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#705: Tech Tails TV Wed At 5!, RotW: Troublesome G3-to-MacBook Migration, Discrete Graphics and RAM


Happy Tuesday,

Tomorrow at 5PM EST is the premier of Tech Tails TV, where Rebecca and I will take questions via Twitter, Facebook, or AIM (techtailstv). We hope to get plenty of questions from our readers, and that you’ll help spread the word about this fun resource in the making!

Vermonters were treated to a tax holiday on Saturday, and we celebrated by keeping the South Burlington store open for 24 hours. It was wonderful to see so many loyal customers stream in all night, through the entire day, right up until midnight the next day. It was a huge success, with hundreds of switchers, upgraders, and lots of people buying Apple accessories. Time Capsule remains one of our most popular peripherals and for great reason.

I hope you’ll tune in tomorrow!

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


  Tech Tails TV: Tomorrow At 5 PM!  

We’re broadcasting our very first live Tech Tails TV show tomorrow at 5:00 PM EST on our channel. Rebecca and Matt will be hosting and taking Mac, iPod and even iPhone tech questions via Twitter and also via email.

If you want to send questions in via Twitter, simply post your question and reference @hellosmalldog so we see you’ve posted. Or, simply send your questions to Matt at or Rebecca at

Tune your browsers to tomorrow at 5:00 PM EST to watch live. We’ll record the show so you can watch it on our Ustream channel, YouTube, or our blog for viewing at any time.

  Repair of the Week: Troublesome G3-to-MacBook Migration  

Small Dog offers data transfer services from any previous computer, including machines running older versions of Mac OS (even the classic Mac OS) and most any flavor of Windows. Last week I completed a tricky transfer from an iBook G3 that resulted in a MacBook Pro that booted to the Setup Assistant no matter how many times the assistant was completed. I was shocked by this, having never seen anything like it before.

The first step I took was to create a throw-away user account with the Setup Assistant. After completing the assistant, I went into the Accounts preference pane and selected Automatic login to this new account. A restart revealed this trick didn’t work—it seemed too easy to be a fix, anyway.

I restarted into single user mode by holding down Command-S immediately after the startup chime and removed the .AppleSetupDone file from /var/db. I knew that I’d have to create yet another throw-away account, but after a restart, the problem persisted.

At this point I chose to bomb the problem by reinstalling the operating system from the system disks that came with the new machine. I chose the Archive and Install option, which is nondestructive in that user files and applications are unaffected; only the core system files are replaced with this option. The bombs weren’t big enough.

At a loss, I resigned to wipe the machine clean and re-migrate the user’s data from the iBook. The faithful old hard drive did complain a bit when I put it into Target Disk mode and began the migration, but it held out through the entire transfer. I chose to migrate everything from the iBook user data, preferences and applications. I rebooted afterwards only to see the same behavior. Defeated and worried that the iBook hard drive wouldn’t survive another migration, I backed up the new MacBook Pro and did an Erase and Install.

This time I opted only to transfer the user account from the backup, not any system files, preferences or settings. Thankfully, the computer booted properly into the user account, but our customer had to reinstall some of his applications from the original disks.

After all that, I honestly can’t say what was causing the issue. Both the customer and I are happy with the results, though it bugs me that I couldn’t figure out why this was happening. Tech Tails readers will certainly be the first to hear the solution if I find one down the road!

  Tip of the Week: Discrete Graphics and RAM  

A customer strolled in to our South Burlington store the other day with 17-inch unibody MacBook Pro, fully decked out with 8GB of RAM. Somehow, after a few hours of layout in Quark XPress, the machine would begin to bog down and beachball as if it were a Bondi blue iMac G3 with dial-up internet access.

He’d just spent the day working on a high-resolution project. By 4:00, he said, the system was so slow that he had to restart. The restart fixed things every time. I theorized that logging out and then logging back in would do the same thing. But rebooting didn’t address the root cause of the problem, and is very frustrating.

Our customer came in with the laptop sleeping and the problem in full force. I fired up Activity Monitor and immediately saw that there was no memory available. Mac OS X was deep into virtual memory reserves, which was undoubtedly causing the memory issues.

I’ve seen programs with memory leaks before—it’s not too uncommon actually. Usually, though, it’s apparent from Activity Monitor which application is to blame. This unfortunately was not this case here.

Taking a step back, I remembered that the 15- and 17-inch laptops now have discrete graphics cards as well as integrated graphics cards. The discrete, more powerful cards do not share RAM with the main system, and so should free up some memory as compared to the integrated option. I checked the Energy Saver preference pane to see the graphics performance settings. Surely enough, the machine was set to “better battery life” instead of “better performance.”

Selecting the higher performance option enabled the discrete graphics processor, stopping the computer’s use of main RAM as video RAM. It also had the wonderful effect of speeding up graphics-intensive operations.

  Small Dog Services: Consulting & Business Sales  

In June 2008, we introduced Consulting and Outside Sales to the list of services we provide. For those of you who are local, the Consulting side of this can include on-site, in-home and in-store consulting services for our clients. Unfortunately, many customers outside of VT are not able to take advantage of most of these; however, our remote Consulting services may be something you’re interested in.

So what do remote services entail? With your permission, we have the ability to have one of our consultants access your computer and assist is solving a wide array of issues. Not all problems can be solved remotely, but it is worth looking into and can save you time and money of having to bring your system somewhere for a diagnosis.

If you’re in a business that utilizes computers, printers and other technology, we provide our knowledge and expertise to provide solutions—meaning we do the research so you don’t have to. We specialize in solutions in digital signage, networking, printing and high-end copiers, contact management, storage and back up solutions and of course, building OS X server systems all the way from a single server to an Xsan.

A local Vermont company needed a solution that allows them fast and easy access to all their data and that also includes a back up system so they can rest assured that their data is safe and secure. We have experience with how Xsan can fit perfectly into your business.

In these cases we can bring in engineers from Apple, Ingram Micro (one of our distributors), APC (a well-respected power and back up company), and others to ensure that the systems we select are the right fit and will serve clients’ needs now and into the future. Let us show you what we can do for you!

Email the consultants or call 800-511-MACS x515. Click a link below for more information!

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