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#686: Save Your SMS!, 13" MacBook Pro Unibody Glass Removal Videos, Icon Previews, Widgets


Happy Tuesday,

It’s always exciting to get my hands on new stuff. I had my first look today at the new white MacBooks, and even mostly disassembled one. They’re much easier to disassemble than the previous-generation MacBook, have much improved battery life, and an efficient, evolutionary design that brings Apple’s entry-level portable offering up to par with the rest of the line. From a serviceability standpoint, I’m happy that Apple is sticking with one general design philosophy across its portable product line and making very conscious changes to service strategy that increase technician efficiency and lower their warranty costs.

While these are overwhelmingly positive, I question Apple’s decision to do whole display module replacements across the product line. Following up on my unibody screen replacement article a few weeks back, Rebecca produced a three-part video series demonstrating just how you can safely remove the glass from a 13-inch MacBook Pro. By replacing only defective components, instead of the whole screen assembly (including the rear housing, chassis, iSight, and other components), Apple can reduce their own costs and lower their environmental footprint. Of course, that would mean lower costs for customers. We’re currently testing custom replacement parts for the unibody screen modules, and will be able to offer you substantially more efficient repair in the not-too-distant future.

As always, thanks for reading, and keep in touch.


  Save Your SMS!  

Last week I answered a call on the tech line from a woman who was looking to download her SMS messages from her iPhone to her computer. While I know that SMS messages are backed up as part of the iPhone’s full backup feature, the backup files (located in Users/yourusername/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup) are pretty much unreadable by the human eye. We don’t typically support iPhones on our support line, and unfortunately I wasn’t familiar with any programs that offer SMS backup for the iPhone. I suggested checking and some forums to see if she could find a solution.

My own curiosity was piqued. I used my Google-Fu and found several different mac-compatible applications that purported to do just what she was looking for. After playing with a few of them I found one that I really liked, MobileSyncBrowser. It’s easy to use and works directly from the backup files that are already on your computer, so you don’t even need your phone to access the recently backed up data. The really nice concept there is that since the data is being read from your computer instead of the iPhone itself, there’s no risk to your iPhone! It also means that if your phone is lost or stolen, you can access the backed up data in a comprehensive way. Now, this is a shareware program, so while you can play around with it for free, keep in mind that you do need to pay for the software if you’d like to actually export the data.

The program does have great features beyond SMS exporting. It basically allows you to view all of the files in the iPhone backup and export them. That means pictures, contacts, call history, notes and more. The one “trick” is to remember to back up your iPhone before using the program, since the program is reading from your backups, not from the phone itself. You can back up your phone using iTunes, and then open up MobileSyncBrowser to access all the data you normally wouldn’t have access to on your computer.

  13" MacBook Pro Unibody Glass Removal and LCD Replacement  

As much as I adore the design, durability and power of the unibody MacBook and MacBook Pros, as a technician one of the most frustrating things has been trying to figure out how to safely remove the glass panel that is glued to the display assembly. Apple’s repair strategy for cracked glass or damaged/defective LCDs has been to replace the entire display assembly. While that does do the trick, it’s an expensive endeavor.

Recently, it was rumored that the “glue” holding the glass in place is actually 3M double-sided tape, which is much easier to work with than strong glues. After checking out some removal methods online and playing with it, I found a technique to remove the glass that I feel is safe and reasonable. It was also a nice plus to find that on the 13” MacBook and MacBook Pro unibody models it’s possible to replace the LCD without removing the display assembly from the body of the machine. It’s important to note that this is not possible in the 15” or 17” models, as those have LCD mounting screws located under the clutch cover, which cannot be removed without removing the display assembly.

I hope you enjoy the three part video below demonstrating the removal and replacement of the glass and LCD on a 13” unibody MacBook Pro. Please keep in mind that this is an advanced repair and this is not meant as a DIY tutorial for the average user. I highly recommend that only Apple Certified Technicians attempt this repair. If you do decide to try it yourself, just remember that neither Small Dog Electronics nor Apple will take responsibility for any damage you may do to your computer (or yourself) from attempting this.

MacBook Pro Unibody Glass Removal and LCD Replacement Part 1
MacBook Pro Unibody Glass Removal and LCD Replacement Part 2
MacBook Pro Unibody Glass Removal and LCD Replacement Part 3

  Tip of the Week: Icon Previews  

One of my favorite features in Mac OS X is that certain icons themselves are a “preview” of the file’s contents. A photo’s icon is a tiny version of the photo itself, making browsing through a packed-full folder in the Finder less of a chore than it might be otherwise. A customer came in yesterday wondering why some of his icons showed this preview and others didn’t. I didn’t know the answer at first and began poking around preferences and ‘asking’ Google. This was a great question that had me stumped for a few minutes.

I revisited the “Show View Options” window from the Finder’s View menu and saw what I missed the first time through: a checkbox for “Show icon preview.” With this checked, all icons—not just a random few—were turned into previews. Snow Leopard adds functionality to the icon preview for PDF files. If you resize the icons to something greater than 64 × 64 pixels using the slider at the bottom-right of a Finder window, you can place the pointer over the icon and arrows will appear, allowing you to preview the document page-by-page.

  A Few Of My Favorite Widgets  

Dashboard is a feature of Mac OS X that I’ve never felt I really used to it’s fullest capability. That said, every now and again I decide to plunge into the widgets section of the Apple downloads page and surface with a couple of new gems. I recently found two widgets that have been great for time management.

The first widget is called QuickCal. If you use iCal to coordinate your life you need this widget. It’s just a text field, much like a google or wikipedia widget, that sits on your Dashboard. What it lets you do is add events to your iCal by typing them in plain english. For instance: type into QuickCal “Budget Meeting Saturday at 2pm until 3pm.”

Then it will create an event called “Budget Meeting” that will span the next Saturday from 2pm until 3pm. It’s that simple. By clicking on the upper right corner it will change which calendar it will add the event too. The only downside I’ve found so far is that it doesn’t seem to be able to create repeating events, but this is easily changed on iCal itself later on. I highly recommend this widget if you are often adding random events to your calendar.

The other widget is called Minutes. This is nothing more than an extremely simple yet elegant timer. I find using a timer helpful in managing my attention while studying (or writing blog posts) and it’s taken me a while to find a widget I really liked. What I love about this one is it’s super simple interface, it’s just a dial you drag to the number of minutes you need.

It has multiple skins, which is a nice touch, and multiple alert types. You can have it start to play itunes when using it as an alarm clock, or just have it play one of several alert noises (I rather like the bell which sounds like a gong). My favorite though is that it throws an alert on top of whatever you’re working on that looks like this:

Which is nice and hard to ignore. It can also give you just this alert without the sound which is nice if you don’t want to be heard.

Basically both of these widgets are very good at what they do. They are both incredibly simple without a ton of fancy options, but still manage to be as feature rich as you’d like. I use them both frequently and think you should check them out.

  Feed Your Inner Creative Child  

Very often as a parent, I get to be a kid again. One of the things I enjoyed most when I was younger is Legos; I had numerous sets of the little bricks and often combined them to build wild monstrous creations and full-bodied cars with what was a pretty limited number of bricks. I would spend hours with friends making huge gear drive systems to see what we could drag, pull, or move with the little Lego vehicles we built. Now that I am a parent, I find that my eldest son enjoys Legos as much as I did.

While perusing the web last night I found a link to the Lego website, where you can download and install an application from Lego to create your very own Lego set. The application will allow you to start with a predetermined base, or let you go completely freestyle. After creating your dream Lego thing, you can create packaging for it and submit the build request to Lego for production! The application can be downloaded here.

I downloaded the application last night and got started. The system requirements include an Intel Macintosh with Mac OS X 10.4 with a discrete graphics card (integrated graphics are not officially supported). However, on my MacBook, which has integrated graphics, I experienced no difficulty after launching the application. I chose to start with one of the provided bases to start building my own vehicle. In the hour or so playing with it I didn’t notice any crashes or freezing, and had a lot of fun along the way. I’ll resume the build process tonight, but I don’t think I’ll see it to completion. It’s neat to be able to assemble your own personalized model in a virtual space and a great way to be a kid again!

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