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#702: Drive Failure in Action!, Tip of the Week: Facebook Chat in iChat, VT Sales Tax Holiday March 6!


Happy Tuesday,

After a quick trip out to California last week, it’s back to work this week. We’re gearing up for another wildly popular tax holiday coming up on March 6th. These tax-free days are always some of our busiest, and we’re expecting nothing less this time around. Keep an eye out on and in our other newsletters for more news and specials as the event comes up. Of course, all web and phone orders shipping out of Vermont are always tax-free.

Every year there seems to be a lull in repair orders in the middle of college semesters, so our service facilities in Waitsfield and South Burlington are turning around repairs quicker than ever. If you’ve been thinking of a hard drive or RAM upgrade (did you know you can put a 750GB hard drive in a laptop?), now is the best time to do it for fastest turnaround.

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


  Drive Failure in Action!  

If you’re a faithful reader of Tech Tails, or even an occasional reader, you’ve probably noticed that rarely an issue goes by without some reminder to our readers to back up their data. Data backup has become such an integral part of being a computer owner that Apple has built automatic backup, Time Machine, into their latest operating systems and we offer bundles with external hard drives on almost every computer we sell. In our minds, a computing system is not complete without a backup solution.

Unfortunately, this is still not a perfect world and as a technician I’m faced with telling at least one person per week that all of his or her data is gone. I’ve been screamed at, sobbed to, and even had people beg that ‘there has to be something [I] can do.’ While Small Dog does use some great utilities for data recovery, we do not fall into the very specialized category of ‘Data Recovery Specialists.’ For that job, we refer people out to some of the Apple Authorized Data Recovery Specialists in the country, and the top dog has always been DriveSavers.

DriveSavers is a leader in their industry and I’ve seen them recover data from incredibly damaged drives. While the fee for that service might cost you more than the computer itself, if you’re serious about getting your data back these are the folks to speak to. This is also why it came as no surprise when one of our fabulous South Burlington techs, Ian Ray, discovered that they recently released an awesome free app for the iPhone and iPod touch demonstrating drive failure and discussing proper backup strategies. Check it out in the App Store under DriveSavers.

As a technician, I’m constantly trying to find ways to educate my customers on how a hard drive works so they can understand why failures are so prevalent. My usual routine is likening it to a record player; it’s a spinning disk with a needle reading the data off of it. Just like when a record player is bumped and the needle digs into the record, when a hard drive is bumped, it can have a similar effect. At the last shop I worked for, we also had a drive that was taken apart so we could give a better demonstration of the different types of failures. We basically try anything we can to help educate our customers so they understand that all hard drive, regardless of manufacturer, will eventually fail and it’s so important to have data backed up.

DriveSaver’s new app does a phenomenal job of really demonstrating what a hard drive is, how it works, how it can fail and what noises you can listen for if you’re concerned the drive might be failing. It’s visually interactive and filled with enough information to educate even the most technophobic user without being overwhelming. They even demonstrate that flash drives, while better, are not perfect and can fail too. Their section on ‘Protection Strategies’ also does a great job explaining proper backup techniques, though I’ll admit with that section being all text-based it might be easier for the average user to glaze over.

If you have an iPod touch or an iPhone, I highly encourage you to head on over to the App Store to download the DriveSavers application! Don’t have an iPod touch or iPhone? No problem, they have a new flash version of it on their website. There… now you have no excuses, so go check it out!!

  Tip of the Week: Facebook Chat in iChat  

iChat is more capable that you might think. Small Dog uses iChat’s Jabber functionality for our own internal instant message system. It’s a great, secure solution for us, and we’ve used it for years.

You might not realize that the chat functions in Facebook can be used in iChat, eliminating the need to log in to the ever-changing website. Just go to your Facebook account settings and retrieve your username, then fire up iChat.

In the iChat menu, select Preferences and make a new account. The account type is Jabber. Your username will be < youruser > with the usual Facebook password. Click on the disclosure triangle to show server options, and enter as the server name. The port to use is 5222.

iChat also support Google Talk and, of course, AIM (AOL Instant Messenger).

  Sales Tax Holiday - Saturday, March 6!  

Vermont is having a sales tax holiday on Saturday, March 6. There will be no sales tax on items that cost $2,000 or less. This could save you some serious dough if you’re upgrading your own computer, your family’s Macs, or just want to grab some fun gadgets. The savings can add up, as sales tax in Vermont is 6%, and even 7% in a couple of towns (South Burlington, Williston).

We’re celebrating with a 24-hour sales event at our South Burlington retail store. The store will open at 12:01 AM and close at 11:59 PM. Our Waitsfield store will be open with regular business hours on Saturday, we’ll have additional telephone coverage, and our warehouse will be busy shipping orders all day.

Click here to read our Vermont Sales Tax Holiday FAQ.

Note that everyone who lives outside of Vermont gets to order tax free from every day (we don’t charge sales tax on orders that ship out of Vermont).

  SPECIALS | 02/16/10 - 02/23/10  
   Intuit TurboTax Deluxe (Federal + State + eFile) for Tax Year 2009 + 4GB Vermont Flash Drive!
   It's Back! Free Shipping on Matias Tactile Pro Keyboard; Real keyswitches = fast, efficient typing!
   MacBook Air 1.86GHz 2GB RAM, 128GB Solid State Drive, USB SuperDrive, + FREE Shipping
   Apple Magic Mouse - FREE Shipping!
   Microsoft Office 2008 Home and Student Edition, Save $10!
   Micro Accessories 65 Watt AC Adapter PowerBook G4 or iBook - Free Shipping!
   MiLi Leather Slip Case for iPhone or iPod Touch - Save $5!
   MacBook Pro 15in 2.53GHz 4GB RAM, 250GB drive, FREE sleeve, FREE shipping!