What is S.M.A.R.T?

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.

Gaming on a MacBook Pro

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.

Screen Shot 2016-11-18 at 10.37.22 AM

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.

Configuration 

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.

Screen Shot 2016-11-17 at 2.58.31 PM

First, launch Terminal and enter the following command:

defaults write .GlobalPreferences com.apple.mouse.scaling -1    

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.

Screen Shot 2016-11-17 at 3.02.36 PM

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 than Usain 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)

1.h a c k m u d

Screen Shot 2016-11-17 at 3.10.31 PM

“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.

2.Pillars of Eternity

Screen Shot 2016-11-17 at 3.14.22 PM

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.

3.SUPERHOT

Screen Shot 2016-11-17 at 3.11.59 PM

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).

4.Enter the Gungeon

Screen Shot 2016-11-17 at 3.12.48 PM

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?

MacBook Party 

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.

Best,

Parker

Navigate OS X trough the Command Line (Part 1)

Command Line?

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:

Terminal Window

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:

First Screen

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.Demo 2

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…

Step-by-step walkthrough of downloading Office 365 Education

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:

  1. Navigate to the UMass IT website.
  2. Click on Software.
    UMass IT Website
  3. Scroll down, and in the Microsoft table, click on Microsoft Office 365 Education
    UMass IT Website - Microsoft Table
  4. A. If you are a student, click on the Microsoft Office 365 web site under the student section.
    UMass IT Website - Student 365 Link
    1.  If you are a faculty or staff member, click on the Microsoft Office 365 web site under the faculty and staff section.
      UMass IT Website - Faculty 365 Link
  5. Once on the landing page for Office 365, fill in your UMass email address and click Get started.
    Office 365 Education Landing Page
  6. 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.
    Microsoft Office 365 Education - Student or Teacher
  7. Check your UMass email for the confirmation email and click the Yes, that’s me link.
    Microsoft Office 365 Email Confirmation
  8. Create your account using your personal information.Microsoft Office 365 Education - Create Account
  9. Click Skip on the invitation page.
    Microsoft Office 365 Education - Invite Page
  10. 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.
    Microsoft Office 365 Education - Download Software
    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.
  11. Once the installer is downloaded, run the installer.
    office365installer
  12. 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.
  13. You’re done! Enjoy Office 365 for the duration of your time at UMass Amherst!

Your computer won’t boot…now what?

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.

OS X El Capitan: A More Solid Rock?

OS X El Capitan Public Beta 1

Apple’s last major operating system release, version 10.10 or “Yosemite” focused on a design overhaul and the addition of multiple features to native applications like Mail, Contacts, and Spotlight. The next major release 10.11, called “El Capitan” was announced at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) event early June this year. The El Capitan release is focused on improving two distinct aspects: user experience and performance, and is expected to be released sometime autumn 2015. It is also worth noting that Apple’s shift to releasing major operating system versions with emphasis on introducing new features has taken a toll on the stability of the OS over time. Many users feel that version 10.6 or “Snow Leopard” was the last truly solid version of OS X. The returned focus on these two key aspects hopefully will resonate with users, and function as a modern “Snow Leopard” release.

Experience

The El Capitan Public Beta 1 release on July 9th, included modifications to Mail, Safari, Maps, Spotlight, Mission Control, and Notes. All new functionalities are designed to, as Apple’s website states, “take the Mac experience to new heights.” Notable improvements are as follows:

In Mail, fullscreen support has been improved to take advantage of space and provides better tools for managing multiple messages, swipe gestures like those found on iPhone and iPad, used for quickly managing messages have been implemented. The Mail application can now suggest events and contacts to add to calendar and contacts accordingly, as it detects them in newly received messages. (Click on photos to zoom.)
Mail

In Safari you are now able to pin sites to the tab bar, keeping them up to date in the background and readily accessible. AirPlay is now able to stream video from the web without showing the rest of your screen. Additionally, we are all familiar when an open tab starts to randomly play audio at an inopportune moment, now you can quickly mute a tab (or tabs) playing sound from the URL bar.

Safari

Maps can now show transit directions such as bus routes, along with more detailed walking, subway, train, and bus directions. You now are also able to send directions created while working at your Mac to iPhone, allowing for stop-by-stop directions on the go.

Maps

Spotlight is now much, much smarter. It can now pull information on stocks, weather, sports scores, schedules, and athletic information. Another massive change is the way Spotlight can now search with natural language and phrases, such as “Documents I worked on last week” or “Emails from John Smith in July,” rather than trying to remember the name of the document you worked on a week ago, or seeing every email that John Smith has sent rather than what you actually need.
Spotlight

Mission Control has been tweaked to allow easier window and desktop management across the board, and a new feature called “Split View” has been added to allow better multitasking on the same desktop space. Split View enables you to snap two programs to half the screen much like Windows 7, but builds on this further by suggesting other applications to pin to the other half of you screen, similar to Windows 10 functionality. Similarly, you can create Split View desktops by dragging applications into the workspace bar at the top of Mission Control.
SplitView

Notes has seen the largest changes in basic functionality, users can now attach content from other apps directly into a note, such as a video, website, photo, or map. And thanks to iCloud these notes can be shared easily across multiple devices, taking advantage of the same features being introduced in iOS 9. Additionally, you can now create interactive checklists within the notes application that act similarly to the Reminders application.
Notes Some smaller experience improvements include:

  • Improved Chinese and Japanese system fonts;
  • Improved Chinese and Japanese textual input systems;
  • Disk Utility has a new graphical user interface;
  • The spinning wait cursor (beach ball of death) has been “flattened” to reflect design changes first introduced in OS X Yosemite;
  • Shaking the cursor will temporarily enlarge it, making easier to locate;
  • The continued use of mDNSresponder (reintroduced in 10.10.4) over discoveryd, the latter having been attributed to widespread wireless issues in 10.10;
  • The system font is now San Francisco, rather than Helvetica Neue.

Performance

Although performance changes are less visible, Apple has focused on improving system functions across the board to make your device feel snappier and more responsive, while also running with greater efficiency. According to the announcement at WWDC users can expect up to 1.4x faster application launches, 2x faster application switching, 2x faster mail load times, and 4x faster pdf loads in preview.

One of the major overhauls to OS X El Capitan’s efficiency, is the introduction of “Metal,” an API set designed for handling graphics with improved performance. Metal was introduced on mobile devices in 2014 with the release of iOS 8, and is expected to improve performance of graphically intense programs. This better graphics performance can also be expected to apply to gameplay, along with productivity applications such as Adobe Photoshop and After Effects.

OS X El Capitan will also introduce a new feature called “System Integrity Protection,” also known as “rootless.” It offers new security by preventing users and processing from writing to system-protected folders (e.g. /System, /bin, /usr [excluding /usr/local], and /sbin). System-protected folders are secure against elevated users and the root account (this is key on systems which only have one account that is the de facto administrator). “Rootless” will come enabled by default, but can be disabled. The average user should notice no changes in day-to-day usage.

OS X El Capitan Public Beta 2

Apple released El Capitan Public Beta 2 on July 22nd. The update log does not contain any listed changes that fall under “experience” improvements, or new features. However, it is likely Beta 2 includes behind the scenes tweaks, that squash bugs, improve performance, and further refine features introduced in Public Beta 1.

Support

All Macs that are able to run OS X Yosemite will be able to run OS X El Capitan once released (Surprisingly, most Macs that are able to run OS X Mountain Lion (10.8) will be able to make it all the way to 10.11). However, some features will not be available on all models. Metal has only been confirmed to run on devices released in 2012 or later. The following models are compatible:

  • Macbook: Aluminum Late 2008; Early 2009 or later
  • Macbook Air: Late 2008 or later
  • Macbook Pro: 13-inch, Mid 2009 or later/ 15-inch, Mid 2007 or later/ 17-inch, Late 2007 or later
  • Mac Mini: Early 2009 or later
  • iMac: Mid 2007 or later
  • Mac Pro: Early 2008 or later
  • Xserve: Early 2009

Sources:
OS X Preview: http://goo.gl/cGaQGL
Ars Technica: http://goo.gl/oCsyL
Apple Beta Software Program: https://goo.gl/XfzV0f

How to set Up Boot Camp

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.

Running BootCamp:

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.

Boot Camp Versions needed to run Windows

  • Windows Vista: Home Basic, Home Premium, Business, or Ultimate, Service Pack 1 or later (Boot Camp 3)
  • Windows 7: Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate (Boot Camp 4 or 5.1)
  • Windows 8: Windows 8 or 8.1, Windows 8 or 8.1 Pro (Boot Camp 5.1 only)

System Requirements:

To install Microsoft Windows using Boot Camp, you need the following:

  • An Internet connection
  • An administrator account in OS X to use Boot Camp Assistant
  • The keyboard and mouse or trackpad that came with your Mac (If they aren’t available, use a USB keyboard and mouse)
  • A minimum of 2 GB of RAM, 30 GB of free disk space are recommended if you are installing Windows for the first time, or 40 GB of free disk space if you are upgrading from a previous version of Windows
  • An authentic Microsoft Windows full install disc or ISO file
  • A built-in optical drive, or a compatible external optical drive is required if you are using an install disc
  • 8 GB USB storage device, or external drive formatted as MS-DOS (FAT) to install the downloaded drivers

TroubleShooting:

Frequently Asked Questions:

http://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201456

Windows 7 Frequently Asked Questions:

http://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202008

Windows 8 Frequently Asked Questions:

http://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201457

 

 

 

Stream services for TV and Movies

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. Continue reading

Getting Started with ZSH

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.

Bash

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Zotero Citation Software

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! Continue reading

Application Launchers – Productivity and Convenience All in One

Alfred-LaunchbarApplication 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.

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Configuring Exchange Email and Calendar in Thunderbird

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.

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Virtual Machines: Running Another Operating System On Your Computer the Easy Way

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).

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Keychain Access and Keepass

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.

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Note Taking on a Touch Screen Device

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.

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Office 365: Office for University Students

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.

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Turkeybytes: UNetbootin

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!
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Time Machine: Automatic Backups for your Mac

What is Time Machine?

Time Machine is automatic backup software that comes with Mac OS X. It allows you to backup your entire Mac, including system files, applications, accounts, preferences, email messages, music, photos, movies, and documents to an external drive. After the initial backup is complete, Time Machine will continue to perform hourly backups on any files that have been changed since the last time it ran. When your external drive is filled, Time Machine will start to delete the oldest existing backups in order to free up space.

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Terminal Basics

In OS X or Linux, you can do a lot with Terminal. This is where you can enter in commands, and your computer will execute them. You can do anything from basic file management, to running programs, to even playing games. But in order to do all that, you have to start with the basics. Here are a few commands you’ll need to get a grip on first. Continue reading

Folder Shortcuts in OSX

On a Mac, how do you make folder and file “shortcuts”? Say you have a folder somewhere, and you want a quick and easy way to access it from your desktop or another area. You probably want to make a “shortcut” on your desktop that, when clicking on it, will bring you to that folder. There are basically two ways you can make a “shortcut” on a Mac: symbolic links and aliases. But what are these, how do you use them, and what’s the difference? Continue reading