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by Tom Nelson

“To sleep, perchance to dream; ay, there’s the rub.” While neither Hamlet nor Shakespeare had computers available, the famous line from Hamlet’s soliloquy does describe a problem many Mac users have experienced: their Macs being in such a sound sleep that they fail to wake, perhaps enjoying their dreams just a bit too much.

Of course, that’s not the only sleep-related problem we’re going to explore in this Rocket Yard guide. We’re also going to look at problems entering sleep, as well as the various sleep options available for both desktop and portable Macs.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Putting Your Mac to Sleep
The Energy Saver preference pane controls the basic sleep functions. Here you can set sleep options, including how long to wait before turning off the display, as well as the computer, whether drives should be spun down, and if Power Naps are allowed (we’re in favor of that last option). The available options can be different, depending on the version of the Mac OS you’re using, and whether your Mac is a desktop or portable model.

Your Mac will automatically sleep based on the Energy Saver settings, but you can also force sleep by selecting Sleep from the Apple menu, using a Hot Corner, closing the lid of your Mac portable, or using the Option + Command + Eject keyboard shortcut.

Problems Entering Sleep
Most of the time we think of problems occurring when entering sleep, but it’s also possible to have sleep occur for an unknown reason, say right in the middle of a game you’re playing.

If you find your Mac going to sleep when it shouldn’t, the problem is likely to be a sleep parameter that is set incorrectly. You should start by checking the Energy Saver preference pane. Look for the following:

Display Sleep slider set with a very short time frame.

Computer Sleep set to quickly enter idle sleep.

Sleep schedule setting that is forcing your Mac to sleep (click the Schedule button to check).

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Having a hot corner setting on the display that forces your Mac to sleep (check the Mission Control preference pane; look for the Hot Corners button).

Pressing the Power button can put your Mac to sleep, or wake it up. In OS X Mountain Lion or earlier, the ability of the power button to be used for sleep is controlled by the Energy Saver preference pane setting. See if the “Allow power button to put the computer to sleep” option is checked.

Having a magnet near your portable Mac. As odd as it sounds, a magnet can both cause your Mac to be unable to go to sleep, as well as prevent it from waking up. This happens because the Mac uses magnetic switches to detect when the lid is closed. Having a strong magnet near the front edge or palm rest area of your MacBook can affect these switches and send the wrong signal to the power management circuitry, causing your Mac to sleep or wake from sleep.

Failure to sleep can also be caused by hardware connected to your Mac, as well as software running on your Mac. One likely hardware issue is USB peripherals. You can try disconnecting your peripherals one at a time, to see if any are preventing your Mac from entering sleep.

Printer queues are a notorious cause of sleep prevention. The issue arises when a printer queue becomes corrupt, or when one or more pages are stuck in the queue and fail to print. Clearing out the queue or resetting the printer system will cure the problem.

You can use Terminal to help you determine what’s causing your Mac from entering sleep. Using the pmset command, you can discover if anything is setting an assertion against entering display or idle sleep.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

The Mac refurb store is experiencing quite a bit of low stock, with limited numbers of MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models in stock. Mac minis are missing, though I would expect stock to be replenished before the winter holidays.

Even with the low stock, there are still some good deals to be found

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Image courtesy of Apple

Deals of the Week

We haven’t had many 12-inch MacBooks pop up in our deals list, but this week, a 2016 model with 1.3 GHz M7 processor, 8 GB RAM, and 512 GB flash storage made its way into our list. Small, lightweight, and with enough storage so you don’t need to worry about bringing along an external drive.

Our second deal is one we’ve seen here before: a 2014 27-inch Retina iMac with a 4.0 GHz Quad-Core i7 processor. This is the top of the line, at least when it comes to processor performance, in the iMac lineup. The only models that can top this one come with large PCIe flash storage, and they tend to cost quite a bit more. The combination of the fast processor and a Fusion drive should meet most advanced users’ needs, without requiring them to take out a bank loan.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

Upgrading the hard drive in an iMac is a DIY project that has always been a difficult, though not impossible, task. With the advent of the late 2009 edition iMacs as well as all subsequent iMac models, there’s a new twist that limits how you can upgrade the iMac’s hard drive.

iMacs have always had a temperature sensor for their internal hard drive. The Mac operating system monitors hard drive temperature and adjusts the internal fans to ensure optimal airflow to keep the hard drive, as well as the rest of the iMac’s inner workings, cool.

Up until the late 2009 model iMacs, the temperature probe for the hard drive was mounted to the hard drive’s cover. When you upgraded the hard drive, all you needed to do was to re-attach the temperature sensor to the new hard drive’s case and you were ready to go.

That changed with the 2009 21.5-inch and 27-inch iMacs. The temperature sensor that was attached to the external case is gone. In its place is a cable that connects directly to a set of pins on the hard drive, and reads the temperature from the temperature probe that is built into almost all hard drives. Sounds like a better system, and it is, at least as far as gathering accurate temperatures from the iMac’s hard drive.

The problem is that there is no standard for which pins to use on a hard drive for the temperature sensor. In fact, the cable Apple uses must be custom made for each brand of hard drive Apple puts in the late 2009 iMacs.

For the end user, this means that if you decide to upgrade the iMac’s hard drive yourself (something we don’t actually recommend for the average user), you can only use a hard drive from the same manufacturer. If your iMac came with a Seagate drive, you can use only a Seagate drive for a replacement.
Likewise, if it came with a Western Digital drive, you can only replace it with another Western Digital drive.

If you use a drive from a different manufacturer, there is a very good chance that the temperature sensor will not operate. In order to compensate, your iMac will set its internal fans to the maximum RPM, creating a nerve-wracking noise that will not be pleasant to be near.

Our thanks to OWC (Other World Computing) for sharing this discovery.

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Internal SSD DIY Kit for All Apple 27-inch iMac 2011 Models. Image courtesy of Other World Computing.

Update:

Thanks to our friends at OWC, there is now a DIY kit for upgrading a hard drive in an iMac that includes a universal temperature sensor. This temperature sensor will work with any brand of hard drive or SSD, allowing you to choose the best drive that meets your needs without having to worry about runaway fans in your iMac.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

The Finder has been with us since the first days of the Macintosh, providing a simple interface to the Mac’s file system. Back in those early days, the Finder was pretty basic, and used most of its resources just to produce a hierarchical view into your files.

That hierarchical view was an illusion, as the original Macintosh File System (MFS) was a flat system, storing all your files at the same root level on a floppy or hard drive.

When Apple moved to the Hierarchical File System (HFS) in 1985, the Finder also received a huge makeover, incorporating many of the basic concepts we now take for granted on the Mac.
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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The Finder Toolbar

When OS X was first released, the Finder gained a handy toolbar located across the top of the Mac’s Finder window. The Finder toolbar is usually populated with a collection of useful tools, such as the forward and back arrows, view buttons for changing how the Finder window displays data, and other goodies.

You probably know that you can customize the Finder toolbar by adding tools from a palette of options. But you may not know that you can also easily customize the Finder toolbar with items that aren’t included in the built-in palette. With drag-and-drop simplicity, you can add applications, files, and folders to the toolbar, and give yourself easy access to your most commonly used programs, folders, and files.

I like a tidy Finder window, so I don’t recommend going overboard and turning the Finder toolbar into a mini Dock. But you can add an application or two without cluttering things up. I frequently use TextEdit for jotting down quick notes, so I added it to the toolbar. I also added iTunes, so I can quickly launch my favorite tunes from any Finder window.

by Tom Nelson

With each new version of the Mac OS come new tips and tricks hidden away in the operating system. While new discoveries are fun to find and share with Rocket Yard readers, it’s also fun to rediscover tips for past versions of the OS for features that are still available.

All of our tips are from older versions of OS X; we verified that they’re still functional with macOS, although in some cases, there’s been a slight change or two, which we note.

If you’re ready for this trip into the past, let’s get started.

Add Your Signature to Documents

It used to be a bit cumbersome to add a digital signature to a Mac document, at least until 2011, when OS X Lion first appeared. Along with Lion came an updated Preview app that included the ability to create, manage, and apply signatures to PDF documents.

The signature management system in Preview hasn’t changed too much, though some of the tools have been moved about. Originally, the signature creation function was part of the Preview preferences, but it now resides within the toolbar, as well as the menus.

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You can create signatures by using your Mac’s built-in iSight camera to “scan” your signature on an existing paper document. You can also use your Mac’s trackpad to sign your signature with your fingertip, or better yet, an Apple Pencil, or any capacitive stylus, for that matter.

Launch the Preview app included with your Mac.

Open any PDF file.

From the Tools menu, select Annotate, Signatures, Manage Signatures.

Click the Create Signature button.

Preview will display a signature window with two tabs, labeled Trackpad and Camera. Select the tab for the method you wish to use.

Camera – Write your signature on white paper, and then hold the paper up to your camera. You’ll notice a faint horizontal blue line in the image. Align your signature so that it sits on the top of the line. For best results, move the paper close to the camera and hold the paper still. Your signature will appear in the Capture window. If you’re satisfied with the signature, click the Done button; otherwise, click Clear, and try again.

Trackpad – Click the ‘Click Here to Begin’ text, then using your finger or a stylus, write your name on the trackpad. When complete, press any key on your keyboard. Click Done to accept the signature, or Clear to try again.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

 

by Tom Nelson

Does your Mac’s Dock seem a bit crowded, perhaps filled with apps you seldom use? Or have you added so many document files to the Dock that every icon has become way too small, making it difficult to tell one from another? If you answered ‘yes’ to either question, then it’s time to do a bit of house cleaning and declutter the Dock.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Before you start the wholesale removal of icons from your Dock, remember that there are some Dock customizations you can perform that may let you put off making decisions about which apps need to go and which can stay.

By using the Dock Preference Pane, you can change the Dock’s icon size, add or reduce the Dock’s magnification, and decide if the Dock should be hidden, as well as a few other Dock adjustments you can make that may let you leave the population of your Dock unchanged.

If customizing the Dock doesn’t solve your space problems, it’s time to consider removing apps, stacks, and document icons from your Dock.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

Mac minis are out of stock this week, but I’m hoping that more are on the way to the Mac refurb store in time for holiday buying. That’s an important consideration this time of year; you can’t predict what will be in stock and what won’t, so if you’re buying gifts from the refurb store, be prepared to hit the Buy button as soon as you find a deal you like; it may not be there tomorrow.

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Image courtesy of Apple

Deals of the Week

Our deals this week are for iMacs with Retina displays. First up is the 21.5-inch Retina iMac with a 3.1 GHz Quad-Core i5, 16 GB RAM and 256 GP PCIe flash storage. This is a nice configuration with plenty of RAM and fast internal storage, just the thing for a budding photographer or videographer.

Next up is the larger 27-inch Retina iMac. This one is a bit older being a 2014 model, but its equipped with a 4.0 GHz Quad-Core i7 processor, a 1 TB Fusion drive and a price below $2,000.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

How often have you heard the phrase “make sure you have a backup”? In our tips and articles, we tend to dispense that advice often, usually just before providing instructions for performing some task or other that could lead to data loss or has some level of risk associated with it.

So this time, instead of just telling you to have a current backup, we’re going to take you through the process of creating a basic backup system, and then expand it to a more robust and reliable system that can serve your needs for a long time to come.

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Image courtesy of MacSales.com

Phase One – Basic Time Machine: We’ll start with a basic Time Machine backup that needs only an external drive you can connect to your Mac. MacSales.com offers a wide variety of external drives, either an empty case that you can use to build your own custom storage system, or external storage devices complete with a drive, just waiting to be plugged into your Mac.

Phase Two – Multi-Drive Time Machine: The second phase will add redundancy and security to a Time Machine-based backup system by making use of Time Machine’s ability to work with multiple drives. A multi-drive Time Machine system allows for a lot of versatility, including the ability to create offsite backups.

Phase Three – Startup Clone: The third and final phase will add a second type of backup: a clone of your startup drive that will allow you to swiftly recover from a disastrous drive failure, and also allow you to quickly restore your Mac’s system and recover any Time Machine backup files you need.

You don’t actually have to move step-by-step through the phases, nor do you have to implement each phase. Selecting any one of the backup methods will go a long way toward securing your data, and selecting any Time Machine plus cloning option will create a very robust and reliable backup system that can serve just about any type of use to which you put your Mac.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

MacBook Airs, MacBook Pros, and Mac minis are filling up the Mac refurb store just in time for holiday gift giving. I wouldn’t wait if you’re looking for one of these models, as they may not stay in stock for long.

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Image courtesy of Apple

Deals of the Week

A 2015 13.3-inch MacBook Air is our first deal this week. This specific model comes equipped with a Dual-Core i7 processor, a bit of a rarity in the MacBook Air lineup.

If you’re looking for a desktop Mac, then our second deal may be just what you need: a nicely configured Mac mini also with a Dual-Core i7 and 512 GB of PCIe flash storage.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

Depending on the age of your Mac, it contains a small amount of special memory called NVRAM (Non-Volatile RAM) or PRAM (Parameter RAM). Both store settings used by your Mac to control the configuration of various systems and devices.

The difference between NVRAM and PRAM is mostly superficial. The older PRAM used a small dedicated battery to keep the RAM power up at all times, even when the Mac was disconnected from power.

The newer NVRAM uses a type of RAM similar to the flash-based storage used in SSDs to store the parameter information without the need for a battery to keep it safe.

Aside from the type of RAM used, and the name change, both serve the same function of storing important information your Mac needs when it boots up or accesses various services.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.