I hope that title has you a little intrigued!

I’m talking about preserving food, in this case, tomatoes, for use in the fall and winter. We picked up a lug box of canning tomatoes at a roadside fruit stand. The tomatoes on display were $1.99 a pound and they were beautifully perfect! However, I was looking for the not-so-perfect fruit. A few bumps, bruises and splits don’t matter when you are peeling and chopping them anyway. I got a lug box (about 25 lbs.) for $5.00.


I began learning about canning fruits from my grandmother. She died before the first personal computer was invented, so I KNOW she didn’t use our modern technologies to preserve foods. Instead she relied on the knowledge passed down from her mother and grandmother, friends and other relatives and books like the Ball Blue Book.


The book in the photo is my trusty copy of the Ball Blue Book. It is over 30 years old and I use it each time I can something. However, it is not always easily available. It tends to get lost in my cookbook bookcase.

That is just what happened on Friday. I needed the recipe and information on canning tomatoes.


When I could not find the book, it was time to use a little technology! My iPad can often be found on my island or kitchen counter, so my first thought was the Apple App Store. I typed in “canning” and this is what appeared:


Right there was a free app, How to Can. Since playing on my iPad wasn’t getting those beautiful tomatoes into jars, I “bought" it.

The app contains good basic information about the canning process and is full of good advice from a well-respected information source. The app has a link to how to subscribe to Mother Earth News on each screen. This app is also an advertisement, so the free price is justifiable for lots of good information.


It is easy to visually find your way to the information you are looking for using the illustrated index on the left side:


Most important, it has the information on how long to process (boil) the canned tomatoes:


In a few short hours, I had 19 pints of diced tomatoes cooling on my counter, ready to be labeled and stored for use this fall in chili, soups and stews. They look so beautiful!




Traveling With Technology: Internet Access

Times change--and the connected world just gets more expensive!

I am in Texas this week. We will be in San Antonio until Thursday afternoon when we will drive to Austin to spend the weekend with Bob LeVitus and his family. My husband is attending a technology conference and we are staying at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio.

I find it odd that while a stay in a top-level American hotel does not include free WiFi access or a free breakfast buffet, most tier two hotels such as a Marriott Residence Inn, Hilton Garden Suite, etc. include those items in the cost of the room.

Here at the Hyatt, there are two levels of Internet access costing $9.95 or $12.95 per day. A continental breakfast bar cost $11.00 and the full breakfast bar is $18.00.

Even more problematic is the rules for Internet access. Have a computer, an iPad and an iPhone? That counts as three separate devices. Staying with your spouse who has similar equipment? Now you potentially have 6 devices to pay for! Each of these devices has a different MAC address, so they count as separate items.

If you are willing to attach one of the computers to the Ethernet cable, then you can use Internet sharing to set up an ad hoc network, but this is not allowed in the terms of service.

Since I bought the Virgin Mobile MiFi2200, I activated it for the month and I am using it to provide Internet access to our other device when thy are not connected by a different data plan.

I purchased the $60.00, 30 day, 5 GB plan for the MiFi. I suspect I could have gotten by with the $40.00 plan, but I wanted to make sure I have adequate data for any activity we wanted to try.

Because I have not modified our existing contracts, both my husband and I have unlimited data plans on our iPhones. If I would modify our contracts, we could add iPhone tethering which would allow us to use the iPhone to provide WiFi Internet service to one computer at a time. I do not think there is a way to provide WiFi to our iPads from the iPhone, unless we jailbreak them. I do not plan to do that.

While my husband’s iPad is WiFi only, mine is the 3G model. I purchased the data plan before AT&T changed the plans, so for the moment, I have the unlimited data plan.

As you can see, I have several overlapping data plans in place. Therefore, I have turned off the WiFi on my 3G iPad and on my iPhone while I am in range of the MiFi. Since there is a Starbuck’s Coffee with free AT&T WiFi in a nearby mall food court, I used it yesterday morning and went back to upload a large audio file yesterday evening when the upload speeds on the MiFi were too slow to easily upload a 125 MB file.

My Virgin Mobile Broadband2Go MiFi does not require a monthly contract and I can change the plan each time I buy more data. Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile probably offer similar devices (or they will soon). The important part of this device is its lack of a contract. If I plan to be home for a month, I can simply tuck it away until I need to activate it for another trip.

While I had planned to remove the data plan from my iPad 3G, we have found it to be very useful in day-to-day life around town. I often tuck my iPad into my purse when we are away from home. Being able to surf the web anywhere, at any time on the larger screen is a big improvement over the iPhone screen. I also hand it to my husband if he is going to be away from home, waiting for a car repair or something else.

Eventually, I will need to trim our costs and I will need to cut some of the overlapping Internet services. However, for the moment it is very convenient to be able to be online on any device at any time. It’s too bad that money doesn’t grow on trees!

If you need help choosing the best sources of Internet connectivity for you and your family, give us a call at Bob LeVitus Consulting. We can discuss your needs and help you formulate a plan that will give you the best “bang for your buck.” You can reach us by telephone at 408 627-7577. Or send an email to Our service for this costs $60.00 per hour.

-- Pat


Life with an iPad

There are many great things about being a Macintosh computer consultant, but probably the best is that our clients give me an excuse to buy the latest computer equipment.

Soon after a new product is announced I begin receiving calls about the item. Of course, all sorts of items attach to Macs, so I “need” to buy them as soon as they are released. This is why I find myself in line at the Apple Store each time a new device is released.

I ordered two iPads on the first day they were available for orders. The first was a 32 GB WiFi model. It was delivered on April 3 and it enabled me to quickly learn as much as I could in order to answer client questions.

I made a trip to the National Association of Broadcasters Conference in Las Vegas NV and I used it extensively that week. Being away from home and at the mercy of the convention center, I quickly missed the 3G capabilities that would be coming when my 64 GB 3G version arrived.

Internet access was available through AT&T hotspots, but the service was expensive and required a year-long commitment. There was no other provision for attendees to purchase WiFi access at the convention center.

Our hotel included free WiFi access, but we spent very little time in our room. I would have been lost without my iPhone. After a few days with the iPad, I began to appreciate the possibilities that the AT&T iPad service plans would offer.

I did enjoy taking notes on the iPad during conference sessions, but I still relied on my iPhone to take quick photos of presentation slides. I also enjoyed having a few games, magazines and books available when a session proved boring.

When I returned home, I found that the iPad fit nicely into my technology scheme for day-to-day use. Sometimes I keep my Twitter client open on it. Other times, it is e-mail. I really enjoyed being able to watch tutorial style podcasts on the iPad while I used the software being presented on my MacBook Pro.

When I ordered two iPads, I thought my husband might enjoy using one of them. He immediately decided that he did not want one and suggested that I sell it as soon as the 3G model arrived. After it was around the house for less than a week, he was calling it “our iPad.” Fast forward a week and he was calling it “my iPad.” Less than a week later he wanted to know when my iPad would arrive so that I would leave his alone!

We recently went on MacMania 10, a Mac geek cruise. Out plan was to spend Friday and Saturday in New York before the cruise departed on Sunday. Of course, that was the Friday when the 3G iPad was to be delivered, so we delayed our departure until Saturday morning. That gave me a few hours to transfer data, movies, books, podcasts and applications to the new iPad.

One of the unexpected iTunes features is the ability to transfer settings and accounts from a previous iPad to a one. While this is also available for iPhones, we don’t trade our iPhones around, but I can see that it will be easy to set up the 3G iPad for my husband when he goes on a business trip where the 3G capabilities will be desirable. When he returns, we can easily return the iPad to its former condition.

We rode the Acela Express train to New York. I activated the AT&T 3G service as we waited to board. Since the Acela provides WiFi, we connected to the train’s network with my husband’s iPad while i relied on the 3G service. I was pleasantly surprised that the 3G service was as fast as the train’s WiFi. In fact, in many instances the 3G service was faster.

I have a purse with a large outer pocket and the iPad easily slips into it. So, as we walked around New York, I used the 3G service to navigate using the iPad’s Maps application. I used Yelp, Hear Planet and Google to find restaurants and points of interest. Being a true geek, I did not mind the stares and comments of passersby as I used my newest toy!

Because our cruise was heading for international waters and Bermuda, I set the iPad to Airport mode while we were at sea. I knew that international data rates would quickly put a huge dent in our travel budget. I had purchased a WiFi package for use on the ship and I did use it for email and web surfing. Without a data package, I was unable to use the apps I had enjoyed in New York, but I turned web pages about Bermuda into PDFs and I downloaded various PDFs that I found on the web so that the iPad was a good electronic travel guide.

I really enjoyed the convenience of note-taking on the iPad while I was attending MacMania conference sessions on the ship. It is much lighter and easier to carry than my 17” MacBook Pro. There were a number of USB data sticks that were passed around during some of the sessions. It would have been nice to be able to add those files directly to my iPad, but at this time, that is not possible.

I also enjoyed being able to share my photos on the iPad. I was not able to purchase the iPad Camera Connection Kit before we left on the cruise. That would have been a great addition to my gadget bag!

I have had three of our grandsons and their mom as house guests this past week. The boys are 7, 5 and 2 1/2 and they have used the iPad for many hours. In addition to playing games, they have read books, watched videos and surfed the web with their mom.

Now that we have had our iPads for about 6 weeks, they have found their way into many places in our daily lives. My husband is using his to read lots of books. He is also enjoying reading newspaper sites on the iPad. He usually keeps his iPad in the family room and asks that other users return it to its home beside his chair.

I tend to carry the iPad around as I move from room to room. While I am working in my office on my MacBook Pro right now, I will move down to the basement to my craft workroom later and I will be using the iPad to do an inventory of supplies in Bento. I will also take it shopping with me as I purchase some needed items later today. The recipe I plan to make for dinner is on the web, so the iPad will make its way to the kitchen counter. Later, I will probably use it to read a book while my husband watches a TV show or two.

While the iPad won’t replace my MacBook Pro or iMac, it is a very convenient device to use throughout the day. My other computers can do the same things, but they are not as light, personal and easy to carry as the iPad.

Would I buy the iPad again? Definitely! Will I want the new one next year? Probably -- but I am sure I will have no problem passing this one down to a family member when that day comes. I am excited to see what Apple plans for the next version!

-- Pat

Need help setting up your iPad? Give us a call at Bob LeVitus Consulting! Bob has just finished his iPad for Dummies book and is waiting for it to be printed and I am exploring and learning new ways of integrating into daily life. Tutoring sessions cost $60.00 per hour.