Mac Essentials

Everyone has those essential programs that they install as soon as they get a new computer. Here are a dozen or so apps that everyone needs to install on their Mac laptop as soon as they take it out of the box.

The Mac already comes with plenty of great applications, but there are some bits that definitely could be supplemented here and there.

These are my essential apps. If there’s anything that you think is missing, feel free to tell me about it in the comments section. Read more

Getting Started

I’m doing National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) again.  For those of you unfamiliar with it, NaNoWriMo is a program where you write a 50,000-word novel in a month.  Yes, it sounds crazy, and trust me, it is.

However, NaNoWriMo is actually one of the most rewarding experiences that you can have, because it uses a time constraint to force you to complete a big project that you probably never would have started otherwise.

Time is an excellent motivator.  Even if noveling isn’t your thing, maybe try NaNoWriMo-style sprinting to accelerate your next big project.  Because the hardest part of a major project isn’t doing the work, it’s just sitting down and getting started.

Getting the Most Out of Your Windows Key

Windows 8 is finally here, but do you know the best ways to get around the system?  In Microsoft’s latest operating system, the Windows Key got a lot more useful.  The Windows Key shortcuts in Windows 8 are sorted below into categories below.

Charms Shortcuts

In Windows 8, one of the key navigational concepts is the Charms Bar, located on the right side of the screen with navigation shortcuts.  You can quickly access Charms by pressing the following:

Win+C:  Opens the Charms Bar.

Win+Q:  Opens the Search Charm.

Win+H:  Opens the Share Charm.

Win:  Opens the Start Charm (Start Screen).

Win+K:  Opens the Devices Charm.

Win+I:  Opens the Settings Charm.  This charm is important as it is the only way to access the power controls. Read more

The Complete Guide to Profile Manager (Part 1)

In order to have easy, complete control over your devices and user accounts, OS X Server includes Profile Manager, a tool for managing Macs, iOS devices, and users on both platforms.

Profile Manager will work with iOS devices running iOS 3 or later (device enrollment is only supported on iOS 4.1 or later) and Macs running OS X Lion (10.7) or later.

Managing Devices

In order to manage devices, you must first enable Profile Manager on your server. Open Server.app and enable the Profile Manager service. The Web service is also required to run the Profile Manager server.

Now, you’ll need to use the Profile Manager web interface to manage your users and devices. The Profile Manager web interface can be accessed in two different ways. In the Profile Manager section of Server.app, you can click “Open Profile Manager” in the lower right of the window. Alternatively, you can visit https://your-server-address/profilemanager. If necessary, use a server administrator account to login to Profile Manager. Read more

OS X Server Feature Overview

Despite its extremely low price of $19.99, OS X Mountain Lion Server actually has a great array of features in five key categories: User and Device Management, Personal Information Services, Network File Sharing, Web Services, and Network Services.

User and Device Management

In order to manage users on your network, OS X Server has a number of built-in tools. Of course, there is a basic user manager to manage all of the accounts. You can also place your users into groups and assign privileges based on these groups. OS X Server also includes a utility called Profile Manager that allows you to configure Macs (10.7 or later) and iOS devices (iOS 4 or later) using almost any setting built into the machine (and more). For controlling older Macs, Open Directory and Workgroup Manager are also available.

Personal Information Services

For all personal information management (PIM) and collaboration services, OS X Server offers a variety of tools. For email, Mail Server is available for use over IMAP, POP3, and SMTP, the standard email protocols. For scheduling, OS X Server offers Calendar Server which uses the CalDAV protocol. For address book management, Apple offers Contacts Server that operates over the CardDAV protocol. Unfortunately, CalDAV and CardDAV are not supported well by non-Apple platforms, but this book will discuss possible solutions in a later chapter. Finally, OS X Server offers Messages Server for instant messaging purposes. This server will easily integrate with iChat and Messages, and it uses the Jabber instant messaging standard, allowing it to work with most chat clients.

File Sharing Services

OS X Server supports most standards for sharing files between computers on your network. The shared folders on your server can be accessed through a variety of protocols: Apple Filing Protocol (AFP), primarily used on Macs, Samba (SMB), primarily used for Windows clients, and WebDAV, primarily used by iOS devices. Additionally, you can set up a file share over the File Transfer Protocol, more commonly known as FTP. Traditionally, this service would be used to manage a web site hosted on the server.

Web Services

OS X Server does have a built-in Apache web server, so you can host web pages and PHP web applications (like WordPress and MediaWiki). OS X’s web server also supports Python-based web applications. However, OS X Server is strangely lacking a MySQL database which many PHP applications depend on. Don’t worry; this book will cover how to add MySQL to OS X Server in a later chapter. Perhaps more interesting is the Wiki server built into OS X Server. The wikis are a great way to share files and collaborate on documents. It also has support for mobile devices, allowing your clients to work on the Wiki and access wiki files from a variety of devices.

Network Services

OS X Server also includes a number of extra services for managing a network with your Mac server. First, OS X Server includes a DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) server. DHCP is the system that is used to assign IP (Internet Protocol) addresses to devices on the network. DHCP is often handled by a router, but OS X Server also has the functionality if you choose to let your server handle this. A DNS (Domain Name Server) system is also included with OS X Server, and this allows you to assign server resources to a domain name (like nwalker.org) to services within your network, so your clients won’t have to refer to your server(s) as 192.168.X.X. Additionally, OS X Server includes a VPN (Virtual Private Network) service, allowing your clients to connect to your network from anywhere, as long as they have an internet connection. In other words, clients can access network services without being on the same network using a VPN.

Mac-specific Services

Being a Mac server, OS X Server obviously includes some services that can only be accessed by Mac clients. The first is called NetInstall. This allows you to take an copy of an operating system (Mac OS X in this case) and install it on a machine on the network. Therefore, you can create a customized copy of OS X and quickly install it on a number of computers. The second service is Software Update Server. This service allows you to host software updates for Apple software (including operating system updates) on your server, so you can download them once for all of your clients and save bandwidth. For networks with a large number of machines, this feature can make updating software less of a hassle. The third is Time Machine Server. This feature allows you to use your server to host backups from Time Machine, Apple’s backup solution that has been included with OS X since 10.5 Leopard. The final service is called Xsan. A SAN (Storage Area Network) is an extremely fast and extremely large set of hard drives often used for video production. Xsan is Apple implementation of this. However, Xsan is typically a very specialized service that requires expensive equipment, so it is beyond the reach of this book.

Onwards?

For just under twenty dollars, the amount of functionality in OS X Server can see overwhelming. Fortunately, OS X Server offers a simple interface for configuring most of these services, so if you keep reading, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting off to a good start with your Mac server.

Mac Server Book: Administering Your Server

Now that you have your server set up, you’re going to need to control it. Fortunately, OS X Server can be controlled in a number of ways, both using the server or using another computer.

Using Server.app on Your Server

The first way that you can control your server is simply by using the Server app that you installed already. Simply launch Server, select “This Mac” from the list and log in with an administrator account. Now, you have access to the full array of server controls for all of the built-in services.

Using Server.app on Another Machine

The next way that you can control your server is by using the same Server app on another machine. Simply install OS X Server from the App Store on another machine and launch the Server app. Instead of pressing “Continue” to set up that machine as a server, go the Manage menu and press “Connect to Server”. Then, select the server you want to connect to if it is visible or choose “Other Mac” and enter the remote machine’s IP address and administrator login information.

To find your Mac’s IP address, go to System Preferences -> Network and select the interface that you are using for network access (probably Ethernet or Wi-Fi). The System Preferences window will display the IP address for that Mac. If you haven’t set up a static IP address in the server setup process, you may wish to do so. Now, you can control your server just as you would if you were actually using the server hardware.

I would like to mention one thing regarding Apple’s Mac App Store licensing here. The license for OS X Server allows you to install it on all of your personal Macs, if you are using server for personal, non-commercial uses. If you are a business user, then you have the right to install the software on one machine with many users or many machines with one common user. If you want to use Server beyond this, you’ll need to purchase multiple copies of OS X Server.

Screen Sharing

The third way that you can control your server is by remotely accessing the server using a solution called Screen Sharing. This system allows you to view the screen of the server as if you were directly in front of it, but you can use any computer to manage your server (even a PC or Linux machine).

In order to enable Screen Sharing, go to System Preferences, and open the Sharing pane. Now, check the box next to “Screen Sharing”. If you want to access your server from a PC or Linux machine, click on the “Computer Settings…” button and check “VNC viewers may control screen with password:” and enter a password in the box to the right. Then, press “OK”. Enter your administrator password if necessary.

Accessing from a Mac

If you are using a Mac, your server should appear in the Finder Sidebar under the “Shared” section. After you select it, you should be able to press a “Share Screen” button in the Finder window. Then, enter your login information.

If you don’t see your server in the Finder, simply type `vnc://YOUR_SERVER_IP` into Go -> Connect to Server using the Finder. Then, you should be able to enter your login information. If you are unsure of your server’s IP address, use the instructions under “Using Server.app on Another Machine”.

Now that you are viewing the screen of your server, you can just open the Server app just as you would if you were physically using your server.

Accessing from a PC

As Apple’s Screen Sharing is compatible with the open VNC standard, you can access your server from a PC. However, Windows does not include a VNC client so you will need to download one. I recommend [TightVNC](http://tightvnc.com). Install the software and then open the TightVNC Viewer. Enter the IP address of your server, and you should get the login screen for your server. Login as an administrator and you should get the OS X desktop.

Now that you are viewing the screen of your server, you can just open the Server app just as you would if you were physically using your server.

Accessing from a Linux machine

Accessing your Mac from a Linux machine is very similar to the process on Windows. The application that I use is GTK VNC Viewer on Ubuntu. You should be able to grab this using your package manager. Just install the application and input your server’s IP address, your admin user name, and your admin password. Then, press the Connect button, and you will be viewing your Mac server.

Now that you are viewing the screen of your server, you can just open the Server app just as you would if you were physically using your server.

Apple removes “What’s Hot” from the App Store

The “What’s Hot” section under Featured in the App Store in iOS seems to have been removed by Apple. This is probably due to the redesign coming in iOS 6, but this change may hurt some developers who won’t get featured now. This change appears on both the iPhone and the iPad.

Update: The What’s Hot section has been restored in later versions of the App Store.

Preparing for Mountain Lion

OS X Mountain Lion is here, but are you ready for it? Find out everything that you’ll need to do before upgrading to make sure things go as smoothly as possible.

Requirements

  • A Mac running either Snow Leopard or Lion that is Mountain Lion compatible
    • If you’re still on Leopard, you can still buy a Snow Leopard upgrade from the Apple Store.

Update your system

In order to ensure compatibility with OS X Mountain Lion, you’ll want to have an up-to-date OS to make sure that everything goes smoothly.

Apple Software Update

First, you’ll want to run Software Update to make sure that your version of Snow Leopard or Lion, as well as any other Apple software, is up-to-date. In order to do this, simply go to the Apple menu at the top-left of the screen and select Software Update…. If there are any updates available, be sure to install them.

App Store updates

In order to ensure maximum compatibility with Mountain Lion, you should update all of your App Store apps. Fortunately, this is as easy as opening the App Store and going to the updates tab. You can individually select applications to update or press the Update All button to install every available update.

Read more