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#797: Easily Boot to Windows, Windows on a Mac, Be Careful!, Garage Sale Price Drops


Happy Tuesday,

While Don mentioned this already in last week’s issue of Kibbles & Bytes, I thought I’d mention it here, too, as a good number of Tech Tails readers don’t subscribe to Don’s newsletter. Small Dog partnered with All Earth Renewables to install a ten-panel photovoltaic array behind the warehouse in Waitsfield that will supply enough power to completely power our flagship South Burlington store—with enough left over to help with Waitsfield’s power consumption as well.

The panels are popping up all over the place in the Mad River Valley, and the installations in flood plains survived the massive spring floods and the even-more-violent Irene flooding in late August. The field behind the warehouse certainly is in a flood plain, and it seems every year the river jumps its banks at least once. Here’s hoping giant chunks of ice steer well clear.

Other planet-friendly projects are in progress, and perhaps the most visible is the switch from fluorescent and incandescent lighting in many offices to LED lighting. I’m hoping to see the energy-hogging streetlight at the entrance switch to LED, too!

There are two specials at the end of this newsletter that aren’t really specials. You’ve always been able to make donations to various charities in the shopping cart, but with many new readers and customers I wanted to highlight this in a newsletter. Not only can you make donations through our website, but Small Dog will match individual donations, up to $200, all year long. I selected Planned Parenthood and Doctors Without Borders for the newsletter, but you can see all the charities we support at

Here’s to some snow, and soon!

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


  Easily Boot to Windows  

For the past month or so, my life has been dominated by the hit game Skyrim. Because of this, I’m spending a lot of time booted into Windows on my iMac; sadly, the maker of the game, Bethesda, hasn’t released a Mac-native version of Skyrim. I’ve tried it in Parallels, VMware and Crossover, but none of them had the performance I’m looking for in a game. I don’t use Windows for anything other than playing a game, so I’ll find myself jumping back and forth pretty regularly. After the umpteenth time rebooting into Windows, I began to get tired of going into System Preferences or having to restart and hold down the Option key.

I did some research and found a load of websites that have a neat little AppleScript that will change the startup disc and restart the computer for you. This way I can double click that, then go refill my coffee, and when I get back I’m staring at Windows. I think I traced all the articles back to their original source at Mac Tricks & Tips.

I know there are a lot of other fellow Mac gamers out there who are going back and forth as I am, and there will be more once the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic (a big shout out to Alea Iacta Est, my longtime WoW and future TOR guild) starts, so I would like to share this AppleScript with all of you:

The first step you need to take is to go into your Utilities folder and launch the AppleScript application. Next, copy and paste the following lines into that window, changing “xxxxxxx” to your system password:

do shell script “bless -mount /Volumes/BOOTCAMP/ -legacy -setBoot -nextonly” password “xxxxxxx” with administrator privileges
tell application “Finder” to restart

Now click Compile. Once it is compiled, go up to File and choose Save As, select Application from the File Format drop-down menu and then click Save. You can name the AppleScript app whatever you want. You now have an easy way to get your machine to boot into the dark side, I mean Windows.

For all those anticipating the new Star Wars MMO, I can say it runs great in Boot Camp; I wasn’t happy with its performance in a virtual environment. Until Bioware answers the call of all their Mac fans, we’ll be stuck with a Windows environment for a while.

  Windows on a Mac: 32 or 64-bit?  

Customers installing Windows on their Macs often ask whether they should go with a 32 or 64-bit version of Windows (Win32 or Win64). All Macs made after 2006 are using a 64-bit processor (Core 2 Duo, Xeon, i5 or i7), so the assumption is that a 64-bit version of Windows would be the best choice. There’s more to it than that.

With Mac OS X, 32 and 64-bit modes are provided with one install (assuming your system supports it—a Core Duo does not run in 64-bit mode but a Core 2 Duo can). If your system has a 64-bit processor, then OS X can start in 64-bit mode and support 64-bit applications. Windows, on the other hand, comes in 32 or 64-bit versions, which are not always sold together in the same package. Further, a different set of hardware drivers is required for each flavor.¬†32-bit drivers do not work with Win64, so if the manufacturer of a peripheral didn’t bother to supply a 64-bit driver for it, the device may not work properly.¬†Windows often has basic support for multimedia hardware, but some features may not be available. (Microsoft has updated their logo program, so any device that says “Compatible with Windows 7” has been tested to be functional with both the 32 and 64-bit versions.)

Basically, these are the questions to ask yourself:

Do I need to run any 64-bit applications?

If not, then there’s really no reason to run Win64. One example is Excel: the advantage of the 64-bit version is that it can handle very large files, but if you just do the occasional home-budget type spreadsheet, then you will be fine with the 32-bit version. Still, you may want to install Win64 anyway, in case you do need a 64-bit app in the future. Sometimes it’s nicer to have a feature and not need it than it is to need it and not have it.

Do I have any devices that do not support 64-bit?

Check the compatibility of any external hardware, such as scanners; if they do not list 64-bit drivers, then they will not work with Win64. The device may work fine using Mac OS, but Windows will not recognize it, so you would have to scan in the document using a Mac application, then share the document with Windows. While this works fine for the occasional scan, if you need to do a LOT of scanning under Windows, then you need the 32-bit version of Windows for driver support.

What kind of system am I installing it to?

This is the most important one. Both the 32 and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 will run in 2GB of RAM, but the Win64 version running 64-bit applications really does not show dramatic performance gains unless you can dedicate at least 4GB to it. Using a program like Parallels or VMWare Fusion will let you run Windows within Mac OS X, but your RAM is shared between them. If your Mac only has 4GB RAM total, you can only (at best) dedicate 2GB to the Windows side. In this case, your best option is to either use the Win32 version in Parallels, or install Win64 in Boot Camp so Windows can take full advantage of the available memory. It means having to reboot every time you need one OS or the other, but you’ll have better performance in each one. If you have 8GB or more, you can dedicate the required 4GB to the Windows side within Parallels.

For comparison, here are RAM breakdowns for each system:

MacBook Air: Older models support 2GB, newer systems can support 4GB. (The MacBook Air is not upgradable.)
MacBook / MacBook Pro: Original style 2008 and 2009 models can support 6GB. Pre-2011 unibody systems can support 8GB. The 2011 MacBook Pro line can support up to 16GB.
iMac: Depending on the year and model, it can support anywhere from 4GB to 32GB.
Mac mini: 2009 and 2010 versions can support 8GB. The 2011 model can use 16GB.
Mac Pro: From 16GB to 64GB depending on the model.

  Be Careful!  

We’re headed into the fourth spill season of the year: the winter holidays. The other three are the end of the spring semester, Fourth of July and the beginning of the fall semester. Typically during these times of the year we see an increase in the amount of machines checked into service because of some form of accidental damage, and we’ve seen them all: beer/wine/soda/tea/water/you-name-it spills; car damage from being run over; damage from being dropped (into Lake Champlain, out of backpacks or by airline employees); repercussions from abrasive cleaning solutions, nail polish and/or removers; random attacks by rambunctious children and the list goes on…

Just last week, we had a record number of liquid spills in our shop and all of the owners asked the same question: “Will my AppleCare cover this?” Sadly, the answer is always no. AppleCare is not an insurance policy against accidental or other damage to your machine; rather, it is coverage for manufacturing defects and provides unlimited world-class technical support. This might not seem like much, and a few people are always hesitant to pay for it, but I can say that it’s well worth it. One repair once your machine is out of warranty will often be more expensive than the AppleCare would have cost you. These are premium computers that can be expensive to fix.

There are limits to this coverage though, and Apple makes these limits pretty explicit in the Protection Plan details. Unless you enjoy reading pages of legalese, you’re not necessarily going to be aware of the limitations. Basically it comes down to two things: don’t drop your computer and don’t spill anything on it. Damage to the machine, even if it is unrelated to any problem you may be having, will prevent any authorized service provider from covering repairs under the warranty.

Let’s say you had your brand-new MacBook Pro in your backpack and you set that pack down a little harder than usual and crunched the corner of the display. This is a common point of damage that we see in South Burlington. A month or two later, you notice that the backslash key isn’t working anymore and you bring your machine into our shop. We’d be unable to repair your machine under the warranty ‘til the damage to the display is fixed, after which AppleCare coverage would be back in place.

Liquid spills can be even more destructive. Not only will they knock your machine out of warranty, but you risk your data as well. In the majority of cases, a laptop is powered on when accidental spills hit them. This means that some electrical current is running through your drive and the shock to the system can damage that drive. I am happy to say that a good number of people have backups now and some of those who don’t have only lost their computers and not their data. With the current trend toward solid-state drives, the increase in the loss of data is going to go up. Even data recovery will be difficult because there are no magnetic platters that can be accessed—just more fried circuitry.

To sum it up, evidence of (and not necessarily limited to) dents, dings, scratching, bowing, warping, melting, cracking, shattering and soaking will prevent us from fixing your machine under warranty. This includes covering cosmetic damage to functional machines.

While AppleCare may not cover the damage to your machine, many of our customers get coverage through either renters or home insurance. There are also companies out there that just sell computer insurance. I’ve been seeing an increasing number of parents with children going off to college purchasing this, which is smart since more than half of our liquid spill and impact-damaged machines seem to come from local college students. The thing to think of in this scenario is the child with the machine may be responsible and take excellent care of it, but not everyone they’ll be around will be as responsible. There’s always the story of “I left it in my room and when I came back it was on the floor in pieces.”

You can read the full terms of the AppleCare Protection Plan here.

If you haven’t yet purchased AppleCare for your new machine, you have exactly one year from date of purchase to buy and activate it. Please be careful around your computers—they don’t like drinks as much as the rest of us do!

  Garage Sale Price Drops!  

Our Garage Sale is in full swing, and we’ve recently lowered prices on a number of items!

The Garage Sale continues through 5 p.m. on December 20th—be sure to stop by before it closes for great deals on a wide selection of cases, adapters, accessories, books and more.

Please remember that Garage Sale orders are online only; no phone orders are permitted. Garage Sale items generally ship within a week of when the order is placed.

  TT Specials | 12/13/11 - 12/20/11  
   Donation to: Planned Parenthood
   Donation to: Doctors Without Borders
   Parallels Desktop for Mac 7.0 (OEM Disk) + Kingston DataTraveler Mini Fun 8GB USB Flash Drive
   LaCie Neil Poulton 1TB USB 2.0 Hard Drive--Save $20!
   PC3-10600 SO-DIMM 4GB DDR3-1333 Ram Module--Save $15!
   Buy Mac mini 2.3GHz i5 2GB/500GB, AppleCare + Magic Trackpad and save $25!