Advice for the mature or befuddled...

Friday, October 29, 2010

Shorten, please

As someone who stands under five feet and wears her hair as clipped as a fresh recruit, I’m smitten with “short.” Others may not feel likewise. Those of us who bear that adjective are sometimes mocked for our, um, shortcomings.

To the rescue comes technology where it frequently helps to be short. Many Web sites, such as Twitter, prefer links to be tiny so that inputted sentences don't exceed its 140-word limit.

Applications, like tiny.url or, which can be added to your Mac toolbar (sorry, I only speak Apple), do the slicing for you. On an iPhone, using a free app called Shortener, you can copy a lengthy Web address, get it neatly hemmed, and then upload it to Twitter, Facebook, or into an e-mail message.

Here’s how to do all of the above:

1. On your Mac, open your browser -- Firefox and Safari are my choices -- (Okay, I know Safari is part of my religion; but sometimes, I like variety.). Go to Find the option, “Make Toolbar button.” Drag that selection to the toolbar at the top of the page.

After the button is tucked in, travel to a site you’d like to share. Remain on the desired site as you click on the new button, TinyURL! A short URL will have been created. Copy the abbreviated version. Open Twitter or Facebook; implant the tiny URL into your status update. Add you own special wording. And you're good to go.

2. works similarly. Go to its Web page and find the Bookmarket option. Drag it to the toolbar. This site has a Sidebar that shows Traffic, Conversations, and History; i.e. how many other users have tweeted this particular Web site. A neat feature. Perform the same steps as above.

3. Open your iPhone, go to the App store, and search for Shortener. You’ll find other apps that purport to do similar carving. Read the reviews; there’s more than a dozen. Some free, others $.99. I tested Shortener and it worked perfectly.

Go to the iPhone’s Safari Web browser. Find the site you want to share. Copy its Web address by touching the screen and holding until a magnifying glass appears. Use your finger to drag the magnifying glass to an insertion point on the address. Tap to display the selection buttons. Touch and hold to bring up the Copy option. No fear, the shortened address has been safely sent to Appleland where it awaits your next step.

Leave the Web site. Open Shortener. Paste the copied address into the space provided. Select TinyURL as the shortening service. Snip. Copy the shortened Web address. Open Twitter, Facebook, or your e-mail message. Touch and hold the spot where you want your link to go, select Paste. Then, as above, add your own special wording to your status update or message.

Now, don't you feel differently about us shorties?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

iPhone IPad iSnob

Alas, Target is carrying the iPad and it's rumored that Walmart will be next. I don’t mean to be a snob, but I think customers will miss some of the Apple store experience if they purchase the device from one of those two megastores.

I haven’t seen Walmart’s supposed display, but at my local Target, although accessories were in plain view, the iPads themselves were stored in their boxes and locked in a cabinet. No ability to ooh aah or test drive.

But, I understand the demands of marketing to wider audiences. As a favor to those buyers of iPads who go the non-Apple route, and to all of the new iPhone users who may have missed my earlier How-to column, I’m going to repeat some jewels and add a few new tips. A caveat, this column is wholly the opinion of its author; it’s not vetted or endorsed by Apple. Having said that (I love that phrase, but have few chances to use it, so humor me.), here we go:

1. Download the User Guide. This works for both the iPhone and iPad. Go to Safari, Apple’s browser. Look for the tiny image that looks like an open book. That’s Safari’s Bookmark. Click on that and on the option menu you’ll see User Guide. Next, hit the plus () sign. When asked what you want to do with this page, select Add to Home Screen. VoilĂ , the guide is now on your Home Screen where you can refer to it as needed.

2. Safari’s plus and Home Screen trick works for any other web sites you’d like downloaded. Let’s say you’re reading this blog on either Apple device and you want to save it for later reading, or you want to do the same for my website, Elaine Soloway Public Relations. Hit the plus sign and down either site will go to your Home Screen. No need to go back to your browser, I’ll, um, I mean “they” will pop up with one touch.

3. This is a frequent question asked by iPhone users. How do I upload photos to Facebook? Take the photo with your iPhone camera, and save it in your Camera Roll. Then, open Facebook (let’s assume you’ve already downloaded the app and have kept it updated), and look for the little camera to the left of the horizontal space called, What’s on your mind? (Don’t write anything in that space.) After you’ve clicked on that tiny camera and you are given the option of Take Photo or Video, or Choose From Library, select the latter. When the desired photo appears, add a caption, upload, and it will soon appear on your Facebook page.

4. This works for the iPhone and iPad. When writing text on an email, and you’ve made an error in the middle of a word, it’s not necessary to use the “x” to go backwards and erase all you’ve already written. Simply place your finger on the error (think of your finger as a cursor) and a magnifying glass will appear. Guide the cursor to the spot and make the correction. Now move your finger/cursor back to the end of the line to complete your email.

5. This is another text tip. If you want to make some of letters on your iPhone accented, tap the letter, pause, and a trio of accented letters appears. Select your choice and it will be in the text. (Thanks to friend Frances Archer for reminding me of this trick.)

If I haven’t answered your questions, here’s an idea: check out the User Guide. You’ll find it on your Home Screen.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Boo! Apps and Links for Halloween

When I asked my daughters, Faith and Jill, what they remembered of Halloween costumes of their youth, their answers were “Pirate” and “Hobo.” Ah yes, now I recall the frantic evening before the holiday that found me thrashing through my husband’s closet to grab his clothing (hobo) and through my bathroom shelves for makeup (pirate).

Because of that pathetic memory, I’m starting early by identifying for you Apps and websites that will not only help to put together garb, but also create ghoulish sound effects and purchase candy you remember from your own childhood.

iPhone and iPad Apps

Not surprisingly, app developers have gone wild for Halloween and created dozens that pop up when you search for the holiday. You can go on your own hunt, but I’ve gathered a few to start you out.

Halloween Countdown is free on the iPhone and an iPad version that adds an "i" to its title, costs $2.99. While listening to haunting music, you’ll see the number of days counting down until the big day. You’ll watch as the animated transparent skull gets bigger. The app includes five background musical soundtracks and if you wish to see the skull’s eyes flash red, just shake.

DressUp Lite is a free iPhone app. If you’re not one of my kids, you may have wondered what you’d look like as a pirate. This app encourages you to put costumes on photos of you or your friends and then publish them on your favorite social media site.

zGhost2 is a $0.99 iPhone app lets you see ghosts in the real world. According to the application description, "The iPhone camera is actually sensitive enough to pick up the low-glow ectoplasm radiated by Ghosts." Check it out, But don’t click when alone.

iHalloween is a free iPhone app that creates spooky, creepy sound effects, such as a cat screaming, ghoul laughing, or a simple boo.

Web Sites offers 21 Halloween Costumes Made by Real Moms, Best Pregnant Halloween Costumes, and Quick and Easy DIY Halloween Costumes. What are you waiting for? Fetch the felt, scissors, and feathers!

If you’re a do-it-yourself-er like you know whom, you might want to turn to for ideas. Among their Homemade Halloween Costumes are Cyndi Lauper, a Nun, Jellyfish, David Bowie, and Greek Goddess. Unusual selection I'd say.

You might want to opt for an easier route and just buy the damn stuff. At, you can choose your fantasy. Their claim, “We are one of the largest retailers of Halloween costumes on the web. Not only do we carry a wide array of costumes, but we also have all of the accessories you need to make your Halloween costume stand out from the rest.” Categories include: Kids, Adult, Couples, Sexy, Group. (Have the courtesy to wait until I finish before you seek Sexy.)

If it just isn’t Halloween without a visit to a haunted house, check out That’s where I found a dozen haunted houses that were voted "Official Top 13" and the 2010 People's Choice. "Disturbia-Torment of Fears" won first place.

I promised candy, and here it is at “Our Halloween Candy includes gummy body parts, candy corn, gummy bones, bat dots, ghost dots, gummy eyeballs and pumpkin seeds are just a few treats that are perfect Halloween treats.”

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t include in this Halloween blog post daughter Jill’s production of Hollywood Hell House in 2004. “HOLLYWOOD HELL HOUSE ran from August through October of 2004. Here's what she had to say about it, "My sometimes writing partner, Maggie Rowe, called famed Colorado minister Pastor Keenan, the man who created Hell Houses -- Christian conversion haunted houses -- and ordered the entire kit -- scripts and set design and marketing materials, so we could put on our very own Real Live Hell House. You'd recognize some of these prominent participants: Andy Richter as Jesus, Bill Maher as the Devil and Sarah Silverman as Abortion Girl."

Now go out and scare somebody!