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Archive for March, 2007

Exploring The Utilities Folder On Your Mac

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Our claim to fame is letting folks know where they can go to download the best in Mac freeware, but there are already some great free applications hiding on your Mac that you might not know about. With the initial install of Mac OS X Tiger, there is a Utilities folder full of goodies. You can find it in your Applications folder or by pressing Shift-Command-U in Finder.

Once there, you’ll find all kinds of goodies. I thought I’d run thru each one and let you know what it is and what you can do with it.

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Activity Monitor – Activity Monitor let’s you know what is going on with your computer. It can let you know where your memory and CPU is being used most.

I think this app is mostly useful when there is an app that won’t quit or a document that can’t be trashed because it is “in use.” Fire up Activity monitor and you can kill that process.

There’s another nice use for Mac users with Intel machines. You can sort all the processes by “Kind” and there you’ll see any apps that are still running as a PowerPC app. The only one left on my list is that darn URLwell. What I wouldn’t do for an update of that app.

More info on Activity Monitor here

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Airport Admin Utility – The application will let you configure your Apple Airport products.

I know there are cheaper routers out there, but I encourage all my family members to get the the Airport products because this app makes it so easy to manage these routers. When even my mom has set up a router successfully, you know it’s a good app.

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Airport Setup Assistant – This app is used when you first set up your Airport product. It’s an easy wizard for setup.

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Audio MIDI Setup – You can use Audio MIDI Setup to configure the audio input and output devices you use with your computer, such as microphones and audio playback equipment. If you need this app, you probably already know how to use it.

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Bluetooth File Exchange – If you have a cell phone or PDA with bluetooth, this application makes it very easy to send files back and forth. This is a great way to take your photos off of your phone, or to add ringtones to your phone.

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Colorsync Utility – This app gives you access to to Apple’s Colorsync specs. In this app you can set different profiles. There is also a nifty calculator that can convert between RGB and CMYK. This is another of those apps that isn’t useful to most people.

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Console – Console gives you a “behind the scenes” look at your Mac. While you see all the pretty pictures and graphics of Mac OS X, there is a ton happening in the background. Console lets you watch that. It’s especially helpful to see error or status messages.

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Digitalcolor Meter – If you are preparing your work for professional printing and you have an Apple monitor, you can use DigitalColor Meter to match the color on your screen against several industry standards.

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Directory Access – Directory Access lists the different kinds of services that Mac OS X can access. The list includes directory services, which give Mac OS X access to user information and other administrative data stored in directory domains. The list also includes kinds of network services that Mac OS X can discover on the network.

You can enable or disable access to each kind of service. If you disable a kind of service in Directory Access, Mac OS X no longer accesses services of the disabled kind. The different services can be found here.

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Disk Utility – There is all kinds of power in the Disk Utility. Here you can reformat a disk, check and fix permissions, and so many other things.
One of my favorite uses is to create encrypted disk images. That way you can keep sensitive documents on your Mac (e.g., scanned social security card, bank records) and they are safe if your Mac was ever stolen.

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Grab – Grab will let you “grab” screenshots of your Mac. Of course, you can already do this with key combinations, but Grab does have one nice feature. You can do a timed grab. Start the timer and ten second later the Mac will grab a screenshot.

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Grapher – Grapher lets you create 2D and 3D graphs from equations.
OS 9 came with a graphing calculator. OS X versions before Tiger had no graphing options. But, with Mac OS X Tiger, we now have Grapher.

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Installer – You’ve probably used Installed a hundred times and didn’t know it. Whenever you download a new application that comes in a package or a metapackage, Installer makes it possible to install that application.

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Keychain Access – Keychain Access gives you access to the keychain. Duh.

Anytime you save a password to a site or a server or anything on the Mac, it is stored in the keychain. If you forget one of those passwords and it isn’t filling in automatically, you can access keychain with this application and find your password.

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Migration Assistant – This is simply one of the most amazing applications. If you’ve ever purchased a new Mac and migrated from your old one, this is the app you used. You can also use it to get a use from a different machine. I’ve used this application about 10 times and have had perfect and problem-free migrations each time.

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Netinfo Manager – Netinfo is the built-in Mac OS X directory system. It stores information about users and resources and makes it available to Mac OS X processes that want to use it. This application helps you manage it. But I wouldn’t “manage” it unless you know what you’re doing.

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Network Utility – Since I run a fairly large network of Macs this app is great. It makes it easy to ping machines, lookup name server and DNS, do traceroutes, port scans, etc. It also is a quick way to find info on your Network interfaces. (e.g., ethernet, airport, etc)

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ODBC Administrtator – This will give you access to database management systems using Open Database Connectivity standards. (At least as far as I can tell. I’ve never used this app.)

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Printer Setup Utility – When you get that new printer and hook it to your Mac, this app comes to the rescue. It will lead you along to get the printer working.

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System Profiler – If you need information about your Mac, here is the place to come. It will tell you about your RAM and your drives and your processors and anything thing else you’d need.

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Terminal – This is the gateway to the true power of Mac OS X. It is a terminal emulator that will let you use the Unix base of Mac OS X. I use this most often to connect via SSH and to set the crontab of my machine, but there are thousands more reason to use it.

You can learn more about how to use Terminal at our sister site, FreeMacUnix.com. Start from the earliest post and work right on thru to learn the basics.

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VoiceOver Utility – Voiceover is a Mac OS X feature that lets you interact with your Mac via voice. It will read the text of websites, email, and documents. It also allows you to control your Mac using audible commands.

Voiceover Utility lets you determine how Voiceover will behave.

Well, that’s all of them.

I’m familiar with most of these apps, but some of them I’m not too experienced with. If you have any tips about any of these apps, I’d love to read them. You can leave them in the comments for me and for the other readers.

How To Clean Your White Macbook

If there is a guy in this world who keeps his hands cleaner than I like to keep mine, I have yet to meet him. My biggest pet peeve is dirty or sticky hands. But even with my problem struggle, my white macbook still gets dirty. You can easily see which keys I use the most.

I’ve tried the specialized products like iKlear but they just didn’t do that great of a job. So, out of frustration, I just raided my cleaning cabinet to see what was in there. (Of course, I did this while my wife was gone. I didn’t want her getting any ideas.)

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I pulled out the Glass Plus Wipes and thought they looked as good as anything else.

The back said that they were safe enough for computer screens, but I decided to wipe down my whole machine with it. I fired up the keyboard cleaner appand got my wipe on. It turned out awesome. The keys, mouse, and palm rest are all clean again. And for an added bonus, they all feel like they did when they were new.

So I’m sharing this tip because they worked great for me. And, they are cheap. We got ours at Albertson’s for $3.99 Obviously be cautious with your own machine. Maybe try a little corner or key first.

Ask FMB: How Do I Play Flash Files On My Mac?

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Tyler writes:

I’ve been collecting some of my favorite flash videos from the internet. It’s kind of a pain to fire up Adobe Flash each time I want to play these, but they don’t seem to work in Quicktime. Is there another option I can use?

Tyler, thanks for the question. Oddly, just a few days after you wrote in, we were contacted by a developer that asked us to check out their free flash player for Macs. I’ve tried it out and it works good. I posted it on FreeMacWare today. Go check out SWF & FLV Player.

An explanation of Mac memory: wired, active, inactive, and free

When you open Activity Monitor you can see a graph of how much memory your computer is using. But why are there 4 types of memory, represented by various colors on the graph?

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Alex has an explanation of what all these types of memory mean — wired, active, inactive, and free — and also how memory usage affects system performance. To summarize, wired memory is used by the system; active memory is used by currently running applications; inactive memory was used by recently closed applications, which allows them to reopen quickly, and free memory is unused. For a better explanation see Alex’s Is my Mac using too much memory?

The Apple Tattoo In Wild Hogs

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From the same site that first mentioned the Apple car in the Piston Circuit, here is another Apple sighting in the most recent Disney movie, Wild Hogs.

My wife and I went to see the movie this last weekend and it was really good. John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy work nice together. Plus, I think every warm blooded male wants to get on a motorcycle and cruise cross country with three good buddies. As a rider myself, it spoke to my soul.

Toward the beginning of the movie when they decide to go on the trip, they meet up and talk about how crazy they’re going to be on the ride. One by one, they all take aout their cell phones and destroy them so they have no responsibility. But, the best part is when the computer programming Dudley (played by Macy) shows up and talks about his new tattoo. The tattoo is awesome, but even better is what he says about it. He takes a nice little stab at the sue-happy company.

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(Audio Clip here.)

Dudley- “I’m a biker, dude! I got a tat!”
Doug- “It’s an Apple…”
Dudley- “I know. Trademarked. But what are they gonna say? It’s in my skin b**ch!”

Now that’s classy.