Newer Technology Mini Stack Drive – A Nice addition to a Mac Mini

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 2.24.11 PMWhen I purchased my Mac Mini, I was excited about the fact that I was going to have much more space on my desk. And for a time, I was able to do that. But, over time when I needed additional disk space, I needed to add external hard drives to give me that space. I’ve always been one to purchase external hard drives based upon price.

I typically buy whatever is on sale locally. Unfortunately, that has allowed me to have a number of dissimilar drives that all take up space on my desk. I was excited to see NewerTech’s miniStack drive because the form factor of this drive was the exact size of the current Mac Mini. This allows me to place the drive under my Mac Mini and an additional space without using up more disk space.

I was fortunate enough to be able to tryout one of these units with a 1 TB hard drive built-in to see how it performs and how looked when set up with my system.

NewerTech’s miniStack has a number of ports on the back that allow you to be able toScreen Shot 2015-07-02 at 2.24.19 PM connected with either FireWire 800, eSATA (which doesn’t make a lot of sense in the Mac world), or by the common USB3 port that comes on the current model Mac Mini. Since USB3 is faster than Firewire 800, I chose to make the connection with the included USB3 cable.

If you were using Firewire 800, NewerTechnologies was thoughtful enough to include an additional passthrough port for other Firewire devices. Unfortunately, to get additional USB3 ports you need to move up to NewerTechnology’s miniStack Max unit that provides additional USB3 ports and an SD card reader. This unit also allows for a DVD or Blue-ray drive to be included inside.

After placing the drive unit under my Mac Mini, I plugged in the power adapter and the included USB3 cable. Unfortunately, the power adapter included was a large brick type of adapter that required a wide plug to be plugged in. It would’ve been slightly better had a power adapter been built-in internally so the plug-in would only require a standard spaced plug.

After the initial setup, I was presented with an icon for the new drive software to be installed. I ran the installer and selected the recommended easy-setup option. Having to run software to install a drive was somewhat foreign to me, but running the utility, I accepted the defaults and was presented with an icon for the drive on my desktop. For users who do not install a drive very often, this method of setup is quick and easy. Other options in the process would allow for multiple partitions to be setup if the user wants them.

On the drive was a bundled package of Speedtools OEM version and Prosofts Data Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 3.06.05 PMBackup 3. In general, these utilities are a little dated. but still functional if you’re using the correct operating system. Windows utilities were also included. For my use, I chose to use Carbon Copy Cloner to do my backup since I already owned it and was familiar with it.

The miniStack drive is available in drive sizes up to 5TB or as a bare unit without a drive. If you really want fast storage, you can also get it with a Solid State Drive SSD in 120GB to 960GB sizes.

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 2.25.16 PMOnce the drive was setup and formatted, it was easiest to use just as any other drive on a Macintosh. I set up a Carbon Copy Clone task and copied my main drive due this new drive as a backup. That all without a hitch. Speed was as good as any USB3 drive that I’ve used before. The fan in the drive proved to be very quiet. It did not add much noise to my working environment. While there is a switch on the back of the drive, I doubt that I will use it as I will allow the Mac to continue to run almost all the time.

If you’re looking for a small footprint drive for your Mac Mini, NewerTechnologies many stack is a great solution. The footprint is exactly the same as the Mac Mini and by having a USB3 port it complements the drive internal to the Mac Mini. If you have an older Mac with a FireWire 800 port, and you’re looking for a drive to be able to use it with, the miniStack is also a good choice.

Price varies from $79 to $693 depending on Drive size and type.
For more information check out the Other World Computing website.

Google photos: the photos service that Apple should have developed

imageThe world of photos storage and manipulation, for the average user, has been turned on its head this spring with Apple releasing its new photos app to replace iPhoto, and now google introducing its own photos service that replaces Google+ photos and Picassa. Also the spring, Yahoo has greatly enhanced it’s Flickr service as a competitor to both the big dogs. With all these options for photo storage and manipulation, how does a person make a choice?

So let me start off by being perfectly clear. If you’re a Photoshop user these are not competitive products to you. If you use Lightroom to store your photos, then these are probably not services you’re going to have interest in either. If you were an Aperture user and Apple abandoned you, you’ve probably already looked into lightroom and likely selected it as your new system. But if you were in iPhoto user, someone who uses Windows Photo Gallery or still a Picassa user, the time is right to look at your other options.

I’ve written about Apple photos before and described how it was a good start at a new photo application for Apple. If you’re a Mac User this may be all you need. But if you’re a Windows user, or you’d like to get your photos into the cloud for storage without paying an arm and a leg, the other options are quite compelling.

imageNow I like Flickr. Flickr is very well developed and with its new release has many features that people will find very useful for dealing with their photos.  If your a Flickr user and have already worked out a workflow for putting your photos up at Flickr, then I see no reason to make a change. But if you have photos on your computer, that are haphazardly stored in folders, Google photos maybe just the ticket for you.

Like most Google services, Google photos is available as a web service in your web browser. First off you have to have a Google account to use the service. If you have a Gmail address you already have the account set up.  Once you connect to Google photos you have the ability to be able to put photos into the service and have them backed up. One of the benefits of Google photos is that they allow you to store up to 16 megapixel images uncompressed for free. If you’re using a camera that takes larger images, photos will down sample the image to that size or you can choose to pay for storage space to store full size images. For most users using the free unlimited storage is good enough.

So what makes Google photo special? Google photos has a lot of intelligence built-in similar to what iPhoto users had been used to with faces and places. Google photos gives you the ability to put photos up and then Google uses their algorithms to scan those photos to help organize them in a very simple way.

imageGoogle has made available a small application for both Macintosh and Windows users that allows you to automatically upload any photos on your computer. This application runs in the background and will send any new photos up to Google photos as soon as they’re on your computer. This makes using Google Photos extremely easy. You basically continue to work with photographs the way you always have and Google Photos sends copies of those photos up to their web service and stores them for you as a backup. If you’re in computer user that has photos stored on your computer and is not religious about backing them up I see no reason to not use Google photos just for that service. Even if you do nothing with the photos you put up in Google photos, just allowing Google to back them up for you at no cost is a big win. To do this you don’t even have to go to the website, you can just download the small application, run it, and let the backups begin.

But some of the real power of Google photos begins once your photos are stored with Google. As your photos are put online in an area that is secure and only accessible to you, Google analyzes these photos both by reading the metadata and also by analyzing the image itself. From this Google automatically creates things called stories that are basically short booklets of images that are related often by time or location. You really have to see this in action to understand it. I’ll tell you upfront I was pretty amazed. In addition Google organizes photos by peoples faces, locations, and generic terms such as lakes, mountains, flowers, and helicopters. I am certainly not very good at tagging my photos but the way Google analyze them and puts them into groups was amazing.

imageHere are some of the things googles literature says that it does.

• VISUAL SEARCH: Your photos are now searchable by the people, places and things that appear in your photos. Looking for that fish taco you ate in Hawaii? Just search “Hawaii” or “food” to find it even if it doesn’t have a description. Note: Face grouping is not available in all countries.
• AUTO BACKUP: Keep all your photos and videos safe and accessible from any device. Choose free, unlimited cloud storage available at high quality, or store up to 15GB original size for free (shared across your Google account).
• SAVE SPACE ON YOUR DEVICE: Google Photos can help you clear safely backed up photos and videos from your device so you never have to worry about deleting a photo to make space.
• BRING PHOTOS TO LIFE: Automatically create montage movies, interactive stories, collages, animations, and more.
• EDITING: Transform photos with the tap of a finger. Use simple, yet powerful, photo and video editing tools to apply filters, adjust colors, and more.
• SHARING: Share hundreds of photos instantly with shareable links and use whichever apps you’d like to share.
You can read more about some of the amazing things Google photos can do on Google’s website at http://www.google.com/photos/about/

Google currently has applications for photos on the iPhone, iPad, and android devices. And for first releases, they are very good.  They also promise native apps for Macintosh and Windows coming soon.

So if you don’t have a photo storage strategy, or your strategy has been blown apart with the discontinuing of iPhoto, or even if you just want to try a good way to back up your photos automatically, I highly recommend Google photos as your new photo storage service. I’m not completely counting out Apple photos at this point, but Google photos is the app Apple should have released. So I’ll continue to use the Apple photos app in addition to Adobe lightroom to manage my imagery, but I’m going to let Google backup my photos because I can see the amazing potential of what they released this week.

Apple Watch: an interesting first generation product

imageWell today was the day! After ordering my Apple Watch on April 10, today the UPS man delivered it to my door. It was quite a long wait. i’ve really been looking forward to getting ahold of this device and putting it through its paces. And that’s exactly what I did.

I ordered the Apple Watch sport edition with the black band. I fully intend on adding a black leather band in the near future, but I thought I’d go with the default upfront. The Apple Watch comes in 38 mm models and 42 mm models. I opted for the larger watch since I have pretty large hands. Just like most Apple products, the Apple Watch is elegantly packaged. Removing it from its packaging you actually feel like your opening something of value.

Once turned on, you use the Apple Watch application on your iPhone to pair the watch to your phone. The process is fairly simple, basically using your iPhone camera lined up over the activation screen on the watch. After responding to a few questions, entering your Apple ID, and allowing Apple Watch to install apps already on your phone that have embedded Apple Watch apps included with them, you sit back and allow the applications to be installed from your phone by Bluetooth. The whole process takes about 20 minutes.

Since Apple released an updated operating system for the watch last week I next immediately updated the operating system of the watch to 1.01. This update took another 20 minutes. At this point the watch restarted and became active with my information loaded on it. Next you use the Apple Watch app on your iPhone to go through all the settings and configure them to your liking. I removed a few of the Watch apps that were installed by default in the set up and configured the settings of a few others. All of this was pretty standard fare and all of it was fairly intuitive to do.

Using the Apple Watch is pretty much as I’ve seen the videos I watched from Apple. I’ve also done large amountimage of reading on how the watch operates and what you can do with it. Most of the apps installed are relatively rudimentary. This is to be expected from a new product that developers have just now begun working on their Applications for. Some of them have some nice value including some of the weather apps and others have relatively minor usefulness.

In my first day of use I was able to try out a number of applications. I was particularly impressed with the Apple maps application and it’s ability to route me and track my route on the watch. As each turn in my route came up, the watch would make a small amount of noise and vibrate on my wrist. It was actually much easier to use and trying to watch the route on my phone. It was also much safer by not having to hold my phone in my hand. I received a number of texts throughout the day and reading my text message turned out to be very useful also. I particularly liked the ability to send back a quick and easy reply of a word or two.

Some apps required some additional configuration. 1password initially showed no information on my Watch but I found additional settings need to be turned on and also realized I needed to select specific passwords that I wanted to be presented on the watch. The weather applications required me to reconfigure my cities. A number of other third-party applications also required configuration, passwords, or other information input to allow for the watch functionality.

One thing that was slightly disappointing was the need to reconfigure my credit card to be able to use Apple Pay on the watch. I say that because my credit card company is one of the ones that require me to call in prior to activation.

In general, I have to say the Apple Watch works as advertised. All of the things I’ve read work just fine and the watch seems to be fairly responsive in  performing those functions.  But in general, I still seem to be asking myself if this device is something that everyone needs. I’m kind of a geek so I’m sure I’m going to learn to love it even more than I do now. But is it a must-have for everyone with an iPhone?

I guess at this point I’d have to say no. I think we are a little too early in the third-party application arena to find applications that are truly mind changing when used on the watch. I really have little doubt that those applications will come. I just don’t think they’re quite there yet. In addition, the watch configuration in the Apple Watch iPhone application seems to be a little disjointed. It doesn’t really flow and it certainly doesn’t seem to be organized in the best way, or even in an Apple way. So don’t get me wrong, I love the watch and I think it’s going to be big. I’m just not sure it’s at that point for the average user. The learning curve for  the watch once you have it configured is quite steep and will even take me a week or so to get good at.

So if you’re an Apple geek like me, you better place your order because delivery is still 6 to 8 weeks out for most watches. But if you’re just an iPhone user, looking for that next big thing, you might want to hold off a while until some killer apps get released from third-party developers. Then the Apple Watch will be truly useful to you out of the box and you won’t have to wait for additions or changes to feel good about your purchase.

New Mediacom Mail Server allow for IMAP mail

If you are a subscriber to Mediacom, you may have gotten an email telling you that your mail account has been moved to their new server. Typically they send an email about a week before they’re going to do it and then again I’ll follow-up email telling you they’ve completed it. The email that you get for completion may look like this.
Screen Shot 2015-05-01 at 10.59.47 AM

One of the features provided in Mediacom’s new mail service is the ability to use IMAP mail.   These days most of us look at mail on more than one device. IMAP email allows you to leave your mailbox on the server rather than downloading all your mail to each device. This way if you delete one message from any device it gets removed from all devices.

You can set this up on your iPhone or iPad but it does require a little bit of trickery to get it to work. Setting it up on a Mac needs to be done in the same way.

The first step in the process is to go into settings: Mail contacts and calendars: and remove your existing Mediacom account from your device. Any mail you have left on the server Will come back down when you readd the IMAP account.  But if you have mail that’s fairly old it may have been deleted from the server so be sure you’re willing to do without that if you delete your account.

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With your account deleted you’ll need to go through the process of setting up a new mail account on your iOS device.

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Go to Settings: Mail Contacts and Calendars and select Add Account.

IMG_1717Select Other for the account type

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Select Add Mail Account

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Now here is where you need to trick the iOS mail setup application.  Apple’s auto mail setup goes out to look for the correct settings and unfortunately defaults to setting up the email as a POP account again.  So we will use a fictitious email address to trick it.

Enter your name and then enter an email address where the first part of the address is incorrect.  Be sure to use the correct portion of the address that comes after the @.  For instance, I entered gk@mchsi.com but you could also use something generic like xx@mchsi.com too.  Enter your password correctly and give the account a descriptive name.

IMG_1720

 

after a few seconds of looking out the server information, you will see the cannot get mail dialog popup.  This error is correct since you used an incorrect email address. Press OK.

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Next change the toggle at the top from POP to IMAP.

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Finally the last step is to correct the fictitious email address you used.  In each of the three locations, edit your email address to the correct one. Press Next in the upper right corner.

You should see blue checkmarks next to the user name and password fields to verify you got them correct.

IMG_1723You will see that the account is setup for mail and notes.  Notes will allow you to share notes using the mediacom server between all your devices.  You can choose to leave it on or turn it off but if left on the notes show up in the Notes application on your devices.  Press Done and you are finished.

I have also tested this process for adding the account to my Mac and it works basically the same.  I suspect Windows will work similarly also.

With an IMAP account now you only have to look at your mail in one place and delete it one time and it will be kept up to date on all your devices.

AOL Users: Beware of Phishing Attempts

Recently, I have been dealing with a number of clients who use AOL and have had their AOL account compromised. Some of those report having recently received an email from AOL that their mailbox was full. They went to the link logged in and took care the problem themselves. But in fact, what they really did was give their AOL password away to someone with the intent of locking their account. Many of them had their entire address book deleted but only after emails were sent to everyone they know telling that they had been abducted and needed money to get away or that they were in jail and needed money for bail.

This is a very common phishing attempt that has been going around for long time. Some of my clients that continue to use AOL have their accounts for a very long time and don’t want to have to change their email address.  Even though many times I have recommended that they should get a different email address and leave AOL they continue to stick with it because they don’t want to deal with the effort of change.

AOL remains one of the greatest risks for phishing in the email industry. People sending these phishing efforts realize that AOL users have used the system for a long time and as a result they realize they’ll do anything to continue to be able to use it. So these hackers send out emails similar to this:

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 10.09.23 AM

So let’s dissect this message. First look at where the email came from. That email address is not an AOL email address. But more importantly hover over the click here before you click.

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 9.43.10 AM

 

As you can see, it’s quite obvious it’s not taking you to an AOL server. But people in a hurry, forget these easy to use rules for staying safe. So let’s say it just one more time:

Never, Never click on any email link without seeing where the link takes you.  But then make a conscious decision that the link is going to someplace that makes common sense in the context of what it is supposed to do.  If it doesn’t, don’t click.  If your not sure, forward it to someone that can assist you in determining if it is something you need to do.

Using this common sense approach will keep you from having to deal with all the issues related to an email account being compromised.  Take the time to look forgot clicking.

 

Apple updates Mac OS and introduces new Photos Application

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 4.22.56 PMThe much anticipated update to Mac OS, Version 10.10.3, was released today and includes the often discussed new Photos application. I am been beta testing this application for quite a while and I’m happy to say that the release version is even better than the versions I’ve been testing.

Initially I have quite a bit of concern on the buggy state I had been seeing in the photos app but with the release today Apple seems to have truly cleaned it up and make it ready for the public. After converting my iPhoto library I find that much more of my information is now in photos than was there during the beta. My albums and slideshows all transfered without any problem.  The actual conversion took over an hour and a half but I have a very large photoScreen Shot 2015-04-08 at 4.15.42 PM library. I was also pleasantly surprised to see Apple added automatically created albums for panoramas, videos, Slo-mo, and bursts.  To be able to see these, you must go to the view menu and turn on the sidebar.

A couple of things that deserve being mentioned. During the first time you run Photos, Photos will ask you if you want turn on iCloud Photo Library. I would recommend not doing this until you assess what you’re photo space need would because you will likely have to purchase additional iCloud space for this to work.  Also during the initial run, Photos will automatically convert your iPhoto library. There are ways to go back and still use your iPhoto library in iPhoto but just the act of running Photos is going to run a conversion.

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 4.15.26 PMI’ve come to the conclusion that photos is a pretty good upgrade iPhoto after all. I would recommend if you update your operating system to move forward and give it a try.

Apple has some good information on the web about the features in the new Photos Application.  There is also a great article on The Verge that goes into detail about Photos and also the differences between iPhoto and Photos.

Apple needs to deal with phishing and junk mail on its iCloud servers

Phishing scams through email continue to be one of the biggest problems related to email today.  My email account sees dozens of these and quite often are able to deal with them as junk mail and get rid of them. But a real growing problem I see, is related to Apples iCloud email and pfishing.

imageiCloud email has never been very good at dealing with junk mail. Unlike Google who has extensive junk mail filtering enabled on their servers, at times Apples email system seems to just send everything through. You certainly have the ability, if you’re on a computer, to mark email as junk and hope that matching emails get put into the junk folder when they come in. Unfortunately, if you’re on one of apples premier iOS devices, you have little to help you because junk mail filters don’t exist. But more and more it seems like Apple with his iCloud email services are doing nothing at the server level to stop you from getting this junk mail and phishing scams. Email that is sent to a third-party provider may be difficult to filter  because that provider cannot determine if the email in legitimate but email that looks like it comes from Apple should be simple for Apple to filter out at the server level and save its customers the risk of mistakenly believing Apple is in contact with them. Here’s a glaring example.

Nearly every day I get at least one email that looks very similar to this. The people sending the email obviously want to make it look like it’s from Apple. But if you look closely, you can easily determine that it’s a scam. My real question for Apple is why they can’t determine these are scams and delete them before sending them to me. I am a savvy enough user to realize that this email is fake. But many users may not realize it that easily.

If you look at the email closely, the look and feel of it looks very similar to the minimalistic email formatting thatimage Apple commonly uses. It’s only when you look at the link that the scammer is attempting to get you to click on that you see that it’s actually fake.  If you actually click that link it takes you to a page that looks just like the Apple account sign in page. I always check these links before I click on them by holding my finger down on the link if on an iPad or iPhone until it shows me where it’s taking me. You can also click and hold with a mouse on the link and see the same thing if you’re on a computer. These kind of emails come from all different companies and always look as if they’re real. But here’s my real issue with Apple.

I can see no reason why a mail provider, that is hosting email itself such as Apple, can’t determine these phishing scams are being sent out in its own name. It would seem to me that Apple would want to stop these at the server level rather than subject users to the risk of accidentally clicking. But that certainly doesn’t seem to be the case.

So it bears recommending one more time for users to be extremely careful of the email that comes to them. It only takes one casual click, and the entering of your ID information, to allow someone access to your credit cards, your stored identity information, and cause you all kinds of problems that you’ll then have to deal with.

Remember, think before you click and make email safer. But I still believe, email providers need to step up and deal with this problem. It makes perfect sense to me that Apple does so little filtering at the server level when they can’t even filter out email that looks like it’s coming from them.

How can I download a YouTube Video?

Q: I’ve been searching all over the web to find a way to insert a youtube video into a keynote presentation, but with no luck so far. Keynote will accept videos I shot with my old iPhone, but I don’t see a way to save youtube videos, although I know it can be done. I also know they should be MP4 files, but I’ll get to that later.

A: Here is the way I have found to do it. First note to the YouTube video you want to download and save the URL to the clipboard.  Now Go to http://www.tubegrabber.net.

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 1.02.46 PMInsert the URL in the download box and press download now.

Select either Low definition MP4 or High Definition MP4 as the format

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Press Start Download

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The video will be downloaded to your downloads folder.

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Beware of Malware installed with Java

For years, Windows users have had to deal with malware installed on their computers. One of the big ones that I see a lot is a toolbar from the company “Ask”.  Ask, once installed takes over you’re searching and adds toolbars for providing pop up messages and redirected finds when you’re looking to purchase something on the web. Many people don’t realize that this toolbar is truly malware.  It is install through various third-party installers that usually bundle at with their product and are paid by Ask.  I cannot count number of times I’ve had to uninstall this and reset the search engines for Windows users.
MacJava Ask AdwareFor a long time Mac users have won in parity with Windows users when it came to software purchased for their machines. Well Mac users can be proud the now when it comes to malware from ask they have absolute parity with Windows computers. In the latest release of Java, Version 8 update 40, Oracle has included Ask malware with the install.  Mac users that have Java installed we’ll get a notice that they have an update,  when they click the update button it will download the Java update software. This software runs do a standard install but once the install begins it pops up a dialog box that looks like the one below. Ask is depending on the fact that people are busy and will continue to just press the next button to get the software installed because they precheck the box that allows them to install the software.  It certainly is easy enough for Mac user, or a Windows user for that matter, to uncheck the box and not get this malware installed. But Malware depends upon laziness from the user and this company is counting on just that.  Most people will just hit the next button and let the software be installed, only to find out when they next run their browser that their home pages been changed, their search engine has been change, and a toolbar for Ask has been installed in their browser.

So the next time you update Java, really installer dialog box and uncheck the box to install this Ask malware.