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#674: UPS Back Ups, Repair of the Week, Forgotten Passwords, Computer to TV: Can We Talk?


Happy Tuesday,

A fetid skunky cloud wafted over Small Dog headquarters in Waitsfield late last week and I immediately sensed that Owen had something to do with it. Sure enough, he came running back a few minutes later, apparently proud of his new smell. At first, the smell of skunk was so pervasive we couldn’t even tell that Owen was contributing to it, but as the breeze carried the worst of it away, it became apparent that Owen was going to be a problem. Three bottles of Nature’s Miracle later, he doesn’t smell at all when he’s dry, but once he’s wet there is a slight skunkiness that just doesn’t go away.

I received word from Chris DeRose, a long time Small Dog technician who’s been with the South Burlington store since its beginning, that he’s decided to move closer to home in the Philadelphia area. He’s a gifted technician, and it’s going to be hard to fill his shoes. Chris will be with us until the end of September.

Thanks for reading, and as always, keep in touch.


  Take Your Surge Protector To the Next Level With a UPS  

UPS, more than a shipping company, stands for Uninterruptible Power Supply. These handy devices combine the protection of a surge protector with the peace of mind of a built-in battery.

While we all know that a surge protector’s job is to protect electronic devices from being fried in a power outage, what’s the benefit of a back up battery? Well, when was the last time you were in the middle of editing an important document, financial file, video or audio recording on your computer and the power went out? Great, your gear isn’t fried but all the work you just did and didn’t save is now lost.

With a UPS, when the power goes out, the UPS will keep your devices powered long enough to allow you to save the files your working on and then properly shut down the machine. While it doesn’t act as a generator in the sense that it won’t keep you running for hours on end, that extra time to save and shut down properly can save you from the headache of losing data and potentially causing software corruption when the machine shuts down unexpectedly.

Now that we’re in thunderstorm season, using surge protectors and/or UPS units are more important than ever. It’s also important to note that both surge protectors and UPS units are available to do more than just protect the power source of your machines. Did you know that you can purchase both surge protectors and UPS units with Ethernet and telephone jacks on them? They need to be protected too!

Now that most people use surge protectors, it’s rare for me to see a machine come in that has experienced a surge through the power jack of the machine. What we do see are machines that have fried Ethernet and modem jacks. On my desk just this week was a Mac mini that was being used with an external USB modem. The modem had fried in a thunderstorm and the customer purchased a new modem but that wasn’t working either. Upon inspection, it appears that the short not only affected the USB modem, but the logic board of the machine that it was attached to. A logic board repair out of warranty is a serious bill; on a Mac mini it’s actually just about the cost of purchasing a whole new machine. Ouch!

Save yourself money and frustration down the line. Invest in a UPS back up!

  Repair of the Week: iBook G4 Wireless  

A 12-inch iBook G4 came in this morning with a sealed box containing an AirPort Extreme Card, and the repair ticket indicated that we were to install the card, max out the RAM, and install Leopard. “Easy enough,” I thought.

It turns out that the unit already had an AirPort card installed, but it wasn’t being recognized. Further, this iBook was a last-generation 1.33GHz model, which had a combination AirPort and Bluetooth card installed, not the available-at-retail AirPort Extreme card used in older products. It had been over a year since I’d been inside an iBook, so it took a little while for me to get to its innards. I was hoping that simply re-seating the AirPort card in its slot would bring it back to life, but no such luck. I swapped in a known-good card, and it still wouldn’t work. I assumed at this point that it’d need a new logic board, as the logic board houses the slot the AirPort card plugs into.

I sometimes get “tunnel vision” when diagnosing, and go straight for the most likely culprit instead of taking the proper diagnostic route. Step one is always reset PRAM and PMU, and I’d forgotten this important step. Before I could really diagnose the issue as based on the logic board, I had to reassemble the unit to the point where I could turn it on and use the trackpad. A short while later, I reset the PRAM and PMU and sure enough, the old card worked just fine.

The moral of the story is to never dismiss the simplest explanation for any problem!

  Tip of the Week: Forgotten Passwords  

Every so often I find myself in a situation where I can’t remember a password, and instead of trying each and every one of perhaps twenty passwords I use in various places, I can just open up Keychain Access from the Utilities folder and find what I need quickly and easily.

I like to select the “All Items” category on the left side of the screen, and then use the Spotlight-style search box on the top right of the screen. For example, if I needed to log into an AirPort base station I haven’t accessed in a year, I would search “base station” and Keychain Access would then display all the AirPort base stations I’ve ever accessed. The nice thing about this program (which is found on every single Mac made in the last four years or so) is that it requires only one password to give you access to all the others.

Another great feature of Keychain Access is the Secure Notes section. This allows you to jot down confidential information that’s protected behind a password.

  Computer to TV: Can We Talk?  

On Monday, the Burlington Free Press, Vermont’s largest-circulation newspaper ran an article I wrote entitled “Computer to TV: Can we talk?.” It’s a brief overview of a couple of ways to get media from your computer to your television and home entertainment system. Click here to check it out.

How do you get media from your computer to your home entertainment system? Apple TV? Video game console? Mac mini? Simply patch-cable connection? Or do you connect your iPod to your TV or home entertainment system with cables or a dock of some kind? Let us know, and we’ll use your ideas in a future newsletter and blog article!

  Special Deal On Closeout Aluminum MacBooks!  

Get $100 off on a closeout aluminum unibody MacBook bundle.

This bundle features a snappy new 2.0GHz aluminum MacBook with 160GB hard drive, and 4GB RAM (upgraded from 2GB RAM). Also included is the essential 3-year AppleCare plan and a free Hammerhead neoprene protection sleeve. We’re offering all this for $1349.99, discounted from $1449.99, plus free shipping and no sales tax on orders that ship out of Vermont.

Add a 250GB portable Rugged Drive from LaCie for $79.99 and Microsoft Office for $129.99 ($20 off) and you’ve got the perfect Mac-to-School solution!

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