Tag: Apple

Batteries are technology’s weak link. While tech like processor clock speed, hard drive capacity and graphics cards has accelerated rapidly over the last few years, battery capacity and total usage time has remained relatively constant. Sure, the newest lithium ion power packs can give your computer a solid 2 – 3 hours of charge, but we’re still a few years away from being able to work untethered for a good 6 – 8 hours.

I bring all this up because my MacBook has a problem with the battery that I’ve seen on others. As the above screen capture shows — from the iStat nano widget — the battery suddenly has 4% health after I used it for 10 minutes. The health is different from the actual charge because it represents the maximum possible charge the battery can take, which means how long the computer can run. What seems to happen on my computer is that it appears normal for a while, but then suddenly drops to less than 10% without warning. My friend had a MacBook with a similar problem — it would shut down when it had (supposedly) 30 minutes of power remaining.

Apple states that a battery is considered defective if it holds less than 80% of its original capacity and has fewer than 300 charge cycles. A charge cycle is the the time between a full discharge and charge — from full power to shut down. If the battery meets this criteria, it may be eligible for replacement. Since I have AppleCare, it seems that I will be taking the computer to the local Apple Store to see if a Genius can get me a new one.

Has anyone else seen a problem like this?

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It’s not often that an Apple product gets me well and truly frustrated. Generally I can pinpoint a repetitive problem and find other people with similar issues, and often find a solution.

But the current problem I’m having with Keynote is completely unacceptable and I have absolutely no idea why it’s occurring.

Let me set the scene. You’re working on a large multimedia presentation that uses video backgrounds, transitions, pictures and transitions. In a burst of creative genius, you furiously hammer out a dozen slides and sit back to admire your handiwork. In your eagerness, you press the Play button before saving to see the result of your work, and suddenly the screen goes black and you hear the tell-tale sound of the optical drive and the sickening startup chime (it’s sickening because you realize all your hard work could possibly be toast).

In my case, I was working on a presentation with more than 250 slides, with videos, photos and transitions — the works. Even though I had saved a few minutes earlier, I still lost work. The strange part is that there seems to be no real connection to when the button works and when it restarts. My theory is that somehow it determines the longest time between saves, then breaks — just to spite you. The other unusual thing is that the MacBook starts up without any of the information requests like when it shuts down improperly. I can’t figure it out.

Have you ever seen anything like this before?

[tags]Keynote, troubleshooting, Mac OS X, iWork, iLife[/tags]

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This was a busy week for technology enthusiasts. With CES going in Las Vegas and Macworld Expo going in San Fransisco, there’s a lot of new ways to spend cash.

While my CES coverage has consisted mainly of reading Engadget, I’ve been following Macworld a little closer. You may remember that earlier I mentioned that this is Apple’s last participation in the Expo and that Phil Schiller gave the Keynote presentation instead of Steve Jobs (check out this article for more on his health).

Keynote results

I’ve gotta say: I wasn’t too blown away by Apple’s keynote announcements. Sure there was a new iLife and iWork, but there was nothing quite like the iPhone, Mac mini and PowerBooks (going back a few years). I was hoping for something that I would really consider saving up for.

Instead, this is what we got.

The 17″ MacBook Pro now joins the rest of the MacBook and MacBook Pro line with a unibody aluminum enclosure, glass trackpad and LED backlit screen. It separates itself from the other models by including a new 8 hour battery, which I can only hope will make its way to the other models soon. Interestingly, this model has an optional $50 anti-glare cover, which should satisfy the many users who complained about the glossy screen on the other models. I don’t think I would ever consider purchasing a machine like this. Not just for the price tag (starting at $2,999 CAN) but also because I could get an even large screen, using a smaller MacBook for less money. Maybe a 15″ MacBook Pro, but even that would require careful consideration.

The previously mentioned iLife and iWork updates include some interesting new features that I would like to see in person. As soon as I saw iMovie ’08 I refused to upgrade, so this package needs to have more benefits for me to even consider it.

Perhaps the biggest news from the keynote is that the iTunes store will be transitioning to completely DRM free tracks. Music will now be offered in a 3 tier system: $0.69, $0.99 and $1.29 per track. That should make a lot of people happy.

Overall, I think both trade shows could be considered successes, and even with Apple’s decision to pull out of next year’s expo, I still want to go.

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Now that Christmas is over, a Mac nerd’s thoughts turn to January. More specifically, January 5 – 9. That is the time of the Macworld Expo in San Francisco. Traditionally, this is when Apple releases their big products that have been in development for some time (in 2007 they released this little think called the iPhone). Sadly, those days are all but over, as Apple has announced 2009 will be their last. No more Stevenotes, no more Bingo, no more Boom!, and no more one more thing…. Ah, the memories.

What was the reason for this?

The prevailing theory is that Stevie J’s health has degraded to the point where making the keynotes he is famous for is now simply too draining. That is acceptable, because health should always be your primary concern.

The other opinion — and one that I tend to agree with — is that Apple has decided to release products on their own terms. With the prevalence of rumor sites like Macrumors, AppleInsider and even AppleTell, Apple has lost much of the surprise that comes along with releasing new products. If you trace Apple’s stock price back to the time before and after keynote presentations, often it falls as a result of people seeing products they were completely expecting. No surprises means no blown-away investors. Instead, Apple appears to be going to more toned-down events on their own campus, at a time of their choosing. Rather than have a huge affair in San Francisco, they instead invite select media people to view their latest product. This way they can retain some element of surprise and release the product when they feel the time is exactly right.

What does this mean for Macworld Expo? It means that exhibitors that once suffered by competing with whatever Apple released at the conference can now show their products with the full attention of the present media. I’m slightly disappointed, because I was always hoping that someday I could make it out to San Francisco to see one of the legendary presentations.

I guess instead I’ll be saving my money for whatever gets released instead.

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Just like the dreaded Blue Screen of Death, a kernel panic can strike fear into the heart of even a seasoned computer user. This black and grey screen suggesting that you restart your computer in multiple languages signals that the computer has done something that just does not compute.

Rather than pass it off as a single event and move on, it is in your best interest to determine what is causing the problem and banish it to the land of /dev/null (that’s Nerdspeak for garbage can).

Here are some suggestions for ridding your computer of this evil.

Check hardware

According to Apple, computer memory is a common cause of kernel panics, so it is suggested that you test your computer. A free utility to do this is Rember. It tests the RAM and can often find errors. If you are using third-party memory, double check the specification as incompatible RAM can cause unusual behaviour.

Can you recreate the error?

The whole idea from this post came from the fact that my computer gave me a number of kernel panics whenever I unplugged my USB hub that had an external drive on it. I still have yet to pinpoint the exact problem, but knowing approximately what could be causing the problem can go a long way to finding a solution. Once you have the hardware picture, you can search through Google to find other users who may have the same problem, and possibly offer a solution.

Any new software?

If the kernel panic comes shortly after a new piece of software was installed, it is quite possible that is the problem. Of particular concern is programs that install themselves in the startup items folder for launch at login. The startup items folder is located at Startup drive / Library / StartupItems and needs to contain ArcanaStartupSound as this is the computer boot sound. Anything else that looks unfamiliar can be moved outside the folder. Restart the computer, and see if the problem occurs again.

No one likes it when their equipment malfunctions, but like many other computer-related problems, a little thinking and troubleshooting can restore your computer to its former condition.

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