Apple: Turning Negative to Positive

Three weeks ago my MacBook Pro started behaving weird. All of a sudden its LCD screen would turned off. After that, simple rebooting would never work from the first attempt, and sometimes it wouldn’t work at all unless it sat still for several hours. This reminded me of my first used car – I never knew if the engine would start or not.

This computer was not that old though. : Spring 2011 edition (15″, 500Gb HD, 2.4 GHz 4 core CPU). I’m sure Apple would like me to buy a new one, but I’m not the guy who simply shell off $2500 for a new notebook every two years. I’m cheap. In a good way.

After leaving my MacBook in the Genius Bar at thee Apple store overnight for some serious diagnostic tests, I got a message that the logicboard in my computer had to be replaced. I never buy this expensive $350 AppleCare 3-year protection plan (I’m cheap, remember?). I take my chances.

The term logicboard means motherboard. A friendly guy form the Genius Bar told me that if I’d be replacing it in Apple store, it would cost me $500. But if they’ll send to to Apple’s repair depot, they’ll replace it as a flat fee job for $310 and in 3-5 business days I’d get it back. Done deal, just do it.

Seven days later I got a call from Apple depot – the part is in back order and they need several more days. OK, I can live for several more days working on my 5-year old old MacBook Pro (btw, working on 4GB or RAM sucks).

After ten days passed, I called the Apple store – they didn’t have any dates for me. Called to Apple support – they told me that some part is in back order and they would try to expedite (I had to use a couple of strong arguments during this call).

Next day, I got a call from Apple depot – they’ve replaced the logic board, but the problem was not fixed. I was given a choice – either let them continue trying to find the problem or get from them a refurbished computer with the same technical parameters. I picked the latter. The guy started to browse his database trying to find the same model of the same year. He found one, but their HD was 5400 RPM, while mine was 7200. I rejected. Then he offered me a newer 2012 model with 500Gb SSD instead of HD. I’ve agreed as long as all this goodness would fit into the same $310 repair deal. Yes, it would. I paid, and two days later the refurbished computer arrived.

It looked like new. It was thinner than my old one though. To make the store short, it was a model with the retina display! What a nice surprise! When last year Apple announced these retina displays macbooks I said, “No”. But I never said, “No” to replacing an old MacBook with a new one with the retina display for free, did I?

Can life be all that rosy? There should be something wrong here, right? Wrong is the wrong word here. Let’s use the word “surprising”. I wanted to recover all my data from the external drive (in Apple’s world it’s called time machine). WAT? There is no firewire jack in this computer. Having two thunderbolt jacks is nice but… OK, went to the store and bought a firewire-thunderbolt adapter.

Then I took my network wire (it would give me a connection that was twice as fast than my wifi). WAT? There is no jack in this notebook for a network wire. Can you believe this? My first thought was to find an adapter for this cable too, but then I tested the speed of my new MacBook Pro – it was the same as my hard wire would give me in the past. On the photo, the new computer is on the right, and the old one (2008 edition) i on the left. They both go through the same WiFi router.

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BTW, where is the slot for my DVD drive? None. Nada. OK, can live without it. Next. In the old MacBook I was getting an electric power from my 24″ Apple Cinema monitor. No good. They changed the power connector too to fit in the slimmer body. I can understand this.

The final surprise (at least I hope so) is that they’ve removed that line-in input. WHY? It was really small! Now there is only one headphone jack, which is a problem for me. I’m recording audio podcasts and screencasts using a professional microphone (Sure 7B) that goes into the voice processor (Aphex 230) that was connected to my old MacBook through the line-in jack via an optical cable. Now I need to buy some audio interface or adapter to route the sound via the USB port. OK, ok, I will. Despise all these little glitches, I consider this experience with Apple repair service as positive. Would you agree?

P.S. One more, I get a feeling that Google Chrome doesn’t really know how to properly maximize itself on the retina display. Am I just being a grumpy old man?

P.S.S. This new computer comes with a one year warranty from Apple, yay!

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New MacBook Pro Anyone? Not Me, Thanks.

When I was a teenager, my dream was to get so called Hi-Fi audio system.  I knew that some audio systems could generate sounds in the frequency range 20-20000Khz.  To have something like this would be like money from home, but those audio systems were too expensive. No, they were unreachable. These days any pair of $10-headphones at Wallmart plays 20-20000Khz.  Today, I can afford expensive speakers that deliver crystal clear sound, but there is a little  problem: I can’t hear those high-frequency notes any more. Not sure if I ever could.

What all this has to do with today’s Apple announcements of thew new MacBook Pro with the retina display? I won’t feel the difference between the screen quality of my last-year model MacBook Pro and the new one. I’m pretty sure of this because last week I had to buy a new iPad for my wife – her original one broke (half of its screen is permanently pitch black).   The new iPad has this retina display and I don’t see much of a difference. But at least the new iPad costs the same as an old one, which is not the case with the new MaBook Pros.

I love Apple’s products. I really do. Each member of my family owns a MacBook Pro and other mobile devices from this great company. But I’m not going to shell out another thousand bucks just to demonstrate my loyalty to Apple.

Can Apple make me exited in the future? Yes they can, and this is what I want:

1. I’d really appreciate if the body temperature of my MacBook Pro would be as close to the temperature of my body as possible. Today, I could cook fry eggs on it.

2. It would be nice if the battery on my MacBook Pro would last during entire the flight from New York to Europe or California. I know, Apple has achieved 7-hour battery life in  their labs  under certain conditions, where the screen was dimmed, the wifi was off, and they were watching black-and-white silent movies. But I need real 7 hours of work when my quad-core processor is busy.

3. If they’ll manage to fix the temperature, the fans won’t be too loud and during my Skype conversations I’ll be able to use the internal mike without people asking me if I’m sitting in the airplane.

That’s all for now.  Am I asking for too much? What MacBook improvements would make you happy?

If you want to see what’s inside of the new MacBook Pro, follow this link at iFixit.com.

Thoughts While Watching Apple’s New iPad Presentation

I like Apple products. Our family of four owns nine of their devices. I’ll always respect Steve Jobs for being a visionary and improving our taste. And I’ve enjoyed his keynotes a lot.

Yesterday, I was watching Tim Cook’s presentation of the new iPad. I saw a gray-haired fit man in black moving on stage passionately talking about his company’s great products. The audience cheered him with applauds. It almost felt like watching Steve Jobs.

It’s clear that Tim Cook spent substantial time on improving his presentation skills and rehearsing his talk. Of course, he’s not as good as Steve Jobs just yet. He needed to add more drama to the talk and shouldn’t have revealed the iPad that soon. Of course, I missed that famous Steve’s “And one more thing…”

But overall, Tim Cook did great on stage. The company does great. As bad as it sounds, people will forget Steve Jobs soon. The crowd needs to be entertained and get fed with new cool toys. As long as Mr. Cook (and his team) will deliver, the crowd will admire him.

Le Roi est mort. Vive le Roi! The king’s dead. Long live the king!

Buying Your First MacBook

Last week, a person asked me for an advice about buying a new laptop. The most important thing when giving any advices is not just recommend what’s good for you, but rather put yourself in the shoes of the advisee and understand his/her computer usage patterns. Here’s the quick profile of this person, let’s call her Mary.

Mary is using the computer a lot, but she’s afraid of it. She’s retired and travels a lot. 80% of her activity is browsing Internet and using Yahoo! email. Once in a while she needs to scan document, use Microsoft Word and Excel. Currently she’s using a five years old notebook with Windows OS. Money is no object.

Each member of my family has Apple’s MacBook, and in my opinion it’s a better build device than any Windows-powered notebook. I went with Mary to the closest Apple store, and she purchased this feather light MacBook AIR with 13” monitor for $1299. Yes, she could have gotten a Windows notebook for half of this amount, but Mary deserves to not only having a computer, but enjoying it too.
The goal of this writeup is to create a short list of things that may seem unusual to a not proficient computer user switching from Windows to Mac OS.

The Dock.

This row of icons at the bottom of the screen is called “dock”. Clicking on the icon starts the corresponding program. You keep there only the programs you use the most. To remove unwanted program from the Doc, press the trackpad with two fingers at the same time (an equivalent of clicking on the right mouse button) and select an option “Remove from dock”. No worries, you are not deleting this program from your computer – this just removes the icon from the dock.

At first, you may have a hard time trying to properly press the trackpad with two fingers to open the right-mouse menu. The other way to do it is by pressing the trackpad with one finder while holding the control key.
If you know the name of any program that you’d like to start, but its icon is not shown on your dock, click on this little looking glass icon at the right top corner of your monitor (a.k.a. spotlight), and start entering the name of this program. A dropdown window will show the list of files where this combination was found. Click on the one from the Applications section to start this program.
When the program runs, you’ll see its icon on the right side of your dock. If you want to keep this program at your dock for the future, make another two-finger push on your trackpad and select “Keep on Dock”.

Quitting the program

The most important thing while learning how to drive a car is how to stop it. On the same note, you need to learn how to properly quit the program. In Windows, clicking on this little cross on the top right corner closes the window and quits the program. In MAC OS you’ll see three color bullets on the top left corner of the window, but clicking on the red bullet closes the window without quitting the program.
Do this experiment: start Safari Web browser from your dock by clicking on the icon that looks like compass. In the left corner of the top Safari’s toolbar you’ll see the word Safari, which is the name of your current program. Now open the Finder – its window will cover the one from Safari, and the Finder’s top toolbar is displayed. Finder is your current program. Now click on the red bullet in the top left corner of the Finder’s window to close it.

Now you can see the Web browser’s window, but the top bar on the screen still stars with the word Finder and has its menus. Isn’t it weird? The reason is that you just closed the Finder’s window but never quit the program. To do this, press the buttons command and a letter Q simultaneously. Q is for Quit, and now you see the screen that makes sense to you: Safari’s window is open and the top toolbar is also from Safari.

You can quit almost any current program (except Finder) by pressing the buttons command-Q. The other way to do this is by clicking on the name of the program on the top left corner and select the menu option Quit.

Don’t panic if you closed all windows from any program (Safari, Finder, et al. ) by mistake. If you see a top menu of the program but no windows opened, press command-N to open a new window.

Command is your Control

If in Windows you’ve been using the combinations of keys that included Control, get used to the fact that the button Command may become a replacement for Control. The button Control is still there, but if you run into a situation when it doesn’t behave as expected, try to use Command instead.

Finder: working with files

For working with files in Windows you use File Explorer. In Mac OS you use Finder, which is usually presented by the first icon on the left side of your dock. Get ready for a big surprise – there is no c: drive there. All files are simply organized in folders. After starting Finder, look at the bar with devices and places on the left. Desktop is a place with the files that are always shown as icons on your monitor.

Try not to copy too many files to the Desktop as it’ll clutter your monitor. There is another folder called Documents, which is an appropriate place for your documents. You may find a folder Downloads, which is the right place to keep all the files that you download from the Internet.

To create a new folder within a folder, open the parent folder by double-tapping on your trackpad – make sure you’re in the right place by checking the title of the Finder’s window – it shows the name of the folder you’re in. After that press the three buttons command-shift-N and this will create a new folder – just enter its name.

To copy files from one place to another, select the files, open the right-mouse menu, and select there the option Copy Items. Then open your destination folder, and select the option Paste Items from the right-mouse menu.

USB Flash Drives

One of the simplest ways to copy important stuff is by placing it on the USB Flash drive. Buy one of these that can store at least 8Gb of data. Besides, it becomes handy if you want to bring some important documents or photos from you old Windows computer. After inserting this flash drive into your USB port, notice the new name in the Devices section on the left side of you Finder’s window. In some cases your flash drive will have a name, in some cases it’ll just be shown under the title “No Name”.
Next to this name you’ll see a little underlined triangle. Each time you want to remove the flash drive from the USB slot – click on this triangle. This process is called Eject. Don’t expect the flash drive to catapult form your notebook – it’s just a safe way of unmourning an external device.

Preferences

Each program has its Preferences menu, where you can tune this program to look to your liking. The Preferences menu is usually located in the drop-down menu that opens up when you click on the name of your current program on the top left corner of the monitor.
Your dock also has the icon called System Preferences, which allows you to adjust the overall setting or configure devices. This is an equivalent of the Control Panel in the Microsoft Windows world.

Text editors and spreadsheets

MacBook comes with a simple text editor called TextEdit. You won’t find its icon at the dock, but go to the spotlight (top right corner of your monitor) and enter TextEdit there. Then start it, and if needed, keep it on the Dock as described above.
If you want more advanced text processing, you can either purchase Microsoft Office for Mac, or purchase the Apple’s program called Pages – it costs $20 and you can import all your Microsoft Word’s .doc files there. For another $20 you can get a program called Numbers, which may serve as a replacement for your Microsoft Excel.

The genius bar

One of the reasons of why Apple computers are so successful is their excellent technical support. First of all, they run introductory classes for the new MacBook converts.
If you run into any issue with your computer, make an appointment at your closest Apple store at so called Genius Bar. These guys are good and friendly, and most likely, after visiting the Apple store you’ll become a happy camper again.

What to read next?

Apple maintains a Web site for people who are just starting with Mac.

Enjoy your new Apple computer!