Tag Archives: hardware

The Solution to “A Mac Puzzler” + Thoughts On Losing Everything

When we last spoke, I asked you WHAT CAUSED MY IMAC TO FAIL?

For the sake of compiling the responses (as some came in via other channels), they included:

Brett Slatkin:

>Guesses: 1. Unseated memory (though they would have replaced that?) 2. Bad power supply 12V rail

Richard “PkerUNO” Whittaker:

I’m not replying until you specify how many Picarats this is worth.
And the fact that you didn’t mention matchsteeks is highly suspicious!


>Hmm… I’m going to go with… SATA cable?

Adam “rampage” Meltzer:

So, multiple hard drives, multiple different media from multiple different sources. So, it’s not the CD drive, and not the hard drive.
We already have 12V rail and SATA cable as possibilities. What about the power cable for the HDD?
Sometimes it’s the simple things. I remember when I worked at Sun in the mid 1990s, the SPARC Stations of that vintage wouldn’t boot if there was no keyboard connected. Made for a troubleshooting nightmare when trying to figure out why the damn machine wouldn’t power on.

Ryan “Lee” Short:

>I think Major Nelson snuck into your iMac through the combined power of Live Anywhere and magic…that, or something entirely too simple like a loose jumper or something…

Continue reading The Solution to “A Mac Puzzler” + Thoughts On Losing Everything

A Mac Puzzler

My Sunday afternoons used to have a twisted chain of logic:

My family would pile into the back of the car and my parents would drive wherever they felt like around the Finger Lakes. This was done in the name of getting out of the house and exploring, I suppose.

As it was the only consistent programming across that region of New York – because there were multiple stations all airing the same program – NPR’s lineup would be the soundtrack of the day. This would mean Car Talk, followed by Prairie Home Companion, followed by Thistle & Shamrock. (These are generally not shows that pre-teens and teenagers enjoy.)

With this in mind, the only part of the radio I would not tune out was a short section of Car Talk entitled The Puzzler, where a riddle having nothing (or little) to do with cars would be thrown at the listeners. Being the sort of kid who thrived on logic puzzles and riddles (I purchased a copy of Raymond Smullyan’s WHAT IS THE NAME OF THIS BOOK? when I was 14), I enjoyed the chance to stretch my brain a little shortly before Garrison Keillor’s dulcet tones would shut it down.

As my mom has pointed out to me that it’s been over a month since my last blog post, I figured I would turn the major reason why I’ve been away from writing into a computer nerd version of The Puzzler. Feel free to take a stab at this in the comments or via email – I’ll reveal the answer once someone gets it correct. (If I’ve already told you the answer, don’t spoil it for everyone else.)

Continue reading A Mac Puzzler

Hardcore SingStar

Hardcore SingStar

When my first set of DDR pads got destroyed after nine months of abuse at the feet of college kids, I can’t say I was terribly surprised – but it made me sad.

When I got Rock Band, and stories of flaky hardware were abound, I wasn’t terribly surprised that the strum bar on my guitar got a little flaky. Not bad enough to send in, but causing the occasional miss.

I’ve had to retire two DSes (busted speakers and buttons, then a non-functioning touchscreen), a Mac Cube (optical drive motor), two Sidekicks (trackball both times), a lampshade iMac (optical drive malfunction), a G5 iMac (power supply), and there was that whole 360 thing.

Things break, I know.

Never did I think I’d be such a hardcore SingStar player that I’d break the blue microphone, but here we are. Color me surprised just this once.

Leveling The New Apple Portables

I had three subsequent requests from friends to weigh in on the best value for Apple’s newly released laptops. Twitter ate my short thoughts, so I might as well lengthen it a bit.

Before I continue, I should note that a great place to always go is the Compare Models page on the Apple Store. It’s the best way to get a side by side comparison.

# Generally Speaking

Ever since the iBook and Powerbook were retired in favor of the MacBook and the MacBookPro, I’ve held the belief that unless you’re in the specialty niches that require a specific feature on the MBP (the ExpressCard/34 slot for mobile broadband, for instance), 90% of consumers will be fine with the MacBook.

Nothing released today has changed that base level assertion. Not even the multi-touch track pads on the MBPs.

# MacBook

First things first: the BlackBook remains a $200 uptick for a different colored case and a 90GB increase on the hard drive. (You can get the hard drive upgrade separately on a white MB for $100.) The BlackBook’s market remains people who explicitly *want* a black notebook. If you’re looking to extend your dollars, there’s no reason to buy it.

Thus, we’re left looking at the other two models. I will call these “Low-End White” and “High-End White”.

If you take Low-End White and add the hard drive bump and the RAM bump found in High-End White, you come in $50 less than the list for the High-End White. So in that $50 you’re getting a decent clock bump (300 MHz) and a Superdrive – which makes High-End White the smarter choice here.

# MacBook Pro

I am frequently baffled by Apple’s pricing, and here’s one of those instances.

Like the BlackBook, the 17″ MBP is for a certain breed of people who just *have* to have a 17″ display. People who merely want *a laptop* and not a *17″ bohemoth* – there’s no need. And frankly, I question their commitment to Sparklemotion.

So again, we’re looking at the two options, thus dubbed “2K” and “2.5K” solely based on price.

What does the $500 jump get you in this case? Er, well…

* A rather meager 100MHz bump on the CPU
* 3MB more of L3 cache
* 50GB more disk space
* Double the VRAM in the video card

The hard drive bump can be duplicated for $50, so you’re looking at $450 for a tenth of a GHz, a bit of cache, and a significant bump on the VRAM. But keep in mind that the VRAM bump doesn’t provide higher resolutions on the display – it will likely only be useful if you’re playing Crysis under Boot Camp or doing some high end media work.

Thus, I must strongly recommend that if you need a MBP, the 2K model is more than good enough.

Burnt Out

My [magic streak](http://vjarmy.com/archives/2006/09/the_incredible_invincible_hard_d.php) has not held up.

Buttons Checks His RSS Feeds

I came home tonight to a faint scent that I could not place. It smelled warm – perhaps my landlord had decided today was the day to turn on our heat. Our heaters are electric, and they always smelled a bit odd.

I did not take the hint that my iMac was off, even when I knew full well that it was still alive and online not 90 minutes beforehand. I rebooted without thinking.
The message struck home when I got up thirty minutes later and noticed that it, again, was off. This time, I sat and watched it reboot. The login screen appeared normally, but not a second after I attempted to type, *boom*. Darkness. I subsequently pulled open the casing and, while I could not locate any particular source of the damage, the burning smell was confirmed to be coming from somewhere on the motherboard; most likely, a blown capacitor.
There is some irony to this. I have been aware that due to my technolust, I have what has been deemed by others to be an absurd upgrade cycle for my hardware. Alternating every year, Katie or I have replaced our primary hardware:

*2000* – I purchase a Mac Cube. It actually held up terribly well.
*2001* – Katie receives her first iBook, a G3/500.
*2002* – I received my iMac G4 as a graduation present.
*2003* – Katie replaces her iBook with an iBook G4/800. This is the first Mac hardware we purchase on our own.
*2004* – I replace my iMac G4 with an iMac G5/1.8GHz.
*2005* – Katie replaces her iBook G4, which had now ground to a halt, with another iBook G4/1.42GHz. This happens enough in advance of the introduction of the MacBook that I don’t feel completely shafted.

This year was the year I had promised to break this cycle. The year I was sure my iMac G5 was not going to start feeling uncontrollably slow, even while I picked up a MacBook Pro at work and had a very direct comparison with the latest and greatest.

But no, the hardware had to die through natural causes. Now my hand has been forced, and I will be trekking to the Apple Store this weekend to take what has become a mandatory upgrade.

Saving The Day One Day Too Late

The big Apple news today was news that many people took as hell freezing over: [the no-button mouse is dead, long live the no-button mouse](http://www.apple.com/mightymouse/). Just over five years after the introduction of the “Apple Pro Mouse” (the white, lozenge-like mouse), Apple finally joins the modern input device revolution and introduces the [Mighty Mouse](http://www.apple.com/mightymouse/), a sort of four-button-plus-scroll-nub thing, retailing for $49.

A handful of dear readers put two and two together and pointed out to me that this could be taken as a timely divine intervention to solve my [busted mouse issue](http://vjarmy.com/archives/2005/07/role_reversal.php). And I would agree, except for two problems.

One, it’s a corded mouse. Now I can use a corded mouse – at work, where I’m striving to keep my desk clean on a regular basis. At home, I frequently have to deal with debris, spindles of disks, and most of all, a certain cat who loves to sit on my mousepad. The slack always ends up getting pinched, and this drives me up the wall. As such, I’ve switched to USB cordless mice and have no desire to look back for my home use.

Two, along these lines, I just purchased a new Microsoft Standard Wireless Optical Mouse yesterday at Best Buy. It ran me, after various discounts I had accumulated, a whopping $15. This is well under half the price of the Apple mouse. I’m not against spending money when there’s functionality to be had, but I get the bulk of the functionality I need out of this mouse for less than a third of the cost.

For the Mighty Mouse to win me over, it really needs to come in Wireless, and I really need to see some really worthwhile functionality or neat hacks for it. Otherwise, it’s just yet another Apple peripheral for me to ignore.

Role Reversal

I’m puttering around on my machine tonight, playing some games and doing the usual rounds online, when suddenly my Wireless Intellimouse Explorer stops responding. I go through the usual rigamarole – unplugging/replugging the USB base for it (no help), trying to re-connect the wireless signal (doesn’t work), swapping out the batteries in the mouse (no use). It is, in effect, toast.

Amusingly enough, though, I’m able to continue using my Mac, even without a mouse. Sure, I could plug one in from my collection of Apple mice acquired over the years, but…what’s the point, really? I can login just fine. I can launch all my apps without it (thanks to my Quicksilver triggers). I can web browse reasonably well without it – well enough to make this blog post.

It just struck me sort of odd how the platform that for years was so frequently bashed for making people rely on the mouse so heavily is now at a point where I can function just as well without. I don’t feel like I’ve had a limb removed or am in any way really disabled at this point. I’m not even sure how much I need to purchase a replacement mouse…

Who Said It?

Pop quiz: Who said, at E3 a number of years ago, that their console’s graphical power:

> …would be three times faster than anything on the market and offer nearly unlimited graphical visuals. “We’re approaching the level of detail seen in Toy Story 2,” he said, referring to the computer-generated kids film from Disney/Pixar.

Answer – with source – after you click through!

Continue reading Who Said It?