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Archive for the ‘OS X’ Category

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

There may come a time when you want to completely remove all traces of information on your Mac’s drives. It may be because you’re selling or donating your Mac, and you want all your personal information wiped clean from the drive. Or perhaps you want to wipe an older drive that you’re replacing because it’s too small, or because it has started to show a few errors when you test the drive.

No matter the reason, wiping a drive is an easy – though sometimes very long – process that just about any Mac user can take care of on their own.

So, if it’s so easy, why the need for this guide? Well, while the process is simple, there are some important considerations to understand that will affect how you erase your Mac’s drive.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Using Disk Utility to Wipe a Hard Drive
First, we’re going to look at wiping the contents of a hard drive. It doesn’t matter if it’s an internal, external, or your Mac’s startup drive; using these techniques you can obliterate the contents of the selected drive, making it all but impossible to recover the data.

These methods will work for any hard drive you may be using with your Mac. They should not, however, be used with any SSD (Solid State Drive), including a Fusion drive, which contains an SSD element. Don’t worry, though; SSDs can also be wiped, they just require a different technique. We’ll cover SSDs a bit later in this guide.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

The Mac is one of the most reliable computing platforms available, and can make a great platform for not only running the Mac OS, such as the current macOS Sierra, but also Windows and Linux. In fact, the MacBook Pro is a very popular platform for running Linux.

Under the hood, the Mac’s hardware is remarkably similar to most of the parts used in modern PCs. You’ll find the same processor families, graphics engines, networking chips, and a great deal more.

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Image courtesy of Apple

Running Windows on a Mac

When Apple changed from PowerPC architecture to Intel, many wondered if the Intel Macs could run Windows. Turns out the only real stumbling block was getting Windows to run on an EFI-based motherboard instead of the then much more common BIOS-based designs.

Apple even lent a hand to the effort by releasing Boot Camp, a utility that included Windows drivers for all of the hardware in the Mac, the ability to assist a user in setting up the Mac for dual booting between the Mac OS and Windows, and an assistant for partitioning and formatting a drive for use by the Windows OS.

Running Linux on a Mac

If you can run Windows on a Mac, certainly you should be able to run just about any OS that is designed for the Intel architecture, right? Generally, this is true, though, like a lot of things, the devil is in the details. Many Linux distributions are able to run very nicely on a Mac, though there can be challenges to installing and configuring the OS.

Installation and Drivers

The issues I’ve come across for getting a Linux distribution working a Mac have usually revolved around two problem areas: getting an installer to work correctly with the Mac, and finding and installing all the needed drivers to make sure the important bits of your Mac will work. This can include getting the drivers needed for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, as well as drivers needed for the graphics system your Mac uses.

It’s a shame Apple doesn’t provide generic drivers that could be used with Linux, along with a basic installer and assistant, as it has done with Windows. But until that happens (and I wouldn’t hold my breath), you’re going to have to tackle the installation and configuration issues somewhat by yourself.

I say “somewhat” because I’m going to provide a basic guide to getting a favorite Linux distribution working on an iMac, as well as introduce you to resources that can help you track down drivers you need, or help solve installation issues you may come across.

Ubuntu

There are many Linux distributions you can choose from for this project; some of the best known include (in no particular order) Debian, MATE, elementary OS, Arch Linux, OpenSUSE, Ubuntu, and Mint. I decided to use Ubuntu for this project, mainly because of the very active forums and support available from the Ubuntu community, as well as the coverage of Ubuntu provided in our own Linux How-To’s.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

Disk Utility, in all of its incarnations, has always had a restore function, a way to copy a disk volume or image file to another volume, creating an exact copy. We often think of this as cloning a drive, so you have an exact copy for backup or archiving purposes.

The advantages of cloning are many, but the one that is repeatedly mentioned in troubleshooting guides, as well as guides to installing new versions of the Mac OS, is the clone’s ability to be used as a Mac’s startup drive. Provided the source for the clone was a bootable startup drive, then the destination will generally also be useable as a bootable startup drive, which is pretty darned convenient.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Disk Utility Restore

The restore function isn’t limited to creating clones of the startup drive. It can create a copy of any image or volume that can be mounted on your Mac. That makes the restore function extremely versatile, even if it’s largely overlooked in Disk Utility.

Two Versions of Disk Utility

Disk Utility was at version 16.0 at the time of this writing, so there have certainly been more than two versions. But when it comes to the restore feature, Disk Utility hasn’t undergone many changes; the biggest was the redesign of the Disk Utility interface that came about with the release of OS X El Capitan.

Because of that major change, we’re going to provide two sets of instructions for using Disk Utility’s Restore feature; one for OS X Yosemite and earlier, and one for OS X El Capitan and later.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

Last week we kicked off our Introduction to the Mac’s Terminal App with a quick look at using and customizing Terminal, using the Bash shell to run a few commands; in our example, we used Terminal to modify the Mac’s Dock.

In this installment we’ll delve deeper into the Bash shell, including creating a basic shell script, and looking at a few more commands to customize your Mac.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Login Scripts

Terminal runs a set of scripts when a Bash shell is launched. By default, Bash shells in the Mac OS are of the login type, and run two specific scripts. The first is a system wide script that is run regardless of who is currently logged in. The second script is located at ~/.bash_profile, and is run only for the specific logged-in user, and then only if a Bash shell is being started.

There’s another set of scripts that are used when a non-interactive Bash script is run. These are scripts you create that begin with #! /bin/bash. This is the type of Bash shell script we mentioned that we would explore a bit later.

Just like the login scripts, there’s a bashrc script that is system wide, and another at the user level, located at ~/.bashrc.

The bashrc script, as well as the login profile scripts, allows you to customize the Bash shell to meet your needs.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

Terminal may be one of the least used but most powerful apps included with a Mac. At first glance, Terminal seems to be the antithesis of the Mac’s friendly GUI (Graphical User Interface), presenting instead a simple command line interface that harkens back to the days of glowing CRTs with green, amber, or whitish text, connected to some distant computer system.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The Mac’s Terminal app emulates the old terminals, and provides access to a UNIX shell, where you can issue commands to manipulate the UNIX system that underlies the Mac OS. The UNIX shell, in this case, a Bash shell, provides a command processor that can interpret text entered by the user. It’s not just simple text commands you enter, such as displaying the contents of a folder, that the Bash shell can process, but also scripts, chains of commands, piping, conditional testing, variables, and more. The entire syntax that the Bash shell understands is a bit beyond this article. If you’re interested in creating shell scripts, Apple provides a developer’s guide to scripting using Terminal and the various UNIX shells.

In the first part of our introduction to Terminal, we’re going to look at Terminal with an eye to more basic usage, primarily as a way to modify the standard behavior of the Mac OS. We’ll also look at some basic file system manipulation as examples of ways to use Terminal. So, let’s get started with how to launch and configure Terminal for your use.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog.

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by Tom Nelson

Ever since OS X Lion, the installation of the Mac OS has included the creation of a Recovery HD volume, hidden away on the Mac’s startup drive. In an emergency, you can boot to the Recovery HD and use Disk Utility to correct hard drive issues, go online and browse for information about the problems you’re having, or reinstall the Mac operating system.

You can discover more about how to use the Recovery HD volume in the guide: Use the Recovery HD Volume to Reinstall or Troubleshoot OS X.

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Image courtesy of Apple

Recovery HD and External Drives

Apple also created a utility called OS X Recovery Disk Assistant that can create a copy of the Recovery HD on any bootable external drive you have connected to your Mac. This is good news for the many Mac users who would like to have the Recovery HD volume on a drive other than the startup volume. However, the utility can only create the Recovery HD volume on an external drive. This leaves out all of the Mac Pro, iMac, and even Mac mini users who may have multiple internal hard drives.

With the help of a few hidden Mac OS features, a little bit of time, and this step-by-step guide, you can create a Recovery HD volume anywhere you like including an internal drive.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

The process of installing OS X or macOS on a Mac hasn’t changed a great deal since OS X Lion changed the delivery of the OS from optical disks to electronic downloads, using the Mac App Store.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The big advantage to downloading the Mac OS is of course immediate gratification (and not having to pay shipping charges). But the downside is that the installer you download is deleted as soon as you make use of it by installing the Mac operating system.

With the installer gone, you lose the opportunity to install the OS on more than one Mac without having to go through the download process again. You also lose out on having an installer that you can use to perform clean installs that completely overwrite your startup drive, or having an emergency bootable installer that includes a few useful utilities that can bail you out of an emergency.

To overcome these limitations of the installer for OS X or macOS, all you need is a USB drive that contains a bootable copy of the installer.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

“To sleep, perchance to dream; ay, there’s the rub.” While neither Hamlet nor Shakespeare had computers available, the famous line from Hamlet’s soliloquy does describe a problem many Mac users have experienced: their Macs being in such a sound sleep that they fail to wake, perhaps enjoying their dreams just a bit too much.

Of course, that’s not the only sleep-related problem we’re going to explore in this Rocket Yard guide. We’re also going to look at problems entering sleep, as well as the various sleep options available for both desktop and portable Macs.

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Putting Your Mac to Sleep
The Energy Saver preference pane controls the basic sleep functions. Here you can set sleep options, including how long to wait before turning off the display, as well as the computer, whether drives should be spun down, and if Power Naps are allowed (we’re in favor of that last option). The available options can be different, depending on the version of the Mac OS you’re using, and whether your Mac is a desktop or portable model.

Your Mac will automatically sleep based on the Energy Saver settings, but you can also force sleep by selecting Sleep from the Apple menu, using a Hot Corner, closing the lid of your Mac portable, or using the Option + Command + Eject keyboard shortcut.

Problems Entering Sleep
Most of the time we think of problems occurring when entering sleep, but it’s also possible to have sleep occur for an unknown reason, say right in the middle of a game you’re playing.

If you find your Mac going to sleep when it shouldn’t, the problem is likely to be a sleep parameter that is set incorrectly. You should start by checking the Energy Saver preference pane. Look for the following:

Display Sleep slider set with a very short time frame.

Computer Sleep set to quickly enter idle sleep.

Sleep schedule setting that is forcing your Mac to sleep (click the Schedule button to check).

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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Having a hot corner setting on the display that forces your Mac to sleep (check the Mission Control preference pane; look for the Hot Corners button).

Pressing the Power button can put your Mac to sleep, or wake it up. In OS X Mountain Lion or earlier, the ability of the power button to be used for sleep is controlled by the Energy Saver preference pane setting. See if the “Allow power button to put the computer to sleep” option is checked.

Having a magnet near your portable Mac. As odd as it sounds, a magnet can both cause your Mac to be unable to go to sleep, as well as prevent it from waking up. This happens because the Mac uses magnetic switches to detect when the lid is closed. Having a strong magnet near the front edge or palm rest area of your MacBook can affect these switches and send the wrong signal to the power management circuitry, causing your Mac to sleep or wake from sleep.

Failure to sleep can also be caused by hardware connected to your Mac, as well as software running on your Mac. One likely hardware issue is USB peripherals. You can try disconnecting your peripherals one at a time, to see if any are preventing your Mac from entering sleep.

Printer queues are a notorious cause of sleep prevention. The issue arises when a printer queue becomes corrupt, or when one or more pages are stuck in the queue and fail to print. Clearing out the queue or resetting the printer system will cure the problem.

You can use Terminal to help you determine what’s causing your Mac from entering sleep. Using the pmset command, you can discover if anything is setting an assertion against entering display or idle sleep.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

The Finder has been with us since the first days of the Macintosh, providing a simple interface to the Mac’s file system. Back in those early days, the Finder was pretty basic, and used most of its resources just to produce a hierarchical view into your files.

That hierarchical view was an illusion, as the original Macintosh File System (MFS) was a flat system, storing all your files at the same root level on a floppy or hard drive.

When Apple moved to the Hierarchical File System (HFS) in 1985, the Finder also received a huge makeover, incorporating many of the basic concepts we now take for granted on the Mac.
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Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

The Finder Toolbar

When OS X was first released, the Finder gained a handy toolbar located across the top of the Mac’s Finder window. The Finder toolbar is usually populated with a collection of useful tools, such as the forward and back arrows, view buttons for changing how the Finder window displays data, and other goodies.

You probably know that you can customize the Finder toolbar by adding tools from a palette of options. But you may not know that you can also easily customize the Finder toolbar with items that aren’t included in the built-in palette. With drag-and-drop simplicity, you can add applications, files, and folders to the toolbar, and give yourself easy access to your most commonly used programs, folders, and files.

I like a tidy Finder window, so I don’t recommend going overboard and turning the Finder toolbar into a mini Dock. But you can add an application or two without cluttering things up. I frequently use TextEdit for jotting down quick notes, so I added it to the toolbar. I also added iTunes, so I can quickly launch my favorite tunes from any Finder window.

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