I'm a computer guy. I've been programming since the early 80s, starting with BASIC on a Commodore Pet. I've worked on HPUX, BSD and various other *nix as well as Windows since 3.0. My new work provides Apple laptops, but I've never learned to use a Mac. How hard can it be?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Blue Screen of Death

OK, so it isn't blue, it's grey.  And it doesn't come up when the machine dies abruptly, it comes up after it restarts.  But it's the same thing.  I would have sworn one of the common reasons people give for why you should use a Mac instead of Windows is that "it never crashes, you don't have to restart, " etc.  Well, I have news for you.  Mine has crashed 4 times in the last 48 hours.

I checked with our IT guy about it, and he said that it's a good idea to shutdown the Mac every week or so, or restart it, without having it reopen the active windows.  I guess I'm fixating, but I have been really enjoying NOT shutting it down.  I just close it or, if it's on the stand at my desk, unplug the monitor and power and go.  It always wakes up so nice and fast.

I do note that I have had the FitBit dongle plugged into the machine probably since Sunday night or Monday, so I suppose I'll have to take it out and see whether the crashing stops.  In fact, there's a quick result on Google, albeit a year or more old, that suggests FitBit doesn't play well with Macs.  I'll have to go back to syncing the FitBit at home, which means not as often.  Not a big deal, since I already can't have it sync any old time by connecting it to my phone (which doesn't support BTLE).

But really... Macs aren't supposed to crash, and you're not supposed to have to restart them at regular intervals.

The other thing that comes to mind just now is that at work I put it on one a stand.  I normally have it closed.  This is fine when it is sleeping, because it will wake up for my wireless keyboard or Magic Trackpad.  If it is OFF, however, it will not and I actually have to open it to turn it on.  I wonder if there's a way to have it turn on when I plug it in to power, even if it is off and closed?  I'll have to look into that.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

What's in a Name?

Every so often, my MacBook tells me that it's name is being used by another computer.  This is because the computer was named Company MacBook Pro, which clearly some other people's computers are as well.  Possibly including my new boss, who certainly got a new computer that was set up roughly the same was as mine.

It probably doesn't really matter, but I don't like it when it tells me it is going to use a different name than it was before.  After all, we use Salesforce and Google Apps, so it is undoubtedly going to be rare that we actually need to share things directly from our computers.

I hunted around the System Preferences, looking for a place to make that change.  Network.  Security/Privacy. General.  Users & Groups.  Startup Disk.  Nothing.

Then I started looking through the Finder.  I did find a way to open the containing folder for a folder, but couldn't figure out how to get to a place where I could see the computer name as part of a list.  I thought if I could I would be able to click it and there might be a rename option.

So, I asked The Google.  Unsurprisingly, the first link, in Wikihow, gave sufficient detail.  I had overlooked one likely System Preference option:  Sharing.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Magic Devices

I have learned recently that Apple has two magic devices, the Magic Mouse and the Magic Trackpad.  I have learned at least some gestures on the trackpad on the laptop, but now that I have a desk, I got a wireless keyboard and a wireless mouse, the Magic Mouse.

The Magic Mouse may support all the same gestures as the Magic Trackpad, but it is vastly inferior.  For one thing, it doesn't stay in the same place; this is my primary complaint with mice, and the reason that I've pretty much always used trackballs.  It also isn't anywhere near as easy to do some of the gestures on the smaller, curved surface - try doing a two- or three-finger swipe toward the pinkie finger.  The mouse is going to move, the trackpad isn't, at least not when on a computer and probably not the wireless unit.

In fact, as I type this, our office manager has handed me the trackpad, which I have configured (with the mouse) and I can definitely confirm that the two- and three-fingered gestures do not move the trackpad.  I don't think the mouse supports the four fingered gestures, but I never tried and now that I've removed the mouse (with the mouse) and given it back, I'm not going to.

As a typist, I tend to want to stay on the keyboard, which is why I installed Dashkards as soon as I discovered it.  I generally prefer not to go to the mouse or trackball or trackpad, but the Magic Trackpad is pretty damn cool.

Update, 9/19: I like the trackpad pretty well.  It still shares a certain disadvantage with mice and other touch pads that track balls don't have:  if I'm dragging too far, I can wind up getting to the edge of the pad.  Not a huge problem, and I'm sure I could play with the sensitivity, but I do find trackballs to be easier in that respect.  I don't think I'd give up the gestures at this point, though.

Wifi Networks and Default Applications

Resolved two issues today.  The first was that because my laptop was used by someone else before it was given to me, it had a lot of wifi networks in it.  I knew they were there, and many of them I'll probably not get anywhere near, but I don't want it jumping on the AT&T wifi network (for which I no longer have free access) without my telling it to.  I do, however, want it to get on networks I set up, and I couldn't figure out how to delete the networks I don't want it to use.  Part of me also just didn't want wifi networks I don't know and will never use in there...

I've looked at the Network console in System Preferences more than once.  If you open it and click on wifi and then on Advanced, you'll see a list of all of the networks that have been saved so far.  What I didn't notice was that there are a pair of buttons right below the list, one a plus sign, the other a minus sign.  Highlight one of the networks and click the minus sign, and it will delete the selected network.  Just be careful to select the one you want (although it does ask for confirmation).  I find this pair of buttons a little odd - there are other options for adding a network manually, including one that says 'Join Other Network...', so why isn't there a more obvious 'Delete Network' button?  I suppose I might have noticed it a little more quickly if I were more used to Mac.  Thanks to Joel, our IT guy, for that one.

The other issue I came across was that my PDFs were opening in Previewer.  Previewer is pretty cool, but it doesn't do a great job with PDFs if you need to zoom them (or PowerPoints with animations).  I found that if I user the Open With option on a PDF it would let me tell it to use Adobe Acrobat all the time, but that didn't seem to work even though I did it more than once.  At some point, I figured out that this change actually only applies to the file you selected, not to all files of that type.

So, since I really do want my PDFs to open in Acrobat, I did the highly specific search in Google for "default applications mac".  That is to say, I typed "default appli" and Google offered, among other things, "default applications mac", so I picked it.  The first option that came up was from MacWorld, and explains exactly how to do it...

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Dashkards and the Dashboard

I read some stuff the other day about the dashboard.  I had been trying to get it to be useful with the widgets it came with, and having trouble - mainly because I didn't notice the little information/settings icon when hovering over the widgets.  Not being able to change the ESPN widget away from Hockey wasn't very interesting, so I was glad to find that.  Of course, I don't really need to have ESPN on the dashboard.  I have other ways of finding sports scores that give me the information I'm actually interested in.

That did lead me to a couple of interesting web pages.  The first was from Lifehacker, about making dashboards useful.  It was an interesting article, and I appreciated the different suggestions they made, especially the point that there's a settings icon when you hover over the widget.  More interesting, though, was the link to the Dashkards site.  Dashkards is a widget for the dashboard that lists keyboard shortcuts for lots of different functions in lots of different apps.  It includes the OS (Lion only) as well as gestures.  You can turn off the apps you don't use so they don't show up in the list.

Now when I hit a key combination and it does something strange (like hide the app I'm working in and go back to the desktop), I can hit Fn-F12 to jump to the dashboards and see the keyboard shortcuts for Mac OS X.  Or I can switch to the Chrome dashkard to find out, since Cmd-D created a bookmark instead of putting me in the address bar the way it did in Windows, how to jump to the address bar (Cmd-L).

Some of the other suggestions from the Lifehacker page...

  • monitor system usage - I don't really need this yet... I have noticed that this machine is a bit slow about some things, but I'm also not pushing it enough to worry about usage
  • delivery status, scores, etc - I am anything like the author in that once I know something is en route, I tend to check status on it (far more) frequently (than is useful).  I mentioned not caring about sports scores, but perhaps at some point I'll take a look at some of the widgets for these sorts of things
  • sticky notes - I use evernote already, so I'm not going to start keeping notes on dashboard
  • streaming music - this might be cool, though I don't stream all that often; I'm not sure having it running on the desktop or as a hidden app will really matter, but perhaps if there's a widget for Pandora and/or my favorite radio stations that will be useful...

I am curious about other dashboard widgets that might be useful, but there are thousands of them and I haven't felt like trying to sift through them to find whether any are interesting.  One thing I'm concerned about is that there isn't a lot of room on the dashboard and moving widgets around is a bit of a pain if you can't just have them all visible.  Perhaps I'll play with this more at some point.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Annoyed with My Toshiba

I have been using the MacBook, mostly, since I got it last week.  I still use my desktop some, as that's where we have Quicken and all our pictures, and I don't plan to change that any time soon.

I also have a Toshiba laptop, which I am setting up as a network status monitor - our Comcast Internet goes out FAR more often than it should.

I mention all this because I've tried to click something by pushing on the Toshiba's touchpad at least half a dozen times in the last several minutes.

I'm very glad I have the iPhone available. Turn off the wifi and the Blogger app lets me kvetch about both the laptop AND Comcast.