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#699: Time Capsule Drive Upgrades, Apple Re-Paves the Street, EyeTV Review, Weekly Tip


Happy Tuesday,

With temperatures in the mid fifties and steady rain falling all day yesterday, we’ve gone straight from Winter to Mud Season. Undoubtedly things will freeze up again, but the rain forced Mad River Glen – the celebrated local ski area of single chair fame – to close for a few days. With flood warnings for the entire area, I couldn’t help but think of the 1927 flood that ravaged vast swaths of New England. Similar circumstances brought on that catastrophe: lots of snow on the ground, warm humid air, strong wind, torrential rain, and frozen rivers. Indeed, the Mad River did nearly reach the bridge heading into Moretown where the river narrowly squeezes between two bedrock cliffs.

Apple reported its strongest quarter ever yesterday, and Don brings all the details in this edition of Tech Tails. Of course, tomorrow we’ll all learn what Apple’s latest creation is. We’ll be live blogging the event on our own blog, Barkings from 1PM eastern time throughout the event, and cannot wait to see what groundbreaking stuff is announced.

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


  Tip of the Week: Unlearn Words  

We all type words from time to time that spell check doesn’t recognize. Did you know that you can teach spell check words it doesn’t know? In many applications you can right-click on a word flagged as misspelled and add it to the spell check dictionary. Just place your cursor over the word, right-click, and select Learn Spelling. If you’ve taught the dictionary a new word, but would rather it un-learn it, you can right-click on the word in question and select Unlearn Spelling.

  Apple Re-Paves the Street  

The Apple story just keeps getting better and better and as a shareholder and Apple reseller I have to put the credit for this spectacular story on the extraordinary management team at Apple. The success story is fascinating alone but to continue to post record revenue and earnings during the worst economic conditions in decades is simply remarkable. Thank you Steve and the whole management team at Apple. Keep us smiling with new greatness!

With analysts estimates for Apple’s first Quarter (Oct-Dec) hovering around $10.4 Billion in sales and earnings of $1.77 per share, Apple announced their actual earnings and once again posted best ever revenue of $15.7 Billion and profit of $3.4 Billion or $3.67 per share. While some of that difference is due to an accounting change where Apple no longer needs to report iPhone and AppleTV sales over 24 months.

Nevertheless, Apple sold a record 3,360,000 Macs during the three months which represents a 33% year over year growth. They sold 8,700.000 iPhones and 21,000,000 iPods! With all eyes on Wednesday’s announcement which was hyped by Apple during the analyst’s call, one analyst said dryly that the financial report was “not bad for a warm-up act.”

The big news was the overseas strength of the brand for Macs, iPhone and iPod with 58 percent of Apple’s revenue coming from international sales. Mac sales grew over 40 percent in Italy, France, Switzerland and Spain while Australia was up 70 percent and China up 100%.

Apple added about $5 Billion in cash to the war chest, which has swollen to just under $40 Billion. Hapy speculated that Apple may be doing its shareholders a disservice by hoarding all that cash and not either paying dividends or investing it in more than low-yield short-term investments. I disagree and feel that in addition to the intrinsic support of the shares value that this cash represents, it also gives Apple unprecedented flexibility in terms of new product development, acquisitions and new initiatives.

While the number of iPhones sold appeared to be less than some analysts were expecting, the impact of 8.7 million iPhone is significant with Apple now reporting that over 70% of the Fortune 100 are deploying the iPhone and this is double the penetration since the iPhone 3GS was shipped in the summer of ’09.

While iPod sales were down year over year, Apple sold almost 21 million iPods with increased revenue. Their MP3 market share remains steady at around 70%. One particularly bright spot was the iPod touch with 55 percent growth.

Apple reported that it now has 283 retail stores with average revenue per store at $7.1 million and a record 50.9 million retail visitors.

Steve Jobs seemed pleased and said “ If you annualize our quarterly revenue, it’s surprising that Apple is now a $50+ Billion company. The new products we are planning to release this year are very strong, starting this week with a major new product the we’re really excited about.”

Apple is growing at nearly twice the industry’s 17% rate and with about 50% of the Macs sold at Apple retail (and most resellers as well) to new-to-Mac customers the prospects for market share growth are spectacular. On the other hand, you do not need market share when you can invent new markets the way that Apple has done with the iPod, iPhone and now a new game-changing product to be announced tomorrow.

  EyeTV Hybrid Review  

Being one of the few people left in America without a DVR, I’ve had my eye on an EyeTV for quite a while now but have not had a hands-on experience with one. Last week, one of our buyers came to me with an open-box EyeTV Hybrid to try out; I jumped at the chance! Now, I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest television fan. Along with not having a DVR, I also don’t own an HDTV. Luckily, the EyeTV Hybrid works just fine in Standard Definition so keep in mind while reading this article that no testing was done of the HD functions of the product.

As soon as I got home I plugged the EyeTV Hybrid into the back of my Mac Mini Server, which I use as a media center. I realized there were several ways to hook up EyeTV to my television and cable. The EyeTV Hybrid comes with a coax jack built right in for use with cable or an antenna. It also comes with an optional “video cable” to attach to an alternate video source. My Mac Mini is already connected to my television with S-Video and an optical audio cable, so all I needed to hook up was the cable line. However, I was already running into some confusion and the vague directions were of no help. I have digital cable that routes through a cable box and to my television. It seemed that the most logical thing to do would be to unplug the cable to my television and plug it into the EyeTV; thinking that I needed my programmed Digital Cable box to get access to all of the channels.

I fired up the software and after install was immediately told that my software was out of date and I needed to upgrade; this is not unusual. Often times when one tries to install software from the disk that came with the product that disk is actually out of date. So, I downloaded. Two more downloads and a driver update later and finally my software was ready to use…or so I thought. In going through the setup assistant I was told the EyeTV had to scan for channels. This reminded me of setting up an old TV for the first time. It took over thirty minutes for the EyeTV to scan and once it was through I was told I only had three channels. Sure enough, since I had routed through the cable box, the only real channel that displayed was the one for the box itself. That meant that I could still control the channel by using my cable remote, but I couldn’t see the program list on EyeTV or tell it what to record. It was basically defeating the whole point of the EyeTV.

Then I wised up, plugged the cable line from the wall directly into the EyeTV, waited the thirty minutes for the channels to refresh and, voila, I finally had a program list and was able to control the EyeTV via my computer. The next step was getting the EyeTV remote working. To my chagrin, I found that the remote works with an IR receiver directly on the EyeTV. I have to say, that is a poor design considering the EyeTV is made in the form of a USB stick and is intended to plug in to the back of a computer. IR requires line-of-site so the remote was completely unresponsive until I used the included USB extension cable and propped the EyeTV Hybrid above my Mac Mini (creating an eye-sore in the process). Now I could at least get the remote working, about two thirds of the time. Let’s talk about this “remote” for a moment. This is potentially the cheapest looking and feeling remote I’ve ever seen. Aside from the giant letters reminding me it was “Made in China”, there wasn’t much of a description to it. Several of the buttons are not labeled in any real recognizable fashion. There’s no included manual (either physically with the EyeTV or within the program itself) to explain what the functions of the non-labeled buttons are and for the most part many of the buttons just plain don’t seem to do anything. The remote is also so intermittently responsive, that I ended up jamming buttons in frustration and occasionally yelling at my computer like a nut-job.

Aside from the cons, the EyeTV does the minimum that I asked for. It recorded the programs that I told it to and it allowed me to watch television through my computer. The program guide is fairly cohesive with a decent interface. I was disappointed that it was unable to record two programs at once. I also noticed that if I was watching a program that I was also recording it would occasionally hiccup; like watching a streaming video online without enough of a buffer. Overall, though, the quality was about the same that I get through my cable box.

I think this would be a great product for someone who does not have a television and is looking for an affordable DVR solution or just wants to watch TV on their Mac. The remote issues and setup time aside, the product performed consistently and it’s low-profile is convenient. I’d be curious to hear from those using the HD functions of the EyeTV Hybrid. Have you had a positive, negative or neutral experience with the EyeTV? Shoot me a line, I’d be curious to hear about it!

  Time Capsule Hard Drive Upgrades  

Apple’s Time Capsule was released in 2007 in 500GB and 1TB capacities which were, at the time, sufficiently capacious to accommodate backups of most anyone’s Mac or Macs. Today, Apple sells Time Capsule in 1TB and 2TB configurations with substantially improved wireless speed due to compliance with the 802.11n standard, not just the draft standard.

With current generation iMacs standard storage starting at 500GB, and more and more laptops with 500GB and larger drives, 1TB is no longer enough for everyone. I bought a 500GB Small Dog Refurbished 500GB Time Capsule and quickly filled it with backups from my MacBook Pro. When my girlfriend bought a new iMac to replace her aging PowerBook running MacOS X 10.4 (Tiger), the added strain of an another Time Machining Mac made 500GB downright unusable.

I didn’t want to shell out for a whole new Time Capsule, so I asked Google how to replace the internal drive in a time capsule. I found an excellent guide that explained that the server-grade drive that Apple ships in their Time Capsule is not entirely necessary, and that an energy-efficient, lower-RPM drive would put less strain on the internal power supply and reduce the strain on the small internal fan. I picked up a 1.5TB 3.5-inch SATA hard drive (though 2TB would work just as well).

The first step is to remove the rubbery bottom of the time capsule, which is kept in place with some very sticky adhesive. Rebecca suggested I use the original drive for some time to warm the adhesive, but in the end a heat gun was necessary to cleanly remove it. This reveals ten phillips screws holding on the bottom plate, which comes right off. Once inside, it’s quite obvious how to proceed. Be careful of the temperature sensor, which must be removed without damaging its cable. The SATA power and data cable must be carefully unplugged from the main board inside.

Once you’ve installed the new drive, button the Time Capsule back up, and fire up AirPort Utility, you’ll be guided through the process of formatting the new drive. All told, the process took about twenty minutes, but as you probably know from experience, the initial backup took all day. Instead of 100GB free, I now have well over 1000GB free – plenty of space for my girlfriend’s and my backups!

  Reader Submitted Mac Maintenance Applications  

Last week we asked readers of Kibbles and Bytes to share the OS X maintenance applications they’re currently using for their Mac. The response was overwhelming, and on topic for republishing in Tech Tails. Of all the other apps listed below, I’ve only tested Cocktail and TechTool Pro.

Indeed, I know many Mac users run Cocktail. MacLife says “We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Cocktail is simply one of the most useful maintenance utilities ever created for Mac OS X.” However, in my Mac use, I’ve only ever needed to use Onyx (along with daily Time Machine backups).

Click here to visit the Onyx developers page.

Here are the other, reader-submitted and tested Mac maintenance applications:

Cocktail – Cocktail is an award-winning general purpose utility for Mac OS X. It is a smooth and powerful digital toolset with a variety of practical features that simplifies the use of advanced UNIX functions and helps Mac users around the world to get the most out of their computers. Cocktail is installed on more than 200,000 computers worldwide.

Click here to read more and download Cocktail.

Yasu – One reader says “I started using this several years ago.” Yasu was “Created with System Administrators who service large groups of workstations in mind, Yasu (Yet Another System Utility) is an Apple OS X maintenance utility that has been developed to do a specific group of tasks quickly within a few clicks, rather than needing to endlessly type shell script commands in the Terminal application.”

Click here to read more and download Yasu.

Macaroni – Macaroni is a tool which handles regular maintenance for Mac OS X, including the Mac OS X repair privileges process as well as Unix-style maintenance. You could do this yourself, but don’t you have more interesting things to do with your time?

Click here to download Macaroni.

MacJanitor – MacJanitor is designed to be used on a periodic basis by Mac OS X users who don’t leave their computer on (and awake) 24 hours a day. MacJanitor is provided as freeware as a service to laptop and energy-conscious home users.

Click here to read more about MacJanitor.

Main Menu – MainMenu is a powerful maintenance tool to keep your Mac running like new, packed in a slick and simple interface. Improve application performance, make searching faster and speed up your disk access.

Click here to download Main Menu.

TechTool Pro – Use TechTool Pro to keep your Macintosh running smoothly. TechTool Pro is a full-featured utility program containing options for testing and repair, maintenance (including disk defragmentation) and data recovery. All it takes is one click of the mouse to perform a comprehensive suite of tests on your computer’s hardware and attached drives. TechTool Pro does it all. There is no need to purchase additional software to keep your computer performing at its best. In fact, it’s so good that Apple includes a copy of its sibling, TechTool Deluxe, in its AppleCare Protection Plan.

Click here to view TechTool Pro.

DiskWarrior – DiskWarrior is used more as a repair tool than a maintenance utility, but it does have maintenance features. It claims to be the safest, most technologically advanced, most powerful utility to eliminate directory damage and recover your files, folders and documents. DiskWarrior is so advanced it can even recover your data from a failing hard drive. Yet all that power is hidden behind one button.

Click here to read about DiskWarrior.

  SELECTED SPECIALS | 01/25/10 - 02/02/10  
   Mac Mini 2.26GHz 4GB, RAM, 160GB drive, SuperDrive, 9400M Graphics!
   MacBook 2.26GHz 4GB, 250GB White Unibody, 3-year AppleCare Plan, Free Sleeve, Free Shipping!
   MacBook Pro 15in 2.66GHz 4GB RAM, 320GB drive, w/ExpressCard Slot, Free Sleeve, Free Shipping!
   iMac 24in 3.06GHz 8GB RAM, 1TB drive, GT130 graphics, AppleCare Plan, $700 off original pricing!
   Mac Pro Quad-Core 2.66GHz, 8GB RAM, 640GB + 1TB drives, GT120, AppleCare plan, Free Shipping!
   iMac 27in 2.8GHz Quad Core i7, 8GB RAM, 1TB drive, 4850 graphics, Free Shipping!
   MacBook Pro 13in 2.53GHz 4GB RAM, 250GB drive, 3-year AppleCare plan, FREE sleeve, FREE shipping!