A Malware on my Mac!

July 5, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-07-05 at 1.48.17 PMIn general, it seems that Windows PCs are much more susceptible to viruses and malware. The reason being, there are many, many more Windows PCs than Macs in the general public and the “bad guys” focus their efforts for the biggest impact. As such, I don’t have any virus checking software on my desktop Mac system.

Recently, I noticed a new icon at the top right corner of my screen which had a drop-down menu labeled “Premier Opinion”. Having no clue what this was, I Googled it and discovered it was some kind of spyware! Thinking back, I believe I must have inadvertently installed it when I was trying to load something on my son’s iPad. Ugh!

Luckily, I was able to remove this troublesome malware after a few attempts following a guide on the web. Afterwards, I decided to try using the free antivirus software called ClamXav to scan my desktop files for other potential viruses and malware. ClamXav was easy to install, and seemed to do a thorough job of identifying a few emails that were labeled as “phishing”. Whew!

Note, it did take a long time to check all my files, but I’m happy now that I’ve conducted the check. In the future, I’ll probably do some regularly scheduled checks just in case.

Media Server Not Serving Your Media?

June 29, 2014

I have the Plex Media Server running on my 27″ iMac Desktop System, and stream videos stored on my Mac to my Android Tablet through my home WiFi system. I usually do this at night while in bed, watching a TV show or part of a movie just before I go to sleep. I noticed a few months ago that while I was watching a streaming video, it would routinely just stop and hang. Pressing the pause button with the video player app on my tablet and then the play button would only play the video segment for about 2-3 seconds before it halted again.

Thinking this problem might be with the video player, I tried a few others available for my Android tablet– same thing happened. I also tried using a different media server as a test, switching from Plex to Universal Media Server but I still got the same stoppage of video playing.

After some Googling, I discovered that my iMac Desktop system might be going into sleep mode and possibly shutting down my WiFi connection. However, under my Mac’s Preferences for “Energy Saver” it was set to never sleep for the computer and for the display to sleep after 45 minutes. Hmm, maybe the sleeping display setting did more than just turn off the display?

Well, something was stopping or preventing my media from streaming from my Mac, so I tried using a OSX command called caffinate to keep my Mac alive and awake when I was in bed watching my streaming videos. To do so, you would type in the UNIX command in a Terminal window,

caffeinate  -t  10800

Here, I’m telling my Mac to stay awake for 10,800 seconds (3 hrs) beginning when I initiated that command. Since I wanted this command to happen automatically everyday at 9 pm, I added it to the Crontab file on my system (Crontab was actually replaced by a process called launchd on the Mac OSX, but you can still use crontab settings). To make this change easier, I used a GUI called CronniX which looks like this,

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 6.04.58 AM

Here you see that I’m having that command start at 21 hours (9:00 pm) and it occurs everyday. The “&” symbol at the end of the command statement had the process running in the background. So far, this seems to have fixed my streaming video stoppage, so hopefully this is a permanent solution to my problem.

Apple Support Experience

June 17, 2012

My primary home computer is an Apple 27″ iMac (self contained monitor and system), which has worked flawlessly since 2010. However, over the past three days I’ve noticed at times a rather loud clicking sound coming from the back of my iMac. It’s somewhat random, and may last for 3 seconds one time and 12 seconds another. I know from past experience that such sounds aren’t good, as they probably mean my hard drive is about to go bad. Since I purchased AppleCare (Apple’s hardware warranty) when I bought my iMac, I decided to find out what could be done about this annoying clicking noise. I checked apple.com and from their support page initiated an “Apple Express” service request, which resulted in a live person calling me about 2 minutes later. Mind you, it was Sunday morning when did all this, so I was surprised to get a live call so quickly.

The Apple support rep was very helpful and asked a few questions, and had me do some checking on my iMac. I rebooted a few times, ran the Disk Utility Check (which didn’t reveal anything bad), and ultimate determined that I should take my iMac into my local Apple store to have one of their “Geniuses” take a look at it. So, the rep made an appointment for 11:15 am and packed up my iMac and drove down to the store.

After lugging my big iMac through the mall, I arrive at the Apple Store to find it packed full of customers. I had never seen it so full, and this was on a Sunday 15 minutes after it first opened for the day. In contrast, I walked by the Microsoft Store which was twice the size of the Apple Store and had virtually no one in it. Hmm, what does that tell you? Read the rest of this entry »

Syncing Apple iCal with Google Calendar

June 24, 2011

Now that I’m back to using my Palm Pixi smartphone, I’ve got to re-evaluate my personal and work calendar syncing options. I’ve got my Apple iMac (running the iCal app), my Palm PIxi smartphone, and two different calendars to sync (along with my contacts). So, what’s the best solution?

After exploring several different options, it seems my best solution is  product called SpanningSync for the Mac. This app runs in the background on my iMac system and periodically syncs my personal and work calendars in the Apple iCal app with two different calendars in Google Calendar in the cloud, of which my Palm Pixi has the ability to sync with. What’s nice about SpanningSync is that I can control which specific calendar in Apple iCal will sync with which specific Google calendar. I’ve setup 2-way syncing, so wherever I make an addition, deletion, or change all the calendars are updated. SpanningSync also will sync my contacts between Apple Address Book and Google Contacts, and subsequently the contacts on my Palm Pixi.

This system works surprising well. I’m currently running the 15-day trial version, but if all continues to go well I’ll pay for the $25/year subscription.

Calendar mayhem!

April 17, 2011

I have trouble remembering appointments, family events, birthdays, etc. so I rely heavily on a calendar to keep my life in order. This is true for both my personal and business life, so like to keep two separate calendars to keep things compartmentalized. The issue I’ve been struggling with is finding the most efficient way of dealing with these two calendars and keeping them synced with my computers and mobile devices.

So here’s what I have available:

  1. Personal calendar for my personal appointments and events
  2. Business calendar for my work appointments, travel dates, etc.
  3. An iMac at home running Snow Leopard Mac X OS
  4. A Dell laptop running Windows 7 for work
  5. An Apple iPhone 4 as my smartphone
  6. Microsoft Exchange Server for my work email, calendar, and contacts
  7. Apple MobileMe for Calendar, Email, and Contacts
  8. Google Calendar and Contacts
My goal, is to be able to view and edit my calendar appointments (personal and business) on my iMac desktop computer, Dell laptop, and iPhone device. I know there’s all kinds of 3rd-party freeware and commercial software for syncing calendar data between applications and the cloud, but I wanted to minimize that as much as possible to eliminate any chances of “foul ups”.
I ended up using this solution: Create two calendars with my MobileMe account that allows me to create,view, and edit appointments. If you’re unfamiliar with MobileMe, it is Apple’s cloud-based system which allows for centralized email, calendar, contacts, and offline disk storage. Using this method, I can always access my calendars via a web browser with an Internet connection. Because the majority of my devices are Apple-based, it made sense using this method for syncing purposes. So, I now use the Apple iCal application to access both MobileMe calendars on my iMac desktop computer, and the built-in Calendar app on my iPhone for doing the same. For my Dell laptop (running Windows 7), I use the Microsoft Outlook application along with a MobileMe syncing utility (provided by Apple) to sync my two MobileMe calendars with Outlook for local access. This method seems to work well so far, but I need to always make sure I’m viewing the two MobileMe calendars in all my apps and not the default local calendars (which should be empty).
Read the rest of this entry »

Watching live TV on my iPhone 4

April 17, 2011

At home, I’ve got an EyeTV HD device connected to a Comcast digital cable box for recording TV shows on my iMac desktop computer. The system is entirely automated, where scheduled shows are recorded, commercial removed, and finally converted to iPhone format and placed in iTunes for syncing. This allows me to watch my favorite shows at my leisure, usually at night on the couch or in bed. A few weeks ago I was on a business trip and I forgot to schedule my EyeTV to record an episode of Stargate: Universe, and it was not playing on any local station in my hotel room. What was I suppose to do?

Luckily, I have an app on my iPhone that allows me to control the EyeTV HD software on my iMac at home and also watch live TV through it via the Internet. So, I decided to give it a try, even though the hotel’s WiFi connect speed was incredible slow and virtually unusable. So instead of trying to use WiFi, I decided to just use my cellular connection via Verizon to stream the Live TV from my iMac at home to my iPhone.

Surprisingly, the video stream worked great! I was able to watch my show with no pausing or dropping of the TV streaming image. On a few occasions the image got a bit grainy (heavy pixels), but for the most part it looked just like watching an mp4 video file on my iPhone.

If I do switch to an Android phone in the near future, this will be one thing that I’ll miss. I don’t use this feature a lot, but when I do it works great.

Apple Trackpad vs. Magic Mouse

December 28, 2010

For Christmas I received an Apple Magic Trackpad for use with my iMac desktop system. I decided to get one after playing around with one at the Apple Store when I made my original iMac purchase several months ago. The Magic Trackpad basically operates like a trackpad on the Macbook Pro laptop, but is physically bigger in size. I’m normally not a big fan of laptop trackpads (as I usually use a mouse), but I did like the responsiveness of the Magic Trackpad for the iMac.

So, I’ve been using it for the last 3 days with my iMac, and it seems to be working well. It does take some getting use to after using my Magic Mouse for so long.

Like with any trackpad device, you move the mouse cursor by sliding your finger on the trackpad surface. To do a left-click, you press down on the trackpad surface with your finger to physically active a pressure switch in the base of the device. The same goes for double-clicking, and you can assign a region on the trackpad (bottom left or right corner) to act as a right-button click. It does take some effort to do this kind of clicking action, so I’ve adjusted the preference settings for my Trackpad to use a single tap as a “click” and a double-tap as a “double-click” (just like with most laptop trackpads).

For a right-click you can do a two-finger tap. For scrolling, you can use two-fingers to swipe up, down, left, or right. There are several other options to fine tune the trackpad operations, but these were the basic ones that got me going.

For general clicking, moving around on the screen, and scrolling through documents and web pages, the trackpad works well. Zooming in and out of images also works nice, as well as zooming in/out of the main display. What’s tricky, is doing a click-n-hold with the left mouse (as when you drag a window around on the screen or highlighting text in a document) when using the one-finger tap method. So to move a window I need to do a quick double-tap on the window header, then drag the window on the screen to the desired location, then do a single tap to get out of drag mode. Also, to highlight text in a document I need to move the cursor to the beginning of the text, do a double-tap with my one finger, drag the cursor across the text to be highlighted, then do a single tap. Kinda cumbersome, but required if I use the one-finger-tap method for “mouse” clicking. Of course, this would be easier if I used the physical switch option but again that just seems too awkward for me.

It is obvious that using a traditional mouse is much easier for document editing than the trackpad (as you probably know by using any laptop trackpad). What would have been nice, is if this trackpad was angled completely flat on my desk instead of at an angle as that would relieve some hand strain that I’m noticing after several minutes of use. Normally you rest your hand on the mouse as you’re using it, and with the trackpad I’m noticing that my hand is hovering above the trackpad which can introduce some fatigue.

I haven’t fully decided whether the Magic Trackpad will permanently replace my Magic Mouse, so I’m going to give the trackpad another week of experimentation. I might also use both the Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad together as both can work simultaneously.