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Frustrations, Oh the Frustrations!

My computing life since Yosemite arrived has been a HEADACHE!

Did you notice that I did not say “since I installed Yosemite?”

My problems cannot be blamed on Yosemite. Instead, I will blame myself, some bad luck, and some unsafe downloading and some bad timing!

If I were to write about the whole thing, I suspect you would read a page or two and loose interest. So instead I’ll tackle a problem or two at a time.

We’ll begin today by talking about critical software. My critical software probably won’t be your critical software. But, if you have software that you depend on, make sure—double sure, it will work in the new operating system software.

For me, and for Dr. Mac Consulting, our critical software is Mac Helpmate. If you are our client, you probably have Mac Helpmate installed on your computer. It is the application that allows us to see and control your computer. While we can also use screen sharing via Apple’s Messages application, it can be difficult to set up, especially with novice users.

Since there was a public beta of Mac OS 10.10 Yosemite, I signed up and gave it a try, but not a great try since I do not have a recent Mac that is not in critical use. I did install the beta on a flash drive—and I ran it (slowly) several times. I did download Mac Helpmate — and it seemed to run.

However, after upgrading to Yosemite, I found out it just would NOT run. We’ve been working with Dean Shavit for over ten years. Mac Helpmate had been bullet-proof software — it just worked. We occasionally had server issues, but those can be expected, especially in the late afternoon and evening hours when everyone is using Netflix to clog up the web.

Dean’s company is very small. When there are only a few people who do the programming, it is reasonable that it can take a week for new software to be completed. However, that week was one of frustration!

I have a large SSD card in my MacBook Pro. It is possible to make a partition on a working hard drive and it is possible to run Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks on one partition while running Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite on the other. It is not possible to run either one when the SSD drive gets flaky.

I don’t know what happened. I don’t know why. I don’t even want to know how, but I have some advice for you. If your drive is reporting block count errors in Disk Utility, even if those errors can be fixed, there is a problem! It is time to back up the drive and prepare for a day (or more) of working on your Mac—not fun work, just hours and hours of backing up, formatting, installing, configuring, downloading, updating and re-copying.

I did it. I survived. It wasn’t pretty. Mac Helpmate is working—and working beautifully. I am back to helping clients. I’m happy!

If you have not upgraded to Yosemite, make sure your hard drive or SSD drive is in good condition. Make sure your critical software will work. Then download Yosemite. The interface is a bit different than Mavericks, but it will quickly grown on you! If you need help, we at
Dr. Mac Consulting are around and ready to help!

—Pat
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Should I defragment my hard drive?

I received an email from a client this morning with that question. It’s good one for writing this blog entry. First, here is a little background. James purchased his first Macintosh a couple of years ago. He is a long-time and very experienced Windows user.

The question of defragmenting hard drives also comes from long-time Mac users who recently made the switch to Mac OS X.

In the case of Windows computers and Macintoshes running Mac OS 9 and earlier, over time, hard drives slow down when the user tries to open, save or copy large files. On those computers, files are stored around the hub of the drive in the order in which they were saved.

The directory file on the hard drive keeps track of where files are stored and it keeps track of free space.

When a file is edited, the new version is saved to a different area of the hard drive. The directory is updated, and the space where the old file was stored is marked as free space.

When the user saves a file to the hard drive, the directory looks for the first space large enough to fit the new file and uses that space. If there is extra space from the old file, that area is left empty.

Over time, as files are written and rewritten and as files are deleted, there are more and more little chunks that are too small for new files to be written into. Then the OS for the computer begins dividing large files into smaller chunks or fragments to be able to store them. The directory then has to remember where the fragments are stored and it has to pull them together when the file is opened or copied.

There are utility programs that can be used to clean up this file mess. They are called disk optimizers or disk defragmenters. They re-write the files stored on the hard drive to put files of the same type together. In the process they eliminate the free space so that there is room for new large files. They also put files that are stored in fragments back together.

In Mac OS X, files are arranged in bands around the drive, depending on their function. In between the bands, there is free space for future files of the same type. Defragmenting utilities tend to pack all the files, regardless of their type, tightly around the hub.

Mac OS X is written so that it uses some of its free time to keep your hard drive organized. When your computer is on but asleep, Mac OS X is working in the background to defragment and rearrange the files to keep your hard drive running at its best.

An optimizing or defragmenting program will rearrange the files according to what its programmer thinks is “right.” When you quit the program, Mac OS X will take over again and rearrange the files the way the engineers at Apple determined was “right.” This is not good!

There are some drives situations in which it is you want to use a defragmented drive. If you are trying to capture audio and video files for serious editing in programs like FinalCut or Logic, it is best to use an empty drive as a working drive for capture and editing. Because there are no other files, these large files will not be fragmented as they are written.

After you are finished editing the file, you move it to a regular hard drive for storage and the working drive is erased the drive with Apple's Disk Utility before new files are added and processed.

It is also helpful to have an empty drive for Photoshop to use for the temporary files it produces as you edit images. If Photoshop is working correctly, the temporary files are deleted when you quit. If the temporary files are not discarded properly, erasing the hard drive where the temporary files are store can speed up Photoshop.

Apple has an area on its web site called Support. It stores articles about questions like this one. This article is a little old--but things have not changed. If you would like further information, read:

http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1375

There are lots to things to know about Mac OS X. While there are lots of articles and resources available, some of us do better with hands-on learning. If you would like a bit more help, consider booking a tutorial session with me at Dr. Mac Consulting. The cost is $60 per hour and we will cover just what you want to learn. Give us a call at 408 627-7577 or send us a message at urgentrequest@boblevitus.com.

--Pat
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Do you back up your external drives?

I participated in a presentation for Washington Apple Pi last Saturday. I was a part of a panel on tips and troubleshooting. In preparing for the session, I packed a bag of my favorite computer hardware.

Along with a few other pieces of hardware, I took my favorite portable hard drive and my favorite drive gadget, the NewerTech Voyager Q.


Click here to read more...
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Keep your MacBook and MacBook Pro batteries happy and healthy

The latest sales figures from Apple show that more and more people are using a portable computer as their primary machine.

My last four “main” computers have been Apple laptops. I bought a G3 iBook in May of 2001. It was replaced with a 15” PowerBook G4 in the fall of 2003. Then I bought a Core 2 Duo 17” MacBook Pro in late 2006. I recently purchased the new unibody 17” MacBook Pro.

During my years of ownership I have changed from a computer lab environment to being on the road every day and now to working from home.

Each setting required spending at least some time running my computer from the battery instead of from the power adapter. During some days I found myself eeking the last bits of energy out of my battery, so I have learned ways to stretch battery life to its fullest potential.

So how do you make a battery charge last longer? Click here to read more...
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Bee Docs timline 3D sale

I am a real fan of timelines. I frequently find myself making them to keep track of all sorts of things.

Right now, I have one for our family. I have recorded the dates of significant events in our lives. I find this very useful in my project of getting all of our family photos and mementos in order. Many of our early family photos have no dates on them and most are in boxes instead of albums, so as I sort new ones, I find myself adding lots of dates to my timeline. Click here to read more...
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iPhone and iPod Touch - How to update an application

There is a bug, either in the software for the iPhone or in iTunes that may cause applications on the iPhone not to update properly. I started to write this post several weeks ago, but decided to wait until the iPhone 2.1 software update was released to see if it fixed the problem. The new software has been released – and I am still having issues, so I suspect some of you are too.

This is the easiest way I have found to get iPhone and iPod Touch applications to update properly… Click here to read more...
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What do you keep under your MacBook?

Recently I have taken part in several online discussions about MacBooks and MacBook Pros and just what to set them on.

In each discussion, various objects and surfaces have been suggested as the perfect thing to keep under a portable computer. Notice I did not call them laptops. These days Apple and most other manufacturers call them portables. They get to hot to comfortably rest them on your lap!

There were lots of suggestions for different articles to place under the computer. One gentleman suggested placing the computer directly on a wooden desk and rationalized that the desktop would act as a heat sink. Another woman said she uses her MacBook sleeve, made out of wetsuit material, to protect her legs from the heat. Another person said they use a thick coffee table book. All of these suggestions are BAD ones!…
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How to add custom paper sizes

In my last blog post, I explained where paper sizes are stored and gave you an exhaustive list of papers and envelopes along with their sizes. That post took forever to write since I had to make sure that all of the sizes were expressed in decimals.

I hope you checked out a few print dialog boxes. If you did, you probably found that there are lots of papers and sizes that were listed, but your applications did not have them in their list…
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Just what size is it?

Paper and envelope sizes confuse me! While I know that US letter paper is 8.5 x 11”, and US Legal paper is 8.5 x 14”, that is only the start of the sizes that can appear in a print dialog box.

Of course, just where to select a paper size in a Macintosh application is also undergoing changes. In TextEdit, paper size is selected in File -> Page Setup. The size choice will look similar to this if you have not selected a specific printer:…
Click here to read more...
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Rethinking Periodic Maintenance.

There are lot of good sources of Mac information and there are some people who you come to trust and respect. The crew over at Macworld produce an outstanding web site and magazine and Dan Frakes, who joined the staff in recent years, is one of the people I regard as a true Mac expert.

The July issue of Macworld magazine has a series of very good troubleshooting articles. Much of the content has also been made available on the web site. Dan Frake’s article, Five Mac maintenance myths has brought quite a few comments. In reading them, I was compelled to add my own. This is what I wrote: Click here to read more...
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Bob LeVitus is presenting seminars in metro Washingtion DC

It is always fun when Bob LeVitus comes to Washington DC. This year he will be doing two days of seminars for my user group, Washington Apple Pi.

These seminars will be much like attending his seminars at Macworld Expo, except the price is MUCH cheaper!
Click here to read more...
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Know when to fold 'em!

Running a consulting business with my friend, Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus, can lead to a few strange nights! Since I live in the eastern time zone, our friends in the Pacific time zone are just getting to their personal computers about the time that I am getting ready for bed! Of course, since our Skype telephone number has a 408 area code, it can really confuse everyone!

The truth is that I may head up the stairs around 10 in the evening, but that does not mean that I put away my computer till a few hours later. I just love the convenience of a MacBook Pro, a good wireless network and Skype! I do some of my best reading and writing curled up in my bed. Of course, my husband is totally tied to paper, but who needs to hold paper to read and write these days! Click here to read more...
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iWork '08 vs Microsoft Office 2008

Tomorrow morning I will be half of the presenting team that will do a presentation comparing Microsoft Office 2008 and iWork '08. I will be needing to share a lot of links with my friends from Washington Apple Pi, a Macintosh User Group that serves Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia.

In looking for ways to present a lot of material in a very short time, I finally decided to let some others do the work for me!

First, let's take a look at the two applications and what they provide.

No none can speak better for office than the Microsoft Mac Business Unit. Head on over to view a comparison of the three versions of Office 2008: Click here to read more...
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The best tool for Mail is back!

The day I installed Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard was a bittersweet one for me. I had come to rely on a little tool, Mail.appetizer, to make sure that I immediately saw any messages coming into my Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus Consulting email mailbox. Unfortunately, the old version broke in Leopard.

Because Mail.appetizer was a beta application and it had not been updated since July 2005, I held out little hope of seeing a new version coming soon.

This morning I received a message from Stefan Schüßler of Bronson Beta, the developer of Mail.appetizer. He has just released a new version that works with Leopard Mail! It is still a beta, but it seems to be very stable. Click here to read more...
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Fragmentation - Do I need to De-frag my Mac?

There is nothing that causes more debate in a roomful of Macintosh geeks that the topic of hard drive defragmentation!

The most interesting part is that you can almost divide the room into the anti-defragging group vs. the "you must defrag" group based on the color of their hair!

Now just wait a minute--before you begin thinking age discrimination, you need to know that not all of us gray-haired people people are in the defrag camp, it is just that there are way too many of us there. Click here to read more...
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What is this SUID thing?

We get questions – lots and lots of questions over at Bob LeVitus Consulting. While many people really need help (and that's why we exist), there are some questions for which the answer is so simple, that I put up an entry here on my MacMousecalls blog.

In the case of SUID warnings, just what they are and how to fix them would require a LOOOONNNNGGGG explanation, but Apple Inc. provides an easy answer in its Technical Information Library article #306935 – just ignore them!
Click here to read more...
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Desktop, Sidebar and Toolbar Printers

Do you remember back to the days of Mac OS 9 – and probably 8.5 – when we could have a printer icon sitting on our desktop?

Now, that was a pretty cool trick. If you had a document to print, you could just drag its icon over the desktop printer. The document would print without opening the application and choosing the Print command in the File Menu.

The feature is back in Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger and it is even more useful! It is a great way to deal with documents that you print on a regular basis. For example, directions to your home or office, a favorite recipe, or perhaps some sort of form like a cover sheet for your fax.

Unfortunately, if you are trying to adopt that clean desktop look for your Mac, it is one more thing to clutter it up. There are several alternate things you can do to give you the functionality of desktop printing while keeping the clutter down and we will discuss those after we have made a desktop printer to try out.
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Advanced Google Searching

Have you ever wanted to find a particular file on the Internet? You might be looking for a specific music file, pdf, or photo. Normal Google searches show you web pages. This tip will allow you to search for directories with specific files.

The type of search we are going to perform is one using the "intitle:" query. And for our example, we are going to search for the song "Happy Birthday."

Our search query will look like this:

intitle:"index.of" (mp3|aac|mp4)happy.birthday -html -htm -php

Of course, each space or lack of space is VERY important, so let's take it apart.
Click here to read more...
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