CNET to the Rescue: Special Mac edition

Today, MacFixIt author Topher Kessler answers Mac questions. Topics tackled include the curse of the slow start-up, the forgotten Wi-Fi password, and the touchy Time Machine backup. Also, for good measure: Some non-Mac questions.

Rafe Needleman Former Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Rafe Needleman
5 min read

Topher Kessler writes our great MacFixIt blog, and today he's with us to help answer vexing and confusing Mac tech questions.

If you have a tech question for CNET to the Rescue, CALL US with your questions to get on the next show: 877-438-6688 or e-mail rescue@cnet.com. No question is too basic, so if you've got a tech problem that's been getting under your skin, please call us and we'll try our best to help you out.

Watch this: CNET to the Rescue #34: Topher Kessler answers Mac questions


Episode 34: Special Mac edition

The warm-up: Little Mac tips

Rafe: You can have your MacBook turn off its Wi-Fi radio when you plug in an Ethernet cable.

Topher: Calibrate your batteries. Let them run down, then charge back up.

Rafe: I use multiple computers at once, so I love Synergy to share my keyboard/mouse between them.

Topher: You can move and resize your OS X dock for better usability.

Your Mac questions answered

Jordan from Fremont: My new MacBook Pro is all of a sudden slowing down when it comes to Internet tasks. My iPhone, old iPod Touch, and other PCs on the network seem to be fine, but my heavily used MacBook seems to be slowing down especially in streaming video such as CNET, Netflix, and Youtube. I cleared all of my settings on Chrome and it's slow across all of my browsers. Opera seems to be slightly better but still unacceptable. Is there something wrong with my laptop? Is there a quick fix?

Topher: Run some general maintenance tasks. You need to do them. Delete preferences files, remove caches, etc. See the utilities Onyx, MacKeeper, MacJanitor, and AppleJack.


Don: During the boot process for current Macs, after the "bong" there is a gray screen that appears and remains until the OS starts loading. I assume this is the period when the EFI is loading. Is there a way to view what is happening during this process? I have been asked by my employer to find a way to either log or view what is loading during this phase of the boot process, but have come up empty-handed. My employer is curious about this information since one of his Macs spends about three times longer than his other Macs on this gray screen and he wants to know what might be taking so long. He also just wants to know for the sake of knowing, since he figures there must be a way to diagnose issues that occur during this phase of the boot process.

Topher: Hold down Cmd-V when starting.

Plus other tips and explanations on OS X boot issues...


Jeremy: I have one Wi-Fi connection that requires the password anytime I utilize it. This is the only connection that does so, on the MacBook and no other device. I have deleted the profile, but it still asks for the password each time. How do I completely delete the profile on the machine, do I need to go into the plist files?

Topher explains profiles and the different OS X keychains that store Wi-Fi passwords...


Rafe: How come I have to eject my Time Machine drive before I close the MacBook to take it to work? I get an error message if I don't.

Topher explains how OS X mounts drives. Rafe still thinks it's less good than Windows.


Your other questions answered

Mark from Winnipeg: I have a two-story condo, plus a basement. Currently, the wireless router and modem are in the basement, and my brother's laptop (wireless) is on the second floor. His connection keeps dropping, so we could move the router onto the main floor, but we have nonwireless components down there. I did try to connect my brother with Ethernet over Powerline, but that was worse then his wireless connection. I don't want to run cables along the floor and down the walls, so I was thinking of trying out Ethernet-over-Coax adapters. Are these things any good?

Topher: Yes, Ethernet-over-coax adapters can work well, and are more reliable and faster than Powerline networking. The simplest thing is to get a wireless range extender, which should boost the signal enough to make the 2nd-floor laptop Wi-Fi usable. But using the wires is better.

Rafe: Another solution is to set up a wireless bridge to extend the range of the wireless router in the basement. You can put the bridge, which will likely have a better Wi-Fi radio than the laptop anyway, at a location with good reception, and connect it to your laptop via Ethernet.


Frank Gomes Jr: I volunteer with a not-for-profit organization and we have a need to share many documents, long term, with the other members of the board. We need to be able to edit/update. The documents need to be secure. I'm told we should use the "cloud." We do not have a lot of money. The question is what options do we have and what would those options cost?

Rafe: Google Apps is what you need. It's free if your .org is under 3,000 users.


Regarding the teenage bandwidth hog from last week...

Phil the Developer from Boston: There is one other answer that is likely the cause. Some games just use a lot more bandwidth than you may expect and do hog. When I play either Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare 2, or Black Ops, my wife is unable to get onto the Net through either Wi-Fi or Ethernet. I know I'm doing nothing to affect the bandwidth of the house, but it still occurs at times, even when I'm not yet in a game and just waiting for one to start. I think the reason is because of the voice chat aspect of those games. I normally am playing with at least one friend and am connected and chatting. This can take a bunch of bandwidth on top of the game. We're on Comcast in Boston, so this really shouldn't occur.

Rafe: Yeah, but voice chat and VoIP are low-bandwidth applications. They are, however, very sensitive to latency. Packet delay can really mess up voice quality. So some routers automatically prioritize VoIP, and it is possible that this could interfere. Look at the QoS, or "quality of service" settings in your router. Or maybe...

Andre: During the show you took a question where the person was having a problem where one user in the house was locking everyone out of the Internet. I have recently had the same problem myself. We just bought my wife a MacBook Air with N wireless. As soon as she started downloading patches to her machine, I lost ALL Internet. Not even ping worked. As soon as the download stopped, I was fine. I bought a new N router, and now the problem is gone. The only thing I can think of is that it was simply taxing the older router to the point where it could only handle one connection at a time. With a new DLink extreme N router the problems are gone. Just a thought...