blog home about our NYC Mac support site

Use a Time Capsule without attaching it to a router

 

Every now and then, you need to back up to a Time Capsule, but you don’t have access to the router, or a wired network jack. You’ve got to go 100% wireless. I discovered a way to set it up 100% wirelessly, with no cables attached.

You’ll need:

To install AirPort Utility v5.6.1:

  • Download the Launcher (there are three download options; choose the leftmost one)
  • Open your Utilities folder within your Application folder
  • In the resulting window, drag each item (AirPort Utility 5.6.1, and the Launcher) one at a time to your Utilities folder. You may need to enter your computer password.

If you’ve never set up your Time Capsule before, use AirPort Utility (6.x, which has been included with macOS since 10.7 Lion), in the Utilities folder inside your Applications folder. Click the “Other Wi-Fi Devices” button in the upper left of the window, and choose your new Time Capsule.

AirPort Utility will scan your network for a while. When it’s done, if it does not say “This AirPort will create a network”, then click “Other Options” in the lower left of the window, and select “Create a new network.” Click Next.

Set up the Time Capsule using any temporary network name and password (but not your actual one). Click Next when it warns you that there’s no cable attached. Quit AirPort Utility when it’s done.

Now, join your new temporary network from the AirPort menu on your computer. (You won’t have internet access once you do.)

Open AirPort Utility 5.6.1 Launcher from your Utilities folder. (Or, if you’re still on Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, or 10.8 Mountain Lion, you can open AirPort Utility 5.6.1 directly, without the Launcher.) The first time you do this, you’ll probably get an Unidentified Developer warning. To bypass this, control-click on it, choose “Open”, and then “Open” again.

You’ll probably get notified that there’s a newer version of AirPort Utility. Cancel this. (If you don’t want to be hassled about it in the future, go to Preferences from the AirPort Utility menu, and uncheck all the boxes.)

If you’re using an 802.11ac Time Capsule (tall shape, rather than flat shape), you’ll be warned that the version of AirPort Utility you’re using is incompatible. Ignore this, and click “Continue”.

Select your Time Capsule on the left, and click Manual Setup at the bottom. If you get asked for Keychain permission, click Allow (and do this for any subsequent steps if you get asked). Click the Wireless tab.

Here’s the tricky part: hold down the Option key on your keyboard, then click the menu next to “Wireless Mode”. Choose “Join a Wireless Network”.

Choose your regular network under “Wireless Network Name”, and the password should automatically be filled in. Click Update.

Your Time Capsule will restart. Switch back to your regular WiFi network. Quit AirPort Utility.

Once the Time Capsule done restarting, you’ll be able to select it as a backup disk in the Time Capsule system preference (Apple Menu -> System Preferences -> Time Machine -> Select Backup Disk), as described in this Apple Support article.

You can also now maintain your Time Capsule using AirPort Utility 6.x, as you would normally. You only need version 5.6.1 to be able to get the Time Capsule into “Join a Wireless Network” mode; once it’s there, the current version of AirPort Utility works fine.

You can also use AirPort Utility 5.6.1, and the same method above, if you wish to create a WDS (Wireless Distribution System). This is not an option for the 802.11ac (tall shape) AirPort and Time Capsule; those only offer the “Extend a Wireless Network” option, which is much easier, but does not permit chaining WiFi devices.

AirPort Utility 5.6.1 is also useful for not permitting computers and devices to use an AirPort’s wireless network. This can be useful if you set up an AirPort Express to wirelessly extend a network for AirPlay wireless audio, in a home that is otherwise well covered by 802.11ac AirPorts. The Express only offers 802.11n, so you may want devices to use the other AirPorts instead. I may put up a separate post on this later.

1Password is a good password manager if you’re anxious about hacking

I think password managers are an extremely good idea, second only to backup. To have reasonable security, you really need to have a different password on every account, so that the keys to the castle aren’t given away if a single site gets compromised. And ideally each password should be as much of a scrambled mishmash as possible.

This means we need to get out of the business of memorizing passwords, and instead start using password manager software, which can store all of your passwords, and even fill them in for you, in a central place, with you only having to remember the single master password. The master password is a key; without it, none of the other passwords are accessible.

There are many password manager titles available, of which some of the most widely used are 1Password, LastPass, and Dashlane. We like 1Password (though we don’t have enough experience with the others to have a strong opinion about them, other than that they’re all reputable).

One of the reasons we like 1Password is their security model. If you want to just use it on a single device or computer, then your passwords are never stored on any kind of server — they just sit, encrypted, in a single file (called a vault) on your computer.

If you want to synchronize your passwords across devices, 1Password offers several options: storing your vault on iCloud, or on Dropbox. This means both your iCloud or Dropbox account would have to be compromised, and then your 1Password vault within would have to be hacked. But if you’re truly worried about your passwords being in any kind of cloud, 1Password can sync directly from computer to devices on your own local network.

In addition, because some people found the above methods to be challenging to set up, 1Password now offers synchronization via 1Password.com, where they do store your passwords, though only in encrypted form — the unencrypted passwords are never sent to them. (They swear up and down that this is secure, and I believe them, but I still like it a little bit less because it makes them such an obvious target for hackers, like LastPass was.)

1Password is primarily sold as a subscription service now. However, it’s also, for the time being, available as a one-time purchase. Synchronizing via 1Password.com (rather than iCloud, Dropbox, or local network) is only available when subscribing.

 

Mac Target Disk Mode now includes USB, hooray

Target Disk Mode has long been one of the Mac’s unique capabilities — it allows you to bypass the operating system entirely and access the internal drive directly, as though it were an external drive. This makes it easy to migrate data from one computer to another, perform disk repairs, or retrieve data from a Mac with a damaged operating system.

To activate Target Disk Mode, you hold down the T key immediately after you turn on your Mac, before the Apple logo appears in the center of the screen.

Target Disk Mode has only been available for Macs with Thunderbolt or FireWire (and, for you old-timers, PowerBook SCSI). This has meant that models which only offer USB connections, such as the 2008-2009 MacBook Air and MacBook, don’t offer Target Disk Mode.

That’s been fixed. The  MacBook 12″ does not offer Thunderbolt (and, by extension, FireWire), but Target Disk Mode is available over USB. The 2016 MacBook Pro also offers Target Disk Mode over USB, in addition to Thunderbolt and FireWire (though the latter requires two adapters).

 

Target Disk Mode over USB only works when connected via USB 3, so it can only be used with 2012 and later Macs (despite Apple’s support article erroneously suggesting older models, by stating “any Mac”). Nor can Target Disk Mode be used with Apple’s USB-C charge cable, which is a USB 2 cable when used for data.

So, to use Target Disk Mode over USB, you can use:

  • a USB 3 C-to-A cable if connecting to a Mac with USB-A ports (most Macs)
  • a USB 3 C-to-C cable if connecting to a Mac with USB-C ports (MacBook 12″, 2016 MacBook Pro)

But if you’ve got a 2016 MacBook Pro and are connecting to a Mac that has a Thunderbolt port (i.e any Mac from 2011 or later, except for the MacBook 12″), it’s easier and potentially faster to use Thunderbolt, using the Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter and a Thunderbolt 2 cable, or, if you’re connecting two 2016 MacBook Pros, a ThunderBolt 3 cable (which can also operate as a USB 3 C-to-C cable).

So, great — we can do something with our Macs that I wish we could have had long ago.

Image of G3 iMac from Wikipedia’s page on Target Disk Mode.

Turning off double-sided printing by default on a Mac

Sometimes, you get a new printer with a duplex feature, and your Mac, for whatever reason, decides that it should print on both sides of the page by default. (I think this is a problem with the HP printer driver installer, actually.)

Fixing this is doable, but…not obvious. At all. Here’s what you do:

  1. In the Finder, click the “Go” menu (four over from the Apple menu)
  2. Choose Utilities
  3. In there, open Terminal
  4. At the prompt, type “sudo cupsctl WebInterface=yes” and press return (without the quotes)
  5. Type your computer password (you won’t see it as you type) and press return
  6. Terminal should simply respond with a prompt like the first prompt, and nothing else. Quit Terminal.
  7. In Safari or another browser, go to http://localhost:631
  8. You should see a screen titled “CUPS”. Click the “Printers” tab. (If you get asked for a password, use your computer user’s short user name, and your usual computer password. If you don’t have the short user name, see this Apple Support article.)
  9. Click your printer in the “Queue Name” column
  10. In the rightmost of the two dropdowns, choose “Set Default Options”
  11. I don’t know exactly what options you’ll see next, but one of them should pertain to 2-sided printing. Set it to “Off”.
  12. Click the “Set Default Options” button.
  13. You’re done; you can close the browser window.

H/T to the helpful people in this Apple Support thread.

Photo by tom_bullock, courtesy Flickr Creative Commons.

Backing up a locked iPhone or iPad with a dead screen

If you’ve got an iPhone or iPod with a dead screen, that’s not so awesome, but usually it can be repaired without replacing the whole device. But…not always. You want to be on the safe side and make sure there’s a backup, ideally on a computer, before the device is repaired (or replaced).

To check if there’s a current iCloud backup: If you have another Apple device also signed in to the same iCloud account, tap Settings > iCloud > Storage > Manage Storage, and then the backups are listed at the top, and tapping into them reveals the most recent date. If it’s less than 24 hours, I usually consider that good enough.

To check iCloud backups on a Mac, go to Apple Menu > System Preferences > iCloud, tap the Manage button, tap backups, and you can see your backups. If you’re not already signed in, you can do so in the iCloud system preference, or create a new user just for this single purpose in the Users & Groups system preference.

If you don’t have a current iCloud backup, or you want to be extra careful, you can back up to iTunes on a computer. But…your iPhone or iPad is locked. To unlock it, to be able to back up to iTunes on a computer, you’ll need:

Plug the “camera adapter” into the device, and into that connect the USB hub. Then attach the USB hub to wall power. Plug in both the keyboard and the Lightning cable that attaches to the computer.

You’ll be able to type the passcode to unlock the device, and then on the computer, open iTunes, click on the icon for the device, and then click “Back Up.” (If you instead choose “Encrypt backup,” it will save passwords, so I recommend that; use your computer password, when prompted, to keep things simple, and save it in your keychain.)

Now you can go get the dumb thing fixed.

Photo by Warren R.M. Stuart, through Flickr Creative Commons.

You can’t use a MacBook’s charge cable with a MacBook Pro. Seriously.

So, I stumbled across an Apple Support article about which power adapters to use with which computer. The rule of thumb, since the mid-90’s, is that more demanding models come with  adapters that provide more power: MacBook Air (45W), MacBook Pro 13″ (60W), MacBook Pro 15″ (85W). It’s labeled on the brick part. It’s safe to use a larger adapter than the one the computer came with, but not the other way around.

Well, the same story is true for the new models with USB-C charging ports: MacBook (29W), MacBook Pro 13″ (61W), and MacBook Pro 15″ (87W). As before, you can’t use a brick smaller than the one the computer came with. New connector, same rules. The only difference is that now the charging cord is detachable, rather than being permanently attached to the brick.

Here’s what’s crazy: according to the article, the rules also apply to the charging cord. If you have a MacBook Pro, you have to use the cord it came with. You can’t use the one that comes with a MacBook.

The best part is that the two cables look identical, so Apple suggests you identify them by searching for the serial number printed on the cable, in the teeniest, tiniest, faintest little letters. It took me about 10 minutes to find it, and I had to zoom in with the iPhone camera to read it. (Apple’s article also says that you can’t use the MacBook Pro cable to charge a MacBook, but that doesn’t make sense, and I suspect it may not be true.)

So, if you have both a MacBook Pro and a MacBook, I’d suggest you mark both the brick and cord (like with the same squiggle or something) for each so that you know they go together.

I’m hoping that since the MacBook Pro came out after the MacBook, this is a temporary situation, and that the next revision of the MacBook will utilize a cable that can be also used with a MacBook Pro. Otherwise, Apple’s gonna be asking for a lot of support calls when Macs aren’t charging correctly.

 

Erase your iPhone or iPad before giving it away

If you have an old iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch that you want to sell, give away, or recycle, make sure you erase all your data and personal information first. Here’s how:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Reset (all the way at the bottom)
  2. Tap Erase All Content and Settings
  3. Enter your passcode
  4. Confirm the erasure (twice!)
  5. Type your Apple ID password

Then everything is erased off the device — it’s as though you’re taking it out of the box for the first time.

Foldable Electric Bike from WhizzyRide

I was in Miami recently and saw these foldable electric bikes from a company called WhizzyRide.

Might be a great item for NYC because it does fold up small enough to wheel it into an elevator (at the office or at home). Distance you can ride before recharging is about 20 miles. It does weigh 40 pounds so you wouldn’t want to pick it up too much. It has a USB port so you can charge your phone while you’re riding.

They cost $1385 and come in black and white.

 

In El Capitan and Sierra, you have to format an external drive twice to make it work with a Mac

All external hard drives are physically the same, whether or not they’re marketed as being Mac-friendly or not. Mac-ready drives usually cost a little more for the same piece of hardware that you’d otherwise get.

So, if you buy an external hard drive that is formatted for Windows, you need to reformat it for Mac first before you can use it. If you bought it for Time Machine, this happens automatically at the step where it warns you that it’s about to erase the drive.

Unfortunately, with the introduction of the much-loathed new version of Disk Utility in El Capitan/Sierra, this reformatting process does not work. You’ll get an error. But if you do it a second time, then it works.

It’s a bug, but a careless one, and continues to leaves me scratching my head as to what problems Apple thought the redesigned Disk Utility is intended to solve. It even features awkward grammar. I’m not a fan.

To reformat a Windows formatted drive using Disk Utility, click on the drive (not the volume shown underneath it), and click Erase. Make sure the volume is Mac OS Extended Journaled, and the partition map type is GUID (these are usually the defaults). Erase it, ignore the error, and then do it all again. Your drive will be ready to use.

1Password one-time-purchase version might be on life support

Many software vendors have been trying to convert their business models to bring in recurring revenue by offering what is known as Software as a Service (SaaS)– you can only use it if you subscribe. If you stop paying, the software stops working.

Microsoft steers prospective Office buyers towards their Office 365 subscription, though the one-time purchase version is still available. Adobe offers no such choice; it’s subscribe or nothing.

The venerable 1Password, which is our favorite password manager software (which we frequently recommend for clients, as everyone finds their passwords aggravating and messy), has also been moving in this direction. A little while back they introduced their subscription version, and at the same time increased the cost of their one-time purchase version to $65 (from $50), featured alongside it. Then, the link to the standalone version was something you had to hunt for, deep towards the end of the pricing page.

Now, it doesn’t appear there’s a link to the one-time purchase version at all. However, you can still get it, by directly going to https://store.agilebits.com, and you can also get it from the Mac App Store. But if you’re just clicking around their web site, you wouldn’t know these options exist.

When this sort of gradual removal of something from public view happens, it’s often writing on the wall. My guess is that when 1Password 7 comes out, whenever that is, it will be subscription only, and it may or be not be available as a non-subscription upgrade for version 6 users. And the subscription will be well worth it, given how valuable it is, but if you want to buy it outright, and plan to use version 6 until it is no longer capable of functioning, now is the time.

About IvanExpert

IvanExpert provides superior Mac, iPhone, and iPad support for small businesses and home users in New York City. We provide on-site help with a range of Apple computer and mobile issues.

Sign up to get our blog posts by email

Sign up for our monthly email newsletter

Meta