General Mac

Frustrations, Oh the Frustrations!

My computing life since Yosemite arrived has been a HEADACHE!

Did you notice that I did not say “since I installed Yosemite?”

My problems cannot be blamed on Yosemite. Instead, I will blame myself, some bad luck, and some unsafe downloading and some bad timing!

If I were to write about the whole thing, I suspect you would read a page or two and loose interest. So instead I’ll tackle a problem or two at a time.

We’ll begin today by talking about critical software. My critical software probably won’t be your critical software. But, if you have software that you depend on, make sure—double sure, it will work in the new operating system software.

For me, and for Dr. Mac Consulting, our critical software is Mac Helpmate. If you are our client, you probably have Mac Helpmate installed on your computer. It is the application that allows us to see and control your computer. While we can also use screen sharing via Apple’s Messages application, it can be difficult to set up, especially with novice users.

Since there was a public beta of Mac OS 10.10 Yosemite, I signed up and gave it a try, but not a great try since I do not have a recent Mac that is not in critical use. I did install the beta on a flash drive—and I ran it (slowly) several times. I did download Mac Helpmate — and it seemed to run.

However, after upgrading to Yosemite, I found out it just would NOT run. We’ve been working with Dean Shavit for over ten years. Mac Helpmate had been bullet-proof software — it just worked. We occasionally had server issues, but those can be expected, especially in the late afternoon and evening hours when everyone is using Netflix to clog up the web.

Dean’s company is very small. When there are only a few people who do the programming, it is reasonable that it can take a week for new software to be completed. However, that week was one of frustration!

I have a large SSD card in my MacBook Pro. It is possible to make a partition on a working hard drive and it is possible to run Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks on one partition while running Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite on the other. It is not possible to run either one when the SSD drive gets flaky.

I don’t know what happened. I don’t know why. I don’t even want to know how, but I have some advice for you. If your drive is reporting block count errors in Disk Utility, even if those errors can be fixed, there is a problem! It is time to back up the drive and prepare for a day (or more) of working on your Mac—not fun work, just hours and hours of backing up, formatting, installing, configuring, downloading, updating and re-copying.

I did it. I survived. It wasn’t pretty. Mac Helpmate is working—and working beautifully. I am back to helping clients. I’m happy!

If you have not upgraded to Yosemite, make sure your hard drive or SSD drive is in good condition. Make sure your critical software will work. Then download Yosemite. The interface is a bit different than Mavericks, but it will quickly grown on you! If you need help, we at
Dr. Mac Consulting are around and ready to help!


Taming the Fonts List

One of my favorite things about the Mac is the way it handles fonts. I find the “Show Fonts” menu item that is almost always under the Format menu in each application to be invaluable.


At least it was working until I did some graphic projects on my Silhouette Cameo. Somehow there were a lot of weird fonts showing up in my Favorites List--ones that certainly aren’t my favorites:


I will admit I had used them--but they were cluttering up my nice, clean Favorites list--the one I expect to use when I work on the Dr. Mac Consulting Newsletter. Although I could easily figure out how to add a favorite…


…getting them out of that list was not so easy! I did some logical deduction. If I want to remove something from the dock, I just drag it out. Yes, just grab the fonts you don’t want in the list and drag them out! My list was clean!

cleaned Favorits

That worked, but let’s do this even better! If I click the + sign in the lower left corner, I can make a new collection, name it whatever I want and then add fonts to that collection.


That’s not quite how it works. I can get a list of fonts and it will include the faces like bold and italic--but I don’t get that nice list like the Favorites List.

All is not lost! In many Apple applications there is a menu item under the application’s name called Provide_______Feedback. It is not available in all apps, but take a look around and you will find one.


Just make sure it includes the feature you want to complain about.


Does it work? I have never gotten a direct answer back from Apple, but I have noticed that some things that I reported have changed! I have a friend who is a Product Manager at Apple. He says that at each meeting for their product, a stack of feedback forms is waiting for him. He distributes them to his team. His team is expected to respond to Apple in some way for each feedback form. So, yes someone reads them and someone is tasked with deciding if the issue needs to be fixed. It’s really heartening when you see your request in a future Apple update.



Increasing Storage Space with a Transcend Drive

Last fall it was apparent that my trusty 17” MacBook Pro could no longer meet my needs. While the processor was adequate, I was always low on RAM and my hard drive was perpetually full. The RAM was maxed out and I had simply outgrown the 500 GB drive.

I move my computer all around my home each day. In the morning it travels downstairs from our bedroom to the island in our kitchen. When I head for my office, it moves to my desk. If I am sewing or using my Silhouette Cameo, it is generally on those work tables. If I work on the deck or our front porch, it goes with me. When I move to the family room in the evening, it us usually on my lap or beside me on the couch. When I head back upstairs, it moves again.

Since Apple discontinued all 17” screens, I begrudgingly moved to the 15” MacBook Pro model. I upgraded the processor, maxed out the RAM at 16 GB and added the 1 TB SSD drive. I also upgraded the video card. This new computer is a beast! I do miss the extra screen real estate, but adding an external monitor would mean giving up portability, so I have made changes to my workflow to compensate for the missing pixels.

We took a three week trip to the British Isles, Normandy and Guernsey in the late spring. With two DSLRs and two iPhones being used to take pictures, I quickly noticed that my extra 1/2 TB of drive space was filling up way too fast. I plan on keeping a computer for 2 to 3 years. At the rate I was filling the drive, I would be back to finding ways to trim my files all too soon!

There is one thing about my association with
Bob LeVitus. We share a email address and the world uses that address to reach Bob. So I get to see lots of press releases about new products. The one for Transcend caught my eye. It promised the ability to add a very fast hard drive to my MacBook Pro.

Even better, the drive is tiny and it will fit into the SDXC card slot on my computer


Since the drive is almost flush with the side of my computer when it is installed, my plan was to leave it in place.


I planned to use the drive to store my photo library. However, that plan quickly changed. Although I could use the drive as a backup drive…

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 7.26.33 AM

I could not back it up as a part of my normal Time Machine backup routine:

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 7.27.13 AM

The Transcend name is grayed out and it looked like there was no way to change that. A trip to Disk Utility found the problem:

Screen Shot 2014-08-30 at 8.13.44 AM

The Transcend is formatted in ExFAT, a Microsoft file system optimized for flash drives. The exFAT format has been adopted by the SD Card Association as the default file system for SDXC cards larger than 32 GB. The format can be used by Mac OS X starting from 10.6.5 onward.

While a Mac computer can read and write files to the drive, Time Machine cannot back up drives that do not include Apple's Apple Filing Protocol (AFP).

If I (you) want to back up files that are stored on a Transcend drive, it needs to be formatted to the Mac OS Extended or Mac OS Extended (Journaled) format

For now, I have retained the ExFAT format. My iPhoto Library is around 250 GB, so it is too large to fit the drive. My iTunes Library hovers around 120 GB, so it fits as long as I keep the trash emptied and I don’t go overboard on storing podcasts!

The MSRP on a
Transcend 128 GB drive is $119.00. They are readily available on Amazon for about $80.00. That’s not a bad price for a portable storage device that stores in you MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, making it difficult to loose.

When I bought my
Transcend JetDrive Lite 350 128GB Storage Expansion Card, I was able to gain 128 GB of storage space. The drive is fast enough to play a movie smoothly but small enough to be almost unnoticed. At this time I cannot back up my iTunes Library to Time Machine, but everything stored in it is free (podcasts) or is also stored on one of my other computers or it has been purchased from Apple and I can always download it again. I might loose my playlists, but for me that loss would be insignificant. My Transcend drive is a winner!



Answering reader questions about the arrows on screenshots

I get lots of questions about how to do things on Apple products. In this case, the reader asked:

In her article…”Dealing with Adobe Flash Player" Pat uses some red arrows to illustrate items in the Safari Preferences/ Extensions section. Are those arrows made with Skitch, or if not, what program ? They really help to pinpoint what to look at.

While others extoll the wonder of Skitch, I try to use Apple's included programs as much as possible so that I can easily explain them to others.

For those screenshots, I started with a screen shot made using Command - Shift - 4. This command changes your cursor into crosshairs on your screen. It also shows the position of the cross hairs on the screen.


There is another keyboard combination, Command - Shift - 3. It will take a shot of the entire screen. I seldom use it because I usually want just a portion of the screen.

I have my Mac set to open Preview when I double-click a graphic. To set this up, highlight the file.


Now go to the File menu in the Finder . Select Get Info…


You will then see a box similar to this:


In the Open with menu button, select Preview. Below that button, there is an button to “Change All… Select that button if you would like all graphics to open in Preview.

When you open the graphic in Preview, the tool bar may be too short to show the Edit tools. In that case, click and drag the lower right corner of the window (notice the red circle below.


The last item in the standard Preview toolbar is Edit. It is possible that you will not see the entire toolbar unless you open the window to a wide view.

When you click the Edit button, it will turn blue and many icons will appear. You will want to open the window wide enough to see all the icons.


You can see the tools and what they control in the above picture. Notice that I snuck in an extra, the Text tool. While its color is controlled by the Color button, the font choice and size are controlled in the Preview > Tools menu


When you are finished making changes to the picture, Save it.

You can add questions and comments to blog articles by clicking the word Comments at the end of the article.

It will open an additional area where you can type. I use the Disqus commenting system. You may already have a Disqus account if you leave comments on other web sites.

The reader asked several other questions. I while I will be answering the one about 1Password here on the blog, another question is specific to his computer. In general, I do not answer that kind of a question here. If you want specific help, please consider sending a request for help. We can use our special software to take a look at your computer to teach you how to do something. The cost is $60.00 per hour. Send us a message at or give us a call at 408 627-7577.


Putting icons on the desktop and sidebar

Back in earlier Macintosh Ddays, we tended to have several things on our Finder (desktop), placed there by the operating system. Soon, some people began to think of the desktop as a place to store things. Some people took it to the extreme. Their desktops began to look like this:


While it might be useful (?), it also causes the computer to continually redraw the icons to keep track of them. When your desktop looks like this, it is slowing your computer down.

To remedy the problem, the engineers at Apple decided to unclutter the desktop by turning off some icons. While a clean desktop is the ideal, there are times when having some icons visible on the desktop is desirable.

If I teach you how to put some icons back on your desktop, will you promise not to leave it looking like this the screenshot?

When you would “prefer” to have your computer act in a different way, you need to work with the “Preferences” There are lots of preferences on your Mac and in order to change them, you need to look for Preferences in each application. They are stored under the application’s name.


Open the Finder Preferences, choose the button for General. Place a check in each of the boxes and your hard drive and any connected devices will appear on your Finder (Desktop)


Click on the button for Sidebar. I have checked every item. It simply makes it much easier to navigate around my computer and our home network if I can see all these items in my sidebar.


I would recommend marking all the items in “Favorites” and “Devices”. If you have a home network, the items under “Shared” will also be useful.

Look for a coming blog post where I talk about fonts.



Liquids and Technology

I have had several emergency calls from friends, family and clients this summer. Most have involved a liquid and a computer, iPad or iPhone. This has been the year of spills and drops!

I have had a strict policy of never putting a liquid on the same level as an electronic device. It has worked well until my doctor determined that I was not drinking enough liquids. He said I needed to keep a container of water beside me all the time. While that is not a problem at my desk in my office, my MacBook Pro tends to travel all around all day long. Some of the other stopping points don’t have a second level for my water container. So I had to get inventive!

Last spring there was a deal at Costco. It was for a two-pack of Contigo water bottles. The pack cost $19.99 and it included two insulated stainless steel water bottles with AUTOSPOUT.


I like my water cold and I prefer not to have condensation on the container. Add a leak-free spout to the mix and I have found my new favorite thing! Of course, the deal at Costco is long gone, but you can buy the bottles directly from
Contigo. The price is the same at Amazon. $25.00 sounds pretty pricey, but compared to a repair or possibly a new device, it’s not so bad! You could also wait for Costco to carry them again, but that will probably be next spring.

I even let my water bottle sit next to my computer sometimes, especially at night when both are on my bedside table. : )



Do you need anti-virus software?

This is the second of a four part series on Mac Security

I find it amusing that we learn about supposed Macintosh security problems from companies like Kapersky, Norton, Sophos and Intego. These are the companies (along with a few others) who sell antivirus software for the Mac.

In several cases, these same software companies have released proof-of-concept malware on the Internet to demonstrate how we “need” their products.

The dirty little secret about their software is that it cannot automatically protect you from the newest malware. These companies have to find the virus or exploit and then they have to write the code to block the problem. So, while their software can protect you from older malware, it does not protect you from today or tomorrow’s problem.

They must also rely on you to keep their software up-to-date and they have to depend on you not to exit a virus scan. If you’ve used antivirus software, you know that the software will always need to be updated when you are in a hurry and cannot wait around for it to download the newest update, install it, restart your computer, then run the virus scan. All too often users will circumvent this lengthy process because they are in a hurry.

Ask me how I know, since I don’t run Mac antivirus software. I have several applications that I must run in Windows, so I use Parallels to run them. I seem to encounter these issues every time I boot into Windows--and I routinely find myself disabling the antivirus software. I know I am un-protected when I do it, but then I never access the web, read email, or download files when I am using Windows on my Mac. Can I guarantee I won’t do the same things if I am relying on Mac antivirus software? I know I would occasionally slip!

Apple has built security software into Mac OS X 10.8 MountainLion. Because I keep my computer up-to-date, Apple has a mechanism to download and install new antivirus definitions in the background, at the deepest level, to keep my Mac protected. They don’t have to rely on the Internet to warn then of exploits. The best method of protection is obscurity. Apple protects my computer without any publicity. They do not rely on me to learn about a problem and then hunt for a solution. Their silent service is the kind of protection I like!

Bob adds: I haven't used anti-virus software since OS X was introduced more than ten years ago and have not been infected with malware or viruses. I don't like running anti-virus software. It always seems to intrude at just the wrong time, and it often intrudes for no good reason. And even the best ones (don't ask; I don't use any of 'em) use some of my precious RAM and processor power. So far I've had no regrets (and no viruses or malwares), but I reserve the right to change my tune someday. But unless or until something really bad gets loose in the wild, I'm perfectly happy with the protections afforded by OS X.

If you have installed anti-virus software that is hopelessly out-of-date, we can help you remove it. If you still want to run anti-virus, we can help guide you to the best product for your needs and get it installed properly. If you encounter something unexpected or strange and you need some help we are available. We offer trouble-shooting, technical support and training over at Bob LeVitus Consulting. Tutoring costs only $60.00 per hour. We have special software that allows us to see your computer and we can work on the things you want to learn. Give us a call at 408 627-7577. Or send an email to

--Pat--and Bob

Is your Mac Secure?

Is Your Mac Secure?

This post will be the first of a series about Macintosh security. It is not meant to be exhaustive. My audience for this series is the beginning to intermediate Mac user.

Macintosh computer security has been a big news topic this spring. Look at sites such as Google News, Yahoo News or even your local newspaper. You will find several articles each week detailing supposed Mac failings.

How secure is your Mac? It’s generally well-protected if you follow a few rules.

FIRST, keep your Mac up-to-date. If your computer is capable of running the latest version of the operating system, install it! The current operating system is Mac OS 10.8, Mountain Lion. It has been out for almost a year. While there were a few (very few) problems the day it was released, those issues have long been fixed.

If your computer cannot run Mountain Lion, make sure it is running the latest OS it can. Apple is still providing updates for Mac OS X 10.7, Lion , but they are not putting as much effort into Lion as they are for Mountain Lion. All bets are off for support in Snow Leopard and Leopard.

I hear all sorts of reasons (excuses?) why Mac users have not upgraded. Some still want to use Appleworks or a graphic application such as older versions of PrintShop (note that The Print Shop 2 from The Software MacKiev Company works fine under Mountain Lion). Some have an older printer or scanner that may not work with newer operating systems. Others think there is too much to learn when they upgrade to a new OS. Those are poor excuses, and they leave your computer vulnerable.

SECOND, be choosy about where you visit and who you accept files from. I have seen a few instances of Mac malware on client computers. In every case, the Mac owner admitted they had frequented some “sketchy” places on the Internet. You are more likely to run into malware downloads on porn sites, on gambling sites and on file sharing sites. If you see an advertisement for software to check your computer for viruses and malware, DON’T CLICK THE LINK. If there is a link for a new version of Flash or Adobe Reader, DON’T CLICK THE LINK! If you get a message about a funny picture, DON’T CLICK THE LINK. Instead, go to Adobe, Facebook or Twitter by going directly to that site. Type, or directly into the address bar. Don’t be fooled by links to Adob3, FacebOOk. or Tw1tter. While carefully checking the address might spot the irregularity, the URL difference may be even more subtle!

THIRD, be password-wise. In the earlier days of the Internet, a six letter password was thought to be secure. Times have changed! Today, in addition to password length, it is suggested that we include both upper and lower case letters, a number or two and, in a few cases, a special character such as a ! or # or & is required. Today you need to have several passwords--and they should not be the same everywhere.

Look into a program such as 1Password to help you remember and enter your passwords. It can work everywhere--on your Mac or Windows computer, on your iPhone or Android device, even on your iPad!

If you prefer not to use a password application, plan your password strategy. Think about having different passwords for different levels of security. Think about a series of related passwords. But, whatever you do, don’t put them in a file called Passwords on your desktop or as an entry in your address book!

FOURTH, Keep your Internet connection secure. Just like your computer, your Internet equipment has software updates and it should have passwords. My modem is from Cox. It doesn’t do anything but deliver an IP address to my router. Your setup may be quite different from mine. If there is an antenna on your modem, then it is both a modem and a router and it can give you a wireless network. That network should require a password for access to the Internet. There are several different methods of keeping that password safe. The oldest software to keep that password from being easily hacked is the WEP protocol. It is easily cracked and provides almost no security. is WAP. It is much more difficult to hack.

Your router will occasionally require a software update. These updates are critical since the are patches to make your network more secure. A really good router is Apples line of AirPort devices. Since Apple is in charge of those updates, they are very easy to install. They are a part of your system software and Apple will tell you when a new one is released and the update is easy to install.
If your router is from another manufacturer, it is up to you to seek out the updates. You won’t get any notice that they are needed and available. Even worse, they rely on your Internet browser to configure them. It seems as though each router model must be configured in a different way.

While Apple’s AirPort routers may be a bit more expensive to buy, you won’t need a consultant or technician to help you with installation. It generally takes an hour or more to configure and update a router. So, any money you save is quickly eaten up.
The last piece to the puzzle is your firewall. With a Mac, the firewall is a part of the computer’s operating system. So when you travel, your firewall travels with you. You configure your firewall through the System Preferences.

In closing let’s review that list. Keep your computer up-to-date, watch where you browse, and plan your passwords. These simple rules will help keep your Mac secure.

If you need some help with checking on your Mac’s security, we are available. We offer trouble-shooting, technical support and training over at Bob LeVitus Consulting. Tutoring costs only $60.00 per hour. We have special software that allows us to see your computer and we can work on the things you want to learn. Give us a call at 408 627-7577. Or send an email to


Making videos with the iPad

Each spring the National Association of Broadcasters holds their annual meeting and trade show in Las Vegas NV. This year almost 100,000 people attended the show in the 10 days that it ran. Because my husband is on one of the NAB technical committees, we attend the show every few years.
It was a great week! Broadcast personalities, producers, editors, cameramen and product vendors spend the week learning and sharing the latest tools of their crafts.
I attended the 2010 conference. Going back after a two year absence was amazing. In 2010 convention goers and vendors were talking about digital recording but the show floor still contained lots of big broadcast rigs. There were a few DSLR cameras with video capabilities being shown. However, the rigs for steadying these cameras had yet to be invented.
This setup caught my eye this year. I was a shoulder mount with places to anchor mice and lights. I was not as impressed with the bar that extended beyond the wearer’s shoulder. It looked to be a great way to snare bystanders!

The most frequently used video rigs in 2010 cost up to $100,000. They were huge, heavy and required weighty batteries. Many cameramen were using external charging devices which further hampered their mobility. The camera in this photo is about half the size of a 2010 broadcast rig and costs 1/5 of their price.

The exciting equipment of the 2010 NAB was the RED camera. The camera was still in the prototype stage, but there were many sessions devoted to it. These were still going to be expensive, but they would be capable of producing very high quality images with a camera one quarter the size of the typical broadcast camera. This is a photo of a RED in use at the 2013 NAB show.


While some daring cameramen were using prosumer cameras that could easily be carried, the pros were still dubious. In 2010 I don’t think I saw anyone acting as their own cameraman while recording an interview. This sight was quite common at this years show.


This year, not only had the equipment being used to produce interviews changed, the show floor contained a surprising amount of equipment for iPads and even iPhones. There were lights, lens and adapters, sound rigs and software solutions. Several companies were showing rigs to turn the iPad (or iPhone) into a virtual video camera.
This rig is
iOgrapher mini. It has been funded through a Kickstarter campaign and is about to go into production. It is a molded plastic frame that holds an iPad mini. There are places to attach a light, a microphone and even a lens adapter and a place to attach it to a tripod or monopod. It also has handles. The cost will be about $60.00. Since they received such a good response at NAB, they are working on models for the iPad and iPhone.

Another rig is called The Padcaster. It is an aluminum frame with numerous 1/4 and 3/8 threaded holes around the edges. These can be used to attach external microphones, lights and other camera accessories. It can be attached to a tripod or monopod and there is an adapter that can be attached to accommodate 72mm and 58mm lens mounts. A flexible urethane insert pops into the frame. The insert can securely hold the iPad 2, 3 or 4. I asked Josh Apter, the device’s maker what would happen if the iPad 5 wouldn’t fit in the Padcaster. He assured me they would then make a new urethane insert and sell it as an upgrade.

Another use for the Padcaster is to remove the insert and attach a DSLR camera. My Nikon D3100 will shoot video and I am faced with the problem of adding a mic for good sound pickup, so this is very interesting.
Screen Shot 2013-04-22 at 4.12.48 PM
Although they could not sell the Padcaster at NAB, they were taking orders for shipment in a few days. Since I have a full-size iPad, it appealed to me and I ordered one. It has arrived and I am planning to do some experimenting soon!
-- Pat

Taming PDF file sizes

Many posts on MacMousecalls are due to client questions on the Bob LeVitus Consulting web site. I answer them here because I think many of our readers will find them interesting. This recent message from Kevin is one such topic. He wrote:

Writing pdf files from word (file - print - pdf) results in pdf files 10x size of the original word document? This seems to have started since installing a Kodak Hero 3.2 printer. My system - 'new' Mac desk top machine. Office for Mac 2011. Having searched the net big pdf files seem to be a common problem. I don't get the same problem on PC. Help!

The first issue is Office for Mac 2011. Although I own it, I have never installed it on my computers. It’s here in case I get a call to fix a problem that I cannot fix unless I am using Microsoft Office.

This seems to be an issue that is not tied directly to Office. Instead it is one of how to use features that Apple built into Mac OS X. One of the nicest Mac features is the ability to turn any document that can be printed into a PDF. I use this feature all the time! It helps me to keep from printing out reams of paper that would be difficult to search and difficult to store.

When I buy something online, I make a PDF file and store it in a receipts folder in my Dropbox. When I find a technical article I want to save, I make a PDF file and place in my Technical Support folder. When I need to share a document with a friend, I often make it a PDF file so that they can read it even if they don’t user the same word processor as me.

While PDF files that I make from web sites are usually small in size, the ones I make with a word processor such as Microsoft Word or Pages can be quite large, especially if they include photos or graphics.

Using Pages, I added three photos to a blank page. Then I used the Export command found under the File menu to make some tests.

Pages_export pages_pdf

I also made a PDF using the Print function.


The resulting files are interesting. Using the Export command and Good in the dialog box produced a file that was only 116 KB. Using Best or making a PDF through the print dialog box resulted in a file that was 7.6 MB.


It is difficult to show you the quality of the images in each of the PDFs. The smallest file was “flat” and a little grainy. It would have worked to show someone the photos, but they were certainly not good enough to print.

Many programs such as Microsoft Word do not have an Export to PDF command. The only way to easily make a PDF is using the Print dialog option. If the images in the document are large, the PDF will be large. However, the Mac OS doesn’t leave you hanging. It is still possible to reduce the size of the file, but you will need to use Apple’s Preview application to make the changes.

Preview is a free application from Apple that is installed when you install the operating system. You can find it in the Applications folder. I suggest dragging it to the Dock so that it is easy to find and work with.


Open your file, either through the File > Open menu or by dragging the document over the Preview icon in your dock. Go to the File > Export command in Preview.


In the File > Export dialog box there is a Reduce File Size option.


Let’s take a look at the file sizes again. Using the Export > Reduce File Size option produced the smallest file.


It’s time to learn more about the Quartz Filter. One of my favorite places to look up such things is Wikipedia. Click
here to view the article. Essentially the article says Quartz is a pair of OS X technologies that send instructions to the Mac OS X graphics engine.

While those tiny PDF files will sometimes work, they can really mess up graphic files. Doing a bit more research, I located
an article that offers some help. It includes a link to some additional Quartz filters that you can download and install to give your more options in the Quartz Filter dialog box.


Installing the filters was a bit scary. Normally, you do not directly add things to the Library of Mac OS X. Things are added by installers and your are asked to fill in your computer password. In this case, I needed to add the Filters file. I got a dialog box similar to this one.


Clicking Authenticate allowed me to enter my password and move the folder. I did it because I knew what I was installing and I had checked to see if the files were okay. However, if I am not anticipating such a dialog box, I click Cancel and do some investigating. Such a dialog box should make you stop to learn why something is trying to modify your Library!

If you encounter something unexpected or strange and you need some help we are available. We offer trouble-shooting, technical support and training over at Bob LeVitus Consulting. Tutoring costs only $60.00 per hour. We have special software that allows us to see your computer and we can work on the things you want to learn. Give us a call at 408 627-7577. Or send an email to



WD-40…Who knew!

There are several things we can’t seem to do without around our home. Our arsenal of things we can’t do without includes things like duct tape, PAM cooking spray, Shout carpet cleaner and…WD-40.

This topic came up because I ran into
this photo that my sister commented about on Facebook. I Googled WD-40 and found a great PDF file about 2000 uses for it on their Web site. You can check it out here. This made me wonder if there were places where I shouldn’t use WD-40. A little more Googling led me to this site.

When I attended the Macworld | iWorld Expo a few weeks ago I found that MacKeeper was one of the sponsors of the event. That set off alarms for me.

There are plenty of cleaning products for your Mac these days. Ads for them seem to pop up everywhere! Some of them are serious threats. Remember MacDefender? It is a Trojan horse.

While MacKeeper gets some good reviews, it is hard to find a Mac professional who has it or any similar product installed on their computer. Google it and you will find lots of users with horror stories. Zeobit, the developer of MacKeeper assures us that the bad press is courtesy of one of its competitors.

I have my own experiences with it on client’s machines. I am not impressed with its effects on their computers, much less the way Zeobit attempts to get it installed on your computer. If you go to their Web site, there are several big download buttons. No where does it tell you what it does or how much it costs. You must dig pretty deep to find the answer. There are several price plans and all offer some version of live support. That is were the trouble really starts. I have gotten a number of calls from clients who were told to do things that they recognized as being dangerous for their computers. Zeobit wants to sell you an extended service plan. They do not tell you who the service techs are or how much training they have had. They also don’t offer any guarantees. One client ended up with some real problems after he installed the program. When he called their geek he was asked to purchase an additional annual plan that cost hundreds of dollars. After he paid it and spent many hours with the tech, his problems got worse and worse. He finally called me and we spent even more hours cleaning up the mess that the software and the geek had made! The ironic part is that before he installed the software, his computer was working very well. The client bought the software because it looked like it could do so many things--things that he really didn’t need to do to his computer at all!

Do I use products like MacKeeper?

Absolutely not! And I don’t use them on any of the family computers that I support. Macs are NOT Windows machines. We do not have registry errors and all those other problems that you hear about. In fact, modern Macs, left to do their own maintenance are usually VERY stable.

So, how do you keep your Mac happy?

  • Keep the desktop reasonably clean.
  • Don’t overfill your hard drive.
  • Make sure you have enough RAM. Today you cannot buy a Mac that has less than 8 GB of RAM.
  • Don’t use the software CD that came with your printer. Instead, use “Print and Scan” in the System Preferences to let your computer tell you what it needs.
  • Run the latest version of the Mac OS that your computer is capable of running.
  • Keep up with OS and software updates.
  • Avoid the temptation to constantly tinker with and tweak the OS. Also avoid software that modifies the operating system
  • Don’t turn you computer off at night, but let it sleep so that it can run its background maintenance tasks.
  • Remember, if you are having a problem, the first thing to do is to RESTART YOUR COMPUTER.
  • Buy AppleCare from Apple when you buy new devices.
  • Plug your computer into a good UPS to keep your power steady and clean.

And remember we are here to lend you a hand if you run into problems that are not covered by AppleCare!

Back to MacKeeper

It is a well-known fact that some bloggers get free hardware and software in exchange for reviews. It can be difficult to write a critical review when someone has been nice enough to give you something for free! A less well-known fact is that some companies actually pay for reviews.

I have not tried to make this blog pay for itself. While I occasionally receive free products at Macworld | iWorld, I have never been given software for the express purpose of writing a review. I do occasional reviews for User Group magazines, but I do not write for any sites that pay their writers. I have friends who have been offered money for writing reviews. I have read their reviews for products that I like and I know that my review would be just as positive. However I always feel squeamish when I read their positive review of a product that I find lacking.

In the case of MacKeeper, there are a number of very positive reviews of their product. Interestingly, if the writer allows feedback, most of those reviews contain negative comments regarding both MacKeeper and of the review itself. I have looked through many reviews and there are two sites that I think might be worthwhile for you to read. The
first is from The MacFeed. Sadly, that site closed its doors in the middle of 2012. They are missed. However, they have kept their previous work online. The second is from Thomas’ Tech Corner. His blog is primarily focused on Mac security, so the anti-virus portion of MacKeeper is of the most interest to him. If you read either of these sites, be sure to read the comments as well.

There will always be lots of software that supposedly cleans something on your Mac to make it run better or faster. They even sell some of it in the Apple App Store. But do you really need it or is it an effort to give you something to do with your computer besides create neat stuff and connect with people?

The older, long time Apple users among us grew up having to tweak things to keep their computer going. Apple began changing that when it introduced Mac OS X. We are now at 10.8. Apple has had lots of time to get it “right” and they have accomplished it! Gone are the days filled with frantic phone calls because someone’s Mac won’t work. While we get a few of those calls, most are remedied with a quick reminder to restart your Mac before giving us a call.

If you hear about a fix-it-all product, be a bit wary. Google it and read lots of reviews and the comments made by other readers. Make sure it really does what you need and expect it to do.


AppleWorks doesn't work anymore--now what?

Apple stopped selling AppleWorks in 2007. In computer life, that is at least a century ago! It was a great program in its day. By the time Apple stopped selling AppleWorks the computing world had changed.

We wanted programs that made fancier documents. Unlike the earlier days, we often sent digital files to people. We needed links that were clickable, spreadsheets with more than one table and we wanted presentations that had transitions, build and outflows.

Apple replaced Appleworks with the iWork suite. It contains three separate programs, Pages, Numbers and Keynote.

Many people were upset when Apple did away with their favorite do-it-all program. Some users clung to older computers that could still run AppleWorks. They refused to move forward.

Now, six years later, their old computers are dying. When they replace them with a new Macintosh those users assume that they can easily move to Microsoft Office because they are still angry that Apple killed Appleworks.

Sorry, guys. It doesn't work that way! Newer versions of Microsoft office can’t even open many of the older Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents.

While there were companies that produced software that would translate older files to the latest formats, their business dried up long ago. Most of those companies have disappeared.

The only real answer is Apple’s iWork suite.

Start by dragging the icons for Pages, Keynote and Numbers into your dock.


Now we need to find some Appleworks files. Start by going to the Finder menu. Choose Preferences. Click on the Advanced panel and make sure there is a check in the box “Show all filename extensions.”


Let’s go find some files. Every Finder window has a search box. We are looking for files that end in .cwk, so type that into the box.


Wow! It found 190 files on my computer! The next problem is that a .cwk file could be a document, a spreadsheet, a presentation or even an image file. You will have to take a guess about what the file might be. Drag it over the Pages, Keynote or Numbers icon in your dock. If the icon turns dark, that program will try to understand that file.

It worked very well for most of my files, but do you see the one named island.cwk? I know what that file is. It is a drawing of how I wanted our home builder to configure the island in my kitchen. Unfortunately, nothing on my computer will open that file.


I often remind clients that it is important to save really important files into a format such as .rtf, .rtfd or .pdf. Those kinds of files do not rely on a specific program to open them. Fortunately, my island was completed 8 years ago. That drawing isn’t really important anymore!



The Case of the Frozen Shoulder

Last week was pretty much lost for me. I had a great physical therapy session on Tuesday and then things went down hill--quickly! I spent much of the rest of the week sleeping. Not only did I come down with a cold, I also irritated something in my shoulder which made it really hurt. My other two PT sessions were spent relieving pain instead of working on increasing my range of motion and strength.

We accompanied my daughter and her family on a trip to Staunton VA to visit her daughter who attends Mary Baldwin College. We went to a basketball game where Anna cheered, went to Edelweiss, a wonderful German restaurant and attended Much Ado About Nothing at the Blackfriars Playhouse. After church and brunch on Sunday morning, we returned home.

This was my first trip without my MacBook Pro in many, many years. Of course, It was only overnight and I did have my 3G iPad and my iPhone. I didn’t really miss it--but then I spent most of the car trip sleeping.

I’m just back from PT this morning. Although my shoulder is not hurting, it is just achy, so hopefully, I am on the mend.

I’ve done quite a bit of reading about OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. It looks pretty neat, but a lot of people may find they cannot make the requirements for the upgrade. I will write more about that later.


Hidden Mac Secrets

My granddaughter, know as College Girl in her blog, wrote about learning a new Mac Keyboard Command, that really impressed her.

While I know lots and lots of keyboard commands, this was a new one to me. Press Command > Option > Control > 8 all at the same time. The result will look similar to this:


You’ll have to excuse the photo, because the only way I could capture a picture the inverted screen was by taking a photo.

Press Command > Option > Control > 8 again and the your screen will be back to normal:


There are lots of other useful keyboard commands for your computer. Check them out

My granddaughter is having lots of fun watching the number of visitors to her blog grow. She wouldn’t mind a


The case of the missing menu bar

While I upgraded to Mac OS X 10.7 Lion several months ago, there are many of you who have yet to install the latest Mac OS. Once again, I have been reminded of the consequences of waiting a few months. While we are now at 10.7.3 and Apple has fixed a number of bugs, all the helpful articles that appeared at various web sites and blogs in the days following Lion’s release are now more difficult to find. Those of us who were on the “bleeding edge” have probably forgotten some of the tips and tricks we found in those early days.

That was the case today as I helped my daughter with Lion. One of the things that is really bothering her is the new full screen mode. While there are some Mac users who are enjoying the new cleaner interface, some of us just don’t like it when our menubar and toolbars disappear.

Full Screen

Because I have a 17” MacBook Pro, it is difficult to depict the full screen here. Essentially, the entire screen is filled by my web site, MacMousecalls. Even the menu bar at the top of the screen has disappeared. This can be disconcerting if you don’t know how to get in and out of this mode.

As with most Mac things, there are several ways to exit the Full Screen mode. The first, but certainly not most obvious is the Esc or escape key that is in the uppermost left corner of the keyboard. Just press it and you are back to normal!

Of course, there is another way. If you take the cursor up to the top of the screen where the menu bar is usually found, it will reappear (though it can take a few seconds).


You may notice that a blue icon appears at the very top right corner of the window. It looks like this:

Screen Shot 2012-02-07 at 9.49.20 PM

Click the icon and you will exit Full Screen mode.

Now that the window is back to normal, notice the icon in the uppermost corner:

Screen Shot 2012-02-07 at 9.38.04 PM

Click this icon and you will be in Full Screen Mode.

If you are a “menu person,” you can find a command in the View Menu. Notice that there is also a keyboard shortcut, Control - Command - F. Press the command again and you will exit the Full Screen mode.


I’ll be back soon with more tips. However, if you need more help, we offer trouble-shooting, technical support and training over at
Bob LeVitus Consulting.Tutorials cost only $60.00 per hour. We have special software that allows us to see your computer and we can work on the things you want to learn. Give us a call at 408 627-7577. Or send an email to


Steve Jobs, 1990

It has been a month since Steve Jobs died. More and more primary source material is being released. Each interview fills in a little more about him, Apple, and just how and why computer have been influenced and changed through him.

I found a link to this
1990 interview done for PBS. Because it is in a raw, uncut format, it is even more revealing. Don’t miss it.


Writing foreign letters on Apple devices

One of the features I have really liked on my iPad and iPhone is the ease of adding foreign characters as I type. To add these letters, simply press and hold a letter that has special characters. You will see a pop-up, like this:


However, I have discovered that many iOS users have never discovered this special feature.

Many of those same users have probably missed this new, added feature in Mac OS X 10.7, Lion.

Screen Shot 2011-11-04 at 2.54.26 PM

It works much the same. Press and hold a letter such as
e, y, u, i, o, a, s, l, z, c, or n and you will see the pop-up. Then use your trackpad or mouse to move the cursor up to the correct letter and it will appear in your writing!

Of course, this means you can no longer produce words such as nooooooooo by just holding down a key to have it repeat. However, just tapping the o key will produce a string of o’s.

I’ll be back soon with more tips. However, if you need more help, we offer trouble-shooting, technical support and training over at
Bob LeVitus Consulting.Tutorials cost only $60.00 per hour. We have special software that allows us to see your computer and we can work on the things you want to learn. Give us a call at 408 627-7577. Or send an email to


So long, Steve Jobs

I’ve been sitting in front of my MacBook Pro all morning. To my right is my iPad and to the left, my iPhone. I’ve worked with a client, read some emails and done a little surfing.

I am struck by how many people have been profoundly affected by the death of Steve Jobs. While I expected a reaction among my Mac friends and colleagues, I am awed by reaction of others. So many feel his loss. So many have expressed their sorrow.

I never really met Steve Jobs, though I saw him at about a dozen Macworld Expo keynotes. I shook his hand briefly in the Apple booth once, but that is the only physical contact I ever had with him. However, he has had a major effect in my life.

As my youngest children were beginning school, I started helping in the computer lab at their school. As my knowledge increased, I became known as a teacher and troubleshooter, and perhaps as a bit of an evangelist.

I was fed by Apple magazines and books and eventually, by my many trips to Macworld Expos. I loved the keynotes and I would stand in line for hours to attend them. I would always watch product announcements and WWDC keynotes too.

Steve Jobs was a wonderful, dynamic speaker. He always made me want (need?) the next new Apple product.

I have missed Steve at the last few Macworld Expos. Now, he’s truly gone. I (we) will miss him. As someone said on Facebook last night…



Is scrolling really backward in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion?

In earlier versions of the Mac OS, dragging down the trackpad to scroll moved the page down. That really does not make sense. Put a paper on the table in front of you. Now, bring the bottom on the page into view. Did you move the paper down--or UP!

This is the logic behind the change in scrolling direction on the Mac. It is more “natural” to use the trackpad or the flat upper surface of the Apple Magic Mouse in this way.

Apple is slowly moving away from the mouse to the trackpad. This is a screen shot from the iMac page in the Apple Store. When we bought a new iMac a few weeks ago, we opted for the Magic Trackpad since both my husband and I are comfortable with trackpads in Apple’s portable computers.


If you don’t want to re-train your muscle memory (but you should), you can “fix” this behavior.

For the trackpad:


For the mouse:

mouse scrolling

There are more additions to mouse and trackpad behavior. Be sure to pay attention to the video lessons in the Mouse and Trackpad System Preferences.


Come to my party reinvented

We celebrated another family event this weekend, the first birthday of my youngest grandson. In the past, invitations were sent in the mail or by making telephone calls. Today, when my children plan a party, the invitations are frequently sent by using Evite. Using this free service, invitations are emailed to the guests. There are a wide variety of themes that can be used or you can upload your own photos or illustrations

Screen Shot 2011-09-05 at 11.05.06 AM

Click on the address, and you will be led to a Google map with the address already filled in, waiting to give you turn by turn directions.

Screen Shot 2011-09-05 at 11.30.02 AM

When a guest clicks to accept the invitation, the hosts will have a current response list. The hosts or any of the invited guests can go back to the web site to check up on the guest list at any time.

Screen Shot 2011-09-05 at 11.06.59 AM

Need to make a change to the party? Evite can handle that too.

Screen Shot 2011-09-05 at 11.08.09 AM

Perhaps, even better, Evite will send reminder notices to the guests.

Screen Shot 2011-09-05 at 11.39.36 AM

Evite is a free service. Although you do not have to sign up with them to view and respond to invitations, you do need to sign up to send invitations. The site makes money by selling advertising links. While there are plenty, they do not overcrowd the site.

While the older crowd may still prefer paper invitations, Evite has a lot going for it. Not only is it free, giving directions has never been easier and gently nudging your guests for RSVPs and sending reminders it very easy. Perhaps I will use Evite the next time I host a party!

Adding images to iPhoto with Safari

My “day job” is running an Apple consulting business with Bob LeVitus. We get lots of people who send us an email with a question. While many the those questions are too complex to answer without suggesting a consulting or tutoring session, others are easy enough to answer in this forum. Some even lead to “teachable moments.

Max K. asked a question that lead to this blog post:

In the past I could right click a photo on Safari (email) and download it to Iphoto. Now I get an error message that “iPhoto cannot communicate with Safari". Is there a fix for this?

This issue first appeared almost a year ago. I suspect it is a bug that got introduced in an update to either Safari or iPhoto. If you have seen this problem, have you reported the bug?

In every application produced by Apple there is an item in the application’s menu that provides a way to give feedback or report bugs to Apple.

Clicking these items will take you to a web page that asks question such as which computer you are using, which version of the operating system etc. I went to a session presented by an Apple Product Manager recently. He explained that he receives reports related to the products he is responsible for and he then assigns Apple engineers to investigate the problem. While the fix is not always immediately implemented, Apple tries to resolve as many issues as possible in the next product update.

However, just reporting the problem does not provide a work-around until the issue is fixed. Let’s see if we can find one.

The problem looks like this. I found an image on the Apple Web site that I would like to save. If I hold down the Control key on the keyboard while I click and hold on the image I will get this pop-up menu:

If I select “Add image to iPhoto Library, I see this message:

It’s exactly what Max reported!

However, if iPhoto is already open, the image is imported into iPhoto:

AlthougH I have not fully solved Max’s problem, I have found a workaround. It looks like I have found a bug in Safari and I took a few minutes to report it. Hopefully, Apple will have it fixed in the next version of Safari. I do know if more of us who report bugs, there greater chance that the Apple engineers will look for a solution to the problem.

When you find issues, please report them, but then do a little troubleshooting too. Perhaps you will find a workaround that will help you out!

When you have problems that aren’t so easy to solve, don’t forget about us at Dr. Mac Consulting. We offer training, troubleshooting and technical support. We have special software that allows us to see and control your computer. Troubleshooting costs $30 for 15 minutes or $60 for 30 minutes. We can fix most problems in 15 to 30 minutes. Our tutoring sessions are $60 per hour. We can show you how to use new features of your computer or software. Give us a call at 408 627-7577, or visit our web site or send us a message at


Mac Defender, MacProtector - Just BAD stuff!

We Macintosh users have had it pretty easy since Mac OS X was released. Back in the days of Mac OS 9 and earlier, there were a number of malware and viruses that could attack our computers, but due to a combination of factors those problems have been very rare in recent years.

In the past few weeks, there has been some new attacks on the Mac. While none are viruses, an unethical individual has produced a program that purports to find a virus on your computer when you visit a web site. These web sites have been around for years on the PC and hopefully Windows users have learned to ignore them.

For Mac users, this is a new problem and, unfortunately, some are falling for this scam.

I have had this blog post on hold for several weeks as I have been looking for this malware so that I could show you how it works. (Un)fortunately I have not been able to find an example to show you.


Because although I spend lots of time on the web, I tend not to visit “those” kind of sites. And just what are those sites?

First of all, they tend to be a bit shady. Think of downloading illegal music files, pirated software and movies and of course, porn. People visit these sites to download “stuff.”

You may have visited a web site that contained an advertisement that can supposedly detect and remove Windows viruses and malware. If you clicked on the link, an .exe file was downloaded to your computer. Of course, Mac computers can’t work with .exe files, so you were pretty safe.

Now there are a few links to Mac files and this can be a problem.

In the next few posts, I will cover various things you can do to protect yourself and your Macintosh.



Choosing a backup drive – a word of warning

If you read MacMousecalls or the Dr. Mac Consulting Newsletter, you have read many posts and articles about the necessity of backing up your computer.

There are many software solutions and hard drives that can be used for backing up your files, photos and data. Many of our long-time readers (and often long-time Mac users) prefer to make bootable backups of their data. This means they use an application like Carbon Copy Cloner (CCC) or SuperDuper to make an exact duplicate of their hard drive.

If (when) you need to use the backup made by Carbon Copy Cloner or SuperDuper, it is often necessary to use the backup hard drive to boot your computer.

The cheapest form of drive to use for backups is a USB drive--and if you have a MacBook, it is probably the ONLY way you can connect an external drive.

Now, here comes the rub! Even though all Intel Macintoshes are able to be booted from a USB drive, not all brands of drives can be used to boot a Macintosh. In particular, Western Digital hard drives are a problem.

On their own web page, Western Digital notes that they do “not provide technical support for booting your computer using an external hard drive.” They use the language “should be bootable,” but they make no guarantees.

While this might not be a problem, it COULD be one.

Because of this issue, noted on the Western Digital web page, I would have difficulty recommending a Western Digital hard drive. I would NOT recommend them for use with Carbon Copy Cloner, SuperDuper or any other program that makes a bootable backup drive for your Mac.

While I use SuperDuper to make a bootable backup of my Macs, it is not my primary backup system. I am a strong proponent of Time Machine, Apple’s backup software that is a part of Mac OS X 10.5, Leopard and Mac OS X 10.6, Snow Leopard. It does not make a bootable backup, but I can always use the System DVD that came with my computer or the Leopard or Snow Leopard DVD to boot my computer and then I can restore my computer using the backup files on my Time Machine drive.

The most valuable feature of Time Machine is that I can restore individual files, photos, addresses, emails and more and I can go back “in time” to restore a file I have changed or perhaps discarded if I need the earlier version or missing file.

Backing up is the single, most important thing a computer user should do. Loosing all of your files and photos is heart-breaking and recovering them from a failed drive is very expensive when it is even possible.


Did you read…

Keeping up with technology requires lots of reading. When I add news, email and friend’s blogs to the mix, I have many items to read each day.

I have found a great way to keep up with my reading while work around my office and home!

You might know about this command in the Macintosh contextual menu:

To get to it, highlight some text--on a web page, in Mail or in most Macintosh applications. Then hold down the Control key and click into the highlighted text. A menu similar to this one will appear. To have your computer read the text to you, select “Speech > Start Speaking.” If you want to stop listening, you will need to click and hold the control button again and select “Speech > Stop Speaking.”

I have used this method for years, but I have always wanted a faster, easier way to have my Mac read to me.

I was recently exploring System Preferences and I found an intriguing item in the Speech Preference:

Click on the icon for Speech and you will see this:

Click on “Set Key” to reveal this:

Now, click on whatever key combination you would like to use, but remember, there are lots of key commands already in use.

I chose Command + Option + Control + S because it is “free” and it is easy to remember. I just hold down all the keys to the left of the Space Bar, and the S key for speak. You. do need to highlight the test you want the computer to read.

The best part of using a keyboard combination is that pressing the same combination again turns the speech off!

There is so much that the Mac can do. If you would like a little help, give us a call at Bob LeVitus Consulting. You can telephone us at 408 627-7577, or visit our web site or send us a message at We offer training, troubleshooting and technical support.



Magic Trackpad troubles

I have had a love-hate relationship with the mouse since the day I first used the PowerBook 100. It was my first Mac--and one that I won from Apple Computer. Before that, I had an Apple IIc and an Apple IIgs. Although I loved the mouse on the Apple IIgs, I was bothered by having to remove a hand from the keyboard every time I used the mouse.

The trackball on the PowerBook 100 was just so much more efficient! I moved to desktop Macs until I bought the first white iBook. I tried lots of different trackballs with my desktop Macs, but it was not the trackball, but its placement that made me a real fan of the PowerBook 100. I have used an Apple laptop computer as my primary computer since the white iBook. I have always had a desktop computer too, but I found that I do most of my work on the laptops. I think the placement of the mousing device below the keyboard is the reason why I favor laptops.

The buzz about an Apple Trackpad for desktop computers this summer really caught my interest. I have used the Mighty Mouse, the Mighty Mouse with the track ball, and purchased the Magic Mouse soon after it was released. But, I still missed my Trackpad!

When the Magic Trackpad was announced last week, I made a quick trip to the Apple Store. The greeter had no idea what I was talking about when I arrived at the store and asked where to find it. Another employee had read the press release, but said the store would not be receiving their shipments for a few days.

I went back to the Apple Store to pick up the Magic Trackpad on Thursday, came home, installed the necessary updates to my iMac and I was ready to begin a new computing adventure.

It was not a good day. That new Magic Trackpad had a mind of its own--and it certainly was NOT magical! I hated it! How could a similar device on my MacBook Pro be so great while this contraption was a real dud?

When things aren’t working the way you expect, go find the Preferences window. In this case, the preferences for the Trackpad are located in System Preferences.

A look at the Trackpad System Preferences showed me the problem. While the iMac preferences looked like this:

The preferences for my MacBook Pro looked like this:

I had disabled all the One Finger actions on my MacBook Pro. It turns out that I do not like Tap to Click! As soon as I had the Magic Trackpad configured to match the settings on my laptop, I was a happy camper!

I had calls from two of our clients at Bob LeVitus Consulting over the weekend. Both had bought Magic Trackpads and both had shoved them back into the box, ready for a return to the Apple Store.

Whenever things aren’t working as you expect them to, check the preferences.

I like the Magic Trackpad better than a mouse, and even better than the Apple Magic Mouse--but still not as much as I like the keyboard and trackpad combination on my MacBook Pro. I wonder if I could persuade Steve Jobs to make an integrated keyboard and trackpad that mimic a laptop. That would probably be perfect!

However, for now I have the Magic Trackpad aligned with the end of my wireless keyboard and I have the Magic Mouse sitting above my keyboard, at the ready, in case I have a sudden urge to grab a mouse!



AirPort Wireless a bit slow?

I keep an eye on the most recent Apple technical articles using this link. While the articles may not be interesting or relevant every day, I often find good information for learning more about the hardware and software that we use on our Macs.

I have been setting up a number of Apple Time Capsules and AirPort Extremes in recent weeks and I had wondered which Wireless Security scheme was better. Lets take a look.

Note: The method I am showing supposes that you use an Apple wireless base station of some sort. You will need to refer to the user manual for your wireless device if you are using another brand.

You will need to open the AirPort Utility. My usual method is to click on the magnifying glass in the upper right corner of the screen and enter the first few letters of the thing I am looking for:

This method is convenient because it quickly shows you not only the application, but also a number of items that might be related. Another way to get to the AirPort Utility is to use the “Go” menu in the Finder to open the Utilities Folder:

A third way to get to it is to open a Finder window, open the Applications folder, then locate the Utilities folder and open it. Give the magnifying glass a try--it is definitely the fastest and most direct way!

When you open the AirPort Utility, you will see a list of Apple wireless devices in the left column. If you see more than one, choose the “main” device. You will also want to make similar changes in any other devices.

Click on the “Manual Setup” button:

In the next window, choose the “Wireless” tab at the top of the screen:

Now, click the “Wireless Security” button and choose WPA Personal.

That will cause the Update button to become active. Click it.

You will then see this dialog box. Click the “Continue” to make the change.

I am sure you are wondering what you just did and why it matters. The answer is in Apple’s Technical Knowledge Base article TS3361, but let me try to simplify it.

The rules for how devices and settings work are set up in industry standards. The standard being used in current Apple wireless devices is 802.11n. The standard includes rules for how fast data can be transmitted and rules for security settings. According to that standard, when a wireless device is using WPA or WEP, the fastest speed that data can travel is 54 MBps. While that is fast, 802.11n devices are allowed to transmit data at a much faster rate if the device is using WPA2 Personal.

If you choose WPA/WPA2 Personal, then your AirPort Base Station transmissions are capped at 54 Mbps when there is a device that is using only WPA on your network. If there are no devices present that require WPA, then your wireless speed can increase up to a theoretical maximum of 300 Mpbs.

I have also noticed that web pages open much faster when WPA2 Personal is enabled. That seconds-long pause that frequently happens when a link is chosen is greatly reduced. I cannot find anything definitive in technical literature to support my experience, but Ted Landau also noted it in a recent article at

However, there is one possible “gottcha.” If you choose WPA2 Personal, then devices that use WEP or WPA are locked out of your network.

Since all of the computers in my home are fairly new, and all of them can use WPA2 Personal, I have our network set to do just that. If you have a PC or an older Mac (Intel Core Duo or PowerPC processor), you may need to use WPA or even WEP.

Because my Time Capsule is fairly new, it can be set to allow for a second guest network. While guests can get wireless access, they cannot get to our family’s computers for file sharing or printing. In general, I leave the guest network security set at WPA/WPA2 Personal. However, if a friend has a really old PC, I occasionally have to take all password protection off to allow them to see and use our network.

Apple’s latest Time Capsules and AirPort Extreme Base Stations cost a bit more than generic Linksys or Netgear wireless routers, the ease of setting them up, updating them and being able to set up guest networks make them a real bargain for me.

Just in case you are wondering, I do not get any special prices or deals for my computer equipment. I go to the Apple Store or order it online at regular prices.

If you would like to discuss the information presented here or if you need help to make sure your wireless network is operating at maximum speeds, consider booking a tutoring session with us at Bob LeVitus Consulting. We can use our special software to take a look at your computer and we can advise you on future purchases. The cost is $60.00 per hour. Send us a message at or give us a call at 408 627-7577.



Cleaning up your Desktop

I am a very visual person. I like to be able to see the files that I am using for my current projects. Since I do so many computer projects, it doesn’t take long for my computer desktop to get very cluttered.

I also give quite a few computer presentations. When I will be sharing my computer screen with an audience, I need for it to be clean and uncluttered. My solution is to make a new folder on my desktop. I use the current date to name the folder and then I drag all of the files on my desktop into it.

My screen quickly looks clean and uncluttered, ready for visiting eyes. Computer experts will tell you that your computer will now be a bit faster because it does not have to spend as much time keeping track of the location and position of all the files on the desktop.

Of course, I also need to take care of the clutter that I just hid -- and that is the real reason for this blog post.

When I first open the folder’s window, I put it into the list view, with the contents sorted by name from. In this view it is easy to see if there are any files that are duplicates

Notice that We Rule "Hire your Friend"?.webloc and We Rule "Hire your Friend"?-1.webloc were created at the same time and they are also the same size. The only difference is that the second file has “-1” added to the file name. A quick check of the file on the web confirms that they both lead to the same web page, so I can eliminate one file.

When a two files have the same name except that they have a dash and then a number, it is a sign that they are probably duplicate files. We often find similar files in the Downloads folder. If they are the same size and the Date Modified is the same, then they are duplicate files and you probably do not need both of them.

Webloc files are made when you drag the favicon from a web page to your desktop or a file folder. In essence, it is a quick web bookmark.

As I surf the web, I often drag these .webloc files to my desktop so that I can quickly find the page links to use in emails or blog or Twitter posts.

I often forget to throw away these files when I have finished using them, so sorting the folder by Kind makes it easy to group them for quick disposal.

I tend to find quite a few photos and illustrations on my desktop. Using the Cover Flow view of the finder window allows me to take a quick look at these files to determine what I need to do with them.

The Cover Flow view is also useful for quickly scanning some document types.

You can hover your cursor over some documents to view the contents. Clicking on the arrows in the pdf file shown above would give me a preview of each page.

My favorite way to put files away is to open two windows. I open a window on the left side with my folder in the list view. On the right side of the screen, I open my Home folder in the Column view.

I also click on the “jelly bean” in the upper right corner of the window to cause the sidebar and toolbar to disappear. This makes it easier to drag my files to the right folder without dropping them in the wrong place.

Cleaning up your desktop makes it easier to find thin, just like the counters and tables in your home.

While computers can make our lives easier, there is a lot to learn. At Doctor Mac Consulting, we can show you how to make your computer easier to use in a tutoring session. The cost is $60.00 per hour and we use our special software to “see” your computer.

While tutoring sessions are calm, unhurried and relaxed, sometimes you need quick help to fix a problem. We call those Troubleshooting Sessions. We take a look at your computer, fix the problem, and get you back to work as quickly as possible. We can fix most computer problems in 15 to 30 minutes. The cost of troubleshooting is $120 per hour, billed in 15 minute increments. The cost of most troubleshooting sessions is $30 to $60. We do not bill you for the time needed to install our software to see your computer and if we cannot fix the problem, you are not billed for our time.

Send a note to or call us at (408) 627-7577 for further information.



Taking notes on your Mac and iPhone: Notes in Mail

While adding notes to calendar events and people in your address book are good for many purposes, there are other notes that need to be somewhere else.

Until the release of iPhone OS 3 I used several different note apps on my iPhone. Each had some method of syncing, most involved having another application on my computer. That was one more thing to add to my dock and often one more web site to pay money to each year.

Now that the Notes Application on my iPhone

…can sync with the Notes in Mail

…I am pretty happy.

Let’s review how this works.

When you open the Notes app on the iPhone, you will see one of the two screens below. If you see this screen, you either have no notes or you are looking at notes you have previously made. To add a note, click the plus icon in the upper right corner of the screen.

If you see this screen, you are looking at the note you were last using. Click the plus icon in the upper right to add another note. Click the arrow icons at the bottom of the screen to navigate to your other notes. The envelope icon attaches the note to an email so that you can send it to someone. The Trash can icon deletes the note.

If you want to add a note on your computer, it is done in Mail:

Click on the Note icon in the toolbar at the top of the screen to add a new note. Click on the Notes icon in the Mail sidebar to view your notes.

There are many options when making Notes in Mail. It is possible to change fonts and colors, attach files and photos and even to make To Do items in a note:

Syncing notes

While it is possible to sync Mail accounts, Contacts, Calendars and Bookmarks to the iPhone using MobileMe, Notes are not included.

Instead, synching is set up in iTunes:

This means that in order to see the latest changes you have made on the other device (iPhone or Mac), you must connect your iPhone to the Mac and do a sync.

While there are lots of other applications that can be used for notes, I prefer Apple’s Notes application. Since it is an application made by Apple Inc., I can check my notes at any time. For example, when I am talking on the telephone, playing a game, listening to my podcast or music. For me this availability is not to be missed!



Should I defragment my hard drive?

I received an email from a client this morning with that question. It’s good one for writing this blog entry. First, here is a little background. James purchased his first Macintosh a couple of years ago. He is a long-time and very experienced Windows user.

The question of defragmenting hard drives also comes from long-time Mac users who recently made the switch to Mac OS X.

In the case of Windows computers and Macintoshes running Mac OS 9 and earlier, over time, hard drives slow down when the user tries to open, save or copy large files. On those computers, files are stored around the hub of the drive in the order in which they were saved.

The directory file on the hard drive keeps track of where files are stored and it keeps track of free space.

When a file is edited, the new version is saved to a different area of the hard drive. The directory is updated, and the space where the old file was stored is marked as free space.

When the user saves a file to the hard drive, the directory looks for the first space large enough to fit the new file and uses that space. If there is extra space from the old file, that area is left empty.

Over time, as files are written and rewritten and as files are deleted, there are more and more little chunks that are too small for new files to be written into. Then the OS for the computer begins dividing large files into smaller chunks or fragments to be able to store them. The directory then has to remember where the fragments are stored and it has to pull them together when the file is opened or copied.

There are utility programs that can be used to clean up this file mess. They are called disk optimizers or disk defragmenters. They re-write the files stored on the hard drive to put files of the same type together. In the process they eliminate the free space so that there is room for new large files. They also put files that are stored in fragments back together.

In Mac OS X, files are arranged in bands around the drive, depending on their function. In between the bands, there is free space for future files of the same type. Defragmenting utilities tend to pack all the files, regardless of their type, tightly around the hub.

Mac OS X is written so that it uses some of its free time to keep your hard drive organized. When your computer is on but asleep, Mac OS X is working in the background to defragment and rearrange the files to keep your hard drive running at its best.

An optimizing or defragmenting program will rearrange the files according to what its programmer thinks is “right.” When you quit the program, Mac OS X will take over again and rearrange the files the way the engineers at Apple determined was “right.” This is not good!

There are some drives situations in which it is you want to use a defragmented drive. If you are trying to capture audio and video files for serious editing in programs like FinalCut or Logic, it is best to use an empty drive as a working drive for capture and editing. Because there are no other files, these large files will not be fragmented as they are written.

After you are finished editing the file, you move it to a regular hard drive for storage and the working drive is erased the drive with Apple's Disk Utility before new files are added and processed.

It is also helpful to have an empty drive for Photoshop to use for the temporary files it produces as you edit images. If Photoshop is working correctly, the temporary files are deleted when you quit. If the temporary files are not discarded properly, erasing the hard drive where the temporary files are store can speed up Photoshop.

Apple has an area on its web site called Support. It stores articles about questions like this one. This article is a little old--but things have not changed. If you would like further information, read:

There are lots to things to know about Mac OS X. While there are lots of articles and resources available, some of us do better with hands-on learning. If you would like a bit more help, consider booking a tutorial session with me at Dr. Mac Consulting. The cost is $60 per hour and we will cover just what you want to learn. Give us a call at 408 627-7577 or send us a message at


HDMI cables cost how much?

It’s funny how a Christmas gift can lead to the need to purchase just a few more things.

In our case, the children got together to purchase a Blu-Ray player for my husband for Christmas. We already have an HDTV. In fact, I purchased a Phillips HDTV for my husband as we moved into our new home about 5 1/2 years ago. It is a 42” Plasma and while not the very top of the line, it had most of the latest bells and whistles when we bought it. It has served us well--and now most of our children have HDTV’s.

When we bought our first HDTV in September of 2004, HDMI was just being introduced. In fact, world wide, only 5 million HDMI devices were sold that year. Since I tend to stay on top of most tech topics, I was aware that HDMI was coming, but the time to buy the TV was then, not six months to a year later.

Five years have passed. HDMI is almost everywhere. However, take a look at HDTVs being offered and you will discover that some of the inexpensive sets still don’t have even one HDMI outlet. Many have a single HDMI.

Blu-Ray players can be connected to HDTVs using component cables, but to see the full picture quality, you will need to use HDMI.

Over the past five years, we have purchased two other HDTVs, one for my office that can also be used as a second monitor for my MacBook Pro, and a 37” HDTV for our bedroom. Since movie-watching tends to be a family activity, hooking the Blu-Ray player to our bedroom TV just wasn’t going to work!

We headed out to Costco, BestBuy and an independent TV dealer to find the best deal. We bought a Sony Bravia 52” LCD TV. It is not the bottom of the line, and it is not the top of the line--but it has 4 HDMI connectors, and that was my minimum specification.

So why 4 HDMI? We can connect our Cox cable box via HDMI, we have an Apple TV, we just got the Blu-Ray player That leaves us with one spare HDMI connector and I planned to add an HDMI to DVI cable to make it easier to connect our computers to the TV.

We owned two HDMI cables before Christmas. I had purchased them when I bought the Apple TV. I ordered the Apple TV the day it was announced and in the Apple press release, it mentioned that the Apple Store would be carrying HDMI cables for $19.00 to $29.00. These would be a major savings over the cables being offered in other retail outlets.

On our trips to buy the new TV, I began shopping for the cables that we would need.

While Costco offered an $89.00 Deluxe cable kit, it included only two HDMI cables along with several other cables. They also offer HDMI cables in several different lengths ranging in price from $25.00 to $40.00, but they must be ordered online.

BestBuy provided their usual shopping experience. There was a range of cables offered at a wide range of prices. The salesperson quickly led us to the Rocketfish area and suggested that these were the minimum in acceptable cables. Prices ranged from $69.00 to $99.00 and she quickly pointed out that real videophiles always bought Monster cables which ranged in price from $69.00 to $199.00. She gave us info about the Rocketfish and Monster cables being THX certified, but there was very little information on the packages to really tell us the difference between the $19.00 cables and the $199.00 ones.

Remembering my earlier purchase of cables from the Apple Store, I pulled out my trusty iPhone and used Safari to check their prices. They had Belkin HDMI cables in two lengths, and the prices were $19.00 and $29.00. There was further information that these cables met the latest HDMI 1.3 standards and the reviews were outstanding. Since I wanted to buy four cables, we decided to go home with the TV and no cables to do a bit of research.

When it comes to quick research, I turn to Wikipedia. The articles are well-written in most cases and the readers make sure that the info is accurate and well-presented.

I looked up THX, and quickly found out that they do not set standards. Instead, they have a quality assurance system, and it has more to do with venues than cables for home TVs. I then looked up HDMI and found lots of good information, including what to expect from a HDMI 1.3 cable.

Checking the information, I concluded that the $19.00 cable from the Apple Store was more than adequate to meet my needs. I was able to buy the four cables I needed for the price of about one at BestBuy or the TV store.

The TV has been mounted on the wall now. The picture quality is exceptional and using HDMI instead of Component cables has made reading the menus on the Apple TV iTunes store so much easier!

As for the Blu-Ray player, I would rather buy or rent my movies over the Apple TV. I think the picture quality is as good or better. I love the new HDTV! As for the old HDTV, it is now in the basement, near my sewing area and the grandkids love having the Wii hooked up to a big TV.


Welcoming in the New Year


Is that two thousand ten or twenty-ten? Whatever, it doesn’t really matter, but as we start a new decade, its always fun to reflect on the past ten years.

For me, the past decade has brought many changes. I went from living in a small house filled with two teenagers (and my husband) to living in a big house (with my husband) and a daughter who is back home for a year as she recuperates from her fall from a horse and prepares for her wedding in the summer.

I went from doing Macintosh consulting and teaching while driving miles and miles on the Washington DC beltway to working from home, doing much of the same work.

In 2000 I was carrying a 12” iBook G3 500 MHz PPC and working on a Performa 6500 at home.

Today I (sometimes) carry a 17” MacBook Pro 2.93 Intel Core 2 Duo and I have an iMac 2.4 Intel Core 2 Duo sitting on my desk, mainly to act as link for my networked hard drives.

I went from a wireless newtork that ran on Graphite AirPort running 802.11b to a Time Capsule running 802.11n.

I went from a Handspring Visor Prism and a nameless Verizon cell phone while I awaited the release of the Springboard cell phone module to an iPhone 3GS.

I am sure you can tell similar stories. Times and our personal technology devices have certainly changed! The days ahead will bring even more changes and Steve Jobs and his crew at Apple, Inc. prepare to rock our world with new product announcements on January 27.

Welcome to the new year and come back often to learn more about your Mac, iPhone and other devices from Apple and the companies that support them.



MacJury Duty on Case 920

I received a summons to duty on the MacJury podcast the other night. The jurors deliberated on the new 27″ iMac, Apple’s Acquisition of LaLa, the JooJoo Pad and several other topics. My fellow jurors included Victor Cajiao, Mark Fuccio and John Martellaro. As always, the panel was hosted by Chuck Joiner. The discussions were lively and the opinions expressed were far-ranging. You can listen to the podcast and find the links to what we discussed here. There are also links for each of the jury members.



Doctor Mac Newsletter 31

Each month Bob LeVitus and I work together to publish the Doctor Mac Consulting Newsletter. It contains the uncut versions Bob’s recent columns for the Houston Chronicle, news and links for our recent activities and an article that details the Mac and iPhone problems that we are seeing most frequently.

You can download the latest issue here.

You can subscribe to the newsletter here.


Close those windows!

After a bit of Twitter reading, my screen often looks like this:

I haven't taken time to count, but a quick view the Window menu in Safari shows lots of open windows:

I am sure thre are lots of other hidden windows since there are a dozen open applications on my computer.

Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard makes it easy to see the windows associated with any application – just click and hold on the application icon in the dock:

But how do you close all those windows without clicking on all those red dots? Use the Option key! To close all the windows associated with an application, hold down the option key and click one of its windows. It's a fast way to get rid of desktop clutter – and you are still protected from closing items that have not been saved:

Want to learn more about your computer? Book a tutorial session with Dr. Mac Consulting! We have special software that allows us to see and even control your computer. The cost is $60 per hour and we have never heard a dumb question!


Snow Leopard: Do I need Rosetta?

One of the least-understood things about Snow Leopard is its dropping of support for PowerPC processor-based Macs. Let's take a quick look at the issue.

First of all, let's divide PowerPC into its two components, hardware and software.


Over the life of Macintosh computers, there have been three different chip types.

The first Macs used Motorola 680x0 chips. They are also called 68K Macs. These chips were used in the Compact Macs, the Macintosh II series, the Macintosh LCs, 500s, Centris, Quadra, and Performa computer with 3 digit names, and early PowerBook computers. Apple discontinued using this chip in 1996. Mac OS 8.1 was the last operating system that could run on 68K Macs.

The Motorola PowerPC was the next processor line to be used. They were used in a wide variety of computers with these chips were produced from 1996 until August 2006.

Apple introduced the first Intel chip based Mac, the Mac Pro in August of 2006. This line of processors is still in use today and it will be used for the future.

It is the PowerPC (and 68K) hardware that cannot use Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.


The other use of PowerPC is its programming code. It is included in many of the applications that you are using on your Mac today. That element of PowerPC is not being dropped in Snow Leopard

When Mac OS X 10.0 was released in March of 2001, Apple included the Classic evironment, – translation software, that allows applications that were compiled for Mac OS 9 to run in Mac OS X. That feature was available until Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard was introduced in March of 2005.

When the Apple moved to the Intel processor from the PowerPC they introduced Rosetta which allowed code written for the PowerPC processor to be run on Intel processors. Although we do not expect Rosetta to be around forever, there are many applications that are still being used that contain PowerPC code. One group of applications that comes to mind is the Adobe CS3 suite. Another is AppleWorks, and still another is Quicken 2006.

How can you tell what kind of applications you have on your computer? The easiest was is to use the System Profiler. The easiest way to get to it is through the More Info… button in About this Mac:

It will look something like this when you open it:

Locate Applications in the left column and click on it:

Notice the scroll bar indicates that there is a lot of the window that is hidden. Use the re-size tab in the lower right corner to drag the window until it is much wider:

You can change the size of columns by dragging on the line in the column header:

You can change the order of columns by clicking on the column title and dragging it to a new location:

You can change the sort by clicking a different column:

You can change the sort order by clicking the small arrow at the right end of the column:

Taking a look at my list of applications, you can see that I have several different types:

My Quicken 2006 is really old in software age. Parts of it will even run on a 68K Mac! I need to replace it, but I am waiting on Intuit to release a new version of Quicken (hopefully Quicken 2010) soon!

Many of my PowerPC applications are parts of Adobe CS3, which I will retire when Adobe CS5 is released. However, scrolling through the list, I have found a number of applications that I will be deleting. Do this cautiously! Make sure that the item you are deleting is a stand-alone application--that is not a part of something like the Adobe CS3 suite!

PowerPC applications run in Rosetta.

Still another kind of application is Universal. These applications contain code to run on both PowerPC Macs and Intel Macs.

These applications include both PowerPC and Intel versions of the code. When a x is present in their Get Info window, tney rely on the Rosetta software. If you have an Intel Mac, you do not want to be running apps using Rosetta.

The last kind of application is Intel. These will only run on Intel Macs. Many of these applications were added when I upgraded to Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. These may be are smaller (because they do not contain the code for PowerPC) and many are much faster because they run in 64 bit mode. (I will talk about this in a future blog entry.):

So, do you have to get rid of Classic or PowerPC applications? Not necessarily. My Classic version of Quicken is hidden deep inside the Quicken 2006 package. If I remove it, I might break my ability to run Quicken 2006, so I plan to just leave it alone. I have plenty of room on my hard drive and it takes up only 10.7 MB. The slash through it means that it will not launch on my Intel Mac:

I will be keeping an eye on my PowerPC and Universal applications to see if they have been updated. Over time, developers will release newer versions without the PowerPC code. They will be smaller and they should run faster.

However, in my quest to improve my computer usage, I frequently ask myself--

Am I spending my time working on my computer -- or with my computer?

I have noticed that many computer users spend most of their time tweaking the little things while photos, blogs, movies, email and even work are pushed to the side. Someday all of us will stop using our computers. What will be your legacy? I hope mine includes memoirs, photo albums, movies and projects to pass on to my children and grandchildren! They won't really care how clean or fast my computer was!

If you need some help with your computer -- or help learning to do new things, consider booking a tutorial session with me at Dr. Mac Consulting. The cost is $60 per hour and we will cover just what you want to learn. Give us a call at 408 627-7577 or send us a message at



Snow Leopard: Slow to empty trash?

Whenever Apple releases a new version (or even an update) to the operating system, all sorts of strange things seem to happen. While some problems can be blamed on a bug in the newest software, other issues occasionally appear, but it is difficult to point to a cause for them.

I have seen several reports that the trash can take forever to empty in Snow Leopard. However, I have not seen it happen on my computers or those of any of the clients of Doctor Mac Consulting.

So, what is causing the problem, and how can you fix it?

When you put a file into the trash and use the empty trash command, your file is not really erased. Instead, the name is removed and the space is marked as available in your hard drive's directory file. The file can be recovered if that area of the hard drive has not had a new file written to it.

Sometimes users want a file to really be deleted. They want to make sure someone cannot easily recover the file. In Mac OS X, there is a Finder command to securely empty the trash.

Since there is an ellipsis at the end of the phrase, a dialog box will appear:

But, just what does Secure Empty Trash do? It writes 1's and 0's over the information in the file eight times. If a file is large, or if there are many items in your trash, that can take a LONG time!

Some people want every file that they throw away to be securely erased. There is a finder preference to do just that:

If the check is present, be prepared to wait--and sometimes wait--and--wait--and--wait!

If you only occasionally want a file to be securely erased follow this procedure:

  1. Empty the trash.
  2. Place the file to be securely erased into the trash.
  3. Use the Finder > Secure Empty Trash… command.

Until just a few years ago, data that was over-written eight times was considered to be unrecoverable, even for government security purposes. However, today they require 32 overwrites for a file to be considered unrecoverable.

Mac OS X Snow Leopard has lots of hidden new features. While there are lots of articles and resources available, some of us learn better with hands-on learning. If you would like a bit more help, consider booking a tutorial session with me at Dr. Mac Consulting. The cost is $60 per hour and we will cover just what you want to learn. Give us a call at 408 627-7577 or send us a message at



More Option key menu bar tricks in Snow Leopard

In my last blog post, The Option key does even more in Snow Leopard, I told you about a cool new feature that I found in Mac OS X, 10.6, Snow Leopard.

Since holding down the Option key brought up a whole new Sync menu, I wondered what other secrets might be hidden in the Menu bar. I started with the Spotlight icon:

Without Option key:

With Option key:

There's no change here. Let's try the clock:

Without Option key:

With Option key:

There is no change here either. Maybe I'm on the WRONG track? Let's try one more, the Battery icon.

Without Option key:

With Option key:

Now we are getting somewhere! Holding down the Option key caused the battery condition to be reported. Since I had no idea what might be reported if the condition was not normal, I did a bit of searching. I went to the Apple Support page for Snow Leopard at I entered "Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard battery condition" in the Search Support box:

I was lead to an article, Mac OS X v10.6: About the Battery menu bar extra for portable Macs. You can find it at

On to the Volume icon:

Without Option key:

With Option key:

This is pretty neat! I can actually change the sound inputs and outputs without opening the Sound Preferences. This can be important if you use a microphone, headphones or an external speaker.

Let't try the AirPort icon:

Without Option key:

With Option key:

This is some seriously cool information. It's a bit geeky, but it will be really helpful in troubleshooting AirPort connection issues.

On to the TimeMachine icon:

Without Option key:

With Option key:

This is an interesting one! I will have to check out this feature. Does that mean I can recover files from other computers on my network that are using different backup drives?

I also checked out Displays, iChat, and Keyboard. The Option key did not cause changes in those.

I have lots more to explore in Snow Leopard, but this is enough for today! I hope you are enjoying Snow Leopard if you have it installed. If you are waiting, just look at all the hidden new features!



Using Speak Text in Snow Leopard

My transition to Mac OS X 10.6, Snow Leopard has not been entirely trouble-free. While I await the release of Bob LeVitus new book, Mac OS X Snow Leopard For Dummies, I am doing a bit of searching to find features that have moved in this new version of the Mac OS.

One feature that I use every time I write an entry for this blog is "Start Speaking Text." This useful command means that my computer will read text that I select to me. When I am editing a new post, I will often read over my mistakes. But when the computer is reading the text to me, I can spot errors in what I have typed and I can hear places where what I have written is awkward or unclear. I also use this command to have text from the Internet and emails read to me.

Getting to this feature was not easy in Mac OS X 10.5, Leopard, but I had learned how to get there:
Click here to

Traveling with your Mac

I spent the last week on the Outer Banks of North Carolina with our extended family. Seventeen of us spent 7 days at a beautiful beach house. We swam, played on the beach, did some sight-seeing, ate – and we “computed.”

In taking our family to the beach we packed 6 Mac laptops (and two Windows PCs), 6 iPhones (plus 3 Blackberries and 3 assorted cell phones), a Nintendo Wii, 3 Nintendo DS and at least 4 iPods.

While we did not spend our entire week with the “electrons,” our family was certainly “connected!” Add 11 digital cameras to the mix, and our days were well-recorded.

Taking all those electronic devices to the beach and expecting them to work requires a bit of packing. Since six families were involved, there were a few “forgotten cords, cables, and adapters.

Let’s make a quick checklist to help you pack for your next trip.
Click here to

Do you back up your external drives?

I participated in a presentation for Washington Apple Pi last Saturday. I was a part of a panel on tips and troubleshooting. In preparing for the session, I packed a bag of my favorite computer hardware.

Along with a few other pieces of hardware, I took my favorite portable hard drive and my favorite drive gadget, the NewerTech Voyager Q.

Click here to

Is your Internet connection down? Part 2

Did you read Part 1?

There can be lots of other problems with Internet connections besides those listed in Part 1. While that article dealt with problems that affect both wired and wireless connections, today we will focus on wireless problems.

Years ago when I bought my first Apple AirPort, no one else around me had a wireless Internet connection. My PC neighbors were amazed that I was able to be on the Internet without having a cable connected. Some of them eventually bought wireless set-ups of their own and they were stunned by the difficulties in setting up their new routers while my AirPort made the task so easy.

After a time things began to get ugly. Instead of being able to “see” one wireless network, I had several to choose from in my AirPort menu item. Soon I began having problems with drops in my AirPort signal strength and sometimes I could not even “see” my own network! Click here to read more...

Is your Internet connection down? Part 1

You know the drill.

You launch Safari and all you see is a spinning beach ball. Or you’ve been away from your computer and then you come back to go to a web page. All that you get is a spinning beach ball.

So what is going on?

Why can’t you get that web page?

Did your computer mess up--again? Click here to

Keep your MacBook and MacBook Pro batteries happy and healthy

The latest sales figures from Apple show that more and more people are using a portable computer as their primary machine.

My last four “main” computers have been Apple laptops. I bought a G3 iBook in May of 2001. It was replaced with a 15” PowerBook G4 in the fall of 2003. Then I bought a Core 2 Duo 17” MacBook Pro in late 2006. I recently purchased the new unibody 17” MacBook Pro.

During my years of ownership I have changed from a computer lab environment to being on the road every day and now to working from home.

Each setting required spending at least some time running my computer from the battery instead of from the power adapter. During some days I found myself eeking the last bits of energy out of my battery, so I have learned ways to stretch battery life to its fullest potential.

So how do you make a battery charge last longer? Click here to read more...

Capturing YouTube Videos

The emergence of a new star in the Britan’s Got Talent show last weekend has captured the imagination of the entire world. Susan Boyle has won the hearts of fans everywhere and many of us want to share her story with friends and family.

There are several ways to capture YouTube videos. While some are geeky and complicated, CosmoPod, an inexpesive software package, makes the task quick and easy. Click here to read more...

Creating and editing PDF files

There is some great information available on the web! Do you to save it for future reference and further study?

I do! I often use that information to learn a new technique. I also use it to prepare presentations for my user group, teach a class, ore even write a blog post.

Most of the information that I save will never be printed out. I will read it on my computer screen. I will want to be able to search the information. I will want the option to add comments or highlighting and I want to preserve the links in the article. I might also want to be able to combine several articles into a single document. Click here to read more...

Windows switcher or Mac virgin?

One of the effects of my being a consultant with Bob LeVitus Consulting is that I get a window into the habits of Mac users that most writers never see.

Today brought an interesting email from one of our clients:

Pat, I have made this mistake over and over. When visually looking at your iCal in monthly view, the appointments hug the left side of the date box and (it) is confusing as the date next to the text is the previous day. I can't begin to count the mistakes I had made by looking at appointment and seeing the date next to it (date is right justified). Is there some setting that can either move date to right or appointments to the left. It is visually wrong and quite unlike Apple.

When I take a look at my calendar, it is difficult to see the problem:
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New MacBook Pro - Two Week Report

It’s hard to believe that I have owned my new MacBook Pro 17” for over two weeks now. I had planned to write this update last week, but I had too much going on and I got involved in writing the post about File Sharing.

So what do I think? Was it a wise purchase? Did I choose the right options? Click here to read more...

Removing False Invaders

In my previous blog post I answered a question from a Doctor Mac client regarding strange icons that appear in the Sharing section of the sidebar in Finder windows.

I explained what the icons were--but I did not explain how to get rid of them. I thought about it, but I had spent several days on that post and it was time to get it online. When I publish a post, I usually mention it on Twitter. As I was getting ready to write, this message came up in my Twitter Stream:

What a coincidence! I tweeted this back:

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Who is invading my computer?

The subjects for new posts on MacMousecalls come from many sources. Carl, one of our clients at Bob LeVitus Consulting sent me a screen shot of the sidebar on his Mac, wondering about an odd icon that appeared in the Sharing area:

I have a similar icon:

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How to change the highlight color for text

Nicole asked a good question in her recent comment:

Hi Pat,

This is an older post but hopefully you may get this: I see in this post you say that the default for TextEdit's highlighting color for the Find function is yellow.

Well, when I restore to default the color I get is this almost invisible pale blue-gray. Which makes "finding" tend to involve lots of squinting and hunching and glaring at my page. Why won't the default color yellow work as my Find default? I'm on a MacBook 10.4, if that helps.
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New MacBook Pro 17" First Thoughts

At about this time yesterday morning I was delighted when I heard a knock on my door and saw the FedEx truck in front of my home.

My new 17” MacBook Pro had arrived! It was time to begin my new adventure. Click here to read more...

Time for a new Mac?

It wasn’t that many years ago when a computer was a nicety instead of a necessity. Of course, that was before the Internet became the center of communications for us.

Think of the changes! Click here to

Is Your Mac Slow? - Old Programs?

While there are many things that can cause your Mac to run slowly, this blog entry is aimed at users who have migrated from earlier Macs.

At Bob LeVitus Consulting, we work with many customers. More than a few have been using Macintosh computers for many years. They may have owned four or even more earlier Macs. When they purchase a new computer, they use the Migration Assistant that appears as a part of the set-up process to move their older files and applications to their new computer. Click here to read more...

Did They Tell You About the Option Key?

There is a “magic” key on your Macintosh keyboard. Have you ever seen it? It sits in the bottom row of keys, but it doesn’t say Magic. Instead, it is labeled Option.

While this little key sits quitely between the Control and Command keys, you may not have discovered its hidden powers. Click here to read more...

When is it time to reformat a hard drive?

I was listening to a recent episode of a friend’s podcast earlier this morning. He was discussing Macworld and his experiences there. Unfortunately he had a bit of trouble with his hard drive. I still have not finished listening to the podcast, but I just had to stop to write this blog post. Click here to read more...

Griffin Technology 25% Discount

My favorite company for iPod and iPhone accessories is Griffin Technology. Since I am not at Macworld this year, I am really missing my annual trip to their booth to look for new items and to take advantage of their special show pricing. I received a Twitter Tweet from a friend who is a product engineer there.
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Bee Docs timline 3D sale

I am a real fan of timelines. I frequently find myself making them to keep track of all sorts of things.

Right now, I have one for our family. I have recorded the dates of significant events in our lives. I find this very useful in my project of getting all of our family photos and mementos in order. Many of our early family photos have no dates on them and most are in boxes instead of albums, so as I sort new ones, I find myself adding lots of dates to my timeline. Click here to read more...

Macworld Bargains

After ten years and 14 Macworlds, I am sitting this one out. I am at home, cuddled in warm clothes, recovering from the first cold I have had in two years. I seldom get them, but when I do, I seem to get every possible effect. I lost my voice yesterday and today I can barely squeak.

Missing a Macworld is difficult on many levels. It’s not just about missing the keynote and the Apple booth--in fact in the scope of Macworld, those are pretty minor. Macworld is really about fourthings, the people, the training, the products and the networking.
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Christmas Cards Addressed?

December 2???

Where did the year go? Have you started your Christmas card list? Would you like to print the envelopes out easily?

Getting ready to send out the cards can be a lot easier if you spend some time getting ready, then use your computer and printer to streamline the process.

The first task is to clean up your address book a bit.
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How to indent paragraphs

Far too many of us learned to format our writing using paper and a pencil. Remember learning to write in kindergarten – or maybe first grade? My teacher taught us to put our index finger at the left border of the paper, then to start writing beside it.

When I took typing in high school, my teacher told us it press the space bar 5 times, and then begin typing. If we were using one of the fancier typewriters, there might be a tab key. It automatically skipped forward five spaces… Click here to read more...

Where, oh where did my icons go? - Part 1

I do my best and most consistent blogging if I write my entry before I begin my day. This morning I was reading the latest TidBITS Talk messages and today’s topic was the question posed in the first message I read:

Mail window with icons

I have been asked that same question several times in the past few days, so I know some of you probably have had the same problem. And even if you knew the answer, it is pretty easy to forget some of the tiniest details of the Mac OS X interface.

Do you see that tiny little “jellybean” in the upper right corner of the window above? That little tiny icon is the source of the problem! Click it and the toolbar is gone – just gone! Click it again and the missing icons will quickly reappear. But if it has been a while since you accidentally clicked that jelly bean, it can sure make simple tasks difficult!

Mail window without icons

Of course, not every window has a toolbar at the top. If there is no toolbar, there is no jellybean:

Address Book window

Here are some other windows with toolbars and jelly beans. This one is Pages:

Pages window

This is Word 2008:

Word 2008 window

Even more interesting is the Finder window. When you click the jellybean, the left sidebar also disappears:

Finder window with icons

Finder window without icons

Next time the icons are “just gone,” remember the jellybean!



Did you know iCal could do this?

There has been a search function in iCal since it was released. It works by typing in a few letters that are in the title of the event into the search area at the top of the iCal window. You will then see a list of events with those letters in their title at the bottom of the window.

But, how can you make a list of events from one or more calendars?

First you need to select the specific calendar (or multiple calendars) by selecting them. You can show or hide calendars events by checking or unchecking the box by the calendar’s name.

Now, if you want a list of events, how do you get that?…
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Making sense out of SMS or text messages

Okay – I will admit it – I am not a member of the under 20 crowd, I am not a member of the under 30 crowd, I am not a member of the under 40 crowd. But that is as far as I will go.

My five children fall into some of those age groups, and they are much more likely to embrace new technologies a bit more quickly than I do. However, being a technologist means that I have to stay current to help you.

One of the newer things is text messaging. Everyone under 30 seems to just get it, and those over 50 probably need a little help in figuring this one out.

Three of my children don’t have land line telephones. Their cell phone is the only way to reach them. They also attend lots of meetings and appointments when having their telephone ring is not appropriate… Click here to read more...

What do you keep under your MacBook?

Recently I have taken part in several online discussions about MacBooks and MacBook Pros and just what to set them on.

In each discussion, various objects and surfaces have been suggested as the perfect thing to keep under a portable computer. Notice I did not call them laptops. These days Apple and most other manufacturers call them portables. They get to hot to comfortably rest them on your lap!

There were lots of suggestions for different articles to place under the computer. One gentleman suggested placing the computer directly on a wooden desk and rationalized that the desktop would act as a heat sink. Another woman said she uses her MacBook sleeve, made out of wetsuit material, to protect her legs from the heat. Another person said they use a thick coffee table book. All of these suggestions are BAD ones!…
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Taking notes from the web

Isn’t the web wonderful? What did we do without it? I know that I spend far less time in the library looking for information--and I spend far less money and use far less space since I don’t have to rely on photocopies to keep information.

There are many ways to capture and store information from the web. For example, if I go to a recipe site on the web I can use their tools to store my flies on their website. However, I vist too may sites to find this an effective method of storing recipes!…
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How to add custom paper sizes

In my last blog post, I explained where paper sizes are stored and gave you an exhaustive list of papers and envelopes along with their sizes. That post took forever to write since I had to make sure that all of the sizes were expressed in decimals.

I hope you checked out a few print dialog boxes. If you did, you probably found that there are lots of papers and sizes that were listed, but your applications did not have them in their list…
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Just what size is it?

Paper and envelope sizes confuse me! While I know that US letter paper is 8.5 x 11”, and US Legal paper is 8.5 x 14”, that is only the start of the sizes that can appear in a print dialog box.

Of course, just where to select a paper size in a Macintosh application is also undergoing changes. In TextEdit, paper size is selected in File -> Page Setup. The size choice will look similar to this if you have not selected a specific printer:…
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Training, Training, Training

I am always looking for ways to learn about new programs for my Macintosh, but I want the training to be reasonably priced. While Apple provides training on Apple products in the stores and provides training on Apple and Adobe products, where do you go to find training on software and web services such as Evernote, TextExpander, and Fluid. Even more difficult, were can you find information about how to expand the capabilities of your AppleTV with ATV Flash?

Don McAllister creates weekly videos on these programs and a lot more at
ScreenCastsOnline. His programs are well-done and easy to follow. While there is a free edition of his programs, the videos offered with a membership to ScreenCastsOnline offers so much more! The videos are larger in size, sometimes offer extra content, and there are members-only shows. Click here to read more...

Computer Troubles or Power Problems?

Just what is the problem? You’d think Apple Inc. could make a program for the Mac without any bugs! What are those coders up to! Yeah, yeah, yeah – its all Apple’s fault!

Now, wait just a darn minute! Are you sure some of the blame isn’t yours?

I have been getting lots of calls about Macs not working as they should. These are the same kinds of problems that I saw at about the same time last year – and the year before – and the year before.

I am hearing about Time Machine backups that fail, computers that are having hard drive catalog errors, and programs that suddenly quit. When I run Disk Utility First Aid on the drives, I am seeing lots of errors. I haven’t seen this many hard drive errors since early last fall. In fact, I have even had trouble with my own computers.
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Rethinking Periodic Maintenance.

There are lot of good sources of Mac information and there are some people who you come to trust and respect. The crew over at Macworld produce an outstanding web site and magazine and Dan Frakes, who joined the staff in recent years, is one of the people I regard as a true Mac expert.

The July issue of Macworld magazine has a series of very good troubleshooting articles. Much of the content has also been made available on the web site. Dan Frake’s article, Five Mac maintenance myths has brought quite a few comments. In reading them, I was compelled to add my own. This is what I wrote: Click here to read more...

The case for using TextEdit as your word processor, Part 1

We have a new client. He bought a new iMac and somehow, the person who helped him install his new computer managed not to move any of his files or old applications such as AppleWorks.

That technician should be drawn and quartered! There are always things that need to be moved to a new computer and leaving a client without his "past" is cruel and heartless!

One of the things this gentleman is missing are his templates as they were called in AppleWorks or his stationary pads, as they are called in Mac OS X.

Are you still using AppleWorks? It will run in Mac OS X Leopard, but it is so ancient that it is probably past time to put it out to pasture. It must be run in Rosetta these days, and that makes your newer computer work much harder. Newer products take advantage of the features built into Mac OS X such as the ability to search a document using Spotlight and to view a document in the finder without opening the application itself. Applications that run natively in Mac OS X use common interface elements such as FontBook and the ColorPicker as well as Inspectors which make it much simpler to use advanced commands and features. Click here to read more...

Aging eyes and tiny type on the web and in Safari

Darn, this getting older is not much fun! Back when I turned 40, I began to notice that small type was getting harder and harder to read. That was just a few years ago, but sometimes I land on a web page that must have been produced by someone with unbelievable visual acuity!

Sometimes it is not the whole site, but just a particular section: Click here to read more...

Does your computer do strange things?

One of the listservs that I read each day is the MacRogues On-Line Mac User Group and OS X DISCUSSION LIST. I while occasionally provide an answer, I am often frustrated that the all-text listserv format does not make it easy to "show" someone how to fix a problem. The topic that caused me to want to "show" the answer this time is the problem of screen flashing on Macs.

The message writer said "The screen will freeze before flashing a solid blue and then return to normal." Several people responded, most suggesting a hardware problem. Click here to read more...

Bob LeVitus is presenting seminars in metro Washingtion DC

It is always fun when Bob LeVitus comes to Washington DC. This year he will be doing two days of seminars for my user group, Washington Apple Pi.

These seminars will be much like attending his seminars at Macworld Expo, except the price is MUCH cheaper!
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Know when to fold 'em!

Running a consulting business with my friend, Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus, can lead to a few strange nights! Since I live in the eastern time zone, our friends in the Pacific time zone are just getting to their personal computers about the time that I am getting ready for bed! Of course, since our Skype telephone number has a 408 area code, it can really confuse everyone!

The truth is that I may head up the stairs around 10 in the evening, but that does not mean that I put away my computer till a few hours later. I just love the convenience of a MacBook Pro, a good wireless network and Skype! I do some of my best reading and writing curled up in my bed. Of course, my husband is totally tied to paper, but who needs to hold paper to read and write these days! Click here to read more...

ScreenCastOnline Tutorial for Vector Designer

Don McAllister of ScreenCastsOnline stays very busy producing his weekly screencast. Last week's episode was a tutorial on VectorDesigner, a piece of software included in the January MacHeist bundle. I bought the bundle, downloaded the software and filed away my new serial numbers, then got busy with all of my current projects.

I own Adobe Illustrator. I can't say I use it much, but I occasionally work with a client who needs help and I can usually figure out what is wrong or I can point them to a good resource for help. The learning curve for Illustrator is so steep, that I just never use it for my own projects. Click here to read more...

Fragmentation - Do I need to De-frag my Mac?

There is nothing that causes more debate in a roomful of Macintosh geeks that the topic of hard drive defragmentation!

The most interesting part is that you can almost divide the room into the anti-defragging group vs. the "you must defrag" group based on the color of their hair!

Now just wait a minute--before you begin thinking age discrimination, you need to know that not all of us gray-haired people people are in the defrag camp, it is just that there are way too many of us there. Click here to read more...

How to write a date

Back in elementary school, we learned to write dates by putting the month, then the day, then the year. That date form works just fine for things like letters, and although it was a little inconvenient, it works just fine for hand-sorting things like checks. But it is terrible for sorting things by date on a computer.

While many things can best be sorted by a title, many items that we store on our computer work best by date. For example, each time I buy something on the Internet, pay a bill, or receive a password, I make a pdf of the document and store them is a folder that I call Passwords and Receipts.
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Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks – Part 1: Fonts and Spacing

I am so old that back when I was in high school learning to type, a computer took up a whole room. To type a school paper you used a typewriter, a device that many of today's children may never have seen).

Much of a typing class was spent learning how to lay out a document. Students learned the rules for spacing, paragraph format and page layout. Times have changed with the use of computers and word processing software, but many of the old-time rules are still used. Unfortunately those rules help to produce documents that are impossible to correctly format in a modern word processor. I will take a look at some of those old rules over the next few blog entries and show you the current way to handle text in a wide variety of applications.

We will begin with spacing after punctuation marks such as periods, colons and semicolons.

Back in the days of typewriters, most had a "well" of bars that contained the letters. Click here for a picture. Each of these bars were the same width and so all letters produced by the typewriter were the same width. The font produced by using the typewriter is called a monospace font today. Here is a example of what type would have look like along with the same line in a proportional font Click here to read more...

Checking your spelling

One of the really nice features of Mac OS X is the system-wide dictionary that is available in all applications that are written in Cocoa, Apple Inc.'s programming environment for programming.

For you, the end user it means that when you make a spelling error, the same database is used to check the spelling of a word. This means when you add a word to your user dictionary in an application such as Mail, that same user dictionary is used to check the spelling of the same word in TextEdit, Pages, Keynote and a wide variety of third party applications.

For example, each time I type my last name, Fauquet, it is underlined with red dots as shown in the illustration below. Click here to read more...

Links in my emails won't work

Don't you just hate it – you get an email with a link – maybe lots of links. You decide to visit them, but some of them just don't work.

There are several things that can cause a link to break: Click here to read more...

I lost my arrow!

Remember the good old days? Computer screens were no bigger than 640 x 480 pixels, we generally had only one window open, our eyes were better!


I couldn't do without my 17'" MacBook Pro with a screen resolution of 1680 x 1050. I love having that 20 HDTV that connects to my computer and functions as a second monitor. I don't know how I could work if I could only use one program at a time, but I hate not being able to find that little tiny arrow that is my cursor. It gets lost among the windows and among photos of the grandchildren that are my frequent finder backgrounds.

I give lots of presentations from my computer and being able to locate my cursor needs to be easy and effortless. My favorite cursor locator is a freeware application, Mouse Locator from Whenever Mouse Locator pops up during a presentation I am sure to get several questions regarding exactly what that neat "thing" is that appeared on my screen. Click here to read more...

Too many fonts!

Font lists that are too long case frequent call from Macintosh users who like to keep things simple. While designers and graphic artists love having lots of fonts to choose from, many Mac users are dismayed at the length of their font list.

Over the years we have received many calls from clients who decided to take the matter into their own hand and suddenly their computer or their favorite application will no longer work. This is not a good situation. It requires doing an archive and install of the operating system to correct the problem. If an application such is Microsoft word begins acting strangely, you will need to re-install it.

So just which fonts are needed?
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Labels and how they work

We are back to the email that we received at Bob LeVitus Consulting over the weekend. John asked how to change the label on an icon. In the previous entry, I explained all about changing icon names. But, perhaps, that was not the real question.

Back in the days of Mac OS 9, there was a feature that allowed the user to add a color label to icons of folders, documents, and even applications. While they make your screen more colorful, they can also be very useful in making items stand out. While this feature was missing in the earliest versions of Mac OS X, it was eventually re-introduced. Click here to read more...

How to change names on drives, icons and folders

Over the weekend we received an interesting inquiry at Bob LeVitus Consulting. John (not his real name) asked how to change the label on the icon for a flash drive.

The question is an interesting one. It is not totally clear to me exactly what is being asked. While icons can have labels, I suspect John was asking how to change the name of the drive. Just in case, I will also talk about icon labels at the end of this entry.

If you want to change the name of a drive or a folder or even a file, there are several ways to do this. The most obvious is to click and hold on the name with your mouse. Of course there are several "states" that the icon name could be in.
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Hooray for Expose!

As a Macintosh user, it is not uncommon for me to have dozens of windows open on my computer. I usually have several Finder windows open so that I can copy files between different folders and hard drives. I probably have two or three different Safari windows, at least a couple in Mail, my Address Book, iCal, and at least a couple of windows open for any application that I am using.

Trying to get to the desktop can be a daunting task. With the advent of Mac OS 10.3, Apple Inc. introduced Expose´. Suddenly pressing one key (F11) cleared away all the window and let me get to the files on my desktop!
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How full is too full?

We have had several calls in the past week in which the client cannot boot their computer after a crash. When they use their System CD to restart their computer and run Disk Utility, they are met with the message that their disk catalog is corrupted and it cannot be repaired. So what is going on? How can a drive that was working suddenly just stop working?

When they call and we begin unraveling their problem, some will tell us that they were downloading a huge file from the Internet. Others will recount that they had been seeing a message that indicated that their startup drive was almost full, but they did not know what to do, so they ignored it or they were waiting to call us in the morning. What should they have done? When is a hard drive too full?
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Advanced Google Searching

Have you ever wanted to find a particular file on the Internet? You might be looking for a specific music file, pdf, or photo. Normal Google searches show you web pages. This tip will allow you to search for directories with specific files.

The type of search we are going to perform is one using the "intitle:" query. And for our example, we are going to search for the song "Happy Birthday."

Our search query will look like this:

intitle:"index.of" (mp3|aac|mp4)happy.birthday -html -htm -php

Of course, each space or lack of space is VERY important, so let's take it apart.
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Got some time to waste?

Are you a gamer?

I am NOT -- except, sometimes. We bought our first Atari game system around 1979. That was definitely not my thing, though my husband and children loved it! It has been followed over the years by many other game systems, few of which ever caught my attention. Somehow, I am not into first person shooters and the other styles of games that are on most gaming consoles don't do much for me.

However, on my computer, I do have a folder of games. They tend to be be puzzle, word and card games. Over the years, I have learned the importance of games in working with computer users, particularly older users. We must train our eyes to see details such as links and buttons on web pages, icons and words in application menus and small details in general on the computer screen. Click here to read more...