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#643: Parental Control, 6GB RAM Upgrades, Choosing a Good Password


Happy Tuesday,

After a warm and blustery weekend that melted almost all the snow, I awoke this morning to a few fresh inches in the yard. I’m hoping the warm spell will be the only one this winter. Local ski areas took a real hit in what is usually a very busy time of year for them. Mad River Glen’s main mountain remains closed a few days after temperatures dropped below freezing!

I appreciate the honest feedback—good and bad—from all of you regarding our transition to this new HTML format. We’re aware of several problems with the way Tech Tails is rendered in some email programs, and hopefully they’ve all been resolved with this issue.

All the best for a healthy, fulfilling 2009.


  Parental Control When There Are No Parents Around  

The holidays are known for being a time when the kids can’t wait to unwrap the present of their dreams! What used to be wishes for ponies and Red Ryder carbine-action BB Guns has now turned into the desire for a 2.53Ghz MacBook Pro with 4GBs of RAM and an AppleCare Protection Plan. While some might say, “At least they can’t shoot their eye out!”, giving your child their first computer can bring some warranted concerns. It came as no surprise to me that over the past two weeks I’ve had more and more concerned parents asking me about the Parental Control options in Leopard and I’m beginning to realize how under-publicized they are.

While Parental Controls have been around for many years now, it was Leopard that really took that concept to a more sophisticated level that allows for as much flexibility as there are parenting styles. While this article can’t cover all of the detail that Apple has put into it, I at least wanted to highlight the perks.

Any Standard or Managed account can be accessed and controlled by the Parental Control panel within System Preferences (it should be mentioned that by setting Parental Controls the account will become Managed even if it was a Standard account). The first screen in Parental Controls, System, shows the ability to use Simple Finder, as previous OSs have. This shows a very simple desktop with one or two folders and not much else. I’m honestly not a fan of Simple Finder and I think that by using the Parental Controls pane’s new features there are ways to make a much better customized environment. For example, “only allow selected applications” is a great way to ensure that your children (or guests) can only use specific applications. These don’t have to be Apple applications, as the “Other” option allows you to choose any application within your Applications folder. Want your child to only be able to access Safari and MS Word, but not get to games or iChat? Easy! You can even change settings here so they can’t burn DVDs/CDs, change their password or modify their Dock (which is great for toddlers who constantly drag applications out of the Dock).

“Content” allows parents to hide profanities in the Dictionary and to restrict Safari access either by giving it a list of the sites the Managed Account can access or by giving it a list of sites it can’t access. There’s even an option to limit access to adult sites automatically by using a built-in filter. This is a point where I like to remind parents that while this might be too restrictive for older children or some parenting styles, it’s certainly applicable for very young children or those in an unsupervised environment. “Mail & iChat” offers further restrictions for those who want their children to only send and receive mail or messages from those on an approved list. Children can then send permission requests to add new addresses directly to their parents. There can also be time restrictions set on Mail and iChat. “Time Limits” allows parents to set both weekday and weekend time limits so that the computer is literally unusable once an allotted time-frame is up. There’s even a “Bedtime” option to lock them out during certain hours of the day or night.

Want to follow up to be sure that Safari is restricting the right sites or that chats are appropriate? “Logs” gives parents a full log of all of the websites visited, all of the iChat logs and all of the Applications used and for how long. Things get even better when parents realize that there’s an option to control all of these Parental Controls remotely on their own Mac! Do your children have more than one computer they can access in the house? Manage them all from one computer.

While Parental Controls might not be for everyone (in fact I’m sure there are a few people out there thinking this is another horrid reenactment of the V-chip), they can be a valuable asset to parents who want to help their children develop in a computer-centric society while still being there to hold their proverbial hand. The brevity of options allows for as much or as little control as desired and it’s all fully customizable. Curious? Why not create a test account on your computer and give it a whirl!

  6GB of RAM in your MacBook?  

Now and again, Apple’s technical specifications state a maximum amount of RAM that’s not actually correct. It was the case with the iMac G4, and believe it or not, it’s the case with some MacBooks and MacBook Pros. Any 2.2GHz or faster MacBook Pro, and any MacBook made in November 2007 or sooner, actually supports 6GB of RAM, not 4GB! Like all our RAM, the 4GB PC5300 chips carry a lifetime warranty and are guaranteed Mac compatible.

You can tell the speed of your Mac by selecting About This Mac from the Apple menu on the upper-left corner of your screen. If your MacBook Pro is at 2.2GHz or faster, it will accommodate the upgrade, but it’s a bit tougher to tell if your MacBook qualifies. Your MacBook’s serial number is the best way to know for sure whether it can hold 6GB.

Your serial number is very deliberately constructed. The first two characters tell you where the machine was manufactured, the third tells you the year in which it was manufactured, and the fourth and fifth characters tell you the week it was made. Let’s take a hypothetical serial number and dissect it – say, W88231FMYK0. W8 indicates that the machine was made in the Shanghai, China facility. The second 8 indicates the year of manufacture (2008). And the fourth and fifth characters show the week it was made. So, we know from this serial number that the MacBook was made in Shanghai in the 23rd week of 2008.

How does this relate to RAM in your MacBook? Well, MacBooks manufactured in the 48th week or later in 2007 qualify for the 6GB RAM upgrade. When you look at your serial number, you can ignore the first two characters, as it really doesn’t matter where your machine was made. But make sure the third character is 7 followed by 48 or higher. Any MacBook made in 2008 qualifies for the upgrade.

I know your next question already: What about requiring matched pairs of RAM for fastest performance? Well, I’ve never really believed that the average user can tell a difference between a machine with matched pairs and one without. There are several studies out there confirming that the infinitesimal speed loss from not interleaving is more than offset by the availability of more physical memory. Any time you can avoid the use of virtual memory, you’re going to see a big speed boost.

You’ll be excited to know that the unibody laptops all support 6GB as well! We hope to have the PC8500 4GB chips in stock soon.

It’s a bit complicated I know, but our sales team is trained to know whether your machine qualifies. Swing by one of our stores or give a ring and we can help.

  From the Archives: Choosing a Good Password  

Originally written by Troy K.

Besides finding a perfect spouse, I think that one of the more difficult things in life is choosing a password. When I first began using computers, having only a small list of passwords was pretty simple. However as your responsibilities grow and as more and more websites demand password protection, I find it a struggle to keep up. I have already run the gamut of family names and birth dates and now struggle to find the meaning of life, or at least the current passwords, so that I do not forget them in the weeks to come. I believe a coworker has the perfect answers to these password questions. He searches his room for interesting objects and then changes the spelling of them and uses them as his passwords.

The Apple Knowledge Base has a helpful article on how to choose a good password. In this article are hints on how to develop good passwords and where to use them.

Read it here.

Good passwords are over 8 characters long and contain a mix of many different character types. Avoid using city names, street names, names of people (real or fictional), pet names, words found in a dictionary or popular book, phone numbers, birthdays, anniversaries, or simple combinations of these. Avoid using a recognizable spatial pattern of keyboard characters, such as a couple diagonal lines of keyboard keys, such as “njimko”.

However, creating a good password is only half the battle. You then have to figure out if this is a password that you are going to use forever, or if it is something that you are going to change often. A good password for your user account on your own machine is something that you may never have to change, so it can be something pretty complex. However there are a lot of websites out there that require you to change your password often. On Apple’s Service Provider website, for example, you are forced to change your password every three to four months. In addition to that, if your web browser is idle for more than several minutes, you have to log back in. Needless to say, having a good secure password that is easy to use is essential.

In the above mentioned Apple Knowledge Base Article, you will also see some great links on how to change passwords in multiple venues such as Keychains, Open Firmware, Safari, and your System Preferences. However, if you use Apple’s Filevault feature of OS 10.3 and you lose its password, you are out of luck and will lose all of your data. Be especially careful with that password! Resetting a user account password in OS X is one of the most common phone calls we get here at
Small Dog, and it is a fairly simple procedure. Here is an excellent article from the Apple Knowledge Base that will tell you how to do this from OS 10 to OS 10.4:

Read it here.

  FEATURE OF THE WEEK | 12/30/2008 - 01/07/09  

Did anyone you know get a Mac for the first time this holiday season? Worried they might be confused about their new system, or might not be getting the most from Mac OS X and the Apple hardware? If so, we’ve created some specials on Apple books and DVDs just for them (or you, if you’re going to their primary tech support).

Switching to A Mac for Dummies Book – FREE shipping!

Mac OS X Leopard for Dummies Book – FREE shipping!

Leopard, Mac OS X 10.5: Visual QuickStart Guide – FREE Shipping!

The Macintosh iLife 08

Mac Video Training’s Quick Start Your Mac – 50% off with FREE shipping!

Mac Video Training’s Quick Start to iMovie ’08 – 50% off with FREE Shipping!

Mac Video Training’s Quick Start to iPhoto ’08 – 50% off with FREE Shipping!

Also, don’t forget to recommend Kibbles & Bytes and Tech Tails to new Mac users!

  SPECIALS | 12/30/2008 - 01/07/09  
   iPod classic 80GB Silver, FREE Napa leather case!
   $50 REBATE! MacBook 2.0GHz 4GB RAM, 160GB HD, AppleCare, Printer/Scanner/Copier!
   Save $150 and get free shipping - Final Cut Studio with an EZQuest 500GB Thunder Pro A/V Drive!
   MacBook 2.0GHz 2GB RAM, 160GB hard drive, Aluminum, Free Isis Sleeve, Free Shipping!
   Nike + iPod Sport Kit for iPod nano, Marware Sport Pouch (for use with any sneakers)!
   Apple TV 160GB Drive, FREE 10-ft HDMI Cable for connecting to flat panel TVs, FREE Shipping!
   iPod nano w/video 8GB Blue (3G), Aluminum iPod Armor (black), AppleCare, FREE Shipping!