Wednesday, April 10, 2013

OS X Mountain Lion backups filling up your SSD?


When I purchased my MacBook Pro Retina I maxxed out the memory, but I couldn't justify the premium for the larger Solid State Drive. I knew that going with the 512Gb SSD would require judicial use of storage and regularly cleaning out the stuff I was not using on the primary drive. Constantly using an external drive when I am at the desk is a lifesaver. I only pull over the stuff I need when I am working on a project and need to be totally mobile.

Today while I was doing some SSD housekeeping I noticed that for some reason I had 60Gb of "Backups" listed in "About this Mac" table. This surprised me since I have Time Machine set to backup to my external 4TB Seagate GoFlex drive.

After a little digging I discovered that Time Machine is smarter than I gave it credit for. Since I have it set to backup to an external drive, it occasionally attempts to run a backup while I have the MacBook undocked. Instead of just aborting the backup, it runs the backup to a hidden file on the internal drive. This is great if you are just worried about recovering an accidentally deleted file. However it does absolutely nothing for you if your drive fails or your MacBook is stolen. The latter two situations are what I want backups to protect against. In most instances the "Trash" folder adds all the security I need for accidental deletion. It just isn't worth it to me to loose 50-60Gb of precious storage for an added "idiot" filter.

So how do we fix it?

The solution is extremely simple. Just open Terminal and at the command prompt type:

sudo tmutil disablelocal

This will prevent Time Machine from running a local backup. If for whatever reason you wish to restore this function, just enter the following command into Terminal:

sudo tmutil enablelocal

This will allow Time Machine to again store its backup locally when your external drive is disconnected.

I really wish this was a simple switch in the Time Machine preferences. It seems kind of sneaky to allow Time Machine to gobble up precious storage when for many of us it's not really necessary. I can see how a careless user could find this useful, but for the rest of us we just need to keep in mind that when we are enjoying the freedom of working un-docked and off our local network that we have one less safety to accidental idiocy.

Thanks to the 0x4e71 Blog for the tip! 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Sucked in by Safari

As a PC user, I didn't give Apple's Safari browser much of a second thought. I loaded it on my PC because it came with my iOS devices and seemed like an easy way to manage the bookmarks on my iPhone and iPad. I didn't really feel that it worked any better than Firefox or even Internet Explorer. In fact Firefox was my main web browser.

Now that I am getting used to the whole "Multi-Touch Trackpad" thing on my MacBook Pro, I am beginning to see the value in Apple's Safari browser. It is incredibly easy to keep numerous tabs open and then pinch-zoom out and swipe through the tabs.

Opening a new tab brings you to the "Top Sites" selection where you can quickly recognize your previously used pages at a glance. Although the interface is still a bit clumsy. I finally figured out that if you wanted to actually select a a page you needed to first tap on the window somewhere, move your cursor, then select and click on a page. For some reason it doesn't just let you point and click at the page you want without doing the funny little dance.

I am quickly learning the ins and outs of Safari, and growing to like it as a primary browser, but I still can't imagine why it doesn't have the ability to sort bookmarks alphabetically.

(Safari Version 6.0.2)

Monday, March 4, 2013

New Rode VideoMic with Rycote Lyre Suspension System

This is a very exciting development for most of us who have used the Rode VideoMic for any amount of time. I have the original version and a box of rubber o-rings constantly travel in my bag at any big shoot. I can bet that at some point, one of the eight shock isolating bands supporting my mic will break.

A union between Rycote and Rode has addressed this issue with a revision of the classic VideoMic. Dubbed the Lyre after their resemblance to the Greek instrument, the suspension system is made out of Hytrel Thermoplastic. There are no bands rings to worry about degrading and breaking over time. The Lyre suspension system also offers the added advantage of placing the VideoMic flat, instead of the angled orientation of the original. The orientation of the off/on/highpass switch has been altered accordingly. The output is the same 1/8" mini-plug found on the original and the battery compartment looks to be the same.

The Rycote Lyre Rode VideoMic lists for $169 at B&H Photo. This is just slightly more expensive than the older VideoMic can be had for.

If you are in the market for a great run-and-gun shotgun mic for your DSLR or camcorder, then the Rode VideoMic with Rycote Lyre Suspension System is the way to go. However if you have one of the original VideoMics and don't mind carrying a box of spare o-rings there may be better uses for your cash.

Check our the video preview from Mitch at

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Mac Switch, Part 1

As I sit and write this, I am using a 15" MacBook Pro Retina running IE and Windows 7. Why?

Several months ago I started looking for a new primary computer. Our aging PC was not editing as smoothly as I was seeing symptoms of a failing video card. The system board was not capable of accepting newer, faster processors and it did not have the latest interfaces (no USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt). Additionally I do video editing work on the road and lugging that thing is not an option. I do have a Windows laptop. While it runs Adobe CS5.5, it does not do so well. Scrubbing through video is annoyingly rough and processing takes WAY longer than necessary.

I knew I wanted a laptop. It's much easier to use a laptop with external display and keyboard as a desktop replacement than it is to travel with a desktop. My task was then to find a laptop capable of running Adobe CS6 and running it well. There are Windows laptops capable of the job, but after years in IT and a recent bout with my Windows desktop I wanted something different.

The Apple 15" MacBook Pro Retina appeared to be exactly what I wanted. The 2.7GHz Intel i7 processor and the NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M seemed like the answer. I knew with Adobe's latest updates to CS6, it was designed to be able to utilize all the power the system was capable of.

The unfortunate fact is that Apple made a change to the new Retina MacBooks. While thinner, light and sexy, they are not upgradable. This means that when you purchase them, you better be thinking forward. To this end I loaded the system up with as much memory as possible. 16Gb of 1600MHz DDR3L memory comes standard on the top level Retina. Hard drive space comes in at 512Gb with the standard solid state drive choice. A 768Gb SSD is available, but at a $400 up charge. Since most of our work will be with external storage, the extra charge was not worth it.

When you go through the online configuration there are a plethora of accessories and software that you can add. Since this was to be a desktop replacement, I went ahead and ordered a second power adapter to keep in the bag. The MacBook Retina does not include an optical drive so I added the Apple Superdrive. I was a bit disappointed that it's not a Blu-Ray drive, but I knew about Apple's lack of BR support going in. I was planning on an external Thunderbolt drive, so I added the short Thunderbolt cable.

When we got to the software configuration I included Pages, Numbers and Keynote. I could have just waited and installed MS Office later, but I wanted to work in OS X as much as possible.

The Wait.

Since our configuration was not standard we placed the order and then waited. It took a couple days for the factory in China to assemble my MacBook. I ponied up the extra $12 for 2-3 day shipping. This was the fastest option and I really couldn't argue with spending an extra $12 on a $3000+ computer. Interestingly enough all of my accessories shipped almost immediately. I assume this is because they came from a US warehouse.

 The Arrival.

A couple days passed and Apple was kind enough to email me and text me a tracking number. Like many online shoppers, I habitually checked the status. The estimated arrival was March 1, and I made arrangements for my wife to be home when it arrived. FedEx outdid themselves again and my package showed up a day early. Luckily, I was home to sign for it.

Apple's packaging is a study on how to present a product to a buyer. When you first remove the cover of the box the product is on display. Some would argue that money could be saved on cheaper, less involved packaging. While this may be correct, this is part of the Apple Experience. 

The Transition.

I plugged in my shiny new MacBook and powered it up. Of course I was greeted with the obligatory startup wizard that is the norm with any modern electronic device. The process was fairly intuitive and I made my way through it quickly.

Once through the startup and into OS X things were fairly easy to fine. The first major difference I noticed was that the menu bar for each window does not in fact reside on the window. It resides at the top of the screen. This can be a bit confusing at first when several windows are open on the same screen and you are jumping between them. The second interesting thing is that clicking on the red "x" in the upper left corner of the window does not actually shut a program down like the red "x" in Windows. I quickly got the hang of "Command-Q" to close the active program.

As I configured different pieces of software I quickly adapted to the new shortcut keys and the "Mac" way of doing things. Installing software became a very simple manner. Most of the packages I needed to install had their own installation routines. If they did not, then it was just a simple matter of placing it in the "Applications" folder to keep things neat and tidy.

One very lovely thing I noticed was that I never once had to go on the dreaded "driver" search. Installing my HP OfficeJet 6500 was a simple one click matter. When I clicked the "scan" button I was asked to install the software for scanning. However instead of having to go search for a DVD or software package, I simply had to press the download button. The appropriate update was downloaded and installed. I really didn't have to know anything more than what I wanted to accomplish.

I can really see why for some time Mac has been the choice for creative professionals.

Now, to get down to "business".

I ordered my MacBook pre-configured with Pages, Numbers and Keynote. Much of what I needed the MacBook for was video, photo and web editing. However the plan is to transition to the Mac for all my computing needs. This includes the boring financial issues attached to running a house and a business. I use MS Excel for my spreadsheets on the PC. I could have installed Office for Mac or installed Office on Windows 7 under Bootcamp. Instead I chose to go the Mac way and use Numbers.

Mounting my shared Documents folder on my PC was a snap. Simply verifying the proper permissions on the PC and then mapping the drive in Finder had me ready to transfer documents. I pulled my check register spreadsheet over into the MacBook and opened it. Number recognized it and started up. I was greeted by a welcome screen with the option to play a short video explaining the benefit of numbers. I was intrigued by some of the features and immediately started thinking about the use in future products. Once I finished the video, Numbers opened a window showing me what parts of my spreadsheet was incompatible. My split spreadsheets were disabled and the font used was replaced, but nothing drastic had to be changed. I was disappointed that I couldn't use split spreadsheets. When working with very long tables it's a really nice feature. However i quickly figured out how to reconfigure my table to work.

It really didn't take much re-training for simple spreadsheet work. I was able to locate the functions I needed very rapidly. A few small irritations surfaced, but much of it was from my expectation for Numbers to work like Excel, and that really isn't fair.

After an initial learning curve I began to really enjoy using the multi-touch trackpad. The gestures were fairly fast to learn and made switching between applications and windows very quick. A quick swipe up with four fingers showed me what apps were open and allowed me to select the app I need. Swipe to the left or right with four fingers and you switch to the next or previous app.

Scrolling took a bit of getting used to because of my familiarity with the windows method of scrolling. Apple wants to to scroll like you are pushing a piece of paper across the table in front of you. This is a very intuitive method, and I prefer it. It's just a matter of un-learning the scroll bar method from Windows.

The multi-touch trackpad is not all skittles and sunshine. I did find myself often dragging a third finger when I wanted only two. This would switch from scrolling to dragging. Not a big deal on web pages, but it's not so cool in finder when you start dragging files and folders around.

The user interface is definitely well thought out and becomes fun to use after a couple hours of familiarity. I quickly purchased an Apple Wireless Keyboard and Trackpad in order to save some wear on the MacBook components. Pairing them was fast. After that there really wasn't anything to think about. When I walk away from my office the MacBook doesn't give me any nasty warnings. It just doesn't see the peripherals. When I get back to my desk, I can immediately start using them again. No button presses or re-pairing necessary.

So why am I running Windows 7 on my fancy new MacBook?

I am really enjoying my experience with OS X, but the reality is that some applications are just not made for Mac. One piece in particular is a very specialized piece of software that is only made by one company and only for Windows. I also like to play the occasional FPS Game and with a nice fast laptop, the temptation to load Crysis 3 on it is just too great.

There are several options for loading Windows on the MacBook. Most cost money. The least expensive solution is to use the built in Bootcamp feature in OSX. Bootcamp assists you in partitioning your drive and creating an installation package with all the correct drivers for your Mac. It is fairly straight forward, but be warned. You need to make sure you select a large enough partition for whatever you are going to do in Windows. Installing Windows 7 was extremely fast. I am sure this is in part due to the Solid State Drive and Superdrive. Once Windows 7 was installed and configured, running the Bootcamp setup added all the drivers required for the Mac specific hardware. Windows was then able to use all the new fancy hardware. The wireless adapter popped up with no problems and the Retina display still looked glorious. In fact it was just too good. I had to turn the resolution down to make it useable. My eyes are great, but I did not enjoy staring at the tiny icons and text.

Bootcamp is not the only option for Windows on the Mac, but for my purposes it seemed like the best. My father uses VMWare Fusion on his Mac. He had the need to run Mac and Windows apps at the same time. He also does not run games on his MacBook. I had no need to run both apps at the same time. The specialized software that I need is for reference a couple times a month. Due to the speed that the MacBook Pro Retina boots at I can easily boot into the OS I need. It is not like days past where you turned on your PC then made breakfast while it booted. Running one OS at a time via Bootcamp just seemed like a more efficient method when gaming. Games and video editing will really tax a systems resources.

Is the MacBook Pro Retina worth the $3,000 I spent on it? That will take a little longer to determine. I am thoroughly satisfied with the fit and finish of the unit. This is the highest quality notebook I have ever worked with. Even the high power windows gaming notebooks feel cheaply built compared to the smooth aluminum exterior of the MacBook. The feel of the keyboard and trackpad are excellent. The appearance of the display is better than any I have used before and the extra features like the anti-glare coatings on the glossy screen are just the icing on the cake.

I have yet to really tax the processing power of the system, but with some video projects looming, it won't be long. To fully switch over to the "Mac Way" I will need to get our cloud server setup and migrate my iTunes library. That is not something I am looking forward to, but necessary. I will say that so far the MacBook has assisted in my assimilation into the Apple ecosystem. Being able to answer iMessages on the Mac instead of picking up my phone or unlocking the iPad is a welcome addition. Being able to mirror my screen to AppleTV is also a sweet feature.

In conclusion, I am enjoying my experience so far. Thanks to the power of the internet, any confusion is quickly sorted out. Almost every issue I encountered was due to the way I was accustomed to using an operating system. Not with any failing on the part of the OS. I will continue to update as we get some more time on this great little notebook.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Caudabe "The Shell" iPad Case Review

When I picked up my lovely new iPad, I was overjoyed with its design. Everything from the glorious Retina display to the wafer thin case. I slapped a leather Smart Cover on it to protect the glass an took it out into the cold cruel world.

I loved the form of the iPad. Why would I want to cover it with anything?

After several days of use in the office, at home and out in the world I realized that the thin iPad has its drawback. It fit wonderfully in my messenger bag, but hours of extended use caused the corners to dig into the palms of my hands. I also noticed that every time I wanted to set my iPad down, I habitually checked the surface for dirt, grit and so on. When I picked it back up, I had to wipe off the pretty aluminum back.

Sounds pretty anal, right? Unfortunately, that is how I treat my electronics.

The simple solution would have been a super durable hard case. However, I did not really want to add that much bulk or cover the lovely Retina display with a piece of plastic. I wanted to keep things slick, light and I wanted to easily remove the case if warranted. Lastly, I didn't want to drop a ton of money on a tiny bit of added protection.

A quick skip through the Amazon marketplace and I found the Caudabe "The Shell". "The Shell" is a thin, flexible plastic cover that snaps onto the back of the iPad. It takes mere seconds to install and leaves you with a good deal of scratch protection. It adds approximately a millimeter of thickness overall but really serves to "soften" the radius of the corners. This makes for a much more enjoyable experience when holding the iPad for hours while reading your favorite blog or eBook.

I selected the "Frost Clear" color. This nicely compliments the silver of the iPad and allows the black Apple inlay to show through. The texture is almost rubbery feeling, which aids in gripping the iPad. It gives me a little more confidence when carrying it around.

I do not expect the Caudabe "The Shell" to provide any impact protection, but that was not the main concern. I simple wanted a softer feel when holding the iPad for long periods and some scratch protection for the back. At $10.95 the price is right. When it eventually becomes scarred and scuffed beyond my level of comfort I can simply replace it with another. The is a very small concern when you consider the cost of the device. Beyond satisfying my anal desire to keep my electronics pristine, it will also allow me to get the maximum resale value later down the road.

As a bonus it is cutout to allow the Apple Smart Cover to attach and fold back as usual.

As always, if you want to pick one up for yourself, please use the link below and help support future reviews.

Heckler Design @Rest Review

Anyone who has been in my office knows what kind of wreck my desk is. Anything that makes it a little easier to work around is a massive bonus. When I picked up a new iPad I was confounded by how to store/use it when I was seated at, what my Wife refers to as the "NASA Control Center". Sure I could always just lay it flat on the desk next to my mouse, but that did not put it at a good angle to actually see. My iPad is equipped with a Smart Cover, so the option to prop it up that was is available. However the Smart Cover is not very secure and rocks precariously if you attempt to type. Knocking my new, expensive iPad Retina on the floor was not a chance I wanted to take.

I did some browsing in the local stores and saw several different types of docks and rests. Most were not designed to work with the new Lightning connector. The rests I looked at were mostly lightweight and made of plastic. I was not impressed.

I did some quick browsing online and came across the @Rest from Heckler Design. The @Rest is definitely not to be considered "portable". It's several pounds of steel formed into a pleasing curved shape. It offers two different viewing angles that can be selected by simply turning the rest 180 degrees and moving the bottom rubber "pegs". It can be had in a number of powder coated finishes. The Silver nicely compliments the iPad's aluminum case.

The weight of the @Rest gives you the ability to tap away on the screen without any movement of the unit. This is aided by four rubber feet on the bottom. Your device is protected from any scratches by foam pads in the center of each face and the rubber pegs at the bottom. The pegs are hooked to keep the iPad from sliding off. Additionally when used with the Smart Cover folded back, the magnets in the Smart Cover assist in gripping the @Rest.

The @Rest comes in a form fitted cardboard box and some assembly is required. You have to attach the foam pads and rubber feet. Then slide the pegs into the notches cut in the side. Only one set of pegs is included, so you must decide what angle you want to use. A second set of pegs is available from Heckler Design for $12.

If the @Rest was simply an iPad stand it would be amazing enough. The fact that you can also use it to support a MacBook makes it a "must have" for a mobile user when not mobile. The price is high at $49, but for that price you get a beautiful piece of American metalwork.

Pick yours up from Amazon and help support our reviews. 


Welcome to the Tech Gear Test Blog.

I manage several other sites and post on a plethora of websites. I am starting this one to be a little different than my normal genre. Most of my writing is centered around firearms and outdoor gear. However I am a hopeless techie. I love gadgets, electronic and otherwise. This new blog is intended to give me a location to review the non-tactical photo, video, computer and lifestyle gadgets that I consume on a daily basis.

I hope you enjoy it!