The MacValley blog


Welcome to the MacValley blog, your first stop for all the latest MacValley news and views.


Tom Briant

The MacValley blog

Editor: Tom Briant


Click here to email Tom

Click here for Tom's profile



To search the blog posts please use the box below

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Senior Correspondent Arnold Woodworth digs through the Internet on your behalf

PC sales fell again last quarter and the contraction is likely to continue.

Sales of smart phones and tables – Android and iOS (Apple) – are way up.

Intel processors are use in laptop and desktop computer, but not smart phones and tablets.

The calamity for Intel has been that they have had no part to play in the new category.  Perhaps that is because they had every part to play in the old category.

Lots of good reader comments to this story.







A Kickstarter project called Tile set out to raise $20,000 to create small, flat, battery-powered stickers that you attach to your stuff, enabling you to find anything with your smartphone.

here's the awesome feature that drove Kickstarter contributions through the roof: If you lose something -- say, your bike is stolen or you leave your phone in a taxi, you log into your online Tile account and report the item as lost.

At that point, every Tile gadget in the world keeps a lookout for your lost item. If your dog or phone or car or bike gets within 50 to 150 feet of any other Tile owned by any user, you'll get a notification showing you where on a map your Tile was detected.

How cool is that?





These Are The 217 Politicians Who Voted To Preserve NSA Surveillance




Apple's No-Growth Q3 2013 In Charts

The big picture:

After a rapid growth period with iPad and iPhone, growth has slowed down. It's time for something new, and we should start seeing more activity from Apple starting this fall.





The case to buy Apple and sell Microsoft

Apple may never return to dramatic growth or avoid margin pressure going forward. But I think Apple is, at worst, at equilibrium right now.

Apple looks like a decent long-term bet.

don't fall into the trap of thinking Microsoft is safe.  Stable, yes, but hardly safe.

Microsoft continues to struggle mightily in the mobile space

Windows is waning and Microsoft hasn't figured out anything to replace it.  And it won't anytime soon.






Are the Feds Asking Tech Companies for User Passwords?

It's possible that the federal government is going to Google, Facebook, and Microsoft and saying, "hey, give us the passwords of thousands of your users."

Passwords could be used to log in to your accounts to peruse confidential correspondence or even impersonate you.




TSA Is Making Airport Valets Search Your Trunk

"We search every car, we open the trunk and take a look around," says Saour Merwan, a keymaster at the valet service at San Diego International Airport. "We were told by airport authority to do that, since about two years ago. [We] keep an eye out for something suspicious, like wires and cables. The airport has security regulations and we have to follow them." Merwan says the service doesn't inform anyone that they're checking out the inside of the vehicles, and when asked what he'd do if he found illegal drugs, he says, "Of course we'd call the police."

"This is exactly what the Fourth Amendment was designed to say the government can't do, generally search everything without suspicion," says Fred H. Cate, a professor at the Maurer School of Law






Will These Guys Kill The Computer Interface As We Know It?

How two grade-school friends created Leap Motion, a company that wants to turn mouse-clicks into waves of the hand.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Blast from the past by Robert Wright-why you were not online in 1996

From 1996...Top ten reasons why you are still not online

By Robert Wright, President Emeritus, MVUG

10. Can't figure out how to type the "@" symbol

9. Too busy reading books and articles about the Internet to actually get on it

8. Too busy writing books and articles about the Internet to actually get on it

7. Swore you would never buy a modem after seeing MacValley Hayes demo

6. Thought TCP/IP stood for "Taking Care of Proceedings In Progress"

5. Afraid that online smut would poison your mind

4. Afraid online smut would not poison your mind

3. Waiting for local cable TV company to install high-speed data access

2. Still waiting for GTE installers to put in a phone line

And the Number One reason why you are still not online…

1. Just can't find an America Online disk!

(Thanks to Ken Gruberman for giving me the MacValley Voice archives all those years ago)

Tom Briant

Editor, MacValley Blog

Giant Brain Sculpture-Trust me, you'll want one. Larry & Sergey already have their orders in

Cruising around The, I saw this article for a giant brain sculpture. Yes, it’s connected to Burning Man.

As for Larry and Sergey placing orders for such a device, that’s just snark on my part. Just kidding, Google. Call Off The Lawyers.


Courtesy of The


Tom Briant

Editor, MacValley Blog

More Articles from Senior Correspondent Arnold Woodworth

Jim Cramer implies Snapchat is used for insider trading

Watch the video.







The "tablet" craze is over.  So is the "desktop PC".

Your future portable device will consist of (1) a keyboard and (2) a pointer - such as a mouse, trackball or trackpad.

It will NOT include a screen.  Instead, screens will be everywhere and you will wirelessly connect to them with your mobile keyboard + pointer device.






Google Caught Red-Handed Ripping Off an Apple Patent Graphic






Microsoft took a $900 million hit on Surface RT this quarter

Monday, July 15, 2013

Senior Correspondent Arnold Woodworth brings you the news

Adam Engst's view on the Apple Anti-Trust Trial.

Best article I've seen on the subject.





What Wall Street bankers have in common with teenagers: Snapchat

Wall Street bankers are using Snapchat to send pictures to one another without the leaving any incriminating evidence online.




The Truth About Fake Online Reviews

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Senior Correspondent has articles about Microsoft and the NSA

How Microsoft handed the NSA access to encrypted messages

Microsoft's latest marketing campaign, launched in April, emphasizes its commitment to privacy with the slogan: "Your privacy is our priority."

But internal NSA newsletters, marked top secret, suggest the co-operation ...... is deep and ongoing.

Microsoft and the FBI came up with a solution that allowed the NSA to circumvent encryption on chats

The NSA has devoted substantial efforts in the last two years to work with Microsoft to ensure increased access to Skype, which has an estimated 663 million global users.

NSA Spying revelations: the good and bad news

Edward Snowden says that everybody else is as guilty of snooping as the United States — including some of the nations whose leaders have publicly criticized America.

So, You Want to Hide from the NSA? Your Guide to the Nearly Impossible

here is the full articulation of the deeply paranoid and complex life you must live in order to assure that the government leaves you alone.

Real And Practical Ways To Avoid The Snoops

Edward Snowden case: Bolivia summons envoys over jet

The diplomatic row spilled onto the streets of La Paz, as thousands of Bolivians staged demonstrations against the US and four European countries.

Four South American countries say they will recall some of their ambassadors after the Bolivian president's plane was banned from European airspace ........ amid rumours that American fugitive Edward Snowden was on board

Apple was found guilty of antitrust violations that led to higher e-book prices.

a federal judge issued a damning finding that Apple conspired with five major book publishers to fix the price of e-books.

The battle for the e-book market was, at its heart, a fight between Steve Jobs' and Jeff Bezos' differing business philosophies. Amazon was bent on keeping prices low, even at the cost of profits. Apple, as ever, wanted to make sure that it could make a bundle on e-books.

Demand for laptops is so weak that analysts have declared all of 2013 a “write-off”

The culprit in all of this?  Media tablets.

An Ode to Computer Shopper

The era of computer magazines has ended.

Computer Shopper was like Vogue or Vanity Fair for nerds: You read it for the ads. Which it was filled with. Come to think of it, I'm sure they ran articles, but I don't think I ever read one. And yet it was thick, like a phone book, and you could find a whole world of PCs and components inside.

Anti E-mail Trend

Now that even geeks don’t use email, holdouts like Janet Napolitano can declare victory

It’s actually getting increasingly easy to avoid email, with alternatives like Twitter for brief messages and instant messaging or Skype chats for longer ones.

Some techies are now shunning email because of concerns about government surveillance.

Will Humans Still Be Humans in an Age of Artificial Intelligence?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Approaching Paperlessness with Joe Kissell and three great articles from Lifehacker

Hola, fellow MacValleyites and my worldwide audience.

Today I have four items for you:

  1. Joe Kissell writes at about the difficulty of becoming totally paperless. As the old cartoon of Snoopy on the john read, “No job is finished until the paperwork is completed.”
  1. Adam Dachis of has ten things every Mac enthusiast should do, or at least think about.

I was going to have a link to a story about how Ireland’s Parliament decided not to grill Apple executives about using Ireland as a tax haven. I think this goes under the heading of “Leave the golden goose ALONE!” and “For every island in the Atlantic that tries to give Apple grief, there are 12 in the Caribbean and Pacific with warmer winters just itching to steal Apple’s business from us.”

Tom Briant

Editor, MacValley Blog

Sunday, July 7, 2013

How to Securely Erase a Disk

This is in response to a query from a reader. They want to know how to securely erase a hard disk so they can dispose of the old Mac.

The short answer is that you can’t erase your internal hard drive using a program on the hard drive itself. You need to start up from your OS X installation disk or the first disk of the Software Recovery set that came with the computer. Failing that, you need to boot from an external hard drive/flash drive on which you installed OS X.

This is a screenshot from my MacBook running 10.4 Tiger from an external hard drive.


#1, Boot up from your OS X installation disk, the first disk of your Software Recovery disk set, or an external drive with OS X on it.

#2, Start up Disk Utility.

#3, Select the hard drive to erase from the list on the left hand side.

#4, You have four buttons next to each other on the Disk Utility screen. They are (1) First Aid (2) Erase (3) RAID (4) Restore

#5, You want to choose the Erase button. Click on it and it will turn blue with black letters.

#6, Now note Security Options… on the bottom right-hand side of the screen. Click on it to select how much security you want.


#7, Disk Utility offers you 4 levels of security. To achieve Department of Defense levels of security, choose the 7-Pass Erase

#8, If you’re really worried about the NSA or East European hackers getting your data, choose the 35-Pass Erase. This will take several days to accomplish. Set the computer up in a cool area with a fan blowing air across it.

#9, Having selected your level of security, click OK

#10, Now click Erase. Let the computer do its work and go about your life.

#11, The computer’s hard drive is erased. Dispose of computer at a proper recycling center. Do Not Put It in the Dumpster along with the fast food wrappers!

Here are some other articles on securely erasing a hard drive.

Christopher Breen of Macworld always has good ideas.

MakeUseOf has suggestions for securely wiping hard drives for all versions of OS X

Tom Briant

Editor, MacValley Blog

Senior Correspondent Arnold Woodworth with news about the Computer Mouse

Douglas C. Engelbart, Inventor of the Computer Mouse, Dies at 88

Twitter spammers impersonate celebrities

If you have an older Mac, this blog is your friend-Part 2

Welcome back to the second installment of “I have an older Mac that I received as a graduation present/bought at a garage sale; and I need help.”

Today’s topics are:

#1, Where do I find information about the Mac’s hardware and software?

#2, Where can I find information comparing this Mac to other models?

#3, Help, my Mac isn’t working properly. How can I fix it?

#4, What 3rd party utility software do you recommend?

#1-Where do I find information about the Mac’s hardware and software?

Presuming that you can get to a desktop, you want to go to your Apple Menu in your upper left-hand corner.


Now click on the More Info… button and that brings up the System Profiler application. You get a report in voluminous detail about your Mac’s hardware and software. Two pieces of data you’ll want to keep close are your Mac’s Model Name and Model Identifier. My 2006 MacBook is a MacBook (natch) and its model identifier is MacBook 1.1.

I’d save the report as a text file for future reference. You might want to copy it to another computer, so you have it in case of emergency.

Another piece of information is your Mac’s IP address. Go under Network and you’ll see it under the column “IPv4 Addresses”

For more information on your Mac, you want to go to This will give you more information and a link to Apple’s own manual in PDF format.

I should warn you that the site is heavily laden with ads.

I would recommend downloading and installing Mactracker. It’s from

Yes, a Canadian site! This database application gives you information about all things Apple in all the detail you could wish for. It’s supported by donations, so drop a few dollars/pounds/euros on them.

Mactracker’s current version only works with Intel Macs running at least 10.6.8. For an earlier version capable of running on your vintage Mac, go to Mactracker’s archive page. Be aware, though, that Mactracker (well, the person who runs offers no support for these earlier versions. They’re busy enough with the current version.

#2-Where can I find information comparing this Mac to other Macs?

Go to and Everymac, as I said previously, is a Web site laden with Mac information (and ads). Mactracker is a wonderful database application, but the current version only runs on Intel Macs running 10.6.8 or better. For earlier versions of Mactracker that run on PowerPC Macs and even a version for Windows (I’m running it on Windows 7 with total success) go to their archive page

#3-Help, my Mac isn’t working! How can I fix it as cheaply as possible?

You can do two things to fix your Mac’s upset cyber-tummy.

First, reboot your Mac, and hold down the left shift key. This will put the Mac into “safe mode”. Your Mac starts up in minimal mode. It goes through a number of maintenance functions. In particular, it clears out caches; cyber “cheat sheets” designed to help you boot up quicker. If these get corrupted, though, you could have trouble.

Read this article from Apple Support for details on what Safe Mode (aka Safe Boot) entails.

Second, fix your permissions. To fix your permissions, go to the Disk Utility program in your /Applications/Utilities folder


Double-click on Disk Utility. You will see something similar to this. This is Disk Utility for 10.8.4, but it hasn’t changed that much.


A word of warning. Note that I put Verify Disk Permissions and Repair Disk Permissions in a red rectangle. They’re grayed out! Why!

Disk Utility has grayed them out because you have to select the specific partition whose permissions you want to repair. Note that I selected the whole disk and not a specific partition.

Yes, I know, there’s only one partition. You, though, must select the partition and not the disk. So let’s see what happens when I select the Mountain Lion partition.


By selecting the Mountain Lion partition on the Toshiba disk drive, Verify Disk Permissions and Repair Disk Permissions are now active.

So now click on Repair Disk Permissions. It will take a while to run. Depending on what version of OS X you run, it may display the files that need their permissions corrected and what those corrections were. At the end, you get a message saying whether the repair was successful.


Repairing disk permissions is somewhat controversial. Some writers contend it’s unnecessary. Well, this writer has had problems solved by fixing his permissions.

Now if the problem is deeper, such as a corrupted hard drive, you need to Repair Disk. Unfortunately, you can’t do that from your internal hard drive through the normal Graphic User Interface. No, you’d have to go to Single User mode.

If you’re not familiar with your Mac and don’t want to risk it; I’d advise against single user mode for right now. I’ve got some suggestions in the next part of this article.

#4-What do you advise for 3rd party utility software and hardware?

I have a combined suggestion for your first pieces of utility software and hardware.

Download SuperDuper! from ShirtPocket Software. Buy an external hard drive at least as big as your internal hard drive and preferably bigger.

If you have a PowerPC Mac, you want an external hard drive with a Firewire 400 interface. If it comes with a USB interface, too; that’s great, but you want a Firewire 400 interface.

SuperDuper! is one of several cloning programs. Carbon Copy Cloner by Mike Bombich is another good program. I like SuperDuper! because it’s free for the basic features. Totally free. If you want more features, pay the $27.95 for a license.

As for hard drives, you want a Firewire drive. You can get these drives at the Apple Store at your local mall. You can get them at Fry’s Electronics. If you want to order them from an Internet retailer, may I suggest Otherworld Computing? They are a Mac-oriented company. I recommend them.

The box will probably say “Firewire 800” drive. In that case, you only need a adaptor cable between a Firewire 800 jack and a Firewire 400 jack.

When you get your external hard drive, unwrap it and follow the instructions (if any). Plug it into the Mac. You should see an indicator LED flash a few times and then a hard drive icon appears on your desktop. If it doesn’t appear on your desktop, check your Finder.

The next article in this series will tell you about backing up your Mac with SuperDuper! SuperDuper! comes with an excellent manual in PDF format, so check it out if you can’t wait.

If I had to pick one free utility program, I would pick Onyx. This program comes in versions for each version of OS X, so make sure you got the correct version.

Well, my word count is getting pretty high, so I’m leaving you now. More in the week ahead.

Tom Briant

Editor, MacValley Blog

Saturday, July 6, 2013

If you purchased or received an older Mac, this blog is your friend

If you got an older Mac at a garage sale or from eBay or as a graduation present from your parents/grandparents/someone else who loves you…then this blog is your friend. We’ve got your back.

First, what kind of Mac did you get? Go to the Apple menu in the upper left-hand corner of your screen.

Click on it once:


Do you see the red rectangle at the top enclosing “About This Mac”?

Now click on “About This Mac”

You’ll see this:

  • PastedGraphic1-2013-07-6-08-43.png

What is your processor? If the line for Processor says some sort of Intel processor, then you have a post-2006 Mac. If the line says PowerPC G3 or G4 or G5, then you have a Mac made between 2000 and 2005. Apple switched from its own PowerPC processors to the ubiquitous Intel processors in 2005.

How much memory do you have? Always try to install the maximum amount of memory your particular Mac will hold.

And most important, what version of OS X came with your Mac? I have OS X 10.8.4, the latest and greatest. If you got a PowerPC Mac, you will have at most OS X 10.5.8. That is the last version of OS X that Apple made for its PowerPC chips. You should have version 10.4.11 at least.

Are PowerPC systems dead in the water? No, they last a long, long time.

If you got a PowerPC system for your graduation or bought it on eBay or a garage sale; all is not lost.

#1, Do you have the disks that came with the original installation. You can get disks from eBay, but the seller should have included them in the sale.

#2, Do you have broadband Internet? Dial-up Internet is slow and only sufficient for e-mailing and surfing the Web. If you want to play movies or music on your Mac or download programs; then you need broadband Internet. If you have ATT U-Verse, Verizon FIOS, Time-Warner Cable, Comcast cable, or Charter cable; then you have the wiring in your home for broadband Internet. You may even have the box, called a “router," necessary to connect your Mac to the Internet.

Check your telephone or cable bill to see if you have Internet included if you don’t know.

#3, Did you get a keyboard and mouse and monitor with your system? If not, do not worry. You can use a conventional Windows keyboard and 2 -button mouse with your Mac. You just need to make sure the keyboard and mouse come with USB plugs and NOT PS/2 plugs.

As for monitors, Apple switched from proprietary monitor plugs and jacks when it first brought out the first iMac. It had a VGA jack on the back.


Later models, such as the first Mac Minis, had DVI-D video ports on the back.


You may have a monitor you’d like to use, such as your big screen TV. But how do you plug a big screen TV into your Mac if the plug and jack don’t match? Answer is, you get an adaptor. The cheapest place to get these adaptors is through the Web site The Apple Store may have them or not, but they charge an arm and a leg for them. How did you think Apple made all that money, anyway?

You have a variety of sources for monitors. I once found a VGA tube monitor in the laundry room of my condo complex! But in your case, I’d look at these vendors here in Los Angeles: (1) Best Buy (2) Staples (3) Office Depot (4) Office Max (5) Frys Electronics

You can get these keyboards and mice from a wide range of stores and Internet outlets. I have seen them in the office supply section of my local Rite-Aid. You can go to Staples, Office Depot, and Office Max. Best Buy and Radio Shack have them, as does Frys Electronics. And, of course, you can get a keyboard made for an Apple Mac at the Apple Store.

#4, The trick to using a Windows keyboard with a Mac is this: You substitute the Windows key (usually marked Win or stamped with the Microsoft Windows symbol) for the Apple Command key. If yougo back to my earlier article on using Windows keyboards with Macs, you can download free software to swap key functions on the keyboard.

#5, What about software? What about an office suite that can read and write Microsoft Office?!

You’re in luck. You can use the office software.

Slightly off-topic, LibreOffice and OpenOffice and NeoOffice can all read each other’s files. They have split off from each other for various reasons: feuds between developers, not wanting to wait for the head office to approve their software updates, etc.

In any case, if you have come into possession of a vintage PowerPC Mac, I can suggest this office suite for you.

#6, Here are the system requirements for


My thanks to the Web site for this use of a piece of their screen.

You have other choices in office suites. You can get Microsoft Office 2004 for Macfrom eBay. This is still good software. It’s only limitation is that it reads and writes the Microsoft Office 97-2004 formats (.doc, .xls, .ppt) not the current formats of .docx, .xlsx, .pptx. So if you get a document in these formats, you need to download and install Microsoft’s conversion software that opens documents in Mac Office 2008/Windows Office 2007 format. You might want to get LibreOffice just for its ability to read an astonishingly wide range of formats such as Windows Office 2007/2010/2013 and Mac Office 2008/2011.

You also have Apple’s own Appleworks integrated suite. If you have it, you should make sure it’s upgraded to version 6.2.9. You can get the upgrade program here. No, LibreOffice won’t read its proprietary formats for word processing and spreadsheets and presentations and vector drawings.

What about iWork? Apple intends iWork for the latest and greatest versions of its operating system and hardware.

And you have the option of going on the cloud to use Google Drive for word processing and spreadsheets and presentations. But that’s another topic.

Well, I’ve stuffed quite a lot into this blog post. I’ll have more tomorrow.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Chromebooks offer competition to the MacBookAir and other Macs

Where’s the competition for OS X coming from? By “competition” I mean the next generation of ideas as to what a consumer operating system should look like. Windows will sell more boxes of software and hardware than Apple does; but a lot of that is inertia from users sticking with what they already own.

I would suggest that the Google ChromeBook (and the Samsung/Acer/HP Chromebooks) offer a different vision of computing than Apple does. They offer minimalism with everything done over a Wi-Fi connection, from loading Web applications through the Chrome browser to printing over a Wi-Fi connection.

To quote from the Quartz article, “Samsung’s success proves that a perfectly usable laptop can be built on the innards of a tablet. And there is now a popular device category—low priced but functional ultramobiles—that Apple doesn’t make. That’s historically a signal that Apple is preparing to swoop in and make its own version. It’s exactly what happened with the iPad Mini, for example.

I would add that customers on Amazon have criticized the Samsung Chromebooks for problems in printing. If you don’t have a network printer or another computer to which the printer is attached, you will experience problems trying to print. Apple has faced similar problems with the iPad. AirPrint largely solves these problems. With me, my iPad just sees my AirPrint-enabled HP printer from the get-go. No fumbling with menus, no having to discover your printer’s URL. The printer simply appears on the iPad’s print menu and I only have to print.

The Quartz article focuses on whether Apple will stop using Intel chips for a hypothesized ultra mobile notebook and start using its own A7 chips. The article didn’t discuss whether Apple would use cloud applications, such as the upcoming iWork for iCloud in place of iWork or Office and iRadio in place of iTunes, to provide functionality. As a certified Mac pundit;I would think Apple would exploit the dickens of its own Web offerings rather than let Google Drive and Office 365 handle the office chores, with Pandora and YouTube handling the entertainment side.

Let me review the reasons why Apple would bring out its ultra mobile to compete with the $250-$300 Samsung/Acer/HP Chromebooks.


  1. Apple lets others set up the parameters of what these devices should do, then shows them how to really do it right.. In the case of the iPod in 2001, those players had flash memory for storing music and got their music from a computer via a slow parallel port or USB 1.1 connection. Apple used a very small hard drive and a Firewire 400 connection, both significant improvements over the existing state of the art in 2001.
  2. This is a successful market segment that Apple doesn’t play in yet. Yes, yes, I know that Steve Jobs said Apple wouldn’t make a cheap computer. Would Apple consider this a “cheap” computer or an “inexpensive” computer?
  3. Apple has said one thing and done another many times.


  1. Apple’s computer strategy is to put as much power as they can hold into the stylish chassis, while trying to give the notebooks as much battery life as possible. The minimum processor in Apple’s notebooks is an Intel i5. Look at the cheap Windows notebooks. They have Pentium or i3 processors or an AMD processor.
  2. Apple wants to make as much profit as possible, as opposed to having the greatest market share. If these ultra mobile light notebooks don’t generate an adequate profit, Apple won’t sell them.
  3. Apple already has a light computer in the Chromebook’s price range with the iPad mini. Pair it with a Bluetooth keyboard and it takes care of your light computing needs.
  4. Apple already has 56% of the ultra mobile market notebook market with the MacBook Air models. Why would it cannibalize its own product? Apple is not dumb.

So there it is. I believe the market has space for both the budget Chromebooks and the premium MacBook Airs. But I don’t think Apple will introduce a Chromebook equivalent in this next round of product introductions.

If you disagree, please go to the comments. And be more original than “Apple sucks!”



Blog Archive