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#891: Mac Pro PCI Express Slots, Empty Trash With Terminal, Drying Computers


We’re back!

You may have noticed that you’re missing a Tech Tails issue from last week. In order to leave your inboxes less cluttered and make each issue better, we have decided to send Tech Tails on a bi-weekly basis (every other week, in case you’re wondering). We hope you like the updated schedule; feel free to contact me with any feedback or questions.

I am still anxiously awaiting the final release date for OS X Mavericks. I have been using the Developer version for some time now, and the updates are substantial over 10.8 Mountain Lion. Mostly, I think that is due to the fact that it’s more targeted for tools that you use on the OS X platform (rather than iOS integration).

Safari has a lot of great add-ons with Top Sites, a new and improved sidebar, and shared links through social sites like Twitter. Perhaps the best upgrade, though, is the new, easy-to-use Keychain application. The final Developer preview came out recently, so hopefully, it’s not far off.

You know you’ll see it here when it’s released, and if it happens to be announced during an off-week, be sure to follow our blog, Barkings! Have a great week, everyone.


  Mac Pro PCI Express Slots  

Currently, we have a 27” Thunderbolt display in our Key West service department for repair. The display will routinely shut off during video/processor-intensive applications (usually running pro software).

I was unable to recreate the issue when it was connected to any computer in the service department, so I contacted the customer, who offered to bring in his Mac Pro and recreate it for me. Once hooked up to his Mac Pro, it happened immediately.

My first thoughts were that it had to be a logic board, hard drive, or video card failure in the machine itself. I then ran the Storage Diagnostic tool and the hard drive failed. However, I couldn’t rule out that it wasn’t anything else in addition to that since the logic board could still be affected due to the three internal expansion slots.

I moved the installed video card to one expansion slot, then to another, and the symptoms continued. Before calling it a day though, I needed to check the video card itself. I installed a different, known-good video card, and was unable to recreate the machine’s symptoms in any of the expansion slots.

Diagnosis: Failed hard drive and video card. I ordered and installed both parts, and the symptoms disappeared. The Mac Pro and Thunderbolt Display are now functioning properly.

The Mac Pro is known as the work horse of the Apple computer line. The former design — the aluminum tower — is rugged, expandable, and used by professional photographers, videographers, and film makers worldwide. The parts are bigger, and thus, the tools needed to work on it are bigger and it is a much “roomier” computer to service. (A definite dichotomy to servicing laptops.)

Apple has announced a new Mac Pro that will revolutionize “towers” with its slimmed-down, conical shape. This design is a drastic size reduction from the old model, and customers have expressed concern that expansion slots aren’t available in the newest incarnation. This means any external gear must be connected to the internal architecture via cables. However, since Thunderbolt is PCI Express, there’s no need for a dedicated PCI Express slots.

And while Thunderbolt does not provide the fast speed of the internal expansion slots, there is more than enough bandwidth to power massive configurations of audio inputs and outputs for music, video streams for editing, and high-speed, high capacity storage. Thunderbolt is Intel technology coupled with input from Apple and it’s something I expect to see on PCs very soon.

  Empty Trash With Terminal  

The other day, I had a customer come into the store who was having issues emptying her trash. We tried all the normal prompts, did PRAM resets, and nothing would work.

Using Terminal, there is a quick and easy way to empty the trash if you ever hit hangups while doing so. Just navigate to the Terminal app, open it up and enter the following:

sudo rm -rf ~/.Trash/*

Since this command uses sudo, you will be required to enter your password at this point. After that, you’ll see that your Trash can icon is satisfyingly empty — and you’ll have your hard drive space back.

As always, operate Terminal with care, as you can damage system folders if you enter the prompts incorrectly.

  Drying Computers  

At least once a week (and sometimes, every 1-2 days!), a customer will bring a water-damaged computer into the Service department. Unfortunately, it’s generally already too late to salvage the damage by the time it gets to us.

The components in a liquid-damaged laptop corrode rapidly, even when nearly-dry and with or without intervention. However, sometimes what ends up damaged will not inhibit the usability of the computer. Drying/cleaning may not even be strictly necessary at times, making the use of heating elements not worth the risk.

A common misconception is that heat will dry out the components without damaging the machine. Frequently Apple laptops will find their way into ovens or beneath hair dryers. These methods are going to melt the plastics and potentially cause heat damage in the machine. It’s tempting to do because it takes a long time for moisture to evaporate without extreme heat. However, in our experience, adding heat into the equation is never a good idea.

The best techniques, as I’m sure many of you have heard before, involve letting the hardware dry slowly, preferably in an environment where moisture will be leeched from the air, and not somewhere humid. The most common trick is to leave the laptop in a sealed plastic box or bag full of dry rice. This is also frequently used for wet iPhones and iPods.

As always, avoiding liquid damage is preferred by all. Leave drinks away from tables with machines on them, or keep them on a different surface nearby. Try bringing a plastic bag on rainy days just in case. But if the worst does occur, try not to panic. Remove the power/battery if you are able, and get the machine in rice ASAP.

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