What are Smart Folders?
They are super helpful, is what!
On the Mac, Smart Folders in Finder (also Smart Playlists in iTunes, Smart Albums in iPhoto, Smart Mailboxes in Mail, Smart Groups in Address Book, etc.) are containers for files or folders that meet a certain criteria. Think of them as a permanent search.
For example, you could make a Smart Folder that shows you all the documents you’ve opened in the last 3 days, or one for all your PDFs that are bigger than 2 megabytes.
In iTunes, you could have a Smart Playlist that always has the jazz songs you’ve added this week. In iPhoto, I created a Smart Album for all the photos I’ve rated above 3 stars, and I sync that to my iPhone.
You can create a smart container in the File menu of any of these programs. You’ll immediately be presented with a dialog box that lets you pick your search criteria, stacking them with “any” (if this OR that) or “all” (if this AND that AND that).
Smart containers appear in the same list with their manual counterparts, but have a gear icon on them.
Try ‘em out. They can really speed up your workflow!
What can I do to see why my computer has become extremely slow?
Yes! Open Activity Monitor (an app in Utilities)
- In CPU, more black is better. More color = slower computer.
- In System Memory, more green is better. You want at least 25% of the pie chart to be green.
If it’s not, restart your computer, and open Activity Monitor. See how things look then.
How concerned should I be in light of the recent cyber attacks? Is my cable modem an “open resolver”? Can it be highjacked?
The short answer: I have configured most of my clients’ routers to distribute addresses for DNS servers provided by the OpenDNS project. Read on to learn how that protects you.
I had never considered the possibility of a hacked cable box, I suppose mostly because I’ve never heard a geek mention it. I just did a googling of “hack cable modem,” resulting only in discussions of how one might rejigger one’s own modem to elevate the connection speed or get free Internet, both of which appear to be quite prosecutable offenses.
I’m no hacker, but I have a decent handle on small-network security, and I have difficulty imagining the purposes to which a miscreant might put a cable modem. It can’t send data by itself, and your own local network is protected by the router that sits behind the modem.
So, onto discussion of the recent cyber attacks against Spamhaus.
As this article explains, the attack is actually performed on vulnerable DNS servers, such as those run by less vigilant Internet service providers around the world.
What’s a DNS server?
DNS is not hard to understand — it can be thought of as the phonebook of the Internet. When you ask your web browser to go to www.i-wish-elliot-spitzer-hadnt-been-such-a-schmuck.com…well, let’s use www.google.com as a shorter example…your browser first asks your computer what DNS servers it should use to look up the address.
In my house, my computer sends my browser to the OpenDNS Project’s servers 22.214.171.124 or 126.96.36.199. (We always have a second server as a backup in case the first one isn’t available.)
Then my browser asks the OpenDNS server where to find www.google.com. It receives a numerical reply, the IP address of Google’s Web server. Then the browser goes to that IP address and asks for whatever web-page information the server cares to give it.
How does this help hackers?
To understand the recent malfeasance, it’s called a Denial of Service (DoS) attack. This is one example:
Imagine someone hijacks one of these vulnerable DNS servers, so that when you ask for Google.com, you actually get directed to some other Web server. Now imagine everyone using that ISP’s servers having every single one of their browser requests directed to the same Web server. The unsuspecting server would get barraged by requests, and would have to start turning some of them away — denial of service.
Service breaks down, customers get angry, service loses money, attack successful.
The big ISPs in America protected themselves against these attacks a few years back. But even before that, when the attacks first reared their heads, I looked into the proscribed ways to protect oneself, and immediately started plugging in the OpenDNS servers into all my clients’ routers. Crisis averted, at least for us.
Hackers employ several methods to affect a DoS. As I understand it, the goal is not direct monetary gain, but perhaps a hobbling of an adversary, or even an expression of protest. DoS is a typical weapon of the hacker collective Anonymous.
As you can see on the OpenDNS page, using their servers offers other benefits and features, including faster replies to queries and configurable web-content filtering for those with tender sensibilities.
Bonus nerdy information
Google actually started its own public DNS service a little while ago. You can use the servers 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206 in place of the OpenDNS servers.
They have put up a page explaining DNS security in more depth.
I hope you find this information in any way helpful or reassuring.
OK, this is no longer a coincidence: All CrashPlan users should please check the free space on your Macs’ hard drives.
On your desktop, click on “Macintosh HD,” then go to the File menu > Get Info…
If the Space Available looks low, say less than 10 GB, it might be that (pardon the expression) a CrashPlan log has grown unusually large. Open up Macintosh HD > Library > Logs > CrashPlan, and look for engine_output.log. See how big it is. I’ve now seen 30 GB, 80 GB, even 600 GB.
Throw engine_output.log in the trash, and empty your trash (right click on the trash can or Finder menu > Empty Trash…).
If the trash won’t empty, restart your Mac and try again.
Perhaps your hard drive is full for other reasons, in which case the excellent freeware Disk Inventory X can help: http://www.derlien.com/downloads/index.html
The first thing to try is to log into icloud.com with your me.com address and password. That'll give you full mail functionality, and also tell you if your password is correct. You can then determine if you need to reconfig your mail client, perhaps by deleting and restoring your account.
Do I need Adobe Reader? How do I edit PDFs on my Mac?
PDFs are like food to a Mac. Whenever you print anything from a Mac, you’re creating a PDF. That’s why, whenever you go to File > Print, there’s a convenient PDF menu at the bottom left, with options like Save As PDF… and Mail PDF.
The Mac has an built-in app called Preview, which works with all kinds of image files, including PDFs. With Preview, I can sign PDFs with my signature, or notate the heck out of them.
Tell me what you do to/with PDFs, and I’ll tell you whether to use Preview, or the even more awesome PDFpen, which can change text in a PDF, or the super badass PDFpenPro, which can teach your PDFs to sit up, beg, and roll over.
Apple sent me an email saying, “You are currently using 4.8 GB of your total 5 GB of iCloud storage, which means your iCloud storage is almost full…device backups to iCloud will stop and apps will no longer be able to save documents to iCloud. To ensure your iCloud services continue without interruption, you can free up space or buy more storage by following the steps below…”
My settings show two iPhones. Is one of them my old phone?
From the picture you texted me…and how’s that for technology doing weird things to language?…
From the picture you texted me, yes, your old iPhone is still in your iCloud backups and can be deleted from the settings in your new phone. Just tap the old phone and tap “Delete Backup.” That should free up adequate room.
Perhaps later on, when you start to acquire more apps, or take more pictures at one time, or add an iPad to your arsenal, you might fill up your 4.7GB of iCloud backup storage legitimately, and will then need to tap “Change Storage Plan,” and choose from:
- 10 additional GB (15 GB total): $20/year
- 20 additional GB (25 GB total): $40/year
- 50 additional GB (55 GB total): $100/year
(cf. This Apple support doc)
Note that you can also tap on your new phone (tagged as “This iPhone”) to get a list of what apps are taking up the most room on your device—Camera Roll for most people—and perhaps turn off apps that you don’t need backed up. Be judicious here. Few people will be surprised that I prefer that you buy more storage rather than remove app data from the backup.
Nu, what’s with this Google Fiber?
Google recently entered the ISP business, they held a contest in which one small US city would get gigabit internet for its citizens. Kansas City, both KS and MO, won. And they are lucky bastards.
“Fiber”, a.k.a. fiber-optic a.k.a. FIOS a.k.a. fiber to the home, is simply a faster land-based internet connection.
In order of speed, we have had: First dial-up, then what we have called “broadband,” including ISDN (rare in a home) > T1 > various flavors of DSL > cable > T3 > fiber-optic
Wireless broadband comprises internet connections delivered through the air.
Wifi strictly means wireless networking on a local network. Wifi doesn’t deliver internet to the home or business; it distributes network resources, including the internet connection or a server or networked printers, to devices at the home or business.
You can think of wifi (I guess it’s “Wi-Fi,” but I say that’s fucking stupid, as is hyphenated “e-mail” or capitalized “Internet”)…You can think of wifi as the same link in the chain as an ethernet cable, more convenient, more hip, less secure, less reliable, and possibly more expensive or possible cheaper.
Random bonus jargon: WiMAX is more comparable to Google Fiber or cable internet, a “last-mile” solution for Internet deliver to the home that hasn’t really caught on.
Finally, and real crucially, gigabit means 1 million bits-per-second1, or 1Gbps. That’s a Dr. Evil-level number. Means fast fast fast. My home broadband connection, currently from Grande, is 30,000 bits-per-second = 30 megabit = 30Mbps. It’s satisfyingly fast. But gigabit will, reportedly, blow the face off all the internet to which we’ve so far been accustomed. It’s well above the norms of Japan or Europe, behind whom the US currently lags.
Google has always said, and loudly, that the more time that people spend on the Internet, the more money Google makes. Hence the Google Fiber contest, and the implication on their page that Kansas City is simply the first of many. I hadn’t seen the hardware they’ve developed, the stuff they pitch on their fiber page. Looks cool, at least.
Whatever the benefits for Google, faster internet is good for the nation.
1 Bits-per-second can be called baud. The term no longer appears much, but when dial-up was common, modems were measured in baud. Imagine a time when you might brag about your 2400-baud modem! So “gigabit” is a foreshortened term, but who’s gonna say “gigabaud”?
I am currently migrating a client’s data from a MacBook Pro to a new MacBook Air.
We have tried it twice over Wi-Fi and it failed both times, so I asked her to bring it over, and I did it using a hard drive as a middleman. This time is working flawlessly.
Historically, migrating from one Mac to another has been the easiest thing going. But since they started eliminating FireWire, and thus Target Disk Mode, from many Mac models, they have had to kludge a solution together. They went with Wi-Fi, rather than telling people to use a hard drive in between.
My own previous experiences with migrating over Wi-Fi have been less than stellar. But my contractor said it always worked for him, so I’ve run with telling people that.
In short, if you run into problems migrating over Wi-Fi, try doing it from your Time Machine backup. And if that doesn’t work we can do it with an external hard drive.
Our Apple consulting firm needs a full-time IT consultant who is intimately familiar with Mac OS X present and past, Mac-based networking, and other platforms such as Windows (to the extent that’s needed to integrate them with Macs, or to run a virtual machine). Other helpful knowledge will include:
- iOS (applicants should own at least one iOS device)
- iCloud, Dropbox, and other sync engines
- OS X Server
- Google Apps and other cloud solutions
- the usual apps such as MS Office and the iLife suite
- the essentials of DNS, e.g., to configure a zone file on a registrar’s web site
- strategies for on-site and off-site backups
- productivity apps and techniques
- command-line administration
- surprising, clever, and nifty tech — a bit of “Wow, that’s cool.”
Applicants must be friendly, patient, considerate, and groomed.
Must have reliable transportation, mobile internet (smartphone counts), and a phone plan with unlimited texting.
Résumés as PDF or HTML only, please.