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#688: Meet the Consultants!, Free MacHeist Software nanoBundle, Email Etiquette, Repair of the Week

 
     
 

Happy Tuesday,

Out of my office window today, just at the far side of the river, is a giant tanker truck spreading manure over a cornfield. It’s been an interesting day to be outside, but I’m sure the pungency will subside and tomorrow will be a little closer to normal out there.

Some of the dogs are very excited about the smell—particularly Owen—who decided it’d be best to sprint to the river, swim across, and explore. Small Dog headquarters is surrounded by farmland, and despite the occasional stink, we wouldn’t have it any other way!

As always, enjoy this issue and be in touch.

Matt
matt@smalldog.com

 
   
     
  Meet the Consultants!  
   
 

One of the best things about my job at Small Dog Electronics is that my days are never boring and no two weeks are ever alike! This past week alone I’ve helped a small business owner switch from PC to his new Mac, taught an Au Pair how to video chat with her relatives in the Czech Republic, helped a large business upgrade to Snow Leopard Server and recovered baby pictures from a failed hard drive. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to help clients through frustrating situations and empower them with the tools they need to help themselves in the future.

Our Consulting department is constantly growing and we offer endless solutions and education opportunities to our clients. With in-store, in-home and remote consults available, we offer flexible ways to truly be “always by your side.”

To showcase the limitless offerings of our Consulting department, we’re hosting a special Meet the Consultants Day this Thursday (11/12) in our South Burlington store. Feel free to come in with your questions! We’re offering free 15-minute consultations from 11am to 4pm as well as coupons and goodies.

Join us and see what out team can do for you!

 
   
     
  Free MacHeist Software nanoBundle!  
   
 

Only two days left!

In years past, Macheist has grown famous for offering incredible bundles of high-quality, independent Mac software, usually priced for just $49. This is a savings of literally hundreds of dollars. I’ve personally discovered and downloaded some great software from these bundles in the past—software I continue to use daily.

This year, Macheist.com has outdone themselves by offering a FREE bundle of six great software titles. It’s worth checking this out, even if you’re only likely to use one or two of the titles.

Say hello to the MacHeist nanoBundle:

  • ShoveBox – ($25) – Catch all the little scraps of information that you can’t immediately act on, but don’t want to forget. ShoveBox sits up in your menu bar, waiting for you to drag in text, images, URLs, and more.

  • WriteRoom – ($25) – Writeroom is a simple, but powerful app that provides you with a distraction-free writing environment. WriteRoom does one main thing and does it incredibly well: It’s all about writing…

  • Twitterrific – $14.99 – Twitterrific is an exquisite app that enables you to make the most out of your Twitter experience. It has a clean user interface that’s designed to take up little of your precious desktop space. Twitterrific is packed with features, so that you’ll feel like you’re in total control over everything you do on Twitter.

  • TinyGrab – ($14) – TinyGrab is a simple, powerful app that enables you to quickly share screenshots of everything on your Mac. TinyGrab quickly uploads the screenshot and puts the URL for it on your Clipboard so you can easily share it via email, IM, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

  • Hordes of Orcs – ($25) – Hordes of Orcs is a Tower Defense strategy game where you build walls and towers to defend your village from orcs gone rogue. There are several different towers, each with its own unique abilities. Build Arrow Towers, Radiation Towers, Fire Towers, and more to keep your village safe from the deadly clutches of green meanies.

  • Mariner Write – ($50) – Unlocked for everyone when Macheist reaches 500,000 participants! Mariner Write is a fast, streamlined word processor that’s useful for everyone… professional writers, educators, students, casual computer users, and everyone in-between. It has a simple, elegant user interface so that you can create beautiful documents the very first time you start using it. If you’re tied to using Microsoft Word, then don’t fret… Mariner Write has the power to open and edit Word documents with ease. And it can save your documents in many different formats including RTF, PDF, and various other formats. You stay compatible.

Click here to visit MacHeist to learn more and download all the great apps!

 
   
     
  From the Archives: Email Etiquette  
   
 

With everyone from your grandmother to your five-year-old sending emails, many people assume that they innately know how to properly use email. But email, a modern from of letter writing, is a practice that deserves its own set of guidelines. From casual emails to business correspondence, everyone can benefit from knowing the dos and don’ts of sending email.

As an employee at Small Dog Electronics, email is a big part of my life. My job and personal habits have turned me into a heavy email user. I spend a lot of time writing and responding to emails, many of them to large groups of readers and customers.

Writing emails and electronic newsletters is notably different from writing a letter or a print newsletter. Some of the available resources on etiquette provide more than 30 basic rules for emails, from replying promptly and checking spelling to ditching formatting. These suggestions are all valid, but for many years I operated under just five simple rules for email communication. Recent personal experiences and discussions about email have prompted me to expand these basic rules to nine. If these rules seem simple, that’s because they are, but a surprising number of people are breaking them without knowing it!

Basic Email Etiquette:

1. Never type in ALL CAPS unless you are very angry.

2. Provide white space. Reading small type without some white space can be very hard on the eyes.

3. Be brief. People who read hundreds of emails each day tend to skim over the very long ones.

4. Always remember that people take the written word very seriously. I often find it difficult not to sound too extreme when I’m sending emails. Trying not to sound too clinical or terse after responding to 40 emails can be hard.

5. Try to include the message thread and at least the pertinent thread. This makes it a lot easier to recall the original question. Also, include a meaningful subject line. When inboxes are overflowing with spam, it’s easy to miss an important email if it has a lame subject like “file” or “meeting.”

Expanded Rules

6. Pause before hitting send. Have you sent email to the wrong person with dire consequences? It is easy to misaddress an email. Be careful. Never send something by email that you don’t want the world to read, or be prepared to face the consequences.

7. When sending to a list, it doesn’t hurt to be completely obsessed with the details. It’s my responsibility to send electronic newsletters to Small Dog Electronics’s lists. This is something that I tend to rush through rather than being a stickler for details. This past week, I incorrectly pasted information into the subject line of our Tech Tails newsletter. As I watched it leave my outbox, I felt ready to die of dishonor. I’ve developed a checklist to make sure that I don’t continue to screw up. I advise a similar action if you frequently send newsletters or announcements to large groups.

8. Determine when to include carbon copies and when to reply all. My rules are:

CC: Used when no action is needed by the reader, but you want him or her to be party to the conversation. If any action is needed by the reader, don’t CC, but put him or her in the “To” field.

Reply All (which sends the message to everyone—the sender and all other recipients): Only use Reply All when your answer has some effect on all the readers. Do not reply all when the answer is only for the sender. An example of when not to reply all would be when you receive a reminder for an upcoming meeting that was sent to 100 people and you want to tell the sender that you will be there with a quick “I’ll see you then!” This doesn’t need to go to 100 people.

BCC: Use when sending to a group of people, since many may not want their email addresses publicized.

9. It is not necessary to respond with just “Thank you.” When I first starting working at a computer company, I sent what I thought was a polite response to a coworker that simply said “Thank you!” after he answered a question. Boy, did I get told off for what I thought was a nice gesture. As I learned more, I realized what a pain it is to stop what you’re doing to open an email and then read nothing more than “OK, thanks!” A simple thank you became an annoying inconvenience for the receiver. Now, I thank people in advance to avoid a second interruption.

Originally featured in Tech Tails #624.

 
   
     
  Repair of the Week: 27-inch iMac  
   
 

Small Dog took delivery of a giant pile of 27-inch iMacs shortly after they were announced, and the one we stationed on the South Burlington store’s showroom floor decided it wouldn’t handle Cover Flow very well. When “flowing” through album art in iTunes or a folder’s contents in a Finder window, flashing perfectly horizontal anomalies would appear on the screen. Oddly, we could not find another situation that would produce the anomalies. We played Warcraft, stressed the graphics card with the Grapher application, and ran all the diagnostics available to us, and could not come up with a definitive diagnosis.

The first step in any troubleshooting is to start the computer from a known-good startup disk, and the best tool for this is the Mac OS X install disk that comes with every Mac. Since there isn’t Cover Flow in the installer, that disk wouldn’t help us. Instead, we used our NetBoot system to boot the computer off the network. The symptom appeared that way, so we knew the issue wasn’t related to software. With any video issue, it’s always productive to plug in an external display to determine whether the issue is with the internal display. In this case, the issue could be duplicated on the external display.

At this point, we suspected the graphics card, so one was ordered and installed with no luck. The immediate reaction was that the video card was dead on arrival, but the exact same symptom was present with this card. The video card clearly was not the issue with this machine.

The service manual suggests swapping RAM at this point, but we’d already tried that. Next up is main logic board, which didn’t fix the issue either. Thinking ahead, we also ordered up the display’s cable just in case. Neither fixed the issue.

Curious, I opened up another iMac to see if it had the same issue. It did. I did some creative Googling and found plenty of similar reports, and still believe the issue to be related to the graphics card. We were able to swap parts from one iMac to the other without the need to order service parts as needed, and still the issue remained. Apple was kind enough to offer the customer a replacement machine, and it arrived the other day in perfect working order.

 
   
     
  Adobe CS3 Update Problem Resolved  
   
 

Small Dog is a well-loved institution in Vermont, and we help take care of some other signature Vermont companies. One of my favorites is Ben & Jerry’s, where we help support their graphic design and web design staff. They are a great group of talented designers who are responsible for all the clever ice cream packaging as well as the graphics you see in any Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop, or on their website.

One of the designers has been having issues running Adobe CS3 updates. Adobe provides an update mechanism to keep all the software up-to-date, and it downloads updates from the Adobe servers and installs them, much like Apple’s software update does. This client kept having update failures for new versions of VersionCue and some Adobe Asset stuff. I tried all sorts of trouble-shooting on the machine, repairing permissions, doing all Apple updates, and then manually downloading the updates and trying to install them. The other Adobe apps would update, but not these few components. They would simply stall and just sit there with half a progress bar until I quit.

After some searching on the internet, I found my answer. Like many products, Adobe installs a folder for itself in the Library/Application Support folder. These folders are normally owned by the system user and the admin group, but this Mac’s Library/Application Support/Adobe folder was owned by the user itself.

Several folders within there are used by the Adobe Update application to do its updates, so with the folder owned by the user, those update apps are run with the user’s authorization, not the system. Furthermore, some of the files those updates need to modify are in those folders. The solution is to change the ownership of that folder to the root user, and then the updates can complete!

To do it, go to and run Terminal (Applications/Utilties/Terminal), and type in the following command:

sudo chown -R root:admin “/Library/Application Support/Adobe”

It will ask for your password and then change the ownership of that folder and all folders inside it. Wait for it to complete, quit Terminal and you’re done! The Adobe updates should now run properly.

Please let us know if our Consulting staff can help solve a problem for you or your business!

 
   
     
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