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#712: Multifunction Scanning in Snow Leopard, Mac mini with No Video, Sharing Huge Files


Happy Tuesday,

Most years it seems we have an April snowfall, and this year is no exception. Most of us have already switched over to summer tires on our cars, so driving in the higher elevations is pretty difficult where the snow is actually accumulating. The snow is clumpy and wet here on the valley floor in Waitsfield, but it’s actually quite powdery up in the mountains. Thankfully, I didn’t get around to all the gardening I’d meant to do over the weekend.

Small Dog does not measure its success purely on profitability. We consider our contributions to people and to our planet just as important as making money. These multiple bottom lines make Small Dog Electronics what it is, and we take our social mission very seriously.

We’ve recycled more electronics by weight than we’ve sold, and we’re pretty sure Small Dog is the only company that can honestly make that claim; we’ve donated tens of thousands of dollars to charity already this year by matching customer donations to our pet charities; and for the month of May we will be encouraging donations to Vermont’s only food bank by offering $5 off to any customer who brings in a donation of nonperishable food to our South Burlington store.

Vermont Foodbank serves 50% more people than it did ten years ago, and the economic downturn really brings into focus the need to help our neighbors. Please consider donating to your own local foodbank on a regular basis.

I hope you enjoy this edition of Tech Tails. As always, keep in touch.


  Multifunction Scanning in Snow Leopard  

As a consultant, one of the most common jobs I’m asked to do is to set up new printers, scanners and fax machines for my clients. One of my favorite things about Snow Leopard is that it’s smart enough to automatically download the most up-to-date printer drivers for third party printers. However, it’s important to remember that Snow Leopard does not automatically download scanner drivers or software suites associated with multifunction devices. Since most consumers purchase multifunctions with their new machines, this is an important note to remember.

Recently, one of my clients purchased a new multifunction printer and shortly afterwards she was having issues with her machine freezing up in Pages. She was interested in purchasing a new machine so she went ahead and bought a beautiful 17” MacBook Pro, we transferred the data for her and after a few days with it at home, she experienced the same freezing issue that the other machine had. She promptly brought in the machine, believing it was defective, and asked for a new one. When we heard that she was experiencing the same issue on her old and new machine we knew this was more than a hardware issue.

My client brought both machines in along with the multifunction printer. She then explained her process. She was using Image Capture to scan the photos directly into iPhoto. However, during that process she received several error messages and had to finagle her way along until things worked. She then attempted to use these photos in a Pages document and after inserting several pictures, she would get a spinning beach ball and the machine seemed to freeze up.

According to the Console logs, neither the computer nor the applications ever actually froze or crashed, they just were running very slowly. A quick look at Activity Monitor showed Pages and the Media Browser were using an unusually large percentage of the CPU. I checked the file size of the Pages document. Sure enough, it was several gigabytes, while other similar Pages documents that she created were usually under a megabyte. Obviously, something was off.

I opened her Pages document and had it automatically reduce picture size by right-clicking on the picture and selecting “Reduce picture size.” I saved the document and the size shrunk down to a remarkable 800kb; this is very small. I then opened her iPhoto and verified that she somehow ended up scanning gigantic images in. The size of the photos was causing her machine to slow down to a crawl when she added multiple large images into Pages while keeping her Media Browser open. Obviously, something had gone wrong with the scanning process.

My first step was to ensure my client was using the correct software. I headed to Canon’s website (since it’s a Canon multifunction), navigated to Downloads->Drivers, found the model of her printer and promptly downloaded the correct drivers and software. It’s important to remember that most printer companies list drivers separately from software. In my client’s case, I downloaded the scanner driver, scanner software and full multifunction software suite. Oddly, in this case, it was an older version of the scanner software that was compatible with Snow Leopard; this turned out to be a big part of her issue.

With the correct software installed, my client could use the Canon MP Navigator to scan her pictures into her machine in a reasonable file size. Once we cleared out the gigantic scans from iPhoto and imported properly sized scans all of the slowness issues went away. It was a beautiful thing!

  Repair of the Week: Mac mini with No Video  

This week’s repair was especially frustrating. On a day with Jon and Rebecca out of the office, I was in the tech room turning screws and diagnosing machines on top of my normal duties. Rebecca had ordered a logic board to resolve a bad RAM slot issue in this Mac mini (discovered during a RAM upgrade), and it arrived the next day.

Mac minis are very simple machines to work on. Installing a new logic board takes about 10 minutes, and there are only six or seven screws to deal with. I installed the replacement board, but when I powered on the machine, there was no image on the connected external screen. I verified the screen was working by plugging in my MacBook Pro, then double-checked my work on the mini. After performing SMC and PRAM resets and ensuring my RAM was good, I marked the board dead on arrival and ordered another.

I was alone in the tech room again the next day, and installed the new logic board, only to find the same symptom. It’s not common to need to mark anything dead on arrival, let alone receive two boards with the same symptom; in fact, it has never happened to me before.

I checked out the technician guide, suspecting something might be amiss with my reassembly. After realizing I reassembled everything correctly, I began component isolation. Component isolation is the process of whittling down a computer to its most basic configuration, and adding parts back one by one until the problem component is revealed.

In a Mac mini, minimum configuration is logic board and power supply. I pulled the logic board out of the enclosure, attached the power cable and display cable, and shorted the power switch on the board itself to isolate the power button from the equation. The same behavior persisted.

It was late in the day on Friday, and I had no choice but to update our customer that it would be at least Monday until we’d be able to get his computer back. I figured I’d unplug the backup battery over the weekend so the board could get as low-level a reset as it possibly could.

Monday morning came around, and I reconnected that button. Amazingly, the computer fired right up and displayed video perfectly. Our customer was happy to have the machine back in working condition shortly after 9AM.

  Tip of the Week: Sharing Huge Files  

We all need to send enormous files now and again, and email is not the best way to go. Most all email providers cap the size of files sent and received messages to conserve bandwidth and to help manage the sizes of users’ mailboxes.

iChat is a great way to get around that. If you know the recipient’s screen name, simply initiate a session in iChat and select Send File from the Buddies menu on the top of your screen. In the box that opens up, simply navigate to the file in question, and click the Send button. Your recipient will be asked to approve the transfer and select a destination on his or her hard drive, and the transfer will begin.

This is very fast if you and your peer are on the same network and you’re both using a wired ethernet connection. Wi-Fi gained a significant speed boost in the transition from 802.11g to 802.11n, but these speeds don’t even approach those offered by a wired connection. If the file must travel across the Internet, speeds will be completely dependent on yours and your peer’s connections.

It always makes sense to compress files before sending, no matter the method. You can do this by right-clicking on the file or folder in question in the Finder and selecting Compress from the contextual menu.

  Contest Reminder  

Random Facebook, Twitter and newsletter winners!
For the next two weeks, we are going to be giving away an iPod gift pack to a random winner (three total) from our Facebook fans, Twitter followers and our newsletter subscribers.

If you’re not already in our Facebook group, you can join here:
Small Dog Electronics on Facebook.

Do you use Twitter? We post Mac tips, tricks, news, contests and more on our Twitter feed. Click here to follow us on Twitter.

Of course, many thanks to all of you who read our newsletters every week. We haven’t forgotten you—we’re pulling a random subscriber from Kibbles & Bytes to win as well.

We’ll be announcing the winners in our 4/30 issue of Kibbles & Bytes (next week). Good luck!

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