I’ve heard it said that justifying the cost of your first Mac is very difficult, but justifying the cost of your second Mac is incredibly easy. It’s so common to hear people talk about how you can get a bottom-of-the-line PC for $200, why would you want to spring more than $1000 for a Mac? Maybe you get some bundled software and perhaps the Mac hardware is a bit more reliable, and maybe the design is more elegant but it’s still hard to get over that hump.
But once you do, you suddenly look around and realize that you’ve bought one for your husband, you’ve flowed down your older Macs to your kids, you’ve got a couple of iPhones, maybe an iPad, and for some reason you’ve got a Mac mini and an AppleTV hooked to your TV and of course you’ve got an Airport Extreme router. Maybe you’ve got a desktop and a laptop too for yourself. Even if you haven’t gone as far overboard as this, I’m guessing you’ve got at least half of this going on in your house.
So much of the magic of the Mac and Apple’s other devices is hidden under the hood, so let’s exercise some of this magic.
I like to define a problem to be solved before proposing a solution. You’re downstairs goofing around on your laptop but there’s something you want to get to that’s on a desktop upstairs. You could get up out of your recliner and go upstairs (heck, your Apple Watch just told you to stand up anyway) but what kind of a geek would you be if you did that?
With the minor adjustments I’m about to describe, you’ll be able to grab files from your Mac upstairs or even run screensharing so you can put that Mac to work while you watch TV and goof around on the Internet.
For this magic to work, you have to have either an Airport Base Station, a Time Capsule or an AppleTV. All three of these devices provide a really cool service called Bonjour Sleep Proxy. This service allows any of these devices to wake up your Macs over the network. Isn’t that crazy?
Even cooler, you don’t have to do anything to enable Bonjour Sleep Proxy on these devices beyond making sure the operating systems on these devices are up to date, but you’re doing that anyway, right?
The Macs you want to control will need a few things tweaked but it’s not hard at all. Open up System Preferences, and select Energy Saver. Now click on the Power Adapter tab and check the box that says “Wake for network access”. I should note that some Macs support this feature only for Ethernet or only for Wifi*.
Now you’re ready to have some fun. Let’s say the Mac we want to control is your Family Room Mac mini. Open a Finder window on a different Mac and in the left hand sidebar scroll down until you see Shared just under Devices. If there’s nothing showing, hover over Shared and you’ll see a button called Show. You should now see your Mac mini and when you click on it you’ll have two options, Connect As… and Share Screen…
We’ll start with the simpler option. Click on Connect As… and you’ll be shown a window where you can log in using Guest, Registered User or an Apple ID. Choose Registered User, and enter your user name and password as though you were sitting in front of that Mac. If you’d like to skip this step in the future, check the box that says to remember the password in your keychain. Now click Connect.
*Note: If you have any problems with turning on Wake on Demand, check this link to the Apple support page to find out if your Mac supports these features: support.apple.com
Now you’ll see a new window with all of your folders and files as though you were right there on your Mac. You can copy files between that Mac and the one you’re actually on with drag and drop, or simply open files across the network with a double click. Pretty cool stuff.
Let’s take it up a notch and click on Share Screen. Suddenly you’ll have the screen of the remote Mac embedded in your local Mac screen. The remote Mac’s screen will be in an application called Screen Sharing so you can move it around and resize it at will. I find it helps to make the Screen Sharing application full screen so that it moves to a dedicated space. Once I’ve done that, I can use gestures to flip back and forth between my local Mac and the remote Mac. It’s magical I tell you!
Here’s a couple of tips for you. If the Mac you want to share has a giant 27” Apple Cinema Display, and you’re sitting on a 12” Macbook, it’s going to get a wee bit difficult to see what’s going on. You’re going to get good at navigating to the Display Preferences pane to scale that display down to something you can see!
Apple does offer a way around this problem but I don’t think it works well for prolonged use. Above the menu bar of the Screen sharing window you’ll see a button that says Scaling. If you tap it once, you will see everything at the full resolution of your local screen which is great but you have to slide around in the window to see all four corners. It can be useful depending on your task, in fact perhaps you want to use that mode to get to the Display Preferences. Tap the Scaling button again and you’ll be back to seeing the entire screen of your remote Mac.
There’s also a set of binoculars you can tap on that lets you see a tiny circular area magnified. Again this seems only useful if you’re trying to find the Display Preferences to change the resolution.
One more caution. When you wake up the Mac remotely and change its resolution, that’s happening at the remote location so the screen turns on and changes resolution. Consider who else might be in the room with it or who might even be using it when you’re doing this.
I often want to take a screenshot of something on the remote Mac or copy some text and move it to my local Mac. If you tap on the Clipboard icon in the menubar of the Screen Sharing window, you can select Shared Clipboard. This means that anything you copy on one Mac can be pasted into the other Mac. Now we’re into freaky magic!
The only danger I’ve found in using Screen Sharing is that my little brain gets confused. For example, if you have focus on the ScreenSharing window and you use command-tab, thinking you can flip away from it to another app, you will accidentally invoke fast app switching inside the remote Mac, not the local Mac. I do this all the time. It doesn’t hurt anything, other than my pride that I can’t seem to remember this is what will happen.
Any command you execute when you have focus on Screen Sharing will be invoked on that remote Mac, like printing or launching apps with Spotlight. The good news is that command-Q isn’t enabled for the Screen Sharing app so if you use that keystroke you’ll quit an app inside the remote Mac, not quit Screen Sharing itself.
Want to really blow your mind? Start screen sharing to two Macs at the same time.
Remember, it’s your duty to use all of your devices as often as possible so that you can justify why you had to have them all.