Apple’s AirPods have quickly become the best selling wireless headphones and are now the second-best selling Apple product. The small white buds have quickly become ubiquitous across the U.S. and are many people’s go-to wireless earbud option. This week, Apple has refreshed the AirPods with a newer model, giving them additional features. These new second generation AirPods look identical to the first generation on the outside, but on the inside much has changed. Utilizing Apple’s new H1 Chip (as opposed to the W1 chip inside the first generation), the new AirPods are able to pair to your iPhone more quickly than ever, and are now able to switch between devices in a much shorter time-frame (a common complaint with the first generation AirPods). Additionally, the new AirPods offer lower latency, which means audio will be more in sync with videos and games. Battery life as also seen an improvement, with talk time now up to 3 hours on a single charge.
Perhaps the biggest feature of these new AirPods does not have anything to do with the earbuds themselves. The case that the new AirPods ship with is now wireless-charging enabled. This means that AirPods can now be charged wirelessly using any Qi-enabled wireless charging pad. Additionally, the new AirPods with Wireless Charging Case will be compatible with Apple’s upcoming AirPower Mat, which will charge an iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods, all wirelessly. For those of you with first generation AirPods, don’t fret! Apple is looking to share the wireless charging features with all AirPods owners. The Wireless Charging Case is cross-compatible with both generations of AirPods, and is available for separate purchase for a reduced price. This means that if you already own a pair of AirPods, you are able to purchase the new Wireless Charging Case individually and use it with your first generation AirPods.
With the continued success of AirPods and the continued removal of analog headphone ports from mobile devices, the wireless headphone market will be one that will continue to evolve rapidly for the foreseeable feature. Seeing what features Apple will add to future AirPods to entice customers to continue purchasing them will be interesting, as will seeing how their competitors in the space will improve their products to compete.
The Views and Opinions Expressed in This Article Are Those of Parker Louison and Do Not Necessarily Reflect the Official Policy or Position of UMass Amherst IT
A Note of Intention
I want to start off this article by explaining that I’m not making this in an effort to gloat or brag, and I certainly hope it doesn’t come across that way. I put all of the creative energy I had left this semester into the project I’m about to dissect and discuss, so sadly I won’t be publishing a video this semester (as I’ve done for the past two semesters). One of the reasons I’m making this is because a lot of the reaction towards what I made included people asking how I made it and how long it took me, and trust me, we’ll go in depth on that.
My First Taste
My first experience with high-grade virtual reality was a few weeks before the start of my sophomore year at UMass when my friend Kyle drove down to visit me, bringing along his HTC Vive after finding out that the only experience I’d had with VR was a cheap $20 adapter for my phone. There’s a consensus online that virtual reality as a concept is better pitched through firsthand experience rather than by word of mouth or marketing. The whole appeal of VR relies on subjective perception and organic optical illusions, so I can understand why a lot of people think the whole “you feel like you’re in the game” spiel sounds like nothing but a load of shallow marketing. Remember when Batman: Arkham Asylum came out and nearly every review of it mentioned that it made you feel like Batman? Yeah, well now there’s actually a Batman Arkham VR game, and I don’t doubt it probably does make you actuallyfeel like you’re Batman. The experience I had with VR that night hit me hard, and I came to understand why so many people online were making it out to be such a big deal. Despite my skeptical mindset going in, I found that it’s just as immersive as many have made it out to be.
This wasn’t Microsoft’s Kinect, where the action of taking away the remote actually limited player expression. This was a genuinely deep and fascinating technological breakthrough that opens the door for design innovations while also requiring programmers to master a whole new creative craft. The rulebook for what does and doesn’t work in VR is still being written, and despite the technology still being in its early stages, I wanted in. I wanted in so badly that I decided to try and save up my earnings over the next semester in an effort to buy one. That went about as well as you’d expect; not just because I was working within a college student’s budget, but also because I’m awful with my money. My Art-Major friend Jillian would tell you it’s because I’m a Taurus, but I think it has more to do with me being a giant man-child who impulse-purchases stupid stuff because the process of waiting for something to arrive via Amazon feels like something meaningful in my life. It’s no wonder I got addicted to Animal Crossing over Spring Break…
Anyway, I was sitting in my Comp-Lit discussion class when I got the email about the Digital Media Lab’s new Ready Player One contest, with the first place winner taking home an HTC Vive Headset. I’m not usually one for contests, and I couldn’t picture myself actually winning the thing, but something about the challenge piqued my interest. The task involved creating a pitch video, less than one minute in length, in which I’d have to describe how I would implement Virtual Reality on campus in a meaningful way.
With Virtual Reality, there are a lot of possible implementations relating to different departments. In the Journalism department, we’ve talked at length in some of my classes about the potential applications of VR, but all of those applications were either for the benefit of journalists covering stories or the public consuming them. The task seemed to indicate that the idea I needed to pitch had to be centered more on benefiting the average college student, rather than benefiting a specific major (at least, that’s how I interpreted it).
One of my original ideas was a virtual stress-relief dog, but then I realized that people with anxiety would likely only get even more stressed out with having to put on some weird giant headset… and real-life dogs can give hecking good nuzzles that can’t really be simulated. You can’t substitute soft fur with hard plastic.
I came to college as a journalism major, and a day rarely goes by when I don’t have some doubts about my choice. In High School I decided on journalism because I won this debate at a CT Youth Form thing and loved writing and multi-media, so I figured it seemed like a safe bet. Still, it was a safe bet that was never pitched to me. I had no idea what being a journalist would actually be like; my whole image of what being a reporter entailed came from movies and television. I thought about it for a while, about how stupid and hormonal I was and still am, and realized that I’m kind of stuck. If I hypothetically wanted to switch to chemistry or computer science, I’d be starting from scratch with even more debt to bear. Two whole years of progress would be flushed down the toilet, and I’d have nothing to show for it. College is a place for discovery; where your comfortable environment is flipped on its head and you’re forced to take care of yourself and make your own friends. It’s a place where you work four years for a piece of paper to make your resume look nicer when you put it on an employer’s desk, and you’re expected to have the whole rest of your life figured out when you’re a hormonal teenager who spent his savings on a skateboard he never learned how to ride.
And so I decided that, in this neo-cyberpunk dystopia we’re steadily developing into, it would make sense for simulations to come before rigorous training. Why not create simulated experiences where people could test the waters for free? Put themselves in the shoes of whatever career path they want to explore to see if the shoes fit right, you know?
I mentioned “cyberpunk” there earlier because I have this weird obsession with cyberpunk stuff at the moment and I really wanted to give my pitch video some sort of tongue-in-cheek retrograde 80s hacker aesthetic to mask my cynicism as campy fun, but that had to be cut once I realized I had to make this thing under a minute long.
Gathering My Party and Gear
Anyway, I wrote up a rough script and rented out one of the booths in the Digital Media Lab. With some help from Becky Wandel (the News Editor at WMUA) I was able to cut down my audio to just barely under the limit. With the audio complete, it came time to add visual flair. I originally wanted to do a stop-motion animated thing with flash-cards akin to the intros I’ve made for my Techbytes videos, but I’m slow at drawing and realized that it’d take too much time and effort, which is hilarious because the idea I settled on was arguably even more time-consuming and draining.
I’m the proud owner of a Nikon D80, a hand-me-down DSLR from my mom, which I bring with me everywhere I go, mostly because I like taking pictures, but also because I think it makes me seem more interesting. A while back I got a speck of dust on the sensor, which requires special equipment to clean (basically a glorified turkey baster). I went on a journey to the Best Buy at the Holyoke Mall with two friends to buy said cleaning equipment while documenting the entire thing using my camera. Later, I made a geeky stop-motion video out of all those photos, which I thought ended up looking great, so I figured doing something similar for the pitch video would be kind of cool. I messaged a bunch of my friends, and in a single day I managed to shoot the first 60% of the photos I needed. I then rented out the Vive in the DML and did some photoshoots there.
At one point while I was photographing my friend Jillian playing theBlu, she half-jokingly mentioned that the simulation made her want to study Marine Biology. That kind of validated my idea and pushed me to make sure I made this video perfect. The opposite effect happened when talking to my friend Rachael, who said she was going to pitch something for disability services, to which I immediately thought “damn, she might win with that.”
I then knew what I had to do. It was too late to change my idea or start over, so I instead decided that my best shot at winning was to make my video so stylistically pleasing and attention-grabbing that it couldn’t be ignored. If I wasn’t going to have the best idea, then gosh darn it (I can’t cuss because this is an article for my job) I was going to have the prettiest graphics I could muster.
The Boss Fight
I decided to use a combination of iMovie and Photoshop, programs I’m already familiar with, because teaching myself how to use more efficient software would ironically be less efficient given the short time frame I had to get this thing out the door. Using a drawing tablet I borrowed from my friend Julia, I set out to create the most complicated and ambitious video project I’ve ever attempted to make.
A few things to understand about me: when it comes to passion projects, I’m a bit of a perfectionist and extremely harsh on myself. I can’t even watch my Freshman Year IT video because I accidentally made it sound like a $100 investment in some less than amazing open back headphones was a reasonable decision on my part, and my other IT video makes me cringe because I thought, at the time, it’d be funny to zoom in on the weird hand motions I make while I talk every five seconds.
So in this case, I didn’t hold back and frequently deleted whole sections of my video just because I didn’t like how a single brush stroke animated (with the exception of the way my name is lopsided in the credits, which will haunt me for the rest of my life). For two weeks, I rigorously animated each individual frame in Photoshop, exported it, and imported it into iMovie.
(Above) A visual representation of all the files it took to create the video
(Above) Frame by frame, I lined up my slides in iMovie
The most demanding section was, without a doubt, the one involving my friend Matthew, which I spent one out of the two weeks entirely focused on. For that section, I needed it to animate at a speed faster than 0.04 seconds, which is impossible because 0.04 seconds is the shortest you can make a frame in iMovie’s streamlined interface, so I ended up creating a whole new project file, slowing down my audio by half-speed, editing the frames of that section relative to that slowed down audio before exporting it, putting it into the original project file and doubling its speed just to get it to animate smoothly.
(Above) Some sections required me to find loopholes in the software to get them to animate faster than iMovie would allow
(Above) Some of the scrap paper I scribbled notes on while editing the video together
Each individual border was drawn multiple times with slight variations and all the on-screen text (with the exception of the works cited) was handwritten by me multiple times over so that I could alternate between the frames of animation to make sure everything was constantly moving.
(Above) Boarders were individually drawn and cycled through in order to maintain visual momentum
This was one of my major design philosophies during the development of this project: I didn’t want there to be a single moment in the 59 seconds where nothing was moving. I wanted my video to grab the viewer’s attention, and I feared that losing momentum in the visual movement would cause me to lose the viewer’s interest. The song LACool by DJ Grumble came on my Spotify radio coincidentally right when I was listening over the audio for the section I was editing, and I thought it fit so well I bought it from iTunes on the spot and edited it in.
I finished my video on Monday, March 26th, turned it into the Digital Media Lab, stumbled back to my dorm, and went to bed at 6:00 PM by accident.
(Above) The final video submission
The winner wouldn’t be announced until Wednesday, so for two days I nervously waited until 6:00 PM on March 28th, when I sat on my bed in my dorm room refreshing the Digital Media Lab website every 7 seconds like a stalker on an ex’s Facebook page waiting for the winner to finally be posted. At 6:29 PM I got a call from an unrecognized number from Tallahassee, Florida, and almost didn’t answer because I thought it was a sales call. Turns out it was Steve Acquah, the coordinator of the Digital Media Lab, who informed me that my video won. Soon after, the Digital Media Lab Website was also updated with the announcement.
(Above) A screenshot taken of the announcement on the Digital Media Lab Website
Along with the raw joy and excitement came a sort of surreal disbelief. Looking back on those stressful weeks of work, it all felt like it flew by faster than I could’ve realized once I got that phone call. I’m so grateful for not only the reward but the experience. Making that video was a stressful nightmare, but it also forced me to push myself to my creative limits and challenge myself in so many ways. On a night where I would’ve probably just gone home and watched Netflix by myself, I sprinted around campus to meet up with and take photos of my friends. This project got me to get all my friends together and rent out the Vive in the DML, basically forcing me to play video games and have fun with the people I love. While the process of editing it all together drove me crazy, the journey is definitely going to be a highlight of my time at UMass.
I’m grateful to all of my friends who modeled for me, loaned me equipment, got dinner with me while I was stressing out over editing, played Super Hot VR with me, gave me advice on my audio, pushed me to not give up, and were there to celebrate with me when I won. I’m also immensely grateful to the staff and managers of the DML for providing me with this opportunity, as well as for their compliments and praise for the work I did. This was an experience that means a lot to me and it’s one I won’t soon forget. Thank you.
I picked up my prize the other day at the DML (see photo above the title of this article)! Unfortunately, I have a lot of work going on, so it’s going to be locked up in a safe place until that’s done. Still, it’s not like I could use it right now if I wanted to. My gaming PC hasn’t been touched in ages (since I don’t bring it with me to college) so I’m going to need to upgrade the GPU before I can actually set up the Vive with it. It’s a good thing there isn’t a spike in demand for high-end GPUs at the moment for cryptocurrency mining, right?
(Above) A visual representation of what Bitcoin has done to the GPU market (and my life)
Regardless of when I can actually use the prize I won, this experience was one I’m grateful to have had. The video I made is one I’m extremely proud of, and the journey I went on to create it is one I’ll think about for years to come.
If you’re anything like me, you will (or already have) accidentally wiped your Macbook’s ssd. It may seem like you just bricked your MacBook, but luckily there is a remedy.
The way forward is to use the built-in “internet recovery” which, on startup, can be triggered via pressing “cmd + R”.
There is a bit of a catch: if you do this straight away, there is a good chance that the Mac will get stuck here and throw up an error – error -3001F in my personal experience. This tends to be because the Mac assumes it is already connected to Wi-Fi (when its not) and gives an error after it fails to connect to apple servers. If instead your MacBook lets you select a Wi-Fi network during this process, you’re in the clear and can skip the next paragraph.
Luckily there is another way to connect, via apple’s boot menu. To get there, power the computer on, hit the power button and very soon after, hold the option key. Eventually you will see a screen where you can pick a Wi-Fi network.
Unfortunately if you’re at UMass, eduroam (or UMASS) won’t work, however you can easily connect to any typical home Wi-Fi or a mobile hotspot (although you should make sure you have unlimited data first).
Once you’re connected, you want to hit “cmd + R” from that boot screen. Do not restart the computer. If you had been able to connect without the boot menu, you should be already be in internet recovery and do not need to press anything.
Now that the wifi is connected, you need to wait. Eventually you will see the Macbook’s recovery tools. First thing you need to do is to select disk utility, select your Macbook’s hard drive and hit erase – this may seem redundant but I’ll explain in a moment. Now go back into the main repair menu by closing the disk utility.
Unless you created a “time machine” backup, you’ll want to pick the reinstall Mac OS X option. After clicking through for a bit, you will see a page asking you to select a drive. If you properly erased the hard drive a few moments before, you will be able to select the hard drive and continue on. If you hadn’t erased the drive again, there is a good chance no drive will appear in the drive selection. To fix that, all you have to do is to erase the drive again with the disk utility mention earlier – the one catch is that you can only get back to the recovery tools if you restart the computer and start internet recovery again, which as you may have noticed, is a slow process.
Depending on the age of your Macbook, there is a solid chance that you will end up with an old version of Mac OS. If you have two step verification enabled, you may have issues updating the the latest Mac OS version.
Out of my own experience, OS X Mavericks will not allow you to login to the app store if you have two step verification – but I would recommend trying, your luck could be better than mine. The reason why we need to App Store is because it is required to upgrade to High Sierra/the present version of OS X.
If you were unable to login, there is a work around – that is to say, OS X Mavericks will let you make a new Apple ID, which luckily are free. Since you will be creating this account purely for the sake of updating the MacBook, I wouldn’t recommend using your primary email or adding any form of payment to the account.
Once you’re logged in, you should be free to update and after some more loading screens, you will have an fully up-to-date MacBook. The last thing remaining (if you had to create a new Apple ID) is to log out of the App Store and login to your personal Apple ID.
Have you ever found yourself watching tech tutorials online? Nothing to be ashamed of, as everyone has run into an issue they need help solving at some point in their lives. Now, have you ever found yourself watching a BAD tech tutorial online? You know, one where the audio sounds like it’s being dragged across concrete and the video is literally a blurry recording of a computer screen? It ironically feels like a lot of the time the people who make tech tutorials need a tech tutorial on how to make good quality tech tutorials.
So join me, Parker Louison, as I wave my hands around awkwardly for ten minutes while trying my best to give helpful tips for making your tech tutorial professional, clean, and stand out among all the low effort content plaguing the internet!
Have you ever thought your computer might be dying but you don’t know what? Symptoms that people might be familiar with may include slowing down, increased startup time, programs freezing, constant disk usage, and audible clicking. While these symptoms may happen to a lot of people, they don’t necessarily mean the hard drive is circling the drain. With a practically unlimited number of other things that could make the computer slow down and become unusable, how are you supposed to find out exactly what the problem is? Fortunately, the most common part to fail in a computer, the hard drive (or data drive), has a built-in testing technology that even users can use to diagnose their machines without handing over big bucks to a computer repair store or having to buy an entire new computer if their computer is out of warranty.
Enter SMART (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology). SMART is a monitoring suite that checks computer drives for a list of parameters that would indicate drive failure. SMART collects and stores data about the drive including errors, failures, times to spin up, reallocated sectors, and read/write abilities. While many of these attributes may be confusing in definition and even more confusing in their recorded numerical values, SMART software can predict a drive failure and even notify the user of the computer that the software has detected a failing drive. The user can then look at the results to verify, or in unsure, bring to a computer repair store for a verification and drive replacement.
So how does one get access to SMART? Many computers include built in diagnostic suites that can be accessed via a boot option when the computer first turns on. Others manufacturers require that you download an application without your operating system that can run a diagnostic test. These diagnostic suites will usually check the SMART status, and if the drive is in fact failing, the diagnostic suite will report a drive is failing or has failed. However, most of these manufacturer diagnostics will simply only say passed or failed, if you want access to the specific SMART data you will have to use a Windows program such as CrystalDiskInfo, a Linux program such as GSmartControl, or SMART Utility for Mac OS.
These SMART monitoring programs are intelligent enough to detect when a drive is failing, to give you ample time to back up your data. Remember, computer parts can always be replaced, lost data is lost forever. However, it should be noted that SMART doesn’t always detect when a drive fails. If a drive suffers a catastrophic failure like a physical drop or water damage while on SMART cannot predict these and the manufacturer is not at fault. Therefore, while SMART is best to be used as a tool to assess whether a drive is healthy or not, it is used most strongly in tandem with a good reliable backup system and not as a standalone protection against data failure.
Despite what the average internet person will tell you, MacBooks are good at what they do. That’s something important to remember in a time where fanboying is such a prevalent issue in the tech consumer base. People seem eager to take sides; binary criticism removing the reality that machines can have both good and bad qualities. MacBooks are good at what they do, and they also have their disadvantages.
One of the things MacBooks aren’t good at (mostly due to their architecture) is playing games. If you’re looking for high-performance gameplay, Windows machines are objectively better for gaming. Despite this, there are plenty of games and workarounds that’ll still enable you to have fun with friends or in your dorm room after a long stressful day even on a MacBook.
Note: I’ll only be listing the methods and games I’ve personally found to work well. There are likely tons of games and methods that work great, but I haven’t tried yet. While I’m aware you can always install Windows via Boot Camp, I’ll only be touching on methods and games that don’t require altering the OS or running a virtual machine. Below is a screenshot of my machine’s specs for reference.
Actually Getting Games
Do you like games? Do you like sales? Do you often fantasize about purchasing AAA games for prices ranging from Big Mac to Five Guys? Steam is the way to go. You can get Steam here, and I highly recommend you do. Steam is great because of its frequent sales, interface, and ability to carry over your purchases between machines easily. A good amount of Steam titles are supported on Mac OS, so if you’ve been previously using a Windows machine and have a huge library, you won’t have to repurchase all of your games if you switch to a new OS. You can also purchase some games off of the App Store, though the selection there is far smaller in comparison.
If you’re planning on playing an FPS on your MacBook, you’re likely going to want a mouse. A mouse is far more accurate and comfortable than a trackpad when it comes to interacting with most game interfaces. However, after plugging in your mouse you might find that it feels…weird. It accelerates and slows itself down sporadically and probably feels like it’s fighting you. No need to worry! This is a simple fix.
First, launch Terminal and enter the following command:
This will disable Mac OS’s built in scaling and allow you and your mouse to have healthy bonding time without it suddenly deciding to perform an interpretive dance in the style of the plastic bag from American Beauty.
Another bonus piece of advice would be to go to System Preferences > Keyboard > and check the option to use the function keys without having to press the fn key. If you’re playing games that require usage of the function keys, you’ll find it easier to only have to hit one key vs having to take your hand off the mouse to hit two.
Finally, I recommend you keep your system plugged in and on a desk. Just like with most laptops, demanding processes like games can drain the battery faster thanUsain Bolt can run across campus and make your laptop hotter than that fire mixtape you made in highschool.
Solo game recommendations
So, you’ve set up your mouse and keyboard, installed steam, and you’ve got some free time to play some games. What now? Well, not every game that is listed as “compatible” with Mac OS actually works well with Mac OS. Some games lag and crash, while others might run at a high frame-rate with no problems. Here are a few games I’ve found work well with my system. (Reminder: Performance may vary)
“h a c k m u d” is a game that is set in a cyberpunk future where you’re a master hacker. This isn’t Watch_Dogs though. You’re not “hacking” by pressing a single button; rather, every single bit of code is typed by you. If you don’t know how to code, the game does an alright job at teaching you the basics of its own language (which is like a simplified mix of HTML and Java). The first hour of the game is spent locked in a server where you’ll have to solve some interesting logic puzzles. Once you escape the server, the game suddenly becomes a fully functional hacking MMO entirely populated by actual players. The game runs well on Mac OS, as it’s almost entirely text-based.
Do you like classic CRPGs? If the answer is yes, you’ll probably love Pillars. It’s a CRPG that fixes a lot of the problems the genre faced during its golden age, while not losing any of its complexity and depth. The game runs well, though do expect a loud and hot system after just a few minutes.
Do you often dream of being a bad-ass ninja in the matrix? SUPERHOT is a game where the central gimmick is that time only moves when you move. More accurately, time moves at a fraction of a second when you aren’t moving your character. This allows for moments where you can dodge bullets like Neo and cut them in half mid-flight with a katana. The game runs great, though your system will quickly get super hot (pun intended).
Enter the Gungeon is a cute little rogue-like bullet hell where your goal is to reach the end of a giant procedurally generated labyrinth while surviving an endless onslaught of adorable little sentient bullets that want to murder you. The game is addictive and runs well, though one common issue I found was that the game will crash on startup unless you disable the steam overlay. It’s a shame though that you can’t enjoy the co-op feature…
…or can you?
Who wants to play alone all the time? This is college, and like a Neil Breen movie, it’s best enjoyed with friends by your side. Here’s a tutorial on how to set up your MacBook for some local gaming fun-time.
First things first, you’re going to want some friends. If you don’t have any friends installed into your life already, I find running “heystrangerwannaplaysomegameswithme.exe” usually helps.
Next, you’re going to want to get one of these. This is an adapter for Xbox 360 controllers, which you should also get a few of here. Plug in the USB adapter into your MacBook. Now, Mac OS and the adapter will stubbornly refuse to work with each other (symbolic of the fanboying thing I mentioned at the beginning of this post), so you’re going to have to teach them the value of teamwork by installing this driver software.
Once you’re all set, you should be able to wirelessly connect the controllers to the adapter and play some video games. One optional adjustment to this process would be to connect your MacBook via HDMI to a larger display so everyone can see the screen without having to huddle around your laptop.
Enter the Gungeon has a great two-player co-op mode. I’d also recommend Nidhogg and Skullgirls for some casual competitive matches between friends.
And there you have it! Despite what some very vocal individuals on the internet might tell you, it is possible to enjoy some light gaming on a Macbook. This is the part where I’d normally make some grand statement about how the haters were wrong when they said it couldn’t be done; but alas, that would merely be fueling a war I believe to be pointless in the grand scheme of things. Are we not all gamers? Are we not all stressed with mountains of work and assignments? Are we not all procrastinating when we should be working on said assignments? While our systems may be different, our goals are very much the same. And with that, I hope you find my advice helpful on your quest for good video games.
Those of you out there who have explored your Macintosh machine enough to look in the ‘Other’ folder in your applications may have seen it: that intimidating application called TERMINAL with the minimal black rectangle graphic as its icon. If you’re concerned about the security of your files, you may use Time Machine. If you live to burn CDs or have lots of different hard drives, then you may have used Disk Utility. Maybe you even like Windows enough to install it on your Mac and have used Bootcamp Assistant to do so. But when have you ever had to use Terminal?
For most of you keen and intelligent readers, the answer to the above question is easy: NEVER. Terminal is what’s called a ‘command line’ and most people never ever have to use a command line. However, what you have used is Terminal’s more attractive cousin: Finder.
The Finder, in my humble opinion, is such a perfect file viewing and organizing program that most people don’t even realize that’s all it’s doing. You have files and folders on your Desktop and you have your Documents and your Pictures and you can copy and paste and everything just works and is always where you want it to be. In the Finder, you never have to worry about directories and recursion! For that reason, I suggest Finder is perfect at what it does: making the somewhat complex system of files and directories in the Mac operating system simple and easy to navigate.
So what does all this have to do with the TERMINAL? Well, the Terminal does everything that Finder does… and more! As we’ll see through a few very simple examples, Finder and Terminal both do the same work just in slightly different ways.
So why use Terminal at all?
Great question, thank you for asking! There are many reasons for using the Terminal over the Finder, most of which go well beyond the scope of this article. A few key reasons to use the Terminal are speed and efficiency.
Every computer has a processor and a set number of transistors which can perform calculations. Great, what does that have to do with anything? The mathematical calculations performed by your computer’s (limited) processor create everything your computer does; that includes all the pretty stuff it shows on the screen. With the Finder, you can have a lot on the screen: windows, icons, folders, your Desktop, etc. The Terminal, as I mentioned earlier, does the same work as the Finder but, as you’ll see soon, does it with a lot less stuff on the screen.
For this reason, the Terminal will use less of your computers limited processing power and will make your machine run faster and will make it capable of running more programs at once. On my old and ailing MacBook, I used the Terminal as a permanent substitute for the Finder in order to just allow the whole thing to run.
The Terminal also allows you to do some special things which the Finder doesn’t. For one, you can ask it to show you all the processors your computer is doing, or you can edit basic text documents, or enter the super secret parts of your computer that Apple hides in the Finder. You can also delete your entire hard drive by typing only a handful of characters. As Uncle Ben once said, “with great power comes great responsibility.”
Why Mac has a Command Line and a Brief History of Unix
Unix? This may sound a little strange at first but I promise it will all connect eventually.
Unix was a computer operating system which was developed by AT&T in the late 1960s and early 1970s (yes, that AT&T). Compared to the other operating systems at the time, Unix was a total revolution in computer capability and security. Unix allowed for different users with different accounts and passwords. Starting to sound familiar?
Throughout the next three decades, Unix spawned many operating systems, all sharing the same emphasis on security and task-oriented proficiency. They also all share very very similar command lines and terminal commands. In 1991, Linus Torvalds released the Linux Kernel to the world and birthed the amazing and wide-reaching Unix-like operating system which became Linux. In 1989 another Unix-like operating system called NeXTSTEP was brought into existence by businessman Steve Jobs’s company, NeXT. By 2001, NeXTSTEP would be refined into Mac OS X by Apple following Jobs’s re-admission to the company.
Because Linux and Mac OS X are both based off of AT&T’s Unix operating system, they share most terminal commands. For this reason, knowing how to navigate OS X through the Terminal will give you a serious edge when using Linux.
Those of you wondering where Microsoft Windows fits into this: it doesn’t. While Mac OS X and Linux were based off the enterprise-oriented Unix, Windows was based off a modified version of an operating system called 86-DOS which was written by a small company called Seattle Computer Products. 86-DOS was turned (almost overnight) into MS-DOS which later went graphical and became Windows. DOS was never meant to access the internet and was primarily intended for use in home computers by enthusiasts; Unix, on the other hand, has had no trouble bearing the blunt of enterprise in today’s internet-based world. Explains a few things, doesn’t it?
Getting Started with the Terminal
The first thing to do is to, is you haven’t already done so, fire up Launchpad, open up the folder labeled ‘other’ and click on the Terminal icon. It should fire up and look something like this:
So what to do now? I would recommend also opening up a Finder window right next to your Terminal window to help decode what’s being displayed in the Terminal. With both Finder and Terminal open, you will want to do two things (in any order). First go to Finder and select from the ‘Go’ menu at the top the screen ‘Home.’ Now, on your Terminal, type in ls and hit return. You should see something not too dissimilar to this:
Now take a look at what’s being displayed in each window. Does it perhaps look like what’s shown on the Finder is also being listed in the Terminal? Sure, there are no icons and things look very different but everything has the same name! The reason for this phenomena: everything is the same! The Finder and Terminal are showing you exactly the same thing. What is this thing? That is going to require a slight conceptual leap.
How Files and Folders are Organized on OS X
People will often describe the vast groups of files and directories (a directory is just a slightly more techy name for folder) as a tree. However, that is nowhere near cool enough for me. I suggest, before we get into the nitty-gritty of talking about file systems, you watch this video. When the guy washes the dirt off of the ant-hill cast, you will see how the whole thing extends from a central stem and then grows lots of smaller, more localized tendrils.
This is very similar to how the directories are laid out in your computer. You have one big directory which contains every other directory. This big directory is called the ‘root directory.’ The root directory is often indicated by just ‘/’. As we delve deeper into the navigating the command line, you will find the slash shows up a lot in directory names.
If you were to look in the root directory, what would you see? You can take a look in two ways: first by typing into your command line “ls /”. Your computer reads this as, “list the contents of the directory named /” or “root.” An absence of anything after the “ls” will just list the contents of whichever directory you are currently in.
What’s the second way to see the root directory? It is here I will introduce our second command: cd. You can see the root directory by typing in “cd /” and hitting return, then typing “ls” like we did before. Your terminal window should look something like the picture below. For the purpose of comparison, I have also included a Finder window showing the contents of the root directory.
So what did we just do when we typed in the cd command? Cd is named very appropriately and is the command for change directory. Remember from the beginning of the article that a directory is just another name for a folder. For cd you simply have to type in the command followed by the name of the directory you want to change into. With the cd command, you can surf from folder to folder without ever leaving the Terminal window or touching the mouse.
What we Have Learned and How to Use it
So now we know how to open up the Terminal, change directories, and view their contents. That’s great, but I am going to go out on a limb here and say that 100% of the time you use the Finder to open something up. Can you open from the Terminal? Yes, you can!
So how can we open files from the Terminal window? Type the word open followed by the name of the file you would like to open. Super easy!
Let’s say, for the sake of demonstration, that you wish to open iTunes to listen to some Kraftwerk. We can navigate to our Application folder by using the cd command. If you’re one step ahead of me by now, go ahead and type into your Terminal window: cd /Applications/
Once we’re in Applications, we have the option to list the contents of the directory by typing in ls (just to make sure iTunes.app has not gone missing). If you take a look at all the contents of the Applications directory, you may notice that things here look a little different; every application has a file extension of .app. Don’t be alarmed, Apple knows very well that very few people need to see applications with the .app extension and hides it by default in the Finder to make things look a bit more simple. The iTunes.app in the Terminal window is, in fact, the same iTunes that you may come across in the Finder or in your Dock.
Now that we have iTunes in our sight, we can type in: open iTunes.app and it will open right before your very eyes; the same way it will if you open it from the Finder or Dock.
So Now What?
Now you can do some basic navigation through your computer on your Terminal. With cd, ls, and open you can do most of the things you would want to do on Finder. If you practice your typing, you may find that some tasks are just inherently quicker in the command line. I, personally, do not care for using a computer mouse and the Terminal allows me to do everything I need without ever taking my hands from the keyboard.
Additionally, the Terminal as an applications requires far less processing power than the Finder. If you end up like me and turn the Finder off (I will show you how to do that eventually), you may notice a decent increase in your computer’s performance.
As we’ll see in part 2 of this article (soon to come), there are also some excellent tasks you can use the command line for that you cannot use the Finder for. Those are soon to come…
Microsoft Office is a useful suite of productivity applications that includes Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook, Access, and OneNote. Microsoft provides a no-cost subscription to college students, faculty, and staff to install these programs on up to 5 devices. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to get your free access to Microsoft Office 365:
Once on the landing page for Office 365, fill in your UMass email address and click Get started.
A. If you are a student, click on I’m a Student B. Click on I’m a Teacher if you are either a faculty or staff member. The I’m a Teacher option will work if you are either a faculty or staff member.
Check your UMass email for the confirmation email and click the Yes, that’s me link.
Create your account using your personal information.
Click Skip on the invitation page.
Download your software by clicking the Install now button! If you don’t want anything in your web browser changed, make sure to uncheck the two boxes above the Install now button.
A. If you’re on Windows, this will download the installer for Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook, Access, Publisher, Skype for Business, and OneDrive for Business.
B. If you’re on OS X, it will download the installer for Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook, and OneNote.
With the Office 365 subscription, you will also have access to the Office Online suite of productivity software, all of which is listed below the install button.
Once the installer is downloaded, run the installer.
When the software is installed, you will be able to open any Office Suite program and use it as normal.
Note: it may prompt you to sign in. If it does, be sure to use the same email address and password that you used when you signed up for Office 365 at the beginning of this walkthrough.
You’re done! Enjoy Office 365 for the duration of your time at UMass Amherst!
You finally sat down to start that paper you’ve been putting off, hit the power button on your laptop and nothing but a folder with a question mark shows up. Or maybe you just got back from the library and just want a relaxing afternoon online. However, when you wake up your computer, all you see is a black screen and text reading “Boot device not found.”
When diagnosing issues where your computer won’t boot, there are a few different diagnostic tests that you can run to determine what is causing the issue. These can vary depending on what kind of computer you have. For all manufacturers, the first step is determining whether or not the computer turns on. With laptops, check whether or not any lights come on. If it is unplugged, try making sure the battery is seated correctly and plugging it into the power adapter (be sure to use a known-good wall outlet). If none of these work, the most likely cause is failure of the main logic board.
If your computer does turn on at all, this could mean there is a hardware failure. Usually if the computer doesn’t turn on at all this means there is some kind of power failure. It could be as simple as your battery dying, which can be solved by charging the laptop with a known good power adapter. On the other hand, this could also be caused by a motherboard that has failed.
The other hardware point of failure is usually the hard drive. In this case Windows and Macs will give two different errors. Macs will boot to a folder with a question mark. Windows could show a number of different screens depending on the manufacturer and how old the machine is. Usually it will look something like the following:
The last point of failure for boot failure is the operating system. If the operating system has been corrupted, it can cause any number of errors to be shown on startup. On Windows machines this usually results in a blue screen of death. To fix this, usually the hard drive needs to be wiped and Windows needs to be reinstalled (after making sure your files are backed up). Macs, on the other hand, have a few recovery options, the most useful being disk first aid. Holding down Command-R while the machine is booting will bring up the recovery boot options:
Regardless of what happens when you try to turn on your computer though, there is always a solution to fix any problems that might happen. Determining where the point of failure is can be the difficult part. Once you know that, it’s much easier to make a decision about fixing the computer.
While at UMass, you might come across a point where you will need to use specialized software that can only be used on a Windows PC. This is fine if you have a Windows computer, however this leaves people who own a Mac at a clear disadvantage. So what do you do if you have a Mac computer? A commonly used solution to this situation is BootCamp Assistant. BootCamp Assistant is a built in function in the Mac operating system that allows Mac users to install Windows alongside their OSX operating system. This program can either be found by searching “bootcamp” in spotlight, or by going to the application folder in finder, where BootCamp can be found in the utilities folder.
How it works:
BootCamp works by sectioning off an certain amount of used space in your hard-drive in order to make a full installation of Windows. This process is limited by the specs of your computer and the operating system version. Below you can find the minimal requirements needed to run BootCamp. Also you can find a list of BootCamp versions needed to install the specific windows operating system that you need.
**Side note: Before you start installing Windows on your computer, you need to make sure that you computer is up to date using Software Update. Also use the chart on this page to download updates for your Boot Camp. This update is based on the model of your computer, and some models are limited to their updates because of their specs. It may also be necessary to upgrade you computer to the latest version of OSX.
Media is not Included:
A common misconception about BootCamp is that it provides a windows operating system to install. This is not true. BootCamp will provide drivers and updates for your Windows operating system, however it will not provide the media to install the Windows operating system. It must be provided by the user. This can either be done by purchasing the product online or through Microsoft.
However if you are are either faculty, staff, or student at UMass there are some options that may be available to you for a discounted version of Windows operating system.
If you are Faculty or Student either teaching or taking a course within STEM Departments, then you are entitled to a free download of Microsoft operating systems using Microsoft Dreamspark. More information about Dreamspark and STEM qualitfications can be found here.
If you are Faculty and Staff, there is a alternative way of purchasing Microsoft products at a discounts by using the university Microsoft Campus Agreement. Information about the Microsoft Campus agreement can be found here.
Finally there is the Microsoft Through Gov Connection, which is open to all student, faculty and staff, and allows you to easily purchase copies of Microsoft products. It often gives discounts to many of the products. Click here for more information.
Please use the youtube video below for a step by step tutorial for using BootCamp Assistant for installing Windows 7 or 8 on your Mac Device.
If you have any trouble or questions, try the links in the troubleshoot question for some answers to some frequently asked questions.
From cable-cutters to college students, nearly everybody is interested in video streaming services. You may be tempted to use torrenting software to get your TV shows and movies, but this software is notorious for landing people with copyright violation notices and occasionally some hefty fines. There are many legal alternatives to torrenting software, and I will discuss them here.
If you’ve ever used a system shell before (the Terminal application on Mac’s and most Linux OS’s), you know how powerful they can be. If you haven’t, the system shell (also called the command line), is basically another method of controlling a computer. Just as you normally open programs, edit documents and manage files, the same can be done in a shell. However, all will be done using only text called commands. The simplicity and elegance of the shell is why it’s loved by many.
Have you had trouble finding a good site to help you create a bibliography? Tired of hunting down pieces of information about your source? Or maybe you’re not sure if you have enough information in your citations. Now there is an answer to all of your questions and that answer is Zotero. Zotero creates citations for you at the click of a button! It allows you to store your citations in folders or libraries for organization and upon registering with an email and password(for free) you can access your citations across multiple devices!
So as the new semester rolls around, as does add-drop period. If you don’t know what this is, it is the time during the first couple of weeks in which you are free to add or drop a class without having to go through the Registrar’s office: it can all be done through Spire!
Application launchers are very much a niche area. For many people, being able to place a frequently used application on the dock is enough – simply click on the application and it’s ready for you to use. For others, especially those who like to keep their hands on the keyboard, taking the time to locate an app with the mouse can start to seem like a hassle. In fact, research has shown that keyboard shortcuts can be just as effective as using the Menu Bar, and can be done within complex applications with very little error at a much faster rate. Macintosh OSX has a built in application launcher called “Spotlight”, which allows you to search your computer for applications and files simply by calling spotlight and typing in the name of the file or application you wish to use. This is great for people who want to quickly launch an application, or search the computer for a file, but Spotlight’s functionality ends there. If you find that Spotlight is insufficient for your needs, or you’re interested in increasing your productivity when it comes to computer related tasks, then an application launcher might be for you.
Macintosh OSX is a great operating system for both everyday users and computer aficionados, and has a lot to offer, both in what is built in to the operating system, and in what is available for users from third-parties. For those of us that want even more functionality, here are 5 applications that can help make your OSX experience better.
Configuring Email clients can be a frustrating task due to the sheer number of different server settings that need to be properly entered in order for it to work properly and the variety of choices in desktop mail clients. Fortunately, this guide is written specifically for configuring UMass Amherst Exchange mail and calendaring for Thunderbird, an open source desktop mail client that is compatible with most Windows, OS X, and Linux distributions. For your convenience, the instructions and screenshots in this guide should exactly match what you see on your screen.
Virtual machines are programs that allow you to run programs (or an entire operating system) on your computer that weren’t originally designed for it. Most commonly this is done by Mac users who want to run Windows programs which don’t have versions for Mac OSX, but can be done with almost any operating system (like Linux). If you want to run Mac OSX you have to be on a Mac computer (unless you have some tech skill), but otherwise you’re free to experiment. All you have to do is download the operating system .iso or .dmg file or buy an installation DVD and you can use that to start up your virtual copy of that Operating System (OS).
Have you ever had that awkward moment when you forgot the password to your bank account and missed your rent payment? Maybe not, but I’m sure you’ve forgotten a password at least once in your life, which is easy to do considering the average person uses about 10 passwords a day. So how can one avoid the inconvenience of forgetting important passwords in today’s fast-paced world? Simple, Keychain Access and Keepass.
It seems more and more that paper is on its last legs of usefulness. Most readings are posted online and books can be read on anything from your computer to your phone. One of the few things remaining is taking notes in class. Most touch screen devices don’t have the sensitivity or the speed to take down notes as fast as you can put ink to paper, at least until now. Touch screen devices now have the capability to nearly match paper, with the obvious benefits of having a digital copy of your notes and even helping the environment. Many professors post lecture slides online before class and having a touch device makes it easy to write on them without wasting tons of money on prints (and if you’re taking Organic Chemistry it is incredibly helpful). With that said, there are a couple options to choose from.
EDIT: The pricing information in this article is out of date. Please see the article here for up to date information on how UMass students can obtain Office 365 for free.
What is Office 365?
Everyone knows about Microsoft Office 2013, Microsoft’s latest version of their popular productivity suite, yet few people have heard of Office 2013’s cousin in the cloud: Office 365.
Office 365 is the latest addition to Microsoft’s Office product line. It offers the same Office software packages as Office 2013 Professional, but with two primary differences. The first being that Office 365 includes complementary cloud storage space as well as a number of additional features, and the second difference is that Office 365 is sold as a yearly subscription rather than as a flat rate, one-time purchase.
The OS X recovery partition is a tool that is built into all Macs running OS X 10.7 (Lion) or higher. The recovery partition is a collection of system recovery tools that enable users to diagnose and fix their Mac if it is unable to boot.
Daylight Savings Time has just occurred and as we change our clocks we should also change our passwords. Having a strong password is important and it is good practice to change your passwords regularly. By changing your password you can make sure that your accounts are safe and secure.
With the release of Windows 8.1 I finally decided that it was worth replacing the trusted Windows 7 with Microsoft’s latest and greatest. Windows 8 is awesome; it provides many behind the scenes system improvements that will make your PC run more fluidly, and with Windows 8.1 Microsoft has fixed many of the user interface flaws that users and critics have been complaining about. I highly recommend upgrading to Windows 8.1 if you are a UMass student, faculty or staff because it is FREE through Microsoft Dreamspark!