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. We meet monthly in Wickford, Essex. SEAL welcomes Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad and Apple TV users across the whole of Essex and surrounding areas.

Next meeting: Friday 8th September 2017.

AGM 2015

The January meeting included the SEAL Annual General Meeting. The committee election resulted in the existing committee being re-elected along DavidK who joins as an additional committee member. Thanks to the committee members and particularly David for standing. The AGM included reports from the Chairman and Treasurer and a useful discussion of plans for the coming year.

DavidK then gave us an update on his work towards a SEAL App. This time he showed us the paper prototypes he’d made of the planned user interface design and features. These prototypes generated some interesting discussions and feedback. David also showed us an extract from an Apple WWDC video called “Prototyping: Fake It Till You Make It” which explained Apple’s app prototyping process. The video is available for anyone to view on the WWDC 2014 Session Videos page.

DavidB pointed out a useful feature in Mail on iOS, you can shake your device (iPhone, iPad etc.) to undo a several actions on mails including archiving and deletion. This is explained in more detail in this article on cnet. Shaking can also be used to undo unwanted typing, shake again to re-do.

Report December 2014

The December SEAL meeting was held on Friday the 12th of December 2014. As this was the last meeting before Christmas, members brought various festive foods which were enjoyed by everyone. Thanks to all who contributed.

Elevate

During the news section we discussed Apple’s Best of iTunes 2014, this included the brain training app Elevate. DaveK downloaded Elevate and gave an impromptu demonstration of the initial evaluation.

Apple Quiz

Robert then held an Apple quiz with questions from across Apple’s history and products. For the second year running Ben scored the most points with his encyclopaedic knowledge of Apple history.

Ben also brought along two colourful clamshell iBooks from his collection to show us. Interestingly these older Macs can still run OS X up to 10.4 Tiger.

MacBook Pro Memory Upgrade

Mick brought along his MacBook Pro for help with a memory upgrade. Upgrading to 8GB from the 2GB he had using DIMMs from Crucial was straightforward, simply requiring the bottom case to be unscrewed (Apple provides clear instructions). After the upgrade a performance improvement was immediately noticeable with applications loading much faster.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from everyone at SEAL!

Report November 2014: Cheetah3D and Yosemite

The November SEAL meeting was held on Friday the 14th of November 2014.

Cheetah3D

DaveK gave a great demonstration of Cheetah3D, a 3D graphics application made specifically for the Mac. Dave started by covering the basic controls and concepts to give beginners a starting point when following the many tutorials available on-line. He them demonstrated modelling and rendering a mug.

Dave has kindly made his notes for the Cheetah3D demo available.

He’s also made a Cheetah3D keyboard shortcut cheat sheet.

Yosemite

Robert gave a quick overview of some of the new features in MacOS 10.10 Yosemite which was released during October. Some of the more interesting things he pointed out where:

  • You can move the dock to the sides or bottom of the screen by holding down Shift on the keyboard while you drag the dividing line.
  • The newly updated Notification Centre allows 3rd party applications to add Widgets with their custom information. Robert showed the free to-do application Wunderlist as an example.
  • Spotlight has a new look and can be used to do calculations and conversions. For example typing “$30” will automatically show you the current value in Pounds Sterling. “$30 in euro” will correctly change the currency to Euro.
  • Spotlight preferences allows you to disable certain types of search result and change the order in which they appear.
  • Finder now has a simple batch rename function (select multiple files, click the cog icon and select Rename n items). If you need more powerful options a member suggested A Better Finder Rename.
  • Also in Finder a preview pane is now available in all views, not just column view as before, simply select Show Preview from the View menu.
  • When sending pictures or PDFs via Mail, each now has an Actions menu (small button at the top right) that allows you to Mark Up the picture or PDF with annotations including your signature. The signature can be input using a track pad or by holding a written signature up to an iSight camera.
  • 3rd Party applications can add options to the Actions menu. Robert showed how the graphics editor Pixelmator adds a Repair Tool to remove blemishes.

News

In our News section we discussed Apple’s announcements from their October media event:

  • iPad Air 2
  • iPad mini 3
  • iMac Retina 5K
  • Updated Mac mini
    A couple of new security concerns were mentioned which highlight the need not to install software from unknown sources:

  • Wire Lurker - Mac malware that can install applications on a connected iOS device even if it’s not Jail broken.

  • Masque Attack - A method by which iOS applications downloaded from outside the App Store can masquerade as another trusted third party app (which may itself have come from the App Store).

Report October 2014: CameraBag and Recording Vinyl Albums

The October SEAL meeting was held on Friday the 10th of October 2014.

iPhone 6

DavidB brought along his new iPhone 6 so SEAL members were able to take a look at the latest model with its new larger screen and smooth rounded design and compare it to other member’s older iPhone models.

CamerBag

Ben gave us a demonstration of CameraBag an inexpensive photo editing application that can apply a wide range of filters to photos. A grid showing the effect of all the available filters on the current image allows you to easily pick one to apply. Each filter is editable to fine tune or completely change its effect and custom filters can be saved and shared with friends. CameraBag is available on the Mac App Store and also as a iOS App for the iPhone and iPad.

Recording Vinyl Albums

Mick had recently purchased a USB turntable similar to this one to transfer some Vinyl albums into a digital format on his Mac. The turntable didn’t come with specific Mac software but they did supply Audacity, a free and Open Source audio editor. At the meeting SEAL members helped Mick set-up the turntable and work out how to record from it in Audacity. This included choosing the correct audio input, setting the levels appropriately to avoid clipping and exporting as MP3 (which requires installing the separate LAME MP3 encoder).

Here’s a YouTube video from a different USB turntable manufacturer explaining the set-up and recording process:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1K_CW61OKTY

Using Audacity you can also record one side of an album in one go and then later split it into tracks. The procedure is explained in this You Tube video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jO7Y9OvFRGM

News

Our news discussion covered the following items:

  • Apple begins enforcing App-specific passwords for users who use two-factor authentication on the Apple IDs.
  • The Apple Check Activation Lock Status tool allows you to check if a secondhand iPhone is activation locked (and therefore potentially stolen).
  • Apple’s new Privacy site explains their policies and protections.

Report September 2014: iPhone 6 and Apple Watch

The September SEAL meeting was held on Friday the 12th of September 2014.

The main topic of discussion was Apple’s recent announcements of the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and the Apple Watch.

DavidK gave us an update on his work toward the SEAL App which he suggested at the August meeting. This month he had gave us a list of practical features, based on members suggestions, and outlined what’s likely to be possible in version 1.

We also discussed the recent news stories about celebrity photos being leaked and how many of the initial news stories singled out Apple and iCloud as the source. DavidK suggested the following articles that provide more comprehensive coverage of the story which in fact did not involve an iCloud vulnerability, did involve multiple different on-line data storage systems (not just iCloud) and has been occurring over several years:

Tidbits coverage of the story: iCloud Flaw Not Source of Celebrity Photo Theft

Information security researcher Nik Cubrilovic’s Notes on the Celebrity Data Theft explains how an underground network of people perform different roles to access private data.

Report August 2014: The Great Brain Experiment, Sharing with Windows

The August SEAL meeting was held on Friday the 8th of August 2014. Here’s a summary of the main topics we discussed:

The Great Brain Experiment

DavidK showed us this interesting iOS app from UCL and the Wellcome Trust which allows you to contribute to a scientific experiment by playing a range of simple games. The games test your memory, your impulsivity, your attention and decision making. The app includes information so you can learn about the neuroscience of everyday life. The Great Brain Experiment is free on the app store.

Sharing Files with Windows Users

Robert then gave us some tips on sharing files with Windows users in a variety of different scenarios, such as sending them for viewing or collaborative editing.

When sharing files that don’t need to be edited, Robert pointed out that any Mac program that prints can save its output as a PDF. PDF files can be viewed on almost any computer and retain the formatting and fonts of the original document.

For collaborative editing where a document is being passed back and forth with multiple people making comments and changes, Robert recommended trying a cloud based application such as Apple’s iWork for iCloud (which works on both Mac and PC) or Google Docs.

One of the potential area of confustion for Windows users are the additional metadata files that the Mac puts on PC formatted external drives (such as USB sticks) and in zip archives created on the Mac. This means PC users will see strange looking files such as .DS_Store among the files they expect. Robert suggested two utilities which can be used to remove these files:

  • When copying files onto a PC formatted external drive, Clean Up by PixelChimp can be used to delete the files. To do so, just by drop the drive icon onto the Clean Up application’s icon.
  • For zip archives, the free YemuZip by Yellow Mug has an option to create PC friendly archives which don’t include the metadata files. YemuZip is available free from the Yellow Mug web site. If you like the program and want to support the developer it is also sold on the Mac App Store.

News

In the news section we discussed: