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#878: SkillsUSA, Lingering Data, From the Archives | How to Lift Your MacBook


Happy Tuesday!

I have just gotten finished with a great kayaking ride down the Contoocook river here in New Hampshire. It was great to spend some quality time with my family and get in a workout in as well. I was sure to make sure my iPhone 5 was far away and locked in my car, safe from danger.

I find myself loving my Apple TV more and more each day. I can take it where ever to use — recently, I brought it over to a friend’s house so we could watch my Netflix and access my iTunes library though Home Sharing. It was great to be able to do that without having to bring anything crazy (including cables); all I needed was my Apple TV and MacBook Pro Retina!

We have an outstanding and informative lineup for you this week. RJ goes over lingering data issues and we open the archives to give some words of wisdom about handling your Mac notebook. And to bring you a different perspective into the tech world, our very own Shawn Venti talks about his experience in the SkillsUSA competition in Kansas City. Great stuff!

Enjoy another week of summer!



Over the past week, I have been in Kansas City, Missouri, competing at the National SkillsUSA competition. SkillsUSA is a worldwide organization that both high school students and post-secondary students compete in at their particular trade. Skills is a very large organization with around 350,000 members in the United States alone.

At the national level, I was in the mix of 6,000 members competing in just over one hundred different competitions. My involvement with Skills started last year in my Cisco Networking Academy class in high school. My teacher really wanted to get involved with this program, so he offered it to the class and had many of us interested.

At the state level, my school took part in four of the computer-related competitions including Telecommunications, Computer Maintenance, Internetworking, and Advanced Computer Applications. The group that competed went in with the mind set that it would be a great experience if nothing else because the classes we had taken were not specifically geared toward the competition (like other competitors had had). Even with that disadvantage, we took gold in all four of our competitions!

The four gold medalists (including myself) flew out to Missouri to take part in the week-long national competition. It was a very busy week, but it all payed off in the end. My particular competition, Telecommunications, is the practice of installing and maintaining data communications cabling. That involves anything from copper networking cable to high speed fiber optic backbones. It’s nothing that I ever studied specifically, but something that I have picked up over the years.

With my hard work at the competition, I was able to take sixth place at nationals. Overall, my whole experience with SkillsUSA has been extraordinary! I would highly suggest anyone to look into Skills and get involved if you can.

More information can be found at:

  Lingering Data  

Wondering if deleted data can be recovered is valid to be mindful of (but of course, you’re backing up, right?), though not necessarily something to worry about.

For most cases, data deleted from a hard drive can possibly be recovered by the appropriate recovery software, but it takes time and effort. However, depending on how long the data has been removed from the hard drive has a bearing on the success rate — it very well may not be recoverable at all.

Recovering deleted information is possible because of the process in which the hard drive stores and removes data. All information is stored in binary format: zeros and ones. A directory on the hard drive then points to specific groupings of the binary digits to make up files. When you use Disk Utility to erase a disk, you are emptying the directory.

An Apple Support article uses a great analogy of “removing the table of contents from a book but leaving all the other pages intact.” Basically, your data is still present on the hard drive; however, the hard drive ignores the existence of this data, overwriting it as the computer continues to be used. Therefore, the longer the erased data stays stagnant on your hard drive, the less likely it is able to be recovered.

Disk Utility has a built-in “Secure Erase” option, which allows you to effectively erase a hard drive in such a way that the data cannot be recovered. This feature will erase the hard drive normally(removing the directory), and then proceed to write zeros over the data. Every pass of zeros written over that data makes the recovery process that much harder.

In reference to the aforementioned article written a few weeks back, Mountain Lion and Lion have a “Secure Erase” option when removing user accounts. This performs the same function, but only to the removed user account/home folder.

It’s always a good idea to consider the option of securely erasing your data, but it’s situation-dependent. Whether you have extremely sensitive personal data or are selling your computer to a complete stranger, it’s nice to have the option of extra security.

  From the Archives | How to Lift Your MacBook  

Originally written by Matt K. and featured in Tech Tails #777.

The vast majority of insert/eject problems on Apple laptops are related to how users pick up their machines. It sounds ridiculous, and some people even take offense when I offer a tutorial on how to handle their machines, but if you squash the optical drive opening, that is considered “damage” and is not covered by your Apple warranty.

By picking up your laptop with two hands and avoiding putting pressure on the optical drive area at all costs, you can prevent problems down the line. These range from failure of the optical drive, scratching discs on every insert or eject, and failure of the drive to suck a disc in or spit one out.

When we see this problem, we’re often able to use a non-marring nylon probe tool to pry open the optical drive slot. These tools are thin and rectangular, and by inserting the tapered end a few millimeters into the slot and twisting, the slot can be coaxed open. However, if your optical drive is having issues and your slot is compressed, there cannot be warranty coverage for the problem.

The non-unibody 17-inch laptops are especially prone to this problem, as the optical drive is right under the wrist rest area, and the slot seems less reinforced than on other models. Plastic MacBooks are also very vulnerable. Apple, recognizing this oversight in design and engineering, made the optical drive slot in unibody laptops much more rigid. This said, you should still make an effort to avoid pressing or squeezing this opening.

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