Stop Your Holiday Music Playing out of Season with This Tip

“Winter Wonderland” may be a great song to listen to when the snow flies, but if you’re sweltering in the summer heat, having it pop up while iTunes is shuffling through your music feels wrong. Happily, there’s a way to prevent holiday music from playing out of season—this trick is also useful for keeping children’s songs from shuffling alongside tracks from Abba, Beethoven, and The Clash. In iTunes, select the songs you want to prevent from being included when you shuffle all tracks, and choose Edit > Get Info. In the Get Info dialog, switch to the Options pane, select Skip When Shuffling, and click OK to save your changes. Note that the easiest way to find such music may be by selecting Genres in the sidebar and then Children’s Music or Holiday in the list that appears.

(Featured image by donnaskolnick0 from Pixabay)

Need to Restart a Mac That Has Frozen? Here’s How

It’s extremely uncommon for a Mac to freeze or crash these days, but it can happen. What should you do if your Mac locks up and becomes completely unresponsive to the mouse and keyboard? The trick is to press and hold the power button until the Mac turns off. Wait 5 or 10 seconds, and press it again to turn the Mac back on. You will lose any unsaved changes if you do this, so use it only as a last resort when you can’t restart normally. Look for the power button on the back of a desktop Mac, and at the top right of the keyboard on most laptop Macs. For a recent MacBook Air or a MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar, press and hold the Touch ID button.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)

Go Beyond External Hard Drives with Network-Attached Storage

If you’ve filled up your external hard drives or become frustrated by their limitations, it’s time to look into a network-attached storage (NAS) device. What’s a NAS? It’s an intelligent storage device that can accept one or more hard drives or SSDs and connects to your network via Ethernet.

NAS Benefits

A NAS is a good choice for anyone who needs access to lots of storage, but small businesses will particularly appreciate the benefits of a NAS. They include:

  • More storage: Most NAS devices provide multiple drive bays, so you can pop in a few large hard drives or even attach expansion units for a vast amount of available storage.
  • Expandable storage: A NAS is perfect if you anticipate your storage needs growing over time. You could start with 3 TB drives today and swap them out for 6 TB drives in a year or two.
  • Data protection: Drives fail, but some NAS devices can ensure that you don’t lose data if that happens by combining multiple drives into RAID arrays.
  • Network backups: Because a NAS is always available on your network and provides lots of storage, it can work well for on-site backups.
  • Laptop access: It’s fussy for mobile users to attach external hard drives to laptop Macs. An always-available NAS eliminates that annoyance.
  • Remote access and cloud storage: You can usually configure your NAS so it’s available over the Internet from outside your network. That means it can work like a private version of Dropbox that’s entirely within your control and has no monthly fees.
  • Streaming media: Home users with massive movie libraries can take advantage of NAS features that make it easy to stream video to computers, TVs, tablets, and smartphones.

NAS Features

Quite a few manufacturers make NAS devices, including WD, QNAP, Drobo, and my personal favorite: Synology. Prices vary widely depending on the feature set. Things to consider include: We are a Synology Authorized Partner and can help you with all of your Network Attached Storage needs from the basic to the most complex.

  • Number of drive bays: The most important decision to make when choosing a NAS is the number of drive bays. It may be tempting to start with a less-expensive two-bay model, but particularly if you want to use RAID to protect your data, that limits your storage significantly.
  • RAID support: RAID works well for preventing data loss if a drive dies. RAID 1 constantly mirrors the data from one drive to another so if one fails, all the data is on the other. RAID 5 uses data striping techniques with at least three drives to preserve data even if one drive fails. Proprietary technologies may be more flexible in terms of the number and size of the required drives. Synology’s RAID Calculator is helpful for figuring out how much space you get with different collections of drives.
  • Ethernet speed and ports: Most NAS devices have Gigabit Ethernet, but you can pay more to get 10 Gigabit Ethernet. That’s helpful only if you have an iMac Pro or a Thunderbolt 3 adapter. Also, some NAS devices have a feature called link aggregation that uses multiple Ethernet ports and an LACP-enabled Ethernet switch to balance traffic across ports for higher performance in multi-user setups.
  • Hardware encryption: For additional security, some NAS devices offer hardware encryption. It requires more CPU power but ensures that a stolen NAS won’t reveal your data.
  • Hardware transcoding: Those who host media libraries on a NAS may find this feature useful. It automatically converts high-resolution video files to versions that are optimized for the destination—there’s no reason to send 4K video to a 1080p TV.
  • CPU and RAM: Since a NAS is a full-fledged computer, it has a CPU and needs RAM to accomplish its tasks. If all you’re doing is serving files, the CPU doesn’t matter much, but for hardware encryption and transcoding, a faster CPU will be helpful. Similarly, those functions, or support for lots of users, may benefit from more RAM, so look for a NAS whose RAM is expandable.
  • Physical factors: Since a NAS runs all the time, pay attention to how much power it draws and how much noise it makes. In general, the less of each, the better.

Use NAS-specific Drives

One final piece of advice. It’s tempting to use old drives you have around, but doing so may be problematic for a few reasons:

  • Combining drives of different capacities can result in unusable disk space in some RAID configurations.
  • The likelihood of failure is higher with older drives, and even if a RAID prevents data loss, dealing with a dead drive is still stressful.
  • NAS-specific drives, as opposed to garden-variety drives, sport features designed to minimize data corruption, minimize vibration, and adjust rotation speeds for longer life.

Instead, look for NAS-specific drives, such as those in the WD Red and Seagate IronWolf lines.

Honestly, while a NAS is a great investment and effective addition to your technical infrastructure, picking the right one is a complex decision. If you need help, get in touch with us to see what we recommend for your specific situation.

(Featured image by Alex Cheung on Unsplash)

Use macOS’s Guest Account & Protect Your Privacy from Temporary Users

Guest-user-photo

We’ve all had it happen. “Can I use your Mac for a minute to check my email?” The answer can be “Yes,” but to keep people from poking around on your Mac, have your visitor log in as Guest. To enable the Guest account, go to System Preferences > Users & Groups. If the lock at the bottom left is closed, click it and enter your admin credentials. Then click Guest User in the list, and select “Allow guests to log in to this computer.” To switch to the Guest account, go to the Apple menu and choose Log Out YourAccountName to access the login screen. Your guest can then click the Guest User icon, at which point they’ll have a clean account to work in. When they log out, the account—including any files they created or downloaded—will be deleted, thus protecting their privacy as well.

(Featured image by Apple)

Here’s How to See Full URLs in Safari’s Smart Search Field

By default, Safari on the Mac hides full Web addresses—technically known as URLs—from you, showing just the site name in the Smart Search field at the top of the window. If you click in the field or press Command-L, the full URL appears, which is good for checking that you’re really where you think you should be and not on some dodgy site. It’s also useful if you need to copy just a portion of the URL to share or otherwise work with. To make that check easier, go to Safari > Preferences > Advanced and next to Smart Search Field, select “Show full website address.” Then you can verify that the URL looks right with a glance.

(Featured image by Matthew T Rader from Pexels)

Use Dropbox Selective Sync to Save Space on Small Drives

If you’re like many of our clients who use Dropbox intensively, you have a desktop Mac with a large drive and a MacBook with much less drive space. How do you prevent your large Dropbox account from overwhelming the laptop Mac’s available storage? The answer is Dropbox’s Selective Sync feature. On the MacBook, click the Dropbox icon in the menu bar, click your avatar in the upper-right corner, and choose Preferences. In the Preferences window, click Sync and then click the Choose Folders to Sync button. Deselect the folders you want to prevent from syncing to the MacBook and click Update. If you need to access any files in those folders from the MacBook, go to dropbox.com in your Web browser instead, or adjust your Sync preferences to bring in the needed folder.

(Featured image based on a photo by Daniele Levis Pelusi on Unsplash)

Dropbox Selective Sync