Archive for August 2012

Going on holidays? Secure your Mac!

Posted by on in Mac Tips.

We all (or almost all!) go on holidays from time to time - so what to do with your oh-so-valuable Mac while you're away?  Well, there are a few things to consider, not that I would wish any of these things on any of you!  Plan ahead and put your mind at ease.

1. Back It Up!

The most important thing you can do before going away is to make sure you've made a full backup of your Mac, or at least your important files.  Why? Because you never know what could happen while you're away.  Burglary, fire, water damage, electrical damage, it's impossible to know in advance, so why take the risk?  If you haven't already got one, go out and buy yourself a USB hard disk.  Get a big one, 500gb+.  Make sure you have plenty of space for the future.  Then let your Mac back up everything with Time Machine.  If you already have a hard disk and you already use Time Machine, it will take no time at all to complete a final backup before you leave.

2.  Secure your backup.

The worst thing you can do is back it up and then leave the backup sitting beside your Mac.  In the case of theft, they'll certainly take your backup drive too.  In the case of fire etc., you will almost certainly lose your backup drive.  Starting with the most secure option, leave your backup drive with someone else, away from your home.  If you can't do that, at least put it somewhere safe inside your home.  Perhaps in a fire-safe, or high up in a wardrobe somewhere where it's not obvious.  The safer your backup drive is, the safer your data is.

3. Switch Off & Unplug your Mac.

If you can, switch it off and disconnect it from the mains electrical supply.  Firstly, you will save energy while you're away.  Secondly, your Mac will be glad of the rest.  Thirdly, if there is a mains problem while you are away, you avoid the risk of damage to the power supply, motherboard or hard disk of your Mac via a power spike.  In some countries, this is not a problem (often) whereas in others it is a continuous risk.  If it happens, it can be costly.

The thing is, your Mac can be replaced for a fee, be it large or small.  Your data cannot and it is your responsibility to back it up, no one else's!  There are other means of creating backups too, like online cloud storage, which we'll cover in another post.

Bear these things in mind if you care about your data.  By data, I mean any files you have on your Mac.  Photos.  Music.  Movies.  Documents.  Anything that's on that Mac that you don't have somewhere else.  It's easy to forget them, but if you lose them you will regret it.  Imagine losing all your photos from the past 10 years, just because you delayed in spending that €100 or so on a good backup drive!  Believe me, it's not worth the tears.

So backup, switch off and have a great holiday!

Printing from your iPhone/iPad/iTouch

Posted by on in Coolest Apps, iPad Tips, iPhone Tips, iPod Tips.

Printing from your iDevice has been made particularly easy, provided you are using a printer that supports AirPrint.  If your printer is supported, all you have to do is click the action icon (shown below) on the page that you want to print and select the Print option.

Action

Simply choose your AirPrint compatible printer (which must be connected to the same network as your iDevice), choose your settings and hit Print.

AirPrint is available from many places, such as Photos, Safari, Mail etc.  It may also be available in apps that you download from the App Store.  For more information and a list of compatible printers, you can view this article from Apple's website which lists compatible printers by manufacturer.

As many older printers are not AirPrint compatible, there are also some other ways to print.  For example, if you are using a HP printer, have a look at the HP ePrint app from the App Store.  This will allow you to print to many more HP printers, directly from your iDevice.  To do so, you must use the HP ePrint App, not the action button above, to print.  The HP ePrint app is quite clever.  It can access your photo library and you can also load documents directly into the ePrint app to print them.  I've used it with my HP OfficeJet 4500 to print photos and it works a treat!

Back Up Your Mac with Time Machine

Posted by on in Mac Tips.

One of the most important things you can do as a computer owner is to back up your data.  Everyone knows that, right?  Actually - wrong!  There are a huge number of people out there that do not realise how important this is.  The crazy thing is, of the people that do realise, there are a huge number that still don't do it!

What people fail to realise is that they are relying on a mechanical, electrical device to store all of their important work, photos, emails etc. and that device could fail at any time.  Nowadays, hard disks are relatively robust and tend to last quite well, but the fact remains - they could fail any time.  Your hard disk could last 5 minutes or 50 years.  It won't necessarily just die and not be usable at all, but it can develop bad sectors which mean that some or all of the files may become unusable.  It can also die completely though, leaving you with no chance to recover any of your data.

You might be thinking, why would anyone take that risk? Well, the fact is, on some operating systems it's just not that easy to back up your data.  On the Mac, however, this is simply not the case.  No one has an excuse for not backing up their Mac.  There is an excellent backup system integrated into the Mac OS.  All you have to do is buy yourself a USB hard disk, plug it into your Mac and it will ask you immediately if you want to use this as your Time Machine Backup Drive.  Answer "Yes" and it will set everything up for you and start backing up!

Time Machine

The amazing thing about Time Machine is that it backs up absolutely everything on your Mac, not just your data.  It actually means that if anything ever happened to your Mac's hard disk, you could have it changed for a new one and then tell Time Machine to restore everything to exactly the way it was before you hard disk failed.  This is an amazing time saver and also makes the process of recovering your Mac very simple.

Backing up your Mac couldn't be easier. I just can't emphasise strongly enough the importance of doing so.  Don't wait until something goes wrong, because it will probably already be too late!

iTunes Mini-Player

Posted by on in Mac Tips.

So many people nowadays use iTunes for playing music in the background while they work, check their email, surf the web etc.  However, most people only have one screen and the iTunes window can take up a large part of that!  A little tip that I find very useful is to use the "Maximise" button on the iTunes Window.  This button, which can be found on virtually any window in Mac OS, is a toggle.  In other words, the first time you press it the Window gets maximised and the next time you press it the window goes back to its original size.

The Maximize button is the round green button to be found at the top left of almost any Mac OS window.  The thing is, in iTunes, it has a special function.  Instead of maximising the window, what it does is it gives you the iTunes Mini-Player window.  It looks like this:

iTunes Mini Player

The iTunes window becomes a tiny controls-based window giving you instant access to only the controls that you really need, including the currently playing track, volume controls and the standard play/pause, forward and back buttons.  Now you can position this window wherever you like, have easy access to it without taking up your whole screen or having to switch to iTunes every time you want to pause, change the volume etc.  To get back to the standard iTunes window, all you have to do is press the Maximise button again and you're back to normal!

Kids And The App Store

Posted by on in iPad Tips, iPhone Tips, iPod Tips, Mac Tips.

One of the challenges of new technology, including iPhones, iPads and iTouch devices,  is that inevitably the younger generation are keen to get their hands on them, mostly for games.  Whether the games are free or not, you still have to have an Apple ID to be able to "purchase" and download them.  That's all very well, but if you have an Apple ID with your credit card attached, you certainly don't want to take the risk that the kids might download loads of stuff without your knowledge, or even by accident, costing you an absolute fortune!

There's a good way to deal with this, but first you need to know one of the tricks of the App Store.  When you first receive your iDevice (iPad, iPhone or iPod), you need to create an Apple ID.  Many people do this at the prompt during setup of the device.  Once you've filled in all your details, you are then asked for payment information.  At this point, there is no option to choose None as the payment method.  You are forced to enter some credit card information in order to be able to continue.  For some people, this is not ideal - maybe they don't have a credit card, or maybe they simply don't want to use it!

The best thing to do is to use a different means to create your Apple ID.  Simply skip the Apple ID at the setup stage and go directly to the App Store.  Find a free app, any free app, even the iBooks app that you'll automatically be offered.  When you choose to download it, select the option to Create An Apple ID.  At this point, because you are downloading a free app, you will be given the option to choose None as the payment method.  Now we're talking!

Of course, you can easily add payment information afterwards if you wish, but that's not the point.  The point is, for example, that you can create an Apple ID for your child with no payment information attached.  This means that they can never spend money by mistake.  This is most useful when they have their own iDevice and you want them to be able to download free apps.

But what if they then want to pay for some apps?  Simple.  You buy them a Gift Certificate from the iTunes store using your own Apple ID (which has payment information attached) and then credit it to your child's Apple ID.  Now they have a credit balance that they can use to buy apps, but they can never spend more than what you've given them.  This gives you excellent control over their spending and also helps them to learn the value of money!

One more thing to remember, and this is a really, really important one - when you download an app from the App Store, or you are asked at any point to enter your Apple ID and password, there is a certain period of time after you have entered the password in which you will not be asked to enter it again.  For example, you decide to update all the apps that have updates waiting, you hit the Update All button and you enter your Apple ID and password.  Once the apps are all up to date, you give your iPhone to your child to play on.  For a certain period of time (maybe as much as 30 minutes), you will not be asked to enter your password again, even if you decide to buy an app.  This means there is a period of time where your child could download anything they want, deliberately or otherwise, without needing to enter your password.  Be careful, it happens - A LOT.  I know people whose kids have spent €300+ in a very short time using in-app purchases, because the password had already been entered and the adult wasn't aware of this problem.  So watch out, be careful and - have fun!

Interesting iPhone Apps – Whatsapp Messenger

Posted by on in Coolest Apps, iPhone Tips, iPod Tips.

whatsapp
While there are many different messenging apps out there for the iPhone, of the ones I've tested I have to say I find Whatsapp to be the best by far.  It's very quick, very simple to use and has lots of nice features.  More importantly, it seems like virtually everyone with an iPhone is using it now, for business and personal use alike.

Using Whatsapp, you can quickly text your friends, share photos and contacts with them, or even send them your exact location!  This "location" actually interfaces with the Maps app on your iPhone so if you someone sends you their location and you tap it, the Maps app opens showing you their location as well as your location.  Now that, for me, is a really nifty feature that I've used many times.

It also integrates directly with your contacts on your phone, showing you who's on Whatsapp already and allowing you to invite those that aren't.

Of course, like most messenging apps, you need internet access to use it - but most of us do have internet on our phones these days.  The app costs only €0.79 and is worth every single penny in my opinion!

 

Free Credits at MacHelpline.net!

Posted by on in iPad Tips, iPhone Tips, iPod Tips, Mac Tips, MacHelpline.net Updates, News Articles.

MacHelpline.net, the net's top support service for Mac, iPhone and iPad users, is now offering all new customers a Free Credit to allow them to try the service at absolutely no cost! You can get straight through to a support operator who will be able to answer your question immediately.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain - why not register yourself today for free!  If you want to see what it's all about, just head on over to the registration page and see for yourself.............  You'll be glad you did!

MacHelpline.net

Magnify Your Mac Screen – Anywhere, Anytime!

Posted by on in Mac Tips.

Another lovely feature of Mac OS X is the ability to magnify the screen no matter which application you might be using.  This is a feature that is usually enabled via the Universal Access control panel.  To access it, you would go to the Apple Menu located in the top left corner of your screen, select System Preferences and then look for the Universal Access panel.  The zoom feature is usually located in the seeing section of the Universal Access panel.  You should ensure that Zoom is enabled.

If you are using a scroll mouse, you can hold down the Control Key and use the scroll button on your mouse to zoom the whole screen in and out.  You can, in fact, configure which modifier key you wish to use, if you prefer not to use the Control Key.

If you are using a MacBook or MacBook Pro, you can use the Control Key with the Two Finger Scroll to achieve the same zoom result.  You need to enable this feature in Universal Access also.  The Universal Access panel is also sometimes named Accessibility.

The beauty of this zoom feature is that it zooms the entire screen, so it does not matter what you are looking at or which program you are using.  You can also choose the Zoom In Window option which effectively gives you a small floating window that moves with your mouse arrow and magnifies everything it finds underneath - a bit like a big magnifying glass.  This is very useful for magnifying only certain parts of the screen at a time.

You can also use command keys to switch the Zoom feature on and off, as well as to zoom in and out.  To toggle the Zoom feature on and off, use CMD+OPTION+8 (the option key is sometimes called the ALT key).  To Zoom In, press and hold the CMD key and the OPTION key and then press the = key repeatedly to zoom in more and more.  To Zoom Out, do the same thing but pressing the key instead.

Amazing Portable Scanner for your Mac, iPad & iPhone

Posted by on in iPad Tips, iPhone Tips, iPod Tips, Mac Tips, News Articles.

Now here is a really amazing product.  Someone really put some thought into this one.  I was recently looking for a scanner that might suit my requirement to scan all my existing photos (you know, the ones that we all have sitting in drawers and who knows where...) into my Mac.  What I was really looking for was something simple, not a flatbed where I have to scan each photo, crop it and save it etc.  I came across the Doxie Go portable scanner.

DoxieGo

This scanner will connect to your Mac or PC via USB to transfer the scanned documents.  It can also connect via Wifi with an optional adaptor.  But that's not all!  You can even connect it directly to your iPad using Apple's camera connection kit or wirelessly to your iPhone or Android device.

The beauty of it is that it has its own battery.  It is completely stand-alone and it is a feed scanner which allows you to feed in any documents up to A4 size, such as standard A4 paper, photographs etc.  These are then scanned directly to the Doxie's internal memory and can be transferred to your iDevice as and when you are ready, via USB or any of the other means described above.  It takes about 2 hours to charge and the battery is good for about 100 scans.  Nice for on-the-go scanning!

What's more, it charges directly via USB, so you can connect it to your Mac to charge, or use a USB power adaptor to plug it into the mains for heavy duty scanning that will take a lot of time.  Doxie Go works with wireless SD cards from Eye-Fi™ and SanDisk™. With a wireless SD card, Doxie can transmit scans via Wi-Fi to your Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, or Android device –  no wires!

Have a look at more detailed information and photos on their website at www.getdoxie.com.

Use Spotlight To Quickly Launch Your Apps

Posted by on in Mac Tips.

Spotlight is a lovely little search feature built into Mac OS X which you can find in the top right corner of your screen.  It looks like a magnifying glass which, when clicked, presents a search box.  You can type in this search box and your Mac will search everywhere, including within your email and documents if you prefer, to find what you are looking for.

A very quick way to find and open an App on your Mac is to simple use the shortcut key to open Spotlight (hold the CMD key and press the Spacebar at the same time), then type the name of the app (or part of the name) into the search bar.  The app should appear as one of the first search results, which you then simply click in order to open it.

If Spotlight does not find the Application you were looking for, it's probably because you need to include Applications in the search results.  To do that, or to configure spotlight searches in general, go to the Apple Menu which is located in the top left corner of your screen, select System Preferences and then click the Spotlight icon.  You will be presented with a list of all the things that you can have spotlight search, or not, as the case may be.