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Archive for August, 2016

by Tom Nelson

The Magic Mouse is by far the best Apple mouse to date. But even though Apple is known for spending a great deal of time on design, ergonomics, and quality assurance, the Magic Mouse has a few quirks that some people (including me) have noticed.

MagicMouseTrackpad

Image courtesy of Apple

I’ve already provided details about how to fix the Magic Mouse disconnects that have been plaguing some users. After the disconnect issue, the next most common complaint is a Magic Mouse that suddenly stops tracking or becomes jerky.

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by Tom Nelson

Corel Painter 2017 is the latest version of Corel’s well-regarded painting app. But to call it a painting app does it a great disservice; it brings to mind a primitive bitmap painting app, like the original MacPaint. Corel Painter is unlike any other painting app for the Mac.

CorelPainter2017

Image courtesy of Corel

Perhaps a better description is to call Painter 2017 one of the very best digital art applications; it provides convincing counterpoints to the analog tools commonly used by those working with oils, pastels, watercolors, charcoals, and colored pencils. But it doesn’t stop there. Painter is an impressive digital art studio, ready for those already working in digital media, including illustrators, manga, comics, graphic novels, fine art, and concept art, just to name a few.

Read more on About: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

Mac minis are in good supply, and the Mac refurb store has all of its shelves just about fully stocked. That’s a great thing to see with the close of the summer season and most schools about to open, if they haven’t opened already. There’s plenty to choose from, even this late in the summer.

Last week, I mentioned that we would no longer include a Mac Accessories category in the weekly Apple Steals & Deals because Apple hasn’t provided any meaningful updates to the category since 2013. Instead, I’ll be highlighting great deals on Mac accessories from other sources, starting with next week’s deals. Who knows what deals I’ll find, in a wide-open category that could include everything from external drives to wireless routers to, well, just about anything that can work with a Mac. It’s going to be interesting.

2015macbookair

Image courtesy of Apple

Deals of the Week

This week, I was looking for Macs with above-average performance and a reasonable price tag for those who have been procrastinating on picking a Mac for going back to school.

Up first is a small and lightweight 2015 11.6-inch MacBook Air with a Dual-Core i7 processor and a reasonably sized 256 GB PCIe flash storage system. This Mac would be ideal for toting to and from school or work, while still having enough performance for both general and some advanced usage.

If you need a bit more performance, as well as a larger and versatile display, then how about a 2015 15.4-inch MacBook Pro with a Quad-Core i7 processor, a very nice Retina display, 1 TB of extremely fast PCIe flash-based storage, and not one but two graphics subsystems: an Intel Iris Pro for day-to-day use, and an AMD Radeon R9 M370X system for when your graphics need to be kicked up a notch or two.

The last deal this week is for a nicely configured Mac mini that would work well in a dorm or small office space. Configured with a Dual-Core i7 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and 512 GB PCIe-flash based storage, this mini is only small in size; it has plenty of performance for a small desktop Mac.

Read more on About: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

Time Machine is a pretty handy backup system for the Mac. I like it primarily because it’s a set-and-forget system. Once you set it up, you rarely have any reason, other than curiosity or a disaster, to make use of a Time Machine backup.

timemachinepref200x133

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

But how do you know those Time Machine backups are actually good, that you can rely on them if your Mac’s drives come crashing down around you?

Well, if you happen to use a Time Capsule as the backup destination for your Time Machine backups, you can have Time Machine verify that the most recent backup was completed successfully, without any errors that would cause you grief down the road.

If, on the other hand, you’re using a local drive, either internal or attached to your Mac as an external drive, then verifying that a Time Machine backup is correct is a bit more difficult, if not nearly impossible.

Read more on About: Macs.

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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.

InternalSpeakersAdjustment

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).

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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.

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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.

FileSharingAccessPriv

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.

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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.

ScrollingDirection

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.

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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.

MacBookPro15Yosemite

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.

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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.

MacsFanControl

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.

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