Touch ID is old hat, having first appeared in 2013 with the iPhone 5s. However, some features still remain obscure, based on reader email and conversations I have. A key one is that you don’t have to use only your own fingerprints for Touch ID for a device that is nominally yours.
Touch ID allows you to set up to five fingerprints total, including one you enroll initially when first configuring the phone, tablet, or laptop. In Settings > Touch ID & Passcode, you can enter your passcode and then tap Add a Fingerprint to enroll more. On a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro with Touch ID, open the Touch ID preference pane.
When you own multiple Macs that are linked to the same iCloud credentials and you also have iCloud Photos turned on, you may want to not sync the iCloud Photos library to every one of your Macs. Is that possible? Yes, but you need to read the fine print before checking or unchecking boxes.
Apple uses iCloud Photos (the newish name for iCloud Photos Library) as its keystone for letting you have your photos and videos on all your iCloud-linked devices. Through a combination of sync of thumbnails and full-resolution media, you can access all your assets wherever you are, even when you’re off the internet.
However, iCloud Photos requires a certain level of commitment. Any device linked to iCloud Photos has to retain the full library—even if each item of media is just a thumbnail—and you can’t pick and choose what’s synced.
With all the features Apple has crammed into iTunes for macOS, it’s a Swiss Army knife of an app (or maybe more like a 20 pounds of potatoes in a five-pound bag). But despite all of its the non-audio parts, iTunes can help you with music files. Notably, you can correct or modify metadata—information about the files—in bulk.
But beware! These changes are made to the files, not just within iTunes, and there’s no warning and there’s no undo.
My strong suggestions before you make bulk metadata changes in iTunes:
If you have iCloud Music Library enabled (via iTunes Match or Apple Music), make sure all the files you want to modify have been downloaded to your Mac and aren’t stored in the cloud. (See this September 2018 column on how to make sure your music is locally downloaded.)
The indicator lights for active Ethernet connections might help you troubleshoot problems with a Wi-Fi router. While Wi-Fi and Ethernet may seem like two utterly different pieces of technology, they combine in a wireless router, in which the device’s software interconnects networking traffic across the two types—and on some models, across a third via DSL or cable standards.
That can provide a problem if the Wi-Fi part of the gateway remains active and healthy, meaning that client devices, like smartphones and laptops, can connect to the network and report back that everything’s fine, but the Internet connection appears dead.
While malware hasn’t found a fertile home on the Mac for decades, scammers keep trying. As many of you have experienced, adware and other software that delivers unwanted content or an unwanted experience abounds—like redirecting you to a specific website for searching or turning all Amazon links into affiliate links that earn the scammers a commission until they’re shut down.
Even with vigilance against nasty threats, you or (more likely) someone you know may have installed otherwise reasonable seeming software that hijacks Safari in some particular way. That includes a rather nasty way in which you can be prevented from changing your homepage in Safari in Safari > Preferences > General, then the Homepage field.
The Media Browser in macOS’s Open dialog was a powerful addition many years ago. You may not even know it’s called that: it’s the area in the left-hand sidebar in any Open dialog below the Media label. For most people, it will show Music, Photos, and Movies. Clicking any of those items will access libraries created or managed by GarageBand, iTunes, iMovie, iPhoto, Logic, Photos, Photo Booth, and others.
But Media Browser can be fickle. In May 2017, I wrote a column on how to disable the feature, because I’d tracked a system slowdown’s cause to the Media Browser’s underlying plug-ins—a problem some other users had seen at the time. Apple apparently fixed the problem or my Mac silently repaired itself, as Media Browser works fine for me now.
There’s a gulf of difference between bitmap and vector graphics. Bitmap art is made of pixels and has a scale attached: each pixel represents black or white, or some gray or color tone. The resolution of the file—how many pixels wide by how tall—defines the amount of information in it. Scale it up and you start to see the individual pixels.
A vector graphic, however, defines just the relationship of arcs and lines, which can be colored or filled with tints or patterns, and can be scaled to any size large or small. At whatever size they’re scaled, they render to the screen: the geometrical data gets converted to pixels for display. (Text included in vector files are almost always made of vectors themselves!)
The Photo Booth app lets you take selfies and record videos through a Mac’s built-in camera or a third-party camera. But the app’s simple interface can make it a little tricky to figure out how to extract images.
There are three ways:
• Select an image or video in the row below the main window, and then Control-click (or right click on your mouse) and select Export.
• Select one or more images or videos (hold down Shift to select a range or use Command to add or remove) and drag into the Finder.
Modern websites have a legitimate reason to push a lot of data to your browser that it retains for future sessions. This can vary from a browser “cookie” that maintains a session for a short period of time to other identifiers and even databases that are pulled up, but only when you visit the site again.
This can snowball into “cruft,” a catchall term for digital code you don’t want. In particular, I see a problem with it in Safari, and have a way to troubleshoot and fix it.
You’ll realize something is amiss is when you visit a website you use routinely and receive an odd error. You try closing windows, quitting the browser, even restarting your Mac, and the problem persists. My credit-union site, for instance, will throw up a server error that says my headers are too long and malformed. Thank you very much, but my headers Continue reading “How to troubleshoot and fix strange website errors with macOS Safari”
Sometimes macOS tries to help you by not letting you carry out actions that would break the system or software you’re using. There are extra levels of warnings available that you might choose to turn off or bypass.
When you have files in the Trash, select Finder > Empty Trash prompts you as to whether you really meant to empty the trash. You click Empty Trash to proceed. Holding down Option when selecting Finder > Empty Trash bypasses the warning. (You can also press Command-Option-Shift-Delete to bypass it.)
Unicode is a massive, sprawling effort that pairs a number to every unique character in a language, every punctuation mark, every math symbol, and much more. And nearly all of it is available within macOS—but not always easy to find.
There’s a semi-hidden way to access special symbol sets in Unicode, and a somewhat obscure method of searching for specific symbols across all of macOS’s included Unicode characters.
First, open the Keyboard preference pane and make sure that “Show keyboard and emoji viewers in menu bar” is checked. Now, in the menu bar, click the tiny palette that has a command (⌘) key in it and select Show Emoji & Symbols. The Character Viewer that appears shows emoji by default, and with an input cursor in any app or form field that lets you type in text, you can double click emoji to insert them or drag them into a Continue reading “How to find and insert special characters in macOS”
You’re not required to use an iPhone with iTunes in macOS and Windows, but plenty of people still plug in to a computer via USB and rely on Apple’s music-management software to handle syncing, updates, and backups.
But what to do if you plug in and you see a message that says, “iTunes could not connect to this iPhone. You do not have permission.”
You’d think very reasonably that this would have something to do with whether your iPhone was unlocked in just the right way. Apple added a feature in iOS 11.4 to deter USB-based hacking of iPhones. The USB Restricted Mode feature prevents access to an iPhone’s data if it’s enabled and it’s been more than an hour since the last time the phone was unlocked.
iCloud Photos requires the use of Photos in iOS or macOS to sync images across all the devices with which you’re logged into the same iCloud account, as well as uploading them at full resolution to the central iCloud servers, where you can access them at iCloud.com.
But what if you have an out-of-date Mac, don’t want to convert an iPhoto library to Photos, or otherwise can’t get yourself in a position in which you can use the latest tools? For instance, some people have shifted entirely to using an iPad, but an iPad is not an effective way to upload an old iPhoto or newer Photos library to iCloud.
Mac 911 is a place you can come with no judgement, even if you managed to erase your Mac’s startup disk and you’re not sure what to do next. It happens! (In the spirit of confession, I managed to delete the core operating system off my first Unix system in 1994, because I thought, “This file takes up too much space!”)
Fortunately, Apple has you covered with macOS Recovery. You may know this tool, introduced way back in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, as a way to start up your computer to run Disk Utility without having your startup drive mounted, to reinstall macOS, and for a number of other technical purposes.
macOS Recovery occupies a small, invisible partition on your startup drive, and lives quietly there until you need it. But what happens if you erase the entire drive, including this hidden partition?
I highly recommend Apple’s two-factor authentication (2FA) for your Apple ID and associated iCloud services as a way to reduce the threat of a remote hijack of your account. (Although note that you can’t turn 2FA off once you enable it.) However, depending on how you’ve used iCloud in the past, you might run up against a quirk: You can’t get Mail in macOS to work after upgrading to 2FA.
Apple automates the inclusion of your iCloud email account in Mail for macOS through a few system components. If you’re logged into your iCloud account via the iCloud preference pane, then that pane effectively manages Mail accounts. The Internet Accounts preference pane also lists iCloud connections along with other accounts you’ve set up at major services like Google and other companies for email and other services.
In 2010, Apple started to release Macs with solid-state drives (SSDs) that used a socket and—with varying amounts of effort—could be removed and upgraded by the owner or by an Apple or third-party technician. But starting in 2016, nearly every Mac released has the SSD soldered directly to the motherboard. The iMac is a notable exception, but see the note at the end of this article.
If you have a Mac of the proper vintage, it can be from vanishingly easy to exceedingly difficult to get the “blade”-style SSD out of the Mac and replace it with a higher-capacity model. These blades plug into a slot, something like RAM but with a narrower connector. Apple developed multiple, proprietary connectors across its use of blade SSDs. In my wife’s recently purchased 2014 MacBook Pro, nothing is easily serviceable except for the SSD, which is a cinch to access, remove, and replace.
If you’ve ever used a app that accepts an audio input and was frustrated that you can specify only one piece of audio hardware, or if you’ve wanted to route the sound output of an app into a Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, or other conversation, Rogue Amoeba’s Loopback is the program you need. The latest version improves significantly on its predecessor, which itself was quite powerful.
A mysterious whirring and grinding noise from his late-model AirPort Extreme Base Station disturbed one Macworld reader. Why would it make such a sound? He hadn’t turned it on for a year, but was about to reactivate it with a new broadband connection.
My reply: The polite verbal equivalent of a shrug, because—I wrote—there’s no fan in an AirPort Express, and only a Time Capsule has a hard drive. Time Capsule drives certainly fail, like any spinning storage media, but the grinding described would surely have meant the drive was on its way to failure, if not already destroyed.
But your faithful Mac 911 columnist failed to do his research. I own a newer AirPort Extreme—one of the “crackerbox” models that looks like a gleaming white micro-tower. It’s never made a peep. I even thought I’d even looked at pictures of the insides of this version from Apple’s now-discontinued series of routers.
The Mac App Store sometimes throws out odd errors when you try to download and install software, errors that lack information on Apple’s support pages. These seem to come up most often with Apple’s own software, especially the five free apps (GarageBand, iMovie, Keynote, Numbers, and Pages) that require an Apple ID, but no prior purchase.