Archive | October, 2013

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.


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