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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Spinning Wheel of Death Fixed by Restoring System Preferences to Default with Tinkertool

I have experience problems with installing Mountain Lion. Oh, the install itself went fine. Initially, the desktop looked fine.

Then I made some changes to the System Preferences through the program TinkerTool. I needed to view the User Library, which Mountain Lion hides by default, in order to move folders into Application Support.

That’s when the problem started. When I started again, my cursor turned into the SPINNING WHEEL OF DEATH.

Now rebooting and holding down the Shift key to start in Safe Mode temporarily solved the problem. But I can’t run in Safe Mode all the time. I want to play music and access the Internet, too.

So, reaching the end of my patience, I thought “Maybe some change in the preferences caused this problem.” So I rebooted into Safe Mode and started Tinkertool again.

This time I used it to restore to system defaults. %252521UsetthistoresetyourSystemPreferencestoDefault-2012-07-31-22-04.png

When I rebooted, my cursor returned to normal and I breathed a sigh of relief.

So if you’ve installed Mountain Lion and made a few changes which caused the SPINNING WHEEL OF DEATH, that only rebooting in SAFE MODE fixes temporarily….try this fix.

Tinkertool will only affect the current user account. Read the instructions, as you could mess up your system, as you could with any utility software.

Tom Briant

Editor and Media Manager, MacValley UG.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Mountain Lion's little details and the big picture at Microsoft

Hi All:

Here are a couple of excellent articles referred to me by our Vice President, Arnold Woodworth:

The Little Details of OS X Mountain Lion at Tidbits

And now a devasting picture of Microsoft from Vanity Fair magazine:

In December 2000, Microsoft had a market capitalization of $510 billion, making it the world’s most valuable company. As of June it is No. 3, with a market cap of $249 billion. In December 2000, Apple had a market cap of $4.8 billion and didn’t even make the list. As of this June it is No. 1 in the world, with a market cap of $541 billion.

How did this jaw-dropping role reversal happen?

One Apple product – iPhone – has higher sales than all of Microsoft's products combined.  More than Windows, Office, Xbox, Bing, Windows Phone, and every other product that Microsoft has created since 1975.

a management system known as “stack ranking”—a program that forces every unit to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, good performers, average, and poor—effectively crippled Microsoft’s ability to innovate.  Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft

Sunday, July 29, 2012

We've Always Had Cloud Computing; How OS X 10.8 points toward more shared & ad hoc computing

Cloud computing, in the sense of important parts of the computer existing far, far away from us; has always existed. When I started my current job in 1993, I worked at a dumb terminal connected by RS-232 cables to the central computer in the basement. My whole computing experience depended on that computer not failing, It often did, which meant I had to come up with some workarounds.

Later, my employer moved to the current model of personal computers running some version of Windows. They connect to a series of servers providing central e-mail, printing, backup and access to legacy programs running on the server in the basement. I now sit in front of a terminal emulator to do the tasks I used to do at the dumb terminal.

The system has always provided some portability. On every other Friday, I start out at one location at 6:00 AM, log in to the central computer, then log out at 7:00 AM to continue my work back at my home computer. I just have to log in and log out. Essentially, it’s the same desktop wherever I am. That’s the idea of Cloud computing now and then. Same desktop, wherever you work or play.

Mind you, I’m working with Windows XP Professional on Dell desktops. That’s 10 years old! So what does OS X 10.8 and iOS point toward? Truly Portable computing. People meeting over a beverage and sharing their ideas on their tablets. People using their tablets and laptops as shared media. We’ll have tablets serving the purpose of whiteboards and dry-erase markers.

Which brings me to OS X 10.8. When it’s installed, it prominently asks you for the iCloud ID, which is usually your Apple ID you used for iTunes purchases. Unless you opt out, you’ve become part of iCloud for 5Gb’s worth.

How does the Cloud affect you immediately? Look at the new apps bundled with 10.8, such as TextEdit and Preview. They can save files to iCloud. So can the newly updated iWork for Mac apps.

Jason Snell of Macworld rightly feels that many new users will love not having to fiddle with the Finder. They can use the files stored in the cloud. For program launching, they can use Launchpad. For those of us who cut our teeth on the Mac Finder, the Windows Explorer, and even Norton Commander 3.0 back in the day; we can still use file managers to store files and launch programs.

But even as we cling to our archaic file management tools; the cloud offers us the chance to carry our workspace from device to device. Start on an iPhone in a taxi and continue your work on your Mac at your office. Finish up on your iPad in bed.

The luxury of moving about with our computing devices has evolved from the corporate environment of terminals and networked PCs chained (literally!) to the desk to the truly personal and portable devices we carry with us.



Making an Installer and installing Lion

I have installed Mountain Lion 3 times. The first time, I made an installer from the downloaded Install Mountain Lion app onto an 8GB USB flash drive. I then did a clean installation on a spare external hard drive. No problems. Lion worked great.

Having tested Mountain Lion and found it wonderful, I backed up overnight. The next morning, I took the plunge and updated my existing Lion system with the Install Mountain Lion app itself. I did make several backups of this app beforehand.

The installation went smoothly. The app told me it would take 40 minutes, but it took longer. No problems arose during installation. No sudden freezes, blue screens of death, or other signs of impending doom.

The installation caused no new problems, but didn’t resolve several outstanding problems from the Lion installation that came with the computer. My clean installation had resolved those problems.

So installation #3. I made sure I backed up all the files, then wiped the Mac Mini’s internal disk. I then installed Mountain Lion from the installer, again with no problems. I spent the rest of the day reinstalling old programs and finding where I put old files.

To summarize, Lion installs from its own application and from an installer with no problems.

To make the installer, I used Lion DiskMaker It’s written in Applescript and it’s worth the $5 I sent to the author via PayPal. It has my endorsement. The author is French. Think of this as another good thing to come from there, like Catherine Deneuve.

The program works best with an 8GB or larger USB flash drive. Trying to burn a double-layer DVD did not work out. So go to Fry’s or BestBuy or the Apple Store to buy an 8GB flash drive. It’s $6.00 at Frys for one.

AirPlay on Mountain Lion

I do not have an Apple TV and a big-screen HDTV here at MacValley Labs. When I tried to test AirPlay from the Mac Mini to either the Reflections or AirServer AirPlay client apps on a MacBook and a PC, I got the following message.


If you have an Apple TV and successfully mirrored your Mac running Lion to it, let us know in the comments. Every review I read stated the reviewer used an Apple TV to receive the AirPlay signal from the Mac.

Now using Squirrels LLC’s AirParrot app, which brings AirPlay to Macs running 10.6.8 and up; I did mirror my Mac Mini running Lion to my Windows 7 PC running Squirrels’ Reflection app. It didn’t look very good, but it was proof of concept.

The upshot is that if you need reliable high-quality AirPlay mirroring from your Mac running Lion right now, invest in the current generation of Apple TV for $100. The same applies to the AirParrot app. Get that Apple TV for best results.

In Summary

I’m not attempting to duplicate the reviews. Go here for them. I’ve given you my experiences with some aspects of Lion.

I’ve had a positive experience with Lion. I got my $20 worth.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Thanks for the comments and now on to Mountain Lion

I want to thank everyone who’s left a comment. If you want to advertise your business via a link, that’s fine. I will delete a comment if my anti-virus software gives a warning of malware, though.

Apple starts selling Mountain Lion tomorrow. This isn’t exclusive news. I’ll have a copy by this weekend to test. I’ve upgraded the home Mac Mini to 8 Gb of RAM. I’m interested to see if Apple has fixed the problems with Windows SMB connectivity and VNC between Mac and PC.

I’m curious about the iCloud features. I’ve read an excellent explanation of what iCloud will entail at I recommend it to you if you, like I, have questions about just what is iCloud. Apparently it’s more-a lot more- than Apple’s really big server farm in North Carolina.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Using WebDAV to connect to your iPad with ease and to Windows 7 instead of SMB

Ned Scott of Team XBMC Wiki deserves the credit for discovering this gem in the Mac App Store.

The gem in question is Media Master Server, which is a simple WebDAV server. You have to get it from the Mac App Store, so you must have at least one system running 10.6.6 or better.

It is an Intel-only application and I got it to work with 10.6.8 and 10.7.4. I tried copying the app to a partition running 10.5.8, but no luck.

I noticed that the iWork apps on my iPad could log into external file servers. They had to be iDisk (dead as of June 30, 2012) or WebDAV (what ?)

I did extensive Google searching on setting a WebDAV server for OS X. 9 out of 10 times, the answer came back, “Prepare to modify configuration files for the Apache Web Server built into OS X. This will not be easy.” So coming across Media Master Server was a Godsend. Bless you, who took the time to write this app.

Why would you want to use WebDAV? Two cases.

First, you want to connect your iPad’s iWork applications with your Mac. Apple’s solution for this is to buy Lion Server for another $19.99 to set up a WebDAV server. You’d still have to have access to the Mac App Store, though, to buy it.

Compared to every other set of instructions I found for setting a WebDAV server, MediaMaster Server is dead simple. Just go to the Mac App Store from Snow Leopard or Lion, search for MediaMaster Server, and install it. It is a FREE app on the Mac, although there is a companion paid iOS app. For our purposes, though, we just need the Mac app portion.

First of all, you have to set it up. To begin with, select the directory you want to share.


As you can see, I set my root directory to my Users/thomasbriant directory (or folder), allowing me full access to all my user files on my iPad.

Next, I went to settings to set up my user name and password and the specific port I wanted to use.


I left the password at the default “ipaduser” and the port at the default of “8000”. I also selected Secure HTTP.

On the iPad side, you’ll have to enter your full IP address, which will look like “” You will, of course, enter your own iP address instead of “”

You’ll have a line to enter the username, which you can change. You’ll have a line to enter the password, which you have to make up yourself.


The first time you do this, you may get a message about an invalid WebDAV certificate. Just please OK and proceed.

Next, you get a box showing all the directories you can access.


Second, many Lion users have found that the SMB file-sharing protocol, used to share files between Macs and Windows, doesn’t work with Lion. Now I can easily connect from my Wintel 7 PC to my Mac Mini running Lion, but not the other way. Since Wintel 7 won’t accept Apple’s AFP file-sharing protocol, this inability to share files between the two OSs gets frustrating at times.

Now with this WebDAV server and the BitKinex program available for free from CNET’s Downloads page here, you can view files from your Mac on your Wintel’s desktop. BitKinex serves as your WebDAV client.

Here are the instructions from that I followed to get BitKinex up and running

You will get a message that the SSL certificate has lapsed. You can proceed past this warning.


Yes, I am aware of the SMBup app, which installs the open-source version of SAMBA on 10.7. I felt uneasy about fiddling with Apple’s implementation of SMB/CIFS, so I came up with this WebDAV workaround.

Hopefully Apple will rectify the SMB/CIFS problems in 10.8. If not, well, that’s why I came up with this workaround. Thanks to all those who gave me insight into solving the problems. You’re all gentlemen and ladies, and scholars to boot.

Thomas Briant

Editor and Media Manager, MacValley UG

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Basic Questions about Linux

While shopping at Frys Electronics today, I stopped by the newsstand section and looked at a Linux magazine. A fellow customer asked me if I used Linux. Yes, I do. Could you use it with an older HP computer? Well, I had some questions for him at that point…

What about Linux? Can the owner of an older PC use it on his machine? It all depends….

First of all, what do you want to use Linux for? If you want to set up an older PC for word processing, Web surfing, and e-mail; then a wide variety of older hardware and Linux distributions (distress) will meet your needs.

To begin with, let’s discuss six pieces of hardware: Your hard drive, your installed RAM memory, your processor chip, your graphics capability, and your Internet connection.

How big is your PC’s hard drive? You’ll need at least 5 Gb dedicated to the Linux software itself.

How much RAM memory do you have? Depending on the distribution, Linux will work with as little as 64 Gb of memory, but you’ll probably want more. I’d say get at least 1 Gb of RAM. If you can, put as much memory into your machine as it will take. Linux and OS X, both UNIX-based operating systems, will gobble up as much memory as you can feed it.

What about your CPU? How fast is it? If you want to run Ubuntu Linux, you’ll need at least a 700 Mhz processor, in my opinion and preferable 1 Ghz or faster. As a rule of thumb; if the computer ran Windows XP, it should run some version of Linux.

How good is your computer’s graphics? Some Linux distributions, such as Ubuntu, have fancy graphic interfaces that may overwhelm your computer’s graphics. Fortunately, you can get a distribution such as Lubuntu (derived from Ubuntu) which uses the LXDE graphics interface.

Finally, what about your Internet connection? Whether you have Windows, OS X, or Linux; they all depend on an Internet connection to download upgrades to the operating system. You should have a broad-band connection to the Internet. If you have AT&T U-Verse like I do, you have broad-band internet. If you have Verizon FIOS, you have broad-band internet. If you get your internet from your cable company, such as Charter or Time-Warner; you have broad-band Internet.

How to test out various Linux distributions.

If you haven’t tried Linux before, try a live CD before committing to a hard disk installation. Ubuntu runs from a CD and you can get it at You could also try out Lubuntu, a Ubuntu community derivative, at

If your machine is older, you could try out these two distributions; and


You can download a disk image of many Linux distributions as .iso files. You can use OS X’s Disk Utility to burn this to a CD or DVD.

To burn a CD or DVD, you use the Burn… command under the Images menu of Disk Utility. Select your disk image file. Disk Utility will then go to the CD or DVD drive that burns disks for you. Insert the blank disk and away you go.

And, of course, you can always head to the newsstand section at Fry’s Electronics for a Linux magazine with recent Linux distributions on disk.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Vanity Fair rips Microsoft a new recycling bin

I just finished reading the article How Microsoft Lost Its Mojo by Kurt Eichenwald in the August 2012 Vanity Fair magazine. The cover shows Alec Baldwin with a flight attendant schussing him.

In the center of the cover reads “Special Report: How Microsoft Lost Its Mojo”.

Two things stood out to me from this article. First, Microsoft forced all employees to undergo six-month employee evaluations using the stack ranking system. Under this system, employees are ranked on a 1 to 4 scale. They are ranked on a variation of the statistical Bell Curve, meaning always a few low performers, the majority in the middle, and a few at the very top.

Now presumably Microsoft hired only the best and the brightest, and not a sizable random sample, of the graduating computer science/engineering classes from America’s colleges and universities. Forcing these high performers to fit onto this statistical model created a dysfunctional culture, where people not only sought to get a high rating, but to sabotage others’ chances of receiving a high rating. After all, only a few could receive a high rating.

The people receiving low ratings got no bonuses, promotions, and eventually got fired.

Second, Microsoft’s Longhorn project which morphed into Windows Vista versus Apple’s OS X 10.4 Tiger. Microsoft spent years (2001-2004), lots of money, and made lots of pronouncements about how great Windows Longhorn would be. Well, Longhorn was scrapped and Vista was created to replace it. It lacked a lot of the features promised in Windows Longhorn.

When Tiger came out, Microsoft engineers looked at it. They were shocked to find that Tiger contained the features that Microsoft had promised for Longhorn.

Well, I’ve tried the June preview release of Windows 8 and I am not impressed. On the other hand, I’ll get up early to download 10.8 Mountain Lion!

The article is NOT on line, so you’ll have to pay for the paper issue.

Tom Briant

Editor, MacValley User Group.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Thursday Night Rant on keyboard and mouse sharing

Go here if you want to read Chris Breen’s thoughts and the commenter’s reaction to Chris trying to help someone share a keyboard and mouse between two Macs.

Chris tried Synergy. He couldn’t get it to work with Lion. If Chris can’t get Synergy to work with the resources of Macworld behind him, this FOSS project has serious problems.

He next tried Teleport from Abyssoft. I’ve tried it, albeit with 10.4 and 10.6, and it worked well.

Chris mentions a couple of paid solutions. ShareMouse is mentioned, but it costs $25 per machine. I tried it in its trial version and it worked. The costs, though, daunted me.

Finally, you have j5 Wormhole, a hardware and software combination. You plug a special USB cable between two computers, fire up the software, and you can share keyboard, mouse, and clipboard. It’s $40.

The program I used to use between my Wintel 7 box and my MacBook running 10.6, vnc2win, doesn’t work with 10.7. 10.7 has problems regarding VNC.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

PC magazine's list of best free Mac software has a list of the best free Mac software.

Go check it out.

Tom Briant

Editor and Media Manager, MacValley UG

Odds and Ends

First, OtherWorld Computing has a new version of the MiniStack external harddrive. It nicely complements the Mac Mini. OWC has it for various price points, starting with you just want the chassis and bring your own hard drive (presumably an SATA) for $85.00. It tops out at $479 for a 4.0 Gb drive.


Second, in news from the dark side, Microsoft has announced aggressive pricing for the forthcoming Windows 8. For $39.95, you can upgrade to Windows 8 Pro if you have at least Windows XP as your operating system and have sufficient hardware.

From what I can determine, you can’t download a separate Upgrade Advisor Program. Windows 8 will determine if your system is good enough during the upgrade process.

This aggressive pricing on Microsoft’s part (for a direct download, packaged Windows 8 to cost $69.95) fits in with a recent article in Vanity Fair magazine about Microsoft’s management. You’ll have to get it on the newsstand next to the OK! magazine in the supermarket. But it details how Microsoft management got stuck on Windows and Office. If the software didn’t fit in with those two, it didn’t get attention from top management.

The tablet interface did not fit in with the mouse and keyboard input metaphor. That’s why MS fell so far behind on tablets.

I’ll get the article and give you a review later in the week. It is not flattering to Microsoft management.

A commenter on the Vanity Fair web site pointed out that MS still enjoys overwhelming supremacy on the operating system and office suite markets. That is true. I can’t see myself using my finger to manipulate the VT-420 terminal emulator I use at work. And considering how pissed IT was when I dripped strawberry jam on the keyboard, thus borking it; they would freak out major-league if people started touching their screens.

But MS needs to catch up with Apple and the iPad if it intends to compete for the next 10 years.

Third, the rumors continue to swirlabout a 7.85” iPad mini coming out this fall. We’ll wait and see. (Mockup of mini iPad from


Fourth, Apple will announce earnings on Tuesday, July 24th. If they follow past behavior, they will announce that the next iteration of OS X will be available the next day, Wednesday, July 25th.

Finally, Apple settled with Proview for $60 million. Now Apple can sell the iPad as the iPad in the PRC. On the heels of that settlement, another Chinese firm announced that it held the rights to the name “Snow Leopard” and wanted $80,000 from Apple.

Happy 4th of July to everyone!

Tom Briant

Editor and Media Manager, MacValley User Group



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