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#776: Getting Ready for Lion, "Sharing" Applications, Humidity vs. MacBook Pro


Happy Tuesday,

With Lion set to appear on the App Store any day now, it’s a better time than ever to make sure you’re ready by backing up your computer, installing more RAM and making sure you have Mac OS 10.6 Snow Leopard installed and updated.

Once Snow Leopard sells out (we have a ton of Snow Leopard disks left for the last-minute upgraders as it’s required to install Lion), you won’t be able to get the latest and greatest operating system.

Small Dog Electronics is hiring. We have several positions open, including two technician spots in South Burlington, VT. You can see all open positions here.

After almost three weeks off, it’s great to be back to work with fresh ideas and renewed energy. It had been a long time since my last vacation, as last summer and fall led up to the Manchester, NH store opening, leaving no time for me to get away. A key benefit for Small Dog employees is the paid time off policy, and as an employee entering my sixth year, the accrual will speed up even more. Where are your favorite vacation spots?

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


  Getting Ready for Lion  

With Mac OS X Lion slated for release this month, it’s important to make sure your Mac is ready if you’re planning a day one upgrade. With some Mac users predicting the operating system’s release as soon as next week, there are several easy steps to verify your Mac’s compatibility for when Lion roars to life.

The first step to ensure a smooth install is to verify that your Mac is actually compatible with Lion. Like Snow Leopard, Lion is an Intel exclusive release meaning any older PowerPC machines (G4, G5, etc.) are incompatible. If you’re using a PowerPC machine, you’ve likely already identified that it is incompatible with Mac OS X 10.6 and consequently will not work with Lion either.

Unlike Snow Leopard, however, Lion marks the first recent release of OS X not fully compatible with all of Apple’s Intel based machines. In order to run Lion, your Mac must have at minimum an Intel Core 2 Duo processor. This means Lion is unfortunately incompatible with the first generation of Intel Macs dating from mid-2006 and earlier. It’s important to double check your Mac’s processor—especially if you fall into the early 2006 Intel crowd—as Intel’s early nomenclature can be deceiving at first glance.

The first generation of Intel machines sported 32-bit Core Solo and Core Duo processors, but lacked the all important “2” signifying 64-bit compatibility. To verify your Mac’s processor, click the Apple logo in the top left of your screen, and select About This Mac. In the resulting dialog box, your Mac’s operating system, processor and memory will be prominently displayed.

Once you’ve verified your machine’s processor has the brawn to boast Lion, the next step is to run Software Update. Apple released Mac OS X v10.6.8—likely the last version of Snow Leopard—late last month. The main purpose of this update was to prepare compatible Macs for the upgrade to Lion. In fact, following the update’s release users verified the update is mandatory for a successful 10.7 install.

To bring your software up-to-date, revisit the Apple logo in the left corner of the screen select Software Update (if you verified your Mac is already running v10.6.8 while checking its processor skip this step.) Software Update will launch and scan for newer versions of OS X and other applications.

Though you can always be selective about which updates you install, when prepping your machine for Lion it’s a smart idea to install all relevant updates in addition to Mac OS X v10.6.8. For instance, Apple recently updated several of its iLife ’11 applications for enhanced Lion compatibility. When performing any software update, we always recommend running a full Time Machine back-up prior to installing—just in case.

After you’ve updated to Mac OS X v10.6.8, you will want to consider freeing up space for Lion. Like its real life big cat counterpart, Lion requires a fair amount of space to roam—about 4GB. While it’s advisable to leave 10% of your start-up disk free at all times, you’ll want to confirm you have at least 10GB of available space. If you’re seriously cramped, consider moving seldom accessed files to an external hard drive or even deleting them all together. Also, that Miley Cyrus album you inexplicably downloaded after the company holiday party last year? Yep, time to go. If you’re unsure as to what’s clogging your Mac’s hard drive, try an inventory app such as Disk Inventory X for a helpful visual aid.

Once you’ve given your machine’s hard drive an overdue spring cleaning, it’s time to consider whether you are personally prepared for Lion. A huge step forward for OS X on nearly all fronts, it is hard not to be excited for the new OS. However, it is important to consider—especially if you rely on your Mac for business—some of the old features Lion does away with to make room for the new.

The most notable omission for legacy Mac users is undoubtably Rosetta. Previously enabling native PowerPC software to run on Intel based machines, this technology has officially been dropped from Lion—effectively rendering it incompatible with all PowerPC software. If you’re not in a position to upgrade aging versions of Quicken or other pricey creative apps, you will almost certainly want to hold off on upgrading.

While Apple has afforded its developers ample time to ensure their apps run flawlessly on Lion, not all third party software manufacturers have made their software Lion compatible. RoaringApps is a community based repository of Lion compatible software listings. Though not every Mac application is indexed, the compatibility status of many major apps are listed. It’s a great idea to cruise through the site and check it against your Applications folder before you install Lion.

After you and your Mac are ready to upgrade, it’s wise to perform one final Snow Leopard Time Machine back-up. While the Lion installation process is toted as the easiest OS X install ever, there’s always the remote chance of failure. For your data and sanity’s sake, take the time to run a full back-up to restore from, in the event something goes awry.

If you have a spare external drive and want to keep those Snow Leopard memories alive, apps like SuperDuper can create a bootable replica of your internal drive. This process also effectively preserves Rosetta support for those needing a PowerPC app every so often. Simply plug in the external drive and boot from it to use your machine in its exact state prior to upgrading.

Upon completing these steps, you and your Mac will be ready to upgrade to Lion once its released. Follow us on Twitter and we’ll let you know the moment it hits the Mac App Store. For more information on Lion click here.

  "Sharing" Applications  

One of the services we offer is data migration: when you buy a new computer, we can take the data from your old system and transfer it to your new one. This migration copies your documents, music, movies, and applications, so when you turn on your new system, it’s the same as your previous one. Most of the time when we do this migration, the old system is no longer going to be used, but occasionally we are asked “Can I keep using the same applications on both systems?” There’s no simple answer to that.

Pretty much any application you install has a EULA—End User License Agreement. This is that mile-long wall of text followed by a checkbox that says “I have read and agree to the licensing terms;” in reality, no one actually READS all that fine print. What it says, basically, is that you will follow the laws governing software licensing, and the software company can revoke your right to use the application if you don’t follow the terms of the agreement. Sounds draconian, but you may be surprised to learn that when you buy software, what you’re really paying for are the rights to use that software.

One of the more important bits of information in the licensing agreement is how many copies of that application you can make. If it’s a free program like TextWrangler, you can use that on as many systems as you like. The author isn’t charging any money for it, so there’s no limit to how many times you install it. On a program that you paid for, you need to pay attention to how many times you’re allowed to install it.

The Snow Leopard upgrade disc comes as either Single User that allows you to install it on one computer, or a Family Pack that allows up to five computers. Microsoft Office:mac 2011 also comes in different license versions, allowing one install for a Single User, two installs on the Home and Business Family Pack, or three installs on the Home and Student Family Pack.

The question then becomes, “what’s to stop me from using it on more than one computer?” The first and most obvious thing would be the license key that comes with the software—originally, there wasn’t anything to stop someone from taking the install disc and putting it on every system they have. Software companies knew this was going on, and decided to switch to online registration.

When you enter the license key, a snapshot of your system is sent to the company. If you register the software on another computer, the snapshot won’t match the one on file, so you may get a message that the software has already been registered. In the case of some Microsoft products such as the Windows operating system, continued use of a duplicate software license key can cause both copies to stop working until a legal license key is entered.

Conversely, Mac OS X does not require a license key (although OS X Server does have a code to activate it). While some Apple productivity software requires a license key to install (Final Cut Pro, Aperture, etc.), apps like iWork and iLife use the honor system. The only thing stopping you from using your Single-User Snow Leopard update disc on more than one system is your own integrity. (The pressure is off with Lion though—Apple is putting it on the App Store, and has said they don’t care how many systems you upgrade with it.)

So why is all this necessary? Why can’t you just buy one copy and use it multiple times? As with most things, it boils down to money. The company that wrote it invested hundreds of hours, paying a team of developers to get it onto the shelves, and they deserve compensation for their efforts. For companies to continue putting out software, they need money.

One person might think that the difference between one or three copies isn’t going to make a lot of difference, but if everyone did the same thing, there might not be another version next year. Plus, it is technically illegal to violate license agreements. Many small businesses have been audited for compliance, and initially thought it would be cheaper to use one copy on multiple workstations. Turns out, compared to the fines they ended up paying, it would have been cheaper to just purchase the additional licenses.

If you really don’t want to pay for multiple copies of a program, an alternative would be to stick to Open Source software that doesn’t cost anything. Places like SourceForge are home to a lot of developers that do not charge for their products (although many ask for a donation so they can continue to support their software.) Another good place to look is MacUpdate, which lists free as well as paid software.

  Tip of the Week: Humidity vs. MacBook Pro  

Many of us have experienced the sinking feeling as we watch our computers fall to the ground, or a screen flicker and go dark after a small liquid spill. It’s just good common sense to keep liquids away from your computer.

This week’s hint is in honor of the heat wave, and is really a two-part tip. Remember that while your computer is in an air conditioned building or car, and then taken outside to the hot, humid air, condensation will form both on the outside and inside of the computer.

This holds true for any electronic device, and is probably the most common inadvertent warranty-voiding event we see in our shops. The best way to avoid this is to put your device into a sleeve or case that’s been in the cold environment, and leave it in the case until the temperature equalizes.

The second thing about heat and humidity is that we tend to crave and consume lots of cold liquids. Right now I have a glass bottle of ice water sitting in a pool of condensation. The floor in my office isn’t perfectly level, so this liquid began migrating towards my MacBook Pro. Had I not noticed, odds are that liquid would have invaded the computer through the seam between the bottom and top cases.

Common sense here, as with all things in life, could save you many thousands of dollars.

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