Twenty years

A lot of what I post here are how tos or tutorials, so I hope you’ll forgive me for a bit of self-indulgence. But an announcement posted on the web this week has me looking back at the last 20 years in the Apple ecosystem and on my own career.

On Monday MacNN announced plans to shutter, marking the end of a 21-year run. MacNN is a news resource for Apple enthusiasts, and at one time it vied for dominance in the Mac news media with the publication I wrote for, MacCentral. Monish, MacNN’s founder, and many of the writers and editors there are people I’ve known, liked and respected over the years. MacNN isn’t the first Apple news-oriented site to go away recently; AOL’s shutdown of TUAW is still a raw wound in many Apple enthusiasts’ minds.

But it is an indication of just how much the business of publishing information on the web has changed over the years. In announcing MacNN’s shutdown, Charles Martin notes that the management has decided to pull the plug even though they were building audience and improving page views. Too little, too late in a radically changing publishing market, I fear. I hope MacNN’s staff land safely.

In 1995, when MacNN got its start, I was working as a network administrator for a graphic design firm in Watertown, MA. Apple was a beleaguered company at the time – it seemed its best innovation was behind it, and it simply couldn’t compete effectively against the Wintel juggernaut. But in graphic design and publishing and many other creative arts and businesses, the Mac reigned supreme. 

We were an all-Mac shop and the owners were investing heavily in technology. Sites like MacNN and MacCentral were vital resources for people like me – people who were helping to guide budgets around expensive computer hardware, trying to understand what they can do, and looking out for the many pitfalls and speedbumps other companies had already fallen prey to, and avoiding them.

I still check sites like MacNN nearly daily, though it’s more reflexive than out of necessity these days. Still, whenever there’s good content about Apple technology I’m happy to read it. MacNN’s demise gives us one less place to find that sort of content, and that’s a loss for us all.

Best of luck to everyone affected by MacNN’s closure.

Will your Mac support macOS 10.12 “Sierra?” Here’s how to find out

The release notes for the rechristened “macOS” 10.12 “Sierra” indicate a change in minimum system requirements. Older Macs got a stay of execution last year; El Capitan’s minimum requirements didn’t change from Yosemite. This year, Sierra ups that to Macs built since late 2009. If you’re not sure about the age of your Mac, here’s how to tell.

If you were planning to install 10.12 on an older Mac, you should probably make sure it’s up to snuff before you try. (If you try to install the developer preview on a Mac too old to support it, the installer will tell you it’s too old and will quit, anyway.)

If you’re not sure how old your gear is, here’s how to figure it out.

How to know the age of your Mac

  1. Click on the menu
  2. Select About this Mac
  3. Under the Overview tab, look at your Mac’s description. Its model age will be displayed.How old

Even though minimum system requirements had been static on the Mac for a few years, the actual supported features of OS X have been a moving target. El Capitan can be installed on Macs back to 2008, but features like Metal graphics acceleration, AirDrop file sharing, Handoff and Instant Hotspot are specific to Macs buiilt since 2012. That’s because those newer Macs have better hardware inside that enables the feature support. And while El Cap technically supported Macs with 2 GB RAM, running them in that configuration was maddeningly frustrating, especially on Macs without SSDs.

macOS Sierra ups the minimum system requirement to MacBooks and iMacs made in late 2009. That maintains that seven-year spread we saw last year, but cuts off older Mac models built before late 2009. I don’t know what, technically, is motivating the system requirement change. But generally, my experience tells me that Apple’s decisions on system requirements are rarely arbitrary: Apple simply won’t support hardware that they can’t back with a great user experience.

It’s too soon to tell what Sierra’s final system requirements will be: Yesterday was the release of the first developer preview, and a public beta won’t be out until next month, with a general release in the fall. So don’t draw too much from the developer preview as it stands now. Still, forewarned is forearmed, so tuck this information away for the coming weeks and months.

How to post to Instagram right from Photos on the iPhone

Up until this week, posting iPhone photos to Instagram required the Instagram app. Now you can post directly from Photos. Instagram 8.2 finally adds support for Share Sheets, which we’ve been waiting for since iOS 8 was released in 2014!

If you’re like me, this is a big deal. I use Photos to catalog, edit and tweak my photos. I don’t much care for the built-in editing or filter tools in the Instagram app. So being able to post from right within Photos saves me the step of having to open Instagram and post from there. Even if you’re not using Photos but you are dependent on another photo cataloging or editing tool, Instagram’s support for Share Sheets makes it that much easier to integrate Instagram sharing into your workflow.

Here’s how to activate the new Instagram feature.

To add Instagram to your iPhone Share menu

  1. Make sure to download and install the latest version of Instagram from the App Store.
  2. Tap Photos.
  3. Select the photo you wish to export to Instagram. Tap the Share menu icon in the lower left corner.Share sheet
  4. The share sheet shows you the list of available services and apps, including Mail, iCloud Photo Sharing, Facebook, Twitter and others. Tap and left-slide until you see More. Tap on More.More
  5. In the Activities window, scroll down the list until you see Instagram. Tap the toggle to turn Instagram on, then tap Done.Instagram share
  6. Instagram will now appear in the list of services you can export photos to. You can add a caption and hashtags and post when ready.Instagram button

The downside of posting to Instagram is that you’re just posting to Instagram. The Instagram app lets you cross post to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Flickr as well. But those services are also supported in Share Sheets – it’s just not a one-stop crossposting shop. If you want to cross-post to different services at once, you’ll still need to use the Instagram app.

How to quickly see the emoji keyboard on OS X

Sometimes you’d just to prefer to text on your Mac, and who can blame you? It’s got a nice big screen and a nice keyboard to use. But these days lots of us punctuate our messages and our social media posts with emoji, which are a bit more difficult to use on the Mac. Here are a couple of ways to make it easier.

One thing you can do to make emoji more accessible on your Mac is to enable the emoji menu. Open the Keyboard system preference and look for a checkbox near the bottom that says Show Keyboard, Emoji & Symbol Viewers in menu bar. 

Show emoji

With that checked, you’ll see a new menu appear on your Mac; click on it and select Show Emoji & Symbols to display a menu of all available emoji.

Show emoji menu

That will pop up a window that shows you all the available emoji. Position your cursor on the line of text you’d like to add the emoji to, double-click on the emoji, and it will be added to the text. The emoji window will float over the other windows in open apps. Close the window by clicking on the red button in the upper left hand corner.

Emoji menu

There’s an easier way, especially if you don’t want to clutter up your menu bar with additional stuff. Just hold down the command and control keys on your Mac’s keyboard, then press the spacebar. That’ll make the emoji menu appear as well.