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#813: Me and My...iPad, RotW: iMac Won't Read Discs, Smilies on Your iPhone!


Happy April, Tech Tails readers!

It’s been many years since I last wrote for Tech Tails and it’s my pleasure to introduce this issue. I’m the Director of Marketing for Small Dog Electronics, and I am returning to this position after a near six year hiatus. It was a good break for me and while I was gone, I was the Technical Coordinator for The Warren School in Warren, VT.

Thankfully, the school was entirely Mac so I was able to learn the ins and outs of network management on a platform that I knew pretty well. In addition to maintaining the school network, I was the primary go-to person if anyone had a problem. The computers in the school ranged from the G4 eMacs to the newest MacBooks and iMacs and every operating system from Mac OS 9 to Lion. I need to salute all the Tech Tails readers out there who man help desks, service computers and solve technical problems. I’ve been in your shoes and I know how much you need to juggle!

Please read on for articles by Glenn, Carl and RJ about iPads, Tech Tip of the Week and how to add Smilies to your iPhone (I can’t wait to do this!). Did you know that our Waitsfield and Manchester locations are Apple Premium Service Providers? It’s all thanks to the hard work of our service technicians—these folks immerse themselves in your problems to help you solve them. I think that Small Dog is really lucky to have them!

If readers ever have ideas or questions that pertain to marketing and making Small Dog Electronics a better shopping or service experience, don’t hesitate to send me email.

I’m excited to hear what you think.

(PS. I didn’t want to be out done by the guys pics with their pets so I chose an image of me and my pet, Willow)

  Me and My Shadow...I Mean, iPad  

I absolutely love my new iPad, and I loved the last iPad I had and the one before that. I know many of our readers are iPad users and many of you have already updated. I just wanted to give the rest of you my take on this device after having used it for a couple of weeks now.

So, the big thing. Retina display=amazing. I love the display. This one feature is what prompted me to upgrade for the third time. I mostly do reading on my iPad (I believe I’ve written about that before), and I get nearly every magazine and a good chunk of my books are on my iPad. All the magazine apps that have been upgraded to work with the higher resolution truly look amazing. It seems like the change over to the higher res has been slow going but when it happens it’s worth the wait. Games are beautiful as well, provided they’ve been upgraded. I do very little gaming on my iPad, The Old Republic takes up much of my free game time, but what I’ve seen is amazing. It wouldn’t surprise me if Apple makes a Bluetooth game controller and turns their iPad into a pseudo-gaming console soon.

There is one thing that you should keep in mind, however. Higher resolution means larger files. Don’t be surprised if your magazines take up double the space the lower resolution ones did. This also applies to all apps that are upgraded to take advantage of the display. If you were like me and had a 32GB iPad 2 and always had to finagle things (in terms of free space) to get them on the iPad, buy the largest iPad you can afford.

Next thing (and one that has been in the news): the battery. This battery has a roughly 70% larger capacity than the iPad 2 battery. It does take longer to charge than the old one, but this should make sense. Larger battery, longer charge time. In my experience when the iPad is running it takes about 10 hours to charge. I haven’t tested it with the iPad off as mine is nearly always in use.

Another change is that when the iPad hits 100%, it will stop charging the battery and let it start to drain. Then, it will start to recharge the battery—this is to protect it from overcharging. Apple’s current line of portable computers do the same thing. In the past, with the older MacBooks and MacBook Pros, if you left them plugged in for long periods you could damage the battery.

This battery protection can lead to the impression that the iPad takes longer to charge once it hits 100%. The battery size had to be increased to allow for the greater power consumption of the display and to a lesser extent the processor. You still get the same 10 hour run time, which I can attest to with my iPad. I’m hoping Apple will release a software update to make this less confusing for the user.

The other thing that’s been in the news lately is the heat generated by the iPad. Personally, I think people are blowing it out of proportion. It should be expected that this device will get warmer than its predecessor. The processor is more powerful and the display is insane compared to the old one. They draw more power, and will generate more heat. It’s the same with all electronics. The more powerful and faster you make it the more heat will be generated. Keep in mind there are no fans in this device to cool it down, so it has to use the aluminum as a heatsink. I have yet to have this iPad get so hot as to be uncomfortable. Apple could, of course, add cooling elements inside the device but then people would complain that it’s too thick.

It still doesn’t have the capability of adding an SD card, but it really doesn’t need that. It still doesn’t run Flash either, but at this point it’s irrelevant as even Adobe has dumped the mobile version. Overall, I think it’s a great device and well worth the upgrade if you use your iPad on a daily basis—and especially if you do a lot of reading.

  Repair of the Week: iMac Won't Read Discs  

Recently, a customer dropped off a three-week-old iMac for an issue he was having with the optical drive. Every disc inserted into the drive would return an error of: “The disk you inserted was not readable by this computer.” Normally, this is a message that will pop up when an unformatted hard drive or thumb drive is attached to the computer, but not a DVD or CD.

We checked in the iMac and I began my testing. When the system was booted to a known-good volume, the optical drive functioned perfectly. This immediately shifted my focus to that of a software issue, rather than hardware. A software issue that solely affects the optical drive is somewhat rare, so I knew some Apple forum digging would possibly help out.

The issue persisted after creating a test user account, telling me that this was a system-wide issue, not at the user level. A lot of times, with software issues like this, it’s much less time consuming to simply restore the operating system and migrate the data back over. This has fixed countless system-wide software issues, and allows us to get the computer back to the customer in a timely manner. However, I try to do a little bit of research on the issue first when it’s this specific.

I came across an Apple forum discussion on the topic, with one user explaining that he deleted a certain Kernel extension file, which resolved the issue. The file was named “LexarFilterScheme.kext”, presumably having some relation to a Lexar product. I researched this specific Kernel extension file a little further, and discovered that this file, when installed, will prevent the optical drive from functioning. Apparently, this issue has happened to a handful of users.

I first copied the kext file to a flash drive (just in case), and then deleted it from the “/System/Library/Extensions” folder. After a quick restart, the optical drive was back to normal, reading discs as it should be.

Apparently, this corrupt Kernel extension is packaged with the install of “Secure Vault,” a piece of security software that comes pre-installed on some Lexar flash drives. Unfortunately, the Lexar software will not work properly after removing this file, but there are many other options as far as security for your flash drive, such as creating an encrypted disk image on the flash drive using Disk Utility.

  Smilies on Your iPhone!  

Here’s a neat trick: anyone who uses chat programs like AIM or MSN knows you can put smilies in your messages. If you type :) it ends up being changed into a round yellow smilie face. My wife pointed out to me that you could do the same on an iPhone without installing a separate app for it. She always looks to me to answer her computer questions, so she was quite surprised that she was able to teach me something.

Your iPhone supports multiple language keyboards, which can be activated from Settings > General > Keyboard > International Keyboards. Tap Add New Keyboard, then scroll down the list until you find Emoji. Select it, and it now shows up in your list of keyboards.

Now, when you’re composing a message (in Messages, Mail, or any app that uses the virtual keyboard for input) you will see a globe icon on the lower left next to the numeric key. Tap this to bring up a list of emoticons (the “geek” name for smilies). In addition to various faces, you can also put pictures of fish, flowers, holiday icons, zodiac signs, etc. To go back to English, tap the globe button again.

  TT Special - MacBook (used) + 4GB RAM (total) + Free Sleeve + Free shipping  

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Mobile computing without breaking the bank. Here’s a mid-2009 MacBook with maximum RAM with it’s own sleek sleeve. It will still get the job done and leave you some cash to do something fun (like get an iPad)!


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This is the same technology used by Dragon NaturallySpeaking for the PC, and is renowned for its accuracy. This week, save up to $35 off MacSpeech/Nuance Dragon Dictate 2.0 for Mac. Quantities are extremely limited, so grab one fast—your work will never be the same!

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