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Now Playing on MacVoices: The Josh and Chuck Show, Season 2

Apple has new gear for the biggest screen in your home, and that means a new edition of Josh’s Apple TV book and a MacVoices interview. So pop some popcorn, put your feet up, and tune in to watch Josh and Chuck Joiner chat about all the new features found in the fourth-generation Apple TV, including apps and Siri. And, if you have an Apple TV you can watch the interview right on that system (the “Master AirPlay” chapter in the book tells you how)!

Posted by Michael E. Cohen (Permalink)

Joe Passes the Word about Passwords on MacVoices

Joe and Chuck Joiner of MacVoices sit down for a wide-ranging chat about the new edition of this book and the state of passwords in this age of multi-factor authentication, password entropy, and password managers. They discuss all the myriad ways you can improve your personal online security without having to create and memorize a new password like R>preVckEf7*fh% every few weeks.

Posted by Michael E. Cohen (Permalink)

About Night Shift in iOS 9.3

In iOS 9.3, Apple has added a new feature, called Night Shift, which reduces the amount of blue light emitted by your device’s screen. Many studies have indicated that exposure to blue light tricks your brain into thinking that it’s daytime, possibly both causing a variety of health problems and making it harder to fall asleep—see this Harvard Health Letter for more.

A new button in Control Center lets you manually enable Night Shift, but if you visit Settings > Display & Brightness > Night Shift, you can automate when Night Shift turns on and off, and adjust the intensity of the effect. You can enter a set time, or, if you have Location Services enabled, you can set Night Shift to turn on at sunset and back off again at sunrise.

For more coverage, see the TidBITS article iOS 9.3 Works the Night Shift, Protects Notes, and More.

Note that Night Shift isn’t available on all devices that can run iOS 9.3. It requires an iPhone 5s or better, an iPad Pro, iPad Air or later, an iPad mini 2 or later, or a sixth-generation iPod touch.

Posted by Michael E. Cohen (Permalink)

iOS 9.3 Adds Mid-cycle Features to iOS 9

Apple has added several features to its mid-cycle iOS update in iOS 9.3. The update adds Wi-Fi calling for Verizon Wireless customers, a new Night Shift mode to prevent your screen from keeping you up at night, Touch ID and password protection for notes, PDF syncing in iBooks, and more. you can read all about it in the TidBITS article iOS 9.3 Works the Night Shift, Protects Notes, and More.

Most users will want to install iOS 9.3 right away, because it also addresses a critical iMessage vulnerability that could let bad actors steal images sent over iMessage. Note, however, that a few users of older iOS devices, such as the iPad 2, have reported problems with installing the update, so if your device is long in the tooth, you may want to wait a week or so until Apple has a chance to investigate and resolve the issue.

Posted by Michael E. Cohen (Permalink)

You May Need to Re-download Your OS X Installer

One of the recommendations I make in my Take Control of Upgrading to… books could potentially cause a headache unless you know how to avoid it. I tell you to save a copy of the OS X installer that you’ve downloaded so that, if the occasion should ever arise when you need to reinstall it or put it on another Mac, you don’t have to download it again. Saving the installer requires deliberate action, because if you leave it in /Applications and run it from there, OS X deletes the installer app once your new version of OS X is in place. (Some people go a step further and create a bootable volume, such as a USB flash drive, containing the installer, which makes it easier to install on multiple Macs.)

Unfortunately, if you followed my advice and kept a copy of your installer prior to February 14, 2016 (whether or not you turned it into a bootable volume), you’ll find that the installer no longer works the next time you try to run it, because the certificate that Apple used to sign the installer (a crucial security step) expired on that day. Josh Centers explains the whole thing in the TidBITS article Previously Downloaded OS X Installers No Longer Work.

If you’ve already saved the installer but don’t need it yet, you can delete it and download a fresh copy (now updated with a new certificate); that way you’ll be ready if and when you need it. If you created a bootable installer volume, you’ll need to erase it and follow the instructions in my book to recreate it.

Should you find yourself suddenly in need to reinstall OS X but not have an updated installer handy, there are ways (mentioned in Josh’s article) to trick OS X into running the old installer, but they’re not ideal, and I recommend planning ahead for best results.

This issue appears to affect every version of OS X from OS X 10.11 El Capitan back to 10.7 Lion, although a few users have reported that their previously downloaded installers continue to work (the reasons for which are unclear).

Posted by Joe Kissell (Permalink)

Joe Drops in to MacVoices

Sure, you can read about what’s new in the second edition of Joe’s Dropbox book right here on this page (click the What’s New link just above), but it’s more fun to hear him explain it all to Chuck Joiner on MacVoices.

Posted by Michael E. Cohen (Permalink)

Force a Table Recalculation

Longtime Excel users have another reason to need it: some multi-worksheet files are so complexly intertwined that the automatic recalculation of connected formulas every time you enter new data can slow things down. So, they turn off the automatic calculation feature and trigger it when they want the sheet refreshed.

But, back to Numbers. It’s unlikely your spreadsheets will be so complex that recalculation will slow things down; and, in any case, there’s no way to turn off the automatic recalculation that occurs when you enter data. But you can’t specifically trigger a recalc of cells, so those containing random numbers (from the RAND or RANDBETWEEN function) are quite static. Whether you’ve set up a bunch of random-number cells to test what will happen when real data is entered, or intend to keep the random-number formula in place to interact with data you input later, it’s important to test the results of various possibilities in your random range.

Why? What would happen if, coincidentally, all the randomly generated numbers are even, or there’s nothing under 10 or over 99, or perhaps there are no multiples of 5, and you’ve set up something where an odd number, a low or high number, or a multiple of 5 will result in flawed output? (Even if “flawed output” is nothing more than a column that’s not wide enough to display three digits.) You won’t realize there’s a problem because the random numbers are static until something else you enter forces a recalculation.

The solution I proposed in the book was to go to any cell adjacent a block of cells that include RAND or RANDBETWEEN cells and use Command-X to force Numbers to recalculate the entire table, resulting in newly generated random numbers. If there was nothing in the cell, nothing gets cut, and if there was, you can paste it right back.

Well, as of Numbers 3.6.1—and perhaps before, because this was only recently brought to my attention—this no longer works. Command-V in any cell works, but that runs the risk of accidentally pasting something that could overwrite nearby cells and really make a mess of your table. So, let me recommend the trick that everybody in the know has used all along for recalculating Numbers spreadsheets; I had ignored it because it requires using a cell specifically for the recalc trigger.

Simply format any cell to hold a checkbox: select the cell and go to the Format Inspector’s Cell tab, and then choose Checkbox from the Data Format menu. When you check or uncheck the checkbox, every formula in the document—in every cell of every table on every sheet—will be recalculated. The fact that the recalc is global in the document, really takes care of my objection to setting aside a cell in one of your tables for this purpose. You could, of course, stick it in the usually unused cell A1 where it’s easy to get at, and you could easily just delete it and set it up again if you don’t need it in the interim. But since the recalc works globally, you don’t have to keep the checkbox in any of your working tables. Make a table specifically for the checkbox—it can even be alone on its own tab. And, you can delete all but its first row and first column, making it a single-cell table (yes, an amoeba table!) and duplicate it on every tab for convenience.

Posted by Sharon Zardetto (Permalink)

Talking about Apple Watch Book Update at MacVoices

The ever-gracious Chuck Joiner and Jeff sat down on MacVoices to talk about the latest update to Jeff’s book, a discussion that covered topics such as the strengths and weaknesses of the Apple Watch almost a year in, which important changes are in watchOS 2, and why Jeff updated the book.

Posted by Michael E. Cohen (Permalink)

Joe and Chuck Discuss the Latest 1Password Features

1Password is new and improved in version 6, giving Joe and Chuck Joiner (of MacVoices) a perfect opportunity to tell you what’s new and improved not only in the app but also in Joe’s Second Edition of his book, which covers it. Best of all, you don’t need a password to watch the interview!

Posted by Michael E. Cohen (Permalink)

CrashPlan Discontinues Seeding and Restore-to-Door

For many years, CrashPlan offered its customers two optional (and extra-fee) services that were particularly useful for those with limited bandwidth. Seeding enabled users to load up an external hard drive with an initial full backup and send it to the company so that it would be unnecessary to wait weeks or months to have all of one’s data backed up to the cloud. Restore-to-Door was the opposite—a service whereby users could have files returned to them overnight on an external hard drive rather than wait for them to download.

I’m sorry to say that CrashPlan discontinued seeding in late 2015, and discontinued Restore-to-Door in January 2016. In both cases, a company rep told me the reason was that too few people used the services, and the company wanted to shift the responsible technician to working on other support tasks. This is bad news for people with limited bandwidth and a need for ultra-fast backup or restoration. Options for such people include switching to a competing service (such as Backblaze) or maintaining local backups in addition to cloud backups.

Posted by Joe Kissell (Permalink)