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#772: RotW: MacBook Screen Backlight, Time Capsule Upgrades, Lion Upgrades for Business and EDU, iOS Lock Down


Happy Tuesday,

Don and I sometimes write in our newsletters about Small Dog’s mutually beneficial relationship with Apple. Small Doggers head to Apple headquarters in Cupertino, CA and elsewhere now and again to strengthen this relationship on the sales and service sides of things, and are always well cared for.

Our AppleCare representative is headed to Vermont (unfortunately stuck in Chicago O’Hare Airport as I write this), and I look forward to showing him around our Vermont facilities and absorbing his thoughts on how we can improve our repair customers’ experiences.

I receive many comments and questions following every Tech Tails mailing, and last week was no exception. The response after last week’s intro that included a discussion of Owen’s hot spots was truly heartening. I can report that shaving the area followed by a gentle iodine scrub solved his irritation after hydrocortisone cream was ineffective.

Such responses to dog-related, but also tech-related issues make publishing this every week a pleasure.

Keep in touch,


  Repair of the Week: MacBook Screen Backlight  

This week’s repair involves a first-generation black MacBook whose display mysteriously started flickering and then went dim a few days afterwards. Usually this is just a failure of the inverter, which is fairly common; this case, however, was unusual in that the failure disappeared whenever the computer was lifted in just the right way.

Whenever we see a flickering screen or a screen that has a very faint picture, the main component we consider is the inverter. If you can see a very faint image on your screen, odds are it needs a new inverter. In this case though, we had to look elsewhere due to the unusual intermittent nature of the failure. If the MacBook was picked up with my left hand, squeezing around the MagSafe port, the screen would light up just fine. This made some sense because the inverter plugs into the main logic board right in that area. I reseated that cable and reassembled the machine to find the symptom persisted.

I took the machine apart again and found that I could apply pressure to the inverter connection to the logic board to get the backlight to stay on reliably. But there had to be a fair amount of pressure applied—not enough to just use nonconductive, heat-resistant, residue-free tape to hold it down.

I switched out the inverter cable to see if it’d make a better connection, but it was down to the connector on the logic board itself. It had somehow deformed, perhaps as a result of expansion and contraction from heating and cooling. I ordered up the logic board and the problem was solved. AppleCare on this nearly three-year old computer saved the customer about $400!

  Time Capsule Hard Drive Upgrades  

Apple’s Time Capsule was released in 2007 in 500GB and 1TB capacities which were, at the time, sufficiently capacious to accommodate backups of most anyone’s Mac or Macs. As of today, Apple sells Time Capsule in 2TB and 3TB configurations with substantially improved wireless speed due to compliance with the 802.11n standard, not just the draft standard.

With current generation iMacs standard storage starting at 500GB, and more and more laptops with 500GB and larger drives, 1TB is no longer enough for everyone. I bought a 500GB Small Dog Refurbished 500GB Time Capsule some time ago and quickly filled it with backups from my MacBook Pro. When my girlfriend bought a new iMac to replace her aging PowerBook running Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger), the added strain of an another Time Machining Mac made 500GB downright unusable.

I didn’t want to shell out for a whole new Time Capsule, so I asked Google how to replace the internal drive in a time capsule. I found an excellent guide that explained that the server-grade drive that Apple ships in their Time Capsule is not entirely necessary, and that an energy-efficient, lower-RPM drive would put less strain on the internal power supply and reduce the strain on the small internal fan. I picked up a 1.5TB 3.5-inch SATA hard drive (though 2TB or 3TB would work just as well).

The first step is to remove the rubbery bottom of the time capsule, which is kept in place with some very sticky adhesive. Rebecca suggested I use the original drive for some time to warm the adhesive, but in the end, a heat gun was necessary to cleanly remove it. This reveals ten phillips screws holding on the bottom plate, which comes right off.

Once inside, it’s quite obvious how to proceed. Be careful of the temperature sensor, which must be removed without damaging its cable. The SATA power and data cable must be carefully unplugged from the main board inside.

Once you’ve installed the new drive, button the Time Capsule back up, and fire up AirPort Utility, you’ll be guided through the process of formatting the new drive. All told, the process took about twenty minutes, but as you probably know from experience, the initial backup took all day. Instead of 100GB free, I now have well over 1000GB free—plenty of space for my girlfriend’s and my backups!

  Lion Upgrades for Business and Education Users  

Apple announced earlier this month that the next version of Mac OS X, Lion, will not be available on physical media in favor of electronic distribution on the App Store. This is just fine for end users and families with several Macs, but was not an acceptable strategy if you need to upgrade many dozens of computers. It was recently announced that such customers will be able to buy volume licenses from the App Store, and deploy the upgrade to many computers the just as has been done before.

NetInstall is one solution for automating these upgrades and has been a part of Mac OS X Server since Leopard. You can also use Apple Remote Desktop to push the downloaded package from the App Store to as many clients as you wish. Lion will install in place, and does not require that you boot from an external disk, further simplifying the process.

As Lion will be available only through the App Store, and the App Store requires Snow Leopard, you’ll need to upgrade yourself to Snow Leopard while supply remains available. Once Snow Leopard is gone, it’s gone, and you will likely not be able to upgrade yourself from Leopard or Tiger.

I went ahead and created a special for Tech Tails readers to save $30 off Apple Remote Desktop for the next week. It should be noted that any computer purchase from now until the Lion release is entitled to a free copy of the new operating system through Apple’s Mac OS Up-To-Date Program so there’s no cause for delay if you’re looking at a new Mac.

  iOS Lock Down  

With every successive release of iOS, Apple seems able to devise ways for its mobile devices to make our lives even easier. The trade off, however, is that these devices seem to catalog an ever increasing amount of personal data. Should an iPhone, or other iOS device, be misplaced or picked up by a thief, you’ll not only be out a few hundred bucks—the entirety of your personal data (as well as that of your contacts) could be jeopardized.

Clearly aware of the large amounts of personal data being stored on iOS devices, Apple has implemented security measures such as ‘Find My iPhone’ and a comprehensive passcode system in every iOS device’s Settings > General page. The former is a free service and app enabling users with compatible iOS devices to track—and even wipe—devices that go missing. The latter bars access to a device until the proper four digit passcode is entered.

While a four digit passcode is the default option most users will select, Apple has built in deeper security for those with especially sensitive data. To change your passcode from a simple four digit scheme to a more complex word or phrase, simply turn ‘Simple Passcode’ off. You will now have access to your device’s QWERTY keyboard to input a text based passcode of your choosing.

Below the option to disable Simple Passcode is an option to turn off Voice Dial (iPhone only). Even though a contact’s name must be clearly spoken to place a Voice Dial call, this feature technically bypasses lock screen security by allowing calls to be made. Although no additional features are available, some users may choose to toggle this feature off for greater peace of mind.

Finally, Apple has included a self destruct mechanism in every iOS device—ok, ok not a Mission Impossible style self destruct—but still pretty cool. The last option in the Passcode Lock menu is dubbed ‘Erase Data,’ and when enabled, will wipe a device after 10 failed passcode attempts.

If you choose to enable this feature, however, you had better remember your passcode as your data will be erased if you botch it 10 times. Using this feature can be re-assuring as even the most determined thieves will be permanently prevented from obtaining personal information after 10 failed attempts.

As long as you’ve kept a current backup of your device on your Mac, restoring is painless should you ever accidentally wipe your own device.

  Lucie's Garage Sale Picks  

I’ve just personally added some awesome new items, so check out all of the new listings since last week. (Some new lots begin with FF, AA and CC…)

As of right now (act fast, because as with all Garage Sale items, they go fast), we have new items from Apple, Skullcandy, Harman Kardon, Logitech and more. My favorites so far are the various speakers, along with an Apple TV just listed:

Lot FF59: Opened/Demo – Apple TV (2010) – $89. Stream TV, Movies, Music and more. Usually sells for $99.99!

Lot AA-65: DEMO Black Chill Pill mobile speakers – $12. They come in their original packaging and are all set to go. These portable, battery powered speakers are a huge seller, and here are 30% ($28!) off their regular selling price!

So check out all of them… there’s lots more to choose from. Current iPad 2 and iPhone 4 stuff, hard drives and much more! Plus, see some “Blast from the Past” products such as the iPod nano 4G, 5G and original iPad.

Have fun!
Shop Garage Sale here!

  TT SPECIALS | 6/21/11 - 6/28/11  
   Save $30: Apple Remote Desktop - Only $469.99
   MacBook Air 13in 1.86GHz 2GB/256GB, AppleCare + Free Sleeve!
   MacBook Pro 13in 2.7GHz i7 4GB/500GB, AppleCare + Free Sleeve!
   AirPlay Bundle: Apple Airport Express + Sierra Sound iN Studio 4.0 Speakers
   Only $65! - Cyber Power 330W UPS + 6 Outlet Surge Protector
   Save $25: iMac 21.5in 2.5GHz i5/500GB HD, AppleCare + 8GB RAM Upgrade!
   Save $10: Apple TV, AppleCare Protection Plan, + 4ft. HDMI Cable