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.
Sequence created with iPhone app Action Shot.
Some smart apps are pushing the limits of your iPhone
camera these days. Take a look at Action Shot. This free app creates an effect that would take me hours to bang out on my Mac.
Here’s how it works: You shoot a brief video of some action. The app presents you with a handful of frames. You drag to shade over your action-inducing subject in each frame and the app combines them into a still. A still with your subject displayed multiple times as it progresses across the frame.
Great sample here from Apple’N'Apps.
Even better, you don’t need a tripod. It would help, but the app can do its job if your hand is somewhat steady. For best results hold the phone as steady as possible and let the subject move across the frame – rather than tracking the subject.
A track deleted from iCloud but still present in the local library.
Murphy’s obsessions come and go. Recently it was the wrong album art showing up on my iPhone. Fixing my Pretenders album art only to see it revert to the wrong image a few minutes later got frustrating quickly. Until I realized the cloud-based Match versions of my album art were coming down and overwriting my locally stored tracks.
If you don’t know how iTunes Match behaves you could run into some problems. Here’s what worked for me:
- Sign into a Mac or PC with a local user account that does not have your music collection stored locally in iTunes. You could create an additional user on your Mac (or PC) or do what I did: sign into a dummy Windows account running on a virtual machine.
- Open iTunes. Ideally there won’t be any local music stored there.
- Sign into iTunes using the AppleID used for iTunes Match.
- You should see all your music that resides in the cloud. Delete the song that needs the artwork updated. This will delete the version stored on Apple’s servers.
- Once you’re done with the previous step you can sign off the dummy Mac or PC user account.
- Sign into your Mac or PC account where the local copy of your music resides.
- Fix the album artwork by selecting the track or tracks you want to update, then right-click the track(s) and select Get Info.
- You can delete the existing artwork on the Artwork tab and add a different image. Close the info panel.
- Right click the corrected track and select Add to iCloud. Done.
Once the artwork has been fixed you can send the track back to iTunes Match.
Why do we need to use the dummy PC or Mac account? Because the process for deleting a cloud-based copy of a song presents a complication when there’s a local version of the track. ITunes forces you to delete the local copy of a song before it allows you to delete the cloud-based version. You might not want to delete the local version – doing so would wipe out meta information like the play count. By deleting only the cloud version our local track and its meta data are preserved.
The obsession with album art has passed for now. When I see some pixelated album covers on my phone again it’ll be back, but for now it’s forgotten.
The tagline on CNBC’s Options Action show on Friday was something like Get Paid to Buy Apple Stock. Sound too good to be true? Take a look:
The show outlined a plan where you could buy an aapl call option that expires in December for about $2500 and simultaneously sell two call option contracts for about $2600. Specifically, the contracts looked like this at the close on Friday:
Buy this for $2520 ($25.20×100):
Strike Symbol Last Chg Bid Ask
380.00 AAPL111217C00380000 25.20 3.60 25.40 25.80
Sell two of these for $2690($26.90×100):
Strike Symbol Last Chg Bid Ask
410.00 AAPL111217C00410000 13.45 1.35 13.15 13.65
You immediately pocket the $100 and hope Apple climbs – but not too far. Why ?
Because the two contracts you sell in their transaction are for a strike price of $410. The one you buy is for a strike price of $380. So the contract you bought will gain value as it rises above $380, but your gains will be capped when the underlying stock price reaches $410. And there’s more:
You sold TWO contracts. For each of those sales you’re obligated to sell 100 shares for $410 each if the contract is executed. That’s 200 shares. The good news is that 100 of those shares are provided by the call option you bought. Hopefully you were holding 100 shares of aapl outright when you entered into this transaction so you can deliver the other 100 shares. They do mention on the show that this example is for current stock-holders looking to tweak their position. If you find a way to exit the position by buying back your call you can keep your shares. But keep in mind the price of the contracts you sold will rise with the underlying shares.
Like they say on the show, you make your profit above the strike price of the option you bought, but your profits are capped because of the contract you sold. Essentially, you want aapl to rise to $410 but no further. As aapl goes past $410 the 100 shares you held outright aren’t going for the ride – because the option you sold called them away.
You can watch the show here, they start talking about this some time past the 8 minute mark. So – what about their claim? Are you getting paid to buy Apple? Maybe you could look at it that way, but the caveats are quite substantial.
Regardless, I have little interest in this play at this time of year. Apple has the potential to make a decent run between now and the end of the calendar year. Look at what’s coming up: new iPhone launch, iOS5, iCloud, Earnings in October, Christmas shoppers waiting in line, China… The last thing I want right now is a cap on my holdings. It’s not Apple that might hurt the share price between now and January. It’s everything else in the economy that I’m worried about.
Past performance is no indication of future results, but take a look at the last two years and how aapl has done between September and January. Then add a reality check by looking at 2008.
I had a solution, but now it’s broken. Before we get into that let’s review what we’re talking about.
If you email portrait (vertically) – oriented photos from your iPhone your recipient is likely to view them sideways, especially if they open them using a browser-based mail service like Gmail.
The solution I was actually using: Email the files to myself first. My Mac would receive the photos and run an AppleScript triggered by the email subject. The script rotated the files, stripped out the exif tag that caused the problem, and mailed them back to me. I could then use that copy for sending to other people. It was relatively painless as I could email the photo right from the Camera app which kept the number of steps reasonable.
But a couple things aren’t working with Lion. The part of my AppleScript that pulls the attachments out and saves them to a folder in the Finder isn’t working. Others have the same problem. Further, the Automator action that sent the email back out isn’t working either. I’m not alone on that one either.
So, I looked at alternate solutions. Like uploading to Dropbox. Dropbox uploads a full res version of your photo. So I created a folder action script that handles the rotating and exif tweaking as soon as my Mac sees the file. That works fine. The problem is that the Dropbox app on my iPhone doesn’t download the full res version, it pulls down a version I consider too small.
I didn’t give up right away. The iOS Safari Dropbox DOES open a nice big version of the photo. From there I can save the photo to my camera roll and email it out. Recipients get a correctly oriented version of the photo, big enough to see.
So now the problem is the number of steps and apps involved. I could use something like Instagram but sometimes I just want to send a photo in an email, straight-up.
I don’t understand why Apple has made this an issue. iOS used to rotate a different way. Their own browser on the Mac isn’t going to display the photo correctly because of the way they’re handling the rotation, with a tag. Why browsers can’t read the tag – I don’t know.
Anyway, I’ve got a solution for when I need it, but I don’t see myself using it much. Too many steps.
11/2011 Update: I have this working again. My Automator workflow fails at the step where it sends the email. So I’ve updated the AppleScript with a command to send it. I’ll post the updated script shortly.