Blog — Tips and Tricks from the Mac Zen Team

Getting Savvy with Apple Mail

Though many of us still use or even something like to check our messages, the default email program on your Mac (and iOS devices) is simply called Mail. It's a great option for those with multiple addresses to check, and as you'll see, there are plenty of tips and tricks that can help make reading your email easy and efficient.

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Apple's Remote App — Music from your Mac, with your phone!

There's certainly a lot of awesome options for playing music remotely, between Bluetooth speakers, Sonos equipment, the Airport Express, and even stereo receivers getting in on the game.

There is a certain group of us, however, with unique setups in our homes. Back in university for example, I had one set of computer speakers on my desk that was easily loud enough to fill my dorm room. And on the other end, you might be enough of a movie buff to have an Apple TV, or even a dedicated Mac mini serving up your favourite movies to your HDTV and surround sound setup.

In these cases you often end up with either a fantastically complex remote that has to be manually programmed by wizards from Mars, or, you have to undergo the painful torture of getting up and walking over to your Mac to change the song. And you don't even get the hipster credit you would from flipping an LP.

There's a little-known, free and official Apple app that solves this problem, turning your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch into a de facto remote you're probably already carrying around. Take a look on the App Store for the Remote app.

This nifty tool gives you two options. First, you can use it to replace the Apple Remote that comes with your Apple TV. I vastly prefer this if I ever need to enter something like my Netflix email and password, since the app gives you a full keyboard instead of the hunt-and-peck interface of the physical remote. In the other mode, it allows you to connect to iTunes libraries that have Home Sharing enabled, like one on a Mac that's connected to speakers.

There used to be an even cooler feature where you could vote on the next song to play from a friend's iTunes library while at a party, sadly defunct now, but I digress. The Remote app is well worth checking out regardless, and if you have any questions or curiosity about your home audio setup, drop us a line anytime!

I Love My Keyboard: Object Selection on Macs

Having put the kettle on, Thomas looked at his desktop. “I hate this mess.” His Photos collection was even worse—thousands and thousands of pictures and video—all a disastrous mess.

Looking at the notes on his desk he felt a renewed vigour. For a moment he looked up, cleared his head and repeated:

Getting to grips with the Desktop

Step 1: Hide other applications. Click on the Finder icon in the dock, and then from the menubar, select "Hide Others":

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Making Safe (and Memorable!) Passwords

There's a subtle moment of panic and bewilderment on people's faces when I ask what their computer password is. Sometimes it'll roll off the tongue, but all too often an fearful expression descends, as though the police were demanding your driver's license. 

Passwords can reduce even a proficient user to the level of a novice. Know this though — if this is you, you are in the company of giants. No one can call themselves a password master. Everyone struggles to manage them.

Password management methods range from scraps of paper to detailed notebooks and specialized "master password" applications. Written down, synced across your devices, or all up in your head, we're all swimming in a soup of letters and numbers. I'd like to help you feel a little easier about the whole mess.

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How I learned to stop worrying and love Time Machine

or, why backups are more than an insurance policy

If there's one thing tech geeks like us are known for, it's harping on the fact that everyone should have a backup. Keeping a second (or third!) copy of the important files on our computers, phones and iPads is second nature to us — but the reasons for doing so are something I think we sometimes take for granted.

I'm a member of that generation privileged to grow up around computers, and as a coach I'm always working to figure out how younger people learn and explore new situations. It's one of the major reasons I'm such a fan of the Mac and iOS devices — it's always been inspiring for me to watch people of all ages pick up an iPad and figure out how to browse the web or play a game, thanks to gentle cues and intuitive design.

Of course, it's not always that easy.

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Neil's Mobile Work-Spots - Serious Coffee

Serious Coffee - Cook Street Village

099a8cce 3501 4a62 9680 d26c3d9aa77bSerious Coffee offers a wide selection of coffees, teas and snacks to file your remote work sessions. There’s a variety of comfortable seating and arrangements to meet one-on-one or with a few people and wi-fi is available. Centrally located in Cook Street Village, several other services are nearby if you need them and buses frequently travel downtown. And when you’re work is done, the expansive Beacon Hill Park is not far away!

How and why to buy a Refurbished or Clearance Mac

If you've gone shopping for a new Mac in the last decade or so, you might've found just how difficult it is to snag a deal. Apple products are very rarely on sale, and their pricing is remarkably consistent, whether you're shopping online, in a corporate store, or at a third party retailer like our friends at Byte Computers.

However, there is one place you can reliably find discounts on factory-sealed Apple stuff, buried in the links at the bottom of the official Apple Store website: the Refurbished and Clearance section. Yea, a veritable bounty of discounts! But just like any sale rack, there are some tricks to finding just what you need. 

Fellow deal-hunters will be glad to know that these "refurbished" machines are, for all intents and purposes, factory fresh. Most of the inventory here is either sealed in box and unsold, or consists of returns from Apple or third-party retail locations. The latter machines are painstakingly disassembled, tested, and put back together with the same rigorous standards as a fresh-off-the-line model, so there's no need to worry about the providence or status of your new Mac. They also come with a 1-year warranty, free shipping, and free returns, plus they qualify for AppleCare.

The real rub comes when you compare the specs of these models to each other and to the machines in the regular lineup; as you'll find, many of the units here have custom upgrades that prevented them from going back into regular stock. Sussing out what these changes mean for you is often the hardest part.

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Neil's Mobile Work-Spots - Hey Happy

Hey Happy

55bc833e e1ec 41b7 ac83 378be7640c77Another spot with a connoisseur’s selection of coffees brewed with attention & care, Hey Happy is ready for the mobile worker. A series of tables features power outlets and USB power right at the table - A very nice touch. A small but powerfully tempting assortment of treats (including Yonni's Doughnuts) provides an enjoyable distraction to work, as does watching the action of Lower Johnson out the front window. A great little downtown oasis tucked into the side of Market Square, this is an excellent café to pop into to get a bit work done while on the go.