Category Archives: macOS Toolbox

FOSS Under OS X – MacDown

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FOSS – I am a proponent of FOSS (Free Open Source Software). For one thing, FOSS has a great price – FREE. For another, it is software that is, for the most part, developed by the users. I had come across MacDown a few weeks ago and have been trying it out.

So what is MacDown? MacDown is a simple-to-use editor that allows the user to create documents using Markdown. And what is Markdown? As stated in the MacDown Help file:

Markdown is a plain text formatting syntax created by John Gruber, aiming to provide an easy-to-read and feasible markup. The original Markdown syntax specification can be found here.

MacDown is created as a simple-to-use editor for Markdown documents. It renders your Markdown contents in real-time into HTML, and displays them in a preview panel.

As you can see from the image above captured from the MacDown Help file, MacDown presents the user with two panes in the document window. The left pane is where the user enters text while the right pane displays the formatted document.

Most, but not all, features of HTML are supported. The features that MacDown claims are:

  • Highly customizable Markdown rendering.
  • Syntax highlighting in fenced code blocks.
  • Sophisticated auto-completion.
  • Visit the MacDown Features page for more details.

So why would you want to use MacDown? That is a good question. Most of the time I make notes in Apple Notes. Most of what you can do in MacDown can be done in Notes too, though once you learn Markdown, creating a formatted document is more efficient in MacDown (you can do everything from the keyboard without using your mouse and the application Menu bar).

Once you have created your document, you can export it as either an HTML file or as a PDF. Since you are seeing the formatted document as it is being rendered, any errors can be immediately corrected.

This is not an App I expect to use every day, but it is one I am adding to my ‘macOS Toolbox’ list. I think that I will discover more uses of MacDown the longer that I use it. I certainly recommend that you give it a try.

Pros

  • Software is Free
  • The application is Open Source and under current development
  • Markdown syntax is easier to learn than HTML
  • Efficient creation of formatted documents
  • Documents can be exported as either an HTML or PDF
  • Formatted document created in real-time
  • Included Help file with Markdown syntax examples

 

Cons

  • No commercial support available
  • Not every feature of HTML is supported
  • You do have to learn Markdown syntax
  • An Internet connection is required while using MacDown

 


See my other Mac and OS X articles


 

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How to Remotely Access Your Mac – Part 3

Product Review – In the prior articles of this series I described in “How to Remotely Access Your Mac – Part 1” how you can access your Desktop Mac from a MacBook when they are both on the same network and in “How to Remotely Access Your Mac – Part 2” I outlined how you might be able to use Back to My Mac to access your Mac from a remote network. But Back to My Mac does not work for everyone. There is an easier solution though – “TeamViewer“.

TeamViewer is a third party solution with the parent company having been launched in 2005. The focus of the product is to provide online support and collaboration. Some of the statistics claimed on the website for TeamViewer:

  • has been installed on over 1 billion devices (each device generates a unique ID)
  • creates 750,000 new IDs every day.
  • has over 20 million devices online at any given time
  • speaks your language with the software and support in more than 30 languages
  • 90% of Fortune 500 companies rely on TeamViewer to bring colleagues together across all platforms and all devices

TeamViewer IS a commercial product:

  • Single user business license $49/month
  • Multi-User Premium license $99/month
  • Corporate Team license $199/month

 

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HOWEVER, it is completely free for personal (computers and devices that are not being used for business or other commercial tasks) use. Per their website:

100% FREE for personal users! If you’re a student or are using TeamViewer to help friends and family, it’s completely free FOREVER. You’ll never be charged.

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To install, go the website and click on the TeamViewer 13 Download button. This will download the TeamViewer DMG file onto your Mac. Double click on the DMG file to mount the volume. Then simply double click on the icon in the window to install the package on your Mac and follow the provided instructions.

To make my discussion a little easier I will henceforth call the Mac I want to remotely access the ‘server’ and the Mac I want to access it from as the ‘client’. You have to install TeamViewer on both the remote ‘server’ and the local ‘client’ Mac.

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Once you have TeamViewer installed and running on the ‘server’ Mac, a blue icon will appear in the Menu bar. To set the Mac up for remote access, click on the icon and a drop-down menu will appear. Click on the “Setup unattended access.”

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Use the resulting panel to set the name and a password for remote access on the ‘server’ Mac. Make the password something you will remember or write it down in a secure location. You will need this when you attempt to access the ‘server’ Mac remotely.

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Now click on the TeamViewer icon again and select “Show TeamViewer” from the drop-down menu. In the column headed “Allow Remote Control” will be the ID for the ‘server’ Mac. For me, this is a nine-digit number similar to “123 456 789”. Write this down as you will need it when you attempt to access the ‘server’ Mac.

Now install TeamViewer on the ‘client’ Mac and run it. Click on the TeamViewer icon in the Menu bar. In the “Control Remote Computer” column enter the ID of the ‘server’ in the “Partner ID” field. Leave the selection as “Remote Control”. Now click on the “CONNECT” button to connect to the ‘server’ Mac. When prompted, enter the password you set up on the ‘server’ Mac for unattended access.

A window will open with the login screen for the ‘server’ Mac. You can then access the ‘server’ as if you were sitting at its keyboard.

If you are going to use TeamViewer I would suggest that you set up both the ‘server’ and ‘client’, then verify that the remote connection works while you have physical access to both. It is much easier to work out problems when you have both machines in front of you.

I have used TeamViewer a few times now to access the Mac Mini in my office in Round Rock, Texas from Henderson, Nevada. While it isn’t as efficient as being there, I can certainly access the data stored on the Mac and run Apps.

Having used it now a few times, I would consider TeamViewer a requirement for my Mac Toolbox on both my home desktop and my MacBook.

 

Pros

  1. Free for personal use
  2. Gives you complete access to your remote Mac

 

Cons

  1. Depending upon connection bandwidth, the response can be ‘laggy’
  2. Depending upon connection bandwidth, the image in the ‘server’ window can pixelate
  3. Third-party software

 


Read my other macOS articles


 

Product Review of TripMode

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Product Review – I had read about TripMode, but it was a discussion of it as a recommended utility on the Mac Power Users podcast #386 Must Have Utilities that convinced me to purchase it. TripMode is a Mac utility that allows you to (per their website) “Easily block unwanted apps from accessing the Internet the second you connect to a hotspot“.

The utility is very useful when you are operating your MacBook over a hotspot instead of WiFi (IEEE 802.11). As I have found while traveling, there are many Mac software packages that are constantly trying to use the Internet. If you have a limited monthly data allocation for your hotspot device, you can very quickly find it used up in just a few days. I recently found that I had used 90% of my monthly 15G allowance in just six days! While my connectivity doesn’t end when I hit the 15G limit, my access speed is severely constrained.

TripMode seems to be the answer. I purchased ($7.99 from their website) it yesterday and put it to work on my MacBook. With TripMode in place, I was able to both monitor and control my data usage.

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Data monitoring is an option not enabled by default, but I wanted to see how much the various applications were using so I enabled it through the TripMode settings.

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You can create as many profiles as you like, giving each a separate name. You have can then choose which Apps are allowed to access the Internet in the profile by checking those you want in the list (Safari is selected in the image above).

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TripMode shows up in the Menubar at the top of your screen. The icon blinks red every time an App attempts to access the Internet and is blocked. When the TripMode icon is clicked you get a drop-down list of the Apps with an indication of which are enabled in the current profile and their data usage. This drop-down also lets you switch between profiles (the profile currently in use in the image above is ‘writing’.

You can set up the usage monitoring to start on any day of the month and to last for periods of a single day, a week or a month. Using TripMode I have been able to keep working over my hotspot, yet limit which Apps are using the limited resource. TripMode remembers which WiFi access points it has been turned on for in the past and automatically activates when one of those access points is used in the future.

Now that I have used this App, I consider it a must-have App for my MacBook. If you ever use a hotspot while traveling, this is an App you need to consider.

 

Pros

  • Easy to install and configure
  • Multiple profiles user definable
  • Profiles for different operating situations
  • TripMode starts as soon as you connect to Wifi
  • Vendor claims there is no tracking of Internet sites visited
  • An abbreviated user manual is available through the App

 

Cons

  • The $7.99 seemed a little high, but it was worth it
  • No indication of which App is being blocked when the icon flashes red

See my other macOS articles


 

Product Review of “Duet Display”

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Product Review – I have read about Duet Display and other software solutions that turn an iPad/iPhone into a second display for your MacBook. I finally made the decision and bought and installed Duet Display this past January. I haven’t regretted it in the least.

Now I don’t generally use this second screen solution at home as I am working mostly on my dual screen Mac Mini there. This is, for me, a travel productivity aid, giving me a second screen for my MacBook. Having that additional screen space has been very useful as I work on articles for my Blog.

I attach my iPad and start Duet Display on it and my MacBook, then set my iPad to the left side of my MacBook propped up with my ANKER Multi-Angle Stand. I can then drag windows from the MacBook main screen over to my iPad for reference while I am writing on the main screen.

I certainly like Duet Display and this product has been well received by users as it has over 2700 reviews in the App Store and a 4.4/5 rating. The iOS part of the App is currently $9.99 in the iTunes App Store. I now consider this a part of my required MacOS Toolkit for any MacBook I may have.

 

Pros

  • Free software for the Mac/PC
  • Low cost (~$10) software for the iPad/iPhone
  • Works with Mac and Windows
  • Little to no lag time
  • Add Touch Bar access to Apps running in the iPad window
  • iPad is powered by Mac while in use as a second display

 

Cons

  • Requires a Lightning cable connection between MacBook and iPad

 


See my other Mac and iOS articles


 

Tech Tip – Private Browsing with StartPage

Product ReviewmacOS Toolkit – I don’t recall where I first saw StartPage, but I installed the extension into Safari a few weeks ago and have been using it on a regular basis.

So, what is StartPage? StartPage is a search engine company based in the Netherlands. The potential benefits of StartPage include:

  • it is outside the reach of US law enforcement agencies
  • it uses secure connections over HTTPS
  • it does not collect search information
  • it provides private click-throughs using a proxy

The basis of the search engine results is Google, so the results of the searches are as good as any when using StartPage. StartPage is provided by Ixquick “the world’s most private search engine. Ixquick has been third-party certified by EuroPriSe, a European Union privacy initiative.” If you visit the StartPage website, you will see the very prominent statement that “StartPage does not collect or share any personal information!“. Many have become concerned with this as some ISPs have begun to ‘harvest’ search history information from their clients.

Beyond the search anonymity, sites listed in the StartPage search results are accessed through a proxy service that “allows users to surf the web with complete privacy. The proxy lets users browse websites safely and anonymously, without passing on any private, personally identifiable information to the websites they view.

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A portion of a search using StartPage is shown above. In the list of search results will be links very similar to those seen in a Google search. If you click on a link there, you leave the protection of StartPage and are browsing just as if you had been using Google. There is a “proxy” button besides each link in the search list. If you click that link then the page is retrieved through a StartPage proxy making your website visit invisible. You will encounter slower page loading when going through the proxy. StartPage provides a full description of how their proxy works here.

I think that this will become a standard part of my macOS Toolbox. While I am using StartPage with Safari, it is compatible with most browsers. There is also a Ixquick Search App that provides anonymous searching on mobile (iOS and Android) devices.  If you are concerned with your web browsing privacy, this may be an option you want to look into.


See my other macOS articles


 

macOS App Review – AppDelete

Product Review – I posted a Product Announcement a few days back on AppDelete. After hearing good feedback from a couple of people I know at CapMac and needing a way to thoroughly clean out some of the Apps I have installed for testing and review, I went ahead and purchased a copy for myself.

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Installation was straight forward as was its use. When run it opens up a window on your desktop into which you drag any App you want deleted. Among the features of the product are:

  • Search filters to find items for deletion fast (including old PPC apps)
  • Finds associated items that are invisible or hidden
  •  Trash monitoring so that simply throwing an app in the trash triggers AppDelete
  • Archive/Install from Archive feature for safekeeping and transferring items to another Mac
  • Password requested only once if needed instead of multiple requests
  • Keeps a Log of all activities and has the ability to Undo a deletion
  • Moves items into an organized deleted package in your trash
  • Force Empty Trash for stubborn to remove items

Having used AppDelete today to clean out my Applications folder, I am very pleased with the $8 I spent on the product. Knowing that I will be installing many Apps in the future and wanting to remove most afterward, I think that this has been a good investment. It will certainly be included in my recommendations for anyone’s macOS Toolbox.

PROS

  • intuitive interface
  • reasonable price
  • ability to archive as well as delete Apps
  • ability to ‘undo’ a delete

 

CONS

  • It isn’t FOSS

Read my other macOS articles