- The Mac
- About Me
- Graphics & Sound
- Mac Tips
- Professional e-Mail
- Internet Safety
Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs left us on October 5, 2011. Mr. Jobs’ concentrated focus and vision changed our lives much for the better. We thank him and mourn the passing of his spirit and guiding hand at Apple Computers.
“Steve was truly a visionary. Being a visionary is an intuitive faculty of being able to see beyond the current horizons of possibility. It is a powerful reflection of imagination not constrained by everyday boundaries. He was extraordinarily impatient with people who said “it couldn’t be done”. That was where some of his purported dictatorial unreasonable-ness would come from but in the end, he got what he wanted and everyone discovered that what seemed impossible could be done. Steve made the impossible possible.” —Norman Seeff, Photographer
—Norman Seeff, Photographer
"Remember, the sixties happened in the early seventies, and that's when I came of age; and to me, the spark of that was that there was something beyond what you see every day. It's the same thing that causes people to be poets instead of bankers. And I think that's a wonderful thing. I think that same spirit can be put into products, and those products can be manufactured, and given to people, and they can sense that spirit."
"We're building tools ... that amplify a human ability."
—Steve Jobs, 1980
Necessity and curiosity...
...have taught me how to make Macs work better and how to get them going again if they stop or behave unpredictably.
My first Mac ran Mac OS 8.1. The last ‘Classic’ Mac OS was 9.2.2. Then came OS X....
Revisions of Mac OS X (now renamed macOS) were a virtual course of study at the feet of Steve Jobs, who made the interface easy to navigate, with nothing between the user and the work, or play. The logical, well-designed interface showed me what a computer should be. I loved the high resolution display, Postscript Fonts, and professional layout applications. Photoshop was and continues to be a revelation. Big applications and swarms of smaller programs and utilities keep me hopping and on my toes.
By 2000 my experience from working on my own computers enabled me to help other people keep their Macs going strong. Each time someone's cranky machine starts up and runs reliably I feel I have done something worthwhile.
'Mac Help' also means creative concepts and production. My experience with words, pictures, and graphics lets me write, edit photos and graphics, and create layouts for print and/or Web. It is always exciting to work with a new concept and carry it forward: stand-alone marketing, B2B and B2C communications, and how-to instruction materials. All are welcome to accept the invitation on the home page and call me for a friendly chat.
How to make a Mac be more of a Mac
1. You may need a later version of Mac OS X. Just one thing though: if you rely on older programs to get your work done, you need to be sure they will run on a newer version of the macOS.
2. More RAM. (Random Access Memory) You want at least two gigabytes of RAM for every core in your processor—more than that won't hurt if you edit photos, video, or sound.
3. More storage. Big hard drives are not very expensive, so why not install enough ‘real estate’ to hold your programs and data?
4. Programs and Plug-ins. If you already have Photoshop; maybe Illustrator, Dreamweaver, and the rest of the Creative Suite, there are many plug-in’s available from Adobe and third-party developers to expand what you can do.
5. System Set-up. If you now use or are planning to use a Macintosh to do lots of photography, graphic design, video, or sound editing, I will set it up for you as a professional system. If you are thinking along the lines of option #1 above, acquiring a new machine is the perfect time to perform this series of steps, though it is possible to modify machines currently in use as long as an adequate data back-up scheme is up and running.
6. A Back-up Plan! If your system isn't backed-up, for heaven's sake, let me get your system backed up before it is too late!
When you start thinking about how to improve your system, you learn more about it. People who upgrade their systems become more knowledgeable and less intimidated by them than those who never open System Preferences.
Here is a short list of software for every day purposes.
Microsoft's Word for Mac in the Office suite of programs is probably the most-used word processor on the Mac. Word for Mac files are compatible with Word for Windows.
If your writing need of the moment is simple TextEdit is a simple text editor that comes with Mac OS X. I use Textedit more or less constantly.
An alternative to Microsoft's Office programs is LibreOffice, which is free to download. This open-source Office suite has a Mac-ized user interface that is easy to navigate. Fonts don't always display the same as in native Mac applications, but Libre Office gives you a very capable word processor that can save Word files and other formats, a spreadsheet (macro and script capable), a relational database, a presentation program, and drawing and pixel graphics editors. Extensive documentation for learning how to use the programs is also free.
Apple suggests that you use its Pages writing and page design program in the iWork suite of applications. Pages is useful, but limited, since you cannot share its files with PC-users to open or edit.
Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet is pretty much the industry-standard. The program’s abilities are so many and varied that this is not the time and space to delve into them. However, like most programs, you don’t have to be a power user to benefit from using Excel.
There are alternatives to Excel. The iWork Suite from Apple lets you create spreadsheets with Numbers. This program can display graphs and charts in addition to crunching numbers. And, as noted above, Libre Office includes a spreadsheet.
Incidentally, if you need to make slide show presentations, Keynote from Apple looks a heck of a lot better than PowerPoint.
The most basic, immediately available database on a Mac is Contacts, where you can store names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mails, and notes. You can configure each contact in the event that someone has more phone numbers or e-mail addresses than other folks. Contacts is integrated with Calendar and Mail.
FileMaker is a full-featured database written only for the Mac. Countless businesses and personal calendars are run on this flexible and capable program, but you must either create your database from scratch or buy, borrow, or steal a database that someone else has made. To my way of thinking there is much to be gained by sitting down and learning how to create databases in FileMaker.
Libre Office also has a full-featured relational database which requires some knowledge of database design principles to use.
Images and Sound: The Good Stuff
iPhoto was probably the most widely used program on the Mac ... until Apple replaced it with Photos in OS 10.10. Both iPhoto and Photos builds an image library for you, which you can arrange to your liking.
Sorting out and backing up tens of thousands of photos is best done on a dedicated external hard drive, which I can help you set up.
Advanced Picture and Photo Editing
Many people are entirely satisfied to use iPhoto, or its successor, Photos. But if you are tempted try different image edting software to see what it can do, there are some great programs to try and explore.
Apple's Aperture and Adobe's Lightroom are two very capable photo editing programs. I know one professional Photographer who uses Lightroom exclusively to produce stunning finished work.
For many photographers Photoshop, published by Adobe, is king. You can learn it naturally by doing common, simple edits, and gradually move into more advanced adjustments and effects when opportunity and mood point the way. There is no reason to fear Photoshop; doing the simple stuff is as easy in Photoshop as any other image editor.
More recently, the publisher Macphun has released Luminar, a full-featured photo editor that costs less than Adobe's products. Macphun also publishes Aurora, which combines multiple exposures of high-contrast scenes to make High Dynamic Range images—AKA HDR—that show detail in both highlights and shadows.
What if you can't comfortably afford these programs? The Open-Source GNU Image Processor, commonly known as GIMP, is a full-featured image and photo editor that is free to download and use.
Video and Movies
Video editing has become very much easier in the last ten years. If you aren't seduced by effects or sounds that don't tell the story—which we should all be careful not to over-use—the results from Apple's iMovie surprisingly good. The rendering engine in iMovie is the same as Apple's professional video editor Final Cut Pro X.
Adobe's Creative Suite and Creative Cloud collections include Premiere Pro, a professional-level video editor that rivals Final Cut for features and output results.
Garage Band is everyone's quick-and-dirty mixing program. Some pretty good stuff has been produced with it. For the auteur there are programs like Pro Tools for mixing, BFD 3 for percussion, and others. The Mac Help Desk has not as yet entered the world of sound beyond simple music tracks on special-interest videos and smoothing out levels in Final Cut Pro, fades in and out and like that. Sound files and libraries are big, so ample storage and lots of RAM are the orders of the day.
Tips 'n Tricks
Things you can do to make your computer easier or better to use:
Your Mac is an indispensible tool, so it makes sense to have two back-ups. Apple's Time Machine makes a non-bootable copy of your data and system. In addition, an external hard drive that holds a bootable copy of your system lets you simply re-start your Mac from the external drive and keep working if the internal hard drive stops working.
I have used my external system when my main hard drive crashed! Let me tell you—the ability to keep working without interruption is well worth setting up the second back-up!
De-Fragment the Hard Drive (for more speed)
Computers get slower with use. Files that get written across several locations on the hard drive force the system to read the pieces and reassemble them to work. This scattered reading and writing slows things down—to the point where you might think you need a new computer.
Not so! You can de-fragment your boot drive so that all files are written to adjacent blocks on the hard drive, which reduces seek times. Your computer will then respond as crisply as it did when you first got it. Give me a call and I'll tell you how.
A routine chore is the Disk Utility program—located in the Utilities sub-folder of your Applications folder. Just double click on Disk Utility and click on the boot volume that shows in the upper left-hand column of the program window. When you do, four options will appear in the right side of the window, and the first one (which is automatically selected) is First Aid. At the bottom left of the First Aid box you will see a button titled 'repair disk permissions'. Just click on it, then go make tea or have a phone call while OS X does its housekeeping.
Are you still using a free e-mail service? E-mail addresses that end with @yahoo.com, @gmail.com, or @hotmail.com look unprofessional.
A low-cost, private web account lets you use your own domain name, so your e-mails convey your image and do a little selling: i.e.: email@example.com.
Some mail servers play better with the Mac than others. Apple's Mail program likes Siteground's mail servers more than some other services.
The Mac Help Desk web site is hosted by Siteground.com in no small part because their servers are configured for the Mac.
Give me a call at (510) 229-9934, or use the conact form on this web site, to learn more about professional e-mail.
Internet Safety - Be careful where you click!
Examine e-mail before you open it. Be slow to click on links or attachments. Don't respond instantly to every prompt, pop-up, or link that appears on a web page. Do not respond to messages about billing, ACH payments, the IRS, or claims that you are owed money.
Unsolicited e-mail, AKA Spam, is an ever-increasing annoyance that can lead to invasive software and data theft. Apple's Mail program lets you make rules for sending spam messages to the trash. An example would be to put e-mail in the trash folder if the from field is men's health. My Mail app has 50 rules and I'm sure in another month there will be 70. This saves me from having to scroll past all that spam to see my real messages.
Look through the trashed mail now and then to be sure no genuine messages got filtered out. Learn how to filter spam in More About Spam below.
Malware is now found on the Mac, which is a fairly new problem. Three or four years ago this was quite rare. Malware is software that get intalled on your computer without your knowledge, doing things you don't want to happen. Malware installations typically come from from clicking on bad links on web pages or in e-mail, or from iffy downloads. Irritating but non-damaging effects are ads, music and voice-overs, and pop-up windows. More seriously, malware can read and send information about your browsing habits to people you would rather not have that information. Worst cases are programs that scour your hard drive for credit card data and passwords and even send e-mails through your e-mail accounts.
I can check your Mac for malware and get rid of most varieties that may reside there. A stubborn, virtually invisible type of malware called Inter-process Communications can only be stopped by reformatting the hard drive and re-installing OS X.
Browsers that phone home aren't your friends. Your web browser is sending information about your searches and site visits to Google and other entities. Subsequent searches will then put selected, sponsored web sites at the top of the first page, and limit search results in other ways. Google's Chrome—now the most-used web browser—has built-in integration with Google's back-end data collection. And there are agencies that are interested in where you've gone for other reasons that the cable companies and telephone providers play ball with.
There are ways to set up browsers to reduce tracking, and there are even some browsers that don't do it in the first place.
Protect Your Access
If the Internet becomes restricted, or gets turned off in your area, there are ways to get around 'your' telecom's or government's determination to box you in. The time to get ready for this possibility is here, I am sorry to say, so don't wait. Responses to Internet throttling, shut-downs, and increased surveillance, range from less-obvious web browsing to anonymous searches, to circuitous Internet connections
Call me today at (510) 229-9934 for a safety audit for your Mac.
More About Spam
The from and Subject field in a message header offer clues to bogus e-mail. The example below appears to be from Walgreens, but my name in parenthesis in the subject field shows that this e-mail is not normal:
The opened message shown below now says it is from firstname.lastname@example.org, so not Walgreens. Studenstrate.com entered in a browser does not display a web page; the alleged server is a lie. Clicking on the claim your card now link in the body of this e-mail would be a mistake.
The Mail app in Mac OS X lets you tell it how to deal with spam e-mails. With Mail open and active, go to the Mail menu at the top left of your screen and click on Preferences. In the window that appears, click on Rules, as shown below.
The rules window lets you create, dupicate, and edit rules for moving spam messages to the trash.
It is faster to duplicate a rule, change the relevent information, and save it, rather than create a new rule. You can target content in the from field, the to field, or the subject field of e-mail headers. It is often useful to make two rules, so if either the from field or the subject field contains sexual performance, the e-mail goes straight to the trash.