New year's resolution: A clean Mac

It’s that time again when Mac users make their New Year’s resolutions. How about a simple pledge to keep your computer clean? I’m not talking about deleting cache files or removing old apps you no longer use. I’m talking about your Mac’s screen and keyboard, or its dusty, grungy innards. It’s not difficult to do, but keeping a clean Mac can help it run smoother, and keep you from getting sick as well. Here are a few ways you can keep your Mac looking new and fresh.

Clean that keyboard

It’s fair to say that the dirtiest part of your Mac is its keyboard. Even if you wash your hands every time you sit down to type, the keyboard collects the germs and sweat from your fingers, and the dust in your room or office. This can make for sticky keys and transfer cold viruses, or worse.

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Automator workflow of the month: Sending holiday greetings

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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While the holiday season can bring both comfort and joy, it can also be one of the most hectic times of the year—one where you may be so distracted by one task that you neglect another. Take those holiday well-wishes that many of us email to friends, family, and business associates, for example. All too often we leave them to the last minute and, worse, remember them only when we’re on the road to grandma’s without laptop or Internet connection.

Not only can you compose your season's greetings weeks before the holidays, but you can schedule when they’re sent, thus ensuring that they hit your loved ones’ inboxes at the perfect moment. The means for doing this is OS X's Automator. Here are the steps for creating and automatically sending your holiday email messages with Mountain Lion.

Begin your festive workflow

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Four power tips for Safari 6

Sharon Zardetto , Macworld

Find several of long-time Mac author Sharon Zardetto's current ebooks at Take Control Books.
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How often do you use your Web browser? If the answer is constantly, then a few choice tips could save you loads of time and trouble. Here are some for Apple’s Safari 6.

1. Cut through your bookmarks clutter

Overwhelmed by bookmarks? The first step is to organize them into folders (Bookmarks > Add Bookmark Folder). The next step is to organize the bookmarks within the folders. It's not hard if you use the Finder to alphabetize them.

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When good Macs go bad: Steps to take when your Mac won't start up

Lex Friedman Senior Contributor, Macworld

Lex uses a MacBook Pro, an iPhone 5, an iPad mini, a Kindle 3, a TiVo HD, and a treadmill desk, and loves them all. His latest book, a children's book parody for adults, is called "The Kid in the Crib." Lex lives in New Jersey with his wife and three young kids.
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My friend Julian Velard is a musician and a geek. But as hard as JV drives his MacBook Pro—and he does push it to its limits, using live audio plug-ins for his keyboards onstage–when the computer acts up, I’m the one he texts for support. (Fair’s fair: If I can’t remember how to play a minor major seventh, Julian’s the one I call. We’re all experts in something.)

When Julian called late last week, his MacBook Pro wouldn’t turn on; it would get stuck on the Gray Screen of Stomach Pain Inducement and never move forward. Over chat, phone, and then in person when he made the trek from Brooklyn to my New Jersey home, I walked JV through my steps for resuscitating a Mac that won’t start up. Let me share them with you too, since you may not have my number.

Step 1: Run Disk Utility

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Q&A: Mountain Lion’s notifications

Kirk McElhearn Senior Contributor, Macworld

Senior contributor Kirk McElhearn (@mcelhearn) writes The Ask the iTunes Guy column and writes about Macs, music and more on his blog Kirkville. He's also the author of Take Control of iTunes 11: The FAQ.
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Mountain Lion helps you stay on top of things, and notifications are its chief tool for doing this. A notification can alert you to impending Calendar events and reminders, as well as new email, Facebook, and Twitter messages. Sometimes the alerts require you to click a button to dismiss them. But other types of alerts appear for just a moment, as small, subtle messages at the top right of your screen, and then disappear.

The Notifications feature is a core part of Mountain Lion. If you’ve been using an iOS device for a while, you’ve seen notifications there: banners that pop up on your lock screen to display alerts for calendar events or to let you know you've received text messages. Still, notifications in OS X involve issues that bear some explanation. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions:

Q: What can notifications notify me about?

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When password security questions aren't secure

Joe Kissell Senior Contributor, Macworld

Joe Kissell is a senior editor of TidBits and the author of numerous ebooks in the Take Control series, including the just-published Take Control of Apple Mail.
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When you select a password, you might choose to store it in a password manager, write it down, or commit it to memory (see “How to remember passwords” for some advice). Sometimes, however, things go wrong: You find yourself without access to your password manager, you lose the paper on which you recorded your passwords, or you forget a password you thought you memorized. Or maybe someone tries to break into one of your accounts, and after a few unsuccessful attempts at entering your password, the site locks out further access until you can confirm your identity.

In all those cases, online services need a secondary way of granting you access to your account or your data when you don’t have (or can’t use) your password. Sometimes—especially in lower-security situations such as access to an online publication or discussion forum—the provider lets you click a link that results in your existing password, a new password, or password-reset instructions being sent to the email address you have on file. When those simple mechanisms are considered too insecure, the site may ask you to respond to verification questions for which you’ve previously provided the answers.

Unfortunately, password-reset messages and verification questions come with their own problems and risks. You can reduce your chances of being hacked—or being unable to respond correctly to one of these questions—by following a few simple tips.

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How to remember passwords (and which ones you should)

Joe Kissell Senior Contributor, Macworld

Joe Kissell is a senior editor of TidBits and the author of numerous ebooks in the Take Control series, including the just-published Take Control of Apple Mail.
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At the risk of repeating myself (see “What you don’t know about passwords might hurt you”), the best way to ensure that you never forget your passwords is to offload the task of remembering to a password manager such as 1Password (; $40). For most passwords, most people, and most of the time, that’s the only trick you’ll need. However, no matter what tools you use, you’ll have to memorize at least a few passwords. Because those are among your most important, you don’t want to trade security for memorability. Here are a few tips that can help you make sure your brain doesn’t betray you.

Determine which passwords you must memorize

I have no idea what 99 percent of my passwords are. Honestly, none whatsoever. They’re long strings of random computer-generated characters, and I’ve never even glanced at most of them. When I need to use them, I let my password manager fill them in for me or, if that won’t work for some reason, I copy and paste them. After all, it’s no harder for an app to enter a 14-character random password than for me to type in the word baseball, so I figure I have nothing to lose by going the crazy-secure route.

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