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by Tom Nelson

Has this ever happened to you? It’s late at night and everyone in your home is fast asleep, except you. With no prospect of sleep in sight, you decide to turn on your Mac, to play a game or check the news. But as soon as your Mac starts up, the thunderous sound of the startup chime reverberates through the house, waking everyone, including the cat and the dog.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The Mac’s startup chime can be very noisy, especially in an otherwise quiet environment. Apple didn’t mean to wake the entire house; it just wanted to be sure that you could hear the startup sound, and with good reason. The chime, which usually means your Mac has passed the startup diagnostic test, can instead be replaced by a sequence of audible tones that signal various hardware failures, including bad RAM or EFI ROM (Extensible Firmware Interface Read Only Memory).

Read more on About: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

Spotlight, the system-wide search service in Mac OS X, is one of the easiest and quickest search systems available for the Mac. You can access Spotlight by clicking the Spotlight icon (the magnifying glass) in the Apple menu bar, or by using the search box available in the top right corner of every Finder window.

SpotlightComments

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

When you’re using the Finder’s search box, you’re actually still using the Spotlight search index your Mac creates, so the results won’t be any different from a standard Spotlight search. However, there are advantages to searching from a Finder window, including more control over how the search is performed, and the ability to build complex search queries and add to your search phrase as you hone your search.

Read more on About: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

Sharing files on a Mac seems to me to be one of the easiest file sharing systems available on any computer platform. Of course, that may just be because I’m very used to how the Mac and its operating system work.

Even in the early days of the Mac, file sharing was built into the Mac. Using the AppleTalk networking protocols, you could easily mount drives connected to one networked Mac to any other Mac on the network. The whole process was a breeze, with almost no complex setup required.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Nowadays, file sharing is slightly more complex, but the Mac still makes the process a simple one, allowing you to share files between Macs, or, using the SMB protocol, between Macs, PCs, and Linux/UNIX computer systems.

The Mac’s file sharing system hasn’t changed a great deal since OS X Lion, though there are subtle differences in the user interface, and in the AFP and SMB versions that are used.

Read more on About: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

With the advent of OS X Lion, Apple began merging features of iOS and OS X. One of the most notable, simply because it was obvious to any Mac user who upgraded to any of the later versions of OS X, was the change to the default behavior of scrolling within a window or application. Scrolling is now performed using what Apple calls a “natural” scrolling method. Based on how multi-touch iOS devices scroll, the method will seem backwards for Mac users who have mostly or only worked with indirect pointing devices, such as mice and touchpads. With multi-touch devices, you use your finger directly on a screen to control the scrolling process.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

In essence, natural scrolling reverses the standard scrolling direction. In pre-Lion versions of OS X, you scrolled down to bring information that was below the window into view. With natural scrolling, the direction of scrolling is up; in essence, you are moving the page up to view the content that is below the view of the current window.

Read more on About: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

Stock remains in good supply this week in the Mac refurb store, though I’ve decided to drop the Mac Accessories category from the Steals & Deals weekly posting. Apple hasn’t updated any of the models in this category since 2013. The refurb AirPort Express is a 2012 model with out-of-date Wi-Fi technology. The AirPort Time Capsule is from 2013, and while the Wi-Fi technology is a bit more current, the drive used for the Time Capsule section is highly overpriced, even by Apple standards.

For the time being, I suggest a good USB or Thunderbolt external drive for use as a Time Machine backup device. If you’re looking for a wireless router to use in place of the old Apple AirPort, may I suggest you look at Bradley Mitchell’s “Best 802.11ac Wi-Fi Routers for Home Networks” article.

With that out of the way, on to our deals this week.

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Image courtesy of Apple

Deals of the Week

The first deal this week is for one of the more popular configurations of the 2015 15.4-inch MacBook Pro. This model includes 16 GB of RAM, a speedy 512 GB PCIe-based flash storage system, and dual graphics, with Intel Iris Pro for when you don’t need advanced graphics capabilities and want to save on battery run time, and an AMD Radeon R9 M270X system for when graphics performance is top priority.

This MacBook Pro would easily work for just about any back-to-school need, or for the pro-am photographer or multimedia specialist.

Our second deal is for a 13.3-inch version of the 2015 MacBook Pro. This deal probably better fits most pocketbooks, with 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB PCIe flash storage system. It may be a bit less well equipped than the first MacBook Pro offering, but it still has more than enough performance to be a wonderful back-to-school choice.

Read more on About: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

Macs Fan Control from CrystalIdea is a utility app that allows you to monitor your Mac’s temperature and fan speed. If the app stopped there, that would be enough to make it a useful tool for many Mac enthusiasts. But its developer, CrystalIdea Software, took it several steps further, to provide not only monitoring capabilities but also the ability to control fan speed, both directly, by setting a desired RPM, and programmatically, by setting desired speeds based on measured temperature.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Primary Reasons to Use Macs Fan Control

Macs Fan Control provides something that only Apple possessed in the past: the ability to control how a Mac’s cooling fans perform.

This is actually a big deal, and something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Incorrect use of this app (or similar apps) could potentially cause damage to your Mac. Apple used advanced thermal modeling to come up with the cooling profiles used in a Mac’s fan management system; Macs Fan Control can replace the Apple-supplied fan profile with one you create, and is geared more toward intermediate to advanced Mac users than beginners. That doesn’t mean that if you’re a beginner you shouldn’t use it, only that you should use it carefully and wisely.

Read more on About: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

Knowing how much free drive space is available on your Mac is an important part of routine Mac maintenance. As you fill up your Mac’s drives with all of the important information you collect, you can end up affecting your Mac’s performance, should the free space drop too low.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

There are a few different methods to determine available free space, including using Disk Utilitythe Finder, and even Terminal. But ever since OS X Snow Leopard was released in the summer of 2009, there has been a very easy, and perhaps more important, extremely quick way to discover just how large a drive is, and the amount of free space it has available.

But wait, there’s more. Not only can you see the size and available free space of a selected drive, you can also get the size and free space of as many drives as you have connected to your Mac.

Read more on About: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

The Dock may well be one of the most recognized user interface elements used by the Mac and OS X, as well as the newer macOS. The Dock creates a handy app launcher that usually hugs the bottom of the screen; depending on the number of icons in the Dock, it may span the entire width of your Mac’s display.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Of course, the Dock doesn’t have to live at the bottom your display; with a bit of tinkering, you can customize the Dock’s location to take up residence along the left or right side of your display.

Most users consider the Mac’s Dock a very handy app launcher, where a single click or tap can open a favorite app. But it can also be used as a convenient way to access frequently used documents, as well as manage currently running apps.

Read more on About: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

This week, we welcome the Mac mini back to the Mac refurb store. We also welcome a newcomer: the iPad Pro, specifically, the 12.9-inch Retina model, which is making its first appearance in the refurb store.

The Mac minis are available in both the base configuration, with just 4 GB of RAM, a model I highly recommend avoiding since the memory in the 2014 Mac mini isn’t user upgradeable, and 4 GB just isn’t sufficient to run your Mac and do anything really productive. Personally, I’d like to see Apple stop selling the 4 GB models. Luckily, the refurb store has Mac minis with 8 GB and 16 GB of RAM available.

MacBookPro15Yosemite

Image courtesy of Apple

Deals of the Week

Our deals this week are for a pair of iMacs. The first is a 21.5-inch Retina iMac configured with 8 GB of RAM and a 1 TB Fusion drive. This iMac would make a pretty nice desktop Mac for general use.

Next up is the larger 27-inch Retina iMac, also configured with 8 GB of RAM and a 1 TB Fusion drive. Although the two iMacs are configured similarly, the larger iMac is better suited for more demanding work. This is due to two primary reasons: the graphics engine is quite a bit more powerful than the one in the smaller iMac, and the RAM in the big iMac is user upgradable, letting you add RAM as needed.

Read more on About: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

WinZip has long been a popular compression and expansion app for Windows users. The software was first released in 1991 as a graphical interface to PKZIP, and quickly became one of the most often-used compression utilities in the Windows world.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

WinZip Mac Edition brings many of the features that made WinZip so popular on PCs to the Mac environment. The Mac edition is more than just a port from the Windows counterpart; while it retains many WinZip features, it does so with a distinct Mac flare.

Read more on About: Macs.

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