Archive for the 'Mac Stuff' Category

June 23rd, 2016

The Mid-2016 Update

People often refer to me as a prolific writer. I suppose that’s true in the sense that I’ve written 60-ish books and hundreds of articles and spend pretty much every waking hour writing still more. But one thing I certainly am not is a prolific blogger. When I see, as I recently did, that my last post here was over a year ago, I start to think maybe it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to post a little something just to keep up appearances. I can’t guarantee that the next one won’t require a similar wait. I’m far from idle; it’s just that this particular means of expression is currently pretty low on my long list of priorities.

One of the things I’ve been up to lately is writing a brand-new Joe On Tech guide (Speeding Up Your Mac) and updating my three previous guides (Troubleshooting Your Mac, Maintaining Your Mac, and Backing Up Your Mac). If you’re a Mac user, I invite you to check out those books; I think you’ll find them helpful.

Even the Joe On Tech guides have been a bit of an interruption in my schedule, since I’ve also been up to my ears writing new and revised Take Control books, testing and documenting new apps, delivering presentations to various groups, trying to keep up with my energetic kids (the youngest of whom was recently diagnosed with autism), and dealing with assorted crises. As a counterpoint to the craziness of work and life, however, I’ve been getting much more serious about my practice of t’ai chi. I’ve joined an advanced class taught by world-renowned t’ai chi expert Chris Luth, and I only wish I could afford to spend hours a day practicing, because it improves my attitude more than just about anything (with the possible exception of chocolate). I also find myself going to an actual gym and doing actual cardio and strength training workouts, sometimes as often as a few times a week. It feels bizarre to write that sentence in that my self-image has never included any form of athleticism, but life is full of surprises.

On further reflection, I think it would be an excellent idea to post here more frequently—perhaps as often as twice a year! Why, in just six and a half months I’ll be turning 50, and that seems like an auspicious time for reflection and further updates.

Until next time!

April 9th, 2012


My bags are packed! My iOS devices are synced and charged! I’m leaving tomorrow morning for a couple of days in Amsterdam before departing on the MacMania 14 cruise down the Rhine river, visiting various German, French, and Swiss locations before ending in Basel a week later (and then—super excited about this—a tour of CERN and some free time in Geneva).

As I said when I first wrote about this cruise just over a year ago, I’ll be teaching classes about interesting things you can do with iOS devices and Macs, and I’ve got all kinds of cool stuff planned. Time and energy permitting—wouldn’t that be a change?—I’ll try to post some photos and impressions of the cruise over the next couple of weeks.

January 18th, 2012

Speaking at Macworld | iWorld 2012

The conference formerly known as “Macworld Expo”—and then, very briefly, simply as “Macworld”—is back this year as Macworld | iWorld 2012, running from January 26–28 in San Francisco. I am honored to have been selected as a speaker, and I’m looking forward to the show immensely. If you’re planning to attend, I hope you’ll consider dropping in on my talks. I’ve been working very hard to put together presentations that are both interesting and entertaining—a good time will be had by all.

Here’s what’s on my docket:

  • Getting to Know Siri (TT902)—Thursday, January 26, 10:00 a.m.
    In this session, I won’t be doing all the talking—I’ll be joined on stage by my virtual assistant, Siri! The voice-controlled intelligent assistant capability in Apple’s iPhone 4S has made my own life quite a bit easier, and even though it’s still officially in beta, it has become an indispensable tool for a great many people. Together we’ll show you what Siri can do out of the box; explore tips, tricks, and hacks to extend Siri’s capabilities; and have some fun with Siri’s lighter side. I’ll also talk about my expectations, hopes, and dreams for Siri’s future.

  • Unitasking in the Apple Ecosystem (TT937)—Thursday, January 26, 2:00 p.m.
We all know what multitasking is—doing (or trying to do) several things at once. Computers are great at multitasking, but humans turn out to be a lot less efficient (not to mention unhappier) when they multitask. What’s the solution? Why, unitasking, of course! In this talk, I’ll explain how you can increase your productivity and reduce stress by concentrating on just one task at a time. But wait…exactly what is a “task,” anyway? Although you may think that’s self-evident, programmers tend to have a very different idea about what a task is than the rest of us. The result has been products that, paradoxically, make it harder to accomplish one task at a time, even while appearing to make it easier! I’ll untangle this curious mess and show you some of the ways your Mac and iOS devices can help you become a better unitasker. Bonus: In a feat never before seen at Macworld, I will personally attempt to perform as many as six tasks at the same time. Wish me luck!

    I did a video interview about the above two sessions with Chuck Joiner for MacVoices TV, which I think should give you a pretty good idea of what to expect. (Update: link added)

  • Umpteenth Annual Netters’ Dinner—Thursday, January 26, 6:30 p.m.
    Back in the day, this was a get-together for networking geeks—you know, like people who were actually on the internet (or one of its predecessors). I remember when hundreds of people would walk across the city in a truly impressive crowd, cram into the big upstairs banquet room at the Hunan on Broadway at Sansome, and enjoy extremely average Chinese food (they always claim it’s going to be hot and spicy, but it never is) along with excellent conversation. Last time I checked, only ten people had registered for this year, all of us old-timers who seem bent on keeping the event alive for purely nostalgic reasons. But, you know, we’d love to have more company, and anyone—geek or not—would be entirely welcome. Food, drink, and conversation with smart people—what more do you need? Be sure to read the instructions for where to go and when.

  • Ebook Publishing Panel with Chris Breen (Macworld Live Stage)—Saturday, January 28, 11:00 a.m.
In this panel discussion, I’ll join Adam Engst, Tonya Engst, Jeff Carlson, Glenn Fleishman, Michael Cohen, and moderator Chris Breen (Macworld Senior Editor) to discuss the past, present, and future of ebook publishing.

Even if you don’t make it to any of these events, if you happen to be at the show, please keep an eye out for me and say hello. I’ll be the guy with the iPhone.

Morgen, Soren, and I are all making the transatlantic trek to San Francisco, and we’ve arranged to spend some extra time in town both before and after the conference to hang out with friends and family, eat plenty of spicy food, and enjoy some R&R. Then it’s back to Paris, where my February calendar is already overbooked with the usual array of projects.

July 9th, 2011

The Nisus Temporal Vortex

A curious confluence of events has occurred.

Recently, I wrote a review of Nisus Writer Pro 2.0 for TidBITS in which I made the point that this new version finally restores much of what the Nisus Writer of the mid-1990s lost during the transition to Mac OS X. And, I said that being able to do real work in this outstanding application feels like coming home again after years of wandering in the wilderness. I also mentioned, in a different context, that “I remained in Nisus’s gravitational pull” for a long time. But as it turns out, it’s more than that. I appear to be caught in a full-on Nisus temporal vortex.

Last night I downloaded a copy of Marathon for iPad. Mac gamers with a nostalgic streak remember Marathon as being a great, early first-person shooter. I remember it as being the game that all the guys at Nisus would play on the company’s network after hours. I was never much of a gamer, but I played Marathon (rather poorly) for the social interaction, which conveniently required no actual human contact. When I think of Marathon, I think of my years working at Nisus. That it should come out at just the time I’m able to start using Nisus Writer again felt mildly significant.

But then things got more interesting. Today, Morgen, Soren, and I had lunch with Rev. Heng Sure, a Buddhist monk I met while I was working at Nisus. (He happened to be in Paris for a special event and invited us to stop by for a visit.) The story is this. Back in 1996, I was planning a trip to Berkeley to give a talk at the Berkeley Mac User Group (BMUG) about Nisus Writer, since I’d just written a book about it (The Nisus Way). A fax arrived at Nisus with my name on it, from this mysterious fellow in Berkeley named Heng Sure. He explained that he was a Buddhist monk, that he’d enjoyed reading my book on Nisus Writer, that he’d heard I was going to be in Berkeley, and that he was hoping I might be persuaded to stop by the monastery for a cup of tea so he could meet me and get my autograph. The fax included his email address, so I decided to email him back to say sure, I’d be happy to.

A day or two later I received this reply:

Subject:     surely this is a test
Sent:        8/22/96 8:37 PM
Received:    8/22/96 9:08 PM
From:        Rev. Heng Sure,
To:          Joe Kissell,

Your message was tantalizing, with the by-line "your fax", then the 
body of the message completely blank. Being a monk of the Ch'an (Zen) 
school, I first assumed that you were making a statement about 
sunyata, the ultimate hollow core at the heart of all conditioned, 
component things. Then I reflected that not everybody is a Zen master, 
and perhaps you simply hit delete command-x instead of paste command-c? 
It was still blank. I figured it must be a test of my sincerity. Did I 
really want to attend your talk at BMUG?

That option left me still hungry to know your reaction to my message, 
which is where I remain, bemused, and unenlightened about your visit to 
Berkeley. So relying on your compassion, may I request a repeat of your 
message to my fax? If it turns up blank again, I will put my palms 
together, and contemplate the void at the heart of binary reality, as 
you so instruct. :->

Peace in the Dharma,

Heng Sure

I think that was the best email message I’ve ever received. I wrote back, we made the appropriate arrangements, and long story short, I’ve been pleased to count Heng Sure as a friend ever since. (I have more great stories about him, which I may share at some point in the future.)

Anyway, I hadn’t seen him since his last visit to Paris, almost four years ago. So it was great to catch up. During the course of our discussion he asked me if I’d heard about the album he put out in 2008. He said that besides selling it on iTunes and CD Baby, he was making the MP3 files available free to anyone who performed an act of kindness and wrote to tell him about it. That seemed like a nice idea, but when I went to the Web site, I had some problems. I wrote to tell him about them:

I went to your Web site ( and 
tried to click both of the "Acts of Kindness" links. The one at the 
top of the page pointed to 
and that said "Server Error 403 - Forbidden: Access is denied." The one 
at the bottom of the page pointed to
paramita, which told me "Sorry, there's no such page." And, when I click 
the iTunes link on the "Purchase CD" page I get an error message from 
Apple! I just thought I should inform you about those so you can see 
about repairing the links...unless this is an exercise in contemplating 
emptiness, in which case, it's a novel approach that I quite 
appreciate :-). Meanwhile, I did a manual search for your album on iTunes 
and made a $9.99 donation. Downloading now!

I think that’s the appropriate way to complete the circle. Or more likely, it just keeps on spinning.

(By the way, there is a real, functioning iTunes link if you look hard enough.)