December 16, 2018
Here we go again – a question I am asked on a weekly basis – “Is it worth it to upgrade the RAM and internal hard drive in my old computer?”
My answer? It depends.
One issue is the age of the hardware. Some older Macs (I’m not going to get into tech specs and all that geekspeak here) simply are unable to run newer versions of the Mac OS (Mojave, High Sierra and Sierra), which can cause issues, such as not being able to support a browser that is secure enough to access certain sites – financial institutions, for example.
But if you have cleared that hurdle, you have the issue of your RAM and hard drive. Today, Apple has made it (for the most part) impossible to upgrade these items, so when you DO buy new, make sure you get what think you might need for the future.
Back in the day (probably pre-2012), Apple was notoriously Scrooge-like when it came to the amount RAM in your computer when you bought off the rack. But no harm, no foul, it was inexpensive (and simple) enough to buy from a third-party, and so for a few bucks and a few minutes of your time, you were all set. So, if an infusion of RAM might solve your issues, go for it. It’s dirt cheap these days (gone are the rumors of shortages) and it’s easy to install. Just go on YouTube or consult an expert. And that would be me.
The issue of replacing your standard hard disk drive (HDD) with a solid-state drive (SSD) will no doubt speed things up in your computing life. HDDs have moving parts (an arm that reads a spinning platter), as opposed to SSDs, which have no moving parts. BUT – there are a few things that you have consider before ripping out your old school HDD and popping in an SSD. These are:
- Cost. HDDs are dirt cheap in the big scheme of things, and SSD prices are going down. But in 2018, you’re not going to get the same capacity for the same price.
- Capacity vs cost. Today, a 1TB 2.5” internal HDD is just south of $50; plan on paying about three times that for a same capacity SSD. So, chances are that you will be less capacity when you upgrade. But then again, that gives you a chance to archive (or trash) unused data.
- Future plans. Are you planning on buying a new computer in the next six to twelve months? Then maybe don’t bother upgrading. But if you plan on sticking it out and fighting the inevitable until you can’t, then you might want to lay down the old credit card and go for new.
- More costs. Replacing the hard drive in a MacBook Pro is pretty simple; an iMac, not so much. Which means you’re going to have to pay somebody to perform the operation. Plus, you’ll have to buy an additional mounting bracket, which is under $20.
- Yet more costs. Finally, unless you can figure it out yourself, you’re going to need somebody to install the Mac OS on the new SSD and migrate your data over. And if you plan on performing a “clean installation,” i.e., not dragging old garbage system files over (recommended), then that’s even more professional time you have to pay for.
Bottom line: I use the old car and replacing the transmission analogy here; at what point is it better to forget the idea of putting money into the old as opposed to spending on the new? (Saying “throwing good money after bad” is an inexcusable cliché!) You’re going to have to do your cost analysis homework!
November 6, 2018
Apple has never been shy about informing you that there’s a new OS available for installation. Problem is, there is no gatekeeper that will let you know that you could easily get caught up into a tangled mess if you decide to do it on the day it’s released.
Now, most of us are smart enough to let somebody (like me) run interference and clear the way so nobody gets stuck with a big (or even small) problem. But once things have settled down, is it a good idea to upgrade to Mojave after all?
First things first: Let’s look at the requirements.
In most cases, unless your computer is from 2013 onward, forget about it. It requires a minimum of 2GB RAM, but nobody should have less than 4GB, and I recommend at least 8GB for any kind of work. Also, on standard hard drives, Mojave has been known to slow things down to a crawl.
Then there’s the little matter of software compatibility: Things I’ve noticed that haven’t worked well (or at all) with Mojave are some major software packages. These include:
- Microsoft Office 2008
- Adobe CS3 (CS5 works but is buggy)
- QuickBooks (as of today, there is no patch for Mojave compatibility)
- Aperture (Apple finally got its way and killed it!)
- Final Cut Pro & Logic Studio (Same answer)
And according to MacWorld UK, Microsoft Office 2011 also has issues, although I’ve haven’t noticed them.
Annoying Apple trick – once you DO upgrade, most applications you launch will give you a warning about “not being optimized for your Mac.” Click OK and move on with your life.
That’s all. A minor inconvenience.
Another annoying Apple trick – it seems that if you up you update your iPhone to the latest iOS, you MAY be forced to upgrade your Mac to Mojave in order to successfully sync your iPhone (or iPad). Beware!
Bottom line: Upgrade only after you’ve done your homework and are certain your computer is up for the task. If you have any doubts, then hold off. No shame in that.
July 9, 2018
Digital security is a big deal these days. Whether it’s the Russians meddling with your data, scammers lying to you in an attempt to share your screen or the kid next door illegally downloading current movies using your Wi-Fi, there are all sorts of threats out there. No solution is foolproof, but by using common sense and my checklist, you can eliminate the majority of threats that can compromise your data.
To help make your Mac use more secure, here a few tips that can help:
- Keep current with Mac OS software updates – especially security updates.
- Create a strong password on your wireless network.
- Maintain a secure admin password on your Mac.
- Disable all sharing preferences, especially if you use your Mac in public places.
- Don’t log on to secure sites (especially financial, etc.) on public Wi-Fi.
- Disable guest user access.
- Require a password to wake from sleep (not necessary in the home unless you want to keep others from using your computer.)
- Enable “Find My Mac” (if you’re a laptop user.)
- Download MalwareBytes.
- Turn on the firewall on your Mac.
- Encrypt the data in your home folder.
And obviously, NEVER allow somebody you don’t know gain access to your computer! Anybody you don’t know should NEVER tell you that something is wrong with your Mac!!!
May 16, 2018
Have you noticed that once you join Facebook, suddenly every other site you visit knows who you are? You surf onto CNN, and not only does the site know you, it tells you which articles your Facebook friends are reading.
Scary, isn’t it?
Welcome to the world of Web personalization, a place where Web marketers know your name. (And your surfing habits, browsing history and more.) Click the “Like” button on any non-Facebook page and suddenly Facebook turns into Big Brother and knows more about you (and your preferences) than just what’s on your profile. And then you see an ad on Facebook, and your first thought is “I was just thinking of something like that!” Really, it’s because you just were LOOKING for something like that online. Truth be told – Facebook is only one of many culprits that compromises your online privacy.
So exactly how do you keep every site from being linked to Facebook? There are a few different ways to keep other sites from accessing your Facebook profile, some more complex than others.
The easiest way is to use a dedicated browser for your Facebook purposes only. Even if you regularly use Safari and Firefox, you still have other browser options, namely Google Chrome and Opera, so it’s possible to keep your Facebook activity restricted to one browser. Cnet.com has a link to all of these browsers (and more) here.
There are more involved ways to disable the social plugins that Facebook integrates with your browser, including this great piece on ThoughtPick. For a more world-weary view, check out LifeHacker’s take on the situation.
Bottom line: Web privacy and tracking is a huge deal on both sides of the fence – both for marketers and privacy advocates, and neither faction has any intention of going away anytime soon.
February 22, 2018
High Sierra (Mac OS X.13) has arrived! Actually, it’s been in circulation for a few months – and, of course, Apple is hectoring all of us to install it. Sure, it seems like only the day before yesterday that Sierra was introduced, and now there’s a new one? Should you update it? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
As is Apple’s (fairly recent) position, High Sierra is a free update, so there’s no cost (other than your time) to upgrade. The installer will download directly to your Applications folder, so there is no fussing around trying to locate the installer program.
So how will your world be different if you elect to upgrade to High Sierra?
- Improved Apple File System (APFS) – allows zippier access of file info (Command-I)
- Safari 11 delivers subtle improvements over previous versions
- Photos contains additional editing tools
- Some legacy versions of software don’t work (FileMaker Pro and QuickBooks, to name two)
- Taking the time and effort of updating your OS
- If you don’t have enough hard drive space, you won’t find out until after the installation has started (Danger, Will Robinson!)
It’s a Wash:
- Different desktop picture (but then again, why would you stick with the default Apple picture?)
- Again, Apple tries to bully you into using iCloud Drive
- Notes – the new “Pinned Notes” feature allows you to access oft-used notes quicker
Bottom line: No problems with High Sierra, but check with developer if you have legacy versions of software. The hardware requirements for High Sierra are the same as Sierra, so if you have Sierra installed, you won’t have a problem with hardware compatibility.
July 26, 2017
No, I’m not talking about sending your kids off to faraway schools – this is about how long you should hang on to your older Macintosh Computer.
First of all, understand that Apple has stopped supporting computers pre-2013 – meaning if you have anything older than that, you’re playing with house money. You’ve certainly gotten your money’s worth out of that computer. As long as it’s working well enough for your purposes, then all is good. But if it’s starting to inhibit your productivity, then it might be time to start thinking about moving on.
But, if there is a problem and you find yourself at the crossroads, deciding whether or not to perform any major repairs on it – a new motherboard, for example – chances are you should put that money towards a new computer. Having the motherboard replaced in an iMac from 2009 is analogous to putting a $2800 transmission in a car worth $2500. Definitely not the best use of your money.
Here are some tips that usually indicate that it’s time to move on:
- If there’s some sort of expensive repair that stands between you and a functioning computer. This includes a dead battery in a laptop, bad motherboard or a cracked screen, among other maladies.
- If you buy a new printer and the driver won’t work on your computer.
- If you are unable to update the OS because your hardware is too old or not enough RAM is installed.
- Things start malfunctioning – such as a trackpad or certain keys on a laptop, non-working USB ports, flickering screen, dead pixels or Wi-Fi that isn’t as functional as nearby computers.
- Your computer is getting hotter by the day, and/or things degenerate into an all-time low in sluggishness.
Before buying – feel free to contact me for my thoughts and expertise on your situation!
April 25, 2017
One thing I deal with a lot is the issue of photo organization on the Mac. By 2017, most users have migrated from the no-longer-supported iPhoto to Photos and, for the most part, everything is copacetic. But what I do see – a couple of issues.
The problem is when there are multiple Photos libraries on your hard drive. This issue can be easily rectified, but with the caveat that it’s going to take some time.
In most instances, the Photos Library resides in Home>Pictures and is cleverly named “Photos Library,” although it could have another name. These libraries are generally large, as they can be hundreds of gigabytes in size. The first step is to bring the two (or more) libraries into the same folder. (Which may necessitate renaming one of them.)
Then, open the SMALLER one and select PHOTOS in the left column. Select all the photos by typing Command-A on the keyboard; all the photos should have a blue outline. Select EXPORT>UNMODIFIED ORIGINALS from the FILE menu in Photos. Click the EXPORT button and when the second window appears, navigate to DESKTOP and click NEW FOLDER.
Name that folder EXPORTED PHOTOS (or something that makes sense to you) and click EXPORT. This will take some time, depending on how many photos you have in that library. Once that export process has completed, navigate back to your PICTURES folder and double click the other photo library.
Once you’ve opened the second library, select IMPORT from under the File menu. Navigate to the EXPORTED PHOTOS folder on your desktop, select it and your photos will be imported into that Photos Library. When trashing the OLD library confirm you’re getting rid of the correct one. Oh, and back up your Mac before doing any of this; if you make a catastrophic mistake, at least all it cost you was a little time.
March 23, 2017
March 15, 2017
If you’re still using Microsoft Entourage, then you’re playing with fire. Entourage is the email program that was included as part of Microsoft’s 2008 Office suite. At one point, it was the best mail client for Mac, bar none. But because it was introduced in early 2008, it means you’re using software that was cutting edge nine years ago. So do you really want to trust an important part of your world – email – with an outdated product? It’s starting to show its age and give users all sorts of problems. Microsoft no longer supports Entourage. And because it’s been obsolete for almost seven years, it’s time to look elsewhere for your email program.
There are a few options to replace Entourage, but they all have their plusses and minuses.
Microsoft Outlook: This is the successor to Entourage. Yes, the Mac-compatible version of Microsoft’s mail program was called Outlook back in the dark ages, but the big brains there gave the Mac product a separate name to differentiate it from the Windows mail program.
There have been two versions of Outlook released since the Entourage days: Office 2011 and Office 365. Office 2011 (still available and not problematic – yet) is a standard “buy it” software package, while the Office 365 suite is a yearly subscription model. Both include updated versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and some other stuff nobody uses. There are a few different options for both.
BUT – a couple of important things to note. One, there are different versions of the Office 2011 suite, and some of them DO NOT include Outlook. So shop carefully. Also, if you use Entourage and want to retain all your old email when you upgrade to Office 365’s version of Outlook, you can’t do a direct import into Outlook. You have upgrade your mail to Outlook 2011 first, and THEN import it to Outlook 365. (Ugh.) But that’s what you call me for!
Web-based mail: More and more people are using Web-based mail. Sounds complex, but it isn’t. For example, if you’re a Gmail user, you open your browser of choice and use your email that way. That’s not quite as user-friendly as using a stand-alone mail program (Outlook, Apple Mail, etc.), but workable. Most of these also allow you to store your contacts as well. Another downside of this method is that it’s tough to do this on your iPhone.
But – if you’re using Gmail, there IS a Gmail program for Mac available in the App Store. (It’s called “Viewer For Gmail.”) That’s a good way to get a little more user-friendliness from your email client.
Of course, the best bet (though that wasn’t always the case) is Apple’s mail client, cleverly called “Mail.” It’s in your APPLICATIONS folder and it’s designed to not only manage your mail, but to interact seamlessly with Contacts (Apple’s built-in address book), Calendar (Apple’s calendar) and your iPhone and iPad, using iCloud.
Apple mail used to have a reputation of being cranky, mostly when it came to the outgoing servers. And it still has issues with rinky-dink mail providers. But as long as you’re using the big boys for your email (Google, 1and1, etc.), you’ll be fine.
February 8, 2017
It’s something that has happened to everybody; you’re working, minding your own business, surfing the web, and suddenly your reverie is broken. A window alerts you that there’s a problem with your computer; your data is going to be corrupted; all your browsing history will be displayed for everybody to see; or simply there’s a virus and it need to be fixed NOW! And just for your utter convenience, there’s a number to call for these honest and helpful folks to solve the issue. All major credit cards accepted.
Sometimes it’s just a pop-up window; other times it hijacks your entire screen and there’s seemingly no escape. Either way, it’s a scam and should be aggressively ignored. Remember – no stranger should give you unsolicited advice that your computer has a problem that only they can fix.
Think about it; somebody you don’t know and has no access to your computer should NOT know anything about your computer (other than a few inconsequential technical details.) So, assuming they can detect a virus or other problem is wrong; those are scams that should be ignored.
If you DO call their number, you can easily tell you’re speaking to a call center located on the other side of the planet. The noise in the background is one dead giveaway; the accents of the agents is another. Most of these scammers are trying to sell you a solution to your “problem,” which just involves paying for a service you don’t need. But others are more devious; scouring your computer for sensitive information, including passwords to online accounts, Social Security numbers or financial data.
Bottom line; don’t fall for the scam. At the first sign of ANY funny business, quit your browser and clear your browsing history. If the problem persists, switch to another browser. (Some of these scams involve the scrubbing of the preference files of your browser to get things back to normal.) If necessary, employ the services of a trusted computer professional. NEVER call these companies (much less let them gain access to your computer); once they get your phone number in their database, the harassment will never end. And since they’re largely overseas, they laugh at the mention of the National Do Not Call Registry or any threats of lawsuits.