2015.04 News: Apple's Financials Continue To Amaze

It's already the world's most valuable company, and expectations for its financial performance are invariably sky high to begin with. A recipe for disappointment, you think? Au contraire, Pierre. In a stupendously flabbergasting performance, Apple's financial performance continues to outstrip expectations. It's probably only a matter of time before they own everything.

The amazing thing to us long-time Macintosh owners is that the Mac itself (the actual computer hardware) is, according to the article, only "a tiny portion of Apple’s overall business".


2015.04 Spring Check-up For Your Mac

Some practical advice from our friends at Small Dog Electronics

“My computer is running slow!!” How many times have you uttered that in front of your device? Nobody likes to see the “pinwheel of death” spinning on your desktop, making you wonder if it is ever going to stop. Before you bring your computer in for service here are some simple tips you can do at home to keep your computer at optimal performance.

Make sure you give it a good night’s rest.
The “brain” in your computer (whether it be an iPhone, iPad, or Mac) gets tired just like you do. It is always a good idea to shut down your computer before you go to sleep. This allows systems to reset, memory to re-organize, trash and temporary files to be completely removed. It is always a good idea to completely power down other electronic devices in your house including your television, VHS/DVD/Blu-Ray player, and stereo. You would not leave your car running all night? The same applies to other electronic devices in your household.
Keep your Operating System up to date.
Software updates are critical for the smooth and steady performance of your computer. Do NOT ignore them, despite what your Facebook friends tell you. A software update bug is far easier to fix than a computer running old and out dated software.
Location, location, location.
Use and store your computer in a clean, well lit, well ventilated room. Do not use it, your iPhone or your iPad in the bathroom. The mist from your steamy hot shower in the morning can potentially damage your device. Keep food and drinks as far away as possible. A liquid spill immediately voids any warranty. Don’t use Wite-Out on your screen either…;)
We love our pets, yet pet hair can get into the cooling fans and really muck up the works so to speak. (woof, meow, moo???) Cigarette smoke is not only bad for your lungs but bad for your Mac as well. Smoke of any kind whether it be from a candle, incense burner, cigar, or “other” (wink, wink) can get into every crack and crevice in your device. Even the surface you rest your device on can potentially be troublesome. Stone, marble and the like conduct heat better than you would think.
Empty the trash and delete the cache.
Or was it the other way around? Either way, it’s always a good idea to remove unwanted and unnecessary files and folders. You would be amazed at how much disk space this junk takes up.
Empty your browser. Your browser stores information about websites you go to so they load faster the next time you visit. Over time these files build and do nothing but take up space. Get rid of ‘em! In Safari: Safari > Reset Safari. You will have the option to NOT delete certain items such as saved passwords and auto-fill forms.
Click on Finder and select Applications. Scroll through the list and if you have not used it in some time, it may be time to do some spring cleaning of your programs. Click, hold and drag to the trash can. You can always download Skype again if needed.
Open iPhoto and empty the trash there as well. At this point, empty the trash can then restart your computer.
After your computer restarts, take a peek at your Login Items. They are the programs that start when you boot up your computer. Go to your System Preferences, select Users and Groups Click on the Login Items tab and uncheck programs that you do not need immediately upon start up. Remember they can always be started at a later time.
External Storage.
If you have a lot of media on your hard drive such as movies or songs, you may want to consider an external drive. Movie files can be especially large. A full length high-def movie can be as large as 3 GB! Move them from your hard drive to an external drive. This not only frees up space on your drive, but saves it from searching through movie and music files to get to last weekends baby shower photos. Make sure that you are backing these files up, though, as Time Machine does not back up external drives by default but can be configured to do so.


2015.04 Help: Safari Web Content Not Responding

I'm running the latest version of Mac OS X (10.10.3), Safari (8.0.5), and Adobe Flash Player (17.0 r0) and have gotten more "Safari Web Content Not Responding" errors in the last week than in my entire prior computer experience dating back to my very first Mac in 1986. They're temporarily fixable by using ⌘-opt-esc to bring up the "Force Quit Applications" dialog, but I'm having to do this dozens of times a day just to get my normal work done, and it's risen well beyond the level of a mere annoyance. Is it just me, or is this plaguing other Mac users as well?

Addendum, half an hour later: It's now reached the point where I no longer use that key combination to pull up the "Force Quit Applications" window when necessary. I simply leave it open all the time for quicker feedback and access.

Followup, 2 days later: I whined about this on an Apple support forum and got the following advice from one of their gurus:

[A] Safari/Preferences/Advanced - enable the Develop menu, then go there and Empty Caches. Quit/reopen Safari and test.

[B] Then try Safari/History/Show History and delete all history items. Quit/reopen Safari and test.

[C] You can also try try Safari/Clear History and Web Site Data. The down side is it clears all cookies. Doing this may cause some sites to no longer recognize your computer as one that has visited the web site.

[D] Try un-installing and then re-installing Adobe Flash Player [links provided].

Tried A. Didn't fix the problem.

Tried B. Didn't fix the problem but did succeed in wiping out a lot of my cookies, so I've had to re-sign-in to lots of sites (which fortunately I kept the log-in information for in a separate text file).

Decided to put off trying C and D until I went hunting for the application that kept hanging up on me, namely Safari Flash Player Plugin. Using ⌘-space to activate Spotlight, I tracked the fugitive down to MacHD > Library > Internet Plugins, where I trashed everything that bore the names "Flash" or "Adobe", then emptied the trash for good measure.

Relaunched Safari (for about the 30th time in the last couple of days), and now everything seems to be working fine. I wish I'd tried assassinating the plugin right off the bat.

More followup, later that same day: All was going well until I hit a website that required Adobe Flash Player and offered me a chance to download it. I did so and followed the installation instructions (Version for those keeping score at home). In less than 10 minutes the "Flash Player Not Responding" hangup was back. Well, at least now I know whom to blame.

Final word (I think) on April 25. The advice I got from the Adobe trouble-shooter (after wending my way thru their confusing "Contact Us" procedure), was Please try disabling hardware acceleration. See the instructions in the video troubleshooting guide for details.

Well, I never got around to trying it. While I was waiting for a response from Adobe, someone else had suggested the old standby of shutting down the computer and restarting it, and that seemed to do the trick. Probably something I should have tried right off the bat.

Anyway, all's well that ends well, and I hope this saga-in-installments has provided our readers with some idea of what's likely to work (and what not to bother trying) if the same thing ever befalls them.


2015.04  James Bond, Inspector Gadget, and You

Good grief. Since it would be in bad taste to take a selfie video of your marriage proposal to your boyfriend or girlfriend, and somewhat invasive to ask a third party to do so, one enterprising company has come up with Ring Cam: an engagement ring jewelry box with a built-in digital video camera (with audio!) so you can record the entire event.  

Think I'm joking?  I wish I were:  http://getringcam.com

Apparently you rent the ring cam box for $99, and can pay the Ring Cam people extra money for them to edit the resulting video for you. 

I suppose if things go well with the proposal, the video material makes great material for Facebook, Instagram, a nice intro to the inevitable wedding DVD, etc. The company's website has a section for successful videos and testimonials which I didn't have the stomach to explore because I'm not a romantic (however I *am* a cynic, and if they had videos of the rejections, I might watch those...). But for such a thing as the Ring Cam to exist at all is slightly creepy to me, in the same way that expectant mothers setting up Facebook pages for their fetuses and posting sonograms labeled as selfies on them is creeps me out. Or how about those "living headstones" that bear a QR code that links to a online video about the deceased (also not joking: http://www.monuments.com/living-headstones)?

Clearly I am not the target market for devices and services that facilitate digital immortality. 

2015.04 Help: AutoPlay Always Starts with Sound Muted

This blog has mainly been used as an upstream source of information, but there's no reason why it can't work the other way as well. People should be able to pose questions here and see if the collective wisdom of the Apple community can supply the answer.

Let me get the process started. For the last several months, whenever I've started to watch a video on screen, whether I've clicked on the play (▶︎) button or relied on AutoPlay, it always begins with the sound muted, and I have to pause it while I manually unmute it. For whatever reason, my iMac never seems to remember that this is the way I prefer it, and I have to do it again the next time. This is an annoyance, and I've right-clicked all over the video controls and looked in System Preferences to see if I can figure out what's causing it and how I can specify my own preference for not always starting up with the sound muted, but no dice.

Anyone got any advice?


2015.04 Humor: Apple Breaks into Yet Another New Market

No, it's not the long-rumored Apple Car, it's a new take on an altogether unexpected, but still iconic, piece of American technology.

2015.04 News: Missed a Million

On its first day on sale in the US, the Apple Watch failed to sell a million units, clocking in at "only" 957,000. Still, as Fortune magazine points out, that's more than Google's Android Wear sold in the entire previous year.


2015.04 News: The Zero-Button Mouse

By Peter G. Neumann on the Computer Risks forum:

CUPERTINO, CA, April 1, 2015 -- Apple, Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) today announces the ultimate refinement in pointer technology: the zero-button mouse. "We found that the button was confusing users," said Sir Jonathan Ive, Vice President of Design. The zero-button mouse uses a flexible antenna, which Apple calls the tail. In order to left click, the user grabs the mouse by the tail, and swings it to the left. Right clicking is similar, but swinging to the right. Scrolling is accomplished by swinging the mouse towards or away from the user.

The zero-button mouse is available in three collections:
  • Apple Zero Mouse Sport in aluminum
  • Apple Zero Mouse in stainless steel
  • Apple Zero Mouse Edition in 18-carat gold
A white rubber tail is standard, but optional tails are available in black and red leather, titanium mesh, and carbon fiber.

Pricing and Availability: All models and tails are available for purchase starting today, April 1, 2015. Pricing for the Zero Mouse Sport is $34.95, the Zero Mouse is $49.95, and the Zero Mouse Edition is $995.00. The leather tails are $14.95 each, the titanium mesh tail $24.95, and the carbon fiber tail $799.95.

WATCH for this one!! With this innovation, the era of button-down mice seems to be ending (somewhat like button-down shirts?), despite seemingly regressively replacing the one-button, two-button, and three-button mouse.

It is rumored that Microsoft is planning a competing voice-operated no-button mouse, albeit possibly with a built-in optional keyboard for people with small fingers.

Google is expected to compete with its own autonomouse, which can move (autonomousely) without user control — or, if a user is particularly gifted, with perceptive mind control — in either case, proactively anticipating user intent, and automatically avoiding collisions and interference with any other user's mouse.

The potential risks are left as an exercise for the reader.

2015.04 News: Meanwhile, over on the Other Side

Users of Apple hardware (Macintoshes and iThings) have long been accustomed to just using Safari, the web browser that comes standard with the operating system. Some users, not satisfied with the way Safari works, have instead opted for a 3rd-party browser like Firefox, Chrome, or Opera. Some, generally those who have to switch back and forth between Macs and Windows, have opted for Microsoft's venerable Internet Explorer, in order to have a consistent browsing experience no matter what computer they're using.

But, with Windows 10*, there'll be a new kid on the block. Microsoft will be gradually withdrawing from Internet Explorer in favor of a new browser currently code-named Spartan. It has some spiffy features, notably the ability to write directly on screen (likely more useful for tablets than for non-touch-sensitive computer monitors), as well as something called a "personal assistant", which conjures up the comment made about Microsoft's previous forays into helpfulness, "Wizards are an indication of a poor user interface in the first place"** and "Death to Clippy".***

To continue to make nice with their vast installed base of corporate customers, Microsoft will still support Internet Explorer and include it as part of Windows for some time to come, crossing their fingers that Spartan will prove so attractive that soon everyone will start designing their websites to accommodate it without breaking them for older browsers. But the handwriting's (finally) on the wall for IE.

No specific word yet on whether Spartan will be available in a version compatible with Apple hardware, but Microsoft's new CEO, Satya Nadella, has shown a strong tendency to respect the Apple platform for both its technological capabilities and its fervently loyal user base with its demonstrable willingness to part with large amounts of cash, so it's a safe bet.

*"Whoops, wait! How did I manage to miss Windows 9?" You didn't. Microsoft decided to skip over the number in hopes that everyone would think that 10 has to be so much more advanced than 8 and that nobody would notice that it was just packaging.
**David McKee, FileMaker Inc.
***several million people