot of fun. It has a lot of copycats now so it must be good, right? Check out Temple Run.

Tiny Tower: When I first got my iPhone I really got into this game. In a lot of ways it reminded me of the classic Sim Tower game I used to play (albeit badly) on my old Mac LC II. To be perfectly honest it can be a little “pesky” having to constantly stock your tower. It’s a “hurry up and wait” kind of game but it is still fun to expand your tower. I don’t play it anymore but when I did, I enjoyed it. Check out Tiny Tower.

Woolcraft: This is a puzzle game where you have to get sheep from point A to point B. It gets increasingly harder as the levels go on (which game doesn’t I suppose). I like that it makes you really think and plan ahead. Check out the full version Woolcraft as well as the free Lite version.

Words with Friends: This is another turn-based game to play with your Facebook friends. This time it’s all about Scrabble (but they won’t say that due to copyright). It’s fun to try and squeeze every last point out of your letters and having the opportunity to “reply” to your games at your convenience is appreciated. Sometimes that 62 point word needs a bit of time to come to you. This one is also available in a free, ad-supported free version and an ad-free paid version.

Starter kit: iPhone Apps

I’m continuing my “starter kit” series with another chunk of info I send friends. This time it’s all about iPhone apps. I was extremely excited to get my iPhone and quickly downloaded literally hundreds of apps within a few days (who am I kidding, hours). Here’s a bunch I enjoy. The list is unfinished and probably slightly outdated by now but enjoy!

You’ll want some type of flashlight app. I use one called LED flashlight that uses my camera flash and it’s quite useful. I’m pretty sure any of them would work fine though.

Music: Pandora is a must although I’m intrigued by Songza and it could replace Pandora for me. Turntable.fm is a really cool concept of social DJing. I’m a fan of having Shazam to identify music, even if it only works for me half the time. I was using GoMusic to access my Google Cloud Music, but that appears to be gone, Melodies looks promising to fill that void. The standard music player is decent enough and does have the advantage of  iTunes synching.

Wikipanion is a good Wikipedia app. It’s faster than using the wiki website but has access to all of the content.

Navigation: I like Waze a lot. It gives you all the spoken turn-by-turn navigation with a little social twist that alerts you to construction, accidents and the popo. It’s leaps and bounds better than the stupid Maps app Apple includes and it’s free so you don’t have to shell out $50 bucks for Garmin or something.

Photos: The quality of the iPhone’s camera is outstanding. I don’t even know where my point-and-shoot camera is anymore. In terms of apps, Instagram is my favorite. All those hipster filters and easy sharing make it a must have. IncrediBooth is a fun photobooth app. DerManDer is an easy to use panoramic camera. Shoebox is a cool app that makes scanning old photos super easy. Piictu is a fun social network of images. You basically add to streams of various topics, it’s kind of a game and very amusing, even if you’re just browsing.

Check-ins: Foursquare goes without almost saying. It’s a wonderful way to explore your surroundings. I’ve got a blog post about getting started on foursquare if you’re interested. If you want to go beyond that, check out Untappd for beer check-ins and GetGlue for movies, TV and video game check-ins. GetGlue will even mail you the stickers you unlock. Cheers and Stamped are both beautiful apps that are kind of “I like this stuff” apps. Soundtracking is basically the foursquare of music and Foodspotting is for food. Most of these are also good for discovering things and many of them will push your check-ins to other social services if you so desire.

ESPN ScoreCenter is actually a very handy app. I’m not a huge sports fan but it’s nice to get score and game alerts for the Red Wings.

IMDB, pretty self explanatory and necessary to settle arguments.

Flixter for movie times, trailers and watching any Ultra Violet digital movies (you probably “accidentally” got one with a DVD) you may have.

News: I can’t sing the praises of Flipboard enough. It’s pretty, easy and fun. It’ll even bring your social media feeds. Alternatives are Pulse and Google Currents but neither is quite as visually pleasing as Flipboard.

QR / Barcode: I have something just called Scan. It does the job, although I rarely use it.

Video: Vimeo, Tout and Apple’s iTunes Movie Trailers are good apps. Tout is video snippet sharing, Shaq’s really into it. If you have a NetflixHulu PlusU-verseHBOXfinity (Comcast) or Showtime subscription, check out their apps and watch on the go.

Coupons: It never hurts to save a buck or two and Groupon, Living Social, Campus Special and Coupon Sherpa can help.

Lots of stores have apps. I like the Best Buy (also check out their Reward Zone app), Target and Amazon ones. Google Shopper can be helpful to compare prices. There is a separate Amazon PriceCheck app that lets you scan barcodes in a store and see the Amazon price to compare. Walgreens is handy if you fill prescriptions or print photos there. You can do both right in the app.

Reading: If you’re into books, you’ll be happy to know you’ve got options. You may already be invested in some e-book service and they probably have an app. Apple’s got their iBooks, Amazon’s Kindle, and of course Barnes and Noble’s NOOK.

Dropbox is one of my favorite services. I use it across all my computers and my phone to easily keep files in the cloud and accessible from anywhere. Sign up for it now!

Google Translate is helpful and fun.

Tasks / To Do: Apple’s built in tasks doesn’t do a lot and you might need something more. It’s biggest advantage is integration with Siri. Try Awesome Note or Wunderlist. Both are pretty slick apps and I believe both are free. Some people like Evernote but I find it overly complicated. Lately I’ve been using Clear for it’s awesome interface.

Getting More Apps: A handy app to find on sale and free apps is called AppShopper. Discover Apps takes a look at your current apps and recommends new ones.

Foodily is a neat recipe sharing and browsing app.

RunKeeper is a good running/exercise logging app. It will even chart your activities with GPS. If you get it, be sure to link your account with foursquare on their website so you can earn special badges.

Skype is available and works.

Cards: Lots of cool greeting card and postcard apps. Postagram, Sincerely Ink, Apple’s Cards, Jiffygram, and Red Stamp, just to name a few. Most of them will let you create a card, then they print and mail it for you. Usually for a buck or three. A couple of them let you email or send a text of the card for free.

Square Card Reader is a little app lets you accept credit cards on your phone. You’ll need the small attachment (free if you request from their site) that plugs into your headphone jack.

Games: I’ll do another post on games, there are too many.

There you have it. An intro to iPhone apps. Did I miss your favorite? Do you think my suggestions just totally suck? Tell me about it in the comments.

 

Starter kit: foursquare

I’ve always been the guy people turn to with technology questions. I read a lot of blogs and news sources and love to share that knowledge whenever possible. My good friend Rachel once told me I was a maven of technology. So keeping all that in mind I started making “starter kits” for people when they’d get a new phone or joined a service I was also on. The first one is foursquare. I thought I’d post it here as it could be helpful to anyone just joining or thinking of joining foursquare.

I love foursquare. I think it’s fun. Earning badges is a blast and it has really gotten me to explore my surroundings. I check it for recommendations all the time. Through my badge pursuits I’ve discovered some really tasty joints around town. I know a lot of people are afraid of privacy issues with location-based services but foursquare has done a really great job of safeguarding you and allowing you to control who’s seeing what. Anyway, here’s what I’ve been sending people after they join:

First, you can optionally share your check-ins and badges from foursquare to Facebook and Twitter. If you log into the foursquare website you can set up these options pretty easily. I usually share my mayorships and badges automatically and then pick and choose which check-ins I want shared from the app.

Next, www.aboutfoursquare.com is a great blog that covers all the latest and greatest foursquare news. They’ve also got some good guides for getting started and common questions.

If you’re curious about the badges you can earn and how to earn them check out Matter of Grey’s Badge List. Some badges require you to “follow” certain brand pages. Most of the instructions on that site spell it all out pretty well though.

In your badge pursuits these next few website might be helpful:
http://www.4sqmap.com/ — Shows all your check-ins, broken down by category and even on a map
http://www.onemorecheckin.com/ — Shows you what badges you could earn nearby and with how many more check-ins

Feel free to direct your questions to me and I’ll do my best to answer them. I’m also a super user so if you come across venues that are incorrect, let me know and I’ll clean them up (yup, I’m that big of a nerd). An extra pro tip for you: you can only earn mayorships with a profile picture. Enjoy!

There you have it. A guide to getting started on foursquare. I’ll post some more of these guides later. I’ve got a pretty handy iPhone starter kit too.