Category: Macs

The Apple Geniuses. Givers of knowledge and sharers of solutions, they help you with your Mac when it doesn’t cooperate. Having been helped in the past, I found myself again at the Genius Bar this past Tuesday with a problem.

Why can’t I see files with Airport Disk on my Airport Extreme?

I told him about everything I had done:

The only way any of these things would work would be if user access wasn’t used. Regardless of format, partition, size or any other disk features, we could only list the files if either password method was set up. After some testing, we determined that user access just wouldn’t work. After switching out a new Airport Extreme base station, we found that even that system didn’t work with the user access.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before”, the Genius said. It was so weird and confusing that he sent a message off to Apple engineering to see if they could figure it out.

Ever seen anything like this?

[tags]Airport Extreme, confusing, Apple Genius, troubleshooting[/tags]

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With the transition to Intel processors, Apple made it easy for users to dual-boot Windows and OS X on the same computer. Earlier I gave some suggestions of which method to use, and also fix the install problems when using Boot Camp. Now I’d like to back up just a little and add 2 suggestions if things don’t go as planned.

Unplug everything

On that same installation, we made it to the configuration panel of XP, but we were unable to make any changes. After restarting the procedure a number of times, we realized that having peripherals connected to the MacBook was the cause. There was a USB mouse and printer/scanner/copier connected, and apparently XP uses whatever external devices are connected, but it doesn’t load the correct drivers, leaving your inputs in limbo. Unplug whatever devices you have plugged in, use the internal controls and continue as usual. If you’re using a desktop Mac, the drivers should load properly and you can use your keyboard and mouse without problems.

Use a copied disk

When I was installing XP on a friend’s MacBook using a brand new disk, the installer would never get to the good part. It would always lock up and force a restart to do anything. Shortly after I cruised the forums in search of a solution and noticed that people were having trouble with disks that used the Microsoft hologram on them. As strange as it sounds, I copied the disk to another blank one, and the drive read it without issue! Copying can be done with a single burner computer with software like Toast, or with another computer with dual drives. Somehow the shiny finish must interfere with the drive mechanism.

Hopefully these two suggestions help you with what can sometimes be a troublesome installation.

[tags]Boot Camp, MacBook, Intel, Windows[/tags]

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Yesterday Apple released new iPods at their special event in San Francisco, and also unveiled the next version of their jukebox software, iTunes 8.

There have been a few things I’ve noticed about the new application — both good and bad — that make this version highly recommended for all users.

Genius

The biggest new feature of iTunes 8 is most certainly Genius. This is a feature that analyzes the metadata in your iTunes library and sends this data to the iTunes Store, which then recommends music that is both in your library and in the Store. You can make playlists with songs you own based on these suggestions. The initial analysis takes a few minutes, and on my library of 1800 songs, it was about 5 minutes.

You can activate the feature by choosing a song from your library and opening the drawer on the side of the screen. This shows songs in the iTunes Store that are related, which you can then purchase. As soon as you do this, iTunes sends the related songs that you own into a Genius playlist, accessible in the Sources panel of iTunes. The ability to find related songs works best if you listen to well known, established musicians, though I imagine once more people share data on less known acts, the choices will improve.

Album view

Apple also introduced another new way to view music, through an album cover group. This of course only really works if your music has album covers. While it is cool to see all your music as albums, it is not something I find practical.

Assorted bug fixes

As usual with application updates, iTunes 8 also kills some bugs that were annoying people earlier on. One of the biggest things was the time it takes iTunes to back up and sync iPod touch and iPhones. My initial sync seemed to take less time than normally, but that could just be excitement.

The image above is a slightly annoying interface bug that seems to have come up in this version. When browsing the iTunes store, the program doesn’t shrink the data into the window — meaning you need to scroll across to view the entire screen. While not critically important, it is a simple thing that could make viewing the store much easier.

iTunes 8 is another evolutionary improvement to an already good jukebox application. The Genius feature shows promise and other refinements make it one of the best music organization programs out there.

[tags]iTunes, iPod touch, iPod classic, iPod nano, iPhone[/tags]

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No matter how stable, awesome or bulletproof your operating system may seem, there may come a time when you need to start over. This may not happen with Mac OS X very often, but it can be real annoying when it needs to be done. I was asked recently what’s the best method for getting OS X clean on your computer, and the answer really depends on how fresh you want to start. You need to choose if you want to retain your current information or have a completely empty computer.

With that in mind, here is a small guide for installing OS X properly.

Options

  1. Upgrade
  2. Archive and Install
  3. Erase and Install

The procedure for all of these operations is the same. Once you have booted from the Install disk, fill out the necessary options for customizing your installation and choose Options from the install location panel (where you pick which disk to install on). This window gives you an option to do any of the 3 procedures outlined here.

Upgrade


The fastest and simplest method for starting with a new operating system, Upgrade simply overwrites the system folder with a fresh one. If the Install DVD is older than your current system, it will revert to that number (ie. OS X 10.5.4 goes back to 10.5.0). This will not impact your personal data at all, and can be done in as little as 20 minutes (if you customize the install). When you receive a new OS from retail, this is typically the default method.

Though you should back up regularly regardless, it is especially important to back up before upgrading in this manner because there is slightly more risk involved than other methods.

Archive and Install


A popular method for Apple Geniuses to heal sick computers, archive and install means installing a new system folder overtop the old, but also moving that old folder into a safe place on your hard drive for backup. With this method, all your original documents, settings and applications are safe, as long as you select Preserve network settings and users, like the above picture. It offers more safety than the standard Upgrade procedure because it makes a single overwriting operation into two safer ones.

Erase and Install


Erase and install will wipe your drive clean and start fresh with a brand new system. Your documents, settings and applications will all be deleted for good, and you will not be able to access them unless you’ve backed them up before to a separate drive. This method shouldn’t be used unless you believe your computer needs to be cleared of everything in order to work properly. If you’re selling your computer, this is how you should prepare it.

If you choose to erase your drive completely but still wish to retain your data, all hope is not lost. In a case like that, you could clone your hard drive to an external drive, and use the Migration Assistant to transfer your files. The MA appears as the option Would you like to transfer files from another Mac? when you prepare your computer initially. Make the selection for Transfer from another partition on this Mac and choose the external drive. Wait for the files to transfer and you’ll be productive again in no time.

Apple makes installing their operating system very easy. With a little preparation you can reinstall OS X quickly and efficiently so you can get back to your work.

[tags]OS X, Apple, Mac, MacBook, installation, tutorial[/tags]

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For my daily computing activities, my MacBook does an excellent job. With the 250 GB hard drive and extra 2 GB RAM, it has enough power for me to edit websites, make movies, and play the occasional game.

But every once in a while I find that I need more power, and I start to wonder what new Apple product would cause me to sell my MacBook immediately and purchase a new machine. This got me thinking about what gaps exist in Apple’s product line.

The MacBook Pro-sumer

Even though I didn’t have a computer when it came out, I really like the 12″ PowerBook G4. Unlike the MacBook Air, it didn’t sacrifice things like the DVD drive and ethernet port, but still used a fantastic 12″ aluminum shell (check out this classic ad).

What I am looking for in a laptop is a machine that is as powerful as a MacBook Pro, in a case the size of a MacBook, and with dedicated graphics. The graphics capability of the MacBook is the biggest gripe I have against the machine. I was playing a Windows game in Boot Camp (NHL 2005 if you must know), and even with the graphics turned way down, it couldn’t manage more than a few FPS. The laptop sounded as if it was ready to take off, and the resolution was down at 640×480. It was disappointing to say the least.

I know the MacBook isn’t meant to be a regular gaming machine, but it should at least be able to handle a 3 year old game.

Dream specs

  • Aluminum case
  • 13.3″ glossy screen
  • Intel Core 2 Duo or better
  • MacBook-style upgradability
  • Backlit keyboard
  • SuperDrive
  • Ethernet port
  • Dedicated graphics
  • iSight camera

The MacBook Air was supposed to satisfy this area of the market, but it makes too many compromises to be my main machine.

iMac Mini

If there is a crevice in Apple’s notebook lineup, there is a continental divide in the desktop lineup.

With the Mac Mini, Apple takes the switchers on directly because the package does not have a display, keyboard or mouse. It’s diminutive size makes it great as a second machine or a server, but forces it to sacrifice power by using laptop components. The iMac includes a beautiful display, as well as a keyboard and mouse, but does not enable future upgrades due to the closed construction. The Mac Pro has mind-bending power and speed, along with a nearly unlimited upgrade path, but all that power comes at an elevated price.

As you can see, there is a rather large gap between the iMac and Mac Pro. There is a need for a powerful, upgradeable box that looks behaves more like a Windows machine. Imagine the upgrade path of a Mac Pro, power of an iMac in a package slightly larger than a Mac Mini. Macworld acknowledged this gap once too, in a story that dubbed the machine the Mythical, Midrange Mac Minitower. It could satisfy such a wide range of consumers, but still wouldn’t sacrifice sales of the other lines. People with Mac Pro-sized needs would still purchase the flagship machine, those who want power with limited upgradeability would still get the iMac. It could be the perfect Mac desktop.

Dream specs

  • Intel Core 2 Duo or better
  • User-accessible components
  • Scalability with hard drives and memory
  • Dedicated graphics
  • Smaller power and space footprint

While personally I wouldn’t have a large need for a machine like this, it could easy satisfy a niche that currently remains unclaimed.

[tags]Apple, Mac OS X, laptop, desktop, computers[/tags]

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