How to see timestamps in iOS 7 Messages

It’s easy to find out when each individual message was sent within the new iOS Messages app — but it’s not obvious or intuitive. I discovered it by guessing. Here’s how: Tap and hold anywhere within the conversation area, then drag left. You’ll see the times appear to the right of the messages.

Swipe to show timestamp


Dinner Notes: Show notes for a dinner conversation

People often rely on show notes of podcasts and minutes of business meetings to document important discussion topics.

At a recent dinner with friends, we discussed a number of interesting technology and social topics. Here are my dinner notes!

Identify an image using Google Image Search

If you have a photograph of a person, place or thing you can’t identify, try uploading it to Google Image Search. Here’s how:

  1. Go to Google Images: — then click on the camera icon in the search field.
    Google images
  2. Drag and drop your sample image, paste its URL, or do a simple file upload. Here’s an example (source: Wikipedia): Flower example
  3. Google correctly identifies it as Magnolia virginiana.

Magnolia Virginiana

Options now that iWeb has been discontinued

  1. You’ll definitely need to find alternate web hosting for your iWeb-authored site after MobileMe is completely discontinued on June 30th 2012. I use for many web hosting clients.
  2. Consider Squarespace as another slick way to build and host a website. It uses point-and-click visual design and is highly customizable. You can even add PayPal and other e-commerce options if you have items to sell.
  3. If your goal is to build a more complete online store, consider Shopify. It has an easy-to-use store builder and handles of all the hosting and e-commerce details for you.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tips

  • Try to use your target keywords in the page’s “title” tag and limit its length to 70 characters or less.
  • There should be a single “H1” headline per page. Try to use target keywords in this page headline!
  • Think about two different audiences when writing website copy: the reader (a person); and visiting search engines that index your page contents. For example, if you’re writing a headline about the health benefits of blueberries:
    • Cute headline, but poor SEO:  Blue is the Best Food Color
    • Much better SEO: 5 Reasons Why Blueberries are a Super Food for a Healthy Life
  • Try using as a quick (and free!) SEO grade.

Is the iPhone Expensive? It Depends.

Apple now offers a brand new iPhone 3GS for FREE. Yes, yes, I know — it’s a way to lock you into a two-year data plan with AT&T. I only said the iPhone was free!

Teenagers and Cell Phone Use

According to a Pew Research Center, most teens are 12 or 13 when they get their first cell phone. Seventy-five percent of 12 to 17 year-olds owned a cellphone in 2009, up from 45 percent in 2004.

A week ago, The Buffalo News had an interesting article titled “Getting the good from the gadgets.”  It described how some high schools are adjusting their policies to allow students and teachers to use cell phones during school. Obviously this controversial topic will continue to evolve as we all — students, teachers and parents — become ever more dependent on mobile technology.

Dropping Home Landline Service

  • Percentage of U.S. homes that only had a wireless phone in 2007: 13.7%
  • In June 2010: 26.6%

“The phrase ‘home telephone number’ is going the way of rotary dial phones and party lines,” says Stephen Blumberg at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. The trend toward wireless-only homes shows no sign of slowing down, it said.


Selling Hours vs. Products

Several of my dinner companions do business like I do — they offer professional services to businesses and charge by the hour. The problem we all admitted is there are only a finite number of hours that can be billed in a day and a maximum rate the market will bear. It might be a good idea to  add the sale of products or licensing agreements to capture more passive income — perhaps using sites like as an online sales tool.


Google tip: Searching for specific types of files

Google can limit its search results to contain specific types of files. For example, if you’re writing a social media policy for your company, you might find it beneficial to see some examples. You could limit a Google search to Microsoft Word documents only. This is easy to do using Google’s filetype: keyword.

Here’s how: Type this in a Google search box (no space between the filetype and colon)

social media policy filetype:pdf  

Search results (partial):

Popular Google filetype search options with examples:

  • Excel: xls
    • home amortization filetype:xls
    • buy vs. lease filetype:xls
  • PowerPoint: ppt
    • global warming filetype:ppt
    • retirement planning filetype:ppt
  • Word: doc
    • business plan template filetype:doc
    • 5160 labels filetype:doc
    • award certificate filetype:doc
  • Acrobat: pdf
    • health care proxy filetype:pdf
    • 1099 -filetype:pdf   / In this example, the minus sign preceding filetype EXCLUDES pdf documents for this search
  • Image: jpg
    • us flag filetype:jpg


How to link to a specific tweet on

Every tweet has a unique website address within Here’s how to find out what it is.

At the bottom of each tweet, look for when it was posted. This is the active link that takes you to the individual tweet. Here’s an example:

Tweet link

Clicking on the “10 minutes ago” link takes you to this unique page:!/NewsHour/status/136462305067147268

Which looks like this:

Single tweet


That’s it!


How Long Should an Individual Keep Their Paper Tax Records?

Keeping accurate paper records is important for identifying sources of income, expenses, property records and completed tax returns. You should keep these paper records in case you’re audited. But how long? The answer is: it depends.

According to Table 3, Period of Limitations from IRS Publication 552:

1. IF you… Owe additional tax and (2), (3), and (4) do not apply to you: 3 years

2. IF you… Do not report income that you should and it is more than 25% of the gross income shown on your return: 6 years

3. IF you… File a fraudulent return: No time limit

4. IF you… Do not file a tax return: No time limit

5. IF you… File a claim for credit or refund after you filed your return:  The later of 3 years or 2 years after tax was paid.

6. IF you… File a claim for a loss from worthless securities: 7 years




International Space Station viewing on 8/16/2011

Clear skies and good orbital timing will make this evening (8/16/2011) an excellent opportunity to view the International Space Station (ISS) going overhead in Western New York. Here’s where to look:

At 9:23:28 pm, look low in the WSW sky. The ISS will be traveling towards the NE and appear as a fast-moving bright star. If you seek blinking lights, it’s not the ISS – it’s a plane! It will reach its peak at 9:26:31 — nearly straight overhead – going left-to-right if you’re facing NNW. It will disappear from view at 9:29:34 in the NE sky.

Happy viewing!

Also: Photographing the ISS

New Year’s Resolution: Backup Your Stuff!

One of the best New Year’s resolutions you can make is to establish a regular and reliable routine to backup your computer’s hard drive contents. While many of your documents are important — some are probably irreplaceable, like family digital photos/videos or critical work projects. It’s essential that you have a smart backup plan. In this post I’ll explain my backup system to help you decide what’s best for your situation.

Here are three essential data rules to keep in mind:

  • Your hard drive will fail and you’ll lose the data stored on it. The only question is when.
  • Your data is not safe unless it exists in (at least) two physical places.
  • One copy of your data should be “off site” — in case of fire or theft at your main computer.

Look at this chart to determine your risk exposure.

Your backup risk

My Backup Routine

I’ve used external USB 2.0 and Firewire drives over the years for backing up my data, but I always run into the same problems: the external drive’s not mounted, it’s too small, it’s too slow, etc. It finally dawned on me that the easiest way to backup my files reliably and frequently is to have a drive mounted at all times.

My main computer is a Mac ProMy main computer is a Mac Pro, which is a tower desktop unit containing multiple hard drive bays. The main internal hard drive is 750 gigabytes. I decided to purchase a second internal hard drive so it would always be powered up and available. But what size? Since hard drive prices continue to drop, the cost differential as you go up in size is not great. So I purchased a drive twice as large as I needed: 1.5TB. After installing internally into the second drive bay, I partitioned it into two equal volumes of 750GB each. I named one volume HD Duo, which I use as my target backup device. I use the second volume as temporary storage — anything that isn’t very important and I don’t care about losing!

My Daily Backup

There are several good backup software utilities on the market, and I’ve used most of them. Retrospect, Carbon Copy Cloner, Synk, ChronoSync, Synchronize Pro X, to name a few. But I’m using SuperDuper from Shirt Pocket Software — which works very well for me. It’s fast and reliable.

I set up SuperDuper to backup the entire contents of my main Macintosh HD internal hard drive to my HD Duo volume. The first backup took several hours since it transferred over 500GB worth of data. But now it takes about 10 minutes, since it only has to back up the files that have changed since the last SuperDuper backup. I run this backup script once per day.

This daily backup insures that I have a duplicate copy of everything in the event of a problem with my main hard drive. My HD Duo contents will never be more than 24 hours old.

But what about fire, flood, theft, etc? That’s where an off-site backup is essential.

My Off-Site Backup

Over the years, I’ve tried may different ways to do off-site backups — carrying external hard drives to family, neighbors, business associates, and my bank’s safe deposit box. Even burning DVDs and putting them in a fire-proof safe.

But these offsite methods all had one BIG problem: The hassle factor was way too high. Consequently, I never got into a reliable routine and my off-site backups were always woefully out of date.

I investigated online backup services. MobileMe’s iDisk, Backblaze, Carbonite, CrashPlan Central, IDrive, Jungle Disk, and MozyHome. The concept is simple: you install a software utility on your computer that encrypts your data and sends it over the internet to the company’s data storage servers. You can then download your files back to your computer (or any other computer) whenever you like.

After trying several services, I chose Backblaze. The subscription cost is $5/month per computer. It was easy to install and use, and I thought $60/year was a fair price to pay for unlimited offsite storage.

But initially backing up 500GB of data took a LONG time — several weeks, in fact, even with my high-speed Verizon FiOS connection. But now that the first pass is complete, Backblaze runs in the background continually, quietly encrypting and transferring new/revised files offsite, just in case I experience a serious problem with my office computer that can’t be resolved using my internal hard drive clone.

UPDATE 5-21-10: I discovered that Backblaze was taking way too long to upload my files. It was always working but never finishing. I solved the problem by changing the Backblaze System Preference panel’s “throttle” setting. I moved it to the Faster Backups. Everything’s working smoothly now!

Online Reviews

A good starting point to select an online backup service is


Here’s a diagram of my current backup system.

Multi-level computer backup system

11/3/2010 update: My hard drive crashed! Here’s how I recovered by using my daily backup.

How to download YouTube videos

media_1264257580388.pngThere’s an easy and free way to download a YouTube video to your computer’s hard drive. You can then view it later or perhaps use it in a PowerPoint or Keynote presentation when you don’t have access to the internet. Here’s one method:

1. If you don’t have the Firefox browser, download your free copy.

2. After starting the Firefox application:

  • Go to Tools > Add-ons
  • Click the Get Add-ons tab
  • Search for “youtube video downloader” — you should find Easy YouTube Video Downloader
  • Click “Add to Firefox…”
  • After installation, restart Firefox and review the instructions on the page that appears.

3. Find your YouTube video


4. Download your video! You’ll see links added below the video with different download options.

  • FLV (Flash Video) - Original video format
  • MP4 - 480×360
  • 3GP - 320×240
  • HD (if available) – 1280×720
  • FULL HD (if available) – 1920×1080