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#831: MacBook Firmware Update, Mountain Lion Server, Touchscreen Shortcuts, Confounding Software


Hello all,

This week marks, dare I say it, the arrival of some seasonable weather here in the Chaplain Valley. The air is crisp and clear, the skies are blue, and the inevitable flood of summer squash and zucchini is well under way. I’m surprised I haven’t see any signs that read, “Free tomatoes—must take twice their weight in summer squash as well.”

With the release of Lion and now Mountain Lion, I’ve seen both techs and customers fall victim to forgetting about some problem-solving basics. Software and firmware updates, a review of System Preferences and individual application settings, and a solid backup system will resolve probably three-quarters of the issues people have with their machines.

When a new OS comes out, though, it’s easy to forget those things and blame the new system for any issues. (I even saw an article by Steve Wozniak today blaming the Cloud for his problems—when even the mighty Woz stops taking responsibility for his own computing, there is a problem, if you ask me!)

Anyway, this week’s articles cover some of those basics to watch for, plus an overview of the new server.

Thanks for reading.


  MacBook SMC Firmware Update  

One common issue that we hear about — “faulty MagSafe adapters” — stems directly from purchasing the new ones for pre-2009 machines. In certain cases, the adapter will not power the machine at first, and thus, appears faulty.

The solution is yet another example of why you should always keep your software up-to-date.

Pre-2009 Mac portables use the original style MagSafe adapter, which is a small rectangular block at the end of the cable. In 2009, it was redesigned to the current form factor — the “L-Shaped” design. If you try to charge a pre-2009 machine with this adapter, and if the software is not up to date, it will not work. This is because the SMC, a micro-controller on the logic board that controls the power functions on the computer, does not know how to use the new adapter.

Fortunately there is a free software update called “SMC Firmware Update.” To install the update, go to the  (Apple) menu at the top left of your screen. Select “Software Update” and install all updates. Note that if you are not able to power the machine on, you will need to use a charged battery or find a pre-2009 MagSafe adapter in order to install.

  Mountain Lion Server  

Apple recently released the newest version of OS X: 10.8 Mountain Lion. They also introduced the new Mountain Lion Server, and I had a chance to upgrade and test it on my Mac mini Server at home. The previous upgrade process for Lion Server involved purchasing and downloading 10.7 and 10.7 Server and then installing them together.

With 10.8, this process has changed. You now upgrade to 10.8, and then download and install Server after the fact. Upon installation, it reads and imports the previous server settings. If you are doing this upgrade, make sure to have a clone backup before you start, and I also recommend backing up your Open Directory and independently backing up your OD users and groups just in case.

The biggest change is the disappearance of the Server Admin tool. Its functionality has been folded into the Server app itself. Workgroup Manager lives on, now a standalone installer. In an office setup, I also recommend purchasing and installing Apple Remote Desktop for remote management of client machines, although it doesn’t have to live on the server.

I will be doing more testing and setup in the future, and I will report back to Tech Tails after I do my first Mountain Lion upgrade on a working server for one of my clients this week.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this version performs and whether it makes server administration easier. If you need help with setting up or running a Mac server, we have talented consultants who can lend a hand (or paw).

  Touchscreen Shortcuts  
  finger swipe

If you own a Mac, an easy way to increase your productivity is to memorize Apple’s documented keyboard shortcuts. You can study them here.

But what about your keyboard-less iPhone, iPad, or iPad; are there any touchscreen interface shortcuts? Apple has a website with you in mind. Luckily for you, I have assembled a list of my own favorites which I’ve found by accident in the last five years.

  1. Double tap the Space bar in order to end a sentence and begin a new sentence.
  2. Double tap the Shift key in order to lock the caps lock. Tap once to unlock.
  3. Tap on the “.?123” key, hold, and drag to the desired character or numeral and release in order to enter the character or numeral and return to the alphabetic keyboard.
  4. Tap and hold a letter on the keyboard to enable accented versions of that letter.
  5. Tapping and holding on text brings up common options. Tap select to select a word. Use left/right arrow keys to extend options, including bold/italics/underline as well as define to get a definition.
  6. In Safari, if you know the domain of the web site you are trying to navigate to, you can type that in, such as “yahoo” or “wikipedia” or “smalldog” without the “www” or “.com” and you should find that Safari will get you there.
  7. In Safari, when entering an address in the address bar, tap and hold the “.com” key to get access to .net, .org, .edu sites
  8. When you are looking at a website, an email inbox list, or a long mail message, tap the status bar where the time is displayed and you will jump back to the top of the list.
  Confounding Software Installation Issues  

We recently received a 2010 MacBook Pro 15” unit in Waitsfield where the customer’s complaint was that she could not install Creative Suite 5.5. Launching the installer from the Adobe media resulted in a hard freeze of the unit after completion of about 20% of the installation process. The failure was easily replicated and consistent. After running numerous tests on the hardware to verify that the issue was not RAM or hard drive-based, we started troubleshooting the rest of the system by attempting an install of a fresh OS on an external boot volume.

This worked flawlessly and as expected. But is it still a hardware issue? A somewhat irksome problem seen in some unibody machines is failure of the SATA cable. This failure usually results in either false positives associated with failing hard drives or other I/O errors of the drive. To isolate this component we installed a known-good hard drive with a fresh OS install into the computer and again attempted to install the Creative Suite. Again, like on the external boot volume, the installation completed without issue.

Since the issue seemed not to be hardware related, after performing disk and permission repair, we again tried installing on the customer’s drive with her user account. With Console open, in order to view any errors, the installation progressed again to the point of a hard freeze, the entire unit becoming unresponsive and requiring a hard shutdown. The Console application recorded no hangs or issues in the logs regarding the install failure. We created a second Admin account on the unit and the freeze was once again replicated.

The next step was to erase the customer’s hard drive and install a fresh copy of the OS. After completion of the erase and install of the fresh OS, we were able to install Creative Suite on the machine without issue. Since we had done this on a ‘test’ account, it was thought the issue was resolved; no hardware was at the root of the problem. The customer picked up the machine and verified the functionality of the application and all seemed well.

The customer took her machine home and restored her data from a Time Machine backup. After reestablishing her account, she removed the test user account created by Small Dog. By removing that admin account, Creative Suite no longer functioned, as licensing was attached to the admin account used to install the app. Since the application had failed, she needed to once again reinstall Creative Suite. Once again, the installer crashed at the same point it had previously. We had still not discovered the true issue.

One of the applications that had been installed by the end User was Sophos Anti-Virus. The Sophos application did not like the Adobe Application Manager and installation routine. The owner of the machine disabled the Sophos software resulting in the ability to install the Suite without issue. In our attempts to install, neither Activity Monitor nor Console logged errors regarding the install nor did they show anything out of place in regards to the installation process.

Security of the Mac operating system is becoming more of an issue with new reports of Trojans coming out nearly monthly. The Mac community in the past has had, in general, an indifferent attitude towards anti-virus support. As more anti-virus applications are installed people, including us in service, will need to look closer at issues like this.

While we were not informed that Sophos was installed on the unit, it is often recognized that the installation of new software on a computer usually requires altering the anti-virus application settings. I would not call this a success as a repair as we did not completely solve the issue. However, knowing how silently some anti-virus software runs is knowledge we’ve gained to help resolve such an issue in the future!

  Discontinued Apple Portables | Save up to $300!  

Save big with our selection of discontinued Apple portables. These machines are brand new in the box and come with the full Apple warranty. They are also eligible for AppleCare so you can be protected for three full years.

And to sweeten the deal, these machines are eligible for a free upgrade to Mountain Lion. Please see details about Apple’s Up-to-Date program here.

MacBook Air 13in 1.8GHz i7 4GB/256GB | Save $300 off of original pricing

MacBook Pro 15in 2.2GHz i7 4GB/500GB | Save $200 off of original pricing

See all of our specials here.

  Brenthaven Rigid Sleeve for 13in Portables | Just $9.99!  

Brenthaven Trek Sleeve for 13in MacBook Air/MacBook


Brenthaven’s Trek Sleeve provides maximum protection for your 13-inch MacBook/Air/Pro. Weighing under a pound, it has rigid wall frames and 6-sides of padding.

It also features an AC adapter pocket on the backside as well as a dedicated iPod slot, both hidden by a zippered flap. There is a backslip pocket for additional files and a clear ID pocket on the side panel. It is compact and portable and very sleek in design — perfect for the minimalist! Lightweight and protective, and eco-friendly!


  Kingston Wi-Drive External Network Drive - 16GB | Save 50%  

Kingston Wi-Drive External Network Drive - 16GB | Save 50%


Kingston’s Wi-Drive is portable, wireless storage for your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. Wi-Drive lets you store and share your favorite content with your favorite people.

It gives you 16GB of added storage for your Apple device and lets you share photos, videos, music and more with three users on their own iPhone, iPad or iPod touch. Download the free Wi-Drive App from the App Store to access and and easily share the content on your Wi-Drive with Apple devices.