Our MacMAD meeting topic this month is iTunes. There are some interesting changes in the latest version. In particular, Apple has removed the purchase and management of iOS Apps from iTunes. This is a good step in the right direction to make iTunes less complicated and more focused.
I have been given the opportunity to review Stellar Phoenix Mac Data Recovery Software. The Stellar Data Recovery Home page claims the software will perform safe and accurate recovery of lost documents, photos, music files, or videos that have been accidentally or intentionally deleted from Mac computer. While I did not review all the claims made by Stellar Data Recovery I did test the ability to recover deleted files.
I deleted some photo, Word, music and PDF files from my iMac and three days later tried to recover them. I was skeptical, so prior to deleting the files I copied them to a flash drive to insure they would not be lost. I ran the software, selected the appropriate drive and to my surprise all the deleted files were recovered and retained the original names.
The software comes with an online User Manual. Although the software is slightly expensive the cost is offset by the ability to recover priceless photos or documents.
Stellar Phoenix Mac Data Recovery Software is a good product and does what it claims.
When the new version of Numbers for the Mac came out some features were dropped. Most of them have not been added back in. Reviews of the apps have been definitely mixed. Numbers only gets a 3-star rating on the App store (both versions).
Two-and-a-half to three stars is a pretty terrible rating, especially for an Apple app. As you can see, the ratings are very mixed with most reviewers giving either one star or five-star ratings. The ratings for the iOS version are very similar.
The one-star reviews are mostly from people upset about advanced features removed from the previous version. The five-star reviews tend to be from people who have come to the application fresh, with no special expectations.
Numbers includes hundreds of distinct features. The chart below highlights just a few of my favorite features as compared with Microsoft Excel.
Documents, Sheets and Tables
Numbers documents can have multiple sheets. Each sheet can have multiple tables. When you create a new Numbers document, it has one sheet with one table on that sheet.
If you have used Excel, having multiple sheets should be familiar. The main difference is that the sheets appear at the top of the window instead of at the bottom.
The concept of having multiple tables on a single sheet may be new to users of older spreadsheet programs. It is a very nice feature, which allows you to separate groups of data or formulas which are of different types instead of lumping them all into the same grid of rows and columns. You can arrange the tables on the page however you like.
Numbers uses a consistent set of formatting controls very similar to those in the Pages word processor we discussed last month. These are presented in a pane on the right hand side of the window. These controls look simple, but all together, they have a lot of power. In addition to the pre-defined Table and Text styles, you can create and save your own preferred styles.
Type an equals sign to enter formula editing mode for a cell. Color coding appears showing the source cells used in your formula. This makes it easier to understand if your formula is correct or to see the source of errors.
When you copy or fill a formula into additional cells, Numbers automatically adjusts cell references relative to the current cell. If you want to override that to select an absolute row, absolute column, or absolute cell, you can use the Preserve Row/Preserve Column options.
Importing Files From Excel
A common task in Numbers would be to open an Excel document created by someone else. This can work fairly well, but is not completely painless.
This imported okay, and the amortization calculations agreed, but the date formulas were not imported correctly and would have to be re-done in numbers.
One of our members asked how Numbers was at handling large files imported from Excel. To test this I created a large spreadsheet in Excel with 40,000 rows and about 14 columns. The file size in Excel was 3.7 Megabytes. Numbers opened it without complaint, but it took about 30 seconds. When saved as a native Numbers document, its size increased to 6.3 Mbytes, but the native document opened in Numbers in about five seconds.
Although I didn’t get any warnings in Numbers, I did get one “Not enough memory” message in Excel while cutting, pasting and filling to create the document. Excel handled it gracefully without crashing.
iOS Numbers App
The Numbers app on iOS is deliberately very similar to the version for Macintosh.
FYI, Excel also has an iOS app which is free in the App store. It looks like this:
The Excel app is apparently read-only until you register for and log in to a Microsoft Office 365 account.
If you want a spreadsheet program to perform the usual tasks of calculation, sorting and organizing, and you don’t have much prior experience with spreadsheets, you will find Numbers a very useful application. It’s especially easy to learn because of consistent controls across Mac and iOS versions and consistency with Pages and Keynote.
If you know what a pivot table is, or have a lot of spreadsheets already in Excel format, you may be dissatisfied with the limitations of Numbers.
MacMAD’s October, 2016 Meeting topic is VPNs (Virtual Private Networks). Here are some accompanying links and information.
People generally use a VPN for these reasons:
Security and privacy when using a public network, such as at a coffee shop or hotel.
To allow access to online content which is subject to geographical restrictions.
To allow remote access to a private local network such as your home network or your employer’s network
Provide privacy at home (prevent your ISP from knowing what you are up to)
VPN Features to Look For
Automatic connection and reconnection – prevents accidental leakage of unencrypted data
Choice of VPN endpoint – What country would you like to be in today?
Self Installation/Configuration – Avoids lots of technical settings
Client and Server
VPNs follow a client-server model. The client app usually runs on your computer or portable device. The server can be either a commercial VPN service or you can run your own VPN server at home on your router (some models) or on another computer. There are many (hundreds) commercial VPN providers. The following list is not at all complete.
Here are the slides from our presentation on Genealogy at the May 2016 meeting. Thanks to everyone who turned out in torrential rains to hear this! If you missed it, or just want to look at the slides again, here they are.
I often hear beginners say that their computer is out of memory. This is often a clue that they are beginners. Computers contain two different types of “memory” and you need to carefully distinguish between them. I could give a detailed technical explanation, but it would be obsolete in a few years, and wouldn’t be all that helpful. Instead, I’ll describe how they are used, what the symptoms are when you run short and finally, what to do about it.
RAM vs. Storage
Current computers contain two main types of memory, RAM (Random Access Memory) and non-volatile storage. This is true for Macs, PCs, iPads and iPhones, etc. Confusion arises because these very different things are both measured in the same units, Megabytes and Gigabytes. If someone says their computer or phone has 16 Gigabytes, you should be thinking: “16 Gigabytes of what”?
Storage (Hard Drive Space)
Storage is what old-timers think of as their hard drive. Since iPhones and some Macs really don’t have hard drives, Apple simply uses the term Storage, which I think is a really good choice. So, what is storage? Storage is where things go when you save them, close them or download them. Things stay in storage until you delete them. Storage has a firmly limited size, and when you try to exceed it you will get a definite message. If you see a message on the Mac about a specific device (probably Macintosh HD) being out of space, this refers to storage.
RAM is where things go while you open them, edit them, view them or play them. RAM is lightning fast, but it is temporary. Things usually don’t stay in RAM long, and it is all erased when the device is powered off. Apps and documents flit in and out of RAM as you navigate between them. The operating system of your computer or device works hard to make sure you don’t run out of RAM. If everything doesn’t fit, it will compromise by keeping things that should be in RAM in slower storage temporarily. So, you probably won’t ever see a message about being low on RAM. Instead, things will just slow down, usually dramatically. The worst slowdowns are likely to occur when running a single memory-hog program like a video or photo editor. Running a guest operating system like running Windows under Parallels will use up your RAM quickly.
Gigabytes of Advertising
Apple’s marketing definitely de-emphasizes RAM. It is not mentioned at all for iOS devices, and for Macs, it’s down in the fine print, where it is called “memory”. When shopping for an iPhone 6, say, you will see a 16 GB, 64 GB, and 128 GB model. Those are Gigabytes of storage, not RAM. iPhones have RAM, and newer models may have more RAM than older ones, but Apple never mentions it.
How to Check
On the Mac, you can see how your RAM and Storage stack up by going to the Apple Menu, and selecting About This Mac. In the Overview pane, you will see your computer’s installed RAM where it says Memory. You will also see an item at the top, Storage. Next to that you may or may not see one that says Memory. The Memory item only appears on computers with memory slots that allow additional RAM to be installed. If you don’t see that, your Mac already has all the RAM it’s ever going to have. That’s the way most of them are now, especially the laptops.
The Storage pane of About This Mac show an overview of how much storage you have, how much is being used for what and how much remains free. You should try to keep at least, say, 15% of your storage free. If it ever gets full, your computer can become almost completely unusable.
The memory pane of About This Mac shows your options for upgrading RAM. This pane only appears on Macs with upgradable RAM.
I’m Out of RAM!
First of all, you’re probably not out of RAM. Most beginners are very unlikely to need more RAM than their computer has unless the computer is several years old. If you really are low on RAM, you can do one of three things. First, install more RAM if that’s possible in your computer. It’s not possible on iOS devices. Second, if your RAM isn’t upgradable, upgrade to a whole new device with more RAM. Third, you can limit your RAM usage. First, quit all applications that you are not using. Consider if you can reduce the size of the documents you are working with. Can you edit that giant novel in separate chapters, one at a time? Can you work with lower-resolution photos or videos? Maybe you could split up your photo library into smaller sections. Those type of things are likely to reduce demands on your RAM.
If you are worried about needing more RAM on the Mac, you should open Activity Monitor and visit the Memory tab. The Memory Pressure feature in Yosemite has done a lot to reassure me that I’m in little danger of running out of RAM.
I’m Out of Storage!
This is all too common. Your first thought should be to delete something you don’t need. Your Downloads folder is a good place to start. Things tend to pile up in there. They all came from the Internet anyway, so if you find you need them, you can always download them again. Empty the trash. Storage belonging to trashed files isn’t freed until the trash is emptied. Empty the trash in applications, like iPhoto, that have their own trash.
While scanning your folders for stuff to be deleted, sort by size. Finding and deleting the biggest files first will save you a lot of time.
Another option is to add external storage. This is not possible for iOS devices, usually, but it is easy for Macs. You should move some of those big files to an external hard drive.