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#850: Bring Back My iTunes, Dagnabbit!, A mini for All Seasons..., Moral of the Story: Always Buy AppleCare+

 
     
 

Hello all,

The weather has been up and down again, with snow one day, rain the next, but always something. I understand there are places where there really isn’t weather as I understand the term…rapid shifts in temperature, precipitation, and the extremes of seasons. I can’t decide if that would be great or horrible.

Anyway — this week, two of our consultants have contributions. David gives us a blow-by-blow of his experience with an extremely difficult repair, and Jason rediscovers that unique product the Mac mini. And Carl has some tips on reclaiming iTunes, if, like me, you were shocked after upgrading to iTunes ’11.

Of the events in Connecticut, I must say that as a parent (and human being), I am stunned by the whole thing. I have been deeply saddened and I have been hugging my kids a lot the last few days. To anyone reading this who was directly affected, you have my deepest sympathy and sincere condolences.

Thanks for reading.

Liam liam@smalldog.com
 
   
     
  Bring Back My iTunes, Dagnabbit!  
   
 

Love it or hate it, iTunes 11 is here to stay. This is one more step in the slow transition over to total touch interfaces that we’ll likely see in the next decade. There is no real reason to despair however — you can get your old interface back.

The first thing to do is to set iTunes up to sort by songs instead of albums. I happen to like the new album view, but it does limit how much music can be shown on the screen at once. I have over 24,000 tracks in my library and even on a 27” screen, it can be a chore to go through the library by album cover. If you look across the top of the information section of the iTunes window, just under where it shows what song is playing, you’ll see a tab for songs. Just click that.

Step two is to bring back the side bar. To do this, click on the View menu and choose Show Side Bar. This will change the library navigation from the drop down menu style to the full list style. This will also give you access to the playlists from all file types, not just music.

Step three will bring back the status bar at the bottom of your window. Again, go to the View menu and click on Show Status Bar.

Step four is to open iTunes preferences and make sure that Podcasts has a check mark and “Use custom colors for open albums, movies, etc.” does not have a check mark.

This should bring you as close as is possible to the old view of iTunes.

Here are a couple of tips for people who are trying the new interface. The first one is that your iDevice will now be listed as a button on the upper right hand side of the window, right next to the new iTunes Store button. Second, to quickly create playlists, just click on the files you want in the playlists and begin to drag them on the window.

As long as your side bar is hidden, a playlists window will slide out of the right hand side and allow you to drop those files into a new playlist. The window will disappear once you’re done. To see the playlists, choose Music from the drop down menu and then click Playlists.

You can see all the other new new features on Apple’s website

 
   
     
  A mini for All Seasons...  
   
 

I am a very busy full-time consultant for Small Dog. Sometimes I help clients at our Vermont retail stores, but most of the time, I am on the road visiting our clients at their locations. My employer provides me with a modern MacBook Pro, and my ten most-used workday apps, in order of usage, would be:

Safari, Mail, Finder, Apple Remote Desktop, iCal, Server, AirPort Utility, Console, Address Book, and Terminal.

I didn’t plan this out, but in writing out this list, I notice that all these top ten apps are from Apple. While working with Apple products all day long, and using them at home, I do not consider myself an Apple fanboy. I will not buy every new product just because it comes from Apple. However, I agree with most of Apple’s design decisions, and it is interface functionality that earns my loyalty. I can get more done, faster, with less annoyance when I use Apple’s products. I also love many third-party applications and hardware, as long as they demonstrate that design and interface are important.

I find that MacBook Pro and MacBook Air computers are perfect for my mobile business clients, and the newest Retina machines are unbelievable for graphic quality. iMacs make excellent home machines with great displays and minimal mess. However, in my patient progression between future-proofed Apple computers, I find none carry as much long term value as the Mac mini.

Let me reiterate — for mobile users, the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air cannot be beat! And for home users, the iMacs provides the most computer and display in the least space. I write this opinion as someone whose mobile needs are met by my employer! Anything else I use is for fun and ease of support!

For the hobbyist, of which I consider myself a professional, the Mac mini provides an amazing semi-modular platform from which to satisfy both our cleverness and our thrift. While we must live with our choice of processor and graphics card, we mini owners can freely upgrade our RAM and not just one, but two hard drives. I am currently running on a special-order Mid 2011 Mac mini Server, which came with a 2.0 GHz Quad-Core i7, and 2 × 750GB 7200 RPM drives, which I have upgraded from 4GB to 16GB of of RAM. The newest Mac minis are even faster and come with a better video cards. The server version now comes with 2 × 1TB 5400 RPM drives, for even more storage, faster processors and graphics, better power usage, and just slightly less storage speed. I think an extra $100 maximizes the processor.

However, when you get a mini, you have a chance to take advantage of third-party pricing for RAM and hard drive storage. When I bought by Mac mini, I knew I needed more than 4GB of RAM, but I saved money by buying my extra RAM from Small Dog, and I put my original RAM into upgrading my wife’s design workstation iMac. Soon I will upgrade my main Mac mini hard drive to an SSD (Solid State Drive), with a matching clone drive, and move my original 2 × 750GB drives to an external case for video production.

I run my Mac mini not just as a personal machine, but as a media and web server for my family’s entertainment and hobbyist needs. I use it as something to experiment on and not be hampered by the limitations of other operating systems or user interfaces. For my business clients, I run around forty servers, most of which are Mac minis, and I am always happy to do support work for our Mac mini Server clients. They use so little electricity for so much Mac-based power. While I dream of a perfect maxed-out Retina MacBook Pro, the newest Mac mini Server remains on my thrifty wish list year after year.

 
   
     
  Moral of the Story: Always Buy AppleCare+  
   
 

Recently a family member dropped her iPad, shattering the glass face of the device. When she brought the iPad to a local Apple store, she discovered that Apple’s replacement cost was $300. Had the iPad been covered by AppleCare+ (a $99 investment in the first 30 days after purchasing the device), it would have cost her $49. With that information she decided to purchase a new iPad (with AppleCare+).

She then called me and asked if she could repair the broken iPad and sell it to a friend to recover some of the cost of buying a new device. The first question I asked was how it fell. The possibility of repair is predicated on whether one of the rounded corners of the iPad ended up being the point of impact. Fortunately for her, it landed straight on the glass front of the device.

I offered to repair it, not knowing what I would be getting myself into. She shipped the iPad to me while I went to the web and started purchasing replacement parts. The first place I visited was iFixit. Here, I purchased their iOpener tool for $15 which includes a long cloth pouch full of high-heat capacity material (much like the neck warmers you heat up in the microwave), two plastic opening tools, and eight guitar picks. I went to Amazon to purchase a $30 replacement digitizer (glass front piece) and a $2 metal spudger.

I went to work with iFixit’s iPad repair guide. As I heated up the “iOpener” and applied the heat to the glass surface of the iPad, I began to pry at the seam between glass and the plastic frame. Unfortunately, because the glass had shattered into so many pieces, it was extremely difficult to remove the glass. When the glass has shattered into thousands of pieces, heat is not as important as having a sharp tool to scrape the adhesive and glass off the aluminum frame.

I grabbed a heat gun, some safety goggles, a pair of gloves, and went to work with the metal spudger. By the time I had removed all the glass I had destroyed the plastic frame and Wi-Fi antenna. Six dollars later on Amazon and $4 at my local hardware store for krazy glue, I had replaced the Wi-Fi antenna and adhered the plastic frame to the aluminum chassis.

The home button is effectively suspended between the glass, a bracket, and two contacts on a circuit board fixed to the inside of the aluminum case. I tried to measure this to the best of my ability and adhered the button and bracket to the glass digitizer. Then, I connected the digitizer cable, connected the display cable and screwed in the display.

Next came the hard part. With compressed air and a microfiber cloth, I attempted to clean the display. Then I ran a strip down of krazy glue along the aluminum frame, removed the plastic covering the inside of the glass digitizer, and attempted to seat the glass digitizer within the plastic frame.

Unfortunately, my calculations were off with the home button bracket, making it impossible to seat the glass toward the bottom of the device. I ended up creating a crack in the glass between the home button and the bottom of the iPad. When I tried to seat the glass, excess krazy glue got on my fingers, the only instrument I had to apply pressure to the glass bezel — krazy glue residue instantly stuck to the smooth surface of the white frame (luckily, I didn’t touch the business part of the glass).

After, I realized that the power button, while it could still be used to power the device on and off, would not function to sleep or wake the iPad (making the device a lot more cumbersome to use).

After the “repair,” I called up my family member and explained my attempt (failure). We both agreed that her friend would not enjoy using the device. I recommended eBay after seeing broken iPads with bids upwards of $150 and she said go for it! I was pleasantly surprised when the auction ended and we received $300+ for the not-so-functional iPad.

I learned a lot about this stressful experience and I hope my tips make your next broken iPad experience a little less so.

1. If you’re buying an iPad, purchase AppleCare+. For $99, I can seriously recommend this option as an alternative to a protective case. You’ll enjoy your iPad more when you’re using it and you can be a little less anxious when it does succumb to accidental damage (though certainly it’s not an excuse to be careless).

2. If you don’t purchase AppleCare+ and your iPad breaks within the first year, consider the $300 repair from Apple. 3rd party repairs can cost around half that but will most definitely void whatever remains of your one year warranty from Apple covering manufacturer’s defects.

3. If your iPad breaks after a year, there’s a likely chance that Apple’s released a new device. A brand new iPad is going to look like a pretty good alternative to the $300 repair. Then, try to sell the device on eBay. You might try Craigslist, but I think eBay is going to provide the best chance to recoup as much value as possible.

I can say without hesitation that replacing the glass on the iPad 2/3 is definitely the most difficult repair I have ever performed. As mobile computing becomes more ubiquitous, more and more users will find them in a situation where their device has succumbed to accidental damage.

Repairing that device at a reasonable cost will be essential to helping my three aforementioned tips sound less wasteful. As of this writing, Apple’s iPad is not designed to be repaired. But I have not given up hope considering that the iPhone 5 is the most repairable iPhone yet.

While it’s impossible to know the direction of Apple’s industrial design, if we use the iPhone as a leading indicator, we might expect an iPad that uses less adhesive and more mechanical means of holding the device together — allowing it to come apart (and put back together) with less stress.

 
   
     
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