How To

On keeping one’s computer tidy…

I recently had to take my iMac apart in order to look at the hardware closely, and after 5 years of intense use in my home office, I got a chance to re-convince myself of the importance of keeping one’s computer tidy inside, not just outside.

Apple doesn’t make it easy for us to service our computers, do they? Gone are the days of the big Power PC or Mac Pro enclosures that could be easily opened for a bit of vacuuming and dusting or the upgrade/replacement of a piece of hardware. Or how about those unique and colorful 1st gen iMac enclosures that were transparent, so you could see at a glance if they needed a bit of inside cleaning? The enclosure of my iMac G5, though impressively thin for its time, with components tightly packed inside, was still fairly easy to open. Even the predecessor of my current iMac, a 2011 model, was easy enough to open, because the display was affixed to the enclosure with magnets. These days, the enclosures of our Macs are sealed with adhesives that make it difficult to get inside…

The IT part of me gets it somewhat: if they’re too easy to open, most people will only get inside and mess something up. Plus, an accidental spill of liquid on the screen, or an overly judicious application of cleaning solution, might get inside and affect the circuits.

It’s easy and natural to assume that if a computer is sealed shut, it’s clean inside, but the truth of the matter is that computers need to be cleaned and serviced regularly. As long as a computer has active cooling (a fan that pulls air in), dust will get inside and settle everywhere. Even passive cooling involves some sort of air current that moves through the machine and dust will follow that current and accumulate inside over time.

Here’s what the inside of my iMac looked like when I opened it up for the first time.

It may not look too dirty at first glance, but let’s have a closer look, shall we?

I took every single piece apart, and every piece was full of thick dust like this, dust that would have clogged up the air vents completely and caused an overheat or even a shortcircuit. It was very fine dust that kept getting into my nose and making me sneeze. I couldn’t believe how much of it had gathered inside. This iMac’s always been on my desk, in my office, a room which I vacuumed regularly, but as you can see, five years of moderate to intensive use for 8 or more hours per day, will definitely show up on the inside, even though the outside is shiny and clean. This is why I believe every Mac owner ought to either learn how to clean their computer or take it into a repair shop every few years to have it properly and thoroughly cleaned. We have plenty of resources these days. I used the thorough guide for taking apart my iMac posted on iFixit.com, a resource I definitely recommend.

If and when you take your iMac apart, you should definitely check the air intake vents (located on the bottom bezel of the enclosure) and the air output vents (located behind the flex mount of the iMac’s foot, above the RAM bay). That’s where dust will accumulate the most.

Here’s how my computer looked after being properly cleaned.

Please be careful as you handle the various parts, will you? One wrong move with the screwdriver and you could damage a circuit or worse, if you’re handling the power supply, you could cause a short that could give you a real shock and damage it for good. Unless you work in IT and have handled computer innards before, your best bet is to find a reputable repair shop, hopefully an Apple-authorized one, and have them clean it thoroughly. Just so you don’t have any issues with your Apple warranty and perhaps void it by mistake, do this operation after the warranty runs out (that’s 3 years for Apple Care).

Hope this helps!

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A Guide To A Good Life

Proposed EU measures to extend product lifetime

I am happy to let you know that things are underway within the EU to ensure that products will last longer and will be easier to repair in the future. These are proposed measures at the moment, they’re not law, but they soon could be. The idea, according to the EEB (European Environmental Bureau) is to:

  1. Extend the lifetime of products
  2. Extend the availability of repair services
  3. Improve consumer information and rights
  4. Make these measures binding, not voluntary

If you live within the EU, I encourage you to contact your representatives to the EU Parliament and to ask them to support these proposed measures.

Even if this isn’t law yet, I am happy to see my own feelings on the matter mirrored by those in a position to do something about it. You may recall that I wrote an article called “Truly sustainable computing” back in August of 2015, where I proposed that desktop computers have a projected lifespan of 20 years and laptops and mobiles phones have a projected lifespan of 10 years.

The proposed EU measures would apply to every category of products, not just to computing devices, so things like cars, electronics, appliances would all be covered by the new regulations, ensuring we would once again have quality products that last a long time.

I say “once again” because those of you who are younger than me may not recall we had this sort of thing before the 1970s. The idea of “planned obsolescence” was introduced in the 1960s by manufacturers and that’s when things started to go downhill for products in terms of durability, repairability and build quality. You could still get kitchen appliances made in the late 1960s that looked and worked perfectly even in the late 2000s. You can no longer do that with today’s appliances.

It’s irresponsible in so many ways for us to generate mountains of e-waste every year and it’s doubly irresponsible for manufacturers to make them, one because they’re using the Earth’s resources without any regard for the future and two, because they make them easily breakable and disposable, contributing to the enormous amounts of waste that we generate as a race. It’s time we did something quantifiable and legally binding about this!

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Here’s a short video log I recorded yesterday as I got to thinking about how we as humans tend to separate into groups and sub-groups and identify with them. We form separate cultures and sub-cultures and nowadays, we want to stand apart from what we see as the commercialism and consumerism of modern society. 

And yet, when we do that, we actually make it easier for advertisers to target us, because instead of making general ads for general products, they get to make very targeted ads for products specifically tailored to particular groups. So the effort to escape consumerism then becomes a moot point. 

People think this is a bad thing for some reason. But I say it’s a good thing. I don’t think there has ever been a time in the history of mankind when products tailored for specific uses could make it to market faster than nowadays. Sure, you have to sort through the crap, and there’s a lot of it, but there’s some really good stuff out there, made just for your needs. 

I also touch on the idea of money as currency and the inherent benefit of being able to convert skills or objects into such a portable currency that you can take pretty much anywhere and exchange it for what you need. Some people say we don’t need money, that we can trade directly, service to service, product for product, etc., but I sa that only goes so far. It’s so much more limited than money, particularly when you hold a very portable currency like the dollar, the pound or the euro. 

Yes, I’m still in bed, so please excuse my disheveled appearance. 

Reviews

Here’s why should you get an advanced battery charger-analyzer

In this video, you will find out why it’s important to use a proper battery charger-analyzer and how using one helped me spot bad batteries in the batch of Ni-MH batteries used in my electronic equipment.

Before I got my charger-analyzer, I always wondered why some of my batteries seemed to last so little when I put them in my camera’s flash or in my keyboard or some other piece of electronics. It turns out some were of inferior quality, some were at the end of their life and some were just plain gone. Unknowingly, I was mixing good and bad batteries in my electronics and expecting them to perform properly.

The simple chargers I had previously used were reporting the batteries as fully charged when they were actually defective. This is why anyone who depends on batteries for their work should get a serious battery charger-analyzer, which has the circuitry and the capability necessary for proper testing of the batteries it charges and the ability to spot bad batteries right away.

As I say (repeatedly) in the video, I’m not trying to advertise any particular model of battery charger-analyzer but if you want to get the one I’m using, it’s the MH-C9000 from PowerEx.

From my personal experience, I can also recommend the following brands of Ni-MH rechargeable batteries to you:

I hope I’ve helped you!

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A Guide To A Good Life

Should you use shoe trees?

Question: I’m learning how to properly take care of shoes, and while browsing the web late this evening, I thought about shoe horns/trees. Now in the past I’ve found them, really just a sales gimmick, hardly worth my money. What do you think?

Shoe trees are worth getting, especially if you have quality leather shoes that you’d like to use for years and years. The general idea is to use them after you’ve worn the shoes and the leather has creased at the toe joints.

The important thing is for them to be made exactly for the size of your shoe. Look for ones made of cedar, they’ll absorb odors and sweat salts and make your shoes smell and feel better. You can leave these in whenever you’re not wearing your shoes. Woodlore makes some good ones and Allen Edmonds also makes them.

Woodlore Shoe Tree

Allen Edmonds Shoe Tree

If you’ve worn your shoes for a full day (12-16 hours) and you can see that the leather is damp, or if it’s been raining out, what you should do first is to air them out by hanging them onto an open shoe tree like the one pictured below for ½ a day or a full day, and only then should you insert a shoe tree in them.

Open Shoe Tree

This is because the leather needs to dry out, it shouldn’t be damp or wet. A shoe tree will fill the inside of the shoe and may promote mold, depending on the material out of which it is made. Once the leather has aired out properly, the tree will be able to do its job, which is to restore the shoe’s shape and allow the leather to remain that way as it dries out thoroughly.

Don’t get ones made for all sizes, particularly the inexpensive ones made with springs (like the pair pictured below). If you must get those, you can use them but you shouldn’t leave them in more than 2-3 days, because they’ll stretch the leather too much and the shoe will start to lose its shape. When I use these, I leave them in for a day or two at most, then I pull them out and allow the shoes to stay by themselves in the closet.

Travel Shoe Tree

In case you’re a new visitor to my website, I’ve also put together a detailed video where I show you how to take care of several types of shoes. It’s called “All Season Shoe Care” and I invite you to view it.

I hope this has helped you!

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Reviews

Hardware preview: ioSafe N2 NAS

ioSafe, the company famous for its line of rugged external drives that can withstand disasters such as floods, fires and even crushing weight, has come up with a new product: the N2 NAS (Network Attached Storage) device.

The N2 device comes at the right time. The market for NAS devices is maturing and demand is growing. Western Digital has even come out with a line of hard drives, the WD Red, specifically targeted to NAS enclosures. To my knowledge there is no such other NAS device out there, so ioSafe’s got the lead on this.

The N2 appliance is powered by Synology® DiskStation Manager (DSM) and is aimed at the SOHO, SMB and Remote Office Branch Office (ROBO) markets.

The high performance 2-bay N2 provides up to 8TB of storage capacity and is equipped with a 2GHz Marvel CPU and 512MB of memory. The N2 uses redundant hard drives as well as ioSafe’s patented DataCast, HydroSafe and FloSafe technologies to protect data from loss in fire up to 1550°F and submersion in fresh or salt water up to a 10 foot depth for 3 days.

Features:

  • Local and Remote File Sharing: Between virtually any device from any location online
  • Cloud Station: File syncing between multiple computers and N2 (like Dropbox)
  • iTunes Server
  • Surveillance Station: Video surveillance application
  • Media Server: Stream videos and music
  • Photo Sharing: Photo sharing with friends and family
  • Mail Server: Email server
  • VPN Server: Manage Virtual Private Network
  • Download Station: Post files for others to download
  • Audio Station: Stream audio to smartphone (iOS/Android)
  • FTP Server: Remote file transfers
  • Multi-platform compatibility with Mac/PC/MS Server/Linux

Hardware:

  • Dual Redundant Disk, RAID 0/1, Up to 8TB (4TB x 2)
  • 2GHz Marvel CPU and 512MB memory
  • Gigabit Ethernet Port
  • Additional ports for USB 3, SD Memory Card
  • User replaceable drives
  • Protects Data From Fire: DataCast Technology. 1550°F, 1/2 hr per ASTM E119 with no data loss.
  • Protects Data From Flood: HydroSafe Technology. Full immersion, 10 ft. 3 days with no data loss.
  • FloSafe Vent Technology: Active air cooling during normal operation. FloSafe Vents automatically block destructive heat during fire by water vaporization – no moving parts
  • Physical theft protection (optional floor mount, padlock door security – coming Q1 2013)
  • Kensington® Lock Compatible

Support and Data Recovery Service (DRS):

  • 1 Year No-Hassle Warranty (for N2 Diskless)
  • 1 Year No-Hassle Warranty + Data Recovery Service (DRS) Standard (for loaded N2)
  • DRS included $2500/TB for forensic recovery costs for any reason if required
  • DRS and Warranty are upgradeable to 5 years ($.99/TB per month)
  • DRS Pro available includes $5000/TB + coverage of attached server ($2.99/TB per month)

Operating Environment:

  • Operating: 0-35° C (95°F)
  • Non-operating: 0-1550°F, 1/2 hr per ASTM E119
  • Operating Humidity: 20% – 80% (non-condensing)
  • Non-operating Humidity: 100%, Full immersion, 10 feet, 3 days, fresh or salt water

Physical:

  • Size: 5.9″W x 9.0″H x 11.5″L
  • Weight: 28 lbs

The N2 appliance is being brought to market with funding obtained through IndieGogo. I know it’s hard to believe it when you look at their products, but ioSafe only has about 20 employees. Sometimes they have to be creative in the ways they fund their R&D.

The ioSafe N2 will begin shipping in January 2013 and will be available in capacities up to 8TB. Introductory pricing for the ioSafe N2 diskless version is available for $499 on Indiegogo ($100 off the retail price of $599.99) if you want to get your own hard drives.

I’ve also written about ioSafe Solo, the ioSafe Rugged Portable and the ioSafe SSD devices.

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A Guide To A Good Life

Do you know Dieter Rams?

Dieter Rams (Image source: Wikipedia)

Here is Dieter Rams, one of the giants of industrial design.

I love the man’s approach to design and his clear avoidance of planned obsolescence. He is a great example of standing for something that you believe in and then changing the world because of your stance. Wonderful.

You may also want to read through his speech on design, given in 1976, the year I was born.

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Lists

Three cool jacket designs

Here are three innovative jacket designs.

Jacket with inflatable hood by Rahel Ritchie

Not yet in production, but I think it’s very cool. It’s got a built-in pillow so you can sleep while traveling.

jacket-with-inflatable-hood-1

jacket-with-inflatable-hood-2

jacket-with-inflatable-hood-3

[via LikeCool and Rahel Ritchie]

RuckJack

“Rucksack? Jacket? You decide.” Another neat convertible jacket design, this one turns into a rucksack, and it’s not expensive. Price is between £46-56.

ruckjack

[via LikeCool]

Vessel 3-in-1 jacket by Justin Gargasz

This innovative jacket is not only a backpack but also a tent!

vessel-3-in-1-jacket-1

vessel-3-in-1-jacket-2

vessel-3-in-1-jacket-3

[via The Design Blog]

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Reviews

Reduce your waste with a toothbrush? Yes.

The Terradent toothbrush stands out from the pack of dental hygiene products out there not because of the complicated design of its head and the multitude of angled bristles, but due to the simplicity and thinking behind its design.

In two words, it has replaceable heads. When you need to change the brush, you don’t change the whole thing. You snap in a new head, and you keep the same handle. It’s beautifully simple and yes, it’s hygienic.

After you remove the old head, if you feel it’s needed, you can scrub the handle’s tip with a little soap and a brush, or you can pour some little hydrogen peroxide on it, to make sure it’s squeaky clean before you attach the new head, but don’t get hung up on it. As long as you replace the heads regularly, the toothbrush will be safe to use for years and years.

My wife and I have been using Terradent toothbrushes for about 4 years, and we love them. We only buy replacement heads, which is cheaper than getting the whole toothbrush and means we’re generating less waste. All that fancy rubber and injection-molded handles in today’s toothbrushes means you’re throwing away a whole bunch of plastic, every time you get rid of one. That’s a shame, particularly when the Terradent toothbrush proves it’s so easy to do the smarter thing.

I put together a short video demo of the head replacement on one of our toothbrushes, to show you how easy and simple it is. You can watch it on YouTube or above. I hope you’re going to think about buying one of them the next time you go shopping for your bathroom. They’re available at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, or directly from the company’s website.

Image used courtesy of Eco-Dent.

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Thoughts

Storage drops below 7 cents per gigabyte

In January of 2009, I mentioned the price of storage had just dropped below 9 cents per gigabyte. I see now that 2 TB drives are selling below $150 (they’re $140), so it’s time to update my figures. At $139.99 for a 2 TB (2,000 GB) SATA hard drive, that comes out to less than 7 cents per GB. That’s a great deal, and it goes without saying that it’s the lowest price for data storage consumers have ever seen.

Updated 4/19/10: Micro Center is selling 2 TB Seagate SATA drives for $119.99. It’s an in-store special, with a one drive per household limit, but still, that makes it 6 cents per gigabyte. What can I say — expect the price to keep dropping…

On the downside, it seems hard drive manufacturers have hit a ceiling with 2 TB drives. I haven’t heard talk of 3 or 4 TB drives, or anything larger than that. Perhaps I haven’t been keeping up with storage news properly, so if you’ve heard some good news, do let me know!

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