Nov 17 2016

Mysterious drive deaths

Adel Gabot

Expansion 3.5 Pkg WW

10:07AM

I can’t figure it out.

I’ve been having a lot of external disk drives dying on me recently. As in a lot, and I’ve been pushed to the absolute limit, with no extras, no slack.

It started first with my 4TB Seagate Central NAS drive. It just quit on me. One morning, it wasn’t on my desktop, and when I went to check, it wouldn’t even light up. I tried different power supplies to hopefully revive it, but nada. That particularly hurt, as my entire media library was housed in its massive size. I had to rebuild the library from scratch. (The silver lining was, I got rid of all the detritus I collected over the years and just kept the files I really really liked.)

Then went my 2TB GoFlex Desk a few months later. This was also a painful loss, as I had invested in an very expensive Thunderbolt adaptor for it so I could extract the then-fastest access speeds from the drive. I’d been using it as a data archive and a place to dump all the bits and pieces of miscellany I collected here and there. Now it was dead, or close it it. I was able to revive it, but it’s now dog-slow, as in it takes hours to copy a simple MP3, making it practically useless. In the meantime I have a very expensive Thunderbolt adapter as a paperweight.

Then it was my 2TB Buffalo CloudStation NAS drive’s turn to bite the bullet. It just went belly-up, and no amount of repair and restore could bring it back to life. That makes a total of 8TB of storage gone so far.

Next to go was my GoFlex Satellite, a 500GB portable drive that had wifi circuitry and a battery built into its small frame I was using for my mobile needs. It was nice. I just had to turn it on and then slip it back into my bag, and I had oodles of storage space for my iPad and iPhone. That was also painful, because of the battery and wifi it cost nearly P10k back then.

Then, a couple of months ago, my venerable old dedicated Time Machine backup drive, a big, bulky 750GB Western Digital (was it WD? Or was it Seagate? I can’t even remember; gotta check) went dead after many faithful years of service, leaving me without reliable backup for my iMac. (I had to buy a new 1TB portable drive to take up the slack and revert to after-update backups instead of the automatic every-hour-on-the-hour backups I’d gotten accustomed to. As a result, I had some extra space, so I doled out my media library around my drives so I wouldn’t have them all in one basket this time.)

Next on the dead pile was a 500GB internal 2.5″ laptop drive I had housed in a cheap CDR-King enclosure which I had been using as one of my Media Drives. This one was for my various media downloads from YouTube, Vimeo and many other sources, so it wasn’t that painful a loss. But still.

Last week, the little old white Seagate external I’d been using to backup my laptops with Time Machine died too. It was just 256GB, but it was enough for the occasional backup of my MacBooks. Thing was, I actually managed to restore it over the weekend, so it was just a near-miss this time. It’s working fine so far.

Finally, I also had another near-miss just last Tuesday with my main system on the iMac, the big kahuna. I’ve been noticing a slowdown in operation over the past week, and it had progressively gotten worse until I was seeing the spinning beach ball much too often. As in every other click of the mouse. I did a quick check, and I was informed by Disk Utility to back up the 1TB home drive immediately and restore the system from my backup. Ugh. So I erased the hard disk, reinstalled Sierra from my bootable USB drive and restored my setup from my Time Machine backup. Took me almost the whole damn day, but I got it done.

So there. I don’t know why this is happening to me. Either my system is just getting old, or something nefarious is occurring. It just feels weird that this is all happening to me within a short period.

Dammit.


Nov 16 2016

Apple depository

Adel Gabot

apple_products

7:27AM

With today’s launching of the horridly expensive (US$300 for the large edition!) coffee table book Designed by Apple in California, I was moved to take stock of how many Apple products we have in the house.

Plenty, as it turns out:

  • 27″ iMac
  • 13″ MacBook Pro
  • 11″ MacBook Air
  • Apple //+
  • Apple //e
  • Macintosh (original)
  • iPad 2
  • iPad 3
  • iPad mini 1st gen
  • iPhone 1st gen
  • iPhone 5s
  • iPod 5th gen
  • iPod nano 6th gen (2 units)
  • iPod shuffle 2nd gen
  • iPod shuffle 3rd gen
  • Apple TV 3rd gen
  • Apple TV 4th gen
  • Apple Quicktake 200
  • Apple Newton Messagepad

This is not to mention the many Apple-made power adaptors, assorted dongles, extra headsets, rechargeable batteries and chargers, thunderbolt and lightning cables, mice (mouses?), trackpads and keyboards I also have.

Take note, this is just the current things I have. This isn’t counting the many number of other previous products I used to own, like that orange iBook or Titanium MacBook or desktop monitor or older Mac desktops, all dating back to that Apple //+ that started it all.

Gosh darn. I’m more of an Apple nut than I realize.

 

 


Nov 10 2016

Clean MacBook Air—not!

Adel Gabot

la_pic-php

2:53PM

Goddamnit.

I recently got a reasonably old MacBook Air—an 11″ Mid-2011 model, with 4GB RAM and a 128GB SSD—and I was planning to sell it.

It worked perfectly, save for a couple of keys that had the lettering on them almost rubbed off. The battery, which was five years old, still had 83% of its functionality, which was exceptionally good. It even had the original packaging. It should be a hit at the online store where I go to sell some of my stuff sometimes.

Thing was, it was grimy as hell.

So I went about giving it a good cleaning. That involved delicately “washing” it down with a barely damp toothbrush and cloth, using baby shampoo or dish cleaning fluid and a bit of water, then drying it with a lint-free cloth and allowing it to air out for a couple of hours before turning it on. That’s very important, because you have to allow every bit of moisture to dry up before you do.

Thing of it is, that particular kind of MBA has its power button integrated into the main keyboard, located where the backspace key normally would be, on the upper right corner. Also, the unit has the battery also integrated into its thin body; there’s no way to remove it, so there’s always a chance you could power up the thing without intending to.

As I was cleaning the keyboard and rubbing the keys with my barely damp toothbrush, I accidently hit the power button, and the damned thing powered up. I hit it again quickly to shut it down, but the damage was done.  The thing turned on, and unbeknownst to me, some circuits in the power key and a few others had shorted.

By the time the MBA was dry and I tried to turn it on, it was dead as a doornail. Didn’t even power up briefly to show it me it was still alive.

Crap.

So yesterday morning, I brought it to the shop to see what could be done. There, they gave me the bad news.

A normal repair would involve replacing the whole top case, which was essentially the full innards of the MBA, and would cost an estimated P15k. Considering that amount was more than half of the selling price of the whole thing, that was out of the question.

The repairman told me he could try replacing just the keyboard and see if that would work, but he had to source one from other customers first, and it could cost around P5k. And it just might work, but it wasn’t a sure thing.

That’s better than the alternative. So I told him to go for it.

This morning he texted me the good news. It worked. He was still testing the thing, but it was apparently good to go.

The bad news was, it was going to cost me P6k. P5k for the keyboard, and P1k for the shop. Wowza. Still expensive. I told him to haggle with the owner of the keyboard first, maybe he’d agree to a lower price. (Of course I knew the shop was inflating the cost so they could get some extra for themselves, but they weren’t going to pull that one on me.)

We finally settled on P3K for the replacement keyboard. Plus the shop fee, I owed a total of P4k. Still a goodly amount, but I figured I’m escaping by the skin of my teeth. (The only bright spot of the whole thing is, those two rubbed-off keys are brand new again.)

I’m picking it up in the morning.

All for a desire to have a clean computer to sell. And this is the the thanks I get?

Man.


Oct 31 2016

A new OLED Keyboard for my old iMac?

Adel Gabot

oled-apple-keyboard-05

10:33AM

I absolutely adore Apple‘s new MacBook Pro model, mostly for that little OLED strip on top of the keyboard that replaces the function keys, the one that’s been called a little piece of an iPad grafted onto an MBP. It’s the one thing that might get me to finally spring for a new laptop, if not for the inordinately prohibitive cost of one. (We’ll see how much when it comes out, and if I could afford it.)

But I got a better idea in the meantime.

If only Apple would come out with a Bluetooth keyboard with the same technology—now that’s a winner! It would revive my aging iMac, that’s for sure. As for the cost, it would be a pretty penny, that’s for sure, but nowhere near the projected cost of a new computer.

It would just take a relatively small tweak of the Sierra OS to enable it, and millions of current users would be able to enjoy the latest technology with their old computers. In fact, there are already rumors of this happening soon, and I for one welcome it.

So what, Apple, are looking at an OLED keyboard anytime soon?

 


Oct 11 2016

Wondercam

Adel Gabot

img_0824

8:42AM

Just finished doing my column for Explore Philippines‘ last issue of the year, a review of Blackmagicdesign’s Pocket Cinema Camera.

Gotta tell you though, the gadget’s kind of… all wrong for our magazine’s readership.

We’re a consumer-level mag, but this camera is professional-level and waaay above our readers’ heads. It requires color-correction and all that complicated post-production stuff on a proper computer before your footage is even presentable. The camera asks a hell of a lot of the user, from a technical standpoint, not to mention craft-wise. And not to mention budget-wise.

img_0818

The camera, body only, is already over P60k, plus the lenses, the least of which costs over P35k. That’s for a basic, manual one—a Voightlander/Nockton MFT 25mm, F 0.95 II lens.The camera is better served with an image-stabilizing and auto-focusing lens, which is way more expensive. So that’s an investment of around P100k already for the most basic, barely workable setup. Sheesh.

But I do what I’m told, so I did the review anyway.

Actually, the BMPCC’s very nice and compact, about the size and thickness of my iPhone 5s, and suitably heavy-ish. Of course, that’s before you attach a proper Micro Four Thirds (MFT) lens. The camera’s controls are largely manual, so if you’re used to AUTO, you’re SOL.

img_0819

Anyway, for the full review, buy a copy of next month’s issue of Explore Philippines. I’m not gonna say any more until the issue’s out.