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Archive for April, 2018

by Tom Nelson

AirDrop is a peer-to-peer file sharing system for local Mac and iOS users. It’s easy to set up with just a click or two; no special information or settings are needed. Just drag-and-drop a file to share with others.

In this Rocket Yard Guide, we’re going to take a look at AirDrop’s history, the basics of its use, and a tip or two for improving its use, including adding AirDrop to the Mac’s Dock for easy access.

AirDrop History
Originally developed for the Mac and released with OS X Lion, AirDrop made use of a new Wi-Fi standard called PAN (Personal Area Network) that allowed for the creation of an ad-hoc wireless network. To make setting up the network automatic, Apple made use of its Bonjour service, which allowed Macs to broadcast that they were part of the Wi-Fi network and could receive files from others.

When iOS 7 was introduced, it included its own version of AirDrop, but replaced the use of Bonjour with Bluetooth LE, and kept peer-to-peer Wi-Fi for sending and receiving, though it dropped the use of the PAN protocol.

When OS X Yosemite was released, it included support for both sets of AirDrop protocols, allowing supported Macs to use AirDrop with other supported Macs, as well as iOS devices.

Not all Macs or iOS devices are compatible with AirDrop. You can check this AirDrop support document to see if your Mac or device supports AirDrop.

Using AirDrop
AirDrop requires the use of either Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, depending on the version of AirDrop being used.

You can open an AirDrop Finder window by selecting AirDrop from the Finder sidebar, or from the Finder’s Go menu.

The AirDrop window displays nearby devices that have AirDrop enabled. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

AirDrop appears as a special Finder window folder that displays any nearby Mac or iOS devices that have AirDrop enabled.

You can drag any file or folder onto a device listed in the AirDrop window. You can also use the share button within an app to send a file via AirDrop. Depending on the version of AirDrop being used, you may be asked to confirm that you wish to send a file to the selected user.

The destination device will display an alert, asking the user if they wish to accept the files being sent.

On the Mac, files being sent will appear in the Downloads folder, once accepted. On iOS devices, the files will be associated with specific apps, such as images being placed in the Photos app.

Can’t find one of your older Macs? Later versions of AirDrop changed the method used to detect AirPort-enabled devices. You may need to use the Search for an Older Mac option. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

OS X Yosemite and later support both sets of protocols, but are set to Bluetooth LE/Wi-Fi as the default. To access older Macs, you must select the option to search for older Macs. This will reset the protocol to the older version, allowing you to connect with older Macs, but not with iOS or newer Macs using Bluetooth LE/Wi-Fi. In OS X Yosemite and later, you’ll find this option labeled “Don’t see who you’re looking for?” at the bottom of the AirDrop folder window. Clicking in this text will bring up the option to Search for an older Mac.

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by Tom Nelson

The Mac’s Disk Utility app supports a number of capabilities that make managing the Mac’s storage system easier. But one set of features seems to get overlooked a bit: the creation and management of encrypted disk images.

Disk images have many benefits; they can be used to distribute apps and data to users, for creating master image files for various media types, such as CDs and DVDs, and for creating archives and backups, as well as quite a few additional creative uses.

Encrypted disk images allow you to protect the content of the images from prying eyes. Encrypted disk images can’t be mounted, viewed, or accessed unless you know the password associated with the image file.

In this Rocket Yard Guide, we’re going to look at how to create encrypted disk images. We’ll start with an overview of the basics of disk images and encryption, and then show you how to actually create various types of disk images.

Encryption Type
Disk images support two types of encryption: 128-bit AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) and 256-bit AES. The two levels of encryption refer to the size of the keys used in the encryption/decryption process. The 256-bit encryption is considered more secure than the 128-bit encryption, but the 256-bit encryption also takes longer to encrypt and decrypt. The 128-bit encryption will likely meet the needs of most people, while the 256-bit encryption is a better choice for data that needs a higher level of protection.

Mounting an Encrypted Disk Image
Before you can make use of a disk image, it needs to be mounted, so your Mac can work with the data within it. Mounting an encrypted disk image isn’t much different than mounting a normal disk image; simply double-click the disk image file, or right-click (control-click) the disk image file, and select Open from the popup menu.

Before the image is mounted, your Mac will display a window that asks you to provide the password to grant access to the information stored within. Enter the password, and click the OK button.

You can also automate the task of providing the password by selecting the option to “Remember password in my keychain.” When this option is selected, either during the encrypted image file creation (OS X Yosemite and earlier), or when you’re asked for the password when mounting the image (all versions of the Mac OS), the password will be stored within your keychain and used automatically the next time you mount the image file.

Unmounting an Encrypted Disk Image
Unmounting an encrypted disk image returns the image file to an encrypted state, preventing access to the data stored within. You can unmount the image by dragging the mounted image (not the image file) to the trash, or right-clicking on the mounted image and selecting Eject from the popup menu.

Image Formats
Disk Utility supports creating a number of disk image formats that can be used for various projects. Not all of the following formats are available in every version of Disk Utility, or with every method of creating a disk image.

Disk Utility supports a number of image formats. The formats that are available can change with the version of the OS, and the method used to create a disk image. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Read only: Allows the content of the mounted image to be viewed, and any files it contains to be opened and read. Additions to the image or changes to any of the files are not allowed. The read only option is only available when creating an image from a folder or drive, or when converting from one image format to another.

Compressed: Similar to the read only option, but any free space within the image is first removed to reduce the size of the image file. The compressed option is only available when creating an image from a folder or drive, or when converting from one image format to another.

Sparse image: This type of image format allows the image size to grow and shrink, to accommodate the amount of data stored in the image. The maximum size the image can grow to is set during the image creation process. Sparse image files have the file extension: .sparseimage

Sparse Bundle disk image: This type of disk image is made up of multiple small files, usually 1 MB, 2 MB, 4 MB, or 8 MB in size. When data stored on this type of image is changed, only the file(s) that contains the changed data needs to be changed, created, or deleted. Just like the sparse image format, a sparse bundle disk image has a flexible size that grows or shrinks to accommodate the data within. The sparse bundle disk image is used extensively with Time Machine. Sparse bundle image files have the file extension: .sparsebundle

Read/Write disk image: This image format allows you to add files to the image after it is created. The size of the image file is predefined, and can’t be expanded or reduced once created. Read/Write image files have the file extension: .dmg

DVD/CD master: This image type is used for mastering CDs or DVDs. If you’re using OS X El Capitan or later, when this format is selected, the image size field will change to a dropdown menu with 177 MB (CD 8 cm) selected. You can use the dropdown size menu to select any of the standard DVD/CD sizes. If you’re using OS X Yosemite or earlier, you must manually change the size field to one of the standard DVD/CD sizes. DVD/CD images have the file extension: .cdr

Hybrid image (HFS+/ISO/UDF): This image format is used for creating a single image whose files can be used on multiple platforms.

Note: The two sparse image formats have a maximum size that you set during creation. This is the size the image file will appear to have when mounted on your desktop. The actual image file (the .sparsebundle or .sparseimage file) will only use the amount of space needed to hold the data within.

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by Tom Nelson

You may already have a video or audio studio set up in your home. Perhaps you used some of the equipment and suggestions from last week’s Rocket Yard Guide: Road to NAB 2018: A Guide to Mac Home Video/Audio Studio Gear.

You may also want to check out some related Rocket Yard Guides:

As we mentioned in the previous guide, we’re going to expand on the topic, taking a look at ways of improving your video/audio studio to make it more versatile, and generally improve the overall quality of the content you can produce in your home studio.

Turn an iPad into a excellent teleprompter by adding a stand and holder.

Acoustic Treatment
One of the first upgrades that can really improve the sound of any home studio is to add acoustic treatment to reduce reverberation and improve the quality of the sound you’ll be recording. But don’t think this applies only to those of you with a recording studio; you may be surprised to learn that not only will acoustic treatment make your videos sound better, but it can help make them look better, too. We’ll get back to that last point in a bit, so let’s get started with fixing the sound in your studio.

One of the sound problems we want to attack is reverberation. This occurs as sound bounces off the floor, walls, and ceiling. If there are enough reflective surfaces, sound can build up a reverberation effect that can be distracting, and muddy the sound quality of your project. There are various methods to combat reverberation, from basic to expensive; which you use is up to you, but in many cases, the basic options work pretty well and are a good place to begin.

Bass traps come in many configurations, from triangular-shaped acoustic foam with large fins, to stuffed, open-sided boxes. Credit: Powerjoe CC BY-SA 4.0

Add Some Carpeting
The floor in your studio space is one of the prime surfaces for reflection, and if the floor is wood, any of the resilient floor coverings, or concrete, you probably will need to add acoustic treatment to the floor to reduce the strength of any sound reflection. This can be accomplished using any material that can absorb the sound and/or scatter the sound away from parallel planes, such as the ceiling.

Carpeting is one of the easiest and least expensive ways of treating a floor surface. It can also help fix a common lighting problem that plagues studios with wood or colored flooring material, the casting of an unwanted color tone onto subjects, props, and backdrops. Pick a carpet in a neutral color, and you’ll help both the audio and video quality of your projects.

Comfy Chairs
Those hard-surface stools and chairs you find at the local office store may be inexpensive, but they can compound sound reflection issues you may be having. Try using plush comfy chairs and couches in the studio, when you can. Once again, keep the colors neutral, unless they’re being used for props with a specific color requirement.

Wall Panels
Acoustic wall panels, available as foam panels, usually in an egg crate design, are a common sound treatment for absorbing mid- to high-frequency sounds. They can help reduce reverberation within their frequency range, and since that range covers the human voice, they’re ideal to help tame voices with a more strident sound quality.

You can also make wall panels from drapes, and even leftover carpet, but this type of treatment is for general use and doesn’t help specifically with voice quality.

Bass Traps
The last treatment to consider is bass traps, which are similar to the wall panels we mentioned. They’re made of foam, but are thicker than foam panels, and have irregular sets of fins instead of the uniform egg crate shape. Bass traps absorb the lower frequencies, and can help reduce reflections and reverb from bass instruments, and noise from some equipment common in the studio.

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by Tom Nelson

It’s springtime, and that means the annual NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) Show is about to open in Las Vegas. The NAB Show covers a wide range of interests, including film, television, radio, audio, and video. OWC will be invading the NAB show at booth C3647, and showing off the new Envoy Pro EX, a portable SSD storage system that uses Thunderbolt 3 for extreme performance.

Pro users who already have a video or audio studio to work in may feel right at home at NAB, but that doesn’t mean you should feel left out if you’re just starting out and putting together your first studio, or making improvements to an existing one.

Basic home video studio with green screen backdrop. Credit: chrispodbo / Pixabay CCO

In this week’s Rocket Yard guide, we’re going to look at the gear you can use to build your first studio. This gear list is designed for someone who has basic knowledge about working with video and/or audio projects, and who wants to create a space to do more.

By the way, next week we’re going to delve further into this topic, and include a guide to expanding your first studio to make it more versatile.

Your Home Studio
A home studio for creating music or video is a goal for many up-and-coming talents in the entertainment world. It’s also a dream for many technically inclined folks who want to create remarkable projects from behind the scenes. No matter where you fit in, this guide is going to focus on the gear you will need, as well as provide a few tips about how to put things together and make a functional space for your studio.

The ThunderBay 4 RAID is a versatile Thunderbolt 3 enclosure you can build your storage system around. Image courtesy MacSales.com.

Planning Considerations
Your studio should be in an isolated area, if possible, to help prevent encroachment of household noise, or for that matter, to help prevent studio noise from affecting others in the household; that’s one reason why garage studios are so popular. But just about any space can be used: a bedroom, den, unused dining room, even that old playhouse out back can be a good choice for studio space.

Power is an important consideration because studio gear can use a lot of electrical power. Most rooms in a house are limited to one, or at best two, 15-amp circuits. You can check how many circuits a room has by using a receptacle tester and asking a friend to turn circuits off and on in the circuit breaker panel. A receptacle tester will also make sure the outlets are wired correctly.

Don’t overlook heating and cooling. A studio that’s too cold can be difficult to work in, and one that’s too hot may not only have adverse effects on you, but also on your equipment.

Space in a first-time studio is usually at a premium; plan on areas of the studio performing double- or even triple-duty. A piece of plywood set on top of a bed can turn the space into a table for studio equipment. You don’t want to put electronic equipment directly on a bed; the soft surface can block airflow and cause equipment to overheat.

Equipment: Video
Cameras: If you’re just starting out in video production, you don’t have to spend a lot on one or more cameras. You may already have a basic camera on your smartphone or tablet that can meet your needs:

  • iPhone
  • iPad
  • Android

Most DSLRs have a video mode to record in HD, or in some cases, 4K formats. Credit: Martin Kraft CC BY-SA 3.0

A step up that provides better images, and the ability to use multiple lenses, are the various DSLR cameras:

  • Canon EOS
  • Nikon DSLR
  • Sony A series

Tripods/Stands/Stabilizers: Tripods and stands are an absolute must for supporting your camera, lights, and other studio paraphernalia. Stabilizers are used with a camera to dampen or isolate the motion of an operator while filming.

  • Tripods and stands
  • Stabilizers

Backgrounds: Chances are your home studio lacks a decent background to film against. With the addition of one or more printed backdrops, you can film in just about any environment you wish. Choose a chroma key screen, and you can add any background you want during the editing process.

Lighting: Lighting can be a DIY project using equipment from your local big box store, provided you control the color temperature of the bulbs you use. Be sure to do a little research before making a decision; you may be surprised at the low cost of some beginner and semi-professional lighting kits that are available.

Teleprompter: Often overlooked when starting out is a good teleprompter. They can be helpful for many types of projects, and you don’t always need dedicated hardware. Instead, consider a software-based solution running on your web browser.

Computer: If you haven’t already guessed, we’re going to recommend a Mac to serve the central role in your studio. If you need a Mac, MacSales has a nice collection of refurbished Macs to choose from.

Displays: Your Mac may already have a display built in, but chances are you’ll benefit from either a larger monitor or from connecting your Mac to multiple monitors. MacSales has a good selection of monitors, as well as display accessories, to use in a studio.

Editing Software: There are a number of video editing apps that are a good choice for a home studio. You can start with the free iMovie app included with your Mac, and when ready, move on to one of these more feature-packed editing apps. Each has a free trial available, so you can give them a whirl before you commit:

Storage: You’re going to need a lot of storage, more than what’s included internally with most Macs. MacSales shines in Mac storage solutions, with external solutions for every need.

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