Adding Storage to Your Mac

28 Oct

that a Windows-based machine can also access

If you work with multimedia files, (photos, videos, etc.), you may max out an internal hard drive in a relatively short amount of time. So what to do when you need to add disk space to your Mac? An external drive is one of the easiest and quickest fixes. But there are a number of things to consider before you purchase a drive.

Access Speed:

When adding an external drive, consider access time for that data. USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt connections are the fastest options for connecting an external drive and reading and writing rapidly. You will probably not notice a big difference between the two technologies, other than cost. Currently, Thunderbolt is more expensive. This article explores the differences in more depth.


Dependability is a big factor with storage. Seagate drives are some of the most dependable in the industry. When I worked as a computer specialist 20 years ago (supporting hardware and software), the Seagate name was synonymous with reliability. Seagate drives are also economical, a big plus. No matter what drive you are considering, do your homework. Read the user reviews. Check out the company’s web site. What does their support page look like? Check out the user forums.

Now for the tricky part – Sharing files between Mac and PC:

First, you must use a file system that is supported by both platforms. The most current Windows format is called NTFS, and while a Mac can read this type of drive, it cannot write to it. The Mac uses Mac OS Extended, or HFS+. Windows machines cannot access data on this type of drive.


So, the easiest way to have the drive accessible to both types of machines is to reformat the drive using OS X’s disk utility to Mac OS Extended (Journaled). This will erase any data on the drive, so make sure to back up first if it is not a brand new drive.

You could also format the drive via Windows to FAT32 format, both PC’s and Mac’s can access a drive formatted this way, but the FAT32 format cannot handle files larger than 4 GB, and sometimes it does not work with the permissions structure of Mac OS X.

Additional Software

The other option is to install some software on the drive so that both platforms can access it.

If the drive is NTFS formatted, you can use a third party application called NTFS for Mac 6.0, or if it is Seagate Backup Plus or GoFlex drive, you can download the NTFS driver for Mac OSX.

If the drive is HFS+ formatted, you can install MacDrive so that Windows-based machines can access the drive.


I am currently using two Seagate drives, a portable 500 GB Backup Plus and a 4 TB Desktop Backup Plus.

The portable drive is NTFS formatted with the Seagate NTFS drive for Mac OSX installed. When I purchased this drive, it was NTFS formatted. I left the drive NTFS formatted and installed the driver for 2 reasons.

  1. I started using the drive right out of the box with my HP laptop to store vacation photos that would eventually go on the Mac. So I already had lots of data on the drive when I realized it was not going to plug and play with the Mac.
  2. I took the easiest route; I installed the NTFS driver, and everything works okay.

For the 4 TB desktop unit, I reformatted it using the Mac’s Disk Utility to the Mac OS Extended format.

I did this because I knew this drive was going to be my main media hard drive on my Mac. It would be nice to be able to share files easily with my laptop, but not super critical. I already had that functionality with the portable drive.

There are certainly other solutions for adding storage, and accessing the drives among different platforms. But I found these to be the easiest and most economical answers for me.

Phone Camera Photography

1 Oct

Taking Photographs with Your Phone

Many times we find ourselves in a situation where we have a great photo opportunity, but the only camera we have is the one on our phone. Here are a few tips on what you can do to maximize your chances of getting a good photograph.

First, it’s important to understand that a phone camera is NEVER going to yield the sharp, high-resolution image that a DSLR will. (At least not currently, possibly in the future.) The sensor in the phone is not as big as the sensor in the DSLR camera. Given the size of a cell phone, it is not physically possible.

The quality of the image from a particular device is based on several things: lens quality, sensor technology, and image sensor size.

The sensor is made up of millions of light-sensitive spots or cavities called photosites. These record information that is seen through the lens. More photosites mean more information/detail. So a physically larger sensor has more photosites, and therefore can record more detail.

Megapixels are a measurement of the image size output by the device, not how much detail is captured or the dynamic range of the device. The sensor size is a more important factor than the megapixel count. (For more of an explanation of this, see this post.)

Here are a few things to remember to get the best photo possible with your phone.

  • Keep the phone steady; be especially aware of this when you press the shutter button, wherever that is. (On iPhones, you can use the volume increase or decrease button as a shutter button. Another option is to use the microphone volume control on your earphones as a “remote” trigger to prevent movement of the phone which can be caused by pressing the shutter button on the phone.)
  • Set your phone for the highest photo resolution possible. This is really important!
  • Forget the filters.
  • Don’t center the subject; rule of thirds – not centering the subject creates more interest.
  • Turn off the flash on your phone.
  • Pay attention to focus and exposure for the phone camera – tapping your finger on the screen in the right place (where you want the focus to be) will set the focus and exposure.
  • Not everything needs to be shared; if the photo is bad, pixelated, too dark, etc. keep it; share your good photos.
  • Use a panorama feature or app for big/wide images.
  • Turn the phone if it makes sense; in other words, use vertical or horizontal orientation based on what works for the image you are capturing.
  • When you frame the image, before you press the shutter button, look around the edges of the shot. Do you have any funky things in the corners? Does the subject have something growing out of his head? In other words, do you need to reframe?
  • Don’t be afraid to get in close. Zoom with your feet, not the phone. Digital zoom degrades the quality of the image.
  • Fill the whole frame with your subject.
  • Don’t shoot toward glass unless you mean to get a reflection.
  • Think about where the light source is in relation to your subject. If you shoot toward the light source, you will likely get silhouettes, and possibly lens flare, not good images.
  • Lighting is a very important factor, especially for cell phone cameras. Consider:
    • the smaller sensors in phones will capture a well-lit subject much better than a dark one;
    • consider reframing the subject in a way to take better advantage of the available light;
    • move a lamp, if it’s possible;
    • use headlights to illuminate a subject;
    • natural light (i.e., sunlight) offers the best possibilities.
  • Consider downloading a camera app for your phone. Many of the apps give you more control over the phone camera than the camera app that comes with the phone.

Here are several apps to consider.

  • Camera+
  • ProCamera
  • VSCOcam
  • Instagram – this app produces good photos, without the filters. Adjust the settings to save your original photos, and they will be saved to your camera roll.

Finally, no matter what app you chose, keep the phone steady, and take advantage of available light.


Incorporating Vine into your Communication Repertoire

30 Apr

What is Vine?

Twitter launched Vine in January. This new app allows users to create and share six second looping videos. (Think animated gif.) The clips can be incorporated in a tweet or posted to Facebook. Vine is a great way to add visual content to social media.

Users create six second videos just by tapping the iPhone/iPad screen. (Currently the app is only available for iOS devices.) The Vine app lends itself to creating some great stop-motion/time-lapse clips. Additionally, it is simple to use, and there is no editing. So users are either happy with what they create, or trash it and start over. You have to get it right in one take.

Linking Vine to a Twitter account makes creating and sharing the short clips very easy. While there is not an option for any editing, the clip is also saved to the user’s camera roll; Vine creates mp4 files. Here is a link to the original vine clip. 


oragami vine clip

It’s easy to get started. Here’s how:

  1. Download the Vine app.
  2. Create a Vine account, either linking to your Twitter account or sign up using your email.
  3. Tap the screen to start the video recording. Tap again to stop the recording. (According to one user, she was able to get 120 taps in one six second video.)
  4. The status bar at the top shows how much video has been recorded and how much time is left.
  5. When you finish, either use all six seconds, or click on the green check in the lower right corner. Then select Next.
  6. There is an option to add a caption and a location.
  7. Choose to Post to Vine, Twitter, and/or Facebook.
  8. Done.

Some points to consider when creating a vine clip:

  • Avoid trying to cram too much into that six seconds.
  • Avoid too many camera angles; it can make the viewer feel sick!
  • Too many shots/points of view dilute the message.
  • Try to keep the device steady while filming. Consider mounting the iOS device, using a Gorilla tripod for example.
  • Remember that Vine records audio as well. Audio may not be desirable with some clips.
  • Try to give the clip a descriptive title; six seconds is not much time to make your point. Use all the tools available to you.
  • Keep it simple; you need to get it right in one take.
  • Pay attention to your lighting.
  • Profiles and videos on Vine are public, so anyone can see them.
  • If you create a video and choose not to publish it, the only way to access it is through your device’s library or camera roll.

Vine is a simple tool; it’s easy to use and can add interest to social media.

Understanding Photos and Resolution: a Brief Primer

11 Apr

As a graphic and web designer, I frequently work with photos, both digitally (for the web) and in print. Many of the photographs I use come from everyday users snapping a quick pic with their cell phone or a point and shoot camera. But if users don’t have some understanding of resolution and pixels, images captured this way may be unusable in a particular medium.

So what is resolution and why do printed images need a higher resolution than those displayed on the web?

Pixel dimensions measure the number of pixels across a photo’s height and width. Resolution is measured in pixels per inch (ppi). Resolution is basically how much detail the image holds. The higher the resolution, the sharper the image.

A printer is a high-resolution device. Generally, for printing an image a resolution of 300 pixels per inch will yield a clear image. Sometimes even 240 pixels per inch will produce an acceptable print.

A monitor, unlike a printer, is a low-resolution device. 72 ppi is the standard for digital images. That is why you cannot successfully create a sharp print with an image pulled from the web (unless you make it very small).

Another consideration with images is the file size. For web, a smaller file size will load faster. If we have roughly three seconds to capture a user’s attention, pages need to load quickly. Since file size is directly related to the pixel dimensions of an image, the higher the resolution, the larger the file size. So one could use high-resolution images on the web, but they would be very slow to load.

Another consideration when processing images is that different file formats also contribute to the size of an image. (Different formats use different file compression methods; compression can also mean loss of data.)

A good rule of thumb is this: shoot the image in the highest resolution your camera will allow. One can always crop an image, but you can’t create detail (additional pixels). This way, the image can be used in print or digitally.



Communication through Social Media

5 Apr

There are numerous options when it comes to social media outlets, and new ones appear all the time. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, and Tumblr are just a few of the options for communicating across the internet. While it may be enticing to link multiple social media accounts together, such an arrangement is ill-advised. Accounts get hacked all the time, and if all of your accounts are linked, the possible damage is multiplied.

Social media has multiple uses, and while many individuals use social media to interact with friends, most businesses and organizations use social media in some form as well. Many businesses use social media channels to engage customers and offer customer service. These online tools and websites foster communication and community, and offer vast amounts of information. Due to the sheer volume of content, users need to selectively filter the information.

Facebook and Twitter are two of the easiest platforms to use. Accounts are free, and online help is easily accessed. Both will allow users to share photos in addition to text. Due to its abbreviated format, (140 characters), Twitter tends to be more fast-paced than Facebook; information becomes “old” very quickly.

File Transfer

11 Aug

Filezilla is my ftp software of choice.  It’s free; it’s been around quite a while; it works.  This link will take you to the filezilla home page to download the software.

Once you’ve downloaded the software and installed it, you are ready to transfer files to your host.  The filezilla interface is pretty straightforward, and it is easy to monitor the transfer progress.  The quickconnect is the easiest option for getting started quickly.  Enter the host name, your administrator username and password and click on Quickconnect.  You will have a local and remote view in the windows below, and you can drag and drop the files you wish to upload.

If you have only one or two files to upload, after you’ve edited a page or added a new one, the ftp software built into the host will usually suffice.  You may have to indicate that the file already exists (if it is a file you’ve made changes to) in order to upload it and overlay the existing file.

You already know this, but I’ll say it anyway.  Make sure you have backed your files up before you start to play around with uploading edited or new files.

Going Live

31 May

You have a domain; you have a host; you’ve finished desinging and developing your site.  What next?

Test, test, test!!!  Bang on it; press keys you might not expect someone to press.  (They will.)  Try to do things out of the ordinary.  (Users will!)  Generally, try to make sure everything is working, even if someone does something unexpected.  Ask someone else to look at your site and try to break it. 

Make sure all of your links work, and users end up where you expected.  Are your titles accurate when a user hovers over an image?

Once you’ve tested your site and you are ready to go live on the web, how do you do that?

Software will vary from host to host, but most of the larger ones offer some sort of file transfer protocol (ftp – a standard network protocol used to get files to the host).  Usually, this ftp software is not the best choice when you are trying to get the entire site to the host.  This can be a lot of data (jpg files in particular can be large), and a light-weight software package could take a long time to upload all the files.

So, I would suggest using  this built-in software as you make changes or updates to a single or a few files.  But, for your initial transfer, consider one of the free ftp utilities like Filezilla.  The interface is easy to use, and the user can see what the directory/folder structure looks like on the local computer and the host.  In addition, the transfer progress is easily tracked.

Next post – transferring files


Finding a Host

9 Apr

Your web host is the company that provides the server space for your site.  This is the “place” where all of your files reside and the machine that has the software to run your site.

There are many choices and advantages and disadvantages of each.  The larger hosting services tend to be more expensive than the smaller ones.  But some of the larger hosts can be more reliable and stable.  It does a company no good to  have an amazing website if the hosting server is down all the time!  The bottom line is this:  do your homework; research several hosts; talk to existing clients if you can.

One also has to consider the type of site.  If your website is an site, make sure the host you choose can run/support this type of site.  Not all hosting servers can.  Make sure you find out.

On this topic, when designing your website you may want to consider using CSS wherever you can instead of JavaScript.  (Specifically, menus, photo viewing, and hover changes are more elegantly handled in CSS many times than invoking JavaScript.)  CSS is universally supported/accepted and many times can be the difference in someone viewing your site as  it was intended, and viewing it with missing effects when JavaScript is disabled.

There are many websites that review hosts. is just one website that offers comparisons of different hosting services.  Use several resources to check out a web host.  Remember, just because you see it on a website doesn’t mean that information is accurate or true.  Cross- check!

Domain Names

26 Jan

To publish a website you need 1) the website content, 2) a domain name, and 3) a host.  Let’s talk about the domain name. 

Think of the domain name as your website’s name/address.  This is how it is identified.  For example, the domain name for the wordpress blog home page is  Domain names can end in com, net, org, edu and a number of other extensions.  It’s a good idea to make your domain name descriptive of your venue.

Once you’ve decided on a domain name, you have to register it with an ICANN registrar; ICANN is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.  You can register your name directly through a registrar or through you web hosting provider.  (Sometimes the web host providers will have a special deal when you purchase hosting for a discounted domain name.)

Personally, I prefer to register the name directly with the registrar.  A google search on ICANN registrar will give you a list of registrars.  Right now, Yahoo! is having a special deal.

When you go to the registrar’s site to register your domain name, they will search and tell you if the name is available.  You may have to regroup and come up with a variation if your name of choice has been taken.  You will have to pay for your domain name, either with a credit card or PayPal.  The cost can vary from a few dollars to $35.

You should also consider making your information private.  (This will probably cost you an additional $10, but then your address and phone number, which is required by the ICANN when you register, is not publicly available.)

Next – Ok, I have a domain name, now what?

Web Page

25 Jan

There are several ways to go about having a web presence.  Let’s start with the easiest ways first.

Blogs:  There are several sites where you can set up a free blog (like this one), and you can be up and running in minutes!  Blogs have several advantages.  You don’t have to be an IT guru to set one up and update it.  With the different appearance options available with most blogs, you can also customize your blog to reflect you and your purpose for a web site.  Adding pictures and links is very easy as well.  Here are several links for free blogs:,,

Free web space:  Microsoft has a small business program where they will give you web space free.  This is a good way to get your feet wet.  On the down side, your website address is a fourth-level domain, which means it has at the end of your domain name.  (But it is free!)

There  are other offers of free websites on the internet.  One suggestion – “buyer” beware. 

Finally, you can purchase a domain name and web hosting and build and customize everything for your site.

Next – Getting a Domain Name

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