Posts Tagged ‘MacBook Pro’

Argh. Double argh even.  One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  So what does it mean when doing the same thing causes different results?  Well, for me, it means I’m dealing with that fickle cat Mountain Lion, the latest Mac OS.

One of the issues I had was opening files of certain types.  No longer can you just click them and have them open or give you a warning ensuring you want to open them.  Now with some files, you get cryptic error messages instead and no option to open them at all.  It all seems to come down to revised security settings in Mountain Lion (ML).  One that proved particularly annoying was the fact I could no longer read the downloaded offline MacLife magazines that were in a “xxxx.dmg” format.

Even looking at the Console gave me no clue (see below).  It seemed to be indicating there was a space issue, which wasn’t true, unless the .dmg wasn’t mounted properly and it was trying to expand inside itself.

Argh.  It had me pulling my hair out thinking something was goofy with the file, I even downloaded it again to check and contacted the support for Coverleaf where i get my subscription from to no avail.  I had no trouble opening them before the ML update, so I tried again on a computer not updated and the .dmg mounted fine and allowed me to read the App inside.

Next idea was to try on another computer that was updated (our MacBook Pro) and sure enough it worked on there too.  So now the trick became figuring out what was different between them.  I took that one step further and asked my friendly neighbourhood Nerd via twitter if he could open the .dmg and the App inside, knowing he had the same MacBook Air as I.  He couldn’t either, but for some reason he got a slightly different error message that was actually helpful and it pointed towards the real culprit – Security settings.

Allow applications settings

Firewall

There are two things getting in the way, the “allow applications downloaded from” and the Firewall. And the annoying thing is, they are fickle.  If I toggle the firewall off then change from “Mac App Store and identified developers” to “Anywhere” and then when i control-click i can finally allow the app to load.

All it is is a web archive that opens in your browser.  I tried to add the App or the .dmg into the allowed developers under advanced Firewall settings (see below), but because each monthly archive has a different name you would need to add them every time.  Not a solution.

So in the end, turning off the firewall and then mounting the .dmg is the only way, just remember to turn it back on again after.

That brings us to double argh.  Mounting a network drive.  It works to browse to the share once and then try again later the same day and it won’t mount properly.  Or sometimes browsing doesn’t work at all. Sometimes using “connect to server” and spelling out the actual mapping, (i.e.: smb://192.168.X.XXX) works and then other times it will mount incorrectly and not enable you to work with the existing files or add new.  The only option you get is to “eject”.  Since we work on a network with numerous files in various places this gets real old real fast.  Haven’t found a workaround for this one yet.  Although restarting seems to work most of the time.

Another annoyance along those same lines is mounting a Firewire drive using the new Thunderbolt to Firewire connector, which has turned out to be a fickle thing as well.  If I connect the power to the drive first, wait a second or two and then connect the cable to the drive and the MBA it will usually work.  But not every time.  At first I thought it didn’t work at all which was a big disappointment, but perseverance allowed me to eventually figure out a way that works about 75% of the time so for now I’ll take it.

It seems naming the OSes after cats was a bit of a premonition since they are such quirky and fickle animals. The new big cat on the block wasn’t quite ready when it was released, and even now with 10.8.2 installed, two fixes later, it is still having issues.  Thankfully they can be overcome, but really, should we have to?  Take a little more time and get it right first Apple, just because you are getting a bigger piece of the pie doesn’t mean you can start letting the quality we have come to expect from you slip.

tcg

This post was going to be called “How to Remove your unwanted Boot Camp from OS X Lion and give yourself a major headache in the process” but that title was a little long.  Let me explain by taking you back a few days with me.

So you’ve installed Lion and realized you really don’t need that Boot Camp partition you set up a while ago (for me it was when I installed leopard) and want the space back? No problem. You are about 3 clicks away from regaining that HD space.

 *  * 

Simple really.  Just launch the Boot Camp assistant and select the “create or remove a windows partition” and click continue.  You are taken to the screen that tells you that you are about to restore your hard drive to a single partition.  What its doing is removing the windows partition you creating in Boot Camp and the remaining partition is automatically resized to fill the newly available space, even while you are using it and even if it is your startup disk.  Took about 3 minutes to complete for me, and just like that, the 20 gig space I had set aside for a windows XP install is removed.

The trouble is, you may accidentally remove or screw up your Recovery Partition too.  At least that’s what happened to me.  It wasn’t until I tried to use Apple’s latest tool, the Mac OS X Lion Disk Recovery Assistant (L.D.R.A.) that I found out the recovery partition installed when i upgraded to 10.7 Lion was damaged, or missing according to the L.D.R.A.

I tried to run it and got a message indicated that the Recovery Partition was corrupt or missing.  I tried it a couple of times just to be sure, then questioned whether the download tool was working properly and re-downloaded it again just to be sure, but alas it wasn’t the L.D.R.A. that was broke, it was the recovery partition.  (see that little Note in the screenshot? “…must have an existing Recovery HD”.  Seems it should also say WORKING Recovery HD)

So… What to do?

It seemed the easy fix was to re-install Lion, but the installer self-destructs and had removed itself as soon as it was completed the first time.

Thankfully, if you open the App Store on your Mac and hold the option button when you click on “purchases” you get the option of re-installing any of the apps you have purchased – even Lion.  So after a lengthy download I first copied the installer to another location on my Mac and then ran it again.  Well, actually truth be told I made sure I had a complete up-to-date Time Machine backup of my entire MBP, and right after that I ran the Lion installer again.  (Be warned, if you run the copy of the installer you made it will delete that one, so always make another copy before running if you want to keep it handy)   About 33 minutes later, after a restart I was once again blessed with a working Recovery Partition that I could then use the L.D.R.A. to create a recovery disk on an empty USB thumb drive. (thanks Moen for one i got that contained your latest catalogue info which i already loaded onto my PC for faster access)

 *  * 

Aside from iTunes needing to be updated again and losing the additional voices i had downloaded in “Speech” (i’m partial to that new sexy seductress Samantha) I haven’t noticed any issues with the re-install.

Whether the corruption occurred due to removing the Boot Camp partition or just a strange coincidence is still uncertain, but i’m not about to go thru the process of creating another Boot Camp partition and then removing it again just to test the theory.  I’m not that bored or curious… yet.  If I wake up thinking about it or have trouble sleeping not knowing then that may change, but for now, if for whatever reason your Recovery Partition gets screwed up, you can always fix that easily with a Lion re-install.

tcg

I had been toying with the idea of replacing my MacBook Pro (MBP) with a MacBook Air (MBA), the posted specs and benchmarks just impressed me so much, but when you get right down to it, the impressive part besides the look and feel is the inclusion of a Solid State Drive (SSD).

A while back I never would have thought of replacing my internal Hard Disk Drive (HDD) with an SSD, it was just too cost prohibitive, (actually i did a blog post about that ssds-more-questions-than-answers) but as with anything, costs do come down and the bleeding edge isn’t quite so sharp.   So you might be asking “why?”

To SSD:

There are a few good reasons to consider it now.  First, speed.  These things are wicked fast.  Access times are in the neighbourhood of twice to 40x as fast as a standard 5400 rpm HDD.  Mostly due to the physical movement of the heads needed to access the data.  Access speeds can be as fast as 0.1 ms, compared with HDD access speeds of 5 to 10 ms.  It all depends upon what you are doing and what size drive you are comparing against.  If you are like most people, waiting for anything always seems too long, regardless of how fast it is we get used to the speed of things pretty quickly.  I’m not saying thats not going to still happen but when you can open an application in less than a second it is pretty safe to say it will take a while to find that speed too slow.

Secondly, energy usage.  A SSD has no moving parts and uses less power than a standard platter style Hard Drive, typically 1/3 to 1/2 the power.  No moving parts also means less noise.  Never hearing a hard drive spin up or spin down again would not be missed.

Third, which is linked to the second, heat creation.  With no moving parts, no spinning platters for example, there is less heat created.  Less heat means less cooling is needed, which can help to reduce or possibly eliminate the cooling fan.  Fans on laptops are typically so small to fit in the case they need to spin at ridiculous speeds to do any good.  Reducing the heat, means these fans can be slowed down to just handle the heat generated by the processor instead.  Not having a scorching hot laptop on bare skin would be a nice thing.

Fourth, stability.  This again comes down to the no moving parts thing.  There is less chance of failure than a platter style HDD and also less chance of data storage problems if the drive is bumped or jarred in any way.  Sure, many laptops have rapid spin-down features built-in to help with this problem, but isn’t it better not to have to worry at all about motion while the drive is being accessed?

dismantled HDD (left) – dismantled SSD (right)

So why Not To SSD?

The main complaints against SSDs are the cost and the lack of storage.

These are getting better, but finding a SSD that is larger than 128 gig means you are gonna pay thru the nose as the saying goes.  The cost seems to double as you double the size from 128 to 256, which is quite different from a standard HD which typically only increases around 1/3 to 1/2.  Not only does the cost go up dramatically, but the initial cost is more as well.  Take an 60 gig drive as an example.  Standard HDD is approx. 20 cents per gig.  A SSD will run you about $2 per gig.

The sizes of SSDs is very strange too, not that it is necessarily a deal breaker but in a world where we got used to seeing standard sizes, its tough to compare apples to apples when every manufacturer is making their own size drives.  30, 40, 60, 64, 120, 128, 160, 250 and 256 are all common sizes at the moment.  (Anything larger is getting into the “you must be kidding me?” range as far as pricing goes)  Thankfully the types of connections and housings have been standardized, but the internal parts of the SSDs can be quite different, which affects speed and potentially reliability, making it tough to compare models from different manufacturers.

For me it all comes down to a simple ROI.  Will the new drive save me money? Not really, but the savings in time and energy have to be taken into account.  Also, the increased speed will make my MBP feel better than brand new, which may stop me from replacing it for a while longer which means that yes, it will in fact save me the added expense of a whole new laptop.  Oops, sorry Apple.  I mean PORTABLE computer.  We don’t call them laptops anymore, thats SOooo 2009.

tcg

You can never have TOO much money, TOO much time, or TOO much space:   Especially when it comes to data.

A while back I moved my Time Machine data from a smaller partitioned drive to a larger one thinking “its twice the size of the hard-drive being backed up.  should be fine.”   It was for a while, but replacing my MacBook with a MacBookPro which had a larger hard-drive threw a spanner in the works as the saying goes (thats a wrench for those of you without british parents).  For those who aren’t all that familiar with Time Machine, it is a built in backup program in Mac OS X which once set up allows you to go back in time so to speak to previous saved dates and retrieve files or programs you may have edited or removed for whatever reason.  That’s the simple definition anyway.  Its actually a very cool feature of OS X that I have had to use once or twice to save my bacon so to speak.

As time goes by, our data seems to expand to fill its surroundings much the way Koi and goldfish do, and this was exactly what happened to me.  Having the space on the internal drive meant storing more stuff, which then meant backing up more stuff.  As such, my Time Machine backup became full.  So rather than buying a new external to use I wanted to just expand the partition of the one I was already using.  Sadly, no go.  Fortunately I did have another external harddrive available that was big enough to hold all the existing backups, so a simple but very lengthy “restore” from the current backup drive to the temporary one was all that was needed.

select source and destination carefully

This took about 4 hours.  After that I was able to reformat the existing backup drive to one large partition (about 450 gig) with one small partition (about 50 gig) instead of two equal partitions as I previously had, just in case I wanted to store anything else on the drive along with the Time Machine backup.

After the reformatting and repartitioning, it was a simple case of doing the same thing again only in reverse to copy the data off the temp drive back onto the original external backup.  Make sure you double check which drive is which and know which one is being over-written.

My only caution here would be to ensure you are comfortable with the fact you may lose everything when doing this.

You shouldn’t, but as with anything computer based there is always the chance that something goes horribly wrong during the process and you end up with a blank drive.  (for example, the power went out for me in the midst of the formating of the backup which blanked the drive completely and the process had to be restarted)   I was comfortable knowing that if something went wrong I could live with not having the ability to roll back time with TimeMachine and retrieve files from backup.

The process again took about 4 hours to restore and in the end I now have a fully functioning backup of my MacBookPro with the ability to use old Time Machine backups if needed, and it is all stored on a much larger drive with more room to grow.

I hesitate to say it’ll be big enough forever, but its definitely big enough for now.  I’m sure as the years go by, that little goldfish of data with grow to fill this new tank as well and I’ll be again moving it to a larger one.  But for now, there is room for it and maybe a sunken treasure chest or deep sea diver as well.

tcg

I love my MacBook Pro, but i have noticed that it does get quite warm. Most of the time it’s on my desk on a laptop riser, so its not an issue, lots of airflow around it to help it stay cool. The thing is, I bought a laptop. Or more correctly, I thought I did.
According to Apple it’s not a laptop – “it’s a portable computer, and not meant to be used on a lap.” Ah, great, thanks. I’ll just use my laptop computer on a desk then shall I? Sheesh. But i’m getting ahead of myself. Let me explain the issue at hand that caused me to contact Apple Support in the first place.

I was getting strange pixelations in certain programs, but once they started they quickly spread to all the programs running in all “Spaces“. You can see what i am referring to in the screen-capture of my Dock. Imagine trying to read what you were typing when this pixelation is occurring. At first it was happening so rarely I chalked it up to running out of video ram, since the video card uses shared memory, and I had the MBP running for some time using numerous apps etc. Thats when i noticed it happening more frequently and always after using certain video intense and processor intense programs.

I called Apple. I knew I didn’t have AppleCare left, but figured this was a hardware issue and would fall under the standard warranty. After finally getting ahold of a tech, we discussed the issue and was assured it was not common. It seemed to be an isolated case according to Apple, and the only proposed solutions were to rest the PRam and Vram and see if that fixed it. Hmm, gee thanks. So don’t use my laptop on my lap and do a reset of the memory. That’s not a fix, its a bandaid.

I got to thinking, what is the common factor? CPU and memory strain causes heat, and heat causes all kinds of problems. So i started checking the fan speed and temp whenever the problem reared its ugly head.

A great program for stress testing your video card and processor is Second Life. I’ve been playing the game for years and have found some extremely graphics intensive areas that can make the average video card whimper. I decided to run it and check the cpu use and temps. CPU usage ranged anywhere from 35% to 90% and the temps steadily climbed without the fan kicking into a higher speed fast enough to compensate. Using iStat in my Dashboard was fine, but i wanted a constant readout of temperature and fan speed, so I installed smcFanControl which not only allowed me to see them, but also easily adjust the fan speed according to what i’m doing with my MBP. (check it out here)

Playing around with the settings, I tweaked them a bit to find an RPM that worked well, but was still so quiet as to be barely audible. 3600 rpm is pretty quiet and well suited for most uses and locales. The default 2000 rpm is dead quiet, although didn’t do much to cool the CPU. 4000 rpm and above I start to hear it in a relatively quiet room. As it turns out though, sometimes I need to max out the fan to 6200 rpm to keep the temperature below 70 deg C.

Taking all this into account, and with a little testing, it seems I can make the problem recur on demand by running a very graphics intense program or two and letting the fan run according to its defaults, typically within 10 minutes of use. As I mentioned earlier, the fan didn’t ramp up speed fast enough to prevent the graphics problem from occurring, and also once it has started, cooling off the CPU by increasing the fan speed never made the problem go away regardless of the temperature drop.

Unfortunately, the only way to clear the graphics problem is to restart. Argh. So until Apple reworks the fan speed control to react quicker, It seems I have two options, restart frequently or remember to boost the fan speed first before using certain graphic-intense programs. At this point, i’m not sure if mine is an isolated case or the norm for 13″ MBP, but I assure you this, Apple Support will be getting a follow up call from me with all my info and test results in hand to get to the bottom of this issue. Stayed tuned.

tcg