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Tom Briant

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Fixing your old computer the easy way and saving some coin, too!

My brother’s computer went blank yesterday. He e-mailed that the screen was broken.

When I got home I looked at the screen. No apparent physical damage, no distorted picture, just ….nothing.

 

To cut to the chase, I resolved the problem and saved him visiting a repair shop by simply removing the memory modules and then reseating them to ensure a firm physical and electrical connection. 

After doing so, the computer came back on and went through the cyber equivalent of “spectacles, testicles, watch and wallet, “ for several minutes before returning to normal operation.

I have had this happen to three different computers, where the On/Off cycling causes tiny metal parts to flex microscopically and work its way out of their sockets. 

Now for the details. You’ll need a appropriate sized screwdriver, some good sense, and a bit of patience. Oh, and wash your hands! 

Now lay the computer on a clean cotton towel to ensure small parts don’t roll away and get lost on the floor.

 

How I tested the computer

I tested the video output by plugging in a VGA monitor. I’m a full-on nerd, so I’ve got a couple of extra monitors. Nothing, though, came up. I pressed all the buttons on the side of this Samsung monitor and nothing, but nothing, came up! “It’s dead Jim” 

So the problem went beyond a problematic LCD screen. So I thought through my experiences from the past 30 years of working with computers. An old Windows 2000 computer sprang back to life when I moved its single 64 Mb memory chip to another socket 3 years ago. My own late 2011 Mac mini came back to life after I reseated the hard drive’s connections. So I figured it was worth a shot on my brother’s computer. 

Now to the details

First, read the manual. “When all else fails, read the instructions,” is an old part of the Murphy’s Laws. You want to advance past fumbling amateur to Grand Nerd Extraordinaire? Read the instructions first!

If you have access to another computer, open up the search engine, whether Google, Bing, Yahoo, or DuckDuckGo, and enter the following “service manual <name of your broken computer>” You can skip the quotation marks and arrows. In my case, I entered service manual Inspirion 6400 and up popped where to go for the Dell service manual.

It’s a PDF that I downloaded. So opening it up, I found the section for Memory Modules. I read that before doing anything. It kept referring to the first steps you should always take when fixing the computer. So like an intelligent person, as you are too, I read them. Unplug the computer, touch a metal surface to discharge any static electricity, and remove the battery. 

So I removed the Dell battery, which proved even easier than removing an Apple battery. Just push a latch to one side and pull up gently (!) on the battery to remove it. Set it aside and see if it displays signs of bulging or leaking. Those are not good and fortunately, I didn’t see them with this computer’s battery.

Now to open the memory module bay, you’ll need a teeny-weeny Phillips head screwdriver to unscrew the captive screws holding the bay’s cover in place. Go to Fry’s to get a computer repair kit if necessary. From earlier work on the Mac mini, I had the necessary screwdriver (thank you, Other World Computing!)

1 teeny weeny Phillips head screwdriver

 

Here is the teeny-weeny little Phillips head that I got from Other World Computing while doing a project.

 

2 computer repair kit at Frys

Here is a computer repair kit that I found at Fry’s. It costs about $24 and should cover 99% of situations you encounter. 

I unscrewed the captive screws and laid the plastic cover aside.

One side piece of advice, use an old cotton towel on your desktop if you have small screws to keep them from rolling on to the floor.

Now for the money shot!

I looked at the memory chips or modules. Nothing unusual about them. I read the instructions again, which said to GENTLY use your fingers to spread the clips holding the module(s) in place and pull out the module. Oh, and make sure to discharge any static electricity by touching a metal object first!

I looked at the memory module. Hmm, nothing special, just a stock DDR2 memory module. No signs of corrosion or damage. So I reinserted the module into its socket GENTLY and made sure of a firm physical fit. 

3 DDR2 memory module at Frys

 

I reattached the memory bay cover, reinstalled the battery, flipped the computer over, and turned it on. Voila! The Windows 10 boot up sequence began. As I wrote before, Windows goes through a self-diagnostic procedure if it detects something drastic happened. Soon the desktop appeared with my brother’s user name. He sat down and logged in. 

He was ecstatic! He didn’t need a new computer, he didn’t need to track down a computer repair shop on Saturday, and he could get back to work.

As my reward, he fixed me dinner. Yum!

And that’s all there was to it. 

 

Tom Briant

Editor, MacValley Blog

 

 


 

 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Xnconvert solves the problem of converting old graphics files to new formats

I needed to convert several old graphics files in MacPaint and PC Paintbrush format. I needed to do this with macOS, Ubuntu Linux, and Windows.

I bumbled around looking for solutions. I figured out awkward workarounds in each case, but I believed someone must have arrived at a better solution.

Someone has, and that solution is the graphics batch converter Xnconvert. It easily converted my old files into the contemporary Windows .bmp format, which has been around since at least 1992 in Windows 3.1.

This product reads 500 different formats (!) including some even rarer than MacPaint, such as Atari ST’s Neochrome. It writes to 70 different formats.

The developer asks for a donation to help defray costs. He wants $6.48. Perfectly reasonable and I paid it as quick as I could.

Xnconvert has versions for Windows, macOS, and various distros of Linux. I got it up and working on macOS and Ubuntu Linux quickly and easily. It converted the old files quickly and easily. It displays the progress of each conversion and its success or failure.

I wholeheartedly recommend this product to anyone faced with converting old graphics files in a plethora of formats into a common contemporary format usable across Windows, macOS, and Linux.

 

1 Input for Xnconvert

This shows the input. I’ve selected the folders that I want to convert. You can convert nested folders. 

2 conversion process is fast

 

This shows the speed of the conversion process

3 output folder settings

 

 

This shows the output settings, where you select the output folder and format.

Tom Briant

Editor, MacValley Blog

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Senior Correspondent Arnold Woodworth's Weekly Web Wrap-up for Tuesday 8-1-2017

Apple’s Silence in China Sets a Dangerous Precedent
 
A year ago, Tim Cook (CEO of Apple) decided to fight the FBI demand to make a hackable version of the software that runs all iPhones so they could get inside a dead terrorist’s iPhone.
 
The fight paid off. On the eve of a courtroom showdown, the F.B.I. rescinded its request. It is worth underlining this point: When Apple took a public stand for its users’ liberty and privacy, the American government blinked.

Yet in China, when faced with a broad demand by the Chinese internet authority, it was Apple that blinked.
 
Apple pulled down several VPN apps — programs that allow iPhone users to bypass the Chinese government’s censorship apparatus — from its Chinese App Store.
 
Apple’s silence may be tactical; the Chinese government, the conventional thinking goes, does not take well to public rebuke. Yet Apple’s quiet capitulation to tightening censorship in one of its largest markets is still a dangerous precedent.

“Apple’s response is tremendously disappointing,” said Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation
 
So what was Apple supposed to do? Jeopardize its operations over a few apps?
 
 
 
 
Rather than play out these scenarios, other tech companies such as Google have opted to withdraw from China altogether. Some of Apple’s critics have suggested that by not doing the same, it not only loses the moral high ground but also sets a precedent that other governments, including the United States, will seek to exploit.
 
It’s too soon to say what Apple’s decision on VPNs will mean for the future of its business in China, or for its policy battles elsewhere. But China appears more committed than ever to clamping down on freedom of information, and as long as it remains a growing market, foreign companies will have to grapple with those policies.

http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/07/31/apple-pulling-vpns-from-the-chinese-app-store/
 
 
 
I mocked the Apple Pencil. Now my iPad productivity depends on it
 
I am a professional engineer, not an artist, and I struggle to draw stick people. I was hesitant to purchase an Apple Pencil because I couldn't see how I would use it.
 
There is much more you can do with an Apple Pencil than draw pictures, create cartoons, and develop electronic masterpieces. One of the first things for those of us with no artistic bent, is to start taking handwritten notes.
 
Color Splash and Affinity Photo are two of my favorite apps for editing images. Without the Apple Pencil, you could never achieve the same results in these apps thanks to the fine selections you can make with the Pencil tip.
 
The Apple Pencil is a very useful instrument, for both artists and those of us that cannot draw well.
 
 
 
 
Concepts, a digital design sketchbook app for iPad Pro, released a new update that focuses on the Apple Pencil

https://www.dexigner.com/news/30353
 
 
 
After nearly 16 years on the market, more than 400 million units sold, and one Cupertino company launched into the stratosphere on its back, Apple quietly pulled the iPod Nano and Shuffle out of its virtual stores.
 
 
 
 
 
Why the death of the iPod nano is also the end of a gadget era
 
Apple has killed off the iPod nano and the iPod shuffle, the remaining music players in its lineup that were solely dedicated to playing music.
 
Devices dedicated to one thing are so every-decade-before-this-one.
 
So the iPod touch is now the standard-bearer for the iPod name — an iPhone in every respect except for its lack of a cellular connection.
 
 
 
 
iPhones take better pictures, says former Google exec
 
Former Google executive Vic Gundotra said "I would never use an Android phone for photos!”
 
The problem, he said, was Android.  When Samsung puts an improved camera in their latest smart phone, Google is slow to update its Android OS to take full advantage.
 
When Apple puts an improved camera into its latest iPhone, Apple updates iOS to use the camera from day one.
 
 
 
 
I play the security odds in Las Vegas by rolling the Wi-Fi dice
Who hacks the hackers? An inside look at hunting for insecure connections at the largest cybersecurity gathering in the world.
 
It's worse than the Wall of Shame. It's the Wall of Sheep. 

If your device gets hacked, you end up on the Wall of Sheep.
 
Being called a sheep means you didn't take enough care or simply didn't see a hack coming. 

Thankfully, the hackers aren't after your identity or your money or anything else that could do you real harm. But they don't mind publicly shaming you into being more thoughtful about your security.
 
To avoid getting hacked, I followed the digital hygiene regimen that experts advise. For example, if I want to go online, I use a wired connection. If I must go wireless, I use a cell connection through my phone or a hotspot. 

When I'm surfing the web, experts say I should use a virtual private network, which routes all your information through secure computers. It's also good to use multi-factor authentication, meaning I get sent a password by text or a special code in an app to be able to log in.
 
 
 
 
Alex Goldman, co-host of the Reply All podcast, allowed somebody he knew to be a scammer take remote control of his computer. Of course, he did it for a story for the podcast, which is available to download.
 
The scammer in question was running a grift that tried convincing people their iCloud accounts had been hacked, and the only solution was to pay $400 in tech support. But he didn’t know any of that yet. He only knew that he had received a robocall from a random 800 number and wanted to find out who was behind that particular scam.
 
 
Audio of interview with scammer.


 
Video:
iCloud Keychain encryption bug exposes iOS passwords, credit card numbers
 
A largely unreported iOS security flaw undermined iCloud's end-to-end encryption capability, and could have allowed attackers to steal passwords, credit cards, and any other information on file, according to security firm Longterm Security.

"The bug we found is exactly the kind of bug law enforcement or intelligence would look for in an end-to-end encryption system,” Alex Radocea told ZDNet.
 
The flaw was addressed in the iOS 10.3 update—demonstrating again why it's important to stay on top of updating your device.
 
 
 
 
Did you get a robocall about that iCloud account you don’t have? Here’s what to do

DON’T call them back.
DON’T trust what caller ID says.  Scammers know how to fool caller ID.
 
DO hang up the phone when you hear a recorded message.
DO report your experience to the www.ftc.gov.
 
 
 
 
Audio:
Backups vs. iCloud vs. Time Machine – Mac Geek Gab 668
 
 
 
 
New TSA rules force iPad, Kindle, Nintendo Switch into X-ray bins
 
The Transportation Security Administration said it's boosting security measures by requiring any carry-on electronic larger than a cellphone to be screened separately at U.S. airports.
 
The new rules apply only to "standard" screening lanes and not TSA pre-check fliers.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
How to print from your iPhone or iPad using Bluetooth
 
Many of us wouldn’t even consider printing from our iPhone or iPad, but it is surprisingly easy.

This article provides step-by-step instructions.
 
 
 
 
iPad Pro 10.5 Review: Is Apple's Goldilocks Tablet The Best Yet?
 
 
 
 
Slide Show:
How I ditched my laptop for an iPad Pro
 
My iPad Pro is lighter weight and easier to carry than a MacBook Pro.
 
Editing photos on an iPad is wonderful.
 
The iPad is not a laptop computer. Don’t try to make it one.
 
I didn't miss my laptop at all.
 
 
 
 
Apple iPad Pro 10.5-inch Review
 
 
 
 
Gboard for iOS now supports Maps and YouTube
 
Google has released the latest update for Gboard on iOS, which brings Maps and YouTube to the keyboard.
 
These features are currently exclusive to the iOS version of Gboard, continuing Google’s streak of making independent features for each platform (and giving iOS the good features first).
 
 
 
 
 
Users are biggest impediment to Apple iOS security
 
"Educating people is more effective than any security software you can purchase,” Erik Lightbody said. "If people know what they're doing, they won't do things they shouldn't be doing."
 
 
 
 
Windows 10: Five reasons to avoid Microsoft's flagship OS
 
1.  Uncertainty over support for older PCs
2.  Removal of your favorite features
3.  Windows 10 tries to railroad you into using other M$ products
4.  There's no need to use Windows — this article recommends Linux
5.  Better to stick with what you know — Windows 7 is good enough for most people.
 
DON’T watch the video.  It’s a waste of time.
 
 
 
 
MacBook vs. MacBook Pro:  How to Pick
 
Even after three weeks with these computers, I find choosing between the two of them to be difficult.
 
 
 
 
Reviewed: A used, year-old MacBook Pro from Apple's Refurbished Mac store that saved me $450
 
 
 
 
Apple MacBook Pro 13-Inch (2017)
 
This Is the MacBook You're Looking For
 
 
 
 
Top 10 best workstations of 2017
 
Apple’s Mac Pro is in fourth place, according to this article.
 
 
 
 
Nine things you didn’t know your Apple Watch could do
 
Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know your Apple Watch could do.

1.  Unlock your car doors
2.  Measure your lover’s heart beat
3.  Act as a TV remote
 
Just to name a few.

 
 
 
Cardiogram, a startup working on algorithms to make the Apple Watch’s heart rate data clinically actionable, is launching two new features for the Apple Watch that aim to help people stay more active this summer: Leaderboards and Workout Zones.

Leaderboards is geared toward those who want to inject some friendly competition into their active lifestyles.
 
Workout Zones allows users to track the intensity of their workouts.
 
 
 
 
“Perverse” malware infecting hundreds of Macs remained undetected for years
 
A mysterious piece of malware that gives attackers surreptitious control over webcams, keyboards, and other sensitive resources has been infecting Macs for at least five years. The infections—known to number nearly 400 and possibly much higher—remained undetected until recently and may have been active for almost a decade.
 
 
 
 
Google’s New Parental Control App Has a Flaw: Puberty
 
At the age of 13, a child can choose to “graduate,” as Google calls it, or lift restrictions, getting the keys to the internet kingdom and all the good and bad things that come with it.
 
… Google’s decision to let children remove the restrictions the instant they become teenagers.
 
“The fact that the kid can graduate themselves is just preposterous,” said Jesse Weinberger, an internet safety speaker who gives presentations to parents, schools and law enforcement officials. “It takes the power out of the parents’ hands, which is a big no-no.”
 
 
 
 
Low-Cost Micro Satellites Are Spawning A Global Surveillance Arms Race
 
Google has received vast criticism for its Google Earth, Google Maps and Google Streetview systems that have essentially removed the inherent right to privacy and transferred it to the whim of corporate terms and conditions. However, this pales in comparison to what has been launched by the world’s largest defense contractors as well as newer providers of commercial space imagery.
 
Next-generation global imaging satellites such as Lockheed Martin’s WorldView-4 was spawned from a partnership with commercial space imagery vendor, DigitalGlobe. The largest customer of DigitalGlobe is the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, also known as GEOINT.

The incredible scope and applications of GEOINT is laid out on the .mil website’s About page but their image collection from DigitalGlobe can best be described as … penetrating…
 
“ intelligence professionals were better able to exploit and analyze imagery and geospatial information to describe, assess and visually depict physical features and human activity on the Earth. Today, NGA continues to deliver these vital intelligence products in responding to, and anticipating, our nation’s most critical national security challenges.”
 
How would one know where to launch specific surveillance? Well, of course the solution is to have pervasive surveillance that blankets the planet and stores all of the images for later retrieval.
 
 
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency web site
 
 
From a speech by Robert Cardillo, Director, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency:
 
With help from the Gates Foundation, Oak Ridge created a map of Nigeria based on satellite imagery and more than 2,000 on-the-ground neighborhood surveys. Through this partnership, they identified settlements that didn’t exist just a few years ago. So, when Nigeria distributes the measles vaccine next year, they’ll save a billion dollars and countless lives because they won’t use flawed, 10-year-old census data. And it’s all thanks to the unique combination of imagery, automation, human geography and mapping technologies – and most importantly – strong partnerships.
 
NGA helped track down al Qaeda leader Osama bin Ladin.
 

 

 

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