Does your AirPort Extreme Base Station work but is unreachable via AirPort Utility?

The other day, my wife texts me (from upstairs; I work in a home office in the basement): the printer had stopped working, and could I take a look? Our printer is connected via USB to an Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station (5th generation), which shares it over the network. The base station is an extension of a network, so it’s in bridging mode.

Since the green LED was lit on the base station, I checked out the printer first; it was fine. I restarted the base station, and it came up again with a green LED, but the printer still didn’t show up on the network. Only then did I use AirPort Utility to see what was up, and that app put up a yellow yield sign on top of the base station, and, when I clicked it, noted “Device Not Found.”

mac911 airport base station not showing up

No! Why???

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What to do if the Characters palette won't appear in Safari

In some recent troubleshooting, I tried to get the Characters palette to appear by selecting the Input menu’s Emoji & Symbols item. This worked in every app except Safari: switching from, say, the Finder to Safari hid the palette. Choose Hide and Show from the Input menu didn’t fix it. Something was corrupted.

mac911 characters palette

Sometimes, this bad boy won’t show up.

If you have this problem, follow these steps:

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How to paste text without including formatting

A few colleagues were talking in a Slack team the other day about discovering “paste without formatting” and kicking themselves for only learning about it relatively recently. I confess despite my decades of computing experience that it was just a few years ago I realized how widespread the support for such an option is!

When you copy text in many pieces of software, including text selected and copied in a browser window, OS X grabs a rich text version, which includes a variety of underlying formatting for text size, inline bold and italics, hypertext links, and other specifications.

Then, when you paste that elsewhere, you may get unexpected results or unnecessary formatting. In software that supports it, you can choose an option that lets you remove everything but the actual characters. You’ll find it spelled out in different ways in each app that lets you paste in text. In Nisus Writer Pro, it’s Edit > Paste > Paste Text Only. In OpenOffice, it’s Edit > Paste Special, and then select Unformatted Text.

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How to find all the characters in a font

In a recent Mac 911, I answered Lynn Garwood’s question about character selection when she upgraded from Mavericks to El Capitan:

In the old system, I could click on the [input palette] icon in the menu bar and see all the characters within any font that I chose, then double-click it to add it to my document. In El Capitan, that icon produces nothing but emoji and symbols. Where can I find all the characters within a font so I can do what I used to do?

Except I didn’t! I read her question as asking about key combinations, and pointed her to the Keyboard Viewer. Astute commenter “xploraiswakco” very politely noted that I had answered her question sort of, but not really the core of what she was asking: the Character Viewer had changed to the Emoji & Symbols palette, and no longer has the same approach to showing characters (not key combinations) in every font. (Thank you, xploraiswakco!)

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How to show the Keyboard Viewer

Lynn Garwood upgraded from Mavericks to El Capitan, but something’s gone wrong with her Keyboard Viewer:

In the old system, I could click on the [input palette] icon in the menu bar and see all the characters within any font that I chose, then double-click it to add it to my document. In El Capitan, that icon produces nothing but emoji and symbols. Where can I find all the characters within a font so I can do what I used to do?

The Keyboard Viewer replaced the previous option, Key Caps, back in 2004, and has evolved a bit since then. You should see it in the dropdown Input Palette menu item as Show Keyboard Viewer just below Show Emoji & Symbols. The palette menu appears when you have Show Keyboard, Emoji, & Symbol Viewers in Menu Bar checked in the Keyboard system preference pane.

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What to do when keyboard commands don’t work at startup on your Mac

A minor puzzle arrived from a reader who was trying to choose his boot drive by holding down the Option key at startup. OS X has a variety of keyboard combinations you can press to invoke different modes on startup, like Command-R for OS X Recovery, which boots from a special partition and lets you run Disk Utility and Terminal. (Apple has a list of all commands; it’s surprisingly long.)

But it wasn’t working for said reader. He wondered if some IT person in his firm had managed to install a bypass, but I had another idea. OS X doesn’t always recognize keyboards at boot that it does when you reach the login screen. So you can pointlessly hold down a key or a combination of keys, and nothing happens at startup, but then you have full keyboard access when it’s time to enter a password or use arrow keys or the Tab key to move around the login screen.

In his case, he was using a recent Apple Wireless Keyboard. Plugging it in via the USB-to-Lightning charging cable solved the problem, and allowed it to be recognized and used during the startup process. This can also happen with other Bluetooth keyboards, or even non-standard keyboards. OS X supports a narrower range of standard keyboards during startup than it does when all the drivers load for OS X later in the process.

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What to do when your Mac's Wi-Fi hardware is having problems

Recently, Mac 911 has had a large number of reports from people who have suddenly found their Mac has lost track of its Wi-Fi adapter. Typical is Sarah Clark, whose daughter had intermittent Wi-Fi dropping for a morning, and then the connection failed. The Wi-Fi menu appeared with an X in its “fan,” and when clicked showed the message “Wi-Fi: No hardware installed.”

As I wrote in December, if you see that message, something worse is afoot than a software configuration problem. I have a few more ideas to try now, however, added to this list:

  • Reset the non-volatile memory (NVRAM).
  • Reset the System Management Controller (SMC). This should only fix power-related problems, but some people report success with this method.
  • Reinstall OS X; use the directions for “If you’re reinstalling for other reasons.” While a pain and time-consuming, it could fix a corrupted driver or other problems. Make sure you have a complete backup first.
  • If you’re comfortable examining hardware and you have a model of Mac that makes it easier to get to the Wi-Fi module (often a combo Bluetooth/Wi-Fi card), open it up and check connections. On some models, like the 2012 MacBook Air, it’s a pretty easy operation. iFixIt has illustrated instructions—and sells replacement parts. You might also be able to hire someone to carry out the repair.
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