Mac OS

Protecting your online Identity: FaceBook

This is the first in several posts about how to protect your digital identity online.

LOTS of buzz in the digisphere right now about companies like Cambridge Analytica data-mining people’s information from sources like Facebook. Let me give you a sense of how this all works and the actual personal risks associated with it, then some steps you can take to protect your information.

A big culprit on the radar right now is FaceBook. FB has a methodology where they keep track of what kinds of ads you click on and what links you follow, ostensibly so that they can provide you with information that appeals to you and improve your user experience.

For example, an ad might appear in your timeline for a Digital Doohickey, and you click on it. Hidden in the code is a tag for “digital”, “tech”, “doohickeys”, that is attached to your profile when you open the ad. Based on that, you are later offered an ad for Mechanical Doohickeys and also one for Red Doohickeys for Middle-Aged Bikers. You click on the second one, so FB adds a tag for “Red”, another for “Doohickeys” and ones for “Middle Aged” and “Bikers”.

Over time, the amalgamation of tags you acquire gives FB a good general overview of your interests, so they can get better at fine-tuning what they offer you. When these tags are combined with your profile information that you provided, it gives them a quite accurate cross section of you and your interests, as well as the billions of other FB users.
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All well and good, but it turns out that some companies have been given access to this massive database. Your own personal profile is absolutely lost in the billions and billions of data points, but those companies are able to gather general statistics from all this data….they might discover that there is a sizable group of people in the NorthEast of the US who like Justin Bieber, and have an interest in Doohickeys and things that are Red. So retailers start selling red Doohickeys with Bieber’s image on it.

Or more realistically, they start robocalling politically undecided households in predominantly left- or right- leaning neighborhoods with political ads to get them on board a specific agenda with effective marketing strategies. Then they also populate their Facebook pages with ads and articles that reinforce the message…you see how this works.

In any case, you might feel like FB has no right to track your interests this way. You can strip them of your tags, just be aware that it will also de-tune the customized ad experience they provide, and you will start seeing ads for all sorts of things you have no interest in. Here is the link to see your tag profile: just go through and turn everything off and delete all the tags. You may be quite surprised at how accurate a profile it is…I know I was!

Once you tidy this up, it’s probably best that you also DO NOT CLICK ON ANY ADS, and DO NOT ‘LIKE’ ANY POSTS any more, as that will merely start repopulating your profile. In fact, if you continually revisit that link, you will see the FB starts to randomly populate your profile with interests, in an effort to start creating your new set of interests. Best to just keep deleting those for a while.

Now the bad news….you also need to ditch the Facebook Mobile app. Installing that gives FB access to EVERYTHING on your phone, including your photos, your GPS tracking, your friends list (and everything on their profile), etc. In fact, whenever you add any mobile app, it has some essential information you must grant it for it to work. But it also ‘assumes’ you will give it other information. You can go into your FB settings and see what essential information these apps are mining. You should delete any app that you can possibly live without, and for all the rest, turn OFF any information they may be acquiring.

To check what these apps are harvesting, follow these instructions:
1) Click the down arrow in the top right, click on Settings > Apps (or go to
2) In the top window, delete any apps you can live without
3) Go to “Apps, Websites and Plugins” and turn the setting off. This will prevent third party apps from accessing your friends’ data. It will also prevent you from logging into third party apps using your FB account, so be prepared.
4) This is a big one….go to “Apps Others Use” and see what information about you other people’s apps will access. Think about this: when your friend signs up for MooTube, because you are in their Friend List, MooTube gets access to YOUR information!!

Turn ALL of these off!

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Moving forward, keep in mind that many mobile apps and ALL online personality quizzes are NOT there for convenience….they are data harvesting tools. You should NEVER do any online quizzes, and be very skeptical about mobile apps. If you cannot see how these apps earn revenue though ads, then consider that they probably earn revenue by selling your profile!

OK, that’s enough for now. I’ll add more later, but be aware that there is good and bad mixed together here. These FB customizations are designed to give you a better user experience (with ads that interest you, to facilitate your social networks, share info with friends that you have mutual interests with, etc). But they can’t do this without gathering information about your preferences…and just by using Facebook, downloading apps, and taking online quizzes YOU GIVE PERMISSION FOR THEM TO HARVEST YOUR DATA. And that database can be mined and used by outside agencies for other purposes.

While it is very unlikely that anyone can track specific information about YOU (because of the massive amount of data out there), there is no guarantee that unscrupulous people or future technology won’t be able to look through that data carefully and find out things you don’t want out there.

So go ahead and start removing yourself from the data pool. Its a tangled and messy process, and you will have to maintain your diligence, so keep watching this blog and I’ll add more things to help educate you.

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Finding Space-Hogging files

My students just introduced me to a fantastic tool for locating large files that may be hogging HD space. It’s called “Disk Inventory X” and can be downloaded for free from cnet. (It’s the green download bar on the left; don’t be fooled by the spam download bars)

Once you download it, run the .dmg file. You get a window where you can select the drive you want to inventory; choose your HD and select ‘open volume’.

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A standard hierarchical view of your drive in the left pane shows you the total size of each folder or file. In the interface’s right pane is a colorful graphical representation of the types of files on your drive. Each file type is color-coded, so you can see how much space a particular type of file occupies. If you want to see all the tags and information associated with any file or folder, you need only click on it and a pop-up shows all the information the OS has on the item.

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In my case, I saw a huge (35GB) folder that had a dozen videos in it, which was hiding in several layers of subfolders that I had imported when I moved from a PC to a Mac, and had transferred over through all of my computer replacements. I hadn’t seen or even thought of these videos for years, so it was easy to just delete them, and instantly I regained 35 GIGS of HD space.

Great program!

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Uploading Images from your iPhoto Library

This is a very common thing to do, and with a little care and prevention of common mistakes, you can upload very clear images.

First, in your ‘edit’ window, select “upload/insert”


Then, choose ‘Select Files’ and navigate to “Photos” in the Finder popup bar under Media


Choose the photo you want from your iPhoto library, and after it loads, you will see these options (if you scroll down):

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THIS IS WHERE IT GETS IMPORTANT. Select the image size you want (thumbnail, medium, large, full size) before you select “insert into post”. If you select it too large, you can always  reduce the image size later. But if you choose the default (Medium, 300×225) and then try to enlarge it later, it becomes very fuzzy.

HINT: You should pretty much never choose “full size”, as you cannot reduce the image size to get a bunch of photos to the same size. Reductions are given as percentages, so unless the images are all standard sizes beforehand, you can never get them to be the same dimensions later.

Once you select the size, hit ‘insert into post’ and Bob’s your uncle.

If you want to reduce the image size later, in the edit window, click on the image and choose a percentage of the original size. DO NOT OVER-REDUCE, as you cannot enlarge again later.

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PRAM reset

Parameter random access memory (PRAM) holds information about the configuration of your computer, including things like the date and time, as well as desktop, volume , mouse, and other control settings. It’s powered by a small battery, so these settings don’t get lost every time you turn your computer off.

If you find your computer getting laggy, a good regular maintenance task is to do a PRAM reset (also called a NVRAM reset). It’s incredibly easy to do, and will often fix a host of strange issues. When combined with doing an SMC reset, its amazing how much it can ‘tune up’ your computer.

To reset the PRAM, follow these simple steps:

1) Turn off the computer properly (apple menu, “shut down”) and let it shut completely down.
2) Press and hold these four keys: Command, Option, P, R. (I do this with one hand…its like doing the Vulcan Mind Touch).

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3) Turn on the computer, still holding down those four keys.

The computer will chime, then shut down and try to restart again. Keep holding the keys until after the third chime.

That’s it. I often do a PRAM reset right after doing an SMC reset, just to keep things running smoothly.

Here’s a video in case you need to see it:

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SMC Reset

Resetting the SMC (System Management Controller) is very easy and solves a host of problems. The SMC controls things like;

  • screen brightness settings
  • volume calibration
  • battery charging settings
  • fan speed and interior temperature settings
  • touchpad sensitivity
  • keyboard sensitivity

If you are having any issues at all with the battery, charger, screen brightness, audio, keyboard, trackpad or many other components, an SMC reset very often fixes them.

TO DO THIS, follow these three very simple steps. Start with your computer TURNED OFF.

1) Plug in a power supply. It doesn’t matter if the light is green or red.
2) Press SHIFT, CONTROL and OPTION and hold them down.
3) Quickly press the power control, as if you were starting up your computer. You can let go of shift/control/option after you release the power button.

That’s it.  If your power supply indicator is red, it turns green for a few seconds then turns red again…this is because for a few seconds, the battery is disconnected from the charger cable, so the cable registers the computer as ‘charged’. The indication that you did a successful SMC reset is that the computer DID NOT TURN ON even though you pressed power.

After doing an SMC reset, its always nice to do a PRAM reset.

Then, just start up the computer.

In case this is all too wordy, here is a video showing you the steps. Try it.  🙂

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Track my Mac!!

Apple provides a powerful and useful app (for free) that will help you locate your iPhone, iPad or computer if they get lost or stolen, just to check that you left it at home or even where in the house it is! It’s called “Find my iPhone” and in case your device is missing, you can lock it (or even remotely erase it) so whoever finds it cannot access your data.

Be aware that you have to set up the account BEFORE you lose your phone, and if you want to use it to keep track of your computer and iPad, you need to have it activated on each of those devices.


1) Choose Apple Menu > System Preference and click iCloud
2) If you’re asked to sign in, use (or create) an Apple ID. You need an Apple ID to buy stuff from the iTunes store anyway.
3) Once you have created an account (or signed in), select the “Find My Mac” checkbox and confirm that you want to allow Find my Mac to use the location of this Mac.

THAT’S IT! Now your computer is registered with Find my Mac.

(NOTE: if the ‘Find my Mac’ button is greyed out and you cannot select it, there is something amiss with your Recovery Partition, and ETS can fix it for you. Do a complete back up (just in case) and bring your laptop to ETS for about 30 minutes).


You can either download the free app “Find my iPhone” from the itunes store, or just use the embedded program in your iDevice. I am providing instructions for the embedded program; the App is self-explanatory. You can always download the app after you set up the embedded program.

1) On your iDevice, be sure your iCloud account is active. (Settings/iCloud). If you don’t have an iCloud account, set one up.
2) Scroll to the bottom of that window and ensure that “Find my iPhone” is turned on


THAT’S IT. It’s activated and ready to track all your devices.


HOW TO USE IT (test this out beforehand to see how it works):

1) On the device you have not lost (duh), open a browser and sign in to using your Apple ID. Then select ‘Find my iPhone’

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2) Click ‘Devices’ in the upper left corner, and select the device(s) you want to locate. Any device that has ‘Find my iPhone/Mac’ activated with your Apple ID will show up in the device list.
3) The device will appear on a map image (or satellite, if you choose) with a dot. A green dot means it’s online, a grey dot means it’s offline. These dots can be quite accurate….my own will locate it to within 2 meters at home, a little less at work (about 10 meters).

Note:   If Find My iPhone can’t locate this device, the last known location is displayed for up to 24 hours, after which the map is cleared. You can select the Notify Me When Found checkbox to receive an email when the device comes back online with a location.

From that management window, you can do the following:

  • Locate the device on a map
  • Tell the device to make a loud sound so it can be located
  • Lock the device with a passcode. You can still track it’s motions, and unlock it once you find it
  • Put your device in ‘Lost Mode’, which allows you to enter a phone number that someone who finds your device can use to contact you (along with a message such as “This item is LOST! Please call me to return it!)
  • Erase all personal data and settings from your device.

Even if your device is offline, Find my iPhone will queue up commands and execute them when it comes online.

So to protect your iDevice from theft, loss or misuse, everyone should activate this program on all their devices. More information can be found online here.

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The Option Key

This one is quick and sweet. Try exploring pressing the Option Key along with different menu items to see the extra features available. For example, pressing Option before you press the Sound icon will allow you to choose different output devices to send your sound to. Pressing Option before you press the Apple Menu will allow you to check your System Information quickly. 

And most importantly, clicking Option while you are selecting ‘Edit’ in Safari and Chrome will offer you such things as ‘Save As’ rather than ‘Save’.

There are lots of other features in places where the Option key will have an effect: experiment!

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