Creating iPhone Ringtones

Now that I've had my new iPhone 5 for a couple of months I've finally started to get my phone configured the way I want it. The apps I use most frequently are on the main screen. I've created folders for utilities, different types of games, and for the photography apps I have in abundance. But the one thing that really personalized my phone was setting individual ringtones for people.

Ringtones are a very nice way to personalize your phone and let you know who is calling as soon as you hear it. You can buy ringtones through Apple but did you know you can create your own? It isn't obvious, but creating your own ringtone is an easy thing to do.

A lot of blogs have a step-by-step on how to create a ringtone for free using iTunes or GarageBand. You can look at those instructions here, here or here. Rather than re-do those instructions I want to show you how easy it can be using an almost free solution.

For only 99 cents you can download a great ringtone application called, appropriately enough, Ringtones. This inexpensive solution will really speed up your ringtone creation and allow you to create an unlimited number of ringtones from any DRM-Free song in your iTunes library. Since Apple now allows you to download the DRM free version of purchased music it basically means anything in your library.

The Ringtones application interface looks a lot like iTunes. When you open the Ringtones application it will display your entire iTunes library of music including all your playlists. Your first step is to select the song you want to use for your ringtone.

Once you have selected the song the wave form of your song will be displayed at the bottom of the screen. If you don't know what a wave form is don't worry about it. Just think of it as an audio map of your song. The key will be to find the section of the song you want to use for your ringtone. Whatever is inside the blue rectangle will become your ringtone.

You can grab and move the blue selection left or right to get just the part of the song you want. You can also grab the left or right side of the rectangle to change the starting point, end point as well as the length of the ringtone.

At the bottom of the window you can set manually set the ringtone loop size, fade in or out and adjust the volume. To hear how your selection will sound just hit the "Preview" button. As your ringtone plays the selection will loop continuously until you stop it. You can adjust the starting points and stopping points during preview and get just the section you want. After you have the perfect selection, click the "Send to iTunes" button on the lower right and you are done.

Now when you open iTunes and select "Tones" you will now see your brand new ringtone!

Your next step will be connecting your iPhone and dragging the ringtone to your phone.

Apple makes great software but how you add a ringtone to an individual contact isn't one of their great moments in ease of use or interface design. To add your new ringtone masterpiece as the ringtone for a specific individual open the contacts app on your iPhone and select the person's entry you want to modify. In the upper right corner select "Edit."

Now scroll down and click on the ringtone arrow button. 

Select the ringtone you created and added to your phone and you are ready to go!

You can use ringtones for phone numbers, text tones, Facebook Post or any sound that the iPhone uses to alert you. Those sounds are available in the Settings App under "Sounds" and you can change them the same way you modified the contact information. 

Now you can stop worrying about all the little details and just concentrate on being creative while you build your ringtone library!


Picking my iPhone 5 Case

One thing that strikes you when you pick up an iPhone 5 is how well put together and balanced it is. You also notice that it's all aluminum and glass, and that means it can be slick. As beautiful as it is, if you want to keep your new phone looking nice it's dangerous to carry it around naked. I needed a case.

Less than a month after the release of a new product it was surprising how many case manufactures had  iPhone 5 cases. Lots of research later I decided that I didn't want a bumper or a hard case. I knew I wanted to keep my phone safe but I also wanted show off it's great looks and keep it from becoming a clunky brick. That led me to a sleeve case. One of the best out there is the DODOcase durables iPhone wallet. At $50 it's not cheap but when you plan on spending the next 2 years with your phone I wanted a nice case that  I won't have to replace in the next 6 months. 

The exterior of the DODOcase is waxed canvas with a real leather base that acts as both a great grip and extra pockets. It's made in the U.S. and the quality shows in both the materials and the workmanship.

The inside is cotton linen that won't scratch your device.

When the case arrived I ripped open the package and immediately slipped in the iPhone. It was a great fit. Unfortunately it wasn't a perfect fit. Like all hand made items I'm sure there is a small amount of variation in any product but I think that the DODOcase is made just a touch large to facility easy access to your phone. That's great, but after a couple of days of use my phone came out of the case a little too easily. That's when I found a nice solution. 

While I was waiting for my case to arrive I had been carrying around my phone in an old glasses pouch that came with a pair of sunglasses. I realized that I it was a perfect match for the fabric inside my new DODOcase. Viola! Problem solved.  Put the phone in the glasses pouch and put the pouch inside the DODOcase. 

It was kind of like getting your groceries double bagged at the supermarket. Just that little bit of extra fabric gives you a sense that your phone won't accidentally slip out but it still is easy to grab when you want it. The draw string makes it even more secure when you want to make sure it the phone stays put. 

So there you have it. A great product with a DIY addition that makes it even better. I'm loving my new iPhone 5 and now that I have a great case to protect it I know that it will be in great shape when the iPhone 7 comes out and it's time to replace it. 


iPhone Setup - Opting out of Ads

Getting my first iPhone has been an awesome experience but also a learning experience. Making sure your phone is set up the way you want, with all the right data it is only part of the fun. You also need to make sure some of the more obscure settings are configured the way YOU want not the way Apple wants.  One of the first I changed was Ad tracking.

There has been a lot of news about Apple tracking the iPhones and what it means to you. You can read a couple of great articles about it here and here. With all that public focus, Apple changed a few things in iOS 6 and made it a bit easier to opt out of Ad tracking. Here's how to do that.

From your iPhone open up Settings and Navigate the following setting:

           Settings > General > About > Advertising

Toggle the "Limit Ad Tracking" switch to "On." Notice how easy that was to find? No? Well, just because Apple put the ability to limit Ad tracking in iOS doesn't mean they make it easy to find.

There is also one more thing you need to do. You also need to opt out of Apples iAd tracking from their web site.

On the iPhone open the following URL


You will be greeted with the following web page.

As Apple states in the body of the text, "You may still see the same number of ads as before but they may be less relevant because they will not be based on your interests."  This isn't about the number of Ads it's about tracking your interests and keeping that information about you. Do you really want Apple to know you're interested in prostate treatment or menopause cures? I don't think so.

The iPhone is a great phone with a wonderful UI. Just make sure it's not used by someone else to gather information about you and your family you don't want to give out.


My First iPhone

With a Blog titled "Mac IT Help" you would figure I was one of those early adopters of all things Apple, and  you would be right, ... except when it comes to the iPhone.

My first Mac was the venerable Mac II color computer. Over time I worked my way through a PowerPC Mac 7100, Mac 7500, the original iMac, a Power Mac G4 and G5, as well as multiple iPods. Today I have an iPod Touch, iPod Nano, an iPad 3, several Mac Laptops and my workhorse PowerMac, but before Sept 21 2012 I didn't have a personal iPhone.

The company I work for provides a cell phone for business and personal use so to save a few bucks my daily use cell phone is a Blackberry. But that changed when the iPhone 5 was announced. I took the plunge, this week I decided to join the enlightened and buy an iPhone 5 for myself and upgrade my wife to the latest and greatest as well.

My decision wasn't made in haste, I thought about it for almost a full 5 seconds before I figured out I needed Apple's latest and greatest. It was time to treat myself to a personal phone that didn't suck.

It's kind of a pain to carry 2 phones during work hours but after playing with my new phone I've come to the conclusion it's worth it. This new Apple phone is a masterpiece of engineering and work of art.

Over the next few weeks I plan on publishing several iPhone centric blog posts but for now I'm going to go play with my new toy.


Bellevue Apple Store Grand Opening

Today was the grand opening of the new Bellevue Square Apple Store and the new location is gorgeous!!!

The whole front wall is glass and the store is about 4 times as large as the old one. The crowd gathered well before the 9:30AM opening and when they officially opened the store everyone rushed to grab a free t-shirt and look at all the great products. 


The layout inside the new store includes areas for each of the major products and accessories.

The sales associates were out in force helping people spend their money.

The new store also has a lot more space dedicated to Personal Setup and a much larger Genius Bar

A little poking around revealed that each of the rectangles on the Genius Bar wall (see picture above) is actually a drawer filled with cords, parts and paperwork. A nice way to keep things tidy.

 Another great feature of the store is the large skylight in the center. It gives the store a wide open feel, and in the normally dreary Northwest rain, will offer much needed exposure to sunlight, even if it's filtered through clouds.

If you have a chance to visit Bellevue I highly recommend you include a stop in the Bellevue Square Apple Store.


Bellevue Apple Store Expansion

Way back in May of 2011 I wrote about plans that Apple had to move it's Bellevue Square to a larger footprint. Things have been very quiet for over a year but a little birdie told me that the new store will open in time for the arrival of the iPhone 5 and the coming Christmas shopping season. Let's hope that birdie isn't chirping out of the side of it's beak.

The current store has a narrow 30 feet of storefront and about 3500 square feet of floorspace.

The new store will be one of Apple's largest and located on the second floor of the same mall.

As a resident of Bellevue I look forward to a new updated store. When it opens I'll grab my camera and take a few photos.

UPDATE 8/27/2012

Here's some (below average) iPod photos I made when I made a trip to the Apple Store today.

UPDATE 8/28/2012

Just got an official Apple email letting me know that the new store will open September 1st!!


TiVo to Mac - Mountain Lion Edition

With every new OS update from Apple you get a lot of cool new features. Unfortunately you also get a few apps that don't work. One application I rely on for getting TV shows off my Tivo is iTivo. I wrote about it here in a previous post. After I upgraded to the new Mountain Lion OS  I found that iTivo was broken. Now I had to go to plan B if I wanted to watch my favorite TV shows on my iPad or AppleTV. Thankfully plan B works great. It just takes a few more steps. 

UPDATE - 2/20/2013

The work around outlined below works fine but as of 2/20/2013 iTiVo is working again. The application does needs a manual fix however. Please download the latest iTiVo and apply the fix outlined in the this MacITHelp post

Part 1 - Finding Your Tivo

Our first step is downloading your TV show from your TiVo to your Mac. To get download your shows you first have to locate your TiVo on your network and log in. Did you know that you can actually log onto your tivo from any web browser? No, well you can but you need to know the IP address that your Tivo is using. The easiest way to figure that out is to use a free application called LanScan.

You can download LanScan from the Apple App Store here. Once you have LanScan installed start it up and scan your network. You should see a screen like this:

You will notice that my Tivo has the local IP address of  Armed with that information you can now log into your Tivo using your favorite web browser and grab your files.

Part 2 - Logging into Your Tivo

Open up a browser window and type in the IP address you found above. For this login you will want to use a secure login so make sure to type in the "https://" before your IP


Once you do that you should see a login screen like this one:

The User Name will always be "tivo" and the password will be your personal Tivo Media Access Key (MAK). If you don't know what your MAK is follow these steps. On your TiVo box go to TiVo Central > Messages and Setup > Account & System Information > Media Access Key. Write that number down, you will use it a lot to get things working. 

Once you log onto your box you will now see all your current recordings.

To download a show just click the download MPEG-PS link and your file will be transferred from your Tivo to your Mac. Remember though that it will be encrypted so your next step will be to decrypt the file.

Part 3 - Getting the Decryption Software

The software to decode the TiVo files isn't a standard Mac application and runs under UNIX. To get things to work you will need to download and install a small UNIX application then build a script to use it.

Don't worry, it may seem daunting but I've done all the leg work so this is going to be easy. I've included a lot of screen shots for each step so just follow along. First you need to download a file set called MacOSX_tools from an application called kmttg.

Once you have it downloaded and decompressed it open up the folder and find the file called tivodecode. It's at the bottom and only 66KB in size.

You now need to start channeling your inner UNIX geek and use the terminal to copy the "tivodecode" file to a specific location on your Mac. 

Part 4 - Loading the decryption Software

Open up the terminal application. You will find it in the Utilities folder inside the Application folder. 

Once it's open you need to go to the /usr/sbin location where you will install tivodecode. Type in 

    cd /usr/sbin

Now type in "sudo cp"  and drag the tivodecode file you downloaded to the terminal screen. When you drag a file onto the terminal screen it will automatically that files current location and type it in for you. Now finish the command by typing a "."  The period says 'copy this file to my current location'. So the full second command  might look like this:

  sudo cp /FTP/kmttg_MacOSX_tools_v0p8l/tivodecode/tivodecode .

After you you are sure you have the command correct hit the return key. You will be prompted for your password and then the command will be executed. Hopefully everything will work fine and tivodecode will be installed. To check if it was copied you can perform the list command to see.

  ls -al /usr/sbin/tivodecode
  -rwxr-xr-x@ 1 root  wheel  57096 Jul 30 16:32 /usr/sbin/tivodecode

You should see tivodecode listed rather than "No such file or directory".

Part 5 - Creating a script to decode your Tivo Files

Now that you have installed the software you will want an easier way to run tivodecode rather than use the terminal. The easiest way is to create a script. To do that use Apple's own Automator application located in the applications folder. Find it and open it up. 

Once it is up select "New" from the file menu and "Application" as the type of Automator file you want to create. You will only need a 3 step script to decode your Tivo files. Here's a picture of the script.

Your first step is to select the "Files & Folders" icon on the left then drag the "Ask for Finder Items" into the window pane on the right.  In the "Prompt" section just type in "Choose a Tivo file" and fill the folder location you normally use when you download your Tivo files.  

Now select "Utilities" from the Library and drag "Run Shell Script" to the Window pane on the right.  First make sure the "Shell" is set to "/bin/bash". In the Shell Script window type the following:

/usr/sbin/tivodecode -m <MAK> -o "/Folder/tivofile.mpg" "$@"

Remember to insert your real MAK address into the command and the real path to your output file. 

If you have Growl installed you can add this final step. It isn't really required but it does help you to know when your file is done decrypting.  In the "Utilities" menu find "Show Growl Notification" and drag it to the right side of the window. Now type in a title and description. 

Now that you are done editing save the file and make sure it's saved as an application in the "File Format" drop down menu.

Part 5 - Running the Script

This is the fun part. You have all the pieces in place to download your Tivo recordings & decrypt them. Start up the appliclation you just created and select a .TiVo file.

Once selected you will see the command you set up to run with your real MAK. If you want to change the location of the file or the file name you can do so here. Just highlight the text you want to change and type in a new name or path. 

Once you hit continue your file will process in the background and eventually you will see the notification that your file is done decrypting. VOILA!! you are finished. 

As you can see, it would be much easier to use the iTiVo application but until someone fixes it you have a work around. It's a lot of steps but nothing difficult. Let me know how it works out for you. When iTiVo pushes out an update I'll let you know.


It seems that some people are getting a "Bad CPU type" error when they try to run tivodecode. This is probably due to the compiled version downloaded above. There's a couple of things you can try to fix it. 

Download tivodecode from Source Forge. You can try the latest version or an old version.

Some people have also had success extracting tivodecode from the old, non-working, iTivo application.  Open the iTivo package contents by control+clicking on the iTivo application and selecting "show package contents". In the Contents/Resources folder you should find a copy of tivodecode. Drag a copy to the desktop (option+drag) and then move that version of the tivodecode file to /usr/sbin to see if things work.