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Archive for December, 2016

by Tom Nelson

Terminal may be one of the least used but most powerful apps included with a Mac. At first glance, Terminal seems to be the antithesis of the Mac’s friendly GUI (Graphical User Interface), presenting instead a simple command line interface that harkens back to the days of glowing CRTs with green, amber, or whitish text, connected to some distant computer system.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The Mac’s Terminal app emulates the old terminals, and provides access to a UNIX shell, where you can issue commands to manipulate the UNIX system that underlies the Mac OS. The UNIX shell, in this case, a Bash shell, provides a command processor that can interpret text entered by the user. It’s not just simple text commands you enter, such as displaying the contents of a folder, that the Bash shell can process, but also scripts, chains of commands, piping, conditional testing, variables, and more. The entire syntax that the Bash shell understands is a bit beyond this article. If you’re interested in creating shell scripts, Apple provides a developer’s guide to scripting using Terminal and the various UNIX shells.

In the first part of our introduction to Terminal, we’re going to look at Terminal with an eye to more basic usage, primarily as a way to modify the standard behavior of the Mac OS. We’ll also look at some basic file system manipulation as examples of ways to use Terminal. So, let’s get started with how to launch and configure Terminal for your use.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog.

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by Tom Nelson

Ever since OS X Lion, the installation of the Mac OS has included the creation of a Recovery HD volume, hidden away on the Mac’s startup drive. In an emergency, you can boot to the Recovery HD and use Disk Utility to correct hard drive issues, go online and browse for information about the problems you’re having, or reinstall the Mac operating system.

You can discover more about how to use the Recovery HD volume in the guide: Use the Recovery HD Volume to Reinstall or Troubleshoot OS X.

recoverydiskassistant

Image courtesy of Apple

Recovery HD and External Drives

Apple also created a utility called OS X Recovery Disk Assistant that can create a copy of the Recovery HD on any bootable external drive you have connected to your Mac. This is good news for the many Mac users who would like to have the Recovery HD volume on a drive other than the startup volume. However, the utility can only create the Recovery HD volume on an external drive. This leaves out all of the Mac Pro, iMac, and even Mac mini users who may have multiple internal hard drives.

With the help of a few hidden Mac OS features, a little bit of time, and this step-by-step guide, you can create a Recovery HD volume anywhere you like including an internal drive.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

Having problems figuring out how much free space is available on your Mac? You’re not the only one. With the arrival of macOS Sierra, Apple changed how the OS calculates free space on a Mac. The change has more than a few folks scratching their heads, wondering what’s going on, and why they don’t seem to have as much free space on their drives as their Macs are telling them they have.

Is It Free Space or Purgeable Space?
One of the easiest, and certainly the most colorful, ways to see the amount of space taken up by purgeable files is to launch About This Mac from the Apple file menu, and then select the Storage tab. You may need to wait a short time while your Mac performs a few calculations, but eventually you’ll see a colorful bar graph depicting how the space on your various drives is being used.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The bar graph displays the space used by files, divided into categories. With macOS, new categories have been added, including iTunes, GarageBand, and System, in addition to the existing Apps, Photos, and Other. But it’s the last two categories at the far right side of the bar graph that interest us: Purgeable and Free space.

Free space is what it’s always been; storage space on your drive that isn’t currently marked as in use, and is available to your Mac’s file system to use as it pleases.

Free space is what used to show up in a Finder window’s status bar as Available. You can see this for yourself by opening a Finder window and selecting any folder, Desktop, or item. In the status bar (if needed, use the Finder’s View menu to select Show Status Bar), you’ll see the number of items in the current window, followed by the amount of free space available.

With macOS, the amount of available space shown in a Finder window is no longer just the free space, but is instead free space + purgeable space, though the Finder still just refers to it as Available.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

The process of installing OS X or macOS on a Mac 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.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The big advantage to downloading the Mac OS 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 the Mac operating system.

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.

To overcome these limitations of the installer for OS X or macOS, all you need is a USB drive that contains a bootable copy of the installer.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

Backups are one of the most important chores for all Mac users. This is especially true when you have a brand new Mac. Sure, we want to relish its newness, explore its capabilities. After all, it’s brand new, what could go wrong? Well, it’s a fundamental law of the universe, usually wrongly referenced to some guy named Murphy, But Murphy was just reminiscing about what earlier sages and wits already knew: if anything can go wrong, it will.

Before Murphy and his pessimistic buddies descend on your Mac, be sure you have a backup strategy in place.

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Image courtesy of Shirt Pocket Software

Back Up Your Mac

There are many different ways to back up your Mac, as well as many different backup applications to make the task easier. In this article, we’re going to look at backing up a Mac used for personal use. We won’t be delving into the methodologies used by businesses of various sizes. We’re only concerned here with a basic backup strategy for home users that is robust, inexpensive, and easy to implement.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

Speaking from personal experience, downloading and trying out new Mac utilities can quickly become an addiction. I’ve probably deleted more utilities than have been created for the Mac. How is that possible? Because I sometimes forget which ones I’ve already tried, and I end up taking a new version of an old utility for a spin.

While utilities come and go on my Mac, these five seem to always have a home; they provide just the features I need to make using my Mac easier.

Memory Clean 2

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. “Memory cleaning apps aren’t necessary. They can do more harm than good by clearing out inactive memory that may be used again by an app or service.”

While there’s some truth to that point of view, most of the time you’re better off letting your Mac take care of memory management, something it’s very good at it.

Yet…there it is in my menu bar: Memory Clean, my favorite memory cleaning app.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Memory Clean 2 from FIPLAB (basic version is free) is described as the ultimate app for optimizing your Mac’s memory. I’m not sure about that, but I will say it’s one of the better ways to monitor how your Mac’s memory is being used, how much free memory is still available, and which apps are hogging your Mac’s RAM.

What I like is its ability to display the amount of free memory available directly in the menu bar. You can also set a threshold, and if the free memory drops below that level, the menu bar icon turns red, letting you know you’re experiencing low memory. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve noticed my Mac running slow, and looked up to see the red Memory Clean icon.

Memory Clean can be set to auto clean memory at the threshold level, but I leave that option turned off. Instead, I look at the Memory Clean list of apps that are consuming the most memory. Closing an offending app frees up RAM and puts a bit of pep back into my Mac.

Memory Clean is a good replacement for some capabilities lost in recent versions of the Mac’s Activity Monitor. At one time, Activity Monitor could display memory information in its Dock icon, but that useful ability is gone.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

Boot Camp Assistant, a utility included with your Mac, provides the capability to add a new partition to your Mac’s startup drive in order to install and run Windows in a fully native environment. Boot Camp Assistant also provides the Windows drivers necessary to use Apple hardware, including such key items as the Mac’s built-in camera, audio, networking, keyboard, mouse, trackpad, and video. Without these drivers, Windows would still basically function, but the key word here is basic, as in extremely basic. You would not be able to change video resolution, make use of any audio, or connect to a network. And while the keyboard and mouse or trackpad should work, they will only provide the simplest of capabilities.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

With the Apple drivers that Boot Camp Assistant provides, you may discover that Windows and your Mac hardware are one of the best combinations for running Windows.

What Boot Camp Assistant Does for You

  • Partitions your Mac’s internal drive without losing data.
  • Provides the necessary drivers for Windows to recognize and use all of your Mac hardware.
  • Provides a Windows control panel that lets you select the environment the Mac will boot into. (Your Mac already has its own preference pane for selecting the boot environment.)
  • Includes the ability to remove the Windows partition and restore that space for use by your Mac.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

The new macOS Sierra made a number of changes in managing a Mac’s storage. Perhaps the biggest announcement was the hint at a new file system, APFS (APple File System), to replace the 30-year-old HFS+ that we all know and put up with.

HFS+ and HFS (a slightly earlier version of the Hierarchical File System) was an update to the MFS (Macintosh File System) that originally shipped with the Mac in 1984.

Both file systems were created back in the days of floppy disks, which were the primary storage medium for the Mac, when spinning hard drives were an expensive option offered by third parties.

In the past, Apple has flirted with replacing HFS+, but APFS seems like it’s the real deal. Here’s why.

Optimized for Today and Tomorrow’s Storage Technology

Did I mention that HFS+ was implemented when 800 kb floppies were king? Current Macs may not be using floppies, but spinning hard drives are beginning to seem just as archaic. With Apple emphasizing flash-based storage in all of its products, a file system optimized to work with rotational media, and the inherent latency in waiting for a disk to spin around, just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

APFS is designed from the get-go for SSD and other flash-based storage systems. Even though APFS is optimized for how solid-state storage works, it will perform quite well with modern hard drives as well.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance your Mac just suffered a kernel panic and you’re searching for what to do next. We’ve got the answer, and it’s simple: Don’t panic. Instead, take a deep breath, relax, and know that almost all kernel panics are transitory; events that aren’t likely to keep repeating. You don’t need to live in fear that in the next minute, your Mac will crash once again.

On the downside, you likely lost any unsaved work up to the point of the kernel panic. There’s a remote chance that some work may have been saved in the last Time Machine backup.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

What a Kernel Panic Is
In UNIX-based operating systems, such as OS X and macOS, a panic is an unrecoverable error that was detected by the operating system kernel. It’s unrecoverable because the kernel, the basic heart of the operating system, can’t figure out how to get back on track. In essence, it’s lost, and not sure how it got here. When this occurs, the kernel runs the panic function code that tells it what to do in these situations. Unfortunately, about the best the kernel can do once it runs the panic code is collect some data about the current condition of the processors, and what processes were running, and then halt or restart your Mac.

In OS X Lion and earlier, a panic resulted in the screen dimming and a message in multiple languages that said: “You need to restart your computer. Hold down the Power button for several seconds or press the restart button.” The message was white text on a black background.

OS X Mountain Lion changed the look and sequence by automatically restarting the Mac, and then displaying a text message similar to the one above, but with black text on a gray background.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

The Mac refurb store is beginning to look like Old Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard; mostly bare. Mac minis remain out of stock, and all sizes and models of the MacBook Pro have left the store.

If Mac models don’t start appearing in the refurb store again, it may be a bad holiday season for anyone looking for a Mac at a reduced price.

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Image courtesy of Apple

Deals of the Week

Our deals this week include a current generation Apple TV; just the thing for streaming TV, movies, and music in your home. The fourth-generation Apple TV brings support for third-party apps, letting you use it for all kinds of entertainment-related fun, including games.

Our second deal is for an ASUS RT-AC68U Wireless AC1900 Dual-Band Router. Apple reassigned the engineering team that was responsible for the AirPort line of wireless routers. With no new models of AirPort routers likely to be seen, you’ll need to turn to third-party networking hardware to meet your needs. The RT-AC68U works fine with Apple products, and includes high-speed connectivity, security, and dual-band options.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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