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The Tired Donkey

Cocktails, Apple conundrums, taxes and other assorted stuff

Tired Donkey

The Tired Donkey

Sitting Donkey
The Tired Donkey blogs about cocktails, ways to get the most out of your Mac at home, work, college . . . wherever. He used to write about the unending abuse suffered by the 51% of Americans who actually pay the federal income tax. But this became too depressing, and, frankly, no one wanted to read it.

Nevertheless, if you came here looking for the Tired Donkey's brilliant analysis of our dim-witted tax system, you can still find his earlier posts. Just check the archives or the
Site Map.

Note: The Tired Donkey is not advertiser supported, and he gets no benefit from any product mentioned on his site.

The Tired Donkey

Archives

Mac Hardware

Speeding Up a Sluggish Mac




Tired Donkey
Is your Mac feeling slow? Does iTunes take forever to start up? Do programs that used to feel snappy suddenly feel like they are running on a virus-clogged Windows machine? Then this is the post for you, with one caveat: if you came here looking for hardware-based fixes for a slow Mac like additional RAM, faster hard drives or new video cards, this is not the post for you. But you might learn something useful anyway.

Slow Mac issues are generally caused by one of three things: RAM over-utilization, too little free space on your hard drive or various, esoteric issues with system permissions and the like. It is undeniable that two of these three could almost certainly be helped by hardware upgrades, but it is also undeniable that there are likely things you can do to optimize the performance of the Mac you have rather than the Mac you might have someday in the future. That’s what this post will help with. So read on because even if you are planning on adding RAM or a bigger hard drive, there is no sense in using what you already have inefficiently.
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Don't Let Your Password Slow You Down



airportExtreme
The Tired Donkey’s mini-series on getting your WiFi network running properly continues with this post which contains this startling revelation he came across in a helpful article in MacWorld by Ted Landau: if you are not using WPA2 password with your 802.11n network, you may be reducing it to 802.11g speeds. Why is this startling? Because the Tired Donkey has never come across this important piece of information before. And he’s a man who would normally know this kind of information. So what do you do to make sure you are getting this password setting right on your AirPort Extreme Base Station? It’s easy. Read on to find out.
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Creating a Dual-Band WiFi Network



airportExtreme
As you probably are aware, your speedy, 802.11n WiFi network will be slowed to 802.11g speeds if you have anyone accessing the network using an older Mac or PC that has an 802.11g card. In other words, your network is only as fast as the slowest WiFi card being used on it. If you have nothing but the newest equipment connecting to your network, an 802.11n-only is fine. But if you have any older machines, you should consider a dual band set-up.

The easiest way to run a dual band network is to buy a
new AirPort Extreme base station which simultaneous creates both an 802.11n (5 GHz) and an 802.11g (2.4 GHz) network. But if you already have a 5 GHz base station creating an 802.11n network, there is a fast, cheap way to keep that network running at top speed all the time but still allow machines with older gear to get on board when they need to. This post will show you how.

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AirPort Express as Ethernet Bridge



airportExpress
This post describes how to use an Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station together with an Apple AirPort Express to solve a single problem: create wired Ethernet connections to devices that are nowhere near your wired network. There are, of course, other ways to do this such as using your existing home wiring or actually running Ethernet through your house. There are advantages to these methods, but—for now—the Tired Donkey is going to tell you how to use AirPort devices to accomplish this little trick.

Please allow the Tired Donkey to begin by describing the problem he is talking about. Let us say that your DSL or cable modem is in your den. To create an 802.11n (WiFi) network in your house, you have run an
airportExtreme
Ethernet cable from the modem to an AirPort Extreme Base Station and configured the base station properly (meaning with appropriate password protection). Perhaps you have a computer or a printer also attached to the base station directly with Ethernet cabling. But now you want to create a wired Ethernet connection to several devices (a Mac Mini, your TiVo, an old Windows computer with no WiFi capability, whatever) on the other side of the house. What to do?
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Cutting the Cable: Ongoing Frustrations



frustration
This is the sixth post in a series about abandoning cable/satellite television in favor of HD broadcast TV combined with a web-connected computer acting as a media server. To start with the introduction, click here; links to the rest of the series are at the bottom of the post.

Okay, let’s get this series of posts put to bed. I cancelled my cable a year ago and just got to the break-even point on the up-front money I used to get my OTA + Mac Mini system established. So am I happy? Very. Are there still some frustrations? Yes. Here they are in no particular order:
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Cutting the Cable: Getting Media Content



Family-watching-TV11
This is the fifth post in a series about abandoning cable/satellite television in favor of HD broadcast TV combined with a web-connected computer acting as a media server. To start with the introduction, click here; links to the rest of the series are at the bottom of the post.

First, an overview. After you have dropped cable, added an antenna to get over-the-air (OTA) broadcasts and hooked up a computer to your television, you have an incredible array of options for content, and I’ll cover them all here. I’ll also cover what you can’t get at all or in real-time.
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Cutting the Cable: Software and Remotes



7371020
This is the fourth post in a series about abandoning cable/satellite television in favor of HD broadcast TV combined with a web-connected computer acting as a media server. To start with the introduction, click here; links to the rest of the series are at the bottom of the post.

By this time you know how to choose an antenna, figure out the best option for getting broadband to your television and various other information you need to connect a fully-functional, web-connected Mac Mini to your home entertainment system. Now it is time to talk about what you need to make all this gear usable for your family.
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Cutting the Cable: Network and Hardware



tv-mac-mini-3
This is the third post in a series about abandoning cable/satellite television in favor of HD broadcast TV combined with a web-connected computer acting as a media server. To start with the introduction, click here; links to the rest of the series are at the bottom of the post.

The minimum requirements to set up your home television to receive OTA broadcasts and combine that with a computer acting as a media server are simple in theory: (1) an antenna connected to your television; (2) a computer connected to your television; and (3) a broadband connection to the computer.

In practice, of course, this may be a little more difficult than it sounds because . . .
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Cutting the Cable: Preliminary Considerations



comcast-doesnt-care-protest
This is the second post in a series about abandoning cable/satellite television in favor of HD broadcast TV combined with a web-connected computer acting as a media server. To start with the introduction, click here; links to the rest of the series are at the bottom of the post.

I started this process with a fully-featured Comcast package that included HBO and some other movie channels as well as some sports packages to make sure we got The Tennis Channel. We had a
Comcast HD DVR and a Roku box to access NetFlix instant play content; our television was (and remains) a 2006-era Panasonic 42” plasma. I wanted to duplicate the content we watched as closely as possible but get rid of the Comcast cable service because we were paying so much for content we never watched.

This evaluation involves asking three questions: can you get network television over-the-air (OTA), can you get missing cable content on the web and can you get enough bandwidth to your television to deliver the web-based content. I’ll address each of these questions in turn.
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OTA Broadcasts + Mac Mini as Media Server: Unplugging from Cable



antenna_graphic
This is the first post in a series about abandoning cable/satellite television in favor of HD broadcast TV combined with a web-connected computer acting as a media server. Links to the rest of the series are at the bottom of the post.

If you’re reading this page it’s because you’re interested in getting rid of your cable or satellite company and making the switch to over-the-air (OTA) broadcasts combined with a Mac or Windows-based media server connected to your television to get maximum access to content. You might be headed in this direction because you’re sick of the size of your bill. Or the cable company’s customer service may have made you angry one too many times. Whatever it is, this series of posts will detail my experience with this process over the last year: how I make sure I miss (almost) no content I want, what my new set-up cost me, what it costs to operate, the techniques I used to set up the system so my wife and children can actually use it and the problems I faced or continue to face. The series is geared toward Mac users, but all of the advice applies equally to Windows-based systems, and most of the process has nothing to do with the computer anyway. Read More . . .
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Making the Most of Your Mac at College



donkey_computer
So you are heading off to college, and you want some advice about what kind of computer to get, what software you might need and what extra equipment you ought to convince your parents to buy for you. The Tired Donkey has some experience in these areas and will offer you the advice you seek. But don’t take this advice as comprehensive; you will need to adjust based on your specific circumstances and the way you like to work.

First, should you get a Mac or a PC? The Tired Donkey believes in Macs, and the advice in this post is geared toward Mac users. So if you have a Mac already or have decided to buy one, read on. If you are still undecided and want some Mac v. PC advice, try
here. Or here. As you peruse these links, understand that you will have no problem using either system on any college campus for anything you need to do in college from turning in papers electronically to email to entertainment. Whatever you chose, don’t even think about getting a desktop machine; if you get anything other than a laptop, you’ll regret it.

Graduate Still
So. Your new computer is great for entertainment, but never forget it is primarily a tool to help you succeed in college. Get off to a good start by using the summer before you leave for college to get organized, to think about how you are going to study, how you are going to structure your days and how you are going to succeed. It won’t happen by accident, and you don’t want to blow your first semester by feeling your way into college. Show up prepared and kick ass. Remember: the more organized you are right from the start, the more time you will have for enjoying the non-classroom aspects of college. Take care of business first, and the rest will follow naturally.

This post makes some recommendations for you, but there are plenty of resources available on the web if you just run some searches like “best mac applications for college students,” “succeeding in college,” etc. Use these resources (some of which the Tired Donkey lists at the end of this post), and don’t just waste your summer.

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The Tired Donkey

Sitting Donkey
The Tired Donkey blogs about cocktails, ways to get the most out of your Mac at home, work, college . . . wherever. He used to write about the unending abuse suffered by the 51% of Americans who actually pay the federal income tax. But this became too depressing, and, frankly, no one wanted to read it.

Nevertheless, if you came here looking for the Tired Donkey's brilliant analysis of our dim-witted tax system, you can still find his earlier posts. Just check the archives or the
Site Map.

Note: The Tired Donkey is not advertiser supported, and he gets no benefit from any product mentioned on his site.

The Tired Donkey

Archives