TechBits: Advantages of a clean desktop

Does your Desktop look like this?

Credit: Whitson Gordon

If your computer is running slower than it should, sometimes complicated maintenance isn’t the answer – a clean desktop could do just as much as anything. Because of the way OS X’s graphical system works, the icons on your desktop take up a lot more of your resources than you may realize. Even if your Desktop is cleaner than this you still may have a problem. You should open the Desktop folder in a Finder window to see what might be hiding. Make sure that you don’t have a folder with lots of images. Even though the folder would be the only thing showing, the images will slow things down.

Obviously, this isn’t a problem for most of you, since you’ve created a clean, organized desktop for yourselves (right? right?), but your less tech-savvy friends and relatives might be guilty of this.

Do yourself a favor and try to achieve something like this.

TechBits: Using the USB-C port and adapters

Learn about the power, data transfer, and video capabilities of the USB-C port and USB-C adapters for your MacBook.

USB-C port

USB-C is a next generation industry standard that allows charging, data transfer, and video—all in one simple connector.

Your MacBook comes with one USB-C port:

Through this port you can:

  • Charge your MacBook
  • Provide power out
  • Transfer data between your MacBook and other devices
  • Connect video output such as HDMI, VGA, and DisplayPort
  • Connect to other technologies such as Ethernet

The USB-C port on your MacBook supports data transfer speeds at up to 5 Gbps (USB 3.1 Gen 1).

USB-C cables and adapters

Learn about Apple’s USB-C cables and adapters that you can use with the USB-C port on your MacBook.

29W USB-C Power Adapter and USB-C Charge Cable

Directly connect the 2-meter USB-C Charge Cable and the 29W USB-C Power Adapter to charge your computer. These are included in the box with your MacBook. You can also use the USB-C Charge Cable to transfer data between your MacBook and other USB-C devices at USB 2.0 speeds.



Additional USB-C adapters (sold separately) allow you to use the USB-C port to connect displays and other devices to your MacBook. See the sections below for more information.

Using third-Party USB-C power adapters

Your MacBook will charge from USB-C power adapters not manufactured by Apple if they adhere to the USB Power Delivery specification.


USB-C to USB Adapter

The USB-C to USB Adapter lets you use any standard USB (USB-A) device or hub with your MacBook. It provides data transfer and power to USB-A devices. For example, you can use this adapter to connect your MacBook to a:

  • Portable flash drive
  • Hard Drive
  • Digital Camera
  • Powered USB 3 hub
  • USB to Ethernet adapter
  • USB to Lightning Cable for charging and syncing your iPhone, iPad, or iPod

The USB-C to USB Adapter supports data transfer at up to 5 Gbps (USB 3.1 Gen 1).

This adapter requires no power to operate. However, devices that you plug into it might draw power from your MacBook, so you should disconnect it when you’re not using it.


USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter

The USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter allows you to simultaneously:

  • Charge your MacBook
  • Connect to other standard USB (USB-A) devices or hubs
  • Connect your MacBook to external HDMI video devices such as a TV, projector, or display.

The HDMI port on this adapter supports the following:

  • TVs, displays, and projectors that you connect via HDMI
  • HDMI 1.4b
  • 720p and 1080p HDTVs, projectors, and displays at up to 1920×1200 resolution
  • 4K Ultra-HD TVs and displays with the following resolutions. See Using 4K displays and Ultra HD TVs with Mac computers for more information.
    • 3840×2160 at 30Hz
    • 4096×2160 at 24Hz

The USB-A port on this adapter supports data transfer at up to 5 Gbps (USB 3.1 Gen 1). Connect standard USB devices or hubs.

The USB-C port on this adapter charges your computer, but it doesn’t transfer data. Use the USB-C Charge Cable and the 29W USB-C Power Adapter (included in the box with your MacBook) to charge your computer.

This adapter will draw power from your MacBook even when the MacBook is asleep. Be sure to unplug the adapter to avoid draining your battery if your computer isn’t connected to AC power.


USB-C VGA Multiport Adapter

The USB-C VGA Multiport Adapter allows you to simultaneously:

  • Charge your MacBook
  • Connect to other standard USB (USB-A) devices or hubs
  • Connect your MacBook to external VGA video devices such as a TV, projector, or display.

The VGA port on this adapter supports TVs, displays, and projectors you connect via VGA. It supports these at resolutions up to 1920×1200.

The USB-A port on this adapter supports data transfer at up to 5 Gbps (USB 3.1 Gen 1). Connect standard USB devices or hubs.

The USB-C port on this adapter charges your computer, but it doesn’t transfer data. Use the USB-C Charge Cable and the 29W USB-C Power Adapter (included in the box with your MacBook) to charge your computer.

This adapter will draw power from your MacBook even when the MacBook is asleep. Be sure to unplug the adapter to avoid draining your battery if your computer isn’t connected to AC power.

Using USB hubs and devices

You can connect USB hubs and devices to the USB-C adapters as described in their sections above.

USB hubs and other USB devices that supply power won’t charge your MacBook. Use the supplied USB-C Charge Cable and 29W USB-C Power Adapter to charge your MacBook.

Some USB drives might not appear in the Finder when you plug them in. Try plugging the drive into the adapter before plugging the adapter into your MacBook. Another thing that can help with this is connecting the drive through a powered USB A hub.

These drives aren’t compatible with the Apple USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter or USB-C VGA Multiport Adapter:

Connecting to Ethernet

You can connect your MacBook to Ethernet by using certain adapters. Note that if you use a third-party USB to Ethernet adapter, check with the manufacturer to see if you need any additional drivers.

USB Target Disk Mode

Your MacBook supports USB Target Disk Mode when you use it with a compatible, full-featured (“super speed”) USB-C cable. Note that the USB-C Charge Cable (included with MacBook) does not support USB Target Disk Mode.

To enable Target Disk Mode, hold down the T button on your keyboard while starting your MacBook. Then connect the USB-C cable. Use a full-featured USB-C to USB-C cable to connect to another MacBook, or a full-featured USB-A to USB-C cable to connect to a Mac with standard USB-A ports.

Information about products not manufactured by Apple, or independent websites not controlled or tested by Apple, is provided without recommendation or endorsement. Apple assumes no responsibility with regard to the selection, performance, or use of third-party websites or products. Apple makes no representations regarding third-party website accuracy or reliability. Risks are inherent in the use of the Internet. Contact the vendor for additional information.

Last Modified: Apr 10, 2015

Create A Reference Library Containing User Guides and Manuals

By Phil Davis
March 2015

Tired of digging through file cabinets or boxes full of paper when searching for a manual for your TV? How about the manual for using your microwave? If you are like me you rarely remember where you put them, and they often refuse to be found.

Try a better way. Download PDF versions of the user guides and manuals for your appliances, electronic gear, computers, tools, and all the other stuff we accumulate. Almost all manufacturers provide them on their websites these days.

First, you must create a folder to store your reference documents. I suggest something like this: Documents/Reference/Manuals.

As you start to accumulate your manuals you might want to create more subfolders such as /Manuals/Applicances, /Manuals/Electronics, /Manuals/Computer Equipment, /Manuals/Photo Equipment, etc.

Use Google search to find the manuals. Usually all you need in the search term is the make and model of the item + manual. Apple makes it easy to find your computer manuals. You just need your serial number.

  1. Click on the Apple icon in your menu bar (top left corner)
  2. Select About This Mac
  3. Find the Serial Number and write it down
  4. Go to
  5. Click Browse by Product
  6. Enter the serial number into the search field, click Search
  7. Select the manual you want and download the file. Note: sometimes you will see other items that seem to be unrelated – they are shown because they contain information that is somehow related to your computer.

Be sure to save the downloaded PDF files into the proper subfolder in your Documents. Once you save them you can easily find them again using Spotlight.

Make Your Reference Library Available Anywhere

Now that you have a Reference Library, you might want to make it accessible from other computers or iDevices. There are several ways to do this.

  1. Use iBooks. You can put copies into iBooks and then they will be available on your iPad or iPhone. You will need to connect the device to your computer (via USB or WiFi) and copy the files into the iBooks app.
  2. Use Dropbox. Instead of creating folders for the reference library in Documents, use your Dropbox account. In this case the folder structure would look like this. Dropbox/Reference/Manuals & Guides/. Now the Reference Library will be accessible on any computer connected to your Dropbox account as well as on your mobile devices.
  3. Use Evernote. If you have a free Evernote account, then create a category on the Evernote account called Manuals and Guides. Upload the PDF files, and add Tags for the type of manual. Now your Reference Library will be accesible on all your computers using the Evernote app. You can read them on any computer using your browser, and on all your mobile devices. What’s not to like!

There are at least four more ways to do this, but I think you get the idea. I’ll stop here before you overload your brain.

The Bottom Line: Just do it – you won’t regret it.

Your Digital Afterlife – Virtual Will

By Phil Davis

January 2015

January is always the time for making New Year Resolutions, at least for many people. It’s also a time to review last year’s resolution and realize how many were forgotten or left undone! I don’t normally like to do this, but there is one resolution that I’m making for 2015 that I intend to keep.

Resolved: Create My Digital Asset Estate Plan (Virtual Will)

Almost without realizing it, we have shifted toward an all-digital culture where things like family photos, home movies, and personal letters now exist only in digital form. Moreover a growing part of our digital life is stored in services like FaceBook, Flickr, YouTube, and Gmail. Have you considered what will happen to your accounts and digital assets when you die? Whether you like it or not your digital assets have an afterlife.

It is important to think about these things early and create a plan so that your family and heirs will not be left with a mess should you die or get incapacitated. Without a plan, the executor of your estate may have difficulty tracking down accounts, extracting photos and other important information, and then closing the accounts.

Laws have not caught up with our rapidly evolving technology. There are no uniform policies across technology platforms, states, or countries. As a result, the executor of your estate may have to go to court to gain access to your online assets. State Senator Dorothy Hukill,  Port Orange, states “There’s nothing standardized. And there’s nothing in law that addresses it. If we don’t address it soon, I see it exploding as a problem.” Hukill, an attorney specializing in probate and estate planning, says she will file legislation on the issue. Basically, her proposal would allow a designated fiduciary or personal representative access to the dearly departed’s digital life.

According to Kate Santich writing in the Orlando Sentinal “Even people who do make provisions now — who specify their desires in a will, for instance, or leave their user names and passwords to a trusted loved one — can’t count on having their wishes fulfilled, at least not legally.”

Identify Your Digital Assets

So what are we to do in this period of “legal limbo.” The first thing is to identify and inventory your digital assets — accounts, passwords, backup files, computer files, social media, email, online banking, etc.

Digital assets can be organized into several categories:

  • Computers and Devices: Content and access codes for desktops, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones.
  • Email Accounts: Account access codes and messages.
  • Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and others.
  • Cloud Sites: DropBox, Google Drive, Onebox, Box, and others.
  • Off-site Backups: Crashplan, BackBlaze, Amazon S3, and others.
  • Online businesses: Online stores, blogs, and websites, including PayPal, eBay and Etsy.
  • Multimedia content or digital mementos from Shutterfly, Snapfish, Flickr, Instagram, and other digital content sites.

Collect all the information needed to access your accounts, then document it in a way that is secure but easily accessed and understood by your Digital Executor. Think about all your digital assets, both personal and professional, and think about what they might be worth, financially, and emotionally.

McAfee recently released the results of a global digital assets survey and our digital devices hold an estimated $35,000 of value on average. Topping the charts are irreplaceable personal memories, photos and videos, at an estimated $17,000 in value. Additionally over half of respondents expressed they kept assets on their devices that are impossible to recreate, download or purchase again. (source: The Digital Beyond website)

Name a Digital Executor

Your digital executor should be someone that you trust and is comfortable with computers and technology. They will be responsible for managing your local and online digital assets. You will want to provide them with a copy of your Virtual Will and with your regular updates.

Create a Virtual Will

Your virtual will is all the information needed to document your accounts, their location, login information, passwords, and all the other metadata that goes along with digital assets. Don’t forget photos, documents, and backups stored in the cloud or in off-site locations.

Your virtual will should specify what you want done with everything and provide all the information needed by your Executor. You might want to:

  • Have your executor archive everything for your heirs.
  • Provide access to designated content to specific individuals or groups.
  • Delete some or all of your digital assets. Be specific about your wishes.
  • If you want to let your executor decide what to do with your assets you should make the clear in the virtual will.

You might want to archive your most important digital content and then ensure that your executor has all the information needed to access the archive. If you have been following the advice to establish and maintain good backups, then you already have a start on your archive.

1Password is an excellent program to securely keep track of most of your important information, but you must be sure to include the master password needed to access the program in your will. Another good option is to create an encrypted spreadsheet to contain the information. You can download a PDF file that makes it easy to collect much of this information.

Periodically Review Your Virtual Will and Keep it Updated

Most of us are constantly modifying our accounts, adding new ones, changing passwords, and making other changes so we must not only create the will and give it to our executor, but we must review and update it on a regular basis. I suggest that you do this at least once a year. Providing computer and mobile device access to your digital executor or heir – including physical location, usernames, and passwords – is essential to your digital asset estate planning.

Other Resources

One resource that others have recommended is a book called Your Digital Afterlife by Evan Carroll and John Romano. This book, along with other resources can be found on the website The Digital Beyond. This website maintains a list of online services which are designed to help you plan for your digital death and afterlife or memorialize loved ones. These services come in all flavors including digital estate services, posthumous email services and online memorials.


The information contained in this article is for educational purposes, not be construed as legal advice. Rather it is a collection of good practices that make sense, even while you are in this life. As always you should use your own good judgment and adapt these recommendations to your own situation. I’m not a lawyer, so if you have questions about any of this you should consult your own attorney.

Tricks to Organize Your Bookmarks

Another excellent tutorial from David A. Cox

Are you an “e-hoarder?” Do you need a little organization when it comes to your web browser’s bookmarks? In this class David will share with you tons of little tricks to help get you better organized. Whether you use Safari, Chrome, Firefox, or Internet Explorer, many of these tricks work across the board on all browsers.

Links mentioned in this class:
Safari Sort:
Bookmark Sorter:
Evernote WebClipper:
AM-DeadLink (PC)
FoxTab (Firefox and Chrome)

Your Personal Apple Support Page

If you have used your Apple ID when buying hardware from Apple the company has a record of what you bought and when. It doesn’t matter whether you bought it online from Apple, or in an Apple store.

You probably have used Apple’s standard support website. But you probably haven’t been to your own personal Support Profile page.

By going there and logging in with your Apple ID, you can view a list of all of your Apple products, check their warranty coverage, access troubleshooting resources, and contact Apple’s support team.

Read more about this useful feature from this Macworld article.

The Apple customer-support site that’s built just for you | Macworld

How To Care For Your Hard Drives And Make Them Last Longer

Joel Lee
On 27th July, 2014

All hard drives die sooner or later, but that doesn’t mean they all die at the same rate. At this time, the average lifespan of a hard drive is six years i.e. 50% of hard drives make it to the six-year mark. Sometimes an early death is the fault of the manufacturer, but more often than not, hard drives fail earlier than they should because we don’t take care of them.

For some, that might be a strange concept. Hard drives are tucked away within the computer, aren’t they? Do they really need to be “taken care of”? You’d be surprised. Let’s look at the most common causes of hard drive failure and what you can do to prevent them. Don’t want to suffer through the recovery of a dead hard drive, do you?

Read the full article: How To Care For Your Hard Drives And Make Them Last Longer

How to Reset a Lost Administrator Password

by Phil Davis1

Has this ever happened to you? You sit down in front of your Mac and start to log in using your administrative password (the one you created when you first got your computer. And then your mind goes blank. No matter what you do you can’t think of the dadburn thing. Even if you stashed it safely in 1Password or LastPass, you can’t get to these if you can’t log in.
If this happens you have three options.

  1. Panic.
  2. Use the iOS version of your password manager to find the information.
  3. Use one of the following methods to reset your account with a new password.

Unfortunately there’s an important caveat about reseting the password. When you do this it won’t update the password protecting your login keychain, the app that stores all of your user passwords. Since the keychain is protected by the now-forgotten administrator password, there’s no way to get back into it.

Step 1: Reset Login Keychain Password

Newer versions of Mac OS X may prompt about this problem at startup; otherwise you’ll need to delete the keychain and start it over again:

  1. Open Keychain Access from /Applications/Utilities, and choose Keychain Access > Preferences (⌘ ,).
  2. In newer versions of Mac OS X, you’ll see a button labeled Reset My Default Keychain in the General pane. If you have that button, click it to remove the old keychain and create a new one with the new password.
  3. If that button is not present, choose Edit > Keychain List (⌘ ⌥ L), select the login keychain, and click the minus button to delete it.
  4. Quit Keychain Access and restart the Mac. A new login keychain will start collecting and storing the passwords for Wi-Fi networks, email accounts, Web sites, and other logins as they occur.

If you can’t work with Keychain Access because of something like Messages Agent constantly asking for the forgotten login keychain password, you’ll have to resort to the command line, with these steps:

  1. Reboot into Single User mode by restarting the Mac and holding ⌘-S while the system comes back up. This will take a while and you will see numerous lines of status messages.
  2. Once you have a command-line prompt, enter this command to mount the root Mac OS X drive and make it writable: mount -uw /
  3. Find the shortname of the account you want to reset by looking through the list that results from typing this command:
ls /Users
  4. Now enter this command to delete that account’s login keychain, replacing shortname appropriately:
rm /Users/shortname/Library/Keychains/login.keychain
  5. Restart the Mac by typing: reboot

When the Mac comes back up, Mac OS X should create a new login keychain.

Step 2: Reset the Password

Method 1: Use One Account to Reset Another

I always recommend that you create a second administrator account to use in case of problems. Give this account a different password and store this somewhere safe. Since 10.4 Tiger, you could log into one account to reset the password in another. Here are the steps you need:

  1. Log into the administrator account in which you know the password, open the Users & Groups pane of System Preferences.
  2. Select the name of the user whose password you want to change, and click the Reset Password button. (You may need to click the lock icon in the lower left of the window and enter an administrator password to be able to make changes.)
  3. Enter the new password, the same password again for verification, and a hint in case it’s forgotten again.

Method 2: Use the Recovery Partition

Starting with 10.7 Lion, the installer disc was replaced by the Recovery partition, a small chunk of the boot disk that contains a stripped-down version of Mac OS X and essential utilities. To reset the administrator password when running Lion or later:

  1. Restart the Mac while holding down the Option key, and double-click the icon for the Recovery partition. A Mac OS X Utilities screen appears.
  2. Choose Utilities > Terminal.
  3. In Terminal, type resetpassword. A graphical Reset Password window appears.
  4. Select the startup volume at the top of the window, and then choose a user account from the pop-up menu. In the fields below, enter the new password, confirm it, and add an appropriate hint.
  5. Click Save, and then choose Restart from the Apple menu.

Method 3: Use Your Apple ID

Starting with 10.7 Lion, it also became possible to use your Apple ID to reset your administrator password. It’s turned on by default in the Users & Groups pane of System Preferences, but double-check to make sure. When this feature is active, if you enter the administrator password incorrectly at the login window three times, a popover appears with the password hint and a message saying “If you forgot your password, you can reset it using your Apple ID.”

  1. Click the arrow icon to open the Reset Password dialog.
  2. Enter your Apple ID and its password, then click Reset Password to proceed.
  3. Enter a new administrator password, verify it, and fill in the Hint field so that you’ll get a memory trigger the next time you forget.
  4. Click Reset Password, and you’re done.

If none of the three methods work for you you can always use the Terminal app, but that’s not for the faint of heart and will be a story for another day. As a final tip, print these instructions out and stick them in a drawer for when your memory deserts you!

  1. Publshed in the July 2014 Mugshot.