Help! My screen’s turned upside down!

Yoga and LaptopYou probably won’t find this blog of use today (unless you are an office wag – see below), but if ever you see that the contents of your screen have turned upside down (or sideways for that matter), then just remember that you read about it here. You can then just visit www.davidleonard.london and use the search facility on any web or blog page to find “inverted screen”. That should find this blog post for you.

Probably once or twice a year I get a panic phone call from a computer support client saying that they can’t understand what’s happened, but their screen has turned upside down. When this happened just a few weeks ago I facetiously suggested to the client that he might like to stand on his head to use the computer. He replied that he had thought about it, but he would need his arms and hands for support so wouldn’t be able to use the keyboard or mouse. That makes sense, so here is the more appropriate solution.

It happens from time to time that a user types a combination of keys accidentally that have unintended consequences. Since, by definition, it happened by accident, there isn’t any way of relating the action to the consequences so the solution to the problem – typing the same or similar combination of keys – doesn’t occur to the perplexed (and even panicky) victim.

This can happen on both Macs and on Windows PCs. I’ll leave it to you to work out why it isn’t a problem with tablets and smartphones.

Cursor Direction Keys

The two sets of cursor direction keys on my Samsung laptop

Windows PCs

The orientation of the screen contents is changed by depressing the Ctrl (“control”) key and the Alt key at the same time and then, while these are depressed, hitting one of the “cursor direction” keys. Some keyboards have two sets of cursor direction keys. In such cases, there will probably be one set of keys dedicated to the direction function (ie there will be nothing else on the key tops) and one set will probably share the function with the numeric keypad (ie the number keys towards the righthand side of the keyboard (not the number keys near the top of the keyboard)). In such cases, trial and error will show which set of cursor direction keys you need. On the Samsung laptop I’m using at the moment, it’s the “dedicated” cursor direction keys that do the trick.

Macs

I don’t think anyone’s ever appealed to me for help with this problem on a Mac and maybe it’s not so easy to do it by accident. Nevertheless, it is possible to change the orientation of screen content on a Mac so let’s cover it here. To change the orientation:

  • Depress the Cmd and Option keys at the same time and keep both keys down
  • Go to System Preferences (by clicking on the apple at the top left and then left-clicking on the System Preferences option)
  • Click on “Displays”
  • You will now see the Displays options exactly as you would have done without the digital gymnastics of holding down keys at the same time, except that there will be a new option that you don’t normally see – “Rotation”. You can now let go of the other keys and simply click on the up/down arrows next to that option to reveal the four orientation options. The normal one is called “standard”
  • Close the Displays window in the usual way

Normal Mac Display Options Window

The normal window with Mac Display options does not show the option to change the screen’s orientation

Mac Display options with rotation

The Mac Display options window including options for rotating the screen’s contents

Even if it’s not possible (or, at least, it’s very, very difficult) to turn your screen over by accident on a Mac, it’s worth knowing about these techniques as the world is full of office wags who think that turning someone’s screen over when they’ve left their desk for a minute is rather a jolly jape.

And if you are such an office wag, don’t blame me if you get a biff on the nose for playing a trick that you just learned here!

I’m still struggling to like Apple Macs and here’s one reason why

Heathrow Airport

A real airport

One of the many things I find irritating about Macs is that Apple have an annoying habit of giving things completely stupid names. Take the “Airport”, for instance. Now an airport used to be one of those big sprawling places where aeroplanes take off and land. So what possessed Apple to name its wifi devices “airports”? It really makes you think of a marketing meeting, full of smarty pants execs in their 20’s, all trying to outdo each other. “I know”, says one, “we are transmitting (porting) stuff via the air, so instead of calling it a WiFi device let’s call it an airport”. “Yea, cool” – not. Technology is confusing enough already, without confusing us even further with such nonsense.

Apple Airport

Apple’s idea of an airport. Spot the difference

Another example is “stationery pad”. Actually, this one’s not quite as bad, but there are other, more prosaic and accurate, names that could have been used. The pity is that this silly name hides a useful feature in Macs.

We often need to create a new document (word processing, spreadsheet, whatever) based upon one that exists already and we don’t want to replace the old one: just start a new one that’s based on the old one.

The “normal” way of doing this is to open the old one (the template), and then to save it with a different name,thereby preserving the template unchanged. It’s easy, though, to forget to change the name, so your template gets changed.

Now, the clever feature in Macs (cunningly hidden by a stupid name) is that if you right-click on a file and then left-click on “get info”, you will find an option called “stationery pad” with a tick box next to it. If you click in this box, the file becomes a “stationery pad” (or, as normal people would call it, a “template”). Henceforth, if you double-click on this file then it won’t open. Instead, a copy of it will open (together with a default name – eg “fred.copy.docx”) that you can rename later if you wish.

Stationery Pads

Real stationery pads

OK, I agree that this name isn’t quite as stupid as “airport”. Even my poor imagination can conjure up a pad of preprinted template sheets that could just about be called a “stationery pad”. Nevertheless, I’m sure that more people would have stumbled on this useful feature if it had just been called something sensible – like “template” for instance.

Stationery Pad Option

“Stationery pad” as used by Apple. Fred,docx is now a template

And just in case I nearly lost you earlier by referring to a “right-click” when using a Mac, it’s always surprised me how many Mac users have never realised that you can enable a right-click on a Mac mouse and/or trackpad by going into the Mouse/Trackpad options of “System Preferences”.

Have you ever downloaded a new program onto your Mac, only to be told by the operating system that it can’t be opened because it’s from an unidentified developer?

Gatekeeper LogoMac OSX computers are more protective than Windows computers when it comes to what’s allowed on your computer and that has obvious security benefits. Nevertheless, it looks rather over-protective when it won’t let you start a program that you want to run!

This situation comes about when you try to run a program (or “app” or “application”) that hasn’t been vetted by Apple and checked to be malware-free. I don’t understand why Apple choose to offer you the misleading information that the “app can’t be opened” because it can. All you need to do is to have the control key pressed as you click on the program to open it.

Here is an example of the “error” message:

Gatekeeper Message

Once you have opened a program this way, the operating system will add it to the list of approved programs on that computer, so it shouldn’t happen again for that program.

If you encounter this situation often, and/or can never remember how to over-ride the veto on opening a program, then you can change the settings so that the message is not displayed at all. This is probably not a particularly good idea as it would be much easier to install software that has malware in it if your system is not even asking you to think about whether the program is safe.

However, if you do want to go ahead and change the settings for ever:

  • Click on the Apple logo (top left of any screen)
  • Click on “System Preferences”
  • Click on “Security & Privacy”
  • If the padlock at the bottom left of the window is locked, click on it and enter the administrator’s password for the logged on user
  • Click on either the second or third “radio button” in the list headed “allow apps downloaded from:”
  • Click on the padlock again to lock it
  • Close all dialog boxes

This security feature in Mac OSX is called Gatekeeper. It has been around in Macs since the Mountain Lion version. You can learn more about it by clicking on the link to Gatekeeper.

By the way, there was a time when I was naive enough to think I may be able to offer any instructions like those above for all the different versions of operating systems. I can’t. There are far too many versions. So, whether we are talking about Macs or PCs, I will only offer details for the current version. At the moment, that is Windows 10 or Mac OSX El Capitan.

TeamViewer logoIt used to be that I tried to keep old laptops around that were loaded with different operating systems so that I could check on differences and offer telephone support to clients using older systems. Luckily, that requirement has almost completely disappeared since I started using Teamviewer to remotely support clients by actually seeing what they can see on their own computers. This is much, much less stressful than providing computer support and advice by a phone call alone and trying to keep track of what the client is looking at.

Why might you want a bluetooth mouse?

What is Bluetooth?

Bluetooth-LogoBluetooth is a wireless radio technology for communicating over short distances using short-length UHF radio waves. It’s often used between portable and fixed devices. Examples include:

  • Telephone headsets for mobile phones
  • Headphones for music systems
  • Keyboards & mice and their computer

There are three classes of Bluetooth communication:

  • Class 1 has a range of about 100 metres
  • Class 2 has a range of about 10 metres
  • Class 3 has a range of about 1 metre

Both ends of the intended communication need to be equipped with bluetooth technology.

Why use Bluetooth rather than a normal wireless mouse with a dongle?

Sandstrom Bluetooth Mouse

Sandstrom Bluetooth Mouse

Almost all wireless mice communicate with the computer via radio signals that pass between the device (the mouse) and a receiver (often called a “dongle”) that fits into any USB port on your computer. These are extremely reliable. Bluetooth, on the other hand, usually communicates between the device (the mouse) and a bluetooth receiver built into the computer (although you can also buy bluetooth dongles that fit to a USB port). From personal experience, I would say that bluetooth is a more precarious method of communication. First of all you have to “pair” the devices (ie give them permission to communicate with each other) and then you have to keep your fingers crossed that they continue to talk to each other.

The potential benefits of a bluetooth mouse seem to me to be twofold:

  • You don’t need to keep plugging and unplugging a receiver (dongle) into your computer. This could be significant if, like me, you carry a laptop around most working days and may need to connect and disconnect the mouse three or four times a day. It’s not just taking out the dongle, it’s remembering to open up the mouse and stash the dongle safely inside it (or any other place that you’ll be able to reliably put your hands on it). The alternative is to leave the dongle in the laptop, but then you have to remember to always put the laptop away the right way up because you wouldn’t want a significant part of the weight of the laptop resting on a USB dongle.
  • A bluetooth device doesn’t take up a USB port (usually. You would probably only use a bluetooth USB dongle if your device required bluetooth but your computer didn’t have an inbuilt bluetooth receiver/transmitter). This is the real reason I embarked on my mission to find a decent bluetooth mouse. The Microsoft Surface only has one USB port. It really is a pain having to swap between a mouse dongle, a USB flash drive, an external drive, etc. It’s not just the swapping, it’s the constant aggravation with the mouse that no longer works (natch – you’ve just disconnected it!). The new MacBook also has only one USB port (or, more accurately a USB-C port). The MacBook Air has a slightly more generous 2 USB ports, but not taking up one of them with a mouse could still be advantageous.

My mission to find a decent bluetooth mouse has, I hope, finally come to an end. I found a Sandstrom bluetooth/USB mouse in PC World for the reasonable price of £14.99. The fact that it’s also got the standard dongle is great, because I know I could immediately use it on a computer support client’s computer without any messing about with “pairing” etc. In the meantime, the bluetooth connection has been working perfectly with my Microsoft Surface.

Apple Magic Mouse

Apple Magic Mouse

If you are a Mac person, then you’ll probably already know of the Apple Magic Mouse. Sadly, I know I’m not the only person to find that this mouse becomes “disconnected” far too often for a mouse that costs over £50. I don’t know if it’s the mouse or the Mac’s bluetooth receiver (the keyboard disconnects in the same way), but I eventually re-purposed my Magic Mouse (as a paperweight) and bought a less pretty but more functional Logitech mouse for my Mac Mini.

Anyway, there you have it. If you are suffering from having fewer USB ports than you would like, or are fed up with connecting and disconnecting a mouse’s dongle, then it might be worth a £15 punt on a bluetooth mouse.

I’ve written previously about the useful free program called Gadwin PrintScreen that I use to “grab” a copy of either the whole screen or part of the screen. In fact, it’s the utility that I use to grab the bits of screens that I often use to illustrate these blog posts.

Since I’m now trying to make more use of my MacBook Pro, I have found several times recently that I wish Gadwin had a Mac version – they don’t. However, I have come across a similar utility that certainly seems easier than trying to remember the Mac shortcut keys that capture all or part of a screen (and which, incidentally, don’t need the fingers of a concert pianist to execute).

This little gem is called DuckLink Screen Capture. It’s available for both Windows and Mac.

So, now I have the ability to capture screens from any proper computer, but I often find that I want the captured image on a different machine from the source machine. Dropbox to the rescue…

I have a folder in my Dropbox called “Screencaps” (natch). It is easy enough to configure both Gadwin and DuckLink to save the captured screen images in a specific folder – in this case, the Screencaps folder in my Dropbox (which is present on all machines, of course, as that’s the point of Dropbox). Et voila, all my screen captures – from all computers – are now available on all machines and I don’t have to remember anything complicated about where I should save them, what I should call them, or anything like that.

As well as configuring the capture software to direct its output to the correct folder, it’s also possible to specify a naming convention for the files that will be created. I take advantage of this to start each filename with the name of the machine that originated the capture and then to add the date and time.

To configure Gadwin to place the screen captures in the right place and with the right name:

  • Right-click on the taskbar icon (it’s a small camera)
  • Left-click on “Show Options”
  • Left-click on the option to the left that says “Post Capture Actions”
  • Configure Capture Folder and File Name Template (there’s some help in naming the capture file at the bottom of the window (not shown in the accompanying image))
Gadwin Options

Gadwin Options

To configure DuckLink Screen Capture to place the screen captures in the right place and with the right name:

  • Click on the icon on the top row of the screen (again, it’s a camera – this time on a green background)
  • Left-click on the option to Show Main Window
  • Left-click on Advanced Options
  • Left-click on Output File tab
  • Configure folder and filename
DuckLink Options

DuckLink Options

There’s a tiny flaw (it’s not really a bug as they do warn you about it) in the DuckLink filenaming in that you can’t use a letter in a filename that’s already reserved for something else. For example, I tried to start my filenames with “MacBook”, but it saved the file with “03acBook” at the beginning as it interpreted the “M” as meaning “month number”. Doh! That’s why I chose “Apple” instead as the beginning of the filename.

Screen Capture File Listing

A listing of screen capture files in my Dropbox Screencaps folder. Note the two entries starting with “03”, before I realised that DuckLink was interpreting the “M” in “Macbook” as “M for month”.

Finding a particular screen capture later on is made even easier since I use FastStone Image Viewer to view the image capture files and it’s very easy in this program to add “favourite” folders that are easily accessible from the menu bar. So, I’ve added the Screencaps folder as a favourite. If I’m looking at the Screencaps contents on the Mac, I haven’t yet found the perfect viewing program so I’m using the inbuilt “preview” program for now.

So, with the help of three or four free programs (Dropbox, Faststone Image Viewer, DuckLink Screen Capture, and Gadwin ScreenPrint), it’s possible to tame the business of capturing and retrieving screen images on lots of machines on the same local network, even if you have a mixture of PCs and Macs.

What does File Quarantine do for you on your Mac?

File Quarantine WarningWhen you attempt to open a file from the internet using Safari, or from an attachment to an email in the Mail program, the operating system will pop up a window warning you that the file comes from the internet and ask whether you really do want to open it. After you’ve seen this message a few times relating to different downloads it’s tempting to start thinking that the operating system is being a bit of a nanny and trying to save you from yourself (which, of course, you don’t need as you’re a perfectly rational person capable of making your own mind up).

However, this is not the only job that Mac’s File Quarantine does. When you come to open the file, It also checks the file to see if contains any known malware. Both of those words are important:

  • Known – as with all security programs on computers, there is always a small chance that something nasty is roaming around cyberspace and lands on your computer before the program that should check for it has become aware of it.
  • Malware – File Quarantine is not looking for computer viruses and it’s not looking for Adware (programs that pop adverts up at you).

Hellraiser warning

Figure 2. Malware has been detected

If File Quarantine does detect malware then it will display the dialog box shown in figure 2. Since you have already got the file in your system, you should respond by clicking on the “Move to trash” button. Clicking on the “Cancel” button will cancel your attempt to open the file, but it will still be left on your system. If the file is a “disk image” rather than a normal file then the options will be to “Cancel” or “Eject Disc Image”. Click on the latter option.

You can read more about File Quarantine at this Apple web page.

If you decide that File Quarantine is just nannying you and annoying you, then you can actually turn it off. This is achieved by opening a window in Terminal, entering the following command, and then re-booting the machine:

defaults write com.apple.LaunchServices LSQuarantine -boo1 NO

To turn File Quarantine back on, just repeat the command, but type “YES” instead of “NO”.

Having pointed that out (and you can read a bit more about it at Mactips), I don’t recommend turning File Quarantine off. As long as you have a fairly recent version of Mac OSX the popup window only happens the first time you open something downloaded from the internet. I think it’s worth having to click through that one window in order to keep the benefits of having OXS check for known malware.

AdwareMedic logoAs mentioned above, File Quarantine will not prevent the lesser threats posed by Adware getting onto your computer. In the world of Windows PCs, I recommend Malwarebytes and Spybot to clean a machine of known threats. In the world of Macs it’s a bit piecemeal. To add to the protection offered by File Quarantine, you can download and run a free program called AdwareMedic.

It’s very simple to download and run AdwareMedic and it should only take it a minute or so to check your system. See figure 4 for a results screen when I ran it on my MacBook Pro. I’d never seen any evidence of Adware on the Mac, but it’s still good to know that something unpleasant has been removed.

Adware found

Figure 4. AdwareMedic found this piece of adware on my MacBook Pro

If you still think you have an adware problem after running AdwareMedic then visit this AdwareMedic page for further advice. The suggestions on that page are largely concerned with problems that you think may be adware but which are, in fact, something else (such as your browser Home Page or your chosen Search Engine having been changed).

Is Apple trying to drive us mad?

If you’ve got an iPhone and at least one other Apple toy, such as an iPad or a Mac, then you may have noticed recently that when your phone rings there’s a cacophony of sound emanating from all your Apple goodies.

This is a feature of the new Mac Yosemite operating system signed in with the same Apple ID as an iPhone running IOS 8 and/or an iPad signed in with the same Apple ID as an IOS 8 iPhone.

So, your phone rings and then your Mac and iPad ring as well. You can then answer the call on your Mac or iPad (using the inbuilt speakers and microphone). The question I must ask myself is “why?”

Maybe you like this feature or maybe, like me, you think your Apple technology is coming on a bit un-necessary. I can just imagine some smarty-pants at Apple saying “ooh, look what we can do” (to which, of course, all present will reply “cool”). At the risk of sounding (as usual) like a 21st century Victor Meldrew, I have to ask the hypothetical question “why on earth would I want my computer and my tablet to ring in unison when my phone rings?” After all, if there’s one piece of technology that I’m more likely to have within reach than any other it’s my mobile phone.

Luckily, it’s easy to change the settings so that life goes back to how it used to be – back in the days when you didn’t nearly jump out of your skin every time the phone rang.

So, here’s how to restore sanity on your Mac:

  • Open the “FaceTime” program on the Mac
  • Click on the “FaceTime” option in the top menu (see Figure 1)
  • Click on “Preferences”
  • Uncheck the box next to “iPhone Cellular Calls” by clicking on the tick (Figure 2)
  • Close the open dialog box and FaceTime
  • Relax
FaceTime Menu

Figure 1

FaceTime Preferences

Figure 2

And here’s how to do it on your iPad:

  • Go to “Settings”
  • Tap on “FaceTime” in the lefthand column
  • On the righthand side, slide the switch against “iPhone Mobile Calls” to the left
  • Close Settings
  • Relax
iPad FaceTime Settings

Figure 3

You might be wondering – as I did – whether this new feature of sending and receiving voice calls to and from iPads and Macs means that you can now create and send text messages from these machines. I looked for this feature as I’ve still not got used to the cramped keyboard on iPhones and would much rather type on something else. Alas, you can’t. There are still only two ways of sending text messages from an iPad:

  • Use the inbuilt “iMessages” app (which only works if you are texting to another Apple device)
  • Get a third-party app (which means your text will appear to have come from a phone number other than your own)

So, all you smarty-pants at Apple, for your next cool trick…

Most smartphones (including iPhones) can serve as “wifi hotspots”

In effect, this means that the phone is acting like your wireless router at home. It can be used to allow you to connect another device to the internet (eg a laptop or a tablet) when a “normal” wifi connection is not available and when the laptop or tablet does not have its own 3G internet connectivity.

Turn on HotspotWhether this will work with your smartphone depends not only on the hardware but also on the deal you have with your mobile provider. If your phone was supplied by your provider then it’s possible they have “crippled” this feature so that it won’t work. On an iPhone, for instance, the option to turn on the personal hotspot connection may be “greyed out”. You can find this option by going to Settings and then Mobile. If yours is greyed out, my advice is to speak to your provider as they may offer a deal whereby it can be turned on.

Assuming that you have Personal Hotspot enabled on an iPhone or on an iPad with cellular access, and you wish to use either of these devices to pass an internet connection to your Macbook Pro or Air, this can now be done without even taking the phone out of your pocket. In other words, you don’t have to turn on the “Personal Hotspot” feature on your iPhone and then connect the computer to it. This new capability is known as “Instant Hotspot”. It’s part of the latest round of updates to Mac computers and devices (called “Continuity“) and it will only work if you have OSX 10.10 or later on your computer (ie the new version, known as Yosemite) and version 8.1 or later of IOS on your iPhone or iPad.

I learned the above from the blurb that Apple and various blog sites told me. So then I tried to test it – just to make sure that I’m not telling you porkies. No joy. If I manually turned on the personal hotspot on my iphone, the Mac recognised it with no problem. To do this, all you need to do is simply click on the Wifi icon on the Mac and there it is – offered as one of the available wifi connections. To try to encourage Instant Hotspot to work I tried turning off my router, just in case the Mac was favouring that over other connection possibilities. Still no joy. Then I checked the versions of the operating systems on both Mac and iPhone. Both were definitely up to date.

After much googling (and not a little profanity), I eventually found a site that tells me that the Mac needs to be 2012 or later for it to work. So, if you’ve got a Mac that’s older than that then maybe reading this blog will save you a bit of frustration – it’s not going to work. Pity that Apple didn’t make that clear in their blurb.

Look for HotspotSo, for the rest of this blog, I’m just winging it and hoping that what I read is true for Macs of 2012 or later vintage. All you have to do is click on your Wifi icon at the top of the screen and your iPhone should appear as an available network. It doesn’t even ask for a password. It doesn’t need a password as it will only work if both phone and computer are logged into the same iCloud account. After a period of inactivity, the connection is automatically dropped. This is to save the battery on the iPhone.

Instant Hotspot

Just have your iPhone reasonably close to the Mac when you look for the Instant Hotspot

It’s worth mentioning here that mobile data allowances aren’t usually very generous in comparison with your home or office broadband, so do be careful. You can always check how much of your download allowance you have used by going to Settings on the iPhone, then take the Mobile option and scroll down to the figure headed “Mobile Data Usage”. This will only be meaningful if you reset the statistics at the beginning of your “billing period”. My understanding – at least with T-mobile – is that the “current billing period” is a calendar month and not the month from one payment date to the next (but I wouldn’t actually stake my life on that being true).

Something I came across more than once when researching this item is that an initial connection to an “instant hotspot” is sometimes difficult. If this happens, the recommendation is to manually turn on the personal hotspot (on the iPhone) and make a connection that way first. Thereafter, it seems that the Instant Hotspot is more likely to work.

I’ll have to take their word for all this as I’ve got absolutely no need (otherwise) to update my perfectly good five year old Mac.

Something separate for each of Mac and Windows users this week

First the Windows tip – Windows has mis-interpreted the type of files kept in a folder

Windows is sometimes just a bit too clever for its own good (so is Mac OSX, but that’s another matter).

Windows Folder-type Choice

Choose “General Items” to see the normal information associated with files in Windows Explorer

I’ve just opened a folder inside my Dropbox folder that I use as a temporary place to move things between computers. As such, it can contain all types of files (music, pdfs, spreadsheets, etc). For some reason, Windows has just decided that this folder contains music tracks and, therefore, is showing me file attributes that it thinks are relevant – in this case, “Name, Title, Contributing artists, and Album”. It’s not showing me the date modified or anything else that is useful and “standard”.

The way to disabuse Windows of its notion (in Windows 7 or Windows 8) is as follows:

  • Find the folder using Windows Explorer (or, as it’s called in Windows 8, “File Explorer”)
  • Right-click on the folder
  • Left-click on the “Properties” option at the bottom of the list of options
  • Left-click on the tab called “Customise” (at the top of the window that’s just opened)
  • Left-click on the dropdown list under the heading “Optimise this folder for:”
  • Choose “General Items”
  • Click OK

And now the Mac tip – banish the icon bounce!

One thing that has always driven me dotty when using a computer is having anything un-ncessarily flashing, moving or doing something else that screams “look at me, look at me, I’m the most important thing in your life at this second and I won’t go away until you find out why I’m trying so hard to get all your attention”. How do the designers of these distractions get to be so arrogant that they think this is legitimate? Is it just the Victor Meldrew in me, or does everyone else get annoyed as well?

Safari icon bouncing on trampolineThis happens on a Mac when a program that is “in the dock” tries to distract us by bouncing up and down. Here’s an example. A few weeks ago I blogged about a browser add-in called AdBlock Plus that stops ads appearing on web pages. It seems to work perfectly well running in Firefox under Windows. I also installed it to run with the Mac’s own Safari browser. Every now and again the two get in a scrap and the Safari icon bounces up and down (even when I’m not looking at a Safari window) and continues to do so until I click on it – only to be told that Safari couldn’t start the add-on. Big deal. I don’t really care at the moment. Now, please stop bothering me and let me get on with the Sisyphean task of sorting out my iTunes music.

Finally, I did a bit of research and am happy to share with you the method for keeping these docked icons in their place. It’s a bit of a blunt instrument as it stops ALL of the icons from bouncing. You can’t stop just the more egregious programs from behaving this way.

  • Open the “Applications” folder
  • Open the “Utilities” folder
  • Open the “Terminal” application
  • Enter the following two commands (without the quotation marks)
    • “defaults write com.apple.dock no-bouncing -bool TRUE” – and then hit the Enter key
    • “killall Dock” – and then hit the Enter key

If you ever want to bring the bounce back, repeat the commands exactly as above, except replace “TRUE” with “FALSE” in the first of the two terminal commands.

What we have done above is suppress the bounces when an application wants our attention. It is slightly easier to suppress the bounces that happen whenever we click on a dock icon to open that program. To suppress those bounces:

  • Click on the Apple (top left of screen)
  • Click on “System Preferences”
  • Click on “Dock”
  • Untick the box next to “Animate opening applications”

Now, there’s a question I’m often asked…

There’s no doubt that Mac users (and users of other Apple devices such as iPads and iPhones) are much more fiercely loyal to the brand than owners of computers and devices that run Windows or Android.

Most PC owners hardly give a thought to the brand of their computer, other than when making the buying decision. Not so with Mac owners. They are forever conscious of the fact that they have bought something different, something beautifully designed, something expensive. And they are not backward in coming forward when it comes to making recommendations:

Macs never go wrong
Macs can’t get viruses” etc etc.

MacBook Pro 2012

MacBook Pro 2012

Well, these statements are not strictly true, although I’ve never had a single complaint from my four year old Mac Mini (despite my upgrading the memory and the hard drive, which we are strongly encouraged not to do).

It’s probably true that Macs are inherently more secure than PCs when it comes to viruses and malware, but the real reason that they “don’t get viruses” is that the nasty people out there writing software to exploit or damage our computers are not stupid. They’d rather spend their time developing nasty things that can attack the 90% of the computers that run Windows than the 10% that run Mac OSX.

Frankly, that’s the main reason that I, myself, took so long to start learning about Macs. Why double my workload to increase my potential clientele by 10% (ok, 11.11% if you want to be pedantic)? The reality, of course, is that it’s not doubling my workload: a great deal that I’ve learned about PCs over the years is directly applicable to Macs and doesn’t need learning again. And that would also apply to you if you were thinking of making the change.

Anyway, back to the main point. Let’s forget about the mystique that’s grown up around all things Apple. Let’s just consider the practicalities if you are thinking of jumping ship from a PC and, as a client of mine put it, “going over to the dark side”.

Downside of changing to Macs

  • There’s much less choice in the model you buy, but that may be less important than it used to be as most computers these days are capable of handling anything the normal user will demand of them.
  • Macs are much more expensive than PCs of comparable power. True, but you get what you pay for and nothing else comes close to the build and finish quality of a Mac.
  • If you are looking for specific software that is not “mainstream” then it may not be available on Macs. Microsoft Office is available for Macs and so are the main accounts programs for independent professionals and small businesses (eg Quicken and Sage). This is probably not the problem that it would have been 10 or 20 years ago. Nevertheless, if you have many different types of programs (particularly old favourites that are no longer being updated/supported) then it may be worth carefully checking each one that is important to you before plunging into change.
  • You may have to carefully consider how you are going to get your existing data into equivalent Mac programs. This may be easy, it may be impossible, or it may be possible with the help of someone like me.
  • If you have previously been a PC user then there’s no doubt that you have a learning curve to face. You will need to adapt to the way that Apple works. In general, it’s probably fair to say that Macs are a bit more intuitive to use than PCs, but that doesn’t help much at the beginning if you are shouting at the screen because it doesn’t understand your old PC way of trying to do something.

Upside of changing to Macs

  • There’s no arguing with the fact that Apple computers and devices are consistently more “desirable” and beautifully designed and manufactured than anything else.
  • Macs seem to last longer than PCs. Whereas a PC is usually thought to be on its last legs at five years old, Macs go on for longer. I’ve just bought a four year old MacBook Pro from a client. She kept it in immaculate condition and it seems to me that I’ve bought a new computer rather than a middle-aged one (mind you, I could have bought a new, low-end, PC laptop for the same price).
  • The screen image on a Mac is usually much better than on a PC. I was amazed at how much better my photographs look on a MacBook Pro than on any PC/monitor combination I’ve ever had before.
  • If you are starting from scratch, Macs are almost certainly easier to get to grips with than a Windows PC.
  • The inbuilt “Time Machine” backup system on the Mac is far superior to anything I’ve ever found for a PC. It is reliable and easy to use. You will, of course, still need an external backup device.

In summary, I would say that if you can answer “yes” to all the following questions, then it’s certainly worth thinking about changing to a Mac:

  • Can a Mac provide the software you need?
  • Can you get your essential existing data across to a Mac?
  • Will your peripherals (eg printer, scanner) work with a Mac?
  • Are you prepared to pay the price premium for a Mac?
  • Are you prepared to re-learn some of the ways that you do things?

Picture of brick

Typical Windows laptop

In practice, my experience is that almost all of my clients who have made the change have been happy and wouldn’t go back. The two exceptions I can think of are one friend and one client who both thought that the Mac was taking away some of the control they felt they had over their PC.

I’m often asked whether I support Macs in my capacity as a Computer Support Consultant. The answer is that my Mac knowledge is growing all the time as the number of Mac clients that I have increases. Also, I have had my own Mac Mini for nearly four years and have now acquired a MacBook Pro. So, my experience is growing and I am certainly happy to discuss any issues you may have with your Mac. I don’t think, though, that my Mac experience is ever going to catch up with my PC experience (thanks to a 25 year head start!)

At least I am now trying really hard to get out of the habit of saying “that would work on a proper computer” when my PC assumptions are thwarted on a Mac.

© 2011-2017 David Leonard
Computer Support in London
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