Presented in reverse chronological order.
December 14, 2006: We had another fun Help and Demo night, beginning with Jim Tinsley’s presentation of what’s new in Firefox 2, the latest version of the popular Mozilla browser. And holiday gift-giving came early with lots of raffle prizes for happy winners! (Photos by Ian L. and Robert W.)
Thanks to Samy’s Camera, Tony Rose Camera, Circuit City, CompUSA, Costco, FastMac, Goleta Radio Shack, Mac Shac, MacMechanic, Mick Guinn [Mick’s Macs], See’s Candies, and Staples for donating items and gift certificates.
November 16, 2006: Mick Guinn showed us Parallels and Print Explosion Deluxe from Nova Development. Nova also provided us with hefty discounts for SBMUG members.
Print Explosion Deluxe is the “fastest, easiest way to create spectacular print projects”, earning a Macworld review rating of 4 mice. It’s easy to use, with lots of templates for greeting cards, flyers, banners, calendars, certificates, and lots more, and it’s compatible with iPhoto, so you can build a card around a photo in your library. It comes with over 13,000 ready-made designs, 100,000 graphics, and 900 fonts! It’s a universal binary, so it runs on PowerPC as well as Intel Macs.
Parallels allows Mac users to run any version of Windows, OS 2, Linux or Solaris simultaneously with Mac OS X on Intel-powered Macs. (Apple’s BootCamp utility allows Intel Macs to run Windows XP, but you have to select either Windows or Mac OS X at startup.) In Parallels, the Windows system will run in its own window in OS X. Parallels installs in a dynamically expanding folder on the hard drive so repartitioning isn’t necessary, and the default installation is easy and simple. You can copy and paste from one system to the other. Parallels even gives you a clue when you’re passing from a Mac window to a Windows window: the pointer changes from black to white. It’s estimated to run at 90–95% of native speed. (You’ll have to buy your own copy of Windows or other system separately.)
Parallels has been a boon for multiple-listing realtors, who want to use the Mac OS for creating brochures and browsing the internet virus-free, but need to use Windows for their multiple-listing software. The Parallels folks are continually releasing updates to improve the software and solve the few remaining hardware compatibility problems (it’s not ready yet for 64-bit systems).
October 19, 2006: Dirk Reynolds showed us how to make a home TROUBLE???? page in iWeb, Apple’s new easy-to-use website creation software. Start with a template with an appropriate theme, replace the text, and drop your own images into the page in place of the default images. All the elements – images, image frames, text blocks, even search boxes – can be moved around and resized with simple drag-and-drop techniques.
Dirk also showed how to make a photo gallery page: all the photos in an iPhoto album can be made right into a web page of pictures. iPhoto will even supply the captions, which you can edit in iWeb. iWeb also provides a way to play a slide show of the images on the photos page.
September 21, 2006: It was Experts Night, and people were invited to bring their questions and problems for answers. A variety of professional consultants and seasoned SBMUG members offered their expertise.
The meeting began with a Q&A session led by Harold Adams, Brian Carlin, Mick Guinn and Ian Lessing. Then came a break for refreshments: delicious raw veggies, sushi, crackers, cookies and juices. The experts took places at tables where anyone with questions or just plain curiosity could ask and watch the demos and problem-solving. Mike Bishop and Mick drew a crowd where they offered general Mac help.
Harold showed how to put a recording together in GarageBand; Dirk Reynolds offered help with Filemaker Pro version 8; Ian gave general Mac help; our raffle winner won a free hour’s worth of consultation with Macintosh expert Mac Bakewell; and a good time was had by all!
Brian used his cell phone to take this picture of Robert, then sent it to Robert’s PowerBook using Bluetooth wireless connection.
August 17, 2006: Mike Bishop and Kevin Ponto of the Mac Mechanic showed us the new powerful MacPro desktop computer and demonstrated it’s impressive capabilities. They also talked about some of the new features coming in Mac OS X Leopard and other news from the recent World Wide Developers’ Conference.
After a break and refreshments, Kelly Curran of DriveSavers gave a presentation on her company and how they do data recovery from damaged or corrupted disks and other storage media. DriveSavers is highly successful and meticulous, but you pay a premium for their service. Kelly reviewed 10 important steps so you’ll never need to have any outside firm such as hers do data recovery. Here they are:
1. Always back up, and test your backup! Keep current copies off-site. 2. To avoid data loss, always quit your programs before shutting down your computer. 3. Use high-quality surge supressors or power line conditioners with all your computer equipment. 4. Never turn off peripheral devices while the computer is on or when the disk is active. 5. Never reformat your drive without testing your backup! 6. Don’t move or jar a computer or external drive while it is operating. Transport it in a padded case to prevent jostling. 7. Allow adequate space around cooling vents. Remove books and papers that might block air flow. Don’t put laptops or external drives on carpeting. 8. Drives prefer conditions that are comfortable for people. Avoid rapid temperature changes. If the drive has been in a cold environment, allow it to warm up to room temperature before operating. 9. Use extreme caution when using disk utility software. In cases of severe corruption or physical damage this may make the problem worse. 10. If you hear unusual noises, turn off the unit immediately. There may be a mechanical problem that could lead to total data loss. If your data isn’t backed up, you’ll have to call DriveSavers to get it back.
July 20, 2006: Certified Mac expert Kevin Ponto, fresh from the “Apple Genius School” and the genius behind the MacMechanic’s Tips blog, gave us plenty of tips about OS X and helpful Mac utilities. Here’s a sample:
OS X tricks: ¶ Command+Control+D for the Oxford Dictionary. ¶ Highlight a word, Control+click it for a Google search. ¶ Command+space and type a file name for Spotlight. ¶ Control+click a folder or file to create a zip archive (for an e-mail attachment, or to archive something).
Backups: ¶ Carbon Copy Cloner: (free) makes a bootable clone of your hard drive on an external drive. ¶ Data Backup from Prosoft will do various kinds of backups, including incremental and version backups, and startup backups. ¶ If you have a .Mac account, set up backups to iDisk in System Preferences→.Mac.
Utilities: ¶ KisMAC Wi-Finder, (free) wireless network scanner shows a list view of each network available, its signal strength, whether it’s encrypted, and whether a password is needed. ¶ Deleting a trial application? AppZapper ($12.95) universal uninstaller lists all the files installed with an application. Select which files to delete and zap them! ¶ Mail.appetizer (free) plug-in for Apple Mail previews emails when they arrive – decide what action to take without leaving your current application. ¶ Letterbox widescreen plug-in for Mail puts the message contents to the right instead of below. ¶ On PowerBook and MacBook Pro, use ShadowBook and Virtue Desktops to change your desktop environment with a wave of your hand!
Wonky applications: 1. Relaunch, 2. get a later revision, or 3. remove the Preference file. Corrupt preference files are the #1 cause of problems. (~/Library/Preferences/ the application’s folder, files ending in “.plist”.) 4. After that, check for known bugs, check logs, report the bug. (~/Library/Logs/Crash Reporter/.) 5. Last resort: reinstall the application.
Wonky OS X: 1. Repair permissions (Applications/Utilities/Disk Utility: select disk, repair permissions). Do it regularly (like rebuilding the Desktop in OS 9), also before and after installing software. 2. Verify disk: insert the System CD, restart with the “C” key down. Disconnect peripherals. 3. Start up in Safe Mode (hold down the Shift key). This could take a long time because the Mac is checking the disk. 4. Library/Startup Items: should contain only things you install, nothing else (not user’s library). 5. If you forget your password, start up from the System CD and use the password reset: Utilities→Reset Password.
Wonky File Vault: Don’t use File Vault to encrypt everything, it can become corrupted and you’ll lose everything.
June 15, 2006: Don Baker from Klassic Specialties gave us another fascinating lesson in getting the best print results, the longest life out of ink cartridges, differences between various kinds of papers, and how to shop wisely for a new printer. Here are some of his tips:
#1. Consider the cost of ink or toner when buying a new printer. Most of the cost of ownership is in the supplies. #2. Set your print quality settings for the kind of paper you use. Too much ink makes for ugly images. #3. Paper, not the ink, determines the water resistance of ink-jet printing. #4. After printing, always turn off the power switch on an ink jet printer – it will park and cover its nozzles to keep them from drying out. #5. Clean ink jet nozzles no more than twice, then turn the printer off and let it stand for at least an hour, maybe a day, then print a test pattern. It takes time for the fresh ink to dissolve the clogs. #6. Not every print job uses all the nozzles. Print the test pattern at least once every two weeks to keep all the nozzles clear. #7. Avoid cheap ink cartridges. Cartridges from reputable suppliers print as well as the printer manufacturer’s own cartridges. (Sometimes they are the same cartridges.)
Klassic Specialties has some innovative new products, such as a refillable outboard ink reservoir that gives 7 times the ink life of individual cartridges. They also sell special papers that produce incredible images, and printable materials for canvas banners and magnetic signs.
May 18, 2006: Our special guest was Doc Searls, whom Online Journalism Review calls “one of the deep thinkers of the blog movement.” Weblogs, or “blogs”, are changing the way people get their news.
Unlike a static web page, a weblog is an online journal. It’s easy and inexpensive for anyone to start one on the subject of their choice. (For example, the English tailor Thoman Mann began a blog a few years ago on the subject of men’s wear.) Readers can leave their own comments too, so an idea can grow into a discussion. There are specialized search engtines just for blogs, such as Technorati. You can do a search for something and save the results as a news feed that continues sending the latest issues from the search results.
Podcasting is a variation that sends streaming audio. It’s like Tivo for internet “radio”.
April 20, 2006: Art Sylvester, President-Elect of the Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society, showed us how to document our ancestry using Reunion, the most popular and highest rated Mac genealogy software tool. Art began by entertaining us with his own experiences learning how to do genealogical research.
Reunion is made specifically for Macintosh, and the latest version is compatible with Mac OS 8.5 to OS X. Reunion stores, organizes and displays all your family info; you can even include photos, sounds, and scans of hand-written notes. Reunion can publish your data in a variety of formats, even put your family tree on the web. Reunion is easy to use, and imports and exports genealogical data in PAF or GEDCOM genealogy data communication files (a cross-platform universal format).
March 16, 2006: Jeffery Morse showed us Aperture, Apple’s first professional-level photography application. Aperture is designed to simplify the workflow for most photographers, works with RAW image files without translating them, and uses “non-destructive” editing to preserve the original file data.
Before Aperture, software didn’t really work with RAW data — even Photoshop doesn’t work with RAW natively. (It uses a converter called Bridge to convert the file, and therefore isn’t non-destructive.) iPhoto substitutes a JPEG for the RAW image, but otherwise doesn’t deal with the data natively.
Apple calls Aperture a pro application (it sells for $499 and comes with a tutorial DVD), and minimum system requirements are somewhat steep: 1.8 GHz G5 with 1GB of RAM, and a specific graphics card. Aperture uses the power of the graphics card and its video memory. Recommended system: dual G5, 2GB of RAM, better graphics card. Aperture doesn’t archive thumbnails like a database program, it needs access to the actual files. It’s really meant for working with the images. Aperture locks away the original images as a package in the Aperture library in the Pictures folder in your Library — it’s harder to lose the images if they’re all managed by the program.
Adjustments to images are in the form of meta data, and can be turned on or off with a check box for each adjustment (similar to adjustment layers in Photoshop). Everything is being saved as you work; images can be exported in a variety of formats. Metadata for copyright and caption can be added, even a watermark, and black-point, color-sync profiles and white balance can be embedded. Meta data such as caption info or white balance can also be copied and applied to other images.
February 16, 2006: SBMUG’s Harold Adams showed us around iLife ’06, a major update to the iLife suite of programs – iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, Garage Band, and the new iWeb. (iTunes, available separately for free, is no longer included in the iLife suite.)
iWeb works with templates. Select a template and drag text, images and movies into it to make your web page. iDVD has a similar interface for making movies.
Harold played a work-in-progress that he and his son are recording in GarageBand called “January Rain”, with bass, guitar, keyboard and drums (the vocals weren’t done yet). GarageBand is easy to use with a drag-and-drop interface. Add midi voices, record live performances of instruments and voices, or use the sound loops that come with GarageBand.
iTunes and Podcasting: About a third of us at the meeting have heard a podcast. It’s like TiVo for on-line audio broadcasting. The iTunes music store offers podcasts, and many of them are free. You can add a podcast to your Podcast menu by subscribing to it. When you open iTunes it will look for a new version of the show and download it. If you don’t want the show anymore, you can click the Unsubscribe button, and even send the last show to the trash if you want.
Making a podcast: GarageBand 3 comes with features that make it easy to make a podcast, including royalty-free music. Harold uses a desktop microphone to record his voice in GarageBand. After importing the music from iTunes he adjusts the levels. The voice is recorded in little chunks; if he sneezes, he just rerecords the little chunk. A 7-minute interview with Mike Bishop was recorded separately in iMovie (one track for Harold, another track for Mike) and exported as an AIF file to GarageBand. GarageBand can also export as AIF. You can put a graphic in a podcast too, as Harold discovered recently. You can even make a video podcast that will play in a video iPod.
iPhoto: iPhoto 6 “scrolls like butter” even with lots of photos. (It will hold up to 250,000!) You can order prints over the internet right in iPhoto. Or you can select an image and e-mail it to someone – select the size you want to send and enter the e-mail address. (You can use Mail or another e-mail program like Eudora or Entourage.) You can use iPhoto to make a photo album, or even a picture calendar: drag & drop images and text you want on the cover, drop a photo on a date and it appears on that part of the page. Click the Buy button and the printed calendar will arrive in the mail! You can make greeting cards the same way. iPhoto also does the essential 5% of what Photoshop does.
Thanks to Mike Bishop and MacMechanic for providing iLife ’06 for our drawing.
January 19, 2006: Our annual Macworld Expo show-and-tell. Lots of iPod stuff this year along with the new Macs. Thanks to Mike Bishop, Damien Rebman, Harold Adams and Brian Carlin for their presentations. The prize for the drawing this month was a 60GB Rocksport portable hard drive, with Firewire and USB.