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March 25, 2022

2022 Gift Guide for Apple Fans

Practical Gifts for Tech Users

If you're on the hunt for the best gifts to buy an Apple fan this year, we've put together a helpful guide to point you in the right direction. While personal preference always plays a part in gift-giving, sometimes it can be hard to come up with any ideas for someone in your life who loves tech and Apple products.

Apple Gift Guide

The gifts in this guide largely relate to products created by Apple and third-party accessories that work well with Apple's devices. We've divided things up by Apple Products; Cases, Skins, and Screen Protectors; Charging; Audio; TVs; Smart Home; and Miscellaneous. Be sure to save this guide and browse it throughout the year whenever you need to buy a birthday gift or other present for a loved one.

Apple Products

If your budget allows for it, Apple has numerous devices that make for solid gift-giving ideas. If the person you're buying for subscribes to Apple Music, AirPods and HomePod mini are great companions to the streaming music service. For anyone active on your shopping list, the new Apple Watch SE is a great workout companion at an affordable price point.

Apple Headphones

  • HomePod mini - A smaller version of the HomePod at a much more affordable price perfect for holiday gift-giving.
  • AirPods 2 - The cheapest AirPods are getting on in years, but still make a great gift for the holidays, particularly at lower prices.
  • AirPods 3 - Redesigned in 2021, AirPods 3 are the latest version of Apple's most beloved accessory.
  • AirPods Pro - This model of the AirPods Pro now comes with a MagSafe Charging Case.
  • Apple Pencil 2 - Pair a new Apple Pencil 2 with the latest iPad Air and iPad Pro models for a smooth illustrating or note-taking experience.
  • Apple Watch 7 - The newest Apple Watch has an always-on Retina display and 20% more display area than the 6.
  • 10.2-inch iPad - If you don't want to spend as much on an iPad Pro, Apple's entry level iPad got a 2021 update as well thanks to the A13 Bionic processor.
  • iPad Air - The new iPad Air with an edge-to-edge 10.9-inch display and Touch ID power button.
  • MacBook Pro - The all-new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros are the best all-around notebooks on the market, equipped with Apple's M1 Pro and M1 Max chips.

Cases, Skins, and Screen Protectors

With their cheap prices and small sizes, iPhone cases and screen protectors make for great, quick gifts. Of course, if you're looking for MacBook protection, companies like Pad & Quill and Twelve South offer solid options, and the growing popularity of AirPods has caused third-party brands to introduce some case options for the wireless headphones as well.

i Phone Games

Cases for iPhone:

  • Apple's Leather and Silicone Cases with MagSafe - Apple's newest iPhone cases, now enhanced with MagSafe.
  • Nimble's iPhone Cases - Stylish, sparse cases that protect your new iPhone 12 from drops, with proceeds going toward eco-friendly causes.
  • iPhone LED Cases - Phone led phone case is a case with multiple built-in LED lights. LED back panel blinks when you have an incoming call or notification.
  • BodyGuardz Pure 2 EyeGuard - Protect your iPhone from drops and your eyes from harmful blue light effects.

MacBook Covers:

  • Incase Hardshell Case for MacBook - Incase is well-known for its hardshell MacBook cases, which provide durable protection to Apple's laptops.
  • Twelve South BookBook - Twelve South's BookBooks make your MacBook look like a vintage novel.
  • Pad & Quill Leather Valet Case for 13-inch MacBook Pro ($160) - Fit your MacBook Pro, iPad, iPhone, Apple Pencil, cables, and more in Pad & Quill's leather case.

iPad Cover:

  • Logitech Folio Touch for iPad Air - Logitech's keyboard comes in under the price of Apple's and has a bunch of useful features like a touch pad and backlit keyboard.

AirPods Cases:

  • Elago's Cases for AirPods 1 & 2 - Stylish dual-tone protection for your AirPods.
  • Elago AW6 AirPods Case - Protect your AirPods in a case that looks just like an iPod.
  • Elago AirPods Pro Slim Case - A sleek case to protect your AirPods Pro.

Charging

Portable chargers are one of the best go-to gifts since most people can relate to needing a quick charge on their smartphone at one point during the day. Anker's popularity and reliability in the market remain strong, so you can't go wrong buying from them, but look to Choetech, RAVPower, and the new brand Nimble for a few other notable charging accessories options.

Computer Bag

USB-C:

  • Kingston Nucleum USB-C Hub - Expand your MacBook's ports with Kingston's USB-C Hub.
  • OWC USB-C Travel Dock - Add up to five ports of expansion onto a MacBook Pro or iPad Pro.

Portable Batteries:

  • Anker PowerCore 10,000 mAh Battery - Anker's PowerCore batteries are a backpack and travel necessity, and 10,000 mAh is a perfect mid-range size.
  • Mophie powerstation USB-C XXXL - Mophie's powerhouse portable charging station offers a 26,000 mAh portable battery.

Wireless Chargers:

  • Anker PowerWave Wireless Charging Mat - Wirelessly charge an iPhone 8 and newer on Anker's cheap-but-reliable mat.
  • Belkin Boost Up Wireless Charging Dock - Wirelessly charge your iPhone, along with your Apple Watch, on Belkin's convenient and useful dock.
  • Twelve South HiRise Wireless - Wirelessly charge your iPhone on the stand, then pop out the puck for an on-the-go Qi mat that perfectly fits the AirPods.
  • Moshi Lounge Q Wireless Charging Stand - With an adjustable-height design and aesthetic inspired by Danish furniture, this Moshi charger fuels up your iPhone in style.

Roy Hart

author-roy-heart

Web enthusiast. Enjoy writing tech reviews. All-around dev & writer, an on-air contributor to various websites & magazines. My job entailed show prep, YouTube management, writing segments, running tests on different tech.

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March 18, 2022

Fix UnicodeEncodeError with BBEdit

Quick Easy Fix

Have you ever gotten this error when running your Python code:


UnicodeEncodeError: 'ascii' codec can't encode character 'u2019' in position 16520: ordinal not in range(128)
      args = ('ascii', '<!DOCTYPE html>n<html lang="en">n <head>n <m...rigin="anonymous"></script>nnn </body>n</html>nn', 16520, 16521, 'ordinal not in range(128)')
      encoding = 'ascii'
      end = 16521
      object = '<!DOCTYPE html>n<html lang="en">n <head>n <m...rigin="anonymous"></script>nnn </body>n</html>nn'
      reason = 'ordinal not in range(128)'
      start = 16520
      with_traceback = <built-in method with_traceback of UnicodeEncodeError object>
      

This has been happening to me a lot when I convert code from PHP to Python. It was frustrating to fix the error. Someplace in my code is a piece of text that isn't translating well.

BBEdit to the Rescue!

The easy quick fix I found is in the Text Status Bar in BBEdit. The text status bar shows the file encoding,

B B Edit File Encoding
Change the Python File Encoding!

By default the coding is Unicode (UTF-8)

However, if you change the file encoding to Western (ISO Latin 1) something magical happens when you save.

Unmappable Character Detected
Unmappable character(s) detected.

If there's any Unicode in your file, it warns you and then tells you where the Unicode is so that you can fix it!

Once you fix all the errors the file will save and the UnicodeEncodeError should go away!

Unmappable Characters Dialog
Sample Unmappable Characters dialog box that shows you what you need to fix!

Alternative Fix

If you get ordinal not in range(256) - Check out my solution.

If the error is results from a Database data, check out out this solution.

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March 11, 2022

Emmet in BBEdit

Code HTML faster in BBEdit

Emmet is an easy way for Web Developers to generate code from a series of shortcuts. It's a good tool for raw HTML and CSS developers.

Emmit support was include in BBEdit v.14 which was released in the summer of 2021.

Sample Emmet Command

div>ul>li*2

Using Emmit expands to:


<div> <ul> <li><# $1 #></li> <li><# $2 #></li> </ul> </div>

Setting up Emmet in BBEdit

To use Emmet in BBEdit you need to install it. You use Node Package Manager (NPM) to install the files. ( Emmet NPM page)

Got NPM?

If you haven't installed NPM before, or don't know if you have it installed - you can always download the node installer from Nodejs.org

Download the NodeJS installer from Nodejs.org website: https://nodejs.org/

After doing the NPS install, you will need to run the NPM install command to install Emmet:

npm install emmet

Why not run the install command in BBEdit's Shell Worksheet?

npm Install

Using Emmet in BBEdit

The important thing about using Emmet in BBEdit is that you use the "Expand Emmet Abbreviation" on the same line that you have type the abbreviation.

You do not select the text and then use the "Expand Emmet Abbreviation" command.

Copy the following into any BBEdit window:

h2.card-title>h5.card-subtitle>p*3

At the end of the line use the keyboard shortcut Shift F5 or select "Expand Emmet Abbreviation" from the Edit menu.

If your into Bootstrap, this is a good one to know:

card.mt-3>.card-header>.card-body

Output:


<card class="mt-3">
	<div class="card-header">
		<div class="card-body"><# $1 #></div>
	</div>
</card>

That created the basic card area in the Bootstrap universe.

Learn More Emmet Snippets

You can learn more about Emmet commands from there website: https://docs.emmet.io/

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March 4, 2022

Image Tricks Pro

Practical Image Utility

Belight Software makes a lot of great Macintosh software - Image Tricks is a cool image utility.

Image Tricks is a quick image application. You would use this software to make a quick adjustment to an image for social media or blog posts.

Image Tricks 2022

Features of Image Tricks

Core Image Filters - Access to all the built-in Core Image Filter filters in the Core Image API. Adjustments like Transform, Color, Focus, Distortion, Style, Halftone, Tile, Lumine, and Overlap. Apple has 174 of them. Image Trick Lite users get 118, whereas Pro users get 160. (Not sure which Core Image Filers are not in Image Trick)

Quartz Compositions - Users get access to Stylize, Distortion, Utility, Other. Use this set of filters to create comic book-like effects on your images. Image Trick Lite users get 35, whereas Pro users get 41.

Image Generators - If you don't have a background image, why not use Image Tricks and create one. Image Trick Lite users get 13, whereas Pro users get 20. The nice thing is that after you generate a design, you can use the Quartz and Core Image Filters to touch it up.

Photo Frames - Quickly add a frame to your image. Some of these are not scaleable so your image may crop. Image Trick Lite users only get 12, whereas Pro users get 115.

Border Masks - Don't settle for boring square corners on your photos, add a border mask for an interesting effect. If you know how to create masks in Affinity Photo or Photoshop, this may not be an exciting feature. The advantage of Image Tricks is that they are super easy to apply and switch to see which design works best. Image Trick Lite users only get 35, whereas Pro users get 149.

Masks - These add image overlays to your image. Image Trick Lite users get 36, where as Pro users get 76.

Image Tricks Pro

You can buy Image Tricks Pro for $9.99 in the Apple Store or from their website.

Belight Software Ukraine

One More Thing

Belight Software is based in Ukraine. As of today, all their developers are still in Ukraine. You can help support Ukraine Developers by purchasing their software. Following BeLight Software on Twitter for all the updates from the front lines.

I have been thinking of purchasing Image Tricks for years - I finally decided to purchase it to help support the Macintosh Developers in Ukraine. It's not an application that I plan to use a lot, but it seems the right time to buy.

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February 25, 2022

Path Finder 2021

Latest Update to the popular Finder replacement

PathFinder 10 was released earlier this month. The last update was on December 8, 2020. This means that there was a 1 year, 2 months, 5 days duration between major releases.

What is Path Finder?

Path Finder is a more advanced Finder. The application makes available a lot more tools to help increase your productivity.

People use Path Finder to:

  • Perform Advance Search - Look for files in particular locations - such as certain USB drives.
  • Manage Files - Easily move files from one location to another.
  • Navigate - Using the Application Dock or the Menu icon, you can easily open up locations no matter where you are on your computer.
  • Productivity - Power up the your finder with a lot of extra tools.

Path Finder10x

Let's check out the new features and see if it's worth the upgrade.

What's New in Pathfinder

CocoaTech is no longer adding the version to the PathFinder name. They are planning on releasing monthly updates and they felt having a version number in the name may confuse things.

Cocoatech has also moved Path Finder to a subscription model. This means that you now have to pay annual fees to get the latest version. They dropped the price, a yearly plan now costs $29.95. Path Finder 10 was $36.

Cloud Folder Uploader - You can easily send a file to any cloud service simply by right-clicking and uploading a file to SFTP/FTP, Amazon S3, Dropbox, and Google Drive servers.

Bug Fixes -Fixed issues with Terminal, git, and SVN modules

sFTP Cloud Uploader

The sftp integration is cool, it just takes a bit to get used to set up. Some tips I learned:

  • The Remote Path is from the root directory when you log in to the sftp server. This isn't the absolute path, just the path you would take logging in.
  • Make sure to end the Remote Path with a directory slash, example: images/website/
  • Cocoatech should add a "Test Connection" button which would make it easier to see if you type the right password or file path.

You still can't mount an sftp server to Path Finder - maybe in a future release? Sending files to sFTP servers is a great first step.

Some Bugs with Monterey

There are still some issues with macOS Monterey. I am not seeing detailed information when I get file information. It seems to be working for macOS Catalina. (Apparently, this was supposed to be fixed in the 2121 version.)

I am also having some issues with the "Symbol Table" reports - works in Catalina but not in Monterey. This is pretty minor as a lot of people probable don't use this feature.

Path Finder Bug

Revisiting Some Path Finder Features

Back in January 2021, I wrote about some of the new features of Path Finder 10, I thought it might be good to revisit a few of these features again.

File Rename - The file rename dialog allows you to have multiple criteria in renaming files. Really a good way to rename similar files. The before/after is really useful to see the impact of the changes before they are applied.

iPhone Viewer - Use the Size Browser to see where the largest files are being kept on your phone.

Application Switcher - See all the available applications on your computer. Not just the applications in the ~/Applications folder. This is available in the menu bar

Path Finder Features

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February 18, 2022

Photoscape 4.2.1 Update

List of the Latest Features

It has been a while since I posted an update of all the features in PhotoScape X. This week's post is look at some of the features added since my .PhotosScape Update in November 2020.

Version 4.2 shipped in January 2022. This is the release note on the new features:

  • New Object Effects: Inner Glow, Inner Shadow, Emboss
  • New Image Effects: Outline
  • Added Background, Fill, Color, Masks options to Image and Sticker Objects
  • Added Mask option to Color and Film Effects
  • Added Close menu to Collage tab
  • Added 'Merge Selected Layers' to Editor tab
  • Added 'Font Favorites'
  • Added 'WEB Quality option'
  • Added 32 Camouflage Patterns
  • Added 180 Flower Stickers
  • Added 469 more Pixel Stickers
  • Selecting and Editing Multiple Objects
  • Improved Object Effects: Long Shadow, Overlays & Masks
  • Improved Shadows/Highlights Filter
  • Improved Ul
  • Fixed bugs

PhotoScape 4.2.1 Update
Quick Sample of some the the features in this update

Six Things I Learned from the New update

This update was a month late! In the past, PhotoScape did their major updates in Oct/Dec. I am not complaining, I just like to see what cool things that the PhotoScape team comes up with.

The Inner Glow, Inner Shadow are great ways to add make text objects stand out more.

Webp capability - Now I can save files in Webp format and see the savings using that format. (For example, the image used in this Blog post is 40 KB had I used Jpeg format it would have been 76 KB)

WebP is an image file format that Google has developed as a replacement for JPEG, PNG, and GIF file formats. WebP yields files that are smaller for the same quality, or of higher quality for the same size. It supports both lossy and lossless compression, as well as animation and alpha transparency.

Note: Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer, and Graphic Converter don't offer support for Webp. Pixelmator Pro does allow users to save in Webp format but PhotoScape is the only app that I have that shows the preview of the saved image.

Font Favorites are a great addition! Now I can quickly switch between fonts and not have to scroll the long menu just to get to a font that I want.

The flower stickers and pixel stickers are nice, but I don't think that I'll ever use them. I guess its a good way to create a comic graphic? There's a lot of variety in the Pixel stickers, certainly worth a scroll through to get ideas.

The Camouflage Patterns are a nice addition to the large pattern library. They add a nice touch as a background color in text. I didn't realize that there were 32 different camouflage patterns.

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February 11, 2022

Luminar Neo

Version One Released today

This week, Skylum finally shipped version 1 of Luminar Neo. In this release users get the Core Luminar features, Remove Dust Spots, Relight, Remove Powerlines, Luminar Share, Presets and Layers.

In a later release the Mask and Portrait Background removal will be available - there is no date on when that release will occur. It will be a free update.

Product Description

Luminar Neo is a creative image editor driven by AI technologies of the future. It empowers creators to bring their boldest ideas to life. And enjoy it.

With leading-edge AI technologies and a flexible workflow, Luminar Neo allows users to accomplish creative tasks and achieve professional editing results. The new engine in Luminar Neo is based on all the best solutions from our experience at Skylum for maximum performance and flexibility, allowing you to achieve complex creative results.

Before/After

Check out how Luminar Neo transformed a boring church photo into something awesome:

This photo was taken using the GoPro Hero 9.

Key Features of Luminar Neo

Features not available in other Luminar products

Luminar Neo's goal is to make a single image look awesome. Luminar AI is designed more for batch editing, like Lightroom

Specific features not found in Luminar AI: Relight, Develop and Crop.

Relight is the ability to change the lighting in a photo. You can add or darken an image with a simple click. The cool thing is that Neo produces a 3D map so the light spreads naturally in the photo.

Develop is you opportunity to change the Exposure, Smart Contrast, Highlights, and shadows.

Crop is very similar to the Composition tool in Luminar AI. Clicking on Crop gives you the best crop image - making sure that the portrait's eyes are in the center of the image. Luminar AI adds Persecution and Image 3D Transform.

Argumented Sky Removal. It's interesting to note that Luminar decided to remove Argumented Sky in Luminar Neo. Argumented Sky is where you can place objects in the photo such as the moon or a rainbow. I recall seeing it in early versions but that feature is now gone.

You can get advice and tips from the Luminar Insider Form. The form is an active place of die-hard photo users. They frequently run contests for the best photos or styles.

Luminar Neo has Presets just like Luminar AI. When I ran the same image, the preset suggestions were the same. However, I rarely use these and would rather spend a few minutes in the editor fine-tuning the image using the awesome tools.

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February 4, 2022

ForkLift 3

Is it a better alternative to Panic Transmit?

ForkLift by BinaryNights is a very popular dual file manager. In 2012, I did a quick review of the application and things have changed a lot over the years, so I thought it would be good to review it again.

My go-to FTP file manager is Panic Transmit, so this review is based on the things that ForkLift does well and some things where Transmit does a better job.

Fork Lift Preview

Five Things I Like about ForkLift 3

Commands - The Command menu option allows you to send various server commands without having to open up a separate terminal window. You can make symlinks, alias, sync, compress, copy, and delete to name a few.

Local File Size - You can quickly tell how much space you have on your local devices, if you are run low on disk space, the ???pill??? color will be red.

Sidebar - You can have the sidebar visible whenever you need it. This makes it easy to navigate between favorites and local devices while still having a two-panel window visible. This would be useful when migrating a site from one cloud service to another.

Custom Shortcuts - You can set or change any Forklift preferences. This means that I can quickly navigate through the application using shortcuts that I am familiar with.

Forklift Mini - This puts some features of ForkLift in the menu bar. For each favorite, you can mount it as a disk, open it as a droplet or open the location in Forklift. To mount it as a disk you need to install ???FUSE for macOS??? a free third-party framework,

Two Things That Panic Transmit Did Better

Apple iCloud Drive - When viewing iCloud folders, Forklift doesn???t show files that haven???t been downloaded. Panic Transmit does show non-downloaded files.

Connecting Servers - I spent way too much time looking at how to connect a server. In Transmit, the connection location is easy to find and the interface is much better.

Recommendation?

Overall, I think Transmit is a great application and won't be switching to ForkLift anytime soon. However, if I fund that ForkLift is running a sale, I may consider purchasing as a secondary FTP tool.

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January 28, 2022

Smart Folders

Create Quick Search for Common Searches

In this short entry, we are going to explore Smart Folders in the Finder - a way to quickly find common files at a click.

New Smart Folder

Smart Folders

Apple's description of Smart Folders:

Smart Folders automatically gather files by type and subject matter. Smart Folders are updated as you change, add, and remove files on your Mac.

Creating a Smart Folder

To create a smart folder: In the finder select the New menu then "New Smart Folder."

Tips and Tricks

Here are four useful Smart Folders to have:

Template Files

Motion Search Template

Template files - Are their files that you like to use on a frequent bases? Create a template so you can find them. (Apple Motion files in this example.)

Recent Apps

Recent Apps

Recent Apps - Highlight applications that you use on a regular bases. The cool thing is that you can decide on the last open date.

Recent Files

Last7 Days

Recent Files -Do you work with a lot of files and want quick access to the most recent ones? Set up a recent

Media Search

Go Pro Search

Specific Video Files - Do you frequently look for videos taken with a certain camera? Create a Smart Folder.

Full List of Search Attribute

There are 144 Spotlight Criteria and Attributes.

You can get the full list of all the available Spotlight search attributes on https://simonbarnett.co.za/ website.

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January 21, 2022

Pixelmator Remove Background

Quickly remove backgrounds from the Finder

In November, Pixelmator Pro added a AI-powered background removal tool. This is a very powerful feature that makes it easy to remove background from any image.

Pixelmator Pro was certain that you'll be using this feature all the time, that they built in a Finder Quick Action so you can remove a background from any image without having to open up the application.

Pixelmator Quick Action

Three Reasons Why This is Great!

You can quickly remove the background of any image. Pixelmator Pro creates a new image so the original image isn't impacted. There's no harm to use this to any image that you have.

This works anyplace in the finder. So you can be looking at an image on a flash drive and apply this tool.

The whole process takes place in the background. Pixelmator won't open up and disrupt your desktop view or flow.

Not Enabled by Default

Here's the steps to enable this.

  • Open up System Preferences. Apple Menu -> System Preferences
  • Search or Click Extensions. (Tip: The icon is a puzzle piece.)
  • Click Finder on the Left navigation.
  • Click check box next to "Remove Background,"

If you don't see "Remove Background" you will need to update Pixelmator Pro to the latest version.

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About

As someone who has worked on Macs since 1989, I will use my experience to share tips and tricks with you on Fridays. As a Mac user since 1989, I have seen the evolution of Mac software and hardware, and I know how Mac computers work. I also know how to troubleshoot and fix Mac problems that can arise.

Check out all the blog post.

Schedule

MondayMedia Monday
TuesdayQA
WednesdaySnagit For QA
ThursdayPython
FridayMacintosh
SaturdayInternet Tools
SundayOpen Topic