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Archive for September, 2016

by Tom Nelson

Have you ever found yourself in the position where a CD or DVD was stuck in your Mac’s optical drive? Depending on the Mac model you own, getting the stuck disc out can be difficult, if not nearly impossible.

Or at least, so it seems. The problem arises because Apple has completely hidden the optical drive’s mechanical eject button on most Macs. Yes, that’s right; Apple’s desire for cutting-edge design has resulted in one of the basic ways to eject stuck media no longer being an option for Mac users.

osxstartupmanager

Image courtesy of Apple

In the Windows world, you’ll find the optical drives on most PCs have a small hole near the front. Press a paper clip into the hole, and the drive will eject any media in the drive; very convenient.

On the Mac, the hole is missing, and all eject functions are performed electrically by sending an eject command to the drive. This shouldn’t be much of an issue for Mac users, as the result will be the same. Who cares whether the ejection was performed because of a paper clip or the operating system sending an eject command?

Read more on About: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

The Apple refurb store posted a couple of price drops this week, mostly for the various models in the iPad lineup. But there were a few other price drops scattered around the store as well. So, if you’ve been monitoring a favorite product looking for a price drop, this may be the time to check it.

crucialmx300

Image courtesy of Micron Technology, Inc.

Deals of the Week

Our deals this week are just a little bit different; instead of two Mac models making the deals list, we have a single Mac along with an SSD as our deals this week.

The first deal is for a 2015 13.3-inch MacBook Pro with a Retina display, 8 GB RAM, and 256 GB flash-based storage; overall, a very nice configuration that should work well for most users.

Our second deal is for a Crucial MX300 SSD with 525 GB of storage. This 2.5-inch SSD would make a nice upgrade for a current Mac that only has a standard hard drive. It could be installed internally for those of you with pretty good DIY skills, or if you added an inexpensive enclosure, you could use the SSD as an external drive, with no need to spend a weekend performing Mac surgery to install the SSD.

Read more on About: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

The Mac’s Dock has undergone a few revisions over time. It started life as a basic 2D Dock that was flat and slightly translucent, and included the original Aqua pinstripe interface elements that were part of OS X Puma.

OS X Cheetah and Tiger’s Dock looked the same, although the Aqua pinstripes were gone.

cdockthemes

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

OS X Leopard (10.5.x) introduced the 3D Dock, which makes Dock icons appear to be standing up on a ledge. Some people like the new look, and some prefer the older 2D look from OS X Tiger (10.4.x). OS X Mountain Lion and Mavericks kept the 3D look by adding a glass-like appearance to the Dock ledge.

With the release of OS X Yosemite, the Dock reverted to its original 2D look, minus the Aqua-themed pinstripes.

If the 3D Dock isn’t to your taste, you can use Terminal to switch to the 2D visual implementation. Can’t decide? Try them both. Changing from one to the other takes a matter of minutes.

Read more on About: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

If you’re like many of us, you have a gazillion songs in your iTunes Library, but you only listen to a relatively small group of them on a regular basis. Or, you listen to much, most, or even all of your library, but there are some songs that you like to hear more often than others.

itunesrating

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Conversely, there may be a few songs that you’ve gotten tired of, or perhaps you have a few songs you should just never have acquired. No more late-night Jägermeister-fueled trips to the iTunes Store to buy music.

No matter the reason, songs you like or songs you no longer care for, you can use the iTunes rating system to help control which songs are played, find your favorites, even help you set up Smart Playlists.

In this guide, we’re going to look at how to use the iTunes rating system, as well as how to use a sneaky Terminal trick to allow for the use of half stars in the ratings.

Read more on About: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

The Apple refurb store posted a couple of price drops this week, mostly for the various models in the iPad lineup. But there were a few other price drops scattered around the store as well. So, if you’ve been monitoring a favorite product looking for a price drop, this may be the time to check it.

2014MacMini

Image courtesy of Apple

Deals of the Week

Our deals this week include two different desktop Macs, and in the Mac Accessories category, USB flash drives.

Our first deal is for a 2014 Mac mini with a 2.8 GHz Dual-Core i5, 8 GB of RAM, and a 1 TB Fusion drive. This is a nice configuration for a Mac mini, balancing cost and performance.

Up next is a 27-inch iMac with Retina Display. With a 3.2 GHz Quad-Core i5, 8 GB of user expandable RAM, and a 1 TB flash drive, this iMac is ready to perform for you out of the box, but you can also easily add more RAM to give it an extra performance boost.

Our last deal is for 32 GB USB 3 flash drives. You can never have too many flash drives kicking around, and these USB 3-based models provide a good deal more performance than the older USB 2 variety usually seen at discount prices.

Read more on About: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

Enpass is a cross-platform password manager that works for Macs, Windows, Android, iOS, Blackberry, and Linux. Its strength is its ability to make your login information available to you no matter where you are or what type of device you’re using.

enpassitems

Image courtesy of Sinew Software Systems

Pro

  • Desktop versions of Enpass are free.
  • Browser extension allows Enpass to capture login data, as well as complete login data fields for you.
  • Uses Open Source SQLCipher 256-bit AES encryption engine.
  • Supports TOTP (Time-based One Time Password)
  • Doesn’t store your data on any Enpass servers.

Con

  • Mobile pro versions require a one-time fee.
  • Enpass for Mac comes in two different confusing versions.

Enpass from Sinew Software is a mostly free password manager for the Mac. I say mostly free because while the desktop version of the Enpass app is free, the mobile version is offered in a limited-use format for free, or in a pro version for a one-time fee of $9.99 per mobile platform.

We’re going to concentrate on the Mac desktop version, though I’ve been told that all of the desktop versions of Enpass have almost the same features.

Read more on About: Macs.

 Read more on About: Macs.

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Get Siri Working on Your Mac

by Tom Nelson

Since the release of macOS Sierra, Apple has included the ever-popular Siri digital assistant from iOS devices. Now Siri is waiting in the wings to be the assistant for us Mac users as well.

While Siri is included with macOS, it isn’t enabled by default, and requires you to make a small effort to turn the Siri service on. This makes sense for many reasons, including privacy and security.

siripreferencepane

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Security and Privacy With Siri

From a security perspective, Siri uses Apple’s cloud-based services to perform many of its basic functions. Many companies have explicit policies about the use of cloud-based services, specifically to prevent corporate secrets from ending up in the cloud, where the company has no control over them. Even if you don’t work for a company that’s concerned about secrets, you should be aware that Siri will be uploading data to the cloud to help it answer questions you may ask.

When you use Siri, the things you say are recorded and sent to Apple’s cloud platform, which then processes the request.

Read more on About: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

The Mac has long had the ability to capture screenshots by pressing the command + shift + 3 keys (that’s the command key, plus the shift key, plus the number 3 from the top keyboard row, pressed together at the same time). This simple keyboard command captures an image of your entire screen.

mapsscreencaptureelement

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The other commonly used keyboard combination for screenshots is command + shift + 4. This keyboard combination lets you draw a rectangle over the area you wish to capture.

There’s a third screenshot keyboard combo that’s often overlooked, yet it’s by far the most powerful. This keyboard combo lets you capture a screenshot of a particular window element. When you use this keyboard combo, each window element will be highlighted as you move your cursor over it. Click the mouse and you can capture just that element. The beauty of this method is that the captured image requires little or no cleanup.

As long as the window element is present when you press this keyboard combo, you can grab an image of it.

Read more on About: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

We have quite a few Terminal tricks we like to share with Mac users. Most provide clearly functional improvements to using the Mac. But sometimes, it’s just time for a bit of fun; with that in mind, we give you the Say command.

“Say” is a Terminal command that will speak anything you type after the command. You can try it out by launching Terminal, located at /Applications/Utilities, and then typing or copy/pasting the examples given here.

terminal500x500

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

A simple example:

say hello

Will cause your Mac to speak the word hello.

You can also specify which voice your Mac should use when it speaks the say command by using the -v attribute. An example:

say -v fred hello

In this case, the voice named Fred will be used to speak the word hello.

Read more on About: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

Some stock in the Mac App store is showing signs of running low. This is particularly true of the 2015 MacBook lineup, which is showing only the base model as available in all colors, and no stock at all of the high-end configuration.

Mac minis, as usual, are having stocking problems, and there are holes in the MacBook Air lineup, particularly the larger 13.3-inch models.

We’re expecting some new Mac models to be announced sometime in the fall, most likely a new MacBook Pro, but that rarely causes turmoil in the Mac refurb store. Perhaps we’re just seeing Mac models being pulled from the store to be provisioned with the brand new macOS Sierra, which will be released on the 20th of September.

2015macbookair

Image courtesy of Apple

Deals of the Week

Deals this week are for two of the popular portable Mac models, a MacBook Air and a MacBook Pro.

Let’s start with the 13.3-inch 2016 MacBook Air. This Mac is equipped with a 1.6 GHz i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB PCIe flash storage. As configurations go, this is pretty run of the mill, but it’s far from shabby and it has a great price associated with it, so scan down to the MacBook Air section for further details.

Up next is a 2015 13.3-inch MacBook Pro. The smaller of the MacBook Pro models still sports a Retina display and a fast 2.7 GHz i5 processor. You will find 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB PCIe-based flash storage system, all at a very nice price. You can find more details in the MacBook Pro section, below.

Read more on About: Macs.

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