Fix Lion's erroneous autocorrections, permanently

Sometimes, one person’s hint is another person’s incredibly obvious feature. In this case, I was the guy who needed a hint that—once it was pointed out to me—I felt silly for not thinking of on my own.

I was getting frustrated by Lion’s built-in, iOS-style autocorrection. I normally like the feature, which corrects misspellings as you type, but it was making life difficult for me when I searched my email for messages from Macworld senior editors Chris Breen and Scholle Sawyer McFarland. When searching for messages from Chris, I’d type “from:breen” into Gmail; for Scholle, I’d type “from:scholle” instead. Lion unhelpfully wanted to replace their names with “green” and “school,” respectively.

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Determine which base station you're connected to on a bridged network

Many folks use a second wireless router as a bridge to expand the reach of their main Wi-Fi network. Apple makes such a setup painless; it takes just a few clicks in Airport Utility, for example, to make an Airport Express extend your Airport Extreme’s wireless network. When you bridge a network this way, both base stations share one network name, and your Mac (or other Wi-Fi device) automatically switches between the base stations based on signal strength. But what if you want to know which base station you’re on at a given moment? Since the two bases sport the same name, that would seem to be impossible. Thanks to a tip from Macworld senior contributor Glenn Fleishman, I now know just how to do it.

First, you need to determine your base stations’ BSSIDs—the Basic Service Set Identification code that’s unique to each base. If you’re using Apple base stations, fire up Airport Utility, and note the AirPort ID for each base station listed. (Mine were different enough that I needed only to remember the first two characters for each base station.)

Next, launch the hidden Wi-Fi Diagnostics app included with Lion (which is found in the /System/Library/CoreServices folder and which we’ve covered in a previous hint). Choose the Monitor Performance option and click on Continue.

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Start dictation by lifting your iPhone 4S to your ear

Fresh out of the box, your iPhone 4S can launch Siri in one of two ways: You can press and hold the Home button, or you can simply lift your phone up to your ear, and Siri should start listening. An anonymous hints reader discovered that Siri’s Raise to Speak feature works for text-entry, too.

Whenever your iPhone 4S displays the on-screen keyboard, there’s a microphone icon at the bottom left; if you tap that icon, Siri will begin transcribing whatever you dictate. But you can save yourself that tap by lifting your iPhone to your ear when the keyboard appears on the screen. A single tone will sound (as opposed to Siri’s more traditional double-beep) to indicate that your 4S is listening and ready to transcribe. When you’re finished dictating, simply lower the phone again.

Remember that the Siri’s Raise to Speak option may contribute to battery drain. That’s a reasonable possibility, because the technology works by constantly checking the phone’s proximity sensor to see if an ear happens to be near. If your phone's battery life is suffering, you can disable the option in Settings -> General -> Siri—though then this hint won't work.

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Enable iTunes track notifications in the Dock

A variety of third-party utilities can display details about the track that's currently playing in iTunes. But Hints reader Keir-thomas discovered a secret preference setting built into OS X Lion that allows song notifications to pop up over the iTunes Dock icon. Here’s how to enable them:

First, quit iTunes if it’s already running. Fire up Terminal (from /Applications/Utilities/) and paste in the following command, then hit Return:

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Toggle between iTunes Match and local syncing

When you enable iTunes Match on an iOS device (Settings -> Music -> iTunes Match), you'll see a warning that “iTunes Match will replace the music library on this device.” When iTunes Match was still in beta, that message was true to its word: Any music you had on your device was indeed deleted, in favor of the library you'd uploaded to the cloud via iTunes Match. But in the official version of iTunes Match released Monday, that’s no longer the case. In truth, any music that was on your iOS device before you enabled iTunes Match will still be there—and that fact can save you on time and bandwidth.

In our testing, this message is a big fat lie.

After you've enabled iTunes Match, it downloads songs to your iOS device on an as-needed basis: When you tap on an individual song, iTunes Match downloads it first, then starts playing it. (That accounts for the slight delay you'll notice before the track begins; iTunes is buffering the download.) After you've played that song once, the downloaded copy stays on your device. The next time you want to play it, it’ll already be there; it doesn't need to be downloaded again. Tracks that are available via iTunes Match but haven't been downloaded yet are marked with an iCloud icon. Once you tap to play them, that icon disappears.

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Share Reminders with iCloud, add them with Siri

While the new Reminders app that Apple built into iOS 5 isn’t as full-featured as some other task management apps in the App Store, it does offer a few clever niceties. Among the app’s best features are its ability to sync to-do lists and share them with other users via iCloud and its tight integration with Siri on the iPhone 4S.

You’d be forgiven, though, if you didn’t know about that first one—the ability to subscribe to and share to-do lists with other folks—because it’s not actually discoverable from within the app itself. Instead, you first need to head over to iCloud.com and log in with your iCloud email account. (If the iCloud website immediately takes you to the Find My iPhone screen when you log in, press the Back button in your browser or click on the small cloud icon near the upper left to get to the main menu of options.)

There’s no Reminders option on the iCloud homepage. Instead, you need to click on the Calendar icon; just as Reminders syncs with iCal on the Mac, it syncs with the Calendar app in iCloud. On the left side of the Calendar view, you’ll see a list of your iCloud-synced calendars, followed by any iCloud-synced Reminders lists.

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Add a Mickey Mouse clock to your Dashboard

Thanks to Dashboard's Web clipping feature, you can turn almost anything you see on a webpage into a widget. Hints reader Freethought realized that you can use that capability to grab your very own Mickey Mouse clock for your desktop. The key: Mickey is one of the numerous clock faces Apple now offers on the iPod nano, and Apple shows a full working, ticking preview of the clock on its website. Here’s how to grab it for your Mac.

First, go to Apple’s iPod nano page in Safari. Control-click (right-click) on a white, empty section of the webpage, and choose Open in Dashboard from the contextual menu that appears. Then, click once on the Mickey Mouse clock face, which places it in a white, resizable box. Adjust the box by dragging the handles so that it completely contains the clock. When you’re ready, click on the Add button at the upper right corner of your Safari window.

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