Hints and tips

My normal approach when a new version of OS X is released is to backup ( create a Carbon Copy Cloner image of my main drive ) and then do a clean install ( erase the entire drive and install from scratch ). Obviously this takes a little more time and effort than a normal upgrade but I tend to prefer knowing that any legacy cruft built up over the life of the previous version is washed away.

When El Capitan was released last year I decided not to bother with a clean install on my MacBook and ran an upgrade and everything has worked fine since then until the last week or so. Firstly disk space has been getting low on my 256GB drive which is never great but then I started to experience a problem with the App Store taking a long time to load which deteriorated to the point where no matter how long I left it running the content in the main panes failed to materialise at all. As I wanted to load a particular new app this was a bit of a problem to say the least. I looked for solutions to the issue without much success ( admittedly I didn’t look that hard ) before deciding to do a re-install to freshen up my OS.

Roll forward a couple of hours and I have a clean install of El Capitan, my essential data restored from backup, apps reinstalled and App Store fully working. I also now have 140GB of my 256GB drive still free which shows how much disk space can get swallowed up by working files and general detritus in the course of a year. Granted there are a few things I have chosen not to restore but nothing that would account for 100GB of disk space.

Anyway, all this brings me to the point of this article which is how to enable three finger drag of windows in El Capitan ! When the re-install had finished one of the first things I did was to go to System Preferences to sort out my Trackpad settings. By default my three main tweaks to the standard configuration are to switch off natural scrolling ( I know old habits die hard ), switch on tap to click and finally switch on the option to drag windows with three finger gesture.

This time around the first two options were setup as normal but when I looked for the three finger drag option it seemed to have been moved. I was sure it used to be on the Scroll and Zoom section of the preference pane, or was it under More Gestures ? Nope, not there… I must admit I looked for an embarrassingly long time going from one tab to the next in the vain hope that somehow I would see it where I hadn’t before, but it was gone…

Thankfully it only took a minutes Googling to uncover the answer to the missing setting, Apple in their infinite wisdom have decided in El Capitan that this is not a Trackpad setting now but an Accessibility option ! To find the setting now first go to Accessibility in System Preferences, click on  Trackpad Options and on the popup window tick to Enable dragging and select three finger drag from the drop down menu.

Of course the other thing I should have done was to just type “three finger drag” into the search field in System Preferences which would have instantly told me I was looking in the wrong place !

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Copied has recently become one of my favourite apps for iOS and OS X. It is a slick and useful clipboard manager that makes cut/copy and paste on iPhone,iPad and Mac much more useful and when combined with multiple devices introduces a new capability that was previously only possible by emailing or Messaging between devices. That feature is the ability to copy something on one device then jump over to another and paste that data on another device !

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I recently bought the excellent Logitech K380 Multi-Device Bluetooth Keyboard to share between my iPad, Work laptop and iPhone. It’s a great little keyboard, light enough to carry around with a decent layout and spacing that suits my typing style well ( your mileage may vary ). There are however times that I need to switch to the on screen iOS keyboard, typing emojis for example, and I recently discovered this quick tip to bring up the iOS keyboard.

All you need to do is double tap on a text field and the on screen keyboard will pop smoothly into view. Once you have completed using it just hit any key on your Bluetooth keyboard and the hardware device will take control again and the on screen keyboard will slide out of the way.

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Duet Display is a slick app developed by ex-Apple employees designed to allow your iPad to function as a second monitor on your laptop or iMac using a lightning or iPad 30 pin cable ( for older iPads ). The application works extremely well with none of the lag or latency in display refresh experienced by some of the alternative apps that use the iPads WiFi connection to transfer screen updates.

As the Duet name suggests the intended use for the app is to create an easy to use portable secondary display for MacBook users ( or in fact Windows laptop users as there is a Windows version of the server application as well as one for OS X ) but it isn’t limited to this use case. My main use of Duet is as a primary monitor on my Mac Mini media server.

I have used my Mac Mini in a headless ( no monitor ) setup for a long time and use Screen Sharing from my MacBook to login and manage it, however it recently struck me that the Duet Display app that I had purchased some time ago would be perfect for creating a tiny compact keyboard/monitor setup. Combined with a small bluetooth keyboard from Anker and bluetooth mouse I now have full access to my Mini in a compact little setup that looks pretty slick on the shelf in my study.

Duet Display is £7.99 in the UK iOS App store which I admit is probably at the high side of many peoples acceptable budget for an app of this type, however this app is extremely good and provides amazing functionally and performance. For people who travel with a MacBook and iPad the benefit of being able to setup a usable dual monitor setup whilst on the move can be liberating, and for home media servers like mine it can create a slick, compact and usable alternative to a bulky VGA/HDMI monitor.

Duet Display

Duet Display on iPad and Mac Mini

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Unless you have a background in IT the chances are that the only time you have ever considered backups of your information was just after you found out you had lost something precious ? Perhaps it was a bunch of irretrievable photos lost when your hard drive suddenly and inexplicably died ? Or maybe it was your lifetimes collection of music or movies, carefully downloaded and collated onto that 4TB external hard drive connected to your desktop computer that you hadn’t noticed had been accidentally deleted ?

Whichever it was, when the day arrives and you suffer that unrecoverable data loss the chances are you will be asking yourself why you hadn’t taken the time to backup to another disk.

My preferred and recommended backup solution is an online service called Backblaze. Backblaze is cheap ( as little as $5 a month ), reliable and easy to setup and better yet, once configured you can forget it is there and relax in the knowledge that should the worst happen your data is safe and easily retrieved.

backblaze trialUnlike most Internet file storage solutions ( Dropbox, OneDrive etc ) the cost for Backblaze is the same whether you are backing up 100MB or 20TB ! The only difference will be the amount of time it takes to complete the initial backup, something that is getting easier as home broadband speeds steadily increase. This initial “seeding” of your backup may take some weeks to complete but it happens in the background and is carefully controlled by the Backblaze software to not interfere with your Internet access too much. Once the first backup is complete the software then only has to update the backup when anything changes to your local data, again a process that happens in the background without manual intervention.

Backblaze will backup any of your hard drives, not just the internal drive in your PC or Mac. Just plugin your external USB drives, configure the application settings and wait for the data to be secured. One thing to note here though is that if you do this Backblaze needs to “see” that drive at least once every 30 days or it will assume the data does not need to be retained and will delete it.

Obviously paying for backup services is not sexy, it doesn’t really give you anything other than piece of mind, but it is something that everyone who has any amount of data in digital form should consider putting in place.

If you would like to try out Backblaze you can sign up for a months free trial by clicking on this link.

This post is not sponsored by Backblaze it is purely my personal choice of backup service and something that I recommend to friends and relatives when the subject arises. Please try it out, you may thank me one day !

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Last night my MacBook’s iTunes was updated with the latest release ( ) and when it restarted I was prompted with the invitation to Join Apple Music trial. As I had already signed up I ignored this prompt and clicked through to iTunes assuming it was some sort of error, however what I noticed then was the For You and New sections at the top of the iTunes window were now missing.

Restarting iTunes didn’t resolve this, nor did logging out of the the Store and back in again. After a number of attempts to recover the missing sections I went into the iTunes Store and clicked onto the 90 Day Trial link ( at the very bottom left of the store ) and hey presto the missing sections re-appeared again !

Anyone else experienced this or was this a one off for me ?


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