Mac USB Problems

I’ve been having USB issues with my MacPro3,1. I’ve had the Mac Pro for about four years, but it’s otherwise been running like a champ.

A while back, I started having issues with a USB hub that was plugged into the back of the Mac. I replaced the cable, and things seemed to be fine. Until a while later, when the cable seemed to fail – then I replaced the hub, and all seemed fine.

Then the new hub was starting to have issues. So, I replaced that hub with another hub and new cable and things have been working swimmingly for a few months.

Then, this morning, all the USB ports on the back of the Mac seemed to go wonky – including one port which can recognize a device but always not power it properly. The front ports on the Mac, however, seem fine – sometimes.

I’ve zapped PRAM, I’ve booted into Safe Mode, and I’ve run USB Prober (from the Developer’s Tools) but… the prober tool doesn’t always recognize the device, either – but leads me to believe that every port is running as it should be running.

How could I, without introducing any new USB devices to the chain, be over-runing the system – especially when I’ve removed all USB devices and am still having issues with individual ones (like the wired Mac keyboard, but only sometimes in some ports but not at all in others)?

  • I can plug something like a USB flash drive into a port on the back and it might seem fine – it illuminates, but doesn’t always show a mounted drive (but always does on reboot, irrespective of port).
  • I can also plug Apple’s wired keyboard into a front port and it sometimes works, and sometimes doesn’t. It doesn’t seem to work at all in any of the rear USB ports.
  • I can see a Logitech webcam via USB Prober in one port, and its face illuminates when I open Photo Booth – then its face goes dark and Photo Booth doesn’t show an image.
  • If I plug that same Logitech USB webcam into just about any other USB port, the system doesn’t recognize it at all.
  • I tried reinstalling KEXT files, and that just forced me to reinstall Snow Leopard (which was painless, for whatever it’s worth). No go.
  • Someone in the comments suggested plugging my iPhone into ports to see if power was passing through them – and it was for all but the inner most rear USB port. Ouch.

I can’t imagine that it’s a failing power supply, but can’t help but wonder if I’m missing a software step after going through all of that. I’d hesitate to reinstall the OS only to find out the hardware was still the root cause. Who knows? Maybe Lion will fix the problem (and, at this point, I’m willing to wait a few more weeks for that install before either taking ‘er in or finding a Seattle-area Mac professional to help troubleshoot this on-site).

I believe it’s a hardware issue, but short of replacing the motherboard… ouch. “Repairs and Service Coverage: Expired.” Worse yet? Blake (from our community) sent me this link suggesting that this problem is known throughout my Mac Pro revision / line.

PC Vs. Mac – The Truth

“Better” is a relative term. So is “best.”

It’s rare that I jump into the middle of a PC vs. Mac debate (hasn’t it been settled already?). However, this morning I watched a tweet from @Windows float by. On the other end of that link sits Microsoft’s own “PC vs. Mac” page, and it’s so full of mistruths, I (honestly) thought I was reading a piece from The Onion.

Now, I’m an odd duck – I live in both worlds. I’m a Mac AND a PC – it’s fully possible. Hell, when you buy a Mac, you become a de-facto PC (given that it can run Windows natively just like every Windows PC in the marketplace). I’m also a Microsoft MVP for Windows. I was also banned from promoting Apple products by way of their affiliate program. Just had to get all of that out of the way first.

I’m going to take the time to address each and every point that Microsoft is conveying, if only to deliver the truth to people who are really trying to figure out which is better for them. You’re free to draw your own conclusions, but (IMHO) Microsoft really did their userbase a disfavor by publishing this without first running it through the BS wringer. Well, that’s what the I’m here for, right? It’s fully possible to encourage people to buy into your platform without lying about the “competition.”

Again, a Mac can be a full-standing Windows PC. I’ve written an entire eBook on helping people switch between Windows and Mac OS X, too.

I loved Windows XP. I love Windows 7. Don’t get me started on Windows Me or Windows Vista, pl0x. Not looking for trolls or fanbois (though I’m sure they’ll come pouring in from both sides). I’ve done my best to clear the air for confused consumers, not incite religious wars.

PCs are ready for fun.

Oh, god. No. You didn’t. Really? Wow. Okay. That clears it up. Thanks.

PCs are hard workers but they’re also fun to play with. You can watch, pause, rewind, and record TV like a DVR and you’ll find that many of the world’s most popular games are available only on a PC.

You can use your Mac like a TV / DVR. I do it all the time. And it’s true that “many” of the world’s most popular games are available only on a PC – but a Mac can be a PC, and the Steam library grows by the year. What exactly are they trying to prove, here?

When you buy a PC running Windows 7, you can get a Blu-ray player, TV tuner, Memory Stick reader, or 3G wireless built in. You can’t get a Mac that ships with these items.

Valid point.

Most of the world’s most popular games are available only on a PC. And Macs can’t connect to an Xbox 360. PCs are ready to play.

Someone apparently needs to hire me to teach these people that there’s a big difference between a Mac (hardware) and Mac OS X (the operating system). Their imprecision aside, there is software available to enable Mac OS X to connect to an Xbox 360. Maybe this is the part where I should tell you that I have four Xbox 360s in my home?

Many PCs running Windows 7 are designed to connect directly to TVs, so you can watch movies and see photos on the big screen. Most Macs can’t hook up to your TV unless you buy an adapter.

Huh? This doesn’t even make sense. I can share photos, videos, etc. to my smart TVs just by sharing the folder and making it discoverable on the network. As pointed out by @BWOps, DLNA compatibility makes things easier – and is readily available for free on Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux vis-a-vis TVMOBiLi.

With PCs running Windows 7, you can play the video and music stored on your home PC while you’re on the go, for free. Apple charges $99/year for its online service.

It’s true that Apple makes it insanely easier to do with their MobileMe service (and this price is subject to change), but it’s completely possible – without any additional service required – to access your files remotely. If anything, I’d argue that Windows makes it more difficult for the average user to do – but that’s a subjective assertion, not a blatant mistruth.

Oh, and some MobileMe services work on Windows, too.

The computer that’s easiest to use is typically the one you already know how to use. While some may say Macs are easy, the reality is that they can come with a learning curve. PCs running Windows 7 look and work more like the computers you’re familiar with, so you can get up and running quickly.

By that logic, no Mac OS X user would ever want to switch to Windows because it’s too unfamiliar. Allow me to quote something that @Shally tweeted the other day: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write – but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” [A. Toffler] I couldn’t have said it better myself. You’re cutting off your nose to spite your face to believe that today’s solution is going to be the answer for all of tomorrow’s problems.

When you use a PC, everyday things like your mouse and keyboard shortcuts work the way you expect.

Hang on. I’m laughing so hard right now, I’m crying.

Windows 7 was designed to make everyday tasks simpler with features that the Mac doesn’t have. For example, the new Snap feature makes it drag-and-drop easy to view two documents side by side.

Aero snap is nice, indeed. But I could have easily have written: “Mac OS X was designed to make everyday tasks simpler with features that Windows doesn’t have. For example, Exposé will show you all your open windows at a glance.” This is just tit for tat. You can cut, copy, and paste on either OS.

Sometimes the most natural way to use your computer screen is to touch it. And sometimes a real keyboard and mouse are hard to beat. If you get a PC, you don’t have to choose. PCs running Windows 7 support Touch, so you can effortlessly move between typing and touching to create documents, browse the web, read papers, and shuffle through files and folders. (Of course, you can still use a mouse, too.) Speaking of fingers, PCs with a fingerprint reader even let you log in with just a swipe of your finger.

Have you ever tried to use a Windows PC with a resistive touch screen? Let me just say this: it ain’t no iPad.

PCs are ready for work and school

Yes, because Macs aren’t? I’d argue that school IT administrators aren’t willing to switch, but… where there’s a will, there’s a way.

If you use Apple’s productivity suite, sharing files with PC users can be tricky. Your documents might not look right and your spreadsheets might not calculate correctly. Sharing goes beyond working together on a document. With Windows Live Mesh, you can access your home PC while you’re on the go, so your most important documents are always up to date and at your fingertips. Apple charges $99/year for its online service.

Google charges free, and is both Mac OS X and Windows compatible. Booyah. Maybe if Microsoft Office for Mac wasn’t so nasty, I’d give ’em some leeway. Actually, why didn’t they take this opportunity to promote their own product? It’s like they’re telling the entire PC and Mac world that their own Microsoft Office for Mac isn’t worth the price of admission?! But “your spreadsheets might not calculate correctly.” Wow. I guess Macs suck at addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division as much as I do.

You’ll have to buy a separate hardware adapter to plug your Mac into a standard VGA projector. Most PCs with Windows 7 hook up easily.

And by “easily,” they mean “after futzing with the settings on the projector for five minutes, if you’re lucky.” Microsoft is essentially forcing you into the past. VGA? Okay. You’ll have a top of the line notebook PC and be crippled by an ancient port? Really? Okay. Apparently, Windows PCs never need adapters in Utopia.

On a Mac, out of the box, you can only encrypt your home folder. With Windows 7 Ultimate, you can encrypt your entire hard drive and even USB drives. So your files can be safer wherever you go. And, with 25 gigabytes (GB) of free online storage, you can save your stuff in your personal cloud and use it from virtually anywhere you are.

Since they’re doing the comparison, how much does Mac OS X cost versus Windows 7 Ultimate? Don’t try to give me the BS that “Windows users don’t have to pay for Service Packs.” What do you think Windows 7 was to Windows Vista, folks? Oh, and in case nobody told marketing: Windows Live Mesh is available for Mac OS X.

It’s easy to share with a PC

Empirically, it’s easier to share with a Mac.

When you’re connected to the Internet you can actually use the programs and files on another PC as if you were sitting right in front of it.

Oh, because VNC (baked into OS X) doesn’t work?

With HomeGroup, you don’t have to manually set up movie and music sharing, file sharing, and printer sharing. Instead, it’s easy to automatically and securely network with all the computers in your house when they’re running Windows 7. And, when you’re away from home, you can automatically connect to the right printer on each network you use.

Microsoft DID make data easier to share data with other Windows 7 PCs that are running HomeGroup. FWIW, Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) will be using SMBX instead of Samba to better network with Windows PCs.

Sharing high-resolution photos used to mean sending huge email attachments. With a PC and Windows Live Mail, instead of clogging your friend’s inbox, you can send one small email with up to 200 photos attached. Your friend gets a preview album of the photos, can watch a slide show online, and then download high-resolution versions of the exact ones they want.

Dude. If you ever send me 200 photos in a single email, I will drive over to your house and slap you. Seriously. I’m not joking. They’re actually encouraging this behavior? Okay, well… if it makes you feel any better? You can send a massive amount file attachments from Mac OS X, too. How about just sending a link to your Facebook page, your Flickr stream, or wherever else you want to share your photos online? Don’t gag my inbox, either way.

On a Mac, iPhoto puts all your pictures in an iPhoto-protected library. If you want to organize, edit, or share your pictures, you have to use the iPhoto software. With a PC running Windows, you can work with your photos any way you like.

Thank you for explaining why I don’t use iPhoto on the Mac. They don’t force you to do anything. Picasa is perfectly cross-platform. You don’t HAVE to use iPhoto just like you don’t HAVE to use all that crapware that comes preinstalled on “many” PCs.

Plain and simple, if you’re a PC user, you have a world of compatible software and hardware to choose from. With PCs outselling Macs 10 to 1, most computer software is developed to run on PCs.

Has anybody bothered to talk about the quality of this “world of compatible software and hardware?” I’ve been more than happy with the selection available to me as a Mac OS X user. By the nature of Microsoft’s licensing approach to the marketplace, they will absolutely outsell Macs 10-to-1 – but what about overall user satisfaction? What about service and support? What about TCO? “Most computer software is developed to run on PCs.” This is an unfounded statement.

Most iOS software is developed to run on iPhones. #rhetorical

Apple’s productivity suite file formats won’t open in Microsoft Office on PCs. This can be a real hassle for Mac users sharing work documents with PC users.

Ah, but Apple’s productivity suite will import Microsoft Office formats. At least they’re trying, Microsoft. Moreover, if you’re still sending document attachments, KNOCK IT OFF. *points to Google Docs again* *points to Microsoft Office Live*

If there’s a Mac version of a program you need, you’ll have to buy it again and re-learn how to use it on a Mac.

Hahahahahaha! *catches breath* Hahahahahaha!

You can get the PC you want, in the size and color you want, with the features you want—all for the right price. With the best selection and price, PCs win hands down.

Yes, you can get what the market gives you – but that’s not “any size and color you want.” PC doesn’t win hands down. Sorry. It doesn’t. TCO isn’t factored into this ploy. There is absolutely a wider selection of Windows products available – yes. This doesn’t take into account build quality or service, but… you can find more PC options out there, certainly. If that’s what you want (an arbitrary value versus a good consumer electronics device), the choice for you is clear.

PCs running Windows 7 often come with features that either aren’t available or don’t come preinstalled on even the highest-end Macs, including Blu-ray, eSATA, multi-format card readers, touch screens, and mobile broadband support.

The Xbox 360 doesn’t work with Blu-ray, either – does that mean it’s worthless? Do you know how many Blu-ray discs I own? Seriously. I’m asking you because I have no idea. Everything I consume these days is fully digital. Moreover, my mobile broadband support comes by way of my mobile device – and every single Windows touch screen PC I’ve tried has fallen laughably short. I’ll give ’em eSATA, sure – but what about Thunderbolt (a far more ubiquitous IO port)?

Then again, if you want to watch Blu-ray movies on your computer (since OS X can read, write, etc. Blu-ray data)… Microsoft is correct, and Windows is a better option. Doesn’t mean that a PC is a better option, though – even though this entire debate is centered on PC vs. Mac – not Windows vs. OS X.

A Mac can be a Windows PC. A Mac can be a Windows PC. A Mac can be a Windows PC. A Mac can be a Windows PC. A Mac can be a Windows PC. A Mac can be a Windows PC. A Mac can be a Windows PC. A Mac can be a Windows PC. A Mac can be a Windows PC. A Mac can be a Windows PC. A Mac can be a Windows PC.

PCs are available in a full spectrum of colors across a wide range of price points. Macs are only available in white or silver.

I kinda like that. Plus, I tend to skin my notebook computers, anyway. This value is relative – largely irrelevant to them trying to prove that PCs are superior to Macs.

The selection of software for Macs is smaller than the selection for PCs. So if there’s a program you use on a PC, you’ll need to make sure it’s available for the Mac. And, if it is, you’ll need to learn how to use it on a Mac.

I don’t even want to qualify this argument with a response. In all the years I’ve used both Windows and Mac OS X, I’ve collected far more apps for Mac OS X – and they’re designed better, too. So many apps have similar interfaces – so once you stop treating Mac OS X like it was Windows, and Windows like it was Mac OS X… you’ll be more than happy with either one.

Did you hear that? It’s possible to be MORE THAN HAPPY WITH EITHER ONE. Or BOTH, for that matter. That’s the truth.

Mac Malware on the Rise

Newsflash: your Apple machine actually can become infected. Wait, what? You didn’t already know that? Seriously? I’ve been telling you for years that it’s possible. Other writers have attempted to educate you. Your Mac is not a steel wall against malware, people. It’s always been possible for an Apple computer to be infested with some type of malware – it just hasn’t happened very often.

Photo credit to Precise Security.

We can argue until we’re blue in the face about the reasons why we haven’t seen much malware aimed at the Mac. Apple lovers will of course tell you that it’s nearly impossible for their precious machines to fall prey to hackers and script kiddies. Security experts will teach you that the reason is as simple as a popularity contest. Until recently, Microsoft computers were much more prevalent. It didn’t pay to expend time and energy writing malicious code for a Mac. Windows was everywhere – malware was written for the masses.

Many of us have said repeatedly that as Apple gained in popularity among consumers, so would malware written specifically for the operating system. While it still obviously isn’t as much of an issue as it is on the Microsoft platform… it IS out there, and it is growing. A quick glance through the Apple forums will show you several new cases every day of people begging for help removing the latest threat: a Rogue software known as “Mac Defender.”

Apple fanboys and security researchers are going to argue for weeks. Many will tell you that you still have nothing to worry about and you don’t need to protect your Mac with any type of anti-malware/virus/spam software. They’ll try to convince you to continue feeling all warm and fuzzy. You’re supposed to keep believing that your machine isn’t susceptible unless you use it in a stupid way. After all, smart computer users could never get infected, right?

I’m here to tell you that it’s better to be safe than sorry. Weigh your options and take a good look at the possibility that something could happen. Isn’t your information worth protecting? Resign yourself to the fact that malware is indeed “out there” which could infect your Mac and educate yourself as to how to stay safe.

How to Switch from Windows to Mac


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Long-time community member and contributor Lamarr has long been a die-hard Windows fan. However, as evidenced in this video, he is beginning a switch over to the other side. Whether Apple is the Dark Side or not remains to be seen. This is something Lamarr has researched and thought about for months. He is convinced that he is making the best decision for himself and his business.

That’s what it boils down to, folks – a personal decision. I cannot tell you what to buy, nor can I condemn you for your choices. Until I am paying for your devices, I’m pretty sure I have no say at all. It’s my job as a tech reviewer to give you honest feedback about the various devices and gadgets that I have bought or which have been sent to me to review. Those videos and blog posts are simply additions to the ways in which you can learn about each product for yourself. They’re not there as a means of my telling you what is the right thing for you to buy.

What’s right for me may well not be right for you. What’s right for Lamarr may not be what’s right for you. What’s right for you… well, you get the picture. This is the beautiful thing about the tech industry: we each have our own sets of desires and needs. There are millions of product out there aimed at fulfilling whatever hole it is you have in your life or business. Yes, it can be difficult at times to narrow down the choices. In the end, though, it’s your choice to make. Bashing someone for what they CHOOSE is pretty dang stupid if you ask me.

It’s a HUGE deal to have Lamarr switching over to Mac. For fifteen years, he’s built computers for himself and others – based around Windows. He didn’t hate Macs, but he admits he used to wish that they had never been created. The closed atmosphere bothered him greatly… and there were limited software choices years ago.

Lamarr’s vision of what “closed” means has drastically changed in recent years. Back in the day, it meant simply that you were limited by choices on software and portability. Today, closed (in relation to Apple) means simply that Apple controls their hardware and other features as closely as possible. Lamarr has begun to see the light – by having this control, Apple is able to deliver solid performance every single time. This also marshals protection for the users.

I commend Lamarr for making a change that he felt was necessary to move him forward. It doesn’t matter to me that he went from Windows to OS X. What matters is that he did his homework, weighed his options and decided what the best choice was for him. Hate on him all you want, Windows fanboys – but he had the guts to try something new and realize that it fit his needs better than what he had in the past.

Good on you, Lamarr!

How to Capture Your Screen in Mac OS X


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A community member named Angie recently asked Lockergnome writer Matt Ryan if there is an easy way to do screen captures within OS X. In fact, there IS such a feature and it’s one that not everyone knows about.

Mac OS X has a set of key combinations that you can use to take screenshots in a variety of ways. The methods discussed in this video and writeup work on Mac 10.4 and above.

If you want to capture your entire desktop, you would hit Command + Shift + 3. By default, this will save a .PNG file of the entire screen to the desktop.

Let’s say that you only want to capture a portion of what you’re looking at. To do this, hit Command + Shift + 4. You’ll now see a small selection box which you can move and resize in order to highlight the area you want to screenshot. Once you let go of the mouse cursor, a .PNG of only that area will appear on your desktop.

Sometimes, you may want to take a screenshot of a single window and not have to re-define the area every time you need to do this. Use Command + Shift + 4 + Space. Hitting the space bar at the end of that key combination brings up a little camera icon on your screen. Using the camera, click on any window and save only that image to your desktop.

There are a few other little tricks you may want to know about:

  • Adding the Ctrl key to the end of any of the above combinations will save your image to the Clipboard instead of saving as an actual file on the desktop.
  • Change the default save-as file type by using a free utility such as Screenshot Settings.
  • If you aren’t a fan of using key combinations, the Grab tool included with Mac OS X will work in a pinch. This is located in the Utilities folder under Applications.

If you have any OS X questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section and Matt will be happy to try and give you a hand.