Tag Archives: Apple

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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Amazon Is Waiting for the Shoe

The long anticipated refresh of the Amazon Kindle lineup has finally been announced.  Amazon is venturing further into the Tablet Universe with the increased offerings in the Kindle Fire selection.

The original Kindle Fire has undergone a small refresh and a price drop from the $199 price point to $159.

The Kingle Fire HD has been added to the mix with both a 7″ and 8.9″ form factor. In a fashion similar to iPad, there are multiple configurations available.

Kindle Fire Model Price Point Description
Kindle Fire (Original) $159 Price drop from $199
Kindle Fire HD 7″ $199 16 GB
$299 32 GB
Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ $299 16 GB
$359 32 GB
$499 32 GB with LTE
$599 64 GB with LTE

Amazon is aggressively pricing the AT&T LTE with a 12-month service offering for $50 which provides a 250 MB/month data plan. Apple, please make a note of this.

The original Kindle Fire was not marketed as a direct competitor for the iPad, but the new Kindle Fire HD is. In fact, the Amazon site provides a price comparison between the LTE-capable Kindles and the iPad 3.

But, there is still a shoe out there looming over the new Kindles in the form of the rumored iPad mini which is “scheduled” for an announcement  perhaps as early as October of this year.

The fear is that an aggressively priced iPad Mini may suck all the air out of the room. But, both the iPad and iPad Mini may need to consider the AT&T LTE plans offered with the Kindle Fire HD. Amazon appears to have a shoe of it’s own.

Only time will tell. The Kindle Fire HD is a real product. The iPad mini is still just a rumored glint in the eye of Apple.

 

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Mountain Lion on My Mac Pro First Edition…Sort Of

Mountain Lionized!

In a previous article, I bemoaned the fact that my Mac Pro 1,1 (First Edition) was left behind as part of the Mountain Lion launch. Even though I had upgraded the video to an ATI Radion 5770 HD and boosted the RAM to 18 GB, Apple decided that my workhorse machine was just to ugly to get an invitation to the Upgrade Party.

Not wanting my Mac Pro to feel left out, I decided to take action.

First, I did upgrade my 2008 Aluminum MacBook  to Mountain Lion.  Thankfully, that machine had secured a spot for an upgrade, just barely. Once that installed, I moved back to my Mac Pro.

Using Parallels Desktop for Mac, Version 7, I created a Mac OS X Lion virtual machine from the recovery partition on the Mac Pro. Once I had that up and running, I tweaked the Virtual Machine settings in preparation for Mountain Lion.

  • Boosted the virtual RAM to 4 GB
  • Increased the video RAM from 32 to 512 MB.
I restarted the Mac OS X Lion Virtual Machine and launched the App Store inside the VM. On the Featured page, there sat that Mountain Lion. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that it had an “I’m too good for you” look on it’s face.

Never the less, I pressed the “Download” button to the right of the Mountain Lion icon and patiently waited for the installation app to download. The network traffic was such that I had to attempt this multiple times. At first, I thought the Mountain Lion would get the better of me. Was it detecting that I was using a VM running on obviously inappropriate hardware? Was that why the download  was failing?

On the third attempt, the Mountain Lion installation app beamed at me from the VM Launch Pad. I clicked the icon and the OS installation process started up. After about 35 minutes, and a couple of restarts, I had a full fledged Mountain Lion OS running as a VM on my Mac Pro 1,1.

It’s still not what I really want, i.e., Mountain Lion accepting my Mac Pro and running natively on it’s hardware, but , at least I can let the Lion roam within the confines of it’s virtual world. Hopefully, a reprieve will surface that will give me what I want, but, in the meantime …

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The Mountain Lion Lamentation

I first entered the Apple OS environment in 2005 with the Mac Mini running Mac OS X Tiger (10.4). Through the intervening years, I have upgraded through the progression of new OS X offerings; Leopard (10.5), Snow Leopard (10.6) and Lion (10.7).

As with most journeys, I’ve had to say good-bye to some as I said hello to others. My original Mac Mini and iBook fell by the OS highway at Leopard. These PowerPc machines were not supported by Snow Leopard.

But, my faithful workhorse Mac Pro 1,1, 2007 MacBook and 2008 MacBook continued to move forward through Snow Leopard and Lion.

Now I learn that another fork in the road will soon arrive. With the release of Mountain Lion (10.8), the 2008 MacBook alone will be able to continue the journey. But will it? My Mac Pro 1,1 is the “main machine”. If it must stay at Lion, then perhaps the MacBook will stay as well.

All you Mountain Lion users, have fun. Don’t mind me. I’ll just stay back here in the shadows. Sniff….

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iBook Reborn

There’s been a lot of rumor and speculation surrounding the release of a smaller device to fill a niche between the iPod Touch and the iPad. The device is usually referred to as the “iPad Mini”.

5-9-12, iPad Mini Legal Pad

However,  there is another naming possibility; a name that held a prominent place at Apple; a name that was rumored for the original iPad before the iPad was. That name is “iBook”.

Yes, I know that Apple recycled the “iBook” moniker when it opened the iBook Store, but that was a “software only” use of the name.

The first Apple laptop I owned was the iBook. I still have that machine, running OS X Leopard. Occasionally, I bring it out, dust it off and start it up. Still works fine.

A 1st generation Apple iPad showing i...

The obvious market for the new device is direct competition with the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook and the Asus Nexus 7, i.e., it will compete in a market area generally understood as eReaders. What better name than iBook for the Apple eReader.

Of course, Apple marketing is most likely considering the “halo effect” available if “iPad” is linked with the new offering.

 

 

 

 

 

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