Archive for ‘Apple’

June 26, 2010

Tales of Woe – Macbook Edition

In January 2008, I stumbled across my first Macbook quite by accident. A friend of mine who lived on the same dormitory hall as me had two Macbooks: one completely shot and the other working fine. Why? Well that’s the beginning of my tale of woe. Since I wasn’t there for this entire story, I’ll give a brief summary of what I was only told then begin telling my part of the tale.

My friend had purchased an early 2006 Macbook for college. Towards the end of his freshman year, it was stolen and then dumped in some bushes. Before it could be recovered, it rained and the computer was heavily damaged. The thief was then required to pay my friend so that he could buy a new Macbook. He finally received the money and purchased a new Macbook before the beginning of my freshman year. Unfortunately, the original one was still out of service. When I transferred into Covenant College in the spring of 2008, he asked me if I could take a look at it.

When I first got my hands on it, it was quite filthy. The biggest evidence of damage was the huge swelled up battery. Logically, I removed it and powered it up via the AC adapter. To my surprise, it actually turned on. However, it quickly gave me the “No OS found” symbol. I concluded that the hard drive was shot since I couldn’t hear it powering on. I tried to check it with the install discs, but then I found out that the DVD drive was also shot. I gave it back to my friend since there really wasn’t anything I could do for it. After a month or two of it sitting around, my HP dv6000z notebook decided to take itself out of service. I asked him if I was able to fix the Macbook, could I have it? to which he complied. Even though I had little experience with Macs, I had (correctly) concluded that the only issues with the Macbook were the battery and hard drive. While the DVD drive was broken, it wasn’t vital and I figured that I could survive without it. A quick eBay search yielded a 100GB HDD and a brand new battery, each only $60. The hard drive showed up first, so I put it in the working Macbook and installed OS X 10.4. Installing it into the damaged Macbook and crossed my fingers… Success! It booted up on the first try. With the exception of the DVD drive and the battery, everything worked perfectly. A few days later, the battery showed up and I now had a working Macbook for only $120.

The little trooper worked perfectly fine for the rest of the semester and into the beginning of summer, but then I started to experience some issues with the RAM in June of 2008. I was working as a counselor at Ridge Haven in Brevard, NC, so I didn’t have much time during the week to deal with it. During the weekend though, I was able to at least get it running by removing the right-most module – my conclusion was that the RAM socket was bad. Shortly after, I was completely unable to boot it up. It sat around for a few more weeks until I finally discovered that in the process of diagnosing the RAM issue, I had removed the hard drive and accidentally wedged one of the rubber slides between the hard drive and the SATA connector. Once I managed to get it out, she worked fine. About a week after that, I stepped on it in the middle of the night and cracked the lower half of the LCD. It was a small crack, so the screen was still usable. But then a week or so after that, it got shot by an Airsoft pellet, placing a nice crack all the way across the middle of the screen. Still, I was able to use it and once I got my paycheck from the camp, bought a new LCD screen and DVD drive, finally bringing it up to standards. This time, it managed to last me for almost an entire year.

In April of 2009, I noticed that when I would open the screen, it would flicker a little bit. After a few weeks of this, the entire screen went out. After several days of exhausting diagnosis, I concluded that the backlight inverter was shot. I tried replacing it with one from a borrowed Macbook, but it still wouldn’t work. My final conclusion was that the connection on the logic board was shot. Thankfully, I was still able to use it with an external monitor. I dug my old HP notebook out and managed to get it up and working, so I used this as my temporary computer. During my diagnosis of it, I accidentally tore the ribbon cable connecting the top case and the logic board. I still thought I would be able to fix the computer, so I bought a new trackpad/keyboard and installed it. Unfortunately, I slowly came to the conclusion that I would be unable to bring it back to life.

In August, I received a $1000 scholarship from ChickFilA due to my three years of hard work and used it to buy a new Macbook. They had just released the unibody Macbooks, but I was such a fan of the original white model (and its price) that I opted for it instead. I also knew that Macs were slowly becoming a status symbol and the unibody ones would become commonplace, so I wanted to set myself apart by sticking with the older white model. It arrived about three weeks before school started and I was able to enjoy it for a few weeks and set it all up before school picked back up.

MediaCenterMacInternals The new one is what I’m typing on right now and it’s still ticking, nearly a year after its purchase. In May of 2010, I decided to make use of the broken Macbook that I just had sitting around. I hooked it all back up and found that it was actually still working, with the exception of the screen. I had sold both the hard drive and DVD drive as spare parts to a friend, but I had a 120GB HDD left over from my HP notebook so I used my current Macbook to install OS X 10.6 on it and managed to get it up and running. I ran into lots of problems, but I’ll reserve those for another future article. In short, the bottom half of the computer now functions as a media center. I have it hooked up to an external 1TB Western Digital MyBook and to my Ethernet network, making it quite versatile at streaming Netflix and Hulu videos to my 27″ Sanyo HDTV. So technically, I was able to bring that old Macbook back to life. To the right is an image of the barebones setup I have running.

That’s the end of my tale of woe concerning Macbooks, although my new one has functioned perfectly… so I guess it’s just a tale of woe about one Macbook. Regardless, I hope this story goes to show that Macbooks are tough and can last through just about anything. With any luck, my current Macbook will last me until the hardware becomes outdated and I’ll have to upgrade to stay abreast of the technology world.

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June 25, 2010

My Review of iOS 4 So Far

The final release of the iPhone OS (now referred to as “iOS”) has been out for two days. I had fallen out of the Mac community for awhile due to other obligations, so I missed out on the opportunity to download the developer firmware. However, I’m rather impressed so far with the new OS. Apple has definitely put a good deal of thought into it to make it more appealing to the consumer. Most of the features were previously available via jailbreaking, but the vast majority of users don’t go down that path. I, however, like having it jailbroken for a variety of reasons. But I digress.

Following is a list of my thoughts about the new OS. I’m running OS version 4.0 (8A293) on an 8 GB non-MC iPod touch 2G. I performed a clean install since I was planning on jailbreaking it and I needed to get rid of my unused apps/music anyways. I’m using iTunes 9.2 on Mac OS X 10.6.4. For jailbreaking, I used my favorite JB app, redsn0w. At first, I grabbed v 0.9.5b5-2 which failed to recognized the iOS 4 firmware. Then I found out that a new version, 0.9.5b5-3 was out, which successfully recognized the firmware. I had difficulty finding the IPSW file which iTunes downloaded, so I wound up downloading a restore file. I did a restore (hold option while clicking restore in iTunes to select a firmware) and then did the jailbreak, taking maybe 10 minutes to complete. I also checked the options for multitasking, user wallpapers, and battery percentage.

  • Very impressed that this update is offered free for all users. I was a bit peeved that a lot of my apps required iOS 3 to run when it first came out and that the update cost $10 since I didn’t have an iPhone.
  • First attempt at installing iOS 4 had an issue with creating the backup file (it gave me error -54 I think). I wasn’t planning on restoring from a backup anyways, so I just let it continue.
  • Little bit ticked off that the OS takes up 1.16 GB of space. If I recall, 3.1.3 only took up approximately 600 MB. Thankfully, Apple introduced the ability to convert all songs transferred to the iPod into 128 kbps AAC, which greatly reduced their size while keeping a pretty decent quality. I currently have 979 songs, 27 apps, and 1 photo on there, leaving me with 1.3 GB of free space.
  • The resolution of the screen actually looks better. Maybe I’m just pining to have an iPhone 4 with the Retina screen and I’m mentally making my screen look better…
  • The ability to change lock screen and home screen wallpapers is finally here, sort of. I’ve had my own before using Winterboard, but it’s nice to finally have it implemented as a feature along with included wallpapers. Although I’m not too keen about the default raindrop background. The first time I saw it out of the corner of my eye, I freaked out thinking I had spilled water on it by accident. Some of you may know about my harrowing experiences with water and my iPod… I opted for the green paint brush strokes wallpaper for the home screen and the breaking wave for the lock screen. I wouldn’t mind the ability to set the wallpaper to a slideshow though. I made a Winterboard skin to do this, but it hogged the processor and drained the battery. An Apple supported option would probably take advantage of the core features and run much more smoothly.
  • An option to set the unlock to either slide or touch would be very nice. I use my iPod a lot in the car, and when I forget the charger for my FM adaptor, it auto-locks. Picking it up and trying to slide to unlock is a little bit distracting. I have a Winterboard feature that allows me to tap to unlock, but I don’t see why Apple won’t include this as a feature.
  • Swiping seems a tad more responsive.
  • The ability to set custom dock icons is great too.
  • It took me awhile to figure out how to make Folders. I had to look it up on the Apple site because it’s not very intuitive. For anybody who doesn’t know how to do it yet, just drag an app on top of another app and it automatically creates a folder that you can name.
  • Even though I don’t use them, I like the nearly all-inclusive list of international keyboard layouts. I like how Apple always manages to sneak the Dvorak layout in. One of these days, I will learn Dvorak.
  • Not really impressed with the Exposé-like effect when opening or closing apps. It doesn’t run very smoothly and seems kind of choppy, like a last minute addition.
  • WiFi seems a bit finicky. The signal bar constantly hops around even when I’m not moving and I’m located about 25 feet from the router with only one wall between us. 3.1.3 didn’t have this problem. It still gives me a good connection though, so I’m assuming it’s just faulty. It is nice to have it stay on even when sleeping. I use WifiTouchpad a lot to control my media center and it was always a pain to wait for it to wake up.
  • Location services finally works for me. I had a difficult time getting it to work in 3.1.3. It would work in some areas, but not at my house.
  • I like the Leopard style dock. I had a Winterboard skin for this on 3.1.3, but chucked it because I actually preferred a fairly default look.
  • iBooks wasn’t working for me at first. Turns out it’s a bug in the redsn0w beta and there’s a new release I found over at Redmond Pie. I haven’t updated it yet though.
  • Haven’t really figured out the whole multitasking thing yet… I checked the option for redsn0w to enable it, but haven’t seen any difference. I guess I have older apps and it’s only the newer ones that take advantage of the multitasking. I saw a multitasking app in the Cydia store, but it was $4.99. Tad too expensive for an app I’m not sure I’ll need.
  • Battery life seems to be improved. I haven’t timed it, but I spent about two hours last night on WiFi browsing the web and playing a few games, leaving the battery at 61% by the time I was done.
  • I think my favorite feature so far is the ability to create custom playlists directly on the iPod finally. Yeah there’s been the On-the-Go playlist feature, but I like to be able to name my playlists and sometimes I’m too lazy to do it in iTunes. I would like to see an ability to remove a song after adding it while editing the playlist. Not after it’s created, but during the creation as I’m scrolling through the songs.
  • Would definitely love to see the Reader feature of Safari 5.0 implemented in MobileSafari.
  • Rotation detection is much more responsive. I used to have to practically throw the iPod across the room to get it to go into landscape.
  • Definitely prefer spell check over auto correct. Makes me feel at home since I abuse spell check on OS X, not to mention that I hate it when it corrects a word that’s not in the dictionary but is what I meant to type. Brings me back to the good old days of trying to type with T9.
  • I like the transparent status bar a la Leopard on the home screen, but prefer the solid bar when I’m in apps. I don’t remember if it does this by default on the stock OS though.
  • The ability to sync notes will be nice. We use an Exchange server at my school for email, so hopefully I’ll be able to get this all set up.
  • File sharing is a great new feature too. Prevents me from having to use Diskaid all the time or SSH. I’ll still have to use SSH for wireless sharing though.
  • Noticed that there’s a feature to play a 30 second intro to a song, but I can’t remember if this was previously in 3.1.3 though.
  • I would like to see an option to delete badges on icons if they’re not working. I know I can turn them off completely, but I have an app that I got on one of those limited free days, but the App Store won’t let me update it, so I’m stuck with a badge.
  • I love the predicted results feature in Safari. I abuse the feature on the desktop version, so it’s nice to see it on the mobile version.
  • Watching Youtube videos in portrait is a neat little feature, but I can’t really see myself using it often, if at all. Videos were meant to be watched in landscape.
  • I’m very glad to see more HTML5 integration. I hate Flash 10 with a passion, so hopefully the immense popularity of the iPhone will start pushing websites to at least offer HTML5 as an alternative.

That’s about it for the stuff that I’ve played around with so far. Features that I haven’t used/seen yet are as follows:

  • New Calendar. I’m old fashioned and keep a pocket calendar with me for writing down important dates.
  • Haven’t set up my mail yet either. I’m away from school and our Exchange server doesn’t play nice with outside access. I understand that you’ll finally be able to open attachments directly in Mail, something I’m looking forward to once school starts back up in the fall.
  • I’d love to use the widgets (I understand that there’s an orientation lock button now, but I’m not sure if this is only on the iPad), but I haven’t found a way to enable them via jailbreak.
  • New iPhoto like organization. I’ve always liked the Faces feature on iPhoto, but never really found the time to tag all my photos. The Events integration will be useful though.
  • Spotlight can now search Google and Wikipedia, but I prefer just opening Safari and doing it through there.
  • Have never used the iTunes store. I still buy CDs and make any song purchases via iTunes on my Mac. Hence, I haven’t used the new streaming preview feature for podcasts.
  • I haven’t used many of the new integrated Google features, but I am impressed by them, especially since Google is kind of the iPhone’s big contender… Also curious as to why Bing is included as a search engine since it’s Microsoft’s brain child. I’ve never liked Bing anyways.
  • Since iBooks doesn’t work right with the current jailbreak I’m running, I haven’t gotten to use it – I’ll fix this after I’m done posting. From what I’ve seen though, it seems very similar to Stanza.
  • Not sure what the deal is with the Replace text feature.
  • Bluetooth never seemed to work for me on 3.1.3. Minor loss though as I never really had a need for it. It now supports Bluetooth keyboards, although not on the iPod touch.

So there you have it – my ridiculously long review of iOS 4. There’s a lot to see, so if you haven’t updated, do it soon! It’s definitely worth it. With the debut of the iPhone 4, the 3GS has lowered in price so I may consider purchasing one, or putting in extra hours and ponying up for the new one once AT&T has sufficient stock. And now that they’re offering $15/month data plans, it’s in my price range finally.

Below are links to some of the apps I’ve mentioned and other resources.

If you take the time to actually read through this, feel free to offer your own thoughts or correct any mistakes I may have made. I’m still playing around with it, so I might have missed options for turning things off or on. Thanks for letting me waste your time 

Original thread at MacRumors forums