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Also Available in ebook formats from the No Starch Press web site
Matt Cone, who runs macinstruct.com, has released a great book for Mac users who want to do more with their Macs. Instead of walking the reader through OS X’s features, preference and apps, Cone presents 38 “projects,” each of which uses some of OS X’s built-in features along with free or paid third-party software. Some of the chapters cover basic features that are often underused: things like using keyboard shortcuts, finding files, customizing trackpad and mouse gestures. Others go much further, and teach readers how to create Safari extensions, access a Mac remotely, secure a Mac, and perform troubleshooting and maintenance.
Cone successfully translates the hands-on approach he presents on his MacInstruct website into this compendium of project-based tutorials. For many of the chapters, even if you don’t want to do all that he presents, you’ll learn more about how to get the most out of your Mac.
Posted: 11/8/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X Tags: books, Mac OS X | No Comments »
Over at the Mac OS X Hints website, which I edit, I posted a poll about using iCloud to store documents. With OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, iCloud is now a way for applications to store files in the “cloud,” or, more correctly on Apple’s servers. This is practical if you work with multiple devices: a desktop Mac and a laptop, or a Mac and an iPad. However, the limits in using iCloud make it more of a hassle than a useful tool.
The main problem with iCloud is that it is application-specific. If you create a document with TextEdit, and save it on iCloud, you can only access it with TextEdit. (You can get access to it on any computer linked to that iCloud account, but not on iOS.) So if I want to take a TextEdit document and work with it on my iPad, I can’t; there’s no equivalent app. I can’t import it into another application that supports its format. The same is the case for other apps that use iCloud for storage. If, for example, I use an iCloud-compatible text editor on my iPad, I can’t access its files easily on my Mac, unless there is a corresponding application.
Now look at Dropbox. All you do is put a file in your Dropbox folder and it’s automatically stored in the cloud and available on any other device or computer that can run Dropbox (which is pretty much every computer and mobile platform available today). No need to worry about having the right application to open a file, no need to go through convoluted processes to open or save files; the files are just there in the folder.
Not only does Dropbox allow you to sync files across devices, but you can also create shared folders for friends or co-workers. I have a number of them for projects I work on, and each person involved gets access to all the files, and can share their files easily with others. And, with Dropbox, you can put a file in your folder and right-click to get a “public” link, which you can use to share the file with others, even if they don’t have a Dropbox account. I find that this replaces the iDisk file sharing that was part of .Mac, which I used fairly often.
So while iCloud is nice for syncing data from apps where you don’t save files – calendars, to-do apps, etc. – it is far less practical than Dropbox for storing documents. If you already use Dropbox, this is probably obvious, but if not, its worth trying.
Don’t use Dropbox? Get a free 2 GB account; I get a 500 MB kickback if you sign up.
Posted: 8/14/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X Tags: cloud, Dropbox, iCloud, Mac OS X | 3 Comments »
My son, Perceval, discovered a neat iTunes tip, and passed it on to me yesterday. It involves an interesting way to select multiple files, one that I had never come across. When I tried it in the Finder, I saw that it worked there as well. This may be new to Mountain Lion, or it may have been lurking in the background for a while. No matter what, this is certainly a surprising way to select multiple items. Here’s how it works.
- Click on one item.
- Press the Shift key, then click on a second item; this extends the selection from the first item to the second item.
- Now, press the Command key and click on another item, not contiguous to the first group.
- Then press the Shift key and click on another item, further down in the list, to extend the second selection. The screen show below shows what this looks like:
You’re probably familiar with the ability to Shift-click to extend a selection, and Command-click to make a non-contiguous selection. But the ability to combine both of these can be very useful when you want to select a number of items in a list. While I show an example above in iTunes, this also works in the Finder, in Numbers, and may work in other applications as well.
Posted: 8/4/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X Tags: Mac OS X | 13 Comments »
I’m on a few e-mail mailing lists, and I’ve noticed that Mail, in OS X 10.8, has been doing something odd. Generally, if you have multiple e-mail accounts, when you reply to a message, your reply uses the same account the message was sent to. But I’ve been finding that Mail does not correctly choose the account, and have seen a number of messages bouncing because the selected account is not a member of the mailing lists.
There is a setting in Mail’s Composing preferences where you choose which account to use for new messages, but this shouldn’t affect replies.
I have seen, however, that this is the case, both with mailing lists, and with other e-mails I’ve received. Mail seems to want to apply that account to replies as well as new messages, which is clearly wrong.
So, it looks like you may need to check twice for every single e-mail you send, if you have multiple accounts, and if it’s important to send or not send certain messages with certain accounts. You can do this by looking at the From popup menu when you’re sending or replying to an e-mail. But this is a very serious annoyance, and I hope this gets fixed.
It seems that I’m not alone; there are a few threads on Apple’s support forums (including this one) where other people are reporting the same issue.
Posted: 8/2/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X Tags: Mac OS X, troubleshooting | 8 Comments »
I’m the kind of Mac user who wants to know what his computer is doing. I want to know if my downloads are coming at the right speed, if my memory is being maxed out, and if my processors are working hard or not. For this reason, I use bjango’s $16 iStat Menus to present all this information and more in my menu bar. Here’s what my setup looks like:
At the left is a fan icon, which shows temperature sensors and fans. This icon doesn’t do anything dynamically, but when you click on it you get a menu with lots of info about the various sensors and fans in your Mac. Next comes network throughput; green is outgoing data and red is incoming, and you can choose the update frequency for these, which show real-time data. Next comes RAM, then finally processors (my Mac mini has four cores). Skip to the right a bit and you can see the Date & Time info: the calendar icon showing the date, then the day and time. This is a bit better than the built-in display, because of the date icon.
There are plenty of other settings and display options as you can see below. For example, on my laptop, I use the Battery settings to provide more information than what Apple offers. You may want to use Disk Usage to see how much free space is on your hard disks, or disk activity to see if they’re working hard or not.
This app appeals to the part of me that wants to check certain things from time to time without opening an application. A glance at my menu bar tells me how fast a download is coming into my Mac, or whether my processors are maxing out. If you like to know these things, iStat Menus is a great tool to keep an eye on what your Mac is doing.
Posted: 7/31/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X Tags: apps, Mac OS X | No Comments »
One of the most interesting features of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion is AirPlay Mirroring. You can stream what is displayed on your Mac to an Apple TV (and, presumably, other devices will support this in the future). This is very useful if you want to watch videos in formats that iTunes doesn’t support, such as MKVs. The process is quite simple. Here’s how it works:
- From the AirPlay Mirroring icon in the menu bar, choose your Apple TV. This icon displays if you’ve checked the appropriate option in the Display pane of System Preferences.
- Start playing the video you want to watch on your Mac. This could be video on a web site – even Flash video – or files played with a video player such as VLC.
- Sit down in front of your TV and start watching.
At this point, you can sit back and watch your video. The only thing to be aware of is that if you want to pause the video, you need to do so on the Mac; the Apple TV remote won’t do this. If you have another remote, you can pair it to your Mac, so if you plan to use this feature often you can easily pause and restart videos.
I’ve found this to be quite useful. Every day at lunch, I watch the previous day’s episode of the Daily Show from their web site. I used to watch it on my laptop, but now I can pipe it into my TV, which is much more comfortable.
So if you have videos you’d like to watch on your TV, and you have an Apple TV, AirPlay Mirroring will let you watch any video that you can play on your Mac.
Posted: 7/25/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X Tags: Apple TV, DVDs, Mac OS X | 5 Comments »
As of today, OS X 10.8, also known as Mountain Lion, is available. (At the time of this posting, it is not yet available, but should be in a few hours.) This latest version of OS X builds on the previous version, 10.7 Lion, notably adding a number of features inherited from iOS. Unlike earlier versions of Mac OS X, this release does not add any groundbreaking features, but rather refinements. It brings the desktop and mobile operating systems closer together, changing the names of some of the utilities on the desktop to match those in iOS, and adding some features that have proven successful in iOS. This is a controversial topic; some people lament the mobile-to-desktop changes, but I see the logic in what Apple is doidng.
I have been running Mountain Lion throughout the various developer releases, and when the gold master was released 2 weeks ago I installed it first on my laptop, then on my main Mac, a Mac Mini. It has proven very stable, even though there are some bugs, and some quirks. It is likely that there will be an update very quickly, as has been the case with previous versions of Mac OS X. But as it stands now, Mountain Lion seems solid enough for serious use. It is entirely possible that some software is not compatible, so if there are specific programs you absolutely need to do your work, make sure to check for compatibility before upgrading.
Mountain Lion is available from the Mac App Store for only $20.
Posted: 7/25/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X Tags: Apple, Mac OS X | 2 Comments »
The “security” program marketed by Zeobit called MacKeeper is a controversial program, especially because of Zeobit’s aggressive marketing tactics. The company advertises everywhere, and uses pop-ups and pop-unders, as well as ads mentioning other programs. You may see ads that suggest that you’ll click through and find information about a different security program only to find that you end up on a MacKeeper page. You’ll find lots of affiliate websites vaunting the merits of MacKeeper. The company has people who post bogus forum comments and reviews about the program. And they even have fake websites set up using the keywords “MacKeeper scam,” that tell you all the great things about the program.
I recently starting using Google AdSense ads on this site, and one of the first things I did was to block MacKeeper so their ads don’t appear here. I was surprised to receive an e-mail the other day from someone representing MacKeeper who offered to let me download the program and try it out. This person, writing from a Gmail address, said the following:
The reason for the email is to request you to do a review of the product on your site. You could download and test the product for free at [URL redacted]. If you like the product, you could feature it on your site. We are willing to discuss whether the review should be free or paid in light of your personal thoughts on the product.
The key phrase there is “whether the review should be free or paid.” The company is therefore seeking bogus reviews on legitimate sites and willing to pay for them. Today, I got the e-mail addressed to another site I manage, a site with a much larger audience. The company is not hesitating to contact Mac-related web sites of all sizes offering to pay for reviews.
If you’ve even considered buying MacKeeper, you should think twice. The program itself doesn’t seem to do what it promises, but above all, the aggressive marketing tactics of the company are such that I would stay away from them.
Posted: 7/23/2012 by kirk | Filed under: Apple & Mac OS X Tags: apps, Mac OS X, security | 3 Comments »