I'm always so pleased when I find a way round some exasperating computer problem that I thought I'd share my moments of triumph ...

Friday 29 November 2013

Quickly change to an open application

Sometimes it's difficult to return to a file or an application that's open by clicking an open window in the usual way. Here are two ways:

In System Preferences, set one of the corners of your desktop so that when you move the pointer into it it shows you either Mission Control - all the windows and applications that are open - or just the applications.

Or, press cmd-tab. You can then tab across the row of your open applications and stop on the one you want to return to. Neat and quick.

Year Walk, a well creepy way to waste your time

What, games? Of course I don't have time to play games on my iPhone. Obviously ... Oh dear, Year Walk. What creepy graphics, story, even the sounds ... Good heavens is that the time?

I admit I did need the guide, it's quite challenging.

Saturday 16 November 2013

Replace standard icons with custom ones

I like to waste time ornamenting my desktop and other icons - don't you?

First just to note that CandyBar is available free of charge for now, it seems they've given up the struggle to keep up with evolving Mac Os's. CandyBar is a convenient way to replace Mac icons.

As I'm sure you know, to replace an individual icon you do the following:
  • Click to highlight a folder or a file or an app.
  • Get Info about it - cmd-i, or right click and select
  • Highlight and Copy (cmd-c) the icon you want to use
  • Highlight the folder icon, top left in the Info panel, and Paste (cmd-v) your new one.
That's it! If you want to revert to the original standard Mac one, just call up Info again, and click and delete (cmd-x) the icon you pasted in.

Show the new icon in the Dock

Now, let's drag the pretty new icon into the dock ... Oh! there's just the boring old plain one in the Dock! To have the new one show, here's a workaround.

See in the screenshot above two icons for Downloads (click the image to enlarge it)? The second one is an alias.
  • Click to highlight the original
  • Right click and do Make Alias
  • To tidy up the folder name, you can just delete the word Alias and leave a space at the end of the folder name.
  • Then, you can drag your alias into the dock and there's the nice new icon.
An additional advantage is that when you click that dock icon you get just your preferred view of that folder, List for example.

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks - install or wait?

It's always tempting to have a go with the latest software, specially if it's free as Mavericks is, from the App Store. Might be best to think about this one, though. A lot of people are identifying quite a few problems with Mavericks. There's a long list on the Apple discussion forums.

How to revert from Mavericks if you don't like it

Don't just rush and install it - I did :(  If you want to revert to your previous OS, the only way is to entirely erase the disk holding Mavericks and reinstall your previous operating system. So -

Before you install Mavericks -
  • Back up your system and files - preferably use Time Machine.
  • Make sure you've got a bootable install copy of your previous operating system. If you downloaded it it should be available in the Apple store > Purchases. But you'll still have to make a bootable install disk on a USB memory stick or on a disk partition.

Some problems people have found

I don't like to be negative but -
You can no longer sync your calendar and contacts straight onto your local computer. Instead you have to have an iCloud account and sync them via that. Many people strongly object to being required to allow Apple to store their personal information. http://bit.ly/1bsQEmg 
  • Apparently, Apple have removed SyncServices from iTunes / Mavericks - permanently.
  • If you want to continue syncing using iTunes in the future, it's said you should not install iTunes v 12 when it comes out (at the moment, it's 11.1.3).
  • Many users are finding problems with Mail after installing Mavericks.
  • Quite a few scanners and printers are no longer usable. Also, even more software than became unusable under Lion and Mountain Lion.
  • Passwords seem to be forced to be saved on Keychain (I don't consciously use Keychain so I'm not sure what this entails)
  • Mavericks offers finder windows that open in tabs, as in browsers. Personally, I don't like the tabs design (like Safari) and it mucks up TotalFinder, which I love using.
  • Coloured Labels for files and folders have been changed to Tags - much smaller coloured disks: http://bit.ly/HSAnNk.
Altogether, best wait a bit I think.

Solved: FINALLY got rid of DivX Plus popup and reminder

Yes! I've finally done it! No more popups from DivX Plus. Just search every item in both your libraries: the User library in your Home folder, and the system library in your Macintosh HD folder. Delete anything DivX and also anything Google.

You'll then need to download and reinstall Google stuff - it's free of course.

I had already deleted every single DivX item as described below. But in Google Chrome DivX plus appeared again, offering plugin services.

My earlier attempt - this got rid of the reminder pop-up

Quite a few posts on this from people desperate to get rid of the DivX Plus Update popup. This reappears constantly even if you delete the DivX application. (Useless software, don't go there)

To eliminate anything labelled DivX, I checked every single folder in both Libraries. To see your Library folder, hold down Option which clicking on Go.  There is a Library folder in your Home folder and also one in the Macintosh HD folder as well.

DivX plus items were lurking all over the place. I deleted each item by hand.

Surely these files should have shown up in a Search, but they didn't. Perhaps there's a special search for looking for system files.

Saturday 9 November 2013

VMware Fusion - use existing Windows after system reinstall

I've been running a legit copy of Windows7 on VMware. When I upgraded to VMware v6 I was desperate not to have to pay for a new Windows OS. Installed the VMware application - oh no! using the obvious dialogue box it wouldn't recognise the Windows 7.vmwarevm file in the Virtual Machines folder. Eventually I noticed that the Windows 7.vmwarevm file looked potentially active, so I simply clicked on it and everything started working :))

  • Click VMware to run it
  • Open the Virtual Machines folder that VMware previously made
  • Click on the Windows 7.vmwarevm file that looks cheerfully active (or, I guess, any other virtual machine you have previously run).

Possibly this may solve another VMware / Windows problem on another machine where after installing Mountain Lion the virtual Windows claims it is illegal (it is not). (However, I just carry on when it threatens me and it works though looking a  bit messy).

Friday 18 October 2013

Mac desktop - icon to show current application

Just installed OS 10.8 (okay, Mountain Lion if you want to be cutsie) on my iMac. Horrified to find no little icon top R. on the screen to show the application I'm currently in. Remembered with a struggle it's the app. called Focus - help is there an update? Yes! I blogged about it! so to thank you again Eerdo Vissering, I'm repeating the blog. It's so great to see that little icon on the screen again.

Apple used to provide this handy visual clue in their OS but gave it up a long time ago. Thanks to Eerko Vissering for developing the little application called Focus, which does the same thing. I've used it with Leopard / Snow Leopard for ages. Eerko has updated it to run on Lion / Mountain Lion. Thanks Eerko!


Wednesday 16 October 2013

CityMaps2Go - brilliant app for finding your way


I must publicise this brilliant app, from Ulmon (website). t should really be called simply Maps2Go. For Mac iPhone or iPad. Free! You download maps for the city or area you are interested in, and then GPS will show you exactly where you are.

 No internet connection needed after the initial map download. Unlike Google maps or Apple maps you never have to wait for the map to be redrawn or find that the map won't redraw because you have no internet connection. The maps are saved on your phone.

I have used this app on my iPhone in Spain, in Verona, Italy, in walking round footpaths in deepest rural Wiltshire, UK, and now in Taiwan.

If you are still SatNav free it is invaluable for negotiating motorway interchanges and city streets. It even shows one way street directions. In walking damp, confusing footpaths, equally useful. You do need a map as well to give you the overview, but that little blue blob shows you exactly where you are and which direction you're heading in. Such a comfort!

It's based on maps created by the crowd source OpenStreetMap. Along with whatever maps you want, you get Wiki Plus guides to cities or well known buildings or features.

You can change the scale of the map in the usual way.

Many city maps are already available, and lots of reviewers report that if you ever want a map of a particular city or town you just email them and a couple of days later, there it is.

PowerPoint into Word

Don't you feel frustrated that you can print out a Handouts file from your PPT presentation with neat lines beside the little slide images, but not type your speaking notes into that useful slot?

Simply by chance, I found a solution.

  • Open up your PPT presentation in Normal view
  • Open up a Word file and make a table 2 columns wide by however many rows long.
  • In the PPT presentation, click on the little slide image  and Copy it (cmd-C, or using a menu, as you wish)
  • In the Word file, click in a table cell, and Paste the copied image - cmd-V or using a menu

Oh my goodness! There is your slide in your Word file! It'll be too large but grab a resize handle and just make it smaller. Then you can type your notes into the table cell beside it.

The Word file will be massive, because all the images are saved at full size. You can reduce the Word file size by File > Reduce file size. This allows you to convert images to lower resolution, which won't matter for such small images. You can also do this for your PPT file but be careful you don't reduce the display quality.

Another route, takes a bit longer, is: in the PPT file, do File > Save as Pictures. That will make a folder with a jpeg image of each file. You can easily copy or drag each image into a Word file, and you could convert all the images to smaller dimensions first if you wanted to, in Preview or using image software such as Photoshop Elements to batch process.

Thursday 29 August 2013

AirParrot with Apple TV - show full screen

He's right, I've copied in his comment - no need for my earlier complicated instructions ... Thank you!

in AirPArrot preferences there is an option called 'Underscan', and if you set this option to 0% you'll fix the full screen problem without the need of TV zoom

Only downside, less excuse to buy one of the forthcoming glorious new MacBook Pro's that will simply use AirPlay.

Friday 2 August 2013

MacBook Air drops WiFi connection - again

WiFi still dropping

Well, despite my moment of triumph in the previous post, my MacBook Air still kept dropping the WiFi connection. My earlier recommendation seemed to work for a while. So then I tried restarting the computer, and switching wifi off and on again, which worked, but what a pain.

I changed the security settings on my router to WPA2 (was WPA/WPA2). That may have improved things a bit.

Change the Mac's network settings

For those who aren't afraid to delve into the Mac's system here are some more suggestions,  relayed from macdailynews.com/ .

I chose their Fix #2, to change the MTU size.

MTU stands for Maximum Transmission Unit and controls the largest packet size allowed for transmission over the network. If this setting is greater than network capacity, the computer will experience packet loss and dropped connections
That post has detailed instructions, although my screens looked a bit different to theirs. I reset the MTU to 1453, a magic number apparently. Hasn't dropped again as yet.

Investigate your network

Temptingly for those who like to delve into the works, this post also says how to investigate your wireless network in detail. It's getting crowded out there, I discovered just how many other networks there are around mine. You use Wireless diagnostics, on mine it's in Applications. (I definitely do not recommend changing anything other than the settings described in Fixes #1 and  #2, as networks are extremely complex and delicate.)

Move the router?

A'hm, the author does suggest another simple solution - move the router to a better position:
Using Wi-Fi Diagnostics I discovered my wireless signal to be much weaker when keeping the wifi router out of sight behind an LCD TV, simply moving the router away from the TV a few feet dramatically boosted signal strength. Run the app yourself and see what kind of performance boost you can get by adjusting your own wifi network.

Saturday 30 March 2013

Use your Google calendars on your iPhone

If you use Google's calendar you can synch it with your iPhone's built in calendar (which I must say, is a really nice app). You don't have to use Apple's Cloud, or be restricted to iCal on your Mac.

Google has now provided instructions (spoken, even!) for synching your mobile device calendar with Google's, including iPhone. Better late than never.

Here's how:

1: Set up a Google Calendar account on the iPhone

On your iPhone go to:
Settings> Mail, contacts, calendars > Add account > Other > Add CalDAV account
  • Server is google.com
  • User name is your Google user name (the email address or whatever that you sign in with), 
  • Password is your Google account password,
  • Description is optional. 
Then cllick Advanced settings and make sure SSL is On.

2: In Google, select the calendars you want on your iPhone

I noticed that not all my different calendars were showing. So:
  • Open a mobile browser and go to this url: https://www.google.com/calendar/syncselect
  • Sign into Google with your user email and password. 
  • On the list of your calendars, check those that you want on your iPhone.
Done! it works!

3: Set your preferred Google calendar to be the default

Entries added on my iPhone weren't getting through initially - because it had decided to use the inbuilt Birthdays as the default calendar.
  • Go back to Settings > Mail, contacts, calendars > and scroll down to Calendars > Default calendar.
  • You'll see a list of those available. Delete any that aren't on your Google calendar and select the one you want to be your default.
You can also delete all the extraneous additional 'calendars' (that the iPhone is born with, I suppose).

4: Select on your iPhone the calendars you want to see

  • Return to the home screen and go to Calendar.
  • In any view, go to Calendars (top left of the screen) and from the list select those you want it to show on your iPhone. Then you can click the Refresh button bottom left.
After about half a day searching Google for answers, my iPhone does now perfectly synch iPhone < > Google calendar < > desktop Mac, both ways throughout. Solved!
(On my MacBook / iMac I like to use Mozilla's Sunbird with the Provider add-on, but that's a different story.)

PS: Searches on Google didn't throw up the iPhone manual as a possible source of answers, but it is fairly helpful although not as detailed. I'm not sure it gives the complete answer.

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Read Kindle books on Kobo or other reader - how to

Yes you can! Now, concentrate.

1. To remove the DRM code (digital rights management)

Apprentice Alf is the leader in this dark art. In his blog, http://apprenticealf.wordpress.com/ you will find useful discussion and links to the up to date conversion tools.

Download the current tools (pay attention to Apprentic Alf's instructions) and unzip the folder. Don't be daunted by the technical chat, just follow the instructions in the ReadMe files.

To free up Kindle e-books (this is on a Mac, there are similar facilites for a Windows pc) - move the zip file DeDRM_5.0.app.zip onto your desktop (or other convenient folder), click it to unpack to a curly icon DeDRM.app.

Your Kindle book files are in My Kindle Content. They don't have helpful titles, but sort them by date, and it's the .azw file, the largest size, that is the book. Drag this onto the curly icon and it will save a freed up copy of the book for you. You should be able to upload that to your reader, via the free Calibre software or even via your normal reader software.
  • A Kindle book I recently bought didn't turn up in My Kindle Content until I'd opened the Kindle desktop reader and added it to my library there. Voila, there was the .azw file.
  • If you are using Calibre with the DeDRM plugins installed, as below, you don't need to do the above separately.

2. To manage your ebooks library and reader content using Calibre

Calibre is a generic ebooks management application, very handy, search to download it for free (be fair, do donate). Using Calibre you can:
  • manage the books on your ereader
  • assemble all your ebooks from whatever source in one folder
  • read them on your desktop 
  • automatically convert books from different formats for your own ereader, whatever that is
and much much more besides which I haven't tried out.

3. To set up Calibre to automatically convert books for upload

  1. Downloaded and instal Calibre
  2. Install the DeDRM plugins:
    - Go to Calibre's Preferences (under Calibre in the top menu)
    - Under Advanced, click Plugins
    - Select Load plugin from file
    - Navigate to the downloaded folder of Tools
    - In the sub folder inside that, Calibre plugins, click and load each of the zip files in turn
    - Click the green Apply tick, top left
  3. Repeat until all are installed. Restart Calibre.
Then, Calibre's menus are self explanatory. You can just add the book file to the Calibre library and upload it to your device - select Autoconvert and it will do the conversion as part of the process, as long as the DeDRM plugins are installed.

Saturday 23 February 2013

Your Google calendar on your desktop - Sunbird

I much prefer Sunbird to iCal for synching with a Google calendar (or any other online calendar, I guess). For instance you can show not just the current month but the current 5 or 6 weeks in one view. - October 2013, I just had to check this following an upgrade to OS 10.8, Mountain Lion - it all works.

Sunbird is free, developed by Mozilla of Firefox browser and Thunderbird email client. (Similarly I prefer T-bird to Mail). They are trying to make people give up Sunbird, which is a stand alone calendar, and take to Lightening which works as part of Thunderbird. Like many others I want my calendar separate, thanks.

You can still get Sunbird and it works on Mac OS 10.6, 10.7 and 10.8 (that's Snow Leopard, Lion and Mountain Lion). Sunbird v. 1.0b1 is here (for Windows, Linux and Mac).

Once you've downloaded and installed it, you need an extra bit of software - Provider. This enables you to link to your Google calendars. Download and save it from here - Provider 0.6b1 (scroll down until you see this version, others only work with Lightening).

Then, back to Sunbird. Top menu, Tools > Extensions > Install. Then navigate to where you saved Provider and select it, confirm Install if asked.

Okay, now you're set up to communicate with Google calendar, but where are your events etc? You have to add a link to each of your calendars, one at a time.

Open a browser and go to your Google Calendar. Highlight a calendar and click the little down arrow to the right. Select Settings.

Scroll down the Settings screen and you'll see Calendar address. Click iCal and highlight and copy the code you see.

Now back to Sunbird. File > Subscribe to remote calendar > Create a new calendar - On the Network >  Google calendar - and paste in the code you copied from Google. You'll be asked for your Google account name and password. Choose a name and a colour for the calendar and you're done.

Repeat for each of your Google calendars and any public ones you want to add.

One last thing, Sunbird > Preferenced > Advanced > Encryption, make sure Use SSL 3.0 is ticked and use TLS 1.0 is not ticked.

A bit of a faff, but worth it I find.

iPhone calendar - even better, Fantastical

While we're on calendars, I thought the iCal one was fine on the iPhone until I found Fantastical (£1.99 I think). It's an app that simply provides a new calendar interface. Just install Fantastical on your iPhone and it will ask you to give it permission to use your calendars (provided you have linked to them as in the previous posts). Then they, fantastically, appear.

Dates will display across the top of the screen - pull down the tab for a monthly view. Pull down again to return to the list. Scroll around very quickly and nicely - all sorts of other refinements. Nice.

Saturday 16 February 2013

iPhone calendar - show public holidays

The previous post dealt with synching iPhone's calendar with Google calendar, but following that process you don't get public holidays showing.

Here's how to do that.

First do Stage 1 on your iPhone:
Settings> Mail, contacts, calendars > Add account > Other > only this time, select Add subscribed calendar.

Then, the server is whatever public holiday calendar you wish. I used Apple's purely because it's easy to find the server address:

For US public holidays, it's

Or if you're using Google calendars anyway, here's Google's:

Thursday 17 January 2013

Speed up your iPhone

My iPhone 3GS slowed to a crawl for internet operations like web browsing or using apps, but like magic, it's now ... well ... bearable again. So simple.

Maybe I'm slow on the uptake, but I didn't realise that you have to close down an app. when you've done with it - not just click the Home button.

Try this: click the Home button twice (the round sunken button at the bottom). You'll see all the open apps. in the bar at the bottom of the screen. Scroll right to see the whole line-up. Yes, probably every app. you've ever used. No wonder the thing has slowed to a crawl, it only has a tiny little brain in there.

To close an app.(s), hold your fingertip on one for a bit and you get the red minus signs on them: click to close.

Or, without the red minus signs, just click on an app. to go to it and resume where you left off.

Handy, eh?