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#876: Why Do Logic Boards Fail?, iOS in the Car, How the South Burlington Team Backs Up

 
     
 

Greetings Small Doggers!

The first day of summer has passed and I’m writing this from the patio in my backyard with my Corgi, Kingsley, by my side. I got to do some swimming and enjoy this wonderful weather we are having. Tiring out Kingsley was a much needed activity since he has seemed to gain some weight from the winter.

I was at a concert in Boston this weekend which was a blast. Of course, the Apple fantatic I am, I ended up scouring the tech equipment to see what they were using. Not surprisingly, I found all Apple products: two Macbook Pros and one of the band’s crew members tuning the guitars on an iPad. Always great to see!

This week we have a more in-depth look at hardware, iOS, and backing up your devices. Chris Barosky talks about reasons why logic boards fail in laptops, Shawn Venti discusses the future of iOS in the car, and Mikhael informs our readers about how our techs in South Burlington back up their data.

Enjoy the start of summer everyone!

Barry
barry@smalldog.com

 
   
     
  Why Do Logic Boards Fail?  
   
 

One of the most common questions I receive as a technician is “why did [x,y,z] part fail, I mean, I take great care of my computer and have only had it a year…” and so on. This question is easier to answer when we’re talking about components with moving parts, like HDDs and optical drives, or if the customer was having a party and their spouse had too much to drink near the unit. Barring liquid damage, catastrophic impacts, and uncontrolled power surges, the reason for logic board failure has proven to be quite elusive.

The complexity of a contemporary computing main circuit board — referred to in Apple circles as a “Main Logic Board (MLB)” or in PC circles as “mother board” — is both fascinating and humbling to me. So many years of trial and error have driven progress in efficiency and manipulation of data-moving electrons in main boards and this certainly will continue for many decades to come. The problem with subatomic particles in this instance is that they are subatomic; their pathways are so very small and often not visible to us without proper aid. We are required, for instance, to wear grounded ESD (Electro-Static Discharge) control wrist straps, work on ESD-free mats, and transport or store sensitive modules in ESD-free bags because all it takes is some static electricity to blow a hole into a board: a hole nobody would know about without a microscope.

So one of the reasons boards fail is structural damage on a scale we are unable to see. What causes this? Shorted circuits, weak and/or deteriorated cold solder joints, flexion (extremely rare but possible, especially if you’re good and rough with plugging things into the I/O side of the board), dirty power or inconsistent voltage, and of course heat. In some instances, a connected board such as RAM may be failing and affect the MLB by presenting improper voltage at the point of connection. Because it is responsible for so many aspects of the unit, and thus so broad in its scope of influence, I have to admit that I never tell a customer why a logic board has failed unless there is obvious liquid damage or charred residue from a short circuit. Otherwise it is safe to assume manufacturer defect, age, or unconscientious use.

How can you do your part to avoid an extremely expensive logic board failure out of warranty? As a general rule, always make sure there is proper air ventilation around your computer. We all love to get cozy in bed with our laptops at some time or another but if you are setting the unit on a puffy set of sheets, you are effectively blocking important airflow underneath. While internal fans serve the purpose of dissipating heat away from the CPU, GPU, and other heat-making components they don’t negate the need for external airflow. Make sure you are plugging into a reliable power source with consistent voltage levels. Power supplies do regulate the DC level, though a voltage spike that is too high will overpower this and potentially damage the logic board. I advocate blowing dust off of your boards and fans (if you feel comfortable enough to remove the bottom case to your laptop in the case of MacBooks and MacBook Pros or Airs) with compressed air.

If you find your computer is running so hot that you can barely touch it, fans race excessively, you experience kernel panics regularly, and you generally have boot and performance issues, it behooves you to run Apple Hardware Test or bring your unit into an Apple Authorized repair center like Small Dog.

 
   
     
  iOS in the Car  
   
 

Apple is everywhere in today’s world. Even with millions of sales of their revolutionary products, Apple still hasn’t stopped expanding their reach. At the recent World Wide Developers Conference the new update to iOS was introduced. iOS 7 is the largest graphic user interface change since the software was launched. It also includes many new features one of which is iOS in the Car.

This particular feature is very interesting to me being the gear head that I am. Not much information was released about this feature however it seems it is going to be very similar to the head unit that Pioneer currently offers called the AppRadio. You will be able to plug your iPhone into the car and receive a full entertainment experience including music, video, navigation, and more. Siri will also be fully integrated so you can stay focused on the road while doing whatever you need on your iPhone. iOS in the Car will be available in a handful of new vehicles in 2014. Automakers that have signed on to include this package are Acura, Chevrolet, Ferrari, Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti, Jaguar, Kia, Opel, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, and Volvo.

 
   
     
  How the South Burlington Team Backs Up  
   
 

Like most computer specialists, we throw around backup suggestions frequently. Many employees give anecdotal advice in addition to the standard general suggestions. What we haven’t done is show how diverse even our own backup solutions are. Below are some of our methods and habits in preserving our personal data.

David: 2TB Time Capsule for Time Machine backups. Crash Plan cloud storage backup. Dropbox, Google Drive and iCloud/iTunes Match for current documents and music.

Mikhael: Internal Time Machine backup drive in place of optical drive. Dropbox for all documents. Image of HDD on external drive.

Steve: Time Machine backup to external. Google Drive for cloud storage of documents. Google Music for cloud storage of music.

Nate: Time Machine and SuperDuper! backup to the same external, which is partitioned. No cloud use.

Taylor: Time Machine to external RAID5, and also Time Machine to a portable drive that lives in his backpack. iCloud for documents.

Sherrie: Uses Dropbox and Google Drive.

Michael: Manually moves data to external drive.

Lonnie: G-Tech External Time Machine Backup and also uses iCloud and Google Drive for basic document backup.

Ronnie: External LaCie Time Machine Backup and iCloud for her iPhone.

Jonny: Manually moves data about once per month to a 1TB G-Tech External. Also uses iCloud for his iPad backups.

Tyler: iCloud for iPad backups and uses thumb drives for basic document backup on his computer.

Patrick: Time Machine backup to external LaCie drive. iCloud for iOS backups.

Jason: Dual internal cloned drives backup to external Time Machine backup. iCloud and Dropbox for insignificant files.

Of course, none of us really have to worry about backing up our communications, because we’re all paying for the government-funded PRISM cloud backup at the NSA. You may find some difficulty restoring from this one though!

 
   
     
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