view in plain text or web browser  
Tech Tails | Apple news straight from the Tech Room | | 800-511-MACS
#765: New iMacs, Transferring Email from Outlook, Jobs on Location Tracking, Backup vs. Recovery, eWaste '11


Happy Tuesday,

I spent some time in our South Burlington store last Friday and poked around the newest Thunderbolt MacBook Pros. The inside is nearly identical to the previous generation, but there are a few very minor changes. Apple is making its computers more and more serviceable as time goes on, and there’s no doubt that future generations will be even more simply constructed.

Apple does not make iPad, iPhone, and iPod easy to service. That’s why they don’t offer repair of these devices, opting instead to replace any in-warranty iOS Devices outright if they break under warranty. It’s the same approach if your device is damaged and not covered by warranty: outright replacement. Small Dog is able to facilitate warranty replacement of qualifying iOS Devices in our stores.

If damaged, your iOS Device is considered out of warranty. Our technicians are trained to open these things up and replace bad parts instead of the whole unit. It’s a greener and more sensible approach in my eyes—and it’s certainly less expensive than buying an unsubsidized iPhone for up to $750!

Hopefully you won’t need to take advantage of these repair services, but if you do, you know where to go!

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


  Apple Releases New Quad-Core and Thunderbolt-Equipped iMacs  

Today, Apple released significant updates to its popular line of all-in-one iMacs. Introducing next generation quad-core Intel i5 processors across the line, the new iMac models also feature faster graphics, the recently released Thunderbolt I/O technology and a FaceTime HD camera.

Maintaining physical similarities to the previous generation, today’s update falls more in line with the annual speed boost typically performed on Apple’s flagship products than a groundbreaking new redesign. Akin to March’s MacBook Pro update, the new iMacs may look the same, but have been retooled internally to pack a serious performance punch.

The driving force behind the new machines is the next generation “Sandy Bridge” line of Intel quad-core processors. Now standard across all models, Intel’s i5 chip boasts speed increases of up to 70 percent. With custom-to-order options ranging as high as 3.4GHz on the 27-inch model, high-end users are almost guaranteed to see an exponential speed boost. Coupled with the powerful new processors, the new iMacs also feature next generation graphics from AMD.

The 21.5-inch and base 27-inch models include a stock configuration of 512MB GDDR5, and the high end 27-inch offers a default configuration of 1GB GDDR5. Users can further upgrade the top of the line 27-inch model with the beastly Radeon HD 6970M which offers an incredible 2GB of GDDR5 video memory.

These new iMacs also mark the first appearance of the revolutionary Thunderbolt I/O technology on a line of desktop computers. Introduced alongside the latest series of MacBook Pro, this high speed I/O technology features two bi-directional channels with transfer speeds up to 10Gbps each. Supporting up to six daisy-chained accessories, one Thunderbolt port is capable of driving multiple displays and external hard drives.

Though currently limited to Apple’s 1st party accessories and select 3rd party hard drive manufacturers, Thunderbolt is slated to see widespread adoption in the coming months and emerge as a true successor to USB and FireWire. Apple has included one Thunderbolt port on the 21.5-inch models, and two on the 27-inch machines.

Taking yet another cue from the recently released MacBook Pro, all new models of iMac include a built-in FaceTime HD camera and Apple’s revolutionary FaceTime software. Enabling HD video calls between other compatible FaceTime HD Macs—currently limited to iMac and MacBook Pro—iMac owners can also make standard definition calls to all of Apple’s additional FaceTime-equipped devices such as iPad 2.

Carrying over several mainstays of the line, both 21.5- and 27-inch models include fantastic high resolution LED-backlit displays, an SDXC card slot and Bluetooth keyboard and Magic Mouse. Additionally, each machine comes preloaded with Mac OS X v10.6.7 Snow Leopard and the iLife ’11 software suite. Ushering in a new era of speed, graphics capabilities and connectivity, the new iMacs offer a powerful solution to Mac users of all backgrounds and levels of experience.

Check out the all-new iMacs here.

  Transferring Emails & Mailboxes from Outlook Express to Apple Mail  

If you’ve ever needed to transfer email from a Windows PC to a Mac, you know how intensive the process is. It can take hours, and there has never been a clearly documented way to cleanly convert the email and mailbox files from Outlook Express’ format to Apple Mail’s.

Dbxconv is a great and simple utility that utilizes the command line on your PC to convert the .dbx files Outlook Express (5.0-6.0) uses by default to the .mbx format which Apple Mail can use. It’s available for download (along with detailed instructions) for free here.

After downloading, run Dbxconv at the command line on the PC, after exporting your emails from Outlook Express in their native .dbx format. The utility will then convert the .dbx files into .mbx files. These files can be transferred to your Mac via a MS-DOS (FAT) formatted USB drive. Once transferred, these files can be imported into Apple Mail by choosing “Import Mailboxes…” under the File menu.

After the import is complete, you will see the mailboxes appear in Mail under “Imports.” If preferred, those mailboxes and messages can easily be selected and dragged over to any other pre-existing mailboxes.

  Jobs & Apple Executives Speak on Location Tracking Controversy  

Recently, Apple product releases such as iPad 2 and the white iPhone 4 have been overshadowed in the news with negative leaning press surrounding the iOS device location tracking issue. For those unfamiliar with the controversy that began last week, here’s a synopsis: Essentially a small file containing nearly a year’s worth of location data was discovered within the backup files of iOS devices such as the iPhone and 3G-equipped iPad.

This data, when plotted, yields incredibly accurate results showing the device’s travels. This means if you keep your iPhone on your person, your movements have effectively been tracked for up to a year. Purportedly an invasion of personal information, privacy concerns were immediately raised. Misunderstanding and speculation of Apple’s involvement and usage of collected data initially gave way to moderate panic in some users. In the days following the discovery, Apple was largely silent on the issue. Save for a characteristically blunt email exchange between Steve Jobs and a concerned user, the company refrained from issuing an official statement on the findings.

Last Wednesday, however, Steve Jobs, Phil Schiller and Scott Forstall agreed to a telephone interview conducted by All Things Digital. During the interview, Jobs explained the company’s initial silence, claiming it was due to Apple throughly researching the issue to best deliver the facts to its customers. Jobs explained:

“We’re an engineering-driven company, When people accuse us of things, the first thing we want to do is find out the truth. That took a certain amount of time to track all of these things down. And the accusations were coming day-by-day. By the time we had figured this all out, it took a few days. Then writing it up and trying to make it intelligible when this is a very high-tech topic took a few days. And here we are less than a week later.”

The interview continued with further contributions from Jobs, Schiller and Forstall on how Apple deals with privacy—specifically location-based apps, whether or not Apple plans to testify before Congress on the issue, what Apple uses the acquired information for, and how the company’s privacy and security policies differ from its competitors. An edited transcript of the interview can be found here.

Sensing the growing controversy surrounding the issue, Apple published an official Q&A style document to its PR library detailing the facts of the situation. Although Apple claims the information is merely for maintaining a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around a user’s current location, and that any collected data is anonymous ad encrypted, it will be formally addressing the issue with a future software update.

Scheduled for release in the next few weeks, Apple plans to issue a free iOS update which will perform the following:

  • Reduce the size of the crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower database cached on the iPhone.
  • Cease backing up this cache when synced with a computer.
  • Delete the cache entirely when Location Services is turned off.

While this news doesn’t exactly have people fitting their tin foil hats and smashing their iPhones, it is always a bit disconcerting to know big brother Steve is watching. As with the iPhone 4 antenna controversy last summer, we feel that by taking its time and formulating an accurate and concise response, Apple has handled this issue to the best of its ability. What are your thoughts on the issue? Is privacy something that should be traded in exchange for the technology we enjoy—and in many cases rely on? Feel free to share your thoughts on the blog.

  Data Backup vs. Data Recovery  

We offer data backup as part of our repair services here at Small Dog, as well as data recovery. One question I am occasionally asked is, “what’s the difference?”

Data backup is the process of copying your data to an external storage location, be it a flash drive, external hard drive or a network volume. Typically this is (or should be) done on a regular basis in case something happens to your system. When you check your system in for repair, we always ask if you want us to do a data backup for you, especially if there is a chance that your data could be affected by the repair. If we have to replace your hard drive, your data is not automatically copied to the new drive unless you request it.

In order to copy a file, the system looks at the directory area of the file system. It scans the list of files, locates the one needed, and then retrieves it from the hard drive. If this directory area somehow gets corrupted, it makes copying files difficult. In some cases we can run a repair utility on the drive to rebuild this file catalog.

If the drive is badly damaged due to bad spots on the hard drive platters, a rebuild may not be possible. Data backup looks to the file system to accurately report the location of each file, but if the file system is unreliable, then your backup will fail with an error that it can’t read the files.

When this happens, we have to attempt data recovery. This involves connecting the drive to our server and running a process that bypasses the file system and looks directly at the file storage area of the hard drive. It scans the hard disk for any files that may have become lost, and then attempts to copy them to a safe location. If the hard disk has developed bad areas, this process can take a while. A standard copy operation via Finder will try maybe two or three times to read the file, and then it will give up with an error. (It’s designed to give up before too much time passes so the OS does not appear “hung.”)

A data recovery program is designed to try many more times than the OS normally would, which is why we tell customers that a recovery attempt can often take several days. Depending on how much data there is to recover and how badly damaged the hard disk is, it can take several minutes to recover just one file.

Unfortunately there are no guarantees—data recovery is not always possible. If the drive was physically damaged, such as in a drop, then the attempt might not even recognize the drive. At that point, the only option is to send the drive to a company that specializes in data recovery. They have a clean room environment where they are able to disassemble the hard drive, remove the storage platters, and try to get to the data that way (bypassing the drive electronics entirely.) This advanced forensics does come at a cost, sometimes in upwards of $1000 per drive. Even then, there is no guarantee that you will get your data back.

This is the part where we tell you the best way to prevent this scenario from happening to you is by keeping regular backups. Setting up Time Machine is one of the easiest ways—plug in an external drive, tell Time Machine to use it as a backup drive, and let it do the rest. If anything ever happens to your hard disk, you can just restore from Time Machine. There are also online backup options, such as synchronizing your data via MobileMe.

  Free eWaste Recycling: May 14th and 21st  

Live near Vermont or New Hampshire? Have some tech stuff to recycle? We’re holding FREE eWaste Events in both Vermont and New Hampshire this year, so come on down!

Our Vermont event is scheduled for Saturday, May 14th at National Life Insurance Headquarters in Montpelier, VT.
View website here.

Our 2nd annual New Hampshire event will be held on Saturday, May 21st at the Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester, NH.
View website here.

Both events are completely free and are “all-you-can-ewaste!” Each event will take place between 9:00AM and 2:00PM. (While the vast majority of electronics are recyclable and will be accepted, there are a few exceptions—namely kitchen appliances and air conditioners.)

Make sure we can take it—see our list of accepted materials on either page. Read more about our ewaste collection programs here!

  TT SPECIALS | 5/3/11 - 5/10/11  
   Save $10: Apple TV, AppleCare Protection Plan, + 4ft. HDMI Cable
   iPod touch 8GB (4G), AppleCare Plan + Free Hammerhead Aura Case!
   Mac mini 2.4GHz 8GB/320GB, AppleCare, 4ft HDMI Cable, + Apple Remote
   iMac 27in 3.20GHz i3 8GB RAM/1TB/5670, 2TB Time Capsule, AppleCare Plan!
   Save $50: MacBook Air 11in 1.4GHz 4GB/64GB, AppleCare, Leather Envelope
   $20 price drop! Verso Premium Leather Case for iPad (black)
   $20 price drop! Verso Leather Case for iPad (brown)