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Archive for September, 2017

by Tom Nelson

MacOS High Sierra is finally ready for release. It endured the summer beta program, and is now available through the Mac App Store for anyone to download and install.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

We’re always grateful that new versions of the operating system go through an extensive beta process, but it always seems a few issues will still be lurking, ready to pop up and surprise us.

With that in mind, here are some of the more common problems you may encounter when upgrading to macOS High Sierra.

Note: Before upgrading to any new or updated operating system, it’s a good idea to have a current backup in place.

Upgrading From the Beta
If you’re a beta tester, you may have a slightly more difficult time upgrading than the rest of us; it all depends on whether you installed the new APFS (Apple File System) during the beta testing. Apple backed away from its original goal of having APFS ready to go for all Mac configurations. Instead, it’s releasing macOS High Sierra with APFS only for Macs using SSDs (Solid State Drives). If you converted a Fusion drive during the beta, it needs to be reverted to HFS+ before you can install macOS High Sierra.

Unfortunately, Apple isn’t providing any tools to revert the file system. Instead, you’re required to back up your current data with Time Machine, erase and reformat the affected drive(s), install macOS High Sierra, and then migrate your backed up data to the fresh install.

Apple includes instructions for the process, specifically using Time Machine as the backup app. It seems you should also be able to perform this task by creating a clone using Carbon Copy Cloner or one of the other popular cloning tools. Nevertheless, even if you decide to create a clone, we highly recommend you also create a Time Machine backup, especially if the clone is the only copy of your data you will have.

You’ll need a drive partitioned as HFS+ for the Time Machine backup. This can be an existing Time Machine drive as long as it’s formatted as HFS+. You’ll also need to create a bootable macOS High Sierra installer; a 16 GB or larger USB flash drive or an external drive can serve this purpose.

Warning: The process of creating the bootable installer will erase the contents of the selected drive volume.

Apple has posted instructions in its support area for Preparing Your Fusion Drive Mac for the macOS High Sierra Install. It covers two methods for converting a Fusion Drive back to HFS+ and installing macOS High Sierra. The instructions are a bit sparse, but should be sufficient for getting the job done. If you have any questions regarding the process, be sure to post them in the Comments section below.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

Safari 11, included with macOS High Sierra, has a number of new features. It’s also one of the fastest browsers, at least when it comes to rendering and running JavaScript. But one feature that’s turning heads in the web-marketing arena is Safari’s new ability to prevent cross-site tracking using ITP (Intelligent Tracking Prevention).

ITP, along with how Safari manages cross-site cookies, can cut down on the ability of web-based ad services to track your movements around the web. It’s this tracking ability that leads to focused ads appearing in many different and unrelated websites. For example, after looking for a new winter coat at your favorite clothier’s web site, you might discover that wherever you go on the web, an ad for winter apparel is present.

While Safari and ITP may put an end to many of the annoying ads that follow you around the web, as well as create a bit more personal security, it may also have a few unintended consequences that may result in a favorite website or two not working correctly, until they receive an update to work with ITP.

You may find you need to revert back to the old way that Safari managed cookies when visiting a few sites, including some sites (banking and financial services come to mind) that use a centralized login system that provides sign-in service for multiple related sites. In that case, there’s a good chance that ITP’s machine learning system will mistake the central sign-in service as an ad tracker, forcing you to sign in repeatedly.

With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at how to manage Safari’s new privacy settings, and how you can enable and disable ITP in Safari.

Cookie Management and Cross-Site Tracking
Safari 11 (and later versions) disables cross-site tracking as its default configuration, so out of the box, you should notice fewer obviously targeted ads appearing in the websites you visit. To be clear, Safari isn’t stripping out ads from websites; the websites you visit will still display ads; they just won’t be explicitly targeted to you, based on other websites and products you’ve viewed.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

But, wait; you say you’re seeing targeted ads even though cross-site tracking is enabled? Yup, you may still see targeted ads for one of two reasons: either the web advertisers have implemented new technology to get around ITP, or you’re seeing ads based on a site you routinely access.

ITP uses a 24-hour window that allows for some tracking, mostly in the form of a persistent cookie that can be used to allow you to automatically sign in to a site. But third parties who provide web resources, such as images or ads, to the site can use the same cookie to track the fact that you visited the site. That’s why you may still see some ads tracking you around the web. After 24 hours, the cookie is automatically disabled for tracking functions, but retains its ability to be used for auto sign in to a site.

After 30 days, the ITP system purges the cookie completely, requiring you to manually log in should you return to the site in question.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Because ITP is a new technology involving machine learning, it’s likely that we’ll see updates to Safari that will make some changes in the cookie management system, but when macOS High Sierra is first released, what we described above will be the default ITP behavior.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

When it comes to choosing an external enclosure to house an SSD or hard drive, there are so many options that it can be difficult not only to make a decision, but also to figure out just how many possibilities are available.

One approach that can help in organizing the choices is to think about which enclosure type is best suited to your expansion needs. We’re going to organize our look at external enclosures by the type of connection and the enclosure’s capabilities, and then provide a brief look at what some of the likely types of uses such storage expansion would be used for.

OWC ThunderBay 4 Mini. Image courtesy of OWC.

We’re going to concentrate on bare or “diskless” enclosures that you can place one or more SSDs in, but the general information can also be used to help select an enclosure for any type of supported storage device, including hard drives, SATA-based SSDs, PCIe-based SSD blades, or even optical drives, to access your collection of DVDs. You can also apply this information to purchasing external storage systems that come with drives already installed.

Enclosures can hold a single drive, multiple drives, multiple drives with built-in RAID, and multiple drives of different sizes. Enclosures can have additional functions beyond just housing a storage drive; some perform as port multipliers or docks, allowing one interface to be used to provide connectivity through multiple port types.

You may need a storage enclosure for optimizing speed, or an inexpensive way to create that backup system you’ve been promising yourself. Either way, you should find some helpful information in our guide to picking an external enclosure.

Best Use for Thunderbolt Enclosures
The Thunderbolt interface is certainly versatile. Depending on the Thunderbolt version available on your Mac, it can provide data throughput of up to 40 Gbps (Thunderbolt 3), 20 Gbps (Thunderbolt 2), or 10 Gbps (Thunderbolt 1 or just plain Thunderbolt).

But it isn’t just the raw speed available in Thunderbolt that makes it a great choice for storage and other uses; it also has the ability to support multiple interface specifications. Thunderbolt 3 supports 40 Gbps data transfer speeds, USB 3.1 Gen2 running at 10 Gbps, and DisplayPort 1.2, with support for two 4K streams, and the ability to provide up to 15 watts of power for bus-powered devices, or 100 watts for charging, all wrapped up in a single USB-C connector.

When selecting a Thunderbolt 3 enclosure for storage, you have a few basic types to choose from: a Thunderbolt Dock, such as the OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock (see image below), which allows you to connect a single cable to your Mac to break out multiple USB 3.1 ports, a mini DisplayPort supporting dual 4K displays, or a 5K display and an HD display, S/PDIF digital audio, a card reader, even a legacy FireWire 800 port.

Image courtesy of OWC

Docks are available in various port configurations, but since we’re concentrating on storage, they allow you to use additional USB 3 Gen1 or Gen2 ports to attach additional storage enclosures to. Pretty helpful when you find your Mac’s ports are all in use.

But we’re just getting started with Thunderbolt’s versatility. Enclosures are available that provide a PCIe-based expansion chassis, such as the Mercury Helios 3 (see image below). The PCIe interface can be used to install various types of PCIe expansion cards, but for storage, a PCIe card that accepts one or more SSD blades will provide for a screamingly fast storage system. Or, if you already have a few SATA SSDs, you can install them in a high-performance SATA to PCIe card and gain a bit more performance from them than you can get out of a USB 3 interface.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

When you find yourself performing the same task over and over on your Mac, you may wish some developer somewhere would code up a nice little app to make your job a bit easier.

There’s no reason to wait for an app when you can make use of one or more of the many Mac automation tools that are already available. Your Mac comes equipped with AppleScript, Automator, and Terminal, all of which can be used to create your own custom tools to make repetitive tasks easier.

AppleScript and Terminal require a bit of coding to create an app or script, but Automator uses a graphical interface to allow you to create custom apps without having to learn a complex programming language. So, we’re going to start our look at how to automate tasks on the Mac with Automator.

By the way, if you’d like to explore how Terminal can be used to create scripts, the Rocket Yard has a two-part introduction to the Mac’s Terminal app that you can check out.

Using Automator
Automator has a simple drag-and-drop interface you can use to build simple to complex workflows that can automate those repetitive tasks that just take time away from other things. Workflows are made up of individual tasks that you drag into place in the workflow. You can then tweak each task in the workflow to meet your specific needs. Once it’s ready, the workflow can be used much like an app, service, or folder action.

Automator has 6 templates that can be used for creating different types of workflows. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Automator Apps, Services, and Folder Actions
Automator supports creating the following types of workflows:

Workflows: These are a series of actions that you run from within Automator. Automator must be running for the workflow to work.

Applications: These are self-running workflows. They don’t need Automator to be active in order to work.

Services: Services allows you to build workflows that are tied to contextual menus that may appear within another app’s service menu.

Printer Plugin: Allows you to create workflows that appear in the Print dialog box.

Folder Actions: This is a workflow that you attach to a folder. When an item is added to the folder, it triggers the attached workflow to run.

Calendar Alarms: These workflows are triggered by events in the Calendar app.

Image Capture Plugin: These workflows are available from within the Image Capture app.

Dictation Commands: You can create workflows that are triggered by specific dictation commands.

We’re going to use Automator to create two different types of workflows. The first is a service that will allow you to select any word or phrase you come across and look up its meaning in Wikipedia. We’ll also show you how to modify this service, so you can use other sites to perform the lookup instead.

In our second example, we’ll create an application to batch resize images automatically. You could also use this workflow as a Folder Action, if that’s a better fit for your needs.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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