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#690: When a Bad Key Isn't a Bad Key, Repair of the Week, USB to DVI Adapter Review, Specials!!


Happy Tuesday,

As we hurtle towards Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the Small Dog team is gearing up for the holiday season. With the warehouses brimming with Macs, including plenty of 27-inch quad core iMacs, and other goodies we’re ready to go.

Last weekend was our customer appreciation sale, where there were oodles of great deals and bundles, and we still have many of the sale items and bundles available online and in our retail stores in South Burlington and Waitsfield. Don’t want a 27-inch iMac? I plan to give Chill Pill mobile speakers to quite a few on my list this year.

You may have found an unexpected email from Small Dog this morning. It’s our new newsletter, and we’re calling it Deal Retriever (you know, because we’ll find the deals for you!). Because you’re subscribed to Tech Tails, you were automatically subscribed to this new newsletter. As always, you can manage your subscription preferences for Tech Tails, Kibbles & Bytes and Best in Showroom by clicking through the footer at the bottom of this (or any) newsletter or by visiting

Be sure to check out our website Monday for some special Cyber Monday Deals!

As always, thanks for reading and keep in touch.


  When a Bad Key Isn't a Bad Key  

A long time customer came in the other day and requested that a new keyboard be installed into his MacBook. On this model MacBook, the keyboard is integrated into the top case, which also includes the trackpad, wrist rest area, and power button. We assumed he wanted the part replaced due to small cracks on the right wrist rest area, and we got the machine back to him by the next morning.

He returned a few minutes later saying that his problem hadn’t been solved: he still could not type a capital S. My first instinct would be to replace the keyboard, but not after eliminating software as the root cause. Turns out in this case a corrupt preference file was to blame for this extremely odd behavior.

The first step was to create a test user account on the computer to see if the issue would be present there. The keyboard worked perfectly under the new user, so I knew then to search for the cause in the other user’s home folder instead of the global preferences found at the root of the hard drive. I’ve seen odd keyboard behavior resolved by removing the .GlobalPreferences.plist file from ~/Library/Preferences. Note that this is a hidden file—any file beginning with a period will not be visible in the Finder. Once removed, I logged out of the user and logged back in, but the problem persisted.

As I scrolled about the screen, I noticed that VoiceOver, which I had not been paying attention to in the past, was active with many other Universal Access features. I set out to delete all the preference files related to Universal Access, logged out and back in, and was delighted that some preference file related to Universal Access was to blame.

  Repair of the Week: MacBook Screen Backlight  

This week’s repair involves a first-generation black MacBook whose display mysteriously started flickering and then went dim a few days afterwards. Usually this is just a failure of the inverter, which is fairly common; this case, however, was unusual in that the failure disappeared whenever the computer was lifted in just the right way.

Whenever we see a flickering screen or a screen that has a very faint picture, the main component we consider is the inverter. If you can see a very faint image on your screen, odds are it needs a new inverter. In this case though, we had to look elsewhere due to the unusual intermittent nature of the failure. If the MacBook was picked up with my left hand, squeezing around the MagSafe port, the screen would light up just fine. This made some sense because the inverter plugs into the main logic board right in that area. I reseated that cable and reassembled the machine to find the symptom persisted.

I took the machine apart again and found that I could apply pressure to the inverter connection to the logic board to get the backlight to stay on reliably. But there had to be a fair amount of pressure applied—not enough to just use nonconductive, heat-resistant, residue-free tape to hold it down. I switched out the inverter cable to see if it’d make a better connection, but it was down to the connector on the logic board itself. It had somehow deformed, perhaps as a result of expansion and contraction from heating and cooling. I ordered up the logic board and the problem was solved. AppleCare on this nearly three-year old computer saved the customer about $400!

  VillageTronic ViBook USB to DVI Adapter  

I’ve written time and time again about how I love screen real estate. I use a high-resolution 17-inch MacBook Pro and a 23-inch Cinema Display, but still want more space. Unfortunately, no Apple laptop has built-in support for more than one external display. When I heard about a USB to DVI adapter I was skeptical to say the least, but once I tried this adapter I was an instant believer.

The adapter is a small black box with a USB cable on one end and a DVI port on the other. It requires an Intel-based Macintosh and is Snow Leopard compatible, and there’s little more to do than install the software and plug it in. From there you can configure your third display as any other. But you’re not limited to just three displays – you’re limited only by the number of available USB ports. I imagine this device would work plugged into a USB hub, but things will probably get quite choppy.

The VillageTronic ViBook adapter supports resolutions up to 1680,1050 (typical resolution for a 22” to 23” display) and a higher-end version, the ViBook+, supports resolutions up to 1920×1200 (typical for a 24” to 28” display).

  SPECIALS | 11/24/09 - 12/1/09  
   Parallels Desktop for Mac 5.0
   Microsoft Office 2008 Home and Student Edition, Save $10!
   Save 15% - iHome IP9SR Alarm Clock Radio for iPhone and iPod (Silver)
   iPod nano 16GB - Green (5G), AppleCare Plan, FREE iPod Case, Free RapCap Microphone, Free Shipping!
   MacBook Pro 13in 2.53GHz 4GB RAM, 250GB HD, Free Shipping!
   Apple Time Capsule 2TB Dualband (Late 2009), Save $15 and FREE Shipping!
   Blue Microphones Snowball Bundle with USB Microphone and tripod - Save 15%!
   iMac 27in 2.66GHz Quad Core i5 4GB/1TB/SD/4850, FREE HP Wi-Fi All-in-One Printer, FREE Shipping!