view in plain text or web browser  
Tech Tails | Apple news straight from the Tech Room | | 800-511-MACS
#792: Desktop Printers in 10.6.X, iOS 5 Hidden Feature, Making a Bootable Lion Installer, A Greener AppleCare


Happy Tuesday,

I was off last week and took time to do plenty of nothing, but I made sure to enjoy stick season in the woods with Owen. This time of year is one of my favorites—so much of the landscape is visible with the leaves down, and it’s still easy to explore the forests without several feet of snow to plow through.

Just before I left for vacation, I had to tell a customer that his data was lost due to failure of his internal drive. It was a fairly uncommon situation, as his computer is a current-generation MacBook Air, which comes exclusively with solid-state storage. Solid-state drives (SSDs) are known for their speed and reliability, and this customer was so confident in this emerging technology that he hadn’t backed up in a few months.

While failure of SSDs is rare when compared to failure rates of traditional hard drives, it does happen; with the popularity of the MacBook Air, it’s important to remember that no one is immune to data loss. There’s no excuse for this, especially when backing up is so easy and seamless with Time Machine. If you’re not backing up, start doing it today.

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


  Quick Print/Desktop Printers in 10.6.X  

We listed the steps for creating a desktop printer in 10.5.X in Barkings! back in 2008. Doing so allows you to print a file simply by dragging and dropping it onto a printer icon in your dock, eliminating the need to launch an application before printing it.

Those steps in Snow Leopard and Lion are no longer valid. You can add the functionality of a desktop printer to your dock with the following steps if you’re running 10.6.8 or later:

1. Open System Preferences on your Mac.
2. Select the Print and Fax preference pane.
3. Double click on the printer in your list and it will open up the printer as an application in the dock.
4. Control click on the printer in the dock and select Options.
5. In the Options menu, select to leave the printer in the dock.

Now that the printer is in the dock, drag any document over the printer and, when it darkens, release. The document will print without opening an application associated with it.

  Hidden Keyboard Feature in iOS 5  

Here’s something I discovered recently on my iPad running iOS 5: If you are entering text, take a look at the button in the lower right corner, which has an icon of a keyboard. Press and hold this button for a couple of seconds and a little menu will show up. You have the option to undock or split the keyboard.

I’ve found the split keyboard to be very useful on the iPad when I’m holding it in landscape mode. Splitting the keyboard in half gives each hand a shorter radius to move to type.

Undocking the keyboard will release it from its position at the bottom of the screen; you can slide it up or down to wherever you’d like it. Slide the keyboard up and down by using that same key. You can redock it by sliding it to the bottom of the screen or holding down the keyboard button again to bring up the menu.

  Making a Bootable Lion Installer  

Unlike its predecessors, Lion is primarily a download-only version of Mac OS. You can purchase a preloaded flash drive from Apple, but it’s significantly more expensive than the standard download version. Here’s a way to make your own:

Step one is to get yourself a flash drive; it needs to be at least 5GB in size. Step two is to download the installer. If you’ve already downloaded and installed Lion, you’ll need to download it again from the App Store. If you haven’t downloaded it yet, go ahead and do that, but don’t let it install. Once it has downloaded, it will be called Install Mac OS X and will be in your Applications folder.

Step three is to extract the useful part of that installer. What you want to do is right click (or control click) on that installer and choose Show Package Contents. Next, open the Contents folder and then Shared Support. In that folder is a disk image called InstallESD.dmg—copy that to your desktop. To copy instead of move this file, hold down the option key while dragging.

Step four is making the bootable drive. Open up Disk Utility (located in /Applications/Utilities) and drag that InstallESD.dmg into Disk Utility’s left sidebar. Now plug in your flash drive and make sure it’s formatted with GUID partition table with a Mac OS Extended (Journaled) format. Now click on the Restore tab and drag the InstallESD.dmg from the left-hand pane into where it says Source, then drag your flash drive from the left-hand pane into where it says Destination and click Restore. Your computer will take it from there. Once completed you’ll have a bootable installer for Lion.

Should you ever need to use this boot drive (generally when your hard drive has failed and the recovery partition is of no use), simply insert the drive, turn on your computer and select your USB key as the boot device.

  A Greener AppleCare  

Over the years there’ve been reports from various end users that Apple’s packaging of service parts is preposterously and unnecessarily large for the product inside. Of particular note was the recall of the latest form-factor USB power adapter for iPhone. The first version had a defect that could cause dangerous failure, and anyone who’d bought one was urged to send it back for a replacement. Replacements were sent in boxes that could fit dozens of the adapters.

Of course, this is an extreme example. That service part was just so tiny, and mailing labels can only be made so small, that smaller packaging may not have been feasible at the time. There’s also the issue of using packaging that already exists in a recall situation for the sake of speed. Some time after an initial burst of bloggers’ discontent, and in the midst of Greenpeace’s attack on Apple, the packaging was revised to be something much more reasonable.

Needless to say, a 27-inch display will be shipped in a very large, very sturdy box. But small top cases for the early MacBook used to ship in boxes much larger than necessary. We kept those boxes and reused them to ship orders taken on and to create a homemade solution to laptop storage in our service departments. Recently, though, these boxes were made much, much smaller, reducing Apple’s shipping costs and allowing more stuff to fit on the hundreds of FedEx airplanes delivering service parts around the world. The same thing is happening with the latest-generation equipment. The current MacBook Air logic board comes in a very thin, small box; older MacBook logic boards now come in very durable corrugated plastic boxes that can be reused indefinitely.

With each new generation of Apple product, the service part packaging gets smaller and smaller, while the actual part sizes remain more or less the same. This is a trend that is mirrored with Apple finished goods like new laptops. Six years ago, the iBook shipped in boxes almost big enough for a dorm room mini-fridge; the MacBook Pro now comes in very smart, completely recyclable, very compact packaging. There’s a way to go, but Apple is clearly taking their packaging seriously as a driver of both increased customer delight and decreased per-unit carbon emissions and disposal complications.

  TT SPECIALS | 11/8/11 - 11/16/11  
   MacBook Air 11in 1.6GHz i5 4GB/64GB CTO, AppleCare + Free Sleeve!
   iMac 21.5in 2.5GHz i5 4GB/500GB/6750M + AppleCare--Save $20!
   Kanto SYD 5 iPod Speaker System Silver - Reduced from $249.99! While qtys last!
   Kanto SYD 5 iPod Speaker System Red - Reduced from $249.99! While qtys last!
   Save $30: VMware Fusion 4 for Mac OS X Single-User
   Buy 1 PDO iPhone 4/4S case and Get the PDO Uno Mobile Power Pack Free! (Value $24.99!)