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Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

by Tom Nelson

I’m pretty sure my web browser (Safari) is the most often used app on my Mac, though it could also be my mail client (Apple Mail). Both are always running whenever my Mac is on. But it’s no doubt the web browser that sees more interaction with me; browsing sites, researching projects, getting tips on solving problems, or watching videos and playing games. That’s probably true for you as well.

That’s why the browser is a good candidate for optimizing how it works to better meet your needs. There are many ways to optimize your browser, including trying to maximize speed, improve general performance, or get the best search results; the list goes on. It can also be different for everyone since we all use our browsers slightly differently, and it’s not always about speed. Many times optimization can take the form of making a task easier to perform, or making your browser work better with sites you routinely visit.

We’re going to look at techniques for getting the most out of four popular Mac browsers: Safari, Google Chrome, Opera, and Firefox. If these four browsers sound familiar, it may be because we recently put them to the test to see how well they perform under pressure in our Rocket Yard Testing Lab: Battle of the Mac Browsers guide.

Safari’s optional Develop menu brings many additional features to the browser, including an easy way to empty its cache. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

General Performance Improvements
We’re going to start by looking at customization tweaks for increasing performance that are common to all four browsers; then we’ll look at a few tricks for specific browsers.

Clear History and Cache files regularly: This may seem counterintuitive; after all, the browser’s cache files are designed to increase rendering performance by not requiring it to download page data it already has. But occasionally, this data can become out of date or corrupt, and can slow the browser down. Clearing the cache and history files every now and then is a good idea for general browser health and performance.

Safari: An easy way to clear the Safari cache is to enable the Developer menu and use its Empty Caches command. Open Safari, and then select Preferences from the Safari menu. Click the Advanced tab, and place a checkmark in the “Show Develop menu in menu bar” box.

Once the Develop menu item is added to the menu bar, you’ll find an Empty Caches item in the menu.

Chrome and Opera both include the option to clear the browser cache in their menus. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Chrome and Opera: Open the browser, and then select Clear Browsing Data from the Chrome or Opera menu. In the Clear Browsing Data window, make sure the following are checked: Browsing history, and Cache images and files. You can select other items to remove, but these two are the ones we’re interested in. Once you’ve made your selection, click the Clear Browsing Data button.

Firefox: Launch Firefox, then from the History menu select Clear Recent History. In the Clear Recent History window, click the Details chevron. In the list of items that can be cleared, place a checkmark in the Browsing & Download History checkbox, as well as the Cache checkbox. You can select additional items to be cleared, but these are the two we’re interested in. Click the Clear Now button.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

It may seem like summer is just getting underway, and that there are still many cool nights and hot, lazy days ahead to enjoy with friends. But deep down, you know a new school year is lurking just around the corner.

It doesn’t matter if this will be your first year of high school or the last year of your masters program; getting prepared for back to school is a task you’ll need to tackle; part of that is getting your Mac ready.

Upgrade, Replace, or Use Your Mac As-Is?
We’re going concentrate on using a Mac for your schoolwork, but this guide should be useable by anyone, regardless of computer operating system. You may discover that the institution that you’ll be attending favors one operating system over another for class work, but you’ll be ready for almost anything.

If there’s one thing a Mac is, it’s versatile. No matter which operating system or applications are recommended, your Mac can probably run the necessary software. You can use Boot Camp to dual boot between Mac and Windows, or between Mac and Linux; you can even triple boot; just select the operating system you need when you start up your Mac.

So, when one instructor tells you that you’ll be using a solid modeling program that only runs under Windows, and another tells you some flavor of Linux will be used for investigating network architecture, and a third wants you to use video editing apps that run on the Mac, you can handle it. You don’t need three different computer systems, unless you don’t have a spare Mac to take to school.

In addition to Boot Camp, virtualization apps, such as Parallels, allow you to run multiple operating systems with your Mac. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

In that case, you have a few choices. Apple has a wide selection of Macs you can pick from, but you can also find a large selection of used Macs, accessories, and more right here at MacSales.com.

You’ll find just about any recent vintage Mac model available, giving you a wide selection to choose from. And while MacBooks, MacBook Pros, and MacBook Airs are all popular choices for back to school, don’t overlook Mac minis, iMacs, and Mac Pros, which may meet some specific high-performance needs a little better than the Mac notebook lineup.

If you have a Mac already, you may want to consider a few upgrades.

Two of the most common upgrades undertaken by students are to add more RAM, to allow their Macs to work with memory-intensive apps, or simply to have more apps open at any one time, and to add storage space; that is, bigger, faster, or additional drives to make storing, organizing, and backing up files an easier task.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

If you’re an old hacker like me (from back when the word “hacker” had good connotations), you may remember the battle of the browsers in the early days of the Internet. It was a time when Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer ruled the roost, and were the dominant platforms for accessing and browsing the World Wide Web.

At the time, the two browsing platforms were continually pitted against each other in magazines and other publications that reviewed performance and features, and would likely name one of them the winner; that is, until the next version was released and the other browser made incremental improvements to take the crown that month.

For the most part, the great battle of the browsers is long over, with both Netscape (and its offspring) and Internet Explorer seeing their star fade from glory long ago.

But even with the battle over, many of us are still asking questions about the browsers we use. Is my favorite browser the fastest? Which browser is best for web-based apps? Should I move on to a different browser? What about that new browser I just heard about?

With those questions and a few others in mind, we’re going to resurrect the battle of the browsers one more time, and pit four of the leading Mac browsers against each other in a straight benchmark comparison. This battle is strictly a performance test; we won’t be considering features, security, ease of use, or other characteristics that, in the long run, may be more important than straight performance. A smoking hot browser will always have its appeal.

The Browsers
Our browser lineup consists of four of the leading browsers used with the Macintosh, plus one red herring.

Safari: This is the browser Apple has included with the Mac since the introduction of OS X 10.2. The version we used for testing is 10.1.1 (12603.2.4).

Google Chrome: Chrome has been available for the Windows OS since 2008; it was later released for Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android devices. Chrome was originally built on WebKit, the same layout engine used by Safari. The current version of Chome (59.0.3071.109) makes use of Blink, a layout engine that is itself a derivative (a fork) of the WebKit engine used by Apple.

Opera: In one form or another, Opera has been around since 1994, making it the most senior of our competitors. Even though it has a long history, it’s built on a modern foundation, using the Blink layout engine. The version we used for our testing was 46.0.2597.26.

Firefox: The Firefox browser is the second oldest competitor in our test. It reaches back to 2002, when the Mozilla Foundation first created the Firefox browser. Although Firefox came into existence in 2002, many consider Mozilla and Firefox the direct offspring of Netscape and the older Navigator browser.

Safari Technology Preview: This last browser is a sneak peek at technology that will likely make it into the next version of Safari, allowing us to look ahead at what will be coming down the road. It may not be fair to include a beta browser, but it’s fun, and as long as we remember that it’s a beta product I think it’s OK to include it as a sneak peek into future browser performance.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

I’ve always enjoyed working with the latest releases of the Mac OS. Although Apple tends not to release new major versions of the Mac OS until the fall of each year, that doesn’t mean we have to wait till then to take a new OS out for a spin.

Apple has long provided developers with early beta versions of OS X and macOS, but only started providing betas to the general public a few years ago. The public betas have the advantage of letting you try out macOS before the general release, giving you the opportunity to participate in finding bugs, check out new features, or just make sure important software you use every day will work with the upcoming version of macOS.

macOS High Sierra
The latest version of macOS, which will enter public beta sometime in late June, is macOS High Sierra. This version of macOS has quite a few new features and capabilities, including APFS, which, for the first time, will be used as the default file system on the Mac, replacing the very old and long in the tooth HFS+ file system. (Related: See our First Impressions of ‘High Sierra’.)

I’m anxious to find out if some of my older software will still run under macOS High Sierra. Microsoft has said, when referring to the 2011 version of Office, “Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Lync have not been tested on macOS 10.13 High Sierra, and no formal support for this configuration will be provided.” So, I may end up looking for new office apps to use with High Sierra. But it’s not just older versions of Office that may not run correctly on macOS High Sierra, so finding out in advance which apps will work and which are in doubt is one of the many reasons to enroll in the Apple Software Beta Program, aside from just wanting to check out the new OS, that is.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

For quite some time now, Time Machine has been the go-to backup app for most Mac users. It’s the heart of my personal backup system, and knowing I could recover my files quickly if my Mac’s drive ever failed keeps me feeling safe.

But what if it wasn’t just the drive that failed, but your Mac that gave up the ghost? Unless you’re willing to run down to a local Mac reseller and pick up whatever Mac is on the shelf, it would likely take you some time to select a new Mac and have it shipped to you (or to your local store). In the same vein, getting your Mac fixed could also turn out to be a long wait. In the meantime, how do you access the files you need right away?

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

There are a couple of ways to gain access to your Time Machine backup files, depending on the computer you’ll be using in the interim. If you have access to a Mac, the process is fairly simple. Just plug your Time Machine drive into the available Mac, option-click the Time Machine menu bar item, and select Browse Other Backup Disks.

If your temporary computer is a Windows PC, the process is a bit more involved.

We’re going to take a look at the worst-case scenario, which is to have a Windows PC be the only option. And no, I don’t mean using a PC is the worst thing. It’s just that since there’s no version of Time Machine that runs on Windows, you have to be a bit creative to gain access to your backups.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

You made the decision to move from your Windows PC to a Mac. There are a lot of great reasons to make the jump, and one nagging problem that many switchers agonize over: how to transfer their PC data to their shiny new Macs and access the information without any issues.

For the most part, moving PC data to a Mac is a fairly easy process, with quite a few options available to get the job done. And that’s where this article comes in. We’re going to show you a few of the methods available to get your Mac set up with your PC data.

What Can Be Transferred and What Can’t?
Let’s start with the easier part of that question: what can’t be transferred, or more accurately, what can’t you use even if you manage to transfer it over. The answer is: applications. Windows apps that ran on your PC just won’t work on your Mac, not without using some form of virtualization software, such as Parallels, or emulation, such as CrossOver Mac, that can mimic a PC environment, or a complete install of Windows on the Mac (Boot Camp).

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

We’re not going to go into the options for running Windows on your Mac, but you can find out more by investigating the links above. What you can easily move to your Mac and make use of is most of your PC data files, the documents you have created, such as photos, music, videos, spreadsheets, and word processing documents, even all of the email messages you’ve collected over time. There will, of course, be a few file types that won’t have any equivalent on the Mac, and those documents may prove difficult to successfully make use of on your Mac. But for the most part, you should find that you can transfer and use most of your documents.

Many of the most popular Windows apps have Mac counterparts. For instance, while your Windows copy of Office can’t be used on the Mac, there’s a complete version of Office that Microsoft developed specifically for the Mac. The same holds true for many other popular apps. Check with the app manufacturer for an available Mac version. If you can’t find one, there’s likely a third-party app that can make use of the Windows files.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

Every summer, Apple announces a new version of the Mac OS (now called macOS) at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). Along with highlighting what’s new and improved in the operating system, Apple provides its developers with a beta version of the new macOS, followed up in a few weeks with a public beta for everyone.

The public beta of the macOS is popular, with many Mac enthusiasts participating in the beta program to both try out the new OS, and try to help Apple find bugs before the final release in the fall.

Since the public beta is open to any Mac user, you can join the beta program and participate in the fun of discovering all the new features, as well as one or two new bugs. In fact, it’s kind of fun to track down a bug and report it to Apple. If you want to participate in the beta, you’ll find information about how to do it at the end of this article.

But before you hop on the beta bandwagon, there are some important steps to take to keep your Mac safe and trouble-free during the beta process. Forgetting these steps can lead to disastrous events, including having your Mac lock up or fail to boot, as well as loss of data, and for those of you who rely on your Mac for your work, loss of income.

Even though the above may sound terrifying, it’s actually pretty easy to put safeguards in place to ensure participating in the Apple beta program is, for the most part, a fun undertaking.

Get Your Mac Ready for the Apple Beta Program
This article is going to concentrate on what you need to do to safeguard your Mac while you participate in the beta program. I won’t be covering how to install the beta version of the macOS, mostly because I’m not a member of the super secret Apple developers group that has early access to the most secret of secrets.

Heck, at this point I don’t even know what the name of the new macOS will be. If you have a guess you would like to share, add it to the comments below. Once the beta is released to the public, the Rocket Yard will be posting a full install guide to help you with installing the beta.

In the meantime, you can get ready for the macOS beta with these tips to keep your Mac safe during the beta program.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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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

macOS Sierra saw the return of RAID support to Apple’s Disk Utility, a feature that was removed when OS X El Capitan first came on the scene. With the return of RAID support in Disk Utility, you no longer need to resort to using Terminal to create and administer your RAID systems.

Of course, Apple couldn’t just return RAID support to Disk Utility. It had to change the user interface just enough to ensure that your previous method of working with RAID arrays would be different enough to require learning a few new tricks.

That would be fine if Apple had upgraded the RAID utility to include new capabilities, but as far as I can tell, no updates, either to basic functions or to the RAID driver, are present in the latest version.

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

RAID 0, 1, 10, and JBOD

Disk Utility can still be used to create and manage the same four RAID versions it has always been capable of working with: RAID 0 (Striped)RAID 1 (Mirrored)RAID 10 (Mirrored set of Striped drives), and JBOD (Just a Bunch Of Disks).

In this guide, we’re going to look at using Disk Utility in macOS Sierra and later to create and manage these four popular RAID types. There are, of course, other RAID types you can create, and third-party RAID apps that can manage RAID arrays for you; in some cases, they can even do a better job.

If you need a more advanced RAID utility, I suggest either SoftRAID, or a dedicated hardware RAID system built into an external enclosure.

Read more on Lifewire: Macs.

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