Mac Life – Part 7 – A Few Teething Problems?


Mac Life Part 7 exists to help Dan Williams who recently made the switch from PC to Mac after having a play with my set-up and has a few teething problems:

“Hi Joe, I’m now all set up with my Mac and very happy with it. It took me less than half hour yesterday to set up the Mac, Airport Extreme all working, broadband on, laptops can connect to the broadband, PC in with ethernet cable, Printer setup. I’ve also got firefox installed, exported and imported all saved passwords for hosting/networks etc and I have MSN messenger installed”.

Chatting with Dan reminded me of some of the things most people ask when they start using a Mac so let’s take a closer look:

The UK Mac keyboard layout

In an earlier blog post I couldn’t come up with anything that’s better on a PC than a Mac but I take that back, the Windows keyboard layout is better and less confusing than UK Mac keyboards!
The Mac keyboard is cursed with THREE modifier keys for no good reason I can think off. They are called the [Control], [Alt] and [Command] keys BUT people also refer to them differently! For example the [Command] key is often called the “Apple” key and the [Alt] key is also called the “Option” key, so that’s three keys, five names and two stupid little graphic icons nobody can relate to for starters – and I’ve got more!
There’s no Delete key on laptop keyboards. Instead you get a backspace key (top right) which, if you hold down the [fn] key (bottom left), can be turned into a “proper” Delete key, still with me? You probably noticed the @ key is inconveniently located above the 2 key but can you find the # key? Well, no prizes for guessing there isn’t one and you can get a # by holding down the [Alt] key and pressing the 3 key but why on earth is it missing?
I have more, but I’ll stop because I don’t want to put you off switching and after a couple of weeks you’ll get past the keyboard shortcomings and be back up to full speed so it’s just part of the Mac switching experience!

Expose & Spaces

Most people also seem to confuse Expose and Spaces, which isn’t surprising since they share a System Preferences Panel and the “Active screen corners” concept but if we take it a step at a time it’s easy enough to get a handle on:

Spaces are “virtual screens” so instead of buying a second monitor you can turn Spaces on and have up to SIXTEEN virtual screens – that’s a lot of screen real-estate and quite a lot to get your head around in one hit. For ages I avoided Spaces and settled for one screen but after I spotted my daughter zipping around 9 screens I decided it was time to teach this old dog a new trick and I experimented with 2 screens side by side. I’ve eventually settled on 4 virtual screens arranged in 2 rows and 2 columns and I can move between them effortlessly using the [Control]+Arrow keys. You can also set which applications open in which Space so they are always where you expect to find them. Anything not specified opens up in the current workspace.

Expose basically “exposes” stuff, it’s the way to show windows which are hidden under other windows, just press the F3 key to activate Expose and you’ll soon grasp the basic concept and tweak as you go along to your requirements.

Both Expose and Spaces can be controlled using the keyboard, mouse and active screen corners or any combination which suits the way you work. I’ve included screenshots of my Expose and Spaces set up at the top of this post.

I prefer to use the mouse for scrolling and moving the pointer around so I don’t have my mouse set up to control Expose or Spaces.
Since the Expose Panel is on the left I have the top left of the screen set as an active screen corner for Expose, along with the F3 key, which is set up by default. Extending my reasoning I have the top right of the screen set as the active screen corner for Spaces along with the F5 key. Finally, I have both bottom corners set to reveal the desktop along with the F6 key.
I also make heavy use of the [Command]+[Tab] key combination which cycles through the active applications, whichever space they’re running in – similar to the Windows [Alt]+[Tab] combination.
So with Spaces and Expose set up and in conjunction with the [Command]+[Tab] key combination I have total control over what appears where and how – it quickly becomes second nature, trust me.

However you set your system up you can tweak it later and you’ll soon evolve a setup which works best for you. If you have any Mac teething problems and I’m here to help, just ask.

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Only Send Me Junk Mail From Now On!

I was having one of those days where whatever I started went wrong or led to three other things that needed doing more urgently so when Hannah Swift popped up on MSN asking why I hadn’t replied to her recent email about a bean bag I’d won courtesy of Bean Bag Bazaar and I had to confess it was just one more thing which went wrong – I hadn’t seen the email.

Like many affiliates I get hundreds of emails to multiple email accounts every day from networks, agencies, friends, ads, spam and other nasties. I use the excellent Mailwasher Pro (exclusive promotional code) to monitor email live on my mail servers which makes it easy to react in near real-time to any incoming mail needing urgent attention BUT only if I’m at my desk and on the case. When I’m out of the office or not paying attention and I run a send/receive/delete email cycle without checking for urgent emails first everything ends up in Outlook where mail rules organise them neatly into black holes and hyperspace folders containing in excess of 35 THOUSAND unread emails.

The only way I can find emails in Outlook now is to do a google desktop search and frankly things are so bad I’m giving up on email.

I’ve been trying to improve my workflow and productivity and have been inching ever-closer to a paperless office. As part of that process I’ve been using online services like Google Apps, Evernote and Mobile Me so I can work online anywhere and still have access to my resources from anywhere on a laptop – which in itself is part of a longer term plan to be entirely mobile at around the same time my kids all leave home.

Tim Ferriss’ inspirational blog includes a similar tale of email woe. Tim’s solution is to “accept that small bad things will happen” and not to worry about it. That’s certainly an interesting approach but what about the small good things? If two wrongs don’t make a right surely ignoring bad emails risks the wrath of the karma gods and the good emails will dry up too?

So my new cunning plan is to tell everyone NOT to send me important emails any more which just leaves unimportant emails and spam which I can safely ignore – tada!

I must admit I’m feeling quite pleased with myself so please don’t go picking holes in my plan.

Getting rid of email is just the latest in a long line of hermit-like strategies I’ve deployed to free up more “me time.” My fax machine ran out of paper years ago so I put it in the loft, feel free to try and communicate with it if you like.

The telephone is another comms device I’ve mentally consigned to history. I do still have one, but I generally don’t answer it unless I know who’s calling (of course I have caller ID enabled and an answerphone) and I do sometimes have a weak moment listening to anyone brave enough to leave an answerphone message and pick up but it’s usually just to abuse and taunt hapless callers.

The answerphone message relayed by digital Dorothy says I’ll get back to you but she’s telling porkies. After several attempts at recording my own message inviting people to leave a message I decided she/it strikes just the right blend of FOAD I was looking for.

If you REALLY need to tell me to do something or NOT to do something I’d like to encourage you to chat with me by MSN, it’s immediate, I usually reply if I’m about or later when I have time – it’s a virtual post-it slapped on my monitor so there’s no better way to grab my attention. MSN also keeps a record of conversations so there’s every opportunity to incriminate or contradict yourself and my blackmail folder is growing steadily! My MSN address is joe(at)cantbarsed.com.

I also like to communicate sporadically on the a4u forum where I post as renegade, on Twitter and on Facebook so there are still plenty of ways to get hold of me pretty much anytime.

I believe Howard Hughes became a recluse suffering from OCD after accumulating his millions so now I’m washing my hands even more often and restricting myself to virtual human contact it’s surely only a matter of time before I accumulate some millions too?

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Mac Undercover by Orbicle – Mac Anti-Theft Software

Mac computer users should take a look at Undercover by Orbicle which effectively renders a stolen mac useless to a thief and there’s even a chance it will help you get your Mac back or see what the thief looks like!

Once installed if your mac is ever stolen you visit the Undercover website and enter your unique ID number at which point they start looking for your mac.
As soon the the stolen mac connects to the internet the IP addresses and router address is logged which helps trace the physical location of your mac and, if your mac has an iSight webcam, sends pictures of the thief every few minutes.

If you still don’t get your mac back at least you have the satisfaction of knowing the thief won’t enjoy using your mac for long. After half an hour Undercover simulates an intermittent hardware failure (even if the mac isn’t online). If the thief decides to sell you mac or take it in for repair Undercover will track this and will shout and display a full-screen message alerting the reseller (or someone who bought the Mac from the thief) that the Mac has been stolen and should be returned along with Undercover’s contact information and reward offer.

They seem to have thought of everything and the prices are really cheap:
* Single User license: $49
* Household license: $59
* Site license: $249
* Student license: $39
* Volume educational license: $8/Mac

There’s also iAlertU which is a free alternative to Undercover, it doesn’t include the network tracking but is a more in-your-face deterrent. There’s no reason why you couldn’t use both.

I should mention I have no connection with Undercover by Orbicle apart from being a customer.