Cocktail is a general purpose utility for OS X that lets you clean, repair and optimize your Mac. It is a powerful digital toolset that helps hundreds of thousands of Mac users around the world get the most out of their computers every day.

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Reset the NVRAM or PRAM memory

Posted in Troubleshooting

Your Mac stores certain settings in a special memory area even if it is turned off. On Intel-based Macs, this is stored in memory known as NVRAM, on PowerPC-based Macs, this is stored in memory known as PRAM. Information stored in NVRAM or PRAM may include speaker volume, screen resolution and startup disk selection. You may need to reset the NVRAM or PRAM if you experience issues related to these functions.

For example, if your Mac starts up from a startup disk other than the one you've specified in Startup Disk preferences, or if a "question mark" icon appears briefly when your Mac starts up, resetting NVRAM or PRAM may help.

• Shut down the computer.
• Locate the following keys on the keyboard: Command, Option (Alt), P and R.
• Turn on the computer.
• Press and hold the Command-Option-P-R keys (you must press this key combination before the gray screen appears).
• Hold the keys down until the computer restarts and you hear the startup sound for the second time, then release the keys.

After resetting NVRAM or PRAM you may need to reconfigure your settings for speaker volume, screen resolution, startup disk selection, time zone information. If issues persist, your Mac's logic board battery (not a portable Mac's rechargeable battery) may need to be replaced. The logic board battery helps retain NVRAM/PRAM settings when your computer is shut down. You can take your Mac to a Mac Genius or Apple Authorized Service Provider to replace the battery on the logic board.

In some situations, you may need to reset your computer's System Management Controller (SMC). Learn how to identify these conditions and reset the SMC.

The Heartbleed bug

Posted in Security

Apple today released a statement confirming that OS X, iOS and "key web services" were unaffected by the widely publicized security flaw known as Heartbleed.

The Heartbleed bug is a nasty one. It affects web servers - the computers that power websites. It does not affect your computer or iOS device, but it makes you vulnerable because hackers can potentially steal your details from the sites you visit. It’s a flaw in OpenSSL, an encryption technology used by the vast majority of websites on the Internet, although not Apple’s website or its online services like iCloud.

The flaw allows hackers to pull data from a server’s working memory, including the server’s encryption keys. That would allow hackers to decrypt all traffic to and from the server, exposing sensitive data like logins, passwords and everything else.

Users are recommended to change their passwords on all services that may have been affected. Mashable provides a list of services where you should change your password.

Optimize Apple Mail

Apple’s Mail application is one of the best email clients around for OS X. Why is it so good? Well, it is free, comes with every Mac and supports almost all types of email accounts! That said, it can always be improved a little. In particular you might notice that it slows down over time, especially if you have large mailboxes and lots of contacts so let’s have a look at how we can speed it up a bit.

The first, and most obvious thing, is to slim down your mailboxes a bit. Create a new folder in Mail and move all your old emails into that folder (or use the Archive function if you have a Gmail account. This way Mail only has to load the most recent emails when it launches and instead of having to synchronise a list of over 20 000 emails with the server it only has to deal with 500 or so, saving your precious bandwidth if you are on a mobile connection.

It is also a good idea to rebuild Mail’s Envelope Index now and then. Mail application uses the (SQLite) Envelope Index database to index and search messages. By rebuilding this database, issues concerning messages that appear incomplete or are missing can be corrected. This feature may also improve Mail's performance. Just launch Cocktail, go to System > Databases and click on the Rebuild button.

You can also use Cocktail to clear Mail downloads. When you receive attachments to e-mail messages, the files are stored with your messages at first. But if you double-click an attachment to view it, Mail stores a copy in a folder on your hard drive. You may have dozens of files there occupying a huge amount of space. You can generally delete these without worry. If you still have the original messages, the attachments are part of those messages. All you have to do is to make sure that the “Mail downloads” option in Cocktail > Preferences > Caches > Internet is enabled next time you use Cocktail to clear Internet caches.

Another housekeeping tip is to clean your previous recipients list. Mail stores a list of everyone you’ve ever sent a message to so that it can suggest their email addresses when you are writing a new email. The problem is that many of these recipients are people you only emailed once, or addresses which have changed so the list can become full of out of date and irrelevant addresses. Select Previous Recipients from the Window menu in Mail to clean up the list.

Finally, if you are using Mail to read RSS feeds it might be a good idea to go through your subscriptions and deleting the ones you no longer read as Mail essentially treats an RSS subscription as a mailbox. This means that as the number of posts increases Mail will slow down, so keep an eye on your feeds!

Character swap

How many times have you typed something to discover the last two characters are in the wrong order? You know, when “the” turns into “teh” and “because” into “becuase”, a fairly common general mistype.

Apparently it happens often enough for there to be an individual keyboard shortcut to instantly swap the last two typed characters, and that keyboard shortcut is Control+T.

Dictate without an Internet connection

Starting with OS X Mountain Lion, your Mac could take dictation. But, just as with the dictation feature on iOS, the OS X incarnation required an Internet connection, couldn't show its progress while you spoke, and could only listen for about 30 seconds at a time. That all changes with a single checkbox in OS X Mavericks.

Open System Preferences and click on the Dictation & Speech pane. There, you'll find a checkbox for Use Enhanced Dictation. The first time you check it, you'll need to wait out a hefty (about 750 MB) download, but once you're done, you can dictate a lot more freely.

Now, transcription happens on your Mac (not Apple's servers), and you can see the transcription appear as you speak, in real-time. In fact, the cursor remains active too; if you see a mistake, you can click around (without speaking) to make your edits, put the cursor back where it needs to be, and start talking again.

OS X Mavericks also offer many speech-based editing tricks. While you cannot delete - if you say "delete that" OS X Mavericks types "delete that" - you can do quite a bit of other editing such as new line, new paragraph, plus tons of other symbols, spaces, capitalization and more. Here is Apple's KB article with a detailed list of dictation commands.