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Archive for July, 2016

by Tom Nelson

Most of the Mac models remain well stocked; the exception is the Mac mini, which is once again out of stock, at least for the time being. This still leaves plenty of other Mac models from which to choose this week’s deals.

But before we move on to the deals, a word about how I make the choices. The first thing I look for is value, which is one reason you rarely see Macs dressed up with every possible option. The other important criteria are that RAM and storage are adequate for the types of tasks the Macs will likely be put through. For RAM, I generally like to see a minimum of 8 GB; this is especially important on Mac models that don’t allow you to upgrade the RAM.

As for storage, I try to avoid Macs equipped with slow 5400 RPM hard drives, as these will always be a bottleneck in performance, not to mention day-to-day use. Fusion drives and solid-state flash drives are preferred, as they will help a Mac’s performance in routine activities. One of the things I don’t like is waiting for a routine task to be performed, so storage selection is important to me.

iMac27Retina2015

Image courtesy of Apple

Deals of the Week

Up first is a 2015 15.4-inch Retina MacBook Pro with 16 GB of RAM and a fast 256 GB PCIe-based flash storage system. This Mac should work for anyone who needs to run a large number of apps at the same time, or one or two critical apps that can make use of the Mac’s fast storage or ample RAM.

Next up is a desktop Mac, for those who like to work from a comfortable spot, with a nicely worn chair and a desk that can accommodate a 27-inch 2015 Retina iMac. Equipped with 8 GB of RAM, this one just meets my minimum requirements. But the 27-inch iMac is one of the few Macs that still support user installable RAM, so you can upgrade this Mac at any time, and for considerably less than what Apple would have charged for the additional RAM up front. For storage, this iMac uses a 2 TB Fusion drive, which provides a nice amount of storage space.

Read more on About: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

Do you enjoy tweaking your Mac, trying to get maximum performance out of its hardware? Or perhaps you’re having some type of intermittent problem that you think may be related to your Mac’s internal temperature, or other stress factors your Mac is under.

SystemMonitorPrefElCap

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

There are quite a few system monitor apps available for the Mac, including some like Activity Monitor, which is supplied free with the Mac. But for those power users looking for monitoring tools, Marcel Bresink’s System Monitor is hard to beat.

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by Tom Nelson

Have you ever forgotten your Mac’s administrator account password? That’s the account you first set up on your Mac. The Apple setup utility ran you through the process of creating the account and then sent you off to use your Mac.

resetpasswordhint

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

If you can’t remember your administrator password, you may have difficulty logging in to your account or performing various tasks that require an administrator password. Luckily, you can reset a user account password, including any administrator account, using one of the following methods.

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by Tom Nelson

You can use the Apple Hardware Test (AHT) to diagnose issues you’re having with your Mac’s hardware. This can include problems with your Mac’s display, graphics, processor, memory, and storage. The Apple Hardware Test can be used to rule out most hardware failure as the culprit when you’re trying to troubleshoot problems you’re experiencing with your Mac.

Actual hardware failure is rare, but it does happen from time to time; the most common hardware failure is RAM. The Apple Hardware Test can check your Mac’s RAM and let you know if there are any issues with it. With many Mac models, you can easily replace faulty RAM yourself, and save a few dollars in the process.

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by Tom Nelson

In a bit of a surprise, the Mac refurb store has run out of stock of the Mac mini. I was beginning to think this summer was going to be a bit unusual, and that the store would remain well stocked through the back-to-school rush. Although the Mac minis are bound to be back in stock soon, it’s always a shame to see them gone; they’re a very popular option for students, small businesses, and home offices, as well as anyone who wants to build a home entertainment system.

iMac27Retina2015

Image courtesy of Apple

Deals of the Week

Our deals this week start with a 2016 model of the 13.3-inch MacBook Air. The 2016 models were refreshed last April, so this MacBook Air is about as current as you can get in the refurb store. Equipped with 8 GB RAM and a 128 GB PCIe flash storage system, this portable Mac provides a nice bit of performance in a small package.

Our second deal is for something a bit larger: a 2015 27-inch Retina iMac. Sporting a Quad-Core i5, 8 GB RAM, and a 1 TB Fusion drive, this iMac is nicely configured, and can be a great choice for those who need a desktop Mac and its large Retina display for working on photos and videos.

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by Tom Nelson

Just how fast is that new drive you have hooked up to your Mac? This may be a common question, but the answer is anything but easy to come by. Check a manufacturer’s website, and you’re likely to find yourself stumbling through a mess of marketing gobbledygook, citing performance numbers with no context.

DiskSpeedTest

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

That’s one reason why I make use of a number of benchmark utilities for testing the performance of various aspects of a Mac, including how well the internal or external storage drives perform.

With a number of benchmarking tools to choose from, one of the first ones I grab to get a quick look at overall drive performance is Blackmagic Disk Speed Test.

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by Tom Nelson

Chances are you use at least one Bluetooth wireless peripheral with your Mac. I have a Magic Mouse and a Magic Trackpad paired to my desktop Mac; many folks also have wireless keyboards, speakers, phones, or other devices connected via Bluetooth wireless.

MagicMouse2

Image courtesy of Apple

After all, Bluetooth is just plain convenient, both for devices that are always connected to your Mac, and those you only use occasionally. But if the email I receive is any indication, Bluetooth connectivity can cause pull-your-hair-out types of problem when things stop working as expected.

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by Tom Nelson

Time Machine has many tricks up its sleeve to ensure error-free backups, as well as backups that take as little time as possible to complete. In some cases, these two goals can force Time Machine to take a long time preparing for a backup to begin.

TMBackupPrep

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Time Machine uses an inventory system that OS X creates as part of the file system. In essence, any file that has been changed in any way is logged. Time Machine can compare this log of file changes against its own inventory of files. This log comparison system allows Time Machine to create incremental backups, which generally don’t take much time to perform, while still maintaining a complete backup of your files.

Normally, unless you’ve made major changes or added a number of new files to your drive, the “preparing backup” process is very quick. In fact, it’s so quick that most Time Machine users never notice it, except for the very first Time Machine backup, where the preparation phase does indeed take a long time.

Read more on About: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

In June of 2014, I decided to do a bit of a change-up to my usual weekly Mac software pick. At the time, Apple had just officially acknowledged that Aperture would finish active development, and that iPhoto would be replaced with a new Photos app. It seemed like a good idea to use my weekly software picks column to provide some insight into photo management applications that might be good candidates to replace Aperture or iPhoto.

EmulsionIcon

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

While pieces of Photos were shown at WWDC, the actual product seemed a bit nebulous, with a great deal of work to be done before it was ready for release.

That was then; this is now. Over time, this software pick has morphed into a repository for photo management apps for the Mac. I’ll continue to add photo-related apps to this collection, which will take it well past the 5 Photo Management Apps seen in the original title. To be included, an app must have some management function to help you keep track of your images; it can’t be just a photo editor.

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by Tom Nelson

Time Machine is an easy-to-use backup system with a nice collection of features that make it the go-to backup system for most Mac users. But like all backup applications, Time Machine is subject to errors and problems that can creep in and cause you to worry about your backups.

TimeMachineIcon128x128

Image courtesy of Apple

One of the common problems you may come across is Time Machine being unable to access the backup disk. The error message is usually:

“The backup volume is read only”

The good news is that your backup files are probably all in good working order and no backup data has been lost. The bad news is that you can’t back up any new data to your Time Machine drive until you get this problem fixed.

The cause of the error message depends on a few factors, but in all cases, your Mac thinks the drive has had its permissions changed to be read only. But don’t head off and try to reset the permissions because it won’t do you any good. Instead, follow these simple steps.

Read more on About: Macs.

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