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#777: ROTW: AirPort Express and the Internet, Seagate Replacement Program, How to Lift Your MacBook

 
     
 

Happy Tuesday,

After a seemingly endless heat wave, Saturday night brought cool breezes and temperatures in the high sixties. It was over 100 degrees Friday in much of Vermont, and even hotter in my warehouse office without air conditioning. Needless to say, the Mad River is a resource I am very thankful for. Many Small Dog employees at our Waitsfield, VT headquarters head to the river on their lunch breaks, or even just to cool off mid-afternoon.

While Lion is not yet qualified for use on Small Dog workstations, I borrowed a laptop over the weekend, installed Lion, and poked around a bit Sunday afternoon. I’m a big fan of the new gestures, but seemingly unable to overcome muscle memory to use the new “natural” scrolling feature. I disabled that in the first five minutes.

Launchpad seems to me unnecessary visual overload, but I’ve used Quicksilver to launch my programs for at least five years, so I’m biased. I don’t understand the appeal of “All My Files” seen in the Finder sidebars: why would you want to scroll through a giant list of files when you can use Spotlight?

Overall, though, Lion is a substantial step forward in interface and design. We should expect a continued trend towards iOS-like features in Mac OS. As Mac OS X ages and iOS matures, the lines will continue to blur. Some day iOS may succeed Mac OS entirely.

If you haven’t already, you can get your copy of Lion here.

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

Matt
matt@smalldog.com

 
   
     
  ROTW: New AirPort Express Won't Connect to the Internet  
   
 

I’ve had some calls over the past few days from people who recently had to replace their AirPort Express due to passing storms. In each case, they configured their new base station through AirPort Utility, and the unit had a green status light, but none of their systems could connect to the Internet. When they checked their AirPort settings in Network Preferences, there was a message saying their system had a self-assigned IP address (169.x.x.x).

Any active network adapter, whether it’s wired or wireless, requires an IP (Internet Protocol) address to talk to other network devices. For most networks, it will be similar to 192.168.x.x or 10.x.x.x. Your cable/DSL modem will have an address as well, which is assigned by your Internet Service Provider. An IP address is either static (meaning it will never change) or dynamic (meaning it can change as needed).

A web or email server is typically static, since it has to be accessible from anywhere in the world all the time, whereas your iPod is dynamic so you can change wireless networks easily. In order for dynamic addressing to work, something on the network has to hand out IP addresses to devices that connect, so when you walk into the local Starbucks your laptop can automatically join the wireless network. This is known as DHCP—Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol.

In your home, this is handled by your router—such as an AirPort Express or a Netgear/Belkin/other brand device—but it needs to be configured to do it. In some cases, this is automatic when you first connect it, but in the case of an AirPort Express, DHCP is turned off by default.

When you connect to the AirPort Express using the AirPort Utility, there will be a row of buttons on the top—AirPort, Internet, Printers, Disks, and Advanced. Clicking on Internet brings up a screen that says Internet Connection; the last option is Connection Sharing. It’s probably currently set to “Off (Bridge Mode)” but in order for your network to work properly, it needs to be changed to “Share a public IP address.”

Changing this setting now adds two new options at the top, DHCP and NAT. Click the “Update” button and your AirPort Extreme will restart itself. After about a minute, your system should re-configure itself; you can verify this by checking the Network Preferences for your AirPort. It should now have a valid IP address (usually 10.0.x.x), and Safari should open your home page when you start it.

 
   
     
  Apple Announces Replacement Program for 1TB Seagate Hard Drives  
   
 

Apple announced late last week a program to replace a “very small number of Seagate 1TB hard drives used in 21.5-inch and 27-inch iMac systems” sold between May and July 2011. If you did not buy your iMac in this time frame, or have an older iMac with 1TB hard drive, you are not affected and do not qualify for free replacement.

1TB hard drives installed in other Mac models sold around this time are not affected.

Apple is always good about owning up to quality problems. The old-style MacBook cracking wrist rest issue is a good example, and any old style MacBook qualifies for free top case replacement regardless of warranty status—as long as the cracking is not a result of abuse or physical damage.

Click here to determine whether your computer is affected.

It should be noted that this is an issue with the Seagate hard drive. Seagate is a huge manufacturer of storage products, and Apple had nothing at all to do with the development of the hard drives in question.

 
   
     
  How to Lift Your MacBook  
   
 

The vast majority of insert/eject problems on Apple laptops are related to how users pick up their machines. It sounds ridiculous, and some people even take offense when I offer a tutorial on how to handle their machines, but if you squash the optical drive opening, that is considered damage and is not covered by your warranty.

By picking up your laptop with two hands, and avoiding at all costs putting pressure on the optical drive area, you can prevent problems down the line. These range from failure of the optical drive, scratching disks on every insert or eject and failure of the drive to suck a disc in or spit one out.

When we see this problem, we’re often able to use a non-marring nylon probe tool to pry open the optical drive slot. These tools are thin and rectangular, and by inserting the tapered end a few millimeters into the slot and twisting, the slot can be coaxed open. However, if your optical drive is having issues and your slot is compressed, there cannot be warranty coverage for the problem.

The non-unibody 17-inch laptops are especially prone to this problem, as the optical drive is right under the wrist rest area, and the slot seems less reinforced than on other models. Plastic MacBooks are also very vulnerable. Apple, recognizing this oversight in design and engineering, made the optical drive slot in unibody laptops much more rigid. This said, you should still make an effort to avoid pressing or squeezing this opening.

 
   
     
  Lion Tip of the Week: Encrypted Time Machine Back-ups  
   
 

Lion brings a slew of new features and interface changes. Some drive me mad: reversed (“natural”) scrolling—thankfully, that can be disabled. But some are great, like the ability to encrypt your Time Machine back-up.

I don’t have a real need for serious data security measures, but if you back up wirelessly, your back-up is vulnerable to unauthorized access even if you’ve secured your wireless network with a password.

If you need this added measure of security, open System Preferences from the Apple menu and click on Time Machine. In this preference pane, click Select Disk, select the disk you’re currently using for back-up, and click the box labelled “Encrypt back-up disk.”

Once encryption is enabled, Time Machine will take many, many hours to encrypt your back-up, and if your back-up disk is accessed wirelessly, your encryption time will go up substantially.

If interrupted, you run the risk of corruption, so plan to leave your computer on and connected to your back-up disk for quite some time once this process starts. I recommend you connect to your network by ethernet to maximize throughput in the encryption process.

 
   
     
  10.6.8 and Parallels 6  
   
 

If you recently upgraded to 10.6.8, are running Parallels 6, and have noticed general slowness, don’t fret. This is a known issue and can be easily fixed. Many of the symptoms include constant slowness (with or without “beach-balling”) and a problematic dock. Some proactive users who check Activity Monitor will notice a 100% CPU usage by the dock.

The issue is with the “Windows Applications” folder on your dock. Parallels Knowledge Base describes the cause as: “Issue with Core Graphics API compatibility with icons larger than 128×128 pixels that causes Finder to work unstably when accessing files with such icons assigned.”

There is a quick work-around, and also a resolution.

Here’s the work-around: remove the folder from your dock (drag it off the dock onto the desktop until you see the virtual puff of smoke).

Here’s the resolution: upgrade to the latest (free) build of Parallels (12092), which can be found here.:http://www.parallels.com/download/desktop/

 
   
     
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