Mac 101: Disable automatic uploads to Photo Stream
It seems as though Apple is designing a lot of new Mac and iOS features from the perspective of people whose internet access is the equivalent of an all-you-can-eat buffet. Photo Stream is a perfect example. The feature, built into Apple's new iCloud service, automatically uploads photos taken on any of your devices to iCloud, which gives you near-instant access to them on all of your devices.
It's a great feature, and it's already streamlined the process of getting photos from my iPhone onto my iPad and Mac. But it was only this morning that I realized with grim horror what might happen if I imported 8 GB of RAW files from my DSLR into Aperture. With Photo Stream's default settings, those multiple gigabytes of data would be uploaded to iCloud automatically -- and since I live in an area with strictly metered data and very expensive internet access, a single import session in Aperture could cost me dearly.
Fortunately, both Aperture and iPhoto allow you to disable automatic uploading very easily. Go into the preferences for whichever application you're using and select the Photo Stream pane. Once there, uncheck the box next to "Automatic Upload." As easily as that, your photo manager of choice will no longer send hundreds of photos into the cloud the next time you connect your digital camera.
The followup question you must be asking now is, "That's great, but what if I want some of my imported photos to go to Photo Stream?" Fortunately, Apple made it easy to manually upload photos to Photo Stream. Just select the photos you want, then drag them to the Photo Stream item in the sidebar. You should see a green plus sign when you hover over Photo Stream. Release the photos, and they'll be uploaded into the cloud.
Whether you're trying to avoid massive data charges or simply don't want hundreds of photos clogging up your Photo Stream all at once, it's quite fortunate that Apple has made it so simple to disable automatic uploading and manage your Photo Stream uploads manually instead.
10-13-2012 07:01 AM
Mac 101: Creating a recovery disk using Recovery Disk Assistant
Lion's recovery partition is a wonderful idea, but doesn't really help out if your hard drive fails. That's why yesterday's announcement of the Recovery Disk Assistant from Apple was welcome news to a lot of people who were trying to figure out how they could easily create a recovery disk on external media. Here's how you can do make your own recovery disk using the assistant.
First, you'll need to download the Recovery Disk Assistant app. It's a small file -- a little over a megabyte in size -- and once it was downloaded I opened the disk image and dragged the Recovery Disk Assistant app into my Utilities folder.
Next, you'll need media. The "disk" part of Recovery Disk Assistant is a bit misleading, since you can't actually use a blank DVD. I'd recommend going to your local OfficeMax / OfficeDepot / Staples / Walmart / Target to pick up a 4 GB flash drive. They're cheap -- most outlets are selling them for less than US$10. If you already have one, realize that the Recovery Disk Assistant is going to reformat it, so make sure you take all of your files off of it.
Now fire up the Recovery Disk Assistant app. You'll be required to agree to a software license agreement, so be sure to take some time and read every last word in the agreement (I am kidding). Click the Agree button, and now you'll be asked to plug the flash drive into an available USB port. After noting that your disk is going to be erased, click Continue.
The process takes less than a minute, after which you'll be instructed on how to use the recovery disk in the event of an emergency (below). Basically, if your boot drive is toast, connect the flash drive to your machine, restart while holding down the Option key, and then select the Recovery Disk. You'll have four options available to you -- restore from a Time Machine backup, Reinstall Mac OS X, Get Help Online, or Repair or Erase a disk using Disk Utility.
Under the Utilities menu are three more options -- the Firmware Password Utility, the Network Utility, and everyone's favorite, Terminal. It's so easy and inexpensive to create a recovery disk for your OS X Lion installation that you should not only create one, but seriously think about carrying it on your keychain for those emergencies you encounter while away from home.
Sync Mail, Calendars, & Notes from Mac OS X to Android Phones & Tablets
Macs can sync Mail, Calendars, and even Notes with Android phones and tablets with virtually the same seamless nature as Macs sync through iCloud with other Apple devices like the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. The only requirement to sync a Mac with an Android device is that you have a Gmail (Google) account, which if you’re using Android you almost certainly do.
If you have set up iCloud before, you will find setting up Android and Google syncing with a Mac to be very similar and just as easy. The process is basically the same as setting up a standard mail account with OS X, and if you haven’t done it yet then Mail app will become active with the Gmail account you use.
Have the Android device configured with a Gmail account – this varies slightly per Android version and device so we won’t cover that here but chances are good you already have this set up anyway
On the Mac, open System Preferences from the Apple menu and click on “Mail, Contacts & Calendars”
Click on “Gmail” to add the same Google/Gmail account, enter name, email address, and password then choose “Set Up”
Be sure the checkboxes next to “Mail”, “Notes”, and “Calendar” are checked in the options, these are separate options in OS X Mountain Lion but the same in Lion
Mail syncs practically immediately, and additions to the Notes app in OS X 10.8+ are synced to Android via Gmail and tagged as Notes. As a result, pictures sync between OS X Notes and Gmail this way, despite not doing the same when syncing from OS X to iOS Notes, which in an obvious way makes syncing from a Mac to Android oddly better than to an iPhone, at least for the time being while that limitation exists. Calendars sync between iCal to Google Calendar as expected.
Now that Mail, Notes, and Calendars are syncing between Android and Mac OS X, what about your iTunes music? You can’t do it directly through iTunes itself, but you can sync your iTunes library and all of it’s music to any Android device easily with the free WinAmp app.
Going beyond the usual stuff, you can even move files between OS X and Android devices by using the free official Android File Transfer tool, further demonstrating just how easy and full featured it is to work with an Android device and a Mac.
Compose a New Mail Message with an Attachment by Drag & Drop
Surely everyone knows by now that you can drag and drop files directly into Mail messages to attach those files to an email, but did you know you can instantly create a new email with an attachment by dragging the file in question to Mail’s Dock icon instead?
Try it out, drag any file directly into the Mail icon. You’ll immediately have a new blank email message with that file attached.
Sometimes the simplest tips are the best, and despite using OS X and Mail app since 10.0 I’ve never known that just dragging and dropping a file into the Dock icon automatically creates a new Mail message with that file as an attachment. Amazingly useful but simple tip found on MacGasm, though it doesn’t require the Command key as they suggest.
Get RSS Feeds in OS X Notification Center with RSS.app
Mac OS X no longer includes a native RSS reader in Mail or Safari, something that just about no one is particularly pleased about, but a new free app brings RSS functionality back to OS X in perhaps the most logical new way: by embedding feeds into Notification Center.
Aptly named “RSS.app”, it’s a lightweight menubar item that you can add RSS feeds to. When posts are published from your chosen sites you will be alerted to them with a Notification. Opening Notification Center reveals all the feed items, and clicking on an entry opens the link into your default web browser.
Download RSS Application free from the developer
Perfectly simple and totally free, this app is highly recommended for anyone looking for an unobtrusive RSS solution to add to OS X Mountain Lion’s Notification Center.
First launching RSS.app will require a right click and choosing “Open” to circumvent GateKeeper, afterwards pull down the familiar RSS icon menu and add feeds, make adjustments as appropriate, then choose “Refresh now” to update Notification Center.
There are a few quirks to the app, for example the feed for OSXDaily for some reason starts at about a week ago despite being updated less than an hour ago, but such bugs are probably relatively simple for the developer to work out. Also, if you add a ton of feeds then Notification Center gets too busy to really be useful, so you’d be better off keeping maybe 1-3 top feeds in Notification Center and throwing the rest into an RSS feed reading app like NetNewsWire.
On a strange side note, RSS.app was rejected from the official Mac App Store by Apple for supposedly not being useful enough… something which is truly hard to imagine considering how popular RSS remains as a medium of syndicating things around the web, and even more bizarre because similar paid apps are already on the Mac App Store right now. Maybe they’ll reconsider and accept the app if it’s resubmitted? Regardless, it’s free for now and very useful, so grab it while you can.
Transfer Files Between Remote Macs with Screen Sharing in OS X
Screen Sharing supports drag and drop file copying to and from remote Macs, an excellent feature that was briefly covered in our recent guide to using Screen Sharing in OS X. Each Mac must be running OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion) or later to have the drag and drop file transfer feature, but it’s an absolute cinch to use otherwise:
Open a remote Screen Sharing session as usual
Drag any file or folder from the local Mac to the remote Macs screen to transfer the item, or vice versa
Because the file is transferring over the internet, it won’t be as quick as some of the other ways of copying files around on a local network or across local drives, but the convenience is undeniable.
With screen sharing, you can essentially use a remote Mac as a personal file server if need be, and you’ll never have to worry about documents being inaccessible after you’ve left home, school, or work again.
Share Reminders from OS X or iCloud.com
Want to share a grocery list with someone? Maybe you have an important to-do list that you need to give a co-worker, or to anyone else with an iOS device or Mac? You can now share any such list right from the Reminders app in OS X if you’re running 10.8.2 or later, or even share the lists right from iCloud.com. The shared Reminders will be viewable on the recipients Mac, but perhaps more importantly, on their iOS device, and even location-based Reminders can be shared this way.
Note: the lists that are shareable must be stored in iCloud, these are easy to identify in the Mac app under the iCloud subheader within the sidebar.
Launch Reminders app in OS X
Hover over any iCloud-based reminders list and click the little broadcast icon that appears next to the name
Add name(s) from your Contacts list of who to share the given Reminders list with, then click “Done”
Shared Reminders have the broadcast indicator highlighted, clicking on that indicator again lets you share the list with more people, or delete existing contacts just by removing their name.
Any iCloud list can also be shared directly from iCloud.com too, as MacRumors recently pointed out.
Now for the strange part; though shared Reminders are visible on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, you can’t share a list directly from iOS 6. This seems like a fairly significant feature to leave out of Reminders on iOS, but it’ll almost certainly be brought through an update in the near future.
Change the Display Resolution from the Menu Bar Again in OS X Mountain Lion
As some of you undoubtedly noticed, OS X Mountain Lion removed the Displays menu bar item, which let you quickly change screen resolutions from a pull down menu available system wide in OS X. If you miss that function, you’ll be pleased to discover a freely available app is on the Mac App Store to provide the same feature again. Called Display Menu, it offers the ability to switch display resolutions on any screen connected to the Mac, including the built-in display. It also improves on the old Apple provided menu item by telling you what the aspect ratio is for each resolution, and by allowing you to quickly toggle Mirror Displays on and off.
Download Display Menu free from the Mac App Store
Generally speaking, you’ll want to always keep your Mac screen at the optimal native resolution, but many designers, video producers, visually impaired individuals, and even parents of young kids, often find changing screen resolution an essential task. This app makes it quick and easy again like the good old days.
Why did Apple remove this feature from OS X 10.8? Who knows, it could be related to upcoming retina displays, but maybe it’s gone for the same reason the battery time indicator was removed, or for the same reason they erroneously removed Save As to only re-include it again later. For those wondering, the Displays menu bar item actually still ships in Mountain Lion tucked within /System/Library/CoreServices/Menu Extras/ but it just doesn’t stay open, quickly crashing upon launch.
Drag a File to OS X Terminal Window to Get Path, Edit
One of the coolest tricks in OS X is the ability to drag a file from the Finder to the Terminal window to see its path. If the file is editable, you can enter an editor command before you drag the file.
Let's say that you're preparing to edit a text file in the Terminal. Your first thought might be to use the cd shell command to navigate to the file. Then enter something like:
$ vi ./filename.txt
However, one of the cool things about OS X is the integration of the GUI and Unix. If you already have a Fnder window open to a directory (folder) that you’re working in, you can just drag the file icon to the Terminal’s command prompt. For example, let’s say you want to edit the Perl script area.pl. First, on at the terminal prompt, type “vi” (or your favorite editor command), and then just drag the file name over to the cursor. Like this:
Voila! The icon in the Finder is magically converted to a text path in the Terminal. Then hit return to edit the file.
Also, this string, a Unix path, can be copied right out of the Terminal and pasted somewhere else. That’s handy if you’re writing a paper or article, the path is very long, and you want to copy the exact path without the risk of a typo. In the above example, I just selected and copied the path, and then pasted into this very article I’m writing:
Of course, there are many ways to see the path to a file in the OS X Finder, but this is a handy way to make it amendable to copy and paste. And if you’re editing a bunch of files with very long (or similar) names on the command line, dragging the icon can be quicker and less error prone than typing the full name on the command line, especially when autocompletion doesn't help much.
Use Gestures To Go Back & Forward in Many OS X Apps
OS X has a myriad of multi-touch gestures that have been expanded upon from OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion onward, and one of the better gestures is the two-fingered swipe left or right to go either back or forward in a wide variety of apps.
You’ll obviously need a trackpad or Magic Mouse to be able to use these, and they’re supported in a fair amount of Apple apps like Safari, Dictionary, iTunes, App Store, Launchpad, and just about any other app where there’s a forward or back button. For browsing, the gesture can be much faster than navigating to a back or forward button since all it takes is a quick flick to activate.
Unfortunately not all apps support the back/forward gesture yet, but with heavy iOS influences coming to the Mac you can bet more and more apps will support this and others soon.
On a side note, if you’re used to hitting the Delete key to go back a page in Safari and don’t want to use a gesture, that behavior can be restored to the Delete key with a defaults command.
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