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#769: House Surge Protection, Don't Swap That Board!, Print and Scan in 10.6, OS X 10.6.8 and MACDefender


Happy Tuesday,

It’s graduation season once again, and every year that means a surge in accidental damage repairs in our facilities, but particularly in Burlington for its proximity to UVM. It’s mostly alcoholic beverages that get spilled during this peak party time at local colleges, but we have seen tea, coffee, and cola thrown in for good measure.

If you spill on your laptop, it’s best to turn it off but pressing and holding the power button. You’ll also want to position the screen at a ninety degree angle and invert the computer for liquid to pool on the relatively inexpensive keyboard instead of the main logic board or other more costly components. Additionally, you’ll want to wait—a week perhaps—for the inside to dry out. Of course, feel free to remove the bottom case of your laptop with a 00 phillips head driver, particularly if you need access to your hard drive and the data on it.

We sell a ton of keyboard protectors, and many of these sales follow a liquid spill repair. Do yourself a favor and keep the liquids far from your computers and/or pick up one of these keyboard covers. Remember, with AirPlay, there’s no need to DJ from iTunes on your computer. Your library can be streamed directly from your iPhone or iPod touch to an AirPort express or Apple TV. It’s very cool and could save a bundle.

I won’t republish my annual condensation article, but with the humidity, it’s worth another read from our archives. Scroll down to issue 722.

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


  Reader Feedback: Whole House Surge Protection  

Hi Matt,

I appreciated your article on the surged iMac. We live out in eastern Chittenden County, and we experience a lot of power outages. In the early 90’s, when we lived on the Main Road in Huntington, we noticed that the light bulbs in our home were not lasting very long. When we looked into the problem, we learned that we were near the end of the power line, and each time we lost power, we experienced a power surge when the power was restored, and that it was likely impacting our light bulbs amongst other things in our home.

We also learned that you could get a surge protector that you install on your circuit breaker to protect from surges entering your house from the main power line. This has greatly extended the life of our bulbs and no doubt has protected our electrical appliances and computers. We’ve since moved and are serviced by another utility, and we lose power even more frequently. When we built this house, we put a surge suppressor on the circuit breaker, and we still use suppressors as an interface between our larger electrical appliances and the wall outlet.

You might want to pass this along to any of your rural customers who lose power frequently.


  Don't Swap That Board!  

If you’ve ever seen an actual hard drive, you are familiar with their basic shape and construction. On the underside of all hard drives is a printed circuit board, or PCB. It is this board that often contains the drive’s firmware and information about bad sectors; it also controls the flow of power and data to and from the drive. In many instances of hard drive failure, there is nothing wrong mechanically, but the PCB itself has failed.

In the old days it was possible to swap the PCB from an identical, functional drive into a broken one, and recover the data that way. This was practical and useful on drives up to perhaps two gigabytes in capacity. Now that hard drives aren’t even manufactured in capacities less than 160 gigabytes, it is not advisable to swap these boards.

Older drives had self-test data, tables of bad sectors and other diagnostic and operational information on the platters of the drive itself; today, in order to squeeze the greatest capacity out of hard drives and for reasons I won’t even begin to speculate, the information is stored in nonvolatile solid state memory on the PCB itself.

If a modern drive has its PCB swapped out, it may seem to function (spin up and make normal noises), but once it’s spun up and had its data port hooked to something, the data will likely be completely corrupted and totally unrecoverable.

Data recovery at Small Dog Electronics is done with the utmost care, using the most sophisticated software tools available. We are often able to recover the vast majority of data from each drive that comes through our doors, at prices a tiny fraction of those charged by professional outfits like DriveSavers. This said, we won’t be able to recover your data if your drive is clicking or grinding, and odds are DriveSavers won’t be able to either.

If your computer is under warranty, we can replace your hard drive at no cost to you while your failed drive is being worked on by DriveSavers. They really are miracle workers.

When it comes right down to it, there is no reason for anyone to need data recovery. Hard drives are very inexpensive now, and now that we have Time Machine, we don’t even have to think about backing up. Give us a ring or swing by a Small Dog store, and we’ll design a solution that meets your needs and budget!

  Print and Scan in Snow Leopard  

Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard brings a multitude of under-the-hood improvements, most of which are invisible to the normal user. However, changes to the Print and Scan architecture will affect users of older printers, scanners, and all-in-one units. Here is some useful information if you are about to make this upgrade.

Apple has bundled printer drivers with recent versions of Mac OS X and has taken things a step further in Snow Leopard, currently including software drivers for multifunction devices from Apple, Brother, Canon, Epson, Fuji-Xerox, Gestentner, HP, Infotec, Lanier, Lexmark, NRG, Ricoh, Samsung, Savin, Tektronix, Xerox, as well as selected drivers for some other manufacturers. Check your device against Apple’s list to see whether it is compatible for printing and/or scanning in Snow Leopard.

Apple’s knowledge base also has an entry called Mac 101 – Printing which details exactly how to set up your printer.

Apple is also providing driver updates through Apple Software update for devices from Brother, Canon, Epson, HP, and Lexmark (and possibly others in the future). Now—instead of getting individual updates for each device from manufacturers’ websites— printer driver updates come directly through Apple’s Software Update mechanism. For other manufacturers, you can keep checking for updates in the first link above, and on the respective manufacturer’s website.

A big change in Snow Leopard is the discontinuation of AppleTalk support. AppleTalk, a long-lived protocol for printing and file sharing, saw it’s final iteration in Leopard, and has been completely removed in Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. If you have a printer that uses AppleTalk, you can try to see if it supports any other methods for printing, such as Bonjour, IP Printing, or generic PCL support. There are some very old printers that support only PCL and AppleTalk, so you can try the generic PCL drivers for those if all other options are unavailable.

In 10.5 and earlier, most scanning was done through custom applications provided by each scanner vendor. Some of that custom scanner software will continue to work on machines upgraded from 10.5 to 10.6, but most scanning devices work under Apple’s own Image Capture application found in the Applications folder. In the short run, some users with slightly older gear will have to wait for newer driver updates to use Image Capture, but anyone with a new scanner or all-in-one unit should be able to use Image Capture right out of the box. Please check the compatibility list to check for your specific unit.

Printers and scanners are often neglected as consumers and businesses upgrade their gear. If you find that your equipment isn’t fully supported in Snow Leopard, now is a great time to upgrade to more modern printers, scanners, and all-in-one units that support modern protocols like Bonjour. While our consulting staff can often coax more support out of older gear, the most cost-effective choice is often just to get new gear that works right out of the box, provides more robust features, networking, power consumption, and reliability.

Give us a call or stop in one of our stores to talk with a Sales Associate about new gear, or contact Rob Amon in corporate sales if you are interested in bigger office printers, printer leasing, and printer/scanner gear that goes beyond the list on our website.

  Mac OS X 10.6.8 and Mac Protector/MACDefender  

Apple is currently preparing an update to Mac OS X 10.6 that will detect and remove the MACDefender malware, and prevent users from installing it again should they be faced with its tempting trap to remove a nonexistent threat. We wrote about this in past Tech Tails, on our blog, and in our other newsletters. This is certainly a welcome move on Apple’s part, but it worries me that such an obviously fraudulent piece of software is being downloaded seemingly by thousands and thousands of users.

About half, or even more, of the calls to our tech support call center are from customers seeking assistance in removing the software. About half of those customers gave their credit card number to the software and had to call their bank to cancel their cards.

Though OS X remains secure, it is vulnerable to users who don’t think their decisions through quite thoroughly enough. Odds are we will see similar attacks in the future, so it’d be a good idea to get into the habit of Googling the name of any product offered in a pop up window or advertisement on a web page. It only take a moment, and can give you reasonable peace of mind that you are purchasing not only a legitimate, but a useful product that performs as advertised.

While you will want to install 10.6.8 when it’s released through Software Update, both for protection against this malware and for new features, the most important thing you can do for yourself is to use common sense when downloading software and navigating web sites.

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