Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Quick PB update

I called Thursday for an update, and was told that I was right in believing that the HD was pooched in my PB, and that it booted, (and ran) just fine off of the firewire drive, and that they were doing a few more tests, just to ensure that everything else is just fine, then will be ordering the new HD from Apple.

That was Thursday, and now it's the wee hours of Tuesday morning with nothing yet. Yeah, for Christmas holidays!

Oh well, hopefully tomorrow, that Applecare that I just bought better be worth the near 600 bucks.


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Powerbook's a causin' powerful nightmares

Yeah!!! Its acquisition time for me once again. The time of year when I spend butt-loads of money on friends and family. Hopefully, in order to offset my ridiculous personal spending karma.

I decided that this year, after spending much to add some techie goodness to the lives of those around me, I would treat myself to a brand new shiny 15.2" Apple Powerbook, something that I have wanted since getting my Mac mini earlier this year. And those of you who know me, know that I really can't live without my laptop, which just so happens to be a behemoth of a P4 from HP, the same one that I have previously posted about. Having poked around with OSX, and even getting it to work on my P4 tower, (just to see if it really could be done); I felt pretty confident in the OS's capabilities. To this end I'm still fairly correct, at least for my needs. Heck I may just begin to put my WoW subscription to use and not have it waste away unused.

Now that being said, it's the hardware that I have been having the issue with. Firstly there was the moment of unveiling, something that I absolutely love doing with pretty much anything, and apple makes it so that it's almost an event in your own home. The package, (that I had to fight for 2 hours just to let me pick it up at the FedEx depot... another story, sorry), came in a non-descript brown cardstock exterior, this masked a slick black box showing off the different views of the Powerbook a 'la the iPod boxes these days.

When opening the top flap of the box, I had my first hint of foreboding, there were crumple marks in the styrofoam, and a roughly torn circular hole in the top covering under which the accessories/software/documentation were housed. Thankfully nothing appeared to be damaged, and I didn't bother calling Apple about a little cosmetic issue, I'm usually quite patient about such things.
Cosmetics aside, all of the packaging around the Powerbook itself was intact, and unblemished, the problems however began just before TRYING to turn the thing on. One great little touch that I loved about the Powerbook that my co-worker demonstrated was the little button on the battery that shows the amount of charge left in the battery. Mine was showing no charge whatsoever, something that I chalked up to it being new. Apparently this isn't the case at all, and mine was completely dead the OSX "System Profiler" saw the battery as connected, but had absolutely no charge.

I called apple about this right away as it's not much use as a laptop if I can't have it be portable, AND, usable. Not willing to wait I went to the local Apple Authorized dealer, (Westworld Computers, incase you are looking for Mac stuff, they are fantastic there), and bought a new "2nd" one on the spot. The replacement battery came in 3 days, by Purolator of all couriers, and if Purolator... A company that I absolutely loath after the dual-wan router debacle, doesn't get off its collective buttocks, and pick up my dead battery ASAP, I'll be paying 175 bucks for the privilege of keeping it as a testimony of why I still have Windows and Linux boxes all over my place... Maybe I will keep it...

ANYWAYS, if it was only a lousy battery then I would be nothing more than a whiny bastard; Admittedly I am one, but I’m just saying that I’m more than that. Later the same night that I had purchased the new battery, and installed it, the charging was fine. All seemed to be great, for about 2 hours with only poking around with the apple apps, and setting up all my configurations. All of a sudden I look away from it to do my job, and wouldn’t you know it, BAM, frozen! I thought to myself, that there must be a heat issue, and that I was blocking a vent port or something. But no, it was all clear and the bottom of the notebook was a little warm to the touch, but still far cooler than my HP, which made it all the more odd.

I brought my install disks with me that night, as I do with just about all brand name computers, incase anything that I uninstall to remove bloat happens to be critical. Apple just so happens to have a great little hardware diagnostic utility on the OSX install disk, and I decided to run it. Everything seemed to be just fine. I ran the test 3 times with no errors detected. So I figured that there must be a problem with the OS, and tried reinstalling to a fresh state. The first time I tried reinstalling it froze in the middle of the install, which is run off the CD, and it was at the French localization portion, so of course I immediately blamed the French, ( I am Canadian after all), and tried again… Wouldn’t you know it, this time it finished, I still blame the French, but who doesn’t.

OSX back on I figured that all was good, and that it was only a bad sector on the DVD that was causing the lockups, and the hung installation, but I figured wrong… sure enough 20 minutes later, WHACK!!! Frozen again!! This time I thought it had to be the RAM, sure it’s a new computer, but sometimes bad RAM happens to good people, or in this case, me. The following morning I drove over to the McD’s for a bacon and egg bagel meal, with a medium O.J., and poked around the Office Depot until the Memory Express opened @ 10AM. A grabbed the two 1GB sticks of Kingston PC2-4200 SODIMM 4-4-4 RAM, (go big or go home right), to match the timing of the 512MB *rolling eyes* Hynix RAM. Disappointingly the DDR2 RAM only runs @ 333MHz in these, instead of the native 533MHz.

Swapping out the RAM in the PB was a breeze, since Apple thought ahead and put a nice little access plate on the bottom of the unit, with 4 #0 Phillips head screws holding it securely in place, rather than in some convoluted under-the-keyboard deal like on other models.

Unfortunately, this was not the solution either. Just as randomly it would lock up on me. I called AppleCare again about the new trouble, and was told to run the Apple Hardware Test in looping mode (Command-L, for those who want to know), and let it run overnight so that if there was an error it would stop and generate an alert, after being told to put the original RAM back in, because as I was advised, it would be likely that the 3rd party RAM causing my issue, (Even though I explained that the new RAM was bought as a result of the problem). Failing that; a low-level format, done from the install disk with the option to zero-out all the data selected, should solve the issue I was having.

Fast-forward one RAM swap, 6 hours, and 10 loops later, no errors.

Time to LLF+0 out.

I boot up to the install disk, choose disk utility, and select zero out from the security options, no biggie, since I wasn’t able to use it long enough to really set anything up that I would miss. Click, and away it goes. I decide that it’s time to go and have a little cake with my sister for her 13th birthday; it should be done by the time I get back. It got about half way and sat there frozen until I got back. This time I sat and watched the damn thing, while I caught up on my long distance virtual-stalking of Sarah Lane via my PVR. Another lock up halfway through the format; and once more again, before calling it a night.

The following morning, (1:30 in the afternoon) I call apple again to advise of the abysmal results. Finally I’m directed to bring it in to an apple repair dealer, only 6 days in my frustrated hands and I’m already taking it to a repair shop, there is something horribly wrong with this situation. Back to Westworld, as they are also a repair center, this time to drop off rather than pick up, even though I did a bit of that too. After giving all of my particulars, and some more of my money to the good people there, I stopped off for some Christmas Blend @ Starbucks, and traveled the return hour home to the glow of my fully functional HP laptop, and mini that will be shunned until my PB is finally all well.

And now only eleven days after getting it, I’m likely going to be waiting another five before I know if it’s going to stay a brick or not.

All I can say is that they better not blame the RAM. I’m pissed enough as it is that they want to charge well over $300 for a bloody 1GB stick of RAM. I’m fine with the fact that they are a boutique computer manufacturer, but they don’t make the RAM, they only buy and install it. Apple… If you don’t want people to be able to upgrade anything themselves, and force them into paying ridiculous prices for your memory, then seal up the box like the mini. Some will be adventurous, but most will pay, and then the cost is justified by having a “Trained Technician” install it.

My faith in Apple was based on the outstanding performance by my mini, and the stellar iPod, (even with the issues on my 5G). By the end of this week I should know if my faith was misplaced, or if it was an isolated incident. At this point I wish I went with the ASUS MCE laptop that I nearly got. Oh well, what’s another week… right…

Here’s hoping Apple doesn’t screw me over,


Friday, December 16, 2005

Flock off...

I just heard about this new project based on Mozilla's Firefox browser called "Flock", while listening to an interview with one of the founders of Flock, on Amber MacArthur,and Leo Lapporte's new podcast "Inside the Net".

I've been trying it out for about a week on both my Mac's, and my PC's. So far it looks pretty good, especially considering the fact that it is ony a developer preview. But the fact that it is based on a full release of Firefox, gave these guys a pretty big headstart on building a "new" browser.

There are some pretty nice little tricks that this little thing does that good 'ol FF doesn't, such as using your del.ico.us account as your bookmarks instead of having them locally, something that may seem like a detriment, but if you aren't connected to the net, then how are you going to be getting to the bookmarked sites. This functionality also means that you will be able to search your bookmarks based on tags, (everything just has to have "tags" these days).

The other nice thing is that there is the ability to blog directly from your browser. In the past I liked not having to go to my blog's publishing webiste, log in, and create a blog post, then wait for it to republish my blog... and so on... Now it's not quite as convenient as the OSX blogging dashboard widget, but then again this is cross platform, and I don't have to stop whatever else I'm doing until I finish my post. In fact I'm writing up this entry using it right now. Here's hoping it all works out.

The down side of this project, is the same as any WIP project. It's not yet done, and that means that even though it is pretty much Firefox with a whole collection of extentions, and themes bundled all together into a slick install package, there are some underlying differences in the two, making the new "little cousin" a different beast to deal with. This also means that not all FF extentions are going to translate well, since they are looking for certain hooks, that just wont be where they are expected to be.

This is a pretty early release as they freely admit, but it looks to have some amazing potential, even at this early stage. I can't wait to see what they come up with for the next release.


Monday, December 05, 2005

5G iPod followup.

First off. I love my 5G, but have come to discover some, more than slight, annoyances.

Most complaints that I've been heard stem from scratches on the sleek little things. The scratching on my screen is not as bad as I thought it would be. In fact it's much better than expected, same as the shiny backside, and I've only been using the slip case that was included in the box; (Mainly because the few cases available for the 30GB 5G are impossible to get ahold of). Now this may be that I really baby my electronics, but that notwithstanding it is far better than that of the nano, which now resides with my Mom. I do have a Belkin Tunedock II in my car, and one on my desk at work which helps keep everything all safe from most things. I just wish that I had of known that they were coming out with them in black.

My first real complaint is with the click wheel. Sometimes it can require the heavyhandedness of a linesman, while at othertimes you practically need to be an expert safecracker to select the particular podcast that you want to listen to. Normally fiddling around with such an issue is something that I've just learned to live with, and with any other device, and control mechanism I probably wouldn't care. But, with this Ipod it is quite annoying; especially since it is the ONLY means of navigation. Plus I've used the click wheels on previous versions, and even the nano's clickwheel seemed to be consistantly responsive in comparison.

The second, is the downright sluggish performance when scrolling beyond one screen's length of listings. I find it extremely frustrating to find that there is a severe harddrive/buffer lag when scrolling through my artists/podcasts/pictures that I have on my iPod. At first I thought that I just had filled it to within about a few dozen megs of being full, then I unchecked half of my library and found the same problem. This problem also translates to a slow load of the videos. I know Steve-O said that this is a music player that just happens to be able to play videos as well... but, with such a stellar history with these things why comprimise at all? I just hope the next version that comes out has better performance on the video side, and that it will be a little more like the sonos players remote in form factor, i.e. 16x9 with a landscape mode but with less bulk.

Third. A pain-in-the-ass conversion method for videos. Why couldn't they just do the same thing as when importing music into iTunes. Sure it would take a while... but have you ever tried to do it in Quicktime. If you have than you know what I'm talking about. And all of the 3rd party programs that I've tried are not worth the price just to get some QVGA videos to be viewable on a 2.5" screen; or have the problem of not having any audio after conversion. I had the same problem with Quicktime's conversion of my vid's

Other than those few points, and the lack of new accessories (not Apple's fault), it's still a pretty great player.

Oh yeah, you can't view the menu on the TV when using the video out feature.