How to add Bluetooth to a car with a cassette player

If you have an older car without a Bluetooth connection or without an auxiliary input, it’s easy to spend a lot of money getting it up to snuff. You can easily blow a grand having a CarPlay-equipped third-party stereo installed professionally. But you don’t have to do that. Bluetooth can be added for pennies these days. Here’s how.

For a 12-year-old sedan, things looked grim. It had an AM/FM receiver, a tape deck, and a CD player, but no way to receive input from an iPhone – no Bluetooth support, certainly, and no auxiliary input either. The days of having an FM transmitter module plugged into the iPhone are long behind us. What to do?

That’s when I learned of Ion’s Bluetooth Cassette Adapter, a $20.99 device that does the job just fine. It’s a Bluetooth receiver that pairs with your iPhone, but it fits in the tape deck and the stereo thinks it’s a tape: audio is piped through the tape input.

Ion Bluetooth Cassette Adapter

The device has a built-in battery that lasts for 4-5 hours at a stretch and can be recharged using a micro USB cable (included). It also has a nifty built-in microphone if you need it.

Sound quality is fine – it’s Bluetooth, and all that goes with that, but you’re in the car, so you’re dealing with wind, road noise, engine noise and all other manner of distraction, so I don’t think you can really get into a meaningful discussion of audiophile quality for a $20 adapter.

Syncing is painless. As near as I can tell, though, there’s no multi-device syncing, so in order to pair it with a second iPhone (say, switching from driver to passenger) you need to disconnect the first iPhone using its Bluetooth setting, if it’s still in range.

It works as advertised and does exactly what I needed it to do. So if you’re still driving a car or truck with a tape deck, you may be in luck with a cheap Bluetooth fix.

Bonus tip: If Bluetooth doesn’t work for you, or if the idea of having to charge yet another device leaves you cold, there’s another solution that also works with cassette decks, and it’s even cheaper: The $7.99 Besdata cassette adapter sports a wired 3.5 mm connection which plugs into your headphone jack. Assuming your phone still has one of them. 😉

Background Mode with John Martellaro

I recently had the great pleasure to talk with John Martellaro of The Mac Observer for a new episode of the Background Mode podcast. If you’re not familiar with it, here’s how TMO describes the show: “Join John Martellaro every week for fascinating interviews with tech industry pros and luminaries. It’s more than a show about what they do; it’s about who they are.”

My own personal background is as a first-gen home computer geek, so that’s where we started. We talked about Apple’s current events, too. And we kept it to a very reasonable 33 minutes, so there’s a minimum of bloviation, I promise.

Pokémon GO afflicted with throw accuracy bug, developer promises fix

I’ve been frustrated because I’ve been wasting so many Pokéballs on monsters I knew I should have caught on the first throw. You too? That’s because Niantic broke it. They confirmed it in a Tweet on Thursday, and promise a fix:

RIP Seymour Papert

I’m in my mid-40s, so I’m lucky enough to be among the first generation of kids who grew up with computers in the home and at school. For many of us who came up during that time, Logo was an essential computing experience. I learned through friends on Twitter earlier today that one of Logo’s creators, Seymour Papert, passed away over the weekend at age 88.

Logo was a programming language developed for kids. It was radically different because it was visual: You issued positional commands to a “turtle” on the screen (a triangular cursor). Once you got down the basic mechanics of it, you learned the essence of programming loops and functions, creating dazzling geometric visual designs in the process. It was a marvelous and engaging way to learn programming at a time when computers were still very rudimentary.

Now kids who want to learn the basics of programming have some great alternatives like Scratch and Kojo, but Logo lives on in spirit and in essence, and Papert’s legacy lives on in generations of programmers and legions of computer users inspired by his work.

How to play Pokémon GO without annoying everyone: Shut off the camera

I love Pokémon GO but the novelty of actually having to find my Pokémon by looking through my smartphone’s camera wears thin quickly. There are only so many times I stop, lift my smartphone and “look around” to find my Pokémon before it feels intrusive and, quite frankly, a bit rude to the people around me. Fortunately Pokémon GO has a setting that lets you turn this feature off, and still play the game.

 

The next time you’re trying to catch a wild Pokémon, take a look in the upper right corner of the screen. There’s a toggle switch labeled AR. That’s short for “Augmented Reality,” and that’s the camera feature. Slide that toggle off, and your Pokémon will be rendered in a 3D setting, but your camera will no longer be used.

Ar off

The game renders a 3D scene and drops the wild Pokémon right in the center of it. That makes it a bit easier to locate the Pokémon and throw a Pokéball to catch it. It also means less jerking the camera around as you’re walking around. 

All the other aspects to the game remain the same. This won’t affect your ability to visit Pokéstops or gyms, won’t change the frequency with which you encounter wild Pokémon, and doesn’t affect basic gameplay mechanics when it comes to tossing Pokéballs or walking to hatch lucky eggs and the like.

Worried about malware on the Mac? Try this

It’s sadly easy to click on the wrong link on a web page or in an email and end up with a software package downloaded to your computer, rooted somewhere to make your experience surfing the web an endless misery of ads. Adware and malware abound, not just on PC but on Mac too.

Apple continues to refine OS X to make it as resistant to malware infection as possible, and third party software exists to help as well. Here’s a quick roundup of what you can do to close the wagons, as it were.

Let’s start with what’s built in to the operating system. The Mac has Security & Privacy settings you can adjust to make it more secure. Apple’s Gatekeeper software manages which apps can be installed on your Mac, and its settings are under the “General” tab.

“Allow apps downloaded from” is what I’m referring to. It has three settings: “Mac App Store,” “Mac App Store and identified developers,” and “Anywhere.”

The first two options check for the presence of digital certificates that Apple has verified, a good way to make sure the application you’re downloading is what it’s supposed to be. The Mac App Store option restricts that even further to only those applications you’ve purchased through Apple’s buiit-in Mac App Store.

Problems can happen when you set that option to “Anywhere.” Then the Mac doesn’t check to make sure the app is from a registered Apple developer, which means that it could come from anywhere. It’s an expert level setting that’s best not to use unless you feel comfortable with the potential risk involved. If your Mac is set to Anywhere, now would be a good time to change it.

How to change your Gatekeeper security settings

  1. Open System Preferences.
  2. Click on Security & Privacy.
  3. Check the setting for 
  4. Click the lock in the lower left to make changes. Enter your administrator password and click Unlock.
  5. Change the “Allow apps downloaded from” setting to one of the first two, depending on your need.
  6. Close the Security & Privacy window to save changes.
Gatekeeper

Gatekeeper is a good first line of defense. If you’d like to make sure your Mac is free of malware, I’d recommend using Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware for Mac. It’s free, and it’s well-maintained by a company that sells anti-malware software for PC and business.

Mbam

Macs running Snow Leopard can’t run this software. If you’re in that boat, you should seriously think about upgrading your operating system or your hardware, because it’s really old and it’s not going to be supported for much longer. Having said that, ClamXav still supports machines running 10.6 and later.

Twenty years

A lot of what I post here are how tos or tutorials, so I hope you’ll forgive me for a bit of self-indulgence. But an announcement posted on the web this week has me looking back at the last 20 years in the Apple ecosystem and on my own career.

On Monday MacNN announced plans to shutter, marking the end of a 21-year run. MacNN is a news resource for Apple enthusiasts, and at one time it vied for dominance in the Mac news media with the publication I wrote for, MacCentral. Monish, MacNN’s founder, and many of the writers and editors there are people I’ve known, liked and respected over the years. MacNN isn’t the first Apple news-oriented site to go away recently; AOL’s shutdown of TUAW is still a raw wound in many Apple enthusiasts’ minds.

But it is an indication of just how much the business of publishing information on the web has changed over the years. In announcing MacNN’s shutdown, Charles Martin notes that the management has decided to pull the plug even though they were building audience and improving page views. Too little, too late in a radically changing publishing market, I fear. I hope MacNN’s staff land safely.

In 1995, when MacNN got its start, I was working as a network administrator for a graphic design firm in Watertown, MA. Apple was a beleaguered company at the time – it seemed its best innovation was behind it, and it simply couldn’t compete effectively against the Wintel juggernaut. But in graphic design and publishing and many other creative arts and businesses, the Mac reigned supreme. 

We were an all-Mac shop and the owners were investing heavily in technology. Sites like MacNN and MacCentral were vital resources for people like me – people who were helping to guide budgets around expensive computer hardware, trying to understand what they can do, and looking out for the many pitfalls and speedbumps other companies had already fallen prey to, and avoiding them.

I still check sites like MacNN nearly daily, though it’s more reflexive than out of necessity these days. Still, whenever there’s good content about Apple technology I’m happy to read it. MacNN’s demise gives us one less place to find that sort of content, and that’s a loss for us all.

Best of luck to everyone affected by MacNN’s closure.

Will your Mac support macOS 10.12 “Sierra?” Here’s how to find out

The release notes for the rechristened “macOS” 10.12 “Sierra” indicate a change in minimum system requirements. Older Macs got a stay of execution last year; El Capitan’s minimum requirements didn’t change from Yosemite. This year, Sierra ups that to Macs built since late 2009. If you’re not sure about the age of your Mac, here’s how to tell.

If you were planning to install 10.12 on an older Mac, you should probably make sure it’s up to snuff before you try. (If you try to install the developer preview on a Mac too old to support it, the installer will tell you it’s too old and will quit, anyway.)

If you’re not sure how old your gear is, here’s how to figure it out.

How to know the age of your Mac

  1. Click on the menu
  2. Select About this Mac
  3. Under the Overview tab, look at your Mac’s description. Its model age will be displayed.How old

Even though minimum system requirements had been static on the Mac for a few years, the actual supported features of OS X have been a moving target. El Capitan can be installed on Macs back to 2008, but features like Metal graphics acceleration, AirDrop file sharing, Handoff and Instant Hotspot are specific to Macs buiilt since 2012. That’s because those newer Macs have better hardware inside that enables the feature support. And while El Cap technically supported Macs with 2 GB RAM, running them in that configuration was maddeningly frustrating, especially on Macs without SSDs.

macOS Sierra ups the minimum system requirement to MacBooks and iMacs made in late 2009. That maintains that seven-year spread we saw last year, but cuts off older Mac models built before late 2009. I don’t know what, technically, is motivating the system requirement change. But generally, my experience tells me that Apple’s decisions on system requirements are rarely arbitrary: Apple simply won’t support hardware that they can’t back with a great user experience.

It’s too soon to tell what Sierra’s final system requirements will be: Yesterday was the release of the first developer preview, and a public beta won’t be out until next month, with a general release in the fall. So don’t draw too much from the developer preview as it stands now. Still, forewarned is forearmed, so tuck this information away for the coming weeks and months.

How to post to Instagram right from Photos on the iPhone

Up until this week, posting iPhone photos to Instagram required the Instagram app. Now you can post directly from Photos. Instagram 8.2 finally adds support for Share Sheets, which we’ve been waiting for since iOS 8 was released in 2014!

If you’re like me, this is a big deal. I use Photos to catalog, edit and tweak my photos. I don’t much care for the built-in editing or filter tools in the Instagram app. So being able to post from right within Photos saves me the step of having to open Instagram and post from there. Even if you’re not using Photos but you are dependent on another photo cataloging or editing tool, Instagram’s support for Share Sheets makes it that much easier to integrate Instagram sharing into your workflow.

Here’s how to activate the new Instagram feature.

To add Instagram to your iPhone Share menu

  1. Make sure to download and install the latest version of Instagram from the App Store.
  2. Tap Photos.
  3. Select the photo you wish to export to Instagram. Tap the Share menu icon in the lower left corner.Share sheet
  4. The share sheet shows you the list of available services and apps, including Mail, iCloud Photo Sharing, Facebook, Twitter and others. Tap and left-slide until you see More. Tap on More.More
  5. In the Activities window, scroll down the list until you see Instagram. Tap the toggle to turn Instagram on, then tap Done.Instagram share
  6. Instagram will now appear in the list of services you can export photos to. You can add a caption and hashtags and post when ready.Instagram button

The downside of posting to Instagram is that you’re just posting to Instagram. The Instagram app lets you cross post to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Flickr as well. But those services are also supported in Share Sheets – it’s just not a one-stop crossposting shop. If you want to cross-post to different services at once, you’ll still need to use the Instagram app.