11/19/16

Please Disturb

If you value your sleep you probably configured your iPhone to use the "Do Not Disturb" function. iOS allows you to silence all calls, texts and alerts for a specific time period. But what if you want to allow calls or texts through even if "Do Not Disturb" set up and active?




Recently, my pregnant daughter asked my wife to help her during birth. Kind of an assistant doula if you will. Since most births occur during the wee hours of the morning my wife needed to set up her phone to allow calls and texts to come through even when "Do Not Disturb" was set.

Before iOS 10 the only way to allow users to call you was to open "Settings", navigate to "Do Not Disturb" and select "Allow Calls From"



BUT...you could only allow calls from all the people in your favorites or a select a specific group you wanted to grant access. If you only wanted one person to have access you would need to set up a brand new group and add that one person. Starting with iOS 10 you can now grant access to a single person inside your contacts application.

Open "Contacts" and select the person you want to grant access and Edit the contact. Now you just need to select "Ringtone"  and make sure the "Emergency Bypass" is selected. If you want to allow Texts through as well just edit the "Text Tone" the same way and enable the same "Emergency Bypass" switch.


That's it! Now even if it's the middle of the night that persons calls and texts will make it through and you won't miss the birthday party!

 

10/3/16

MacOS Sierra - Gatekeeper Security & Downloaded Apps

MacOS Sierra has been out for a while and most of you have probably downloaded and installed it. One of the focus areas of Sierra is security. Apple has plugged some security holes and added new features to protect the user from security threats as well as self inflicted damage. 

In the past Mac users touted the innate security of the UNIX undermining of MacOS vs. the sieve that was Windows. Five or ten years ago that was true. Not so today. Today the Mac is targeted just as much as Windows but thanks to the UNIX base of MacOS it is still harder to crack, but not impossible. Especially if the user is the one installing the Malware. 

Every time you download and run an application you are trusting that the creator of that app doesn't have any ill intent. Most of the time you are right and everything is OK. But recently there have been some applications that have been loaded with software that isn't so friendly. To prevent that, Sierra has a built in Gatekeeper that prevents the user from running unsigned applications. That's a good thing but it can sometimes be a pain. If you have ever downloaded an update or application from the Internet and were unable to open it then this tip is for you.


The first thing to know is that you can still open any app you want with a minimum of hassle. After you try to open an app and it fails, go to the System Preferences and open the "Security" Tab. It should show the last application you tried to open and a button saying "Open Anyway" Just click that and try again. 




If you want to have the ability to bypass this step and open any application, regardless of where it came from then you need to use the terminal to disable the Gatekeeper default settings. 

If it is open close System Preferences and open the Terminal application (usually located in the Utilities folder). Type the following command: "sudo spctl --master-disable" without the quotes. 

After you hit return you will be asked to enter your password. Once you do that reopen System Preferences and you should see the a third pick under the security tab allowing you to open downloaded apps from anywhere. 

Just remember that just like Uncle Ben said "With great power comes great responsibility"  Know where you are getting your applications and make sure that you don't inadvertently give some Phishing scam access to your computer. 

If you want to go back to default setting you can open the terminal again and just type "sudo spctl --master-enable"

I hope this tip is helpful but remember to keep safe out there. 

5/13/16

Amazon Prime Video & Safari: Let's Call a Truce

I must admit that it was a sad day when the local Blockbuster Video closed. But only for a day. I quickly got over it when we signed up for Netflix. Once we started to stream our movies and TV shows we never looked back. 

Today it seems like every home has at least 2 or 3 video streaming services. My family and I use an Apple TV and routinely stream our own recorded TV Shows, a few Apple provided TV shows and movies as well as Netflix shows. What we don't use is Amazon Prime Streaming. We are a Prime member and have had the service since it started, we just never use it. 

One of the main reasons Amazon isn't part of our streaming selections is because they don't offer an Apple TVOS app. The other reason is that I could never get it to work on Safari. As of today Amazon still doesn't offer and TVOS app but I finally figured out how to get it to work on Safari.






Amazon Prime streaming video service comes free with their $99 Prime membership.  To play Prime video there is a minimum set of requirements that you can read about here. The key is that Amazon wants you to use HTML5 and Safari isn't listed as one of the Browsers that Amazon supports HTML5.

I'm not a huge fan of Plug-ins but Amazon Prime Video also supports Microsoft Silverlight Plug-In.  Since Microsoft Silverlight supports the Mac I installed Silverlight and tried again. Of course it failed. After 3 or 4 more attempts I gave up. That was over a year ago. It was only recently that I decided I would give it another try. Low and behold it now works!

In order to use Safari to play back Amazon videos the first thing you need to do is download and install the latest copy of Silverlight.




Once Silverlight is installed Open up Safari and navigate to the Amazon Prime website then open Safari Preferences.



Once the Preferences window is displayed open the Security tab and make sure "internet plug-ins:" is checked then click the "Plug-in Settings" Button.


Make sure that "Silverlight" has a check in it's check-box and that the Amazon entry shows "Allow" is from the pull down menu.  


Click "Done" at the bottom of the window and everything should be fine. On one of my Macs I had to restart Safari to get streaming to work so if things don't work give that a try.

Now you can binge watch till your hearts content! Oh, BTW Amazon, can you please get to work and please provide an AppleTV app? Maybe your viewership would increase.






1/4/16

Power User Tips & Shortcuts

Even though I have a blog I don't really consider myself a power user. There are some people out there who can do amazing things from the keyboard and seemingly never touch their mouse. There are others who seem to never touch their keyboard but trigger shortcuts and autofill using nothing but mouse clicks with minimal keyboard input. Using, or not using, a keyboard doesn't make you a power user but it does show how much time you spend streamlining your workflow.

To me, being a power user is understanding your own workflow and developing a strategy to smooth it out and speed it up.  No radioactive spider bites, lightning bolts to your chemistry set or urge to avenge your dead parents required. 





So here's a few of my favorite tips that will help you on your way to becoming a power user. Or at least speed things up in your everyday Mac-Life.


Copy path to a file


Do you use the UNIX command line or sometimes just need to include the full path in an email to someone? If so then this tip can come in handy. Rather than type it out you can copy the full path using the finder. Just open a Finder window use a "Right-Click" and hold down the "Option Key". The following drop down menu will show up. 


Just select the "Copy 'filename' as Pathname" and paste it.


Multiple Tabs in Finder Windows

This next one surprised me. I'm not sure when Apple added this in (I think it was Mavericks but I'm not sure) but the finder now supports multiple tabs just like Safari. 

Open a Finder window the hit the familiar "Command+T" key command that every modern browser uses and you will have a second tab in the same window. 


This can really clean up your desktop and make your screen feel a lot larger. You can even drag a file from one tab to the next to copy or move files. 


System Prefs - Extensions

This next item is a great add-on that came with OS X Yosemite. Basically Extensions allow Apple and third party software companies to add functionality to the Finder and specific applications.

Open up System preferences and select "Extensions"



The left hand column is a listing of the available extension categories; 

AllSee all extensions you installed on your Mac. These are extensions created by third-party developers. If the extension is a content extension that enables extra functionality in apps, you see an Actions checkbox below the extension. If it’s a Finder extension, you see a Finder checkbox. Select the checkbox to enable the extension.



ActionsSee all content extensions installed on your Mac. Select a content extension to make it available in apps. For example, if Markup is selected, you can draw on pictures and sign documents in Mail, TextEdit, and other apps.



FinderSee all Finder extensions installed on your Mac. Select a Finder extension to make it available in the Finder. 

To put it in simple terms, Finder extensions add finder functionality for the listed application. In the case of Dropbox it visually shows the upload status with a green check or blue uploading icon.




Other applications behave in a similar fashion showing status or giving you options. Bitcasa's extension allows you to share files with a right click




Photos -  With OS X 10.11 El Capitan, Photos now lets you apply third-party image editing extensions within the application. If your third party application supports it you can enable access to that application within Apple Photos by selecting it.
Here's a view of Apple Photos showing the add-on extensions when you use edit.





Share  -  Select the items that you want in the Share Menu, and in the Social Widget in the Today View in the notification center.
  • The Share menu is available in several apps, including Safari, Contacts, and the Finder. If an item is selected, but you don’t see it in an app’s Share menu, then you can’t use that item to share in that particular app. 
  • Only items that allow posting or messaging can appear in the Social widget.


Extensions are a great add-on to OS X and remind me of the old OS7, 8 & 9 days of system extensions. It's a great way to add functionality to your Mac, improve your workflow and add to your growing Power User skills.



11/14/15

UPS Battery Backup - Get one!

I live in a nice suburb of Seattle in a neighborhood that's not too old. You would think the utility infrastructure would be able to handle a storm or two without a power outage. Unfortunately that's not the case. That's why I bought an Uninterruptible Power System (UPS) system. If you value your computer you may want one too.


For computers & electronics, the sudden loss of power or power surges can cause a lot of damage. If you have a cheap power strip you may be protected from electrical surges, but they offer no protection against drops in line voltage, brownouts, blackouts, and other power supply issues. A true UPS system will protect your system from surges as well as these other issues.
My home has experienced several major outages and one very bad voltage surge. When the surge happened it burned out a lot of electronics before my breakers tripped. I lost a lot of electronics that I never thought of protecting: Garage door openers, sprinkler control box, oven electronics, etc. But I did protect my computers so thankfully those came through unscathed. The sad part is that even though my computers were safe my data wasn't so lucky. The sudden shutdown corrupted my HD. Call me a one trial learner. That next week I purchased a UPS system. 
There are a lot of sites out there to help you decide what to buy but basically it comes down to -

  • How much capacity do you need?
  • How much runtime do you need/want when the power is out?
  • Should you buy a pure sine wave UPS?
  • How many devices should you include on your device?

I won't bore you with how to calculate your max power or Amp-Hour requirements. There are plenty of sites that will help. I will briefly touch on the Sine Wave issue ... Make sure your UPS has it. 
This site covers the details well but modern electronics need clean sinusoidal power to work. A simple square wave approximation may not be enough. 

So once you have your UPS sized, picked out, ordered and unpacked what do you do? Well, first you plug it in and attach all your devices. The batteries will charge up quickly and you are ready to go. But there is one last step. Using OS X to control what to do when the power goes out.

  


OSX has a nice feature in the System Preferences that automatically shows up when you attach a USB cable from your Mac to your UPS. After connecting your UPS system via USB open System Preferences and go to "Energy Saver." You should now see a new tab titled "UPS"


Select the "Shutdown Options" to configure what to do in the event of a power outage.

Set the options the way you want them and select "Done". Now you are protected! In the event of a power outage your Mac will control all the peripherals attached to the UPS and shut down using the parameters you set. However some other smart devices can also control your UPS systems. In some cases you may want a NAS or other device to decide on your shutdown options. 

Here's a Synology NAS control panel option that shows it's UPS configuration set up.



Whatever device you use to control your UPS make sure you set it up so you are fully protected. A good UPS for a home computer set up will cost anywhere from $80-$250. It's cheap insurance to have to protect your computer. Computers cost money but can be replaced in most cases it's your data irreplaceable so protect it!




10/23/15

Slow Mac - What's going on?

Recently I've had two instances where my Mac just wouldn't respond. It was frozen. I clicked links and typed commands, but nothing would work. Since I run a great application called iStat Menus I could tell my CPU was running at maximum and I didn't have any resources left to do what I wanted. So how do you figure out what's going on and what do you do?  Good question! I'm glad you asked.





Apple provides a great application called Activity Monitor. If you have never used it, it's located in the utilities folder. It will show you all of your open applications and running process, how much CPU they are using, the amount of RAM being consumed, energy used as well as disk and network activity. 

In my case I found that a process called "storeassetd" was using 99% of my CPU. A lot of digging around the Internet finally revealed that this process is associated with the Apple Mac App store. looking at it, I guess the name makes sense. Somehow, when I was updating my Mac applications, the App store process didn't stop when I quit the software update. 

To fix the problem and stop the runaway activity you just highlight the application and click on the stop sign icon in the upper left.



The second instance of runaway CPU was a little more nefarious. I was being attacked by a hacker.



Again I was investigating why my Mac was running slowly and discovered that this time the responsible process was "opendirectoryd"  Being a UNIX admin I knew this was the LDAP login authentication process UNIX uses...WTF? This is where Apple's Console application comes in handy. 

Console is the application that allows you to look at all of the log files the Mac keeps. I fired up Console, did a little digging and found this:



Page after page of someone trying to log into my Mac as root. Hundreds of attempts per second!! No wonder my poor Mac was having trouble. 

I realized what had happened almost immediately. The previous week I had needed to access my Mac while away from home and had allowed remote login in the System Preferences Sharing configuration menu.  Since I have multiple Macs I had also set up my Airport router to forward all ssh requests to my iMac so I could log in to the correct Mac. The fix was just as easy. Shut down the ssh port on my Mac and remove the Airport Port forward using Airport Utility.

The moral of this story is to be vigilant. If you have a problem, if your Mac is running slowly and you don't know why, do a little investigation. It could just be a hung application (like my App Store process) or it could be something much much worse.

10/7/15

iTunes - Where is that Song?

I recently posted about some of the annoyances of iTunes. Today I want to follow up with another point of frustration: How to search for a song and figure out which of your playlists it's in. 


One of the great things about iTunes is creating the perfect playlist. And if you have a lot of playlists in your music collection it can be hard to remember which is which. My wife was trying to find a playlist and could only remember that it had this one specific song in it. So she did what all of us do and searched for the song. ... No dice.

She poking and prodding she turned to me and said "This is horrible! Why can't they make it simple to list out all the playlists that have a specific song in it?"  We tried asking Siri and she just got confused. The answer is a keystroke away.

Bring up iTunes, select your music library and search for a song. 


Hold down the "Control" key and click on the song. Near the bottom of the list you should see "Show in Playlist." Click on it and it will show you all the playlists your selected song is in. 


If "Show in Playlist" isn't visible it just means that song is not a part of any playlist. Who know searching could be so easy? 

Let me know some of your iTunes gripes in the comments below. Who knows? Maybe there's a simple solution.

10/1/15

iTunes Annoyances - Let Me Count the Ways

iTunes started life as a great little app to play music. Over the years it has grown to gargantuan proportions and handles all of Apple's media as well as acting as a portal to the iTunes store. To me iTunes is bloated, over weight and needs a diet. Since that's not going to happen for a while I've decided to address some small but niggling issues and maybe help someone keep from pulling their hair out. Today I want to address a problem that plagued me when I started using iOS 9 on my new iPhone 6s

I work out to music and I suddenly ran into a problem with playlists. The first song repeated over and over. I could not get the next song to play. Hitting the couple arrow icon just started the song over again. 

First I wanted to see what my playlist had "Next Up" so I hit the three lines to the right of the play icon.


It showed me nothing but endless repeats of the same song. 


The solution is as simple to fix as the problem is to cause. When playing music the main screen has a to "arrow" icons at the bottom of the screen. One for "Shuffle" and the other for "Repeat."  Can you see the almost too small to read numeral "1" on the "Repeat" icon below? That means the selected song will play over and over and over... until you are sick of it or change the settings.


To stop this aural assault you just tap the same icon until the little "1" & the grey box around it goes away. BTW - The grey box is a visual signal that this function is selected. In this case if you select the "repeat" arrows and only tap once the grey box will be shown but no number. This means the playlist will repeat. Tap again, and the number 1 will appear and that song will repeat. I figure since the Home button on my iPhone is so close to the repeat icon in iTunes I inadvertently selected it without knowing it. 

Over the years Apple has tried to improve iTunes but it's still filled with small buttons which I am clueless to explain. If there were only one or two unknown buttons it wouldn't be so bad but every update of iOS or iTunes brings more changes and more new icons. If you add in the new Music service, old Playlists, Genius Playlists, Shared libraries and other functions things get confusing in a hurry. 

I hope this helps relieve some of the frustration out there. Write a comment and tell me your frustrations with iTunes. I'll listen, and just maybe, Apple will too.





9/30/15

Mac OS 10.11 El Capitan - Where did my Widgets go?

El Capitan the new Macintosh OS was released today and there are a lot of things to like. Unfortunately there are also a few annoyances. Today I want to address Widgets. 




You remember those don't you? They are the mini-applications that sit on your Dashboard. Apple has a whole page devoted to them here.  They first appeared in Mac OS Tiger in 2005. You normally access them when using a key command or gesture (swipe left using 3 fingers). They appear on a secondary desktop.



Well Apple has decided they aren't important and has turned them off by default. If you are a Widget user, however infrequent, you can turn them back on in System preferences. Just open up preferences and navigate to "Mission Control"


Make sure "Dashboard" Is turned back on. I am used to having all my widgets on a separate space so that's the pick I made. Close up Preferences and you will have your Widgets back. 




Based on this change I can only suspect that Widgets may not be around much longer. But for now, you can have your El Capitan and Widgets too.

8/28/15

iOS - Adding Emergency Information

Every year iOS is updated with great new features and awesome new programs. I'm sorry to admit I don't always take the time to explore every feature and every new app. Today I want to remind people about an Apple app that came out a while ago, Apple's Health App.  Like me you probably moved it to iOS purgatory on the last page of your iPhone applications  screen but you may want to take another look.




Most people think you have to have an Apple Watch to use the health app or it's only helpful  to track fitness, calories or food, but there is one great use for this application you might not know about, the ability to have personal information handy in case of emergency. 

My daughter recently got her drivers license and like every parent I worry about her when she is on the road late at night driving by herself. One small measure of comfort is know that If she were to get in an accident and someone needed her personal information or an emergency contact number, all they would need to do is grab her ever present iPhone (never used while driving of course!) and access the data from the lock screen. 

To set things up just open the Apple Health app and select "Medical ID" in the lower right corner. To create a medical ID just select the red "Create Medical ID" text and fill in the data. 


     

Apple has added a lot of basic medical information fields but you can also enter data in the notes section.  By default you can add medical conditions, allergies, medications you might be on, blood type as well as other personal information. You can also enter one or more emergency contacts. Make sure you have selected "Show When Locked" before hitting the done button.


     


Now here's the best part, when your phone is locked and someone needs to access this information they just need to select the "Emergency" button at the bottoms of the lock screen then "Medical ID" on the next screen.


  

Obviously this is information can save your life in the event of an accident but it's also extremely helpful if you loose your phone. Anyone who finds your phone can find a contact they can call to return your phone to you. 

Apple is great at adding little details that make your phone an awesome device to use. Medical ID is a well thought out addition that can literally save your life.