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!