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#847: Upgrade That Which 'Can't' Be Upgraded, Remote iOS Configuring, Stop Bugging Me Software Updates!


Hello all,

The last couple of days, it has seemed like November has finally arrived and with it the certainty that winter is coming, in some form or another. I always have a sudden realization that ALL the leaves are gone. There is crisp cold air, days of slate-grey skies with wisps of clouds scudding past in the continuous breeze, the smell of maple wood smoke, and this morning, an inch of snow here in the Champlain Valley.

People here in the Northeast seem happier when snow comes in winter, for the most part. It gives you something to talk about when the days are short and kids love it until shoveling is needed. I also try to remember that like winter, spring is on its way as well. I can usually keep that good feeling going until about mid-March when I foolishly convince myself that it should be here already!

On to the goods — Dave and Carl offer up some good stuff this week, going places we haven’t gone very often here, but will be more often: hardware mods and enterprise-level stuff that you can apply to your own iOS world. Let us now what you think.

Thanks for reading.


  Upgrade That Which 'Can't' Be Upgraded  

When Apple released the prior redesign to the iMac back in 2009, I had been running on a much older eMac. So needless to say, I jumped right on that bandwagon and got myself the best 27” Apple had. What a change that was. I went from a 17” CRT display to a massive 27” LED backlit LCD. “Awesome” in every sense of the word.

Several years have since passed, and while I still love this computer, its graphics card could be better. This computer shipped with an ATI Radeon HD 4850 with only 512MB of VRAM. At the time, it was fine and comparing it to my older computer, it was a world of difference. A year (maybe even less) later, Apple made a pretty hefty revision to the computer and released one with a much better graphics card. Much to my dismay. This is the way it is with computers — as soon as you get your top-of-the-line machine, a new one is released a year or less later and it’s better.

In the case of most Macs, the video card isn’t a separate part. In all of Apple’s laptops and with the Mac mini, it is a chip that is attached to the logic board and can’t be changed. In most iMacs, it is a separate card but they use what is called a mobility card; these are smaller graphics cards that are typically used in PC laptops. These cards connect to the iMac’s logic board in the same way that a tower style machine has PCI slots for cards.

The problem with upgrading these in an iMac is that the heat sink and radiator are often customized to that card and the frame of the iMac is designed in such a way that it only accommodates the cards that originally came with the machine. This makes it effectively impossible to upgrade in most cases. The late 2009 27” iMac is an exception.

The form factor of the ATI Radeon HD 4850 is identical to the 1GB ATI Radeon HD 5750 that came with the Mid 2010 27” iMac. This is a better card with twice as much VRAM. Upon learning this, I decided to test it out to see if I can get a minor upgrade to my computer. Turns out it works. I did have some issues with the display not lighting up but this was resolved by reinstalling the OS from scratch after having the new card in there. The only thing I can figure is that it was a driver issue.

Repairs like this will definitely void your warranty; if the iMac is still under warranty, there is some risk. A part like this bought directly from Apple often doesn’t come with a warranty because it doesn’t actually match what is available for the computer. So, you can expect to pay around $400 or so for the card itself and for our service center to do the actual repair would cost around $200 for the labor. I would not consider this a user-installable repair because you need to fully remove the logic board to do the repair. If you damage that part, you can say hello to a $1,400 to $2,000 repair.

What you’re using your machine for will determine what kind of change you’d see with the upgrade. In my case, I was able to max out all the graphics settings in Guild Wars 2 (my current video game addiction) and that went up from most settings being in the mid to low range — a noticeable difference.

My next step is to replace the optical drive with an SSD and set it up to mimic Apple’s new Fusion drive. I’m planning on doing this step in the coming months and I’ll detail how it goes in an article.

  Remote iOS Configuring  

If you’re like me, you regularly remotely control one device from another. Using one of a variety of VNC viewing applications I can usually gain access to my Mac(s), either from across the room or from across the country. I also use Apple’s Remote Desktop application in order to login to a remote server and Citrix’s GoToMeeting software in order to remotely control a client’s Mac from afar.

With the prevalence of iOS devices and the sometimes more complex software configuration needed, it would be great if Apple added the VNC service to iPads, iPhones, and iPod touches not only to control them, but for the critical task of configuring them, either for an individual or say, for instance, every person in your company?

If you’re keen to jailbreak your device, there’s nothing stopping you from installing a VNC server on your phone and remotely controlling it. For the rest of us, Apple has made no indication that they would like to make available the necessary ports and protocols. So what are your options for remotely configuring an iOS device —perhaps that one you intend to gift to your parents this holiday season?

First, grab a copy of Apple’s iPhone Configuration Utility for your Mac or for your PC. Apple’s iPCU can be used to create configuration profiles, carry payloads which can configure what Wi-Fi networks the iPad can automatically join, what email accounts are configured, and what restrictions are put on the device. For a complete support document on what it can do, visit:

After you’ve made your configurations, export the configuration profile and deploy it to the device. You can plug it into your Mac or PC, email it, or host it on a website. I will often put the .config file in my public Dropbox folder and send the link to the recipient. Once they tap the link in their mobile Safari browser, the iOS device will prompt them to install it and automatically configure their device. Apple’s iPCU is an invaluable tool as an Apple Consultant.

  Stop Bugging Me Software Updates!  

You’d be surprised at how often I hear a customer complain about being bugged by Software Updates. I’ve even had one customer who refused to run them because of the inconvenience. Running software updates can often be vital to having a smoothly running machine and we always recommend running them.

The chances of having problems from a software update are typically very remote and shouldn’t keep you from running them. If you’re really concerned about something like that just wait a few days and read the tech blogs to see if anyone is reporting a problem with the update.

Now that the standard admonishment to run your updates is out of the way, I can tell you how to temporarily get Software Update to stop bugging you. These tips are specifically for 10.8; some of the tips definitely will not work in other OS’s, and others haven’t been tested for an older revision.

Option number one is to just disable Notification Center for the day. There are two ways to do this: the first is to option-click the Notification Center icon and it will turn grey. You can also swipe downwards from within Notification Center to show the on/off toggle. This will disable Notification Center for the day and you won’t get any reminders including Software Update.

Option two — when you get the pop up notification in the upper right corner of your screen, just swipe to the right on the banner and it will be ignored for the next few hours.

Option three is a semi-permanent method that is done from the update tab in the Mac App Store. Just right click on the update you want to ignore and choose Hide Update. This is only semi-permanent however. You can get the update back by pulling down the Store menu and choosing the Show All Software Update option to see all your hidden options.

Your final option (which should work for all revisions) is to just go into System Preferences, choose Software Update and then uncheck the box for Automatically Check for Updates.

I don’t recommend options three or four, but if you’re dead set against running updates then these two are your best options.

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