torstai 28. helmikuuta 2013

iPad Mini for dummies

The Home Screen
I recently became an owner of an iPad Mini. Having never used any Apple products (despite reading the biography of Steve Jobs) it took some time to get the logic of the system. For those in the same situation, here are some random pieces of information that I personally found useful.

Enabling the Safari bookmarks bar

First, I tried the Safari browser. It's quite minimalistic, and by default you don't even see a bookmark bar. The weird thing compared to, say, Android or Windows is that you cannot control the settings of Safari from the app itself! This seems to be true with many other apps as well. Instead, you need to go to the Home Screen with all the icons and navigate to the Settings app. In there, select Safari and then toggle on the Always Show Bookmarks Bar setting.

Adding a bookmark
Now, how to add links to that bar? Navigate to the site you want to bookmark and click the rectangle-with-an-arrow -icon next to the address bar. You normally associate this icon with sharing content through email/Facebook/Twitter/whatever, but in Safari you also find the Bookmark option in the menu that opens. The dialog is simple: there's the name of the site, then the address, and finally a category, where you should obviously choose Bookmarks Bar.

Muting the keyboard sounds and using the Side Switch

The physical volume buttons of the device don't affect the keyboard sounds. By default you can mute those too with the little switch above the volume controls, but since muting the other sounds of the device is just a matter of briefly holding the 'volume down' button, it seems like a waste to use the switch only to mute the keyboard sounds.

To get completely rid of the keyboard sounds for good, navigate to Settings again, then Sounds, and then toggle off Keyboard Clicks. Now you can change the Side Switch function from Mute to Lock Rotation, which I find to be more useful. You can do that in the General panel of the Settings.

Multitasking Gestures

Multitasking Gestures are a way of quickly switching between apps. They are enabled from the same General panel where the Side Switch function is changed. The gestures are done with four or five fingers:
you can pinch to show the Home Screen, swipe left or right to switch between apps, or swipe up to reveal the multitasking bar.

Volume controls in the
multitasking bar
The multitasking bar shows you the most recent apps you have used. There's one very useful, non-obvious feature there too: swipe the bar right to bring up volume and brightness controls! Tapping the speaker symbol mutes the device, just like the Side Switch used to do before you switched it to rotation lock. ;) So if you'd prefer to hear the keyboard clicks at least sometimes, this might be a better option than to remove them altogether.

Disabling Auto-Correction

In theory, Auto-Correction fixes your spelling mistakes. In practice, however, it usually just makes you write things horribly wrong. To disable Auto-Correction, go to Settings -> General -> Keyboard and just toggle Auto-Correction off.

sunnuntai 17. helmikuuta 2013


If you have ever wanted to try another operating system besides your current main one, then VirtualBox is your solution. VirtualBox creates a virtual computer inside your Windows (or Linux, for that matter) and you can then install any operating system into it and launch the virtual computer just like you would launch any regular application. With VirtualBox you don't need to reboot your computer every time you wish to switch to another operating system. I remember originally hesitating about the whole concept at first, thinking that it must be somehow difficult to use, but I was wrong: it couldn't be much easier.

Let's start. Download VirtualBox from the site linked to above. Then download an image of some Linux distribution, say, Linux Mint. An "image" in this context is a large file, usually with a .iso extension, that you would normally burn to a DVD and insert into your computer when booting it, causing it to load the installer from the DVD. However, with VirtualBox you can use a virtual DVD drive, so it just uses the file you downloaded, without needing any actual physical installation disk to be inserted.

Install VirtualBox. It's a normal application so there's nothing weird about the installation process. Then, once your Linux image download finishes, run Virtual box. You are greeted with a screen more or less like this:

Here in this VirtualBox I have already installed an Ubuntu system, so your view of the application will be much emptier, but don't let that bother you. Instead, click on the 'New' button in the toolbar to get to this view: 
Here, enter some descriptive name for your computer (like I've just entered "Linux Mint" here) and select the OS type that best matches what you are installing. For Mint, the above settings work well.

Now the next phase should be to decide the amount of memory you wish to dedicate to your virtual computer:
Computers generally run smoother the more memory they have, but be sure to leave some for your main operating system as well. :) Here, VirtualBox suggests a ridiculously low amount of 384 MB of memory. That may have been enough about ten years ago, but definitely not today, so I've given it a third of all the memory in my computer, i.e. 4 GB, leaving the other 8 GB for Windows and its other applications.

The next phase is to give the virtual computer a virtual disk to which the operating system can be installed and files can be saved. This disk, just like the virtual computer, is actually only a file on one of your normal hard drives.

The process goes like this: first you choose a file format for your disk. You don't really need to care about this, because as it says, you can leave it unchanged because you are not going to use it with any other virtualization software besides VirtualBox:

Next you choose whether you want a dynamically allocated disk or a fixed size disk. The dynamically allocated disk starts with a smaller file and grows when more data is saved on it, whereas the fixed size disk is at its maximum size right from the beginning and, like the prompt says, is often faster to use:

Then select where to place the virtual disk file on your computer. I have created a dedicated V:\VirtualBox folder for it and selected it to be 25 gigabytes:

Now the disk file is created. This phase might take a few minutes:

Congratulations! Your virtual computer is now ready to be booted up for the first time. Click on the Start button in the toolbar when your new computer is selected. Again, don't mind me having the Ubuntu computer there -- you should now only have that Linux Mint computer, or whichever OS you chose to install:

You should now see a First Run Wizard that prompts you for the image file you downloaded earlier. Find it and let the installation begin:

The virtual computer boots up and probably loads the Linux Mint desktop. It's now running off the virtual DVD, so it's not installed into the virtual hard drive yet. Open the Install Linux Mint application:

Mint is easy to install. Just fill in the forms:

After the installation is finished, you should be back at the desktop, this time without the "Install Linux Mint" application. Well done!

Finally, if when trying to change the screen resolution in the operating system in your new virtual computer the higher resolutions are not available, try following these instructions posted elsewhere.