Tips and Tricks

How To: Prepare to Switch from AT&T to Verizon

Has the flame fizzled out of your relationship with AT&T? Was it originally love at first sight, but now you’ve caught yourself eyeing that new iPhone Verizon just announced? Don’t worry, our love affairs with gadgets and wireless carriers are often fleeting, and the only thing at risk of getting hurt is your wallet. If you’re looking to switch from AT&T for Verizon’s new iPhone 4, here’s how you can do it.

How to cancel Your AT&T Contract

Choice is now here when it comes to U.S. iPhone service providers, so if you’ve decided that you’ve had enough of AT&T, there are a few options available. But keep in mind that since AT&T put up some serious cash subsidizing the iPhone to get you to sign that two-year contract, it’ll probably do its best to get some of that investment back.

Why Time Machine isn't enough for Backup

Since its introduction as part of OS X 10.5 Leopard in 2007, Time Machine has given Mac users an easy way to back up and restore files. From the beginning, though, Time Machine’s design has made it less than ideal for certain backup needs (see “Is Time Machine all you need?”). As time has passed, backup products have evolved. How does Time Machine compare to the competition today?

How to stay Safe at a Public Wi-Fi Hotspot

Firesheep lit a figurative fire under the feet of folks who otherwise weren't concerned with the security of their data as it passes to and fro over a WiFi network in a public place. That's good. You're at risk whenever you use WiFi on a public network, but thankfully it's never been easier or cheaper to secure yourself thoroughly.

Firesheep's threat is that it allows anyone with a Firefox browser to hijack the sessions of anyone on the same network using a few dozen popular content, commerce, and social-networking sites by snarfing cookies that pass in the clear. But Firesheep is only the easiest to use of a series of freely available tools that can extract and record data passing openly over networks. The only way to defeat all of them is to secure all the connections over which you pass anything personal, financial, or confidential.

You have a variety of strategies to choose from, some of which are free and some of which have a modest cost attached. None are terribly complicated, but just require a commitment on your part if you feel at risk. Which you should.

5 Free Alarm Clocks for iOS that actually Work

When Apple’s alarm clock app failed, letting down a multitude of users on New Year’s Day and January 2 due to the bug the company still hasn’t fully explained, we started looking around for alternatives.

Apple said yesterday that the failure of its clock app only happens when you set a one-time alarm, and it will somehow fix itself on January 3. We have made a call and sent an e-mail into Apple asking why this happened. We confirmed that the alarm failure problem in Apple’s app is still happening today, when we set an alarm and nothing happened.

Meanwhile, we were thinking it wouldn’t hurt to look around for something that might be dependable 365 days a year. We found five free alarm clock apps that don’t have that problem.

Gawker Passwords Hacked: what You should Do

On Sunday, Gawker Media, parent company of popular sites like Gawker, Gizmodo, Lifehacker and Jezebel, announced that its user database had been compromised and that 1.3 million usernames and passwords were now in the hands of hackers, although not all of that information had been decrypted. If you ever set up an account with a Gawker site, the company is suggesting that you change your password, as it may have been compromised.

The big problem here, of course, is not that people’s Gawker accounts were hacked. That’s an inconvenience, but little more than that. What’s more disturbing is that, by gaining access to people’s Gawker password, hackers may then have access to other accounts that use the same e-mail/password combination. That could mean bank accounts, e-mail, etc.

So, a couple of things about that: You really need to use more than one password. It’s annoying, yes, but necessary. Have one password that you use for really sensitive accounts (like things that deal with money) and another for basic things like this site and others. That way, a hacker who breaks into, say, flowerlovers.com (which is likely to have more lax security than bignationalbank.com), will only know your password to other low-security sites.

As for the password itself, it should be something good. An analysis of the published passwords taken from Gawker’s database shows a surprising number of obvious choices. (Who knew “starwars” was so popular?)

Setting up iPhone Tethering

The iPhone has a 3G modem built into it that lets the phone access high-speed mobile data and voice networks. So why can’t we use that same built-in modem with our laptops when we’re traveling instead of having to buy a separate 3G modem or cellular router for the computer and pay a separate monthly service fee?

The good news is that you can, more or less, using tethering. Tethering lets you turn a phone into a cellular modem, but with substantially more limits than alternatives such as cellular routers or mobile hotspots. Tethering is one to one (you connect a phone to a laptop), and the laptop must have the right drivers to make it work.

Use an Old Mac as a Backup Server

In the innocent days of the very late 20th century there was The Family Computer. This single computer sat in a home’s communal space and was shared by each of that home’s residents. For many of us, those days are long past. As computers have become more affordable, portable, and necessary, it’s now common to find multiple Macs scattered throughout a home.

And because it is, it’s just as likely that some of those Macs have been retired—replaced with faster or lighter models. When that happens the question of what to do with an old Mac invariably arises. Given a multi-Mac household and the need to retain the data stored on those Macs, one of the first things you should consider is turning that old Mac into a backup server—one Mac to rule the backup roost. Doing so isn’t an overly expensive proposition and it’s relatively easy to set up, run, and maintain.

15 Secrets of iMovie ’11

Apple's introduction of iMovie ’11 focused largely on the new Movie Trailers feature, audio editing improvements, and One-Step Effects for automating common editing operations. Those are just the highlights, however. Here are 15 features and bits of trivia you may not be aware of about the latest version of iMovie.

Make a Smooth Switch to Outlook 2011

If you’ve already upgraded to Microsoft Office 2011 from an earlier edition—or are considering doing so—you probably know that e-mail, calendars, and contacts are now handled by a new application called Outlook rather than Entourage.

Switching to Outlook need not be traumatic, but it’s different enough that you may be disoriented at first, or have trouble figuring out how to do a few basic tasks. These tips will get you started.

Regain the Timeline in iMovie '11

When Apple radically changed iMovie between the '06 and '08 releases, one of the biggest criticisms was the abandonment of the traditional editing timeline. Instead of one horizontal succession of clips at the bottom of the screen, iMovie '08 introduced an editing area at the top-left of the screen where the movie wrapped like a paragraph.

Well, if you've been pining for a "real" timeline, it's time to re-evaluate iMovie '11. With a couple of clicks, you can have it back. Here's how.

5 Things to Do with Your Old Apple TV

That silver-topped, hard-drive bearing, Tiger-running, heat-emanating Apple TV from yesteryear has been replaced by today’s $99 black, 8GB-of-flash-memory, iOS-powered, cool-as-a-cucumber Apple TV (second generation).

Given the new Apple TV’s lower-price, more responsive performance, and Netflix support, it’s likely that owners of the original Apple TV are unplugging the things by the score and replacing them with the current model. But, when doing so, they’ve surely wondered what to do with the old one.

We have some suggestions.

How to convert Video for the iPhone 4

The iPhone 4 just begs for some good video content to be played on its high-resolution display—which, contrary to popular belief, isn't made of retinas. The easiest way to get video is through Apple's iTunes Store, but there are many reasons why you might want to watch videos that you already have lying around instead. If you're lucky, your video is already in a format that the iPhone supports. In that case, just add the file to iTunes and sync. But what if it's not in the right format?

The iPhone 4, the iPad, and the latest versions of the iPod touch all support H.264 main profile level 3.1. What that means is that you can play HD video with a resolution of up to 1280x720 and a framerate of 30 frames per second. That's a significant step up from the baseline profile level 3.0 (720x480x30 or 720x576x25) that the older iPhones and iPod touches support, and even an improvement over the older Apple TV, which could only play 1280x720 video at 24 frames per second or less. The main profile rather than baseline profile means that it's possible to use more effective compression.

So how to go about creating those H.264 files?

HowTo: Add Contact Information to Your Mac's Login Screen

If you believe in the kindness of strangers, this tip might be for you. Most laptop users fear that their computer will be lost or stolen. Assuming that the right sort of person finds your laptop, however, they might be willing to return it to its rightful owner, if they knew how to contact you.

It is possible to add a short message to the login screen of your Mac.

Put the Colour back in iTunes 10

Design changes made to iTunes 10 haven't been greeted with universal enthusiasm. The grey sidebar icons are a little dull compared to their coloured predecessors, the application icon has been chided as amateurish and bland, and arranging the gumdrop buttons in the top-left corner of the app window in a vertical fashion is simply bizarre.

Thankfully, there's a fix for all of these quirks.

iPhone: Which iOS 4 Software Features does My iPhone Support?

Features and capabilities vary between models, with some features available only on newer models. Use this table to determine which features of iOS 4 are available for your iPhone model:

10 Replacement Icons to Re-Beautify iTunes 10

When Apple released iTunes 10 last week, the newest version of the venerable media app sported not only a refined interface and the new Ping social network but a new application icon, as well.

Users are not impressed. Here at Mashable, we’re more about solving problems rather than kvetching online. Thus, we scoured the web (basically Deviantart and Dribble) to find the best substitute iTunes 10 icons around.

Re-beautify your desktop and put an end to eyestrain, headaches and the general feeling of malaise that may accompany the use of the default icon with some of these replacements, showcased and linked in the gallery.

How to add Color Icons to iTunes 10 Sidebar

Fight the drab grey icon sidebar! Apple iTunes 10 hacked to display color icons!

Some people might like the new gray iTunes 10, but others like the classic iTunes 9.2.1 colored icons better. So, what to do if you want to add colors back to iTunes 10?

iTunes Vertical Widgets - and How to change Them back

Thanks to Rudy Richter of Ambrosia Software Who wrote via Twitter:

to answer my previous tweet, to move the stop light back to horizontal, defaults write com.apple.iTunes full-window -1

To translate - Quite iTunes. Open your Terminal application and cut and paste "defaults write com.apple.iTunes full-window -1" (without the quotes). Re-open iTunes 10. Voila!

HOW TO: Make Free iPhone Ringtones

Ringtones — They are the darlings of the music industry and the bane of anyone subject to hearing a bad one. If you’re sick of your plain old telephone ringer but don’t want to download a canned tone, you don’t need to spend extra money to turn your favorite song into a ringtone for your iPhone. There’s a way to create ringtones in iTunes from your existing music.

Once you’ve done it, you’ll be making ringtones faster than you can download them. It is not, however, the most obvious process. Here’s a how-to guide to help you out for both Mac and Windows users.

Protecting Yourself from fraudulent iTunes Store Activity

In recent weeks, more and more iTunes users have been reporting fraudulent activity on their iTunes Store accounts, reporting hundreds or even thousands of dollars worth of bogus purchases. With the reports of this type of fraud on the uptick in recent weeks, many users have been quick to blame Apple or PayPal, as many of the affected iTunes accounts were linked to PayPal accounts.

But the problem cannot be blamed on a software security flaw, nor can it be fixed with a quick patch. The problem, it seems, actually lies with iTunes users.

That’s right: iTunes users are the store’s big security flaw. Here’s what you need to know in order to keep yourself and your iTunes account safe.

How to Convert DVDs for iPhone, iPad, and other Apple Devices

If you’re like a lot of our readers (and editors) you have more than one Apple media device on which you play videos—a click wheel iPod, iPod touch, iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. While having such a collection allows you to play videos in just about any environment, it does pose this question: If you want to rip a DVD you own or encode a video on your hard drive just once—for all your Apple devices—what’s the best option? Two answers present themselves:

1. Encode for the least-capable device.

2. There isn’t a single best option. You should encode more than once.

Let’s take them in order.

How to disable Facebook Places

Yesterday Facebook rolled out a new feature called Places that lets you and your friends check in to locations, Foursquare-style. If you'd prefer to keep your location private, or at least stop your friends from posting it, here's how.

If you're not convinced that posting your location can be a bad thing, check out PleaseRobMe for some evidence. Of course, if you're careful, check-ins aren't inherently a bad thing. Whether or not you want to disable them is entirely up to you, but Facebook—yet again—has made the assumption that you want to take part in all of their privacy-eroding new features. If you don't, or want a little more control over who can divulge your location, you can make this change pretty quickly through your privacy settings.

Google Alarm

Google is collecting a lot of data about how we use the web, even when you’re not using Google websites directly. The Google Alarm browser addon shows notifications, plays sound effects and keeps running stats about the % of websites you’ve visit with Google tracking bugs present: Google Analytics, Google AdSense, YouTube embeds and more.

Worth a look if you’re all too conscious of how much Google has invaded your life.

All about iTunes Movie Rentals

You probably know that you can rent movies from the iTunes Store. But there are a number of conditions that affect what you can and can’t do with rentals. Here’s an overview of how you can watch them, on which devices you can view them, and how to move them from one device to another.

Renting movies from the iTunes Store can be pretty simple if you don’t want to do anything special, though you’ll have to jump through some hoops if you want to move rented movies. If you have an Apple portable device, or an Apple TV, it’s an easy way to find a flick to watch while you munch on some popcorn.

Be careful with Your Safari Extensions, and Turn Off Auto Updating

I’m a big fan of Safari Extensions. I’ve written several of my own, some of which I share with the Internet public.

But because I’ve built those extensions, I’ve realized how easily a malicious developer could harvest all sorts of information about you, using a method that could sneak in and evade immediate detection.

25 Great Safari Extensions

If you haven't yet used Safari 5's new extensions feature, we've covered the ins and outs. But which extensions are worth installing and which are better left alone?

In the process of writing that article, I tested innumerable extensions from Apple's Safari Extensions Gallery, the Safari Extensions blog, and around the Web, and came up with a list of 25 that I found to be especially useful—or, in some cases, informative or entertaining. (I haven't included extensions that, while useful, do things you can approximate using Safari's own features.)

Chances are you'll find more than a few that will make Safari a better browser for you.

How to get Rid of Web Browser Cookies

Recently, little boxes began popping up on Web pages I visited. They showed my picture and welcomed me by name. They also included details that made it clear these sites knew I was a Facebook member. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, this is nothing new—other sites have used cross-site cookies to determine what ads to display. But this time, it was enough to spur me to action. I decided to get rid of all my Web browser cookies.

What would the consequences be? Cookies are, after all, intended to make surfing easier. They give your computer a unique identifier so your actions can be tracked and your needs (say, your site login information or preferences) anticipated. (Learn more about what cookies do, and what privacy risks they can pose, by reading this Wikipedia article.) I’d already ditched Google for privacy concerns, so I figured it would be an interesting experiment to delete my cookies and see what happened.

6 Essential iPhoto Editing Tricks

iPhoto includes most of the image editing tools that casual photographers need to spruce up their photos. In fact, it may have more powers than even seasoned iPhoto users realize. Here is a handful of my favorite iPhoto image editing tips.

Pay as You Go Sim with Data Wiki

This wiki aims to collect information about pay as you go mobile phone plans from all over the world.

Not just any plans though, they must include decent data rates, perfect for iPhone and Android smart phone travellers.