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Archive for March, 2017

by Tom Nelson

Disk Utility, the all-purpose tool for working with storage devices connected to the Mac, has long had the ability to create partitions and manage the resulting volumes. It has been the go-to tool for formatting a Mac’s drives, erasing data, securely wiping information, and creating multiple partitions.

With the advent of OS X Leopard, Disk Utility picked up a much-prized feature: the ability to non-destructively resize existing volumes and partitions. Before OS X Leopard, you needed to fully back up all the data on a drive if you intended to alter the drive’s partition map in any way. That’s because changing the partitions, by adding, removing, or resizing, resulted in the loss of all data on the volume.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Thankfully, you can now resize a partition without losing data, provided you follow a few basic rules.

Resizing was pretty straightforward with OS X Leopard through OS X Yosemite, but starting with OS X El Capitan, Disk Utility underwent a user interface makeover that altered how partitions were resized.

We’re going to look at how to resize a partition without losing data with the new (OS X El Capitan and later) version of Disk Utility.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

The Mac OS is chock full of hidden areas where data, information, or features have been secreted away from Mac users. One of these clandestine locations is the users library folder, commonly written out as ~/Library/.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

What’s In Your Library?
Although hidden, the users library folder contains quite a lot of useful information. This is one of the places where apps tend to keep any necessary support files. It’s also a preferred location for preference files used by apps to customize their user interface to meet your needs.

The ~/Library folder may also contain logs, preference panes, printers, screen savers, and fonts. Essentially, the users library folder can contain any application- or service-related information that is specific to a user. As an example, consider the Safari browser. It stores individual preference files in each user’s library folder. This allows each user to customize Safari independently of the others, without requiring multiple copies of the Safari app to be installed.

Why Hide the ~/Library Folder?
The users library folder hasn’t always been hidden. It used to be just another folder in a user’s home directory, readily available from the Finder. That changed when Apple released OS X Lion, and the ~/Library folder was banished from the Finder.

We don’t know Apple’s reason for removing the ~/Library folder from sight, but we can guess: Apple support was tired of calls from users complaining about various apps no longer working, or acting strangely. In many cases, tech support was probably able to trace the problem to app support files in the users library folder being deleted or manipulated without authorization, so to speak.

Hiding the ~/Library folder was an easy, and effective, solution.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

Passwords. They’re one of the banes of modern life. I know I should be using unique and strong passwords for every account or service I use. But when you consider that the minimum requirements for a strong password can include:

  • 12 or more characters
  • Lowercase, uppercase, numbers, and symbols
  • No character repetition, use of a keyboard pattern (such as qwertyasdfg), dictionary words, character sequences, pet names, relatives, usernames, or romantic interests

It’s enough to make my head explode, just thinking about trying to remember all the passwords I would need. That’s why I gave up a while ago, and moved on to using a password manager to keep track of my login details for me.

Password Managers
Nowadays, a password manager is a must-have app. Your Mac even comes with Keychain Access, an app for making use of the Mac’s Keychain manager for storing passwords, certificates, and even encrypted notes. Keychain simplifies password management for Mac-based services and apps, such as Mail. But while it does a great job of handling system-related passwords, it’s not the friendliest password manager for general use.

That’s where third-party password managers come into play. In this guide, we’re going to look at some of the popular password managers available for the Mac, and other computing devices you may use.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

1Password
Currently at version 6, 1Password may be the most well-known password manager for the Mac. And why not; it’s been around for ages, has an easy-to-use and easy-to-understand user interface, and eliminates the burden of keeping track of a gazillion passwords, allowing you to use large, very strong passwords without the need to memorize any password except the one that lets you access the 1Password app.

1Password keeps your data safe, stored in encrypted vaults using AES-256 encryption and PBKDF2 key derivation. Everything in your 1Password vault is encrypted; passwords, notes, website names, and URLS. If it’s placed in the vault, only you can see the information.

1Password stores and can auto-fill web forms with login, credit card, and other information you choose to store within the app. Generating a new highly secure password couldn’t be easier with the included password generator. You can choose from a number of “recipes” for generating a password, which allows you to adjust the complexity to meet a site’s password requirements.

1Password isn’t just for web-based logins. A large number of apps also support 1Password, allowing you to automatically log in to Twitter, Dropbox, Slack, Buffer, eBay, and more.

1Password also includes a security audit that goes well beyond the basics offered by other password managers. Besides checking for weak or duplicate passwords, and making sure passwords get changed in a timely fashion, 1Password also keeps track of websites that have had security breaches and checks to see if you have an account for that website in 1Password. If so, the security audit will catch the problem and let you know to change the password associated with the site.

1Password is available not only for the Mac, but just about every platform you may use. And it can keep all your devices synced to ensure that a new login you create on your Mac is available from any of the devices on which you’re running 1Password.

1Password supports unlimited installation on devices you use, so there’s no reason to be carrying around pieces of paper with your login information anymore.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

The Mac comes equipped with a number of apps, including Safari, Mail, Photos, Calendar, Contacts, and many more, that are used every day by most Mac users.

There’s also a class of apps known as utilities that are often overlooked by both new and well-seasoned Mac users. That’s why this week, we’re going to look at utility apps everyone should be aware of.

Mac Utility Apps
For the most part, the utilities we mention come with a Mac, meaning you don’t need to find and download them; they’re already present, although a few are well hidden. But we’re not going to limit our look at utilities to just those available from Apple. Many third-party developers have created very useful utilities that either supplement an existing Apple utility or provide new capabilities or services.

The utilities mentioned in this guide have all been tested with macOS Sierra, and we expect they’ll work with newer versions of the Mac OS as well. These utilities have all worked with previous versions of the Mac OS, but we didn’t research when they first became available.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Activity Monitor
One of the utilities I use most often, Activity Monitor, is available at /Applications/Utilities/. I have Activity Monitor configured to start automatically at startup, and show disk activity in the app’s Dock icon. You can also set the Dock icon to display CPU usage and network traffic. Surprisingly, Activity Monitor’s Dock icon can’t display memory usage, something it was able to do in previous versions. Thankfully, there are quite a few third-party apps that can monitor memory usage, which we’ll get into shortly.

Activity Monitor displays real-time, or close to real-time, status about how your Mac’s resources are being used; specifically, CPU, Memory, Energy, Disk, and Network resources. Activity Monitor provides access to each category through a tab interface on its toolbar.

Ever wonder which app is hogging your CPU resources, making your Mac feel sluggish? Activity Monitor can tell you with the click of the CPU tab, letting you know the percentage of CPU power being used, how much CPU time a particular app is using, and a number of other useful bits of information.

Activity Monitor can also let you know how your memory is being used, and can be used to help you decide whether additional memory would be helpful. The Energy tab can let you know which apps and processes are sucking the most life from a laptop’s battery, while the Disk tab shows you which apps are using your disk resources the most. And finally, the Network tab lets you know which apps are network hogs; it also provides an overall look at network performance.

Activity Monitor can also kill apps and processes that are running, as well as display information about a running app, including which files are currently in use. In addition, Activity Monitor includes a number of diagnostics that can help pinpoint problems with your Mac, specifically, System Diagnostics and Spotlight Diagnostics.

Most of these diagnostic reports are geared toward helping developers and Apple support personnel troubleshoot problems, either with your Mac or a specific app. If you would like to try out the diagnostics, open Activity Monitor, then click on the gear menu and select Run System Diagnostics. Once the diagnostics are completed, a Finder window will open and show you a zipped file that, when expanded, contains a number of text files showing the results of all the diagnostics that were run.

If you need to kill a runaway process, simply select the process from the list, and then click the kill button (it looks like an X in a stop sign).

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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