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Archive for the ‘Software Tips’ Category

by Tom Nelson

Are you the designated IT person for your family, or maybe for your small business? If you are, then perhaps you’re getting a bit tired of everyone asking you to provide your administrator name and password every time a printer jams, an app needs updating, or Time Machine throws an error code.

The Mac has a pretty straightforward model for assigning privileges to a user’s account, and in many cases, only the administrator has the right to stop, start, or pause services, such as pausing the print server when a printer jams. Only a user with administrator privileges can get the print server running again.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

If you’re tired of running over to a user’s Mac just to enter a password so the print server can restart after a paper jam, then you may be thinking it’s time to give everyone admin privileges. And believe it or not, that may be a valid solution to the problem, depending on the competence and trustworthiness of your users.

It is, in fact, the method we use; all users at our home and office are set up as administrators, relieving us of the more mundane tasks of Mac administration. But if you’re inclined to use the standard, managed, and administrator user models to ensure a bit tighter security, then this tip can help you keep your personal workload low, while allowing other users to perform routine tasks, such as resetting printers, without needing the local overlord to make an appearance.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

Target Disk Mode has been a feature of the Mac OS since the PowerBook 100 (pictured below) was released way back in 1991. This handy feature allows you to connect two Macs via FireWire ports, Thunderbolt ports, or USB-C ports, and then share the contents of the Target Disk Mode Mac’s internal drive.

Target Disk Mode can be used for quite a variety of purposes:

  • Copying files from one Mac to another without having to set up file sharing or create a local network.
  • Troubleshooting the drive of a Mac that can’t boot to the desktop.
  • Using an optical drive on the Target Disk Mode Mac as if it were attached to your Mac.
  • Using the Mac OS operating system on the Target Disk Mode Mac to boot a second Mac.

As you can see, Target Disk Mode can be pretty darned versatile, and may be able to solve a problem you’re having that relates to accessing or sharing data from one Mac to another.

What You Need
The list is short, but essential.

  • Two Macs. That may seem obvious, but it makes sense to point out that Target Disk Mode only works between two Macs; you can’t chain multiple Macs together. All of the connection types (FireWire, Thunderbolt, and USB-C) support hot connecting, meaning you can connect a cable between the two Macs while they are powered on. We recommend shutting down both Macs before proceeding, however.
  • An appropriate cable to make the connection. Ideally, you should connect similar ports; that is FireWire to FireWire, Thunderbolt to Thunderbolt, or USB-C to USB-C. There are, however, exceptions. Using adapters to connect Thunderbolt to FireWire will usually work, as will Thunderbolt to USB-C. But not all adapters are known to work correctly in Target Disk Mode, so if you can, connect directly to the same port type. If you need a specific cable or adapter, MacSales.com has a wide selection of FireWireThunderbolt and USB-C cables and adapters available.
  • AC power. While it’s possible to run a notebook Mac off of its battery while in Target Disk Mode, you forgo any monitoring of the battery power levels. This could lead to the Mac in Target Disk Mode shutting down unexpectedly. It’s best to always power portable Macs from an AC source when using Target Disk Mode.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

Boot Camp and Boot Camp Assistant allow you to install Windows on your Mac. It’s a nice capability that lets you select – at boot time – which operating system you wish to use: Mac OS or Windows.

One of the downsides to Boot Camp and the Windows installer is that it restricts you to installing Windows on your Mac’s internal drive. While Boot Camp Assistant can partition your startup drive for you to make room for Windows, there are bound to be many of you who just don’t have room to spare on your startup drive to install Windows.

Installing Windows on an external drive would be a great solution to the problem of available space, but as we said, Boot Camp and Windows impose a restriction on installing to an external drive – or do they?

There are actually a few ways you can successfully install Windows on an external drive. They range from creating clones of an existing PC installation, or using Microsoft IT tools for installing Windows. But the method we’re going to outline here is a bit different. It allows you to install Windows on an external drive without first having Windows installed on a PC or in a virtual environment.

This is an advanced process with quite a few pitfalls that can trip you up. Be sure to read through the process before undertaking it. Also, make sure you have a current backup before beginning.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

If you’ve been working with the Mac’s Photos app (or even the older iPhoto or Aperture apps) for any length of time, there’s a good chance you have multiple image libraries to help you organize your pictures.

In the past, I’ve used Aperture to store my business-related images, and iPhoto to keep my personal pictures organized. When Photos came along, I set it up to work with either library.

If you’ve done this, too, then you know you must hold down the option key when you launch Photos to choose which Photos Library you want to use, unless you’re lucky enough to have the target library open right off the bat (and that never happens).

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Performing a switcheroo every time gets old pretty quickly, so I decided the best thing to do would be to merge the two libraries into one.

Merge Using iCloud Photo Library
In this article, we’re going to look at the various methods available in the hope that at least one of them will meet your needs when it comes to merging image libraries, or even just moving a few images around from one library to another. We’ll start with the iCloud Photo Library.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

Apple’s iCloud service links Macs and iOS devices for sharing, storing, and syncing the data created by some of Apple’s apps, such as Mail, Calendar, and Contacts. You can even use iCloud with Windows, although with a much more limited set of data. One thing that’s missing from iCloud is raw data storage; that is, the ability to save any file to iCloud, regardless of the app that was used to create it.

Update: With the advent of OS X Yosemite, Apple updated the iCloud service with a vastly improved iCloud drive. that now performs pretty much how you would expect from a cloud based storage service. If your using OS X Yosmite or later, you can jump to the end of this article to read about iCloud drive features specific to later versions of the Mac OS.

If on the other hand your using a pre OS X Yosemite version of the OS, then read on to discover some pretty niffty tricks that will make iCloud Drive more useful.​

iCloud is designed to be an application-centric service; it’s accessible through an application’s Save or Open dialog boxes. Each iCloud-enabled app can see the data files that it has created and that are stored in the cloud, but it can’t access data files created by other apps. This very limiting behavior may be a result of Apple’s desire to simplify the process of working with cloud-based documents.

Or perhaps Apple wanted iCloud to be iOS-centric in design, and prevent access to the underlying file system.

But the Mac isn’t an iOS device. Unlike iOS devices, which prevent users from accessing the underlying file system, OS Xlets us access all of the files on our system, using the Finder or Terminal.

So, why should we be limited to an app-centric iCloud service?

The answer, at least with OS X Mountain Lion through OS X Mavericks, is that we aren’t. Since the introduction of Mountain Lion, iCloud has stored all of the previously hidden data in a user’s Library folder. Once you navigate to this folder in the Finder, you can use any stored iCloud data with any app that supports the file type of the selected data, not just the app that created the data. For example, you can use Word, which currently isn’t iCloud-savvy, to read a TextEdit document that you have stored in iCloud. You can even move and organize documents, something you have no control over from the standard iCloud system.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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by Tom Nelson

You’ve no doubt heard the term cache and temp files, at least as it relates to your Mac. There are numerous times when removing a cache or temp file may be part of a troubleshooting tip to return an app or the system to a more robust condition. It’s also common to hear about removing these files to free up space on a Mac’s startup drive.

But before we head down the road to clearing out cache and temp files, let’s take a moment to find out what functions they serve, and whether it’s really a good idea to remove them willy-nilly.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

What Are Cache Files and Temp Files?
Cache and temp files serve a similar function; they provide a place to temporarily store data in files on your Mac.

Cache files are much more dynamic. They’re being accessed and updated frequently, and they can remain after the app or system function that created them has closed or exited. They can also remain through shutdown or restart cycles.

Temp files tend to be more static, created by an app or system process to temporarily store data that is later used by the process that created the file. Unlike cache files, temp files are usually removed by the process that created them, usually when the process exits, or during a shutdown or restart cycle.

Examples of cache files include browser caches that save the information from a webpage. When you return to the same page, the browser can load the page data from the cache file, provided the page data hasn’t changed. This saves you the time it would take to access the web server and download the entire page again.

Another type of cache you use everyday on your Mac is the DNS cache. Like the browser cache, the DNS cache can let your Mac grab the IP address of a website it has visited recently without having to perform a DNS lookup, which can take a great deal of time.

Other caches are used by the system to store frequently used icons, images, and just about any type of information that is used over and over, where storing the data is faster than recreating the information every time.

Temp files, on the other hand, are transitory; they tend to be removed once the app or process that created them is terminated. An example of a temp file is an application that has many levels of undo. In the loosest of terms, the undo temp file holds the state of the app at each point a command was issued, letting you go back in time (undo) to previous states. When you quit the app, the undo temp file is deleted since it’s no longer needed.

Temp files can also hold static items, such as an image, or data that will be used frequently by an app but doesn’t need to be saved beyond the current app cycle.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

Safari is one of the most popular web browsers for the Mac. Some may argue that its popularity is dependent on its status as the default browser in the Mac OS. But having tried many of the alternative browsers, I find myself always returning to Safari.

That’s not to say Safari doesn’t have a few quirks, or features that seem to be hidden or underutilized. One of the most often overlooked features of Safari is the sidebar, a special space incorporated into Safari that can help you handle your favorite websites, and sites you would like to temporarily save to revisit later, either online or off-line. The sidebar also serves as a place to access your favorite social networks without having to leave Safari or the website you’re currently viewing.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Where is the Safari Sidebar?
The Safari sidebar is located along the left edge of the Safari window and is usually hidden from view. There are a number of ways to access the sidebar, which will then cause the sidebar to slide into place while automatically resizing the open website to fit into the now slightly smaller display space.

You can access the Safari sidebar using any of the following methods. They’re all equally good at opening and closing the sidebar, so give each one a try and settle on the one that fits your style of working.

From the keyboard, you can use the keyboard combination of Shift + Command + L. When Safari is the front most window, press all three simultaneously to open or close the sidebar.

From the Safari menu, select View, Show Sidebar, or View, Hide Sidebar to make the sidebar appear or disappear.

From the Safari toolbar, click the sidebar icon, which looks like a picture of the Safari window divided into two parts. The sidebar icon is normally just after the navigation arrows, but it could be placed anywhere on the toolbar or even have been removed, if you’ve performed any Safari customization.

The last method is a special case that’s only available when operating Safari in full screen mode. Move your cursor to the far left of the Safari window. Hover just on the edge of the window and the sidebar will appear automatically. Move the cursor off the sidebar for the sidebar to disappear, or select an item in the sidebar to close the sidebar and display the related content.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

The anticipation of purchasing a new Mac is sometimes tempered by the realization that at some point, you’re going to have to move the data from your old Mac or PC to its new home on your new Mac.

Luckily for us Mac users, the Mac includes the Migration Assistant, an easy-to-use app that, with a bit of help from you, can move all the important data from your old Mac or Windows PC to that sparkling new Mac you just bought. It can perform this task using one of a number of ways to make the connection between old and new:

That should be enough choices to enable you to make a connection to transfer the information. To help you choose between the options, here’s a bit more detail.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Network Connection: Your new Mac, as well as the Mac or PC that contains the data you wish to transfer, must be on the same local network. The Migration Assistant only scans the local network, and won’t look beyond it for hosts to use as the source of the transfer.

The network connection method is probably the easiest to use, especially when you consider that your new Mac can automatically discover the network and make the appropriate connections needed. The only tip here is if your network requires a password, as most Wi-Fi networks do, be sure to have it handy when you first turn your new Mac on.

Thunderbolt and FireWire: The Mac has long supported a special means of connecting two Macs together, known as Target Disk Mode. When a Mac is booted up in Target Disk Mode (hold down the T key when you start your Mac), the OS isn’t loaded; instead, the Mac makes its startup drive available to the connected computer just as if it were an external drive.

Originally, Target Disk Mode made use of the FireWire ports that were common on older Macs. While FireWire is still supported, Thunderbolt, which offers a much faster connection, is a better choice for newer Macs.

In order for Target Disk Mode to operate, both computers need a set of FireWire ports or a set of Thunderbolt ports. It’s possible to use an adapter to connect a Mac with Thunderbolt ports to a Mac with FireWire ports, although for the cost of the adapter and the drop in connection speed, you’re probably better off just using the network method.

Time Machine: You can use your Time Machine backup as the source for copying data with the Migration Assistant. All that’s needed is the ability to connect the Time Machine drive to the new Mac. If your Time Machine drive is located in an external drive, this should be a simple process. You can also use a Time Capsule connected via the network.

External Drive: We already mentioned that the Migration Assistant can use a Time Machine backup drive when it’s connected to the new Mac, but it can also use any startup drive that’s connected to the new Mac.

This is especially handy for anyone who bought a new Mac because their old one had failed in some way; perhaps unable to boot. As long as the startup drive is in good shape, you could move the drive to an external enclosure and migrate the data from there.

If you need an empty external enclosure, you’ll find a wide selection of OWC External Enclosures available.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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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

Passwords. They’re one of the banes of modern life. I know I should be using unique and strong passwords for every account or service I use. But when you consider that the minimum requirements for a strong password can include:

  • 12 or more characters
  • Lowercase, uppercase, numbers, and symbols
  • No character repetition, use of a keyboard pattern (such as qwertyasdfg), dictionary words, character sequences, pet names, relatives, usernames, or romantic interests

It’s enough to make my head explode, just thinking about trying to remember all the passwords I would need. That’s why I gave up a while ago, and moved on to using a password manager to keep track of my login details for me.

Password Managers
Nowadays, a password manager is a must-have app. Your Mac even comes with Keychain Access, an app for making use of the Mac’s Keychain manager for storing passwords, certificates, and even encrypted notes. Keychain simplifies password management for Mac-based services and apps, such as Mail. But while it does a great job of handling system-related passwords, it’s not the friendliest password manager for general use.

That’s where third-party password managers come into play. In this guide, we’re going to look at some of the popular password managers available for the Mac, and other computing devices you may use.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

1Password
Currently at version 6, 1Password may be the most well-known password manager for the Mac. And why not; it’s been around for ages, has an easy-to-use and easy-to-understand user interface, and eliminates the burden of keeping track of a gazillion passwords, allowing you to use large, very strong passwords without the need to memorize any password except the one that lets you access the 1Password app.

1Password keeps your data safe, stored in encrypted vaults using AES-256 encryption and PBKDF2 key derivation. Everything in your 1Password vault is encrypted; passwords, notes, website names, and URLS. If it’s placed in the vault, only you can see the information.

1Password stores and can auto-fill web forms with login, credit card, and other information you choose to store within the app. Generating a new highly secure password couldn’t be easier with the included password generator. You can choose from a number of “recipes” for generating a password, which allows you to adjust the complexity to meet a site’s password requirements.

1Password isn’t just for web-based logins. A large number of apps also support 1Password, allowing you to automatically log in to Twitter, Dropbox, Slack, Buffer, eBay, and more.

1Password also includes a security audit that goes well beyond the basics offered by other password managers. Besides checking for weak or duplicate passwords, and making sure passwords get changed in a timely fashion, 1Password also keeps track of websites that have had security breaches and checks to see if you have an account for that website in 1Password. If so, the security audit will catch the problem and let you know to change the password associated with the site.

1Password is available not only for the Mac, but just about every platform you may use. And it can keep all your devices synced to ensure that a new login you create on your Mac is available from any of the devices on which you’re running 1Password.

1Password supports unlimited installation on devices you use, so there’s no reason to be carrying around pieces of paper with your login information anymore.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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