Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for January, 2019

by Tom Nelson

Backing up your Mac can be a very easy process. Pick a drive to use for your backups, turn on Time Machine, and you have a basic backup system in place with very little effort. Time Machine has a lot going for it, including the ability to recover older versions of a file from the backup device. That can be invaluable when you need to know what was in a document a few versions back, or even a few years back.

But there are a few things Time Machine doesn’t do well, such as restoring all of the data on a failing startup drive. The process of recovering the information from a Time Machine drive can be long and arduous, and having to wait a few hours to get back to work can really throw a monkey wrench into your schedule.

That’s one of the reasons I recommend using a second backup strategy, based around cloning the data on your startup drive. Cloning can let you get back up and running in the time it takes to restart your Mac. It lets you continue to work while you order a replacement storage device for the volume that failed. It can also take some of the tension out of what can be a very stressful time.

Using Time Machine and a cloned startup drive is such a powerful backup system that it’s the basis for all of the backups in our home and office environments.

Which brings us to this week’s Rocket Yard guide: Use Multi-Bay Enclosures for Better Backups.

Using External Enclosures with Two or More Bays
Let me be clear: a multi-drive backup system doesn’t have to be built from multi-bay enclosures. You can successfully make use of multiple single drive enclosures and achieve equivalent results. But using multi-bay enclosures has a few advantages:

  • Fewer power bricks and cords to clutter up your work area.
  • A single connection to your Mac leaves more ports available for other uses.
  • Available with 2, 4, or 6 drive bays, or even more.
  • Many multi-bay enclosures support various RAID types.
  • Can be used for multiple tasks, such as backups, media libraries, bulk storage, and media editing.

External Enclosures to Consider
With so many multi-bay drive enclosures available, you may want to look at the following as good examples of enclosures to consider for this backup system.

The Mercury Elite Pro Dual Mini houses two storage devices in the smallest of our suggested enclosures.

OWC Mercury Elite Pro Dual Mini: This dual-bay enclosure is designed to accept 2.5-inch drives, the same size used for most laptop drives as well as SATA-based SSDs. It makes use of hardware-based RAID that supports RAID 0, 1, SPAN, and Independent drive modes. The enclosure makes use of USB-C 3.1 Gen 2, providing speeds up to 10 Gb/s. Its small size and use of USB 3.1 Gen 2 connections make it a great choice for backups, as well as image or music libraries.

The Mercury Elite Pro Quad can house up to four drives, and connects using USB 3.1 Gen 2.

OWC Mercury Elite Pro Quad: This quad-bay enclosure works with both 3.5-inch and 2.5-inch SATA-based drives, with no adapters needed. It comes with SoftRAID XT Lite, supporting RAID 0, 1, JBOD. This enclosure uses USB-C 3.1 Gen 2, providing speeds up to 10Gb/s. This enclosure is also available with an advanced version of SoftRAID that adds support for RAID 4, 5, and RAID 1+0.

OWC ThunderBay 4: A quad-bay enclosure that supports 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch drives with no adapters needed. It makes use of SoftRAID XT Lite, and supports RAID 0, 1, and JBOD. This quad enclosure makes use of Thunderbolt 3 to provide the highest sustained performance of our suggested enclosures for backup.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

by Tom Nelson

Launch Services is a core service of the Mac OS that enables an actively running application to open other apps, documents, or URLs (Uniform Resource Locators). Launch Services is also used to prioritize which app is used to open a document or URL.

Launch Services replaced a number of earlier system managers the Mac used to use, such as the Desktop Manager, Internet Config, and File Manager, replacing them with the single Launch Services system, and the database Launch Services maintains to keep track of all things related to how documents and apps relate to each other.

Launch Services allows an app or document to:

  • Open (launch or activate) another app.
  • Open a document or URL.
  • Identify the preferred app to use to open a document or URL.
  • Register the type of documents or URLs an app is capable of working with.
  • Keep track of information needed for displaying a file or URL, including its icon, name, and kind (examples: JPEG, PDF, Folder, Volume).

Launch Services keeps track of which apps can work with a selected document. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

In past versions of the Mac OS, this type of information was maintained by the Finder, as well as by some specific system managers. By consolidating this information to the Launch Services, it allows for greater reliability, easier (actually, automatic) registration of file and document associations, and less need to repair file association information. If you remember having to rebuild the Desktop frequently on older Macs, then you know the file associations tended to get out of whack often.

Launch Services maintains a database aptly known as the Launch Services Database, which is used to record all the needed information about apps, documents, and URLs to determine which items an app is capable of working with.

Application Registration
Launch Services automatically registers an app with the database the first time the app becomes known to the system. This can occur when:

  • The Finder reports an app has been added to the Applications folder.
  • An app installer is run.
  • When a document is opened that has no preferred app, the user is asked to select an app to use, and that app is registered with Launch Services.
  • When the built-in Launch Services tool is run whenever you boot your Mac or login as a user. This tool scans the Applications folder looking for any new apps that have been placed there.

Dragging an app to the Applications folder is one of the ways an app is registered with Launch Services. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Opening Documents
When you open a document or URL, Launch Services is used to determine which app to use to open the item. Launch Services uses the following specific order to check for which app to use:

User-Specified Binding: If the user has set a specific binding by manually setting a file association, then use that app to open the document or URL. Do not check further. Note: You can manually set file associations using one of the tips in: Quick Tip: Managing macOS File Associations or macOS 101: Six “Forgotten” Tips for New (and Old) Mac Users.

If the document has a file name extension, Launch Services will find all apps that list the extension as compatible.

If the document has a four-character file type, Launch Services finds all apps that accept the file type.

If more than one app is found, the following is used to determine a preference:

If the document has a four-character creator type that matches an app:

Give preference to apps on the boot volume.

Give preferences to apps residing on local volumes vs. ones on remote volumes.

If two or more files and an app still meet the criteria, give preference to the newest version.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

Read Full Post »

by Tom Nelson

If you’ve been using iTunes for a long time, you may have noticed how it changed from a good music player into a strong multimedia player, became a music, video, and app store, as well as a file and device manager for syncing, backing up, and restoring iOS devices.

Lost in all the changes was its original strength: simply playing and managing media on a Mac.

If iTunes now seems a bit unwieldy to you, there are alternatives available that can likely meet most of your needs. The key word here is “most” of your needs. As far as I’ve seen, there’s no single iTunes replacement that can do everything iTunes does. But if your main interest is playing media, or organizing your multimedia library, there are quite a few alternatives available. If you’re looking for an app to manage your devices, perform backups, and transfer files between devices, there are some good choices for that as well. Related article: How to Move Your iTunes Library to an External Drive

Swinsian – Free trial; $19.95
If you’re looking for a media player to play music and manage your libraries, Swinsian may be a good fit. Swinsian is easy to set up; it can import your existing iTunes music library, and you can set up specific folders for Swinsian to monitor. Drop an album or track into one of the folders, and Swinsian will import it into its library for you.

Swinsian displays your media library in a compact but customizable window. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Swinsian supports a large number of file formats, including FLAC, MP3, AAC, ALAC, Ogg Vorbis, WMA, WAV, Opus, AC3, AIFF, Musepack (MPC), DSF, and APE.

And while being able to play music on your Mac from different file types is helpful, it can be a problem when you want to transfer a music file to your iPod or IOS devices. Swinsian has you covered there, with automatic transcoding of file formats to ones supported by the device you’re moving them to. No need for a separate app to translate file formats.

Other features include:

  • Album art: Swinsian can find and download album art automatically, and display it within the player.
  • Duplicate track finder: If your music library looks anything like mine, the ability to find duplicate tracks and eliminate them may be worth the price of admission alone.
  • AirPlay support.
  • Smart playlists: Build new playlists based on a wide range of criteria including rating, artist, title, bit rate, play count, and much more.
  • Mini player.
  • 10 or 31 band equalizer.
  • Gapless playback.
  • Support for cue files or embedded cue information.

Plus many more features.

Swinsian’s interface will remind you of iTunes before it became so bloated with features. The interface is easy to move about in; using the music browser simplifies finding music. And the interface is highly customizable, allowing you to rearrange and add information as you see fit.

If your main need is for a versatile and easy-to-use music player, Swinsian is a good choice. Its focus is being a music player, and library and playlist manager.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

Read Full Post »

by Tom Nelson

There are many features of the Mac that are often overlooked by new users, or simply forgotten about by those who have been using Macs for a while. In some cases, the feature is used once when setting up a Mac, and then vanishes from memory; other times, the feature is never stumbled upon. No matter the reason, this collection of six “forgettable” Mac tips deserves to be remembered.

Customize Icons
Icons, those little images that represent apps, documents, folders, drives, and a few other items, are used extensively throughout the Mac’s interface. They’re most prominent in the Dock, in the Finder, and on the Desktop.

Personalizing your Mac by using custom icons can add a bit of flair as well as allow you to better organize your Mac’s file system. Apple already provides custom folder icons for the Applications folder, Documents folder, Downloads, Movies, Music, Pictures, and a few others, but most of the folders on your Mac will use generic folder icons. The same is true for storage devices mounted on your desktop, and files on your Mac.

You can replace a file, folder, or drive icon with one of your own making, or one acquired from the many websites that specialize in Mac and Window icons, many of which are free.

The thumbnail icon displayed in the Get Info window can be used to copy a favorite icon, or to replace it with a new one. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

One of the simplest ways to change an icon is to copy/paste an icon using this tip:

Right-click or control-click on the icon you wish to copy, and then select Get Info from the popup menu that appears.

In the Get Info window that opens (the window will be in the upper left corner of your display and may be hidden by other windows), you’ll see a thumbnail icon in the top left corner.

Click or tap once to select the thumbnail, then select Copy from the File menu or hit the command + C keys on your keyboard.

The icon will be copied to the Mac’s built-in clipboard.

Find the file, folder, or drive icon you wish change.

Right-click or control-click on the icon.

In the Get Info window that opens, click or tap the thumbnail icon to select it, then use Paste from the File menu, or command + V on the keyboard, to paste the icon from the clipboard onto the selected item.

That’s the easy way to copy/paste icons from one source to a new destination. But what if you want to create a custom icon from scratch?

We’ve got you covered with Create Your Own Custom Icons.

Other World Computing also has a webpage full of drive icons you’re welcome to use. You’ll find them at: Custom Drive Icons.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

Read Full Post »

by Tom Nelson

When asked what browser they use on their Mac, most people will respond with Google Chrome or Apple Safari. Some will mention Firefox and Opera as alternatives to the big two.

It seems each browser has its advocates, with browser features, speed, and user interface being the most often named reasons for a preference. It would be difficult to try to measure the benefits of a browser’s features, or its user interface, but we can test a browser’s speed, and who doesn’t enjoy a good race?

So, let’s line up the competitors and see who gets to the finish line the fastest.

The Browsers
The four most popular Mac browsers are included in our benchmark testing, along with Safari Technology Preview (STP), a browser in beta form designed to showcase new technology that will likely make its way into Safari at some future date. We’re including it just to provide a sneak peek at what will be coming down the line.

Chrome: Google Chrome has become the most used desktop browser, with an estimated 68% share of the desktop market (2018). It was first released in 2008, and made use of the WebKit rendering engine, the same one used by Safari. In 2013, the Chromium project was announced; it included the new Blink rendering engine. Blink was a fork of the WebKit code, and since the two have parted ways, each rendering engine has seen a frantic pace in its development.

Firefox: Could be considered one of the oldest browsers available. Firefox can trace its heritage back to Netscape Navigator, one of the first widely available web browsers. Firefox may have a long history, but it is, in all respects, a modern browser. It includes the newest version of the Quantum rendering engine, designed to bring new technologies to Firefox by building on the foundation of the older, but very stable, Gecko engine.

Opera: Another browser that can follow its heritage back into the dim beginnings of the world wide web. Although Opera has been around for a very long time, its technology is quite new; it’s based on the same Blink rendering engine used in Chrome.

Safari: Apple’s Safari web browser has been the default browser app since 2003 and the release of OS X Panther. Safari makes use of WebKit as its rendering engine.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

Read Full Post »