Monthly Archives: July 2012

App of the Week: Mountain Tweaks

About a year ago, OS X Lion was released for the Mac.  It brought many great features to Lion, some from iOS and some brand new.  However, it changed up a number of things that annoyed some users.  An app called Lion Tweaks, which I reviewed for a previous App of the Week post, was released to help users tweak Lion to their liking.  With the release of Mountain Lion for the Mac, developer Fredrik Wiker has come back to help us tweak.

Mountain Tweaks is a new app that does essentially the same thing as its older brother with a few improvements.  Mountain Tweaks works to be compatible across both Lion and Mountain Lion, making it a one stop shop for Mac users.  Mountain Tweaks is organized into 4 tabs: “General”, “Lion Tweaks”, “Mountain Lion Tweaks”, and “Restore”.  The settings under each tab are as simple as selecting Yes or No under the setting you wish to alter.  The general tab shows several settings that range across multiple versions of OS X.  According to the developer, most of these settings can be used on Leopard (10.5) and Snow Leopard (10.6), as well as Lion and Mountain Lion.  These include settings like enabling a 2D- dock, disabling local Time Machine backups, hiding Spotlight search, and more.  The Lion tab shows items specific to the Lion system such as disabling Auto-Save, enabling Airdrop on old machines, changing the look of Address Book and iCal to aluminum, and more.  The Mountain Lion tab similar changes you can make to Mountain Lion, such as disabling Gatekeeper.  The Restore tab simply is a giant button that allows you to reset all the things you changed through Mountain Tweaks to their original states.

The app states that many of the tweaks available to Lion are also available to Mountain Lion, but only a few work the other way around.  The app has a wide selection of tweaks for Lion and for Mac OS X in general, but there aren’t very many for Mountain Lion at all.  However, Lion Tweaks didn’t have to many either but now has quite a few tricks up its sleeve.  It’s safe to say we can expect the same to come from Mountain Tweaks in future updates.

Mountain Tweaks is available for OS 10.5 and later, though it is best run on OS 10.7 and OS 10.8 (Lion and Mountain Lion respectively).  While it is a free app, the developer does ask for donations if you like the software, which I did.  You can check it at http://tweaksapp.com/app/mountain-tweaks/.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about this or any other topic, leave a comment below or email us at easyosx@live.com.  You can also check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube by hitting the buttons on the top of your screen.  And be sure to check us out on Google Plus.  Thanks!

Apple to Release Mountain Lion Wednesday (and how to prepare):

Mountain Lion is about to be uncaged (Image from apple.com)

In their earnings call today, Apple announced that they will be releasing the next version of OS X, dubbed Mountain Lion, on Wednesday July 25th.  OS 10.8 will be sold in the Mac App Store for $20 (American), though people who have bought Mac’s since June 11th will be given a free update upon request.

In order to run Mountain Lion, your Mac will need to meet the system requirements.  According to Apple, and borrowed from Macworld, these Mac models will support mountain Lion:

  • MacBook (Late 2008 Aluminum, or Early 2009 or newer)
  • MacBook Pro (Mid/Late 2007 or newer)
  • MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer)
  • iMac (Mid 2007 or newer)
  • Mac mini (Early 2009 or newer)
  • Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer)
  • Xserve (Early 2009)

Apple says you will need at least 2 gigs of RAM (though I advise at least 4 gigs), at least 8 gigs of free hard drive space (again, I recommend more, maybe 20 to be safe), and an Intel Core 2 Duo processor.  Your Mac also needs to be running Snow Leopard 10.6.8 or any version of Lion, though it is advised you have the latest version of Lion to be safe.  To check if you have all of the requirements, go to the Apple logo in the top left-hand corner of your Mac, and select about this Mac.  This will tell you how much RAM you have, what version of OS X you are using, and what processor you have.  If you want to see what model or year number your Mac is, download the free Mactracker and find out.

There are some things you can do to prepare your Mac for the upgrade, so here’s a rundown.

RUN YOUR UPDATES:

This goes both for your Mac and your apps.  First go to the Apple logo in the top left-hand corner and select “Software Update”.  This will give you any updates needed for your Mac’s OS, plugins, and a few other apps.  Keep running this until there is nothing left for Software Update to install.   If you have purchased anything from the Mac App Store, go to the Updates section and make sure

Update your stuff (image from apple.com)

all of your apps are up to date, as most of them should have already been upgraded for Mountain Lion compatibility.

For any apps you bought outside the Mac App Store, for example Chrome, Firefox, Adobe Flash, etc.  Most should have built-in update processes that should at least notify or let you check for updates.  Make sure you run all of them.  You could also use a third party tool to check for updates, like Cnet Techtracker or AppFresh.

BACKUP:

Apple’s upgrades usually go smoothly, but it’s not uncommon for some people to have problems.  That’s why it’s best to have a backup of all your personal stuff so that you don’t risk losing it.  Even better is a bootable backup to restore from, which you can create with a tool like SuperDuper or Carbon  Copy Cloner.  The key part of this is to make sure that your backup works as well.  So if you’re using an external hard drive, for example, make sure you can access the files by plugging it into your Mac or another Mac and opening some of the files.  If you’re using a bootable backup solution, make sure you can boot off of your Mac; you can do this by plugging in your external hard drive, restarting your Mac, and holding the “Option” key when the Mac starts up.  Then select the external hard drive and if all is well, then your Mac shoot boot up from the external hard drive.

CHECK FOR ERRORS:

Your hard drive may or may not have errors on it.  To test this, open Disk Utility in your Utilities folder (you can also do a Spotlight search for it).  Select your Mac’s hard drive in the left sidebar, the select the “First Aid” tab (which should be selected by default) and then hit “Verify Disk Permissions” followed by “Repair Disk Permissions” when the Mac has finished the verification process.  Once you have finished

This is Disk Utility.

with permissions, run the “Verify Disk” protocol.  It should return with an “OK” message, but should it not then hit “Repair Disk”.

If the repair function cannot fix any problems with the disk, you will need to boot into the recovery partition (Lion user, hold the Option key down at boot) or run your recovery disks that came with your Mac (Snow Leopard and earlier, insert the discs, restart the Mac and hold down the Option key at boot).  From here, you will need to run the disc’s/partition’s Disk Utility or reinstall the OS.

REMOVE ENCRYPTION:

If you are using any form of an encryption tool on your Mac’s hard drive, such as the built-in FileVault, TrueCrypt, or any other similar program, you will need to remove this.  Encryption can cause problems for the update process when the Mac needs to reboot.  Encryption can be re-enabled when the update is done, but for the actual update process it needs to be removed.

 

Some of you may just want to wait a few weeks before upgrading, especially those who run servers or high end apps like Adobe, etc.  This will give others a chance to find bugs between the new OS and any other major apps and you won’t get bitten.  Likewise it means these bugs will be taken care of by the time you do decide to upgrade.  For the average user, however, as long as you follow the above steps then you should be fine.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about this or any other topic, leave a comment below or email us at easyosx@live.com  You can also check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube by hitting the buttons on the top of your screen.  And be sure to check us out on Google Plus.  Thanks!

How to Connect your PS3 Controller to a Mac (and play games with it):

Ever wanted to connect your PlayStation controller to your Mac?  Ever wanted to play games with it?  This video will teach you how to do both:

App of the Week: NetSpot

WiFi is a great technology, one that tends to be under-appreciated until we find a place that doesn’t have it or that we can’t get into.  WiFi broadcasts out into a room or building, allowing any number of devices to connect to the Internet through the airwaves.  But WiFi is not perfect and can be impeded by things like metal mesh in the walls, furniture, etc.  Sometimes a room can have an excellent connection in one space, while being practically a deadzone in another part of the room.  NetSpot is a nice little app that can help you determine what the WiFi is like in a room.

NetSpot is pretty straightforward.  When you launch the app, it will ask you for a map.  If you’ve created or already have a layout of the room you’re going to be analyzing, this is where you can load it up.  These maps can just be simple JPEG’s that you’ve created in Photoshop or another similar program.  If you don’t have a prerendered map, NetSpot will let you draw a map of the room in app, render a sample map, or let you create a blank map.  A blank map is simply a blank square with no set lines marking furniture, floor plans, or any other markings besides denotations of the length and width of the room.  Once you have chosen your map, you give NetSpot the length and width of the room.

Now comes the fun part; you take your Mac around the room, marking your stopping points on the map and letting the app scan the area.  NetSpot uses your Mac’s WiFi antenna to scan the area and detect the number of WiFi networks, the relative strength of them in the room, interference points, etc.  The more points you mark in the room, the more points NetSpot scans, and the more accurate your results.  One you have trodded around the floor carrying your Macbook, and potentially looking silly to any family

NetSpot generated map showing the number of access point available in my workroom. It seems like this room doesn’t have a whole lot to worry about.

members or coworkers, NetSpot creates a visual map of the WiFi and various signals in your area.  It also shows you which areas have the most interference and noise.  You can even see which WiFi signals are strongest at which points in the room.  Once you’re done, you can save it as a special NetSpot file to explore later or share with other NetSpot users.  Fortunately you can also export it the various maps as PDF files to distribute to everyone, to hang up in an office, or deliver to an IT person.

Unless you have a Macbook Air, walking around the room with your laptop may seem awkward and cumbersome.  It would be cool to see an iOS counterpart that could work with the Mac client.  Carrying something like an iPhone or iPad around a room would certainly make it easier.  And when creating a blank map, I don’t get any gridlines to help me make sure I’m measuring in the most accurate way.  That being said, the app still has a really straightforward user interface and makes it easy for anyone to understand the maps.  I also have to gives props to the developers though, they are really good about answering emails and helping users solve their problems.  A good app is greatly complemented by helpful developers and community.  Whether you’re setting up a new WiFi network or wanting to improve you’re current one, NetSpot makes for a great little tool for helping you get the most out of your WiFi.

NetSpot is a free app from the NetSpot Team a part of Etwok, LLC.  The app runs on OS 10.6.6 and higher (Snow Leopard and later) and can be downloaded from the Mac App Store or from their website http://www.netspotapp.com/.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about this or any other topic, leave a comment below or email us at easyosx@live.com  You can also check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube by hitting the buttons on the top of your screen.  And check out our Google Plus.  Thanks!

App of the Week: PS3 Media Server

Technology is quickly evolving, game consoles included.  Besides becoming more powerful devices, gaming consoles are increasingly becoming the media centers for many homes.  All three major consoles have YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu Plus access, and Xbox and PS3 are gaining more services every year.  The PlayStation 3 can easily access any servers on your home network, but it takes a little set up to get that media directly from your Mac.  PS3 Media Server helps bridge that connection.

First thing to note is that PS3 Media Server is not necessarily for the faint of heart.  While the actual connection part is very simple, the settings to optimize and customize the connection are many and aren’t so straight forward.  Most people will not end up using the majority of options.  Setup works like this: first enable “Media Server Connection” on your PS3 under Network Settings and make sure your PS3 is connected to your home network, ethernet or Wi-Fi will do just fine.  Then connect your Mac to the same network and launch the PS3 Media Server app.  You may need to take down your Mac’s firewall for the initial setup, as I did, but afterwards you should be able to run the app with the Firewall enabled.  Then select the media folders you want to allow your PS3 to connect to; I chose my Pictures, Movies, and Music folder, as well as my Dropbox folder.  The only other settings I messed with were telling the app not to let my Mac go into Sleep mode when streaming and to adjust the audio to only play stereo sound rather than 5.1 surround sound.  After you finish tweaking, hit Save, and then Restart Server

When you return to your PS3, you can now go to the Music, Video, and Pictures tab and view your media through there.  If for whatever reason you don’t see the Mac’s folders, hit “Search for Media Servers” in any one of the tabs, then select your Mac when it pops up. As the names suggest, you can only look at pictures in the Pictures tab, video in the Video tab, and music in the Music tab.  While you’re in these menus, you can create playlists, create slideshows, and even copy the media to your PS3’s hard drive.  I would recommend doing this all over an ethernet connection rather than Wi-Fi because it is a faster and more stable connection.

Music and pictures played smoothly and cleanly.  Videos did all right, though I noticed times when the video would have to stop and buffer, but this was usually a result of my Mac being in a weak Wi-Fi zone.  Quality was pretty good during streaming, as I noticed very little quality degradation.  Likewise, copying of my Mac’s 6-gig Music folder to the PS3’s hard drive took about 1-hour over my network connection.

Probably the biggest negative about this app is the fact that it is not the most straight forward to set up.  Its look is somewhat intimidating if you don’t know what you’re doing, but the developers who support this app are constantly helping people to make sure you get the best results.  The community has several plugins to make your Media Server better, such allowing you to browse and stream content from Mac Smart Folders.

One last thing about the app is that it is a Java app.  This means that you will need Java on your computer to run, which many of the latest Macs don’t have at the moment.  To update your Java, click the appropriate links at the bottom of the article for your system.  PS3 Media Server is a free app available for OS 10.5 and later (Leopard and later).  It also runs on Windows XP and later,  Fedora 11 and later, and Ubuntu 8.10 and later.  You can check download the app at http://www.ps3mediaserver.org/.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions about this or any other topic, leave a comment below or email us at easyosx@live.com  You can also check us out on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube by hitting the buttons on the top of your screen.  And check out our Google Plus.  Thanks!

Java for Leopard (10.5): http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1359

Java for Snow Leopard: (10.6): http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1550

Java for Lion (10.7): http://support.apple.com/kb/DL1515

%d bloggers like this: