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#796: Clean Install vs. Deleting Accounts, Reader Feedback, Baby It's Hot Inside, RotW: Flashing Folder


Happy Tuesday,

After a week of unseasonably warm weather that melted all the snow we got the week before, we had a chilly, typical December weekend with blue skies and gusty wind. Sugarbush, our local ski area (visible from Small Dog HQ!), opened up for a few days but had to close during the melt. Art was not pleased. And while Owen will swim in the river in February, I’m sure he was happy for one last warm-weather swim before things really start to freeze.

As it does every year around this time, traffic to our stores has increased dramatically. There are plenty of new faces around Small Dog these days, and we’re eager to help craft solutions that work for your needs and budget. There are some great sales and specials in each store, and there are six at the end of this newsletter. One of these specials is for the Matias Tactile Pro keyboard—it’s my all-time favorite keyboard. The keys provide fantastic tackle and audible feedback, and while it is disliked by many for being so loud, it’s the only choice for me. It certainly is a bit more costly than the alternatives, but if you spend hours every day typing, you deserve this keyboard!

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


  Clean Install vs. Deleting Users' Accounts  

Multiple customers approach our service counter weekly requesting their Macs be “completely wiped.” Normally, this means they would like their hard drive erased of all its content and the appropriate operating system reinstalled. I’m glad to perform this procedure, or give the customer instructions on how to do it on their own, any time a customer requests, but in some cases it’s not necessary.

The majority of customers are requesting this service because they are planning on giving their Mac to a family member or friend, and for the most part, they don’t want to share their personal data with the recipient. This is perfectly understandable, but in this specific situation a clean install of the existing operating system is not required. Creating a new user account and deleting your old account will serve the purpose of removing any of your personal user data and most certainly save you some time.

Creating a new user account is done in “Accounts,” located in “System Preferences.” Make sure the new account is an Administrator if you will be deleting your old account, as there needs to be at least one administrative account at all times. Once the new account is created, you can log into it and delete your old user account. When deleting a user account, you will receive a confirmation window. This window asks if you are sure you would like to delete the user account and gives you three choices as far as erasing the data. The last option—“Delete the home folder”—will successfully remove all user data from the account that’s being deleted.

Please note: while this does delete existing user data, it does not remove any installed applications. While this solution may work well for many people, simply removing the old user account(s) may not always be the best option. Here are two instances in which it would be preferable to reinstall the operating system on a Mac being handed over to someone else: If the Mac were being sold to a stranger, you may not want to hand over any installed applications. Or, if the operating system could possibly be problematic (slowness, certain applications not functioning properly), you could very well benefit from a reinstall of the system software.

  Reader Feedback: Cold Weather Care  


Great article on cold weather care; this might help your readers avoid repairs.

I do photography for a living, and the way I avoid condensation problems in cold weather with my cameras should apply to computers as well. When I’m shooting in the cold, even in below-zero temps, I use clear plastic garbage bags or those grocery plastic bags. I keep the bags in my van or on the porch. When going in for the day, I insert the camera, laptop, video cam, etc. into the bag, wrap it up and take it inside. The condensation forms on the outside of the bag and not on the equipment. It will take a while for everything to warm up but no water problems. If I’m going in for lunch or whatever, then I leave the equipment outside. I’ve been doing this for years, even with $6,000 electronic flash power supplies that have huge capacitors inside, with no problems. Why do I use clear bags? I don’t want someone to think it’s garbage and pitch them. Hope this helps someone.


  Baby It's Hot Inside  

Samsung Electronics, the leading DRAM maker, is hoping to capitalize on the world’s growing data storage needs by ramping up development and production of low-power RAM chips. Power savings aside, they hope to help reduce operating costs of data centers by reducing the need for cooling, since low-power RAM chips are dramatically cooler than the standard chips most of the world uses.

The world has seen a massive increase in centralized data storage in the last decade. Well-known companies like Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon are only the tip of the iceberg made up of companies that need to keep ever-increasing amounts of data in centralized locations. The number of these data “warehouses” is expected to hit almost four million in the next few years. The larger ones house tens of thousands of servers. New large data centers are continually being built, and this trend will certainly continue. Google has an estimated one million server platforms in use at present. Apple spent $1 billion on its new data center to implement iCloud. The numbers are mind-boggling. And so is the amount of energy they use.

Somewhere between 2 and 3% of the total US energy consumption is data storage centers…it’s really a staggering figure. That’s enough to suck up the output of four or five medium-sized nuclear power plants. Samsung estimates that a combination of reduced operating costs due to lower power consumption and reduced energy spent on cooling can significantly reduce the operating costs of these facilities. Combined with lessons learned over the last decade by companies like Google and Facebook about designing large-scale data warehouses, the total savings could be as high as 30% overall—even more when the switch to solid-state drives is complete. Samsung, being the largest DRAM maker and having almost limitless money to throw at R&D and supply chain leveraging, is in a unique position to take advantage of this emerging market. The server RAM market is expected to double this year, and Samsung will likely be reaping the lion’s share of the rewards. Good for them, and good for us, as anything to reduce energy costs can only be a good thing.

It’s important to note it’s not just the big guys who consume this energy—millions of smaller companies and institutions use significant amounts of servers and associated support hardware. Here at Small Dog, for instance, there were at one point over twenty Intel and G4 XServe units in our Waitsfield server room!! We have started replacing them with much more energy-efficient and equally capable Mac minis and Mac Pro machines. In addition, the climate here gives us another way to reduce our consumption during part of the year: we have a system that lets us use outside air to cool the server room during the winter months. It’s almost totally passive and a great example of a low-tech tool to help keep energy costs and, more importantly, energy consumption lower.

  Repair of the Week: Flashing Folder  

It is every service provider’s goal to fix each computer quickly and completely the first time. Every so often, though, we don’t succeed. It is the rare intermittent issues that are almost impossible to accurately predict, diagnose and repair. We have the option to send laptops to Apple’s repair facilities at our discretion, and we do utilize the mail-in facilities when a diagnosis is not entirely clear. Because these facilities service all of the United States and Canada, it makes sense for them to warehouse most every service part available, making efficient and effective diagnosis much easier. Small Dog does keep many hundreds of diagnostic parts in stock, but it’s just not possible for us to keep a million-dollar service part inventory!

With this in mind, this week’s repair is a MacBook that presented with the all-too-familiar flashing question mark when it was powered on. This generally means hard drive failure, file system corruption or an operating system in disarray. However, this case didn’t follow normal patterns: the sick MacBook’s hard drive booted another MacBook just fine. The decision was made to send this machine to Apple for repair. All mail-in repairs are sent in via FedEx’s early morning overnight service and are almost always repaired the same day they’re received, and this was no exception. The MacBook came back with its hard drive and, inexplicably, its SuperDrive replaced. It did boot right up when we tested it, so the customer was contacted and the machine picked up shortly after.

Two days later, the computer came back with the same flashing question mark problem as before. Out it went again, and it came back with the hard drive, optical drive, logic board and hard drive interconnect cable replaced. It turned out that the serial-ATA bus on the main logic board was to blame for the failure, and, despite repeated trips to Apple, the MacBook is in perfect working order once again.

  TT Specials | 12/6/11 - 12/13/11  
   Buy a 16GB iPod nano in Silver + Chill Pill mobile speakers in Red, Get a Black Chill Pill FREE!
   Apple Time Capsule 3TB Dualband (Summer 2011)--Save $20
   Matias Tactile Pro USB Keyboard in White - Matt's favorite keyboard - Save $15
   MacBook 2.1GHz 1GB/120/Superdrive/AP/BT (Used) - Save $70 + Get a FREE Sleeve!
   Buy Mac mini 2.3GHz i5 2GB/500GB, AppleCare + Magic Trackpad and save $25!
   iMac 21.5in 2.5GHz i5 4GB/500GB/6750M + AppleCare--Save $20!