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#954: Cloning; Ejecting; Resetting; Expanding

 
     
 

Hello Fellow Technophiles,

As is bound to happen with this many nerds under one roof, Star Trek came up again today in a discussion at work. The debate was whether every time a person goes through the teleporter do they die and what is received on the other end is a clone or does the original consciousness somehow survive the matter being broken down into energy and being reconstituted on the other side? I argue for the former and my “proof” is the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Second Chances.” In this story, due to a teleporter malfunction, Commander Riker is duplicated with one version left behind on an uninhabited planet and one version making it back to his ship. After several years, the Riker that was left behind was found and his personality had diverged quite a bit from the other Riker by this point. I say that if duplication is a possibility, then clearly each teleportation is a clone and a destruction of the original as I can’t see how consciousness can be split.

I bring this up partly to give you a behind-the-scenes peek at Small Dog, but also to start a discussion on cloning in the computer world. Fortunately, as there aren’t any conscious computers…yet, this part of the discussion can focus on the technical issues rather than the metaphysical ones. There are a number of ways to clone your computer, but my favorite way is using Carbon Copy Cloner. This program has a simple interface, allows for scheduled cloning, and also has a number of more advanced features for the power user. The primary advantage of a clone is the fact that it can be made bootable. So, if you have a clone on an external drive that is directly connected to the Mac, you can use this drive to start up any other Mac that supports the installed OS, which can potentially get you back up and running faster than migrating all of the data from a Time Machine backup. This can also be your own computer, in the case of a failed hard drive, but an otherwise functional computer.

Of course, like Riker, if the clone is out-of-date, we can get a divergence in the data set. If you make changes to the clone, and then go back to work on your own machine, you need to replace any changed files from the clone back to the original computer, and any changes made to the original computer since the time of the clone will not be on the clone. If you have made different changes to the same file there is no easy way to reconcile the two other than manually changing whichever one is closer to the intended state.

Next time, I will use a tenuous Star Trek metaphor to compare Time Machine to “actual” time travel. Stay tuned!

Mike
michaeld@smalldog.com

 
   
     
  Safely Ejecting Hardware  
   
 

Failing to safely eject hardware from a computer is one of the most common mistakes I see computer users make. Most people do not realize that unplugging a flash drive or an external hard drive without ejecting it first can damage the files stored on it, or even the hardware itself in some cases.

If a storage device is unplugged from a computer while files are being written to it or read from it, there will most likely be some data corruption. If you were saving a file to the storage device, when it was unplugged, not all of the data had time to be copied there, and so the next time you try to open that file from that device, the file will most likely fail to open, or the data will be garbled or incomprehensible depending on what type of data it is.

Unplugging a flash drive while files are not being written to it will typically not result in problems, however it can be difficult to tell when files are no longer being written or accessed. Some programs will try to access files on the drive constantly, so unplugging the drive at any time without safely ejecting it first can cause problems. Additionally, unplugging external hard drives without ejecting them can damage the drive. If the read/write head on the drive suddenly loses power, it can strike the data platters and kill data sectors, making the data on them unreadable and the hard drive more likely to fail completely in the future.

To safely eject a storage device on a Mac, you can either click on the eject icon next to the device’s listing in the Finder sidebar, or drag and drop the device’s icon into the trash, which should turn into an eject icon when a storage device is dragged over it. Keep in mind that only storage devices need to be safely ejected, not keyboards, mice, or other peripheral devices that do not have internal storage.

 
   
     
  Reset Your Mac  
   
 

Sometimes your Mac might not power on, or might be having weird issues. There are a couple of “magical” reset button combinations that are generally harmless and pretty easy to do. These techniques are most useful on the MacBooks. For example, the iMac doesn’t have a SMC reset key combination. Instead, you can just unplug the iMac from the power source and plug it back in.

If these resets don’t solve your problem, the issue is most likely not so easily resolved, but these are really useful tools to have at your disposal in the rare event that you should need them. As a service technician these are the first thing I do when I see a misbehaving machine, and I don’t even think about it anymore.

The descriptions below are a little detailed, but I’ll try and give you the necessary highlights without all the confusing details.

First, make sure the machine is powered off. The sleep light on the front right corner that blinks when you first turn the machine on and kind of slowly strobes when it’s sleeping should be off. If you have a MagSafe Adapter plugged in, you should see the color of the light change.

The SMC reset is a key combination of:

Shift + Control + Option + Power Button

After the SMC reset you can power on the machine as usual.

The NVRAM/PRAM reset is a key combination of:

Command + Option + P + R

This is done before the gray Apple logo appears on the screen, or shortly after the startup chime if you can’t see anything on the screen. You should hear the machine make the startup chime again, keep pressing those keys down until you’ve heard the chime at least three times and then release. After that the machine should start as usual.

Sometimes those key combinations can resolve the issue, sometimes they don’t do anything. If it doesn’t help, give us a call and we’ll help you decide how to proceed.

Links to the Apple Support articles below:

Reset the System Management Controller (SMC) on your Mac

How to Reset NVRAM on your Mac

 
   
     
  Swollen Batteries  
   
 

An issue you may run across, but hopefully do not, in the lifetime of you Mac portable is a swollen battery. The first symptoms are usually your trackpad not clicking or a weird bulge on the bottom of your machine. A swollen battery is not common but it does happen. Now there is usually not one single cause for a swollen battery. Sometimes it is a defect in the battery, or old age, or the wrong charger which can overcharge the battery. Always use the proper charger straight from the manufacturer to charge your MacBook. There are cheaper alternatives out there, but you may end up paying in the end if this charger causes issues for your battery or other parts of your machine.

See the full line of Apple MagSafe chargers here!

So what to do if this happens to you?

First off, exercise caution. The slightest puncture can be dangerous and, again this is VERY rare, but SWOLLEN BATTERIES CAN EXPLODE!!!!! Most Mac models do not have user replaceable batteries, so your best option is to get the computer to your nearest Apple repair facility, such as Small Dog Electronics, to get the battery out of there and safely disposed of before it can do any harm.

How to help avoid a swollen battery:

- Again, always use the right charger for your device
- Don’t leave the device plugged in all the time
- Keep the device stored in cool dry environment
- Replace battery when it becomes exhausted (Option – Click the battery icon in your top bar to see your battery’s condition)

Sometimes batteries just fail and there is nothing you can do about it, but with the proper practices you can cut down the chances of it happening to you.

 
   
     
  Pokemon Special - Keep your phone charged while you're on the hunt!  
   
 

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