Sunday, November 27, 2011

November Update

News & Such

Beware of a phishy Xmas e-card making the rounds of emails, ostensibly from If you open the web link, it tells you need a FLV plug-in to see the video. Wait a moment and you may get a message that an applet is requesting access to your computer.

Don't even click the link. I have all the Safari blocks turned on, and LittleSnitch to prevent outgoing messages that would otherwise be invisible. My spam filter identified it; yours should too, but don't be taken in. No idea what it does, but it can't be good.

Mac Power Users podcast

I have been listening to this regular podcast for a couple of years now. It is created in the form of a friendly conversation about various Mac subjects, with guests discussing their own personal workflows and favorite tricks. Links to topics mentioned on the show are at their site. The show isn't for people who are already power users, although we can all learn new stuff from it; it is designed to help you become a power user. Go to the site to hear past episodes, read hints and tips, and to subscribe to it through iTunes. No charge; it comes out weekly. Past issues are downloadable through iTunes. This is a good one; you'll be glad you did.


Get 'em while they're hot - all have been out over a week and none have been shown to cause serious damage. Software Updates to Security, Java, iTunes, Safari, RAW Camera compatibility and many application-specific updates, including new drivers for your printer.

These printer updates are here because most major manufacturers have handed over the update process to Apple so they can feed through Software Update. This has not proved troublesome, except where the companies have been sluggish about posting downloadable files for people who need to reinstall their printer drivers on a freshly initialized drive.

How To Repair Permissions

As always, before and after running Software Update you should run DiskUtility and have it Repair Permissions and Verify Disk. For those who have forgotten, this is the procedure.

1) Open your Utilities folder, inside the Applications folder.
2) Locate Disk Utility. Double-click to launch.
3) When the program loads, the main part of the window will tell you to select a disk or volume from the list on the left.
4) Choose Macintosh HD (unless you have renamed your drive something else).
5) Notice the main part of the window change. You are now in the Disk First Aid part of the program. At the bottom you will see four buttons. On the left, Verify Disk Permissions and Repair Disk Permissions.

Depending on the version of the MacOS you are running the wording may be slightly different. At the bottom right will be Verify Disk, and Repair Disk, which will be greyed out. (Under Tiger, both Verify and Repair are greyed out.)

6) Click Verify Disk. When it finishes, it should say "The disk appears to be OK." Then click Repair Disk Permissions. Forget about the Verify button above it. This could take between 2 and 10 minutes. You will see a very inaccurate progress monitor and time-remaining estimate on the right.
7) When it finishes the progress monitor will go away and you can quit the program.

In the past I have had people stop at certain versions of their OS because of trouble with the update. My wait-a-week rule has been a good thing because the last update of Snow Leopard, 10.6.8, was one of those that broke things. Within a week Apple had updated it to 10.6.8 v1.1 and released a new updater. They also released a 1.1 update to fix things for those who had installed the troublesome version of 10.6.8. If you are still at 10.6.7, there is no compelling reason to run 10.6.8 as it did little to change things.

Lion is at 10.7.2 and it is still growing. Because 10.7 was such a radical change, it brought radical issues to many users, even though most people went through it okay. I believe anyone running Lion should make sure they are at the latest version.

Tiger and Leopard are stopped at 10.4.11 and 10.5.8, respectively. There are no known plans for further point updates to those versions, especially Tiger, which is now officially abandoned. Apple's rule is to support two system versions behind the current one, which is why you can use the latest Safari and iTunes with Leopard and Snow Leopard.

(PowerPC Macs, G4 and G5, end their lives at Leopard 10.5.8 and can go no further.) The reason to keep these older Macs around is to run software that does not run on newer Macs. A lot more people (including me) are doing just that.

AOL Desktop Glitch

Not many people are still using the AOL Desktop program any more, but there are still some. I ran across a bug in the application I have not been able to fix. I would love to hear from other people using it who experience the same problem.

Normally the Return and the Enter keys do the same thing: Issue a new paragraph command or click a highlighted window button. When typing in a word editor, whether email, Word, TextEdit or anything else, neither key should do anything but end a paragraph. However, in AOL's email composer, hitting the Enter key issues a Send command! If you accidentally brush that key, easy to do when typing, your mail is gone. This is a major bug and should be something you can enable or disable in a preference. I've asked on an AOL forum page about this, and all I found was a three-year-old post from someone asking how to re-enable that feature of the Enter key! It seems in the previous version of AOL Desktop they took that out and this user was unhappy.

I think it's a bug, a design error, a mistake. Hitting Enter should never just send off a message, without at least giving you an "Are you sure..." dropdown dialog that would let you cancel the send.

There are no support personnel at AOL any more, either for live chat or telephone talk. It's understandable since they had to make the service free to even stay alive at all. But it would sure be nice to have SOMEONE at the company who can receive and respond to issues.

But I can understand why there isn't. Recently the tech news announced that top executives were leaving AOL-owned companies in droves (well, small ones, anyway) and I can understand why. I've seen "The Walking Dead"; it's probably not a safe place to be right now.