What Operating System Should I Get?

The three main choices are Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac and Linux. In this article I briefly summarize the advantages and disadvantages of each. We begin with MS Windows.

Microsoft Windows Advantages

A comprehensive range of software is available for Windows machines, including, of course MS Office. Modern high performance games work well on MS Windows. This is somewhat ironic given Microsoft’s image of a stuffy business oriented software house. Microsoft Windows is used on lots of systems so there is no trouble getting advice and support and also peripherals (printers mice etc) to work with it. It’s likely that you will have already used or will be expected to use a MS Windows machine in your work, since they’re pervasive in the business sector. So, being familiar with Windows might be useful in terms of your career.

Microsoft Windows Disadvantages

Windows can be expensive, particularly for the Professional and Ultimate editions. Windows has a poor (but steadily improving) security reputation. A comprehensive virus checker and internet security program is therefore an absolute must for all Windows boxes.

Apple Mac OS X Advantages

The chief advantage of Apple Mac OS X is its lovely, easy to use user interface. Apple has a well deserved reputation for making well designed products and this is reflected in OS X. Apple’s standout application area is computer graphics and multimedia application (video editing etc). While Macs have a good reputation for security, it’s still recommended that you use some kind of virus checker and internet security program. The reason for this is twofold, firstly it’s only a matter of time before a really nasty Mac or UNIX virus appears and with no good anti-virus infrastructure in place the Mac community will be very vulnerable. Secondly, even if your Mac itself isn’t adversely affected by an infected email it would be embarrassing to pass the problem on to your Windows reliant associates. There’s a more limited range of peripherals available for the Mac than MS Windows machines, but still a wide enough choice for most users. In terms of applications, a reasonable amount of software is available including MS Office for Mac.

Apple Mac OS XDisadvantage

For practical purposes Max OS X only works with Apple hardware (I’m not talking about peripherals here just the core system). Anyway, this limitation isn’t such a bad thing since Mac hardware is rather nice and it probably contributes to the reliability of Apples offerings. Cost, for a given machine performance Apples are cost competitive with brand name Windows machines, however Apple don’t produce a netbook level machine which tend to be cheap.

Linux Advantages

The first advantage is its cost, it’s free for many distributions, although business uses typically get support packages which of course need to be paid for. Secondly, Linux is considered to be very reliable, it’s open source so lots of people get to test and review its source code. Thirdly, performance, Linux performs strongly over practically all benchmarks. Lastly, security, Linux has a good reputation for security, but, as with the Mac, most users are still advised to invest in a virus checker.

There is a wide range of free high quality open source software available for Linux. There’s also a reasonable range of proprietary software available, with an emphasis on engineering and scientific packages. In addition with the aid of the wine package it’s possible to get many MS Windows application to work on certain Linux machines (ones capable of running Windows).

Linux Disadvantages

The two most common Linux graphical user interfaces, Gnome and KDE are still not as polished as either Windows 7 or Apple’s latest offerings. Users are typically either businesses or IT, engineering or scientific professionals and students.

Summary

If you’re a game playing business person buy Windows. If you’re an artist buy a Mac and if you’re an engineer download Linux.

Peter Smaith has over 20 years experience in the computer industry, having worked as software engineer, manager and consultant. Peter is an occasional reviewer at http://www.review-pc.com.

How to Use FileVault

Found on Mac OSX 10.3 and later, FileVault is a great tool to make sure all your data is completely safe at all times. FileVault encrypts the files, as in it stores them as a Sparse Disc Image, which is essentially one large file and uses a key derived from the user’s password.

It is always safe to take some extra precautions for your Mac and FileVault will help you do just that by allowing you to encrypt your drive.

Encrypt the entire home folder into one file

The entire home folder can be encrypted into one big file. If iTunes, iPhotos and movies are all moved out of this, the file size can be kept small and this helps improve the reliability. By going to Preferences in iTunes, you can go to Advanced and allocate where your iTunes library need to be kept. Then by going to Consolidate Library in Advanced, your files will be moved by iTunes. The same can be done for iPhoto by just moving the iPhoto library.

Create a maintenance user account

By clicking on Accounts in System Preferences and adding the user there, a maintenance user account can be created. It should be ensured that it is an Administrator account to allow unhindered access to system privileges. This account is critical, as without it the FileVault gets corrupted.

Create a complete backup of the Mac

By logging into the maintenance account, a complete backup of the Mac’s contents can be made into an external drive. This saves everything on your Mac and a restore will return your system to its exact current condition.

Create a backup of all your files

After logging out of the maintenance user account and logging in the normal user account, a backup of all the files on the Mac can be made using the Retrospect solution.

Create a whole-drive backup solution

Creating a backup solution of the entire drive is optional, but it is advisable to do so. The SuperDuper software and an external drive can be used for this. It is always safe to have a bootable backup of all the files as you never really know when your system decides to take a walk on the wild side.

Set a master password

A master password can be set by going to Security in the System Preferences option. It is recommended to write down the master password in a secure place in case you forget it.

Request password to wake computer

The settings on the bottom can be changed to request a password to wake the computer, whenever it is on sleep mode. Automatic login can be disabled as it leaves the system open to anyone and everyone while you are away or busy….not a very good idea if you have confidential material on your Mac.

Find more great Mac articles in our articles section.

For more great Mac articles, resources, tools and downloads, visit: Macintosh Tools. You can also visit our blog for the latest industry news and tips.

The Mac Aqua GUI

The Macintosh, commonly known as the Mac, is a range of personal computers developed by Apple Inc. The Graphical User Interface (GUI) of the Mac’s Operating System version 10.4 is referred to as Aqua. It is the successor of Platinum which was used in Mac version 8 and 9. As is suggested by the names, Aqua GUI is based on the theme of water. It makes use of droplet-like-elements and also avails of reflective and translucent effects. In the words of Steve Jobs, co-founder and CEO of Apple Inc., “One of the design goals (of Aqua GUI) was when you saw it, you wanted to lick it”.

The water themed user interface first made its introduction at the January 2000 Macworld Conference and Expo, San Francisco. The debut appearance of the Aqua GUI in a commercial product was during the July 2000 release of the iMovie 2. In that the scroll bar and the buttons had the Mac Operating Systems’ all-new Aqua look. Its second appearance was in the Mac OS X Public Beta in September of the same year. This was followed by a feature in iTunes in January the following year. Aqua was made Mac’s official graphical user interface after the release of the Mac OS X. The two basic colours which highlight Aqua’s style are blue and white.

Two of the main features of the Aqua GUI are:

  1. The gel-like buttons that control wind, which come in red, yellow and green colours.
  2. The dock which helps to launch and navigate between applications. David Pogue, a technology columnist for the New York Times, described the scrollbars as “lickable globs of Crest Berrylicious Toothpaste Gel”.

The brushed metal windows and the standard pinstriped are the two basic types of windows that come with Aqua. Both these styles seem to have the navigational button embedded into the window but in versions of Mac before 10.2, the buttons appear on top of the pinstriped windows.

As newer versions are released, the Aqua GUI has been made increasingly subtle. For instance the pinstripes have been made fainter. Also the menus as well as the system dialogs have been made more translucent. Even the appearances of the buttons and the widgets have been made softer.

Quartz Compositor which handles the underlying graphics management of the user interface powers Aqua.

To find out more about the Mac, as well as tips, downloads and reviews, visit: http://www.macintosh-tools.com

For more great Mac articles, resources, tools and downloads, visit: Macintosh Tools. You can also visit our blog for the latest industry news and tips.

iSquint – Freeware For Mac Users to Convert Video

As for Mac users, iSquint is a good iPod video converter for Mac. You can play iSquint to convert almost all video formats, including DivX and XviD AVIs, all forms of MPEG video, and many other formats QuickTime and so forth. Also you can put those converted video onto iPod, iPhone and Apple TV.

iSquint is known as its fast conversion speed, easy-to-use interface and totally free. It supports batch processing for multiple files. You can convert video files in batch with iSquint. Moreover, iSquint provides with quality setting, and you can get the quality you want by moving quality bar. Easy enough, right?

System Requirements:

  • Mac OS X 10.3.9 or higher
  • Universal Binary for PowerPC and Intel Macs.

Features of iSquint

  • Supports most of video formats DivX/XviD AVIs, all forms of MPEG video, and many other formats QuickTime chokes on are supported.WMV 7/8 files supported. With the Flip4Mac plugin, all WMV files are supported – including WMV9.
  • Batch conversion Batch Processing of multiple files. Save in-place, or to a different folder.
  • Really easy to use Just drag your files in and click “Convert”, you can begin the converting. You can choose the size of the TV and iPod, set the conversion quality.
  • Powerful compatible function On a 1GHz G4 PC, iSquint can convent most videos to the file fits for the iPod screen. It does not need the QuickTime Pro and DivX codec.
  • Fast conversion speed Fast convert the most main stream video files to MPEG-4 and H.264 or 3GP, XviD files. It supports batch conversion.

In a word, iSquint is a good choice for Mac users to convert video formats and transfer to iPod.

If you want get more information, you can click here:
http://www.downloadatoz.net/download/isquint/

The Mac Aqua GUI

The Macintosh, commonly known as the Mac, is a range of personal computers developed by Apple Inc. The Graphical User Interface (GUI) of the Mac’s Operating System version 10.4 is referred to as Aqua. It is the successor of Platinum which was used in Mac version 8 and 9. As is suggested by the names, Aqua GUI is based on the theme of water. It makes use of droplet-like-elements and also avails of reflective and translucent effects. In the words of Steve Jobs, co-founder and CEO of Apple Inc., “One of the design goals (of Aqua GUI) was when you saw it, you wanted to lick it”.

The water themed user interface first made its introduction at the January 2000 Macworld Conference and Expo, San Francisco. The debut appearance of the Aqua GUI in a commercial product was during the July 2000 release of the iMovie 2. In that the scroll bar and the buttons had the Mac Operating Systems’ all-new Aqua look. Its second appearance was in the Mac OS X Public Beta in September of the same year. This was followed by a feature in iTunes in January the following year. Aqua was made Mac’s official graphical user interface after the release of the Mac OS X. The two basic colours which highlight Aqua’s style are blue and white.

Two of the main features of the Aqua GUI are:

  1. The gel-like buttons that control wind, which come in red, yellow and green colours.
  2. The dock which helps to launch and navigate between applications. David Pogue, a technology columnist for the New York Times, described the scrollbars as “lickable globs of Crest Berrylicious Toothpaste Gel”.

The brushed metal windows and the standard pinstriped are the two basic types of windows that come with Aqua. Both these styles seem to have the navigational button embedded into the window but in versions of Mac before 10.2, the buttons appear on top of the pinstriped windows.

As newer versions are released, the Aqua GUI has been made increasingly subtle. For instance the pinstripes have been made fainter. Also the menus as well as the system dialogs have been made more translucent. Even the appearances of the buttons and the widgets have been made softer.

Quartz Compositor which handles the underlying graphics management of the user interface powers Aqua.

To find out more about the Mac, as well as tips, downloads and reviews, visit: Macintosh Tools.

The Mac Terminal – A Short Introduction

Introduction

No doubt, Apple’s Mac OSX has the most streamlined and user-friendly user interface of the commonly used operating systems on the market. Sometimes, however, using your mouse to complete a task can be cumbersome. This is where the Terminal can come in handy.

The Terminal is a command line tool which lets you send commands to your Mac by typing text instead of using your mouse with the user interface.

To start the Terminal application navigate into your Application folder, and from there into the Utilities folder. Alternatively you can press CMD+Space and type ‘Terminal’.

The ls command

When you start Terminal you will be presented with the so-called prompt. This prompt tells you when you last logged on and what folder in your file structure the terminal is currently pointed at (if this is the first time you use Terminal this will be your account’s home folder)

To see what files are in this currently active folder type the ‘ls’ (without the quotation marks) command (a small L, not an I) and hit enter. ‘ls’ is short for list, not surprisingly terminal will list all the files and folders in your home directory. One of those folders should be ‘Desktop’. This is the folder where everything you see on your Desktop is located.

If you want to see what files and folders are in this Desktop folder type the command ‘ls Desktop’ (again, without the quotation marks, and hit enter).

The cd command

The ‘cd’ command (short for change directory) will let you navigate to a specific folder. Assuming that you are still inside your account’s home folder type ‘cd Desktop’. The Terminal is now ‘pointing’ at your Desktop folder. If you use the ‘ls’ command now, you will we presented with a list of files and folders in your Desktop folder.

To navigate back to your home folder type ‘cd ~’. Alternatively you also use ‘cd $Home’.

To navigate to the current folder’s parent folder type ‘cd ..’

The help command

Probably the most helpful command for a Terminal beginner is the ‘help’ command. Type ‘help’ (without quotation marks) and hit enter. Terminal will present you with a list of all available commands.

If you need help with a specific command, simply follow the ‘help’ command with the name of the command you need help with. For instance, ‘help cd’ will offer you help with the change directory command.
Brian Leanza

How Can I Play Windows Media Files (Wma and Wmv) On a Mac?

Introduction

Apple’s Quicktime movie format (recognizable by its *.mov extension) has become and almost standard for video files. It beats most other video formats in terms of compression and both video and audio quality. The quicktime format, however, is by no means the only format for videos out there. In a world where over 90% of all personal computers run Microsoft Windows it is no surprise that you are bound to stumble over videos in the Microsoft Media File format (.wma and .wmv). How can you play these kind of videos on a Mac?

While there are about a handful of options, two of them are more reasonable than the others for a bunch of reasons: the Flip4Mac Quicktime plugin and VLC Media Player.

Flip4Mac

Flip4Mac is a plugin for Apple’s Quicktime movie player. Being a plugin it will enable Quicktime to play Windows Media Files. This has the advantage of there not being an additional application being installed on your Mac. Also, you will be able to watch (and listen to) Windows Media files in the software you are used to that has the type of user interface you expect when working on a Mac.

Flip4Mac is produced by a company named Telestream which offers five different versions of the plugin (Player, Player Pro, Studio, Studio Pro, Studio Pro HD). While it is reasonable to buy one of the commercial editions (buying software to support developers is always a wise idea) you can do very well with the free edition.

Installation of Flip4Mac is very easy. After downloading the plugin from either the Telestream site or Microsoft (for links see the resource box) open the downloaded .mpkg file and the plugin will be installed.

After installation you will be able to play following additional file formats with Quicktime:

  • Windows Media Audio (.wma)
  • Windows Media Video (.wmv)
  • ISO Mpeg Layer 3 (MP3)
  • ISO Mpeg-4
  • Microsoft Motion JPEG
  • And a few other, less used formats

VLC Media Player

The free VLC Media Player is your second reasonable option. This piece of software is open source, continually worked on by its open source developer community and is probably the most versatile media player in terms of supported formats out there.

Installation is as easy as downloading the dmg file (for a download link see resource box) and then drag and drop the dmg file into your Application folder.

VLC Media Player is a very reliable and versatile media player. There is one downside however: like so many other pieces of software written for all major platforms (Windows, Linux, Mac OS) its user interface does not follow Apple’s guidelines. VLC simply doesn’t look or feel like a Mac application.

Summary

Both, VLC Media Player and Flip4Mac, are very good options if you need to play Windows Media files on your Mac. There is no problem having both of them installed on the same machine. If, however, you prefer to have as little software installed on your Mac as possible, you should opt for Flip4Mac.

Flip4Mac: http://www.telestream.net/flip4mac-wmv/overview.htm
VLC Media Player: http://www.videolan.org/vlc/

Brian Leanza

5 Mac Security Tips You Can’t Live Without

So, you’ve bought a new Macintosh, and now you may be wondering how to make it safer. There are several things that you can do which will protect your Mac from viruses and hackers. Macs are already very difficult to hack, but don’t let that fact allow you to become lenient with your security.

1. Download all of the software updates available. This seems like a no-brainer, but some Mac users forget to download the newest updates. You can even set your computer to automatically download new updates. However, some dial-up users encounter trouble when trying to downloaded updates. If you are a dial-up user, the best suggestion is to leave your Mac on overnight and let it download. Apple releases many programs that fix bugs in iLife applications, and in Mac OS X. Probably the most important of these updates are the security updates. Apple periodically offers security updates for its operating systems (Panther and Tiger).

2. Be careful what you download. Some people use P2P downloads for Macintosh (I.E. Poisoned). Be careful when downloading using a P2P because you do not know where the music or file is coming from. Some P2P users specifically make corrupted files to send via music downloading programs. Generally, it is a good idea to stick to iTunes, because those files are ACC Protected and offered through Apple so they certainly won’t have viruses.

3. Choose the best and safest Internet Browser. Safari comes standard on all new Macs as part of iLife. However, some people do not enjoy Safari as much as others. Some say that Safari is not as safe from hackers as other browsers. Safari can also be a problem if you are going to a web page that requires a version of Internet Explorer or Netscape to view it. You can download Internet Explorer and Netscape for Mac, but again, some believe that these browsers are not as safe from hackers. Many people believe that Mozilla Firefox (my personal favorite) is the safest browser to use because of its customizable features. Firefox is available for downloading on the Macintosh.

4. Don’t be afraid to buy anti-virus software. If you have to download files from the internet as part of a job or hobby, then it is probably a good idea to have some sort of anti-virus software on your Macintosh. Apple provides a wide-variety of anti-virus software that is constantly updated.

5. Finally, keep an eye on those e-mail attachments and instant messages. Some hackers have programmed viruses to IM you from one of your friends’ screen names. Don’t click on any link without knowing what it is first. Most e-mail providers use virus scans automatically, but you should always be extra careful when downloading an attachment. If it is from someone you do not know, don’t trust it.

Apple computers are very safe from hackers, but they can always be improved. Keeping a computer safe, and running well requires a great amount of time and energy. Just remember that if your computer is safe, your Apple experience will be much more rewarding.

Paulo Fretowski enjoys writing about computers because he uses them for his job with BizNicheMedia.

iPod Error – ‘Firmware Update Failure’

iPod is the Apple provided brand of portable media players that supports a line of digital file formats. To support file transfer from iPod devices from computer systems using Macintosh or Windows operating systems, iTunes is used. iTunes can transfer photos, email settings, calendars, Web Bookmarks, contact information and other data. But sometimes iTunes report that it cannot read or write information from iPod disk. One of the typical reasons for such behavior to occur is disk structure damage, which requires iPod to be restored. But this leads to data loss and hence you should recover lost data from backup. If you don’t find it feasible to recover from backup, use iPod Data Recovery tools for this purpose.

While trying to update or restore your iPod, you might receive the below error message:

“Firmware update failure. Disk write error”

This error message suggests that iTunes cannot read/write any information from/to iPod.

Cause

Possible reasons for this error message are:

• You are using an outdated version of Windows or Mac OS X operating system
• You computer is not updated
• You are using some software that are interfering with iTunes
• One or more music files are damaged
• If you are using Windows, unregistered .dll files could be the issue
• Damaged iPod photo cache
• Connection is lost
• Damaged or incompatible hardware
• iPod disk structure is damaged

Solution

Try resolving this issue using these steps:

• Make sure that you have installed all latest updates of your Windows or Mac OS X operating system, including device connections updates
• Ensure that you have the latest updates available for your computer
• Try uninstalling any software and disabling add-ons that might be interfering with iTunes
• Check for damaged music files and delete them
• Register the unregistered .dll files, if any
• Delete the corrupted iPod photo cache
• Check the system for valid connection
• Diagnose your system for damaged and incompatible hardware and replace or remove them
• Restore your iPod using latest version of iTunes. Restore lost data from backup or alternatively use iPod Recovery tools if you face backup concerns. iPod Data Recovery applications perform safe and effective lost data recovery.

Stellar Phoenix iPod Recovery is a complete iPod Reocvery solution to recover lost data. Available for both Windows and Mac operating systems, this non-destructive tool supports iPod generations like iPod Nano, iPod Classic, iPod Shuffle and iPod Mini. It comes available with advanced features like File Mask, File Filter etc. It can restore all music files, pod casts, audio books, documents and graphic files.

Simpson has 6 Years of Experience in the Software Technology field working as a freelancer with Stellar which offers data recovery services, ipod recovery and unixware data recovery software for more than 10 years.

Speed Up Mac OS X

The MAC computers run on the operating system X known commonly as OS X. In this article we shall discuss some tips that can help you to speed up the OS X of your MAC computer.

Clear the Cache.

Most MAC systems either use the web browser Firefox or Safari. Both browsers have a fairly large capacity to store the names and addresses of the websites visited. As this list of records grows longer and longer with the passage of time, the performance of the web browsers starts to get negatively affected. This also slows down the performance of the OS X. Hence, it is advisable to regularly clear the history of the web pages visited every few days to keep the browser working at optimal rates.

Disable Apps & Effects you can do without!

Many people use programs that automatically update their desktop settings from time to time. This involves shifting the wallpaper by automatically picking from the stored files or downloading a new one each month. Even though such functions are a great way to jazz up your computer and seem very attractive because they are extremely convenient, the truth of the matter is that they use up a lot of the computer’s memory space in order to be able to function. This again slows down the working of the computer. Hence it is important to remove any applications that change the desktop settings on their own on a regular basis. It might take some effort on your part, but it’s hardly anything compared to the space and time that you will be saving.

Another attractive function that causes you to use up unnecessary space and thus interfere with the working of the OS X is that of animated desktops. While animated wall papers and folder icons and function buttons might seem like fun and are certainly a great way to jazz up the computer screen and bring it to life, the energy used to sustain these adversely affects the operating system in the form of extra space and battery power, thus resulting in slowed performance.

Minimize the use of Memory-intensive programs.

For those who like their favorite applications to be used, to open up each new file, for example, opening up image files with Photo shop each time, here is a word of caution: resetting the default settings and adjusting them so as to use a more complex application for a relatively simple task each time involves using up more of the computer’s performance power. If you specifically want to work on a file then right click and select the desired application using the ‘Open With’ tab, but for the default settings allow programs like Picture Preview for opening images to function regularly. This way the application takes less time to open and the work is done, without involving extra effort on the operating system to load up all the complicated tools and functions associated with the advanced program.

The Speed Recognition software is an attractive feature of the MAC system but if you do not use it on a regular basis or are not currently employing it then go to the System Preferences option and click on Speech Recognition and turn it off to save disc space and speed.

For more Macintosh tools, resources, articles and freebies visit: Macintosh Tools