Tag Archives: iMac

Apple Believes in “Magic…” Perhaps Too Much?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a couple clients reach out to me, complaining that the wireless mice that came with their brand new iMacs had “died.” Since these new mice are meant to be recharged, I explained the process of plugging them in with their included recharging cables, and letting their batteries refill, “resurrecting” the mice, as it were. I also suggested we get a backup, wired mouse for such occasions; a mouse that could be plugged in to one of the iMac’s USB ports while its wireless cousin recharged. I suggested that we could also pick up a wired keyboard, as a backup.

And then I went to the Apple Store to pick up these wired devices. To quote the poet Biz Markie, “Oh, snap! Guess what I saw!”

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All the wired devices had disappeared… like “Magic!”

I had to confirm with the Apple employee helping me out: could it be possible that they were no longer selling wired mice or keyboards?

Not only was it possible, they told me after checking their system; that’s exactly what had happened.

Unlike Apple’s controversial moves in the past (which you’re welcome to review here), this one was done without any fanfare. Nobody announced the retirement of the wired peripherals. One day they were on the store shelves; the next day, gone.

This really is a bigger deal than you’d think. Apple had included a wired mouse with every Macintosh from its first 128K model in 1984; until 25 years later, with the Mid 2009 20-inch iMac, the last to ship with a wired “Mighty Mouse.”

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No, not you! (Source: Wired.com)

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“Here I come to save the day?” Not after 2009, you don’t! (Source: Apple.com)

In October 2009, the 21.5 inch iMac would debut with an Apple Wireless Keyboard and the new, less-trademark-threatening “Magic Mouse.” It was the first time Apple gambled that new users would prefer a wireless keyboard and mouse—although the option was still available to swap out those peripherals for their wired equivalents at purchase.

The Magic Mouse connected via Bluetooth, and it took two standard AA batteries. Not long after, Apple started selling—you guessed it—AA batteries.

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Take THAT, Energizer Bunny! (Source: pindelski.org)

Not only was the Magic Mouse sleeker, but it had the same scroll functionality as the Mighty Mouse, without requiring a separate button. Indeed, the smooth scrolling surface of the Magic Mouse put the Mighty Mouse’s fussy, easily gummed-up scroll ball to shame. It was an upgrade in every sense.

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The Magic Mouse (lower) improved upon the Mighty Mouse (upper) across the board. (Source: Macworld.com)

Apple also launched the Magic Trackpad in 2010, for desktop users who preferred a laptop-like interface, as opposed to moving a mouse around on a desk. This, too, took two AA batteries. Unlike the mouse, there had never been a wired version of the Trackpad.

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The first Magic Trackpad. (Source: Amazon.com)

The tale of the keyboard was fairly straightforward. The first Apple wireless keyboard debuted in 2003, taking four AA batteries to run. Over the years, Apple was able to streamline the keyboard’s design as well, ending up in 2007 with a low-profile Aluminum model (and this one only needed three AA batteries!)

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What a difference four years make! (Source: morrick.me)

The biggest drawback to the keyboard, other than the need to replace batteries every few months, was the lack of additional USB ports. Apple’s wired USB keyboards had included extra ports on the back or sides from 1998 until 2009, when the last new wired keyboard was introduced. It was a nice feature, not having to reach around to the back of your iMac to plug in a random USB device like a flash drive (or, say, a wired mouse). But I suppose Apple’s logic was, if your keyboard is wireless, that’s one more available USB port on the back!

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An iMac keyboard, ca. 1998. Note the USB port on its side, lower-left. (Source: Pinterest.com)

Another advantage to the wired keyboard was its usability during diagnostic tests. I’ve run into many circumstances where I had to boot a Mac into Safe Mode (holding down the Shift key); Target Disk Mode (holding down “T”); or the Apple Hardware Test (holding down “D,” or sometimes “Option-D”); and a wireless keyboard just didn’t send the right signal to the computer in time.

Or how about when my own Mac mini’s Bluetooth antenna failed, and my wireless mouse and keyboard were rendered outright unusable? On that occasion, I was very glad to have a wired backup for each.

Alas, …

After the success of the Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad, Apple doubled down in 2015 with the Magic Mouse 2, Magic Trackpad 2, and the new Magic Keyboard. Unlike their wireless predecessors, these three models did away with the need for AA batteries (which Apple would stop selling in 2016). These were now sealed systems with internal batteries, rechargeable via included Lightning cables, the same as those used to charge iPhones and iPads.

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Apple’s Lightning cable. (Source: Apple.com)

It was a welcome upgrade in most cases: the Magic Keyboard was the slimmest yet, resembling the flat form factor of those found on Apple’s MacBook family of notebooks. The Magic Trackpad was wider and offered more functionality over its earlier version. And best yet, these devices did not need to go through a tedious hit-or-miss Bluetooth pairing process. Instead, one simply connected them to their computer via the included charging cables, and the device was paired, charging its battery the whole time. And while their internal batteries were charging, they could still be used—not unlike their wired equivalents from years gone by.

Except for the mouse.

For reasons known only to Apple’s Design Team, they put the charging port for the Magic Mouse 2 on the underside, rendering it unusable during pairing and charging.

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Hope you’re not planning on USING that thing while it’s charging! (Source: 9to5Mac.com)

The troubling part of this is that if an Apple user doesn’t pay attention to the mouse’s battery levels, that user could be rendered mouse-less when they need it most–as was the case of a client of mine who was in the middle of a time-sensitive writing project. We ended up getting her the Magic Trackpad 2, which she can use while it, and the mouse, are charging. I suppose there’s a sick logic on Apple’s part: instead of getting $29 for their AA battery kit back when the mouse just used AA batteries, now they got $129 for the trackpad.

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With the charging port on the back, the Magic Trackpad 2 can be used while charging. (Source: Gadgetmac.com)

So yeah, I’m not thrilled with how this went down. People shouldn’t have to buy a second pointing device to use while the other is recharging. Frankly, Apple shouldn’t be surprised if many of their users pick up an inexpensive third-party wired mouse for those occasions when the Magic Mouse runs dry.

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It may not be “Apple pretty,” but it WORKS. (Source: Amazon.com)

I’ve heard rumors that Apple’s working on wireless charging for all their devices, and I’ve even seen a mouse from Logitech that recharges wirelessly while you use it! But it’s not a perfect technology yet, and it certainly isn’t cheap. It requires a special charging mat, which still has to be plugged in somewhere.

It’s still unknown what powers Linus.

I’m also concerned by Apple’s unwavering faith in the Bluetooth standard. As I mentioned before, I had the Bluetooth go out on a Mac years ago, and I was lucky to have wired peripherals that I could rely on while troubleshooting.

It’s also not great that the rechargeable batteries aren’t removable, but Apple’s been slouching toward completely sealed systems that users can’t service for years, now. For example, the last Apple notebook with a user-removable battery was 2010’s 13-inch MacBook. I realize that ship has sailed.

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This is from Apple’s “About Mac notebook batteries” page, linked here.

It bugs me that there’s no simple solution. You can no longer request wired peripherals when buying a new iMac (the Mac mini and Mac Pro, in addition to being woefully out of date now, don’t include peripherals). It’s also too soon since the 2015 debut of the Magic Mouse 2 for them to release a new design, with a more intelligently-placed charging port.

And we’re at the mercy of Bluetooth, a technology that’s always struck me as “just good enough” since Apple first incorporated it in 2003.

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No offense, King Harald, but no technology is perfect; not even technology named after a Viking. (Source: DidYouKnowBlog.com)

Now, just watch: any day now, they’re going to release the Magic Keyboard and Mouse 3, with wireless charging and better-than-Bluetooth connectivity, and other features we can’t even imagine. After all, you can’t call it “Magic,” without having something up your sleeve!

UPS, I Love You (And I Don’t Mean the Shipping Company!)

On Saturday night, my area of Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley experienced a large blackout. The L.A. Department of Water and Power (LADWP) experienced an explosion and fire at one of their power stations in the Valley neighborhood of Northridge. To aid the fire department’s efforts to put out the fire safely and quickly, LADWP shut off the power to and from that station altogether. Thus, a blackout.

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The Northridge LADWP Fire. Source: Twitter, @avangerpen

During the outage, some thoughts occurred to me: I hoped nobody was hurt; that those who needed power (like hospitals) could rely on generators until electricity was restored; and on a personal level, how grateful I was that all my electronics were protected by a few UPS units.

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No, not you! Source: Seeklogo.net

For the purposes of this blog post, whenever I say “UPS,” I don’t mean the United Parcel Service; but instead, an Uninterruptible Power Supply: a battery backup for connected electronics. It primarily functions like a large surge protector, allowing multiple plugs to share the electricity from one wall outlet. Unlike a surge strip, however, a UPS contains a battery inside that would kick in during a blackout, brownout, or other dip in the electricity to a home or office.

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The many shapes and sizes of UPS units. Source: Cyberpowersystems.com

Most UPS units that support desktop computers also connect to those computers via a data cable, so the computer can know when it’s running off of battery power. In the event of a prolonged power outage, the UPS can provide minutes, or even hours, of electricity—time enough at least to shut the computer off properly. Some setups even include software that would automatically shut off the computer while on battery power, should the user not be present to turn the computer off him or herself.

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CyberPower’s Windows-only PowerPanel software. Source: Cyberpowersystems.com

In my home, I have three UPS units: one in my office for my desktop computer, and two in my home theater. Here’s what I’m using:

1. Desktop: CyberPower 1500VA

The two main players in the UPS space are American Power Conversion (APC) by Schneider Electric; and Cyber Power Systems, AKA “CyberPower.” I prefer CyberPower for two reasons: it is a little more Mac-friendly in my experience; and the data cable it uses is a standard A-B USB cable, whereas APC, until relatively recently, used a proprietary USB-RJ45 cable. Newer APC models now use standard USB cables, but they missed the “brand loyalty” boat with me when it counted.

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CyberPower’s 1500VA UPS (Note the handy USB ports in front for charging phones and other small gadgets). Source: Cyberpowersystems.com

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“WHAT AM I?!” Thankfully, most new APC UPS units don’t use this abomination anymore. Source: APC.com

Half the outlets in my desktop UPS are backed up by its built-in battery. This is important to bear in mind, when shopping for a UPS: not how many outlets total it has, but how many of that total can run off the battery when the power from the wall dies. I naturally have my 27″ iMac and external monitor plugged into the UPS’ battery outlets, as well as essential devices like my cable modem and wireless router. The devices I have plugged into the non-battery half of the UPS include my iPhone charger and my speakers.

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The back of the 1500VA UPS. Note that only the outlets on the left can run off the battery during a blackout. Source: Amazon.com

The key thing to keep in mind when deciding what gets a battery outlet, is what would happen to that device if it abruptly lost power. In the case of a desktop computer, a sudden power loss could be fatal. Not too long ago, a client of mine killed her computer just by hitting the power button while its hard drive was spinning. We forget that a computer can be an extremely sensitive machine, and if any facet of its operating environment changes without warning, it could spell disaster. Anyone who’s ever spilled liquid on their laptop’s keyboard can attest to that.

This kills the laptop.

The other devices that should be backed up on battery are the networking hardware. In my case, that’s an Arris SurfBoard (remember?), and an Apple AirPort Extreme.

I recently upgraded a client’s network in their home’s attic. In addition to a new modem/router combo from Arris, I also installed a Netgear switch, feeding data lines throughout the house. Both of these units were backed up by the same CyberPower 1500VA UPS model I used in my own home. When the house was hit by the big Saturday night blackout, all of their networking gear stayed powered-on. Unfortunately, the home’s internet provider, Spectrum, wasn’t so lucky. When I spoke with the client about the blackout, she informed me that, according to Spectrum, only 9% of their users were still online in her area. It was frustrating not to have internet, but she and I agreed that given our very recent installation of that UPS (as well as one on each of her three iMacs), the timing could not have been better.

I imagine this is what it’s like at Spectrum headquarters.

If you have a desktop computer, and if you’ve never had a blackout or brownout in your home or office, I’d say you’ve been lucky… but you’re on borrowed time. Here’s a link to Amazon’s selection of CyberPower UPS units. You can determine how many outlets you’ll need (remember: typically, only half of the outlets get the battery), as well as how much electricity you’ll need that battery to provide. In the case of my desktop UPS, 1500VA means 1,500 Volt-Amps.

According to Australian battery vendor APCRBC:

VA is an abbreviation of the electrical term volt-amps, and indicates a capacity of power. For example 240 volts x 12.5 amps = 3000VA. It is used by UPS manufacturers more often than Watts because it makes the UPS sound bigger.

What is the difference between VA and Watts?

Put simply

VA is a measure of power supplied

Watt is a measure of power consumed

Not really very simple is it?

The main thing you have to remember is that the Watt rating will always be lower than the VA rating.  As manufacturers market their equipment based on the VA rating you should look closely at the Watt rating of your prospective purchase.

When shopping for a UPS for your desktop computer, it’s a good idea to research your computer’s power needs, starting with the manufacturer if at all possible. My iMac, for example, consumes upwards of 195 Watts when working its hardest. Most mainstream UPS units can certainly deliver that much power; it then comes down to, “for how long.” My UPS, for example, advertises a capacity of 1500 VA / 900 W, and a runtime of 14 minutes on half load, 2 minutes on full. Not a long time; but certainly enough, during the recent blackout, for me to run into my office and properly shut down the computer. CyberPower also stands by their product with a 3-year warranty and $500,000 “Connected Equipment Guarantee.” Thankfully, I’ve never had to put either to the test.

About that three-year warranty: UPS batteries, like all batteries, have a limited lifespan. After those three years, you may want to consider replacing the battery, either from the manufacturer, or from a third party battery seller (which is why companies like the aforementioned APCRBC exist). I always make sure to note, when first installing a UPS, the date the battery went online. I don’t have to rush out to replace the battery precisely three years later, but it’s good to know how old the battery is. With this information I can decide, when I’m prioritizing my household gear upgrades, whether I want to get a new battery; whether I want to replace the UPS altogether (sometimes no more expensive than just a new battery); or whether I’d press my luck and leave the UPS alone with its diminished battery power.

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A replacement UPS battery. Source: Cyberpowersystems.com

But let’s move on downstairs…

2. Home Theater #1: CyberPower OR700

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The wide, flat OR700 UPS. Source: Cyberpowersystems.com

Unlike the upright “tower” form factor of the 1500, this model is a flat, rack-friendly “pizza box” shape. I currently have mine sitting at the bottom of my AV rack, under my PlayStation 3. This UPS provides power to those home theater devices that, like a computer, contain hard drives that could potentially be damaged by a power outage: the PS3, my TiVo, its external expansion hard drive, and my Nintendo Wii U.

During the recent blackout, my UPS did indeed kick in, but the news reports indicated that the outage would likely last longer than the 11 minute maximum “half-load” runtime this 700VA / 400W UPS advertised. Since my PS3 was already off, and since there isn’t a power button on the TiVo or its external drive, I held my breath, turned off the UPS, and waited for power to return to the home. Luckily, when the lights did turn on, rebooting the TiVo was a painless process. But I do wish there were a method of safely powering it off, relying on more than the power of prayer.

This brings us to my last UPS:

3. Home Theater #2: CyberPower LE850G

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The LE850G UPS. Source: Cyberpowersystems.com

I keep this one directly under my TV. It only supplies power to three devices: a 55″ Sony flatscreen TV; a Philips Hue Lightstrip that runs behind the frame of said TV; and my JBL subwoofer. In theory, I could have run everything off the OR700 “pizza box,” but the location of the TV and subwoofer made it both impractical and aesthetically unappealing to attempt to run their power cords all the way to my AV rack. This third UPS wasn’t very expensive, and I was happy to have a dedicated unit for those few devices. Less strain on any one power system that way, too.

One “pro tip” when getting your UPS: many times, your electrical devices will use those blocky transformer plugs that hog so much space on a surge strip, and even on a UPS. Now, many UPS models do accommodate these large bricks with one or two generously spaced outlets; but if you have more than a few plugs like this that you need to connect, I recommend small extension cords from brands like Monoprice (one of my favorite cable manufacturers, anyway). This one-foot extender will let the brick plug in to the narrow outlets on all UPS units—and if you have a brick you need to plug straight into the wall, this will let you use both outlets on the wall without anything getting crowded out.

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Short extension cords can prevent outlet blockage. Source: lisasfreestuff.blogspot.com

As of this writing, I am happy to say my power is back on (truth be told, I was only in the dark for about 90 minutes). I’m composing this on a laptop, so even if the power went out again, I would have at least a couple of hours of internal battery life I could count on, while finishing up here. But of course, even if the wifi and modem stayed on long enough for me to submit this entry to the WordPress server, there’s no guarantee that during a blackout, the internet provider (Spectrum in my case, same as my client) would stay online during that period.

But at least I would be secure in the knowledge that I had protected my valuable technology during this inconvenient episode.

And knowledge, after all, is power.


Products Mentioned in This Article:

I Sing of Monitor Arms…

One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to de-clutter my home office. My IKEA Galant desk is quite large; and yet, I never seem to have enough space to get my work done. In fact, full disclosure: I’m writing this blog post on my kitchen table. So if I wanted to get back to my office to get work done, I was going to have to move things around.

The first big change was getting rid of my behemoth Mac Pro tower. In fact, I’ve put it on eBay (auction closing this Wednesday, Jan. 11), so that’s one space hog eliminated. But there’s a compulsion that emerges when you clear off desk space: you want to clear off even more!

Arm Yourself

One of the most effective ways to free up space on your desk is to lift your computer monitor off and suspend it over your desk, or off to the side, via a monitor arm. These mount to the back of the monitor and typically clamp to the edge of the desk, leaving the rest of the surface wide open. I had a great flexible arm from Siig that I wanted to use with my 27″ Apple LED Cinema Display from 2010. The Siig arm specs said it supports monitors up to 27″; so, perfect, right?

Not quite.

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Siig’s Articulating Monitor Desk Mount – 13″ to 27″ (Source: Siig.com)

Mounting Difficulties

The first obvious issue is that Apple continues to march to its own drummer. In this case, their monitors do not support the mounting standard from the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA). VESA mounts use four screws in a square or rectangular formation. For example, the Siig arm is designed to fit 75mm and 100mm square patterns. If you check the back of your flatscreen PC monitor, you may spot those four holes on the back. The Apple LED Cinema Display does not have those holes. But I wasn’t yet so desperate that I was reaching for my drill, thankfully.

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VESA mounting holes on the back of a monitor. (Source: multi-monitors.com)

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Apple’s LED Cinema Display, sans VESA holes. (Source: CNet.com, click photo for their 2010 review of this monitor.)

Anticipating users’ desires to mount their monitors to arms and other VESA mounts, Apple manufactured a VESA Mount Adapter Kit.  The first difficulty (of what would turn out to be many) came in finding this kit new at retail. After scouring the web for Apple part number MD179ZM/A, I finally found a reputable retailer who had it in stock: PCConnection.com.

So once I had the kit, I was able to remove the built-in stand from my display (no small feat, per Apple’s instructions) and attach the VESA mount. Here’s a video from YouTuber Geoff Tripoli, showing the installation:

From there, I attached my Siig arm and set it up on my desk. And that’s when the monitor—and my spirits—sank.

While Siig’s arm does indeed claim support for displays up to 27″ (measured diagonally), what I didn’t account for was its weight limit: up to 22 lbs. The LED Cinema Display weighs in at 23.5 lbs; and while that’s not a huge difference, it was certainly enough to tip the screen forward, rendering it unusable for my purposes.

I was in too deep at this point to give up; I had desk space to reclaim, dammit! So I did some digging, and I found a VESA monitor arm that specifically boasted support for the heavy Apple Cinema Displays: Ergotech’s Freedom Arm™ line.

I made sure this time to read the fine print: the basic Freedom Arm™ only supports displays weighing up to 17.8 lbs., a dealbreaker. But they have two other arms that can handle up to 30.8 lbs: the Freedom Arm™ HD, and the Freedom Arm™ iMac® 2007-2011. Knowing that the LED Cinema Display is structurally identical to the iMac from that era, I selected the latter arm and prepared to make my purchase. But then I took a second look.

Specifically, I read their instructions (always a good idea before making a tech purchase, whenever you can).  The way the Freedom Arm™ iMac® 2007-2011 is designed, the arm attaches directly to the back of the display, eliminating the need for the Apple VESA Mount Adapter Kit. While I applaud their ingenuity and generosity—saving customers the cost and hassle of buying that extra part!—I decided not to get that model, and here’s why:

  1. After a fair bit of hunting, I now owned the VESA Mount Adapter Kit; and I didn’t want to go through the hassle of returning it.
  2. If I decided to change out arms (or perhaps use a wall mount) in the future, I was going to need Apple’s VESA kit after all; and it’s only getting harder to find over time.
  3. If I were to replace the Apple LED Cinema Display with a different screen, owning an arm custom-designed for just that one model wouldn’t be very forward-thinking. I try to make my upgrades as “future-proof” as possible.

Luckily, Ergotech makes a standard VESA arm for heavier displays: The Freedom Arm™ HD. I ordered this one, and notwithstanding some frustrations with FedEx trying to deliver on New Year’s Eve, I got it in a relatively timely manner from Amazon (click the link below to order):

Ergotech Freedom Arm HD (FDM-HD-S01) 

Once again, I attached the arm to my VESA-enabled LED Cinema Display. This time, I’m happy to say, nothing drooped. The arm supports the weight like a champ.

Here’s a video review from the YouTubers at NOBA TECH:

I was very pleased with the look and feel of the arm, and thrilled with the liberated desk space. But all was not quite perfect, yet.

An Arm with an Achilles Heel

The Freedom Arm™ HD is a very tightly built mechanism. I have no worries about the joints slipping or drooping. However, this tightness has a drawback. With normal vibration on the desk (say, for example, typing or mousing), the suspended monitor now jiggles to a distracting degree. Indeed, this phenomenon comes up in an Amazon review:

They do tend to jiggle a tiny bit when I type on my desktop, but I think that’s something unavoidable with an arm as long as this.

I was experiencing more than a “tiny bit” of jiggle. I called Ergotech customer service, and spoke with a gracious, patient representative, “Meg.” She was surprised to hear about the jiggling, as my call was the first she had ever heard about that happening. Her advice was to mount the arm to a different desk. And I’m inclined to agree.

My current desk, an IKEA Galant table from about 2003, is of particleboard construction. It’s sagging in the middle, and attaching a VESA arm may just be too much for it to handle at this point. I have therefore begun the quest to replace the desk with one that can support the arm with minimal (or nonexistent) screen jiggle; sturdy, all-wood construction; and a fixed or adjustable height that can allow me to work while standing. After all, “sitting is the new smoking!”

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An IKEA Galant desk used to the utmost. (Source: Redditor dave2kdotorg, click photo for his post.)

Conclusion?

I’ll post the conclusion of this saga as soon as I’ve found the best desk to meet my needs (so it may not be as soon as next week). In the meantime, I’ve removed the Ergotech arm and VESA Mount Adapter Kit from my LED Cinema Display; I’ve restored the display to its original stand (another surprisingly arduous process); and I’m making do with the sagging Galant desk. And on the floor of my office, is a brand-new, shiny arm.

And I swear, it’s giving me the finger. ■

Get This Down on Paper: On Printers and Printing

The Oatmeal webcomic has an enjoyable screed about printers, titled, “Why I Believe Printers Were Sent from Hell to Make Us Miserable” (Click the title or the image below to find out why):

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I don’t entirely disagree, but I know printers are still important—if not quite as essential as they were in the early days of home computing. Following are three recent case studies of my adventures in attempting to satisfy my clients’ printing needs, to varying degrees of success.

1. Catastrophic Incompatibility?

I have a client who bought a new printer to connect to his Early 2009 MacBook. Apple considers this model laptop obsolete, but I was confident that I could get the new printer to work. My first challenge was connecting it. As The Oatmeal noted, most printers don’t come with USB cables to connect to computers. I didn’t expect this to be a problem, as it was a wifi-enabled printer. Sadly, my client’s custom network configuration did not allow wireless printers, so we were going to need to connect the new printer directly, after all.

I returned on a later day with a USB cable, and I also upgraded the client’s Mac to a newer operating system (OS)—after all, it is still capable of running the latest Mac OS, despite being “obsolete.” Even with an updated OS and direct connection, the computer still wouldn’t recognize the new printer. I connected my own laptop, a MacBook Air, running the latest OS at the time, “El Capitan,” and that computer wouldn’t print, either. All of this led me to determine that he must have just gotten a defective printer, which can happen.

I told him I would send him some recommendations for new printers that I would make sure were compatible with his older computer.

Several weeks passed, during which I repeatedly checked in via email and phone, leaving voicemails. I finally connected with him to see if he had picked up the new printer I recommended. He had not.

“The Staples Guy came over,” he said, “and he was able to get the printer to work.” I asked if he could tell me what the tech had been able to do that we had missed, but he couldn’t provide me with any details. It’s frustrating not to know the solution to a problem that had vexed me, but all I can do is be glad my client is printing from his old computer to his new printer, even if I wasn’t the one to make that happen. I still encouraged him to upgrade to a new computer soon, as those certainly don’t last forever (I give laptops three good, solid years of life on average. By year four, they begin to show their age). If nothing else, he should have no difficulty connecting this new printer to any new computer he gets… but then, perhaps I should be more circumspect when it comes to this printer.

2. A Fresh (re)Start

Not long after that adventure, I got a call from another client who had lost the ability to print. It wasn’t a brand new printer, and it had been working reliably for several months. All of a sudden, it stopped doing its job. This printer was connected wirelessly to this client’s home network. To test the printer, I sent a test page from my iPad. If a document would come out of the printer from that source, then I would be able to determine that the error was not with the printer, or the network; but with the client’s computer, a Late 2013 iMac (my rule for desktops, incidentally, is five good years on average, as opposed to three for a laptop).

Interestingly, my iPad had no luck printing, either. At this point, I approached the printer and called upon the motto of computer consultants since the dawn of time: 

And for those who can’t see the video, it’s computer tech Roy from British TV series The IT Crowd, asking a caller, “Have you tried turning it off and on again? …Are you sure that it’s plugged in?”

So I indeed turned the printer off and on again. I even unplugged its power cord and plugged that back in, to be thorough. After the standard boot-up time, I made sure it was connected to the wireless network, and I made a second attempt to print from my iPad. This time it worked, for the most part. The colors were off, indicating clogged printheads. Once I had this working on the client’s iMac, I was going to make sure it ran a head cleaning cycle or two.

Getting back to that iMac, still no luck printing to the newly restarted printer. I could tell that several failed attempts had been made, as the iMac’s Print Queue was full of documents trapped in a neither-here-nor-there limbo. I deleted these stuck documents, always a good course of action, but still no luck. I decided I would uninstall the printer from the computer (on Macs, it’s essentially just hitting the button with the minus sign on it, in the list of connected printers). With that step done, I made the computer look for any nearby printers, and it found the wireless printer. I re-added it, got it printing test pages, and even put it through an extended head-cleaning process to get the colors to line up correctly.

By the time I was done, my confidence, shaken by the failure with the previous printer, was restored. I was not at war with all printer-kind; just that one rogue element, who I’m convinced was in league with its comrade from the Staples tech support department.

Confidence renewed, I ventured forth to help with my latest printer quest:

3. New School Year, New Printer

Despite how technologically sophisticated some schools have gotten, they’re still requiring their students turn in their work printed, on paper, just as their parents and grandparents before them. With this in mind, another client reached out to me to get a new printer for his high school student. He was probably tired of her using his home office printer to print her school work, using up his ink and paper in the process.

He gave me the following criteria: “just want a good printer black white and color. doesn’t need to have fax and all other. just for printing and copying for school. wireless good. smaller the better.”

I often recommend color laser printers over inkjets, due to a much cheaper cost-per-page. Laser toner cartridges, after all, can output many more prints than an equivalent ink cartridge, at a fraction of ink’s ungodly cost. However, color laser printers are much larger than inkjets. Size is one of my clients’ considerations, so in this case, I was going to have to stick with the more compact inkjet printers.

I narrowed the search down to the HP brand (arbitrarily, I admit; but that’s the brand I use in my own office). From that brand I found 12 size-appropriate options available in stores, representing the DeskJet, Envy, OfficeJet, and OfficeJet Pro lines. Based on the need for wireless, as well as a compact size, I ended up selecting the Envy 7644, at my local Apple Store. It had great specs, not least of which a zippy print speed of 14 black pages per minute (ppm).

HJVL2

The HP Envy 7644, which, aside from the model number on the upper-right corner of the face, is identical to the Envy 7640.

What was odd was that several of the other models were available at multiple stores: Best Buy’s selection matched Staples’s and Fry’s’. But this 7644 was only available at Apple. Even HP’s own website omits it, in lieu of the 7640. I contacted HP, and they told me that the 7644 was the exact same printer as the 7640, but the 7644 was exclusive to Apple Stores. If it was the same model, and if I could apply my Apple discount to it, then I knew what to do.

I’m actually installing this new printer today, after this blog post is published. If there are any issues hooking it up (that can’t be resolved by “turning it off and on again”), I’ll follow up. If not, I’ll be back next week, with a new post. Until then, Happy Labor Day!