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#744: Be Careful!, Let It Sleep, Replace Your Apple TV's Remote


Happy Tuesday,

Small Dog technicians in all three locations are at full tilt providing free data transfers, repairing customers’ machines, and refurbishing hundreds of iMacs and MacBooks. These refurbished machines are about two to three years old and are just the ticket for the Mac user who spends most of his or her time browsing the web, managing photographs in iPhoto, and keeping in touch with friends and family over email. They’re plenty powerful to run Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and the iLife 11, and they’re selling fast. Check out to see all of the used and refurbished gear we have available.

I traded in my second generation 32GB iPod touch last week for a current-generation 32GB iPod touch. My older iPod has served me well by keeping my entertained on transcontinental flights and in touch while on the go. For the most part, though, I think of my iPod touch as Tivo for my favorite radio shows. Now more than ever, I am driving back and forth to our Manchester, NH store and find myself catching up on podcasts.

Vermont Public Radio, Northeast Public Radio and New Hampshire Public Radio stations are reserved as presets in my car, but there are plenty of spots around the northeast without radio coverage and I’m rarely listening to the radio Saturday mornings for Car Talk and Wait Wait.

Just like Tivo lets me watch only the television I care about, my iPod lets me listen to everything I want to while on the go. The front and back cameras are pretty sweet, and the Retina Display is unbelievably sharp. Try as I might, my eyes simply cannot discern individual pixels.

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


  Be Careful  

We’re headed into the fourth spill season of the year, the winter holidays. The other three are the end of the spring semester, Fourth of July, and the beginning of the fall semester. Typically during these times of the year we see an increase in the amount of machines checked into service because of some form of accidental damage, and we’ve seen them all: beer/wine/soda/tea/water/you name it spills, car damage from being run over, damage from being dropped (into Lake Champlain, out of backpacks or by airline employees), repercussions from abrasive cleaning solutions, nail polish and/or removers, random attacks by rambunctious children, and the list goes on…

Just last week, we had a record number of liquid spills in our shop and all of the owners asked the same question: will my AppleCare cover this? Sadly, the answer is always no. AppleCare is not an insurance policy against accidental or other damage to your machine; rather, it’s coverage for manufacturing defects and provides unlimited, world class technical support. This might not seem like much, and a few people are always hesitant to pay for it, but I can say that it’s well worth it. One repair once your machine is out of warranty will often be more expensive than the AppleCare would have cost you. These are premium computers that can be expensive to fix.

There are limits to this coverage though, and Apple makes these limits pretty explicit in the Protection Plan details. Unless you enjoy reading pages of legalese you’re not necessarily going to be aware of the limitations. Basically it comes down to two things: don’t drop your computer and don’t spill anything on it. Damage to the machine, even if it is unrelated to any problem you may be having, will prevent any authorized service provider from covering repairs under the warranty.

Let’s say you had your brand new MacBook Pro in your backpack and you set that pack down a little harder than you normally did and you crunched the corner of the display. This is a common point of damage that we see in South Burlington. A month or two later, you notice that the backslash key isn’t working anymore and you bring it in to our shop. We’d be unable to repair your machine under the warranty ‘til the damage to the display is fixed, after which AppleCare coverage would be back in place.

Liquid spills can be even more destructive. Not only will it knock your machine out of warranty, but you risk your data as well. In the majority of cases, a laptop is powered on when accidental spills hit them. This means that some electrical current is running through your drive and the shock to the system can damage that drive. I am happy to say that a good number of people have backups now and some of those who don’t have only lost their computer and not their data. With the current trend towards solid state drives, the increase in the loss of data is going to go up. Even data recovery will be difficult because there are no magnetic platters that can be accessed—just more fried circuitry.

To sum it up, evidence of (and not necessarily limited to) dents, dings, scratching, bowing, warping, melting, cracking, shattering, and soaking will prevent us from fixing your machine under warranty. This includes covering cosmetic damage to functional machines.

While AppleCare may not cover the damage to your machine, many of our customers get coverage through either homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. There are also companies out there that just sell computer insurance. I’ve been seeing an increasing number of parents with children going off to college purchasing this, which is smart since more than half of our liquid spill and impact damaged machines seem to come from local college students. The thing to think of in this scenario is the child with the machine may be responsible and take excellent care of it, but not everyone they’ll be around will be as responsible. There’s always the story of “I left it in my room and when I came back it was on the floor in pieces.”

You can read the full terms of the AppleCare Protection Plan here.

If you haven’t yet purchased AppleCare for your new machine, you have exactly one year from date of purchase to buy and activate it. Please be careful around your computers—they don’t like drinks as much as the rest of us do!

  Let It Sleep  

It’s true that notebook hard drives tend to fail before desktop hard drives (unless your desktop computer uses a laptop hard drive, as is the case with the Mac mini). This is simply because notebooks tend to be moved around much more than desktops.

I see customers close their laptops to make them sleep—which is fine—but they then pick up the computer immediately and begin walking with it. The problem with this is that modern laptops take the contents of memory and write it to the hard drive. This is what makes “safe sleep” possible, and it can take up to a minute.

A hard drive is like a record player. There are platters inside that spin anywhere from 4,200 revolutions per minute to 15,000 revolutions per minute. If you’ve ever bumped into your record player or otherwise jarred it while it was playing music, you know that it doesn’t sound very good, can damage your stylus, and can damage the vinyl. The same holds true in hard drives.

Perhaps the easiest and most effective thing you can do to protect your laptop hard drive is to wait after closing the lid. When the sleep light begins “breathing,” your computer is truly asleep. If the light is solid or off entirely, your hard drive is still spinning. Take a deep breath and wait until the hard drive spins down; your data will thank you, and so will your wallet.

  Replace Your Apple TV's Remote  

The new Apple TV is one of the hottest gifts of the holiday season. I own one and simply love it. Perhaps more tellingly, the entire household loves it. Apple TV is the best way to stream Netflix movies and TV shows to our main television, the iTunes store has enough new movies to save trips to the video store, and Apple TV is the easiest way to stream media from my computer, iPad and iPhone to the central television and household AV system. It’s simply fantastic to have instant access to ninety years of movies in one central location.

Plus (and this is my own conjecture based on nothing but speculation), I think eventually some form of app store will come to Apple TV—potentially making it possible to stream media from more sources, as well as play games, show weather and news, etc.

Enough accolades for the Apple TV. This Mac treat concerns the small aluminum remote control that comes with Apple TV. Compared to the massive remotes that most AV systems ship with, the Apple remote is refreshingly simple and easy to use device. However, it is just one more remote to manage amongst a pile of other remotes that many people have in they’re living rooms. Fortunately, it is possible to pair other remote controls that you’re already using for your TV or DVD player to control Apple TV. That’s because most of those remotes have an AUX function that can be used to control third party devices. Here is a support article that explains how to do this:

A few people have already written in because they’ve lost the remote that shipped with their Apple TV. You can buy a new one for $19 by clicking here and then use this Support article to pair the new remote with your Apple TV:

Own an iPad, iPod touch or iPhone? The best replacement remote control/addition to Apple TV (by far) is the free Remote app from Apple. It turns your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch into a remote control. Wherever you are in your house, you can control your computer’s iTunes library and your Apple TV with a tap or flick of a finger. Click here to read about this and download it for free:

Apple says:

Remote lets you control the iTunes library on your Mac the same way you play music or video on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Fast-forward, pause, and rewind. Choose a song, shuffle an album, or skip to the next track. Even create Genius playlists. Album art looks amazing on the large iPad display and stunning on the vibrant iPhone 4 and iPod touch Retina displays. And if your Mac is sleeping, Remote wakes it up so you can access all your digital media on iTunes.

So just remember—if you ever lose the Apple remote that came with Apple TV, just use the Remote App control on iPad, iPod touch or iPhone until you can replace it.

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