Tag: geekery

The curious incident of the freezing MacBook

I posted on Twitter yesterday about some problems I was having with my aging MacBook. For the last week or so, it seems, my laptop is locking up–freezing–several times a day. So bad is the lockup that all I get is the spinning wheel cursor and nothing works. No keyboard commands, nothing. I have to physically power down the machine and reboot.

Well! I might be a software developer in my day job, but I started out as a troubleshooter, and a pretty good one. Friends and family are often asking me for help. So why not turn those troubleshooting skills to my own problem?

At first, I thought it might be related to my external harddisk. I have a 1 TB external disk connected to the MacBook via Firewire. All our media is stored on this disk (which is in turn backed up to the cloud via IDrive). When the computer would freeze, I noted that the light on the disk (which is a kind of roving white light akin to the roving red light that characterized Michael Knight’s car, Kitt in Knight Rider) was frozen as well, as if access to the disk was causing the problem. I ran some checks on the disk but nothing turned up. The disk, at least according to the disk software, is in good shape.

Well, maybe it was the connection to the disk. Maybe the cable was bad. One way to tell for certain would be to shut off the disk and disconnect the cable and see what happens. I did that. It seemed to work at first, but before long, the computer would lock up again. The lock-ups seemed arbitrary. No one thing was causing them.

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iOS 5.0: My day-one experience

I read quite a few posts yesterday of people who had some rather nightmarish experiences upgrading their iPhones and iPads to iOS 5, some of which resulted in bricked devices. My experience was completely opposite. When I got home, I did the following and it all worked smoothly and without a hiccup:

  1. Upgraded my MacBook to OS 10.7.2
  2. Upgraded iTunes to the latest version (that supports iCloud)
  3. Upgraded my iPhone to iOS 51
  4. Upgraded my iPad to iOS 52

The post upgrade configuration wizard on both devices was easy to use and my devices were working properly.

There were a few things I needed to do once the upgrade was completed:

  1. After upgrading my MacBook, I need to sign into iCloud. The first time I did this, it said my password was invalid, even though it was the right password and it accepted the password and logged me in despite the message.
  2. I configured both my devices for iCloud. Right now, I have everything going to the iCloud except for email3 and the photo stream4
  3. I discovered that by default, the devices are not configured to sync to the laptop wirelessly, so I had to enable that on both devices.
  4. There were a number of apps that required new versions once the upgrade of the devices were complete, so I had to do that as well.

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  1. It took 11 minutes to download the update over my connection.
  2. Apparently, you can’t download both updates at the same time.
  3. I used Gmail so there’s no need to store my mail in iCloud.
  4. I am 1 version behind in iPhoto, but the truth is, I use Picasa for my photos in the cloud and I like Picasa better. Sorry, Apple.

Upgraded to OS 10.7.2 and iOS 5.0 on all devices

I spent this evening downloading and updating my laptop to the latest Mac OS release, 10.7.2 (which introduces iCloud) and upgrade my iPhone 4 and iPad 2 to iOS 5. It appears to have all gone smoothly. There are lots of cool new features (I love being able to sync the phone and iPad wirelessly!) and I haven’t had a chance to play with all of them yet. But this upgrade finally allows me to remove most of my music and movies from my iDrive backups, freeing up a ton of space there. That’s because these are now accessible from the iCloud, should I lose them on my devices. And I still have backups of my media on the 1 TB external disk anyway.

But it’s nice to free these up from IDrive. I have 500GB of storage there and am using about 75% of it across 2 machines and my website. This will give me a little extra breathing room.

More on iOS 5 once I’ve had a little time to play with it.

A note of minor geekery

I finally got the home network setup so that there is a good wireless signal on the top floor of our townhouse. For nearly 2 years, we’ve had a good signal on the lower level and main floor, where we spend most of our time. But we’ve had a weak signal on the top floor. In part this is my fault because I have the main wireless router installed on the lowest level where the cable modem is. I’ve tried once or twice to use the “Extend a Network” feature on the Apple Airport Express devices, but they never seem to boost the signal upstairs.

Today, I figured out what I was doing wrong. Instead of the default “extend a network” feature, I enabled WDS networking on the base Airport Express on the lower level, and then added the second Airport Express as a remote WDS client on the main level. Once that was all configured properly, I went up to the top floor, where our bedrooms are located and where the signal is weakest and sometimes nonexistent. I had a strong signal. But just to be sure, I fired up HBOGO on my iPad and watched a few minutes of last night’s Entourage, and it came through in high-def glory without any delays or pauses. I could barely get a signal up there before and this little tweak tonight helps immensely.

Every once in a while, the fact that I work in IT proves helpful around the house.

Oh, Apple, your mousing-around is killing me!

I upgraded to OS X Lion the day after it was released (the one day delay was due to the need to add additional memory). As those who’ve upgraded know, one of the trickiest things to get used to is how scrolling with a mouse or trackpad had changed. Traditionally, you use the scroll bar to scroll through a screen. Scrolling down the scroll bar rolls the contents “up” and vice versa. While this is what we are all used to, it goes against our naturally tendency. Apple has finally changed this so that we scroll the content as opposed to the screen. Once you see it in action, it totally makes sense. It is what we do on the iPhone and iPad when we scroll there. And it does take a little getting used to.

The problem for me is, I’m now used to it, and it is killing me because I use a Windows machine at the day job and that uses traditional scrolling gestured, which are opposite of what I’ve now gotten used to. So I come into the office and try to scroll through my e-mail, and it moves the wrong way. So I adjust but then forget five minutes later and it happens again. And again. My blood pressure rises and that can’t be good.

So, while I applaud Apple’s change here, and while I find that it actually is better once you get used to it, I can’t help but think that this mousing-around of theirs is going to put me into an early grave. The frustration of having to use sloppy mouse gestures on a windows machine–and using them wrong–is going to kill me!

ETA: See Reed’s comment below for a way of emulating this behavior on Windows. I just did it on my Windows 7 machine and now scrolling works the same as in Lion.

Apple’s in-app purchase policy

I read today that Amazon finally caved to Apple’s in-app purchase policy. I can understand Apple’s desire to get its cut, but the desire to enforce this policy puts an unnecessary burden on customers and creates usability issues that are extremely annoying. For instance:

Right now, if I want to buy a book from the Kindle app on my iPad, I can click the Kindle Store button and it will open a web browser to the Amazon Kindle site so that I can make my purchase. If I decide to upgrade to the latest version of the tool, the button will no longer exist, meaning that I will have to navigate to Safari, and then navigate Amazon. This adds two additional steps to a process that was almost as efficient as you can get. Adding steps to a process? Really?

This might be good for Apple’s bottom line, but I have a question for Apple: how it this useful to consumers?

Leopard upgrade

Apple’s newest OS upgrade (OS 10.5, codename, “Leopard”) was released on Friday. There’s a ton of cool new features and I decided I’d head over to the Apple Store and pick it up. At the same time, in the back of my mind, I’d been thinking for a while now that it was time for a new laptop. I’ve had my iBook for 2+ years and I’ve really wanted one of the newer Intel-based MacBooks. So today, I killed two birds with one stone.

I bought a new MacBook, and that came with an upgrade to OS 10.5.

I was given the Federal contractor discount, which saved me a little over $100. I am now the proud owner of a MacBook 2.16 GHz Core Duo with 1 GB of RAM, 120 GB hard disk, built-in iSight, and all of the usual Apple bells and whistles. And as always, I also got the Apple Care to go along with it.

All told, it cost me $1,500.

I’m in the process of upgrading the machine to Leopard as I write this.

Now all I need to do is figure out what to do with my old laptop. I was going to give it to Doug, but he doesn’t want it. Most of my friends already have laptops. I don’t want to sell it on eBay. If I can’t find a friend who can use it, then I’ll donate it to charity.

Paranoid IM interpretation

A funny thing happened* to me last night. I was already in bed, so I didn’t get the message til this morning, but kruppenheimer sent me a text message that said, “Yamo be there!” I had no idea what it meant, but judging by the time she sent it, I assumed it was something derogatory about the Yankees.

Turns out that kruppenheimer was listening to the totally 80s cheeseball song of the same name by Michael McDonald. Thinking it was funny, and perhaps not suspecting that I’d be in bed by, say, 10 PM, she decided to text me about it. Mystery solved.

But for a while there, I was a little paranoid.

*This post was inspired, almost verbatim, by kruppenheimer‘s email message this morning. In fact, I pretty much just cut and paste.