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Archive for December, 2014

by Tom Nelson

With 2014 coming to a close, it’s time to look through Tom’s Mac Software Picks for 2014 and select the 10 best apps from the list.

Every Saturday I post a new entry on my list of Mac software apps that I think deserve a look-see by the readers of About Macs. Each app must offer exceptional value and quality to make the grade.

MacsFanControl

Macs Fan Control. Image courtesy of CrystalIdea.

With the year coming to an end, I searched through my 2014 picks to see which 10 apps I would recommend to those of you who are looking for some of the best software to install. Of course, such a list would typically depend on how you use your Mac. Casual users, music enthusiasts, and video professionals all have different needs, and slightly different lists of 10 apps they should install. My list is for casual users, who should find most of the apps useful regardless of how they use their Macs.

By the way, this list is also a pretty good starting point for those of you who received new Macs this holiday season. Give these apps a try; all have demos available, and some of the apps are even free.

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by Tom Nelson

Introduced with OS X 10.5 (Leopard), Time Machine is an easy-to-use backup system that has probably prevented more Mac users from losing sleep over lost work than most other backup options combined.

time-machine-multiples

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

With the introduction of OS X Mountain Lion, Apple updated Time Machine to work more easily with multiple backup drives. You could use Time Machine with multiple backup drives before Mountain Lion came along, but it required a good deal of user intervention to make everything work. With OS X Mountain Lion and later, Time Machine retains its ease of use while providing a more robust backup solution by allowing you to easily assign multiple drives as Time Machine backup destinations.

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by Tom Nelson

If you use iCloud Keychain to store your logins, account passwords, or credit card info, you may eventually need to change the phone number associated with the service. You may also want to change the security code, after you discover that everyone in your household has figured it out.

changesecuritycode

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Managing these basic security measures for the iCloud Keychain service is pretty straightforward, but the location of these options seems to be a case of hiding features in plain sight.

Unlike a few recommendations I’ve read, you don’t need to disable the keychain or start from scratch just to perform these housekeeping updates. The secret, if you can call it a secret, is to use the iCloud preference pane to manage your iCloud account settings.

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by Tom Nelson

This week’s Mac refurb news is about the ones that got away. For a few brief hours earlier in the week, 2014 Mac minis were available in the refurb store. This is the first spotting of the new Mac minis in the store, and although they were only there for a short period of time, it bodes well for them to soon have a more lasting presence in the store.

AppleRefurb
Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.
Deals of the Week

Our deals this week include a low-priced 11.6-inch MacBook Air that would make a great take-everywhere Mac for those on the go. Stepping up to the slightly bigger 13.3-inch MacBook Air reveals a higher end configuration that makes our deal threshold by providing good bang for the buck.

Our last deal of the week is for our desktop-loving friends who want a big, bright 27-inch iMac, but would like to keep the price near the $1,500 mark.

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by Tom Nelson

1Password 5 is a password manager and secure wallet for keeping track of your login passwords, bank accounts, credit cards, or even just your software licenses. 1Password integrates with your browser, so accessing frequently used web sites that require logins takes just a click. The process is so simple that you’ll probably be willing to abandon those easy-to-remember (and easy to crack) passwords you’ve been using, and use strong, secure passwords instead.

1Password5

Image courtesy of AgileBits

1Password has long been a favorite of mine when it comes to securely storing and easily retrieving login credentials, passwords, and bank or credit card information. It provides a convenient method to not only safely store personal information, but just as important, to easily use the data without having to jump through hoops or remember arcane commands.

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by Tom Nelson

Installing OS X Yosemite hasn’t changed a great deal since OS X Lion changed the delivery of the OS from optical disks to electronic downloads, using the Mac App Store.

bootableusb

The big advantage to downloading OS X is of course immediate gratification (and not having to pay shipping charges). But the downside is that the installer you download is deleted as soon as you make use of it by installing OS X Yosemite, or for that matter, any downloadable version of OS X.

With the installer gone, you lose the opportunity to install the OS on more than one Mac without having to go through the download process again. You also lose out on having an installer that you can use to perform clean installs that completely overwrite your startup drive, or having an emergency bootable installer that includes a few useful utilities that can bail you out of an emergency.

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by Tom Nelson

When Apple first gave us a sneak peek at the new 2013 Mac Pro, many were struck by its small circular housing, and how powerful this smallest of Mac Pros actually is. But as Apple continued the product tour, we learned that the only user-replaceable part in the entire Mac Pro is RAM, and that all other upgrades should be performed externally, using Thunderbolt or USB 3 devices.

MacProSSDRemoval

Image courtesy of iFixit.com

Turns out the initial impression created by Apple wasn’t quite right. In fact, in addition to upgrading RAM, you can also replace or upgrade the Mac Pro’s PCIe-based SSD modules. Not only can you perform the replacement task yourself, Apple made it very simple. And since Apple published a knowledgebase article on how to access and remove the SSD card, it seems that performing an upgrade won’t cause any concerns about the warranty, at least if you use Apple SSD cards for the upgrade.

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by Tom Nelson

Apple has released a security update to the Network Time Protocol (NTP) that keeps your Mac’s clock synced to the coordinated universal time standard that regulates world clocks.

clocksandlaptop

Image courtesy of Anthony Harvie / Getty Images

The open source NTP software was discovered to have security issues that could allow the time synchronization system to be used as a gateway to run malicious code on computer systems using the service.

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by Tom Nelson

DigiTimes is reporting that sources within Apple’s supply chain are claiming that early preproduction runs of the new 12-inch MacBook Air have already occurred, with low yields of the new ultra light notebook causing some issues that have slightly pushed back planned mass production until early 2015.

MacBookAirTable1920x1280

Image courtesy of PixaBay

The rumored 12-inch MacBook Air would use a new design that’s lighter and thinner than current MacBook Air products, incorporate a Retina display, and, with Intel’s new Broadwell Core M chip, be able to run with no fans and offer battery lifetime equivalent to, if not better than, current models of the MacBook Air.

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by Tom Nelson

If you’re looking to the refurb store for Christmas gifts, remember that you’ll need to change the shipping method from the standard free 5-7 day shipping to one of the expedited shipping options to ensure delivery in time for Christmas.

As expected, stock in the refurb store is dwindling, with no Wi-Fi-only versions of any iPad model available, and no Mac minis in stock. While Mac Pros and iMacs are still available, there are fewer configuration options.

However, if you’re looking for a MacBook, there are plenty to choose from, including two out of three of our best deals of the week.

AppleRefurb
Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.
Deals of the Week

Our deals this week include one model of the larger MacBook Air, with a 256 GB SSD and priced well below the $1,000 level. The other MacBook on our list is a 13.3-inch MacBook Pro, also with a 256 GB SSD, and tipping the price scales a bit above $1,100.

Our last deal of the week is a 27-inch iMac just above the $1,500 mark.

Read more on About: Macs.

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