A (Somewhat) Quick Trick To Speed Up Your Mac (And Eradicate The Spinning Beach Ball)

BeachBallEvery single one of us has experienced the colorful, spinning circle that indicates that our Mac is frozen (either temporarily, in which case it rights itself, or permanently, a situation where a forced reboot is required). There are many terms for this, including the beach ball, the spinning circle of doom and others, some not G-Rated. No matter what you call it, it’s annoying and a productivity killer.

It usually occurs when there’s a lot going on at once; e.g. many applications running and/or other data-intensive tasks (opening a large document, installing software, etc.) happening. In some instances it’s a wakeup call that your Mac needs more RAM. (Although in recent years, Apple has become less stingy with new computers as far as RAM is concerned, but 4GB is the absolute minimum anybody should be working with today.) But it can also occur when your permissions need repairing, at least when you’re working in OS X.10 (Yosemite) and earlier versions of the operating system.

First of all, check how much RAM your Mac has installed. That’s easy – simply pull down on the apple in the upper left corner and select “About This Mac” to find out. (Note that the appearance of this pane varies among the different versions of the OS, so it may not look exactly like the illustration below.) You can find out how much RAM your Mac can handle by visiting a site like Low End Mac and finding your model.

RAMHere you’ll see I have 16GB of RAM on my MacBook Pro

Now for the fun part – repairing your permissions! This involves a little more effort, and you may want to print this page (or at least write down the steps), as you won’t be able access the Internet on the computer you’re working on.

The first step is to quit out of all open applications and reboot your Mac by pulling down on the apple in the upper left corner and selecting Restart… Once it begins to reboot, hold down the Option key (the key to the left of the space bar) and keep it down until a choice of bootable disks appear. In most cases, there’s one with “Recovery” in its name. (If there isn’t another option besides your startup disk, see Note #2 below.) Click on that disk and allow the utility window to appear.

You’ll have a few choices here; select Disk Utility. Once that’s open, highlight your disk in the left column (chances are it’s named “Macintosh HD”) and then click the “Repair Disk Permissions” in the lower part of the window. Allow it to complete its duty, and don’t freak out if it finds a lot of issues, that’s par for the course. Once that’s complete, you might as well select “Repair Disk” while you’re in the neighborhood.

DU YosemiteClicking “Repair Disk Permissions” usually helps eliminate the beach ball

Once that’s complete, quit (Command + Q) out of both Disk Utility and the utilities window. Select Restart to boot your Mac normally. Hopefully that’s all it takes to solve the spinning beach ball issue!

A few notes:

In the latest Mac OS (OS X.11 El Capitan), this process is no longer required. Permissions are repaired while other tasks are performed, such as installing updates from Apple. Read a great article on that here.

If you don’t have the option of a recovery drive to boot your Mac from (as described above), you can use a bootable USB flash drive. They’re available from Amazon.com here.

If you need more RAM, I recommend Data Memory Systems. DMS has great prices, delivers quickly and its customer service is first-rate. I have no affiliation with the company; I’ve just had nothing but great experiences for many, many years.

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The Unsyncable Contact: “iCloud” vs. “On Your Mac”

Contacts

Have you ever added a contact to your Mac, expecting it to sync with your iPhone, and then been disappointed because it never made it over? Particularly when you needed it most?

Chances are the contact never synced to your iPhone because on your computer your contacts are probably divided into two different accounts: “On My Mac” and “iCloud”. The secret to having all your contacts are synced across your devices is to double-check that they’re contained in “iCloud” and that you’re signed in to iCloud and contact syncing is enabled. But how exactly do you confirm all your contacts are in the appropriate account?

The first thing to do is to open Contacts on your Mac. It’s in the APPLICATIONS folder; chances are it’s in your dock as well. (If it’s not, you can certainly drag it in there.) Once it’s open, pull down on the CONTACTS menu (top left of screen, to right of the apple) and select PREFERENCES.

Blog1Next, select the ACCOUNTS tab on the top of the window and confirm your iCloud account is enabled in the left column. If it’s not, click the plus (+) sign in the lower left corner to add it. Select “iCloud” from the list of options and sign in using your Apple ID and password.

Blog2Once you’ve successfully signed in, close Preferences. You should then see your contacts flowing in (assuming you have contacts in iCloud). Then click on “All on My Mac” in the left panel of your Contacts book, select all the contacts (Command + A) and then right click (CONTROL + Click) and select EXPORT V CARD.

Blog3Choose the Desktop as the destination. Then select the file on your desktop and drag it directly on top of “All Contacts” in iCloud. Confirm you want to import it; it will also check for dupes.

BLOG4

Some Thoughts About Apple’s New Streaming Music Service

AppleMusic

If you’ve been listening lately, you’ve no doubt heard that Apple has finally flipped the on switch to its long-rumored streaming music service. Whether it was from the entire Taylor Swift debacle or simply the pundits talking about it on the financial networks, it certainly was big news when it launched last week. In case you need a primer on the service, check out MacWorld’s piece here.

Full disclosure: I don’t plan on venturing beyond the “free trial” into paying territory. I simply haven’t gotten into the streaming music movement, whether it’s online (Pandora, Spotify, Deezer, etc.) or satellite radio and certainly don’t feel like paying more for music, seeing that I have somewhere around 24,000 songs in my iTunes Library (and 30 years worth of the associated CDs, now residing in Wal*Mart bins in my basement). So you can assume that if I want to listen to something, I’ll probably buy it.

Anyway, here’s how to get started:

On your Mac: Once you upgrade to iTunes to version 12.2 (which requires Mac OS X.9 – Mavericks), you then launch iTunes and look for the “For You” menu at the top of the page. Not there? Then go to Apple’s Music Webpage (https://www.apple.com/music/membership/) and click “Try Now” which should update your iTunes page. Then click back on “For You” and then click on the “Start 3-Month Free Trial” button and follow the sign-in wizard.

On your iPad or iPhone, upgrade to iOS 8.4 and then launch the Music app. In the upper left corner, tap the “user” icon (red circle) and then the link for “Join Apple Music.” In both instances, you can start off easy with its “3 Month Free Trial” but you still have to enter your payment info (and which plan – “Individual” or “Family” – you want to sign up for), even if you’ve already decided on cutting off the service on day 89. Important note: Before you start streaming music on your iPhone, you’ll want to check your cellular plan re: data usage and all that fun stuff. Nothing is worse than getting hit with unexpected overage charges!

Once you’re in that far, it’s remarkably similar to other streaming services – you select which genres of music you like to listen to, and going down one more level, indicate which artists you like. You’ll then get playlists of music based on your input (and no doubt based on other listener’s preferences).

Whether this service satisfies your appetite for music and is worth the $9.99/month ($14.99/month for the “Family Plan”) is an individual decision. If you’re an Apple fanboy (or fangirl), there probably is no reason to go elsewhere; to be honest, I haven’t compared the artist roster of any of the streaming services. I know there are some holdouts, Def Leppard for one. (And Def Leppard has sold more than 100 million albums, so I would imagine that anybody who wants to hear them already owns their albums, or at least the first four!) But for now, I’m not planning on signing up anytime soon. Nothing personal, it’s just another thing I don’t need to spend my time on.

Oh, and one more thing: Another component of the service is “Apple Music Connect,” yet another social media platform to occupy your time. While this certainly makes sense for the up-and-coming artist, it’s probably little or no use for classic or legacy bands. Again, I spend far too much time in front of the computer screen (my own and those of clients), so any free hours outside of the family/work/house trifecta are better spent running, mountain biking or on the tennis court.

Read This BEFORE You Upgrade To a New iPhone!

2 Iphone 6OK, so you’re psyched about buying a new iPhone. You go to wherever you plan on buying it (Apple Store, your phone carrier’s brick and mortar shop, ubiquitous retailer that recently filed Chapter 11). Once you’ve navigated though the options (size, color, capacity), the different plans (good luck figuring that out) and what protective case you want, you finally get home to find that NONE of your data is on your new iPhone. You can’t find your stuff ANYWHERE. Ugh…

OK, take a deep breath or three. First of all, exactly WHAT is missing? (Everything is not an answer here!) Is it your contacts and calendar? Email messages? Apps? Music? Pictures? OK, now that we’ve narrowed things down a bit, let’s get busy.

Simplest solution here – recover the data from your old iPhone – and as long as your old iPhone is still around, working and hasn’t been reformatted, you’re in luck. However, if your old iPhone is damaged or missing, or if you traded it in upon purchase or allowed the salesperson to talk you into erasing it (BIG mistake!), there’s a chance you MAY get your data back, but that depends on your behavior BEFORE you bought your new iPhone. The #1 question of the day; “Did you back up your old iPhone?” And in 2nd and 3rd place, “If so, then where? And how long ago?”

There are two ways to back up your iPhone. One is to back up to the iCloud server; the other is to back up to your Mac. There are pros and cons to both methods.

Backing up your iPhone to iCloud:

Pros:

  • One time “set and forget” procedure
  • It’s Apple’s default process for backing up
  • Restores your iPhone to its most recent backup set

Cons:

  • Users get a measly 5GB of space, although Apple is more than happy to sell you additional storage
  • Restoring an iPhone from scratch takes a long time and requires Wi-Fi
  • Configuring the back up process is hidden deep within the iPhone’s settings

 Backing up your iPhone to your Mac:

Pros:

  • Fast and easy restoration process
  • Connecting to your Mac also charges the phone
  • Performs a total iPhone backup

Cons:

  • Requires you to connect your iPhone to your Mac on a regular basis
  • Ample hard drive space is required on your computer
  • Backups of old devices are not clearly indicated and must be manually deleted to recover hard drive space

Either way, you should back up your phone BEFORE trading it in. Actually, you should back up your phone no matter whether you’re planning on upgrading your phone in the next five minutes or the next five years. But even if you never plan on connecting your iPhone to your Mac, use the cloud, no harm, no foul. But right before you take your old iPhone out for its final ride, back it up to your computer! It’ll make your life easier. Simply tell the clerk that you’ll handle the backup and restoration process.

So – in order to back your phone up to your Mac, do the following:

Connect your old iPhone to your computer using a USB sync cable. Yes, that’s the same cable you use to charge it. If it’s plugged into a wall charger, then unplug it from that and find a free USB port on your computer. If you don’t have a free port, then unplug something that isn’t a keyboard or mouse.

In the upper left portion of the iTunes window, you’ll see the connected device icon that’s shaped vaguely like an iPhone. Click on that icon, and you’ll be able to select your iPhone. If there are multiple devices, you’ll see a list of connected devices.

These include iPhones, iPods and iPads.) Your iPhone will be given a default name based on the name of your computer. (If your name is Wendell, your iPhone will be named something clever like ”Wendell’s iPhone,” unless you elect to change it.)

Then highlight Summary (under Settings) in the left-hand column, which will give you a window with a whole bunch of options. In the top pane on the right, you’ll see all the vital specs of your iPhone – capacity, phone number, serial number and iOS version.

The middle pane is the area you’re concerned with here. “Select This Computer” under Backups and click the “Apply” button in the lower right corner of the window. (If your iPhone has already been configured to back up to your computer, the “Apply” button will not appear.) Then click the “Back Up Now” button.” Allow the backup process to complete before unplugging the phone.

A couple more things:

Once you’ve started using your new iPhone, you may have to download new versions of some of your apps. These can be found in the App Store, under UPDATES.

Sometimes passwords for email don’t make the journey from old iPhone to new. So you may have to reenter those.

Within iTunes, name your new iPhone so it’s easily identifiable from an old version. Putting the model number in the name is the way to go, e.g. “Hoppy’s iPhone 6+.”

Auf Wiedersehen iPhoto, Hello Photos App! (And iCloud Photo Library too!)

photosapp

After months of speculation and uncertain release dates, Apple finally dropped its new Photos app on Wednesday 4/8/2015. While a new app is hardly newsworthy, this is a biggie, as it replaces the less-than-popular iPhoto application.

Although until today, I had as much information on Photos as anybody else out there that played detective on the Web, but I’m really going to take a look under the hood and figure this out. I’ve had enough complaints about iPhoto, so I see this as a major release in the world of Apple.

OK, a quick look at Apple’s Photos page shows that there are TWO options to be had; Photos for OS X (a Mac-based version of the Photos App from your iPhone/iPad) and iCloud Photo Library, which is a cloud-based library that syncs to all your connected devices (think Photo Stream on steroids).

First, Photos. It includes some advanced editing tools, probably more than iPhoto has, but certainly less than Photoshop. And it also seems tied in to a hard copy service; Apple’s page boasts “Powerful and intuitive editing tools help you perfect your images as well as create beautiful gifts for sharing.” Sounds expensive…

As for iCloud Photo Library, Apple says “A lifetime’s worth of photos and videos can be stored on the cloud – so you can access your entire collection from your Mac and iOS devices anytime.” This seems to be the direction Apple wants you to go, judging by the amount of copy dedicated to this option on its Website.

One plus for Apple’s cloud-based solution; the “Optimize Mac Storage” option avoids the space hog on your hard drive that an iPhoto library carries. Of course, this opens the door for “paying for storage” – according to Apple, “You get 5GB of free storage in iCloud – and as your library grows, you have the option to choose a plan for up to 1TB.” Checking out Apple’s pricing plan should be interesting!

Two questions I have with this (both of which should be answered shortly): First of all, is the 5GB of free storage Apple promises the same 5GB storage each iCloud account is issued? If so, then there’s virtually no “free” option, because most users I encounter struggle to stay below that 5GB threshold. To put that 5GB limit in perspective, my personal iPhoto library (±12,000 images) is over 33GB. I routinely work with users whose iPhoto libraries exceed 100GB.

Secondly, if you go with the cloud library option, where exactly does the backup (if any) of your photos reside? I’m not paranoid and I know Apple isn’t going anywhere, but in the event of a tech catastrophe at the other end, you don’t want that to be the end of your photo collection. If there isn’t a sanctioned way to make a local backup of all the photos you upload, I’ll come up with a creative solution for this problem. I usually do.

To see Apple’s Photos page, click here.

Multiple Email Accounts? Not A Problem!

Gone are the days where we have one email address; today, we have multiple addresses with different suffixes (gmail.com, optonline.net, icloud.com, not to mention our own custom domains). As the graphic to the left aptly illustrates, I have six addresses configured. Really, six email addresses? Why?

The only email address of mine that clients should be concerned with is the “@chriscapelle.com” address. The others are my Optonline address (for people who haven’t updated to my current address), my “bills” accounts (where I get my online bills and statements), eBay (all my eBay & PayPal correspondence), iCloud (Apple ID requires it) and Gmail (because I wanted to stake claim on a Gmail account with my name on it before that shrink, Dr. Christopher Capelle from Palo Alto, CA landed it!).

Note that all six addresses are on my computer only; I don’t put “bills,” “eBay” or “Gmail” on my phone; nothing that comes into those accounts is anything that needs to be read in a timely manner.

But whether you’re using Apple’s Mail program (included free on your Mac and iPhone) or Microsoft’s Outlook (the mail program formerly known as “Entourage”), you have the capability to configure as many email accounts as you want. Adding a second (or sixth) email account is easy.

Note: In order to set up any email account, you must know what type of account (POP, IMAP or Exchange) you have, your user name (email account) and password. In some instances, you need to know the server settings that your email provider supplied.

Using Apple Mail on your Mac (desktop or laptop): Pull down the Mail menu (upper left corner of the screen) and select Preferences. Click the Accounts tab; by clicking the plus (+) icon in the lower left corner of the pane, you’re able to add another account.

On your iPhone or iPad, open Settings from the home screen. Scroll down and select Mail, Contacts, Calendars and then select Add Account. The setup process is similar to adding an account to your Mac.

Using Outlook on your Mac, pull down on the Tools menu and select Accounts (the bottom choice). Again, using the plus (+) icon in the lower left portion of the pane, you can add your account, as long as you know your user name, password and quite possibly, your server settings.

Warning Signs That Your Hard Drive May Be Failing!

hard drive

Similar to maladies in the human body, rarely does hard drive failure happen quickly. And just as often, there are warning signs that things aren’t working as well as they once did. In any case, it’s important to recognize the signs of trouble and take the appropriate action.

Before I go on, it must be stressed that you should be backing up on a regular basis using Apple’s Time Machine, and quite possibly another cloud-based service (more on that later). There’s no excuse for not using Time Machine; it’s free, part of the Apple Operating System and is enabled with a “set and forget” process. The only extra required for Time Machine is an external hard drive, and those are dirt cheap these days.

While some failing hard drives can crash and die instantly, that’s usually not the norm. Most drives that fail give a couple of weeks worth of warnings, while others start the process months before they actually go bad.

There are warning signs that will indicate that all is not well with your drive. These include:

  • General sluggishness, including the dreaded spinning beach ball and/or increased “freezing”
  • Grinding loud spinning noises that occurs even when you’re not accessing the drive
  • Seeing “permission errors” that never appeared in the past
  • Failure warnings when attempting to move or copy data
  • Increased boot up time

You can check your drive using any number of programs, including Apple’s Disk Utility, which comes preinstalled on your Mac and is found in your Utilities folder (which is located in your Applications folder.

Replacing the hard drive in your computer is not complex; new drives are well under $100, and the process to replace the drive and restore the data is fairly quick. As long as your data has been backed up, you won’t miss a beat. If you haven’t backed up your data – well, you have about a 50/50 chance of getting it back without having to pay thousands of dollars (which isn’t a guarantee that you can recover all of it).

Takeaway nugget: A two-tier process (local as well as cloud backup) is your best bet for guaranteeing you won’t lose your data. It’s far less painful to replace a hard drive and restore your data than it is to lose it all!