Whacky Colors on Projector from MacBook Pro

I was doing a Keynote presentation recently, and had a problem with colors on a projector attached via a Thunderbolt-to-VGA adapter connected to a MacBook Pro. The first few slides in Keynote looked fine, but the first slide which contained a color photo, the colors in the photo were scrambled — sort of like a color negative. The black, white and gray on that slide and the on other slides looked fine.

I tried two different projectors and three VGA cables and the problem remained the same. The problem was also not just Keynote. It was any color image, including the default Mavericks desktop background (the wave). I think Keynote was actually masking the problem because my slides were mostly gray scale.

I was playing around with the color calibration controls (System Preferences/Displays/Color), in a desperate attempt to fix this, when the screen faded to black. When it came back, everything was fine. I didn’t think I had done anything which should be expected to fix anything that weird.

I had also lowered the screen resolution which didn’t seem to have any immediate improvement.

I failed to get a photograph of the problem. If anyone sees this happen again and can take a photo, I’d like to see it. I have reported this to Apple via feedback. It sounds very similar to a problem people were reporting back in about 2010.

I see no reason this wouldn’t happen on any other external monitor besides a projector.

[Edit: If you give public presentations in front of groups, you should have some color on your warm-up slides so you can notice if the projector colors are bad before you get into the main part of your presentation. Having a color photo on the first slide would have helped. ]

How to Get Files Out of iCloud

Apple is doing its best to get users to use iCloud. It does have its uses. iCloud saved my day when I was able to open Keynote as an iCloud web app on a Windows PC, and do my presentation from iCloud just like I was in Keynote on my Mac. That was nice.

Sometimes, though, there is just no substitute for having your own files on your own hard drive. There’s no place like home. Apple makes it surprisingly hard to move files between iCloud and your own storage. Unlike, say, Dropbox, iCloud doesn’t integrate with the Finder. Really? Third party software works better with MacOS than iCloud does? Don’t ask me why Apple would ever do that.

The document-oriented Apple apps that use iCloud are Preview, TextEdit, iMovie, Keynote, Pages and Automator.

Instead of using the Finder, iCloud documents can only be manipulated from within Applications. You can use the Move To… or Export… menu options to move or copy a single open file from iCloud to local storage or vice versa.

The screenshot below shows how to drag multiple files from iCloud to the Finder. The window on the right is the open-file dialog for the Preview Application. On the left is a finder window. The default behavior is to move the files. If you want to copy instead, hold the option key while dragging.

Dragging files from Open-File Dialog to Finder
Dragging files from Open-File Dialog to Finder

Since each application can only see its own files in iCloud, you must repeat this operation in each application that has files to be moved.

You may notice that there are no folders or directories in iCloud — just a big list of files.

Apple seems determined to move users away from the file system paradigm. Since the file system is probably the most successful and widely used abstraction in all of computing, it’s certainly daringly Avant Garde of Apple to try to ignore it. However, I’m afraid that they are doing so to increasingly limit user’s options and further corral us into Apple’s walled garden.

The file system is a powerful abstraction in which the relationship between files and applications that act on those files is not pre-determined. It puts a lot of power into the hands of the user who gets to decide who does what to what file, and which file goes where. The current, featureless iCloud takes that power away.

Favorite Tip: Drag To Open

Here’s one of my favorite Mac tips. This is a workflow tip. Most of the time, when opening a file in an application, you are not doing this in isolation. You are working on a project. There may be many steps and many files. You probably have the project folder already open in a Finder window.

When you select File/Open in the application, however, it shows the last place you opened a file, which is probably not where you want to be. It’s irritating to have to navigate from there back to the project folder which you already located in the Finder once.

You don’t need to do that. You can drag the icon of a file or folder into the open-file dialog box. Unlike dragging to a Finder window, it doesn’t copy or duplicate anything. Instead, it instantly navigates the open dialog to the folder containing your file, with the file selected.

This file -- This one right here!
This file — This one right here!

As soon as you drag it in, the dialog shows the dragged file selected in its enclosing folder, ready to be opened.

The chosen file is selected and ready to open.
The chosen file is selected and ready to open.

Congratulations, you’ve just saved who knows how many clicks navigating to the desired folder.

The Many Modes of iTunes

“For the most part, try to create modeless features that allow people to do whatever they want when they want to in your application. Avoid using modes in your application because a mode typically restricts the operations that the user can perform while it is in effect….If an application uses modes, there must be a clear visual indicator of the current mode…” -Macintosh Human Interface Guidelines, Apple Computer 1995

This article was written with respect to iTunes version 11.2.2, 2014. Your version may vary. 

Don’t Mode Me In

Many users, especially novices, have trouble navigating the iTunes interface. I am often asked the question: “Where is that control or feature I saw in iTunes previously? I can’t find it.” These difficulties can be traced to the confusing number of modes iTunes has. iTunes started out years ago as a music player. It has since taken on many additional functions such as interface to the iTunes store, movie player and control center for iOS devices.

Understanding the way iTunes modes work will help you use the program, but will also reveal why it needs a complete overhaul. Let’s take a look at the iTunes interface.

Library Mode Bar annotated

iTunes has three major modes and at least 30 minor modes. Larry “Don’t Mode Me In” Tesler of the original Mac design team must be totally revolted by this. iTunes’ major modes are:

  • Library Mode – You are browsing content in your iTunes library on your own computer
  • iTunes Store – You are browsing content available for sale, rent or download from Apple
  • iDevice Mode – You are browsing and configuring an attached iOS device or iPod

Generally, important user interface functions are located at the upper left, like the home button on a web page. Bizarrely, iTunes puts these major mode controls way over on the right side of the window.

iTunes only allows a single window to be open, so these modes all operate to change the function of iTunes’ single main window. The controls available in each mode vary in an inconsistent manner, as we will see. The table below shows the major mode navigation available by default in iTunes. There are buttons in the upper left to change modes. However you cannot get directly from the iTunes Store to  your iDevice or vice versa, without first going through the Library. Weird.

 iTunes Mode Table

To read this table, find the mode you are currently in on the left. Then find the mode you want to be in at the top. The intersection shows you if that’s possible. For example, if you are in the iTunes Store, and you want to see your attached iPhone, well, you can’t get there from here. But, you can go from the Store to the Library, and then from the Library to the iPhone. Weird, huh? When the table says “Button”, there is an appropriate button at the upper right of the iTunes window.

With the number of modes in iTunes and the weird controls for accessing them, it’s a virtual certainty that most users have never even seen most modes. They may need or want something that those modes can do, but they have never found their way to it. If they do happen to stumble across something they like, they are unlikely to be able to find their way back to it later.

The Sidebar

The table above is strictly true only if you have not enabled iTunes’ sidebar. It is hidden by default. With the sidebar visible, you now have the ability to navigate directly from any mode to any other. This is reason enough for me to show the sidebar.

View/Show Sidebar
How to Show the Sidebar
The iTunes Sidebar
The iTunes Sidebar

But, when you show the Sidebar, the mode buttons on the upper right disappear. What?! Seriously?

Same Name, Different Things

Want to see something else weird? Supposed you want to review your iTunes store purchases. The sidebar offers a Purchased link under STORE. There is also a Purchased link under QUICK LINKS on the iTunes store home page. These two links lead to two very different modes. The sidebar link, despite being under the STORE heading, does not open the store, but leads to a playlist of all the media in your library that was previously purchased. The other Purchased link shows a list of things in the context of the iTunes store that you have purchased on any device. From there, you can download any of them that may not be in your library.

iTunes Purchased annotated

So, the Purchased links in the sidebar under STORE are actually playlists in your library, not in the store, but they are not listed under PLAYLISTS, but are listed under STORE. Everybody clear on that? Makes total sense.

 Similar Choices, Different Controls

When you are in your library, iTunes offers a choice of sub-modes: Music, Movies, TV Shows, Podcasts, etc. These choices are presented in a pop-up control on the upper left. The iTunes store has a nearly identical list, but how are they presented? As a series of buttons across the top of the screen. Why do these have to be different?

Music, Movies, TV Shows, Podcasts, iTunes U, Audiobooks, Books, Apps
Library Mode – Popup Menu
Music, Movies, TV Shows, App Store, Books, Podcasts, iTunes U
Store Mode – Row of Menu Buttons

Does nobody review this software before it is released?

Don’t Forget to Sync

If you are using iTunes to load music or videos onto your iGadget, arguably the most important control in iTunes is the Sync button. If you don’t Sync, none of your changes are applied, and you have accomplished nothing. This all-important button is in the lower-right corner of the iTunes window, where nothing else in iTunes ever appears. It’s all too easy to overlook.

Sync Button is Way Down Here
Sync Button is Way Down Here

 It’s Not Just You

I hate helping people with iTunes because I end up apologizing for how terrible it is. If you’re new to iTunes, at least now you know, it’s not just you — iTunes really is that weird. Maybe you’ll now have a better idea of what it does and how to get there.

P.S. Why, oh why does iTunes only have one window? If I could change only one thing, this would be it. I would like to have my library visible while shopping the iTunes store. Is it too much to ask?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 2014 Meeting Summary

2014 MacMAD Election results:

  • President – JR Staal
  • Vice President – Jamie Cox
  • Treasurer – Eric Emerick
  • Secretary – Dennis Crowley

Miscellaneous Notes:

  • iOS 7.1 is out and working well for folks
  • Microsoft One Note is now free on the app stores (Mac and iOS)
  • press fn key twice quickly to open dictation on Mavericks – uses on-line speech to text (and yes, my (older) USB keyboard has NO fn key.)

Dan Wadler presented on Free Software

He showed us some perhaps lesser-known Mac freeware. All links current as of March 2014.

www.macupdate.com – a good place to look for software if you don’t know what apps are out there

Libre Office – A free office suite including Word processor, Spreadsheet, Presentation, Drawing and Database applications.

Stellarium – Cross-platform Planetarium software – see the stars and planets from your location and time – with modules and plug-ins. Yes, there’s an exoplanets plug-in.

Celestia – Real-time 3D visualization of space

Tide Widget – tide forecasts for your location – in a Dashboard widget

Album Artwork Assistant – Helps find Cover Artwork for iTunes

VLC Media Player – plays video in a great variety of digital formats

MacTubes – Play and download YouTube videos

MacTracker – detailed specifications for everything Apple Computer ever made

The Unarchiver – quick and easy app to open many different archive file types: zip, Tar etc.

Free Browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Dolphin (iOS), Mercury (iOS), Omniweb

Free Cloud Storage sites: Dropbox, Copy and Box.

Calibre – eBook manager

Sophos – Free Antivirus. Also, ClamX AV free antivirus.

Chess Knight – not overly tough computer chess game

Free Password managers: KeePass and LastPass.

 

 

 

 

 

Smart Folders

I had to miss our February meeting at the last minute and would like to share what I had hoped to show the group. I found a nice little ditty about Smart Folders and how they could help me organize the new FCPX Libraries introduced in the 10.1 update. The usefulness of Smart Folders is dictated almost solely on the needs and imagination of the user. And anyone who works with FCPX.1 knows how important Libraries are to your workflow. They contain EVERYTHING needed for a given project. Of course Smart Folders don’t care what or how they organize so the lesson is easily transferable to any other kind of data you may need to keep easily accessible. So with out further explanation, please go here to see the tutorial.

Disabling Caps Lock

If you have ever had trouble with accidental or unintended ALL CAPS, you might be interested in disabling your caps lock key. In my experience accidental activations of caps lock greatly exceeded those occasions on which I actually want it. As in, I can hardly think of a case where I need it. The caps lock key, and its little green light (on some keyboards) are not fixed in hardware, but are controlled by your Mac’s software.

It’s easy to disable it. Start by opening System Preferences. Choose Keyboard. Within the Keyboard preference pane, choose the Keyboard tab as shown.

Caps Lock 1 Arrows

Then click the Modifier Keys… button. A pop-up will appear. Click on the Caps Lock toggle, and select No Action.

Caps Lock 2 arrows

 

Now, click OK and close System Preferences. That’s it. Your caps lock key is completely disabled. Enjoy your freedom from accidental eruptions of capital letters in your text.

Just remember that you did this, and don’t decide later that your keyboard is broken. In the few cases where I need to type a sequence of capitals, I find it easier to just hold down the shift key instead of going back to System Preferences.

Also note that the change only applies to the one user account where you made the change. This is a good thing, so when your spouse or kids are using the computer under their own name, the keyboard works as they expect it and they don’t come complaining that your caps lock key is broken.