The inside of my MBP, before replacing the drive.
A few weeks ago I realized I was going to need a dedicated laptop for a client I’m working with. I thought about taking Mrs. Murphy’s first-gen Air off her hands – but it seemed pretty pokey and I quickly lost interest. I looked at buying a new Air and realized that by the time I configured some customizations it would be more than I wanted to shell out for a machine that would get limited use.
Then I remembered a Macbook Pro sitting on a shelf in my office. It used to be our DVR until I got a top-of-the-line iMac last year. The MBP hasn’t done much since – partly because the battery bulged about a year ago and a laptop without a battery is somewhat limited.
The MBP is a 3,1 for those of you who know that sort of thing. For the rest of us: it’s a model that was introduced at the end of 2007. Five years ago. A little less for this particular serial number, which according to Powerbook Medic was stamped out in early 2008. It shipped with 2GB of RAM and a 5400RPM hdd, 160GB of storage. It’s a 2.4ghz Core 2 Duo. Back in 2008 it was a mighty fine Mac.
The problem: After years of use I had little faith in its reliability going forward. The drive had worked hard recording HD television shows and football games and converting them to m4v files using a Turbo.264 USB hardware encoder. The drive sounded a little tired. Whether it actually was or not didn’t matter, I didn’t trust it. So I started reading up on SSD drives. I didn’t, and still don’t, know much about them. Mrs. Murphy’s Air is the only machine we’ve ever had with an SSD. In hindsight I should have gotten one for my iMac, without a doubt. The hdd is clearly the bottleneck on that machine.
Anyway, I did some reading about SSD drives in an effort to find one compatible with my MBP’s SATA support. After a lot of reading at Newegg and Amazon I settled on a Crucial M4. I got it from Amazon for $99. Like I said, I don’t know much about SSDs so I wasn’t 100% sure it was compatible.
The tricky part was installing the SSD. I’d only opened up a MBP once before. Apple opened one for me once to repair a fan, and they never got the case back on properly. It was bent in the front and the trackpad button was never quite right, it had a dull or non-existent response every time you clicked it. More on that later.
If you’re patient and you have the right tools the MBP isn’t horrible to take apart. The screws are tiny and uncommon and there are a lot of them. But if you have a container to sort them in it’ll make things much easier. I labeled each group of screws and placed them in a divided sorting box. Ice cube trays would work well too.
The hardest part: separating the top case housing the keyboard and trackpad from the lower case along the front edge. There are hidden clips that you need to release without bending. If you get past that you’re golden, all the other sides use screws and are already separated when you go after the front edge.
Inside the laptop the hdd is wedged in pretty tight. Mine was a tiny bit different than the description at ifixit, where I found the instructions. Still, it was a fairly straight-forward procedure to remove the old drive and install the new. Work slow, be careful, be patient. And make sure you have the right tools. There’s a ribbon cable glued to the drive that needs to be gently pried away.
I also got 4GB of RAM ($54), doubling what I had and maxing out the machine’s capacity. Finally, I got an Anker replacement battery for $69. It seems to hold a couple hours of charge. I’m just happy to have the machine stay powered when the MagSafe gets disconnected.
I didn’t open the RAM or the battery packaging right away. If the SSD surgery had gone south I probably would have sent them back. So the next step was installing OS X.
I opted for Snow Leopard and simply installed from the DVD. For a while I wasn’t sure it was going to install, some people reported having trouble getting OS X running after installing an SSD. The install froze for a long long time, saying it had 28 minutes left. I believe it said that for over twenty minutes before finally moving on and finishing the install.
I powered up the machine, ran through the first-time setup, and everything was fine. In fact, it boots from powered off to a user desktop in about 24 seconds. I installed my new RAM and battery, no issues.
Here are the instructions I followed, at iFixit. As someone noted in the comments there’s a step where you’re told to disconnect the drive’s ribbon cable from the logic board, and it seems unnecessary. I skipped that step, and see no reason to do it unless you have trouble freeing the drive.
Anyway, the upgraded machine is fantastic. So incredibly responsive. I’m not pushing it really hard. I’ll be using it for administrative tasks, not Photoshop or Final Cut. I had to install Windows on it too. I went with XP, and it’s running fine using Boot Camp. I thought about using Fusion, but thought I’d suffer with only 4GB of RAM and no way to install more.
Windows doesn’t boot in 24 seconds, it’s more like 37 to the login screen.
Now I’ve got a 15″ laptop that’s over four years old, based on a model that’s five years old. I can install Mountain Lion on it. And it’s as snappy as can be. Applications open in an instant. The boot time is great. It’s silent. The battery, the SSD, the RAM – all for less than $225.
**Back to that MBP that Apple never got reassembled right: this machine was a free replacement for that one. The original’s fan went bad with only days left on the warranty. Then there were a few trips back to the store: the dull trackpad, the keyboard wouldn’t light, the case wasn’t reassembled correctly. At this point it was no longer under warranty. But Apple had started working on it while it was under warranty. They honored that detail and handed me a brand new machine with a new warranty. My original was a Core Duo. The one they replaced it with was a Core 2 Duo, along with other upgrades.
“I don’t think necessity is the mother of invention. Invention, in my opinion, arises directly from idleness, possibly laziness, to save myself trouble.”
In Murphy’s continuing efforts to avoid leaving the sofa he’s using an iPhone to kick off Spotify on the Mac upstairs and have it stream over Airfoil to an Apple TV connected to a stereo downstairs. It works, it’s pretty simple, and once it’s started there are other options for controlling it.
The key is that Spotify recently added some basic AppleScript support to their Mac app. Not as much as we’d like to see, but enough to get us started. Spotify says they’re just experimenting with AppleScript at this point. (There were workarounds before Spotify added support) We’ll be watching for further enhancements.
This short and simple AppleScript (view entire script) is all you need to get started. It launches Airfoil (an application for redirecting audio from your Mac to remote speakers via Airport Express or Apple TV) and selects Spotify as the audio source application. Then it selects a playlist in Spotify and initiates playback. That’s it. Let’s take a look at the script.
The lines in the first block set Spotify as the application Airfoil will pull audio from. As long as you’ve got Spotify in your Applications folder you can copy those lines exactly. The line in the next block references your speaker id, which you probably don’t know. You can get the id by running a very simple script that looks like this. That line will query your remote speaker for its id and display it in the results pane of the Applescript Editor. Be sure to use the name of your Apple TV or Airport Express in the quotes. Once you’ve got the id you shouldn’t need to run that script again.
The script pauses to make sure your Mac doesn’t get ahead of the launching applications. Spotify hasn’t provided playlist selection hooks for Applescript yet, but they do provide something almost as good. In the Spotify application you can right-click a playlist or track and get an identifier, just like you see in the screenshot at the top of the post. You want to select Copy Spotify URI. Notice the open location line in the script, it’s not inside the Spotify tell – end tell section because it’s not in the Spotify Applescript dictionary. Regardless, it works to select a playlist and that’s all we really need. The last part of the script tells Spotify to start playing.
So – now we just need the script to run. Murphy is using a Mail rule. He sends himself an email with a subject Mail is watching for. Mail runs the script whenever a message with that subject comes in. Once Spotify is up and running the Speakers app that comes with Airfoil can be used to pause or skip to the next track.
I’d rather have an application on my iPhone, maybe something like TextExpander, that could list Applescript TextExpander snippets on my Mac and kick them off that way. But I don’t know of an app like that. The email kick-off works fine, and it’s quick and easy to use, but at times I might have to use another app to wake the Mac up.
In the past I’ve used Mail to run Applescripts on my Mac. It started with putting my Mac to sleep by email but I’ve also used the strategy for kicking off iTunes (before the Remote app) and for file retrieval.
If you’re looking for more information on Applescript and Airfoil they’ve got some examples on their site.
Interesting: Initially I made a script that opened a Spotify playlist and didn’t include the line to commence playback. It stopped working after a day, I don’t know why. It would play the one track and then stop. The day before it jumped to whatever playlist had been set as the current playlist in the Spotify application and continued playback. Not sure what happened there.
Just when you thought you knew every keyboard shortcut someone finds another. OS X Daily posted about using Option+Delete to delete by the word instead of by the character. While looking over that post I followed a link to another suggesting ways to complete the word you’re typing, in OS X. In many applications you can hit the escape key after entering a few letters to see the suggestions. While typing this blog post in WordPress via Safari I had to use Option-Esc to see the list.
If I ever knew that I’d forgotten.
Note: This was posted before Airplay. But it still applies to the old Apple TV.
I was thinking it would be nice to watch a video I’d just recorded with my iPhone on the Apple TV. But it’s kind of a pain to do that. I’d have to run the iPhone upstairs, plug it in, wait for it to sync, add the video to a playlist…
Alternative: I could upload the video to YouTube, but you have to fill out the fields to upload and it seems sometimes my Apple TV loses track of my YouTube account. Or at least loses access.
So I’ve got a Rube Goldberg alternative that makes it really simple from a user perspective – once you’ve done the upfront legwork. Just email the video to yourself, if it’s short enough. Let your Mac automatically grab the video from your email and drop it into iTunes. My Apple TV seems to immediately sync on its own when new content is added to a Playlist that’s set to sync.
I’m using a pretty straightforward AppleScript and a rule configured in my Mac’s Mail program. Here’s what happens:
- I email the video to myself with the subject atv.
- The email arrives.
- A Mail-based rule sees the subject and kicks off an AppleScript that copies the video file to the Automatically Add to iTunes folder in my iTunes Music folder.
- The video gets added to my iTunes Library.
- The video is added to a Smart Playlist.
- The Apple TV is set to sync with the Smart Playlist.
- The video is synced to my Apple TV.
That looks like a lot of stuff but the Mac will do all the work. There are only a couple things you need to set up:
- Create a Smart Playlist and tell Apple TV to sync with it
- Create a rule in mail and have it run the AppleScript when a matching email comes in.
Then all you do is email yourself the video. If you open Finder and look around in your iTunes Music folder you’ll see a folder called Automatically Add to iTunes. Anything that gets dropped in there gets added to your library, so that’s where the script copies the file.
I threw this script together quickly, there’s nothing fancy, no error checking – so feel free to post any enhancements. My intention is to provide an example of what can be done easily with AppleScript and Mail rules. It might help someone accomplish other tasks similar to this one.
Here’s a link to the script and screenshots of a Mail rule and sample Smart Playlist settings. The script was saved as a text file. You need to change the path in the third line of script to reflect your user name. You also need to save it as an AppleScript using AppleScript Editor.
In the Mail rule you need to change the path to where you saved your AppleScript.
Mail Rule Screenshot:
Smart Playlist Screenshot:
You might come up with something more sophisticated for the Smart Playlist…
Finally – here’s a look at the AppleScript, which you can download.
Other tricks with Mail: Pick a Playlist by Email – Retrieve a File by Email – Mail a File Dropped in a Finder Folder
Don’t let the name fool you, CDFinder isn’t just for CDs. It can catalog your thumb drives, external drives, internal drives – and DVDs too. This allows you to view the content of your media without powering up the drive or bringing it online.
Drives have started piling up around here. There’s a Drobo that helps a little, but I can think of four loose 3.5″ drives that have stuff on them. And a couple of portable USB drives. And piles of CDs and DVDs.
There’s also an offline G5 that I want to retire. I forget what’s on there from time to time so I use CDFinder ($39.99US) on my Macbook to take a look. CDFinder catalogs the contents of all kinds of files allowing you to view them when their host drive or disk is offline. Images, video, text, Adobe pro stuff – it can even index EyeTV files.
CDFinder is a big help with images. The application can generate thumbnails to help you sift through your content. Geotagging features let you add location data to your images and view them on various mapping services. Commercial CDFinder customers use it for managing large libraries of various types.
CDFinder developer Norbert Doerner stays busy adding new file types and features to the application. It can generate thumbnail images for many file types, including video formats.
You can assign labels to files and other custom fields. If the drive is online you can select a file and press the spacebar for a Finder-like preview.
I don’t have Spotlight indexing my Drobo, but I’ve got a CDFinder index so I can quickly search for files.
I have little faith in the longevity of optical media, so I don’t have tons of CDs and DVDs to index. But I’ve got a few too many drives lying around. CDFinder can be a great help in getting your data organized – and spotting what needs to be backed up.
I may not be the primary target audience of this product, but I can see where it could be useful and convenient for people with growing libraries of digital media or file archives at home. One thing I’d really like: The ability to tag files for removal and have them deleted when the drive is online again.
There are other products that perform similar functions. The CDFinder website has posted comparisons to other products – providing information on how they stack up. Clearly CDFinder is a mature product with sophisticated features, like the ability to import catalogs from other indexing products.
The trial version lets you index 25 media items, that’s plenty to let you know how the product works. Keep in mind that CDFinder isn’t shareware, Norbert requires payment if you’re going to use it, even if you’re under 25 indexed items. Different licenses are available, including “Joe Average User.”
I started a small screencast for this post and it crashed on me. But Norbert at CDFinder has you covered with this walk-through video.