Wednesday, December 10, 2008

To NetBook or not to NetBook

For weeks now I've been contemplating the possibilities of acquiring a NetBook some time early next year...you know, after Christmas is over, I'm working a bit more, and I've had time to scrape together a tiny bit of discretionary cash. (See I'm broke as can be, but if I don't save up and let myself buy a toy every once in awhile, then eventually I just break and buy a toy I can't afford). 

After I got one I'd hackintosh it of course. Imagine the possibilities! I'd have my lovely, wonderful, delightful, and oh-so-glossy MacBook Pro for most my computing tasks, and a little netbook to take to school on days when I just might want to take a few notes in class...or have access to some digital documents without having to, uhh, lug around the actual documents. 

Well tonight I found myself at Best Buy briefly, where I did something I've been scared to do for a long time, I wandered through the PC section -- which I generally try to avoid totally. 

Eventually I saw them. Two demunitive little laptops. One EEEPC, and the other....uhh...it doesn't really matter, they're all the same anyway. 

Anyway, the screen was not awful. Tiny, yes. Sharp? Not as sharp as my ProBook, but tolerable. Low resolution obviously, but not unacceptably low. The problem was the feel.

The keyboard was AWFUL! AWFUL AWFUL AWFUL! I mean I have small hands. Very small hands. Therefore I thought if anybody could live with a small keyboard it would be me. No way. I almost felt like to type on the thing I'd need to pick it up and use my thumbs. I think I can type faster on my iPhone keyboard. The key-travel was non-existant as well. Seriously, I think the keys moved about 1/10th a CM. 

I know they're trying to keep these netbooks compact and all, but could nobody license some technology from the stowaway people or something, to make the keyboards at least livable?



I'm willing to give the netbook thing 1 more try -- after all I wrote the iPhone off (sort of) after the first time I played with it too, but considering the main things I want a NetBook for could be accomplished with something like the iRex Reader (Too bad it's $700!!) and considering Amazon is rumored to be coming out with a larger-screen version of the kindle some time next year, I guess I'll just keep filing the pennies away for the proverbial eventual toy purchase. Who knows, maybe my wildest dreams will come true and Apple will get into this market. Remember how long we all clamored for an Apple-made phone with a touch-screen?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

pwnage tool, 2.2 firmware, error 14

I was trying up update my iPhone to the 2.2 version firmware this morning and I kept getting error 14 which was leaving my iPhone in an almost bricked state.

Somebody on the internet said that theirs was because of a corrupt update, so they re-downloaded the update. I tried that, rebuilt the custom ipsw, but still nothing.

Finally I got smart and just did a simple reboot, plugged the iPhone straight into my computer instead of through a hub -- which I probably should have done in the first place -- and it seems to be working now.

So if you're getting error 14, just try a reboot and if the iPhone is on a hub, take it off!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cleaning your MacPortable

Recently I wrote about SmartSleep. A brilliant little piece of software that will let your MacPortable sleep faster than fast (most the time) without sacrificing the benefits of SafeSleep.

Well I just came up with another use for it.

See every week or so I have my cleaning the computer ritual. I wish I washed my car thoroughly every week, but that takes a lot of effort. Washing my computer takes just a few moments, and keeps it looking nice and clean. Seriously, have you seen how grody some people let their laptops get? 

Love it or hate it, the black glass screen and black keyboard on my new ProBook show fingerprints even more than the old matte screen/silver keyboard, so the need to clean is even more serious before. Also, gunk between the keys really shows up on the new machine too, since it's basically an open tray there.

Anyway, this presented a challenge for cleaning, especially cleaning of the keyboard. Proper keyboard cleaning means pushing all the buttons on your keyboard. Ideally I'd do that with my computer powered off, but rebooting is a pain -- who reboots these days anyway? I could put the computer to sleep, but as soon as you start smashing buttons it wakes up, and then you're swinging around your laptop with it's hard-drive buzzing away as you hit all the keys. Due to lack of a better solution, this is how I'd always done it in the past.

Enter SafeSleep. Now just to be fair, in Windows you can just tell the machine to Hibernate whenever you please, so +1 for windows there. But in my experience my Mac sleeps and hibernates more reliably than a PC, especially coming out of "SafeSleep" or hibernate on a Mac is light-years ahead of coming out of hibernate on a PC, so +1 Mac. Anyway while pondering this quandary today, I realized that SafeSleep makes it very easy to hibernate the Mac.

So I opened the SafeSleep control panel and swapped my selected sleep mode to "Hibernate Only." If you've used SafeSleep this will make sense. If you have not used SafeSleep go download it now! Then I put my laptop to "sleep" and waited for the power light to go out. At this point the machine was totally powered off and the only thing that would turn it back on was the actual power key. I was able to mash away at the keyboard to my hearts content, and when I was done I hit the Power button and was up and running again within about 30 seconds, at which time I set my computer back to SmartSleep mode.

There you have it. Now go get SmartSleep and give your mac a little cleaning!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Consumer Advisory -- eBay MacBook Chargers

I recently purchased a new charger for my new MacBook Pro on eBay. Unfortunately Apple isn't licensing their MagSafe connector to /anyone/ so the things are a little pricey, but I like to have an extra adaptor for 2 reasons...

1 - It's infinitely annoying and inconvenient when you go somewhere and realize that you've left your charger on your desk. Having a charger for home and a charger for travel makes this almost never happen.

2 - It's more convenient to be able to grab and go with your laptop than having to remember to grab the power cord too.

3 - I use my laptop for /everything/. If I lost my power brick, or if it failed, I would be HOSED! Probably the 2 parts of a laptop that are most likely to fail under regular use are the hard drive and the power brick. Having a second power brick is not only convenient, but it provides backup should this ever happen. 


Now wanting to save a few pennies I found a power brick on eBay. It arrived today and I'm saddened to say that although it *looked* like the official Apple power brick in the photo, it's actually a knockoff. It's got cheap construction, and worst of all, it's not grounded. 

True the power brick doesn't HAVE to be grounded, but I would prefer it to be. Also, while I'm not totally opposed to using a third party power brick with my laptop, I'm not exactly comfortable with a cheap knockoff no-name power supply of questionable quality feeding power to my rather-expensive laptop.

It's going back, and if they won't take it back I'm re-selling it on eBay.

So if you're in the market for a power brick on eBay for a MacBook or MacBook Pro, be sure to read carefully! This one was listed as "100% OEM Compatible" and I now realize that does *NOT* mean OEM :-D

Monday, November 3, 2008

Make your Mac sleep better with SmartSleep...

Note: If you just want to cut to the chase skip down to the bottom paragraph...

...if any of you spent time around me with my trusty old PowerBook G4 for any amount of time, you would know that about 1 out of every 20 times I tried to bring it out of sleep it would lock up and I'd have to hard reboot. I never figured out what caused it. I did some voodoo things to prevent it, like make sure that I didn't plug or unplug the power adaptor while it was sleeping, same with USB devices, and using this voodoo I could generally get it to the point that it only locked up once a week or so. The machine had this problem even while Nicole had it while I was on my mission, and she had none of the third party hackery installed that I did, so I'm reasonably sure it wasn't simply a software glitch.

One of the things I was most excited about with my new machine was the prospect of reliable sleep. This morning, anticipating flawless wakery, I recklessly removed my new ProBook (Er...MacBook Pro) from my desk by removing it's audio, USB, and power cord tethers on my desk. I bought it out and laid it on the couch and had my breakfast.

You can imagine my horror then when I opened the lid and...nothing, nada, it had frozen up. 

Well that shot my chances of doing homework this morning as I instantly started researching the issue instead. I don't know for sure what caused it, but I did find some people on the internet complaining about the SafeSleep 'feature' in new Macs, and finding that their sleep was more reliable when they disabled SafeSleep.

Since most people are pretty familiar with Windows I'm going to use Windows terminology to explain what SafeSleep is. On windows when you "sleep" the computer, the RAM remains powered on. When you "hibernate" the computer the contents of RAM are written to disk and the machine powers 100% off. SafeSleep is a combination of both. The contents of RAM are written to disk, but then the RAM remains powered on. 99% of the time you wake up normally, but the 1% of the time your battery totally dies, or you swap batteries, or something like that, you can still power up faster than a total startup, since the machine just falls from "sleep" into "hibernate" and simply restores your hibernate state when you wake up.

Herein lies the problem, the SafeSleep requires the contents of RAM to be written to disk every time you put the machine in sleep. I have 4 gig of RAM in this machine and I am currently using just over 2 of that. That means when I shut the machine's lid the hard drive doesn't stop spinning for almost a minute while the contents of the RAM are written out to disk. If I make a small change while in sleep, like plugging or unplugging USB, the machine has to wake up and go back to sleep, prompting the contents of RAM to get written out to disk yet again.

I can disable safesleep, but what about that 1% of the time when I really wish I had it?

If you're still reading...what a trooper...

Enter SafeSleep

SmartSleep is a brilliant preference pane written by one of our trusty Mac developer friends. The way it works is to run a little script about every 10 minutes. The script fetches your battery life. If your battery is mostly full, the script disables SafeSleep for you. So your machine sleeps and wakes...instantly. If your battery is mostly dead, however, it helps you out by enabling the SafeSleep again. This doesn't take care of you if you want to hot swap a battery, but I only own 1 battery anyway. 

It's brilliant, an if you've got a Mac Portable (That's *several* of you) I recommend you go get SmartSleep now!