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by Tom Nelson

One of the shortcomings of the Finder is the lack of options when it comes to managing folders and their content. While there are a few issues that are often mentioned, the one we’re going to address here is how to merge folders that have the same name.

It seems to happen quite often when you have a project you’re working on in two different locations, say at home and at work. Or perhaps you’re working on a project on just one Mac, but you have a folder for the currently active project, and one for the updates you’re planning to perform.

In either case, the goal is to unite the two folders so they contain all of the files found in each one. When there are two files with the same name, you want the most recent version to be used, and the older one to be replaced.

Seems simple enough, but for a long time this type of basic file/folder manipulation was beyond the capabilities of the Mac’s Finder. Of course, there are quite a few third-party utilities that can perform the merge function for you; there are even some Apple utilities that can assist in this undertaking. But we’re going to start with just the Finder we use every day, and try out some of its merging options.

Options When Moving Files
When moving or copying files (we’re primarily going to refer to moving files, though you could also be copying files) from a source folder to a destination folder, there are a number of options for how file merging is performed.

The first option is none at all. If the files you’re moving are unique, that is, the names don’t match any of the files currently in the destination folder, then no merge option is presented, and files are simply moved to their new home in the destination folder.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

When one or more file names in the source folder match one or more file names in the destination folder, then the Finder will present four options in a dialog box for how to merge the files into the destination folder.

Actually, you’ll only see three of the four merge options; the last one is hidden, but we’ll show you how to access it.

Keep Both: When a file name matches, both versions are kept in the destination folder, with the file that came from the source folder having a version number appended to its name. As an example, if both the source and destination folder had a file named ExampleFile, then after the move, the destination folder would contain files named ExampleFile and ExampleFile 1.

Stop: Selecting this merge option halts the merge function entirely; no files will be moved from the source and no files in the destination will be replaced.

Replace: Selecting the Replace option will cause any file in the destination folder that has the same name to be replaced by the file from the source folder.

Skip: This is the hidden option that can be revealed by holding down the option key when the dialog box is present. Skip replaces the Keep Both option and allows you to skip over the currently listed file. This is the same as the Stop function, but only applies to the currently listed file in the dialog box. You can use Skip when you spot a file during the merge process that you didn’t mean to move.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

You just upgraded to macOS High Sierra and you’re amazed at the overall performance improvement you’re experiencing on your Mac.

OK, I just made that up. Most of the time, upgrading to a new version of the Mac operating system doesn’t bring performance increases. In most cases, performance remains about the same, with any efficiencies in the new OS offset by new features that take more than their fair share of your Mac’s resources.

But sometimes after installing a new OS, your Mac may seem to have had its performance rug pulled out from under it. Luckily, such problems are usually temporary or easy to fix. If you’re experiencing speed issues after installing macOS High Sierra, give these tips a try.

Spotlight Slowing Things Down
One of the perennial performance hits that occurs after a Mac operating system upgrade is Spotlight indexing the startup drive, or for that matter, any new drive(s) you may have added recently. The indexing process can really slow things down after an upgrade since the startup drive had a lot of information changed on it.

Adding a drive to Spotlight’s Privacy tab prevents it from indexing the volume. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Spotlight needs to build an accurate index of the files on your Mac so that search results are fast and correct. Thankfully, this is only a temporary problem. Once the indexing is finished, your Mac’s performance should return to normal.

If you can’t wait for the indexing to be done, you can disable indexing using these instructions:

Launch System Preferences, and select the Spotlight Preference Pane.

In the Spotlight window, select the Privacy tab.

Click the plus (+) button in the bottom left corner of the window.

In the list that opens, use the sidebar to select your Mac (it will be listed under Devices), and then select the startup drive, usually named Macintosh HD. Click the Choose button.

You’ll be asked if you really want to prevent Spotlight from searching in Macintosh HD. Click the OK button.

The startup drive will be added to the Spotlight privacy list and indexing for the drive will stop.

You should only add the startup drive to the privacy list as a temporary measure. I highly recommend that you remove the startup drive from the privacy list as soon as possible to ensure that all of the Mac’s search functions will work correctly.

To remove the startup drive and allow indexing to continue, select it from the Privacy tab and click the minus (-) button.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

Programmable robot kits for kids are a great way to introduce your children to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). Programmable robot kits can be a fun and educational experience for just about anyone, regardless of age.

Working with these robotic kits can foster a sense of accomplishment, and inspire the mind as kids work out new ways to program the robots to perform a desired task. Programmable robot kits teach many skills besides the obvious ones, such as learning basic programming. They also help hone skills used to assemble the robot from a collection of parts into a working device waiting for the builder’s command. Assembling a robot helps show that patience and fortitude outweigh the instant gratification of a pre-assembled gadget. The skills learned in assembly come in very handy when it’s time to customize the robot to meet a new challenge.

Nervous Bird, one of the many robots that can be built with the mBot Ranger robot kit. Image courtesy of Makeblock Co., Ltd.

5 Programmable Robots You Should Consider

Our list of programmable robots concentrates on kits, so some assembly is going to be required. Robotic kits are a great way to learn about multiple aspects of robotics, including design, assembly, and programming, and modifying a robot to meet new goals.

The kits are appropriate for just about any age, though there are some considerations for the very young. Some robot kits require soldering a few electronic components, and while soldering is a good skill to learn, all but one of the robots in our list can be assembled without pulling out a soldering iron.

Other considerations are the type of programming language that is used. Graphics-based languages can be easier for those just starting out, while text-based languages can provide more opportunity to expand on the robot’s capabilities.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

It’s almost become a tradition; one we wish we didn’t have to put up with. It seems with each new release of the Mac operating system, there are some features that just don’t seem to work the way they used to. The tradition lives on with macOS High Sierra, so we’re gathering a list of what High Sierra broke and how to fix it (when you can).

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Drive Encryption Can Change Formatting
Encrypting an entire drive to add a level of security has been an easy task in the Mac OS ever since FileVault 2 was released as part of OS X Lion. Full disk encryption has been a boon for Mac users who worry about their personal data being easily accessible on their Macs or external drives. This is especially true for portable Mac users, who need to worry about their Macs being lost or stolen.

macOS High Sierra continues to support full disk encryption, but Mike Bombich, who created Carbon Copy Cloner, has verified a bug in High Sierra that will cause an external drive to have its format changed from HFS+ to APFS when the drive is encrypted in High Sierra.

Enabling encryption on a drive should not alter the underlying drive format. If the drive was HFS+ (Hierarchical File System) before you chose to encrypt it, it should remain an HFS+ drive afterwards. The same is true for APFS (Apple File System) formatted drives; choosing the encryption option shouldn’t change the APFS format of the drive.

Related: A Note On High Sierra Compatibility with Third Party SSDs

Under certain conditions, encrypting a drive will modify the format to APFS without the user being aware of the changes.

The specific conditions are:

  • Must be an external drive
  • Must not have a Mac operating system installed on the drive

If these two conditions are met, and you select the option to encrypt the drive, by right-clicking the drive icon and selecting Encrypt from the popup menu, the drive will be converted to APFS format and then encrypted.

Even though the drive has been converted to APFS and encrypted, it will continue to work just fine with your Mac running macOS High Sierra. The problem comes about should you ever connect the drive to a Mac running an earlier version of the Mac operating system, or if you boot your Mac to an earlier version of the OS. In either case, the external drive won’t be recognizable by the older operating system.

Our recommendation is not to encrypt your external drive, unless converting to APFS is acceptable to you, and you have no plans to use the drive with earlier versions of the Mac operating system.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

MacOS High Sierra is finally ready for release. It endured the summer beta program, and is now available through the Mac App Store for anyone to download and install.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

We’re always grateful that new versions of the operating system go through an extensive beta process, but it always seems a few issues will still be lurking, ready to pop up and surprise us.

With that in mind, here are some of the more common problems you may encounter when upgrading to macOS High Sierra.

Note: Before upgrading to any new or updated operating system, it’s a good idea to have a current backup in place.

Upgrading From the Beta
If you’re a beta tester, you may have a slightly more difficult time upgrading than the rest of us; it all depends on whether you installed the new APFS (Apple File System) during the beta testing. Apple backed away from its original goal of having APFS ready to go for all Mac configurations. Instead, it’s releasing macOS High Sierra with APFS only for Macs using SSDs (Solid State Drives). If you converted a Fusion drive during the beta, it needs to be reverted to HFS+ before you can install macOS High Sierra.

Unfortunately, Apple isn’t providing any tools to revert the file system. Instead, you’re required to back up your current data with Time Machine, erase and reformat the affected drive(s), install macOS High Sierra, and then migrate your backed up data to the fresh install.

Apple includes instructions for the process, specifically using Time Machine as the backup app. It seems you should also be able to perform this task by creating a clone using Carbon Copy Cloner or one of the other popular cloning tools. Nevertheless, even if you decide to create a clone, we highly recommend you also create a Time Machine backup, especially if the clone is the only copy of your data you will have.

You’ll need a drive partitioned as HFS+ for the Time Machine backup. This can be an existing Time Machine drive as long as it’s formatted as HFS+. You’ll also need to create a bootable macOS High Sierra installer; a 16 GB or larger USB flash drive or an external drive can serve this purpose.

Warning: The process of creating the bootable installer will erase the contents of the selected drive volume.

Apple has posted instructions in its support area for Preparing Your Fusion Drive Mac for the macOS High Sierra Install. It covers two methods for converting a Fusion Drive back to HFS+ and installing macOS High Sierra. The instructions are a bit sparse, but should be sufficient for getting the job done. If you have any questions regarding the process, be sure to post them in the Comments section below.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

Safari 11, included with macOS High Sierra, has a number of new features. It’s also one of the fastest browsers, at least when it comes to rendering and running JavaScript. But one feature that’s turning heads in the web-marketing arena is Safari’s new ability to prevent cross-site tracking using ITP (Intelligent Tracking Prevention).

ITP, along with how Safari manages cross-site cookies, can cut down on the ability of web-based ad services to track your movements around the web. It’s this tracking ability that leads to focused ads appearing in many different and unrelated websites. For example, after looking for a new winter coat at your favorite clothier’s web site, you might discover that wherever you go on the web, an ad for winter apparel is present.

While Safari and ITP may put an end to many of the annoying ads that follow you around the web, as well as create a bit more personal security, it may also have a few unintended consequences that may result in a favorite website or two not working correctly, until they receive an update to work with ITP.

You may find you need to revert back to the old way that Safari managed cookies when visiting a few sites, including some sites (banking and financial services come to mind) that use a centralized login system that provides sign-in service for multiple related sites. In that case, there’s a good chance that ITP’s machine learning system will mistake the central sign-in service as an ad tracker, forcing you to sign in repeatedly.

With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at how to manage Safari’s new privacy settings, and how you can enable and disable ITP in Safari.

Cookie Management and Cross-Site Tracking
Safari 11 (and later versions) disables cross-site tracking as its default configuration, so out of the box, you should notice fewer obviously targeted ads appearing in the websites you visit. To be clear, Safari isn’t stripping out ads from websites; the websites you visit will still display ads; they just won’t be explicitly targeted to you, based on other websites and products you’ve viewed.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

But, wait; you say you’re seeing targeted ads even though cross-site tracking is enabled? Yup, you may still see targeted ads for one of two reasons: either the web advertisers have implemented new technology to get around ITP, or you’re seeing ads based on a site you routinely access.

ITP uses a 24-hour window that allows for some tracking, mostly in the form of a persistent cookie that can be used to allow you to automatically sign in to a site. But third parties who provide web resources, such as images or ads, to the site can use the same cookie to track the fact that you visited the site. That’s why you may still see some ads tracking you around the web. After 24 hours, the cookie is automatically disabled for tracking functions, but retains its ability to be used for auto sign in to a site.

After 30 days, the ITP system purges the cookie completely, requiring you to manually log in should you return to the site in question.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Because ITP is a new technology involving machine learning, it’s likely that we’ll see updates to Safari that will make some changes in the cookie management system, but when macOS High Sierra is first released, what we described above will be the default ITP behavior.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

When it comes to choosing an external enclosure to house an SSD or hard drive, there are so many options that it can be difficult not only to make a decision, but also to figure out just how many possibilities are available.

One approach that can help in organizing the choices is to think about which enclosure type is best suited to your expansion needs. We’re going to organize our look at external enclosures by the type of connection and the enclosure’s capabilities, and then provide a brief look at what some of the likely types of uses such storage expansion would be used for.

OWC ThunderBay 4 Mini. Image courtesy of OWC.

We’re going to concentrate on bare or “diskless” enclosures that you can place one or more SSDs in, but the general information can also be used to help select an enclosure for any type of supported storage device, including hard drives, SATA-based SSDs, PCIe-based SSD blades, or even optical drives, to access your collection of DVDs. You can also apply this information to purchasing external storage systems that come with drives already installed.

Enclosures can hold a single drive, multiple drives, multiple drives with built-in RAID, and multiple drives of different sizes. Enclosures can have additional functions beyond just housing a storage drive; some perform as port multipliers or docks, allowing one interface to be used to provide connectivity through multiple port types.

You may need a storage enclosure for optimizing speed, or an inexpensive way to create that backup system you’ve been promising yourself. Either way, you should find some helpful information in our guide to picking an external enclosure.

Best Use for Thunderbolt Enclosures
The Thunderbolt interface is certainly versatile. Depending on the Thunderbolt version available on your Mac, it can provide data throughput of up to 40 Gbps (Thunderbolt 3), 20 Gbps (Thunderbolt 2), or 10 Gbps (Thunderbolt 1 or just plain Thunderbolt).

But it isn’t just the raw speed available in Thunderbolt that makes it a great choice for storage and other uses; it also has the ability to support multiple interface specifications. Thunderbolt 3 supports 40 Gbps data transfer speeds, USB 3.1 Gen2 running at 10 Gbps, and DisplayPort 1.2, with support for two 4K streams, and the ability to provide up to 15 watts of power for bus-powered devices, or 100 watts for charging, all wrapped up in a single USB-C connector.

When selecting a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure for storage, you have a few basic types to choose from: a Thunderbolt Dock, such as the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock (see image below), which allows you to connect a single cable to your Mac to break out multiple USB 3.1 ports, a mini DisplayPort supporting dual 4K displays, or a 5K display and an HD display, S/PDIF digital audio, a card reader, even a legacy FireWire 800 port.

Image courtesy of OWC

Docks are available in various port configurations, but since we’re concentrating on storage, they allow you to use additional USB 3 Gen1 or Gen2 ports to attach additional storage enclosures to. Pretty helpful when you find your Mac’s ports are all in use.

But we’re just getting started with Thunderbolt’s versatility. Enclosures are available that provide a PCIe-based expansion chassis, such as the Mercury Helios 3 (see image below). The PCIe interface can be used to install various types of PCIe expansion cards, but for storage, a PCIe card that accepts one or more SSD blades will provide for a screamingly fast storage system. Or, if you already have a few SATA SSDs, you can install them in a high-performance SATA to PCIe card and gain a bit more performance from them than you can get out of a USB 3 interface.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

When you find yourself performing the same task over and over on your Mac, you may wish some developer somewhere would code up a nice little app to make your job a bit easier.

There’s no reason to wait for an app when you can make use of one or more of the many Mac automation tools that are already available. Your Mac comes equipped with AppleScript, Automator, and Terminal, all of which can be used to create your own custom tools to make repetitive tasks easier.

AppleScript and Terminal require a bit of coding to create an app or script, but Automator uses a graphical interface to allow you to create custom apps without having to learn a complex programming language. So, we’re going to start our look at how to automate tasks on the Mac with Automator.

By the way, if you’d like to explore how Terminal can be used to create scripts, the Rocket Yard has a two-part introduction to the Mac’s Terminal app that you can check out.

Using Automator
Automator has a simple drag-and-drop interface you can use to build simple to complex workflows that can automate those repetitive tasks that just take time away from other things. Workflows are made up of individual tasks that you drag into place in the workflow. You can then tweak each task in the workflow to meet your specific needs. Once it’s ready, the workflow can be used much like an app, service, or folder action.

Automator has 6 templates that can be used for creating different types of workflows. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Automator Apps, Services, and Folder Actions
Automator supports creating the following types of workflows:

Workflows: These are a series of actions that you run from within Automator. Automator must be running for the workflow to work.

Applications: These are self-running workflows. They don’t need Automator to be active in order to work.

Services: Services allows you to build workflows that are tied to contextual menus that may appear within another app’s service menu.

Printer Plugin: Allows you to create workflows that appear in the Print dialog box.

Folder Actions: This is a workflow that you attach to a folder. When an item is added to the folder, it triggers the attached workflow to run.

Calendar Alarms: These workflows are triggered by events in the Calendar app.

Image Capture Plugin: These workflows are available from within the Image Capture app.

Dictation Commands: You can create workflows that are triggered by specific dictation commands.

We’re going to use Automator to create two different types of workflows. The first is a service that will allow you to select any word or phrase you come across and look up its meaning in Wikipedia. We’ll also show you how to modify this service, so you can use other sites to perform the lookup instead.

In our second example, we’ll create an application to batch resize images automatically. You could also use this workflow as a Folder Action, if that’s a better fit for your needs.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

Safe mode and single-user mode are two of the special start-up modes that your Mac can be powered up to. They’re often used to troubleshoot issues a Mac may be experiencing, or to assist in isolating and repairing some common issues that can keep a Mac from starting up correctly, or that make it act strangely when it’s in use.

The two modes are distinctly different, with safe mode being a more automated approach to fixing Mac issues, and single-user mode being more akin to the Mac’s Terminal app, giving those familiar with UNIX the ability to manually run various troubleshooting utilities and commands.

In this Rocket Yard Guide, we’re going to show you how to use each mode to help troubleshoot Mac problems you may be experiencing.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Safe Mode
Up first is safe mode, one of the easiest ways to isolate and fix many Mac problems. Safe mode allows you to troubleshoot problems you may be having in starting up your Mac, working with specific apps, or system-wide issues.

When you invoke safe mode, your Mac will restart and perform various troubleshooting checks on your Mac’s system, hardware, and startup drive. It will also disable some system components, and if it successfully completes the checks, will finish by bringing you to the standard desktop, though with certain functions disabled.

What Does Safe Mode Do?
Safe mode uses a process similar to Disk Utility’s First Aid to verify and repair your startup drive. Unlike Disk Utility, which can’t repair the startup drive directly, Safe Mode can perform both a verify and a repair of the startup drive’s directory structure.

Safe mode only allows the most basic system kernel extensions to be loaded. This will prevent third-party kernel extensions from affecting the startup process, and from being available to use once safe mode drops you into the desktop.

Safe mode allows only system fonts that are provided with the operating system to load; all other fonts are disabled.

It deletes all font caches, kernel caches, and system caches.

It disables all startup and login items from being loaded by the system.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

The Dock on your Mac is highly versatile, letting you customize its look, location, and content. You’ve likely already customized the Dock by adding apps to it, beyond those initially supplied by Apple. You may also have come across the Dock’s split personality; one side for apps, and the other for, well, just about anything else: documents, servers, drives, trash, and web pages, in the form of URLs.

It’s that last Dock capability we’re going to explore in this Rocket Yard Guide.

Managing Favorite Websites
You’ve probably already configured your browser to house your favorite websites in an easy-to-access space. This can be in the form of a favorites bar, sidebars, and/or menu entries. The actual method for managing your website favorites depends on the browser you use. But they all have one common characteristic: the browser must be open for you to access your favorite websites.

Using the Dock to Store Websites
There’s another way to store websites, and that’s directly in your Dock. The advantage of this method is that your favorite web browser doesn’t need to be open; a simple click on the website’s Dock icon will launch your browser and load the website.

Of course, there are at least two drawbacks to using the Dock to manage browser favorites. The first is that your Dock is going to get crowded once you save more than a few websites to it. The second is that the Dock uses the same icon for all the website URLs you save, making it a difficult task to pick the right Dock icon at a glance.

However, both problems have solutions, so let’s get started with fixing them, and get you using your Dock as a website launcher.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog