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Tech Tails | Apple news straight from the Tech Room | | 800-511-MACS
#884: MagSafe #1, Time To Boot, Silverlight Plug-In, iPad in Biz



I write to you from Boston where I spent most of my weekend. I noticed today while traveling in the city that there is a large influx of tablets. From the Microsoft Surface to the Google Nexus, it seems that the common laptop has been outdone, and it’s especially noticeable when you’re in a coffee shop!

It made me realize how much of a trendsetter Apple has been over the years, specifically due to how the iPad has defined the tablet market genre — similar to how the original iPhone defined the smartphone.

I find it truly amazing to work with Apple products at work, in school and at home. The company has a niche and I feel like the consumers are a niche in and of themselves.

It’s a great week for reading Tech Tails!

  Anatomy of MagSafe Part I  

On January 10, 2006, Apple released the MagSafe power adapter. The patented design features a non-ferrous block of metal in its connector that is magnetically attracted to an actual magnet on the DC input board within your computer, similar to Japanese deep friers from the turn of the century that incorporated the magnet so the extremely hot contents would not spill if somebody tripped over a cable.

Originally, the MagSafe connector had a “T” shape that was perpendicular to the laptop. Subsequent modifications brought about the “barrel” or “L” shaped connector, a design that has frustrated consumers because it limits useable orientation to one way; if it is plugged in the other way, a port or two is covered by the wire.

Some people I’ve talked to are even more frustrated that Apple has revisited its initial “T” shaped connection on its brand new, thin, MagSafe 2 design, made to accommodate the thin form factor of their newest laptops. As a technician, I’m partial to the “T” because I can work on a laptop while it lays on its clamshell (Apple logo side), boards facing me, without straining the cable or covering the ethernet/USB ports.

If you look at a cross section of the connector, you’ll note 5 pins in a vertical array. The two outer pins are grounds in continuity with each other, the 2 in from those are 16.5V direct current, and the center is the charge control pin. The latter little guy determines what color the LED on the MagSafe connector will be: Green = charged / no battery connected, Amber = battery not fully charged, Dark = insufficient power flow, disconnected, or some other failure. It also communicates to the logic board the charger’s serial number and type of power received (for Apple computers, it’ll be 45W, 60W, or 85W depending on the model). It connects directly to a tiny circuit board you would find if you pried open the MagSafe connector.

This board has historically been provided by Maxim Integrated to Apple. The board used in my most reliable bench MagSafes is the DS2412 1-Wire protocol Addressable Switch. 1-Wire is a technology developed by Maxim Integrated that combines memory, mixed signal, and authentication in one interface, which makes your Mac’s power supply a bit smarter and more evolved than its PC brethren. This manufacturer’s ESD performance is well known in the electrical engineering community, which should give you peace of mind when practicing safe habits of surge protection, careful handling, and reasonable climate control of your computer.

In part 2, I will discuss the process that occurs when you plug the MagSafe into your computer and describe the possibilities of failure you may be experiencing beyond a dead charger. I’ll also delve into the power block itself and hopefully calm some customer worry with regards to its seemingly excessive temperature on occasion. Electronics, with so many small components working in tandem, do not always give us a simple answer when it comes to faults — but then again if they did, our lives as technicians wouldn’t be so interesting.

  Time To Boot  

Several times a week, I have people coming to me and complaining that their computer is slow and if there is something I can do to “clean it up.” The first thing that I usually ask is how their computer is slow. Is it slow at startup? When streaming videos on the internet? Opening files? Trying to edit your family vacation scrapbook? Are you getting the spinning beach ball a lot or is the machine just freezing up?

Slowness can be caused by a variety of reasons such as inadequate RAM, software corruption, and failing hardware like a hard drive or logic board. On a Mac there is not a lot to “clean up” that will help computing speeds by any significant amount. Unlike the old days of the PC, we do not need to defrag the hard drive to help compile most used data, and the Mac is still quite resistant to the trojans and viruses that can bog down the Windows platform.

For the average user, slowness can be measured in the time it takes from the moment the user depresses the power button to the moment that they can log onto the internet to check their email or stalk their friends on Facebook. Fortunately, there are a few things that we can do to help cut down computer load time at startup.

When your computer starts up, it has a series of tasks that it has to do. The speed at which it does these tasks is completely reliant on the computer hardware and therefore we do not have control of these functions as a user. However, from the minute that the machine logs the user into the operating system the user can start to influence the rest of the startup process.

One of the easiest ways to speed up load time is to eliminate the number of items that are saved on the desktop. The desktop is different from other folders in that anything that is stored on the desktop must be rendered and displayed. One of the first things the computer tries to after it logs onto a user account is render these icon. The more things that are saved to the desktop, the longer your computer is going to take to load. This is especially true if you save things like images to your desktop which have to generate a preview of the file.

Disabling startup items is another easy way to help cut down on load time. Do we really need Skype, Spotify, Dropbox, iChat, Google Drive, uTorrent, antivirus, and printer software for that old clunker that has been out of ink since last fall trying to open every time we turn on the computer? Most people will freely admit that they do not need nor want these items to auto open at startup but they have no clue how to disable them. So here it is — a quick crash course on how to disable Login Items.

The first thing you need to do is open System Preferences. You can get to System Preferences by clicking on the apple icon in the upper left corner of the menu or by clicking the icon the looks like a gear which most likely lives on your dock.

Next, you’re going to go to Users & Groups which can be found under the System heading in System Preferences. Select your user account from the left hand column and then click on the Login Items tab at the top of the page. Here you should see a list of all of the items that are set to automatically open when you start your computer. To disable a startup item, simply highlight the item and click the (-) button.

Hopefully, these tips will help you to shave valuable seconds of startup time so you can get back to wasting countless hours browsing the web.

  Microsoft's Silverlight Plug-In  

Silverlight is a free plug-in for web-based streaming media and some graphics, multimedia and animation applications. For many uses it is a Web development alternative for Adobe Flash. The most common use of Silverlight today is it’s requirement for streaming videos on Netflix. This can be problematic due to compatibility and support options for various Web browsers.

Safari doesn’t commonly have problems with Silverlight but it happens. As with Flash, if you get error messages that it has failed, restart your browser. If the problem persists, go to Microsoft’s Silverlight Installation page and install the most recent version available. If that fails and the problem continues, try uninstalling Silverlight completely before reinstalling it. Instructions for uninstalling on a Mac are here: Removing Silverlight Controls on a Macintosh. At Microsoft’s Silverlight installation page you can verify if you have Silverlight currently installed, or what version is installed, as well as determine if your Mac device is compatible with Silverlight.

Microsoft has announced discontinued support for Silverlight as of 2021. To that end, Netflix is planning to move away from Silverlight to HTML5, but this will require broad browser support (from Apple, Chrome, Microsoft, etc.) support for the new HTML5 features collectively known as “HTML5 Premium Video Extensions.” Timelines for this support implementations has not been announced yet by the World Wide Web Consortium or Netflix, but stay tuned!

You can get more information on Microsoft Silverlight here.

  FREE iPad in Business Briefing: Coming to NH!  

We’re thrilled to announce that we’re going to be hosting a free iPad in Business Briefing on Tuesday, September 17 from 9am – 12pm at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, NH — open to anyone interested in learning about how to use iPad in a business environment.

We’ll have a representative from Apple on hand to present, as well as our partners Zco Corp. (App Developer) and Burlington Bank Card (iPad/iPhone POS System) to highlight their solutions.

Topics will include integration, security, deployment, apps and of course, how using iOS and working with Small Dog Electronics can provide an ideal solution for your business.

Visit our Seminars page for more details and to sign up:

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