How to use Night Shift on the Mac

Apple on Monday released macOS 10.12.4, the latest version of its Sierra operating system. Among the new features is Night Shift, the same screen-dimming technology that Apple has had in iOS for a while. They’ve buried the feature, though, so it can be a bit tough to find. Here’s how, and what it does.

Night shift

Night Shift adjusts the color of your Mac’s display after sunset. According to some research, exposure to the bright blue light of computer displays in the evening can affect your ability to sleep. Night Shift mode – first introduced in iOS 9.3 – changes display colors to warmer tones with less blue. In the morning the Mac returns to its normal settings. If you’re working with graphics, art, photography, video or other content where color fidelity is of paramount importance, Night Shift is probably not the best thing to use. But for the rest of us, Night Shift can give your eyes – and your circadian rhythm – a bit of a break.

Night Shift is similar in concept to the third-party application f.lux. F.lux is still available if you’d prefer to use it or are not ready to upgrade yet to macOS 10.12.4.

How To Use Night Shift On The Mac

  1. Click on the  menu.
  2. Click on System Preferences…
  3. Click on Displays
  4. Click on the Night Shift tab to change settings.

You can schedule Night Shift according to a custom schedule, determining what time to turn it on and off. You can also override the setting to turn it on until the next day. You can also adjust the intensity of the color shift.

Apple notes that this won’t affect the color balance of connected televisions or projectors – so Night Shift, at least for now, will only affect directly connected monitors.

It’s also worth noting that Night Shift imposes specific system requirements. Apple has outlined them in a tech note posted to its website.

The new MacBook Pro isn’t for you. Shut up already.

There are a lot of perfectly cogent, reasonable criticisms of Apple’s MacBook Pro announcement last week. This is not one of them.

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Few are more well-thought out than Chuq Von Rospach’s “How Apple Could Have Avoided Much of the Controversy.” I won’t recap it here, but I encourage you to check it out if you’d haven’t already.

I haven’t had a chance to play with the new systems yet. They weren’t available for demo at the Apple Store when I dropped by yesterday to get my phone fixed and I don’t have one on order, as my “daily drivers” consist of recent-model MacBook Air and Retina MacBook Pro models, so I likely won’t be getting a new Mac for some time.

Instead, I’d like to direct my comments to the self-appointed arbiters of the Apple zeitgeist. You know the ones: With each successive release of software and hardware from Apple, the ones who have increasingly become more shrill and strident about their displeasure with the company and their intention to leave the platform: Shut up.

Buy something else, if you’re going to. But you know as well as I do that you probably won’t. Because you’ve invested years developing and mastering a workflow. And you’re not about to go and recreate that on another platform simply because this particular hardware doesn’t meet your needs, you special freakin’ snowflake.

And hey, if you are, if this is your line in the sand, good on you. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

The rest of us have real work to do.

How to remove Flash on the Mac

Word has emerged about a “ransomware” exploit involving Adobe Flash. Adobe has responded with an update. The ransomware exploit is, for now, limited to users of Windows, but the update has been made to all supported platforms, so it’s an update to essential Flash code, not just something Windows-ish.

This illustrates that you need to be very careful about what you keep on your computer, and that you may want to periodically rethink the software you have installed.

To that end, if you absolutely need Adobe Flash to access content on the web that you need, at least make sure you’ve updated to the most recent version. Following another heinous Flash problem last March, I posted details about to update Flash safely on your Mac.

Those some rules apply today if you need to update. But if you don’t need Flash, you’ll be better off without it all together. It’s a gaping security problem, can cause performance and battery drain issues and is increasingly irrelevant to the web as more developers use HTML5 and other media-rich non-proprietary tech.

So why not remove it all together? If you already have Flash installed on your Mac and you’ve decided that enough is enough, here’s how to get rid of it once and for all.

How to remove Adobe Flash from the Mac

  1. Open your Utilities folder.
  2. Double-click on Adobe Flash Player Install Manager.Flash 1
  3.  Click the Uninstall button.Flash 2
  4. Type your administrator password and click OK.Flash 3
  5. The software will then remove Adobe Flash software from your computer.Flash 4

Once it’s done, and you quit, the removal app should disappear all together.

If you ever want to reinstall Adobe Flash Player, simply visit Adobe’s web site and download the installer.

Also, bear in mind that it’s perfectly fine to have a Mac that doesn’t have Flash installed but still access Flash content. The trick is to use Google’s Chrome browser. Chrome “sandboxes” Flash inside itself, so you can still see Flash content on the web without it possibly affecting the rest of your computer.

2013 Mac Pro with video issues? Call Apple

If you’re using a “trashcan” Mac Pro — one of the new turbine-shaped models released since December 2013 — you should be aware of a new “Repair Extension Program.” MacRumors has the scoop.

Graphics cards in some of the Mac Pros made between February and April 2015 have exhibited problems with distorted video, no video, freezing and other issues.

Because it’s a Repair Extension Program, you’re covered even if you don’t have AppleCare on the Mac Pro.

An SSD can make your old Mac feel new again

If you have an older Mac that still uses a hard disk drive and you’re looking to keep it alive for a while longer, I strongly recommend considering replacing that drive with a Solid State Drive (SSD) instead. It’s one of the best instant performance improvements you can make to your Mac, and it’ll keep it going for a while longer.

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Hard drives are squarely 20th century technology. They work a bit like record players: There’s a disc inside that spins around a central spindle, like the record spinning around, but instead of needle playing a groove on the record, an arm with a device at the end of it can read and write to the disk magnetically. They’re slow, noisy, use lots of energy (and generate heat), they’re heavy, and mechanical.

SSDs have become standard issue across the Mac laptop line since the introduction of the Retina MacBook Pro in 2012. They store data similarly to how information is stored on your phone — by writing data to chips which remember the data even when they’re turned off. By using silicon to store the information instead of a physical disk, you can read and write information much, much faster. 

SSDs are a popular upgrade option for do it yourselfers — a number of companies make their own mechanisms, including many which are designed to fit into the same space made for a laptop hard drive (commonly a 2.5-inch drive). These third-party SSDs use the same Serial ATA (SATA) connections as a hard drive, so it’s just like replacing a hard drive. Only soo much faster.

There’s a downside to SSDs: They’re more expensive per gigabyte of storage than a hard drive. You can buy a 1 terabyte hard drive for less than $100. An SSD with that capacity will start at about $250, if you shop around and find a good sale. Having said that, the price on SSDs has come way, way down in recent months, so you can find some good values if you look. Even a year ago, a 1 TB SSD was well outside the budget range of many of us.

I’ve recently replaced the hard drive on a mid-2009 MacBook Pro with a 128 GB SSD, and the difference in performance is nothing short of amazing. Even with its small RAM footprint, this MacBook runs well enough to be a daily driver. What’s more, Macs of this age are pretty serviceable, too: Putting it in involved a single tool (a Philips #00 screwdriver) and required about ten minutes.

Check web sites like iFixit.com and Macsales.com for more info on installing SSDs. OWC (macsales.com) is also a good place for Mac users to buy them.

MacBook branding is messy

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Apple’s branding of the MacBook is a hot mess, and I hope they clean it up. Let me explain.

For the last several years, Apple has bifurcated its laptop sales into two brands: The MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro with Retina Display. It differentiated them by offering the MacBook Air as being less expensive, having lighter weight, and sporting all-day battery life. The MacBook Pro offered a superior screen, faster performance and more expansion options.

That changed in March of 2015, when the company resurrected the MacBook brand, dormant since the discontinuation of the polycarbonate-clad MacBook in 2010. In its previous incarnation, the MacBook was positioned as Apple’s entry-level model, a step down from the MacBook Air, but a system better suited for students and others looking for a value-priced, reasonably durable Mac laptop.

The 2015 MacBook flips that on its head. The new MacBook is positioned as the laptop of tomorrow. It sports twice the memory and twice the storage capacity of the Air, with a (smaller) Retina display like the MacBook Pro. It’s also a showcase for new technology like a different keyboard mechanism and Force Touch trackpad.

By making it even lighter and thinner than other Mac laptops, Apple also eliminated every external interface except a USB-C connector (shared by data and power) and a headphone jack. Otherwise, the assumption is that whatever you need to do can be done wirelessly either using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

The MacBook is also the first Mac laptop to follow Apple’s aesthetic direction for iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches: It’s available in different finishes like Space Gray, Silver and Gold.

All of this adds up to a very enigmatic product in Apple’s Mac line. The MacBook stands alone from the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. When looking at them side-by-side, buyers unfamiliar with the Mac line are often confused — why is the thinnest, lightest MacBook not a MacBook Air. After all, doesn’t “Air” mean it should be light?

So what’s the right answer? I don’t know. My expectation is that over time the lines between the products will blur as Apple incorporates more of the MacBook’s design and aesthetic into its other products. Maybe there won’t be a meaningful difference. Or maybe the MacBook Air will go away entirely. But right now, the MacBook sticks out like a sore thumb.

Why Apple hasn’t refreshed the Thunderbolt Display

Apple’s 27-inch Thunderbolt Display is its only external monitor. It’s compatible with all Macs, but it’s increasingly long in the tooth, and it’s due for a refresh. It’s been due for a while, and it’s creating frustration for some Mac owners.

The Thunderbolt Display offers up a finely-calibrated 27-inch IPS screen mated to a single cable that connects it to your Mac’s Thunderbolt port. It also sports four built-in powered USB 2.0 ports, a FireWire 800 port, Gigabit Ethernet and a Thunderbolt port for you to daisy-chain another Thunderbolt device, like an external hard disk drive (or even another display).

 

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A single, thin, Thunderbolt cable connects the display to your Mac, and if you use a MacBook Air or a MacBook Pro, a MagSafe cable lets you power your laptop up directly from the display.

So there’s a lot to recommend the Thunderbolt Display to Mac users, outside of the premium $999 price tag.

Unfortunately, the Thunderbolt Display is also showing its age. Apple’s design language for the device is antiquated – it looks a lot like an iMac of the same vintage — 2011 — but iMacs were revamped in 2012 to be dramatically skinnier and lighter. 

In the four years since the Thunderbolt Display was introduced, Apple’s incorporated Thunderbolt 2 across the product line. It’s also upgraded USB 2.0 to USB 3.0 (and, most recently, to USB 3.1), and it’s replaced MagSafe with MagSafe 2. (A MagSafe 2 adapter is included with the Thunderbolt Display).

Thunderbolt 2 allows for 4K resolution (3840 x 2160 or 4096 x 2160), but the Thunderbolt Display is still stuck with WQHD resolution – 2560 x 1440 pixels.

Making the Thunderbolt Display higher-resolution would sacrifice compatibility with older devices, but my experience is that most people who are buying these things are getting them for the newest Macs — Macs where legacy connectivity isn’t an issue.

Of course, the new hotness in Apple’s product line is 5K resolution, now a standard feature of the 27-inch iMac. 5K resolution over Thunderbolt will have to wait until Thunderbolt 3 makes its debut, but that will narrow the list of compatible Macs even further.

I’m hoping that Apple will release a 4K Thunderbolt 2 display without waiting for the world to get to Thunderbolt 3 — that’d be a nice refresh, and would surely provide a bit more peace of mind to Mac users dropping a thousand bucks on a new display.

Upgrading iMac RAM

Reader BW is planning to upgrade the RAM in his 2013 27-inch iMac and asks:

Can I use an uneven number of RAM slots or should I just buy 2 4GB RAM boards?”

Outside of a few early Mac Pro models, no Mac requires you to upgrade RAM in pairs. Each of the four SO-DIMM sockets on your 27-inch iMac’s motherboard can support either a 4 GB or 8 GB SO-DIMM, for maximum of 32 GB.

Matched pairs of memory can work faster than uneven SO-DIMMs, but you will gain more performance from a larger memory configuration than you will from a smaller, paired configuration.

So if you’d like to keep that other slot open for future upgrades, my recommendation is to go with an 8 GB SO-DIMM to boost your iMac to 16 GB total, leaving the four slot open for a possible upgrade to 24 GB at some point in the future, if necessary.


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Further down the road, the best bang for your buck for future upgrades may not be adding more memory. Unless you ordered this model with a Fusion drive, I’d recommend replacing internal hard drive with an SSD. SSDs cost a lot more per gigabyte but a ton of perfor

Microsoft is not the enemy. They never have been

There’s this common fallacy that if you’re a Mac user — at least if you’re one of those Mac users — then it follows that you must hate Microsoft.

I remember a time when that was more accurate — in the 1990s, when Microsoft had plainly beaten Apple for dominance in enterprise, and Apple was on the ropes. Boy, it was fun to hate Microsoft then.

But even then, Microsoft wasn’t the enemy.

People forget that Microsoft was one of Apple’s first third-party Mac developers. Excel originated on the Mac, after all. Microsoft has been developing for the Mac for the last 30 years, and while their interest and support for the platform has waxed, waned, and waxed again over the years, they’ve never left it.

Many folks who buy a Mac now do so because they want to get away from Windows. They’ve had a hard transition from Windows 7 or 8 to 10, or have reliability or usage problems that they blame on Windows but which often have to do with the actual devices they’re using, and how they’re configured.

Even when they get away from Windows, though, these same customers are entirely dependent on workflows they’ve developed or their employers use which require Microsoft products, like Office, in order to use.

These days Microsoft supports the Mac with its Office 2016 product, which the company thoroughly publicly tested before launching it officially. And you can get office apps for your iPhone and iPad, making it possible to create an end-to-end workflow for home and business that makes it possible for you to do your work anywhere you have a device, whatever that device is.

In that respect, Microsoft is very much like Apple: They’re trying to put your work and your productivity ahead of the user experience. Make device and app use invisible, as it were, focusing solely on getting you what you need to get your work done.

At Apple’s iPad Pro introduction this September, one of the development partners that shared the stage with Apple was Microsoft. They showed off Office on the iPad taking advantage of iPad Pro-specific features. That Microsoft was there and figured as prominently as it did speaks loads about how important Apple still thinks that relationship is.