2012.12 News: December Meeting Cancelled!

SWAG President David Weston has issued an Official Edict cancelling the membership meeting of Wed. Dec. 19 due to threatening weather.

His auxiliary advice: The fewer cars on the roads, the better.

You may peruse several possible tracks of the incoming storm from this helpful site provided by the National Weather Service.

And just be glad the meeting hadn't been scheduled for Friday:


2012.12 News: Macintosh Buying Guide

Is there somebody you really, really, really like a lot? Somebody for whom you'd like to get a really, really, really nice holiday gift? Then you might be interested in the Macintosh Buying Guide just published by Macworld magazine.


2012.12 News: Turing Biopic on Demand

Geeks, nerds, and dorks should all be aware of Alan Turing, the brilliant British mathematician who cracked the Nazi Enigma code in WW2, laid the groundwork for modern computer programming, and was shamefully hounded to death by his native country for his homosexuality. You may have heard of the "Turing Test", which is what he proposed as a method of telling whether a machine had attained human-equivalent sentience.

Star Cinema in Fitchburg will screen Codebreaker, the 2011 biography of Turing, once (on Thu. Jan. 17 at 7:30 PM) but only if they get 50 ticket reservations in advance. Make those reservations here.

Please publicize this to others who may be interested in this seminal figure in computing history.

= = = = = =
If there's artificial intelligence, there's bound to be some artificial stupidity.

— Sidney Harris


2012.11 History: October Feature: Sassing Websites
presented by Richard Russell, summarized by Holly McEntee

It used to be that humans were consumers of content. We read newspapers and listened to radio and watched TV shows and movies, all pretty much 1-way. You could write letters to the editor or phone in to talk shows, but there was a time lag, and editors could censor and control these.
But the internet is 2-way. Consumers can talk back practically immediately and unfettered. Some content sites controlled this tightly, but some found it a way to attract eyeballs and thus sell more ads. (Viewers of websites are not customers, we are products, which is why it looks free to us.) Some consumers enjoy this interactivity and some do not. To many, it's part of the vast, unknown new world of internet interactivity.
Richard used the comment feature on espn.com to demonstrate one type of interactivity. He showed us how to sign up for a free account to allow reading and posting, explaining that many sites require signing up. He then showed us not only how to post and edit your own comments, but also how to read them, quote from previous comments, flag them for potential abuse, and share them with others not commenting on that same post (such as emailing them externally to others).
We ran out of time before we could get to the many other topics that were planned for this demo, but will cover them at a future meeting.


Q: I use several different browsers. Some of them won't open PDFs automatically and I don't know why. I use Adobe Acrobat as my default reader, and am running Snow Leopard.
A: This sounds like a browser-specific problem. Each browser has a command for clearing the browser cache; search for that. (The commands are also version-specific, so it's not necessarily in the same place in different versions of Chrome or Safari.) Then clear the browser cache. This may fix the problem. Rest assured that clearing the browser cache is not the same as clearing the history.

Q: On my iPad I have doubled calendars. They are identical; it's like I've got two copies of the same calendars displaying on my iPad. It's terribly annoying! How do I get rid of the doubles?
A: You may be syncing to your iPad from iTunes on your main computer. Check and make sure. If so, then uncheck "Sync Calendars" in iTunes so you aren't sending two sets of calendars to the iPad (that is, so that your computer via iTunes and iCloud aren't both sending the same calendars to your iPad).

Q: Really, how secure is iCloud?
A: Storage of documents is very safe. Transferring of data is only as safe as you've made it setting the preferences for the type of connection between your machine and the internet, the level of file encryption you're using, and other "housekeeping" precautions. A free coffeehouse wi-fi network is simply not going to give you the same security as your firewalled home network, so you shouldn't plan on doing secure work like banking on a public network. It is highly recommended that you make a backup on your local machine. And evaluate how you feel about whatever document or data you're considering putting on iCloud. If you are truly paranoid, don't put it anywhere on the web.


2012.11 Preview: WALL•E

The December meeting will (a) not be divided into beginners' and regular sessions, (b) skip the Q&A, and (c) have no presentations about Apple products. Instead, we'll be watching the 2008 animated film WALL•E, so show up at 6:00 if you want to see it. (Running time is 1:38. And it's rated G, so feel free to bring the kidlets.)

The movie is about the last sentient denizen of a future Earth ravaged by environmental neglect. WALL•E is a mobile mechanical trash compactor who has no eyes, arms, or legs and doesn't speak a word of dialog thruout the entire film.

If you think that doesn't sound remotely like a promising premise for a movie, you're absolutely right. But this film is from Pixar, the geniuses who made us care about a rat in a Parisian restaurant and a grumpy old guy who flew away with his entire house in a cloud of balloons. On IMDb.com, it's tied with Toy Story 3 with 8.5 user stars out of 10, and it scores a whopping 96% on the Tomatometer at rottentomatoes.com.

So, yeah, people liked it.

It's of particular interest to Macintosh aficionados because, coming from a company that Steve Jobs was heading at the same time as Apple, it features a number of subtle visual and audio in-jokes. That's part of the reason why we picked it.

That, and also because, as far as we can tell, it's the only movie ever made that has a bullet (• = option-8) in its title.


2012.10 Business: New Name and Mission Adopted

At last night's meeting, the membership considered 2 revisions to the pending constitutional amendment and adopted both of them, 1 after the other. The 1st replaced the proposed name "South Central Wisconsin Apple Users Group (SCWAUG)" with "Wisconsin Enjoyers of Apple Stuff (WisEAppleS)". The 2nd replaced "WisEAppleS" with "Southern Wisconsin Apple Group (SWAG)". A 3rd amendment, to replace both name and abbreviation with "Madappolis", failed for lack of a second.

There were no further amendments and no further discussion, so we voted on the entire proposal, and it was unanimously adopted. The new name for the Madison Macintosh Users Group (Mad Mac) is now Southern Wisconsin Apple Group (SWAG). The mission statement now includes all Apple products (such as the iPhone, iPad, and iPod) and services (such as the App Store, iTunes, and iCloud), not just Macintoshes (tho of course we'll still pay lots of attention to those as well).

Your board will set to work propagating this new name in all the places where the old one appears, but this will take awhile, so be prepared to see the old name from time to time during the transitional period. In particular, we'll let you know in plenty of time before we change the name of the website.


2012.10 History: September Q&A

By Dave Weston, Quizmaster; summary by Richard S. Russell

(Note: Sorry that this was all we were able to get notes on for September.)

Q: My HP 8500 Pro is connected wirelessly to a Mac Mini, but the Mac won’t recognize it. The HP software is installed on the Mini, but some of it needed to be uninstalled to let the Mac equivalent take over.

A: It may be necessary to disconnect it to talk directly to the Apple AirPort. The printer doesn’t connect directly to your printer, it connects to the hub and is part of your network. The specifics of printers are peculiar to the brand, and it often requires eyes-on to troubleshoot it. In general, ignore any software that came with the printer and download the most recent version of it off the company’s website. You can also call the vendor’s trouble line directly; HP has a good reputation for that.


2012.09 Business: Renaming Proposal Revised

At tonight's meeting of the Mad Mac Users Group, the proposed constitutional revision came to the floor for discussion and amendment. Two amendments were proposed, and both were adopted, 1 after the other. The effect of the 2nd was to replace the 1st. The effect of the 1st was to replace the new name proposed by the board. The effect of the board's motion was to replace the group's current name.

So, in order, these are the names we passed thru:
  1. Madison Macintosh Users Group (MMUG), the current name
  2. Macintosh and Apple Devotees Club of Wisconsin (MADCOW), the board proposal
  3. All Things Apple (ATA), amendment proposed by Chico Mitchell, adopted
  4. South Central Wisconsin Apple User Group (SCWAUG), amendment proposed by Jim Benes, adopted

After limited further discussion, the motion was tabled until next month, since it cannot be voted on at the meeting at which it was introduced. It will again be open for discussion and amendment at the October meeting.

2012.09 News: New Apple Products Announced

Keep your eyes on the news for coverage of the latest generation of iPhone (#5), iOS (#6), iPod Touch (#5), and iPod Nano (#7), plus snazzier interfaces for iTunes, the iTunes store, and the App Store. As expected, today's press conference held nothing of significant interest specifically for Macintoshes, but keep your eye on the new interfaces, because chances are good you'll be seeing something like it on your big monitor in the next couple of years.

Of lesser interest on the national scene, but front and center to our merry band, tonight's Mad Mac meeting will include a business portion, in which we get to consider an amendment to our constitution to change the name "Madison Macintosh Users Group" (AKA "Mad Mac" or "MMUG") to "Macintosh and Apple Devotees Club of Wisconsin" ("MADCOW"). This is the 1st of 2 required considerations; there will be a vote next month, but the motion may be discussed or amended at either meeting.


2012.08 Business: Bylaw Proposal Ready

Tonight, Aug. 28, the board chose the winner of the "Name That Group" contest. Click the "Business" tab for more details.

Congratulations to Holly McEntee, submitter of the winning entry, who will be getting a check for $25 for her creativity in coming up with "Macintosh and Apple Devotees Club Of Wisconsin" (MADCOW).


2012.08 News: Bug-Fix Version of Mountain Lion Released

As usual, it took Apple about a month to come out with the bug-fix version (10.8.1) of their new operating system (OS X 10.8, Mountain Lion). Here's what Macworld says about it.

If you've been holding off on upgrading because you're (justifiably) nervous about being out there on the bleeding edge, you can probably feel free to go ahead and download the latest version now. It's only 20 bux at the App Store.


2012.08 Opinion: Why I Like the Mad Mac Board

To kick off the August meeting, board at-large member Dave Peterson pointed out yet again that the board has a vacancy that we're looking to fill. He figured that maybe people have been reluctant to step forward and volunteer for the slot not only because of diffidence but perhaps because they weren't sure what all it entailed, so he talked about his own experiences as the newest Mad Mac board member.

He cited the duties required by the bylaws: "At-large directors shall broaden and diversify the decision-making capabilities of the Board." The board's primary job is to identify what to present at our general meetings, and the more brains put to that task, the better.

Should you be part of this process? Well, do you have ideas and opinions? Can you speak English? Do you have a good sense of humor? Do you enjoy verbal repartee? If you can answer yes to all those questions, you'd be a good board member. You don't need a degree in rocket science, and you are not automatically volunteering to do a bunch of presentations. Dave emphasized that, in addition to board service being a worthwhile use of his time, it was enjoyable!

The time commitment is one extra evening once a month, always at a local restaurant purposely chosen to be quiet enuf to hear each other, quite often Parkway Family Restaurant just off the Beltline at Fish Hatchery Road.

It's a 2-year term, but the unfilled portion of the vacant position runs only thru next April. If you're at all interested, contact any board member.

2012.08 History: August Feature: Mountain Lion

presented by Dave Weston

The Macintosh operating system (just plain OS X, no longer Mac OS) has been updated as of late July, to Version 10.8, code-named Mountain Lion. The main motivation for the transition was to converge the user experiences between OS X (used on desktop and laptop computers) and Apple's iOS (used on hand-held wi-fi devices like the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch). The only way to get Mountain Lion is to buy it ($20) from Apple's App Store and have it downloaded via the internet. You cannot get it via CD-ROM or DVD.

Dave got Mountain Lion on Day 1 because of one feature he was really, really interested in: voice recognition. It hears him speak and types what he says. That is, it takes dictation. As an OS resource, it's available any place you can type. You do have to have a net connection. It's not Siri (the iPhone intelligent assistant), but it does send your voice signal to Apple's servers, and they interpret it and send it back as text. Bear in mind that you can kiss off security as a result of transmitting in the clear like this.

It has other drawbacks as well. You need to speak very distinctly, you have to tell it to insert punctuation, and it won't do more than 30 seconds worth of speech at a time. Still, it's faster than typing.

Dave had started his example with the word "now", which was misinterpreted as "wow". He double-clicked on it, re-spoke the correct word, and the computer made the correction.

Start recording by pressing the "fn" (function) key twice; turn it off by pressing "fn" once (or wait for 30 seconds, and it'll turn itself off). You can set that for other keys, if you wish, via System Preferences > Dictation & Speech.

This is the reverse of computerized speech, available under the Accessibility (formerly Universal Access) system preference.

Software Update is no longer a separate OS item; it's now been subsumed into the App Store.

The web browser that comes with Safari 6 (which also works under Lion and was provided as part of a recent automatic Software Update) has only a single address box, not separate ones for URLs and Google searches. It's smart enuf to know which of the 2 you're looking for and even offers suggestions as you type it in. Searches still use Google, tho there are rumors that in the future you'll be able to specify other search engines if you wish.

The Notification feature can be set to pop up certain e-mails, text messages, reminders, iCal appointments, FaceTime calls, and so on. These show up in the upper-right corner of your screen, and the ones you designate as of lower importance automatically vanish if you don't acknowledge them after awhile.

One nice thing about Mountain Lion is that the zoom feature now follows you around the launchpad, whereas Lion only stayed fixed on whatever spot you'd zoomed in on.

Default destination for the Save command is iCloud, which means that you can be working on your MacBook, quit, go home and open your iMac, and there's the document already waiting for you. You make a few more changes, then you can walk into the living room, fire up your iPad, and find the latest revision there. And so on.

It isn't at all clear which of these versions, if any, would be backed up to Time Machine.

These are just the highlights of the presentation; the live version dealt with many minor features and, of course, featured on-screen demos of them. Check out the Macworld website for independent info on new features. It has a search feature that will let you look up things like, for example, RSS (whose functionality has been replaced by something with a different name).


2012.08 History: August Q&A

Dave Weston, Quizmaster
summary by Richard S. Russell

Q: My Camino browser has problems opening PDF files. It goes on and on but never opens it. Other browsers do it in 3-5 seconds.

A: First aid is always to try clearing your Camino cache. Another possibility is to set your Camino preferences to load the file into a separate helper application. (All browsers are able to open PDF files via some form of plug-in. Usually there's one kind that works across all browsers, not one special to Camino.) If Camino has an uninstaller, you can uninstall and reinstall it and see if that works. If all else fails, download the PDF file and open it on your local computer using Preview.

Q: Does Time Machine work with the files created by Parallels (the Windows XP emulator)?

A: Depends on whether you set up a separate partition on the hard disk or whether you're running it as a virtual disk within the Mac OS. If you'd set it up in a separate partition via Boot Camp, you'd see 2 hard-disk images on your desktop. If you're not seeing that, Finder thinks of that disk image as just another Mac file — a big one, containing everything that has anything to do with Windows, including the emulator itself, all the Windows programs, and the files they've created. Time Machine will back it up no matter how large it gets, as long as it doesn't exceed the size of the external hard disk.

Q: I haven't switched to Lion because I still use Quicken 2004 and Microsoft Office 2004. I know I could use the Mac equivalents (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote) for the latter, but there's no substitute for the old Quicken. Does anyone use QuickBooks 2012? That will work with Lion.

A: Quicken 2007 (not Quicken Essentials) for Lion does work and is compatible with Snow Leopard. Can't say whether it can directly read Q2004 files or whether you have to do a 2-step conversion process via Q2005. The export function may enable you to save the data suitable for importing into Q2007. Export may also work with iBank or iMoney, if you're sufficiently sick of the games played by Intuit. You can find Q2007 at the Intuit website.

Q: What was the deal with this news story of a guy who had his iTunes and iCloud account hacked by somebody just calling Amazon and Apple over the phone pretending to be him?

A: Yes, it happened. It caused a flap. Both Apple and Amazon were embarrassed by it and took steps to prevent it from happening again. (They had had overlapping security holes.)

Q: I'm trying to synch my iCal data between home and work via iCloud but it doesn't seem to be working. One of them shows duplicate data, but the other sometimes doesn't show either of them. I'm having a similar problem with Contacts (formerly Address Book).

A: Probably a problem with Snow Leopard, which isn't as familiar with iCloud as Lion or Mountain Lion. ICloud was sort of "tacked on" to Snow Leopard. If you could upgrade that version (10.6) of Mac OS to Lion (10.7) or Mountain Lion (10.8), it would probably resolve the issues. Or you could take it in to the Apple Store. They see this sort of thing every day, so they know how to deal with it. And they never laff at you.

Q: I'm debating whether to do a hardware upgrade to my old MacBook's memory (a SSD — solid-state drive) vs. just getting a new computer with more memory. They cost about the same, but it's not clear which is faster.

A: The advantage to an SSD is that there are no moving parts to get bunged up. The downside is that they don't have as much capacity per dollar spent. I don't have any real-world data but figure an SSD which doesn't have to wait for a read-write head to position itself is likely to be faster, but technology keeps leap-frogging earlier generations, so it might depend on the specific device.

Q: How reliable are these portable external hard drives?

A: Simply because of portability, there's more chance that one will get banged up when being moved. The important thing is to make sure that the data are backed up, in case something untoward happens. A portable hard drive fills a need for (a) storage and (b) portability. If you have both needs, by all means, get one. There are about 2-3 manufacturers of the internal mechanism (Western Digital, Iomega, and Seagate are all reliable), but lots of vendors who wrap their own shells around them. The "enclosures" (case, cable, power supply, and interface board) mainly differentiate from each other on esthetics rather than performance. OWC (One World Computing) is good; the Apple Store has several brands in stock, and they're good; Best Buy has good peripherals, and they're tested to be Mac-compatible. However, the various office-supply stores are less fussy about playing well with Macs, and their staff tends to be much more familiar with PCs. There's also the question of whether the case is crackable by a typical end user; some of them are made not to be openable except with Dremel tools or the like.

At this point the conversation drifted over to the virtues of USB drives, also called thumb drives, pocket hard drives, jump drives, keychain disks, and several other slang terms. Many people spoke glowingly of their capacity, ease of use, relative cheapness, and ruggedness. A drawback is that they're so small they're easily lost.


2012.08 News: Name the Group Contest

By Holly McEntee

As we know, Macintosh computers are hardly the only thing Apple is known for. With the wild success of Apple's mobile devices (iPods, iPhones, iPads) Apple dropped "computer" from its name way back in 2007, although the Macintosh line of desktops and laptops continue to be a strong part of Apple's lineup. And cash cow iTunes isn't even hardware at all!

Given this state of affairs, the Mad Mac board members feel that our group's name — Madison Macintosh Users Group — ought to reflect the wider array of products and services offered by Apple. So we're having a contest to choose a new group name! Here are the rules:
  1. The name should include the word "Apple" and a place name that indicates where we are located (e.g. Madison, Wisconsin, Dane County, southern Wisconsin).
  2. There is no limit to how many suggestions you can submit.
  3. Submissions with clever (but not obscene) acronyms are encouraged!

Submissions will be accepted through 11:00 p.m. August 27 via email to any board member. Please use the subject line "Mad Mac Renaming Contest". The board members will select the winning submission at their August 28 meeting. The winner will receive $25 and the satisfaction of ushering a new era for Mad Mac.

Once a new name is chosen the membership will need to vote to change the bylaws at two consecutive meetings. Check out the "Business" tab to see the 1st draft of the necessary bylaw changes, with the place-holder name "Madison Apple Users Group (MadAUG)" where the contest winner will eventually appear.

2012.08 History: July Feature: Videoconferencing

Prsented by Dave Weston and Richard S. Russell;
summarized by Holly McEntee

As luck would have it, Richard was in Miami, FL attending a conference during July's Mad Mac meeting. This lent itself quite well to the topic of videoconferencing. Dave Weston contacted Richard using three different applications — GoToMeeting, Skype, and FaceTime — to demonstrate each. All three made use of a small inset picture of Dave (at the transmitting end) in the corner of a larger picture of Richard (the person being talked to).

None of the three provided video close to the quality of streaming content, and there were delays, refresh problems, and pixellation. The sound was echoey. More experimentation might have helped with these quality deficiencies.

GoToMeeting is a web-hosted service of Citrix Systems. It is designed to host virtual corporate meetings of people in multiple locations. Fairly robust, as one would expect for a corporate service, it can manage meetings of up to 25 active members. (Other versions of the software can carry web seminars with up to 1000 attendees.) There is a chat option, and it can record a meeting for later reviewing. Because it is a web-based service, it can be used on any platform (Mac or PC) as long as each machine meets the browser requirements. GoToMeeting is free for a short trial basis, but costs $49/month or $468/year to own. During the Mad Mac meeting, Dave and Richard had the most difficulty connecting through GoToMeeting but finally managed it.

Skype is a very popular voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) application, recently bought by Microsoft. Skype allows users to contact other Skype users via voice, video, instant messaging, and phone calls. Up to five users can be involved in a Skype conference call. Skype is free, and calls to other Skype users are also free. Richard and Dave connected easily via Skype during the Mad Mac meeting and its controls were easy to use.

FaceTime is an Apple-specific app that works on any iOS device with a forward-facing camera and any Mac computer running OS X 10.6.6 or higher. FaceTime requires wi-fi, and up to 5 users can be active in a FaceTime conversation at once. Of the three services demonstrated, both Richard and Dave recommended FaceTime for Apple-to-Apple users. FaceTime is free through the App Store.

Richard provided the following helpful hints to keep in mind when videoconferencing with others:
  • Frame your shot correctly, full face at yourself. That is, position your iPad or Mac in such a way that the camera isn't pointing up your nose or featuring the underside of your chin. You may need to stack books underneath your computer, or adjust your chair.
  • Be aware of the lighting around you. If you have a lamp or sunny window behind you, the person with whom you are videoconferencing will see an indistinct silhouette of you instead of your expressions. Soft oblique lighting is best (unless you're deliberately being mysterious).
  • Before using a videoconferencing service, make sure one of the people involved has experience with the app or service, and have a back-up plan (like your telephone). Make sure everyone knows who's the expert, and who will be contacting whom so you don't sit around thinking the other person is supposed to contact you (while they're thinking the same thing about you).
  • Do not attempt to run two videoconferencing apps / services at the same time - your Mac or iOS device will get confused. Besides, you only have the one built-in camera.
  • Video and audio quality are not app / service specific. How smoothly your video and audio connection works depends on the age of your device, the quality of the speakers and camera, and the reliability of whatever method you are connecting to the internet.

2012.08 History: July Q&A

Dave Weston, Quizmaster; summarized by Holly McEntee

Q: I get my email through TDS, sometimes though Mail and sometimes through TDS's own website. Sometimes there are mail messages on tds.net that haven't been downloaded to Mail on my Mac. How come?

A: Look for a setting or preference either in Mail, or within the TDS site you log into to check your mail, that has to do with deleting messages or leaving them on the server after they're read. If you want to be able to see all your incoming message (read and unread) on both the website and through the Mail app on your Mac, you want those settings to indicate "leave messages on server after downloading" or some such wording.

Q: I have an iBook running OS X 10.4 and Classic 9.0 that I want to get rid of, but first I want to wipe the hard drive. Which start-up disk do I use to do so?

A: It would be easier to simply delete your account off of the iBook. This will erase your Desktop and all of your files, preferences, and settings from the machine without having to use the start-up disk. To do so:
  • In "System Preferences" go into "Users & Groups" and create a new account (call it temp) and set it so it has Admin privileges and either no password or a very simple password you can remember (like temp).
  • Quit "System Preferences" and log out of the iBook.
  • Log back into the iBook into the new account you've just created (temp).
  • Go into "System Preferences", then into "Users & Groups", and delete your old account.
The new owner of the iBook can use this temp account to log into the iBook and set up their own account and password, and then delete the temp account after they've done so.

Q: How does Apple TV work? Does it require iTunes?

A: Apple TV is basically a little box that is in essence a computer that streams media content to your television from any number of sources. One of these sources can be your home computer, and whatever content you have on it. So if you bought Season 2 of the television show "Bones" through iTunes, you can set up Apple TV to access your iTunes library and play those episodes on your television. We don't hear a whole lot about Apple TV (compared to the iPhone and iPad), but there are tantalizing suggestions that we may start hearing a lot more about it. In Walter Isaacson's biography he quotes Steve Jobs as saying he'd "cracked" television, and very recently Apple has quietly collected some partnerships with the likes of Hulu and Amazon. You can read more speculation from Gizmodo, a semi-respectable rumor site.


2012.08 News: Membership Dues Reduced

Thanks to our continued use of the Sequoya Library meeting rooms and the move to the free blogspot website for the group, Mad Mac's overall costs have been reduced. Therefore, by unanimous vote of the board, effective August 1, 2012, membership dues for Mad Mac will be $1 per month, payable in however many months an individual wishes to pay. So if you want to pay for 6 months before your membership runs out, it will be $6. Current members will have their existing memberships prorated ($15 for 12 months now yields 15 months, so you get 5 for 4), and members will still get reminders to renew via e-mail. The board is exploring setting up a PayPal account for Mad Mac. When it's ready we'll announce here and on the website.

Your dues are used to maintain our Post Office box, liability insurance for the group (a requirement of the state), and to purchase the occasional app and equipment for the group, such as adaptors for our projector.

Thanks to our new and continuing members for your support!


2012.08 News: MacXprts Merges with Graphite

MacXprts, formerly doing business at 3232 University Ave., has merged operations with Graphite and they are open at 2848 University Ave.

2012.08 News: Info about Mountain Lion

Macworld has extensive coverage of the new release of the Macintosh Operating System (Mac OS), Version 10.8, code named Mountain Lion, available thru the App Store for $20:

Mountain Lion: What's New (a quick slide-show tour of the most important new features in Mountain Lion)

Mountain Lion Video Review

Mountain Lion: The Complete Review (how Apple got its operating systems in synch)

Installing Mountain Lion: What You Need To Know

Complete Guide to Installing Mountain Lion

ICloud Blooms with Mountain Lion

Introducing Macworld's Total Mountain Lion Superguide (This is a book you can buy.)
Hi Madison Mac fans! Just a quickie post here to test whether or not any of us can actually access the website (we were having difficulties earlier in the week). Members can expect to receive the August newsletter soon, with news about a potential group name change and reduced membership dues. Stay tuned!



Hello Mac Mad'ers, and potential Mad Mac'ers! I must confess that there isn't one single blog that I read regularly, and for sure there isn't one I post to at all - until now! Hooray for old dogs learning new tricks. If you are reading this, the Mad Mac Board thanks you heartily for visiting our new website. We are very interested in feedback and in member contributions. Contact any of the board members for more information. We're also looking for an at-large member to fill a vacant position. Check the Mad Mac Constitution for the exact duties of this position, but mainly it involves meeting with the board once a month over dinner, helping decide on meeting presentation topics and presenters, and getting to know each other better.

On behalf of Mad Mac I'd like to wish a very happy birthday to one of our members who will be celebrating her 90th trip around the Sun on spaceship Earth July 17th.  "Mibs" has been an active member of the group since at least 2005 and asks really great questions at our meetings...and at times helps answer them, too.  Happy Birthday!

Having grown up in St. Louis, MO and also having lived in northeast Alabama for a few years one would think I could handle hot, humid weather with aplomb. Not the case! The last few weeks have been hard on me and I've had very little energy (or good humor) to devote to all things Mac. I understand that there are TWO movies about Steve Jobs' life in development, one starring the former Mr. Demi Moore. Color me skeptical of Ashton Kutcher's ability to portray Steve Jobs, but I suppose anything is possible.

Thanks for understanding about this month's "newsletter" - I plan to return to the full newsletter for August. As always I'd love to include snippets written by our members about things you've learned, projects you've done with your Mac, reviews of apps, books, manuals - send 'em on over!

Stay cool, and hope to see you Wednesday at the Sequoya Library.

Holly McEntee
Mad Mac Sec'y and newsletter editor


2012.07 Back Fence: Adding Graphics

Shortly after yesterday's "Back Fence" item went up, Mad Mac member Jeanne Gomoll posted a comment on how to set up an RSS feed that will have your web browser automatically alert you when there's something new and neat to be seen here.

She also e-mailed me separately to express her frustration that the nifty graphic she'd prepared showing how to do it couldn't be posted as part of her comment. I used my demigod-like administrative powers to look at the website's settings to see if I could enable that feature, but it turns out not to be a feature at all — at least not a feature available to the bare-bones (IE, free) version of Blogger we're using for Mad Mac — so the sad story is that no, you can't embed graphics directly within your own comments.

However, what you can do is send them to me (or any other Mad Mac board member, since we all be demigods in this here pantheon), and we can do it for you. Blogger accepts graphics in .jpg, .gif, .bmp, and .png formats, 8 megabytes max.

How about files of other types, like
  • word-processing (.txt, .rtf, .doc)
  • spreadsheet (.numbers, .xls, .xlsx)
  • audio (.mp3, .mp4, .wav, .aiff, .au)
  • multimedia (.qt, .mov, .wmv)
  • database (.fp7, .fmp12, .accdb)
  • etc.

We still haven't figured out how to store and display those, as you will see if you visit our plaint under the "Archive" tab, but we're working on it. Stay tuned.


2012.07 Back Fence: What's On Your Mind?

Use the "Comment" feature (by clicking on the pencil icon below) to give us feedback on this website and the bare-bones nature of this month's newsletter.

Or ask questions.

Or give hints.

Or do whatever it is that nabors do while chatting over the back fence.

2012.07 Weather Forecast: Heat Wave

You think it's been hot in Madison lately? Check out the weather forecast for Alderaan:

2012.07 News: Power Inverter Available To Lend

Mad Mac has acquired a power adapter that fits into your car's 12-volt power-access outlet (formerly known as a "cigaret lighter"), and it's available to be lent to Mad Mac members for long trips where you'd like to use your laptop as a CD player in the car. E-mail Richard to reserve it on a "first come, first served" basis. (Not this week, tho, as it's off to Miami with me.)


2012.07 History: June Q&A

Dave Weston, quizmaster; notes by Holly McEntee

Q: I’m running Leopard (OS X.5) and Safari continually crashes on me. The error message displayed blames Flash Player. What’s going on?

A: Flash Player is Adobe’s media player, similar to Apple’s media player QuickTime. Flash Player is what allows animations and videos embedded in websites to be played. HTML5, which also runs animation and video in websites, is becoming more common and is more stable than Flash Player, but at the moment Flash Player dominates the market.

The problem may be caused by a bad user preference file. That is, there may be a corrupt preference file for Flash Player that is unique to your user account on your Mac. To test this, go to your Mac’s System Preferences (under the  menu), choose “Users”, and set up a temporary guest account. (For simplicity, you can leave the password blank.) Log out of your Mac, then log in as “guest” and fire up Safari. Visit a website that uses Flash Player (like this one ). If Safari doesn’t crash or give you the error message, it’s likely that your home user account has a bad preference file. If the same problem occurs, you’ve at least identified that the problem is not user-specific but system-wide.

Here are a couple of things to try to correct the problem:
  • If you are prompted by Safari to update Flash Player (or the Flash Player plug-in), do so.
  • If updating doesn’t make the problem go away, try uninstalling Flash Player (instructions here) and then reinstalling it. (Visiting a website that has animation in it will prompt you to install Flash Player ... or follow the instructions at the Adobe website.)

Unfortunately, finding the specific preference file that is bad is a bit tricky for the casual user. Your best best is to uninstall Flash Player and reinstall it.

Q: I set up a temporary user account for my Mac in System Preferences (under the  menu) for a visitor to use. But when he started it up, we got an error message saying that some application that I don’t recognize had unexpectedly quit. Clicking “Ignore” lets my friend continue using the temporary account, but what’s this error message mean? This has been going on for the past 3-4 years.

A: Without the actual Mac it’s hard to tell exactly what’s happening, but it sounds as though this application is one that’s marked as something that should start up upon logging into the temporary account ... and something is wrong with that application. (Maybe it’s a PowerPC application that no longer runs under Lion?) To check this, log in with the temporary account and write down the name of the app that unexpectedly quits. Click “Ignore” and then go into System Preferences, then “Users”, and select the temporary account. In the main part of the window click “Log-In Items” — a list of applications that your Mac will open (or attempt to open) whenever someone logs in with that account. If the app that keeps quitting appears here, click it once to highlight it and then click the boxed minus-sign that appears below the list. (It’s next to a boxed plus-sign.) This will remove the app from the log-in list, and therefore your Mac will not try to open it when someone logs in with that account.

Q: Sometimes when I reply to an e-mail in Mail, my new message quotes the text of the message I’m replying to but draws a box around it with an X in a circle at the upper left-hand corner. I only want to reply to part of the text, but scrolling over the box suggests I have to keep or delete all of it. It’s annoying! How do I make it stop?

A: This bounding box seems to be a source of frustration and mystery to many. Internet searches did not reveal the name of this “feature” of Mail, when it was introduced, or any method of disabling it, but below are a couple of suggestions to avoid the dreaded box:
  • Convert all text to “Plain Text” (the last item in the Format menu in Mail) before selecting the text you want to include in your reply.
  • With the e-mail to which you want to reply open, select the text you want to quote in your reply except for the last letter. Then hit “Reply” — and your new e-mail message will quote the text (minus the last letter, which you can type in) without the annoying box.

Q: I often will cut text out of an e-mail message I’ve sent before and use it in a new e-mail message. However, sometimes when I try to paste the cut text into my new e-mail (sometimes as stand-alone sentence or paragraph, but sometimes in the middle of a paragraph I’ve typed in the new message) the pasted text does not end up where I want it but instead in the blank line above the text I’ve newly typed. I’ve tried pasting the text first in TextEdit, then copying it from there and pasting it into the new Mail message, but the behavior persists. This does not always happen with every e-mail I try to compose this way. What’s going on?

A: The only possibility suggested was that the text being copied is in a rich-text format, and the e-mail you’re trying to paste it into is a plain-text format, or perhaps vice versa. These store formatting instructions (like boldface or new paragraph) as hidden characters, but at different places under different coding protocols like “.rtf” or “.txt”. Try to document the exact steps that occurred the next time it happens and then ask the question again.

Q: For the past two years I’ve taken my Mac to the Apple Store probably a dozen times because it will not go to sleep when I tell it to. It gets very hot to the touch, and I’m reduced to simply unplugging it. The Apple Store replaced the logic board but otherwise cannot diagnose the problem. Help!

A: If you have AppleCare on this Mac, make one more trip to the Apple Store and simply tell them you want a replacement machine. Given the service record on your Mac, it will be clear to them that you (and they) have done due diligence to fix the problem. Apple stands behind its products, and AppleCare is designed to cover exactly this situation — the rare lemon in the Apple orchard (rimshot please!). And don't feel bad about doing this, either. Apple will send your problem machine to their diagnostic labs, where they will figure out for sure what's going wrong and use that information to warn other Mac users who might have problems similar to yours, and will possibly trace the problem upstream to some supplier in need of better quality control. So you're actually doing them a favor by letting them keep your machine long enuf to perform these analyses.

Q: The other day I was running a couple of different apps on my Mac and bumped some key on the keyboard that made all of my open files and windows display in “miniature” on the screen. I could navigate to them, and when I clicked on one everything went back to normal size. What was that and how can I get it back?

A: It sounds like you accidentally triggered a feature known as Exposé, which is part of the operating system in Versions X.3 through X.6. (In X.7 — Lion — it’s now called Mission Control.) Exposé allows the user to see all open windows at once, which helps in locating a specific window when you have several windows open that are hiding behind each other. The default key to open Exposé is F3 on a desktop Mac, but you can use System Preferences to set any F-key (or combination of an F-key and a shift, option, control, or command key) to launch Exposé. To read much more about Exposé, visit its Wikipedia article.


2012.07 History: June Feature: iCloud

Presented by John Graham; notes by Richard S. Russell

Apple’s MobileMe (formerly .mac) will be dead as of June 30. You have 2 weeks to upgrade to iCloud, or you run the risk of losing e-mail or back-up files that rely on that service.

John advised that, since iCloud accounts are free, you should go out and get one if you don’t already have one.

And why would you want to do that? Well, if you only have a single piece of hardware, the main reason is so you can have off-site backup of your data. Time Machine is a terrific back-up method, but the external hard drive you’re backing up onto is probably sitting right next to the computer it’s backing up, so a fire or flood or lightning strike that took out just that corner of the room would still be devastating. Off-site backup is safer.

But the place where iCloud really shines is if you have multiple devices. By “devices”, John explained, he meant a variety of Apple hardware products: Macintoshes, iPads, iPhones, and iPod Touches (but not other kinds of iPod, since those aren’t wireless capable). For example, suppose you have both a desktop iMac and a laptop MacBook. Have you ever been frustrated that your Address Book, iCal, and iTunes each had to be updated twice, once on each machine? With iCloud, that’ll no longer be necessary. The relevant data will be stored “in the cloud” (that is, somewhere out there on the internet, you don’t know exactly where, but it’s available to you 24 hours a day wherever there’s internet connectivity) and automatically downloaded to both your iMac and your MacBook. Updating either device automatically updates the other. And also any other device that uses your account.

John showed how he could delete or move an e-mail within his browser and have the change show up within seconds on his iPad. This won’t work with the POP e-mail protocol, which removes the message from the ISP’s server when it downloads it to your device. If, however, your ISP (independent service provider) uses IMAP, it will download the message to your current device and still have it available to be downloaded to any other devices you may use.

Dave Weston mentioned his frustration that iDisk did not move to iCloud along with everything else. That’s a feature that lets you store any old file you want on Apple’s hosting servers, open them from different computers, and share them with other people. John agreed that this was a sticking point for him as well. He said that Dropbox (free) is probably the best replacement for iDisk.

Some of MobileMe’s other features, such as the photo gallery and website hosting, are going away as well (which is why the Mad Mac website is being moved to Blogger, a subsidiary of Google), but there will probably eventually be a replacement for each of them. That’s of little immediate consolation, however.

Once iCloud is enabled on your device, the upper-left corner of Address Book will show an iCloud icon, which lets you go right to iCloud upon clicking. Calendar (iOS) is synched with iCal (Mac OS), and Contacts is synched with Address Book. Incidentally, the names “Address Book” and “iCal” will soon be replaced by their iPad counterparts, “Contacts” and “Calendar”, as part of Apple’s long-term strategy to merge Mac OS (desktops and laptops) with iOS (handheld devices).

Calendars can also show up on other people’s devices if they’ve authorized the calendar to be shared. This makes it convenient to plan family or group events. John showed how he could tell Siri to make an appointment for him — meaning he wouldn’t have to take his hands off the wheel or his eyes off the road if he were driving. (Siri, the iPhone’s artificial-intelligence assistant, is only available for the iPad 3, and John was using a beta version, so don’t panic if you don’t find it in the App Store.)

John said he’s constantly using his “Find My iPhone” feature to track down his iPad and iPhone. He can, if he wishes, lock or erase his iPhone from his computer. He can even play a ring tone if the phone is turned off. He could, if he wanted, completely wipe the contents of his iPhone (presumably something he’d only do if it had been stolen). Fortunately, if he’d already backed up the iPhone to his computer or to iCloud, he’d be able to restore its contents via either 3G (possibly expensive) or wi-fi (cheap).

There’s a tool called iTunes Match that lets you check your music libraries from various devices (including stuff you ripped from CDs years ago) and find out whether their counterpart tunes exist in your other libraries, then synch them up.

John opened up TextEdit and showed how, in the upper-left corner, you can choose whether to save the document locally (on the computer) or on iCloud. You get 5 GB of storage for free; iTunes purchases do not count against this limit. This feature will only be available under Mountain Lion next month.

OK, so you’re convinced that you want iCloud. How to get it?

Go to www.icloud.com in your browser. Apparently you need Mac OS 10.7.2 or later to take full advantage of it, but you can transfer over your old .mac e-mail accounts with earlier versions of the OS. To sign in, just type in your run-together name (such as “johndgraham”), and it will tack on “@me.com”. Once in, you can access e-mail or Contacts or Calendar or Find My iPhone (or, eventually, the productivity applications within iWork) at the click of an icon — or by tapping it on your touch-screen device.

You can upgrade to the next Mac OS (Mountain Lion) for only $20 later this summer. And it’ll allow you to upgrade from either Snow Leopard (10.6) or Lion (10.7). You may want to wait until then to take advantage of all the iCloud features.

In conclusion, John noted that iCloud is still in its infancy. There will be more bells and whistles attached as the years go by. Apple CEO Tim Cook has publicly stated that this will be the center of Apple’s strategy for the next decade. Sooner or later, you’re gonna have to get on the train; might as well be sooner, eh?


Disproving the adage that old dogs can't learn new tricks, it seems that by virtue of typing this message that I am "blogging" - how very 21st century of me.  I might just start building a Klout score of my very own.


2012.06 Editorial: Off the Mousepad

By Holly McEntee

A quick hello this time, and apologies for the lateness of the newsletter — completely on me — there's been a couple of major demands on my time these past few weeks. One of them which was a joy was finishing Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs. I have the hardcopy book rather than an e-book, and as some of you may know it's a pretty hefty tome, but it was very readable. I don't read a lot of biographies because in my experience they are often poorly written and boring. Not this one! Even as a life-time Apple devotee, I learned things about Steve Jobs the person, his history and demons, Apple, NeXT, and Pixar (especially the relationship with Disney) that I did not know before. I really liked learning more about Tim Cook and Jon Ive as they are portrayed in the book — you can read a long interview / article of Jon Ive's thoughts and feelings about design and Apple — and was somewhat surprised at how much Bill Gates contributed to Walter Isaacson's narrative. I highly recommend it, if you haven't already read it, but perhaps this is one case where the advantages of e-books outweigh (get it?) the traditional model.

This month at Mad Mac we'll be learning about iCloud, which will replace MobileMe come the end of the month. If you want to do a little homework before the meeting, here's an article about how to prepare for the end of MobileMe.

I'm also hoping we'll have some information from Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference to talk about — it will be taking place June 11-15, and updates on Mountain Lion, iOS 6, and new Macs are expected. I'm excited, and you should be too.

See you on the 13th.



2012.06 Business: Volunteers Needed!

The Mad Mac board is seeking volunteers among the Mad Mac members (and even those who aren't members) to step up and share your knowledge and familiarity on the following topics, which have been suggested as meeting presentations:
  • Reunion (geneology software for the Mac)
  • a compare-and-contrast demo of Windows 7 (on a non-Mac) vs. Parallels on the Mac vs. Bootcamp on the Mac: How close are they?
  • comparing and contrasting social media apps (MySpace, Google+, Facebook): What are the pros and cons of each?
If you have experience with the topics above and are willing to share it with your fellow Mad Mac members, please contact any board member. (Contact information is listed under the "About Us" tab.)

If you've never done a presentation in front of a group before, we'll help you get ready and will supply the barf bags. HHOK!* But seriously, you know how beginning teachers get by, don't you? All they have to do is stay a chapter ahead of the students in the textbook. You can fake that for an hour, can't you?

*ha ha, only kidding!


2012.06 Help: Prepare for Q&A

When preparing to bring questions to ask at the Mad Mac meeting, please try to remember the following:
  1. Know what operating system your Mac is running. You can find this information under "About this Mac" under the  menu in the Finder, upper left-most corner.
  2. Know what model of Mac you have. An iMac? A MacBook Pro? If your question is about a non-Mac device, what is it? An iPhone? Which generation? An iPod? What kind?
  3. Know the name of the application (program) you were using when the problem occurred, or that you have a question about.
  4. If you got an error message while using the Mac that you didn't understand, write down the exact wording of it and bring that to the meeting. This will help us diagnose the problem you were having.
  5. Try to write down exactly what you were doing when you encountered the behavior you want to ask about: every move of the mouse, every click, and what exactly happens when the problem occurs. No detail is too small!
By having as much of the above information as possible on hand, you can help us answer your question effectively and efficiently! We might even get the answer correct!


2012.06 History: May Feature: A Brief Introduction to Databases

Presented by Richard S. Russell, summarized by Holly McEntee

Richard began his presentation by explaining that in his retirement he spends a lot of time building, modifying, and maintaining databases for many nonprofit groups and small business. He then defined several terms, distinguishing a "database" (a collection of related information) from a "database manager" (a program or system that renders information accessible, such as for querying and reporting). FileMaker Pro, Richard's preferred app, is a database manager. He went on to explain that database managers generally come in three types: standalone, network, and enterprise. An example of a standalone database manager is Bento, a single-user version of FileMaker Pro. FileMaker Pro itself is a network database manager, because it can be shared across a network of computers or devices (the mobile version of FileMaker Pro is called FileMaker Go — cute, eh?). Enterprise database managers are the most complex — perhaps the best-known enterprise database manager is Oracle. These involve managing multiple back-end and front-end databases and user interfaces to access and use data stored in gigantic centralized mainframe computers.

Richard then explained the difference between flat-file and relational databases. An Excel spreadsheet used for non-accounting purposes is a flat-file database; the public library's catalog MadCat is a relational database in which data (individual fields or entire tables) are linked in multiple ways. These relationships can be one-to-one, one-to-many, many-to-one, or many-to-many, and are established between data fields when a database is designed and built. Lastly, Richard went over common restraints and attributes that can be set for a data field, such as only allowing integers to be entered, not allowing duplicate entries, or never allowing a field to be empty (blank). Data stored in a flat-file database is limited to very simple searches. In general, the more data a database contains, the slower the searches and sorts go.

With all that under the audience's belt, Richard used the remaining time demonstrating these concepts with a basic relational database of colors that he built in FileMaker Pro. He noted that it was a simple database with a single table and four data types, and showed how different queries to the database produced different datasets as a result of the attributes he had assigned the data types. Mad Mac hopes to offer a follow-up to this presentation with one that goes into more detail on specific data types and database structural design. As Richard noted at the end of the evening, designing a relational database takes much careful thought right from the start — even something as simple as a "name" field can become complicated when you take into account the need for a unique field each for first name, middle name, last name, nickname, maiden name, married name....

Richard is willing to send a copy of his initial presentation to you in the form of an RTF document, readable by almost any word processor, if you ask him at RichardSRussell@tds.net.


2012.06 Article: IDVD Like Hypercard? A Tale of Frustration

By Woodson Gannaway

(Editor's note: Woodson is an occasional contributor to Mad Mac News and lives and teaches in China.)

News of the demise of the DVD (as burned from my Apple anyway) must not have reached a large majority of the world's population, and it is the most direct way for me to publish my video material and be assured that my friends can enjoy it.

So I shot two hours of 1920 x 1080 HD video of some excellent ping-pong practice sessions and prepared it to give away. Or maybe I should say prepared it as best I could, for somehow Apple hasn't made it easy or straightforward for me to do that now. A couple of years ago and from Standard Definition video it was no problem doing the same thing. Now something has changed.

My good camera shoots good HD video. Was it 2006 we got iMovie HD and the assurance that the HD age was here? Well the pieces didn't come into place and I'm still having to burn HD on DVDs as standard PAL 16:9 format stuff. Windows doesn't do mp4s (the native format of the camera) without extra stuff and my friends gave me a blank look when I asked them about it. So it was a DVD.

Except that, this won't work and you can't do that, and so on and so on. No I'm not going to spend more $$$, shouldn't have to. Yes I'm going to drop the movies directly into iDVD, shouldn't have to use iMovie necessarily and when I tried to it only made things worse. IDVD won't let you make a menu choice that plays all the movies sequentially.

So I used the "Combine" feature on the video camera which reduced the 27 clips to four. The camera itself has some limitations, this one probably related to the SSD card format choice. However much I would have liked to have one movie, four is a big improvement over twenty-seven.

Encoding the video showed me (via Activity Monitor) that it tops out at about 130% on my two cores. JES Deinterlacer will use 185% and sometimes more. Just how much would it bother Apple to improve the iDVD code a little to take advantage of the multiple cores more efficiently? Everybody doesn't live in that small subset of the so-called First World where broadband internet access can be presumed to have supplanted any need for DVDs.

IDVD does allow me to put a tad under 2 hours video on a single-layer DVD when I use the professional-quality encoding choice. Don't know how much under, I burned 116 minutes my first try.


2012.06 Article: Resetting PRAM and Repairing Disk Permissions

By Holly McEntee

PRAM stands for "Parameter Random Access Memory" and is pronounced "pea-ram". PRAM is a type of memory found in Macintosh computers that stores system settings. These settings include display settings (like screen resolution and color depth), the time-zone setting, speaker volume, and the startup volume choice. The system settings that are stored in the computer's PRAM differ from Mac to Mac, but the purpose of the memory remains the same. When something goes wrong, a technician may ask if you've reset the PRAM, because resetting the defaults is like throwing a large net over small problems to make sure the problem isn't a simple issue before delving into the internals of the unit.

Resetting defaults is not a sure-fire cure-all. However, it is free and an easy way of possibly fixing the issue (ranking right up there with repairing disk permissions). So, it is definitely worth a shot.

How to reset the PRAM:
  1. Shut down the computer.
  2. Locate the following four keys on the keyboard: Command (⌘), Option, P, and R. You will need to hold these keys down simultaneously in Step 4.
  3. Turn on the computer.
  4. Press and hold the Command-Option-P-R keys. You must press this key combination before the gray screen appears.
  5. Hold the keys down until the computer restarts and you hear the startup sound for the second time.
  6. Release the keys.
If you choose to reset your PRAM, you may need to set your display, time zone, startup volume, and other affected settings using System Preferences (accessible under the  menu). Some firmware updates may reset your PRAM as part of their installation process, which will means you will have to reset the affected settings after the installation.

Many programs you install on your Macintosh in OS X are package files (.pkg), each of which contains a file or files with the extension .bom (standing for, quaintly, bill of materials). This little .bom file contains a list of permissions, "rules" that control your ability to view or make changes to the contents of the file. Occasionally in OS X some key file ownership and permissions get changed for whatever reason by applications and more frequently, program installers. When ownership and permissions get changed, things just don't work as they should. The symptoms might be programs quitting unexpectedly, preferences not being remembered, programs not launching, etc.

If you notice these types of problems, one very easy diagnostic procedure you can perform is to Repair Disk Permissions. (Plus it makes you sound smart to say off-handedly to the guy at the Genius Bar "Oh, sure, I repaired the disk permissions, but it didn't seem to help" ... especially if you can combine this with the previous article and add nonchalantly "I even reset the PRAM.").

Repair Disk Permissions is a Mac OS X utility, which is part of the Apple Disk Utility program. It corrects the ownership and permissions according to Apple specifications. Frequently, this corrects many system and program errors. To Repair Disk Permissions, follow these steps:
  1. Open the Disk Utility program found in the Applications > Utilities folder on your hard drive.
  2. Click on the "First Aid" tab in the window that opens.
  3. In the list to the left, click once on the icon/name of your hard drive to select it as the disk whose permissions need repairing.
  4. Click on the button labeled "Repair Disk Permissions". (Why not "Verify Disk Permissions"? Because "Repair" verifies them anyway, then goes ahead and fixes them.)
  5. The repair process begins, and may take several minutes. This is normal. (Do not be intimidated by a progress bar indicating you have hours left to go. It's lying.)
  6. After the repair is done you will see a long (or short) list of files that were repaired. You need not study this or write it down. If you want to print it to a PDF and save it for future reference, do so.
  7. Quit Disk Utility.
You may not notice any immediate or obvious changes or improvement, but then again you might. Repairing Disk Permission is less necessary with systems since OS X 10.5, but it won't hurt. If you install a lot of programs (especially through Software Update) it's generally recommended you run Repair Disk Permissions every other month or so in the name of good general maintenance.

(Editor's note: See diagrams of the process.)


2012.06 Article: Hands-On with Five Antivirus Apps for the Mac

By Jacqui Cheng (Excerpt only; read full story here.)

(Editor's note: The full article was recommended by fellow Mad Mac members, and it goes into great detail with images on each of the apps mentioned below. I have not used any of the mentioned products, and Mad Mac in no way endorses any of them.)

So Mac invulnerability to malware is a myth. And although such a blunt statement may be a blow to the ego of some Mac users, it remains true. Security researchers from all walks have long argued that it was only a matter of time before the Mac became popular enough that virus, malware, and spyware makers would come calling. Overconfidence precedes carelessness, especially when it comes to technology.

Is it time to begin installing antivirus software on our Macs? We leave that up to you to decide for yourself, but given the spike in questions we've been receiving about which antivirus software is the best, we thought we'd take a look at a handful of the most well-known apps out there for Mac users:
  • Kaspersky Anti-Virus for Mac ($39.95 per year)
  • Intego VirusBarrier X6 ($49.95 per year)
  • F-Secure Antivirus for Mac ($39.99 per year)
  • Sophos Antivirus for Mac Home Edition (Free)
  • Avast! Free Antivirus for Mac (Free)

We're not arguing that Mac users have to install antivirus software if they want to avoid the zombie malware apocalypse. Infection numbers — even for Flashback — are still relatively low when compared against the global number of Mac users. However, we also don't think it's wise to pretend that OS X is completely immune to attacks. It's not — we know it, you (hopefully) know it, and security researchers know it. Even if you feel comfortable navigating the scary old Internet yourself, you may want to consider setting up your less-experienced friends and family members who just can't help themselves when it comes to playing Java games online or opening random e-mail attachments from foreign countries.


2012.05 Editorial: Off the Mousepad

By Holly McEntee

Hi everyone! We had a really spirited meeting on April 18, with several members chiming in to both help answer questions raised during the first hour and during Dave's presentation on e-books. (See below for a summary.) That's great, we love audience participation — a users' group is all about users helping each other! But now we on the board need your help in a different venue: While the board members have a lot of knowledge among us, we don't know everything (gasp!) and sometimes we receive excellent suggestions for Mad Mac presentations that none of us know anything about. In the newsletter two such topics are offered, and we're interested in any members who can help us out by doing presentations on them. Don't be shy — we're all friends at Mad Mac!

During the 6:00 Q&A at the April meeting a member alluded to the "voice recognition" capabilities on his iPad 3 and asked if there was an Apple-branded voice-to-text app available. A couple of members mentioned Dragon and MacSpeech, but the general consensus that no such app existed. The next day I got an e-mail from the member who explained that what he'd assumed was voice-to-text software was, in fact, Siri: the microphone icon disappeared when he disabled WiFi. (He did not have 3G capability enabled.) So for those who were hoping for an Apple-branded iOS voice-to-text app, you'll have to wait a bit longer.

Ho hum, on April 24 Apple announced 2nd quarter revenue of $39.2 billion and a quarterly net profit of $11.6 billion. Ye gods! I tried putting these numbers into perspective somehow to try and get my head around them, but no luck even with multiple internet searches (some of which led me into very strange territory, indeed...).* Makes the $25 million raised by a local public figure seem downright paltry. On that note, remember to participate in the primary on May 8. You should always welcome the opportunity to exercise your right to vote. For information on voting locations in Madison visit

I hope to see you at the meeting next week!


*Info supplied by membership coordinator: The total equalized property valuation of the City of Madison was $21,965,2211,700 in 2011. In other words, Apple made enuf money in 3 months to buy the whole city and still have enuf left over to match the entire economy of Afghanistan.

2012.05 News: Results of Board Elections

At the April 18 membership meeting a motion was set forth by member Calvin Bruce and seconded by member Barbara Leuthner to elect the proffered slate of nominees, as all were unopposed, for the following board positions as presented. The following were so elected by a unanimous show of hands:
  • President - Dave Weston
  • Vice-President - Robert "Doc" Huntington
  • Secretary - Holly McEntee
  • Treasurer - Raul De Luna
Our deepest appreciation to outgoing president Chico Mitchell for his years of service!

2012.05 Announcement: Volunteers Needed!

The Mad Mac board is seeking volunteers among the Mad Mac members (and even those who aren't members) to step up and share your knowledge and familiarity on the following topics, which have been suggested as meeting presentations:
  • a compare-and-contrast demo of Windows 7 (on a non-Mac) vs. Parallels or Bootcamp on the Mac. How close are they?
  • genealogy software for the Mac
If you have experience with the topics above and are willing to share it with your fellow Mad Mac members, please contact any board member. If you've never done a presentation in front of a group before, we'll help you get ready and will supply the barf bags. (Just kidding!)

2012.05 History: April Q&A (Selected)

Dave Weston, Quizmaster

Q: Recently there was a lot of coverage (newspaper, websites) about a new Mac virus that seemed to be a real threat. What do I need to know?

A: The recent Mac "virus" was actually a Java trojan that connected infected Macs to a server that allowed hackers to connect to the infected machines, upload and download files, take screenshots, and even take over the infected machines. A followup trojan used a security flaw in pre-2008 Microsoft Word to infect Macs. Apple issued an update to Java via Software Update to combat the first trojan, and updating your version of MS Word / Office will protect your Mac from the second.

Q: What is Java, anyway? Is it the same thing as JavaScript?

A: Java is a cross-platform programming language or engine that is used to code tools that work in a web environment. Java is what makes parts of complex webpages work, say for example drop-down menus from which you can choose your state of residence or your gender (if you're filling out an online survey). JavaScript is minimally related to Java, but contains a smaller, simpler set of commands and tends to be easier for first-time programmers to learn. However, JavaScript apps are compiled at runtime (when you open a webpage), whereas Java apps are compiled prior to runtime.

Editor's note: For more information visit: 

Q: What is that weird square picture you see on ads and coupons? It looks like a UPC symbol.

A: It's called a Quick Response Code, or QR code for short. It was first invented by a subsidiary of Toyota to track vehicles throughout the assembly process. It's now widely used for advertising purposes, thanks to the ability of smartphones to "read" the patterns in a QR code like a UPC symbol and link viewers to a company's website for product information and coupons or deals.

Q: I have an old "hockey puck" mouse that is finally dying. I love it and want to find a replacement. Any suggestions?

A: State agencies use a service called Surplus With A Purpose (SWAP) where they can send unwanted or outdated equipment to be sold to other state agencies or members of the public (Friday mornings only). It is not unusual for older Mac equipment to appear at SWAP. You can check out the inventory at:
Try searching on eBay as well. Any USB mouse should work with the iMac that came with the "hockey puck".

2012.05 History: April Feature: E-Books

Presented by Dave Weston, summarized by Holly McEntee

What are e-books? First Dave helped us understand what e-books are not:
  • e-books are not audiobooks. These are sound files (e.g. .mp3, .mp4, .wav).
  • e-books are not text files (like TextEdit, Pages, or Word documents).
  • e-books are not web pages (like reading the first chapter of a book sold by Amazon)
  • e-books are not PDFs. (Portable Document Format files provide an electronic image of text or text and graphics that looks like a printed document and can be viewed, printed, and electronically transmitted.)

Dave then explained that an e-book is a new type of computer file that presents the contents of a traditional hardcopy book in a digital format that is accessed by a handheld device or computer and allows a high degree of interactivity. While gaining in popularity, the e-book industry is still in its infancy. Traditional book publishers are struggling to maintain control over the distribution of, and the prices that can be charged for, e-books. This has resulted in different e-book formats, each proprietary to specific e-book readers. (Moby and ePub are the most popular e-book formats at the moment.) Specifically, it is the copy-protection component of e-books, known as Digital Rights Management (DRM), that differs between e-book publishers and sellers. This is why not all e-books work the same on iPads, Kindles, Nooks, and other e-book devices. There are apps that allow devices to read e-books that use other companies' DRM software — for example, there is a Kindle app for the iPad that allows iBooks to read Kindle e-books purchased through Amazon.com. However not all apps exist for all devices, and even where they do the user is forced to own multiple apps just to read their e-books. Also, due to the different file formats a third-party app such as Calibre is needed if you want to organize all of your e-books simultaneously.

The advantages of e-books were noted, including:
  • the reader can change the font size (helpful to those with aging eyes),
  • the lighting can be adjusted on the e-book device to the reader's comfort,
  • several dozens or hundreds of books can be carried around at a time in the e-book device (as opposed to toting several heavy tomes hither and yon), and
  • e-books of course use no paper in their production (The environmental friendliness of this aspect is mitigated somewhat by the fact that e-book devices use electricity, contain metals that must be mined from the Earth, and are shipped to the US from halfway around the planet. Oh, well.)

It was noted that several schools, from grade schools to universities and tech-school programs, are moving to using e-books for their textbook needs. Embedded images, audio files, and weblinks to practice exams and discussion forums are among the features that lend themselves well to textbooks.

Dave briefly demonstrated how one could create an e-book from existing text documents, scanned images of hardcopy books, or within special e-book-creation apps. For example, the iWork app Pages has the ability to format text documents created within it to the ePub format ... which, coincidentally, is the e-book file format used by iBooks. The free app iBookAuthor (only available for OS Lion, and not for iOS) lets the user create textbooks with full color pictures and interactive content, although there are some limitations. We did not have time to talk much about e-publishing (the ability for authors to publish their work electronically without having to rely on book contracts with publishing houses) but suffice it to say that e-books and e-publishing give a greater flexibility to new authors and authors in speciality genre niches to actually get their work into the hands of readers.

The general consensus is that the concept of e-books is tremendously exciting, and as the industry matures we can expect the stability of the e-book format to improve, the variety of books available as e-books to expand, and for e-books to generally take hold in our daily lives the way so many other digital media have done.

2012.05 Article: Make Your Own Spam Filter Tool with Your iPhone

By Jeanne Gomoll

We've entered the horrible season of robocalls and polls. The many loopholes in the do-not-call (DNC) rules allow advertisers, pollsters, charities, and businesses to call you anytime. Anyone and any company with whom you have done business may call you even if you have placed your numbers on a state or federal DNC list. And of course all charities, political groups, and pollsters can call you, even if (or especially if) you make regular donations to their cause, even if you have begged them not to call you.

I may get more spam calls than most people. I own a home-based business and my phone number is on the web. Also, I've set up my phone system so that all phone calls made to my land-line phone are automatically forwarded to my iPhone. During the last election week, I received an average of 2 political calls every hour.

Since the DNC lists didn't seem to be helping, I decided to do something about it myself. Here's what I did:
  1. An unknown number shows up on my iPhone's screen. Since I run a business, the unknown caller could possibly be a potential client. I give the caller one chance and answer it. If it turns out to be a spam call, I end the call as quickly as possible, or simply hang up on robocalls. Then....
  2. I go to my iPhone's list of recent phone calls and click on the right-pointing arrow to the right of the telephone number I've identified as spam.
  3. On the new window that opens up, I scroll down and select "Create New Contact".
  4. I create a new contact which I call "Spam". (I have to do this only one time.)
  5. I give the new contact a unique ring tone. (I've chosen "Sonar" for mine. The sound of a deadly, invisible U-Boat seems appropriate.)
  6. Next time I get a call that I identify as spam, I do not create a new client. Instead, I tap on "Add to Existing Contact".
  7. Then I add the new telephone number to the "Spam" listing. How many phone numbers can you add? So far, it does not appear that Apple imposes a limit on the number of phone numbers a single Contact name can have. So far, I have entered 170+ telephone numbers to my "Spam" contact. I guess if I ever do run up against a limit, I will just create a new contact called "Spam2" with the same ring tone.

So, when my phone's sonar sounds off. I can hear it from several rooms away if I don't happen to have my iPhone close to me. And (joy!) I know that it's not necessary to run to get my phone and answer. This system works great, and it only takes a few seconds to add a new telephone to the spam listing. Once the system is in place, you need never answer a call from that number again. If they really need to tell you something, they can leave a message. I figure if it turns out I've mistakenly labeled a good guy as spam, I can always remove them from the spam contact list. But that hasn't happened yet.

Now I wish I could set up a spam filter tool to protect me from unwanted text messages! 

2012.05 Article: How to Tell If Your Cloud Provider Can Read Your Data

By Rich Mogull in TidBITS (Excerpt only. Read full story here.)

With the tremendous popularity of services like Dropbox and iCloud there is, rightfully, an incredible amount of interest in cloud data security. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out exactly who can look at our information, especially since buzzwords like “secure” and “encrypted” don’t necessarily mean you are the only one who can see your data.

In part because there are numerous ways cloud providers could protect your data, the actual implementation varies from service to service. All consumer cloud services are what we in the cloud world call public and are built for multi-tenancy.

A public cloud service is one that anyone on the Internet can access and use. To support this the cloud providers need to segregate and isolate customers from each other. Segregation means your data is stored in your own little virtual area of the service, and isolation means that the services use security techniques to keep people from seeing each other’s stuff.

Practically speaking, multi-tenancy means your data is co-mingled with everyone else’s on the back end. For example, file-storage services intermingle everyone’s files and then keep track of who owns what in the service’s database. Some, like Dropbox, will even store only a single version of a given file and merely point at it from different owners. Thus multiple users who happen to have the same file are technically sharing that single instance; this approach also helps reduce the storage needed for multiple versions of a file for a single user.

Although multi-tenancy means co-mingling data, the cloud provider uses segregation techniques so you see only your own data when you use the service, and isolation to make sure you can’t maliciously go after someone else’s data when you’re using the system. The cloud provider’s databases and application code are key to keeping all these bits separate from each other. It isn’t like having a single hard drive, or even a single database, dedicated to your information. Multi-tenancy is used for files, email, calendar entries, photos, and every other kind of data you store with a cloud service.

A multi-tenancy architecture has two obvious problems. The first is that if there’s a mistake in the application or database the service runs on, someone else might see your data. There is a long history of Internet sites (cloud and otherwise) inadvertently allowing someone to manipulate a web page or URL to access unauthorized data, and the bad guys are always on the lookout for such vulnerabilities. The second problem is that the cloud provider’s employees can also see your data. Yes, the better services usually put a lot of policy and security controls in place to prevent this, but it’s always technically possible.

One way to mitigate some of these concerns is with encryption, which uses a mathematical process coupled with a digital key (a long string of text) to turn your data into what looks like random gibberish. That key is necessary to decrypt and read the data. Most cloud providers use encryption to protect your Internet connection to them (via SSL/TLS — look for https URLs) so no one can sniff it on the network. But encrypting data in transit is only half the battle — what about your data in the provider’s data center? Encryption of storage is also necessary for any hope of keeping your data secret from the cloud provider’s employees.

Some providers do encrypt your data in their data center. There are three ways to do this:
  1. Encrypt all the data for all users using a single key (or set of keys) that the cloud provider knows and manages.
  2. Encrypt each individual user’s data with a per-user key that the cloud provider manages.
  3. Encrypt each individual user’s data with a per-user key that the user manages.

Each has advantages and disadvantages, trading security for convenience. There are three different (but similar) indications that your cloud data is accessible to your provider:
  1. If you can see your data in a Web browser after entering only your account password, the odds are extremely high that your provider can read it as well. The only way you could see your data in a Web browser and still have it be hidden from your provider is if the service relied on complex JavaScript code or a Flash/Java/ActiveX control to decrypt and display the data locally.
  2. If the service offers both Web access and a desktop application, and you can access your data in both with the same account password, odds are high that your provider can read your data. This is because your account password is also probably being used to protect your data (usually your password is used to unlock your encryption key). While your provider could technically architect things so the same password is used in different ways to both encrypt data and allow Web access, that really isn’t done.
  3. If you can access the cloud service via a new device or application using your account user name and password, your provider can probably read your data. This is just another variation of the item above.

Last year it was widely reported that Dropbox accidentally allowed any user access to any other user’s account. With iCloud I have a single user name and password. It offers a rich and well-designed web interface where I can manage individual e-mail messages, calendar entries, and more. I can register new devices and computers with the same user name and password I use on the website. Thus, from the beginning, it was clear Apple had the capability to read my content. That doesn’t mean Dropbox, iCloud, and similar services are insecure. They generally have extensive controls — both technical and policy restrictions — to keep employees from snooping. But it does mean that such services aren’t suitable for all users in all cases, especially businesses or governmental organizations that are contractually or legally obligated to keep certain data private.

There are services that offer users flexible encryption (and thus more security). If you want to be certain that your data are safe from both attackers and the cloud provider’s employees snooping, look for services that offer additional options for encrypting data, either with a password or an encryption key known only to you. If such an option isn’t available at the next cloud service you check out, you’ll know that the provider’s employees could technically read your data. And when the next big story of a cloud provider reading data hits the headlines, you can smugly inform your friends that you knew it all along.


2012.04 Editorial: Off the Mousepad

By Holly McEntee

Greetings, fellow Mad Mac'ers. Well I finally did it: I made the move to Lion, and to iCloud. I agonized over this for a long time, put off by reports of people having had trouble with Lion, or iCloud, or both. Part of my resistance is that all of the Macs at work are not moving to Lion anytime soon, and I was unsure how well my new iCloud calendars would sync with iCal on my work machine. I berated myself for being such a chicken — jeez Louise, I've upgraded my OS at least a dozen times! — then talked myself into procrastinating for one reason or another (I'll wait til after the holiday; I'll do it when I get back from New Zealand; I'll wait til our tax returns have been processed in case Turbo Tax needs Snow Leopard for some reason, ...). Finally I told myself that after I upgraded, I could get a new iPad3 — but not before. D'oh! Between that, and getting spammed by increasingly shrill e-mails from Apple about MobileMe ending, I acquiesced. I carefully ran Software Update, then repaired disk permissions, then ran Software Update again, and ran Time Machine one more time. Only then did I go to the App Store and download Lion. With a trembling finger I clicked "Install" and fled the house (yelling "don't touch the computer!" to my husband on my way out the door). Upon my return I crept into the office to find ...

... my iMac, humming along serenely. Running Lion. No worries. (Except Lion killed Stickies, which I didn't think about…hope I didn't have anything too important on one of those…)

Boy, do I feel silly. There's a lot of new things to learn (like Mission Control, and Launchpad) and get used to (like iCloud), but so far so good. Now if you excuse me, there's an iPad3 out there with my name on it. :)

Hope you can make it to the meeting this Wednesday! E-books are edging into everyone's peripheral vision these days, not necessarily for the better. The explanation given by sci-fi author Charlie Stross at
is (to me) particularly alarming. (It taught me a new word: monopsony.) I'm all for reducing our collective use of paper for the good of the environment, but frankly e-books make me nervous. Thankfully, Dave Weston will be speaking with us about e-books at this week's Mad Mac meeting. I'm looking forward to having my questions answered!


2012.04 Article: FAA to Review Electronics Usage on Aircraft

Excerpt only. Read full story here.

The FAA recently announced that they would take a “fresh look” at personal use of electronic devices while on board aircraft. Tablets and e-readers will be the main focus of their review. The FAA has “prohibited device usage if below 10,000 ft” if the device has not been cleared to make sure it won’t interfere with onboard avionics. For many travelers it seems absurd that the agency hasn’t cleared a list of harmless devices already. For years it has been up to the airline to perform their own tests on every single device. FAA rules require said tests to be carried out with no passengers onboard, which results in lost income, as a plane is forced out of service. Now, however, the agency is willing to help test devices and work with airlines and customers to attempt to improve the flying experience.

2012.04 Article: US Department of Justice Targets Apple for Fixing E-Book Prices

Compiled by Holly McEntee from various online news sources

The US Department of Justice has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple for alleged e-book price fixing. 

Apple had reportedly been in talks with federal regulators but had failed to come to an agreement to settle their concerns. Along with Apple, five book publishers are also reportedly under investigation for price fixing: HarperCollins Publishers, Hachette Book Group, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Group, and Simon & Schuster "colluded to increase prices" on popular books.

The probe apparently stems from changes made to how publishers charge for e-books when Apple released the first iPad two years ago. Book publishers began using an "agency model" in which publishers set their own e-book prices, rather than the traditional wholesale model in which publishers set a retail price and retailers set their own sales price. The pricing model materialized in 2010 after book publishers asked Amazon to increase the price of e-books on its website, but Amazon stood firm in its contention that anything above $9.99 was too high. Amazon eventually relented after many popular Macmillan titles disappeared from the e-tailer's site.

Apple is fighting the price-fixing allegation, saying in a statement "The launch of the iBookstore in 2010 fostered innovation and competition, breaking Amazon's monopolistic grip on the publishing industry.... Since then customers have benefited from eBooks that are more interactive and engaging. Just as we've allowed developers to set prices on the App Store, publishers set prices on the iBookstore."

The DOJ alleges that Apple and publishers crafted a deal whereby no other e-book retailer could offer a price lower than Apple. Sharis A. Pozen, acting assistant attorney general within the DOJ's antitrust division, said that publishers reportedly referred to the "wretched" $9.99 pricing scheme for e-books via Amazon, and wanted to force Amazon to up its prices. Pozen quoted former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who reportedly said of the deal: "The customer pays a little more, but that's what [publishers] want anyway."

2012.04 Recommended: Cheap Cables and Connectors

Editor's note: Thanks to Rick Calicura, President of Diablo Valley MUG by way of The NotePad, newsletter of Club Mac, for these tips.

We all love our toys. When we purchase a new piece of equipment, we are easy prey to salespeople who earn commissions. When you purchase a new DVD player, for instance, an eager salesperson is sure to urge you to buy a high-end HDMI cable to connect it to your high-def TV. 

Some of these cables, notably from Monster Cable, can cost over $60 — and that’s with an online discount. (Search done via Google.) This can run into serious money.

However, there is a place where you can get quality cables at very reasonable prices. For instance, a cable that meets the exact specifications of the cable above will cost you $3.50! Where can this place be, you might ask? Well, using your browser, visit 
http://www. monoprice.com
You can buy computer cables and connectors as well. Some examples:
  • 6-foot, 9-pin FireWire 800-to-FireWire 400 cable: $4.72
    (Believe me, you would pay far more at the Apple Store for this.)
  • 6-foot synchronization cable for iPhone, iPad, and iPod, white: $5.61
    (You know you paid more than that at Fry’s.)
  • Thunderbolt-to-HDMI connector, DVI, and Display Port Adapter: $13.94
    (Apple is going to charge you $29.95 for this same device.)

Smart shopping is really important in this day and age and there is no need to pay a fortune for a high-profit item when other alternatives are available for the same quality merchandise. I have to share that I have purchased from Monoprice and the equipment has proven to be every bit as good as the merchandise from full-price dealers. Don’t get ripped off!