I'm going to share my favorite tools for quickly finding out what's taking up all the space on your hard drive. At TechRoom, I perform dozens of MacBook Pro storage upgrades every week, and one of the most common questions I get is "what's taking up all the space on my hard drive?" This is really important when it's not obvious, like when your Mac shows you a large amount of space being used by "other".

I'll show you how to find out on a Mac, then I'll show you to do the same on PC as well, so if you're using Windows on a Mac, either with Bootcamp or a virtual machine, you'll be able to see where all your storage is going.  If you're a PC user, just use the same tools.

What's using all the space on my mac?

There are two approaches to finding out what's taking up all the space on your Mac.  One approach is to hunt and peck, just looking for folders or going after things based on someone else's experience and advice. This is no fun, it's time consuming and frankly it can be dangerous. The best approach is to use an app designed to show you everything.  That's where GrandPerspective comes in. GrandPerspective is a free utility that graphically shows you what's using your disk space.  Here's what to do:

  1. Download GrandPerspective here
  2. Open the disk image (.dmg) and drag the app to your applications folder
  3. Run GrandPerspective. It will open to a window allowing you to select what you want to scan. Pull down the drop-down menu and select your computer, which is the highest level you can go.  When you do, you'll see your hard drive (or hard drives, if you have more than one).  Select the drive you want to scan, then click scan.
  4. GrandPerspective will scan your entire drive, then present you with a window that shows all the data, color-coded based on one of a few options, and with boxes that represent the relative size of the file or other that's sitting on your hard drive.
  5. You can move your mouse over the files, and GrandPerspective will show you the file name, file path and size of the file at the bottom of the GrandPerspective window.
  6. Want to get to the file quickly?  Just control-click or right click on the file and select "Show in Finder" and GrandPerspective will open up a new Finder window with file or folder right in front of you.

Here's an example I just took, scanning my own MacBook Pro 1TB flash drive:

If you control-click (right click) on anything, you can select "reveal in Finder":

Which will open the finder and present the file, so you can take action, such as copying it elsewhere, throwing it away, etc.:

GrandPerspective is free, and personally, it's my favorite.  It's simple and logical, but maybe not the most intuitive. There's a really good alternative available in the App Store called DaisyDisk (link to App Store) which I think is more intuitive, and definitely fancier with pretty graphics.  DaisyDisk is a lot prettier and more intuitive for selecting a drive to scan, but the interface for finding things is just confusing to me and seems to be way prettier than useful.  That said, it is in the App Store, which is nice for those who want to stay in Apple's somewhat protected ecosystem of apps that are less likely a potential risk for viruses, etc.

What's using up all the space on my PC?

Note: Applies to both PCs as well as Windows on Macs with Bootcamp, VMWare and Parallels

On a PC, the options are, as expected, less elegant, but still practical.  I use Jam Software's TreeSize Free app, which you can find and download here.

In what is classically Windows-esque presentation, TreeSize Free simply calculates the sizes of all folders at the top level of the hard drive, and sorts it from biggest to smallest, top to bottom.  You can expand folders by clicking on the twiddles (that's the technical term for the little arrows for expanding folders).

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Stop online thieves from taking your Mac hostage.

This past Sunday about 6,500 Mac users received the ransom note. All their documents, photos, everything, held hostage. A message offers their data back if you pay a fee (about $400). Ransomware - software that takes all your data hostage - is now a reality on a Mac.  

Ransomware has been around since 1989, but up until now has only been a problem for Windows PCs. And it's a big problem. One of the most recent ransomware viruses extorted more than $18 million from users. 

Because I work with both PCs and Macs, I have been seeing PC Ransomware cases regularly for years. Ranging from attorneys with all their client data seized and held hostage (most ransomware travels inside of Microsoft Word documents), to moms and dads losing access to all their family photos and other documents. Sometimes they paid the ransom. Even then, they don't always get their data back. 

Ransomware is now a problem for Mac users. There are steps you can take to protect yourself from the thugs that steal data.  On a Mac the steps are easy. Do it now.  If you're a Windows user, the same principles apply to you, even though the apps may be different and less easy to use in most cases. 

Step 1: Backup the right way.

It's easy on a Mac, and you can make it a nearly-automated process, with multiple backups you can go back to no matter what the situation. If the latest backup gets compromised, we can go back a week. Or two. This system worked well for me when my MacBook Pro was stolen.

Using Apple's built-in Time Machine

I use Time Machine to make continuous backups every hour. You can do this with a basic hard disk (link to the drives I use on Amazon) connected to your Mac with no additional software.  Or you could make it more convenient and defeat human behavior by putting in place a more automated system that doesn't require you to plug in. My Mac uses Time Machine wirelessly at home and at the office. I put the same in place for my employees and my family members. I use a Mac Mini with Apple's built-in Time Machine server service, which allows you to back up a team of people over a wifi connection.

Using Carbon Copy Cloner

I use Carbon Copy Cloner to make a perfect, bootable disk image of my Mac every night. There are a lot of ways to do this, the most simple is to pick your hard drive, then pick an external drive, and let Carbon Copy Cloner do all the work.  

I prefer setting up Carbon Copy Cloner for a rotational backup system. I set the app up to ignore discreet volume identification: In English this means that I can write a schedule that tells Carbon Copy Cloner to back up my machine every night at the same time no matter which of three (or more) drives I have plugged in. This allows me to rotate them so that I can disconnect and stash the other drives elsewhere, not just disconnected from the Internet, but also off-site.

I keep a backup from home at the office, and one from the office at home. You can even use Carbon Copy Cloner over a wifi network.


Finally, I use Backblaze, a cloud-based backup software I'm growing really fond of. I was introduced to Backblaze by my bud David Sparks over at Macsparky. While Backblaze won't create a bootable backup, it's a cloud-based backup for Macs and PCs that treats Macs as first-class citizens, and even allows you to control your privacy settings.  Like Apple, Backblaze allows you to keep your own encryption key, which means that even Backblaze can't get to your data if you lose the key. This is seriously cool if you care about your privacy. 

I think David Sparks said it best over at MacSparky: If you get hit with ransomware, the only real solution is to nuke and pave your hard drive.  Have your backup ready and you'll be as calm and instantly in control no matter what happens.

Step 2: Don't accidentally disable Apple's built-in protection.

Apple has built-in software on modern Macs called Xprotect that Apple actively updates to protect your Mac from known malware (ransomware is a type of malware).

While it's not a guarantee against ransomware and other threats, Apple is pretty responsive for a big company, especially when it comes to threats.  When the ransomware was recently discovered, they moved quickly to yank the ability for users to install the app that contained it.

To let Apple do its part, make sure "install system data files and security updates" is checked in the App Store preferences within System Preferences (located under the Apple Menu).  Notice that I let Apple download all updates, and I let Apple install security updates automatically, but I don't allow Apple to update apps and OS updates automatically. There's a big reason for this. The ransomware that just hit thousands of users was evil code that someone slipped into a popular App that isn't available on the App Store, but is available on the Internet.  I'm preparing for the day when someone figures out how to sneak code into an App and get it into the App Store  It hasn't happened yet to my knowledge, but I don't want to be the first to experience it.

You might call me paranoid, but to me it's like looking left and right before crossing a street.

Step 3: Get additional protection.

Most Mac users don't have any idea how bad it is out there for Windows users. Did you know the average Mac user transmits at least one virus, malware or other threat per week? I get at least one Windows virus per day.

One of the first things I do for businesses and individuals I serve is teach them about cloud-based anti-threat protection. I use Sophos to actively screen my Mac including at the network level. 

This means I get alerted to threats as they're coming in, and even if they are idle. This includes PC viruses that won't affect me, but could affect someone if I unknowingly forward a document that contains a nasty.

There are other antivirus suites out there, and I've used almost all of them.  The problem with most antivirus software is that it bogs your computer down.  This doesn't happen with Sophos. Sophos has been around for over three decades, and was even on a lot of the original Mac OS X machines under the hood.

Sophos isn't cheap, but in my opinion it's the best.  I use Cloud Endpoint, which costs up to $250 per user per year. And because it's an organization-based product typically reserved for Enterprise, the version I use required a few hours of setup.

Step 4: Use your Mac and the Internet with care.

The app that contained the ransomware, Transmission, is a bit torrent client, which means it's designed for downloading files over the Internet, both legitimate and illegitimate. It's not available on the App store, and probably never will be. While I'm all for an open Internet and open platform where people can design and sell software independent of Apple, there's something to be said for the App Store where Apple takes great care to inspect and vet the apps before making them available.

I'm seeing more malware cases on the Mac.  This month we've had over 10 cases at TechRoom. In all 10 cases the customer shared with me that the ad they clicked on or the app they downloaded felt wrong. Besides taking the steps above to Backup, keep your Mac security up to date, and enabling hardcore anti-threat protection, trust your instincts and stay away from things that feel suspicious.  You'd be surprised how good your own instincts are, even if you're not a techie type.

Action Items

The most important thing: Take action now.

  1. Make sure you haven't disabled security updates on your Mac.
  2. Go buy a hard drive (or three) and set up Time Machine now.
  3. Download and buy Carbon Copy Cloner.
  4. Download Sophos (link to free version). If you need the hardcore version for your home or business you're welcome to reach out to my team at TechRoom.
  5. Be careful out there. If you're a business owner, make sure your IT person is actually managing things to prevent non-work related apps from getting on your computers.

Have a question?  Let me know. I'm @jamescoleman on twitter


You need to become master and commander of your own technology.  

Because your ability to succeed in life and win at work will be largely affected by how well you command technology. 

Tech is part of our new daily reality. It's everywhere. There’s no escaping it.  The question is, are you in control? If you are, you can spend more time doing what you love, with the people you love.  You can eat your competitor’s lunch, you’ll have time to plan and design your future, and you can work from anywhere, anytime.

If you're not in control, you'll lose out in the future. You’ll miss opportunities. You’ll get less done in more time and your competitors will eat your lunch. What's worse, you probably won’t know it until it’s too late because you’re a slave to your own technology and “too busy” with issues and problems to notice.

This is serious stuff.  It's such a big issue that some serious brains at universities including HarvardMIT, and UCI are focused on trying to figure out why big businesses are falling behind the curve of tech advancement. The real problem? CEOs who don't understand tech.  And this problem affects everyone and all businesses, not just big ones. 

The good news? You don't have to be a tech to become master and commander of your tech. You need absolutely zero (0) technical skills to get in control and stay in control.

Many of the most influential lifestyle design bloggers - leaders in their own right - all talk about tech as a key factor in their success.  Michael HyattRamit SethiPat FlynnTim Ferriss, all regularly refer to tech that gives them back more time. With the right technology, you can yield a 10X, even 100X return on investment of time.     

What would you do with an extra 100 hours per year? An extra 1000 hours per year?

You need to understand and adapt to technology, no matter what you do.  There are three ways I'm going to help you do this.

1) I’m going to tell you about the best technologies available today, and also what's coming tomorrow

The next time you're at a party, wedding, or any other event, I want you to be the most knowledgeable person in the room about the latest technology and trends. Not a geek, just cutting edge. Unless geek is your thing.

For years I have been asked to start a blog to share what I read, what I experiment with, and what I'm playing putting to use in my own life and in business. Well, here I go.

Let's get one important thing out in the open from the start: I am like Switzerland, Japan, America and Great Britain all rolled into one. I'm independent, an expert on both Mac and Windows. I'm partial to superior technologies. I'm absolutely judgmental, and I know I'm right, and I'm always professional and polite about it.  If a tech company makes awesome products and services that will add value to your life, I'll tell you.  If they do the opposite, I'll caution you to stay away.

I seek out technologies and trends that make my customer successful. Think Q. James Bond's Quartermaster.  I equip my customer with superior tech the same way Q equips James Bond with the watch, the gun and the car.

One more thing I want you to know up front: I'm often told I’m biased toward Apple because I think many of their products are superior. Well, I’m not biased. I’m right. I often do really basic math to calculate how much time things take. Want to use Windows?  Fine, enjoy.  Just know that on average, you are giving up about 8 years of your life compared to a Mac user.  8 years.  

2) I'll show you how to use technology to change your life and your business

All the greatest products and services in the world won’t do anything for you unless you have a system that works. Every week I meet business owners who end up in even bigger messes because they bought into products with high hopes, but with no strategy for success.  It’s common for business owners to walk into an Apple Store, spend tens of thousands of dollars, and end up with a bigger mess than when they started.

I am going to share strategies that work and success stories of businesses, families and even freelancers that have achieved awesome success by putting tech to work the right way.  From the four-person attorney firm that I showed how to net an extra $1 million per year (with no additional hires), to the entrepreneur who wanted to spend 20 extra hours per week with his spouse and kids, I’ll share specifics on how tech can transform your business and your life.

3) I’m going to show you how to switch away from substandard products and companies

Most people put off switching computers, phones, even entire IT systems, because of the pain associated with switching.  I want to show you how to switch - painlessly - away from substandard products and companies to tech that actually adds value to your life.

There are some challenges.  Every tech company has a vested interest in keeping you within their platform (meaning, buying stuff from them and staying with them, not switching away), and there are two ways they do this:

The better way is to create products that are so outstanding and add so much value to your life that you become fiercely loyal. Apple is arguably the best example of this.  They have one of the lowest marketing budgets of any company in the tech space because the majority of their marketing is indirect: Customers love their products, show them off to their friends, make their friends jealous. Then their friends buy.  The cycle repeats.

Then there are other companies with substandard products, keeping in mind that substandard can be relative. If you’re a Mac user, then you know that Windows is an inferior operating system.  But if you’re a Windows user, you don’t know any better until someone you like and trust opens your eyes to something better.  The more you knowledgeable you become about what’s available and how it can help you, the more you’ll recognize substandard when you see it. 

Three ways to learn more and get in control of your technology now

After 20+ years and some 60,000 hours helping people transform their lives and businesses with technology, I need to share what I've learned. Every week the vast majority of people I meet battle with their technology. Bad tech is hurting their productivity and costing them precious hours of their lives.

So I'm launching three resources to help you become a master of tech, without having to become a tech:


The Switcher Genius Podcast will be launching soon, and will be short format.  I’ll answer your tech questions in plain English, and find new ways to bring you lots of valuable content.  If you want to get notified when the podcast launches, you can sign up for updates here.


The Switcher Genius Blog will let me go deeper into tech products, systems, strategies and frameworks that we might talk about on the Podcast but can’t go into gory detail.


For people who want to dive deep, Switcher University is where I will be posting my online courses.  I’ll be creating and posting both free and paid courses there.  Teaching has been the biggest part of my day job for the past 20+ years, and Switcher University will enable me to reach and help more people than ever.  

About my inspirations. If you like these authors and podcasts, I think you'll love Switcher Genius

Austin Kleon, author of Steal like an Artist said “You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life.”  Many of the people who have had the biggest impact on me over the past five years have demonstrated really important values and strategies that I admire and am shamelessly copying if they weren’t already part of my DNA. I’d like to kick off the first blog post with a thanks to a few people, and explain how I’m copying them.

Michael Hyatt, creator of the This is Your Life Podcast, absolutely believes in “teach a man to fish”, and he uses his platform to teach the strategies and tactics that work for him so other people can apply it in their lives. Every time I hear him talk about his MacBook Pro, Google filters and templates, I smile. Technology has absolutely helped build, manage and improve his platform every day so he can help more people. My objective is to transform everyone I work with into their own master and commander of technology.  Technicians should be the help, and only delegated to, never abdicated to.  And every business owner, every parent, and every person out their can accelerate anything they want to do in life by learning how to hone their computer and tech better.  And inspired by Michael Hyatt, my platform will start with the Switcher Genius Podcast and Blog to reach as many people as I can.  

Ramit Sethi, author of I Will Teach Your To Be Rich, changes lives by writing about and teaching basic principles of money that really matter. And the majority of what he creates he gives away for free. Ramit uses education to transform lives, help people challenge and overcome belief systems and enable them to achieve their dreams.  When technology caught up to visionaries like Ramit, it enabled him to change more lives.  A huge part of my platform will be classes and courses designed to teach you about tech so you can be more informed, more self-sufficient and can apply the principles, strategies and tactics I’ve learned to your own life, household or business.  And like Ramit, I believe the majority of what I create should be free, which is necessary to open peoples eyes to what is possible.

Pat Flynn is the creator of the Smart Passive Income blog and podcast, and the self-proclaimed “crash test dummy” of entrepreneurs and believes in openness and transparency, sharing what works for him and what doesn’t. I’m sure Pat would agree that there’s probably nothing more humbling than being a father. You realize quickly how much you don’t know, and how much room you have to keep learning. Children teach you that it’s OK to fail and that you can learn from failure.  It would be a shame if I were to keep 20+ years of experiences including failures to myself.  So in classic Pat style, I’m going to bare all.

If anyone has mastered application of the 80/20 rule to focused, results-oriented learning, it’s Tim Ferriss. Tim doesn’t know me (yet), but we have a lot in common. INTJ, East Asian Language and Literature, and an insatiable desire to learn from the masters. Most people have a belief that tech is the realm of techies. It’s absolutely not. While I can’t use 4-hour in my lexicon, as it’s Tim’s domain, I can tell tell you that the principles of learning are exactly the same when it comes to tech. I can teach a stay-at-home-mom (or dad) how to launch a company from their home in under a day. I can also teach a CEO of a 250-25,000 person company how to run their IT with zero techs. 

Let's get started!

Connect up with me on twitter, and join my newsletter.  I'll be sending out updates and also exclusive free tools and content only on the newsletter. And stay tuned to the blog for announcements as the Switcher Genius podcast kicks off soon.  I'm looking for your questions, and also for your feedback, which I believe will help make the podcast the best it can be for everyone.

New course on Photos for the Mac available now

If you're like me, you take a gazillion photos on your iPhone. I also have a Canon DSLR camera (7D Mark II) with some great lenses, and came home today from my older son's sports event with over 1,200 new photos. Taking photos is one thing, but collecting, organizing, de-duplicating, editing, sharing and backup up is a whole other subject.

I am happy to announce early enrollment (PRESALE) of a new Photos for Mac online course I am creating.  The course will officially launch July 1, 2016, but I'm opening it up early to select group of students who want to get involved, learn and get extra support and help along the way.  When the course formally launches, these students will also get the full course, unlimited and forever.

I'm currently deep in development of the course, and I'm ready to welcome a small group of students in so we can work on your questions, challenges and problems together. I think this is the best way to create the solutions, answers and great resources that will make this course incredible.  For early-bird ("presale") course purchasers, I'm providing an extra bonus:

  1. 90 days of unlimited email support
  2. 1-hour live online workshop/training sessions with me between now and when the course launches.  That's at least 6 hours of live online workshop/training time to go over your questions, implement solutions, and to get and give feedback so you can become even more awesome at managing your photos.  That's over $1,500 worth of support, included for free for presale course purchases.

The course will launch for $399 on July 1, 2016, and will go up in price to $499 starting August 1. For a limited number of students, you can enroll right now using coupon code PHOTOS100 to get $100 off, making the course price $299.  Once you enroll, I'll email you an agenda and schedule for our online training, and you'll start receiving weekly updates with new lectures and course materials you can start using right away.

I am looking for awesome people who want to have fun, learn a ton and get a huge amount of value out of me, especially over the next three months.  Are you in?  Sign up here.

How the right question found $12,000 in 10 minutes

The $12,000 10-minute ROI plan

I walked into the building, announced myself to the receptionist.  She disappeared into the back. I was there to meet my customer who owns a great business: About 20 employees, really great at what they do.  Fun, creative people who are also really serious about being the best at what they do and always trying to find better ways of doing it.  My kind of people. A few minutes later a very intense-looking business owner came out. It looked like he wasn't having the best day.

"James, I'm so sorry- we canceled the meeting but there was a communication mixup.  No one ever called to tell you."

"Well, we can reschedule." I had paid a visit in person because I hadn't seen him in a couple of months. "Or I can quickly work through the very brief version of our agenda."

He responded, "I feel badly about the reschedule.  I can give you 15 minutes, but it has to be 15 minutes or less."

"Let's make it 10," I replied.

The 10 minute meeting worth $12,000

We walked into one of the conference rooms. I pulled out my iPhone and started a 10 minute timer.  He had already wiped off one of the glass white boards for me.

I proceeded to draw as I talked, walking him through the thread.  I knew that he and his partner were looking ahead to the future, and that, like all business owners, they were prepared to change to adapt and thrive in a changing marketplace.  This could mean several things, months or even years from now: Possibly moving.  Growing or shrinking depending on which roles become better suited for outsourcing. Technology changes everything.  I was there to give him a little surprise:

"You're paying X for Internet right now, and Y for your phones.  The technology's changed dramatically.  We can get up to 10X more bandwidth at 30% of what we're currently paying."

There was, of course, a "gotcha".  I addressed it up front: A 1% chance of an Internet outage, but we can purchase a failover system for $60/month, and the failover system will work 24/7/365.

The bottom line is a net expense reduction of $1,000 per month, or $12,000 per year.

My customer looked pretty happy.  The meeting ended on a positive and actionable note.

The trouble with techs

The most important question here is: Why was he paying $12,000 per year more than he needed to?  Over five years they spent $60,000 that otherwise could have been in his bank account.

The reason is very simple: Almost all small business owners have access to techs, but they either have never met or don't have easy access to a tech resource who can ask the right questions at the right level.  I knew a lot of other kids in high school and college that were really smart.  Chess team smart.  They could solve math problems in a snap. But ask them to figure out what problem to solve, and that's where things break down. Most of them couldn't relate to either the subject matter of a situation where it wasn't clear what variables to even start with.  What is it we want to do? Who do we want to do it for?  How do we want them to feel?  These questions aren't A + B = C formulaic.

At some point someone was sitting in front of my customer and asking "what problem do you want me to solve?".  The customer probably said "We need fast (A) and reliable Internet (B)."  And the tech went off looking (C).  Square peg, square hole.  The tech comes back with the one option that has the availability the customer wants with the speed the customer needs, and it costs him.  Dearly.

Screw A + B = C.  Tell me what's important to you.  Let me write the equation that asks the right questions.  Then we can solve it together.

The Smartest Customers

When I met my customer the first time, he said "I'm not looking for someone to answer my questions.  I'm looking for someone who can help me figure out what the right questions are. On top of that I want smart, responsive and professional."

This compares to the questions I get every week. One just came into my inbox this week: "We're looking for someone who can take us from Exchange to Office 365, and can help us figure it out." I never judge a customer, but when I learned that they were half Mac-based, I would bet (and I would win) that they've never had someone who took the time to understand their business at a business level, then relate what's possible with technology to it.  

Office 365 costs about 3X as much as Google Apps, has a very poor track record for availability (meaning it goes down a lot) and lacks 90% of the features I want a business owner to have access to that can give them back hundreds of hours per year.  That said, I know some Windows-based law firms where it makes sense because of their specific workflow. Or because they're all using Microsoft-build phones and tablets.

If there's a great reason to move to Office 365, then moving to Office 365 it is. But was Office 365 (C) in the A + B equation?  Over 15 years, I've seen thousands of proposals from IT vendors (often referred to as MSPs) and what they pitch is exactly that, the A + B = C formula.  Which, done enough times, you're putting far more than $12,000 into someone else's pocket for no good reason.

If you really want to win big, tell me what you want to accomplish. More hours back to your employees so they can produce more?  More time back to you for work/life balance?  Freedom to travel and keep in touch with the office? Now those are fun problems to solve.

The Concierge Effect

Have a question?  Do you wonder if there's an alternative way of doing something that could be better for you? I serve a select group of very special customers who can call me anytime, anywhere, as part of my Personal Tech Concierge program.

Sometimes I receive a call like the one that triggered the 10-minute meeting. Other times it's a business owner and their spouse, standing inside an Apple Store asking if what they're being told by the salesperson will really work in their home.  My job, even if the call is 5 minutes, is to save my customer the dozens or hundreds of hours - and sometimes thousands of dollars) that will be wasted if something goes awry or if there are secondary unknown consequences.

I have taken their calls walking through the busy streets of Osaka, and while sitting on the beach in Southern California.  I've taken their calls while at a birthday party and in the middle of the night.  I take those calls when they happen because that's when it's important.  It's more than the 80/20 rule, it's the 99/1 rule.  That five minute call can make a 99% difference in my customer's life or business.  I take their calls because I love it. They're my favorite customers, passionate about their lives and businesses, and they know I'm passionate about serving them.

Are you looking for this kind of service for yourself, or your family, or your business?  If you are, connect with me and let me know how I can help you. I'm @jamescoleman on twitter, and you can reach out to me using the form at the bottom of the page here.

P.S. if this blog post was interesting, would you share it with your friends and colleagues?  You can use the share buttons on the page to automatically and easily share it!  And leave me a comment- even a question if you'd like, below!

P.S.S. I still have a few seats left for the first Switcher University class - which is 100% free and forever free. I'll be showing how to safely free up space on an iPhone, including where to look and what tools to use that almost no one knows about (and Apple can't talk about). If you register now you can take it anytime- even months or years from now.  Just register quick while it's still free.

Really, Apple? Are you serious?

A few months ago I came home on a Friday, just like tonight.  Only I was stressed beyond belief at 5:15PM.  I had sent three emails, one at 9:00AM PST, the other at 11:12AM PST and the final one at 2:00PM PST.  I had found out by calling the people I had emailed that they hadn't received my emails. 

My computer is a MacBook Pro 13" Retina.  I usually run the latest software, in this case it was 10.10.something.  And I was using Apple's Mail app (in applications, go to Mail).  My company uses Google Apps for work, which is basically corporate gmail without ads, without any creepy spying, and is ridiculously secure and reliable. I get about one problem with send/receive every 2-3 years, compared to my customers with Office 365 who don't know it, but their email is down about 6X per week (yes, I have access to the logs and can see it).  

So when I went into my sent folder on the Mac and saw the three emails stuck there, I was at first shocked.  I turned off my WiFi and turned it back on again.  Three times.  Everyone remember all the WiFi problems with Macs?  It didn't do any good.  I restarted. Made sure I could load a web page and then tried launching Mail again.  No good.  The three messages were stuck.

I went into gmail.com and logged in with my TechRoom email address.  I checked the sent messages. Nothing. The three messages weren't there.  They never made it to the cloud server. They were still on my Mac.  Now I was mad.  Bruce Banner mad.

The problem is, I know too much. I'm trained on the 7 layers.  I know the ports that Google uses. I know the servers that Google resolves to.  I know the DNS servers that are reliable.  I control my home and office networks with Meraki. Nothing escapes me.  There's no reason in the world that I should be having this problem.

I called Google Enterprise support out of pure desperation.  Did you know that it's impossible to get someone from Apple on the line on a Friday night at 8:00PM PST, but that Google Enterprise support is 24/7/365 around the world, and you don't need to wait for a representative?  I ended up speaking with someone who patiently listened to me explain what I just wrote above.  She patiently listened to me whimper and whine about how this can't be happening, with everything configured correctly.

When I was done, she explained to me that, officially, Google has no statement regarding Apple Mail. That said, she explained that the correct settings work sometimes with Apple Mail, and other times they dont.


I explained to her that I was confused, and I asked her to clarify. She said that they have noticed at Google across many other cases that, when using Mail (Apple's application) that sometimes the correct settings work, and other times they don't, and that this is a reproducible issue that they have not been able to resolve.


I was silent. After a moment or two (or longer) she asked if I was still there.  I said yes, and that I needed a moment to think about this.

What she had just told me, in the most objective way possible, was that, scientifically speaking, the correct settings for email send and receive worked "sometimes" on Apple applications, and "sometimes" didn't.  This was reproducible, meaning you can do this on many other computers and get the same irregular results.  Use any other application: Chrome (native gmail), Thunderbird, even Outlook (eww). No problems.

Mail simply doesn't work for Gmail.


I've disregarded the last four updates that applied to my computer that affected Mail.  That's because that night I decided no matter how long-standing my habit was with Mail that I was giving it up.

I have since moved to Chrome.  I love Chrome. It's vastly superior. I run circles around Mail users- no matter how cool they think their workflows are, I have the power of back-end servers doing extremely powerful things for me. I can use Chrome offline, and I have a preview pane on the right.  And I have about 1000 plugins available due to labs that Apple can't even scrape the surface of. I had to move to Chrome for my own sanity that night, and to ensure I could remain productive.  I'm going to lose customers if my communication breaks down, and that's what Apple Mail was did. Dead line.

Tonight, six months later, I saw the most recent update that Apple posted that hit my MacBook Pro. I saw three updates, and it made me mad.  1) They still haven't made Mail a decent email program, 2) I own two GoPros, and it upsets me that I can't import from it reliably without a software update and 3) why can't Windows Media files play on a Mac?

Does Apple need some money to buy a few devices to test their software with before they ship it?

Switcher University - Learn and get more out of your Mac, Apple devices, or any tech

I'm incredibly pleased to announce Switcher University! For over 20 years, the best and most satisfying part of my work has been teaching people how to do new, cool and useful things with their technology. And now technology allows me to create online courses that you can take anywhere, anytime, at your own pace, and keep going back to anytime you want to review.

I'm offering my first free course right now on Switcher University.  If you register now you'll get permanent access to the course content and special updates and really good stuff from me that I typically charge hundreds of dollars for - but completely free for the first 100 who register.  I love sharing how-tos that give you back more time, and make your life more fun!  And as a thanks to everyone who's been so supportive of Switcher University, I've posted a fun how-to at the bottom of this blog post on how to sign any document on your Mac without a pen, printer or scanner.  It's way cool and even won me major hubby points numerous times.

What's most special about Switcher University is that I'm going to teach more than just how-tos with technology, I'm going to teach how to learn new technology.  I remember for years my father, a classical guitarist, telling me "I can't possibly become an expert at this..." as he was struggling with how to use Finale, a music transcription application, on the Mac.  A lot hinged on his getting proficient with Finale: Warner Brothers had asked him to author "Star Wars for Classical Guitar", and if that book was successful, several other book opportunities would come his way.

So I wrote down how to do things.  I explained why.  We took the time to talk about how and why things work a certain way on a Mac, and not just what steps to do.  Within weeks he was calling me up screaming in delight, asking me to come over (remote access was pretty weak back in the day... but I'd want to come over anyway... he was dad!). He'd show me what he did, and then he'd show me new things he learned how to do himself.  He smiled ear-to-ear and told me how liberating it felt to learn how to learn.  I remember smiling and telling him he "had graduated", and we both laughed together.

My father told me years ago that the reason for going to college or a university was primarily to learn how to think.  Years later, I gave a lecture at the University of California at Irvine, to students in the top 1% who were getting ready to graduate.  I was asked by the Dean of Students to help them understand how I went from a B.A. degree in Japanese Language and Literature to running an IT company. These students shared with me how frustrated they were: They had nearly finished four or five years in a world-class university, and most of them didn't want to get a job "doing what they had studied" or "doing what their parents wanted them to do".  

I remember my father telling me it didn't matter what I studied.  Don't get me wrong- for some technical jobs (brain surgeon) you have to study to prepare. But my father's point was: Learn what you love - in my case it's communication - and learning how to understand a foreign language, a foreign culture and way of thinking - helped me enter and become successful in the tech industry - helping be a "translator" of tech to business owners, entrepreneurs, executives and other people who care to learn what they need to know.  

I used the white board to share with the students my process for learning, from deciding what will give me the impact and results I want, to my process for picking the 20% of information that will give me an 80% impact in the shortest period of time, to getting comfortable with making mistakes so I can practice, practice more, and practice more.  Do it enough - and learn to do it well even if you're slower at first, and later you'll be able to do it like you're born to do it.

Then I walked into an Apple Store several months ago and noticed something. It had always been all around me but I hadn't noticed it before. Customers in the store are dying to learn new information.  And what's being taught?  What steps to do.  It made sense to me: The largest tech company on the face of the planet is teaching the same way they've trained techs - including me: Steps and process flows. Which is why I have the hardest time finding techs who can think and get to what a customer wants, not just what the customer is asking for.

Apple's success is largely because they created an awesome game-changing phone and its ecosystem of apps and features.  One would think that everyone using an iPhone would be using a Mac by now.  But that's not the case, and switching - moving from a Windows PC to a Mac - is happening slowly.  Way too slowly.  

I believe it's because of one fact: A product company (Apple) is exactly that: A product company.  Teaching is a service, not a product. Teaching requires going beyond the product.  At Switcher University, I'm going to provide courses for Windows users how to make their Apple devices work and sync better, how to use all sorts of Apple technologies on their PCs, like iCloud and iTunes Match. I'm going to provide courses on how to use other technologies - like Google, Nest, Office 365, Meraki and more, with a Mac, Apple devices and even with Windows PCs.  

And what I teach at Switcher University will be based on more than any company or its products, it will be based on you, your wishes, your desires and your interests. If there's one thing I've built as a personal reputation, it's a passion for service. At Switcher University, I'm going to have the ultimate opportunity to work with each and every student who registers for any class - free or otherwise - so I can help them succeed.  Like how I felt when my dad told me that his life had changed when he became in control of his technology, helping you will be the most satisfying part of what I do. 

Check out Switcher University here.  And check and register for any of our courses here.  When you register for any course, even a free one, you'll get my updates with some fun how-tos, like the one I posted this morning on how to sign any document on a Mac without a pen, printer or scanner (one of my favorite time-savers!):

How to Get Rid OF Duplicate Photos and Files (and 2 Great Apps)

How to Get Rid OF Duplicate Photos and Files (and 2 Great Apps)

The process of cleaning up or getting rid of duplicates is called deduplication. Over the years, our iPhones and Macs have changed in a few ways that make our hard drives fill up with duplicates.  This makes deduplication a really important skill to understand and master.  In this post I'll show you the two most powerful tools I've found that help automate deduplication, and I'll share how to keep your photos, videos and documents safe while you do it.



I felt pretty much the same when my MacBook Pro failed last month.  So I know how our customers feel.

How does it really feel when your computer fails in the middle of a critical business project? (or when preparing for a wedding, barmitzvah, wake, or anything of critical, time-sensitive importance)

This morning one of my key customers way out in beautiful Austin, Texas emailed and reported that her relatively new Lenovo Yoga notebook was experiencing significant signs of failure.  The CEO of her company, out here in California, was copied on the message. That's one way a customer labels a service request URGENT without actually writing URGENT.

The CEO's reply-all:


I know how he feels.  My MacBook Pro 13" Retina stopped working last month and had to be mailed out to Apple.  Fortunately, we have a process that results in near-zero downtime for the customer.

The following is how we handle this kind of situation to keep everyone happy, despite hardware failures. The bottom line: 1) The customer needs her computer and can't be without it 2) The traditional repair model that requires being without a computer for any period of time doesn't work for customers with business critical uptime requirements.

The immediate response to our customer (even before receiving the email from the CEO) was as follows:

We will call you immediately this morning to perform a screen-sharing session to see if there is a possibility of an effective "quick fix".  While unlikely, let's follow the TechRoom process to make sure we get you the best results as quickly as possible.
If there is no quick fix, we should get a replacement notebook for you immediately.  Lenovo only permits mail-in repairs, and Lenovo quotes a standard 5-7 business turnaround time.  With a replacement, here's the process we'll go through, with the CEO's approval on the equipment:
  1. Immediately order a replacement computer (via Amazon- I'll send the link for Amazon Prime same-day or overnight shipping) and drop-ship to TechRoom Newport Beach
  2. We'll configure the replacement with all of your settings (I have these largely captured in our dossier/specification for you from the last switch)
  3. We'll ship you the new computer overnight to your home office (or your location at the time)
  4. With both machines set up on your desk and on your network, we'll remote in and facilitate data transfer (we estimate this should take about 2-3 hours)
  5. Once data transfer's complete, we'll walk you through the new computer and go through the checklist of everything - printers, bluetooth devices, Box sync, etc.  
  6. Once you bless the new unit and full functional, there will be a return airbill ready to adhere on the box to ship the old unit back to TechRoom so we can scrub the dat for security and then facilitate warranty
Let me know if you have any questions, concerns, or any other feedback.  I think this makes the most sense given the symptom that sounds largely hardware.
We will contact you between 9-10AM PST this morning to coordinate a quick call/remote access session wherever you're at to start the process.

One of the extra steps we take for our TechRoom Concierge customers is maintaining an up-to-date dossier that includes both a company checklist, as well as a user-specific checklist.  For example, we use Sophos Endpoint exclusively at that customer site, and I also know that my user doesn't like Outlook- she's a Google Chrome user (like yours truly).

It takes a response like the above, followed by competent execution and a few brain cells applied to creative adjustments when things deviate from the expected, to instill confidence in the user and to get the CEO back to a zen-like state.

Stop Your Smartphone from Making You (and Your Family) Sick

My MacBook and my secret weapon against real germs and viruses: TechSpray and a microfiber cloth.

My MacBook and my secret weapon against real germs and viruses: TechSpray and a microfiber cloth.

Want to kill the viruses that software can’t? I’ll let you in on a little tech secret that will help make your computer and devices feel and look better, and you and your family will be healthier at the same time.

This post applies to moms, dads, entrepreneurs, business managers, and just about everyone I know. Because no one likes getting sick. A few years ago I discovered one simple action that takes under 2 minutes that can cut down the number of times you get sick with a nasty cold by over 50%.  Do it at home, and at the office, and you’ll be healthier and happier.

There are nasty viruses and germs everywhere.  When you have a newborn baby like I do, you get reminded of this rather dramatically by your pediatrician.  Did you know that a newborn under 90-days with a fever is practically a ticket to the emergency room, and possibly worse, even a spinal tap? Want to know what’s more scary? Just do a quick Fermi estimation of the number of people that touched that banana at Trader Joe’s before you did.  Start at the banana farm and work your way forward.  That’s a lot of fingers. And I’ll bet they probably don’t keep antibacterial baby wipes in their bag and use them all the time.

These little buggers- flu virus, headcolds, and more, can be sitting on your keyboard and right on top of your iPhone.  Eradicate them the safe way with TechSpray. It's my favorite tech-health tool.

These little buggers- flu virus, headcolds, and more, can be sitting on your keyboard and right on top of your iPhone.  Eradicate them the safe way with TechSpray. It's my favorite tech-health tool.

I’ll share with you why I prefer the Japanese ritual of bowing over shaking hands. I’m currently in Orange County in Southern California. The buildings I frequent to visit customers are the towers in Fashion Island, the Irvine Spectrum Center and even those near South Coast Plaza. On almost any visit to the restrooms, I can see people exiting, walking  right past the sinks to wherever they're headed. I also see people cough on keyboards. Then I see them use their keyboards. It’s none of my business where they were, what they were doing and whether or not they washed their hands. But I’d say it’s a safe bet that someone skipped the sinks and soap. 

Years ago at TechRoom one of my techs introduced me to a neat product: TechSpray. I used it for years, cleaning the exterior, keyboard and display of my MacBook Pros and even my iPhone before jetting out to see a customer.  As much as I’m careful to wash and dry my hands before sitting down to do some extensive writing, I always manage to get the keyboard just a little shiny from the natural oils on my hands. That, together with everything else in life, leaves a lot of little blemishes, spots, etc.  As silly as it sounds, you can tell whether or not someone carries a handkerchief by the dry splatter on their display. Tech Spray does the trick at making your Mac or PC or smartphone look and even feel like new. It’s safe on electronics and so far, the safest cleaner I’ve ever used on my computers and other devices.  Note: Like anything else, read the manufacturer’s cleaning requirements, if provided. Even then, I always test a small spot first to make sure the cleaning agent is safe for the plastic or glass I’m cleaning. So far over the past several years, I’ve never had a problem with TechSpray.

So when I had my techs start using TechSpray as a mandatory cleaning step, I noticed something interesting: Less sick time.   I keep track of my employees sick days, how often they call out and what days they call out. It’s good proactive HR when you’re running a small business. With no other major change, I measured a 25% reduction in sick time over two years, just from cleaning your keyboard once per week. I can’t exactly take credit for this discovery.  My wife ritualistically wiped down everything from the table to the silverware when we first started eating out with our first son. She’s just killing germs.

Add up 2 less sick day per year times ten people and that’s almost three weeks of time. For me, just having a reduced chance of bringing a nasty bug back home that could infect the family is worth it.  A sick baby, sick wife or sick son is no fun for anyone (including daddy).

In addition to this being a staple at my office, I now keep TechSpray handy for all of our TechRoom service visits to any of our accounts. I recommend keeping 1-2 quart bottles and a few dozen microfiber cloths at the office along with all your office supplies.  Educate your employees about using TechSpray on their computers. At TechRoom, we do a microfiber laundry run about one every 2-3 months. 

I also use the following supplies at home and on the road:

Of course, I keep all of this locked up and out of reach from the kiddos of course.

In an age of devices that we’re constantly touching, sharing and showing off, TechSpray is one of my mainstays for health, right along with my morning ritual, my daily supplements (I use Athletic Greens), good diet and exercise. TechSpray is an essential for everyone.