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#775: RotW: Sleep Issues, Troubleshooting iOS Devices, Calling America...


Happy Tuesday!

This is Rebecca writing for Matt, who is still out soaking up some Dakota sunshine. Summer is finally in full swing up here in the Green Mountains and I’ve been taking full advantage of living in a “vacation state.”

There’s something magical about living in a four season state; I’m pleasantly surprised every year when the landscape turns from the brown barren sludge of mud season to a flush green with flowers blooming, birds singing and everything one would expect from a Disney fairy tale (minus the wicked witch).

I’ve been spending my weekends paddling to remote campsites, hiking and fishing to my heart’s content, all with my Lab, Toby, happily in tow. I will say it was an interesting challenge getting Toby to learn to love paddling as much as I do, but for now, he hasn’t managed to tip the canoe and I’m extremely grateful for that!

I hope you all enjoy this week’s Tech Tails. Matt will be back next week and we’re also hopeful to see Lion come roaring in sometime this month!

Thanks for reading and keep in touch!


  Repair of the Week: Sleep Issues  

Recently, a mid-2007 MacBook was brought into us for repair because it would sporadically (and often quickly) go to sleep while in normal use. We tried the basic resets (SMC + PRAM), which didn’t do it. We ran it through our diagnostic software, which it passed (that rules out any major component malfunction). Even when booted from a known-good hard drive, the system would still exhibit the issue.

On to more troubleshooting: We swapped out the sleep switch/battery connector since that seemed to be a logical cause. Once again, the issue was still there. Next, we ordered a logic board (we reasoned that since the sleep switch connects directly to the logic board, that could affect it as well). After installation and testing, the problem still persisted.

When testing a MacBook after a part installation, we normally will not completely reassemble the computer. Instead, we put the top case back on but will not put the screws back until we are confident that the issue is fixed.

After having swapped in all these known-good parts with no luck, I booted the system for further diagnosis. It stayed awake for ten minutes straight! I was baffled. Nothing had changed since the last time I had booted it… except that the top case was now slightly more propped up than it was before.

With the MacBook on and awake, I gently pressed on the top case, right about the area where it rests over the sleep switch. It went to sleep. I tested this a few more times. The computer would instantly go to sleep when that area of the top case was pressed.

With a simple replacement of the top case, the issue was solved, and the MacBook was happily returned to its owner. The only reason we could come up with for this odd issue was that somehow that area of the top case had become magnetized and was tripping the sleep switch—just as if you had closed the lid.

  Troubleshooting iOS Devices  

While Apple’s iOS devices represent some of the most intuitive computers available, the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad are becoming more sophisticated. Improvements in hardware components beget increased software capability with larger feature sets, which make supporting and troubleshooting these devices ever more complicated.

In 2007, the iPhone was released with iOS 1 (which was called iPhone OS at the time) and one button on the front of its screen (the home button) that accomplished two things. First, it quit the current application, and second, it brought you back to the home screen. This meant that if an app stopped responding, all you had to do was press the home button and tap the app’s icon again to relaunch it.

In 2010, Apple released version iOS 4, bringing multitasking features to the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. In this version of the OS, hitting the home button still brought you back to the home screen but it didn’t quit the app. It simply closed the app window, leaving an app to finish its task; whether that was to continue playing audio, continue tracking your location or continue holding onto a VOIP call. The multitasking feature brought increased capability and increased complexity.

With iOS 4, pressing the home button looked a lot like pressing it in iOS 1, 2, and 3, but with one crucial difference—your app was still there, unresponsive, somewhere in the background. This means that in iOS 4, if your app stops responding, you must:

  1. Press the home button
  2. Double-press the home button to bring up the application switcher
  3. Hold down any one of the app icons in the app switcher until they start to wiggle
  4. Tap the minus badge on the app icon that you wish to quit
  5. Hit the home button again to stop the apps from wiggling
  6. Hit the home button or tap the home screen in order to tap the app you wish to relaunch

Overall, iOS is such a rock-solid operating system that issues are few and far between, and are still relatively easy to resolve. In most cases, if the six step process previously mentioned doesn’t get you back to where you want to be, try holding down the sleep/wake switch at the top of the iOS device for an extended period of time. Then, slide to power off, and hold and press again to boot the device back up to the lock screen.

If the issue still persists, try restoring via iTunes on your Mac or PC. Anything else is likely to be a settings or hardware issue.

  Calling America...  

With summer coming and the kids out of school, a lot of people are planning vacations. Occasionally I get a call asking if the iPhone will work overseas, to which I always have to ask, “AT&T or Verizon?” Most people don’t realize that there is a difference—an iPhone is an iPhone is an iPhone, right? Well, not quite.

When buying an iPhone, there’s more to your selection criteria than just color and storage space. Even though the phones are functionally the same, the cellular networks are very different. Here in the good ol’ US of A, the major difference between AT&T and Verizon is the way data is handled.

AT&T’s network combines voice and data on the same stream, so you can talk and surf the Internet at the same time. Verizon’s iPhone uses CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) which splits voice and data onto different channels. While this makes each one more reliable on their own, it means you can’t use both at the same time. If you’re on a phone call with someone and they ask you to look something up on Google, you can’t do it. You have to end your call, look up the info, then call them back.

It gets even weirder when you leave the States. European countries came up with GSM (Groupe Spécial Mobile, or Global System for Mobile Communications) for their mobile networks. The US also uses GSM, but for whatever reason, our GSM network uses different frequencies, so your GSM phone may not work in Europe.

When buying a phone for world travel, you have to make sure the phone is listed as a “World Phone” (for AT&T) or a “Global Phone” (Verizon). These phones are called “quad-band,” meaning they support US and European GSM frequencies. The iPhone 3G and 3GS, as well as the AT&T iPhone 4, are all quad-band. Verizon’s iPhone is not quad-band, so it will not work at all in Europe. (There are a few areas of China that support it, but for Europe, it’s GSM or nothing.)

But wait, there’s more! Even though the AT&T iPhone will work in Europe, you definitely have to consider the cost of roaming. Some global phones will let you purchase a pre-paid SIM card for use on the local network, but the iPhone is locked to AT&T, so someone else’s SIM card won’t work.

AT&T does have International Travel data and calling plans, but you’re going to have to figure out how much you’re likely to use. If you go over, you could be in for a shock—the web is full of horror stories from people who were told they would be fine on their current plan, only to later be charged $3,000 for a three-day visit.

Remember that data and voice are billed separately, so make sure you understand the rates for each before stepping off the plane. Most of the web sites I checked recommend putting your phone into Airplane Mode, which basically turns it into an iPod touch. No data will go in or out on the cellular network; however, it will still latch onto a Wi-Fi network. If you want to be extra safe, you can still use applications like Skype or chat programs to keep in touch with people without running up an astronomical roaming bill.

As with any high-tech toy, it pays to do the research, both before and after the sale.

  Trojan Security (Update)  

In last week’s article, I mentioned that the box next to “Automatically update safe downloads list” should be checked off. My wording has caused some confusion amongst a few of our readers, so I wanted to clarify.

When I wrote “checked off,” I meant that there should be a little tick mark in the box as though you checked it off, not that the feature should be turned off. I apologize for any confusion. (My fellow technicians and I think it may be a product of New England dialect!)

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