view in plain text or web browser  
Tech Tails | Apple news straight from the Tech Room | | 800-511-MACS
#752: Browser Spoofing, Disable Dashboard, TotW: Cold Weather Care, Verso Case, RIP Xserve


Happy Tuesday,

Last weekend was one of those perfect Vermont winter weekends. Temperatures were moderate (high teens feel pretty nice after a -20 degree cold spell!) and visibility seemed unlimited. I gathered with a couple friends and a pack of our crazy dogs and spent some time hiking in the woods. Returning home to the smell of a long-cooking pot of lamb stew was a perfect ending to that day.

As I mentioned in last week’s intro to Tech Tails, we will begin offering iPhone and iPod repair to the general public very soon. I’d like to offer our services to Tech Tails readers to start, so if you have a cracked screen or a battery that’s just given up after hundreds of charge cycles, send me an email and I’ll make sure you’re taken care of. The services will be offered at all three of our retail locations, and you can choose to mail in your device as well.

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


  Reader Feedback: Browser Spoofing and Crossover  

Several readers wrote in about last week’s articles on browser spoofing and Crossover. One reader asked if using the spoofing trick is sufficient for testing websites still in development. The answer there is a resounding “no.”

The spoofing trick works only sometimes, but often enough to be worth mentioning here. Websites in development should really be tested using each browser (on each platform) you wish to support. This means installing Firefox, Opera, Camino and others on the Mac, PC and Linux variants.

Crossover is especially nice for those websites that require ActiveX, which is incompatible with all flavors of Mac OS X. Reader Colleen made an especially keen observation about last week’s topics:

“You can actually combine two of your tips in this issue into one. I’ve had two clients who had applications that required ActiveX in Microsoft Internet Explorer to work. ActiveX does not work on a Mac, even with browser spoofing. However, Crossover was a great solution for these people. I haven’t checked recently but Internet Explorer is one of the applications that Crossover supports, and if the website requires ActiveX, it will work under Crossover.”

This said, testing websites in development should still be done using all browsers on all platforms you wish to support.

By extension, another reader asked if the browser spoofing would allow him to access his FairPoint (a regional ISP) account on their website. They seem stuck in the late nineties by not supporting Safari or Firefox, and spoofing did not help. However, they do support Opera.

The real lesson here is that if a site doesn’t work in your preferred browser, try changing the user agent (spoofing); if that fails, try other browsers. If those all fail, Internet Explorer will probably do the trick for you.

  How to Disable Dashboard  

Dashboard is a feature built in to Mac OS X 10.4 and up that allows you to customize a variety of widgets within a readily accessible screen overlay. This may seem like a handy tool to have on your desktop, but the truth is, these widgets can be quite the little ram hogs, slowing down your regular processes.

In order to fix this and increase the performance on your machine, it is possible to completely disable Dashboard from your system. It does require some basic Terminal work, and can just as easily be reversed, so don’t be worried about making any permanent changes. Note also that you don’t necessarily need to disable Dashboard completely; simply closing widgets you never use will help quite a bit too.

Now, if you’ve decided that you don’t need Dashboard, and would rather have the heightened performance, the first step is to open Terminal (located in Macintosh HD > Applications > Utilities). Once open, type this command:

defaults write mcx-disabled -boolean YES

and hit return. Now you can restart the Dock by typing the following command:

killall Dock

This command will allow the changes to take effect. Dashboard is a process owned by the Dock, so it is necessary to restart the “parent” process to see the desired change.

So there you have it—Dashboard has been completely disabled on your system. Later on, if you begin to miss this feature, it can easily be restored in a very similar fashion. Open up Terminal, and type this command:

defaults write mcx-disabled -boolean NO

Now, run the “killall Dock” command once again to restart the Dock, and there you go—Dashboard has been restored.

  Tip of the Week: Cold Weather Care  

During the colder months, it’s important keep in mind that cold objects entering a warm, moist environment (like your home or workplace) will become damp with condensation. As liquid exposure of any type can void your warranty and result in costly repair, and as Apple now installs liquid exposure indicators inside each of its products, it’s vital that you keep your electronic gear safe.

If at all possible, do not keep your notebook, iPod, iPhone or other electronic gear in the car overnight in the cold. We’re beginning to see a few victims of condensation come through the shop, and it’s easy to avoid. If you find yourself with a moisture-covered device, the first thing to do is turn it off and remove the battery. iPod and iPhone users can only shut down and wait as their batteries are not removable.

Legendary data recovery firm (and Small Dog data recovery partner) Drive Savers notes that this exposure to hard drives is particularly serious: “Cold weather can wreak havoc on temperature-sensitive hard drives used in computers, game consoles, MP3 players and video recorders. Condensation buildup on the drive platters and frozen components can lead to drive failure and data loss.

  Mourning the Xserve? Not for Long  

Rebecca sheds a tear for
our beloved Xserves

We have a rack full of various Xserves that power our website and business, so we were deeply saddened when Apple announced a few months ago that they’d no longer be available past January of 2011.

Yes, yesterday was the Xserve’s last day. We never really got to take a moment of silence in honor of these compact and capable enterprise-class servers—and beautiful, let’s not forget how much they classed up a boring server rack—so let’s do so now.

Okay, that’s enough of that! While I bemoaned the loss of high-availability features of the Xserve (esp. hot swappable internal storage and redundant power supplies) and the ability to pack that much power into 1U of rack space, all is not lost. We had already begun replacing a number of our aging Xserves with Mac minis when Apple made the fateful announcement.

We find the Mac mini to easily hold its own against an Xserve G5 with a fraction of the power, cooling, and space requirements. This means not only a smaller physical footprint, but a significantly smaller carbon footprint. And our backs and wallets thank us every time we deploy one as well.

We’re not the only ones who have come to this conclusion.
published their numbers regarding hosting with Mac minis and are in complete agreement. They’ve hosted 1,278 Mac minis over the last 6+ years, most of which are still in their facility. Not too surprising to us is the fact that some of those were installed on day one and are still going strong. Even more impressive though is that only 11 of them have ever required a hardware repair (“5 dead hard drives, 4 dead motherboards, 1 dead power adapter, 1 corrupted memory module”).

And, you know what? They stopped taking in Xserves for colocation a year ago and not a single customer has found switching to a Mac mini to be detrimental. Like us, the ones switching from Xserve G5s saw a net performance gain! calculates a $3,777 savings in hardware & colocation costs by going with a Mac mini over an Xserve.

The Mac mini with Snow Leopard Server has been an excellent solution for us and we’re glad to see they’re working out well for so many others! Drop us an email if you think a Mac mini (or the Mac Pro with Snow Leopard Server) might be a fit for your business!

  Featured Product: Verso Case for iPad  

Remember when iPad was first introduced? Many people thought Apple would release a traditional tablet—something like a MacBook without a keyboard. Instead, Apple thought different and produced a device that is truly “magical and revolutionary.”

We believed in iPad from day one. We knew it was a transformative device, and that iPad owners would want to use it every single day. We also knew that iPad owners would want to protect their iPad from daily wear and tear.

So, cut to the present: we decided to design our own iPad case. We started with a slew of prototypes, from which we removed buckles, clasps, velcro and snaps. Instead, Verso uses tiny magnets to stay closed and easily snaps open for instant iPad access. (Don’t worry—these magnets are strong enough to keep Verso shut, but far too weak to harm any electronics.) We removed business card holders and floppy stylus slots.

We nixed the vinyl and sourced premium leather in three colors—black, brown and candy apple red. We used stronger stitching in fewer places. We added a simple folding cover that allows iPad to be propped up at a comfortable typing angle.

The result is Verso: a simple, premium quality, easy-access case that protects iPad in style. It can go from coffee shop to boardroom to bedroom. It looks great and feels great in the hand. It’s a case that your iPad can live in.

Click here to see Verso in three colors. We’ve temporarily dropped the price $20, to $39.99. That’s a great value on an exceptional iPad case, if we don’t say so ourselves.

  TT SPECIALS | 2/1/11 - 2/8/11  
   Amazing offer! iMac 27in 3.33GHz 12GB RAM, 1TB, 4670 Graphics
   Save $100: MacBook 2.4GHz 8GB RAM, 250GB (white), AppleCare, Free Sleeve!
   iMac 27in 2.93GHz i7 12GB RAM/1TB/5750/Numeric Keyboard, 2TB Time Capsule, AppleCare
   $20 price drop! Verso Premium Leather Case for iPad (black)
   $20 price drop! Verso Leather Case for iPad (red)
   Apple USB to Dock Sync Cable (MA591), Just $9.99!