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by Tom Nelson

It may not be the best kept secret, but you don’t have to use Apple-branded keyboards with your Mac. You have a wide range of keyboards to choose from, including most of the keyboards made for use with Windows.

I’ll let you in on a little secret; the last Apple-made keyboard I used routinely was the Apple Keyboard (A1048). This was the last keyboard Apple made that included the Apple logo alongside the cloverleaf image on the Command key. I didn’t give up on Apple keyboards because of the missing logo; it was actually because the next generation of Apple keyboards went to the low-profile key design that is still in use today. I like a keyboard with a bit more key travel, thus I made the move to Windows-based keyboards; I’m currently using a Microsoft Digital Media Pro model.

logitechg105gamingkeyboard

Windows keyboards, such as the Logitech G105 Gaming Keyboard, can offer unique layouts. Image courtesy of Logitech.

Of course, there are a lot of other reasons to use a Windows keyboard. You may be coming to the Mac from a Windows environment and already have a favorite keyboard. Or you may like some of the more advanced Windows keyboards that offer more ergonomic choices, such as the Matias Tactile Pro, specialized keys, or unique keyboard layouts.

No matter the reason, you can use most Window keyboards with your Mac.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

You know Siri. She’s that quirky personal voice assistant that you use on your iPhone and other iOS devices. Well, now’s she on the Mac and ready to do her best to be a help and not a hinderance. Now, even though you’re familiar with Siri, it’s important to keep in mind that Siri on the Mac doesn’t work quite like Siri on iOS devices.

macossierrasiri

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Hey Siri

If you have an iPhone, you’re probably used to saying “Hey Siri” to start a session with Siri.

You may be asking for the weather, or directions, perhaps a really good pizza joint. Regardless of the question you need to ask, you usually start the conversation by getting the attention of the personal voice assistant by saying, “Hey Siri.”

Saying Hey Siri will even get the attention of the miniature assistant stuffed into the Apple Watch. But when it comes to the Mac, no amount of voice-based prodding is going to get Siri’s attention. Seems the Mac and Apple have turned a deaf ear to the Hey Siri phrase, and instead force you to use keyboard combinations, or mouse or trackpad clicks, to get Siri to wake up and listen to your requests.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

Disk Utility, in all of its incarnations, has always had a restore function, a way to copy a disk volume or image file to another volume, creating an exact copy. We often think of this as cloning a drive, so you have an exact copy for backup or archiving purposes.

The advantages of cloning are many, but the one that is repeatedly mentioned in troubleshooting guides, as well as guides to installing new versions of the Mac OS, is the clone’s ability to be used as a Mac’s startup drive. Provided the source for the clone was a bootable startup drive, then the destination will generally also be useable as a bootable startup drive, which is pretty darned convenient.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Disk Utility Restore

The restore function isn’t limited to creating clones of the startup drive. It can create a copy of any image or volume that can be mounted on your Mac. That makes the restore function extremely versatile, even if it’s largely overlooked in Disk Utility.

Two Versions of Disk Utility

Disk Utility was at version 16.0 at the time of this writing, so there have certainly been more than two versions. But when it comes to the restore feature, Disk Utility hasn’t undergone many changes; the biggest was the redesign of the Disk Utility interface that came about with the release of OS X El Capitan.

Because of that major change, we’re going to provide two sets of instructions for using Disk Utility’s Restore feature; one for OS X Yosemite and earlier, and one for OS X El Capitan and later.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

There’s a new port in town and it plans on replacing all other ports your Mac may currently have. Yes, I’m talking about the USB-C port first introduced with the 12-inch MacBook, and then later, the 2016 MacBook Pros.

The 12-inch MacBook currently supports only USB 3.1 Gen 1, which allows the port to be used for charging, video out, and USB 3 data. While the use of the USB-C port was slightly innovative, it’s the version on the 2016 MacBook Pro that you’ll be seeing on new Macs to come down the road.

The new USB-C ports support Thunderbolt 3 connectivity standards.

Thunderbolt 3

Thunderbolt 3 can carry 100 watts of power, USB 3.1 Gen 2, DisplayPort, HDMI, VGA, and Thunderbolt data at 40 Gbps, all over a simple little USB-C port connector. I guess you can say this is the one port to rule them all, and it means an end to all the ports we’re used to seeing on our Macs, and for that matter, PCs as well. Another interesting tidbit: This is the first Mac, ever, to not include a proprietary port from Apple.

Most of us who already have a collection of peripherals, from printers, scanners, and cameras, to external drives, displays, iPhones, and iPads, are going to need some type of adapter to make the connection to the new Thunderbolt 3 ports.

Note: I’m going to refer to the new port as Thunderbolt 3, and will mention the specific signal type only when needed for clarification.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

I have to say that seeing a Mac’s display suddenly appear distorted, frozen, or simply not turning on is one of the worst problems to come across when all you want to do is work on your Mac. Unlike most other Mac issues, this is one you can’t put off to deal with later.

Having your Mac’s display suddenly start misbehaving can be scary, but before you start wondering how much it will cost to fix, take a moment and remember: many times a display glitch is just that; a glitch, temporary in nature, and not necessarily an indication of continuing troubles to come.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

For example, I’ve seen my iMac display suddenly show a couple of rows of distorted color; not quite a band of distortion, since it didn’t show edge to edge. A few other times I’ve had a window that I was dragging suddenly leave a seemingly permanent trail of smeared images behind as it was dragged about. In both cases, the graphics issues were temporary, and did not return after a restart.

One of the more frightening display problems I’ve run into was when the display never turned on, remaining black, never showing a sign of life. Happily, this turned out not to be a display issue but instead a peripheral that was causing the startup process to freeze before the display was initialized by the system.

My point is, don’t think the worst until you’ve run through these troubleshooting tips.

Before you start the troubleshooting process, you should take a moment to ensure the graphics problem you’re having is indeed a graphics issue, and not one of the many startup issues that manifest themselves as a display that’s stuck in a gray screen or a blue or black screen.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

Many Mac users want more speed out of their Macs and there are many ways to go about increasing the performance of your Mac, including:

Not all of these options are applicable for every Mac model, but even if you can’t upgrade your Mac’s RAM, and upgrading your internal storage requires surgery to gain access, there are still steps you can take to improve overall performance without having to spend money on updates.

Of all the items included in the list above, the first thing you should do is to ensure that you have an excess of free space on your Mac’s startup drive. If you can’t achieve a reasonable amount of free space by removing unneeded or unwanted apps, documents, and data, then you may want to consider moving your user folder to an external drive to free up some space.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

Last week we kicked off our Introduction to the Mac’s Terminal App with a quick look at using and customizing Terminal, using the Bash shell to run a few commands; in our example, we used Terminal to modify the Mac’s Dock.

In this installment we’ll delve deeper into the Bash shell, including creating a basic shell script, and looking at a few more commands to customize your Mac.

terminalicon

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Login Scripts

Terminal runs a set of scripts when a Bash shell is launched. By default, Bash shells in the Mac OS are of the login type, and run two specific scripts. The first is a system wide script that is run regardless of who is currently logged in. The second script is located at ~/.bash_profile, and is run only for the specific logged-in user, and then only if a Bash shell is being started.

There’s another set of scripts that are used when a non-interactive Bash script is run. These are scripts you create that begin with #! /bin/bash. This is the type of Bash shell script we mentioned that we would explore a bit later.

Just like the login scripts, there’s a bashrc script that is system wide, and another at the user level, located at ~/.bashrc.

The bashrc script, as well as the login profile scripts, allows you to customize the Bash shell to meet your needs.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

Terminal may be one of the least used but most powerful apps included with a Mac. At first glance, Terminal seems to be the antithesis of the Mac’s friendly GUI (Graphical User Interface), presenting instead a simple command line interface that harkens back to the days of glowing CRTs with green, amber, or whitish text, connected to some distant computer system.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The Mac’s Terminal app emulates the old terminals, and provides access to a UNIX shell, where you can issue commands to manipulate the UNIX system that underlies the Mac OS. The UNIX shell, in this case, a Bash shell, provides a command processor that can interpret text entered by the user. It’s not just simple text commands you enter, such as displaying the contents of a folder, that the Bash shell can process, but also scripts, chains of commands, piping, conditional testing, variables, and more. The entire syntax that the Bash shell understands is a bit beyond this article. If you’re interested in creating shell scripts, Apple provides a developer’s guide to scripting using Terminal and the various UNIX shells.

In the first part of our introduction to Terminal, we’re going to look at Terminal with an eye to more basic usage, primarily as a way to modify the standard behavior of the Mac OS. We’ll also look at some basic file system manipulation as examples of ways to use Terminal. So, let’s get started with how to launch and configure Terminal for your use.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog.

by Tom Nelson

Ever since OS X Lion, the installation of the Mac OS has included the creation of a Recovery HD volume, hidden away on the Mac’s startup drive. In an emergency, you can boot to the Recovery HD and use Disk Utility to correct hard drive issues, go online and browse for information about the problems you’re having, or reinstall the Mac operating system.

You can discover more about how to use the Recovery HD volume in the guide: Use the Recovery HD Volume to Reinstall or Troubleshoot OS X.

recoverydiskassistant

Image courtesy of Apple

Recovery HD and External Drives

Apple also created a utility called OS X Recovery Disk Assistant that can create a copy of the Recovery HD on any bootable external drive you have connected to your Mac. This is good news for the many Mac users who would like to have the Recovery HD volume on a drive other than the startup volume. However, the utility can only create the Recovery HD volume on an external drive. This leaves out all of the Mac Pro, iMac, and even Mac mini users who may have multiple internal hard drives.

With the help of a few hidden Mac OS features, a little bit of time, and this step-by-step guide, you can create a Recovery HD volume anywhere you like including an internal drive.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

Having problems figuring out how much free space is available on your Mac? You’re not the only one. With the arrival of macOS Sierra, Apple changed how the OS calculates free space on a Mac. The change has more than a few folks scratching their heads, wondering what’s going on, and why they don’t seem to have as much free space on their drives as their Macs are telling them they have.

Is It Free Space or Purgeable Space?
One of the easiest, and certainly the most colorful, ways to see the amount of space taken up by purgeable files is to launch About This Mac from the Apple file menu, and then select the Storage tab. You may need to wait a short time while your Mac performs a few calculations, but eventually you’ll see a colorful bar graph depicting how the space on your various drives is being used.

storagepurgeable

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The bar graph displays the space used by files, divided into categories. With macOS, new categories have been added, including iTunes, GarageBand, and System, in addition to the existing Apps, Photos, and Other. But it’s the last two categories at the far right side of the bar graph that interest us: Purgeable and Free space.

Free space is what it’s always been; storage space on your drive that isn’t currently marked as in use, and is available to your Mac’s file system to use as it pleases.

Free space is what used to show up in a Finder window’s status bar as Available. You can see this for yourself by opening a Finder window and selecting any folder, Desktop, or item. In the status bar (if needed, use the Finder’s View menu to select Show Status Bar), you’ll see the number of items in the current window, followed by the amount of free space available.

With macOS, the amount of available space shown in a Finder window is no longer just the free space, but is instead free space + purgeable space, though the Finder still just refers to it as Available.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog