Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New MacBook Air models

Today Apple hosted a live webcast, 90 minutes long, to preview their newest version of iLife 11, Lion (OSX 10.7) and their latest MacBook Air. Initially, the video required Safari 5 and OSX 10.6.4 to watch, but I just tested the replay on my Mini running 10.5.8 and Firefox 3.0.14. I don't have a Tiger Mac to test it on, but you should be able to view this using this link.

Nice as iLife looks, and the cool new features in Lion are impressive, the "One more thing..." revealing the new MacBook Air models was a jaw dropper. From being merely a niche product, the new portable can serve as your only Mac, with just a few limitations.

There are now two models, a 13" and an 11" model, the size of a netbook. At its thickest point it is 0.68 inch, tapering to .11 inch at the front. The 13" weighs 2.9 lbs; the 11" weighs 2.3 lbs. The screen resolution of the 13" is higher than the current Air as well as the 13" MacBook Pro.

There is no optical SuperDrive, like the current Air model. Want one? They have a $79 external USB drive. There is no hard drive. It was designed around flash memory storage, which on the smallest, cheapest model holds 64Gb data, and the largest can hold 256.

These smaller drives may be a deal breaker if you are used to carrying 100Gb of iTunes and 50Gb of iPhotos and movies. Those can be offloaded to an external USB drive but then you wouldn't have them with you so you might want an iPod if that's important.

USB-only drives are as low as $79 for a terabyte so if you don't have backups yet, now is the time to buy one. Set up to back up via Time Machine (10.5 and 10.6 only) the Migration Assistant can use this drive for data migration from your old Mac to the new one.

There is no FireWire. I am sad about this. People who already own FW drives for backup can use the USB port all those drives also have. It does mean that Target Disk Mode, which let you plug one Mac into another, is gone. Except when upgrading, this feature is seldom used anyway. It comes with two USB ports and a slot for an SD card, like their current laptops. Tiger Macs doing clone backups with SilverKeeper or SuperDuper can still plug in to the new one and do manual migration (drag and drop your files in the correct places).

The trackpad and the keyboard is full size. For desktop use you can use either USB or wireless keyboards, mice and trackpads. Printers can work either through your network or your USB port. If you have several USB devices you will want a powered USB hub.

The battery life is even better than before. The 13" will run for (up to) 7 continuous hours on the wireless Web (meaning visiting web sites that don't have videos that run it down quicker) and the 13" runs for 5 hours. Standby time (closed and in your bag or on your desk unplugged) is as long as 30 days. This is partly due to the flash storage and shares this kind of battery life with the iPad. The way most people use their laptops is an hour or two at a time, then close it until later. This will let the battery last you all day.

The processor is a little slower than the current MacBook Pro, but much faster than the current Air. The graphics card is about equal to the Pro. Both models come with 2 Gb RAM, upgradable to 4.

Price for this? Well, the original Air sold for $1799. A flash drive added a lot to that cost. The 11" model starts at $999, same as the white plastic MacBook (but the MacBook has a large hard drive, DVD drive and 4Gb RAM). The 13" Air starts at $1299, upgradable to a 256Mb drive for $1599. Add $100 each for the RAM upgrade and faster processor.

Other add-ons include a USB-to-Ethernet adapter for $29 so you can plug right in to a network if wireless is not available. AppleCare is $249. Since the only Apple external display is their 27" LED model for $999 (including camera, speakers, microphone and extra USB ports) you might want to buy a standard 21" to 24" DVI display without all those extras for under $250.

Once you stop thinking about all those extras, realize that for $999 you have everything you need (except AppleCare) if your needs are simple.

Watch the movie via the link above, or if it ceases to work just go to the Apple site and all the videos and descriptions you need are there.

Oh, one more thing 8-) The MacBook Air models are available today. If you order from the online Apple Store, they ship within 48 hours; the independent Apple dealers, the Mac Stores and MacPac and others should have them by the weekend, as should the official local Apple stores. If I hadn't recently purchased my 13" MacBook Pro (which I still love) I would be on the horn for one of these today.

As always, I'll be available to help with setup when you get yours.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Yoru Fukurou Review

System requirement: 10.5.8 or later


Web site:

In the 18 months or so that I have been on Twitter, I have tried various Mac clients, settling on Tweetie for Mac in spite of its limitations. Tweetie was bought by Twitter and is now the official iPhone client (with a few problems of its own) but I have finally found the Mac client that does everything I need.

My biggest frustration with all previous Twitter clients was the inability to save more than a couple hundred messages. This meant that overnight, 3/4 of all posts were lost while I slept. YoruFukurou (Japanese for Night Owl, hereafter abbreviated as YF) does not throw away old messages. The longer you keep it open, the more it stores. When you quit and relaunch, you can have it reload up to the last 800 tweets in your timeline.

The only obvious limitation of the program is it supports just one account. This is not for people who juggle multiples. Still, since multiple Twitter clients can run at the same time without stepping on each other, one could set YF to serve your primary and Tweetbird Pro (for example) for the others.

What's so great about YF? The developer seems to have thought of everything. At the bottom right corner of the window is a number: APIs Left. Twitter allows you to access their database around 300 times an hour, and varies that during periods of high traffic. That number keeps you on top of your accesses remaining. At the bottom left is a green dot, which turns red when Twitter is overloaded, and a line of text that tells you what is wrong.

Select a message and open the Drawer (right button in toolbar) and it shows a clickable icon of the tweeter that expands to a full-size picture, their statistics (tweets to date, number following and followers), their web address and bio from their profile, and the text of the tweet, repeated. It also tells you when it was posted and using what client. A little triangle next to the name (both real and Twitter handle) drops a menu that lets you send DM, Report for Spam, Reply, and follow or unfollow. It also tells you if they are following you, and you can Block them from here.

Looking at the rest of the toolbar across the top, from left:

Home - opens your Twitter home page in your default web browser.

Refresh - Check for and load new messages.

Mark as Read - click this and all unread messages are marked as read.

View - three buttons: show entire timeline, show all messages by the selected poster, and show conversation (if the message is a reply to someone else).

Search - opens a search bar that will scan your timeline for any instances of your chosen word or phrase.

Below the toolbar is your message field. Click in here and type your tweet. It counts your characters. Click the gear icon and more functions appear: Shorten links, Stick Hashtags, Paste iTunes Track Name, Paste Safari Page Detail, Upload Image and Upload Screenshot. I have used only a couple of these features. You can upload any image on your hard drive. When you finish your tweet hit Return to send it. If you want to embed returns in the message, use option-return.

Below that is the row of tabs: Timeline, which tracks the number of unread tweets, Mentions, DM (Direct Messages), Favorites, which tracks what you have starred, and Search, which searches all of Twitter for strings, hashtags, or usernames. With all of this you will never need to go to the Twitter web page. Search also keeps a record of past searches.

In each tweet field is a picture, the tweeter's icon. If someone changes their icon in the middle of your stream, you see the old one in older messages and the new one in any new messages from them. Unlike Tweetie, I have never seen it fail to display an icon, regardless of how big the attached picture is. All of the other clients, including the web site, replace the old pic with the new. I like this feature.

Click on a link in a tweet, either in the main list or in the Drawer and it opens your browser to the page. If it is just an image from several of the image sites, it appears in a windoid right within YF. If it's a big image, it will fill up your screen.

Also in the tweet section of your timeline, a blue dot appears in the icon of an unread message, which disappears when you highlight it.

What doesn't it do? With all these bells and whistles, the one thing left out is Print. You simply can't print anything from it. Your only option is screen capture. I don't miss it; rarely have I ever wanted to print a time stream.


I could write another article just based on the options in Preferences. YF has a sound mode that tweeps, chirps and tinkles at different events. This is a feature I turned off immediately. Color coding? each tweet colorizes itself based on the selected tweet - other posts become yellow, conversations turn pink; the text of your own postings is blue, neighbors backgrounds are yellow. @replies to you are in red text. It can become confusing but is easily ignored, yet gives you a visual clue that you might want to click on the Conversations icon.

You can leave the preferences in Default and as you learn the program, experiment. Growl is supported.

That's enough. You can spend weeks exploring this as you build up your twitter database.This is an OCD victim's dream.

Addendum: Since first posting this, there have been updates. The new version (2.3.1) uses User Stream Updates which gets all tweets in real time, without using any of the standard APIs. This will be a boon to anyone who uses this for their primary account and another program to manage their other accounts.

Pic 1: The YoruFukurou icon when not running.

Pic 2: The YoruFukurou icon in the Dock when running. The number displays waiting DMs and mentions.

Pic 3: The main window. You can expand it as deep as your screen allows.

Pic 4: Preferences window, tabs options

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Macs; System Updates

New Macs

Apple has upgraded their iMac line, and also has a faster MacPro. Both use the new Intel i-series of chips, the i3, i5 and i7. Two of these have already appeared in the 15" and 17" MacBook Pros, so it was just a matter of time before they made it into the iMacs as well.

The fastest chip, a 3.6 GHz i5 is available on both the 21.5" and 27" iMacs, and a 2.93 GHz i7 is an option on the 27" only. Even though it has a slower clock speed, it's a quad core, which almost doubles the processing power.

The smaller one starts at $1195 and the other at $1695. They have four memory slots; both ship with 4Gb RAM but support up to 16 Gb (four 4Gb modules). You will spend some money for those. Base price for the 27" i7 is a buck shy of $2200.

The graphics chips go up in speed and quality with the price; the best 27" has the ATI Radeon HD 5750 with 1Gb of video memory. The better this chip is, the more performance you get out of the main processor. This is why the 13" MacBook Pro, even though it uses the same 2.4 GHz chip as the two-year-old 15" model is so much faster.

I maxed out the top model at the Apple Store, and found that I could get the works for $4415. That did not include any optional software beyond iWork and the $169 AppleCare. Visit the Apple Store site and see for yourself what those applications cost. This configuration includes two drives: a 2 terabyte SATA 7200rpm (amazing in itself) and also a 256 Gb solid-state drive. SSDs are faster than any mechanical drive can be, booting up in 2 seconds and loading Photoshop in just one. The package includes both the Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad, and the charger (see below).

I have been warned by others that Apple does not use the fastest SSD drives in the industry, though, so I would investigate just getting the 2Tb drive and then getting the SSD from Other World Computing for $89 more than Apple's.

Bottom line is that 80% of you will be more than satisfied with the cheapest and the leastest $1199 model with no options beyond AppleCare, and you will love the 27" to pieces. Extra RAM can be added later.

Magic Trackpad; Battery Charger

Two interesting products that never existed before are a battery charger for $29 (for their wireless mice and keyboards) and a standalone multi-touch trackpad that brings the same kind of control to desktop Macs as found on the new laptops. If I were a desktop user I would get one of these for sure. The Magic Mouse has multi-touch as well, but not the rotate effect, and the 4-finger swipe that brings up Expose.

There are battery chargers everywhere, of course, but the Apple device has a smart charger that detects when the batteries are fully charged and cuts the current, reducing the usual parasitic charge that such devices usually have: 30 milliwatts instead of over 300. Coming with six AA batteries, you will never have to buy a box of disposables again.

MacShop NW Leaves Portland

One of my favorite Mac shops has closed their Portland office, focusing exclusively on their Newport store. If you live on the coast, this is your best place for buying and fixing Macs from an authorized Apple dealer. Their site is Locally, I still send people to MacPac on NE Whittaker Way, MacForce on SE Salmon St. right next to the river, and PowerMax in Lake Grove, which also contains the service center for the entire MacStore chain. MacPac does component-level fixing similar to what MacShopNW did, and is the place to go for oddball out-of-warranty repairs. The others are fine for AppleCare fixes and I don't recommend against any of them. This was not always the case, but it has been quite a while since I heard any customer complaints against them. The MacStore branches have a small service area where they can add RAM, replace hard drives, and the like.

System Updates

Not too many updates since last mailing. iTunes is now at 9.2.1, fixing bugs in the 9.2.0 version. The latest ones are needed for renting movies from the iTunes Store, and to support the iPhone 4 and the iPad. If you have an older iPhone or iPod and are having no problems with the iTunes you are using, there is no need to update it.

Safari 5.0 for Leopard and Snow Leopard seems to be behaving itself. I have had no problems with it, beyond minimal glitches loading Flash videos due to the fact that I am running Click2Flash, a great utility that prevents loading all those Flash ads unless you really want to see them. I find just a blank space where the video should be, so I have to right-click (or control-click) on the space and choose Load Flash from the popup menu. Hopefully there will be an update to Click2Flash soon.

Safari 4.1 for Tiger is another matter. So many people have problems I have put it on my permanent Avoid It list. Stick to version 4.0.5.

Sadly, Safari 3.1, the last good version of Safari 3, is getting obsolete and some web commerce and banking sites are refusing to talk to it. An alternative is Camino or Firefox, or Google Chrome. Everyone should have all these browsers available. Firefox is up to 3.6.8 now, and it seems to have fixed many of the troubles that bedeviled users of 3.5 and early versions of 3.6. My own second choice is Camino (google it) but I drop into Chrome occasionally as well. Once the Mac version of Chrome is at parity with the Windows version it will be a pretty hot browser.

Other updates all seem fine. Get the current Java and Security updates, firmware updates, keyboard updates and anything else that is being offered now. It's been a long time since I could say that.

One exception is Leopard 10.5.8. I am still wary of it, but it is increasingly necessary to get any of the others. If your Mac is at 10.5.7 and you have not received any messages that you must upgrade to use a desired program, stop there. I always cross my fingers before updating someone to 10.5.8, in addition to doing a full disk check with Disk Warrior and Repair Permissions with Disk Utility.

It is important to Repair Permissions after running ANY new software installation, and after running any updates. That includes Flash, printer drivers, scanner drivers, anything.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

10.6.4 - Go For It

I have been running the 10.6.4 update since release, while keeping an eye on MacFixIt and Macintouch to see who is having problems. The good news is, none for me and few for others. Apparently it does downgrade your Flash installation, though, so before you download the 10.6.4 Combo Update (huge!) get Flash or newer from Adobe so you can install immediately after updating the OS.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New MacMini; Safari 4.1 has problems

New Mac Mini

The PMUG meeting was last night but no one had a hint. This morning, Apple announced a revised MacMini.

I've been using my year-old version with my HDTV and it has worked just fine but it looks like the new one is destined to be a "real" AppleTV. It now has an HDMI port in the back, and a built-in SD card slot so you can plug your own video camera info right in. It also has the usual DisplayPort, 4 USB ports, FireWire 800, Ethernet and built-in AirPort.

This one is more efficient: smaller case, all aluminum uni-body like the other Macs, low power requirements, no "brick" transformer; just a power cord to the wall. The old one was $599 and $799; this one is $699 and you can boost the hard drive size, RAM up to 8 Gb and faster processor. If I weren't satisfied with mine I would be getting this.


Glad I warned you off of this update. The worst experiences have happened to Tiger users who upgraded to 4.1. I have had only a little trouble with 5.0 for Snow Leopard, mostly involving Click2Flash not properly rendering a video window. The fix has been to control-click on the white space where the video should be, and choosing Load Flash from the popup menu. Other sites offer no problems at all.

The serious issues with 4.1 seem to be caused by obsolete versions of Pith Helmet and SIMBL, add-ons that will need updating. Problems include frequent crashes or outright failure to launch. I have fixed them by removing all traces of previous versions of Safari and all bits of the add-ons. The current Click2Flash, once reinstalled, does work with the new version.

Safari 5, like Firefox, now supports proper plug-ins, so no dirty hacks will be needed any longer. We will start to see those appearing soon.

Bottom line is this: Tiger users, do not upgrade to 4.1 until there is a 4.1.1 or later update, and it won't hurt you to not update it at all. If you don't like messing with your system and aren't prepared to revert to a clone backup, wait until 5.1 is out.

10.6.4 is out

For God's sake, don't get this!!

Give it a week at least. Supposedly it fixes some of the problems 10.6 users have had with Adobe CS3. About time, I'd say.

There may be another security update. Again, wait. Don't do anything until July. Please.

Monday, June 7, 2010

New Safari released today (6/7/10)

Here is the first clue that Apple is ending support for Tiger. An update to Safari that takes it from 4.0.5 to 4.1.0 is probably the minimum they can do to support HTML 5 and other updates, but the leap to Safari 5.0.0 is reserved for Leopard and Snow Leopard.

There is little to say on the Apple site about what features are new in this version, but it's no secret that Apple wants to make sure they fully support all alternatives to Flash without abandoning it completely.

I'm downloading it now, and I will probably install it and start using it immediately, but not before making a clone backup that will let me revert to 4.0.5 if it turns out to be a total toad. Remember, unlike Firefox, it is impossible to remove all parts of Safari and downgrade to a previous version. If you don't want to risk it, wait a few weeks and see what happens with other users.

Oh, and in other news, Apple released a new iPhone. Looks pretty nice. 3GS users can get the new OS and will not be denied any software features of the new one. If you have been waiting on the phone, remember that the unlimited data plan is history but unless you plan on subscribing to Netflix for iPhone, you probably won't need that much bandwidth. ATT claims only 2% of their users burn through that much data, but they're probably exaggerating and it's closer to 20%. They have finally decided to sell us tethering capability (using the phone as a modem for your laptop) but the price they want seems hardly worth it.

I'll let you know immediately if Safari turns out to be a turkey, and after a couple of weeks if I have no trouble with it.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Summer Update

Happy Summer (Summer? Where?)

It's been way too long since I sent out one of my update reports. Partly that's good news: it's been many months since Apple screwed up one of their updates badly enough to require warning.

My rule to hold off for a week or two before updating still holds true, but right now there aren't any updates you need to avoid. Even the dreaded 10.5.8 update seems to have stabilized due to incompatibilities with others having been fixed.

When it comes to full system updates it is still best to visit Apple's download site and get the Combo Update. For Tiger, that's 10.4.11; for Leopard that's 10.5.8 and for Snow Leopard, it's 10.6.3 v1.1. The last was an update replacement to fix trouble with the original 10.6.3 and it's what you will get if you simply download that update. Combo Updates are still superior to Delta Updates because they contain every piece of updated software and are capable of taking any version of their system to the current release. Deltas contain only the minimum needed to take you from the previous step: 10.4.10 to 10.4.11; 10.5.7 to 10.5.8, etc. and sometimes fail where the Combo will succeed. Software Update always uses the Delta if it can.

New purchasers of Snow Leopard ($29) will find the disk in the stores is now 10.6.3. Before it was 10.6.0 and you needed to update it immediately. It is still the same disk that's included in the $169 package bundled with the latest iWork and iLife. It WILL take you from Tiger 10.4.x to Snow Leopard (Intel Macs only) but you run the risk of making Apple's lawyers unhappy.

Leopard users: One of the reasons I kept you on 10.5.6 was to prevent an update to Safari 3.2 from happening. That Safari version was buggy and crashworthy. 3.1.2 was the last good version of Safari 3. Apple did fix it a little bit by the time 3.2.3 came out, provided you turned off the Security feature "Warn when visiting a spurious web site." Any failure to connect to that database while browsing would crash the program. It's still problematic in Safari 4, and for the same reason. Safari 4 itself, however, is clean, fast and works very well. Current version is 4.0.5 and is available to users of Tiger, Leopard and SNL. Leopard users must be at 10.5.8 and have the latest Security Update to install it. Safari 3.1.2 is now sufficiently obsolete that some web sites, mostly commerce and banking sites, will refuse to deal with it.

Users who are still on 10.3.9 cannot get any version of Safari newer than 1.3.2 and no commerce site will talk to it. Ebay and Craigslist reject it as well. Your only option is Firefox, which is still on the Mozilla site and will hold you for a little while longer until you can upgrade your Mac.

Security Updates have been among the bigger causes of installation problems. Some were so bad I put them in the Never category. These updates always supercede previous ones, and I'm happy to report no problems with the current lot. There are a handful of weakness and vulnerabilities in the MacOS - though nothing like in Windows - but they are there and you should get current on them just in case.

Application updates are purely voluntary. If you don't use iWeb or iMovie/iDVD then don't bother. They will always be available. You also don't need to update iTunes if your current version works for you, unless you get a new iPad, iPod or iPhone. Or rent movies from the iTunes Store. The current version is 9.1.1. Just close or disable the annoying "Genius" feature unless you have found it useful.

New Apple TV

Rumors today speak of a new version of the AppleTV for only $99! This will be a major redesign of the mostly-failed and barely-useful current one with its stripped-down version of the MacOS. The new one will be more like a screenless iPhone. It's still a rumor, but the hope is that it will connect to Netflix, just like the iPad does, as well as the iTunes Store. This will be the first time Apple has changed one of its products from OSX to the iPhone OS. Now I'd like to see a tablet that runs a fully capable version of MacOS, and supports wireless mice and keyboards as well as on-screen touch control.

To follow the developments keep an eye on The Unofficial Apple Weblog and Engadget. The latter is a great site for all things tech, not just Apple.

MacBook Pro 13"

I have been living with mine for almost two months now, both as a portable and as a desktop plugged into a 24" ASUS external display. I still marvel at what a nice Mac this is. It's much less of a burden to schlep around than my previous 15" model was so I carry it more places. Even though the 2.4 GHz processor is the same as I had before, the new graphics chip makes it appear MUCH faster, especially when driving the external display.The key advantage, though, is the new longer-life battery. I used to worry about running out and always carried the charger, adding weight. Now, with 5 or 6 hours routine, I have not come close to running out, except for when I spend a lot of time on YouTube, where I can expect less than 4 hours because it runs up the processor a lot more. For $1199 or less it simply can't be beat.


All those updates, and any new software installations, require certain maintenance operations be performed. Most important is the Repair Permissions operation in Disk Utility. For details, open the program (in the Utilities folder) and read the Help file for the simple step-by-step procedure. For system updates, do this both before and after you run them. For all else, run them after. Then click on the Verify Disk button in the same window to make sure there are no disk directory errors that could cause the updates to make your system break down.

There are more robust disk-repair programs that I use when trouble exists. I also like to clear out all caches as well. On most of your Macs I have installed AppleJack, a program that runs in the command line interface before startup. To use this, restart and hold down the Command and S keys. Release when black & white text appears on the screen. When you get a prompt (and text stops flowing), type the phrase "applejack auto reboot" without the quotes. Then hit returns. Five maintenance procedures run themselves without further input from you, and then restart your Mac.

Clear that Desktop

Slow startup? I have seen Macs with upwards of 40 items on the desktop. Files and folders must be loaded before the Finder can proceed, so if you are wondering why it takes so long to finish the startup, that may be why. Put all documents and folders into your Documents folder and leave all applications in the Applications folder. Aliases do not count at startup so you can make aliases of those files and folders you like having out on the Desktop for convenience's sake. I do training as well as repairs, so if you want to learn more about how to use aliases and other strategies to improve your Mac experience, contact me for a session.

If it's been a year or more since I've seen you, it's time for a general checkup. There are things that develop over time that require attention and, if not caught in time, can lead to you losing data. Two or three times a year I'm called out to fix a non-running Mac only to discover that it's so bad that it isn't recoverable any more. Everyone should be running an external hard drive that backs up at least once a day so you are protected in case this happens. LaCie is holding a sale right now on refurbished hard drives with fantastic prices. Never buy a drive that is USB-2.0 only unless you have a MacBook with no FireWire port. They simply don't work as well.


Monday, April 5, 2010

More on Updates

Snow Leopard 10.6.3 Update

The reports are coming in: There are glitches with 10.6.3 but it seems to NOT be a disaster. Some are just silly, like this one:

"Have noticed that the snow leopard background picture has changed. Under 10.6.2 as you looked at the picture there was 'red blood' on the right side of his mouth - now under 10.6.3 there is not the blood :)"

My own update has worked just fine. The Magic Mouse seems a little more touch-sensitive, with the cursor jumping as I first touch it. Not a problem with the trackpad. Others reported similar sensitivity before the 10.6.3 update.

One user reported that it broke FileMaker Pro 9 for him. If you use this, I recommend cloning your drive so you can revert to 10.6.2 if this happens. I always recommend having cloned backups in addition to TimeMachine backups for this very reason. TimeMachine is a great backup program but it won't do this. On the other hand, I installed 10.6.3 on a Mac running FM Pro version 8 and it worked fine.

Logitech mice seem to become hard to control under 10.6.3, but those have always been oddball and hard to control. The best all-around non-Apple mice I find to be those made by MacAlly.

Photoshop CS3 had been having issues in Snow Leopard before, but it gets worse for some people under the update. If you are at 10.6.2 and Photoshop CS3 is working for you, I suggest you hold off on this. CS5 is coming out this month and includes some amazing new features. You'll be glad you skipped the CS4 upgrade. CS4 works fine under 10.6.3. Strangely, CS2 also works fine under the update.

I highly recommend reading the Reader Reports on Macintouch about the 10.6.3 updates if you plan to tackle this update yourself.

Other Updates

iTunes 9.1 is out and some users have reported glitches. There is no reason to get this unless you are buying an iPad. Give Apple some time to fix iTunes.

The QuickTime update to 7.6.6 has caused some Leopard users playback problems, such as no video but sound plays in some movies. I am running QuickTime 10 now, which comes with Snow Leopard. It offers an optional installer to downgrade to QT 7 on the DVD, but I did not do that. If you are using QT7 under 10.6.2, you get this update automatically.

The Security Update for 10.5.8 has not produced much negative reaction yet. It may be safe to go ahead.

AirPort Base Station Updater

Update 2010-001 for the Airport Base Station fixes a security glitch where someone may be able to access a secured network, if the user has extended it with an AirPort Express. People do this to make their network cover a larger area, even though it causes a drop in connection speed. If you have not done this the update is probably not necessary. No trouble reports yet. Available through Software Update.

Safari 4.0.5

Installed on mine and several client Macs so far. No reported problems with it. I recommend getting Click2Flash to manage the excessive and intrusive Flash ads you find on most sites. Doesn't block all ads, just the Flash ones.

iPhoto 8.1.2

No reported problems with this update.

That's it. More news when I get it. As always, contact me if you need assistance with these updates.

Monday, March 29, 2010

10.6.3; other updates

This very morning Apple released Snow Leopard update 10.6.3. It's available via Software Update, or (preferably) from Apple's download page. I'm downloading it now.

As always, wait a week for the reports to come in, and for my own experience with it. I will be installing it today after making a clone backup of my hard drive so I can revert to 10.6.2 if I need to.

If you go ahead and do it, be sure to open Disk Utility and Repair Permissions, both before and after the update. For a list of the patches, fixes and updates, visit today's Macintouch as well as MacFixIt and Apple's own site.

Also coming is iTunes 9.1 with support for the iPad and the Books section of the iTunes Store. I'm going to skip the iPad thing simply because I kept track of the web sites that use Flash that I visit regularly (excluding video sites) and found too many to make the Pad a useful device for me.

Your mileage may vary. A lot of people will love it immediately. If you are an early iPad adopter I would be interested in hearing your experiences with it.

Also released today is a Security Update for users of 10.5.8 (2010-002). It contains the same security patches as the ones in the Snow Leopard general update, but since Apple has made more mistakes with security updates than any others they have issued, I quarantine this for an absolute wait of at least two weeks before installing it.

There is no corresponding security update for Tiger 10.4.11, which appears to no longer be supported. Some of you still dependent on Classic OS9 applications must stay with Tiger and PowerPC Macs forever, so be aware of that as you look toward future upgrades. Leopard abandoned support for Classic and Snow Leopard abandoned support for AppleTalk printers.

Most people (including me) who want to keep access to these old programs and equipment have an old Mac dedicated to that service, which you will want to keep in good shape with utility repair programs such as Disk Warrior 2 and Norton Utilities 7. Fortunately, old Macs can be had for next to nothing, with G3 iMacs going for about $70 at FreeGeek and Craigslist, and older SCSI models like the beige G3, the 7600 and the SE-30 showing up in thrift shops. If you use one, start shopping around for a backup unit; even these well-made models die eventually.

PS: Anyone need an old van for moving lots of people and/or stuff? I'm selling my 1990 Ford van conversion, which I no longer need now that I traded in my SmartCar for a Nissan Cube. See it at Craigslist.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

YouTube fail; Safari 4.0.5

The latest update to Safari is a few days old. It came on the heels of a problem playing YouTube videos, when all I could see was an Obsolete Flash comment and no video or way to bypass the message. This affected only Safari, and getting an update to Flash using the link in YouTube didn't fix.

The next day the 4.0.5 update came out so I installed that. Didn't help, but it didn't hurt anything else so it's okay to get that update if you are currently running any version of Safari 4, or 3.2.

Leopard users have to be running 10.5.8 to use Safari 4. I still prefer 10.5.6 as being trouble-free.

To fix the YouTube problem I went on YouTube's forum areas and asked what was going on. Others reported it too, and the 3rd answer was the fix:

Open Safari preferences
Click on the Security button
Click on the Show Cookies button under the Accept Cookies area.
The next window has every cookie saved. Click on the Search field, upper right corner.
Type in YouTube. This should reduce the list to less than a page.
Click on Remove All.
Click on Done.
Make sure the 3rd button "Only from sites I visit" is the one selected.
Close Preferences. YouTube videos should play properly now.

Note to Snow Leopard users: 10.6.3 release is imminent. Apple will probably release it at the same time as the new laptops some time this month. As always, do NOT let Software Update install this. Wait at least a week and I and others will have had time to test it for problems.

When it's time to install, go to and search for 10.6.3 Combo Updater. Download the Disk Image (.dmg) file and run the updater from there. As always, run Disk Utility first and Repair Permissions, and Verify Disk. After the installation Repair Permissions again.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Mac Pro adventure

My favorite client calls are the ones with unusual problems. Today I visited a Mac Pro that was having startup problems. The owner was quite good at his own maintenance and repairs and had done all the tests I usually do. The symptom was a refusal to get past the blue screen to the desktop. It reacted to a reinstall of Leopard, but with updates it went back to failing. Finally it wouldn't start from the DVD.

Aha, I thought, typical example of problems with the 10.5.8 update. Nope, I could not get it to start from my FireWire drive running 10.5.6, or another volume running 10.6.2. It wasn't a graphics failure because it would correctly display the startup alternatives from holding down the Option key.

Thinking it might be loose RAM or something, I went to reseat the modules, but he told me he had already tried that.

So I pulled his drive out completely. I wanted to boot ONLY from my external drive with no chance of interference from plugged in devices. That didn't work either.

I noticed something strange when I peered into the case, which was under a table and not immediately obvious. I looked at the back and yep, every slot was filled with a display card! He was running a standard 30-inch display, but he had the capability of running EIGHT displays.

"Did you order this with all those video cards?"

"No, this was a standard order from the online Apple store, in September of 2007."

It had been working fine up until the Software Update, all these months, with all those cards in place. A video card is supposed to be inactive until a display is plugged in, but something must have happened to one of them as a result of the update. So I removed all three of them, leaving the standard one he had been using all along.

It booted perfectly from my FireWire drive. I shut down and plugged his internal drive back in, removing mine. It booted perfectly. No repairs needed.

He still has no idea why he got a Mac with all those extra cards, but they will wind up on Ebay once he tests each one to see if one is dead and causes the problem to return. Outside of some headaches, he will come out ahead selling the cards and deducting my fee for the visit. Took me just under an hour.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

New Year Catchup

February Macworld Magazine

Buy the February Macworld magazine. This issue contains the Macworld awards for best Mac software, hardware, and iPhone apps. I found three good ideas on the first page. Examples: Acorn 2.1, an inexpensive but powerful image editor. Looks better than Photoshop Elements and, at $50, is cheaper. Wacom's Bamboo Fun $199 tablet is not only a drawing pad, but also reads finger gestures like a trackpad.

They also recommend the Iomega Media Network Hard Drive, a standalone drive that plugs into your network and serves iTunes, BitTorrent, iPhoto and TimeMachine. Iomega lost market share with their dying Zips, the Jaz drive fiasco and their less-than-reliable portable drives, but this unit impressed the editors so much they gave it 4 mice (out of 5). Every Macker should subscribe to at least one physical magazine, and this is a good choice. (I also subscribe to MacLife.)

Net Neutrality Hearing
Thursday is the last day for comments from us to support net neutrality. We need this in law so Concast and other large providers can't pick and choose which web sites we can see, or download quicker. Without it, the freedom we have now will wind up like broadcast TV: 95% junk and little chance to control it. Sure, the web is 95% junk now, but nobody is gatekeeping to prevent us from finding the gems, and the information we want. To send an e-letter, visit here: Please spread the word.

Software Updates

There have been a lot of little updates lately, but not much serious since the 10.6.2 update a couple of months ago. A partial roundup of where you should be:

Snow Leopard:
Get the 10.6.2 update. Each update has improved 10.6 over the last. Wherever you are, get here.

Stop at 10.5.6. Don't get 10.5.7 or 8. If at 10.5.7, stop there. The 10.5.8 update was quite unstable and prone to crashing. Unfortunately if you want to update Safari to version 4, you have to be running 10.5.8. This is the end of the line for any G-series Mac as 10.6 requires Intel processors.

10.4.11 is the end for Tiger. If not there, let Software Update do it, or go to Apple's site and download the Combo Updater for 10.4.11. This will let you update Safari to version 4.0.4, but I recommend stopping at 3.1.2.

10.3.9 is the end of the line for that. There are no updates worth getting to anything once there, no matter what Apple says. You are very limited as to which web sites will work with Safari 1.3.2, and Firefox 2 is as new as you can run.

Safari (any OS):
If you are using any version of Safari 4, get 4.0.4. Off to a weak start, Safari 4 keeps getting more stable. Be sure to go into Preferences and click Security, then uncheck the box for "Warn when visiting a fraudulent web site." While this is a good idea, it is still poorly implemented and crashes it often.
Safari 3.1.2: Stop here. Safari 3.2 was a bad update. If already there, do the same Security fix as above.

Firefox 3.5:
For the first time, the Mozilla Project screwed up with this upgrade. Many people report that it now crashes or freezes when it never did before. Stay with version 3.0, but update within. At the moment, current version is 3.0.16. If you got 3.5 but still have the installer for 3.0, I recommend you throw out 3.5 and reinstall 3.0, then let them update to 3.0.16. I wish it were this easy to downgrade Safari. Staying with 3.5? Do all the updates for it.

Google Chrome:
This new browser is missing a few features available in FF and Safari, but is still a nice addition to your browsing collection. While I use Safari for everything important, Chrome is fun to use.

This browser uses the same engine as Firefox but has a number of nice features. My favorite is the toolbar, which can support multiple rows, instead of just forming a menu off the right edge like the other browsers do.

Saft and Click2Flash:
These plugins work only in Safari and are the reason I stick to it. Click2Flash blocks all those annoying Flash animated ads on web pages, and display them only after you deliberately click on them. It can be configured to allow specific sites to display all Flash (like YouTube), but I still prefer having to click to activate a particular video.
Saft adds some features Safari needs, like remembering and reopening all the windows and tabs from a previous session after a crash or mass quit. It does strange things to multiple-tab windows when you close each tab, though: It does not close them in order. Annoying but not impossible.

Ad blocker for Safari. Recently released a version for Safari 4. Visit to download installers for it and SIMBL, required. Also blocks Flash ads from loading and offers a Reload Unfiltered option in its menu in case the page is negatively affected by the ad blocking (it happens).

Security Updates:
Apple has messed up here so often I simply don't bother with any of them. I get more service calls to fix things after a Security Update has been applied than all other causes.

There are updates to both AirPort Utility and AirPort Client. OK to get them.

Get all of the Java updates offered. So far, no problems with any of them. They are necessary for interacting with some Web sites that depend on it.

27" iMac Graphics Update:
This newest model Mac is just amazing, but a few had problems with unstable screen display. This update fixes/prevents them. If you have one, get the update. If you still have flashing, call AppleCare.

Current is 7.6.4 for Tiger, Leopard and Snow Leopard. If you have 7.5.5, stop there unless you need the video and movie capabilities of iTunes 9. If you have an older QuickTime and experience no problems with web videos and don't use iTunes for anything but playing music, don't update.

Stay where you are if it works for you. If you get a new iPod or iPhone, you need version 9. You also need it if you want to rent movies from the iTunes Store, or view TV programs even without an iPod. Turn off the "Genius" function. Mostly annoying and useless. Explore it if you like but deactivate it in Preferences and close the sidebar if you don't use it.

Keyboard Update:
There are updates to the chip inside Apple's new aluminum keyboards, both wired and wireless. OK to get them. Don't know why they're needed; never run into any problems in un-updated keyboards.

Bluetooth Updates & Firmware Updates:
Various versions of these are released for both laptop and desktop models. I have not had one ever fail on me. Go ahead and let Software Update put them in.

Repair Permissions
I have stressed this many times, and demonstrated the process for everyone I have visited. It is important that you do this before and after running software updates, and installing new programs.

Briefly, launch Disk Utility (in your Utilities folder, accessible from the GO menu in the Finder) and select your hard drive from the list on the left. When the DiskFirstAid window appears, click Repair Disk Permissions from the button on the lower left. Once finished, you can either quit, or click Verify Disk from the button on the lower right. You cannot Repair Disk from here, though. If you get a Failed to Verify, get in touch with me.


Quicken alternatives

Quicken support for Mac, which has been awful for a decade now, is pretty much over. has a reader discussion of alternatives and the future. The next MacOS will probably not support Rosetta, which allows non-Intel-native programs to run. Read here: I am still using Quicken 2006 but some day I will have to switch too.


Brother printers

I withdraw all support and recommendation for Brother printers. I am finding that even older models that seemed to work become squirrly and unreliable when combined on wired and wireless networks. Even HP, which had been seriously slacking in their Mac software department, are easier to set up and more consistently reliable. Canon's inkjets and all-in-one printers are still my top recommendation.


I am amazed by how cheap color laser has become. I have seen some advertised in Fry's for under $150. That's less than a set of replacement cartridges. It's almost cheap enough to take a risk and get one just to see if it is as good as one would hope.

If any of you reading this own one of those low-priced color laser printers (under $400) I would love to hear of your experience.


Got a G5 iMac? More and more of them are succumbing to the bad-capacitor problem, which is not repairable without replacing the logic board at a cost of $hundreds. Not all of them are dying but there is no way to know which is which, either by checking the serial number or visually inspecting a working board.

I recommend dumping yours and getting one of the new ones. Trade in your G5 to a place that offers trades (like MacPac and PowerMax) or just put it on Craigslist while you can truthfully and ethically state, "It's working fine. No known problems."

Once it starts to go you have a boat anchor, but as of Jan 1 that's illegal. All of the G4 iMacs are okay. Getting old, but no inherent problems like the G5s.


Moving to Leopard from Tiger? If you have been backing up (cloning) with the program SilverKeeper from LaCie, you have to switch to SuperDuper. The newer version of SilverKeeper is a failed product and version 1.1.4 does not create functioning, bootable backups of Leopard or Snow Leopard. Another good cloning program is CarbonCopy Cloner, which is free. SuperDuper is $28 for the "Smart Backup" feature. I wish LaCie would try again to make a simple and effective backup program like SK 1.1.4 was, but so far they seem to have moved on. They do not include SK 2.0 with their new drives, so that tells you how much respect they have for their own update.

Please, LaCie, contradict me or prove me wrong. I liked SilverKeeper.


That's it for this long-overdue post. Have a great 2010, everyone. News updates as they happen.

I'm on Twitter @mklprc. Without Twitter I would not have seen this great animation: