Apple, How To, Mac, OS X, Technology /

How to: Fix random MacBook keys not working

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I have and regularly use a MacBook Pro that hails from 2010. It feels so long ago, but yet the hardware functions so brilliantly well despite it’s age. This is something I seriously doubt I could say about a Windows-based laptop given that I’ve known friends have three laptops in the time I’ve had this device.

I was very frustrated when my number 6 key stopped working today. I was even more perplexed when I found that the ^ worked fine (that’s shift and 6). Clearly there wasn’t an issue with the physical key itself. This had to be a software issue.

Google is our friend, and the chances are you’ve probably arrived here following a Google search trying to solve a similar problem. A recurring theme out in that vast Internet of ours suggested making sure that Mouse Keys, an OS X feature was turned off.

I checked and Mouse Keys was off. I tried toggling it on, off, on and then off again but my number 6 still refused to work. Clearly it wasn’t that. [Mouse Keys can be turned on / off either in Settings > Accessibility > Mouse & Trackpad, then use the check box. Or, but tapping both CMD keys at the same time five times. Well, on OS X Yosemite anyway!]

The second suggested resolution was to make sure I’d got the right keyboard type enabled under Input Devices. I couldn’t see how this could have randomly happened, but I’m not one to dismiss a line of enquiry to a possible solution so I checked anyway. I added a British PC keyboard to my language options, tried, turned it back to British normal (I’m British in case you hadn’t guessed!). No difference. [Input Devices is found under Settings > Keyboard > Input Devices]

I’m not a fan of coincidences. I’m more of the school of thought that there must have been something else that led to this problem and therefore racked my brain for a memory of what exactly I’d done of late to the MacBook to perhaps cause this issue.

It was then that I noticed the tiny, but not insignificant bluetooth dongle for my wireless keyboard protruding from one of the MacBook’s USB ports. That was the difference; I’ve used a wireless keyboard the day before and today I wasn’t.

After removing the bluetooth dongle my number 6 key merrily sprung back into life and the fear I’d forever more have to remember the alt code for 6 (54 in case you’re interested) faded away!

TL;DR: Unplug anything you might have plugged into your USB ports as an alternative input device.

Photo credit: .Camilo (Flickr)

Apple, How To, Mac, OS X /

How to: Fix OS X Dock randomly moving between screens

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The Mac OS dock is a thing of beauty. It’s look and feel have been recreated on various other devices, even as a tool (Rocketdock) for Windows.

Under OS X Mavericks I recently found a minor frustration with the dock though. It appeared to randomly keep switching which of my two monitors it would call home.

I couldn’t put my finger as to why, nor could I find a way to re-create the problem. It just happened and the only way I found to put it back where I wanted it was to reboot.

It seems I wasn’t alone given several threads over on the Apple Discussion forums. There is, thankfully, a simple way to restore your dock to its rightful place and you may be surprised to learn that the moving of the dock isn’t actually a bug but a feature!

If you move the mouse to another window and pull it down to very bottom of the screen and hold it there, the dock moves over. To move it back, move the mouse pointer to the screen you want it on and hold the pointer at the very bottom of the screen.

I was able to recreate my “problem” and, for want of a better phrase, “fix it” too!

Source: smithmr8 (Apple Discussion forums)
Photo credit: “My Mac OS X Dock” by Chris Pirillo

Apple, How To, OS X /

How to: Fix Error 36 on Mac OS X when accessing Windows 7 shares

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Photo credit: zoovroo (Flickr)

Macs are getting ever more popular. This year Apple have taken a big chunk of the PC market but given the rise of multiple devices in homes catering for either multiple users or to provide media centres with content, people are hanging on to their PCs to act as file servers or repositories. The newer OS X releases are thankfully able to read and write to Windows Operating Systems via the SMB protocol but it can often be a painful experience getting things to work reliably. I don’t intend to discuss or go into the realms of getting your Windows devices to be able to access Mac OS X’s file system; the purpose of this post is to address what I found to be a frequently asked question on Apple support forums and associated help sites, but often found no meaningful or helpful answer was every really forthcoming: “How to fix error 36 on Mac OS X when accessing Windows 7 shares“.

Of course the question has taken other forms but the common element was users were attempting to connect to resources stored on their Windows 7 computer from their Mac OS X device and whilst they might be able to do so, the link would only ever be for a finite period of time before their connection was either disconnected or terminated with an error (typically error 36). Any attempt to reconnect to the Windows share would fail until such time as the Windows device (and perhaps the Mac too) were rebooted. Any other Mac OS device would also be unable to access the Windows device too.

Interestingly this problem doesn’t occur for Windows XP or Windows Server 2003 / 2008 shares. It appears to be isolated to the Windows 7 operating system. The good news is that we can easily modify the Windows 7 OS so that it can act more like a server and eliminate the problems detailed above. To do this we need to alter the registry of your Windows computer.

Disclaimer time: Don’t be afraid, but do be very careful because if you alter the wrong thing it could cause damage to your operating system. (Perhaps make sure your backups are up to date?)

If you are an advanced user then here are the changes you need to make, if you’re not sure what to do then follow our simple step-by-step guide below the advanced user section. This should work for Snow Leopard (10.6), Lion (10.7) and Mountain Lion (10.8):

Advanced user guide

Set the following registry key to ’1′:

HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management\LargeSystemCache

and set the following registry key to ’3′:

HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\LanmanServer\Parameters\Size

Step by step guide

On your Windows 7 device:

  • Click Start
  • In the text box that appears below your programs type regedt32
  • Select the application from the generated program list above the input field
  • Expand HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE
  • Expand SYSTEM
  • Expand CurrentControlSet
  • Expand Control
  • Expand Session Manager
  • Expand Memory Management
  • Double click (in the right hand pane) LargeSystemCache
  • Change the value in the input box to 1
  • Confirm your selection
  • Collapse down the areas you expanded
  • Expand HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE
  • Expand SYSTEM
  • Expand CurrentControlSet
  • Expand Services
  • Expand LanmanServer
  • Expand Parameters
  • Double click (in the right hand pane) Size
  • Change the value in the input box to 3
  • Confirm your selection
  • Close the window you opened

You’re done, the changes should persist through reboot.

Sources: [Apple Support Forum / Alan.Lamielle.net / @mkayes]

Apple, iPhone /

Comparing total cost of ownership on iPhones really left me surprised

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I’m getting ready to upgrade my iPhone 4 16Gb to the not-yet-not-announced-but-seemingly-leaked-everywhere sixth generation iPhone. I was surprised by this, but I had assumed (seemingly wrongly) that buying a phone outright would be cheaper than getting a contract with a mobile provider.

Below is a table which outlines two purchase options. Both routes assume that Apple won’t change the pricing structure and is based on what is currently available for the iPhone 4s.

Route 1 – Get a contract with an operator

The first option has me going with a deal from Three for £35 a month that gives all you can eat data, 5000 3-3 minutes and 2000 cross network minutes over a two year period. The upfront is the money you have to pay Three as a surplus for getting that handset. Cashback is how much QuidCo give you for taking out a new contract. Old phone is how much a reputable recycling co would give for the iPhone 4 16Gb at the time of writing. I’m looking at the new phone rocking 32Gb memory (since the 16Gb is proving space problematic).

Route 2 – Buy the iPhone sim free from Apple

In this scenario I’d buy an iPhone directly from Apple and stick with my 30 day rolling contract from Three (All you can eat data, 5000 3-3 minutes and 2000 cross network minutes). The cash back is QuidCo and American Express combined for the payment (2% from Apple and 1.5% from AMEX). Naturally the recycling money is the same on that deal.

Route 1
24 month contract 840
Upfront 50
Cashback 97
Old phone 172
621 25.88
Route 2
30 day sim 600
Sim free 600
Cashback 21
Old phone 172
1007 41.96

Figures are all £GBP Sterling

In both cases the bottom of each route table signifies the total cost of the ownership, so price of contract over period plus cost of phone minus cash back and old phone recycling. The right hand figure is the TCO divided by the period to give a monthly price. In my case, I’d end up paying, across 2 years, 88p per month more than I am now!

I don’t know why I assumed that going sim free would be cheaper. The reality seems I’d be paying a premium to be able to change handset whenever I wanted. Accepted, I would get a lot more reselling a current model handset than in my case two generations old (An iPhone 4S would offer £310 recycling monies at the time of writing) but on the flip side I’d be paying a lot more in my first year of ownership to pay off that original outlay.

Which way will you go when it comes to that upgrade?

Image credit: Images_of_Money (Flickr)

Apple, iOS /

Apple to unify your AppleID with your mobile number

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Since iMessage and FaceTime arrived on our iOS devices many users have experienced frustration with the caller ID element of the provision. In a nutshell, it is possible to use either a mobile number (sorry US readers, I’m referring to a cell phones here) or an email address to identify yourself as the sender / caller within iMessage / FaceTime. For me I really like that I can choose how I appear to others within that “CallerID” element. As an example, I have contacts who I’m happy to exchange iMessages with, however I don’t particularly want them having my mobile number.

The frustrating part of the service is that some people will contact you using your specified email address, and other will use your mobile phone number. This leads to a disjointed iMessage inbox with messages split out from their corresponding conversation threads. Furthermore, if you use iMessage on a Mac or an iOS device that doesn’t have a cellular phone number (e.g. iPod Touch or a WiFi iPad), your messages won’t all synchronise across devices. Thankfully Apple has a solution in mind.

When iOS 6 is released Apple intend to give users the ability to unify their AppleID with their mobile number. This will prevent the disjointed message inbox and greatly improve the experience. Quite how it will work we’re not sure. One problem we foresee with the service is when you change mobile number, how do you expire the old number?

What do you think? Are you pleased to see Apple making this move?

Photo credit: JuditK (Flickr)

Apple, Mac, wwdc /

Retina MacBook Pro no longer a pipedream

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The Retina MacBook Pro has been speculated ever since the new iPad was launched earlier this year. Tim Cook teased the audience at this year’s WWDC keynote when it put up refreshed specifications for the current MacBook Pro line and then suggested he needed to make room on the slide for something else. That something else was a new line of MacBook Pro’s which were hotly anticipated and pretty much guaranteed following Apple authorising “Retina ready” applications into the Mac App Store just a few days earlier.

The Retina MacBook Pros range are essentially the MacBook Pro completely redesigned. The promotional video is fantastic, with the biggest cheer from the whole WWDC event being given to Jony Ive talking about the fundamental change to the cooling system!

It’s a staggeringly brilliant feat of engineering and certainly had me wanting to reach for the plastic! With its Retina display, thin design, flash storage system, I/O system, faster memory and fantastic battery life, it draws from the MacBook Air whilst still being something else.

Retina Wallpaper from MacBook Pro (Retina)

Packed into that tiny shell is a quad core CPU (i5 or i7), up to 16GB of RAM, up to 768GB of flash storage and an NVIDIA GeForce GT 650m graphics chipset that will delight any gaming or high-end graphics user. Connectivity includes HDMI, USB3, Thunderbolt and the usual Magsafe power connector.

The entry model has priced at a level that it blows any other Ultrabook on the market out of the water. In fact, some might argue there isn’t a similar product in the marketplace to compare it against.

Will you be buying or is this something you’ll have to just drool over at your local store when you pass by?

Retina screenshot

Photo credit: blltz (Flickr)

Apple, iCloud, iOS, iPad, iPhone, iTouch, Technology, wwdc /

iOS 6 is packed with new features

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Apple’s WWDC keynote yesterday saw iOS 6 being unveiled to the world. There were a number of feature showcased as well as key improvements and changes to the portable operating system Apple’s iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches run.

Siri

It’s coming to iPad, has various new features including Twitter / Facebook abilities, sports data, OpenTable access and Rotten Tomatoes content as well as new languages and more.

Phone app

Toggles allowed to set Do No Disturb mode including custom auto reply text messages. Ability to make FaceTime calls over mobile networks announced.

Maps update

It’s a pretty big deal. Apple have ditched Google for their maps and gone to TomTom, adding turn by turn and loads of other extras.

Facebook

Like its cousin, Twitter, Facebook will finally be integrated into iOS 6.

App Store

Redesigned and cleaned up for iOS to make snappier and easier to navigate. Like the StayOpened jailbreak tweak – the store no longer closes to download an application.

Mobile Safari

It’ll keep your tabs in sync between devices (Mac OS and iOS) and allow the saving of web pages to view offline.

Mail

VIP functionality is here. You can set a priority inbox for people you want to see messages from broken out into a separate area. Attaching of videos of photos from within the app is now also possible.

Photo streams

You can now share photo streams with other people. They don’t even need to have an Apple device themselves.

And the rest…

These are just a handful of features. More will be revealed and uncovered as iOS 6 makes its way through the beta process. If you’re a developer then beta 1 is available to download now. Us regular Joes will have to wait until Autumn until we get the final release of iOS 6 and perhaps a new iPhone.

Are you excited by what’s coming or disappointed with the line up? Please do let us know in the comment section below.

Photo credit: Search Influence (Flickr)

Apple, Jailbreaking /

MuscleNerd confirms iOS 6 can be jailbroken

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It will come as no surprise that devoted jailbreak dev MuscleNerd has successfully jailbroken iOS 6. Using an iPod Touch running the iOS 6 beta 1 firmware, he has managed to jailbreak the device albeit in a tethered manner and in no way suitable a format to run Cydia or make available for a public released.

This is promising news. Please remember, no jailbreak for iOS 6 will be made available until the final version of iOS 6 is publicly released by Apple. Letting the cat out of the bag early will simply just allow Apple to close the holes and vulnerabilities used to exploit the system and enable the jailbreak.

Photo credit: MJ/TR (´・ω・) (Flickr)

Apple, iOS, iPad, Technology, wwdc /

Siri overhauled and coming to the iPad

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One of the key elements of Apple’s WWDC keynote was making a big deal about the improvements made to Siri. We’ll look at those improvements in a moment but not before we’ve touched on the delicious news that Apple will make Siri available to the iPad in iOS 6.

Apple were, as usual for an iOS announcement, ambiguous with regards to “iPad”. Whilst the new iPad (aka the iPad 3) will be capable of running Siri, it hasn’t yet been determined whether or not the iPad 2 will also be able to enjoy Siri functionality.

What’s new with Siri?

  • It can launch applications
  • It integrates with Rotten Tomatoes for Movie reviews and information
  • It’s linked to OpenTable so you can make dinner reservations and view menus
  • Sports fans can rejoice (other than UK Football being referred as “Soccer”) at the wealth of sports data available
  • More languages are now supported
  • Twitter and Facebook integration – tweet / update with Siri
  • “Eyes Free” – Siri will be able to link to in-car systems with various makes of vehicle!

Are you pleased with the refresh coming? What appeals most to you?

Photo credit: Acarlos1000 (Flickr)

Apple, iOS, iPad, iPhone, Jailbreaking, Technology, wwdc /

FaceTime over 3G / 4G now a reality

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FaceTime was touted as one of Apple’s big iOS features when they released the iPhone 4. There’s no doubt that it’s been hugely popular but we’re doubtful it’s as popular as Apple perhaps hoped it would be. Part of this may well be down to Apple preventing users from making / receiving FaceTime calls unless they were connected to a WiFi network. iOS 6 will change this and allow users to use the FaceTime service over their 3G or even 4G carrier service.

Good thing

This is excellent news from the point of view that it empowers users to be able to use their iPhone in a manner by which they choose to (a little more) than its previously locked down state. Rumours were historically abound that the reason for the lack of FaceTime calling over the carrier network was to appease carriers who have been known to charge through the nose for their own video services. I don’t buy into this, for two reasons: The first being that Apple tends to tell carriers how they need behave and what they have to accept if they want to carry the iPhone on their network, and secondly I prefer to think about it from a quality point of view, which leads to….

Bad thing

The world isn’t mobile network saturated. Even in 2012 many of the super developed parts of the world can have some shocking mobile signals, and in the poorest coverage areas, 3G/4G services just aren’t going to be a reality for some time. By (previously) setting the provision to only allow via WiFi connectivity, Apple could at least attempt to make sure that the chances of a quality call taking place every time was a reality (Internet Connection depending).  By allowing mobile carrier FaceTime calls, members of the less educated iOS ownership pool are potentially going to be dissatisfied blaming Apple for poor quality, or even inoperable, FaceTime sessions.

Not something new

This isn’t a new thing by any stretch of the imagination. The jailbreak community has catered for such a provision for quite some time with products like My3G. Perhaps Apple have been quietly observing the community once more and have finally decided that consumers are happy not to have what Apple will aspire to, i.e. a perfect every time FaceTime experience.

And the bandwidth

It’s a no brainer, but FaceTime over any carrier network is going to use up precious data allowance. Not everybody is on an all you can eat provision (love mine!) and as such some users are going to want to get an idea of what calling over the mobile networks will cost them in megabytes. Apple hasn’t been the one to detail such queries before and I doubt they will for FaceTime either. They’ll leave that the operators to include in their “What does xGb per month get you?” tables.

Your thoughts?

Are you pleased to see this move? Will you even make use of it?

Photo credit: jauhari (Flickr)