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#939: Battery Myths, Backup Redundancy, Clean Screen Advice


Hello Fellow Technophiles,

I am writing this week’s Tech Tails from the great state of Ohio (Go Buckeyes!). For better or for worse, it is easier than ever to stay connected wherever you go. I read and answered a number of emails from my iPhone today and I am composing this on my MacBook Pro. Thanks to VPN (Virtual Private Network) all of the resources that are available to me when I am in the office are available anywhere I have an internet connection.

While connecting to a corporate network is probably the most familiar use of VPN, it has other uses as well. Because your computer looks like it is in the location where the VPN service originates, it can be used to mask your actual location. This can be used for good (such as political activists circumventing national firewalls), for less noble reasons (such as streaming media that is restricted from your country) or even outright illegal activity (I will not give you any ideas here!).

Every Mac and iOS device has a built-in VPN client which allows you to connect to VPN services. With the Apple Server app you can turn any Mac into a VPN server and connect back to your own network securely from anywhere. As an Apple Certified Technical Coordinator, I can assist you with setting this up; just send me an email at the address below for more information and a quote.

Happy Thanksgiving!


  Battery Myths  

Here at Small Dog, we meet a lot of people who have misconceptions about different ways to preserve the battery life of their laptop, smartphone, or tablet. You may have heard some of these myths yourself.

Several years ago, the most common type of rechargeable batteries included in electronic devices were nickel-cadmium batteries. One of the drawbacks of these batteries was known as the memory effect. Due to the chemical composition of the batteries, they would tend to “remember” the point that they were discharged to previously, and experience a sudden drop in charge once they reached that point. For this reason, it was often recommended to allow your battery to completely discharge before charging it to 100% again.

Almost all electronic devices manufactured within the last several years use newer lithium-ion batteries, and not the older nickel-cadmium batteries. Lithium-ion batteries use completely different chemicals and manufacturing processes from nickel-cadmium batteries. There are positives and negatives (no pun intended) to using lithium-ion batteries instead of nickel-cadmium batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are lighter and more environmentally friendly than nickel-cadmium batteries. Lithium-ion batteries have a slightly shorter lifespan than nickel-cadmium batteries, but they do not suffer from the “memory effect.”

Modern batteries do not suffer from the memory effect, and so you can safely charge your electronic device at any capacity.

  Backup 103: Redundancy  

In a recent Tech Tails article I prattled on at length about my backup strategy, but I didn’t mention everything that I do. What I personally do isn’t limited to just having a Time Machine backup on an external HDD that I unplug and leave in a desk drawer most of the time, and another Time Machine backup to a Time Capsule, and some of the more important stuff on a flash drive here and there. After working at Small Dog for a few years and getting scared by the constant horror stories I’m exposed to every day, I’ve come to lose faith in the reliability of my storage devices. Computers fail, or have bad things happen to them (loss, theft, gravity, liquid, etc.) and I’ve seen many permutations of these. While I don’t mean to scare you, I do intend to set realistic expectations that sometimes unfortunate things happen. If your backup drive fails at the same time as your computer fails, or your house gets struck by lightning and it fries your Time Capsule and everything else plugged into the wall, you might find yourself in the same place as having never bothered to do a backup. Other bad things can happen, like local disasters, house fires, giant death ray lasers from some angry alien spaceship that just wipes out an entire neighborhood. So I take a few extra steps.

I rotate between two external HDDs that I do a Time Machine backup to, this is just in case one of those drives fails. Some of them are pretty old, and I’ve had them for a while so they are way outside of their warranty period. They’ve served me well, but they’ve also got all my important stuff on them. Because I know that drive failure is a real possibility I have redundancy (redundant meaning the same thing again) it might seem like a waste, but I’m more concerned about losing all those photos than I am about the 80 bucks or so I spent on that drive.

I have yet another external HDD that I do a bootable backup to. This bootable backup is an exact clone of my boot volume on my Mac. What’s really awesome about a bootable volume is that I can plug in this external HDD before my Mac boots up, press and hold the option key before that gray Apple logo shows up when I power it on, and I can select this drive instead of the one in my machine! I use a couple of utilities for this: SuperDuper! and Carbon Copy Cloner. They’re both great and give me a great deal of flexibility in copying data from one drive to another.

Cloud-based services are another really great way to back up your stuff, but I use them sparingly just like I do with my flash drives. The major limiting factor in cloud based services is the upload speed. It can take a little while to upload bigger files over the internet, but once you get them there, those big cloud services have tremendous reliability, redundancy and convenience. Dropbox is one of the most popular, and most supported, but they’re far from the only option out there. For example, Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, SpiderOak, and Apple’s very own iCloud, just to name the few that I can think of at the moment.

Redundancy might sound silly at first, but it’s the name of the game when it comes to protecting your data.

  Clean Screen Advice  

I work on quite a few iMacs here at Small Dog and there is nothing more annoying then having a piece of hair, bug, dust, etc. in between your LCD screen and your eyes. In this article I will be discussing iMacs released between 2007 and 2012. Before and after those years a different construction technique was used which does not cause dust interference.

For those that don’t know, the iMac consists of a thin glass sheet that covers the LCD. Because of this there is a thin air pocket about half an inch or so between the glass panel and LCD display. If there is dust in-between your iMac glass and LCD you have 3 choices: learn to live with it, bring it into Small Dog for us to clean it, or try and tackle it yourself.

If you choose to do this yourself you will need a few things:

  • Strong suction cups
  • Microfiber cloth and glass cleaner
  • A roller with sticky pads (see picture below)

If you can source these parts, then the first thing to do is stick the suction cups to the glass and slowly pull towards you (refer to the main article image). WARNING: Do not do this if you are not OK with potentially cracking the glass. Although this may be easy for me, if it is your first time I would be very careful. The glass is attached to the casing by magnets and only needs a slight pull. Now clean both the LCD and the inside of the glass really well with a microfiber cloth, and some cleaning spray. Next take the sticky sheet and peel back the top, roll the roller on it to get off any dust, and then start rolling it both on the LCD and the inside of the glass. After you are done quickly seal everything back up. Now clean the outside of the glass with a microfiber cloth and spray. Now inspect your work and note any foreign material inside. If there is, repeat the previous steps. If not your now dust free and can enjoy your iMac!

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