basic training

If you’re new to computers or just new to the Macintosh, report here for some basic training. No, this won’t be like military basic training. For one, I won’t call you a mama’s boy or daddy’s girl, nor will I scream like a madman three inches from your face. I won’t make you do push-ups, jumping-jacks, sit-ups or any of other fun stuff they do in the armed forces. What I will make you do, I hope, is find out how to make your new Mac work better, learn the computing ins and outs every Mac user should know, and discover some of the clever things you may not know your Mac could do!

This will be an audience participation column, by the way. If you have a suggestion on something you’d like to see here, just let me know and I’ll be happy to oblige. I want to cover the areas you feel require attention, and from time to time I’ll need your feedback to get there.

Or perhaps you have a specific question about your Macintosh, or there’s a problem that has you stumped. Well, this column is here to help with that, too. Drop me a line, ask the question, and I will answer you.

First things first. You may be asking “Who is this guy, and what are his qualifications to teach me anything?” Fair question. At my day job I’m a “Technical Service Manager,” which is a fancy term I use only on my business cards. What I really do is keep all the computers running at work (mostly Macs, but we also have an odd mix of Windows NT machines). I also provide other companies with graphics and artwork from our in-house graphic studio, meaning I’m constantly working with programs such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, Microsoft Office 98, Quark Xpress, some proprietary software (software made and created only for us), along with a host of others.

I also ran my own company for a few years, My Mac Productions, in which I created databases, built websites, taught computing, and performed consulting in the computer industry. The past few years I’ve also been the publisher and a writer for My Mac Magazine, the one you’re reading now.

So now you know who I am, my background, and my experience with the Macintosh Operating System (it’s how I make my living!). You can trust me. Of course, no one knows everything there is to know in any subject, so if I don’t know something, I’ll let you know right off the bat. My Mac also has a large staff with a lot oftheir own experience, so chances are we’ll be able to help you when you need it.

Let’s get started for this month, shall we? I want to get some helpful topics in this issue, and not simply my autobiography.

Rebuilding Your Desktop
How many times have you read this online? Something went wrong with someone’s Macintosh, and someone else is suggesting that they rebuild their desktop. So, what is a desktop and how do you rebuild it? It may sound confusing, perhaps even a bit intimidating, but it really isn’t.

There are actually two desktops when people are talking about Macs. The first one, and the one most people are familiar with, is what you see once your Mac is done starting up. That is the desktop, where your Trash can sits. Think of this desktop as an open folder you can never close. Just one big window you work out of.

The other desktop is called the Desktop File, which is actually an invisible file on your hard drive that keeps track of things that make your Mac easier to use. For example, the Desktop File remembers which icon goes with which application, so that when you double-click to launch (run) an application (program), your Mac knows exactly what to do. The trouble is, for various reasons this important file can get corrupted over time, and that makes it hard for your Mac to keep things straight internally. This is corrected by periodically rebuilding the Desktop File so your Mac can take a physical inventory of what’s on the hard drive. You can choose to do it whenever it’s convenient for you, but I’d suggest doing it at least monthly to avoid minor trouble. (I rebuild mine every other week). But weekly, monthly, or whenever, you’ll find that your Mac will love you for doing it.

Now you know how important the Desktop File is to your Mac, and how rebuilding the desktop will keep your machine running more efficiently. Sounds like a tough job, right? Well, maybe it is for your Mac, but for us the job couldn’t be easier. Here’s how:

To rebuild the Desktop File, you simply hold down both the Option and Command keys (the Command key is the one with an Apple on it) while your Mac starts up. Keep holding them down until a dialog box appears asking if you’re sure you want to rebuild the desktop. Of course you’re sure–that’s why you held down those “secret” keys! Check OK and wait until it finishes (it may take a few minutes). When the accounting process is finally done, the regular startup process will continue as always, and you’ll be back to the desktop with all your familiar icons.

And that, my friends, is all there is to it! You’ll have taken your first step into the world of Mac-maintenance and onto the road to becoming a wise and respected Mac guru. Congratulations!

*A note to users of Mac OS 9’s multi-user feature: You can only rebuild the desktop if you’re the main owner/user of the Mac. Tab users will not be able to do it.

More memory?
Many people are always suggesting that you get more memory. Do you need to get more memory? Should you? How much should you get? These are all very good questions, and the answers are easy ones. Yes, you need more memory if you Mac has less than 64MB of memory. You should get as much memory as you can afford to buy. The iMac I use all the time at work had only 32MB installed. Once I put in a 128MB memory chip (which gave me a total of 160MB), the machine ran faster, crashed less often, and I could open many more programs at the same time without problems of any kind.

Upgrading your memory is the number one thing you can do to benefit your Mac. Let me repeat that again: The #1 thing worth doing to your Macintosh is to get more memory!

Y2K and your Mac
We now have just one month left before the year 2000 rolls around. (Hard to believe isn’t it?) You should feel good that you own a Mac. You will have no problems with your computer at all. The Macintosh is 100% Y2K compliant, and always has been; no big “fix” required.

Be aware, though, that some applications you use (especially older Microsoft products) may not be Y2K ready, so if that’s the case, check the manufacturer of the software. They’ll know what you’re talking about, believe me.

Well folks, I think that will wrap up this column for this issue. Join us here again next month for more basic training, and be sure to send in questions or suggestions!

Tim Robertson

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