Taking notes on your Mac and iPhone: Address Book

Its time for another blog series. This time we’ll take a look at making notes on you computer

Are you a note taker? I am. Sometimes I wish there was just one place and one way to make notes, but realistically, it would not work well. In fact, I need different ways of taking notes--and they need to be stored in different places or I would never be able to make sense out of them.

Let’s start by looking at making notes in the Address Book. Do you remember the old days when we used paper address books to keep track of people’s addresses. I would use the same book for several years, until it got so messy and “scratched out” that I simply had to begin again.

The worst part of transferring to a new address book was the loss of bits of knowledge that somehow did not make it into the new book. Add to that the time that it took to hand write all the addresses and the possibility of introducing errors in copying the information. That was a task that begged for computerization!

There are extra fields that can be added to the Address Book template to make it easier to organize information. To make changes to the template, first choose Address Book > Preferences from the menu bar:

In the Preferences window, click the Template button and then click the Add Field button.

I have added just about every field to my template. However, notice that I have left Phonetic First/Last Name unchecked. If I need those fields, I can add them while I am in the Edit mode of Address Book. To add a field, use the menu item Card > Add Field.

It is also possible to add multiple items in many of the fields. For example, it is possible to add many different kinds of telephone numbers:

At the bottom of the pop-up are two choices, other and Custom… If you choose “other”, a new item labeled Other is added. If you choose Custom, you will see this window where you can add a new, specific kind of telephone number.

Add a custom field and the label will show the new field:

However, the Custom field is not available in the fields in other address cards. That is a suggestion that I will have to send to Apple!

At the bottom of each address card, there is a Notes field. I add all sorts of information to this area. It could be anything from an old address to notes about what I served the last time I invited the person for dinner. I also add ideas for future gifts and reminders about gifts I have sent in the past. If it is an entry for a business, I add employee names, notes about things I have purchased there, directions to their store etc.

Searching is one of the best features of Address Book. Not only can the name and address fields be searched, but the results will include any information that is stored in any other field, including the Notes area.

When you enter text into the Search area of the Address Book, it will look for that text throughout the Address book. It will include all fields and the Notes area.

If you use MobileMe to sync information from the Address Book to your iPhone or iPod Touch, the information is available in the Notes section of each card. However, at this time, it will not come up in the search results. For example, If you have entries for restaurants and you have added the cuisine that they serve in the Notes area, you would not be able to search the Contacts on your iPhone for Mexican food restaurants. I hope Apple will add these capabilities in new versions of the iPhone software.

If you need help in organizing your address book or you need to move addresses from another application into Address Book, consider booking a help session with me at Doctor Mac Consulting. I can show you how to move your addresses out of just about any program and into Apple’s Address Book. The cost is $60.00 per hour and I can use our special software to “see” your computer. Send a note to urgentrequest@boblevitus.com or call us at (408) 627-7577 for further information.



iPhone and iPod Touch - How to update an application

As a blog writer, I pay attention to Google Analytics. The web site tracks every page of MacMousecalls and lets me know a lot about my readers.

This report tells me that I get lots of visits to an earlier article about updating iPhones and iPod touches. However the article is very out of date, so its time to do a complete update.

Keeping applications up-to-date was a bit buggy when the first article was written, but things have changed.

The iPhone and iPod Touch lets you know, right on App Store icon, when there is a newer version of an application.

Clicking on the icon may tell a slightly different story:

In this case, the updates page shows that I have three updates. This happened because I just used my iPhone for the first time today.

You can also check for updates on your computer by using iTunes.

Click on Applications in the Library area of the upper left column. You will be taken to the iTunes store to a special page that tracks your app updates. You can click on the update button for each individual application, or you can click the Download All button in the upper right corner of the window.

Did you notice that there are 4 applications shown here? That is because TweetDeck is not on my iPhone, but it is in my application collection. I have many more applications than I can display on my iPhone.

In the original article I wrote about having to delete earlier versions of applications through the finder. That is no longer necessary. Apple fixed that bug a long time ago!

Happy App shopping!



Should I defragment my hard drive?

I received an email from a client this morning with that question. It’s good one for writing this blog entry. First, here is a little background. James purchased his first Macintosh a couple of years ago. He is a long-time and very experienced Windows user.

The question of defragmenting hard drives also comes from long-time Mac users who recently made the switch to Mac OS X.

In the case of Windows computers and Macintoshes running Mac OS 9 and earlier, over time, hard drives slow down when the user tries to open, save or copy large files. On those computers, files are stored around the hub of the drive in the order in which they were saved.

The directory file on the hard drive keeps track of where files are stored and it keeps track of free space.

When a file is edited, the new version is saved to a different area of the hard drive. The directory is updated, and the space where the old file was stored is marked as free space.

When the user saves a file to the hard drive, the directory looks for the first space large enough to fit the new file and uses that space. If there is extra space from the old file, that area is left empty.

Over time, as files are written and rewritten and as files are deleted, there are more and more little chunks that are too small for new files to be written into. Then the OS for the computer begins dividing large files into smaller chunks or fragments to be able to store them. The directory then has to remember where the fragments are stored and it has to pull them together when the file is opened or copied.

There are utility programs that can be used to clean up this file mess. They are called disk optimizers or disk defragmenters. They re-write the files stored on the hard drive to put files of the same type together. In the process they eliminate the free space so that there is room for new large files. They also put files that are stored in fragments back together.

In Mac OS X, files are arranged in bands around the drive, depending on their function. In between the bands, there is free space for future files of the same type. Defragmenting utilities tend to pack all the files, regardless of their type, tightly around the hub.

Mac OS X is written so that it uses some of its free time to keep your hard drive organized. When your computer is on but asleep, Mac OS X is working in the background to defragment and rearrange the files to keep your hard drive running at its best.

An optimizing or defragmenting program will rearrange the files according to what its programmer thinks is “right.” When you quit the program, Mac OS X will take over again and rearrange the files the way the engineers at Apple determined was “right.” This is not good!

There are some drives situations in which it is you want to use a defragmented drive. If you are trying to capture audio and video files for serious editing in programs like FinalCut or Logic, it is best to use an empty drive as a working drive for capture and editing. Because there are no other files, these large files will not be fragmented as they are written.

After you are finished editing the file, you move it to a regular hard drive for storage and the working drive is erased the drive with Apple's Disk Utility before new files are added and processed.

It is also helpful to have an empty drive for Photoshop to use for the temporary files it produces as you edit images. If Photoshop is working correctly, the temporary files are deleted when you quit. If the temporary files are not discarded properly, erasing the hard drive where the temporary files are store can speed up Photoshop.

Apple has an area on its web site called Support. It stores articles about questions like this one. This article is a little old--but things have not changed. If you would like further information, read:


There are lots to things to know about Mac OS X. While there are lots of articles and resources available, some of us do better with hands-on learning. If you would like a bit more help, consider booking a tutorial session with me at Dr. Mac Consulting. The cost is $60 per hour and we will cover just what you want to learn. Give us a call at 408 627-7577 or send us a message at urgentrequest@boblevitus.com.


HDMI cables cost how much?

It’s funny how a Christmas gift can lead to the need to purchase just a few more things.

In our case, the children got together to purchase a Blu-Ray player for my husband for Christmas. We already have an HDTV. In fact, I purchased a Phillips HDTV for my husband as we moved into our new home about 5 1/2 years ago. It is a 42” Plasma and while not the very top of the line, it had most of the latest bells and whistles when we bought it. It has served us well--and now most of our children have HDTV’s.

When we bought our first HDTV in September of 2004, HDMI was just being introduced. In fact, world wide, only 5 million HDMI devices were sold that year. Since I tend to stay on top of most tech topics, I was aware that HDMI was coming, but the time to buy the TV was then, not six months to a year later.

Five years have passed. HDMI is almost everywhere. However, take a look at HDTVs being offered and you will discover that some of the inexpensive sets still don’t have even one HDMI outlet. Many have a single HDMI.

Blu-Ray players can be connected to HDTVs using component cables, but to see the full picture quality, you will need to use HDMI.

Over the past five years, we have purchased two other HDTVs, one for my office that can also be used as a second monitor for my MacBook Pro, and a 37” HDTV for our bedroom. Since movie-watching tends to be a family activity, hooking the Blu-Ray player to our bedroom TV just wasn’t going to work!

We headed out to Costco, BestBuy and an independent TV dealer to find the best deal. We bought a Sony Bravia 52” LCD TV. It is not the bottom of the line, and it is not the top of the line--but it has 4 HDMI connectors, and that was my minimum specification.

So why 4 HDMI? We can connect our Cox cable box via HDMI, we have an Apple TV, we just got the Blu-Ray player That leaves us with one spare HDMI connector and I planned to add an HDMI to DVI cable to make it easier to connect our computers to the TV.

We owned two HDMI cables before Christmas. I had purchased them when I bought the Apple TV. I ordered the Apple TV the day it was announced and in the Apple press release, it mentioned that the Apple Store would be carrying HDMI cables for $19.00 to $29.00. These would be a major savings over the cables being offered in other retail outlets.

On our trips to buy the new TV, I began shopping for the cables that we would need.

While Costco offered an $89.00 Deluxe cable kit, it included only two HDMI cables along with several other cables. They also offer HDMI cables in several different lengths ranging in price from $25.00 to $40.00, but they must be ordered online.

BestBuy provided their usual shopping experience. There was a range of cables offered at a wide range of prices. The salesperson quickly led us to the Rocketfish area and suggested that these were the minimum in acceptable cables. Prices ranged from $69.00 to $99.00 and she quickly pointed out that real videophiles always bought Monster cables which ranged in price from $69.00 to $199.00. She gave us info about the Rocketfish and Monster cables being THX certified, but there was very little information on the packages to really tell us the difference between the $19.00 cables and the $199.00 ones.

Remembering my earlier purchase of cables from the Apple Store, I pulled out my trusty iPhone and used Safari to check their prices. They had Belkin HDMI cables in two lengths, and the prices were $19.00 and $29.00. There was further information that these cables met the latest HDMI 1.3 standards and the reviews were outstanding. Since I wanted to buy four cables, we decided to go home with the TV and no cables to do a bit of research.

When it comes to quick research, I turn to Wikipedia. The articles are well-written in most cases and the readers make sure that the info is accurate and well-presented.

I looked up THX, and quickly found out that they do not set standards. Instead, they have a quality assurance system, and it has more to do with venues than cables for home TVs. I then looked up HDMI and found lots of good information, including what to expect from a HDMI 1.3 cable.

Checking the information, I concluded that the $19.00 cable from the Apple Store was more than adequate to meet my needs. I was able to buy the four cables I needed for the price of about one at BestBuy or the TV store.

The TV has been mounted on the wall now. The picture quality is exceptional and using HDMI instead of Component cables has made reading the menus on the Apple TV iTunes store so much easier!

As for the Blu-Ray player, I would rather buy or rent my movies over the Apple TV. I think the picture quality is as good or better. I love the new HDTV! As for the old HDTV, it is now in the basement, near my sewing area and the grandkids love having the Wii hooked up to a big TV.


Welcoming in the New Year


Is that two thousand ten or twenty-ten? Whatever, it doesn’t really matter, but as we start a new decade, its always fun to reflect on the past ten years.

For me, the past decade has brought many changes. I went from living in a small house filled with two teenagers (and my husband) to living in a big house (with my husband) and a daughter who is back home for a year as she recuperates from her fall from a horse and prepares for her wedding in the summer.

I went from doing Macintosh consulting and teaching while driving miles and miles on the Washington DC beltway to working from home, doing much of the same work.

In 2000 I was carrying a 12” iBook G3 500 MHz PPC and working on a Performa 6500 at home.

Today I (sometimes) carry a 17” MacBook Pro 2.93 Intel Core 2 Duo and I have an iMac 2.4 Intel Core 2 Duo sitting on my desk, mainly to act as link for my networked hard drives.

I went from a wireless newtork that ran on Graphite AirPort running 802.11b to a Time Capsule running 802.11n.

I went from a Handspring Visor Prism and a nameless Verizon cell phone while I awaited the release of the Springboard cell phone module to an iPhone 3GS.

I am sure you can tell similar stories. Times and our personal technology devices have certainly changed! The days ahead will bring even more changes and Steve Jobs and his crew at Apple, Inc. prepare to rock our world with new product announcements on January 27.

Welcome to the new year and come back often to learn more about your Mac, iPhone and other devices from Apple and the companies that support them.