Make Incremental Brightness & Volume Adjustments in OS X Mountain Lion & Mavericks

Jun 9, 2012 - 34 Comments

Incremental volume and brightness adjustments in Mac OS X

Do you remember how you could make small and precise 1/4 incremental changes to brightness and audio volume in Mac OS X Snow Leopard by holding down the Option key? Many thought this feature disappeared with OS X Lion, but it turns out you can still make those incremental adjustments in both OS X Lion, OS X Mountain Lion, Mavericks, and OS X Yosemite, though the keyboard shortcuts to do so have been changed ever so slightly.

The new keyboard modifier for precise adjustments of audio level and brightness level is the following:

  • Incremental Brightness Adjustments: Option+Shift and F1 or F2
  • Incremental Volume Adjustments: Option+Shift and F10 or F11

You’ll notice with Option+Shift held down the brightness and volume indicators now have four levels per segment, allowing for precise adjustments of either setting.

There may be some minor variation on which Function keys to use per Mac keyboard, you are looking for the F keys that control brightness and sound volume though obviously.

These are both fairly old tricks but since the shortcuts changed with the newest versions of OS X they are worth mentioning again considering their prior popularity. Thanks for the tips Eduardo!

By Paul Horowitz - Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks - 34 Comments

Mac Screen Looking Blurry? Optimize & Troubleshoot Font Smoothing in Mac OS X

Jun 9, 2012 - 4 Comments

Mac screen text looks blurry and how to fix it

If you think a Mac display looks fuzzy or blurry there are a few common solutions to check into before assuming the screen itself has a problem. Likewise, if your screen text just doesn’t look right it may be due to a few settings within OS X. With that in mind here are a couple tips to troubleshoot a Mac screen that appears blurry, and also how to optimize font smoothing in OS X to make antialiased text look its best on your display.

Choosing the Proper Display Resolution

By default Macs always use the best optimal screen resolution, but it’s the kind of thing that could be changed accidentally or by a previous owner or user who forgot to change it back to the native resolution. This makes a giant difference in how smooth onscreen fonts and items look, here is how to set the proper resolution for your Mac:

  1. Open System Preferences from the  Apple menu and choose “Displays”
  2. Under the “Display” tab, choose the highest resolution available in the list – for LCD displays that is the native resolution

Here is an example of the dramatic difference that using the proper screen resolution makes:

Incorrect screen resolution looks fuzzy

Compare that picture to the next one:

Correct screen resolution showing sharp fonts

Make Sure Font Smoothing is Enabled

The next thing you’ll want to do is to make sure you have antialiasing enabled. This is turned on by default but it’s possible someone turned it off and is worse checking:

  1. Open System Preferences from the  Apple menu and click “General”
  2. At the bottom of the preference panel, check the box next to “Use LCD font smoothing when available”
  3. Consider adjusting the minimum font smoothing size, 8 is the default setting and tends to look best on most monitors

For most users the above tips are enough, but you can go a bit further to tweak antialiasing if you’re comfortable using defaults write commands.

Changing the Strength of Font Smoothing in OS X

Finally, it’s a bit more advanced but there is a way to change the font smoothing settings with defaults write commands entered through the Terminal. This used to be available in the System Preferences but Apple has simplified the setting and chooses an option for you now.

Medium font smoothing:
defaults -currentHost read -globalDomain AppleFontSmoothing -int 2

Light font smoothing:
defaults -currentHost read -globalDomain AppleFontSmoothing -int 1

Strong font smoothing:
defaults -currentHost read -globalDomain AppleFontSmoothing -int 3

You can reverse any of these font smoothing adjustments with the following defaults command:
defaults -currentHost delete -globalDomain AppleFontSmoothing

Thanks to Pawel for the questions and tip idea

Mac Setups: Programmers Desk

Jun 9, 2012 - 5 Comments

Mac programmers desk

This weeks Mac setup comes to us from Marc D., a programmer in Austria who has a nice clean desk with some great hardware. From left to right you’ll find:

  • Macbook Pro 15″ – Late 2011 – 2.4GHz i7 4GB
  • Apple Cinema HD 23″ connected to the MacBook Pro (and viewing!)
  • iMac 21.5″ – Late 2009 – 3.06Ghz Core 2 Duo 4GB
  • iPad 2 (in Leather casing from Galeli) accompanied by a Bamboo stylus for my note taking pleasures.

The single Apple keyboard and wireless Logitech M510 mouse are shared between both computers with the help of Synergy.

Other gear that isn’t pictured but worth mentioning includes a custom built Hackintosh which functions as a web server, a 2009 Mac Mini running Boxee and iTunes serving as a media center, and an Apple TV which works as an AirPlay hub. Of course the photo was taken with an iPhone 4 16GB too.

Great Apple setup Marc, thanks for sending it in!

Want your Apple gear or Mac setup featured? Send us a brief description of hardware, what you use it for, and a decent picture to

By William Pearson - Mac Setups - 5 Comments

14 Must-Know Tips & Tricks for Mac OS X

Jun 8, 2012 - 32 Comments

Must Know Mac OS X Tips and Tricks

We often get asked what the single most useful Mac tip is, or what a handful of the best tricks are. It’s impossible to answer such a question given the diversity of use cases of OS X, but here’s a collection of what are surely some of the absolute best tips for Mac OS X that should be considered must-knows for all Mac users. We’ve covered just about all of these on an individual basis before, but if you want to learn a whole lot in one sitting you’re in the right place.

Read more »

By Paul Horowitz - Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks - 32 Comments

Quickly Enter Clamshell Mode with an External Display in Mac OS X

Jun 8, 2012 - 14 Comments

Clamshell MacBook in a Book Arc

Keeping a portable Mac turned on while the lid remains closed is commonly referred to as clamshell mode. This basically docks the MacBook Air/Pro/etc and allows the GPU to power an external display only which can help performance of some games and graphics intensive tasks. There are several ways to enter into clamshell but this is probably the fastest for those who use an external keyboard or mouse with a MacBook.

  1. Connect the external display and an external keyboard or mouse to the MacBook Pro or Air
  2. Close the lid of the MacBook
  3. With the lid closed, click the mouse button or hit a keyboard key
  4. The MacBook will awake and the external display will turn on, becoming the primary display

This should work in all versions of OS X without any issues. Be aware that running a MacBook with the lid closed reduces the ability for the Mac to dissipate heat through the rear fan ports and the keyboard which could theoretically lead to overheating, making clamshell best used in well ventilated areas or with a Mac that’s placed in something like a TwelveSouth BookArc, which is what’s holding the MacBook in the image above.

If you open the lid at this point the displays will flicker blue and both screens will turn on, that can be prevented if you’d rather keep the internal display turned off, or you can go with it and set the primary display to tell the Mac which screen to use for the menu bar, Dock, and where windows will default to open to.

Thanks for the tip Jared

By Paul Horowitz - Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks - 14 Comments

5 Totally Rad Retro Apple Wallpapers

Jun 8, 2012 - 7 Comments

Retro Apple logo & Think Different lock screen wallpaper

Want some retro Apple wallpapers featuring the classic rainbow  logo? Of course you do, so get ready to feel like you’re somewhere back in the 80’s and early 90’s again with this collection of five old school wallpapers.

Read more »

By Paul Horowitz - Customize, Retro - 7 Comments

Show iCloud Photo Stream as a Slideshow or Screen Saver on Apple TV

Jun 7, 2012 - 5 Comments

Apple TV slideshow of Photo Stream images

Want to show a quick slideshow to your friends and family of pictures contained within Photo Stream? Assuming you already have Apple TV signed into your iCloud account, do the following:

  1. From the main Apple TV menu choose “Internet” and select “Photo Stream”
  2. Choose “Slideshow” to start the slideshow

By default this will go through all images contained within Photo Stream, that means every picture in the photos library of an iPhone and iPad, keep that in mind if you have pictures on any such device that you don’t necessarily want to share.

You can also set the Photo Stream to show as the default Apple TV screen saver:

  1. Go to Settings and choose Screen Saver
  2. Choose the Slideshow and under slideshow settings choose iCloud Photo Stream

Again you’ll want to remember that everything in the photo stream gets displayed, so you may want to create a specific folder or collection of images if you have some pictures you don’t want to share with everyone in your living room.

If you do find yourself embarrassed by some of the pictures in your iCloud stream, do yourself a favor and transfer the photos from the iOS device and then delete them all from Photo Stream.

By Paul Horowitz - Apple TV, Tips & Tricks - 5 Comments

Redownload & Reinstall Any iOS App

Jun 7, 2012 - 7 Comments

Redownload and reinstall iOS apps

You can redownload and reinstall any previously purchased apps that have since been deleted from an iOS device, even if you deleted them a long time ago or never even installed them in the first place. As long as the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch is using the same Apple ID where the original app was bought and downloaded with, the re-download process is quick and simple.

And for clarification, yes, re-downloading an app will re-install it into iOS. You can use this to reinstall apps you’ve deleted, or with apps that are assigned to an Apple ID but have not yet been installed onto a particular iOS device using the same Apple ID. OK let’s get to it.

Read more »

Fish Shell for Mac OS X Makes the Command Line Smarter & Friendlier

Jun 7, 2012 - 6 Comments

Fish Shell for Mac OS X showing autosuggestions

Are you looking for a way to make the command line a bit more user friendly? If so, you may find Fish to be a pretty nice alternative shell whether you are completely new to the OS X Terminal or you just want some general assistance when at the command line.
Read more »

By William Pearson - Command Line, Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks - 6 Comments

Enable Closed Captioning on iPhone, iPad, and in iTunes

Jun 6, 2012 - 4 Comments

Closed Caption Closed Captioning places written text at the bottom of video content, allowing for anyone to read along with the video rather than listen to the audio. This is an essential feature for certain accessibility purposes and for individuals who are hard of hearing, but it’s also just a useful feature to enable if you want to watch a movie silently and read subtitles.

We’ll cover how to enable Closed Captioning on the iPhone, iPod, iPad, and also in iTunes for videos on Mac OS X and Windows.

Enable Closed Captioning on iOS Videos

This applies to all iOS devices, including iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch:

  1. Launch “Settings” and tap on “Video”
  2. Next to “Closed Captioning” slide the switch to ON

Enable Closed Captioning of videos in iOS

Turn On Closed Captioning in iTunes

This applies to Mac OS X and Windows:

  1. Launch iTunes and open Preferences from the “iTunes” menu
  2. Click the “Playback” tab and check the box next to “Show closed captioning when available”

Enable closed caption videos in iTunes for Mac OS X or Windows PC

Find Closed Caption Supported Video in iTunes

Enabling closed captions is only useful if you have video that supports it however, and thankfully many videos offered through iTunes do. The process of finding compatible video is the same in iTunes on iOS, OS X, and Windows:

  1. Open iTunes and using the search box in the upper right corner, type “closed caption” and hit return
  2. All video content that is returned should support closed captioning, individual videos can be verified by choosing them and looking for the familiar “CC” logo in the description

Find Closed Caption videos in iTunes

With Closed Captions enabled all supported videos will use them when played through the Videos app or iTunes.

Oddly, Closed Captioning does not appear to be widely supported in the iTunes Trailers app for iOS. This seems like an unusual oversight for Apple, who is usually very good at maintaining accessibility options, though many of the features have to be enabled separately on a per-case basis, such as text to speech in iOS, screen zoom in iOS and OS X, and the aforementioned closed captioning abilities.

Thanks to @julesdameron for the tip idea.

Get 11 Great Mac Apps for $49.99 with the MacUpdate June 2012 Bundle

Jun 6, 2012 - 6 Comments

MacUpdate June 2012 Bundle for Mac Apps

The MacUpdate June 2012 Bundle is an absolute whopper of a deal with 11 killer Mac apps that would otherwise retail for $457 for just $49.99. Some particular highlights in the bundle are Parallels 7, ScreenFlow 3, Civilization 5, Jaksta, and My Living Desktop, but you’ll find every app in the bundle to be quite useful, making this one heck of an app bundle deal. Mac apps included are:

  • Parallels Desktop 7 – Run Windows, Windows applications, Linux, and more directly in Mac OS X. Virtual Machines made easy.
  • BusyCal – Ultimate calendar and to-do list manager for the Mac
  • ScreenFlow 3 – Powerful yet easy to use screencasting software for Mac OS X
  • Civilization V – Incredibly fun turn-based strategy game that takes you from the dawn of time and through the ages
  • Jaksta – Capture audio and video from the web with ease
  • Espionage 3 – Protect files and folders right from the OS X menu bar
  • Speed Download 5 – Lightning fast download manager, lets you pause and resume nearly any download
  • Attachment Tamer 3 – Take complete control over Mail attachments
  • KeyCue 6 – Handy utility for learning and memorizing keyboard shortcuts
  • A Better Finder Rename – Bulk rename files with drag & drop simplicity
  • My Living Desktop 5 – Transform your desktop wallpaper into a moving, living environment

Grab the MacUpdate bundle now or check out the promo video below.

By Paul Horowitz - Mac, Mac OS X, News - 6 Comments

How to Check SHA1 Hash of a String

Jun 6, 2012 - 3 Comments

Check SHA1 Hash of a String

If you use LinkedIn you’ve probably heard by now that a major security breach occurred with over 6.5 million user passwords stolen and leaked to the web. The first thing you should do is change your password on that site, but if you want to see if your password was among those leaked you’d need the SHA1 hash of the password itself.

Here is how to check the SHA1 digest of any text string, in this example we’ll use a password. Launch Terminal and enter the following command:

echo -n "yourpassword" | openssl sha1

The output will look something like this:

(stdin)= b48cf0140bea12734db05ebcdb012f1d265bed84

That is the sha1 checksum of “yourpassword”, obviously change “yourpassword” to your actual password to see its hash.

You could use that output to compare it against a list of leaked passwords in the recent LinkedIn example, but ultimately this can be used to verify any sha1 checksum.

Outside of this example, checking a SHA1 hash is frequently used to verify file or string integrity, which we’ve covered on several occasions before.

By William Pearson - Command Line, Security, Tips & Tricks - 3 Comments

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