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#895: How to Create a Recent App Stack, Cross-Platform Diagnostic Software, Storage Too Full


So it happened.

Mother Nature finally gave out and snow hit the grass here in New Hampshire. Vermont probably got hit a little earlier than we did, especially up in the northern part of the state. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, though. I was able to clear off my car in no time and the roads were clear, as if nothing ever happened. I wish winter would always be like that and maybe I wouldn’t despise it most of the time…

The holiday season is here and if you’re buying a gift for Christmas, there’s no better way to prepare than to come into Small Dog and learn about the hottest gifts we have. Find out what makes that new MacBook, iMac or iOS device — that’s why we’re here. Of course, when you purchase any Mac and AppleCare, you get a $50 Small Dog gift card to give to someone else (or keep for yourself). There’s no expiration date! We also have really great discounts on other hot brands and products, so come check out our selection of headphones, speakers, and more.

Without any further ado, I bring you Tech Tails!

Have a great week everyone!


  How to Create a Recent App Stack  

If you have been using Macs for a while, you may have noticed in 10.5 Apple introduced a new feature called Stacks. Stacks are shortcuts to the contents of folders right on your dock. Here is a Terminal trick that will allow you to create a stack that will show the most recently used applications. All you need to do is open up the Terminal application and enter the following:

defaults write persistent-others -array-add ‘{ “tile-data” = { “list-type” = 1; }; “tile-type” = “recents-tile”; }’

After that you should see a new line appear, enter:

killall Dock

This will restart the dock, and you will see a Stack called “recent applications.”

  Cross-Platform Diagnostic Software  

Apple provides some excellent diagnostic tools, particularly for newer hardware. But memory and hard disks often require third party utilities to troubleshoot thoroughly. The Mac operating system also supports many fantastic third-party utilities. However, as Apple computers fully support most other operating systems and software, this allows us to use a wide range of software tools. Two utilities we use often are pieces of Windows software.

The primary disk scanning software we rely on is Victoria. Victoria is a hard disk surface scan software that runs under Windows, and provides a low-level scan of the entire disk for either SATA or IDE drives. It reports on each individual block, and sorts them into categories based on health. We use a bootable utility disk named Hiren’s BootCD for running it. This is a free download for a bootable CD with a lightweight Windows XP installation. It contains many utilities, some of which will be relevant to Mac troubleshooting, and some not. Unfortunately the current version, 15.2, does not support the keyboards on Apple computers, which renders it useless (so we use the older 15.0).

MemTest86 is an incredibly lightweight (several-hundred kilobytes) utility, which similar to Hiren’s BootCD, is burned to a CD and booted off of. MemTest86 thoroughly tests all Random Access Memory in the computer it runs on, with virtually no overhead. Whereas running memory tools in a standard operating system prevents the test from finding errors in the sections of RAM actively used by the operating system. While it looks like a Windows bluescreen error, it will give an obvious red highlight if an error is found. MemTest86 is also available on the Hiren’s BootCD.

If you are so inclined as to give these a try, some research into using these tools effectively is definitely recommended before diving in. With the BootCD in particular, we definitely recommend caution, as there are many tools on the disc for erasing drives and other such activities. We are not responsible for any issues caused by using these!

  Storage Too Full  

MacBook Air, by its physical nature, has less data storage capacity than its traditional HDD-utilizing brethren. While read/write speed is remarkably better, those professionals who own Airs or Pro Retinas and have enormous libraries of music, photos, and/or videos will discover they require external hard drives for their complete collections.

Then there are those of us who know that we don’t have thousands of large media files. Even the surest among us can, however, get choked in the storage department and I speak as the (usually) happy owner of a MacBook Air housing a meager 64GB SSD.

I’m never too surprised to have customers with the same machine come in with the same system warnings — that their startup disk is almost full. My latest Air check-in had this issue and, though her user directory clearly indicated the culprit was somewhere within, it was not in the obvious places: photos, music, and movies. Holding the option key, I clicked “Go” in the toolbar to access the Library directory (this user had 10.7) and discovered a large directory in Application Support called iLifeAssetManagement, taking up almost 20GB — quite a substantial amount on a 64GB drive.

Upon a quick foray into Google, I learned the iLifeAssetManagement directory is where OS X stores Photo Stream data; that is, if you’ve configured iCloud. See, if you’re manually adding photos to the iPhoto library from your iOS device (or using Aperture or even Image Capture), Photo Stream is going to be duplicating whatever you’re copying unless you’re super diligent about trimming what’s in there: most of us aren’t, and besides, Photo Stream is one of the most reliable and easy ways to cloud-back up your photos.

In most users’ cases, this situation won’t come up though it has come up enough for the lovely people at OS X Daily to write an article about it. The solution for a majority of Tech Tails readers is obvious: choose how you want to get your photos onto your Mac and just use that method. If you want to make sure to do this correctly, check out the OS X Daily article for detailed steps and screenshots.

A final word of advice: from time to time, investigate your startup disk and see what’s taking up space (highlight a directory and hold Command+I to Get Info) and, if you see something abnormally large, make it a learning opportunity.

  Editor's Note: Mavericks Installation Options  

In our last issue, Tech Tails #894 we incorrectly listed the author of Mavericks Installation Options. The article was written instead by Taylor Amon. (Sorry, Taylor!)

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