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Archive for July, 2017

by Tom Nelson

Choosing the best Mac for back to school seems like it should be a simple matter. But before you shout out ‘MacBook!” or whichever Mac laptop is your favorite, you may want to take a look at this guide, which delves a bit deeper into which Mac is a good fit for schoolwork and beyond.

Is that MacBook, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro the best fit, or would a desktop, such as the Mac mini, iMac, or Mac Pro, be a better choice. Believe it or not, all Macs can work well in a learning environment, but of course each has its strengths and weaknesses. Some, like the 27-inch iMac, have a bonus benefit: it will also help strengthen your muscles, as you lug it to and from your classes.

Picking the Best Mac For Education & Beyond
One benefit of the Mac that’s sometimes overlooked is longevity. It’s likely the Mac you buy today will still be a productive computer five or more years down the road. Our 2010 Mac Pro is still chugging away, running the latest OS and apps without issues.

As a result, it’s highly likely that the Mac you buy for school will still be running long after you’ve put down your books and watched your school disappear in the rear-view mirror. Your Mac may even see you through your entire education and into your chosen profession. The point is, you may want to spend a little more up front to equip it for the long term. Even if you replace your Mac early in its useful life, you’ll likely be able to get a better return on a well-equipped Mac than a base-level model.

Want to Spend Less?
The prices we mention below are Apple retail prices. There are many sources for discounted Macs, especially if you’re willing to consider used or refurbished models. MacSales.com has an inventory of new, used, and refurbished Macs that are fully tested and inspected by its expert technicians; the Macs come with a 14-day money-back guarantee and a 90-day limited warranty.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

Chances are you’ve never had any problems with your Mac and this guide to common Mac error messages won’t be of interest to you.

Just kidding. It’s much more likely that you’ve seen at least a few of these error messages when using your Mac; after all, we consider them somewhat common.

While the Mac operating system tries to make it as easy as possible to understand error messages, sometimes the description leaves a bit to be desired. For this guide, we selected a number of common error messages, and explained what they mean, and how, when possible, to fix or avoid the condition that caused the error to occur.

So, in no particular order, let’s get started.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

‘Your computer’s clock is set to a date before March 24th, 2001. This may cause some applications to behave erratically’
This error message can indicate that your Mac’s PRAM/NVRAM/CMOS battery has exhausted its charge and may need to be replaced. The battery in question was used primarily in previous generations of the Mac to keep the PRAM or NVRAM, as well as a few other important bits of silicon in the Mac, operating, even when the Mac was disconnected from a power source. This allowed your Mac to remember such things as the time and date, the time zone you’re in, and a number of basic settings, including volume and brightness.

For the most part, modern Macs have done away with the special battery and rely on a portable Mac’s main battery, as well as the use of solid-state non-volatile memory, to store this type of information. But that doesn’t mean you won’t ever see this error message. If you do, then the PRAM/NVRAM likely contains corrupt information and needs to be reset, and, depending on the Mac model, may need a PRAM/CMOS battery replacement.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

‘Kernel Panic: You need to restart your Mac’
The dreaded kernel panic rears its ugly head by imposing a black or gray (depending on the version of the OS you’re using) rectangle over your Mac’s display, along with the words, “You need to restart your computer. Hold down the Power button for several seconds or press the Restart button.”

The best piece of advice we can give you if you find yourself in this situation is to resign yourself to your fate. Documents you had open at the time of the kernel panic likely won’t retain any of the more recent changes you made. At this point, there’s nothing you can do except restart your Mac.

So, what caused the kernel panic? It’s difficult to say. It’s possible to dig through the system logs and find out the last activity the processors were performing when the event occurred, but even this information may not shine a light on the real cause. Suffice it to say most kernel panics are one-off events that are not repeated on a regular basis. There’s a very good chance that the process of restarting your Mac, which will clear out memory and some caches, will be enough to keep the kernel panic from returning.

If it does return, you can try a few basic techniques to potentially resolve the issue so you can get back to work, including How to Use macOS Sierra Disk Utility to Verify or Repair Disks and Reset PRAM/NVRAM and SMC.

When your Mac starts back up, get back to work or play, and be thankful that you have current backups. You do maintain current backups, don’t you?

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

I’m pretty sure my web browser (Safari) is the most often used app on my Mac, though it could also be my mail client (Apple Mail). Both are always running whenever my Mac is on. But it’s no doubt the web browser that sees more interaction with me; browsing sites, researching projects, getting tips on solving problems, or watching videos and playing games. That’s probably true for you as well.

That’s why the browser is a good candidate for optimizing how it works to better meet your needs. There are many ways to optimize your browser, including trying to maximize speed, improve general performance, or get the best search results; the list goes on. It can also be different for everyone since we all use our browsers slightly differently, and it’s not always about speed. Many times optimization can take the form of making a task easier to perform, or making your browser work better with sites you routinely visit.

We’re going to look at techniques for getting the most out of four popular Mac browsers: Safari, Google Chrome, Opera, and Firefox. If these four browsers sound familiar, it may be because we recently put them to the test to see how well they perform under pressure in our Rocket Yard Testing Lab: Battle of the Mac Browsers guide.

Safari’s optional Develop menu brings many additional features to the browser, including an easy way to empty its cache. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

General Performance Improvements
We’re going to start by looking at customization tweaks for increasing performance that are common to all four browsers; then we’ll look at a few tricks for specific browsers.

Clear History and Cache files regularly: This may seem counterintuitive; after all, the browser’s cache files are designed to increase rendering performance by not requiring it to download page data it already has. But occasionally, this data can become out of date or corrupt, and can slow the browser down. Clearing the cache and history files every now and then is a good idea for general browser health and performance.

Safari: An easy way to clear the Safari cache is to enable the Developer menu and use its Empty Caches command. Open Safari, and then select Preferences from the Safari menu. Click the Advanced tab, and place a checkmark in the “Show Develop menu in menu bar” box.

Once the Develop menu item is added to the menu bar, you’ll find an Empty Caches item in the menu.

Chrome and Opera both include the option to clear the browser cache in their menus. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Chrome and Opera: Open the browser, and then select Clear Browsing Data from the Chrome or Opera menu. In the Clear Browsing Data window, make sure the following are checked: Browsing history, and Cache images and files. You can select other items to remove, but these two are the ones we’re interested in. Once you’ve made your selection, click the Clear Browsing Data button.

Firefox: Launch Firefox, then from the History menu select Clear Recent History. In the Clear Recent History window, click the Details chevron. In the list of items that can be cleared, place a checkmark in the Browsing & Download History checkbox, as well as the Cache checkbox. You can select additional items to be cleared, but these are the two we’re interested in. Click the Clear Now button.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

It may seem like summer is just getting underway, and that there are still many cool nights and hot, lazy days ahead to enjoy with friends. But deep down, you know a new school year is lurking just around the corner.

It doesn’t matter if this will be your first year of high school or the last year of your masters program; getting prepared for back to school is a task you’ll need to tackle; part of that is getting your Mac ready.

Upgrade, Replace, or Use Your Mac As-Is?
We’re going concentrate on using a Mac for your schoolwork, but this guide should be useable by anyone, regardless of computer operating system. You may discover that the institution that you’ll be attending favors one operating system over another for class work, but you’ll be ready for almost anything.

If there’s one thing a Mac is, it’s versatile. No matter which operating system or applications are recommended, your Mac can probably run the necessary software. You can use Boot Camp to dual boot between Mac and Windows, or between Mac and Linux; you can even triple boot; just select the operating system you need when you start up your Mac.

So, when one instructor tells you that you’ll be using a solid modeling program that only runs under Windows, and another tells you some flavor of Linux will be used for investigating network architecture, and a third wants you to use video editing apps that run on the Mac, you can handle it. You don’t need three different computer systems, unless you don’t have a spare Mac to take to school.

In addition to Boot Camp, virtualization apps, such as Parallels, allow you to run multiple operating systems with your Mac. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

In that case, you have a few choices. Apple has a wide selection of Macs you can pick from, but you can also find a large selection of used Macs, accessories, and more right here at MacSales.com.

You’ll find just about any recent vintage Mac model available, giving you a wide selection to choose from. And while MacBooks, MacBook Pros, and MacBook Airs are all popular choices for back to school, don’t overlook Mac minis, iMacs, and Mac Pros, which may meet some specific high-performance needs a little better than the Mac notebook lineup.

If you have a Mac already, you may want to consider a few upgrades.

Two of the most common upgrades undertaken by students are to add more RAM, to allow their Macs to work with memory-intensive apps, or simply to have more apps open at any one time, and to add storage space; that is, bigger, faster, or additional drives to make storing, organizing, and backing up files an easier task.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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