Spring Cleaning

Published in MugTalk April 2018…

Its that time of year again. Spring! A time of sunshine, flowers, wide weather swings, and lots of pollen. And so its time for a little spring cleaning. Every culture has some form of spring cleaning in their repertoire and I suggest that this term be extended to cover our computers. It is easy to forget that there is a lot of computer “pollen” that can creep in over time with a resultant effect on performance comparable to the weather extremes in March. Our computers suffer from allergies, just like us!

Since you are all good citizens and want the best for your machines here are a few tips to get you started.

Three Mac Productivity Rules

It helps if you have been following these three simple rules:

  • Never have anything on a computer that is not useful
  • Create and follow a practical organizational plan
  • Stick to the plan and update it periodically

If you are like me, I believe in these rules, but constantly forget or even ignore them. After all, some people think that rules are made to be ignored. Never mind. This is what spring cleaning is all about — taking a moment to reflect and then to madly catch up on all the chores we have neglected over the past 12 months.

Spring Cleaning Actions

Action #1: Update your software. It is important to keep your operating system and your applications updated so that you take full advantage of bug fixes and security improvements. Start with macOS by going to the update section of the Mac App Store and updating everything that is suggested. Then for apps that you bought from the developer, “check for updates” which should be a selection in the app preferences or in a drop-down menu.

Action #2: Test your backups. This is an excellent time to test backups to see if they really work. Note my implicit assumption that you backup regularly! Test your Time Machine backups by deleting one or two unneeded files in a couple of different directories. Then use the Time Machine viewer to go back in time, find the files, and restore them. Also use the viewer to see how far back your versions go. Test your clone backups by restarting your computer while holding the option key down. Select the clone backup as the startup disk (you will need your administrator password). Be aware that booting from a clone will be a lot slower than from your internal drive so be patient.

Action #3: Clean out the cruft. Use ONYX, CleanMyMac 3, or Cocktail to clean out the accumulated cruft (old helper files, caches, etc.) that builds up over time. It is also a good idea to reboot your computer occasionally since the operating system runs a number of maintenance routines during a reboot.

Action #4: Look for old, unused files and apps. If you don’t need them, delete them (use AppCleaner when deleting apps). If you think that you might need them sometime in the distant future, or just can’t bring yourself to part with them, create an Archive folder and move them there. If possible, move the Archive folder to an external drive.

Start with the Downloads folder. This is one that is easy to forget and most of the stuff can be deleted. If you aren’t sure, move the file somewhere where you can deal with it. The goal is to completely empty this folder.

Then use some of the Finder tools (smart searches, the arrange button in the toolbar) to search the Documents, Pictures, and Applications folders. In documents and pictures try sorting by date and do something with the oldest files. In applications try running this smart search (Kind = Application; Last Opened Date = Within Last Year). Pick the time interval of your choice. If you see apps you haven’t used in the last 3 or 4 years think about whether you really need them.

Hopefully, these tips will help you get started on this chore and will not be too onerous. The benefit will be added storage space, better computer performance, and confidence that your computer backups are doing their job. Happy cleaning!

Saving Your Life’s Digital Work

By Daniel Pope

The gentleman was about 30 and seemed like a really nice guy.  He stood sobbing uncontrollably in front of me and two co-workers as though he had just lost a beloved family member. In a way, he had. My co-workers and I understood, or at least we tried.

Perhaps a little explanation is in order.

One of my “post-retirement” jobs was at a retail computer establishment. A privately owned business, we had a staff of approximately ten people and did retail sales and service. A significant part of our business was with a major university and we regularly dealt directly with the students. My position there involved inventory control, a little WordPerfect phone support, and service duties.

One day late in the school year, our unfortunate friend presented his cheap, no-name, Widows box to our service department for repair and/or replacement of a hard drive. I was not involved in this transaction so I did not follow the progress of this service but by chance was present at the counter when he came in to pick up his computer.

Most likely, those of you who are conscientious about doing regular backups (and hopefully those of you who are not) can see where my story is going.

As it turns out, our gentleman friend was a Ph.D. candidate at the university, and while in the final preparation for the presentation of his thesis suffered a major hard drive failure. Between sobs, he explained that his research, notes, diagrams, and the thesis itself were contained on this one hard drive. All of it.

His life’s work for the past few years was on this hard drive, now deceased, and sitting on the counter next to his computer. There was no backup, nothing in the Cloud (this was well before the Cloud as we know it today), no written outline of the thesis text; nothing.

I excused myself from the room as the owner and head service technician tried to assist this hapless fellow. I subsequently learned that he had, at our suggestion, submitted the hard drive to a data recovery company that utilized “clean rooms” and other sophisticated methods of rescuing hard drives in distress. Even at a cost of approximately $5000 (if memory serves) aimed at its recovery, all his data was gone. Although I never learned of his fate regarding the Ph.D. thesis, all these many years later, I wish him well.

It would be easy to disparage this poor fellow for his carelessness (or in my cynical view, stupidity) but that does no one any good. Better we should learn from his misfortune. I’m certain he did.

I went home that evening, hugged my backup drives, and vowed never to find myself in such a position. So, I told you that long story to tell you this:

Backup Up Your Stuff!

I’ve been lucky. Over the years, I’ve never lost a hard drive currently installed in one of my computers. I have, however, lost a drive in my one of my network attached storage system units (NAS), see Figure 1, and a couple of external hard drives used for backups, one as recently as late last year, see Figure 2. As these drives were but one layer of my backup strategy, I suffered some minor inconvenience and expense in replacing them but NO data loss!

Figure 1

Figure 2

I’ll be the first to admit that my multi-layered backup strategy, however familiar and useful to me, is somewhat complicated and most probably not for everyone. There is some expense involved along with considerable time, although much of the process is automated to some degree.  It has evolved from some simple and long forgotten batch files in MS-DOS using the BACKUP command to the procedures I use today.

My current backup system layers are as follows:

  1. The computer’s internal hard drive. Now, thankfully, an SSD memory drive.
  2. Time Machine to my local NAS.
  3. Automated constant backup to the commercial service, Backblaze. (Off-site backup.)
  4. Weekly SuperDuper backups to an external hard drive resulting in a bootable drive should disaster strike.
  5. Periodic backups of selected files to the Cloud. (iCloud, MS OneNote, Box, and others. Another layer of off-site backup.)
  6. Miscellaneous backups: Selected files to my NAS and thumb drives as needed.

Layers 2 and 3 are completely automated requiring no action on my part for them to proceed. I could do this with layer 4, the weekly SuperDuper backup, as well but opt to do this manually as it allows for safe storage of the external drive.

As I mentioned, my system has continuously evolved over the last thirty years and continues to do so. I’m currently developing procedures to generate separate backups of the ever-expanding databases in DevonThink Pro after my recent adoption of that program. There are currently two layers of off-site backup and all above mentioned external drives and disks are stored in a secure, fireproof safe.

There you have it. Please look over my system and adopt and/or change whatever works for you.

If you do nothing else in the world of backing up or learn nothing from this poor fellow’s experience, please, please, go out today and purchase a couple of external hard drives. They’re not expensive. Marry them up to Time Machine, rotate them periodically, and store one off-site.

OK, so now you have a super duper (sorry) backup system in place and are churning out backups every hour, day, week, and year. Do they work?

I recently had an email exchange with an extremely knowledgeable and experienced Mac user who was in danger of losing some data to a Time Machine glitch, possibly hardware related. He and I were discussing the importance of periodically testing our backups. Here’s how:

From time to time select a few random files from your backup system and restore them to your computer. Backblaze and the other commercial services provide directions on how to do this on their websites and it goes without saying that you should know how to accomplish a complete restore if necessary.

Testing Time Machine is easy. Simply enter the application, navigate to the desired file(s) and click on “Restore”. If you are creating bootable backups, periodically test to determine that they are indeed able to boot up your computer.

And of course, periodically test any external or thumb drives to ascertain if they are reading and writing properly and that you can restore a file from them back to your computer. Can you recover the thousands of irreplaceable photographs you have backed up to that single external hard drive that you’ve been using for the last five or six years? One of my external drives went belly up recently. Yours can too.

And finally, please don’t be complacent and dismiss our unfortunate friend’s experience thinking, “This could never happen to me. After all, I have this brand new,

ultra-expensive, space gray, tricked out 15” MacBook Pro complete with the new touch bar.”  Although not very common these days, new drives, both spinning and SSD, can and do fail.

Remember, although today’s SSD drives are considerably more reliable than the old spinning type, there are still only two kinds of computer drives and SSD’s: the dead and the dying.

Don’t be that guy.

dan

 

Create a Personal Knowledge Library

By Phil Davis

March 2017 OMUG Newsletter

Most of us are constantly collecting bits and pieces of information that we find interesting and useful. We’ll read some household or technical tip on the internet that we say “hey, I could use that someday.” So we file that away in our brain, or maybe write it on a piece of paper and put it in a stack with all the other bits of useful knowledge.

Then, three weeks, or three months later we have an occasion to need this bit of knowledge, but we not only can’t remember it but can’t even find the piece of paper.

There is a better way. Start creating your own Personal Knowledge Library (PKL). A couple of years ago I talked about creating a reference library of all your user guides and equipment manuals. A PKL takes this concept one step further and becomes your long-term memory assistant. You might even call it your personal Wikipedia (or for us older folks, a personal Encylopedia Brittanica).

So, how to get started?

First, you will need to decide on an app to use to house your PKL. Ideally, you want one that is easy to use, can store many types of information and is searchable. Also, you would like your information to be accessible from your computer and your iDevices. The app should contain your collection of knowledge in a single file or database but have the ability to easily export stored information in a variety of formats.

Theoretically, you could do the same thing by saving everything in individual files on your computer, but this would quickly become a nightmare and defeat the entire purpose of your PKL.

Next, think about some of the categories you might want to use to identify your knowledge entries. I would suggest starting with some simple ones and expanding later — any good PKL app will make it easy to modify and add to your organization structure as it goes. For example, you might start with simple categories like household tips, technical tips, OMUG newsletters (saved as PDFs), favorite websites, travel plans, and important documents.

Finally, get an app and start using it. There are many to choose from, but here are a few to try. You might want to try several of these for a few days to see what works for you.

Apple Notes: This app is on all Macs and iDevices. The latest version of Notes in Sierra and iOS 10 satisfy many of the requirements but is not as flexible as some of the other choices. It is good for quick notes such as shopping lists that you want to use on your iDevice. Sharing between Mac and iDevices is done through iCloud.

Evernote: This cloud-based service is free, is easy to use, and has downloadable apps for the desktop and iDevices. Also, there are browser extensions that make it very easy to clip information from the web for later retrieval. There are paid upgrades available, but most users will be happy with the free version. Sharing between Mac, PC, iDevices, and Androids is done through Evernote’s web-based servers.

Microsoft OneNote: OneNote has been around for years on the PC and is now available on Macs and iDevices. It is free but requires you to have a Microsoft OneDrive account to allow sharing of documents. The user interface can be a little confusing but you might give it a try to see if it works for you.

DEVONthink: Devonthink is the best of the bunch in terms of power, flexibility, and searchability. You can dump almost anything in it and almost instantly find it later. It isn’t free, but there are several versions available and you can get a fully functional trial version to see if it is what you want. I have used DEVONthink as my own PKL since I switched to a Mac about ten years ago. DEVONthink knowledge bases can be shared using Dropbox, iCloud, Box, and a number of other services.

There are many, many other choices out there, but the best thing is to pick one or two and just get started. I think you will find that having your own Personal Knowledge Library will be one of the most useful tools on your Mac! Think of something like Apple Notes as your short-term memory and Evernote or Devonthink as your long-term memory.

Managing Your Apple ID

By Don Mayer Smalldog.com

(reprinted with permission)

Too many times when I am helping customers I get a blank stare when I ask for their Apple ID. Some quickly look through scraps of paper while oters just start guessing. You Apple ID is the personal account you use to access Apple services like the App Store, iTunes Store, iCloud, iMessage, the Apple Online Store, FaceTime, and more. It includes the email address and password you use to sign in, as well as all the contact, payment, and security details that you’ll use across Apple services. So, yes it is important and you should remember it.

Setting up an Apple ID

Okay, so you are new to the Mac and want to take advantage of all that iCloud stuff, FaceTime and buy stuff at the App store. You need to set up your Apple ID. Before you run off to create a new Apple ID, consider whether it might be better to continue using one you already have. Remember that you might not be able to move data or purchases from an old Apple ID to a new one.

If you aren’t sure if you already have an Apple ID, Apple can help you find it. If your email address has changed, you can change the address you use for your current Apple ID to continue using it.

You can create your Apple ID when you set up a new device or sign in to iTunes or iCloud for the first time. You can also go to the Apple ID site (https://appleid.apple.com/account#!&page=create) and select Create Your Apple ID.

Here’s what you need:

  • A valid email address to use as your Apple ID username.
  • A strong password.
  • Your date of birth.
  • Three security questions and answers to verify your identity and a rescue email address. You can also use this information to reset your password.

It really doesn’t work well to have multiple Apple IDs and they cannot be combined after the fact so be careful to only set up one that you will use for a long time.

Managing your Apple ID

Things change. You may have to change your email address, you may want to change your password or payment method. You can do all this at the Apple ID Account page (https://appleid.apple.com/#!&page=signin). Here you can:

  • Update your Apple ID email address to make sure it’s an address that you use frequently.
  • Change your password to help maintain the security of your account.
  • Manage your payment information to keep your payment method or billing address up to date.
  • Add additional email addresses to help people find and communicate with you on Apple services like FaceTime, iMessage, Game Center, and Find My Friends.
  • See and manage the devices that you’re signed in to with your Apple ID.

Setting up an Apple ID without a Credit Card

If you already have an Apple ID and want to remove your payment method it is easy. You can choose to remove the payment method for your existing Apple ID after you have signed in to the iTunes Store, App Store, or iBooks Store. You won’t be asked for a payment method again until you make a purchase.

If you are just setting up an Apple ID you can do so without a payment method. On a iPhone, iPad or iPod touch follow these steps:

  • Open the App Store app, iTunes Store app, or iBooks app.
  • Choose any free app, song, video, or book.
  • Tap iOS Get button next to the item, then tap again to get it.
  • When you’re asked to sign in with an Apple ID, tap Create New Apple ID.
  • Follow the onscreen instructions. When you’re asked for payment information, choose None.
  • After you enter your information, you’re asked to verify your Apple ID by email. You must verify your Apple ID before you can begin using it.

It is a little bit different if you are setting it up on your Mac.

  • Open iTunes, then go to the iTunes Store.
  • Scroll down and find the country or region flag in the lower-right corner of the window. If it’s not the flag of the country or region where you live, click it and choose your country or region.
  • From the menu in the upper-left corner, choose Music,TV Shows,bApps, or Books.
  • Download a free song, TV episode, app, or book. To find free items, look under Quick Links on the right side of the iTunes Store window for any link that includes the word “free.” When you find a free item, click Get beneath its icon.
  • When you’re asked to sign in with an Apple ID, click Create Apple ID.
  • Follow the onscreen instructions. When you’re asked for payment information, choose None as the payment type.
  • After you enter your information, you’re asked to verify your Apple ID by email. You must verify your Apple ID before you can begin using it.

Protecting your Apple ID

  • Make a strong password, use uppercase and lowercase, numbers and letters and not your dog’s name
  • Reset your security questions to make sure they’re easy for you to remember but hard for others to guess.
  • Add a rescue email address. If you forget your password or the answers to your security questions, your rescue email address will help you regain access to your account.
  • If you haven’t already, set up two-step verification or two-factor authentication to add an extra layer of security to your account.

Sharing your Apple ID

DON’T.

Your Apple ID should not be shared with anyone else. It provides access to personal information including contacts, photos, device backups, and more. Sharing your Apple ID with someone else means you are giving them access to all your personal content and may lead to confusion over who actually owns the account. To share iTunes & App Store purchases, photos, a calendar, and more with someone else, try Family Sharing, iCloud Photo Sharing, or other easy-to-use sharing features.

How to Take a Screenshot on a Mac

By Phil DavisPublished February 2012; Updated December 2016

Use Keyboard Shortcuts

Screenshots can be made using these shortcuts.

  • Capture screen, save to file CMD+SHIFT+3
  • Capture screen, save to clipboard CMD+CTRL+SHIFT+3
  • Capture a selection, save to file CMD+SHIFT+4
  • Capture a selection, save to clipboard CMD+CTRL+SHIFT+4

Use the Grab Application

You can also make use of Grab application which is included with the Mac OS. You can find it at /applications/utilities/grab. The captured image can be saved to a file or can be copied to another application.

  1. Open Grab
  2. Select Capture from the Menu
  3. Select the type of capture needed (Selection, Window, Screen, Timed Screen)
  4. Select FILE > SAVE to save the image, or
  5. Select EDIT > COPY to put the image into the clipboard

Or, use the following keyboard shortcuts

  • Capture selection CMD+SHIFT+A
  • Capture window CMD+SHIFT+W
  • Capture screen CMD+Z
  • Timed capture of screen CMD+SHIFT+Z (capture occurs 10 seconds after selection)

Use the Preview Application

Preview gives you the ability to annotate your capture without the use of other software.

  1. Open Preview (from the Dock or from the applications menu)
  2. Select FILE > TAKE SCREENSHOT
  3. Select FROM SELECTION, or FROM WINDOW, or FROM ENTIRE SCREEN
  4. If desired annotate the capture: Select TOOLS > ANNOTATE
  5. Save the file as a PDF or an image.

If you want to annotate the screen capture, check out some of the following applications: Monoshap, Snappy, Jing (free) or Powershot, Snagit, Capto, SnapZ Pro, Napkin (commercial apps).

Five Quick Tips

By Phil Davis

Published December 2011; Updated December 2016

Use Spotlight to Launch Applications

The simplest and fastest way to launch an application is to use Spotlight. Use the keyboard shortcut CMD+SpaceBar to open Spotlight, enter the name of the app (usually you only need the first few characters) and click on the app’s icon. It couldn’t be simpler!

Look For The Obvious

When trying to track down a vexing computer problem most of us will spend a lot of time on google, asking experts, calling Apple, etc. However, sometimes we are so immersed in the details we forget to look for the most obvious cause.

In a recent blog, the author was trying to uncover the cause of a drastic slowdown in his iMac’s performance. Nothing worked until he happened to notice that there were 0 GB left on the hard drive! Once he deleted about 10 GB of unneeded files, the Mac ran fine.

Remember: try to keep at least 15% of your hard drive free.

A Quick Way To Add a Software License Items to 1Password

One of 1Password’s features is the ability to securely store all your software licenses. The normal way is to use File > New Item > New Software License from the 1Password menu.

However, a faster way is to view your applications in the Finder, then drag-and-drop the app’s icon onto 1Password’s Dock icon and a new license item will be created with most of the needed information. Then you can paste your license into the new item for safe keeping.

Use Preview to Sharpen Text

Sometimes you have a PDF file that has fonts that are faint or in a color that is hard to read. With Preview you can adjust the contrast somewhat to increase the contrast.* Open the PDF with Preview* Choose File > Export* Click on the Quartz Filter drop-down menu and select Lightness Decrease* Click Save

Force a Disk to “Unmount”

Sometimes Mac OS X goes a little crazy and won’t let you eject an external drive, even after it’s no longer in use by any application. If you can’t unmount a disk even after all open applications are closed, and don’t want to restart your machine, this little Terminal trick is for you.

Open the Terminal utility, and type:

diskutil unmountDisk force /Volumes/DISK_NAME

Replace DISK_NAME with the volume name (yes, it is case sensitive) and you are all set!

Three Ways to Learn About Your Computer

By: Phil Davis. Published April 2013; Updated December 2016

You just bought your shiny new Mac and you are anxious to get started using it. However, you might want to take a few minutes to understand (and document) what you have before downloading all those apps.

Here are three easy ways to learn about your Mac.

Use About My Computer

The easiest way to see what is inside that fancy box is to click the Apple icon in the upper left corner and select About This Mac. You will see the version of OS X installed on your computer, the processor type and speed, the amount of memory, and the name of the start-up disk.

14842496894468.jpg

If you click Displays, Storage, or Memory at the top of the small window you will get even more useful information. The storage window is one of the most useful as you can see how much space is left on your startup drive.

If you click back to the Overview page and select System Report you will get all the gory details of all your hardware and software.

Get a Manual and a Specification Sheet for Your Computer

If you click on Support you can download a PDF copy of your computer’s manual (1) and spec sheet (2). Your serial number will be used to get the correct information.

14842500194175.jpg

This is also a quick way to get hardware and software information from Apple.

Get MacTracker

Your final source of information is to download a free app called MacTracker. Go here and grab this little gem http://mactracker.ca/.

14842504212957.jpg

Mactracker provides detailed information on every Apple Macintosh computer ever made, including items such as processor speed, memory, optical drives, graphic cards, supported OS versions, and expansion options. There is also information about Apple mice, keyboards, displays, printers, scanners, speakers, cameras, iPod, Apple TV, iPhone, iPad, Wi-Fi products, Newton, iOS, Mac OS, and OS X versions.

Now, you will be able to start downloading those apps, learn how to master your machine and start on the road to becoming a Mac wizard.

Happy computing!