Archive for the “Macintosh” Category
Yesterday I had an unrecoverable file system error on my MacBook Air running 10.8 Preview 2. Disk Utility instructed me to back up what files I could and then reformat. Since I had an up-to-date Time Machine backup, I wasn’t worried. I reformatted, and reinstalled the OS. However, I discovered that the OS installation had left me with a copy of 10.7. Would I be able to successfully restore all of my 10.8 files onto 10.7? Probably not. (Many of the settings have changed a lot.) So I decided to complete the installation first, upgrade to 10.8, and then recover my files.
Here’s the tip – something I forgot to do which caused me to waste time. While I was reinstalling 10.7, I created my normal “Geoff Arnold” user account. That was silly, because eventually I wanted to restore that account (apps, settings, files) from Time Machine. I should have set up a disposable account called something like “Super User”, performed the upgrade to 10.8 as this user, and then restored “Geoff Arnold” from Time Machine. As it was, I had to juggle accounts before running Migration Assistant: create “Super User”, log out, log in as “Super User”, delete the “Geoff Arnold” account, etc.
I actually ran into one more problem: trying to restore across the LAN didn’t work, because Migration Assistant hung while looking for computers. So I copied the backup sparsebundle to a USB HD, and restored from that. From checking the Apple Support discussions, it appears that using Migration Assistant with Time Machine is (still) mostly broken.
Posted by geoff in Macintosh
It looks gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. The 11.6 inch model is a worthy successor to the great Apple subnotebooks which culminated in the classic 12 inch Powerbook.
And yet, it comes with a CPU that’s slower than my first-generation MacBook Air. OK, the flash drive will make it feel faster (ANYTHING would beat out the original MBA’s disk), but even so…..
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Back in November 2008, I acquired a Mac Mini to use as my home desktop computer. At the time, I raved about the little machine with its 1.83 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, 1 GB of RAM, and an 80 GB Hard Drive.
Over the next year and a half, I became less enchanted. The 80GB disk was far too small, and I resorted to a variety of external USB drives to hold my music, photos, and videos. (Right now I’m using the 1TB drive that was originally installed in my ill-fated Time Capsule.) More serious was the 1GB of RAM. Over the last year, the footprint of application and OS software seems to have exploded, and multitasking even a few major apps has become incredibly frustrating. Alec posted an excellent analysis of the brain-dead paging and swapping strategy in OS X, but I couldn’t bring myself to try the radical surgery he proposed. And so I soldiered on, resigned to the appearance of the spinning beach-ball (or pizza?) whenever I tried to switch from iTunes to Safari, and to the fact that MS Word would take minutes to load if Safari was busy. Etcetera.
What made all this worse was that my other Mac is an original MacBook Air: wonderfully light, but with the smallest and slowest hard disk known to mankind. It’s a sealed unit, with no way to upgrade anything. I briefly considered adding some memory to the Mac Mini, but watching a video of the procedure persuaded me that I shouldn’t even try. I had to face the fact that I didn’t have a usably fast Mac. I did have the cursed (replacement) HP laptop, which showed what an Intel i5 with 4GB could do, but that beast runs Windows 7 and is mostly used for games and various experiments using VirtualBox.
A few months ago, I decided that I’d had enough. I was either going to buy a new Mac Mini (and upgrade it to 4GB RAM), or get one of the new iMacs. I went back and forth, and procrastinated, and eventually decided to take the plunge. There wasn’t much price difference between the Mini (plus RAM) and iMac, but the relatively low resolution of my existing LCD display finally tipped it. I would buy an iMac, my first. “Obviously” I was going to buy it from Amazon, taking advantage of free shipping and avoiding sales tax. I waited for Amazon to show that it had units in stock…
…and then Sarah Palin changed my mind. I watched that ignorant poseur rolling her eyes at the teacher in Alaska, and read the attacks on teachers by
Republican the Party of “No” legislators over the last few days, and decided that I wanted to pay my sales tax. Maybe a few bucks from the $110.91 tax would make its way into a teacher’s paycheck. So yesterday evening, I headed over to the Apple store in Palo Alto, and bought myself an Apple iMac MC508LL/A 21.5-Inch Desktop, with an Intel i3, 4GB RAM, and a 500GB 7200rpm HD. I brought it home, unpacked it, plugged it in, and pushed the power button.
Nothing. Repeatedly, nothing.
You know what’s going to come next, don’t you? Today I packed it up, took it back to the store, and it booted up just fine. So I made a “Genius Bar” appointment for Saturday morning (just in case), came home, and set the machine up. I planned to transfer the data and apps from the Mini using FireWire, but I found that I didn’t have a suitable cable. So I wound up doing it over WiFi, which took about 8 hours.
The machine is sweet. Very fast, a beautiful 1920×1080 display, nice wireless keyboard and mouse. I launched a dozen tabs in Safari and started sync’ing my iPad, and then fired up MS Word. It opened even faster than on my Windows 7 machine.
For now, I’m simply replacing the Mini with the iMac. All of the peripherals from the Mini are plugged in to the iMac, and it’s acting as print and scan server for all our computers. Eventually I plan to run the Mini, headless, as a print and media server, but I’ll take the opportunity to do a clean reinstall of OS X beforehand. And with any luck I’ll be cancelling that date with the “Genius Bar”.
I have several road trips coming up in the next few weeks (LA, Sacramento), and I wanted to burn myself some MP3 CDs with good driving music. Unfortunately, when I ripped the bulk of my CDs into iTunes, I did so using AAC encoding. I guess I was trying to optimize space. Oops.
Anyway, yesterday I created a “Smart Playlist” in iTunes with the following properties:
- “Kind” includes “AAC”
- “Kind” does not include “protected”
This gave me a playlist with 7,467 entries. I selected the whole list, and told iTunes to convert them from AAC to MP3. This will create 7,467 new items, of course, so when everything checks out I’ll delete the AAC files.
So far it’s been running for about 14 hours on my 1.83GHz Mac Mini, and the iTunes folder on my external 1TB drive has grown to 155GB. Conversion speed seems to be 45-50x…
(And yes, I did back up my iTunes library!)
UPDATE: The final glitch was tricky: how could I use the smart playlist to remove tracks from my iTunes library? “Delete” simply removes the tracks from the playlist! The answer was to select all tracks in the playlist, right-click, choose “Get Info“, and change the “Artist” for every track to “Zzzzzzzzzzz“. This took a while to run… Then I went back to my library, chose “Zzzzzzzzzzz” from the Artist list, selected all of the corresponding tracks, and deleted them. There has to be an easier way… such as an Automator script?
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One of the side effects of switching digital cameras has been that stuff takes longer. More pixels per picture (and new modes that generate more images) means that it takes a lot more time to do even basic photo management. And I’m not actually very well equipped to handle this: for perfectly good reasons, it turns out that although I have quite a few computers, they are all pretty puny by current standards. I have a Mac Mini and a MacBook Air, both with CPUs in the 1.6GHz range, both with fairly slow disks. The MacBook Air has 2GB of RAM, the Mini just 1GB. (The fastest machine I own, my accursed HP DV4-2045DX laptop, just went back for service – AGAIN!)
So naturally my thoughts have been turning to getting some horsepower. A Mac, of course – that HP has cured me of any interest in Windows. I figured that I wanted something like this:
- At least 3GHz 2+ core CPU
- 4GB RAM
- 500GB HDD
My first impulse was to simply get a new Mac Mini. However after maxing out all of the options, I got:
- 2.66GHz Core 2 Duo
- 4GB RAM
- 500GB HDD
- Wireless Mouse and Keyboard
- Total price: $1187
That felt quite a bit more expensive (and slower) than I’d expected. Out of curiosity, I looked at the minimum configuration iMac:
- 3.06GHz Core 2 Duo
- 4GB RAM
- 500GB HDD
- Wireless Mouse and Keyboard
- 21.5 inch LCD
- Total price: $1199
So instead of buying a Mac Mini I can spend an extra $12 and get an iMac with a 15% faster CPU and a stunning 21.5 inch LCD. Something doesn’t make sense here….
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I’m processing HD video from this weekend’s visits to my grandchildren in Lynn. All of the projects are about the same size. I copy the raw clips from my MacBook Air to Merry’s new 13″ MacBook Pro, and fire up iMovie on each machine. On my machine, iMovie says that it will take 59 minutes (which turns out to be 90+). On hers: 23. My first reaction is the typical geek’s knee-jerk response: it’s time to upgrade my laptop to something more powerful. My second reaction: that’s absurd. Most of the time, my MacBook Air is quite fast enough. What I really want is a Mac Pro MB535LL/A in the cloud, available on demand…. (Well, that and easier batch support in iMovie.)
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Last week I awoke to a nasty surprise: my Apple Time Capsule had died. I’ve been using it for about three years, as both WiFi access point and back-up disk, and I was dimly aware of reports that early TC’s had a nasty habit of failing when they were out of warranty, but of course nobody expects
the Spanish Inquisition it to happen to them. But it did. And as I tweeted, the replacement was quickly installed: an Airport Extreme WiFi access point, an external Iomega 1TB hard disk for backups, and an extra Airport Express to make sure that I had good coverage throughout the apartment.
And that was that. Or rather, it wasn’t. Because both of us had (ahem) used the Time Capsule for more than simple backup. We’d used it as a convenient way of sharing data, especially photographs and genealogical data. And so there was a lingering “action item” to try to recover what was on the TC hard drive.
This morning I received a request for a photograph: one which I knew was on the TC. I got the Time Capsule off the Shelf Of Dead Electronics and… well, on a whim, I decided to plug it in. To my surprise, the light came on! WTF? I quickly unplugged it before it could complete POST and try to take over my WiFi network. Naturally, when I came home this evening, I tried plugging it in again. Nothing. Not a flicker. And then I read the various descriptions of TC failures, and realized that the most likely cause was a capacitor in the power supply, and that such a failure might well taunt me with a random flicker.
So I’ve just completed disassembling the TC, and removing the Hitachi Deskstar HD. Tomorrow I will stop at Fry’s and pick up a 3.5″ AT enclosure, so that I can try mounting the disk on my Mac Mini. I’m not worried about the Time Machine backups – those have been recreated – but I hope I can get the other data off it.
UPDATE #1: After reading this MacRumors thread, I’m going to be extra careful in choosing a HD enclosure. Apparently many of them have feeble power supplies that can’t meet the start-up demands of the Hitachi disk. (The label says that it needs “5V 680mA 12V 850mA”, which is comfortably less than the 2A that most supplies are spec’d for. However I bet that’s steady-state current, not the start-up suckage.)
UPDATE #2: I wound up getting a generic SATA enclosure made by Sabrent. It was a returned item, so I paid only $23.74. It turned out that the TC HD was carved up into two small admin partitions and a partition called “Time Capsule”. One of the subdirectories had been written from Windows, and even though the permissions looked OK, I couldn’t read or copy it, so I had to
chown/chmod the whole thing before I could recover it. Otherwise, no problems.
About a year ago I started having problems with my Powerbook. The most common pattern was that I would try to restart it (after, say, a software upgrade), and I’d be faced with a black screen, requiring me to reset the Power Management Unit. This was a hit-or-miss affair, and required at least one trip to the Genius Bar. My diagnosis:
The PMU is dying, slowly, and inducing a variety of failure modes. The trick is going to be inducing a hard failure, or at least a failure that the Genius will take seriously.
In March this year I bought myself a MacBook Air, intending to use the Powerbook as a remote CD, print server, iPhone backup, and media hub. Realizing that the PB might fail at any time, I shifted my iTunes and photo libraries to an external HD.
Last week, things took a turn for the worse. I installed some new software on the PB, the restart failed, I reset the PMU (with difficulty), and when it rebooted I decided to check the disk. There were lots of errors. I rebooted from the OS X DVD, repaired the disk, and restarted. A day later, the system failed again, and Disk Utility reported more errors. And this time, when I tried to repair them, I saw:
And just to make sure that I didn’t try anything rash, Disk Utility marked the HD as unbootable.
What to do? I had a complete backup on my Time Capsule, so I had the option of scrubbing the disk, reinstalling Leopard, and then restoring my backup. But how much could I trust the hardware? I decided that the time had come to replace the PB – but with what? I couldn’t really use the MacBook Air for all of those functions, but I didn’t want to spend much money.
At this point I remembered that I still had my Samsung monitor. When I first arrived in Seattle, I bought myself a nice SyncMaster 940MW that could work as a TV or a computer monitor. A few months later, I acquired a Sharp HDTV, and the SyncMaster was relegated to occasional use as a second screen for the PB. I had a mouse (plenty of them, actually), so the obvious solution was to get a Mac Mini and an Apple keyboard. I decided that I didn’t really need a DVD burner or extra RAM, which meant that I could get the basic Mac Mini (1.83 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 1 GB RAM, 80 GB Hard Drive, Combo Drive) and be up and running for around $700.
So I ordered the Mac Mini and an Apple Keyboard on Monday, and they arrived yesterday. Basic setup was a breeze, and it all just works – though I’m holding off for a couple of days before restoring stuff from the Time Capsule. I love the minimalist design of the keyboard – like the keyboard on the MacBook Air, it’s way ahead of what I was used to on the PB, and significantly better than the white MacBook I’m using for work. And the Samsung monitor works perfectly, via DVI. (No VGA nonsense here.) It’s looking good…..
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I’m visiting the Amazon Chennai office for a few days. Because of the strike at Lufthansa, I decided to travel with only carry-on bags, and to keep the weight down I brought my personal MacBook Air rather than my regular work MacBook. I figured that I only really needed something to take notes and log in to Outlook Web Access occasionally.
I was scheduled to give a talk this morning, and I’d prepared a slide deck, based on the material I delivered on my last visit to India. But yesterday after breakfast I reviewed the presentation and realized that it didn’t really hit the points that I wanted to emphasize. No problem: I settled down to put together a new set of slides. Since I don’t have Microsoft Office on my personal machine, I used Apple’s excellent Keynote. I cranked away, and by the end of the day I was happy with the new slides. I checked them again this morning, added a couple of slides, cleaned up my conclusion, and I was ready.
I walked into the room where I was giving my talk, and asked if I could double-check the compatibility of my MacBook Air with the projector they were using. “Oh, that would be awkward… could you just give me the slides on a thumb-drive, and I’ll copy them onto my (Windows) laptop?” So I fired up Keynote, saved the presentation as PDF, copied it onto a thumb-drive, and thought no more about it.
Soon it was time for me to give my talk. I located my slides, double-clicked the file, and Adobe Acrobat launched. (It seemed to be the first time, because I had to accept a couple of licenses.) I selected full-screen mode and started the presentation. We’d just got to slide 5 when Acrobat suddenly crashed, displaying a small dialog box that read “I/o error”. I tried again, without success. Several people huddled over the laptop, trying to be helpful, but after a couple of minutes I just grabbed my MacBook Air, plugged it in, and finished my talk.
People seemed to really like my presentation, but they were even more impressed that I’d managed to crash Acrobat…
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With help from The Vicar, here and here, I was able to get the Time Capsule up and running. I elected to create a brand new WPA2 network, using the TC as the router; my old (non-”n”) Airport Express is now sitting next to the HP printer/scanner, acting as a print server. I used the Vicar’s trick of doing the initial TC configuration via an Ethernet link between my PowerBook and the TC, but I still had plenty of other hoops to jump through. In several places, it wasn’t sufficient to click “Renew DHCP”; I had to actually power cycle the cable modem to get things straightened out.
Never mind; it’s all working now. But no thanks to Apple; their supposedly “plug and play” configuration software was a disaster. I know that the number of permutations that they have to deal with is mind-boggling, including a gazillion non-Apple devices, but even so they botched this one. I was trying one of the simplest use-cases – adding a Time Capsule to an existing all-Apple network – and they couldn’t even get this right. Apple has demonstrated in the past that it was willing to hold up a product until the quality (hardware, software and documentation) was good enough; in this case, they failed to exhibit the necessary courage. (Time to re-read the “Evil/Genius” article in Wired.)
And now I have to update the configuration of all of my WiFi client devices. I just did my iPhone; next up is the Nintendo Wii….. Thanks, Vicar!
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