Monthly Archives: July 2011

Time Machine – anywhere, anytime!

One of the nice new features of OS X Lion is that you can access your Time Machine backups even when you are disconnected from the drive such as on the commute to work or even while on holiday. The downside is it takes up a chunk of your HD that you might not want to give up. Fortunately, you can turn this feature on or off (it’s on by default in Macbook’s, but off by default in iMac/Mac Pro).

When the feature is on, local snapshots of the last few days’ Time Machine backups are stored on a local drive called MobileBackups. If your time machine backup disc should get corrupted for any reason, these can also serve as a second line of defence. Be careful though, these backups get replaced and updated without warning, so don’t rely on them for anything more than the last couple of days saves.

You can access these from the regular Time Machine icon. Alternatively, find them by clicking on the computer name at the bottom of the left-hand column in any Finder window, and then navigating to the MobileBackups drive.

If you want this option on your iMac/Mac Pro, you’ll have to enable it through Terminal. Open the Terminal application and paste in the following command:

sudo tmutil enablelocal

followed by your admin password and a return-key stroke (don’t expect to see anything when you type the password).

If Terminal returns to the prompt you should be good to go. Check by opening Time Machine preferences, which should now display the message that “Time machine keeps local snapshots as space permits and…” followed by the Time Machine backup schedule. If it hasn’t worked, it’ll just say “Time machine keeps:” and then the schedule.

If you wish to disable local snapshots to save disk space (mine takes up about 8GB), then just type:

sudo tmutil disablelocal

followed by your password. Don’t forget to quit Terminal straight after you’ve verified everything’s working. Enjoy!

Time Machine Preferences:


getting Lion ready for open-source

If you are using open source software on your Mac, like Gimp and Inkscape and other X11 environment programs, be sure to install the Macports for 10.7 update to make sure they work properly with OS X Lion. If you already had Macports installed under Snow Leopard, it’s nice and simple. Just download the .dmg here and click on the installer. When it’s done, you’re good to go! 🙂

re-install Kindle

NEWS: Please see my update on Kindle for Mac here!

You might not have noticed, but your Kindle for Mac has probably stopped syncing with Amazon since updating to OS X Lion, even if you have the most recent Kindle update. Even re-downloading it from Amazon doesn’t solve the problem.

Here’s how to fix it:

1. Delete from your Applications folder (don’t panic! This doesn’t delete your purchases or any added files, just the app).

2. Drag the Kindle icon off the Dock and release it anywhere on the desktop.

2. Click on the App Store icon on the Dock, search for Kindle and install.

3. Don’t forget to make a new icon for your Dock by dragging the Kindle app over from Finder.

That’s it! Syncing restored, but be aware that the App store version of Kindle is an old build. The latest Kindle build with support for Collections won’t work with Lion yet. For that, we’ll all have to wait on the developers… 🙂

how to make Front Row work in Lion

I didn’t use this much till recently when I bought an Apple Remote. Then came Lion, and I was wondering what I was going to do with that nice looking bit of silver plastic…fortunately, the Mac community is on the case, and if you want it you can still have Front Row in Lion. Take a look here. Alternatively, you can use a free third-party alternative like XBMC.

remove leather-look from iCal and Address book

It is not often that Apple have a design disaster, but frankly someone needs to hang their head in shame over the nasty leather-look skin for the new iCal and Address book.

I didn’t really use these utilities much in Leopard, so I probably wouldn’t have noticed had it not been for the fact that the new iCal has a very handy ‘Day view’ (see the first shot below), which basically means you can use it as a To-Do list or scheduler much more easily than the old one. Inputting events at a certain time is also really easy and just requires you to click on the time on the page. The only downer being that nasty “leather-look” skin:

However, thanks to this great post from MacNix, you can now change the skin back to the default Apple silver/platinum style but keep all the new features. Thanks MacNix, that’s a real eye-relief!

will my old apps work with Lion?

Thinking of upgrading but not so sure? There’s a lot of conflicting opinion out there about Apple’s latest Mac OS iteration. One of the key factors has got to be how much you rely on particular apps you currently use and whether they will still be compatible when you upgrade. Unlike other OS X upgrades, Lion certainly has backwards-compatibility issues (prompting some to wonder why they didn’t call this OS XI…). As has been well-publicized, Lion does not support PowerPC apps (though see my update here), and other issues concern the viability of third-party software. Here’s how to address your worries about compatibility for both issues:

PowerPC Apps:
If you want to know how many PowerPC apps you have on your current system and whether any of them include things you don’t want to live without, go to the Apple logo at the top right of your screen and click the first item in the menu, ‘About this Mac’.

Click the button ‘More info’ and select ‘Applications’ in the left hand column. In the right-hand panel, there is a list of all your apps and whether they are Intel or PowerPC (you may have to expand the window to see this column). The PowerPC apps will not run on Lion at all.

Third-party Apps:
The world is full of truly good people, and if I was giving out awards for services to the Mac community, I’d definitely have the folks over at RoaringApps high on my list. Go check out their wiki and search for any program you’re worried about. They’ve got a list of every (yes, every!) piece of software that runs on Mac and an easy visual guide as to whether it’ll work on Lion or not. Thanks guys!

X11 and open source apps:
For anything related to open source software, see my post on getting Lion ready for open source.

Related information:
See Apple’s support doc for incompatible software

turn off auto paging in Safari

Having problems with Safari loading more than one page when you click a link? In blogs like WordPress, clicking on the ‘comments’ link can cause Safari to behave a bit oddly, only loading the comments briefly before loading more than one page onto the screen.

If you’re having this problem, try turning off the auto-page extension tool. Go to the Safari menu at the top of the screen, next to the Apple logo. Click the menu and chose ‘Preferences…’. Click the Extensions tab. Look for ‘AutoPagerize’ in the list on the left hand side. Click it, and un-check the ‘Enable’ box. Job done!

Safari Preferences:

secrets of the option key

option key

The option key can be used to access some hidden menus in Apple programs as well as accomplish some common tasks more quickly.

There are two ways the option key can be employed, depending on the app and the menu you’re dealing with. Try holding down the option key and clicking on the volume icon at the top of your screen. Notice how it gives you a menu instead of the volume slider? Having problems with your wifi connection and need some technical information? Try opt and click on the Wi-fi (formerly known as’Airport’) icon. See all that greyed out data about your signal that wasn’t there before?

This will only work if you depress the option key before you click the icon. However, in some Apple menus you can click the menu first, and then pressing or releasing the opt key will change some of the available commands. Many of them are subtle, and the best thing to do is play around and explore for yourself, but let’s just take a look at a couple here.

Start with the Finder menu, and compare the two shots below. The one on the left is the ordinary menu. Notice the ellipsis (the ‘…’ ) in the ‘Empty Trash…’ command?

An ellipsis after a command tells you that clicking on it will not execute the command but take you to another menu or dialogue box. In the case of Trash, as we know, that’s just the confirmation box. Thing is, how many times do you ever click ‘Empty Trash…’ with the intention of saying ‘No’. Well, for me, that’s never, so why waste time having to deal with an unnecessary dialogue box?

Now look at the menu on the right. This is what appears if you hold down the option key either before or after clicking the menu. Notice the ellipsis has gone. That means that clicking ‘Empty Trash’ will execute the command immediately, skipping the confirmation dialogue completely.

OK, now you’ve got the idea, go through all the Finder menus (File, Edit, Window, etc). Alternately press and release the opt key and see how the menus change. You can explore the secrets of the opt key in other Apple apps too, including Safari. One I like there is [Safari] File > Close Tab changes to ‘Close Other Tabs’ with the opt key.

Finally, I posted earlier on how to disable Resume permanently. Remember, you can also use the option key to force the App to forget what you were doing. In any Apple app, just hold down the option key when you click Quit from the App menu, or use the hotkey combination ‘Opt + Cmd + Q‘.

Nice. 🙂

Got any other secret opt-key menus you like? Let us know in the comments!

Mail: back to classic

OK, I gave it three days, but in the end I just can’t get along with Mail’s new look; it’s just too visually confusing for me. The good news is Apple didn’t desert its old users entirely. If you want to return Mail to its former glory, just go to Mail Preferences > Viewing and check the box at the top. That’s it, back to clarity! 🙂

Mail Preferences:classic OS X mail view

how do touch screens work?

Ever wondered how those touch screens work (and presumably the Apple trackpad, though I can’t vouch for this!)?

Some clever folk have laid it out as simple as you like in this infographic.

So now you know!

How Does a Touchscreen Phone Work?

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