Meet Juliana

A bunch of you have already met my excellent coordinator, Juliana Abercrombie. Last year, I was inspired to find someone to handle the calendar and order systems. I know Juli through my fiancée’s work at the Witte Museum, and I was thrilled when she agreed to take the gig. She is sharp, organized, thorough, and a clear communicator. Plus, she’s a massive Mac nerd.

When she joined on, Juliana had just gotten her undergrad degree from Ball State, and already had grad school in the works. My business is all about mobility, and I knew she could help me from anywhere the internet reached. So this fall, when Juli embarked on a Master’s program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at the University of San Diego, we had everything in place for her to continue rocking the scheduling and billing duties here at jjmarcus.

And rock she has. Juli has helped me use those excellent cloud apps, like our help desk, Dropbox, and Google Voice to make sure that you get the help you need, a lot quicker than I could get it to you before.

Look up any stored password, and then some

We need to connect a PC laptop to our wireless router.  The computer can find the network, but I don’t know the password. Where should I look?

Your Mac does a very cool thing with passwords: It stores them in a single file called the “keychain,” which is locked with the password that you use to log into your Mac.

Here’s that paragraph in slightly more geeky terms: The keychain is locked with military-grade encryption, typically with the password assigned to your user account. Each user gets their own keychain, and the default keychain name is “login,” though you can rename it or create multiple keychains. Whenever you see a checkbox option for “Remember password in keychain,” or when Safari asks whether you want it to remember a particular password, that login will get stored in the keychain. (If Safari never presents you with that option, go to Safari > Preferences > AutoFill, and turn on “User names and passwords.”)

You can find passwords in your keychain using the Keychain Access utility, which you can find, along with everything else on your Mac, through Spotlight, or by going to Macintosh HD/Applications/Utilities.

Here’s a good tutorial with screenshots on using Keychain Access. And here are Apple’s instructions:

To display your passwords in Keychain Access:

  1. Open Keychain Access, located in the Utilities folder in the Applications folder.
  2. Select a keychain.
  3. Click Passwords in the category list.
  4. Use the Passwords category disclosure triangle to reveal the types of passwords, and then choose a password type.
  5. Double-click a keychain item.
  6. Select the “Show password” checkbox.
  7. Enter your keychain password.
  8. To display your password, click Allow. [Editor’s note: don’t choose Always Allow, or Keychain Access will always diplay that password without entering your master password.]

It’s worth mentioning here that sometimes we encounter problems with the keychain, usually having some application keep asking for the password. This post on the Apple Discussion boards runs through some techniques to address those issues, but the first step is to go to the Keychain Access menu (top left, up by the Apple), and click on Keychain First Aid. Enter your keychain password, and click Repair. If it finds any errors, click Repair one more time. If the errors are intractable, refer to the post on Apple Discussions.

For Your Eyes Only

Now, one feature of Keychain Access that’s frequently overlooked is Secure Notes. Too often, we’ll run into someone who has put private information someplace way too public, say the address book, or in Stickies. I try not to let abject horror that I’m feeling show on my face, but I pretty quickly move into a discussion of how to protect your computer and phone from unwanted eyes — turning off automatic login, and setting a passcode lock on the iPhone, at the very least.

Of course, I prefer to keep such data digitally, and passcode-protected, rather than have someone scrawl their passwords on a piece of paper. That’s where Secure Notes comes in. Apple’s instructions:

  1. Open Keychain Access, located in /Applications/Utilities.
  2. Click Show Keychains if the Keychains list is not open, then select the keychain you want to use (if your keychain is locked, click the lock icon then enter your keychain password to unlock it).
  3. Choose File > New Secure Note Item.
  4. Type a name for the note that will help you remember what it is.
  5. Type the information you want to preserve in the Note box, or paste text you’ve copied or cut from another document.
  6. Click Add.

Is there another way?

You bet. I recently started using the awesome app 1Password — $39.95 from Agile Web Solutions — and I’m thoroughly impressed with it. These are the distinctions Agile makes between their program and the Mac keychain scheme:

  • Store and provide easy access to more than one account for any website.
  • Correctly handle financial websites which often disable storing passwords in Safari’s AutoFill.
  • Integrate with multiple browsers, including Safari, Fluid, Firefox, DEVONagent, OmniWeb, NetNewsWire, Flock, Netscape Navigator, and Camino.
  • Eliminate the need to synchronize your data between browsers.
  • Support multiple identities, such as personal and business identities. You can even create fake identities for websites you do not trust.
  • Fill credit card information with one click.
  • Import information from a multitude of sources.
  • Integrate a strong password generator directly into the browser for quick and painless generation of super strong passwords.
  • Sync your information to the iPhone/iPod touch, as well as Palm devices.

That iPhone sync is great, because I use a different password for almost every service, so in the unlikely event someone tried to torture my passwords out of me, they’ll never get them all. Bwaaa-ha-ha-[cough-cough]!

The sync with Firefox is also stellar. I kinda like that Firefox has its own password-storage system, just because it maintains their cross-platform paradigm, but I definitely do not like that they don’t have it protected with a master password by default, unless you turn it on: Firefox > Preferences > Security > “Use a master password”:

1Password installs useful plug-ins all over the place. You get a button in the Firefox toolbar, several menu items in Safari’s Edit menu and Firefox’s View menu, and a contextual menu item in Safari and Firefox (and others, I’m sure). I just entered my credit cards as “Wallet Items,” so my browsers can fill in that info quickly without my dragging leather outta my pocket. (Did that come out wrong?)

Check out this short video for more info.

One more option: I’ve heard a lot of good things about LastPass, which does many of the same things as 1Password, and it’s free, although there is a Premium version. The only thing about LastPass that makes me a little nervous is that it synchronizes your data via the LastPass web site. Now, I sync my 1Password database via Dropbox, but I use different passwords for Dropbox and 1Password, so if someone hacks my Dropbox account (heaven forfend!), they won’t be able to get at my other passwords. As we’ve seen, no site is forever secure, and I want to be at least doubly sure my password database is tight.

10.6.1 seems to fix the VNC screen-sharing delay

It’s a little thing, but with a fresh install of Snow Leopard, every time I tried to share another computer’s screen with VNC, either with Apple Remote Desktop or my fave client JollysFastVNC, there was a delay of a couple of seconds. Since I upgraded to 10.6.1, the connection is speedy as all get-out.

Posted via email from J2 Tech Blog

Flash cookies? What’ll they think of next?

Thanks to Cliff for the heads-up on this nonsense. Guess Apple was right not to put Flash on the iPhone. 


http://www.macobserver.com/tmo/article/flash_cookies_the_newest_secret_way_to_invade_your_privacy/


Ridiculous. I almost don’t believe it. I hope they turn this off (can one call it a feature?) in future versions. 

Posted via email from J2 Tech Blog

When Your Mac Is Really Screwed Up

Facebook msg, Subj: : ( 
Suddenly there’s a 2″ thick (nearly opaque) white bar running down the center of my iMac screen. It’s distressing me. And of course my AppleCare Protection Plan recently expired. : (  What do you charge for a diagnostic look-see?  Or is this one of those problems that can’t be fixed?  

I hate to say that’s almost certainly a hardware issue. The first step is to take it into the Genius Bar for their free diagnostics. (Make a reservation here for the North Star store.) Be prepared to leave it for a while, as they have fairly deep diagnostics that they can leave running, possibly even overnight in the case of hard-to-find RAM problems. 

They’ll be able to tell you what’s up, and they may actually have a reasonable fee to repair. If not, they’ll probably tell you to take it to MacTLC. They will do a fine job, though if it’s a logic board replacement, you would need to be ready to a fairly hefty fee. You can find cheaper repairs on the internet — google “MacBook repair” for some examples — but you may not want to ship a desktop. What model do you have?

I have an Intel iMac, which I purchased in May 2006.  Thanks so much for all your advice, J. I didn’t realize that I could take my computer into the Genius Bar for free diagnostics. I was already resigned to having to take it into a local shop for a $55 look. 

My pleasure. I have only just recently heard that Apple sometimes charges a flat, fairly low rate to fix out-of-warranty machines, so it might not be that painful. If you would post a reply on my blog or on Facebook as to what they tell you, I’d be much obliged.

Meanwhile, tell me: do you have a good, solid, daily backup for your iMac? If not, then, while you’re at the Apple Store (you need to make a reservation online), please pick up a LaCie Quadra 500GB or a G-Tech. Here are my typical suggestions for backup software, if you don’t yet have Time Machine in Leopard or Snow Leopard. 

It’s worth iterating my post about the expectable life span of your Mac:

After 3 years, you should have a new computer in your budget. After four years, be ready and willing to lay down some jack for a Mac. After five years, your Mac is past its prime, and will not be up to whatever awesome software Apple and other developer/magicians will have concocted.

Keep me posted!

Posted via email from j2mac’s posterous

What’s a good media server these days?

This may seem facile for me to say, but for just a little more, you can have a Mac mini media server that doesn’t run on the dippy Windows Hone anything, which is almost guaranteed to be stunted and annoying. The mini solution is versatile and powerful.

That said, Western Digital makes a very cool network adapter-cum-media player for USB drives, to turn nearly any mass-storage device into a media server, with HDMI. I wanna try it out on a Drobo sometime.

Finally, I can see that, in the not-too-distant future, some Core 2 Duo Macs will start needing to be retired as primary workstations, and I would anticipate some of them being ready for repurposing as media servers. Similarly, one could buy a used machine for that purpose. 

The right form factor and cost for this idea is really the Apple TV, which is such a sad and crippled piece of hardware, I stopped recommending it a while back. I’m hoping the recent price drop signals inventory clearance, for a proper model to arrive before the shopping season. 

Posted via email from j2mac’s posterous