Q. I recently upgraded my Macs to version 10.5 Leopard, and I cannot figure out how to connect to my computers for File Sharing. When I connect I only see a “Drop Box”. How can I access other files on the shared Macs?
A. The answer is simple—Apple has simplified File Sharing. You’re being confused by the simplicity‚Ä¶ read on:
The latest incarnation of Mac OS X 10.5—aka Leopard—has changed a few things about how we can connect to and collaborate with other computers. Before Mac OS X, there was a way to connect to another Macs and access “shared foders”—but it was only possible by using a File Server, installing a third party application such as “Share Points”, or by modifying the folder permissions on the remote Mac and possibly creating further problems. File permissions are set to protect our data from other users and ultimately from ourselves.
Mac OS X Leopard combines UNIX (POSIX) permissions and Access Control Lists (ACLs) in a way that has made it easy for almost anyone to manage—you don’t even have to understand this sentence. Leopard makes it possible to quickly and easily connect to our neighboring Macs. In one step, you open the “Sharing” pane in “System Preferences” and put a check mark next to “File Sharing”. Other Leopard Macs will immediately be able to see you in the “Side Bar” on any Finder window. They simply click on your Mac’s icon and they are connected as a “Guest” and have instant access to the “Public” folder in your home folder.
To connect as a specific user and access more files, they can press “Connect As” and they will get the familiar login prompt—where you enter a username and password. Then, depending on the permissions, they have access to virtually any files and folders on your Mac. A new feature is that from the File Sharing pane you can create a “Share Point” by clicking the “ ” and choosing a folder and setting its sharing permissions.
If you have connected and opened a folder on a remote Mac as “Guest” and you want to access as another user, press the eject icon in the side bar, then click on the icon and choose “Connect As” to get back to the login prompt.
Another cool feature is that you can also use “Screen Sharing”, wherein another user can control your Mac’s screen with a remote computer. You can instantly collaborate or have someone manage your computer for training or support.
Q. I really like the weight and features of the new MacBook Air. Would you recommend it as replacement for my PC?
A. First of all you should ask yourself what services you need. If you want a computer primarily for access to the Internet and Email, there is no longer a compelling reason not to use a Mac. Macs are not susceptible to viruses and spyware, which detract from an enjoyable Internet experience. Macintosh web browsers are all 3.0 web browsers whether you use Safari or Firefox (I recommend you use both) and you can use Apple’s Mail application, Mozilla’s Thunderbird, or Microsoft’s Entourage, which is included with Office 2008.
If you want to play games then get a gaming console. Gaming systems include Internet access, HD and Blue Ray players, and gaming controllers. So why burden your PC with the increased need for hardware resources, incompatible software drivers and, oh yah, viruses and spy ware?
If you’re serious about a MacBook Air, you should keep in mind that it is part of a new paradigm. Apple’s push is towards wireless computing. In the US, you can rent movies through iTunes and move files around wirelessly between your iMac, Apple TV, iPod Touch and iPhone. The MacBook Air is the thinnest and lightest laptop with a full size keyboard and screen that can be used independently, but it lacks ports other than a single USB 2 port—it is intended for the true digital nomad. If you need access to a network or vast amounts of memory then the MacBook Air may be a better choice as a second computer. You could use an iMac as your desktop computer.