Gmail tip: Clear your inbox in one swell foop

The number of messages in your inbox is entirely a matter of personal preference. Having more in there does not affect the performance of your email or other any of your devices. The number of unread messages in any given mailbox is similarly left to the user’s habits.

That said, I myself have undergone a minor maturation recently, in that I finally recognize the value of keeping one’s inbox clear. I learned to change my ways because Gmail makes it so easy:

All you have to do is “Archive” your messages. That takes the messages out of the inbox but leaves them in the “All Mail” folder. (In Gmail-speak, it removes the “inbox” label.) Messages are still there, still searchable, but totally out of your way.

The Apple Mail apps are not great for this procedure, but the Gmail web site does it beautifully. You’ll see the Archive button right up top. I select multiple messages using keyboard shortcuts: first, the up and down arrow keys to move between messages, the “x” key to select, and finally I hit “e” to archive.

To Archive all of your inbox, click the Select checkbox — the master one, the little grey square that sits to the left of the “Refresh” and “More” buttons. That selects all the messages on the page, and you’ll see this text at the top of the message list: “All 50 conversations on this page are selected.”

Next to that, click “Select all xxx conversations in ‘Inbox.’”

Then click the “Archive” button that now appears above the messages, the little box with the arrow pointing down.

BOOM: Inbox Zero!

And now, here’s my newest new way of doing things: I’ve now started using an awesome free iOS app called Mailbox. It is one of a breed of mobile apps helps me process email much faster, by giving me a single button that will archive all my read messages.

New Mac, need more wireless, how about a mini media server?, and ready for Google Apps!

• I’m replacing my 2006 MBP with a shiny new one which will arrive this week – a fully loaded 15”.

Woohoo!

• What’s the best migration approach?

Your new Mac will ask if you have an old Mac, and instruct you through booting the old one to “Target Disk Mode,” and connecting the Macs via FireWire. Then you hit “Go,” and ALLLLL your stuff — user accounts and home folders, applications, support files, network configurations — will get brought over to the new machine, which will finish booting and reveal itself to be just like your old one.

• I use SuperDuper to back up to local disks at home and at the office.

I love SuperDuper, and really like to use it in conjunction with Time Machine. They can coexist on the same backup drive, even if you set SuperDuper to “SmartUpdate.”

• Shared drive for the family network – mainly as a music server – just hang a drive off the Airport extreme?

The main thing to consider about an AirDisk (disk attached to an Airport, or the built-in hard drive of a Time Capsule) is that there’s no easy way to run daily, incremental backups from the AirDisk to another storage device. So the AirDisk is really best (read: solely) used as a backup itself. For home media server, one of my top three most favorite projects currently — which, incidentally, also include setting up a Mac mini with OS X Server in a business, and hooking a business or household together with Google Apps — is putting a beautiful little Mac mini with Server in the central entertainment system of a household, plugging it into a big flat-screen with HDMI, and making it the kickass, full-throttled media jukebox for the whole family.

Plus, the mini becomes central file and backup storage for every Mac on the property. Time Machine from Mac to Server is so very sweet.

Important to say at this point that there are some great, small PCs coming out with Windows Media Center (ewwwwwww!) or, better, Linux. They can run a media front-end such as Boxee that is pretty easy to operate with a simple remote. But without question, even in spite of its high price tag, the Mac — running Boxee and Plex and Hulu Desktop and maybe an EyeTV One — is currently the best platform for the job.

• My colleagues and I are ready to transition away from an in-house Microsoft environment – we have an Exchange server for 4 people – to Gmail, cloud storage, etc.

I am, as I say above, fully ready to help any business of any size move to Google Apps. It, and services closely related, are the best thing that has happened to the internet since the Web. And we are very able to do work in Austin, and lots can be done remotely.

• Upgrade the home network – right now running one Airport extreme which is not sufficient to cover the house – at some point I may need a wiring guy to enable broader wireless coverage.

Certainly ethernet cable is always the most reliable mode of networking. Everyone with a home, however, should know about PowerLine adapters: run network through your home electrical system. Sometimes cheaper per drop, depending on the house, but always more convenient than hiring a cabling contractor, especially if you only need, say, one or two more drops to attach to Airport Expresses, which are great for extending an Airport network.

Posted via email from J2 Tech Blog

Our Current Methods

Attached: Our Current Methods
Message from info@j2mac.com:

http://bit.ly/j2currentmethods I am inspired to create a doc that has all of our current methodologies. I'm going to update it from time to time, and rely on Google Docs to keep revisions.

Google Docs makes it easy to create, store and share online documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

Google Docs logo

The Usual Scenario

Client buys a new Mac

Typical Purchase

Single CPU for home or small biz. Client should walk out of the Apple Store with at least:

  • Mac

I think everyone should have a laptop as their main computer, buy maybe they really want an iMac.

  • AppleCare

Maaaybe someone wants to buy at Best Buy and get their extra coverage, but I want every Mac to have AppleCare. Businesses can negotiate for custom AppleCare quotes.

  • External hard drive
    (See the section on Backups for current software selections.)

This can be a 1TB or 2TB Time Capsule, but if they already have a wireless router, then an external drive with FireWire is essential. In San Antonio, the 3 brands that both are available and don’t suck completely are LaCie and G-Tech (Apple Store) and Seagate (Best Buy). 

The number of LaCie d2 Quadra drives we have unpacked and installed has probably entered 3 digits: FireWire 800 is now standard on every Mac except the MacBook, and the extra option of eSATA rocks. Until recently, we spec’ed the 500GB model, but since the 1TB unit is $154 on Amazon, that size has entered the sweet spot of price-per-gigabyte.

 

Email

  • Consumers

If a client uses an email address given them by their ISP, we immediately start pushing them to sign up for a Gmail address. If they don’t want to do it, fine, but it’s easy to assure them that the process, described below, is quite easy and painless.

So, obviously you sign ’em up http://gmail.com. Then we turn on forwarding in the ISP’s webmail, and the vacation responder as well, to say, “Thanks for writing me. Please know that, from now on, you can find me at yaddayadda@gmail.com.” Also, in Gmail settings, we configure a filter that “labels” any mail sent to the old address as, for example, “satx.rr.com” or “sbcglobal” or whatever.

Other Gmail settings to tweak are: keyboard shortcuts ON, IMAP enabled, and HTTPS/SSL enforced.

Obviously, we are usually going to configure Apple’s Mail.app. See this hint for a good tweaking of Google’s recommended config for Mail (I am going to comment on that hint with a couple of amendments that I have found useful). But I want people to get familiar with the Google webmail interface. Show them filters and labels. Consider showing them Docs, Calendar, and Buzz, and even Wave if they’re a bit nerdy.

  • Businesses

Business clients are always asked who their email host is, if any. 

New Mac setup

  • Run Software Update.
  • Next, System Preferences:

    1. Desktop & Screen Saver: Turn off “Translucent menu bar,” and demo RSS screensaver.
    2. Security: Turn on the Firewall and enable Stealth Mode. Consider “Require password to wake from sleep.”
    3. Keyboard: Turn on “All controls” for a tab-able interface.
    4. Trackpad: Turn on “Tap to click.”
    5. Sharing: Anonymize computer name. Consider File and Screen Sharing for desktops, but turn off every service on laptops.
    6. Accounts: Configure second admin account called “Administrator,” with the same password as the primary user. On laptops, turn off “Automatic login.” On any Mac, turn on “Allow guests to log in,” and turn off “Allow guests to connect to shared folders.” Consider additional user accounts and fast user switching.
    7. Date & Time: Make sure network time service is enabled.
    8. Time Machine: (See section on Backups.)
  • Next, install freeware: See this blog post for Things I Download on Every Mac. Direct links are included.
  • Safari: Turn on Autofill for “User names and passwords,” and “When a new tab or window opens, make it active.” Set new windows and new tabs to open to “Empty Page.”
  • Mail.app: Bold unread messages. See above for configuring Mail for Gmail.

Backups
  • On-site
1 Partition on external hard drive. SuperDuper backup will live side-by-side with Time Machine.
Time Machine
SuperDuper (Carbon Copy Cloner is great, but just not as clean, and not anywhere near as FAST as SuperDuper. Also, CCC can’t co-exist with Time Machine backing up to the same partition.)
  • Off-site
MobileMe Backup is fine for basics. If they don’t have MobileMe, consider MozyHome (free) or Carbonite ($5/month and unlimited, use coupon code TWiT.)

Posted via email from J2 Tech Blog

Glowing Apple MacBook skins

Robert Marcus wrote:
Like my new mac sticker?

Just kidding. Have you seen this and others? If not here's the link from Wired: http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/02/amazing-iron-man-macbook-sticker/

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Jonathan Marcus <jjmarcus@gmail.com>
Date: Sat, Feb 6, 2010 at 11:35 AM
Subject: Re: Like my new mac sticker?
To: Robert Marcus <joggernut@gmail.com>

That's sweet. First one I knew of that took advantage of the Apple is this:

CreationOfAdam.jpg

From http://www.pvpstuff.com/skins.html (heard about on MBW episode 156: http://wiki.twit.tv/wiki/MacBreak_Weekly_156). The glowing Apple's not in the shot, but it's right where the fingers touch.

(BTW, I'm putting this on the blog.)

Posted via email from J2 Tech Blog

Mac becomes more like dog

I used to use Salling Clicker with my Treo and my Sony Ericsson for remote control over Bluetooth. It was really cool that my Mac would recognize when my phone was nearby, and would start syncing or do other stuff that I thought handy. The iPhone doesn't do very much with Bluetooth, but this developer has figured out something pretty useful. Not bad for $8. 

http://themha.com/airlock/

Airlock allows your Mac to lock itself, plain and simple. Using your iPhone or iPod Touch, Bluetooth, and a smidgen of pixie dust, Airlock determines whether you're near your computer. When you leave the room – poof! – your Mac locks itself. “And when I come back?” You guessed it: your Mac unlocks. You can also customize Airlock to perform specific actions as you come and go – have your computer talk to you, log-in or out of iChat, walk the dog, and such.
 
(By the way, this is yet another tip I got from the picks by the guys on the MacBreak Weekly podcast (iTunes link). They're always mentioning useful stuff, and they maintain a nicely rounded perspective on the Mac, while still being obvious fans.) 

Posted via email from J2 Tech Blog

Flippin’ the switch on the PR machine

http://www.sanantoniostartups.com/2009/10/29/how-j2maccom-helps-individuals-small-businesses-and-enterprises-leverage-the-power-of-the-mac-platform-and-shift-to-google-apps/

Thanks to Alan Weinkrantz for producing this profile of J2. Filmed at SAY Sí, we wanted to focus on the benefits of OS X Server, and the fun stuff we’re doing with Google Apps.

Posted via email from J2 Tech Blog

Do we need a server?

I remember the first time I became aware of the word “server.” For some reason it sounded very mysterious, something that required arcane tools and deep learning with the elves in the mountains.

Eventually, I came to figure out that a “server” is simply a computer — any computer — that provides “services” to other computers. If you computer can share its files, it’s a file server. If you turn iTunes music sharing on, your computer becomes a music server. If you have a shared printer, your computer has become a print server.

Apple makes it super-easy to turn any Mac into a server by going to Apple menu > System Preferences > Sharing (or Spotlight “sharing”) and turning on any of the services you need. Your Mac will then show up in the “Shared” section of any Finder window. Boom, you got a server.

That said, when most people refer to a server, they’re talking about some machine that doesn’t do anything else, a box that’s tucked away, maybe in a rack or a closet, and always on, with a nice big battery backup, maybe a few hard drives, and fans like a wind tunnel. And most servers on the planet should be that robust; I need Google’s mail servers or my web server at GoDaddy never to go down, or at least, if they do need a reboot, that there’s a backup server waiting next to it in the data center to kick in as soon as its brother goes down.

A lot of businesses have one or more servers at the workplace. Sometimes they’re just file servers, a central repository for the documents that everyone needs access. Sometimes they’re also mail servers. Running your email through a Windows Exchange Server housed in your office was a popular option among Microsoft-certified professionals at a time when outsourced email hosts weren’t as flexible or affordable as they are now.

Again, to be clear: most organizations with fewer than 40 or 50 users would be wasting precious money to purchase Microsoft Small Business Server, when they can sign up with Google Apps either for free or for $50/user/year (40 users for $2,000/year, versus an easy $5,000 just to install and configure, not to mention maintain and troubleshoot, a Windows Server).

So let’s say you just need to share documents among more than 10 people, and you need them available all the time, and time without them costs money. Until this last Tuesday, the best value in a server-class machine was Apple’s Xserve

Way powerful, way configurable, way manageable – The specs on each generation of Xserve have been increasingly impressive, and it starts at a $3,000 base price that has always included the $1,000 OS X Server (unlimited-client; Windows Server starts at 5 users, and costs $50 per user after that). Most Xserve buyers should expect to pay at least $5,000-6,000 for a properly configured unit with 3 hard drives, a redundant supply, external backups, and if one is smart, the AppleCare server support plan. I can usually have a new OS X Server set up, with a few connected workstations, in under 6 hours.

A Bit of History

Apple’s server software (a.k.a. server operating system, or “OS”) is Mac OS X Server, now in version 10.6 (a.k.a. Snow Leopard Server). For so many years, AppleShare server products (still promoted in Australia!) distinguished themselves in IT discourse only by being pretty crappy. It just didn’t have the moxy that system admins were used to getting from Microsoft Windows NT or its descendants. And when OS X Server came out — it was actually the first release of OS X — it was really more of a theory than an operating system. Even though it was built on the well-established UNIX platform, it was buggy and slow, and it had these really weird quirks that made it very frustrating. Certainly it was impossible for an IT administrator to recommend that a business rely on this system for their day-to-day operations. 

Today, OS X Server has evolved into a robust, stable platform, one that’s easy to set up, easy to expand and scale, and like the basic OS X (we might call it “OS X client”), Server is impressively compatible with other platforms and standards. Since OS X Server and the Xserve came into their own, and given products such as Xsan and Final Cut Server, Apple is officially a viable player in the world of business and enterprise.

The Value of a Server

Is all of this worth several thousand dollars to your organization? It sure can be, once you realize the other things you can do with a server, which I’ll get to in a second. First, I have to say that this article is inspired by Apple’s announcement today of a Mac mini server. This $1,000 box is now potentially my favorite item in the entire product line, as I think it spells great things for businesses large and small. Considering that Apple has now slashed the price of the software itself to an unbeatable $500 for unlimited users, buying into a Microsoft server product now just seems unwise and wasteful.

So what can you do with a server? Check this out:

  • File Sharing, Network homes, and Backups: We can tie all of your Macs to your server so that the “home folder” for each user account is stored on the server. This means anybody can use any Mac in the house, and use their own desktop and files and email and settings. And if one computer dies, you put a new one in its place, log that person in, et voila! You’re back in business.

    • Portable Home Directories: This includes laptops, which can sync their accounts to the server, backing themselves up whenever they’re in the office.
  • Software Updates: We can have the server download all your software updates, and the administrator can pick and choose which one should be rolled out. When someone logs in, even a non-admin user, they’ll have an opportunity to install the approved updates, and their Mac only has to go across the office network, not all the way back to Apple’s servers.

  • Preferences: You can choose apply settings for all users in one fell swoop: adding a printer, adding items to the Dock, or automatically mounting a share point [definition]; or perhaps restricting things along the order of parental controls, or preventing or allowing certain applications.

  • NetBoot & NetRestore: You can actually have your Macs start up from a disk image [definition] on the server. If you need to update all Macs, just update the image. A variation on this idea is to have the Macs install themselves from a central image.

Of all of these possibilities, certainly it is having a centralized place for data storage and backup, and for backing up your workstations, that makes in-house servers attractive, and possibly essential, for any organization of any size. 

Keep your head in the cloud

I say possibly essential, because there are now services on the internet, such as Google Docs and DropBox, that have begun replacing server hardware for many people. I am all in favor of using these online applications, with the sole caution that we don’t rely on them to back up our data. It is crucial to keep an on-premises copy of every piece of data that means anything to you, just as keeping an offsite copy is de rigueur in any comprehensive backup scheme. I use a Firefox plug-in that downloads all my Google docs, and I backup that folder to an external hard drive.

But if you need fast, reliable storage that all your computers can see, to centralize your data and keep your Macs humming in unison, there’s nothing like a properly configured OS X Server.

Posted via email from J2 Tech Blog