Tech Tips– Most of us use some sort of external USB attached storage on a regular basis. It is important to keep in mind that media can be formatted in many different ways. Which filesystem you format an external drive with depends on the system(s) you plan to use it with. That said, there are many different filesystems to choose from.
For Linux systems, the most common format is ext3 or ext4. But neither of those formats of disks can be natively read by your Mac. You can, with the use of the third party software such as “FUSE for Mac” or “extFS for Mac by Paragon Software“, read ext3 or ext4 disks.
You may be able to mount and read an HFS+ disk on your Linux system without additional software. Or maybe you will need to install some additional software. That depends on what was included in the installation. The same is true for APFS formatted disks – install apfs-fuse to read these. There is also a Paragon product for Linux that allows Apple disks to be mounted.
If you want to read either HFS+ or APFS disks on a Windows systems there is third party software you can get to do that. For HFS+ disks, install HFSExplorer, Paragon’s HFS+ for Windows, or Mediafour’s MacDrive. For APFS disks you can buy “APFS for Windows by Paragon Software“. The MacDrive package can also be purchased to read your macOS drives on a Windows system. The article “How to Read a Mac Formatted Drive in Windows: 6 Methods” covers these and more.
There are four different filesystems common to Windows – FAT16, FAT32, exFAT, and NTFS. The exFAT filesystem was created in 2006 for use with USB flash drives and SD cards, so it is not directly associated with a version of Windows.
Reading a drive formatted in any of these filesystems is easy on your Mac. Just plug the drive into your Mac and it will mount it. If the drive is formatted with FAT16, FAT32 or exFAT data can be read as well as written to the drive. If the drive is NTFS, data can only be read. If you want to write to an NTFS disk, then purchase either “Microsoft NTFS for Mac by Paragon Software” or “Microsoft NTFS for Mac by Tuxera“.
Making it easy
Usually, we know in advance where we are going to want to use an external drive. The simplest thing to do is to format the drive for use across as many systems as is possible. That means that for cross-platform compatibility, the best filesystem to use is FAT16, FAT32 or exFAT. Both FAT16 and FAT32 are readable on Windows, Mac, and Linux without any additional software needed.
The exFAT filesystem can be accessed by the Mac without additional software. Linux systems will need exfat-fuse, but that is easily installed.
Most Thumb drives or external disks come pre-formatted with FAT32. That makes them useable anywhere out of the box. The only reason you would want to go to exFAT is if the data you wanted to store on the media was larger than 4 GB. FAT32 has a limit of 4 GB on files. With exFAT, files can be up to 16 EB in length. That is 16 Exabytes or 1018 bytes (see “What Do Those Terms of Storage Mean?” for more on data storage) – sufficient large for any storage need.
Formatting Media on Your Mac
External media can easily be formatted (these examples are on macOS High Sierra 10.13.6) on your Mac. Connect the drive to your Mac and open Disk Utility (Finder ==> Go ==> Utilities ==> Disk Utility). On the left side you will see all the connected external drives listed (red arrow in image above). Choose the one you want to format and then click on the Erase button (orange arrow in the image). NOTE: Formatting a disk permanently erases all data on the disk!
This will drop down a window that allows you to give the drive a new name and pick the format you want used on the drive.
If you click on the Format window, a drop down menu will appear giving you a list of the format options available to you. While the Mac lists MS-DOS (FAT) this is really FAT32. You also have the option of formatting a drive as exFAT.
Disk Filesystem Summary
|Filesystem||Native to||Journaled||Max File Size||When Introduced|
|FAT16B (BigFAT)||DOS 3.1 of later||No||4 gigabytes||1987|
|FAT32||Windows 95 or later||No||4 gigabytes||1996|
|NTFS||Windows NT or later||Yes||16 exabytes||1993|
|exFAT||Windows CE 6.0||No||16 exabytes||2006|
|HFS+||macOS 8.1 or later||Yes (as of 2002)||8 exabytes||1998|
|APFS||macOS High Sierra (10.13) or later||No, more modern methods||8 exabytes||2017|
- A journaling file system is a file system that keeps track of changes not yet committed to the file system’s main part by recording the intentions of such changes in a data structure known as a “journal”, which is usually a circular log. In the event of a system crash or power failure, such file systems can be brought back online more quickly with a lower likelihood of becoming corrupted.
Tech Tips – Web Tools – I wrote about using the privacy web tool WEBKAY for the first time (“What Can Websites Find Out From Your Browser?“) in July of 2017. While I was out walking today I was listening to an episode of the “Mac Geek Gab” podcast. They mentioned using WEBKAY and I thought it was time to revisit it.
What WEBKAY (What Every Browser Knows About You) does is to analyze your brower’s settings. Just open http://webkay.robinlinus.com in your brower and you will see a report displayed of what any website can find out about you! Among the datapoints displayed are:
- your location (using your IP address)
- the type of hardware the browser is running on
- the operating system and version
- the browser and version
- what browser plugins you have installed
- your public IP
- your Service Provider
- Your download speed
- some of the Social Media sites you are logged into
While WEBKAY may not give as much detail in their report, they do provide suggestions on how to mitigate some of the findings.
After several seconds you will see the test results displayed. It focuses on how well your browser is handling tracking.
A third site you might want to visit is Click (https://clickclickclick.click/). This site doesn’t give you a report as such, but it does display a running commentary on your actions while you are on the site. This is meant as a wake-up call to users as to just how much their browsers are revealing.
Yet another web tool is BrowserSpy (http://browserspy.dk/). BrowserSpy can tell you much more information about your browser and system, but you have to individually select the test (there are more than 70 to choose from) to be run.
Yet another web tool for assessing your browser is Browser Mirror (http://centralops.net/asp/co/browsermirror.vbs.asp). The report from this tool is similar to the others and gives a minimal report.
There are a few things you can do if you want to be anonymous:
- use a VPN
- use your browsers private/anonymous browsing capability
- block all cookies
Please take a look at my other Cyber Security articles
Tech Tips – In Part 1 I talked about how tags can be added to files on your Mac. In Part 2 I will look at how you can use those tags to become more productive. NOTE: The following examples are done in macOS High Sierra 10.13.6.
Using tags with the Finder
The easiest way to use tags is with the Mac Finder. First, we need to make sure that tags are enabled in the Finder. Open a new Finder window, then click on Finder, then Preferences.
Now select the third tab “Sidebar”. Make sure that the checkbox next to “Recent Tags” is checked.
Now click on the second tab in the Preferences window, “Tags”. This window allows you to select which of your defined tags you want to show up in the Finder Sidebar.
You can also drag any tag you want to add to the Favorites to the space at the bottom. I have not found this to be very useful.
Now close the Preferences window and look at the bottom left of the Finder window. You will see several tags listed and at the bottom of the list “All Tags. . . “.
If you click on the “All Tags…”, a new column will appear in the window with all of the tags listed. If you now click on a tag (in my example ‘:Star Wars’), then every file with the chosen tag is displayed in the larger window to the right. What makes this powerful is that it doesn’t matter where the files are physically located. Every file with that tag on your Mac and on iCloud, regardless of which Folder they reside in, will be shown.
This provides you with a very powerful way to search your entire Mac for files. If you have tagged your files, you will be able to find them regardless of where you have stored them.
More Power With Smart Folders
Using Smart Folders can give you even more power. Using the technique with the Finder above you can only search based upon one tag. If you use Smart Folders you can search on as many tags as you want.
Go to Finder ==> File ==> New Smart Folder. This will open a window like is shown above. Now you can begin to specify the search criteria for what will be shown in your Smart Folder. At the far right side next to the ‘Save’ button click on the ‘+’ sign (Blue arrow above). This will open a space where you can begin to specify the search criteria. Click on the ‘Kind’ or ‘Name’ button noted above (Red arrow).
A drop-down menu will appear. Click on ‘Other…’ at the bottom of the list as indicated by the Red arrow.
This will bring up a long list of search attributes. If you scroll down the list you will find “Tags”. In the example above I clicked on the checkbox to the right side so that Tags will now appear in the short attribute list. I also clicked on the line ‘Tags Tags associated with this item’.
Once I click on ‘OK’ that first search criteria will be set. I then chose ‘contains’ and entered the first tag to search for ‘:image’. I can add another search criteria by clicking on the ‘+’ indicated by the Red arrow. A search criteria can be removed by clicking on the ‘-‘.
Notice that when I click on the ‘Name’ button now ‘Tags’ (Orange arrow) appears in the list. I can now use this to pick a second or even a third tag to search on.
In the example above I have selected three different tags as my search criteria – ‘:image’, ‘:scifi’, and ‘:star wars’. The resulting 48 items shown in this Smart Folder are all files on my Mac that have those three tags set. These items can be physically stored in any folder on my Mac or my iCloud drive.
What this means is that as long as I am very conscientious about adding tags to files, it doesn’t really matter where I store the files.
I can then save these Smart Folders by clicking on the ‘Save’ button at the top right. Note that in addition to being able to name the Smart Folder and pick where it is going to be displayed, I also have the option of including it in the Finder Sidebar.
A further advantage of using Smart Folders is that since they are Virtual the same content can appear in more than one Smart Folder. This allows you to sort your files in many different ways without having to move or make aliases for files.
In Part 3, I will talk about tagged files in iOS.
See my other Mac and OS X articles
Tech Tips – I am always looking for ways to become more productive on my Mac. Before I get into how tags can make you more productive, I think that I need to explain what tags are.
What are tags?
Tags were first introduced in macOS Mavericks. As the name implied, tags allow you to add one or more ‘tags’ to any file. These seem a lot like ‘Labels’, but there are a couple of major differences. First, you can apply more than one tag to a file or folder. Second, you can search and sort your files and directories by tag (that will be covered in Part 2).
How to tag a file
So now that you know what tags are, how do you add them to a file? There are actually multiple ways.
First is adding tags to files as you save them. In any App when you go to save a file, you not only get the opportunity to set the file name and location, but you can also add any tags to the file. In the above example, I am saving the file “Sources for World War II Info and Photos” from within MacDown and I have added the two tags ‘:wwii’ and ‘:web’ to the file.
I use the convention with my tags of always beginning them with a colon and making them all lower case.
What if you already have files? There are three easy ways to add tags to an existing file.
First, you can use the Finder to browse through your files and find the one that you are wanting to add a tag to. Once you find it Control-Click on the file. That will bring up the window shown above. Note that towards the bottom is “Tags…”.
Click on “Tags…” and that will open the window shown above. Here you see any existing tags for the file and you can freeform type in the dialog box the name of a new tag to add. In the above example the tags ‘:blog’, ‘:wwii’, and ‘:bookreview’ were already attached to the file. I typed in ‘:s’ to start to add another tag. As you begin typing in the tag if a match is found to an existing tag it will automatically show up in the dialog box. In the example above seven tags are shown that begin with ‘:s’. I can either click on one to choose it, hit enter to choose the highlighted tag, or continue typing in the tag name. You can continue to add tags until you are finished. This method allows the selection of multiple files and adding the same tag(s) to all the selected files at the same time.
A second way to add tags is through ‘Get Info’. Control-Click on any file and in the Menu you get (see second image above) the option of ‘Get Info’ will appear. If you click on that, then a new window with information about the chosen file will appear.
At the top of this window is a dialog box where existing tags are displayed and where new tags can be entered.
A third way of adding tags is by opening the file in an App that supports Apple’s Document menu. At the top of the window will be a small icon to the right of the file name (pointed out with the red arrow in the image above). If you click on that icon a drop-down menu will appear that both shows existing tags for the file and which allows you to enter new tags.
In Part 2 I talk about how tags can be managed and how they can be used to improve your productivity.
See my other Mac and OS X articles
Tech Tips – Have you ever wanted a new App for your Mac but was not sure if such an App existed? Or perhaps you do not know the exact name of an App. MacUpdate may be the answer to that problem. MacUpdate, as the name implies, is primarily a source for keeping track of the latest updates for your Mac Apps. Per their website:
MacUpdate simplifies finding, buying and installing apps for your Mac.
Search over 40,000 Mac apps. Buy apps for 50% off at MacUpdate Promo.
Use MacUpdate Desktop to perform 1-click installs of apps you find on macupdate.com.
If you follow them on Twitter (@MacUpdatePromo), you will get a tweet each day for every App that has been updated in the last 24 hours. I follow them and I get 15-25 tweets from them each day.
The other way you can use MacUpdate is to search for Apps. Just enter what you want to search for in the search window at the top of the page and a list of Apps meeting your criteria will be listed.
In the example shown to the left, I searched for “ebook”. Notice that you see the rating of the App, the number of downloads, and the price. As you can see as well you have filters at the top of the page that you can use to narrow your search. Click on any entry in the list and you can install the App.
See my other Mac & OS X articles
Tech Tips – As the name implies, this is the day to take a little time and perform often much-needed cleanup on your computer. As the site says:
Over time, files and programs that are unused on your PC clog the memory and cause confusion during retrieval and use of other data. They may also slow down your computer. The second Monday in February, Clean Out Your Computer Day, is the day to spend time with your computer!
I posted “TUNEUP YOUR OS X MAC – PART 2” a few years ago which outlines ways to free up space on your hard disk. Those suggestions are still valid today. Take some time and clean up your Mac’s hard drive.
The USB 1.0 standard was released in January 1996 and updated to 1.1 in August 1998. USB 1.0 data rates of 1.5 Mbit/s (Low Speed) and 12 Mbit/s (Full Speed). While communication is bidirectional, data transfers are half-duplex (only one direction at a time). Few USB compatible devices were released until the 1.1 specification. Both USB 1.0 and 1.1 use the Type A and Type B connectors.
The 2.0 specification was released in April 2000. This specification increased the data rate to a theoretical maximum of 480 Mbit/s but remained half-duplex. Introduced along with USB 2.0 were the USB Mini and Micro connectors. USB 2.0 is backward compatible (a USB 1.1 peripheral can be used with a computer that has a USB 2.0 port) with USB 1.0 & 1.1 devices.
The USB 3.0 standard was released in November 2008. The 3.0 standard increased the theoretical maximum speed of USB to the ‘SuperSpeed’ rate of 5.0 Gbit/s. Data communication was also upgraded to full-duplex (both directions at the same time). Connectors for 3.0 connections are distinguished by their blue inserts for the standard Type A connectors.
In July 2013 the standard was upgraded again to 3.1. The 3.1 standard further increased the speed of USB to the ‘SuperSpeed+’ theoretical maximum rate of 10 Gbit/s. The Micro B SuperSpeed connector was introduced.
In September of 2017, the most recent upgrade to the standard was released with USB 3.2. Two new SuperSpeed+ transfer modes were introduced both using the USB Type C connector. These new SuperSpeed+ modes provide a maximum theoretical data transfer rate of 10 and 20 Gbit/s respectively.
USB 3.x is backward compatible with USB 1.0, 1.1, and 2.0 devices. Backward compatibility means that the connection will function at the speed of the slowest component. To achieve the best performance the peripheral, cable, and computer port must be compatible with the same USB standard.
Announced by the USB Promoter Group on March 4, 2019. Expect speeds up to 40 Gbit/s, though the standard has not yet been released.
Tech Tips – First, what is 5G? 5G stands for “Fifth Generation” and is the next generation of wireless communications. Most of our devices are operating on 4G at the moment. 5G will give us peak transmission speeds up to 20 Gb per second, far faster than what 4G provides. 5G will also provide reduced latency, energy savings, lower cost, higher system capacity, and massive device connectivity.
The first phase of 5G specifications in Release-15 is not scheduled to be released until April 2019, with the second phase (Release-16) scheduled for completion by April 2020. Even then it has to be approved by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). While most carriers have test networks in place in selected locations, the worldwide commercial launch of 5G is not expected until 2020.
So how are AT&T customers seeing a “5GE” icon on their phones now? This is best attributed to some marketing efforts by AT&T. Their “5GE” is simply an enhanced version of the 4G LTE network you have been using. Users with 5GE capable phones may see faster performance in some areas. iPhone users must have iOS 12.2 or newer installed to be 5GE capable. For Android users, they need Android Pie or newer.
Only the iPhone XS and XS Max, as well any Android phone that uses 4×4 MIMO (multiple-input and multiple-output radio), have the hardware compatible with 5GE. No iPhones currently on the market are 5G compatible. 5G requires different hardware.
(Image above from Wikipedia)
Tech Tips – We all use USB (an abbreviation for Universal Serial Bus) cables, often many times each day. We know from experience that USB cables come with a variety of connectors, but do you know how to identify each one?
The early USB cables were equipped with the A and B connectors (the male versions of the connectors are shown in the photo above). The Type B connectors are often used to connect to devices such as printers and scanners. The Mini and Micro connectors, which were introduced in April of 2000 and January of 2007 respectively, can be found on many different peripheral devices. All of the above connectors can be found on cables that are compatible with the USB 1.0 and USB 2.0 standards.
A slightly different set of connectors were introduced with the November 2008 USB 3.0 standard. Note that connectors BM, AM, and AF will have a blue insert to distinguish them as USB 3.0 compatible. The AM and AF connectors look just like the Type A connector (other than they have the blue insert) and are backward compatible (they can be used anywhere a Type A can be used),
The Type C connector was introduced in August 2014. It is different from prior designs in that it is a reversible connector allowing insertion into a device in either orientation.