Archive for the ‘Mac OSX’ Category

I was in OS upgrade/update hell.  Okay, maybe not hell, but hell adjacent.

I am of course referring to the latest Mac operating system, OS X Mavericks.  The actual download was not so bad, if you don’t mind waiting for a 5.3 GB download that is, but the related app updates afterward got to be a little tedious and time-consuming. Especially when you get one that you’ve already done showing up again like the persistent iMovie 10.0 update.  I’ve already installed the latest version, but for some reason the App Store wants me to install it again since it seems to be showing up with a different date even though the release number is the same.  sigh.  All in all, if you are doing the update, make sure you set aside a large block of time and LOTS of bandwidth/data.  Maybe find someone with unlimited data from their ISP.
mavericks-03

mavericks-06Speaking of updates, I lost track of the number of them and the size, but suffice to say the first time I connected my Time Machine backup to the updated MBA running Mavericks, there were over 65 GB of changes to be backed up.  Thanks to a rather speedy Thunderbolt drive, it only took a couple of hours.
mavericks-04There were a few strange glitches after the Mavericks install. The first time I connected my iPad and synced it, the “finishing sync” lasted for an hour before I gave up and ejected it. Thankfully no harm done.  Another was the mail app that didn’t want to fetch new mail, even though it was set to “automatically” retrieve it seems to be on it’s own schedule.  I changed it to “every minute” and its working fine now.

mavericks-05I haven’t had much time to play with it yet, but the install went smooth for me (it’s always a crapshoot on a x.0 release so you may want to wait for the x.1) and speed seems to be good for opening programs.  I’ve noticed that my fan on my MBA is not running as often, which makes me think they’ve done some nice behind the scenes work on power usage.  To that end, in the battery indicator located in the menu bar, the “No apps using significant energy” is kinda cool.  I’ll have to try to bring my little laptop to its knees with some graphic and memory intense apps and see what that readout changes to.

If you were already running the last version of OS X you may not notice a lot of changes on the surface, aside from some new icons for a few apps.  Seems most of the big changes are behind the scenes.  Maybe they are running low on major changes to the operating system, after all its been a decade now since OS X debuted.

old iPhoto

old iPhoto, new Maps & iBooks

new iPhoto icon

new iPhoto icon

Speaking of changes, I have to say, bringing the Maps App from iOS to the OS X version has made it much nicer to find and adjust your route on a larger screen and then have it automatically appear in your recent’s on the iPhone and iPad. Sweet.  Also a welcome change was moving iBooks out of iTunes to become its own app and allowing it to be synced across all devices.  Sometimes I like to read on my Mac, not just my iPad or iPhone, so for me it is a good thing.  Depending upon your setup, you may not be as excited, but picking up where i left of on any device makes reading more accessible.

mavericks-08One thing that hit the news after the update was the fact people were seeing the latest iWork apps for free on some computers.  Turns out if you had a trial version of certain Apple software on your Mac, the trial allowed you to update to the full version after installing Mavericks.  I read a little about the issue and wondered if it still worked after the install was already done.  As a proof of concept – you know, purely for scientific reasons – I tracked down an installer for the trial version of iWork ’09.  It is still out there on a number of mirror sites if you hurry.

I installed the trial from the nearly half GB dmg file, and as soon as I opened Pages on my Mac I was greeted with the window telling me there was an update and asking if i’d like to install it.  No “purchase now” tab, just “update” in the App Store.  To ensure it worked, I of course installed it and yes, in fact, it is a full-blown version of Pages.  Same thing happened with Numbers and Keynote.

mavericks-07As was reported from an Apple source on MacTrast’s website… “Rather than maintain separate updates for these in addition to the Mac App Store versions of each app, Apple has decided to eliminate their legacy software update system for apps entirely. Instead, when Mavericks discovers legacy apps installed on your Mac, it provisions them as a Mac App Store purchase using your Apple ID. It saves us a lot of time, effort, and bandwidth. After the provision is complete, it will appear in your Mac App Store history as though you have purchased the Mac App Store version of the app.”  

Apple knows about the “glitch” and seems to be fine with it, figuring most people are honest and won’t abuse it.  They are probably also hoping that not many sites will continue to host the iWork ’09 Trial, but I personally expect a resurgence in the popularity of that particular download.

There will always be small problems with any major update to an OS and if you are using your Mac for business you may want to wait a week or so until the 10.9.1 update comes out, but I for one am happy so far, especially with having a few new free iWork apps to play with.  You know just to ensure they work.

barkerp

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timemachine-newDoing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is said to be the definition of insanity. Well, you can call me insane.  But don’t lock me away just yet.

I bought a new external Thunderbolt drive (TB) for backing up my MacBook Air (MBA), since the one i was using for Time Machine was saying it was full all the time, and was around 6 years old.  A backup is only good if it actually works, and as we all know, hard drives fail so to ensure I didn’t lose any data I decided to replace it.  After all, according to Apple’s own knowledge base, it’s a simple procedure to copy the old backup to a new one.

Yeah, i beg to differ.

After waiting approx. 2 hours for the copy command to calculate all the files in the “Backups.backupdb”, then another couple of hours for the actual copying to occur, I got an “Error code 8062“.  Which is a lovely generic error, that really doesn’t help me to figure out what the actual problem was.  It mentioned a few of the files were not compatible “Newer version of iWork needed” which confounded me a tad, since I don’t use iWork except for Pages on my iPad and iPhone.  There was about 50 files I had to cancel on and then the backup hung.  I went back and started again, reformatting the drive, changing the permissions and all, just like the Knowledge base article described.  To no avail.  I Even tried to copy the files within the backupdb (database) individually but something happens when you do that. It is as if the linking of files is disabled and each folder inside the larger db becomes massive. Folders were 139gb each. After 4 folders I had already copied more info that the total db size was listed at in the first place.

It was about this time I had to decide if I really wanted to waste more time trying to continue from the existing backup, or just start anew.  Eventually  I realized I didn’t have to get rid of the old Time Machine backup, it can stay right where it is for a while until I’m comfortable enough with the new backup to feel secure nothing will be lost, or nothing will need to be restored.  When that is?  Who knows.  That is the beauty of Time Machine and OS X, you can use more than one drive or location to backup to.  So, throwing caution to the wind (okay not really, since existing old backup is still accessible – just going for dramatic effect here), I connected the clean TB drive and let it do its initial backup, all nice and new and empty.  A few hours later I had a current backup.  Sure I couldn’t go back more than a few hours to retrieve anything, but its a start, and like I said I did still have the old backup if worse came to worst.
Gotta love the speed of the Thunderbolt drive. I plugged in my backup when I got to the office and it had 1.4 gig to update. Took less time than it took to type this paragraph I swear.   I was using a FireWire drive previously, with a TB adapter since the MBA no longer sported a FW connection, but the real deal TB is Soooooooo much zippier in its native form.
We’ll call this one a win, and a lesson learned.  Now, can someone help me out of this straight jacket…
barkerp

…that is the question

The most common computer question I get after “Does this seem like a virus to you?” is “Should I replace my computer or not?
This may be a rambling reply, so get comfy, in the end there is an answer.

In this society where we tend to always want the latest best new thing, we often forget that we don’t always need to replace, sometimes an upgrade of key components can breathe new life into a computer.  Replacing the hard drive for instance.  If you have the option, then an SSD can make your computer run that much faster.  Especially when paired with bumping up the ram.  Max it out if possible.  If you are running a current Operating System (OS) then you shouldn’t have any software limitations to how much you can access and use.  Check with the technical specs for your specific computer and it will tell you what the max RAM is.  In the case of an Apple computer, check with Mactracker to confirm.  (http://mactracker.ca) Sometimes the Apple maximum is not the real maximum the device will support.

I mentioned “current OS”.  That is because older versions of Windows had maximum accessible ram caps, but that was changed with vista and Win7 and if you are not running one of those, then that is a good indication it may be time to check and see if your current PC is even capable of running a newer OS.  The latest Mac operating system has minimum system requirements to run smoothly and quickly and won’t install on older hardware, same with Windows.  You can check easily if your system will allow you to upgrade to the latest OS, which if it can’t then yes, it may be time to upgrade or replace.  For Mac, again, Mactracker is a great tool, as is the Apple website under support, in the Technical Specs for the OS you are thinking about.  Mountain Lion for instance is here… http://support.apple.com/kb/SP654.  Similarly with Win7 you can check here… http://windows.microsoft.com/is-IS/windows7/products/system-requirements. The Microsoft site above will also allow you to check your PCs compatibility from the site if you allow it.

Bare in mind, these are the MINIMUM requirements.  Some things may work, but slowly, so take it with a grain of salt.  If you are close to the low-end of what is required, tweaking the graphics will help to speed things up a little.  By that I mean turning off the fancy visual effects such as the “genie effect” in Mac OS dock, or disable Aero effects in Win7.

If you are already running a current version, or in some case, current enough, then another thing to do is keep it clean – both the hardware and the software. By clean I mean getting the dust and crumbs out of it as well as by removing unneeded software/apps/programs/files.  A full hard drive takes longer to access files and also causes havoc with programs looking for temporary space.  Any OS will try to allocate a chunk of space from your hard drive for file swapping and temp storage while you work, and some programs require more than other depending upon their undo files, etc.  It surprising how a little spring cleaning can help speed up your computer.  Getting back to the dust issue, a good rule of thumb for desktop computers is to open the case once a year and carefully blow out the innards with canned compressed air.  I typically do this with a vacuum running next to it to catch all the dust before letting it back into the house/office.

If you are having the hard drive replaced or adding extra ram to speed things up, the shop/person doing it for you will typically physically clean out the inside of the computer.  Ask them to check the operation of the system fans and power supply fan while in there too.  A system not properly being cooled will also have troubles and can cause slow downs or in severe cases, system failure, shutdowns or damage.

If you’ve tried speeding up what you have, have updated it as much as you can and still aren’t happy with the speeds, then at least you have a good clean system as a spare, or a hand-me-down, or better yet maybe a hand-me-up.  Once you’ve got your new computer and transferred all your files/data/programs, why not give your old one to your parents or grandparents, odds are it is better than they already have and they will appreciate the gesture of finally paying them back for all the things they gave you growing up.  It may be better than giving it to your kids, who if they are like mine, want the newest toys on the market anyway.  Also, it is nice you are familiar with the system, so that way when they ask you questions about how it works, you’ll be able to help them out easily.  One last perk is you are keeping it out of the landfill, and giving it a little extra life, which always feels good to me when I’m justifying buying the latest and greatest for myself.

Use the tech-shuffle to your advantage, there is usually someone who will be thankful for your hand-me-down/up devices.

barkerp

p.s. –  for all your Shakespeare nuts, yes I know the image of the hand holding the skull doesn’t go with the “to be or not to be” scene in Hamlet, but I’m taking artistic license, Horatio.

Argh. Double argh even.  One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  So what does it mean when doing the same thing causes different results?  Well, for me, it means I’m dealing with that fickle cat Mountain Lion, the latest Mac OS.

One of the issues I had was opening files of certain types.  No longer can you just click them and have them open or give you a warning ensuring you want to open them.  Now with some files, you get cryptic error messages instead and no option to open them at all.  It all seems to come down to revised security settings in Mountain Lion (ML).  One that proved particularly annoying was the fact I could no longer read the downloaded offline MacLife magazines that were in a “xxxx.dmg” format.

Even looking at the Console gave me no clue (see below).  It seemed to be indicating there was a space issue, which wasn’t true, unless the .dmg wasn’t mounted properly and it was trying to expand inside itself.

Argh.  It had me pulling my hair out thinking something was goofy with the file, I even downloaded it again to check and contacted the support for Coverleaf where i get my subscription from to no avail.  I had no trouble opening them before the ML update, so I tried again on a computer not updated and the .dmg mounted fine and allowed me to read the App inside.

Next idea was to try on another computer that was updated (our MacBook Pro) and sure enough it worked on there too.  So now the trick became figuring out what was different between them.  I took that one step further and asked my friendly neighbourhood Nerd via twitter if he could open the .dmg and the App inside, knowing he had the same MacBook Air as I.  He couldn’t either, but for some reason he got a slightly different error message that was actually helpful and it pointed towards the real culprit – Security settings.

Allow applications settings

Firewall

There are two things getting in the way, the “allow applications downloaded from” and the Firewall. And the annoying thing is, they are fickle.  If I toggle the firewall off then change from “Mac App Store and identified developers” to “Anywhere” and then when i control-click i can finally allow the app to load.

All it is is a web archive that opens in your browser.  I tried to add the App or the .dmg into the allowed developers under advanced Firewall settings (see below), but because each monthly archive has a different name you would need to add them every time.  Not a solution.

So in the end, turning off the firewall and then mounting the .dmg is the only way, just remember to turn it back on again after.

That brings us to double argh.  Mounting a network drive.  It works to browse to the share once and then try again later the same day and it won’t mount properly.  Or sometimes browsing doesn’t work at all. Sometimes using “connect to server” and spelling out the actual mapping, (i.e.: smb://192.168.X.XXX) works and then other times it will mount incorrectly and not enable you to work with the existing files or add new.  The only option you get is to “eject”.  Since we work on a network with numerous files in various places this gets real old real fast.  Haven’t found a workaround for this one yet.  Although restarting seems to work most of the time.

Another annoyance along those same lines is mounting a Firewire drive using the new Thunderbolt to Firewire connector, which has turned out to be a fickle thing as well.  If I connect the power to the drive first, wait a second or two and then connect the cable to the drive and the MBA it will usually work.  But not every time.  At first I thought it didn’t work at all which was a big disappointment, but perseverance allowed me to eventually figure out a way that works about 75% of the time so for now I’ll take it.

It seems naming the OSes after cats was a bit of a premonition since they are such quirky and fickle animals. The new big cat on the block wasn’t quite ready when it was released, and even now with 10.8.2 installed, two fixes later, it is still having issues.  Thankfully they can be overcome, but really, should we have to?  Take a little more time and get it right first Apple, just because you are getting a bigger piece of the pie doesn’t mean you can start letting the quality we have come to expect from you slip.

tcg

So, you downloaded Mountain Lion, and everything was good.  Then went and grabbed a new third-party update for a program only to find that when you double-click it you are greeted with a new dialogue box telling you that you can’t do that. What the heck?
Don’t fret, it is supposed to work that way and unbeknownst to you, it’s in your settings to behave that way as the default, but you can change it easily enough.

you used to be able to double-click

right-click or ctrl-click to get this

The default is to allow only Mac App Store apps to install by double-clicking, which is a change from the old way where double clicking gave you the option to install.  Now if you want to install you need to right-click or control-click the app and select “Open” and you will be greeted with the second screen grab.

It may seem a tad goofy at first, but it’s all about security and meant to work that way to help stop you from installing something that could be dangerous.  Viruses, for example.  Yes they do happen on Macs just not very often… yet.  Those nefarious types are trying though.  So far Windows is an easier larger target to hit, but some do like the challenge of the Mac OS and are playing around with little nasties to infect our pretty little Macs.

Getting back to the settings, if you go into System Preferences, in the tab for Security and Privacy (shown below) you can change the setting, but it will make you more susceptible to any scams and viruses that may be disguised as apps you wanted to download and install.

you can change by clicking the lock and then selecting Anywhere

But as the warning says…

i’m not fond of this setting, left it as is

My personal preference is to leave the setting as is and be more secure.  Just have to retrain myself to not try to double-click apps to install them.  That adage about old dogs and new tricks comes to mind, but it is better to have to click a couple more times to install something, than to mistakenly install something nasty that could take hours to remove properly and irrevocably damage or delete irreplaceable files.  Don’t treat installers like the way most treat EULAs.  Make sure you know what you are installing and meant to do it.

tcg