Ghostly problems: Troubleshooting Photos smart albums, hard drive partitions, and Mail Drop

All operating systems are haunted. Ghosts wander their halls, remnants of decisions make in the past that sometimes manifest themselves and go “boo” when unexpected interactions clash. It’s always maddening to have a problem that appears regularly but inconsistently, so you cannot nail down its cause, but still have to deal with the consequences.

Maybe your computer or mobile was built on top of an electronic recycling center? Or maybe there’s a bug, not a ghost, that needs to be zapped. In this week’s column, I present some mysteries and possible solutions.

But let’s start with a Photos correction.

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Mac 911: Smile, you're on candid photos answers

The OS X version of Photos continues to provoke more questions than any other topic, likely because so many people have used iPhoto for so long and are working through the transition to software that was released while a little too green. While it ripens, I’m afraid the answer to so many of your questions is, “You didn’t miss anything—the feature isn’t in Photos.”

In some cases, features have transformed and can still be found in other places or through other means. One hopes that some cherished options will return in future updates. While Apple doesn’t respond to feedback, but it does accept it: If you want to see features return, file a request.

They give us those nice bright colors

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Mac 911: Using old versions of iWork alongside the new Pages, Keynote, and Numbers

Apple released the newest versions of the suite of apps formerly known as iWork—Pages, Numbers, and Keynote—in late 2013 to exclamations of dismay. The revisions were written from the ground up, rather than extending previous versions, and many features of previous releases were missing and never to return (at least so far) in the 2013 refresh.

Even after 18 months of incremental improvements, questions still abound, and I’ll be answering some of them this week, along with a handful of extra advice.

(In order to not turn Mac 911 into Photos 911, I won’t answer Photos for OS X questions every week. However, rest assured that the 100-plus emails about Photos are still in my inbox.)

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Mac 911: You are not an Apple ID! You are a Free Person!

The problem of identity is a deep one: how do we know who we are? Apple’s problems with identity stem from its superannuated Apple ID system, which carries with it the detritus of generations of past technological choices that it wears around its figurative neck like an albatross.

This week I look into two people sharing one Apple ID, one person wanting two, and two people splitting their one account in twain. Also, something’s up with an over-alert Mac on a couple’s network—what could it be?

Shared accounts

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Mac 911: The Bluetooth truth and more Wi-Fi troubleshooting

Once upon a time, Bluetooth was a quaint low-speed, low-bandwidth networking technology that appeared to be destined for the obsolescence pile. Several competing standards with broadcast industry support arose to challenge it with lower-power requirements, higher throughput, or both.

Bluetooth took heed of the motto of the Round Table (no, not that round table): “adopt, adapt, improve,” and won out by extending what it does and co-opting what others attempted to provide (and failed to do).

But this may be confusing when you’re not using a Bluetooth peripheral, like a headset, headphones, or mouse, and wonder why iOS, your Mac, or your Apple Watch is complaining about its absence or not functioning as expected.

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More Photos Q&A: Finding your photos on a map, and dealing with metadata

What a difference a week makes! Well, not really. Photos for OS X is one week older, and Mac 911 still has a huge queue of your questions, bug reports, and honest frustrations.

Remember that whenever a software product ships, it’s a compromise, and new ones more so than revisions. When 1.0.0 of Photos was released, Apple was already hard at work on 1.0.1, and if it conforms to the usual schedule within one to four weeks, we’ll see a doozy of an update that mitigates some of what we’re wrestling with now. Endure!

On to your questions.

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More help for Photos: Metadata, the Places map, and syncing without iCloud

Photos for OS X made a big impact—some might say a crater. While the software has huge improvements in speed, it comes with a lot of changes, some bumps in get started, and a few bugs. In last week’s Mac 911, I covered merging iPhoto and Photos libraries and a tip on pausing iCloud Photo Library sync. Jason Snell last week also explained how to use Photos with Automator, the limits of geotagging, and hard linking in Photos.

One update from last week: Fat Cat Software has already released PowerPhotos 1.0 ($20) to work with new Photos libraries, but the first version doesn’t let you merge libraries. The developer is thinking about adding that feature in a future release. For now, you need to merge iPhoto libraries first via the company’s $30 iPhoto Library Manager (includes PowerPhotos in that price), or one of the other techniques described in my and Jason’s columns last week.

(Also tune in to the Macworld podcast this week for a discussion of Photos’ issues with me, executive editor Susie Ochs, and regular Macworld contributors Jeff Carlson and Joe Kissell.)

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