Thursday, January 31, 2008

Anti-Virus: ClamXav - Get the production you need at the right price

OK, we all know how vulernable Macs are to viruses. I'm sure we've all heard the countless stories about how we need to protect ourselves against all these nasty viruses. Really, when was the last time you heard about a virus on a Mac? Honestly, I don't think I have. This was one of the reasons I wanted to get a Mac.

But being as paranoid as I was coming from a Windows environment, I searched the market for the most appropriate Anti-Virus protection and I found ClamXav. As I was familiar with ClamAV (the Unix version often times used on email servers), I figured it was worth a try. So far it has proven to be worthwhile. But then again, how can I be so sure with so many viruses targeting Macs out there...

ClamXav has the basic Anti-Virus features. You can scan files on-demand, schedule scanning of your machine, automatic updates, scan emails and scan files in real-time. The product seems to do a good job of the basic functionalities. The only complaint I have is that it can be slow at times. But as I do not actively scan files while I am using my Mac, it is hardly a drawback for me. The scheduled & real-time scanning is done in the background.

Below are some screenshots of the basic functions.


From left to right: (left) General settings for Anti-Virus allowing you to log & quarantine. (middle) Schedule settings where you set the daily schedule for the Anti-Virus scan. (right) Enabling of Sentry (Real-Time scanning) of certain directories. Here I have set my download directory where I am most likely to pick-up a virus.

Before you make your decision on the level of security you require, let me do a quick comparison of the competition. I have heard of one product that does a very good job of Anti-Virus scanning called Intego Virus Barrier. It also has a high price-tag to go with it: $70 to buy and $30 per year for support (new virus updates). It seems to do a very good job according to MacWorld. There is also Norton which was recommended on Amazon. As a major player in in the security market, it has the resources and reactivity to stop the viruses quickly after they become wild. But for me, in my last life, their products did more bad than any good. I do not like to bash products but it happened to me two times in a row!

While we are on the topic of the drawbacks of Anti-Virus products, an interesting article about Anti-Virus & Macs: Mac OS X anti-virus software: More trouble than it's worth?

Going back to Anti-Virus products, ClamXav is free and the other 2 have free trials. Before buying, I would recommend giving them a try. Be warned, only try Norton if you are really serious in using this product. I have heard that the product installs files everywhere making it difficult to remove after the trial.

To summarize, for me, the 3 main drivers for deciding on ClamXav as follows:
  • Its free!
  • It does its job
  • Macs are not infested with viruses so why pay for more (at least for now)
For more details please visit the ClamXav website.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Firewall: Little Snitch - Block applications from unauthorized access

Moving to the Mac, one of the first things that struck me, was the lack of security options. As Macs are not targeted near as much as Windows for security exploits, there is much less demand. Regardless, knowing how dangerous the Internet can be, I wanted to have some sense of security for my important and personal data.

Searching on Google, I really struggled to find anything that really caught my eye. Norton was really the only big name that stuck out. But after having a look at their homepage and further research, Norton does not even have a product that supports the newer versions of Mac OSXs... I have had several bad experiences in my previous life, so I doubt I would have gone with Norton anyway.

Investing further, I started to hear about a product called Little Snitch. It was not a full-fledged firewall but it provided an important feature that most of the other firewalls did not feature. It blocks outgoing traffic! Since the Leopard has a firewall that can block inbound connections, this is a perfect compliment. Every time you use a new application connecting to the Internet, you can either allow or deny the connection. You have some flexibility to allow the access for the duration the application is open or anytime the application tries to connect to the Internet (selecting Forever). You also have the ability to restrict the scope of the access. Say for example, you have a browser an ftp program which you only want to connect to one site, like your website you manage. But know that this application can send data to the Internet, you can configure the firewall to connect only to the hosting provider and nothing else. If it is a trusted application (like a web browser), you can also allow the access to any host.

Once you configure an application to be used permanently by Little Snitch, its not the end. Included is an interface allowing you to review and modify all the rules you have created. All you have to do is go to your Little Snitch Rules and from there click on the rules you want to modify. Like above, you have the option of allowing/denying, per port, per protocol & by network or server. The product is very easy and straightforward to use even for the novice.

This was one of my first purchases on the Mac and I do not regret it for a second. The only thing I regret is not buying the family licence for when I replace more of my PCs with Macs. The family license allows you to use install Little Stitch on 5 Macs within the same household.

For more information about this product visit the Little Snitch website.

Monday, January 28, 2008

How do I switch between applications?


In Windows, to switch between applications you press the CTRL+TAB key combination. This brings up a dialog which allows you to TAB between the open applications. Your Mac has the same functionality with a small variation. To switch between applications you can press ⌘+TAB. The image on the right shows the dialog resembling Windows.
Continue pressing TAB until you reach the application you want to switch to.

The difference you will find is that this only switches between application types. For example, if you have 3 Camino windows open, you cannot use ⌘+TAB to switch between the 3 open Camino applications. You need to use ⌘+TAB to switch to Camino. Then press ⌘+~ (tilde key) to switch between the Camino windows.

Command CombinationDescription
⌘+tabSwitch between different applications
⌘+~Switch between open windows of same applications

Sunday, January 27, 2008

See the MacBook Air Commercial here!

For those that have not seen the commercial for the new MacBook Air, here it is. The more I see it the more I like it.

Have a look for yourself. It truly is amazing.



Saturday, January 26, 2008

How do I take a screenshot?

A screenshot is an image taken of the desktop. It is often used for demonstrations, guides or troubleshooting by sharing the desktop or application.

Example of a screenshot


Working as a system administrator, you learn the art of taking screenshots for writing documentation. I must admit screenshots are also useful when you have a technical blog.

I remember when I first bought a Mac, I wanted to show a friend how nice my new Mac was but I didn't know how to create a screenshot to send to him. After some research on the Internet I found that there were multiple ways to create screenshots as follows:

Command CombinationDescription
+Shift+3This takes a screenshot of the screen, and saves the image as a file on the desktop
⌘+Shift+4This brings up a pointer to select an area on your desktop and saves the image as a file on the desktop
⌘+Shift+4+SpaceThis allows you to select a window you would like to make a screenshot of and saves the image as a file on the desktop
+Control+Shift+3This takes a screenshot of the screen, and saves the image to the clipboard for pasting to image editors
⌘+Control+Shift+4This brings up a pointer to select an area on your desktop and saves the image to the clipboard for pasting to image editors
⌘+Control+Shift+4+SpaceThis allows you to select a window you would like to make a screenshot of and saves the image to the clipboard for pasting to image editors

There are also 3rd party applications which can also take screenshots, one of them being Grab which is pre-installed inside the Utilities folder. But for most requirements, the key combinations above should be enough.

How to upgrade the hard disk on your MacBook

If you purchased your Mac with an upgraded hard disk then it will come pre-installed with the hard disk size that you choose. But many of us decide to upgrade after using our Mac for a while and then we want to upgrade the capacity of the hard disk size. The process is extremely easy and I will show you how in 7 steps.

Required items:
  • Coin for unlocking the battery lock
  • A small or precision screwdriver
  • T8 Torx screwdriver
Hard Disk Upgrade:

  1. Turn the MacBook over being cautious not scratch it. You will see a screw in the locked position which you need to unlock by turning the with a small coin such as a penny. Once you unlocked, the battery will come loose.

  2. Carefully pull the battery and set aside.



  3. You will see three small screws which holds a bracket into place. You will need the small or precision screw driver to unscrew the three screws. Unscrew in any order one by one. Be careful to place the screws in a safe place so you don't lose them.

  4. Release the bracket by pulling back from the right side and lifting out from the battery compartment.


  5. Unroll the white tape on the left side of the battery compartment and pull the hard disk bracket from the hard disk bay.


  6. While holding the hard disk bracket use the T8 torx screwdriver to unscrew the screws on both sides of the bracket. This will separate the hard disk from the bracket allowing you to reuse the bracket for the new hard disk.


  7. Now you can attach your new hard disk to the bracket by reusing the screws and re-inserting your hard disk bracket into the hard disk bay.
Once all the steps have been completed, turn on your Mac to ensure that the hard disk is detected. From here you will have to restore your data. Unfortunately, the data recovery procedure is a post in itself which will be written at a later date.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

How do I change the desktop icon size?

I can remember after buying my 24" Dell monitor (2407 WFP-HC) which supports a resolution of 1920x1200, the first thing that struck me when using the native resolution, was the size of the icons compared to all the unused desktop space. It was really nice.

On the MacBook, you cannot increase the resolution higher than 1280x800 but you can change the icon size to give the impression that your resolution is higher than it really is. Here is how.

  1. First right-click on your desktop and select "Show View Options"



  2. You will be presented with a new window that allows you to change several aspects of the icon
    • Icon size: The actual size of the icon
    • Grid spacing: The distance between the icons
    • Text size: The size of the text
    • Label position: Where the text displays in relation to the icon
    • Show item info: Additional info about the icon such as disk space available for the hard disk icon or the size of an image
    • Show icon preview: For an image, the icon will display as a shrunk image of the file itself

  3. Play around with the icon size preference to find the look and feel you are comfortable with. Generally I use an icon size of 32 x 32 and text size of 10pt.



  4. It may not be for everyone but you can even increase the size of the icons. As an example, here is what a desktop with an icon size of 128 x 128 and text size of 16pt looks like.



To go one step further, you can also reduce the size of the dock. Here is how.
  1. Start by going to "System Preferences" from the main menu



  2. Then select "Dock" to get the properties in order to change the settings.



  3. Details of the settings taken from the "Help"

    PeferenceExplanation
    Dock SizeDrag the slider to change the Dock size.
    MagnificationDrag the slider toward "Max" to enlarge the icons when the pointer is over them.
    Position on screenChoose a location for the Dock.
    Minimize usingChoose the effect used when you minimize a window. If you're unsure of the choices, try them out.
    Animate opening applicationsSelect this checkbox to make icons bounce when you open applications.
    Automatically hide and show the DockSelect this checkbox to hide the Dock when you’re not using it. If you hide the Dock, move the pointer to the bottom or side of the screen to see it.


    As you can see it is very easy to change the size of the desktop icons. After this change, does the desktop appear larger? Here is what my desktop looks like now.




Apple Q1 2008 Results - Record profits!

As this website title states, it truly is a Mac Revolution. Yesterday Apple posted their fiscal Q1 2008 results and their profits were up. Apple profited $1.58 billion compared to $1 billion the same quarter 1 year ago.

Highlights of the article:
  • 2,319,000 Mac’s shipped (44% growth over same quarter 1 year ago)
  • 22,121,000 iPods sold (5% growth over same quarter 1 year ago)
  • 2,315,000 iPhone sold
“We’re thrilled to report our best quarter ever, with the highest revenue and earnings in Apple’s history,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “We have an incredibly strong new product pipeline for 2008, starting with MacBook Air, Mac Pro and iTunes Movie Rentals in the first two weeks.”

Its too bad the current market conditions have been so bad else they would continue to have a record Q2 as well…

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

How to upgrade the memory on your MacBook

If you purchased your Mac with upgraded memory then it will come pre-installed with the amount of memory you have chosen. But for many of us, we decide after using it a few weeks that we would like to upgrade the memory. The process is extremely easy and I will show you how in 6 steps.

Required items:

  • Coin for unlocking the battery lock
  • A small or precision screwdriver
Memory Upgrade:

  1. Turn the MacBook over being cautious not scratch it. You will see a screw in the locked position which you need to unlock by turning the with a small coin such as a penny. Once you unlocked, the battery will come loose.

  2. Carefully pull the battery and set aside.



  3. You will see three small screws which holds a bracket into place. You will need the small or precision screwdriver to unscrew the three screws. Unscrew in any order one by one. Be careful to place the screws in a safe place so you don't lose them.

  4. Release the bracket by pulling back from the right side and lifting out from the battery compartment.



  5. There is a small sliding lever to release the memory modules from their slots. Slide the lever to the left to release the memory. After releasing the memory be careful when handling the memory modules. Be sure to hold by the edges and avoid touching the gold contacts which can damage the memory modules.

  6. Now you are ready to insert your upgrade memory modules by inserting back into the slots displayed in step #5. After you have fitted the memory modules just replace the bracket, battery and lock and you will be good to go.



Once all the steps have been completed, turn on your Mac to ensure that the memory is updated as expected. You can go to the "Apple Menu-->About this Mac" to confirm that the memory you installed is recognized by the system. If you encounter errors or inaccurate memory specifications, reopen the memory compartment and reseat the memory modules.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Apple Announces MacBook Air among other NEW announcements

During the MacWorld Expo, Steve Jobs gave an interesting keynote speech where he started off speaking about the success of Apple over the last year. Thereafter, he introduced Apple’s new products which concentrated on 4 major themes:

  1. a backup appliance called “Time Capsule” which acts as a wireless backup server and doubles as a wireless base station
  2. iPhone software developments and new enhancements to software including google maps integration which is able to pinpoint your location, sms to multiple recipients & home screen customization.
  3. iTunes Movie Rentals & a revised Apple TV (”Take Two”)
  4. MacBook Air - “The world’s thinnest notebook”. This is a really awesome breakthrough in technology.

You can see the whole 90 minute keynote here <> or watch the highlights in 60 seconds below:



I was always curious on getting my hands on an Apple TV. But now after watching this, I have to have one. I still don’t know how its going to be able to download a HD quality move (unfortunately only Dolby 5.1) but as the technology is so new, it is amazing to think how they can do it. Also, Apple is so smart with their marketing, “In HD, they are just a dollar more” when comparing normal DVD quality rentals to HD ones. And if I could afford it, the MacBook Air really looks incredible. As you know, I just got into Macs so I have at least another 2 years to wait before buying a new one… It should be much better by then…
There were so many obvious key points how they are making everything “better” but one thing not so obvious was the close alliance with Google. We all know how everyone is predicting Google to rule the world someday. Such an alliance will put Apple in a really good position when Google supersedes everyone else. If it ever happens, of course. In addition to this, you really see how they are so focused on simplicity. Apple is really making the lives of those using Apple products so much easier whether they are iPhone, iPod Touch, Apple TV users or Mac users.
For more info on any of the products mentioned above, you can refer to the Apple website.

Originally posted on January 20th, 2008

MacBook Buyers Guide

If you are looking for a laptop, you have several options now. You have the flagship MacBook and the MacBook Pro for power-users looking for the best in performance. In addition, you also have the recently released MacBook Air for those looking for an ultra-thin, lightweight solution.

As I mentioned previously, I purchased a MacBook so I will start my first Buyer's Guide on this particular model class. Lets start with the configurations which are available for this product class. From the table below, you can see the 3 different choices available. The entry level has a 2.0GHz CPU where the mid-level and high-end models have a 2.2GHz CPU. As the CPU is soldered onto the motherboard, you cannot upgrade this at a later stage even if you wanted to. The second difference to focus on is the optical drive. The entry level has a DVD readable & CD read/writable drive whereas the mid-level and high-end models have a SuperDrive which gives you DVD & CD read/writable drives. Again, these MacBooks are not like the PC counterparts where you can easily switch out the components. They are imbedded into the MacBook and will require a professional for exchange or upgrade. Then for each model you also have an increase in hard disk size and price. The last difference which does not sound so significant is the color. You will see that the color does plays an important role in the cost factor. The entry level and mid-level come in white whereas the high-end model comes in black. So to sum up, to go from entry-level to mid-level you pay $200 and get a better CPU, optical drive and larger hard disk (+40GB). To go from mid-level you again pay $200 dollars and you get a bigger hard disk (again +40GB) and a black MacBook. Did everyone get that? You are clearly paying a premium for a black laptop! If you do a simulation on the Apple Store it cost $1374.00 to have the same specs, which calculates to $175 for the color black! Here are the specs so you can see for yourself.

Configurations

2.0GHz MacBook(MB061LL/B)2.2GHz MacBook(MB062LL/B)2.2GHz MacBook(MB063LL/B)
Color
White
White
Black
Price
$1,099
$1,299
$1,499
Processor
2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
L2 cache
4MB shared
4MB shared
4MB shared
System bus
800MHz
800MHz
800MHz
Memory
1GB (two 512MB) of 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM (PC2-5300); supports up to 4GB
Hard drive
80GB Serial ATA; 5400 rpm
120GB Serial ATA; 5400 rpm
160GB Serial ATA; 5400 rpm
Slot-loading optical drive
Combo drive (DVD-ROM/CD-RW)
8x SuperDrive (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
Graphics
Intel GMA X3100 graphics processor with 144MB of DDR2 SDRAM shared with main memory
Video
Built-in iSight camera; mini-DVI output port with support for DVI, VGA, S-video, and composite video (requires adapters, sold separately)
Display
13.3-inch (diagonal) glossy TFT widescreen display, 1280 by 800 resolution
FireWire
One FireWire 400 port (8 watts)
USB
Two USB 2.0 ports (up to 480 Mbps)
Audio
Built-in stereo speakers, built-in omnidirectional microphone, combined optical digital audio input/audio line in, combined optical digital audio output/headphone out
Networking
Built-in 10/100/1000BASE-T (Gigabit) Ethernet
Wireless
Built-in AirPort Extreme Wi-Fi (based on IEEE 802.11n draft specification); built-in Bluetooth 2.0+EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) module
Hardware accessories
Apple Remote, 60W MagSafe Power Adapter, AC wall plug, power cord, lithium-polymer battery

There are optional upgrades for the memory and hard disk which are available when you purchase your Mac and can be purchased at a later stage.

For the reasons mentioned above, I purchased a mid-level MacBook with a 1GB memory upgrade (2GB total). I do not have the additional 40GB hard disk but I have a more powerful Mac and still paid less than the black one.

For more information, you can refer to the MacBook website here.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Why Mac?

In the business world, a very large majority of us are forced to use Windows PCs. We get used to using these machines on a daily basis and are inclined to purchase something we are familiar with when buying a new PC at home. For me, there was a huge iPod influence. In addition, I was just trying to keep an open mind when choosing a new PC. The OS was not so relevant as I have had a long history experimenting with many flavors of Windows & *niX.

Some reasons for the switch:

  1. The hardware is just amazing. Desktops & Laptops
  2. It just works - Dealing with PCs & Information systems for a living, I didn’t want to waste time troubleshooting PCs at home.
  3. It has all the basics out of the box. Not to mention tools that are well thought out and just work.
  4. After playing around with Tiger on an OSX86 PC for a few months, I knew I had to have a real Mac
  5. Timing - Not only was Leopard just released but the MacBook hardware with the SantaRosa chipset released shortly after
  6. Unix based - Having a Systems Engineer background, having some real control over the OS was a major plus for me
  7. Sense of security - Mac does not seem to be plagued by malware and viruses like the PC. Using Windows, it gets really old worrying about virus definitions being up to date or your Spyware programs working properly.
  8. Cost - You may be laughing at this one but honestly Macs have come down to a reasonable price. You can buy a Dell cheaper but you won’t get the quality of matched components that just work. (I speak from experience from the office and I don’t always build my own PCs at home)
As time goes by, I keep finding many more reasons reinforcing my decision. I will save those topics for later as they deserve their own post.

Originally posted on January 20, 2009

MacTimes Grand Opening!

Welcome to MacTimes.info!

Myself formerly being a Windows power-user, making this switch hasn’t always been easy. The goal of this website is to provide my experience as a reference for others making a similar change.

Feel free to add your comments or disagree to anything posted here. We are all Newbs at one point or another, and further discussion can only help to educate us all.

All the best,
Newb @ MacTimes

Originally posted on January 20, 2008