How Mat Honan Recovered From His Epic Hacking

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In a follow piece for Wired, Mat Honan, whose online life was basically wiped out when hackers socially engineered their way into his Amazon and iCloud accounts, describes the process of piecing things back together:

When my data died, it was the cloud that killed it. The triggers hackers used to break into my accounts and delete my files were all cloud-based services — iCloud, Google, and Amazon. Some pundits have latched onto this detail to indict our era of cloud computing. Yet just as the cloud enabled my disaster, so too was it my salvation.

If you haven’t read the original piece yet, go ahead and do so. It should be required reading for anyone with cloud-based accounts such as Dropbox, iCloud, and Gmail/Google Apps.

Square Offers Flat Monthly Pricing With Zero Swiping Fees

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The hits keep coming out of Square’s headquarters. Just a few days after raising $25 million in funding and announcing a landmark deal with Starbucks, they’ve just launched a new pricing plan aimed at small businesses.

From Square’s press release:

One monthly fee and 0% processing is the first pricing option that gives small businesses a lower processing fee than bigger merchants. Square is committed to offering prices that eliminate uncertainty and are lower than those traditionally only available for big businesses. In an industry that until now has only offered a per transaction fee, now merchants who process up to $250,000 per year can pay one flat $275 fee per month with no fee per swipe.

The Power User’s Guides to Firefox and Chrome

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Lifehacker maintins a number of “Always Up-To-Date” guides covering a range of topics such as jailbreaking your iPhone or building your own PC. Their power user’s guides to Firefox and Google Chrome are particularly useful, since most people spend the vast majority of their computing time either in a web browser or in an email client such as Outlook.

Firefox and Chrome bring a great deal of features that trump Internet Explorer (on PCs) and Safari (on Macs), including speed, stability, and a variety of options to extend their functionality with browser add-ons and extensions. For PCs, we recommend using either one over Internet Explorer (except when using IE-only websites, such as banking sites). On the Mac, we recommend Chrome primarily for its speed and stability, but it brings the same features and familiar interface from the PC version.

If you’d like to get more out of your browser and unlock its power features, check out the guides and let us know how things go.

Turn Your iPad Into A Laptop-Killer

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The Verge has an excellent roundup this week of the best keyboards and keyboard cases for your iPad.

About 9 months ago I had convinced myself I needed a full-blown laptop in order to be fully productive on the road, either on trips or on-site with a client. I was about to bite the bullet and get a MacBook Air when I came across a blog post by Harry McCracken titled, “How the iPad 2 Became My Favorite Computer”. That post saved me $1200.

I ordered the ZAGGfolio keyboard case for my iPad, just to try it out, figuring I’d end up returning it for the real thing. Nine months later, my 3rd-generation iPad is now the best laptop I’ve ever owned, thanks to a $90 accessory. No other laptop has a 10-hour battery and blazing-fast Verizon 4G internet, wakes from sleep instantly, and can be detached from its keyboard for comfortable use in one hand, just to name a few of the perks.

Today, I recommend the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover. It’s thinner, more flexible, and snaps to the front of the iPad using magnetic clips instead of surrounding it in a bulky case like the ZAGGfolio.

For me, true iPad productivity requires a number of cloud services that sync my data between my all my devices. Enter something over here, and it automatically pops up over there. Here are the apps and services I use every day to be fully productive from my iPad:

  • Microsoft Office 365: Microsoft’s cloud-based Exchange service that we use ourselves and recommend for clients. It syncs my email, contacts, calendars, and reminders between all of my computers at work and home as well as my iPhone and iPad.
  • Simplenote: Keeps all my notes and to-do lists in sync and always available.
  • LogMeIn Ignition and Join.me: Allows me to log into any server or PC we manage from anywhere, thanks to Verizon 4G. If I’m out of the office and need to help a client with an issue, I can do so from my iPhone or iPad. If it’s a new client and we don’t have LogMeIn installed on his or her, I’ll start a simple screen-sharing session with Join.me to quickly jump in and have a look.
  • Dropbox: All my documents and files from my computer, everywhere I go. Lets me quickly view, save, or email any file from my iPad with just a few taps.
  • QuickOffice Pro HD: For creating and editing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. Until Microsoft decides to release an actual iPad-ready version of Office, this is the best option available.
  • 1Password: I use 1Password to create and manage complex, unique passwords for every online account I have, plus all of my sensitive info like banking, credit cards, etc. Instead of using the same password for every account, I can have random ones like “SIf9Er[Fplts~MvcM>5H”. Their excellent iPad and iPhone apps puts that data at my fingertips at all times, while keeping it encrypted and secure.
  • Blogsy: A powerful blogging app that supports all of the most popular platforms (WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, etc), which allows me to post to this very site while on the go.
  • Reeder and Tweetbot: A big part of our day-to-day is keeping up with the latest news and trends in personal and business technology. Reeder syncs my Google Reader RSS feeds (see Macworld’s “Getting Started With Google Reader” guide) so I can catch up on the day’s news, and Tweetbot pulls in my Twitter timeline to fill in any gaps.
  • Instapaper: Interesting but too-long-to-read-right-now articles from Reeder and Tweetbot get sent to Instapaper for reading later. Some of these eventually end up on our blog and in our weekly email newsletter.
  • Square: Gotta get paid for all this productivity, right?

 

With this setup in place for the last nine months, I’ve come across very few instances where I truly needed a computer to get something done. Even then, they haven’t been emergencies and could easily wait until I’m back at my desk.

This is a game-changing development for the vast majority of our clients, who primarily need access to email, contacts, calendars, tasks, and their files in order to be productive. If you’re wondering why laptop PC sales are tanking, Ultrabooks are dead on arrival, and Apple has $120 billion in cash in the bank, look no further. In many cases, $730 for a 4G iPad + keyboard case will get you the best laptop you’ve ever had.

 

Cooking With the iPad: Apps & Accessories

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iPad sales have continued to shatter records, making Apple the world’s top PC maker, thanks to its incredible range of uses. It’s been a natural fit in the kitchen, where most families spend the bulk of their time, thanks to a huge accessories market and a wide selection of high-quality apps.

To get started, check out Ars Technica’s great roundup of the top cooking apps for the iPad, including Basil, Paprika, and Gilt Taste.

In order to turn your household iPad into a powerful, kitchen-ready device for cooking and entertaining, you’ll also want to check out a few key accessories:

  • Thought Out Stabile 2.0 iPad Stand: A sturdy, well-made stand is essential for the kitchen. You need to elevate your iPad off the counter so it doesn’t get dirty, angle it for comfortable use while standing, and keep it from tipping over. The Thought Out Stabile stand takes care of all of these issues. It’s made of solid steel and has a low center of gravity, so accidental bumps or nudges won’t send your iPad crashing to the floor. The viewing angle is just right for a kitchen counter and it can accommodate an iPad with or without a case.
  • Cosmonaut Stylus: Unless you don’t mind getting food all over your iPad’s screen, you’re going to need a stylus to use it once it’s in the stand. Studio Neat’s Cosmonaut is the way to go here. It happens to be my favorite overall stylus, but its size, shape, and design are perfect for the kitchen. It’s easy to grip and won’t slip out of greasy hands, and it rests comfortably on the base the Stabile stand while not in use.
  • Apple AirPort Express or Jawbone Big Jambox: Want to liven things up with your favorite music from Pandora, Spotify, Songza, or iTunes? Let your iPad handle that, too. Use an AirPort Express to turn any existing stereo system into a wireless jukebox, or get Jawbone’s Big Jambox and play them over Bluetooth wherever you are.
  • Apple TV: If you have a TV in the kitchen, you can easily turn it into an extension of your iPad by adding an Apple TV. Found a great video to guide you through a recipe, or want to share something with the people you’re entertaining? Use AirPlay to wirelessly send it from your iPad to the Apple TV.