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Tom Nelson

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NotesTab 4: Tomís Mac Software Pick

Saturday May 31, 2014

I have a need for a lightweight note-taking app because I'm always jotting down notes from research, news, press releases, and just about anything that comes across my desk. I could use OS X's built-in Notes app, but I want something a bit less intrusive, with a few more features.

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NotesTab 4

I prefer note-taking apps that reside in the Mac's menu bar; they tend to be small, easy-to-use apps that stay out of the way except when I need them. That's why I was pleased to try out the new NotesTab 4 from FIPLAB.

NotesTab 4 lives in the menu bar and provides quick access to notes you've already taken, or with a click of the mouse, to a fresh space to jot down a new note. The interface is basic, providing a list of existing notes in a table of contents setting. NotesTab creates simple text-based notes; there are no advanced formatting features available, beyond the ability to include linked text for quick access to a web site. But this simplicity suits my needs just fine.

If you're looking for a few more capabilities, you can move up to NotesTab Pro 4, which adds iCloud syncing with iOS and Windows counterparts to the Mac version. It also allows you to tear off the NotesTab window and place it anywhere on your screen, or expand the interface to larger app-style windows that display a great deal more text without having to scroll. There are also a few themes to choose from, and basic formatting capabilities, including the ability to change the font and text size.

NotesTab 4 is free. A Pro version is available for $4.99.

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Weekend DIY: Customize the Look of Your Mac

Friday May 30, 2014

This weekend's do-it-yourself project is to customize your Mac so that it better expresses your personality. Now, we could go hog wild and break out paint, cutting torches, and 3D printers to create a pretty fantastic custom enclosure to put your Mac into, but that's more than a weekend of work. For now, let's concentrate on changing your Mac's desktop, icons, and screen saver.

Weekend DIY: Customize the Look of Your Mac

Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Personalize Your Mac by Changing Desktop Icons

The icons you see on your desktop are one of our first targets for customization, especially the drive icons, as they tend to be one of the more prominent features of the desktop. The guide above not only shows you how to change your desktop and folder icons, but also how to find new icons to use.

Control How Your Icons Appear

Besides changing the icons, you can also control how they appear on your desktop. You can control icon size and spacing, as well as the size of the icon text and where the text appears. You can also select the view you would like to use as the default for your Mac's desktop.

Choose Your Own Desktop Wallpaper Picture

You Mac comes with a wide selection of images you can use for your desktop, but you can also add your own to give it that personal touch. If you can't decide which image you want to use, why not set up a group of images and let your Mac make the selection for you.

How to Add a Screen Saver to Your Mac

In addition to desktop images, Apple provides quite a few screen savers to choose from; you can also install third-party screen savers or even use your own folder of images to create special slideshows that can be used as screen savers.

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Tom's Mac Tips: How to Fix a Mac Sleep Issue

Thursday May 29, 2014

Over the last week or so, my 2010 Mac Pro has occasionally suffered from a sleep-related issue. A few times after I wandered off and my Mac went to sleep, I returned to find the login screen, instead of the locked screen that usually displays when the Mac wakes from sleep. After logging in, I would see a notice that my Mac had crashed during sleep and automatically restarted to the login screen.

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Courtesy of Apple

Looking at the log files, it appears that the error involved the Mac's processor(s), which failed to respond to a hardware interrupt. The result was that the Mac ended up in an unknown state, and had the courtesy to restart itself.

I decided to try the most basic troubleshooting advice I give to others who are having problems with their Macs and sleep; I reset the SMC, which happens to control some of the basic sleep functions of the Mac.

It's been a few days since I reset the SMC, with multiple trips into sleep and back; so far, my Mac seems to be working correctly.

It's nice when the fix to what could be a bad problem is so easy to perform, and also very effective.

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Apple Announces Acquisition of Beats Electronics and Beats Music

Wednesday May 28, 2014

Although the cat had already been let out of the bag about the Beats purchase, Apple made the acquisition official today with a press release and an interview with the New York Times.

Beats co-founders Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine will become employees of Apple, reporting to Eddy Cue, Senior Vice President of Internet Software and Services.

"Music is such an important part of Apple's DNA and always will be," said Eddy Cue. "The addition of Beats will make our music lineup even better, from free streaming with iTunes Radio to a world-class subscription service in Beats, and of course buying music from the iTunes Store as customers have loved to do for years."

Apple purchased Beats for $2.6 billion in cash, and an additional $400 million in vested stock options, bringing the total acquisition cost to $3 billion.

After the announcement, the annual music subscription price for Beats dropped from $120 to $100; an extended free trial period is also being offered.

It remains to be seen what Apple will do with the talent acquired in the deal, but there's no doubt in my mind that the deal is mostly about the talent and has little to do with the technology.

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Apple to Stream WWDC 2014 Keynote Event and Promises Exciting Announcements

Tuesday May 27, 2014

With less than a week until WWDC, which will open its doors on Monday, June 2nd, Apple has updated its events page to include the keynote time (10:00 am PDT). In addition, Apple will be providing a live stream of the keynote address. This is the second year in a row that Apple will stream the event live, as opposed to providing a video of the event a few days later.

Apple to Stream WWDC 2014 Keynote Event and Promises Exciting Announcements

Courtesy of Apple

In addition to the live stream, Apple is also promising that exciting announcements will be made at the event. Well, I certainly hope so. I look forward to some new hardware; a Mac mini, Apple TV, perhaps even a new iMac or a Retina version of the MacBook Air. But those are all natural evolutions of existing products. What always really gets people excited is something new. This year, that may be a move into home automation, with a new Apple TV taking on the role of a core server for the home, dishing up entertainment and providing control over third-party devices that will automate your home.

Of course, we'll also get a peek at the as-yet unnamed OS X 10.10 and iOS 8.

If you would like to watch the WWDC keynote streamed live, just point your browser to Apple Events - WWDC 2014 at 10 AM PDT on Monday June 2, 2014. You may want to check the page out today, just to make sure your Mac meets the minimum requirements for viewing the live stream.

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Apple to Push Smart Home Technology at WWDC 2014

Monday May 26, 2014

The Financial Times (subscription required) is reporting that Apple plans to offer a development platform that will turn iOS devices into control systems for home automation networks.

Described as a move into the "internet of things," Apple's remote management system will take on Google, which recently acquired Nest Labs, maker of popular self-learning home thermostats. Samsung has also started offering smart home products, including refrigerators and other home appliances.

Apple's approach is said to add a set of APIs to the iOS platform that will allow developers to create home automation platforms that will use various iOS devices, such as an iPhone, as a remote controller or as part of the overall automation platform. An example can be found in a recent patent filing in which Apple describes a system that detects the location of a wireless communication device (an iPhone), and then responds by setting lighting, adjusting temperature, opening or closing garage doors, or configuring entertainment systems appropriately for the detected event.

The Financial Times believes Apple has lined up a group of home automation device makers who will sell their products with a "Made for iOS" certification, indicating compatibility with the new iOS automation software platform.

Apple already offers the Phillips HUE line of LED light bulbs that can be controlled remotely using software running on an iOS device. But in that case, the software can only be used with the Phillips HUE products. With the new iOS platform, apps can be created to work with a wide range of remotely controlled devices.

 

Apple Steals & Deals: Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sunday May 25, 2014

The Mac refurb store remains well stocked this holiday weekend, with plenty of choices to keep you busy trying to decide which Mac to buy. There's a nice selection of Mac minis, including one model outfitted with the server version of OS X. But the real news this week is the three, count 'em, three best deals of the week that we uncovered.

Apple Steals & Deals: Sunday, May 25, 2014
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Best Deals of the Week

This week, two 15-inch MacBook Pro models get our nod for best deal of the week. With price cuts of 23% and 24%, it's nice to be able to pick up the most recent MacBook Pro and still have a little money left in your pocket.

Our third best deal of the week goes to a 2012 Mac Pro with a 12-core Xeon processor. It's actually a pair of 6-core Xeons; the 12-core Mac Pro models are a popular, although usually expensive, configuration. Check out this deal if you're looking for a slightly more budget-friendly 12-core model.

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: $719.00
  • 2013 11.6-inch MacBook Air (Review) 1.3 GHz Dual-Core i5 with 512 GB SSD and Intel HD Graphics 5000: $1,149.00
  • 2013 13.3-inch MacBook Air (Review) 1.3 GHz Dual-Core i5 with 128 GB SSD and Intel HD Graphics 5000: $799.00
  • 2013 13.3-inch MacBook Air (Review) 1.3 GHz Dual-Core i5 with 256 GB SSD and Intel HD Graphics 5000: 979.00

MacBook Pro

  • 2012 13.3-inch MacBook Pro (Review) 2.5 GHz Dual-Core i5 with 500 GB hard drive, 8x SuperDrive, and Intel Graphics 4000: $999.00
  • 2013 13.3-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display (Review) 2.4 GHz Intel Dual-Core i5 with 128 GB SSD and Intel Iris Graphics: $1,099.00
  • Deal of the Week: 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
  • Deal of the Week: 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

Mac mini

  • 2012 Mac mini (Review) 2.3 GHz Quad-Core i7 with OS X Server, dual 1 TB hard drives, and Intel HD Graphics 4000: $849.00
  • 2012 Mac mini (Review) 2.3 GHz Quad-Core i7 with 256 GB SSD, and Intel HD Graphics 4000: $929.00

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

2013 27-inch iMac (Review) 3.2 GHz, Quad-Core i5 with 1 TB hard drive and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 775M: $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
  • Deal of the Week: 2012 Mac Pro (Review) 2.4 GHz 12-Core Xeon with 1 TB hard drive and ATI Radeon HD 5770 graphics: $3,239.00

Mac Accessories

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

iPad mini (Review)

  • 16 GB Wi-Fi iPad mini $249.00
  • 32 GB Wi-Fi iPad mini $339.00
  • 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 iPad Air $419
  • 32 GB Wi-Fi iPad Air $509
  • 64 GB Wi-Fi iPad Air $589
  • 128 GB Wi-Fi iPad Air $679
  • 16 GB Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad $529
  • 32 GB Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad $619
  • 64 GB Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad $699
  • 128 GB Wi-Fi + Cellular iPad $789

iPad mini Retina (Review)

  • 32 GB Wi-Fi only: $419
  • 64 GB Wi-Fi only: $509
  • 128 GB Wi-Fi only: $589
  • 16 GB Wi-Fi + Cellular: $449.00
  • 32 GB Wi-Fi + Cellular: $5299.00
  • 64 GB Wi-Fi + Cellular: $619.00

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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Softaculous AMPPS: Tomís Mac Software Pick

Saturday May 24, 2014

AMPPS is a cross-platform development stack of popular free and open source web applications. AMPPS includes Apache, MySQL, PHP, Perl, Python, and a Softaculous auto-installer that lets you quickly install and configure 300-plus popular web applications, ranging from blogging apps, such as WordPress, to popular mail systems, such as SquirrelMail, and cloud-based services, such as ownCloud.

Softaculous AMPPS: Tom's Mac Software Pick

Softaculous AMPPS

AMPPS is easy to install and doesn't replace any of OS X's built-in versions of Apache, PHP, Perl, or other development tools. This means you don't need to worry about misconfiguring a service and causing problems with OS X or any utility that uses OS X installed versions of Apache, MySQL, or other open source web apps.

Another benefit of AMPPS is how easy it is to uninstall. Since it isn't entwined with any OS X services, you can simply delete the AMPPS app from your Applications folder.

Softaculous AMPPS is free.

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

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Weekend DIY: How to Install Older Versions of OS X

Friday May 23, 2014

We're not suggesting that you jump into a wayback machine and install an older version of OS X just for the sake of nostalgia. But there are a few good reasons to have an older OS installed on your Mac.

Weekend DIY: How to Install Older Versions of OS X

Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

I keep a copy of Snow Leopard, Lion, Mountain Lion, and Mavericks on my Mac. Of course, I need all of the recent versions of OS X so I can write how to's, features, and troubleshooting tips for these still-popular versions of OS X. But you may also have a need for an older version of OS X. Perhaps you need to run a work-related app that isn't compatible with Mavericks. Or maybe you need a diversion from work, but one (or more) of your favorite older games hasn't been updated since Snow Leopard, and won't work with Mavericks.

With the Mac's support for booting up to multiple operating systems, having Snow Leopard and Mavericks available with just a keyboard combo is really quite easy.

One special note, however. Generally speaking, you can't install a version of OS X that is older than the version that shipped with your Mac. So, if you have a shiny new 2013 Mac Pro that came equipped with OS X Mavericks, you won't be able to install any of the older versions of the OS.

You will of course need an installation copy of the OS X version you wish to use. The following versions of OS X are still available from Apple:

OS X Snow Leopard

OS X Lion

OS X Mountain Lion

OS X Mavericks

Once you have downloaded the OS or received an install DVD, you will need to create a partition to install the OS on. You'll find instructions here:

Partition Your Mac's Hard Drive With Disk Utility

Once you have a drive properly partitioned to accept multiple OSes, you're ready to start the installation process:

OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Installation Guides

OS X Lion Installation Guides

OS X Mountain Lion Installation Guides

OS X Mavericks Installation Guides

And finally, you'll find the keyboard shortcut you need to use OS X's Startup Manager to select the version of the OS you want to boot into here:

Mac OS X Startup Keyboard Shortcuts

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OS X 10.9.3 Causing Mac Pro GPU Rendering Issues

Thursday May 22, 2014

According to MacNN, the most recent update to Mavericks (OS X 10.9.3) is causing some users to have rendering issues with the twin GPUs installed in their late 2013 Mac Pros.

OS X 10.9.3 Causing Mac Pro GPU Rendering Issues

Courtesy of Apple

Reported problems include graphical artifacts, system crashes, and rendering processes that fail to complete. All of the issues occur when hardware rendering is used, and are absent when rendering is performed only in software (using the CPU).

Affected applications so far include Adobe Premiere and Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve.

If you're experiencing GPU rendering problems with your late 2013 Mac Pro and OS X 10.9.3, we would like to hear about it. Please leave a comment below.

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