Upgrading To Leopard: Quick Tips

Written by: Dale Mugford

Categories: Hints & Tips, Mac Setups

While most of us Mac users will have a pain-free, ‘easy does it’ half-hour upgrade to Leopard this weekend, others may be surprised at what’s broken or causing a conflict with the new cat in their Mac. As I began my own in-house clean up, I thought I might pass along a few tips for others who will be an early adopter of Leopard.

1.) Backup!

It can never be said enough, or practiced enough- there is never a backup that’ll you do that you’ll curse, save for the times when you overwrite an existing backup you later realize you need. When leopard hits and Apple’s own built-in, dead-simple approach to backing up your files with Time Machine lands on Mac desktops & hard drives everywhere, perhaps this message will become less important.

But before you upgrade, it’s the single most important step. With a full bootable backup, you can botch your upgrade beyond any tawdry 1.1.1 iPhone bricking ever done, and still in a moment’s grace boot from your backup and recover. Consider CarbonCopyCloner (already Leopard ready) from Bombich Software to make your bootable clone.
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Apple Wireless Keyboard: Classy & Compact

Written by: Dale Mugford

Categories: Reviews

apple_keyboard.jpg

My pre-ordered new Wireless Keyboard arrived, and I can say easily that my first impressions are very positive.

I have owned a Core2Duo MacBook for about a year, and become very accustomed to the keyboard style and layout. As a result, more and more when I sat down at my iMac to do some work I became annoyed at the bulky, blocky keyboard that came with the iMac. I even replaced it with the Wireless one that was previously released, which had little effect on my appreciation of the keyboard.

When Apple announced the new keyboard design I felt as if my mind had been read- for awhile now I had been thinking that it would be great if the keyboard for the imac was identical to that of the MacBooks. In fact, I’m considering an upgrade to a MacBook Pro, but am waiting for it as well to be upgraded to the recessed, square key design of the MacBooks and now iMac keyboards.

The New Wireless Keyboard is very, very compact. I don’t think it’s clear in the photos just how small, thin, and well-designed it is. It’s width and profile are exactly that of the MacBook’s- to a tee.
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Even on an 802.11g network you can achieve some pretty fast transfers between your Macs & PC’s, provided one detail: one of the computers you’ll be transferring to or from is hard-wired via Ethernet.

Every wireless network has a threshold of bandwidth available on it which is somewhat in flux, due to the distances the connections are made at; the variety of devices on a network and their respective transfer speeds; and the amount of traffic on the network at the time you make a transfer.

Making a transfer of a 1.18GB video file from my Core2Duo Macbook wirelessly to an Ethernet wired Core2Duo iMac through my 802.11n Airport Extreme, I achieve wireless speeds of around 11.3Mb/sec. In terms of time, that 1.18GB video file took less than a minute to complete.

Making the same transfer with both computers wirelessly connected to the Airport Extreme, the transfer speeds were more than sliced in half. Why?
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Air Traffic Control: The Wireless Widget Wonder

Written by: Dale Mugford

Categories: Reviews

atc.jpgA few months back I started assiting the fine developers over at SpinTriplet in doing bug and beta testing of their revamped and sorely needed Air Traffic Control dashboard widget for Mac OS X 10.4.

I donated to the cause (the widget is donationware), and poked and prodded them to continue development despite facing a major setback: Apple had released their Extreme ‘N’ Enabler, and blown a hole through the development of a widget that was initially just trying to grapple with the new Intel Macs, let alone a new unratified wireless protocol.

As it turned out, I was of considerable help, having an Intel Core Duo iMac, a Core Duo MacBook, and a Core2Duo MacBook, coupled with both a b/g Airport Extreme and a new Airport Extreme N wireless router. Installing the then newborn beta widget on all three computers, I set to testing and reporting console logs and screenshots for the developers.

Of course, I had a vested interest in all of this: There was no other widget nor application that could accurately display the Core2Duo’s wireless signal strength and scan for networks at the same time.

There are several applications which have since been updated to better work with the new Core2Duo Macs, but I wasn’t interested in an application- I wanted a widget that I could pop open when I’m roaming and traveling to scan for open networks and find the strongest connection areas.

Air Traffic Control has been around for awhile, sporting a few different looks, but its latest incarnation is extremely slick, and still functions as well as it looks even for a beta. Currently at 2.0.1 beta400, Air Traffic Control runs flawlessly on the three Macs I have here at home.

Though updated to work on all new Intel macs, the beta is Universal and works fine for older Macs as well. It’s feature set includes the ability to:

  • Scan for closed networks
  • Scan in ‘active’ mode, scanning more frequently to find networks
  • Prevent unauthorized users from changing your network settings
  • Connect to any type of network (a,b,g,n – if your airport card supports them)
  • Check for AirTrafficControl updates automatically
  • Use the Keychain to store, retrieve and update WPA or WEP passwords
  • View current connection details including network speed
  • Sorts networks by signal strength

There simply isn’t a better Airport widget available which includes both the functionality and the style of Air Traffic Control. It’s one of the handful of widgets that I consider essential for a mobile Mac user, and one in which I had no issue paying for.

New Core 2 Duo 802.11n Enabler, Airport Extreme

Written by: Dale Mugford

Categories: News

As stated earlier by Apple and other online sources, the controversial Airport Extreme 802.11n Draft Specification Enabler is now available for download from the Apple Store, for $1.99.

“Many Mac computers with an Intel Core 2 Duo and all Mac Pro computers with AirPort Extreme can be enabled to access 802.11n-based wireless networks,” a description of the USD$1.99 software update posted to its online store states. “If you purchased one of these Macs, you can use the AirPort Extreme 802.11n Enabler software to activate this advanced wireless capability.”

There are no details or reports yet on which third-party n-branded routers work with the Macs that have the enabler installed, but those reports are sure to come in the following weeks.
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Media streaming, iTunes with a Wii

Written by: Dale Mugford

Categories: Cool Stuff, Hints & Tips

wii_media_img.gifIn addition to being glossy white, the Nintendo Wii is quite Macintosh friendly from a network perspective. Wii will play nicely with your Mac even at this early juncture in the it’s lifespan, with more (wired and wireless) innovations coming shortly.

Today, there are a few notable applications to get you started playing your iTunes music , watching videos, and showing photos using your Wii and all can be ready in a matter of minutes using your home network.
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Original Graphite Base StationIn a series of posts, I’ll be exploring the past, present and future of Apple’s wireless networking strategy, from 1999 to the impact of Apple’s newest Atheros-based Airport cards in the latest Core 2 Duo Macs, and what it means for compatibility and performance in the short and long term.

I’ll also be detailing some Airport tips and tricks, as well as covering security, setups, and troubleshooting strategies.

The Wireless Revolution
After 7 years, Apple’s wireless Internet and networking solution, Airport, has come a long way, as has the rest of the wireless industry when it comes to networking and internet sharing.
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New Parallels beta with USB 2.0, Disc burning

Written by: Dale Mugford

Categories: News

Parallels Desktop for Mac, the popular choice for virtualization on your Mac has a new beta version available for download now. Beta 2 (3084) has several changes, including partial support for USB 2.0 devices. Parallels Desktop for Mac costs $79, and the beta version is available for registered users who want to give it a try.

This new beta version builds on the functionality of the recent (3036) release, with improved and new features. USB 2.0 support is now provided for devices including hard disk drives, printers and scanners, (which work at full native speeds!). Parallels advises that “isochronous devices” like Bluetooth peripherals and webcams do not yet work, but they’re working on the issue, and we can expect that at some point soon, they will.

You can now burn CDs and DVDs directly in Parallels virtual machines, and play any copy-protected CD or DVD just as you would on a “real” PC. This is a major improvement over the existing capability of virtual optical drives.

Additionally, improvements have been made to “Coherence” mode. “Coherence” lets Parallels run Windows applications from the Mac OS X Dock, and integrates the Windows desktop into Mac OS X, blurring the line between Mac OS X and Windows. With beta 2, users can place Windows apps on the Mac desktop or in the application dock; use command+tab to cycle through Windows and Mac applications and use Coherence in either Windows XP or Windows Vista.

There’s better support for using Boot Camp partitions in Parallels Desktop, full support for both FAT32 and NTFS partitions, easier offline configuration, and other changes.

Users who continue to utilize a Boot Camp partition will also appreciate the lack of having to “re-activate” Windows each time you switch between Boot Camp and Parallels. Activate Windows only once and work in both environments.

The install guides and transporter tools continue to become improved and easier to navigate, as well as other features.

Users can appreciate the speed of development in this software, and the overall stability of Parallels in beta form. My initial testing of this beta has been promising, but I have as yet not tried any USB 2.0 devices, or disc burning.

Any MacCast readers/listeners that try the new features, please leave a comment and tell us what you think.

The download is available here.

Quick Tip: Pairing Your Apple Remote

Written by: Dale Mugford

Categories: Hints & Tips

appleremote.pngRecently my brother was in a lecture at his University, and had to get up and go to the bathroom. To feel comfortable leaving his Mac unattended, he uses iAlertU, a nice little security application from Slapping Turtle that turns your MacBook’s speakers, iSight camera, motion sensors and screen into an alarm system capable of locking up the computer. It even takes a snapshot of the would-be thief and makes a noisy racket with a car-alarm like response, even if it’s just moved, let alone used.

Once the program is open, all you have to do is hold down the Menu button on your Apple remote to activate/de-activate your alarm. Of course, you should have your MacBook (Pro) paired with your remote for this purpose, otherwise anyone could ‘disarm’ your security system easily.

And it was when he was ‘arming’ iAlertU that he discovered something, much to the chagrin of other MacBook users in the hall below him: almost no one pairs their remotes with their MacBooks. Imagine the look on those in the hall as Front Row mystically opened on their screens.
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Apple releases Intel EFI Firmware Updates

Written by: Dale Mugford

Categories: News

On November 13th Apple released a handful of updates, most having to do with Boot Camp, sleep and wake-from-sleep issues with its Intel-based Macs.

According to Apple, the EFI Firmware updates “fix several Boot Camp, start up, and wake-from-sleep issues” for the Mac Mini, MacBook, MacBook Pro, and iMac.

The EFI Firmware update for the Mac Pro “This EFI Firmware Update fixes several Boot Camp and start up issues.”

Please read Apple’s instructions carefully for the EFI update that corresponds to your computer, and also prepare yourself with a Firmware Restoration CD in case you have issues while updating your firmware.

Apple also released Digital Camera RAW support & fixes for both PPC and Intel-based Macintosh computers running Mac OS X Tiger Client or Server, and an update to it’s X11 package, X11 Update 2006 1.1.3, which “addresses several issues in the X11 for Mac OS X package, enabling it to better handle GLX stereo visuals and offscreen rendering to GLX Pbuffers and Pixmaps.”

As with any update for your computer, backup all important data prior to the update, and remove any third-party devices connected to your computer. Make sure your Mac is connected to a power source, and do not interrupt, restart, or shut down your computer while the update is being applied.