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Weekend DIY - Customize the Dock With Recent Application Stacks and Dock Spacers

Friday April 18, 2014

This weekend's project is a good one if you want to add functionality to your Mac's desktop via the Dock. With a bit of Terminal magic, you can add a capability to the Dock that allows you to keep track of apps and documents that you've recently worked with.

Weekend DIY - Customize the Dock With Recent Application Stacks and Dock Spacers

Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Once you finish adding the Recent Applications stack, you can use the same technique to add a Recent Documents stack.

Now, with all the new Dock features you've added, you may want to consider reorganizing your Dock; you know, move the Dock icons around to place them into groups that make sense to you.

As part of the Dock shuffle, you can add Dock Spacers to help make your groups of icons really stand out.

Add a Recent Applications Stack to the Dock

Add a Dock Spacer to Your Mac

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Rumor: Mac mini Undergoing Dramatic Changes

Thursday April 17, 2014

The Mac mini is getting very long in the tooth; October 2012 was the last time it was updated. On average, the Mac mini is updated just a tick less than once a year. It's now been nearly a year and a half since the last update, which makes me wonder what Apple has been doing with the Mac mini during that time.

Rumor: Mac mini Undergoing Dramatic Changes

Courtesy of Apple

The Mac mini is not only the least expensive desktop Mac, but also a popular choice for many businesses and former PC users who want a powerful Mac, but who don't want or need the added cost of an iMac's built-in display, or a Mac Pro's raw processing power.

Mac pundits, including myself, expected an updated Mac mini sometime in early 2014, which would have met the normal upgrade cycle. Apple could easily throw in a new Intel Haswell processor upgrade, and Intel Iris or Iris Pro graphics, without breaking a sweat. This hasn't happened, so what's going on?

Apple may be giving the Mac mini more than just a basic upgrade this time around. Looking at recent Apple designs, and the direction they point to, here's what I think Apple will do with a new Mac mini.

Apple could just drop the model altogether; after all, desktops aren't the moneymakers they once were. But the Mac mini could be part of a new direction in Apple's desktop designs, one that started with the 2013 Mac Pro. That includes updating the storage system to SSD only; no mechanical spinning drives of any type. Instead, the new Mac mini would have a PCIe-based SSD, as seen in the Mac Pro and current MacBook Airs.

Without the need for a mechanical hard drive, the Mac mini could shrink, and I mean in a big way. There is no reason why a Mac mini couldn't be the size of an Apple TV, or perhaps a puck shape, a smaller take on the Mac Pro's cylinder design.

The only interface needs are power, HDMI, Thunderbolt, and USB 3. The number of each type of port depends on how small Apple wants to make the Mac mini. I would expect to see four USB 3, two Thunderbolt, and one HDMI. Of course, there would be the required Bluetooth and AC Wi-Fi, but perhaps no Ethernet port.

As for processors and graphics, Haswell and Iris Pro will likely be the choices. There could be a model with a higher-end graphics card to provide a bit of a GPU boost to overall performance.

What do you think a new Mac mini will look like? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

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Don't Worry, It's Only a Mac Kernel Panic

Wednesday April 16, 2014

If you want to know what strikes fear into the heart of Mac users, it's the kernel panic image that a Mac displays when the OS throws its hands up and simply stops working.

Don't Worry, It's Only a Mac Kernel Panic

 

Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

As strange as it may sound, if you see the kernel panic image, it's time to relax, because there's nothing you can do to remedy the problem. It may be of little comfort, but when there's nothing you can do about a situation, the best thing to do is take a deep breath and move on.

Feeling better now? Ready for a bit of good news? A very high percentage of kernel panics are caused by one-time events that you may never see again. Kernel panics are usually the result of two or more poorly written apps vying for the same computer resource at the same time. This isn't supposed to happen, but sometimes it does.

A kernel panic can also occur because of a memory leak, once again caused by a poorly written app (or plug-in or add-on). In this case, the misbehaving app keeps using more and more memory until there's none left, and poof, your Mac crashes.

How about more good news? Restarting your Mac will probably bring you right back to the desktop, with no problems other than losing unsaved data from any apps that were open when the kernel panic occurred.

If you restart your Mac and run into problems, our guide to Troubleshooting Mac OS X Kernel Panics should get you going again.

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Microsoft Adds Office 365 Personal Subscriptions

Tuesday April 15, 2014

Microsoft today announced the availability of a lower-cost option for its Office 365 suite.

Microsoft Adds Office 365 Personal Subscriptions

Courtesy of Microsoft

The core apps in Office 365 for Mac (Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and One Note) are available in various subscription tiers, including home, business, and enterprise. Office 365 Home is available for $99.99 per year or $9.99 per month, and includes a 5-user license that lets you run up to five copies on your Macs, PCs, iPad, or Windows tablet.

The newest tier being offered is a single-user subscription license that allows you to install Office 365 on a single Mac or PC, plus one copy on your iPad or Windows tablet. Pricing for the new Office 365 Personal tier is $69.99 per year or $6.99 per month.

Remember, this is not a new version of Office for the Mac; it's essentially Office for Mac 2011 with a new pricing structure. If you would prefer the old non-subscription prices, you can find Office for Mac 2011 available online from various resellers.

Microsoft has said it's working on a new Mac version of Office, but so far hasn't provided a release date.

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Apple Buys Hydroelectric Facility; Is an iDam The Next Big Thing?

Monday April 14, 2014

No, as fun as it would be for Apple to start selling micro-hydroelectric systems, there will be no iDam in our future. Apple's interest in purchasing a small hydroelectric facility near the Haystack Reservoir is to help provide renewable energy to the Prineville, Oregon data center currently under development.

Apple Buys Hydroelectric Facility; Is an iDam The Next Big Thing?

 

Apple Data Center, Prineville, OR - Image courtesy of Google and Europa Technologies

Apple is already powering the new data center with renewable energy in the form of wind energy contracts from suppliers in the area. But Apple has also indicated that its plans are for the site to be 100%-powered by renewable energy sources. To that end, Apple plans to build a 200-acre solar farm on nearby land in Prineville.

Apple's interest in the 3 to 3.5 megawatt hydroelectric facility seems to be an interim energy source as it continues working its way through the permitting process to develop the large solar farm. As currently permitted, the micro-hydroelectric facility doesn't run in the winter months, when the agricultural canal that feeds the facility is shut down because of freezing weather.

When it began the Prineville data center project, Apple said that the data center would be powered by wind, solar, and micro-hydroelectric sources. With this purchase, two of the three renewable energy sources are in place.

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Apple Steals & Deals: Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday April 13, 2014

The Mac mini is missing this week from the refurb store's inventory; likewise, various MacBook models are seeing a bit of a decline in availability. But even so, we found some pretty good deals this week that deserve your consideration.

Apple Steals & Deals: Sunday, April 13, 2014
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Best Deals of the Week **

This week's best deals include a 2013 15-inch MacBook Pro that can save you $540 off the current retail price, and a 2011 27-inch iMac that can be had for $570 less than its original retail price. And don't forget that while the 2011 iMac may seem to be an older model, it has the advantage of a built-in SuperDrive (DVD/CD read/write). It also comes with a one-year warranty, just like all the other Apple refurbs.

Apple Refurbished Store

Quantities are limited, so if any of these tickle your fancy, be fast on the trigger to make a purchase.

MacBook Air

  • 2013 11.6-inch MacBook Air (Review) 1.3 GHz Dual-Core i5 with 128 GB SSD and Intel HD Graphics 5000: $849.00
  • 2013 11.6-inch MacBook Air (Review) 1.3 GHz Dual-Core i5 with 256 GB SSD and Intel HD Graphics 5000: $1,019.00
  • 2012 13.3-inch MacBook Air (Review) 1.8 GHz Dual-Core i5 with 128 GB SSD and Intel HD Graphics 4000: $849.00
  • 2013 13.3-inch MacBook Air (Review) 1.3 GHz Dual-Core i5 with 128 GB SSD and Intel HD Graphics 5000: $929.00

MacBook Pro

  • 2013 13.3-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display (Review) 2.4 GHz Dual-Core i5 with 128 GB SSD and Intel Iris Graphics 4000: $1,099.00
  • 2012 15-inch MacBook Pro (Review) 2.3 GHz Intel Quad-Core i7 with 500 GB hard drive and NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M graphics: $1,499.00
  • 2012 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display (Review) 2.3 GHz Intel Quad-Core i7 with 256 GB SSD and NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M graphics: $1,599.00
  • 2013 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display (Review) 2.4 GHz Intel Quad-Core i7 with 256 GB SSD and NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M Graphics: $1,659.00 **

iMac

  • 2013 21.5-inch iMac (Review) 2.7 GHz, Quad-Core i5 with 1 TB hard drive and Intel Iris Pro Graphics: $1,099.00
  • 2011 27-inch iMac (Review) 2.7 GHz, Quad-Core i5 with 1 TB hard drive and AMD Radeon HD 6770 Graphics: $1,129.00 **
  • 2013 27-inch iMac (Review) 3.2 GHz, Quad-Core i5 with 1 TB hard drive and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 755M: $1,529.00

Mac Pro

  • 2012 Mac Pro (Review) 3.2 GHz Quad-Core Xeon with 1 TB hard drive and ATI Radeon HD 5770 graphics: $2,139.00

Displays

  • Apple 27-inch Thunderbolt Display: $799

Mac Accessories

  1. 2013 AirPort Extreme with simultaneous dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi technology: $169.00
  2. 2013 AirPort Time Capsule with 2 TB drive and simultaneous dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi technology: $255.00

iPad - Fourth Generation (Review)

  • 64 GB Wi-Fi iPad 4 $499.00
  • 128 GB Wi-Fi iPad 4 $579.00
  • 16 GB Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad 4 $449.00
  • 32 GB Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad 4 $529.00
  • 64 GB Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad 4 $609.00
  • 128 GB Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad 4 $689.00

iPad mini (Review)

  • 16 GB Wi-Fi iPad mini $249.00
  • 64 GB Wi-Fi iPad mini $419.00
  • 16 GB Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad mini $359.00
  • 32 GB Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad mini $449.00
  • 64 GB Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad mini $529.00
  • iPad Air (Review)
  • 16 GB Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad Air $529
  • 32 GB Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad Air $619
  • 64 GB Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad Air $699
  • 128 GB Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad Air $789

Want to find out more about Apple refurbished Macs? Take a look at the process my wife and I experienced when we took the Apple refurbished store for a spin.

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Virtual Box 4.3.10: Tomís Mac Software Pick

Saturday April 12, 2014

Virtual Box is a free open source virtualization app that allows you to run Windows, Linux, OS X, and other operating systems concurrently while you continue to use your Mac. No need to boot to a different operating system; Virtual Box lets multiple operating systems run at the same time.

Virtual Box 4.3.10: Tom's Mac Software Pick

Virtual Box 4.3.10

Virtual Box is an excellent method of running a Windows app that isn't available in a Mac version. Simply install Windows and the apps you wish to use in Virtual Box. When you need one of the Windows apps, just launch Virtual Box and start using the app.

Virtual Box requires a bit more technical savvy to set up and use than commercially available virtualization apps, such as Parallels or Fusion, but because it's free, you may be willing to dig through the 300-page manual to get it set up. You won't need to spend a lot of time with the manual for the most basic setups, but if you need anything special, the manual is there for you.

Virtual Box 4.3.10 is free.

See other software choices from Tom's Mac Software Picks.

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Weekend DIY - Create Your Own Mac App to Automate Your Workflow

Friday April 11, 2014

This weekend's Mac DIY project is a bit different than usual. I'm going to show you how to create a Mac app that will take your most often used workflow and automate the process.

Weekend DIY - Create Your Own Mac App to Automate Your Workflow

Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Before you run off looking for your old programming books from school, let me assure you that no programming background is needed for this DIY project. Yet, by completing this project, you may discover a new interest in learning basic scripting, which is a nice jumping-off point to learning various programming languages used in Mac development.

The workflow app you'll create is based on one that I use all the time, however you can customize it to fit your specific needs. You can easily use this guide to create an app for setting up a gaming system, a writer's desk, research projects, development projects, budgeting and planning, just about anything you do repeatedly on your Mac that would benefit from a bit of automation.

If you're ready to dive in, then let's get started:

How to Use Automator to Build a Workflow Environment

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Rumor - New iMacs in Q3 Will Use Intel 9 Series Haswell Processors and Chip Sets

Thursday April 10, 2014

Intel is believed to be getting ready to refresh its Haswell CPU family with slightly better processor speeds, built-in support for the M.2 SSD interface, and better USB 3 support.

Rumor - New iMacs in Q3 Will Use Intel 9 Series Haswell Processors and Chip Sets

Courtesy of Apple

According to Hermitage Akihabara, the new Intel chips will be released on May 10th.† With the Haswell 9 series available to computer manufacturers in May, Apple should be able to provide an iMac update in the late 3rd or early 4th quarter. Apple is believed to be disappointed in iMac sales, especially of the 21.5-inch model. The new Intel Haswell family would be a nice fit for a new 27-inch iMac model, and rumor has it that a special low-power consumption version with Intel Iris graphics is being specially designed to meet Apple's need for an inexpensive 21.5-inch iMac.

But don't get your hopes up for a cheap, small iMac. Chances are Apple will designate the entry-level iMac only for specific countries in which it wishes to make inroads.

As for the 27-inch iMac, the new Haswell chips have some interesting capabilities, such as built-in RAID support for the SATA and M.2 SSD interfaces. I can see Apple offering an SSD-only configuration of the iMac, perhaps with two SSD slots available for built-to-order configurations. But what would really make my day would be the SSDs being on a slide-out sled, allowing for easy user replacement and upgrades. I'm not holding my breath on slide-out SSD sleds, but they sure would put the icing on the industrial design cake for which Apple computers are known.

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Apple Vice President of Human Interface to Leave Company

Wednesday April 9, 2014

Greg Christie, the Apple developer most often cited as overseeing the development of the iOS operating system and its user interface elements on the first iPhone, will be leaving Apple, according to 9to5Mac.

Apple Vice President of Human Interface to Leave Company

Courtesy of Apple

In what appears to be a power struggle, Christie has been butting heads with Jony Ive over changes to the iOS interface seen in iOS 7. Ive was put in the role of providing leadership to the human interface team after Scott Forstall's departure in 2012. Christie, who originally reported to Forstall, and Ive have not been seeing eye-to-eye in how iOS and also OS X should appear and interface with users.

With the removal of Christie, Ive will likely have complete control over all interface design on both the iOS and OS X platforms. This will likely lead to significant changes in future versions of the two operating systems, with each taking on features and common interface elements of the other, resulting in a more uniform interface between the two.

Ive will likely continue the trend to flatten interface elements, as seen in iOS 7, and bring the flat look to OS X as well.

What do you think? Is the flat look in the future for OS X? If so, is that a good thing or a bad thing? Leave a comment below.

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