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#771: RotW: Semi-functional Ethernet Port, Wireless Network Conflicts, Playing with Lion

 
     
 

Happy Tuesday,

With last week’s unseasonably hot and humid weather, Owen was in and out of the pond all day, every day. Diving down for rocks is one of his favorite things to do, and some days he needs to be dragged out of the water. He’s a golden retriever with a thick coat, and unfortunately he’s developed a few hot spots from the moisture and excessive scratching. It’s tough to keep him inside during this beautiful weather, but it’s also tough watching him be so uncomfortable. Hydrocortisone cream seems to be helping.

You may remember mention of used computers in previous issues of Tech Tails. We’ve recently ordered a ton of used MacBooks, similar to those from the last round, and look forward to offering you highest-quality, reliable used laptops in the near future. Keep an eye on this and other newsletters for the latest.

What topics would you like covered in future newsletters? Send me an email and let me know!

As always, thanks for reading.

Matt
matt@smalldog.com

 
   
     
  Repair of the Week: Semi-functional Ethernet Port  
   
 

A 20-inch iMac from mid 2007 was recently checked in for repair due to slow internet connectivity. Most of the time, when a user reports a slow connection, it is due to some variable within their home network.

I informed the owner of this, and he opted to have the iMac checked in just to be sure. During the intake process, I asked how the computer connected to the home network, and learned that the iMac was normally hard wired with ethernet.

The first thing I did was plug the iMac into our network. I opened up Safari, and it did seem abnormally slow. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary as far as the connection settings. I opened up Network Utility, and pinged Google.com. The ping time was extremely slow.

I unplugged the ethernet cable, turned AirPort on, and connected the iMac to our public wireless network. I visited the same webpages, and the response time was immensely faster. Pinged Google.com again—much faster. The system was finally accessing the internet at a normal speed. So, the system seemed to have some sort of issue accessing a network through ethernet. I have seen ethernet ports go bad before, but that usually entails a completely non-functional port.

My last test was to take our USB to Ethernet adapter and try to establish a normal internet connection through that. It worked perfectly. I was browsing sites at a very quick and expected load time. My official diagnosis was a damaged, but still partially functional ethernet port. After a replacement of the logic board (where the ethernet port is located), the issue was solved.

 
   
     
  Common Wireless Network Conflicts  
   
 

I recently moved to a new apartment, and upon getting there and setting up my wireless network, I had all sorts of trouble. My wireless signal would cut out randomly, and my signal dropped out every time I walked into my living room. Normally, I would attribute this to a failing router, but since it coincided with my move, I decided to investigate.

I reset my router and modem to no avail. My signal was still abnormally faint. Then, I moved my router into a central location in my house. That resolved my living room dead spot, but I was still dropping signal randomly.

After checking that I had the most recent firmware for my router (check your router’s manufacturer’s website for instructions), I checked for environmental problems. I turned off all lights, televisions, and even my cordless phone.

Still, I was disconnecting randomly. Finally, I realized that every time my roommate used the microwave, everything disconnected from the network. I changed the channel my router worked on, and never had an issue again.

If you experience random disconnects, dead spots, and/or poor throughput with your wireless network, the issue may not be your router or device. Try taking these steps to resolve your issues.

1. Relocate your router to a central location.

Your router has a limited range, and placing it in the center of your home will ensure uniform distribution of the signal.

2. Update your firmware on your router.

Sometimes, a firmware bug on your router can cause issues with your connection. This can be very simple, or very complicated. Consult your documentation and only proceed if you are confident you have the capability to move forward.

3. Check for other wireless networks in the area, and change your wireless channel accordingly.

Other wireless networks can interfere with your network, try adjusting the channel on your wireless router to something less common (channels 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9 generally are free). Consult your documentation for this step, and only proceed if you feel confident in your ability to do so.

4. Check for environmental issues.

Microwaves, cordless phones, wireless video transmitters, fluorescent lights, mirrors between you and the router, wire mesh, plaster walls, and many other things can cause wireless instability. Try disconnecting these devices one by one, and see if your wireless signal increases. If you live in a home with wire mesh-backed plaster walls, you may just have to rely on a wired network, because this type of house is known to seriously impede wireless networks.

If none of these steps works, consult your ISP or local computer technician, as you may have faulty equipment.

 
   
     
  Playing with Lion  
   
 

Last week Apple announced the upcoming release of their next version of OS X, 10.7 Lion. I am very excited about this release and wanted to share some of the coming changes to the system with all of you.

In my opinion, the biggest change is that this release will not be available on conventional optical media, but will instead only be available through the App Store. This seems to effectively lock out anyone not running 10.6 from upgrading to Lion.

I have seen websites with instructions on how to burn the Lion installer to a DVD to enable installation on other computers. It’s unclear, however, whether or not this will work with the final release, as the only version available now is Developer Preview 4. The server version of Lion will also be available through the App Store as a separate download. Server is also seeing a huge change in that it will be available for around $50, rather than several hundred.

Down to the nitty gritty: Lion boasts over 250 changes over its predecessor. I was able to take a very quick look at the Developer Preview a short time before writing this article and I can tell you that while it’s definitely still OS X, there are noticeable changes in almost every aspect of the system. I’m not going to release any information that isn’t already available so don’t get your hopes up for major spoilers. I will say this, however: it’s cleaner, slicker and more refined.

My favorite is Launchpad. This brings the iOS home screen to your Mac. If you have an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch then you’re well familiar with the home screen. On your Mac Launchpad will be a resting place of links to all your applications.

Click on Launchpad in your dock, or use multitouch gestures, and your dock, menubar and desktop icons fade away leaving a frosted surface over your desktop with all your application icons lined up neatly across your screen. You can move them and organize them into folders as you would in iOS. From what I hear, deleting them is a trifle annoying as the OS will ask you to confirm deletion with each app.

Another biggie is what Apple is terming Resume. This also takes a cue from iOS. When you shut down your machine, the state of every application running is saved. This way when you restart your machine you are brought back to where you were when you shut down.

The third take from iOS is Mail. I really like Mail. Again, if you’re familiar with the version of Mail on the iPad you’ll be familiar with what Lion will be like. You can see some images of Mail on Apple’s website. It’s much easier to navigate through multiple mailboxes, so if you’re like I am and have several email addresses, it’s much easier to get through it all.

Do you have multiple Macs in your home? Have you ever tried to transfer files between them? Apple has always made it easy to network Macs together but now they’ve made it even easier. Now you don’t even need a network. As long as each Mac is able to run the AirDrop software (requires Lion), the computers will discover each other as long as they are close enough and allow you to drag and drop files between them.

There are many other changes, but to me, these are the largest. While these changes are really amazing, it’s the little details that make Lion such an awesome upgrade. If you wait with bated breath over the release of Lion, you will not be disappointed.

 
   
     
  TT SPECIALS | 6/14/11 - 6/21/11  
   
 

Hurry—order before 2pm ET and select 3-day shipping, and you’ll still receive any item in-stock in time for Father’s Day!

 
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