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by Tom Nelson

I’ve been noticing an uptick in well-equipped models in the Mac refurb store. I usually see mostly base-level Macs, and a few off-the-shelf models with slightly better specifications. But recently, there seems to be a growing inventory of custom build models that have extra RAM, larger or faster drives, or even better graphics option than what I’ve come to expect. Of course, there are still plenty of base models for those looking for the least expensive Macs, but this week, we’re going to focus on the higher end of the Mac performance spectrum.

2014MacMini

Image courtesy of Apple

Deals of the Week

This week’s deals focus on Macs that provide a bit more performance than the models we usually feature. So, if you’ve been looking to up the performance ante, you’ve come to the right place. Our first deal is for those looking for a MacBook Air that has a bit of pop in its performance. This 13-inch MacBook Air has a nicely sized SSD and plenty of RAM; it also includes the custom build i7 processor option.

Deal number two is for a larger MacBook Pro complete with a Retina Display, Quad-Core i7 processor, maxed out RAM, and a superfast 512 GB SSD. Deals can come in small packages as well as big ones; our third deal is for a 2014 Mac mini. I’m not a big fan of the 2014 incarnation of the mini, but this configuration includes the optional i7 processor and a nice, big 1 TB SSD.

Our last deal breaks the pattern of top-end models, and instead is the base configuration of the 2014 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K Display. Why is the base model getting the nod? Well, even though it’s the base configuration, it’s still a top performer when it comes to desktop Macs. You can add RAM if you wish, and the 1 TB Fusion drive should provide plenty of performance for most users.

Read more on About: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

XScanSolo 4 is a hardware monitor that can keep an eye on your Mac, and ensure that all of its various components are working as they should be. There are actually quite a few of these hardware monitoring utilities available; what sets XScanSolo 4 apart are its simple approach and well-designed interface that make setting up and using XScanSolo 4 a piece of cake.

XScanSolo4Icon

Image courtesy of ADNX Software

XScanSolo 4 is one of two apps that ADNX Software created for monitoring a Mac’s hardware. The second app, XScanPro 4, provides the same capabilities as XScanSolo, but allows you to monitor multiple Macs across a network, just the thing for the family IT person who can’t be everywhere at once. Today, though, we’ll concentrate on the solo version of the app.

Read more on About: Macs.

 

by Tom Nelson

Weekly Mac news roundup for the week of May 15, 2015.

5thAveAppleStore

Image courtesy of Apple

Apple filed papers in the Radio Shack bankruptcy case in an attempt to prevent customer data from being sold off. Also, an Apple Store was closed when hazardous liquid was discovered contaminating a shipping package.

Read more on About: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

You’ve just dashed off a reply to an important email message. When you hit the ‘Send’ button, you discover that it’s dimmed, which means you can’t send your message. Mail was working fine yesterday; what went wrong?

MailSMTPSetting

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

A dimmed ‘Send’ button in Apple Mail means there isn’t a correctly configured outgoing mail server (SMTP) associated with the Mail account. This can happen for a number of reasons but the two mostly likely are that the mail service you use made changes to its settings and you need to update your settings, or your Mail preference file is outdated, corrupt, or has the wrong file permissions associated with it.

Read more on About: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

Reviving a hard drive to use with your Mac is a fairly simple process, although not a short one. In this step-by-step guide, we’ll show you how to breathe a bit of life back into an old hard drive, or one that has been giving you some problems.

wdfDesktopDriveBlack

What You Will Need

Utilities. We’re going to use two readily available drive utility applications. The first, Disk Utility, comes free with your Mac. The second, Drive Genius 4, is available from Prosoft Engineering, Inc.

You don’t need both utilities. We tend to use Drive Genius because it’s quite a bit faster than Disk Utility at many tasks. But you can accomplish the same tasks with Disk Utility; it may just take a little longer.

A hard drive. You will obviously need a hard drive, since our goal is to revive a drive and turn it into a reasonably reliable device that you can use for storage. We say “reasonably” reliable, because we don’t know what state your drive is in. It could be a drive you’ve been using all along, but it’s been causing minor errors, and you’ve decided to replace it before it starts creating bigger or more damaging errors. It could be an old drive that’s been gathering dust for a while, and who knows what quirks it may or may not be hiding under the hood? Or it could be a drive that has apparently given up the ghost, consistently causing drive errors, but you’re determined to give it one last shot at redemption.

Read more on About: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

Ever since OS X Lion, Apple has been integrating various social media services into the OS, allowing you to more easily use the services from other Mac apps.

SafariTwitterSidebar

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

With the advent of OS X Mountain Lion, Apple added a Shared Links sidebar to Safari that lets you see tweets and links from people you follow on Twitter. The Shared Links Safari sidebar isn’t a full-fledged Twitter client; you’ll still need to use the Twitter web site, or a Twitter client, such as Twitterrific, to create posts.

But for just monitoring tweets or retweeting recent Twitter activity, the Safari Shared Links sidebar is pretty convenient.

Read more on About: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

OS X has deep roots, to OSes that predate Steve Jobs’ return to Apple. In fact, the roots of OS X date back to around the time Jobs was thrown out of Apple, and decided to start a new technology company called NeXT.

OSXPublicBeta

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

NeXT started life selling advanced computer workstations that ran an object-oriented operating system called NeXTSTEP. NeXTSTEP was based on the Mach kernel, an OS developed at Carnegie Mellon, and BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution), a UNIX derivative developed at UC Berkeley.

That places some of the key development of OS X’s core technology as far back as the 1970s. But that was only the basis for NeXTSTEP and later, OS X; the real innovation was the object-oriented frameworks incorporated into the OS, and passed along to OS X.

With the basic background of OS X out of the way, let’s take a look at each OS X release.

Read more on About: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

Mac minis remain in stock for the second week in a row. If this keeps up, we may have to start considering it normal for the refurb store to have minis in stock.

As for the rest of the Mac lineup, everything is in good supply this week, except Retina 5K iMacs, which currently have limited availability beyond the base configuration, which just happens to be one of our choices this week.

imac-retina5K

Image courtesy of Apple

Deals of the Week

This week has some great deals, with one deal in every Mac category except the Mac Pro models. While there are Mac Pros to be had, none really grabbed our attention as a deal.

Our first deal is for a 13.3-inch MacBook Air with a 256 GB SSD for storage, very nicely priced for those who want a fast, extremely portable Mac.

Up next is a 2014 MacBook Pro, also with a 256 GB SSD, and a whopping 16 GB of RAM. This is definitely a good choice for those looking for a portable powerhouse.

With Mac minis in stock, it makes sense that our next deal is a 2014 Dual-Core i7 mini with 8 GB RAM and a 1 TB hard drive. That slow hard drive may not be the best choice for many of us, but you can always add a fast external SSD connected to the USB 3 or Thunderbolt port for a nice performance boost.

Our last deal of the week is the base model 27-inch iMac with Retina 5K Display. What can we say, except that it’s a freaking 27-inch 5K display with a free computer thrown in.

Read more on About: Macs.

by Tom Nelson

VidConvert from Reggie Ashworth has to be one of the handiest tools for converting video between popular file formats. With VidConvert, that movie you recorded on your Android phone can quickly be converted and uploaded to iTunes, so you can play the movie on your Apple TV. Of course, that’s just one of the many conversion types available.

VidConvertIcon

Image courtesy of Reggie Ashworth

VidConvert takes care of the conversion through the use of simple presets; you can also take control and fine-tune the results to meet your needs.

Read more on About: Macs.

by Tom Nelson & Mary F. O’Connor

Launching an application on a Windows PC and launching an application on a Mac are surprisingly similar processes. In both cases, you just click or double-click the application’s icon. The tricky part is finding where applications are stored on the Mac, and figuring out where the comparable OS X application launchers are kept and how to use them.

LaunchPadYosemite

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Both Windows and the Mac try to simplify the finding and running of applications with a straightforward user interface: the Start menu in Windows and the Dock in OS X. While the Start menu and the Dock are conceptually similar, there are some important differences.

Read more on About: Macs.

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