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What to do if you can’t change your Google Chrome search engine on a Mac

After a Mac has been intruded upon with some rogue or unwanted software, what usually happens is that web browsers are taken over. Usually, running MalwareBytes and performing follow-up steps will fix this situation (see our previous post).
But if you use Google Chrome, you may still have trouble. Particularly insidious adware will prevent you from changing the default search engine back to Google, even after the software itself has been removed. Sometimes it will appear to have changed, but nothing actually happens. Here’s how to resolve that.
First, quit Chrome if it is running. Then Open Terminal.
type:
defaults read com.google.Chrome
What will be output is a list of “keys” followed by a list of “values”. You need to remove the keys which are making Chrome misbehave.
In particular, you want to get rid of any dubious-looking URL — if it’s not obvious what it is, you don’t want it. Each URL will have a corresponding key to its left, which here I’ll call UnwantedKeyName.
For each key with a corresponding questionable URL, type:
defaults delete com.google.Chrome UnwantedKeyName
When you’re done, once again type:
defaults read com.google.Chrome
What remains should all be fine — that is, there are no keys that contain unknown URL’s.
At this point, you may Quit Terminal, and re-open Chrome. Go to Preferences, and change your search engine to Google, which should now be unlocked.

What to do after running MalwareBytes on your Mac

malwarebytes-logo

If you’ve ever seen your search engine in Chrome, Safari or Firefox mysteriously redirected to a strange, non-Google search engine, or seen pop-up ads warning that your Mac may be infected, or that advertise dubious services, you’re probably a victim of adware or malware on your Mac.

The most common way of getting this junk are fake notices saying your Flash player is out of date — if you see one, please disregard it. If you really need Flash, use Chrome, which has it built in.

MalwareBytes has for years (dating from its origins as AdwareMedic) been the most effective tool for getting rid of the most common kind of Mac adware and malware. It’s free to perform manual scans for malicious software; you can subscribe for automatic protection.

However, like all malware protection software, it’s not perfect. It doesn’t always find absolutely everything, and even when it does remove garbage software from your computer, it sometimes doesn’t perform final steps required tor return things to fully normal, and prevent you from potentially being reinfected.

So, once you’ve performed a scan with MalwareBytes, and it removes whatever it finds (or gives you a clean bill of health, rightly or wrongly), you need to take a few more steps.

  1. If MalwareBytes finds anything, restart your Mac, whether or not you are instructed to. After restart, reopen MalwareBytes (if necessary), and Clear the Quarantine.
  2. Go to the Apple Menu, and choose System Preferences. See if there is an item called Profiles — if it’s there at all, usually it is in the fourth row. If it’s not there, great. If it is there, go into it, and remove any profiles that you can’t account for or, are unsure of the purpose for. Normally, you would not have any profiles unless your computer was set up by a corporate IT department, or have installed personal VPN software. Close System Preferences.
  3. Go to the Apple Menu, and choose System Preferences (again). Go to General (top left). Make sure that default web browser is set to whatever you prefer.
  4. In each browser (Safari, plus Chrome and/or Firefox if you have them installed), go to Extensions. In Safari, this is under Safari->Preferences->Extensions. In Chrome, it is under Window -> Extensions. In Firefox, it is under Tools->Add-Ons->Extensions. Remove any extensions you can’t account for or are unsure of the purpose of.
  5. In each browser, check that the default search engine is Google (or DuckDuckGo, if you are concerned about privacy and can live with inferior web searches). In Safari, this is under Safari->Preferences->Search. In Chrome, go to Chrome->Preferences->Search Engine — but if it won’t let you change it, read our next post for what to do. In Firefox, go to Firefox->Preferences->Search. Sometimes, the search engine says to something innocuous like “Default” or “Default Browser” or “Search” — these are rogue, and you should change them. It should always be Google (or DuckDuckGo).
  6. In each browser, open a new window. Check that the home page is what you want it to be. If you don’t recognize whatever is there, change it to a site you prefer, or to google.com if you can’t think of anything. In Safari, you can set it under Safari->Preferences->General (default is https://www.apple.com/startpage/). In Chrome, go to Chrome->Preferences->On Startup (default is “Open the New Tab Page”). On Firefox, go to Firefox->Preferences->General (default is “Mozilla Firefox Start Page”, which you can get by clicking “Restore to Default”).

At this point, your Mac should be fully back in action, and all of your browsers should behave normally.

Synchronize your Downloads folder with iCloud Drive

iCloud Drive Desktop and Documents sync has been a game changer in terms of Mac users having the same stuff on all computers. Dropbox is probably more reliable and flexible, but it requires that you have a workflow of saving stuff into your Dropbox folder, and some Mac users just don’t want to do that; they want to put stuff in the Desktop and Documents folders that come on the computer, and call it a day.

iCloud Drive Desktop and Documents (which I’ll just call iCDD) takes care of that for them. And then, when they buy a new computer, rather than restore from a Time Machine backup (which is what I’d still recommend), they can just sign into their iCloud account and have access to all of their stuff, much like on their iPhone.

But what about the Downloads folder? Apple makes clear they expect what’s in your Downloads folder to be temporary, to be moved to elsewhere, or deleted. But that’s not how I roll, and many other people don’t either. Stuff accumulates there and I might want it regardless of what computer I actually downloaded it on.

If you want a synchronized Downloads folder, do this:

  • Open iCloud Drive
  • Make a Downloads folder in it
  • Put that Downloads folder in your sidebar (it will look like a regular folder, rather than a circle with a downward pointing arrow)
  • Move everything in your existing Downloads folder to the new Downloads folder
  • Remove the old (circular) Downloads folder from your sidebar by dragging it out, or by unchecking it under Finder -> Preferences -> Sidebar
  • Open Terminal, and type:
    sudo rm ~/Downloads; ln -s ~/Library/Mobile\ Documents/com~apple~CloudDocs/Downloads/ ~/Downloads
  • Enter your computer password (which you won’t see as you type)

If you’re not comfortable using Terminal, instead set each of your browsers, in their Preferences, to use your new Downloads folder instead of the one in your Home folder.

Repeat the above on each of your computers.

Cheaper Alternative to Apple AirPods?

The JBuds Air wireless earbuds from JLab Audio only cost $49! so if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to Apple’s AirPods, take a look at these.

They also fit differently than Apple’s AirPods, and come with silicone ear tips in different sizes, so if the AirPods don’t fit in your ear, these may be worth checking out for that reason.

The biggest downside, as per reviews, is that phone calls are only in the right earbud, not both.

Wired’s review of the JBuds Air earbuds rates them a 7 out of 10, and says, “They’re not perfect, but they’re one of the smartest ways to spend $50 on headphones.”

The 9 to 5 Toys review of the JBuds Air says, “If you’re on the fence of purchasing Apple’s AirPods, why not give the JBuds Air a shot?”

Headphone Review gives the JBuds Air a score of 8.4 out of 10 and says, “At $50 it’s hard to expect the JLab JBuds Air to sound great–but in reality, they don’t sound bad at all.”

Cool Apple Wall Charger Accessories

We just found out about a company called Ten One Design that’s making very cool Apple accessories. The two here are specifically for your Apple charging cables.

Stella, pictured above, says it’s a better charging cable for a few reasons. Its woven surface is better than what comes out of the box with a new Mac because it’s more flexible and less prone to breaking. And the plug itself lights up when you put it next to an outlet, so you can plug in more easily! It costs $35 from Ten One Design’s website.

Blockhead, image above, puts your duckhead plug on the side of the brick instead of straight off the back, so it is flatter against the wall and has less of a tendency to fall out. (This one can be used with any of your Apple bricks — iPad, iPhone, or Mac.) Cost is $20.

Or you can buy both Stella and Blockhead for $50.

We haven’t tried these ourselves, so do your due diligence — and let us know if you buy them and like them!

How to migrate from your old Mac to a 12-inch MacBook

Apple’s 12-inch MacBook is svelte and weights only 2 pounds. It also presents some challenges when migrating your data directly from another Mac.

All other Mac models since 2011 have Thunderbolt capability, meaning you can attach a Thunderbolt cable between the two computers, put the older computer into Target Disk Mode, and then use Migration Assistant on the new computer, which will see the old computer’s drive and copy from it.

The 12-inch MacBook has the same USB-C port found on current MacBook Pros and iMacs, but unlike those models, the port doesn’t offer Thunderbolt, so the method I just described doesn’t work. But there are still a couple of ways to do it. Make sure your 12-inch MacBook is fully charged before you start, since it won’t have wall power during the transfer.

 

Short version:

Via a hard drive: You can use migration assistant with a Time Machine USB external drive (or Time Capsule) as a source. You could also use Carbon Copy Cloner on your old Mac to copy its contents to a a USB external drive, and use that as a source for Migration Assistant.

Computer-to-computer: If you get a USB-C to male USB-A cable, and the old Mac is a 2012 model or later (meaning it has USB 3.0), you can go the other way. Erase the 12-inch MacBook’s drive; in that article, see the section “If you need to erase your startup disk,” about halfway down, and, for format, select APFS if the old Mac has High Sierra or later, or Mac OS Extended (Journaled) if not. Then put the new MacBook into Target Disk Mode, and use Carbon Copy Cloner on the old Mac to copy its entire drive, including the operating system, to the new MacBook. If the old Mac doesn’t have a current enough operating system to boot the new MacBook, you can start the 12-inch MacBook via Internet Recovery (command-option-R during startup), and reinstall macOS, which will upgrade the copied operating system. In the end, you’ll have gone computer-to-computer, despite the 12-inch MacBook not offering Thunderbolt connections.

 

Long, step-by-step version:

In any of the scenarios below, you’re going to want your new 12-inch MacBook to be fully charged, because you can’t have it plugged into the wall while you’re transferring. I’m also assuming the new MacBook has a drive that’s large enough to hold everything that was on your old Mac.

One option is to use an external drive that has a copy of your computer. If you have existing Time Machine backup on a hard drive, make the backup current by choosing “Back Up Now” from the Time Machine (backwards clock icon) menu at the top of your screen, eject the drive when it’s done, and then attach it to the new MacBook, using a USB-C to USB-A adapter. Or, if you have a Time Capsule, that’ll work too; just follow the same process to make it current (but don’t disconnect it) Either way, Migration Assistant will present your backup as a source to migrate from; if you’re doing Time Capsule over Wi-Fi, be prepared for it to take long time.

If you don’t have a Time Machine backup, or you don’t want to wait for a Time Capsule, you can get a hard drive and copy your whole computer using Time Machine or Carbon Copy Cloner (or, for much faster speed, use an external solid state drive like the Samsung T5).

But there’s also a way to go computer-to-computer, provided the original Mac is a 2012 model or later, meaning it has USB 3.0 ports. The general concept is that, rather than use Migration Assistant, you’re going to erase the new Mac’s drive, and copy the entirety of your old Mac, by using the 12-inch MacBook’s USB Disk Mode. You’ll end up with a clone, with the same operating system as the old Mac, on the new MacBook, and then you can upgrade it to the current operating system if you wish to, or if it’s necessary. Here’s the process:

  • You’re going to need a USB 3.0 or 3.1 USB-C to USB-A cable. Unlike the adapters Apple sells that have a female USB-A connector, this cable needs to have a male USB-A connector on one end.
  • Check the operating system on your older Mac by choosing About This Mac from the Apple menu. Then check the minimum operating system required on the MacBook, by visiting EveryMac.com). Ideally, the original computer has an operating system that is newer than the minimum. (So, for example, current MacBooks have a minimum operating system of 10.12.5, which means that your original computer should be on 10.12.6.)
  • If your Mac has an older operating system that won’t run on the MacBook, that’s OK, but when you copy over your system, you’ll need to immediately reinstall its operating system before you can use the 12-inch MacBook, as I’ll explain. Alternatively, you can update or upgrade the operating system on your old computer before you copy, but, as always, make sure you have a backup first.
  • Start up the 12-inch MacBook in internet recovery mode by holding down command-option-R immediately after you press the power button. If you don’t see a spinning globe, restart the computer, holding down the keys. If it takes, you’ll see the globe, and after a little while be asked to choose your Wi-Fi network. Do that, and then wait for the Recovery Disk to load. (We’re about to erase the internal drive, and I’ve had better luck using a High Sierra recovery disk to properly erase a disk that has the APFS file system on it.)
  • Once it loads and you get to the Recovery menu, open Disk Utility. Go to the View menu at the top of the screen and choose “Show All Devices”.
  • Click on the Apple SSD in the upper left of the window. On the right side, click the Erase button. Name it “Macintosh HD” if you feel like being traditional, or anything else you like.
  • Make sure Partition Scheme is “GUID Partition Map”.
  • For Format, If your old Mac has High Sierra on it, choose “APFS”. If the old Mac has Sierra or earlier, choose “Mac OS Extended (Journaled)”.
  • Click Erase. If you get an error, which is entirely possible due to bugs in Apple’s Disk Utility, just click the Erase button again, until it works. If it continues to bug you, click on “Macintosh HD,” then click Unmount, then try again.
  • Quit Disk Utility. Restart the computer, holding down the T key this time. If it takes, you’ll immediately see a large USB (trident) logo on your screen, rather than an Apple or anything else. If you don’t see this, you may need to force off the computer by holding down the power button for ten seconds, and try again.
  • Connect the USB-C to USB-A cable between the two computers. You’ll see your newly erased drive appear as a drive on your old Mac.
  • Run Carbon Copy Cloner on your old Mac to copy your old drive to your new drive. If you are copying a system that is new enough to run on the new machine, then elect to create a Recovery Partition when it asks. If you’re copying a system that’s too old, then decline.

When it’s all done, eject the 12-inch MacBook’s drive from the desktop on your old Mac, and turn off the MacBook by holding down the power button, and disconnect the cable.

If your old Mac had an operating system that is new enough to run on the 12-inch MacBook, you can now just turn on the MacBook, exactly as you would have on your old Mac. and you’ll be in business. If you want to update or upgrade it to the latest and greatest, you can do so from the Mac App Store, as usual.

You’ll probably need to sign in to and/or reactivate various services and software, such as iCloud, Dropbox, Microsoft Office, and cloud backup like CrashPlan or BackBlaze.

15 Boring but Useful Websites

This list of various websites that are boring but useful was culled from the comments of a recent post on Go Fug Yourself. To read all the comments and suggestions, here’s the link: Your Most Boringly Useful Websites

If you don’t know Go Fug Yourself and you like smart writing about dumb fashion, I highly recommend you check it out: http://www.gofugyourself.com

Please note all the sites below have not been vetted by me, so do your due diligence.

 

1. A View from My Seat, aviewfrommyseat.com
“You can search for venues all around the country and browse through photos people have posted from various seats/sections in that venue so you can see what you’re getting. I used this site to make sure that the ‘cheap’ seats for Hamilton were worth the kajillion dollars I spent (they were).”

2. Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab, https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/
Amazing (and free!) resource for all your pesky grammar, formatting, and citation needs.

3. Citation Machine, http://www.citationmachine.net/
Will generate citations in your preferred format (MLA, APA, Chicago…) for you. You just fill out a form with basic info of the source.

4. Acronym Finder, acronymfinder.com
“As a writer/editor who works in IT, this is my go-to site when I come across an acronym that I can’t remember.”

5. Percentage Calculator, https://percentagecalculator.net/

6. Metric Conversions, http://www.metric-conversions.org/

7. Manuals Online, www.manualsonline.com

8. Just Watch, www.justwatch.com, and Can I Stream It, www.canistream.it
Think of something you want to watch and find out where in the streaming/cable universe it can be found.

9. Down for Everyone, http://downforeveryoneorjustme.com or isup.me
Is that website down for everyone, or just for me?

10. This to That, thistothat.com
If you want to glue something to something else it tells you what glue works best.

11. Small PDF, smallpdf.com
“It just automatically compress pdf to the smallest file possible, great for sending email attachments!”

12. Still Tasty, stilltasty.com
“Tells you how long something will keep in your fridge or freezer before it goes bad and kills you/tastes terrible.”

13. Time and Date, timeanddate.com.
“As much as I travel, I still don’t know which state has which time zone, do they observe Daylight Saving Time, etc. When I was a paralegal, I used it to calculate due dates for pleadings.”

14. Print Friendly, printfriendly.com
Makes any webpage printer-friendly.

15. Forvo, forvo.com
“As I am obsessed with languages, one of my favourite websites is forvo.com, where people upload files of themselves pronouncing names, phrases, nouns etc., in their native language.”

Free iPhone Wallpaper Shows Inside of your iPhone

IFixit has just created free iPhone wallpaper that shows you the inside of your phone. Imagine how cool your phone will look, with a lock screen or home screen showing what’s under the glass.

This is for iPhone X, but scroll down to the bottom of the page for links to other iPhone models. Plus there are instructions on how to set it up on the phone.

If you’re curious to see iFixit’s teardown of the new iPhone X, it’s pretty cool too. And of course don’t forget if you want to do your own repairs on your iPhone or Mac, iFixit is the place to go.

 

Troubleshoot Netflix Streaming Problems

Whether you watch Netflix on your iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple TV, the quality of the video is determined by the speed of your Internet connection.

Netflix recommends 25 megabits per second (Mbps) of download speed for Ultra HD quality, 5 Mbps for HD, and 3 Mbps for SD – and 1.5 Mbps is the lowest recommended speed.

So how do you tell what your actual internet speed is right now? Visit Netflix’s fast.com Web site for a quick report on how much bandwidth you have. If what you see doesn’t match with what you think you’re paying for, call your Internet service provider and make sure your connection is working properly.

So What Is a Retina Display?

You’ve seen and heard Apple talking about the iMac with 5K Retina display, the MacBook Pro with Retina display, and so on. But what is a Retina display, and why should you care?

Retina displays are high-resolution screens on which graphics are extra sharp and text is super crisp.

The LCD screens used in Apple’s displays use a grid of “pixels”—the smallest possible dot whose color can be controlled—to create all the text and graphics you see. Today’s iPhone 7 Plus screen can fit 401 pixels into each inch. As pixel density goes up, the pixels get smaller. With a 72 ppi (pixels per inch) screen, it’s easy to see each individual pixel in a character, but the higher the pixel density, the harder it becomes to pick out separate pixels.

When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone 4 in 2010, he said that for a screen that’s held 10 to 12 inches from the eye—about the distance at which many people hold their iPhones— the human eye can’t resolve individual pixels if it’s about 300 ppi. At longer distances, it becomes harder to discern small details, so most people won’t be able to pick out pixels on a screen viewed at arm’s length, such as an iMac display, if it’s about 220 ppi.

So Apple says a “Retina display” is any screen whose pixel density is high enough that someone with 20/20 vision cannot see individual pixels at the standard viewing distance used for that device.

For the Mac this is about 220 ppi. Larger iPads have a pixel density of 264 ppi, and the iPad mini checks in at 326 ppi. From the iPhone 4 through the iPhone 7, pixel density stayed at 326 ppi, but the iPhone 6s Plus and iPhone 7 Plus are 401 ppi. The tiny Apple Watch screen is about 330 ppi.

If you suffer from eyestrain, reading on a Retina display will likely be easier and less tiring, since the words will be clear and crisp, without any of the fuzziness on the edges that you see on lesser displays.

Last, the words “Retina display” are an Apple trademark. So you won’t see any other manufacturers claiming that their products have Retina displays.

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