You can't discuss
computers without taking the human factor into account, and that's
mostly what this page is about. All sorts of people use computers
for all kinds of reasons; some consider it little more than a necessary
evil (filled with ritual pain), but others use computers to create
and accomplish spectacular things with relative ease.
What makes the difference?
If it works, don't fix it
the new MacOS X was first unveiled in San Francisco at MacWorld
Y2K, you could sense Apple's pride during its presentation. It was
slick, fast and full of special effects, gleefully demonstrated by
Apple staffers on the
tradeshow floor. A worthy successor to the tried, true and
famously easy Macintosh
interface, OSX adhered to Apple's established Human
Interface Guidelines, and did so with pizazz. It improved steadily over
the years, maturing with release of Mavericks, 10.9.5.
iPhoto and Aperture were dropped in favor of Photos.app, constant
changes to iTunes, the ever-annoying
Notifications, Launchpad, Dashboard,
towers of download files, wacky interface elements and incessant
password entry. All
very PC. Then
set out to sterilized Mac's interface by
stripping it of visual cues and hiding scrollbars, controls and content
by default. Have
abandoned? Throw iCloud and FileVault encryption into the mix, and
confused and frustrated clients expressing a sincere desire to return
The iGizmo invasion
a coincidence, but seems like the more focus put on iPhones and
iPads and iStuff, the less attention is paid to Apple's Main Event: The
Mac. While stock market reports and media focus on iPhone sales,
the Mac quietly went mainstream and overwhelmed much of the Windows
With the exception of gov't (to no one's surprise), Macs are running
the show in most arenas these days. iGizmos have served as gateway
to a Mac.
There's also the what-have-you-done-for-us-lately
expects Apple to pull off some new mind-boggling technology every
Jobs and his "one more thing" announcements that enthralled the tech
world are gone now. Instead, we're left with port type and technical
changes, software compatibility issues, hardware
upgrades required by the latest iGizmo, and a
host of other tech details unknown to most users.
An open letter to Apple's
Streamline. Keep the OS intuitive and
familiar. If I were to
write a letter to Apple's
board as a shareholder, I might have a few
suggestions, starting with a paid vacation. You've earned it.
Take a year or two off and let us get
accustomed to all that we have to work with. Who decided a new OS every
months was a good idea?
Make legacy software available to
those who have reason to need such things. This includes OS versions as
well as legacy apps and
Focus on compatibility rather than
control. It's good to have choices. No one likes to be force-fed
changes when things are working well as they are.
Security should include privacy, as
both apply to YOU. Why should a simple connection to the App Store or
iTunes pass thru dozens of servers?
iCloud should be OFF by default and
strictly voluntary. Most people neither need it nor understand it (and
better off without).
Code words like "onboard" should be
clearly explained or avoided altogether as they
do have significant impact. Printed manuals are
Loosen the death-grip on certified
Apple techs and dealers. I should think you
could stand a bit o'friendly competition by now.
What's with the MacPro? Seriously,
how is the new MacPro useful to video editors or recording studios or
server farms? Or anybody? Bring
back the MacPro tower with useful expansion options.
this: Seems that smartphone and tablet sales may be reaching
saturation, while focus shifts to online services, cloud functions, the
(hated) subscription software model and various types of "smart"
gizmos. It's good to have choices - including the option to keep things
back to advertising, promoting and bragging on the Macintosh.
You cannot be
serious about security and run Windows.
at maintenance time spent in the ongoing fight against malware,
data theft, network threats and so-called "hackers" - virus scans,
updates, quarantine and removal of countless
Windows viruses on the loose - well,
none o'that was necessary? What if all you need is common
sense? On the Mac, common sense should be enough to stop you from
installing junk from the internet -
you're paying attention. Nothing
gets installed without your participation
(password), nothing happens without your knowledge. Fact
is, most Mac users today have never encountered a real virus.
Security on the
not to say Mac users are immune to security issues. Threats include fake Adobe Flash
fake Safari updates, fake virus warnings, phony viewers, nasty lil'
browser extensions that infest your web browser
with popups, fake cloud backup, and bogus
utility apps that pretend to speedup, fixup or tuneup your Mac.
Some of these scams are after credit card and
bank accounts, others take you to a phony site hoping you'll enter your
login for the real
and some will appear
to lock up your web browser with an "emergency" message and phone
number to call for "help."
One of many phony virus warnings floating around the internet.
This one managed to launch FaceTime and activate camera.
The one thing all these scams have in common is the same thing that
makes them harmless to alert Mac users: They cannot get aboard without
your participation. To that end, they try their very best to
convincing or pretend to be something they're not. Don't call that
number. Don't click that button. Don't download that crap. Here's a
hint: If you avoid torrent sites, porn sites and
shady web sites
you'll avoid many such things.
Malware, viruses, yada, yada...
We've heard all about it, they make
the news from time to time. Worms that destroy data, spyware,
ransomware, adware, pop-ups and trojans, they infest the internet
to trick you into bringing them aboard. Once installed, they can
redirect your browser,
steal your info, record your keystrokes, spam all your friends, read
your mail, turn your computer into a bot - or - just screw things up
and call it a day.
simply IGNORE the junk that comes your way uninvited, you'll be fine.
That said, there's nothing to
prevent you from downloading and installing some sort of internet
trash, but you'll have to enter your admin password to do it. Just
don't go there. Don't download. Don't install. Don't enter your
password. Stay focused and ignore all the flak that passes by online.
If you need something, go to the legitimate source and get it. If it
comes looking for you, you don't want it. Pay attention!
online tech support
annoying scam - courtesy of Google - is phony customer support. Search Google for "[company name] customer support" and you'll find yourself looking at a very convincing
you're foolish enough to
call that number, you'll find a "technician" on the other end who is
happy to help you, just as soon as you download a
remote access app (GoToMeeting,
LogMein, Teamviewer, GoToMyPC, among others). No matter which one is
installing it gives the thieves full access to all data
on your machine. By installing that remote access app you're giving
it all away - so DON'T DO IT.
Remote access programs serve a legitimate purpose
when they're in the right hands, so it's all about knowing - and
trusting - the people you are dealing with. If you called a real phone number
for Apple or Canon or HP or some other legitimate company - a number
provided by the actual company - you have little to
worry about. But, if the number you
called came from a Google search or a pop-up solicitation, you're
doomed. If you gave remote access to a scammer, your next
should be to cancel your credit card, call your bank, and change
your passwords ASAP. Hopefully you can do all that before you become
Which brings us to a
relatively new phenomenon known as
ransomware. In the Mac world, this includes a handful of utility apps
may actually serve a purpose with a well-designed interface, but
the _real_ purpose is to wring money out of you. They may be free
might be purchased. They can arrive in unscrupulous ways from
unscrupulous sources, do
their thing from a free demo or come piggybacked on a
torrent download. Once installed they can be difficult to remove; even
those with "uninstallers" (which don't) and even after deleting the
app, ransomware will leave files behind designed to cause trouble.
is a prime example. Promising to speed up your Mac, it has a
nice interface with a lot of unnecessary and redundant functions. But,
if you delete MacKeeper, it leaves hidden files behind that will slow
your Mac to a crawl and leave you staring at countless beachballs - the
very problem it pretends to solve - in the hopes you'll buy it. And if
you do, you don't dare delete it or stop buying "updates."
You're hostage to it.
For the record, the more
serious forms of ransomware are
lock up servers and prevent access to a company's own database until a
ransom is paid, typically in bitcoin. To date, the Apple platform has
suffered exactly one of these, related to an app for downloading from
torrent sites. We've been warning about torrent sites for years and
have little sympathy for those who steal software, music or movies.
Apple neutralized the problem as soon as it
appeared, but ransomware as it is known on the Windows platform
continues and involves a
type of extortion
that is well beyond the scope of this discussion. Suffice it to say,
system administrators have their hands full these days.
Clean out the cruft
and investigate add-ons
Most browsers have privacy and/or security controls in the
browser's preferences where you can view and delete cookies. Watch for
"evercookies" from web activity (these are cookies that return moments
after being deleted), reset your browser regularly, avoid browser
extensions, and keep an eye out for unusual activity or pop-up
windows. It's also a good idea to clear-out Adobe's databases which are
tracking you from Adobe's Flash Player (see next section).
Google any programs, apps
or utilities you may be interested in before
such things; see how many people are trying to get rid of it. Avoid
torrent and "sharing" sites like the plague. Stay away from suspect
sites, porn sites and such, delete suspicious emails immediately and
don't click on phishing links they may contain, no matter how
convincing it might look. Don't let others mess
with your machine; if you share a computer with others, you should each
have your own login accounts and passwords. Anyone borrowing your Mac
should use the Guest account.
Rest assured that Apple makes its Operating System as fast and
possible. There are no third-party apps that
can improve operation or speed. Running
Disk Utility First Aid periodically to verify/repair your drive is the
only routine maintenance needed. With a little
common sense you can easily avoid a good deal of trouble and grief.
Also see nCity's "Security and Protection" page (left sidebar) if
Blocked plug-in error, Flash Player out of
date? Adobe Flash has become a real nuisance, and updates are
coming monthly now. To make matters worse, Flash might be the most
frequently faked download on the internet, used to trick you
into downloading adware, malware and other junk. Truth is, you may not need Flash Player.
That's right: Streaming video works just fine on advanced sites like
YouTube and others that use HTML5 to do the job. So the question is, do
you really need Flash Player?
Answer depends on where you go on the 'net and what you do. Some sites
still have Flash content and haven't transitioned to modern times yet.
It's a mixed bag to be sure, but sites that have
abandoned Flash content function faster and better than those that
still use it. Even Adobe considers Flash to be a fossil:
Instructions for removing it may be found here.
Remove it and experiment with sites and games you frequently use; if
you find you can't live without Flash, you can always go back to Adobe
the new version of Flash Player.
Tip: A quick way to see if your browser is HTML5 equipped is to scroll
up this page a bit to the picture of Foghorn Leghorn (the rooster). If
you have an HTML5 browser you'll be able to play a sound just below
Foghorn; if not, it will say so there.
To update Flash Player (if you insist on burdening yourself with Adobe
products), read on
for a few things you should know.
has leveraged Flash Player to collect data on you.
Open System Preferences (under the Apple Menu) and click the Flash
Player icon (shown at left). Really old versions have four tabs as
Newer versions have five tabs:
You'll see two databases, one under the
Storage tab and another under the Advanced tab (each end of tab bars shown above). Don't hesitate to
click the "Delete All..." button found under each of these tabs. You
might want to shut-off other functions while you're at it, like the
creepy camera and microphone settings, site storage and "peer-assisted
networking." Delete stored data from Flash Player whenever you delete
cookies from your browser, and do both regularly.
If you need to update Flash Player, you'll find a "Check Now" button
for updates under the Advanced tab on old versions (circled above), or
under Updates tab on newer versions. Click the "Check Now" button and
follow instructions to download Flash Player directly from Adobe.
Once downloaded, open the Flash Player Install icon found
in Safari's download window or within your downloads folder. Launch the install app, enter your password and install the
new Flash Player. Remember all this because you'll have to do it again
soon. To make it easier (ignoring the fact that it isn't necessary),
Adobe has set updating Flash Player to automatic by default so it will
install updates as they become available.
Adobe (PDF) Reader
Reader is also an attack vector for malware. Long-time problem on
Windows PCs, it's recently become something of an issue for Macs, too.
Its purpose is to open PDF files (Portable Document Format), a
file format created many years ago by Adobe.
Reader is no longer necessary, replaced by Apple's (faster, better)
Preview app, installed with your MacOS. In other words, YOU DO NOT NEED ADOBE READER and
you're better off
without it. When you remove Adobe Reader, Apple's Preview app will
assume the job of dealing with PDFs.
Watch out when you
use Google, too.
attention to search results when looking for assistance or software.
We're getting clients who have gone looking for online help with
printers, apps or other things, only to be fooled into installing a
remote access program allowing scammers to copy whatever they want.
Above are the top-two search results for
"Adobe Flash Player." If you look closely, you'll see the top hit is a
paid "ad" for a web site that has nothing to do with Adobe. The only
reason this site is #1 is because they paid Google to be here, and
shame on Google for profiting from such traps. The 2nd hit is to
Adobe.com, the legitimate source for Adobe software. Same applies to
support sites as it does to software: The top
search result is not necessarily the best - or even real.
Examine actual site addresses, ignore pop-ups, don't download strange
things, don't give out info, and avoid scam sites that want to draw you
in. Do a little research before you download anything (especially
Why it may be best to stay a version - or
two - behind
An example of what happens when upgrades are rushed to release
It's important to understand the difference between updates and
upgrades: An update is an improvement to your existing OS - a bug fix,
security addition, new feature or enhancement - but an upgrade means replacing the entire
OS with a newer one. Updates are almost always desirable. Upgrades, on
the other hand, may cause a fair amount of disruption, especially if
you are jumping over multiple OS versions.
Apple provides limited upgrade paths, usually the latest OS only -
unless your Mac is too old to run the latest OS version. Check your
machine specs (CPU, current OS, RAM) in "About This Mac" under Apple menu, and compare these
against OS requirements (also see Step #2, below).
It's worth noting that if a newer OS will not run on your older
machine, you will be prevented from downloading or installing it. It's
also important to note that Apple continues to support many older OS
versions with updates.
MacOS native to Intel CPUs, 10.6 had the longest
useful life of any recent OS since the demise of PowerPC
Macs. 10.6 Snow Leopard was the last OS to ship on a DVD,
still available for $20 here: OSX
Snow Leopard 10.6.3.
Available for $20
here, downloading 10.8 Mountain Lion is
quite an adventure. Needless to say, Apple would clearly prefer that
you download and install a newer OS.
Mavericks (10.9), Yosemite (10.10):
These OS versions are no longer available from Apple, tho
10.10 may still have updates thru the AppStore. OS
versions 10.6 thru 10.9 are no longer supported.
may be available under certain circumstances:
machines that cannot run the newest OS version may still be eligible
for upgrade to OS 10.11: ElCapitan
#1 before upgrading: Make a full backup
"Full backup" is more than just copying pictures and documents; it means
making a full and complete copy of your entire
drive to a secondary backup drive - OS, apps, settings and all. This is
the only way to leave
yourself an "undo" option if anything goes
wrong. You should maintain a full, current and
complete backup to an external hard drive in any case, but _always_
backup all data prior to making any major change; without proper
backup, you'll have no choice but to live with the results. If you
don't have a backup hard drive, go get one. They're cheap and
backup doesn't cut it. You _must_ have a
full and complete backup on hand - with OS, apps and everything else
present - in order to put things back the way they were. Cloud backup
does not include your OS or applications, only unique files. A full,
proper backup can only be accomplished using TimeMachine or a
clone app to copy _everything_ to an external hard drive. Details about making a proper backup volume may be found on
the Backup Schemes page (in sidebar, left).
Step #2 before upgrading:
Check system requirements
Each Operating System has specific processor, machine and
memory requirements that will prevent installation if your Mac isn't up
Requirements to run Mountain Lion
10.8 may be found here
Requirements for Mavericks 10.9 are
(still) here, (I
Requirements for Yosemite
10.10 redirects to 10.11
Requirement and info for Sierra 10.12
Requirements for High Sierra 10.13
are the same as 10.12
Some requirements are easily met - memory
for example. 10.8 thru 10.10 require a minimum of 2GB RAM but 4GB is
better and you can never have too much. Adding RAM is a quick and easy
upgrade in most cases (tho some later models cannot be upgraded after
Other hardware requirements may involve graphic cards and specs
that cannot be changed, so upgrading the OS on very old machines may
not be possible. If this is the case, your only upgrade option is
moving to a new computer.
Steps #3 and #4:
Download and install
a full backup of your upgrade-ready Mac, it's time to download the
latest-greatest OS; this is accomplished by using the AppStore in your
Be advised: If your broadband connection is less than stellar, expect
download time to take up to 6 hours. After downloading (machine should
restart), installation typically takes up to 45 minutes with the later
Systems. And after _that_ there will likely be some additional
updates to download/install and more than a few other adjustments to
Keep your OS updated
changes took place after 10.7 Lion, and again after 10.9 Mavericks,
leaving older applications behind in both cases. By skipping every
other OS upgrade you may get
more life out of your apps and keep disruptions to a minimum, while
remaining reasonably current with updates to your current OS as
they become available. Having a full and complete
backup prior to installations and upgrades will
allow you to restore things, should
anything go wrong.
reflects lifestyle and philosophy.
"Prosumer" is a targeted subset of
professionals in any given market. Whereas the vast majority of
consumers are generally focused on price, prosumers tend to aim for
technical specifications and professional quality. In the computer
world, the difference is often between those who only use computers as
an "information appliance" (email, Internet, word processing), and
so-called "power users" who design, illustrate, analyze, edit, explore,
program and create on computers.
The Prosumer market is a relatively small target, probably less than
10% of computer users as a whole. High-end products that appeal to
power users can be as specialized as they are expensive; as technical
requirements increase, competition and choices tend to narrow. A
decision often hinges on a critical component or a single
specification. Prosumers research their options to the nth degree,
usually with specs and plans in hand, prepared to examine, discuss and
use all relevant technologies. They take pride in being computer-savvy,
they use serious tools and get spectacular results. Picky lot they are,
Consumers, on the
other hand, don't wanna know all the grisly details - they just want it
to work. They know there's more to life than technobabble, and they'd
like to get on with it. They want the bottom line as quickly as
possible..... which is fine, provided they're getting good advice and
can afford equipment that works easily with a minimum of trouble.
Computer technology doesn't come cheap, especially with a
trial-and-error approach, and a seemingly simple decision can lock you
into an unpleasant routine for the duration. As they say, "the devil's
in the details." You won't get the right answers without knowing what
questions to ask.
Even if all you want to do is email and internet, at least
take a look around at the different equipment and software others are
using (and their degree of success). Ask lots o'questions. Compare ease
of use, speed, efficiency, capabilities, quality. Compromise any of
these for a low purchase price and you'll be paying for it every time
you use your machine. If delving into details is not in the plan,
taking a good look around can at least suggest a path to follow.
alternative consumers - deserve special mention here in CA. Altsumers
are in a whole different world of their own making. They've found
alternatives to just about everything that has ever proven effective,
including alternative foods, medicine, energy, lifestyle, you name it.
Using complex calculations involving geopolitics and organic chemistry,
decisions are made according to what products don't contain, or won't do, or where they haven't
been. Superstition, astrology, pseudo-science, witchcraft,
global/mystical nonsense - none of these things have any place in a
discussion about computer equipment. Only logic applies here.
Might be time to
drop a dime.
If this is
the Information Age, it's being driven by the Internet and we each need
to grab ahold of those handlebars and pay attention. The web can be the
ultimate research tool, but like any tool it may be used in a variety
of ways, even as a weapon. As you read this, fights are raging over
controlling access and content, mostly with taxes and profit in mind.
It's a fragile thing to be won or lost, minor changes can have drastic
effects. This subject, like most anything else you might be interested
in, can (still) be investigated on the Web using Google, Yahoo, and a variety of other search
engines. Using information technology has become mandatory, like being
able to read and write. We each must develop our skills at dealing with
search criteria and technique in order to be proficient. Why? Because
it is important to know what - and who - you're dealing with today.
Spying is for no-goodniks?
still respect privacy and decency, and you think "spying" is beneath
you, please think again. You really do need to take those blinders off
in cyberspace if you want a fighting chance, and don't wait until it's
too late. Do it immediately, before making any decisions or
commitments, before clicking that send button, make investigation a
part of your routine. It's not about spying or being rude, it's about staying on top of changing circumstances and
making informed decisions.
If you (more correctly) consider online research to be a valuable tool
and useful asset, but not necessarily appropriate in social circles - I
sympathize, but can no longer agree. Personally, I believe those
sentiments belong in the past now, along with so many other matters of
civility and common sense these days. In some quarters, it's every man
So call it spying if you like - or researching or investigating or
shopping or sleuthing or advertising or promoting or networking - as
these terms all do apply. But also consider it prudent and necessary in
the modern world. And while you're at it, you might consider
investigating yourself to see what others will find out from
than you might think. If you're on Fbook, you've thrown open all the
windows and joined the party, so you might as well start there. But, as
research tools go, social sites lack validation and we only want facts
here. I recommend skipping right past Fbook and others sites of that
ilk in favor of drilling much deeper for official records, detailed
stats, facts and figures from reliable sources.
The Internet may be the ultimate "killer app" of the computer world,
long as regulation and greed doesn't throttle it back. You should know,
and be aware, that many forces are at work trying to control your
access and redirect your attention (see Electronic Frontier Foundation for the
latest), so you must stay focused and be determined to get at the
truth. It helps to be resourceful as well. Your degree of difficulty
will vary depending on what type of info you seek and how sensitive
that info might be. Here are three broad categories:
Probably the easiest and most common type of search, whether to find
something rare and exotic, or just to get the best price. Plenty of
shopping sites out there (Nextag is one),
specialty vendors and even coupon sites where a little investigation
can save lots o'money. eBay might be the best
place to start, given its outstanding scope and size. And, it's fun!
Even if you have no intention of trading on eBay, it can provide
valuable part numbers, names and descriptors to help narrow your search
on the wider web.
Legal matters, jobs, health, history, investments, old friends, urban
myths - everything from politics to pizza, it's all out there if you
know where to look. Google it for starters and you're sure to find
something, then refine your search and keep drilling thru other search
engines and discussion groups until you find exactly what you're after.
checks: Savvy employers (and potential employees) use the net to
research job placement; landlords do background checks on potential
tenants; singles check out dates; there are countless reasons to
investigate someone's background before entering into any sort of
partnership with a stranger. Don't be shy. Think of it as self-defense.
private eye on the planet keeps a variety of go-to web sites and
sources for searching out answers and locating info, and so should you.
Create a folder for search sites in the bookmarks menu of your browser
(Safari, Firefox, Etc.) and start collecting sites that serve your
purposes best. We can help you sort thru countless resources available
on the web and suggest a few ways to obtain factual data you may be
unaware of, but be advised that some of these services charge fees and
you don't always get what you pay for. You should also be prepared for
the possibility of bad news or learning _more_ than you might have
wanted to know. "Trust but verify," a word of caution here: It's always
best to confirm findings with a secondary, independent source before
jumping to conclusions.
We've used Macs to remodel houses, design and build
furniture and mechanical devices, make motorcycle modifications, create
artwork, design databases and produce printed circuits. Edit and
store audio/video, photographs and graphics, text and data. Plus, Macs
keep the books, manage communications and provide
endless material for research purposes and entertainment. I mention
this because there are still people out there who wonder what they'd
ever do with a computer. Hello?
The first "killer
application" was word processing.
The ability to type and edit a document _before_ printing
was reason enough to buy a computer, just to replace that old
typewriter. Today, most folks recognize internet access as being a
whole new window on the world, with email and texting as the new means
of communications, all of which are excellent reasons to invest
in a computer. (Even if all you use a computer for is email and web,
using a Mac provides a big advantage due to security features and ease
of use.) But there is so much more you can do, it seems like a waste of
power to stop at communications without branching off into other
Your Mac comes equipped with software designed to manage a
great many basic necessities, beyond communications; photos, text,
music, address books, tax prep, all sorts of things. It even comes with
a set of
developer tools for creating your own programs, and all the basics are
covered right out of the box. For specialized applications, you'll find
all kinds of additional hardware and software available for most any
use these days. Our Link pages contain a wide variety of recommended
products and vendors; there's also a link to Apple's index of Mac
apps where you'll find thousands of programs designed to do
almost anything you can think of.
odd thing about software:
Good programs always seem deceptively simple, with a
tasteful, coherent interface, easy to use and understand - which tends
to conceal the program's true power. If you can accomplish a given task
with one click, it's because the program's designer has dealt with all
the details for you. If you have to wade through an assortment of
buttons and dialog boxes to accomplish that same task, then the
programmer has decided to let you do all the work - easy for them, not
so easy for you. And somehow, bad software seems to leave an impression
of "sophistication" due to the complexity of dealing with it.
It pays to shop around and test drive applications before
buying. The cumulative effect of using bad software can translate into
a considerable waste of time and repetitive effort, which will more
than offset any money saved in its purchase price. (Also true of
Operating Systems and hardware, by the way.) Having said that, you may
find you already have a program capable of assisting with whatever
project you have in mind and additional software won't be necessary.
I've often used simple graphics apps for remodel projects and precision
design work, everything from MacPaint to Photoshop.
Apply the power of your Mac to whatever holds your interest.
You might find an app onboard that can handle your project, or you
might decide to invest in specialized software to accomplish something
amazing. Just, p-p-please don't look at the Mac as an ordinary computer
or some sort of appliance. Explore just a few of the things it
can do and you'll be amazed.