Category Archives: Apple Hardware

Day of M1

At the end of December, 2020, my Mac desktop configuration transitioned from a 2013 27″ iMac to a new M1 MacBook Air.

The desktop configuration consists of:

  1. The new M1 MacBook Air
  2. Monitor – LG 27UL600-W 4K
  3. Twelve South BookArc for MacBook
  4. OWC Thunderbolt 3 14 Port Dock
  5. Western Digital 5 TB External USB Drive
  6. Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard for Business
  7. Apple Magic Trackpad2

I am about to reach the one month mark. All is well. In fact, all is better than well. One benefit that I did not consider was the ability to install and run IOS applications. There were several iPad application that I had wished I could run on my Mac. Now I can.

Most IOS apps are unique with no native Mac app equivalent. A few have a Mac app version, but the iPad version is superior.  One such app is WeatherBug.

Now, I can unplug one USB-C cable and take my “desktop” with me.

ARM’ed And Dangerous

Well, Apple did it again.

In 2013, Apple upgraded the MacOS to Mountain Lion MacOS 10.8). At the time, I was using the original Mac Pro from 2006.

To my chagrin,  I found that the new OS required a 64-bit Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) module. The Mac Pro 2006 supported 64-bit instructions, but, for some reason, sported a 32-bit EFI. Go figure.

So, I retired my Mac Pro; replacing it with a new 2013 27″ iMac.  But the replacement came after an extended struggle wherein I added hardware and performed customizations that allowed MacOS Mavericks to debut on my Mac Pro. I was happy at the moment, but this happiness dissipated when I had to contend with maintaining compatibility with OS updates. I surrendered to the inevitable and purchased the iMac. Now I could run the latest MacOS and the reduced power draw lowered my monthly utility bill by $50. Problem solved…until now.

In the fall of 2020, here comes MacOS Big Sur with a bevy of new features… and a bevy of older Macs that fell off the support table, including my 2013 iMac.

I toyed for a while with the “customization” that would allow the installation of Big Sur on an unsupported Mac. I even downloaded the tools and made an attempt, but could never get this or that to download. In addition, the “customization” would have to be re-applied every time Big Sur pushed out an update. I did not want the hastle.

Apple taketh away, but also giveth in the form of the new ARM-based Macs introduced at the end of 2020. I chose the get a new MacBook Air with upgrade to 16 GB RAM and a 1 TB SSD. I traded in my 2018 MacBook Air to cover the costs of the upgrades.  I did not like the 2018 MacBook Air, too noisy and too little power to do much more than surf the web and read email.

Now, I am ARM’ed And Dangerous. I am using the M1 MacBook Air both as my desktop and laptop. The iMac is still hanging in there due to lack of support by the M1 for OS virtualization; Parallels, VMWare, VirtualBox, etc. I require the support for work-related operations. I am hoping the virtualization comes to the ARM-based Macs. At present, I use the iMac via Screen Sharing to run virtual OS sessions.

A new era has started.

 

iPad mini 3; Is Touch ID Enough for You?

 

Apple rolled out the new 2014 lineup of iPads. The star of the show was the iPad Air 2. With more RAM, faster CPU and GPU, the iPad Air 2 is a step up from the iPad Air.

But what about the iPad mini 3?. The only new feature available on the mini 3 is the Touch ID sensor on the Home button and the addition of the “gold” color scheme. The rest of the specs remained consistent with the previous generation (now called iPad mini 2).

Of the 2014 changes to the mini, the Touch ID is the most compelling. In my estimation, save the money on the iPad mini 3 and buy the mini 2.   it appears that the iPhone 6 Plus is weighing heavy in the minds of the Apple folk in Cupertino. There might not be an iPad mini 4.

 

New use for Zagg Auto Fit Keyboard

zagg autofit 10A few weeks ago, I purchased the ZAGG Auto Fit 10” keyboard folio to replace the dreadful keyboard supplied with the ASUS Transformer Book T100. The ASUS tablet popped right into place and I have been using the keyboard with the Windows tablet ever since.

On a lark, I tried to insert my iPad 3rd generation into the keyboard enclosure, but the form factor was too tall.

In the intervening weeks, I shipped the iPad 3 off to Gazelle. On Saturday. en email from Best Buy arrived in my inbox. In it was a trade-in offer for the iPad 2 I had purchased some three years ago. I took the iPad 2 to my local Best Buy and walked out with a new iPad Air 2.

I looked at the iPad Air 2 and noted the sleek lines when compared to my iPad 3. I picked up the ZAGG keyboard and popped the ASUS tablet out and popped the iPad Air 2 in. Well, by gosh and by golly (pardon my language) the new iPad fit very nicely. The new iPad is clad in a thin TPU case. I positioned the tablet with a slight bias to the right to clear the “Volume Up” button.

I haven’t paired the iPad and ZAGG keyboard yet. That will be the next step in the process. The iPad may be compatible with the keyboard in fit alone, but I am hopeful of more.

 

An SSD Makes A Difference

Mac Pro Tower
Mac Pro Tower

In January, I retired my 2006 Mac Pro. Still a good workhorse of a computer, but Apple had left it behind as support for the hardware ended with Mac OS X 10.7 Lion.

In June, 2013, I acquired a taste for a new desktop in the form of a new MacBook Air. While not really a desktop, I put the MBA through it’s paces as a replacement for my Mac Pro. The MBA was fast, especially the 256 GB solid state drive. The system booted quickly and programs launched with imperceptible delay. It could be my new desktop; except for one drawback. The laptop was equipped with 4 GB of RAM, not the 18 GB in my Mac Pro. For normal operations, the 4 GB did the job, but when I launched a series of Windows and Linux Virtual Machines, the memory limitation was evident.

My next foray was to use the Chameleon boot-loader trick to spoof the old 32-bit EFI hardware so that OL X 10.9 Mavericks could find a new home on the machine. This worked with limited success, but was tedious to say the least and never felt just right; kind of a “hackintosh” taste with visions of disaster around each corner.

Workspace 2013
In stepped a new 2013 iMac. I upgraded the original 8 GB of RAM to 24 GB. All was well…except I had failed to learn the lesson of the MacBook Air and SSD technology. I succumbed to an enticing price at my local Best Buy and purchased a unit with a traditional 1 TB, 7200 RPM spinning piece of “sloooooow” regrets.

Don’t get me wrong, the iMac is a great machine, but, it would have been greater if I had skipped the bargain basement price and opted for a unit with an SSD. Well, there are silver linings. I run my desktop on a 24/7 basis and I have noticed that my electricity bill has dropped since I unplugged the old Mac Pro.

And then there is that nagging “Pssst” sound every time I walk by a new Mac Pro in the Apple Store.

 

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A New Life for my Mac Pro

Mac Pro Tower
Mac Pro Tower

Back in 2006, I purchased my Mac Pro 1,1. Over the years, it has served me well. Starting with OS X Tiger (10.4) to OS X Lion (10.7), I added upgrades to my system; additional RAM, more hard disks and, in anticipation of OS X 10.8, a new ATI Radeon 5770 HD graphics upgrade.

Well, I was a little more than disappointed when I learned that Apple was abandoning support for my Mac Pro at the shores of OS X Lion. The 10.8 ship sailed and my Mac Pro wasn’t on it.

When OS X Mavericks was announced, I hoped against hope that Apple would rescue my Mac Pro and bring it back into the fold. This was not to be. Instead, I updated my MacBook Air 2013 to the new OS and relegated my Mac Pro to “ride the bench”.

In the past few weeks, I started to consider my technical life after the Mac Pro. My Air was playing the role of a desktop, but I really wanted a true desktop for my office. What would it be; a Mac Mini, iMac or perhaps, the new Mac Pro 2013? Also, what would I do with my old Mac Pro. Maybe sell it on eBay…

My old Mac Pro had enough of this sort of talk. “I can still do the job! Give me a chance!”. I looked at my Mac Pro, considered it for a moment and then decided to give it one more upgrade.

With the help of this website, and a new SSD drive, I now introduce my “new” Mac Pro running OS X Mavericks 10.9.1.

My "new" Mac Pro
My “new” Mac Pro

I think my Mac Pro is smiling at me.

 

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MacBook Air Desktop; the Final Piece

LandingzoneProA few days ago, I posted an article relating my efforts to transform my 2013 MacBook Air into my new desktop. At the time of the post, I was waiting on the final piece of the puzzle; the LandingZone 2.0 Pro dock.

As fate would have it, the dock arrived the next day. I unboxed the item and made the connections to my external monitor and an external USB 3.0 drive.

My impressions:

Overall, the dock seems to be a well constructed product. One shortcoming was the hinged handle in the back of the unit. My natural tendency was to use this handle to close the device. Thankfully, I did a quick read of the user guide which dutifully informed me that this is a NO NO. The handle is used only to release the laptop from the unit when undocking.  Perhaps I am the only person that made this assumption, but some labeling on the hinge might prove beneficial.

From a usage point of view, I have some difficulty in mating the USB and DisplayPort components of the dock with the physical connections on the sides of the MacBook Air. After a little jockeying for position, the plugs line up and the two end close up to secure the MBA in place.

Once secure, the dock provides everything I need:

  • four powered USB 3.0 ports
  • a Gigabit Ethernet Port (need to download and install a driver)
  • a mini DisplayPort connection

What I appreciate about the dock is the ability to open the MBA when needed to access the laptop (keyboard, trackpad, etc) without having to undock. This was a feature that the different vertical docking solutions did not provide.

Though a little pricey at $199, I am more than satisfied with the LandingZone 2.0 Pro Dock for my MacBook Air.

 

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2013 MacBook Air as new Desktop

MacBook Air 11.6" mid 2013
MacBook Air 11.6″ mid 2013 (Photo credit: Moridin_)

In early July, I purchased the new 13″ MacBook Air to replace my 2008 unibody MacBook. The MacBook, as have other Mac laptops in that past, had migrated to a family member to replace a failed Windows machine (BTW, all the Apple laptops are still functioning; even a 2005 iBook).

As I had done in the past, I put the new Air in my laptop bag. If my usage patterns remained the same, it would see the light of day on an infrequent basis. It was my “I can’t get to my desktop” machine. You know, the family comes for a visit. My office turns into a bedroom. I can’t get the my trusty Mac Pro (2006 edition) and the iPad is just not quite enough.

But, there was something different. This was my first introduction to a PC equipped with a solid state drive (SSD) and the battery life was amazing to say the least. Not to mention that I could take advantage of Mac OS X Mountain Lion. Alas, the powers at Apple determined that my Mac Pro needed to be marrooned at Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. Still a touchy subject with me. The Air provides the promise of future compatibility with later versions of the Mac OS.

However, my vision limitations still requires the use of an external monitor for  longer sessions. I can use the small laptop screen in tandem with Mac OS X accessibility features for a short time, but long sessions necessitate the external monitor.

Well, I am attempting to cultivate the MacBook Air into my new desktop machine. My intended setup includes:

  • the MacBook Air (kinda seems an important part)
  • mini DisplayPort to HDMI cable (happened to have one handy)
  • Gateway 24″ LCD monitor. Getting “long in the tooth”. I want to replace it with a new LED monitor at some point.
  • Apple Magic Mouse (again; had one gathering dust in my desk drawer). I use the Magic TrackPad for the MacPro. If all goes well, I will switch them around.
  • Logitech K750 Solar keyboard. Right now, I am “sharing” the keyboard between the Mac Pro and Air by switching the wireless uSB receiver. I am considering purchasing the Logitech Easy-Switch Bluetooth keyboard for a multi-link capability, but I like the full sized keyboard with the numeric keypad. Yes, I had tried Bluetooth keypads, but never had much luck with them.

My new desktop is up and functioning, but I am lacking USB expansion. It’s also a little inconvenient to plug everything up to use and unplug everything to go mobile.

Now enters the next piece of the puzzle; the LandingZone 2.0 Pro Dock for the MacBook Air. It’s supposed to arrive on Tuesday. Looks promising. The LandingZone dock provides a dedicated mini DisplayPort connection, Gigabit Ethernet and a powered USB 3.0 hub. Just line the MBA up and snap it in place. There were other docking solutions that I considered, but most required you to stand the Air on it’s side pointing vertically toward the ceiling. Not much help if I wanted to open up the lid to activate the onboard display, keyboard or touchpad.

 

 

 

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Disappointments with Apple 2012

Just a quick post to air my Apple disappointments for 2012.

  1. Another OS Abandonment
    Once again, Apple abandoned a number of older hardware with the release of OS 10.8 Mountain Lion. Chief among the cast-offs was the original Mac Pro 1,1 (2006). I had updated mine in January 2012 to 18 GB RAM and an ATI Radeon 5770 HD only to learn later that the final OS release would not support the hardware.

    Prior to this letdown, I survived the PowerPC layoff caused by OS 10.6 Snow Leopard.

    I will continue to slog on with OS 10.7 Lion; event though the Messages beta was pulled. My Mac Pro had too many productive years still remaining. My hope would be that either Apple would relent with OS 10.9 or that a workaround would be available that didn’t take 30 steps to accomplish.

  2. iOS Accessibility – Keyboard Themes
    I don’t want to jailbreak my devices, but Color Keyboard may force the issue. All I want is the ability to change the color theme for the on-screen keyboard in order to aid my impaired vision. On my iPad, I want black keys with white letters. I know. I can get this effect by using the High Contrast settings in Accessibility, but that also affects the entire screen which I do not want.

    The jailbreak app Color Keyboard shows that this feature is entirely possible. Why, oh why Apple can you not provide such a simple request?

  3. iPad mini – No Retina Display
    Don’t get me wrong. I certainly enjoy my iPad mini, but a Retina Display would have been nice
    .
  4. iPad 4
    I understand that technology marches on, but I had hoped that my iPad 3 would have been “cutting edge” for a few more months; at least until 2013.

Not a long list, but important to me nontheless.

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iPad mini; The 7″ Tablet for the Holiday Season.

Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

Having used the first 3 versions of the iPad, I have a good “feel” for the 10″ (9.7″ to be precise) Apple tablet. The 3rd Gen, with Retina Display, provides a great option for viewing text, reading books, magazines, productivity tasks,  and watching videos.

On a lark, I recently purchased an Pad mini (the Mini). I was impressed by the quality of it’s fit and finish; the thinness and reduced weight. I didn’t “need” the mini, but I “wanted” the Mini. For that, I named this new addition to my iPad family “toomuch”.

 

Apple Introduces iPad Mini... and some new com...
Now that I have used the smaller edition of the iPad for two weeks, it makes the ideal media companion. All of the iPad apps work as expected. The lack of a Retina Display does not affect the overall usability of the product. And the small size makes the Mini seem like a more personal device. My iPad is still the “workhorse” device, substituting for a laptop on the road and assisting me at work, but the Mini is the device I reach for at home when checking email, social networks, viewing video, etc.  In fact, I was surprised in how many areas the Mini supplanted my use of the iPad.

My interest  was fueled by the smaller size. I had toyed with the idea of getting a 7″ tablet for some time. I came close to purchasing the 1st generation Amazon Kindle Fire. Later I considered the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD. I chose the Mini for a number of reasons

  • Thinner and lighter
  • Better Accessibility features than the competition
  • Larger screen (7.9″) than the competition.
  • Great performance and battery life
  • Already have an established iOS/iPad eco system

In other words, what you expect from an iPad in a smaller, more personal incarnation.

For those of you in the holiday tablet shopping scene, consider the iPad Mini. While it’s price tag is higher than the competition, it certainly does not disappoint on the overall experience; a perfect entry level item in the iPad family.

 

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