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Tech Tails | Apple news straight from the Tech Room | | 800-511-MACS
#670: Protect Your Mac, Google Like a Pro, Beta No More, Mac Box Set Review


Happy Tuesday,

The past week has seen rain every single day, and on July 4th I was driving on the valley floor on the way to Don’s house in the heaviest downpour I’d ever experienced. The cars that didn’t pull over for the ten minute deluge were crawling along at what seemed like only a few miles per hour. The constant rain is taking a toll on my garden, and it’s looking more and more like my main source of veggies this year will come from the farmstand.

In our Waitsfield headquarters there are usually at least ten dogs walking around the offices and the grounds, and all the thunder really takes a toll on them. Poor Owen runs inside and ducks for cover under my desk or Ken’s desk and shakes for hours. It’s a shame, because there’s no consoling him—I’ve even tried bacon!

If you have a good idea on how to calm a terrified dog in a thunderstorm, want to say ‘hi,’ or have a topic for a future Tech Tails, let me know!


  Protect Your Mac  

We see a ton of damaged computers in the service department. It seems more common in our South Burlington tech room, as it’s right down the street from the
University of Vermont and, well, it’s a college town. There are two primary types of physical damage: liquid spills and impact damage.

Liquid spills often mean the end of a machine’s useful life. If you spill anything in your computer, immediately turn it off by unplugging the MagSafe and removing the battery. Open it up and turn the machine upside down. Leave it alone. FOR A WEEK. If you bring your spill-damaged machine in for service, we will not begin testing for a week; this ensures that all the water has evaporated.

If you drop your computer, it’s safe to try turning it on in most cases. Depending on the impact, the machine will probably have obvious denting and perhaps even a shattered screen. I’ve seen quite a few dropped MacBooks come in with a dim screen, very little denting, and functioning external video.

Dim screens can be caused by a failure of the LCD itself, the inverter board, various cables, main logic board, or a loose connection anywhere along the line. In the MacBook that inspired this article, a very severe drop caused the connection from main logic board to inverter cable to come loose, resulting in a dim screen.

Of course, the best way to prevent impact damage is to keep your laptop in a well padded case.

  Tip of the Week: Google Like a Pro  

While there are plenty of viable search engines out there like Yahoo, Dogpile, and even Microsoft’s new Bing, we all know, love, and constantly use Google. There’s more to Google than simple search of the whole Internet. Here are a few ways to Google like a pro.

Exact phrase search is possible by wrapping your search terms in quotations marks. For example, “small dog electronics” vs. small dog electronics will bring up slightly different results, particularly if you use the Google News or Images service.

You can exclude words from a search by using a hyphen (-). Form your search for Lance Armstrong articles that don’t talk about doping by typing “Lance Armstrong” -doping.

You can get the definition of a word by typing define:obscure.

To show search results within a certain numerical range, you want to type your search terms followed by the range. For example, Michael Jackson 1970…1980.

For web sites with less-than-stellar search engines, why bother when you can use Google to search any page. For example, “small dog electronics” will give news in the Barre/Montpelier Times Argus newspaper.

If you read something fascinating and wonder who else links to the page you’re on, type

Finally, you can do unit conversion right in Google. For example, 23 miles to km, 56 USD to Yen, 1 yard to meters.

I’m sure there is a ton of other stuff Google can do, but I’ll leave you with these Googling tips to find them for yourselves!

  Beta No More  

Today, Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs and GTalk had their beta labels removed.

Gmail, in particular, has been operating in beta mode for a considerable amount of time—it launched in 2004—so it seems Google finally feels ready to release it officially into the wild…?

The beta label clearly doesn’t mean as much as it used to, since there was no big announcement to speak of when the apps switched over from their former mode. They all look and behave the same way they did yesterday, as far as I can tell.

However, there are changes, and they’re aimed specifically at businesses. Google wants their offerings to be viewed as legitimate competitors to Microsoft et al. It’s understandable that no matter how reliable a service may seem, the beta label would still keep many companies from utilizing it on a professional level. Again, Gmail is a good example.

Gmail now has offline access to mail and calendars, among other new features. There’s better contact management for Google Apps and better compatibility with Microsoft Outlook.

Check out Google’s blog about the topic here.

Read more about their changes for enterprise here.

Check out the apps for yourself:

Google Calendar
Google Docs

It was a quiet switch, but welcome to life beyond beta, Google Apps!

P.S. If you really miss it, Google has provided a way for Google Labs users to re-enable the beta label under Settings!

  Apple Mac Box Set Review  

I recently purchased a copy of the Apple Mac Box Set. The nice thing about the Box Set is that you get three pieces of software at an incredibly low price. The set includes iLife ’09, iWork ’09, and OS 10.5 Leopard. I made sure the software on my iMac was up-to-date and installed Leopard first, then iLife and iWork. All of the installs went off without a hitch, and soon I was exploring what felt almost like a new computer.

The new features in iLife are great. In iPhoto, you can organize your photographs by Faces, which automatically sorts your photos by who is in them. There are quite a few new features in iMovie as well. Precision Editor gives you much more control over your edit points and there is also a new feature that allows you to smooth out video that is shaky or unstable.

iWork is a really great suite as well. Pages has over 180 pre-designed templates on everything from cards and invitations to certificates and resumes. There is also an option for a full screen view which was lacking in iWork ’08. Of course, what also makes iWork powerful is that it can open Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint files as well as save to a format that the Office suite can read and open.

Leopard’s Time Machine feature is what I was most excited about though. With the addition of an Apple Time Capsule 500GB, I now have a wireless, automatic backup of my computer. I set it up overnight because I knew the initial backup would take some time. Now, for subsequent backups, I have it scheduled to run every twelve hours. The fact that my computer backs itself up automatically is a real weight lifted off of my mind!

  WatchDog Consulting Services  

Calling all locals… did you know that Small Dog offers on-site Consulting in your home or office?

I would like to take a moment and introduce Small Dog’s WatchDog Consulting team. Our Mac Consultants, Jason and Rebecca, are both Apple Certified Mac Technicians (ACTC) who can help you with a wide range of support—from setting up your printer to configuring your business network.

Whether your business is strictly a Mac environment, all Windows or even a mixture of the two, Small Dog Electronics can provide the consulting support that you need. We have over 20 years of experience in the computer business!

To make an appointment or schedule a free evaluation, contact me, Rob Amon, at

For more information about our Consulting services, visit or call 1-800-511-6227 ×512.

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