Exploring the Mac's sharing features

Christopher Breen Senior Editor, Macworld Follow me on Google+

Chris has covered technology and media since the latter days of the Reagan Administration. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, he's a professional musician in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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Last week I showed you how to connect your Mac to the Internet and to a local network. Now that your computer is on speaking terms with other devices and services, let’s examine exactly how you can put those powers of communication to use for sharing the devices and files associated with your Mac.

Sharing options for nearly everyone

To share elements of your computer with others, you must first grant permission for certain kinds of sharing to take place. You do this via the Sharing system preference, which you’ll find in the Internet & Wireless section of Mountain Lion’s System Preferences window. Once you’ve selected Sharing, you’ll see a number of options. We’ll start by looking at the ones you’ll use most frequently.

Advanced sharing options

We now venture into options intended for advanced users. Rather than confuse you with a lot of technical terms and convoluted explanations, I’ll lay out the gist of what the remainder of the sharing options do.

Remote Login: This sharing option allows you or other people to gain remote access to your computer’s files. To do so, they use something called the Secure Shell (or SSH) scheme. This scheme requires that the person attempting to log in know the username for the account you wish to access, the account’s password, and the computer’s IP address. (I discussed IP addresses when I discussed setting up your network.) As with File Sharing, you can choose to allow anyone in who has this information, or you can restrict access to individual users that you specify.

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Configuring your Mac's network settings

Christopher Breen Senior Editor, Macworld Follow me on Google+

Chris has covered technology and media since the latter days of the Reagan Administration. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, he's a professional musician in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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At one time, a typical Mac user would no more have connected a couple of computers to the Internet via a local network than they would have extracted their own kidney. If you just mentioned the word networking (outside the context of calling former business associates to seek a better job), those around you shook with fear.

Blessedly, those days are almost entirely over. Now, just about anyone can configure and join a network. Let’s see how it’s done.

A little background

About the Wi-Fi menu

If you’re using a Wi-Fi network, it’s worth your while to enable the Show Wi-Fi Status in Menu Bar option in the Network system preference. Do this and you can easily turn off Wi-Fi by choosing the Turn Wi-Fi Off command. Also, a helpful fan icon appears in the Mac’s menu bar. The number of black bars in that fan indicates the wireless network’s signal strength. If you see just one or two black bars, try moving closer to the wireless hotspot to increase the signal strength, as a poor signal can mean a slower connection.

But the Turn Wi-Fi Off command and the fan icon aren’t the only reasons to enable the Wi-Fi menu-bar option. You’ll also see many nearby wireless networks. Those that bear just a fan are open and those with a lock icon next to them require that you know the password to join the network.

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Setting up email on your Mac

Christopher Breen Senior Editor, Macworld Follow me on Google+

Chris has covered technology and media since the latter days of the Reagan Administration. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, he's a professional musician in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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If you’re new to the Mac but something of an iOS veteran, this lesson will be a snap. And it should be, because Apple modeled Mountain Lion’s Mail, Contacts & Calendars system preference on the setting of the same name found on today’s iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.

If anything, the Mountain Lion version is actually easier to use because it isn't crammed with additional settings specific to the Contacts, Calendar, and Reminders applications. Much as I love discussing the ins and outs of contacts, events, and reminders, our focus here will be on setting up email accounts on your Mac.

Adding a service

Adding other accounts

For those of you who have screamed “But I have an account with Jo-Jo-E-Z-Does-It-Email.com! What am I supposed to do!?” as the drama of this lesson unfolded, calm yourself. Apple has done its level best to make configuring an email account simple, but it can’t know the settings for each and every email service provider across the globe.

And because it can’t, it provides the Add Other Account... entry, which gives you the opportunity to configure an account the old-fashioned way.

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The printing primer

Christopher Breen Senior Editor, Macworld Follow me on Google+

Chris has covered technology and media since the latter days of the Reagan Administration. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, he's a professional musician in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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Last week I showed you how to configure your printer. This week, we’ll explore the ins and outs of Mountain Lion’s print sheet.

As you’ve learned by now, one of the Mac OS's strengths is its consistency. You needn’t worry that you’ll find the Copy command under the Edit menu in one application and under the File menu in another application. Commands are consistent in this way, and the Print command is no exception. You can always find it near the bottom of the File menu. Let’s run through it.

Easy-peasy printing

Cover page: People working in a formal business environment (or in a super-secret spy organization) are often required to produce a cover page for their printed documents. This option is where you can choose to do that. When doing so, you can select presets including Standard, Confidential, Unclassified, Classified, Secret, and Top Secret (again, helpful if you’re a member of SMERSH). You can also add billing information in the appropriate field.

Color/Quality: If your printer allows it, you can change the output quality of particular prints. Why would you want to do that? To save ink and toner (and thus, money). If you’re printing a fairly expendable document—your shopping list, say, or the first draft of your next acceptance speech—there’s no reason to throw a lot of ink at it. If your printer offers an economy mode, which produces not-as-crisp prints because the printer is being parsimonious with the pigment, use that setting until you need the best-looking printout your printer can produce.

Finishing: Here you can choose the kind of material you’re printing to—plain paper, labels, recycled paper, color paper, envelopes, and so on. Some printers can make adjustments to ink and toner output based on the kind of media they print to.

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The printer primer

Christopher Breen Senior Editor, Macworld Follow me on Google+

Chris has covered technology and media since the latter days of the Reagan Administration. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, he's a professional musician in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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Much as you may have heard about the “paperless office,” the truth is that paper is still a popular item to have around the home and the office. And it is because many of us have at least one printer attached to our computers—either physically tethered via a cable or virtually connected over a network. Whether you hope to use that printer to produce photographs, drafts of your next novel, or flyers for your kid’s upcoming jai alai tournament, it will do you little good sitting in its box. Now’s the time to break it out and configure it for your Mac. The means for doing that is Mountain Lion’s Print & Scan system preference.

Your preference for printing

Choose System Preferences from the Apple menu and, in the Hardware area, click Print & Scan. If you’ve switched on your printer, attached a cable between it and your Mac, and if the Mac OS natively supports that printer, you’ll see the printer’s name in the Printers list. At this point, you’re well on your way. When you next wish to print something, just choose the File > Print command from within the application you’re using and your printer should shortly produce the printed document you’re after.

Adding a printer

In such cases, you should add the printer. And you start by clicking the Plus (+) button that appears below the Printers list. Do this and an Add window will appear containing a few options. Let’s run through them.

Default: When you click Default, you’ll see a list of some of the printers available on your local network. (I say some because these are printers that have been configured to make themselves known to your Mac using a scheme called Bonjour. This requires no more work from you than to choose to share your printer over the network using printer sharing as I’ve described.)

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Sound and vision: The Sound and Displays system preferences

Christopher Breen Senior Editor, Macworld Follow me on Google+

Chris has covered technology and media since the latter days of the Reagan Administration. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, he's a professional musician in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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Your Mac is capable of both aural and visual wonders. Two system preferences—Sound and Displays—control how those wonders are manifested.

Sound

The Sound preference governs the majority of the Mac’s audio capabilities—the sound effects it uses, its audio volume, the audio devices the Mac plays audio through, and the input it uses to receive or record audio. The settings for these variables appear on three tabs: Sound Effects, Output, and Input. Let’s run through them now.

Displays

Mountain Lion’s Displays preference is scaled down in comparison to Displays preferences of old. But it offers most of the same options (and with a few Mac models, some additions).

Display tab

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Notes on notifications

Christopher Breen Senior Editor, Macworld Follow me on Google+

Chris has covered technology and media since the latter days of the Reagan Administration. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, he's a professional musician in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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If, as is the case for an increasing number of people, your first experience with an Apple product came via an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad, you’ve likely noticed that your iOS device and your Mac offer some of the same features. This is part of Apple’s "Back to the Mac" strategy, where features introduced in iOS, its mobile operating system, are then brought to the Mac OS. One such feature is Notification Center, the subject of today’s lesson.

Notification Center, whether found on an iOS device or a Mac running Mac OS X Mountain Lion, is a place where alert messages of various kinds are gathered together. On the Mac you’ll find a Notification Center icon on the far right of the menu bar—represented by what appears to be a bulleted list. Click this icon, and the Notification Center pane appears.

The topography of Notification Center

Notifications settings

Earlier I mentioned that what appears in Notification Center depends on how you’ve configured it. And configure it you shall in the Notifications system preference. You can reach this preference either by clicking on the aforementioned Settings button or by choosing System Preferences from the Apple menu and clicking on Notifications in the resulting System Preferences window.

Use the Notifications system preference to configured alerts.
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