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by Tom Nelson

Your Mac is full of secrets; special files and folders hidden away so you don’t accidentally make changes to critical system components. But Apple isn’t the only one that hides items on your Mac; some developers use similar tricks to keep important secret app files, such as licensing credentials, from being used willy-nilly.

You can get in on the secrets of hiding files and folders so that others can’t easily find them, or make use of their content, with just a few simple Terminal tricks.

Using Terminal to Hide a File or Folder
Terminal has always been a favorite app of mine, so much so that I keep it in the Dock for easy access. Terminal can be used to invoke a couple of commands that can be used to hide or unhide a file or folder.

You may have already made use of the Terminal chflags command to unhide the user’s library folder, which Apple hides by default. If you’re wondering about the user’s library, often written out as ~/Library, you can learn a bit more about it in the article: Access Your Hidden Library Folder With These Five Easy Tricks.

Use the Secrets folder to hide any files or folders you wish. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Let’s take a look at hiding a folder using Terminal by first creating a folder that we can hide.

Open a Finder window, and navigate to your home folder. You can do this by selecting your home folder from the Finder sidebar.

Within the home folder window, either right-click in an empty area and select New Folder from the popup menu, or select New Folder from the Finder’s File menu.

A new folder will be created, and the name (untitled folder) highlighted. Enter a new name for the folder, such as Secrets.

With the Secrets folder created, it’s time to make it disappear.

Launch Terminal, located in /Applications/Utilities, and arrange the Finder and Terminal windows so that you can see both of them.

In the Terminal window, enter the following at the prompt:

chflags hidden ~/Secrets

Hit the Enter or Return key.

The Secrets folder should disappear from the Finder window.

The Secrets folder wasn’t deleted; it simply had a flag changed that told the Finder not to display it in a Finder window. The folder is still right where you created it.

We can bring it back by typing a magic word or two in Terminal:

chflags nohidden ~/Secrets

Press Enter or Return.

The Secrets folder is back.

The first chflags command hides the folder named Secrets, while the second chflags command reveals the hidden Secrets folder. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

That’s not the only Terminal method for making a file or folder disappear. You can also make a file or folder disappear by prepending a period to its name. If we change the Secrets folder name to .Secrets the folder will become invisible to the Finder.

Alternatively, you can use the Terminal mv command, which is designed to move a file or folder to a new location, but can also be used to change a file or folder name.

In the Terminal window, enter the following:

mv ~/Secrets ~/.Secrets

Press Enter or Return.

Just as before, the Secrets folder becomes invisible in the Finder.

You can make it visible again by using the mv command to remove the period from its name.

In the Terminal window, enter:

mv ~/.Secrets ~/Secrets

Hit Enter or Return.

The Secrets folder is now visible within the Finder.

The first mv command is used to hide the Secrets folder by adding a period at the front of its name. The second mv command removes the period and makes the Secret folder visible. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

With both the chflags and the mv Terminal commands, you’re able to make a folder and all of its contents become invisible in the Finder. You can also use the same commands on a single file, if you wish. But since the Terminal commands we mentioned require knowing the pathname to the item, it’s a good idea to just use a single folder to hide one or more items within. That helps simplify the process of remembering the required pathname when it’s time to make the items visible.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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by Tom Nelson

The Mac App Store was supposed to be the place to find and purchase apps for a Mac without having to worry whether the seller, developer, or some other third-party had somehow tampered with the app for nefarious purposes. You also weren’t supposed to need to worry about the download sites being full of ads that could contain malware, ransomware, or other worrisome possibilities.

For the most part, the Mac App Store, along with the other Apple app stores, has lived up to this expectation of being a place where malware and deceptive practices don’t exist. For the most part…

Unfortunately, it’s still advisable to make use of the various stores with caution; not so much about the worry of malware being embedded within an app, though it may happen once in a while, but of scammers trying to acquire personal information by using the Apple stores as bait.

Email Scams Using the App Store as Bait
I just got an email phishing scam this week that pretended to be from Apple, warning me about a purchase I made on the Mac App Store that wasn’t made by a device that Apple recognized. I should, according to this email, use the included link and log in to a special section of the Mac App Store, where I would be asked to verify or cancel the purchase.

The Mac App Store has a reputation as a safe place to purchase Mac apps from, but that doesn’t stop scammers from using the Mac App Store as bait in phishing schemes. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

What a load of hooey. This email had scam written all over it. Besides its use of long run-on sentences and other grammar faux pas, there were a number of other indicators that can be spotted in most of these email phishing expeditions. Apple even has a guide to help you identify legitimate emails from the App Store.

Another phishing scam making the rounds involves receiving a confirmation note about a subscription you purchased in one of the Apple stores. The text of these subscription scams all start by confirming a free trial subscription to a service, and notifying you that once the free trial is over, the monthly cost is an absurdly high amount. One current example is a subscription to YouTube Red, at a monthly cost of $144.99. The purpose of this type of scam is to get you to click on the Cancel Subscription link included in the email. Doing so will take you to a site where you’ll be asked to provide your Apple ID or credit card info, or both. Of course, there never was a subscription to the service, but playing on the fear of being billed will lead some people to click that cancel link.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

Content Caching is one of the new services available in macOS High Sierra. Designed to reduce Internet data usage and increase the speed of updating Macs, iOS devices, and Apple TVs, Content Caching can also speed up iCloud storage by keeping a local copy of the iCloud data on your local area network.

Content Caching: History
Content Caching was originally one of the services included with Mac OS Server. By using the caching service, a system administrator could designate local storage as a repository for all of the software updates distributed by Apple for its various product families.

This allowed all devices connected to the local network to access the stored information without having to re-download the data from the Internet every time a device needed an update.

Caching was an effective way for administrators to reduce the Internet bandwidth used, while actually increasing overall system update performance for the end user.

Content, such as macOS updates, is cached, allowing others on your network to enjoy faster updates. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Apple ceased development of the Mac OS Server product, but the Content Caching capabilities have made the migration from the server product to the Mac, as long as it’s running macOS High Sierra or later.

Content Caching: How It Works
Once Content Caching is enabled on a Mac, it keeps copies of all of the software updates, App Store downloads and updates, and iCloud data, including backups to iCloud that are initiated by any client connected to your local network.

The next time a client on your network needs to download the same data, such as a macOS update, the data is retrieved from the content cache instead of being downloaded from the Internet. All subsequent client devices that need the data get it from the local network at what will normally be a much faster connection than is possible from the Internet.

Data Types That Are Cached
Not everything that is downloaded from the Internet is cached. Content Caching supports the following data types:

  • iTunes purchases (iTunes 11.04 and later)
  • iBooks Store content (iOS 6 or OS X Mavericks and later)
  • iOS app purchases and updates
  • iOS updates over the air (iOS 7 and later)
  • macOS updates
  • Mac App Store purchases and updates
  • GarageBand downloadable content
  • iCloud photos and documents for OS X El Capitan or iOS 9 and later
  • Apple TV apps and updates
  • iOS 10 and tvOS 10 On-Demand resources
  • iTunes U course material
  • Mobile assets, including high-quality Siri voices and dictionaries

Setting Up Content Caching
To make use of Content Caching, you’re going to need:

  • A Mac that is on 24/7, or at least whenever a client device is connected to your local network
  • A Mac connected to your local network via wired Ethernet (preferred) or Wi-Fi
  • A Mac with either a large amount of free space on the startup drive or an external drive
  • macOS High Sierra or later

Note: Apple recommends that the Mac being used for caching be hard-wired to your Ethernet network using Gigabit Ethernet or better. The caching system can serve hundreds of clients concurrently. To ensure adequate throughput, a high-performance wired Ethernet connection to the Mac is encouraged.

If you’re implementing Content Caching for your home or small business, with a limited number of client devices (Macs, iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches), a Wi-Fi connection may be adequate, though the caching Mac may see some negative performance effects if the cache is undergoing heavy use.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

Space, the final frontier. It may seem like an astronomically difficult problem, trying to keep enough free space on your Mac’s startup drive, especially if you have a Mac with a small SSD.

Space is precious, and one of the largest users of your drive’s space is likely to be your various media libraries. You likely have one or more photo libraries, as well as all the music, videos, podcasts, audiobooks, and mobile apps that are managed by your iTunes app. In many cases, your iTunes library is one of the main users of drive space.

One of the best ways to increase the amount of free space on your startup drive, and better manage your media libraries, is to move them from their usual home to an external drive. This allows you to use a large but relatively inexpensive drive to house all the data.

Consider this: A new USB 3.0 external drive with a 2 TB hard drive installed can be had for less than $150, possibly even less if you already have an enclosure to use, or a hard drive kicking around.

That’s why one of my recommendations for controlling drive space issues is to consider moving your media libraries to an external hard drive.

Move iTunes Library to External Storage
In this tip, we’re going to show you how to successfully move your iTunes library from its default location on your startup drive to an external drive connected to your Mac. This method will result in a seamless move, with your iTunes app able to pick up right where it left off, with no hiccups.

The first step in the process is to determine how much external storage you need by finding out how big your current iTunes library is. This will help determine a bare minimum size for an external dedicated to iTunes, though I suggest you use this number only as a reference. I recommend choosing a larger size that will accommodate any expected growth in the library, as well as any additional media libraries you may choose to install on the external now or in the future.

The Get Info window includes information about the size of the selected folder. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Find Out How Large the Current iTunes Library is
The default location for the iTunes library is in your home folder, within the Music folder (~/User_Name/Music). To find out how big the library is, perform the following:

Open a Finder window and navigate to: ~/User_Name/Music.

Right-click or command-click the iTunes folder, and select Get Info from the popup menu.

In the Get Info window that opens, make a note of the folder size found near the top left of the window, just under the General: section.

The size listed indicates the current size of the iTunes library.

You can close the Get Info window.

The size listed is just about the bare minimum. I say “just about” because you’ll need slightly more capacity on the external to ensure the library will fit. As an example, my iTunes library is about 49 GB, not very big as iTunes libraries go. It’s unlikely that my 49 GB library would fit on a 50 GB external (if you could still find such a small drive), due to the amount of space the external will reserve for itself during the formatting and partitioning process. It would be better to go up a size, from 50 GB to 60 GB, as the minimum space needed.

To this minimum, add space for expansion. Perhaps you’re an avid collector of new music and podcasts, or you like to install lots of mobile apps. All of these things will take up additional storage. I suggest going with the largest external drive your budget will tolerate. This will ensure you don’t need to expand the drive size in the near future, and you can always use any unused space for other data, perhaps your photo libraries, or to stream movies from.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

This is the last of our four-part guide to using the Mac’s accessibility features. If you missed the previous installments, you can catch up by reading:

Our last group of Accessibility options includes the Media and Hearing options, plus a couple of general tips.

Media and Hearing are the last two Accessibility categories we will look at. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

To open the Accessibility preference, launch System Preferences by clicking its Dock icon, or by selecting System Preferences from the Apple menu.

In the System Preferences window that opens, select the Accessibility preference pane.

Scroll down the list on the left-hand sidebar until you come to the Media section.

Accessibility Media
The first media option we’ll look at is Descriptions.

Descriptions: This is Apple’s implementation of Audio Descriptions, which involves playing back narration that has been added to the soundtrack of movies, videos, TV programs, and other visual media.

The narration service attempts to describe what is displayed on the screen with concise descriptions of settings, costumes, even sight gags. The narration occurs during pauses between dialog, songs, or major sound effects.

Not all video media includes Audio Descriptions.

To enable Audio Descriptions, launch System preferences, and select the Accessibility preference pane.

Select Descriptions from the list in the Accessibility sidebar.

If Siri is enabled, you can use Siri to bring up the Descriptions configuration by saying, “Hey Siri, open Accessibility Descriptions.”

To turn the description service on, place a checkmark in the box labeled Play audio descriptions when available.

Captions: The Mac’s accessibility options include the ability to display subtitles and closed captions from any media that has embedded captions. Captions are available in two different formats (when provided by the media being viewed): as standard closed captions or as subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing (SDH).

The primary difference between closed captions and SDH is their appearance on the screen; additional contextual clues are included in SDH, such as who is speaking, background sounds, or music lyrics. SDH also uses a more film-friendly font format that doesn’t block as much of the screen as standard closed captions.

The Captions feature allows you to select a caption style as well as choose between closed captions or SDH. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

To configure Captions, bring up the Accessibility preference pane and select Captions from the sidebar.

Once you select the Captions item in the sidebar, you can select or create a subtitle style to use. The Captions feature comes with a few styles already created; you can choose one of the available styles from the list or create your own.

Subtitle styles are displayed in the box above the style list, so you can easily see how each style will look.

To create your own style, select one of the existing styles to use as a template. New styles you create inherit the settings of the currently selected style. Press the plus (+) button below the list of styles.

In the dropdown pane that appears, enter a name in the Style Name field.

Set the color that will appear behind the caption text using the Background Color dropdown menu. You can select from various predefined colors.

The Background Opacity can be set using the dropdown menu. Choose from:

  • Opaque
  • Semi-Transparent
  • Transparent

Set the caption’s color with the Text Color dropdown menu. You have the same color choices as the Background color menu. Remember not to pick the same color or the text will vanish into the background.

You can create your own subtitles style sheet to customize how captioning will look. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Use the Text Size dropdown menu to choose:

  • Extra Small
  • Small
  • Medium
  • Large
  • Extra Large

Use the Font dropdown menu to choose any installed font on your Mac.

You’ll also find that each dropdown menu has a checkbox next to it labeled Allow video to override. Selecting this option allows the embedded settings for the captions to take precedence over the style you created. If you want to ensure your style is always used, remove the checkmark from every “Allow video to override” box.

You may want to let the embedded caption settings override the Background Color and Text Color selections to ensure good visibility against the video. You can always force your style to be used after trying the settings out.

Once you’ve made your choices, click the OK button.

Your caption style will be added to the style list, and will become the selected style. If you would like a different style to be the default, you can select it from the list of styles.

If you would prefer the closed captions to use subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing (SDH), place a checkmark in the box labeled Prefer closed captions and SDH.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

by Tom Nelson

This is the third installment in the Using the Mac’s Accessibility Features series. If you missed the previous installments, you can catch up by reading:

In this installment, we will look at the Interacting category of the Accessibility preference pane.

Accessibility’s Interacting category covers how you can interact with the Mac’s user interface. It includes a number of features that allow you to use dictation for both typing text and controlling basic Mac functions, modify how the keyboard, mouse, and trackpad work, and set up and use alternate physical controllers to interact with the Mac.

Dictation

The Mac’s dictation system is controlled using two preference panes. Basic dictation, that is, using dictation to enter text wherever you would normally type text, is configured from the Keyboard preference pane. Controlling your Mac by speaking, or by creating custom dictation commands, is configured using the Accessibility preference pane’s Dictation options.

Basic Dictation Services:
Launch System Preferences, and select the Keyboard preference pane. You can let Siri perform the task by saying, “Hey Siri, open keyboard preference pane.”

The basic dictation system needs to be enabled before you can make use of the advanced dictation features, including voice command. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

With the keyboard preference pane open, select the Dictation tab.

Use the Dictation radio button to turn dictation on or off.

The option to enable enhanced dictation is available by placing a checkmark in the Use Enhanced Dictation box. I recommend using this option. When it’s selected, Apple will download an extension to Dictation that allows the service to be used offline; the extension also enables dictation commands, a very powerful part of the dictation service.

Use the Language dropdown menu to select the language you wish to use for dictation.

Use the Shortcut dropdown menu to select a keyboard shortcut for turning dictation on and off. This is an important shortcut to remember, as you probably don’t want your Mac trying to convert everything you say to text.

Dictation can use any of the Mac’s audio inputs. You can change the default microphone by clicking on the Microphone icon, and then selecting a mic from the dropdown menu.

You can create custom dictation (voice) commands to control your Mac in the Accessibility preference pane. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

To create a custom command, click on the plus (+) button.

Enter a phrase to use to trigger the custom voice command.

Use the While using: dropdown menu to select an app (including Any Application) that the voice command will be used with.

Use the Perform dropdown menu to select what the command will do. You may be taken aback by seeing only a few options available, such as Open Finder Item, Open URL, or Paste Text. But within the list are three very powerful options:

Press Keyboard Shortcut: This allows a voice command to be used to cause any keyboard shortcut to be performed. Most apps have a large number of keyboard shortcuts available, and if the function you wish to perform doesn’t have a keyboard shortcut, you can either create one using the Keyboard preference pane, or use the next option below.

Select Menu: Enter a menu name exactly as it appears in the app’s menu.

Run Workflow: This will allow you to run any Automator workflow you have created. The Automator item must have been saved as a workflow, and not one of the other options.

Click the Done button when complete.

You start Dictation using a voice command by placing a checkmark in the box labeled Enable the dictation keyword phrase. Once you place a checkmark here, enter a phrase to use to activate dictation.

The last two options are:

Play sound when command is recognized.

Mute audio output while dictating.

Place a checkmark in the appropriate box to enable the above options.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog