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#681: Garage Sale Specials, Firmware Downgrades, Bonjour for Windows, Failure To Launch, Exchange Support


Happy Tuesday,

I went for a walk yesterday with Rebecca and Tony, and the dogs of course—Toby, Waylon, and Owen—to the Mad River behind the Small Dog warehouse in Waitsfield. We’re so fortunate to have this wonderful way to spend a few mid-afternoon minutes with the dogs and nature. While we got a little bit of rain last night, the river is as low as I can remember.

There’s one swimming hole with a great deep pool upstream from a deep fast-moving channel. I was amazed to see so little water and so much rocky beach, but the dogs didn’t seem to mind. One of Owen’s favorite past times is swimming underwater to fetch rocks from the bottom, but in water so shallow he’s able to just stand half-immersed and pile the rocks up on the shore. Soon the leaves will be gone and snow will blanket the valley, but as long as the river is flowing and open, Owen will be in there finding rocks.

We’re in the middle of our famous Garage Sale, and I’m listing a few goodies especially for Tech Tails readers. Check out the article below, or just hit up for all the deals.

Thanks for reading, and keep in touch.


  Garage Sale Specials for Tech Tails Readers  

Kibbles and Bytes, another Small Dog newsletter, is the traditional place we announce our famous Garage Sales. I thought it’d be nice to list a handful of items that might be of particular interest to Tech Tails readers.

There are a handful of used, untested Macs: iMac G4s, G5, and even an Intel or two; a pile of Power Macs; and tons of Time Capsules. These are best for parts, but with some time, effort, and research, odds are two broken computers will yield one working computer. You’ll find these Tech Tails-specific listings have lot numbers beginning with T.

There are hundreds of items listed already, and we’re adding more every day. Bookmark and keep an eye out for new stuff at insanely great prices!

  Tip of the Week: Firmware Downgrades  

Apple releases firmware updates for its devices now and again, but it seems that AirPort and Time Capsules see the most updating. Perhaps that’s because computers usually see only one update during their lives while AirPort products tend to last longer than computers. Firmware is low-level “software” that generally lives in some sort of flash memory, and controls the most basic functions of a computer or other electronic device like power flow, how various components interact, and at what speed.

In an AirPort base station or Time Capsule, the firmware also controls function of the ethernet and USB ports. A recent firmware update to the AirPort Extreme base stations rendered the AirPort Disk function unreliable. AirPort Extremes allow you to hook up an external USB hard drive that can be accessed over the network—a killer feature—but the 7.4.2 firmware is reported to bring frequent disconnections of hard drives. The only fix was to restart the base station through AirPort Utility, or by power cycling the device.

Luckily, it’s very easy to revert to earlier firmware versions using AirPort utility, found in the Utilities folder on any Mac running Leopard or Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.5 or 10.6). Along the left side of AirPort utility, you’ll see your base station. Click once on it, then click the Manual Setup button on the right side of the window. This will bring up the configuration options. In the Summary section, click on the word Version to show a list of previous firmware versions. You can move back one version or several, but I’d advise only to backtrack one step and only if you’re having specific issues not resolved by standard troubleshooting tactics.

  Bonjour for Windows  

One of the most common type of consult that I’m faced with is setting up a home network that supports printing from multiple computers to one household printer. While this used to be the type of setup that only businesses used, with multiple computers being commonplace in most modern households it’s become a very regular scenario.

I’m constantly surprised by how many homes still go through the rigamarole of emailing documents to themselves, or popping them on a flash drive just so they can walk across the hall and print out a document from the one computer that they have connected to a printer. It’s especially easy now that all Apple wireless routers (and many third party routers) support wireless printing with just about any USB printer, regardless of what platform you use.

Say hello to “Bonjour” (redundant, I know, but I had to say it). Bonjour was first introduced in Jaguar (OS 10.2) under the name “Rendezvous.” Also known as “zero-configuration networking,” Rendezvous became an easy way to quickly find and configure network devices, including printers. While the name “Rendezvous” made a little more sense, since the protocol really is a “meeting” of two or more devices, Apple changed the name to “Bonjour” with the release of Tiger (OS 10.4) as part of the settlement of a trademark dispute with Tibco Software in 2004. Regardless of title, the technology behind Bonjour is pretty darn cool. When Bonjour for Windows was released, it got even cooler!

Bonjour for Windows allows Windows computers that share a network with Macs to participate in file-sharing, printer-sharing and a variety of other peripheral-sharing. I commonly use it when setting up an AirPort Express, Extreme or Time Capsule in multi-platform homes. Simply plug your USB printer into the USB port of the Apple wireless device and Bonjour automatically makes it visible to the network.

That means that when Macs go into their System Preferences > Network Preferences and hit the “+” button they can automatically see the shared printer attached to their router. As long as the printer driver is installed they can print wirelessly to it! It should be noted that not all USB printers are supported (though most are) and that all-in-ones can only print wirelessly, not scan wirelessly.

For our PC friends on the same network, they just need to download and install Bonjour for Windows and then use the Bonjour for Windows program to locate and add the printer to their printer list and they too can wirelessly print! I’ve also found that Bonjour for Windows can be a great tool for those having printer headaches in their Parallels or VMware Fusion virtual machines. After installing Bonjour for Windows and running the application, one can see the same printers that were visible on the Mac side and wireless printing is a breeze!

  Browser Launch Failures  

While I spend less time in the tech rooms now than I used to, I do pick up a handful of repairs now and again to keep the queue as short as possible for our customers. One particularly interesting machine worked perfectly in every way, except that no web browser would launch and stay open for more than a minute or two. The customer keeps up on technology news and is among the first to download new products, especially web browsers.

I tried launching Safari, Firefox, Opera, Camino, and Flock. None would stay open for more than a minute or two. When each quit unexpectedly, it offered the option of sending an error report to Apple. I clicked that button to look at the error logs, and found the common thread immediately: the Adobe Flash plugin. It made perfect sense, as each installed browser used this common resource—even across users.

Turns out this is another problem caused by Migration Assistant. Migration Assistant is a brilliant feature of Mac OS X, but sometimes problems do arise when data being transferred is out of date and incompatible with the most modern software on new computers. If you find yourself in a situation where an application quits unexpectedly, be sure to take a look at the logs. Even we do not understand everything they keep track of, but there are often clues buried in there. If you see one thing come up over and over again, odds are something is amiss. Often, you can copy and paste directly from the log into Google and come up with solutions!

  Exchange Support – The Key to Enterprise Adoption  

Snow Leopard is significant in many ways. From OpenCL, which allows graphics cards to essentially serve as additional processors, to the significant reduction in footprint, it’s a huge step forward in terms of efficiency and performance. An oft-forgotten feature is support for Microsoft Exchange, the undisputed leader in corporate email, calendar, and collaboration software.

Exchange runs on Microsoft server software and, until now, required the use of Microsoft Outlook (on the PC) or Microsoft Entourage (on the Mac). While Exchange support on the Mac via Entourage is appreciated, it’s hardly elegant or truly stable. We’ve been waiting for years for true, Mac-like support for Exchange in Apple’s existing applications like iCal, Mail, and Address Book. It’s finally here, and it works very well.

Exchange support on the Mac combined with the same support on the iPhone positions Apple for explosive growth. We should see this feature drive sales of the Mac and iPhone for years to come, and the refinements in Snow Leopard position Mac OS X for sustainable growth for the operating system’s next ten years. Further, Snow Leopard is the only operating system that comes with full Exchange support out of the box—to get equal function from Windows 7 you’d need to also buy Microsoft Office!

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