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#912: Passcodes to Avoid, Wireless Data Backup, South Burlington Service Department Update


Our sincerest apologies for the extra email today, we initially sent last week’s issue of Tech Tails by accident. We’re in the doghouse now! This is the correct issue for Tuesday, September 16th, 2014.


Prior to last Tuesday, when Apple announced the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus (as well as the long rumored Apple Watch), I could hear myself repeating the phrase: “You’re not going to upgrade, you’re not going to upgrade, you’re not going to upgrade.” The idea being, if I repeated it long enough, I could convince myself to save a few bucks and make do with my iPhone 4S for a little longer. And then Tuesday came along and yes, I pre-ordered an iPhone 6 as soon as possible. And I was not the only one to do so, as first day pre-orders came in at over 4 million, breaking previous records.

But it wasn’t the larger screen size, the faster processor, the new and faster Wi-Fi protocol support, or the 240fps slow-mo camera that made me take the plunge. It was the well timed offers from the major cellular companies that made the financial burden of a new phone affordable. In fact, if you own a 4, 4S, 5, 5C, or 5S, most major carriers will offer at least $200 trade-in credit towards the purchase of an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, as long as you sign up for or renew a contract. This essentially gives you a free 16GB iPhone 6.

So, if you’re itching for a new phone and you’re eligible for a new contract, check out your options with your carrier sooner than later, as offers will only last so long. As for today’s articles, we’ll make sure your new phone has a secure passcode, talk about the advantages of a Time Capsule for your backup needs, and give an update from the Service Department in South Burlington

Mike D

  Top Ten iOS Passcodes to Avoid Using  

Four years ago, an app that would lock the phone and take a picture of the offender when an incorrect passcode was used called Big Brother Camera Security was released on the App Store. Daniel Amitay was the developer, and in the app’s early days he logged 200,000 passcodes anonymously, and found some interesting data regarding the passcodes people used.

The most interesting find from all this was that a substantial amount of the passcodes used were of the 1990s, suggesting younger users setting it to their birth year, or parents using their child’s birth year. Trying all of the years in the 1990s has a good probability of getting you into a locked iOS device. (editor’s note: Don’t break into someone’s device!)

Also frequently used were patterns. Anything that makes a shape on the keypad, or a common word, should be avoided (5683, the 6th most commonly used passcode, spells LOVE).

Below are the top ten used (usage out of 200,000 in parentheses):

  • 1234 (8,884)
  • 0000 (5,246)
  • 2580 (4,753)
  • 1111 (3,262)
  • 5555 (1,774)
  • 5683 (1,425)
  • 0852 (1,221)
  • 2222 (1,139)
  • 1212 (944)
  • 1998 (882)

It’s also advisable to write down the passcode somewhere. We see iOS devices on a daily basis with a lost passcode and the only resolution is erasing the device and starting over. This means if one forgets one’s passcode, all the data is lost.

  Apple AirPort Time Capsule  

Backups are something I know I could be a lot better about. I have all sorts of stuff on my computer, as I am sure you do, and that stuff is all stored on the hard drive (HDD) or solid state drive (SSD) depending on which one you have in your machine.

As I know first hand from my time as a Small Dog tech sometimes the HDD/SSD fails, or the computer fails, or files get corrupted. Sometimes the computer gets physically damaged or stolen. And sometimes you just delete files accidentally. A good data backup will make all of those scenarios seem a whole lot less painful because you’ll have all that stuff on your computer somewhere else other than just your computer. What kinds of stuff? All the stuff on that computer you care about, including, but not limited to: programs, files, documents, data, photos, movies, music, pictures, work, saved web pages, bookmarks, applications…all sorts of stuff!

My dad raised me to look out for my little sisters and they are more than capable of taking care of themselves, but they had a blind spot with regards to data backups. A few years ago I bought each of them an external drive for their Macs. This was so they could have a second copy of their data from their computers. This is all done with a built-in program that comes standard on every Mac and goes back a few years: Time Machine. There was one problem with this brilliant plan, though. It required them to plug in the backup drive and let it do it’s work. If it’s been a while, this might take a while. Hours sometimes and maybe even many hours! That kind of thing just further discourages one from updating their backup if it’s been a while

I will admit, I am as bad as anyone else when it comes to just plugging in a drive to do a backup. Currently I have up-to-date backups, but this couldn’t have been truthfully stated a week ago. Evidently that process of plugging in an external drive and letting Time Machine do it’s thing is too much to ask for the sake of data security and the peace of mind that comes with it.

This is no longer a problem for me and my family thanks to Apple’s AirPort Time Capsule. I’ve replaced my Wi-Fi router with this device. It’s got a built-in 2TB HDD (and also comes in a 3TB size) which is more than sufficient space for a backup of my machine and both of my sisters’ machines. The best part is that it will automatically start doing a backup as long as they are connected to the Wi-Fi network. So every time they’re home with their computers, and Wi-Fi is turned on, their computers do a full Time Machine backup to the Time Capsule.

Click here to buy yourself peace of mind with the Apple Time Capsule!

  A Service Department Update from South Burlington  

Everything has been moving quite quickly and under full load here in South Burlington. With school back in session and a busy summer carrying over into the new season, our turnaround times haven’t been higher since I first started here. With all of the newer models that have come out within the last two years, new problems have arisen with new solutions.

These days a lot of portables (AKA laptops) have been coming in with a new issue: No power, doesn’t turn on, and will not charge. This particular problem requires normal diagnostics and so the machine would get queued to be looked at by the next available tech. Once the machine makes it to the front of the line, it is often the case that I have grabbed the machine to begin testing and have noticed that the battery is stone cold dead. No juice in it whatsoever. I plug the machine in and wait. The MagSafe power adapter light will come on green, then change to amber, signaling that its charging the battery, then a few minutes later once the battery has enough power, the computer will self power on, which is normal, and then will pass all our testing.

Its believed that this issue is a caused by software bug within the firmware, the base system that manages the hardware. We also believe that this symptom could also be caused by a power surge. Since its hard to diagnose without the ability to dive into the firmware and if there is no sign of a surge, such as burned-out circuits, all we can do is give it a clean bill of health after it passes our testing and send the machine home. If your Apple laptop is experiencing this symptom, try putting it away for a few days before trying to power it on again. Leave it unplugged, closed and alone and it may power on when you try it in a couple days. Otherwise feel free to visit us at Small Dog Electronics and we can run diagnostics just to be sure.

In other news, our backup system is running much better now that the compression and deletion process are almost automated. We have plenty of space for backups on our RAID and our external hard drives are selling like hot cakes. We can’t stress this enough: Having a backup system at home is priceless (see Erich’s article above for an easy way to make this happen). Many a time I have had to break the news to a customer that their data is unrecoverable and that the only way to get it back would be to use DriveSavers, a data forensics company. Their services are expensive, but if the data is that important, they are the ones to try to get it off the failed storage module.

On one last note, with college back in session the number of liquid spilled machines has started to climb again. (editor’s note: All non-alcoholic beverages of course.) Liquids near electronics need to be watched closely. When liquid spills onto any electronic device, that device is usually fried pretty quickly. In very rare cases a machine has dried out and started working again, but these are extremely few and far between.

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