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laughingsquid:

A Sleek iMac Concept Inspired by Early Macintosh Desktops Created Using Macbook Air Components

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PEBKAC: Finales, Friendships, and the Future

This column originally appeared in the May 2012 issue of About This Particular Macintosh.

Thus, we arrive at the end of the road. Two constants in life are change and death, and this is a bit of both for the staff of About This Particular Macintosh. This is our final issue. As Michael stated in the publisher’s letter, the site will remain, offering a glimpse to future Mac users into what our computing world was like from 1995–2012, at least from the perspective of this handful of real-world users.

It is because of this handful of real-world users that this has been a difficult column to write. To be honest, this has been a difficult issue to edit. As noted elsewhere, for many of us, working on ATPM has been a lengthy relationship. For me, this is the second-longest relationship I’ve had, behind my marriage, which is only six years older than my time here on staff. The people here at ATPM are my friends, and while that aspect will not change for us in the foreseeable future, there is still a sadness about the end of the thing which brought us together in the first place.

Looking back on the 14 years I’ve been on staff, my colleagues and I have shared in marriages, deaths in families, children born and adopted, new jobs, new ventures, entirely new careers, moves, and even an appearance on a nationally televised prime-time game show. Despite most of us having never met in person, it’s been quite remarkable how much life we’ve done together.

Eric Blair holds the distinction as the first ATPM staffer I ever met in person. I was in New York for a Macworld Expo, and Eric took the train down from Boston for a day. Former managing editor Daniel Chvatik was the next staffer I met. I have long referred to Tom Iovino as my “birthday paisano.” For myriad Web-related questions, I’ve got a scrappy Tasmanian to call upon in Raena Armitage, on the other side of the world. More than one of our online chats has begun with my asking, “So how’s tomorrow going?” I’ve watched, virtually, of course, as Grant Osborne partnered with friends to launch a company and a Web site they were truly passionate about.

The first time I met our publisher and fearless leader, Michael was picking me up at the airport in Connecticut, so the two of us could attend Rob Leitao’s wedding. So many of Rob and Sandy’s families marveled at the two guys “Rob knew through the Internet” being at his wedding, but for us, it was a no-brainer. The three of us had grown close in the virtual world, and we wanted to celebrate this joyous occasion with our friend. I will never forget the arcade in Rob’s mom’s basement, or going through the Danbury Railway Museum with Michael. A couple of years later, when my family found itself vacationing in New England, Michael spent a day showing us around parts of New Hampshire and Vermont.

I’m sure if we pulled out 14-year-old e-mails and chat logs we could figure it out, but my own memory fails to reveal exactly how Lee Bennett and I began our road to friendship. But it’s through 14 years of e-mails and chats that Lee became my best friend in the online world. So much so that when a work convention brought him to the Dallas area, he carved out an evening to come visit us at our home. And there was the day spent with us at Disney World a couple of years after that. And when it came time to try out FaceTime, Lee was the first person I called. So when, two years ago, he told me he was getting married, my wife, after being informed, only asked “So what day do you think you’re going to fly out?”

And as if enough of the staff weren’t becoming friends over time, we imported our non-ATPM friends to contribute. Daniel’s friend Jens Grabenstein contributed reviews and desktop pictures in the early part of the 2000s, and “came back” last year with another desktop picture set. I once interviewed my font-creating friend Dan Bailey. I recruited my pal Tom Bridge to write for us, and local friend Kevin Rossen as well.

While I am proud of every issue I’ve worked on these past 14 years, what I take away from ATPM as we close the door on monthly publishing is so much greater than the sum of all of those. Five, ten years from now, I’m sure I won’t remember most of what we published. But I know the friendships I have made through being part of this amazing publication will endure, and flourish. And as we close this door on part of our past, that’s a future I look forward to.

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donschaffner:

Macs are so hard to use.

If you use a Mac (and iOS devices), you really should be using 1Password.

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minimalmac:

Via Unsplash

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PEBKAC: Protecting the Memory Hub

This column originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of About This Particular Macintosh.

Beginning in 2004, I’ve made a calendar for the coming year featuring our children. For four years, it was just our oldest son. Then we adopted Boy #2, and for three years it was the two of them. The calendar for 2012 now features all three of our sons. I’ve always bought copies for our extended family: the boys’ grandparents, great-grandmothers, aunts and uncle. The calendars are given as gifts at Christmas time, and after the first three years, it became an expectation on the part of the extended family.

My habit has been to curate, throughout the year, an album in iPhoto of possible calendar photo candidates. Often, this is no small task, as we try to take many shots of our three sons. Just after Thanksgiving, I’ll sit down and start sifting through the curated folder. Once I’ve done the initial purge, my wife will sit in and we’ll go through it again, knocking out the ones she doesn’t care for. Then it’s calendar-creating time.

I’ve been pretty happy with the calendar layout and purchasing options Apple offers within iPhoto, and that’s what we’ve used each year.

The 2012 calendar was delayed, due to the nearly three weeks my wife and I spent in Africa at the end of November and beginning of December, as we adopted Boy #3. There were a few “But what about the calendars?” from the extended family at Christmas; like I said, it’s become a pleasant expectation. Rest assured, they arrived the second week of January and have been in full use at the respective households (and places of work) since.

Steve Jobs once famously held up the Mac as the “digital hub”. It was to be the machine you plugged your cameras, iPods, musical instruments, whatever, into so you could work with photos, videos, and music. iCloud seeks to replace the Mac as the hub, and I’m tentatively dipping my toe into using iCloud more, but for me, the Mac still remains my hub. For a Type-A control freak like myself, having something that’s under my control for keeping memories is key. I run my own backups on the Mac, even having backups of the backups. But I’m learning to let go a little more, for the convenience iCloud is supposed to offer.

Whether the Mac or iCloud, what has become apparent is that this simply isn’t a case of being one’s digital hub, it’s become our memory hub. Most everyone’s photos are digital now, and all of my digital photos, most of which never make it to my Flickr feed reside in Apple’s digital shoebox, iPhoto. All of my videos, most of which never end up on Vimeo are stored on there. There’s good reason for having backups of backups. My Mac is where all of my memories are, and I look to secure them as much as possible.

Like many, you’re probably in the same boat, and if you don’t have a comprehensive backup system in place, you need to get one going as soon as possible, lest you take a chance at losing precious memories. Here’s mine:

  • nightly backup of the entire Mac to an external hard drive via SuperDuper; after the initial full backup, the script “Smart Updates” the backup drive, only adding or subtracting what’s changed that particular day
  • ongoing backup of the entire Mac via Time Machine to a different external hard drive
  • weekly backup of SuperDuper-cloned drive to another hard drive
  • ongoing backup of the entire Mac via CrashPlan

The only thing I’m not doing that I should is rotating a backup drive off-site. (In case of a fire or some such event.) For now, my CrashPlan backup serves as my off-site protection for the memory hub.

We all have memories on our computers which are important to us: photos of our family; music from our formative years which defined us (child of the 1980s here); that e-mail from a world-famous author that was so encouraging. These things are worth protecting, and while companies like Apple, Shirt Pocket, and CrashPlan are doing what they can to make it as simple as possible, it’s up to us users to get it going in the first place.

My friends often get tired of hearing it from me, but the mantra won’t change: backup, backup, backup!

Post-publication addendum: Since this column was originally published, I have discontinued my use of Time Machine. I use CrashPlan to not only serve as my off-site backup, but now an external drive uses the CrashPlan software to back up a local copy as well.

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PEBKAC: More Than Just the Mac

This column originally appeared in the March 2012 issue of About This Particular Macintosh.

Recently, a friend and I were chatting about how Apple’s non-Mac products have changed the way we work with our Macs. He remarked how he thought he may be “using the Mac for far too much of it”, under-utilizing the iPhone and iPad. This got me thinking about how these devices have changed how much time I spend in front of my Mac.

Twitter

These days, I spend very little time on Twitter while sitting at my Mac. Nearly all of my Twitter interaction is done on my iPhone through Paul Haddad and Mark Jardine’s excellent Tweetbot. (There is an iPad version as well.) I also keep the venerable Twitterrific on hand. These days, the only time I hit the Twitter web site is to possibly check out a new follower’s profile and Twitter stream.

E-mail

This is an area of usage where things likely work out 50-50. I do a lot of e-mail reading and processing on my iPhone. If there are web links to read later, or a message in need of a lengthy reply, I’ll leave those in my inbox to take care of later when I’m at my Mac. (And how nice would it be to have some sort of Instapaper or Read It Later functionality built into Apple Mail?) E-mail usage on my iPad is very similar to that on the iPhone, if I’m not using an external keyboard, though given the iPad’s larger screen, I certainly get more of the click-on-this-link messages out of the way.

Web surfing

I would say I do as little web surfing on the iPhone as possible, but that’s not entirely accurate. Several apps have built-in web services, and Tweetbot now includes Readability, which has made checking out links from the Twitter stream much more enjoyable. I still do the majority of my web surfing on my Macs, but the iOS devices have definitely cut in to that.

RSS

An area that remains Mac-centric for me is reading RSS feeds. I am a long-time user of NetNewsWire on the Mac, but haven’t made the transition to feed-reading on my iOS devices. This is mainly due to NetNewsWire using Google Reader for syncing, as do many other RSS apps which transcend both iOS and OS X. I’ve always been leery of Google, and see them less trustworthy as time goes on. So I’m holding out for a non-Google Reader solution, and carrying on with 100% of my feed reading through NetNewsWire on a Mac. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the first developer to offer a Mac-iPhone-iPad RSS reader that syncs without Google Reader earns my money. Any takers?

Books

I’ve read a few books on my Mac over the past few years, in text or PDF form, but until the iOS devices (and Kindles) came along, most of my book reading was still done in the dead-tree editions. The past two years have seen my personal ebook reading skyrocket. I knew I had reached a personal milestone when I bought Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher novel in Kindle format. Before, that had always been a hardcover purchase. Between Kindle apps on the iPhone and iPad, as well as iBooks, and Barnes & Noble’s Nook app, I always have a book at my disposal, if nothing else because my iPhone is always with me.

Music

This one hasn’t really changed since the iPod was first introduced. When I’m at my iMac, I listen to music through iTunes on the Mac. If I’m not in my study, I have the iPhone docked to a stereo, or I’m carrying it around with headphones. Call this one a tie.

Movies, TV Shows

The iPad came in very handy for this during our trip to Africa for getting caught up on the first season of Hawaii Five-0. The cable service in our hotel room was nonexistent, so this was a boon for those evenings when we just needed to veg out. Our boys make good use of the PBS Kids app on the iPads, both around the house and while traveling. While I still may watch the odd item on my iMac, most of the time I’d rather stream it to our Apple TV and watch it on the 47-inch HDTV in the living room. Advantage: iOS devices.

Writing

This endeavor still finds me in front of a Mac. Maybe the 27-inch iMac entrenched in the study, maybe the 11-inch MacBook Air that can, and has, gone anywhere. But still a Mac. I have done some writing on the iPad, but thus far that seems to have been a one-time event, outside of e-mail. And I can’t say I’ve done very much writing at all on my iPhone, other than the odd note. Very much still a Mac-centric activity for me.

All in all, the iOS devices have me spending less time in front of a Mac’s screen, and this is not at all a bad thing. My iMac still acts as my digital hub, and despite iCloud’s promises, I don’t see that changing any time soon. Still, I’m thankful for my iPhone’s omnipresence, giving me music and books any time, anywhere I want, and the versatility the iPad offers for some things over even the MacBook Air.

How has having an iPhone or iPad changed the way you work with your Mac?