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#703: Know Before You Upgrade, iTunes 10 Billionth Song Contest, Stop Bouncing Icons


Happy Tuesday,

Every technician at Small Dog is Apple certified, and almost every employee at Small Dog reaches the highest level of Apple sales training each year. Certifications are a big thing around here, and I’ve been carving out some serious study time to gain the Apple Certified Systems Administrator certification in the coming weeks. Small Dog has six certified Macintosh Technicians, four certified Technical Coordinators, one Deployment Specialist, and dozens of certified Sales Professionals. You’ll find the Sales Pros not only on the retail sales floor and telephone, but in the company’s administration, warehouse, and accounting staff.

Vermont’s Tax Holiday is coming up on Saturday, March 6th, and you’ll find our entire company ready to help you in our stores. It’s busy events like this that prove it makes sense to cross-train an employee base like we have. Our South Burlington flagship store will be open from midnight to midnight! If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll stop in, if only to say hello.

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


  Know Before You Upgrade  

I received of my least favorite types of emails yesterday. One of our customers purchased an upgrade to Snow Leopard for his Intel-based Mac running 10.5. He spent some time discussing his current setup with the sales associate in our store and it sounded like the upgrade was appropriate. Unfortunately, after installing Snow Leopard, the customer realized that his copy of Tech Tools does not work with 10.6, and his copy of CS2 asked him to reinstall.

The answer? Well, there are plenty of alternatives to Tech Tools, including the opportunity to download a newer version right from Apple’s website. However, while CS2 may run in 10.6, it’s known to be a bit buggy and Adobe does not have public plans to upgrade it any time soon since they’re up to CS4 at this point. This news did not make my customer happy.

Since there is a wide range of computer users and not everyone is tech-savvy, we try to stay informed on compatibility issues and we try to ask our customers the right questions before selling them new software and upgrades. Unfortunately, we’re not perfect (but man, do we try to be!). There are some important steps that even the most technophobic can take to try to ensure a smooth upgrade process.

First off, know what you have! The idea of “tech specs” or “system requirements” often makes people shudder, but it’s really just about comparing apples to apples. Start by knowing about your computer. Go to the Apple logo on the top left of the screen and select “About This Mac”. This will bring up some very useful information right off the bat. Under “Mac OS X” a version number is displayed (i.e. 10.6.2). This version is your operating system. Next, you’ll see the processor speed (i.e. 2.66 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo); this lets your know what type of processor you have and how fast it is. Below that is “Memory”, aka RAM (i.e. 8GB 1067 Mhz DDR3); this lets you know how much RAM is installed on your computer and what type of RAM it is. So, we already have three pieces that are vital to know about before upgrading or buying new software: Operating System, Processor and RAM.

Now, click the “More Info…” button. This opens System Profiler, which gives you more than you will ever need to know about your Mac. Let’s look at the really important parts. On the left-hand column, under “Hardware”, click on “Memory”. This shows the breakdown of your individual pieces of RAM. On my MacBook Pro, for example, I have two slots with 4GBs each. If you see that a bank is empty, that’s a good way to know that you have an opportunity to upgrade the RAM.

If you have an Intel-based Mac and head to “Serial-ATA”, this will display information about your hard drive and optical drive. On a PowerPC laptop or older desktop the hard drive can be found under “ATA”. For the hard drive, you can find out the capacity of the drive, how much space is used and how much is available; the latter is very important when purchasing new software. If you’re looking to purchase a computer game or graphics intensive application, it’s also important to check “Graphics” to see what video card you have (i.e. NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT). Take some time to play around in System Profiler to see the many other bits of information you can glean about your computer.

The last step is to consider the applications you use. Click on your Finder icon in the Dock (the smiling blue face) and that will open a Finder window. Now, click on Applications and take some time to scroll through your applications and make a list of the applications that are really important to you. Right-click and select “Get Info” on the important applications and make sure you also write down what version number they are.

Now that you know your operating system, RAM, processor speed, video card, hard drive space and a list of important applications, you’re ready to check your compatibility options. First off, go to the webpage for the software that you want to purchase. For example, if I want to purchase Snow Leopard I would go to the Snow Leopard upgrade page on our website. or to Apple’s webpages with spec info. Now look for “tech specs” or “system requirements”. In this section, you should find requirements for operating system, RAM, processor, hard drive space and potentially, video card. Depending on what type of software it is, there may be additional requirements as well. Now take that list and match it to the list you made of your computer’s specs; does your computer meet or exceed the specifications? Great!

It should be noted that if you’re looking at old software (for example, a piece of software that says it’s compatible with 10.3.9 or later), you might still want to check if it will actually run in the much newer operating system that you most likely have. If you cannot find this on the manufacturer’s website, Google is your friend!

If you are looking to upgrade the operating system, the last step is to now look at your list of important applications. Go to the websites for each of those applications and make sure that they’re compatible with the operating system you’re looking to upgrade to. I always suggest getting this information directly from the manufacturer/developer so you can see the clearest picture: either it’s certified to work or it isn’t.

Once you do start Googling, you’ll most likely end up with a grey-er answer and that’s when you really have to weigh your options; is it worth the risk or not? In the example I used with the customer above, he’s a photographer and CS2 is vital for his business. CS2 is unsupported by Adobe in 10.6, but, as Google will tell you, it does technically run—but it’s also technically buggy. For this photographer, “buggy” is not an acceptable potential outcome, but for an average consumer or hobbyist it might be.

Hopefully, this article has helped demystify the idea of compatibility and system requirements. I hope you all feel empowered to learn more about the specifications of your system. We’re also always here if you need advice and it’s incredibly helpful if you are able to bring us specific information about your system and the applications you use. We can help you make an informed decision as to what software and upgrade options are right for you!

  iTunes Music Store: 10 Billionth Song Contest  

The iTunes Music Store is holding a contest for a $10,000 gift card for the lucky person who buys the ten billionth song. On the surface, that staggering number seems nearly impossible and exaggerated, but when I looked at my iTunes purchases folder it became much more realistic. It was a bit unsettling to see just how much music I’ve bought over the years, but I’m glad I had a legal and practical way to buy it all.

Have you ever wondered about your purchase history on the iTunes store? If you log in to the store in iTunes you can find your purchase history right on your account summary. If you’re already logged in, you can access the account summary by clicking on your email address on the top-right corner of the iTunes window. Looking back to the beginning, I just noticed the store is now over seven years old!

  Tip of the Week: Stop Bouncing Icons  

Mac OS X is full of eye candy some of us love, and some of us hate. In some cases, such as with older hardware running modern software, the eye candy can actually consume resources that could be put to better use. Bouncing dock icons are certainly not necessary, but are a nice touch. Those of us with multiple login items will appreciate this week’s hint.

To stop icons from bouncing in the dock, open up Terminal from the Utilities folder and type the following exactly, pressing the return key at each line break. Note that spaces and capitalization matter, and you really should have a current backup.

defaults write no-bouncing -bool TRUE
sudo killall Dock

You’ll then be prompted for your administrator password. Enter it, and press return. Voila!

To reverse this, open up Terminal again and type the following

defaults write no-bouncing -book FALSE

  Tech Tails TV Schedule Poll  

We’re launching a live Ustream show based on our Tech Tails newsletter. Tech Tails is dedicated to real-world troubleshooting and fixing of Mac computers, along with Apple news and product reviews.

The 45 minute show is going to allow people to tweet, email and chat questions to Small Dog’s highly-awarded Apple-certified technicians. We will then post the video online to be viewed later.

The Tech Tails TV show will stream here.

We want to stream the live show on Tuesday or Wednesday between 3:00 PM EST and 5:00 PM EST. What time would be best for you to tune in? We’ve posted a poll on our blog where you can vote. Please vote in the poll by clicking here!

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