The MacValley blog


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Tom Briant

The MacValley blog

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

It’s the Annual March of the iPods!

Tomorrow, September 1st, Apple holds a music-themed event in Cupertino. The invitations show an acoustic guitar with the cutout in the shape of the Apple corporate symbol. So what does it portend?

The End of the Apple iPod Classic?

I loved my Apple iPod Classic holding all my music with lots of room to spare. So will Apple stop making them?

Prognosticators are divided. The advocates of keeping the Classic point to the niche market of enthusiasts who rip their music in uncompressed or lossless compressed formats for maximum fidelity. They enjoy the all the space a hard disk offers. It would cost a bit more to replace hard disks with flash memory for the same capacity.

The advocates of killing the Classic think Apple wants to make all the devices use flash memory. It’s faster than a hard drive.

What New Features to Add to the various iPods?

Prognosticators believe Apple will bring out a new iPod Touch. The question is: Will it have a front-facing camera so that it can participate in Facetime, Apple’s video chat between iOS devices technology? Have to wait and see. Other suggest that a camera is coming, but only on the rear and recording video in standard definition. So maybe next year for front-facing high definition cameras on the ‘Touch.

What About iTunes?

Apple should bring out a version 10 of iTunes tomorrow, too. Prognosticators have wish lists of new features:

They’d like the whole iTunes for Mac rewritten to speed it up!

They’d like wireless syncing between your Mac and your iPod

They’d like more cloud integration, so you don’t have to store all your music on a local device.

They’d like iTunes to include a separate category for home movies, apart from iTMS bought shows.

They’d like to read the book they bought on the iBooks store for their iPads on their Macs, too. Kindle has apps for both the Mac and the iPad. Why shouldn’t Apple?

We’ll Just Have to Wait.

Tonight is not the night to buy a new iPod. Millions of aficionados and prognosticators will sneak looks at Apple’s presentation or the coverage by various blogs. Sadly, my employer expects me to do non-Apple related work tomorrow, so tune in Thursday for the next episode of the MacValley Blog.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Mac descends from the Maytag

Your 21st Century Mac: descendant of a 20th Century Maytag washer.

I recommend you look at Microsoft’s latest attempt to confuse you about Macs versus PCs. Go ahead, take a look. This is what the sowing of Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt looks like.

After suppressing the urge to throw a cream pie at Steve Ballmer at the next Microsoft shareholder’s meeting, I thought hard about the Mac versus the PC.

Your 21st Century computer owes a lot to the predecessor, the 20th Century washing machine. Mechanically, both the Mac and the Maytag feature a motor with a shaft attached to a spinning object. Every so often, the mechanism, whether hard disk or washing machine, breaks down and has to be replaced.

You also process data the same way you process clothes. You put data or jeans in, add a program or soap to process, and take out the finished product at the end of a cycle(s). Simple as that.

You have more choices with a Mac or PC than a Maytag. Your “soap” can make the computer do a wide variety of tasks. You want to define what you want your computer to do.

Think about it. Don’t consider price of the computer or its brand. Just define what you want to do with the computer as specifically as possible.

Now find the piece of software that performs the tasks you specified. For example, consider word processing software.

Pages for the Mac has a default file format that no Windows program can open. Pages, though, will happily read and write in Word 97/2004 .doc format. It can save to PDF format, and now in ePUb electronic book format. Windows programs can easily open those 3 formats.

Microsoft Word comes in both Mac and Windows flavors with its latest file format, .docx, readable and writable by both programs. It can also read and write older versions of Word. The same applies to Microsoft PowerPoint and Excel.’s Writer program has a default file format, .odt, that its Mac, Linux, Windows, and Solaris versions share. It also reads and writes Microsoft Word files all the back to version 6.0.

Once you’ve decided what programs perform your desired tasks, NOW start shopping for hardware and their associated operating system (Windows 7 vs OS 10.6 Snow Leopard).

Now I get to deliver my pitch for Macs

First, how do you make a backup to ensure you don’t lose any data in case of system failures? Snow Leopard comes with the Time Machine backup software baked right into the system. You only need to buy an external hard drive of appropriate size. Plug it in and you can rest easy.

I tried Windows’ built-in backup software and it didn’t work for me. I finally started using a Linux-based system. I put in the live CD, reboot into Linux and it copies my Windows system to my external hard drive overnight. It works well, but it’s not as convenient as Time Machine.

Second, if you’d like to keep your tax accounting on a separate disk that you could detach and store in a fire-proof vault, it’s a royal pain to do that with Windows. With OS X 10.6, just use the SuperDuper! software to copy your internal Macintosh HD to an external hard disk. You then use the System Preference (Mac’s Control Panel) for the Startup Disk to switch to that external hard drive. Simple as pie.

Finally, consider aesthetics. The Mac’s interface simply looks better than Windows. A lot of Windows users have attempted to copy the Mac’s look for Windows. No one wants to copy the look of Windows for the Mac.

What do you think? Put your thoughts in the comments or e-mail me.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How Windows Users can add training wheels to their new Macs

Hey, Where’s the Start Button?! (And How to Get it back)

By Thomas Briant

The Mac desktop differs from the Windows desktop in many respects. First, it lacks a prominent Start button and menu in the lower left-hand corner.

From Windows 95 to Windows 7, you users of Windows computers always started there and still start there. With a Mac, though, it’s different. You’ve got this Dock thingy with some applications in it across the bottom of the screen.

Where’d the Applications go?! Surely that Dock can’t hold all of the applications? Help Me!

Take A Deep Breath. Your Mac has all its applications in the Applications folder, which you will find at the bottom, or ro
ot, level of the Macintosh HD drive, which is the Mac equivalent of the C: drive on a Windows machine.

Now move your mouse pointer to the lower left-hand corner of your screen. You’ll find this icon, which represents the Finder. The Finder is the equivalent of the Windows Explorer. Double-click on it to open a window.
Now to get a pseudo-Start Button for you. In the Finder Window, you’ll see a Sidebar to the left of the main window that displays a list of all the hard drives attached to your Mac. You want the icon that resembles a bare hard drive called Macintosh HD.

Click ONCE on that icon. You will see a list of folders on this drive. You want the first one, named Applications.

You’re going to drag the icon down to the Dock’s right-hand side to create the pseudo-Start Button. Look at the right hand side of the Dock. You want to find the icon that looks like an @ sign on a spring.

Now to create the pseudo-Start Button. Click and HOLD on the icon for the Applications folder.

Now drag it down to the right of the @ sign on a spring. Now release. You should see an Applications folder in your Dock.

Click on it. You’ll see icons of applications, probably not in a vertical list. To get a vertical list, right click or control-click on the Application Folder in your Dock. You’ll see options.

Sort by Name. Display as Folder. View Content as List.

You’re set to go. You’ve got training wheels.

Steve Jobs May Not Love Us, But We Love Ourselves

By Cristael Bengston

In January at the 2010 MacWorld, there was one great big no-show, and that was Steve Jobs. Everyone expected MacWorld to be a flop. Apple was absent. Adobe stayed at home. Almost all the big guys were in absentia. MacWorld was a pocket-show, with barely enough floorspace to turn around in. Gloom and doom were the order of the day.
But on opening day, as I came slowly down the escalator to the doors of MacWorld, I glanced over at the showroom, and I saw people crowding the aisles. And as I walked from one booth to the next, I found myself in the middle of wall-to-wall MacUsers.
I looked all around me, and I realized that not that many young people were there. I didn’t see that many business suits either. Instead, there were 20,000 middle-aged and older Mac Users, all jammed up against the booths.
That was when I said to myself, “Baby, I’m home.” Because that was the day all of us diehard middle-age and older MacWorld fans turned out. We proudly confounded the pundits, and we brought a gleam of hope to all those who sport the occasional gray hair.
And that’s what makes it such a challenge to be President of MacValley, a User Group that, like all user groups, has been through monumental struggles over the past six to eight years.
Jobs and Apple’s Marketing department do not wish us well. There actually are a few Apple Geniuses who belong to User Groups, but when they’re at work at the Apple Stores, they have to keep their membership a deep dark secret. Sort of like being gay -- Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Hackers and Geeks regard Apple User Groups with unmitigated scorn. Everyone in the press keeps on predicting the imminent demise of User Groups. If they notice us at all. And yet we Mac Users survive. We keep right on going to User Group meetings, even though we’re smack in the big middle of one of the worst recessions in American history.
So how come us pesky User Groups haven’t all humbly closed our doors and gone home to weep about the good old days?
Because our Macs are still our dream machines. And because as we get older our dreams don’t die. They just get more intense.
We may never be in today’s Major League of Geeks and Hackers. But we are as passionate about our Macs as anyone out there. Our Macs bring us programs for writing our novels and screenplays, for doing our artwork, for turning out our calligraphy, for designing a winged bicycle or a one-person spaceship.
Small business owners, home office workers, or domestic users, bare-bones beginners or advanced users, as long as we have our Macs, we know we are individuals. We are important. We are unique. We have something to offer.
So, go ahead and sneer, all you twenty-seven year old zillioniares. Stick your noses up in the air, all you babyfaced hackers and geeks. And Steve Jobs and Apple Marketing, for all we care, y’all can stay home from MacWorld and sit around and suck your thumbs.
Because us User Group types, we don’t care about any of you. That is, unless we are closely related to you. Do geeks and hackers have families?
All of us User Group types passionately love our laptops and our iMacs. We’re hooked on our iPhones and our iPods and even our brand spanking new iPads. And we are here to stay.
So, all you overaged Apple executives and all you underaged geeky geniuses, just you-all go and deal with it.



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