Save 35% on My Lion Book!

Discount applies to either printed book or ebook (or bundle) and includes free shipping!

Mac OS X Lion VQS Book CoverJust a quick note to let readers know that Peachpit Press is offering my Lion book at a 35% off discount with free shipping from now until December 31, 2011.

To take advantage of this offer, visit the book’s page on Peachpit’s site, add the book (or ebook or bundle) to your shopping cart and check out. Be sure to enter discount code LIONVQS during the checkout process.

Makes a great gift for folks new to Mac OS or Lion!

Lion and Rosetta

One solution if you need to run Rosetta software.

I’m one of the poor idiots who didn’t switch from Quicken 2007 — the most recent full-featured Mac version — to something else before Lion was released. And now I’m one of the many people who can’t access my accounting records from my computer running Mac OS X Lion.

I did, however, find a workaround. That’s what this article is all about.

Unfortunately, I can’t explain how to run Rosetta software under Lion. To my knowledge, that’s not possible — and please do correct me if I’m wrong! Instead, this article explain show to keep running that Rosetta-dependent software under Snow Leopard (or Leopard) while your computer runs Lion.

Curious? Read on.

What You Need

To take advantage of this workaround you need four things:

  • A computer capable of running Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard or Leopard. That’s basically any recent Mac released before Lion was released in July.
  • A Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard or Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard installation disc. The disc (or thumb drive) that came with your computer should do the trick — in fact, it’s your best starting point.
  • A USB 2 or FireWire external hard disk. If your computer has two internal hard disks, you could actually use one of those. You could also partition your internal hard disk and use one of the partitions. But I prefer an external disk. It doesn’t need to have a very high capacity, but it should be blank because you may have to format it. You can buy a suitable portable disk — which makes it possible to use it on any computer capable of running Snow Leopard (or Leopard) — for well under $100 at Costco or Best Buy or on The kind that draw power from their USB or FireWire connection are best for this use.
  • The installation disks for the Rosetta software you need to run. In my case, it’s just Quicken 2007.

At this point, if you’re not a complete newbie — which I assume is the case because you need to run ancient software — you should have an idea of where I’m going with this.

The Plan

The plan is to install Mac OS X 10.6 (or 10.5) on that external hard disk. You can then boot from that disk and install the ancient software you need to run. Once that’s done, you can boot from that disk any time you need to run that ancient software.

Now stop your whining! I can hear you all the way from here.

The sad truth is, there is no other alternative. If your problem is Quicken — as mine is — lots of Web sites are telling you to switch to the Windows version of Quicken and run it under Parallels or Windows running on Boot Camp. But do you really want to run Windows? I don’t. And do you really need to use that software all the time? I don’t. And isn’t this just temporary until you find replacement software that’ll run on Lion? For me, yes!

So this is the solution that’ll work without costing a fortune. Chances are, you already have an old external hard disk lying around somewhere. I sure do.

About My Emergency Boot Disk

True story. I was about 95% done with my Mac OS X Lion book when the internal hard disk on my iMac died. Fortunately, I had backups of all my files, so I didn’t lose any data. But I was stuck living in my RV in the middle of farmland, 100 miles away from the nearest Mac consultant capable of replacing an internal hard disk on an iMac.

What did I do? I went to Costco and bought a portable USB 2 drive. I then installed Mac OS X and the applications I needed to finish the book on that disk, along with my backed up documents. Although I expected Mac OS to run very sluggishly from that external hard disk, I was pleasantly surprised at how peppy it was. Not as good as running it from the internal disk, but certainly bearable.

And the reason I want to use an external hard disk? So that when I do find a replacement for Quicken (which I hope is soon), I don’t have to worry about getting all traces of an older OS off my second internal hard disk or a partition on my internal hard disk. And I can always use the external hard disk as an emergency boot disk if I need one for any computer capable of running that version of Mac OS. Or I can reformat it and use it for something else.

Installing Mac OS

First, try to install Snow Leopard (or Leopard) on the external hard disk without reformatting. If you prefer to reformat first, skip ahead to the section titled “If You Have to Reformat” and come back here when you’re done. I’m assuming you don’t want to reformat the hard disk because it contains data you need to use.

  1. Disks on DesktopConnect the external hard disk to your Mac. Depending on how you configured Finder preferences, its icon may appear on the Desktop or in a Finder window’s sidebar.
  2. Insert the Snow Leopard (or Leopard) installation disc or thumb drive. Remember, you must install a version of Mac OS that your computer can run. That’s why its always a good idea to install from the installation disc or thumb drive that came with your computer. In this illustration, icons for my external hard disk (Mobile Backup) and MacBook Air installation thumb drive appear on the Desktop.
  3. Mac OS X InstallIf necessary, open the installation disc/thumb drive icon. Then double-click the Install Mac OS X icon in the Mac OS X Install window. In this illustration, I’ve opened the icon for my MacBook Air’s thumb drive to install Snow Leopard. This launches the Installer.
  4. Follow the prompts to restart your computer. It will boot from the installation disc/thumbdrive. (That’s why its important to use an installer that your computer can run.) It may take a while to start up.
  5. Follow the prompts to choose your language, start the installation process, and agree to the license terms.
  6. In the window that asks which hard disk to install on, be sure to select the external hard disk. Your internal hard disk should not be selectable because it already has a later version of Mac OS X. If your external hard disk cannot be selected either, it likely needs to be formatted; if this happens, Quit the installer, restart from your internal hard disk, and skip ahead to the section titled “If You Have to Reformat.”
  7. After selecting your external hard disk, click the Customize button.
  8. In the window that appears, turn off the check boxes for Additional Fonts, Language Translations, and X11 (unless you need any of them). Turning these items off makes the installation smaller and may speed up running Mac OS X from an external hard disk. Be sure to turn on the check box beside Rosetta. Then click OK.
  9. Back in the main installer window, confirm again that the correct hard disk is selected. Then click Install.
  10. Wait while Mac OS X is installed on the external hard disk. It could take a while. Go get a cup of coffee or take your dog for a walk. When the installation is complete, your computer will automatically restart.
  11. Follow the onscreen prompts to complete the Mac OS setup on the external hard disk. I recommend not transferring your information from another source. (I’m one of those people who like a clean install of everything.) Eventually, you’ll be dumped into the Finder so you can start using your computer with the new OS on the external drive.
  12. Optional: Run Software Update to update Mac OS and its components to the most recent version.

You can eject the Mac OS installer disc/thumbdrive.

If You Have to Reformat

If you have to reformat your external hard disk — or if you want to, just to start with a clean slate — you can use Disk Utility to get the job done. Just remember that following these instructions will completely erase the hard disk, so don’t do this if the disk contains files you need.

With the external hard disk connected, follow these instructions:

  1. If necessary, start your computer from its internal hard disk and Lion installation.
  2. Open Disk Utility in the Utilities folder in your Applications folder.
  3. Disk UtilityOn the left side of the window, select the name of the hard disk you inserted.
  4. On the right side of the window, click the Erase button near the top of the window.
  5. Make sure Mac OS Extended (Journaled) is selected form the Format pop-up menu.
  6. If desired, enter a new name in the Name field.
  7. Click the Erase button near the bottom of the window.
  8. In the dialog that appears, click Erase.
  9. Wait while the disk is erased. It shouldn’t take very long.
  10. Quit Disk Utility.

Once this is done, you can follow the instructions in the section titled “Installing Mac OS” above.

Installing Your Rosetta-Dependent Software

Once Snow Leopard (or Leopard) is installed on the external hard disk, you can install your ancient, Rosetta-dependent software on it.

  1. If necessary, restart the computer from the external hard disk. One way to do this is to hold down the Option key while the computer is starting up and then choose the disk you want from the options that appear onscreen.
  2. Insert the original installation disc for the software you want to install.
  3. Open the installer.
  4. Follow the prompts to install the software.

Note that you might be prompted to install Rosetta. While I realize that if you followed the instructions in the section titled “Installing Mac OS” above Rosetta should already be installed, for some reason, it wasn’t installed for me. No big deal. Your computer can use its connection to the Internet to download and install Rosetta on demand.

When the installation is complete, you can open the software. You’ll find it in the Applications folder on the startup disk — your external hard disk.

Running that Old Software

From that point forward, any time you need to run that old Rosetta-dependent software, you’ll need to restart your computer and make sure it starts from the external hard disk. Yes, this is a pain in the butt. But hopefully, you won’t need to do this often — or forever.

You should be able to keep the data for the application on your internal hard disk — for example, my Quicken data files reside in my Documents folder in my usual Home folder. Quicken, when launched from my external hard disk, can still access them. In fact, I normally launch Quicken by opening one of its data files.

If you expect to need to use the application and its documents on multiple computers, save the files to the external hard disk’s Home folder. The data becomes just as portable as the hard disk. Just don’t forget to back it up periodically if the disk is not backed up with your other data.

When you’re not accessing that other software, you can unmount and disconnect the external hard disk. Just remember to restart your computer from its internal hard disk before you try to pull the plug.

That’s about all there is to it. What do you think? Will this solution work for you? Please share your comments. Just try to refrain from bashing Apple for dropping Rosetta or Intuit for not updating Quicken for Lion. Those two horses have been beaten to death so there’s no need to beat them here.


Better than Apple’s Reminder app.

I’m one of those people who can’t remember anything unless it’s written down somewhere. (Indeed, I often consult my books to remember how to do something I actually wrote about!) So it should come as no surprise that I lean heavily on my Mac and iOS devices for a to do list or reminders.

Until recently, Apple did not provide any app that synchronized reminder items between iCal on a Mac and the iOS calendar apps. Not content to wait until they added such functionality, I tried two different reminder applications. The one I settled on — and still use daily today — is called 2Do by Guided Ways Technologies Ltd.

2Do App IconRight from the get-go, 2Do enabled me to synchronize reminder items between iCal and the 2Do app on my iPad and iPhone. It did this through MobileMe, which was very convenient. (2Do now supports iCloud, too.) I could create reminder items on any device, synchronize, and see the items on every device. I could also change or mark an item as complete on one device, synchronize, and have the item change or be marked complete on all devices.

2Do on iPad
In this example, I’m viewing 2Do’s reminder items in my “Air” calendar on my iPad. The grouping is customizable.

What I like a lot about 2Do is that it offers a wide range of fields that you can use to enter information about a reminder item. So not only can I add an item title, description, calendar, and other iCal-supported information, but I can also add fields for a start date, location, recurrence, tags, audio note, and pictures. I can customize the item entry form to include only the fields I use most in the order in which I want them to appear; I can access other fields with a tap. With the location features, you don’t need Siri on an iPhone 4S to take advantage of location-based reminders.

2Do supports three kinds of reminder items: ToDo, Checklist, and Project. A ToDo is a standard reminder. A Checklist is a reminder that includes individual checkable items. A Project is a reminder that includes individual ToDo items. Although I mostly use simple ToDos, Checklists and Projects are especially handy for grouping related tasks that you might need to focus on without creating a separate calendar for them.

2Do’s interface is completely customizable to display specific calendars in the order you want to see them in. You can view reminder items by calendar, tags, or location. If you specify a start date for an item in the future, it will not clutter up your current reminder list.

Reminders App
My “Air” calendar’s reminder list in the Reminder app on my iPhone.

2Do plays nice with Apple’s new Reminders app. When you sync 2Do to iCloud, that data is automatically pushed to Reminders. Likewise, when you make a change in Reminders, that’s automatically pushed to iCloud so it’s updated when you sync 2Do. While it’s true that syncing is not automatic — at least not right now — it is quick and does not require WiFi (as other iOS reminder apps do).

Although folks with very basic reminder needs may find Apple’s Reminders app good enough to meet their needs, I think the power and flexibility of 2Do makes it worth the nominal purchase price. Its additional features and fields help keep me organized, whether I’m planning my next 1200-mile helicopter trip or just trying to remember what to pick up at the grocery store.

How To Determine What Formats Your Optical Drive Can Write To

Use the System Information app.

Wondering which optical media formats your computer’s optical drive can write to? You can quickly find this information in the System Information app.

  1. Hold down the Option key and choose Apple > System Information. The System Information application launches and displays the Hardware Overview screen.
    Apple - System Info
  2. In the left column of the window, select Disc Burning. The right side of the window displays detailed information about your optical drive.
    Disk Burning
  3. To learn the burn speed of the optical drive, insert a CD or DVD and choose File > Refresh Information, or press Command-R. The display in the right side of the window changes to show this information.
    Burn Speed

Note that the System Information application was called System Profiler in previous versions of Mac OS.

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