Stack Exchange: Ask Different

Macintosh and iOS users should be aware a useful on-line resource: Ask Different. Ask Different is part of Stack Exchange, an armada of different Question & Answer forums on various topics. Ask Different is the place to ask or answer questions related to Apple devices. The questions and answers are crowd-reviewed and rated so that the best ones bubble to the top.

Registration is not required to search and view the questions and answers on Stack Exchange, but it is free.

Stack Exchange is the best forum on the internet since all these idiots joined back in ’94. Now get off my lawn.

Economical Printing – Brother Monochrome Laser

A couple of years ago, I ditched my problematic color laser printer and went monochrome. I bought a Brother DL-2270DW. This is a basic monochrome laser printer. The W is for wireless, so it doesn’t need to be near my network equipment to work. It doesn’t do any other fancy stuff, like print from iOS or Google Cloud Print.

Monochrome laser printers are much smaller, simpler and cheaper than the color models, primarily because you only need one cheaper cartridge instead of four expensive ones. Color is kind of nice, but I don’t really need it. I don’t feel that it was worth the hassle and expense.

I won’t even consider inkjet printers for home use any more. The ink is exorbitantly expensive, and most of it is wasted while fighting with clogged jets. If you use an ink jet printer every day, the jets tend to stay clear, but if it sits for a while, the jets are clogged by the next time you try to use it.

I had already decided not to bother with photo printing at home, since I can send photos to my corner Walgreen’s store to be printed for a few cents a copy. Their expensive photo printer does a better job than anything I could buy. I print very few photographs — maybe $10 or $20 worth a year.

My household does a medium amount of printing — more than some, less than others. We print a page or two almost every day we’re at home, and sometimes a lot more.

In two or three years, we have printed about 4000 pages with the Brother. That’s 8 reams of paper. In that time, I have replaced toner twice. The starter cartridge gave out at 580 pages, and the next cartridge went another 2,200 pages. Also in that time, I have had exactly two paper jams, one of which was definitely my fault.

I’ve been buying LINKYO cartridges. These are neither the cheapest, nor the most expensive. They are a name brand, but not not the manufacturer’s own brand. They are rated for 2,600 pages, and sell for $15-20 each.

So, I’ve spent in total :

  • $120 for the printer (with starter cartridge)
  • $35 for toner
  • $155 total
  • = $155 / 4000pages = $0.039 per page (not counting paper)

Paper expense would be about the same for any printer, adding, say, another $0.01 per page.

The cost per page continues to decline every day I can keep printing and don’t have to buy a new printer. But if I had to buy a new one and start over today, I’d still say I got a pretty good deal.

Color inkjets will cost you between $0.25 and $0.50 cents per page just for the ink alone. [Consumer Reports]  If I had printed my 4000 pages on a color inkjet, I would have paid at least $845 more to do so.

My recommendation when shopping for a printer is: Don’t shop for a printer. Shop for the cartridges or other consumables. Find a cartridge that is widely used and available for a good cost. Then find a printer that uses that cartridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Turn On an iMac

Otherwise knowledgeable users are baffled by one silly question when confronted with an iMac: How do I turn the computer on? Where’s the power switch? It’s not a stupid question. Apple has hidden the power button cleverly where you can’t possibly see it. It’s also very difficult to feel the button because it is flush with the case. If you do look back there, it’s probably hidden behind the curve of the case.

Anyway, here it is on a Mid 2011 iMac. It’s been in a similar position for several years. Glad to help, and don’t worry, we won’t tell anyone you had to look here to find out to turn on a Macintosh.

Behind lower left edge of computer.
Behind lower left edge of computer.

Combining MPEG Movies

I was looking for a straight-forward way to concatenate separate MP4 (MPEG 4) movies into a single movie. I am novice at all things video. I have at my disposal just some basic tools: iMovie, QuickTime Player, QuickTime Player 7 and MPEG Streamclip.

iMovie seemed like overkill. I couldn’t find any hint of a “concatenate” or “append” menu item in QuickTime Player or MPEG Streamclip.

Totally by accident, I found the trick in MPEG Streamclip. If you open multiple files at once, by command-clicking or shift-clicking them in the open dialog, MPEG Streamclip treats the group as one big video — instantly concatenating them together. It does not open multiple windows, but opens them all together in a single window as though they were a single continuous file.

Hopefully, you have named them in such a way that the sort order represents the order you want them to appear in the final video. Now, all you have to do is export that combined video into whatever format  you want. It will take a while, but you didn’t have to fool around with trying to cut and paste video segments, which wasn’t working for me at all, anyway.

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.

Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts, the phrase can inspire a sense of desired expertise and simplicity and a sense of fear and guilt over not knowing what we “should” know when using our chosen software. Most of us have seen people we regard with awe as they breeze through a task with ease like a 120 wpm typist, rarely touching a mouse. The fact is there is no shortcut for shortcuts. That is, we must spend a fair amount of time using a program to learn the various key combinations that will help unlock our creativity. But even that isn’t enough because pointing and clicking and scrolling has proven to be a very efficient way to get things done on a screen. We must make the extra effort to learn and use keyboard shortcuts, over and over until it becomes more like muscle memory.

With this in mind I thought I’d point out a few cheats that may help the keyboard shortcut challenged on their path to awe inspiring pecking. One that I use is called Keycue, from Ergonis Software. Once downloaded it sits in your Applications folder where you may customize it extensively. It works rather simply, hold down the command key while in just about any application and a screen overlay pops up showing the available keyboard commands for that application. Another method is to apply removable overlays to one’s keyboard that will spell out the function of the key when pressed using the given application. There are myriad sources for these on the web, and as I don’t use any I can’t recommend any particular brand. Taking that a step further, there are actual application specific USB keyboards that will cost more but if you are using the app every day it may be worth the cost. I have used some of these in the past but ultimately found them to be rather distracting, as they almost always use various (loud) colors based on the function of the keys.

Which brings to me to the inspiration for this post. Today I saw another cheat and thought it was very clever, oh, and it’s free. It’s web based and only has Lightroom and Photoshop keyboard shortcuts for now, but those are two good ones to start with. It’s a cross between Keycue and an overlay, here is the link http://waldobronchart.github.io/ShortcutMapper/#AdobeLightroom

Keyboard shortcuts can help speed up common commands and enlighten us about commands we didn’t even know existed. They are created to help us get things done, to ignore them is not in our best interests. I suggest you learn a few to get started, then one or two very week and before you know it you’ll be wondering what ever happened to that subtle pain in your wrist.

Create a Paragraph Without Submitting

On many web pages, when entering text, if you press enter or return, it submits the form. If you want to create a paragraph, but don’t want to submit yet, what do you do? You can press shift–return or option-Enter. (They seem to work the same on the Mac.) This will create a new paragraph, but not submit yet. One place that this helps is while entering a Facebook comment.

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.

Free iCloud Beta Apps: Pages, Numbers & Keynote

iCloud Apps 2

iCloud On-Line Apps
iCloud On-Line Apps

You can use the Beta versions of Apple’s iCloud Apps, live on iCloud.com. These are available whether or not you have ever bought the corresponding iOS or Mac Apps, and whether or not you device came with them installed.

These seem adequate to me. Some features may be missing or hard to find, but for casual use, they seem to work fine. Pretty good for Beta versions.