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Archive for July, 2015

by Tom Nelson

Question: What’s the minimum amount of free drive space that I need? My Mac is starting to operate slowly, taking a long time to boot or to launch an application. It also seems unstable, sometimes giving me the rainbow cursor for very long periods of times, even locking up completely.

Do I need a bigger drive?

AboutThisMacStorage

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Answer: There are many different types of problems that can manifest the symptoms you describe.

Insufficient RAM or even hardware failure could be the culprit. But one of the most common causes of the problems you describe is not having enough free space on a startup drive.

Filling your startup drive until it’s almost full is fraught with issues. First, your Mac needs some free space to use for creating swap space to manage memory use. Even when you have adequate RAM, OS X will reserve some space at startup for memory swap space. In addition, individual applications usually use some disk space for temporary storage.

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by Tom Nelson

Using your Mac as an HTPC (Home Theater PC) is pretty easy, right out of the box. Hook your Mac up to your HDTV and settle in to watch your favorite movies or TV shows. There is, however, one little quirk that sometimes leads people to think their Mac can’t handle movies with 5.1 surround sound.

VLCAudioSelection

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Let’s start by settling that question right off. Can your Mac make use of surround sound in movies and TV shows?

The answer is, it sure can. Your Mac can pass AC3, the file format used for Dolby Digital, directly to its optical audio output.

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by Tom Nelson

Upgrading the hard drive in an iMac is a DIY project that has always been a difficult, although not impossible, task. With the advent of the late 2009 edition iMacs as well as subsequent iMac models, there’s a new twist that limits how you can upgrade the iMac’s hard drive.

imac

Image courtesy of Apple

iMacs have always had a temperature sensor for their internal hard drive. The Mac operating system monitors hard drive temperature and adjusts the internal fans to ensure optimal airflow to keep the hard drive, as well as the rest of the iMac’s inner workings, cool.

Up until the late 2009 model iMacs, the temperature probe for the hard drive was mounted to the hard drive’s cover. When you upgraded the hard drive, all you needed to do was to re-attach the temperature sensor to the new hard drive’s case and you were ready to go.

Read more on About: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

Starting with OS X Lion, Apple changed how scroll bars work and are displayed in any window that has a need for scrolling. This is different from the issue of natural vs. unnatural scrolling, which is a fancy way of saying which way a window’s contents move when you scroll.

ScrollbarPreferences

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

I’ll let others argue about natural and unnatural scrolling, which can be successfully argued by either side; in other words, I think it’s a toss-up.

But the issue of scroll bars not appearing, or only appearing if you’re in the process of scrolling, is a user interface mistake on Apple’s part. Apple may have gone a little too far in its zeal to bring all things iOS to the Mac OS.

Read more on About: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

Mac minis and 13.3-inch MacBook Pros are out of stock this week, leaving a spot in the store for some of the more popular Mac models. At the same time, the Macs that are present and of recent vintage are priced at or near the standard 15% savings seen in the refurb store for current models. That made picking our weekly deals a bit harder.

So, we selected our deals this week based on configurations that we don’t usually see in the refurb store, but that should appeal to many of you.

RetinaMacbookPro

Image courtesy of Apple

Deals of the Week

Our first deal is for a current generation 13.3-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display that also includes an adequately sized SSD for storage. This would make a very powerful portable Mac, with the bonus of a gorgeous display.

Our second deal also includes a gorgeous display, but this time it’s found in a desktop iMac with a huge 27-inch Retina display. But it wasn’t the Retina display that got our attention; it was the 4.0 GHz i7 processor coupled with a 3 TB Fusion drive. This configuration is going to make someone very happy as it has plenty of fast storage space, and a fast processor to zip through tasks.

Read more on About: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

Affinity Photo is a brand-new photo editing application from Serif, maker of the popular Affinity Designer illustration app for the Mac. Affinity Photo may be new, but it was in development for five years, and had an extensive public beta before its official release in early July of 2015.

AffinityPhotoIcon

Image courtesy of Serif, Ltd.

Affinity Photo has been called a Photoshop killer. It provides many of the features and capabilities that photographers and others who edit images would normally turn to Photoshop for.

These tasks can now be performed in Affinity Photo, both more quickly and at a far lower cost.

Read more on About: Macs.

 

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by Tom Nelson

The 27-inch iMacs introduced in late 2009 included the first version of Target Display Mode, a special feature that allowed iMacs to be used as displays for other devices.

imac-retina5K

Image courtesy of Apple

Apple originally hinted at the iMac being used with DVD and Blu-ray players as an HDTV display, and even as a display for another computer. But in the end, Target Display Mode became an Apple-only technology that allowed Mac users to drive an iMac’s display from another Mac.

Still, it can be quite compelling to see your Mac mini making use of your older 27-inch iMac as a display, or for troubleshooting an iMac having display issues.

Read more on About: Macs.

 

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by Tom Nelson

Spotlight is the Mac’s built-in search service. You can use Spotlight to find just about anything stored on your Mac, or any Mac on your home network.

Spotlight can find files by name, content, or metadata, such as date created, last modified, or file type. What may not be obvious is that Spotlight also supports the use of Boolean logic within a search phrase.

SpotlightMetadataSearch

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc

Using Boolean Logic in a Phrase

Start by accessing the Spotlight search service.

You can do this by clicking on the Spotlight icon (a magnifying glass) in the menu bar at the top right of your screen. The Spotlight menu item will open and display a field for entering a search query.

Read more on About: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

Mac Pros from 2006 through 2012 shipped with four 3.5-inch internal hard drive bays. Each drive connects to a SATA II (3 Gbits/sec) controller. In addition, the Mac Pros also have at least one optical drive, plus space for a second optical drive. The 2006 through 2008 Mac Pro optical drives use an ATA-100 interface, while the 2009 through 2012 Mac Pro optical drives use the same SATA II interface as the hard drives.

HD install - 15

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Conventional Drive Expansion

The most popular method of expanding the Mac Pro’s internal storage is to add hard drives using the built-in drive sleds supplied by Apple. This method of upgrading is a snap. Pull out the drive sled, mount the new drive to the sled, and then pop the sled back into the drive bay.

The About: Macs web site already has a detailed step-by-step guide for installing an internal hard drive in a Mac Pro. Please refer to that guide for installation details; it will be part of the process for many of the storage upgrades we’re going to mention in this guide.

Read more on About: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

Ever since OS X Lion, the Mac operating system has supported the same method of adding diacritical marks to characters that is found in iOS devices. Now when you need to add an umlauttrema, or other glyph to your writing, you no longer have to use a font character viewer to gain access to the appropriate diacritical mark.

AccentMarkPanel

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

This simple process is part of OS X’s auto correct spelling feature. As such, it should work for the vast majority of existing applications that use the Mac’s built-in text handling.

No doubt there are a few applications that won’t support this new feature, likely because the developers have rolled their own text manipulation package, instead of using the one provided by OS X.

Read more on About: Macs.

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