Tag: Hardware

Early last week I was working on my MacBook, with a USB hard drive, FireWire Time Machine drive built from my old iBook, and keyboard connected. Suddenly, my computer shut off, and I smelled burnt plastic — clearly two events you don’t want to see in quick succession. Fearing the worst, I pressed the power button again, and the MacBook came to live. When it was back at the desktop, I set about determining where the smell had come from.

It turns out that it was my 4 year old iBook drive, which had vanished from the desktop and would not mount regardless of the steps I performed on it. So I did what any curious nerd would do: I took it apart then put it on eBay. Who would buy a broken hard drive, I do not know, but I’ll soon find out. I knew that the data couldn’t be salvaged, and since it was a backup drive, I wasn’t concerned about the loss. Keep in mind that if, for some reason, you’d like to do something similar, your data will be destroyed.

The results of the destruction are shown here. While I couldn’t see any significant damage when I opened it up (I was hoping for mangled and burnt plastic), the drive is surely dead now after my finger prints slipped onto the platter.

So if you’ve ever been curious as to what goes on inside a 40GB iBook drive, behold the wonders!

The platter

The mechanism

Update: It turns out that no one buys broken hard drives. Maybe I’ll try again.

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It finally happened. Today in Cupertino, Apple unveiled new MacBooks, MacBook Pros, and MacBook Airs that satisfy nearly everything I wanted in a MacBook. Shown in the above image from Apple.com, the new MacBooks feature an aluminum enclosure, glass trackpad, LED backlit screen and nVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics. That last one has me most excited, as the graphics power of my current MacBook definitely leaves something to be desired. I won’t really know how badly I want a new MacBook until I can use one in person, but right now I’d say that these are some of the best, if not the best consumer laptops to come from California. It should also be mentioned that this new crop of MBs do not include FireWire 400 ports, but rather use the faster FireWire 800 standard.(Update: Ruh roh, no FW 400 either, that could be a deal breaker) Connecting your digital video camera and hard drive just required another adapter moving to a MacBook Pro.

MacBook Pro

As the flagship laptop in the Apple lineup, the MacBook Pro received an abundance of upgrades that make it an even better choice for business professionals. In addition to the glass trackpad, new aluminum enclosure and LED screen, the MBP gets a dual graphics setup that allows you to use the integrated GeForce 9400M for normal stuff, then up the ante with a GeForce 9600GT for those times when only the highest FPS will do. Personally I really like this new design as well, but I find the 15″ screen to be too big for what I use a laptop for.

MacBook Air

The only laptop in the fleet to get zero case changes, all the upgrades to the MacBook Air go on under the hood. It gets the new GeForce 9400M, the same keyboard and screen, and now has more hard drive options like 120GB HDD standard and 128GB SSD as an option. Still a niche product, but it’s always good to see more power cost less.

So another Apple presentation brought another 3 reasons to have a thinner wallet. Sadly, I must wait a few weeks months before I can even consider a new machine, but I can always dream.

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Nothing stirs up the Apple nerds in cyberspace like an invitation to an event to release new laptops. October 14 is scheduled to be a busy day on the internets for Apple, as Engadget, Gizmodo, and MacRumors all received press passes to an event in Cupertino where “The spotlight is on notebooks”. What does Apple have in store? Only time will tell, but the rumor mill has been wild with speculation.

Rumors include:

  • New MacBooks and MacBook Pros (sort of a gimme)
  • Dramatically new shell as a result of Apple’s reported “brick” manufacturing process
  • Aluminum shells to the MacBook line
  • nVidia graphics chips (Woohoo!)
  • Possible Blu-Ray?

Of course, these could all be way off the mark, but whatever Apple does release tomorrow, it should be interesting.

[tags]Apple event, MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, Apple rumors[/tags]

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It’s happening again. Just like the last 3 Septembers, Steve Jobs is on stage in San Francisco introducing us to new iPods that need to be purchased. There’s a new nano, new classic and new touch and each has a more curved shell than before, and packs in even more great features.

Here’s what has gone down so far.

iPod classic


Bye bye 2 models, and say hello to a single configuration: 120GB. That’s a good idea. One model with massive storage for everyone. It also has new interface changes and a modified exterior.

iPod nano


Just like the pictures that have made their way around the internet in the past week, this new nano is rounded on the edges and has a more elongated screen for watching widescreen videos. Thin and light, it comes in 4 and 8 GB sizes, and also in a wide range of interesting colors.

iPod touch


Continuing the trend of making all iPods more like the iPhone 3G case, the iPod touch has a rounded body, with improvements like external volume buttons and an internal speaker. While I have a 2G iPod touch, I wouldn’t mind getting one with a speaker. It also has Nike+ built in, so you just need the shoe sensor and you’re good to go. They’re also pushing the touch as a gaming platform, likely because of the graphics power and interface.

iTunes 8

To take advantage of the new features in the new iPods, there is a new version of iTunes that includes a tool called Genius. Apparently it looks at your playing habits and recommends songs from your library or the Music Store to help you find new music. Probably some more smaller fixes, but we’ll find that out later. The Music Store has also added HD TV shows, and shows from NBC (like the Office).

iPhone Software 2.1

Finally! This update supposedly fixes app crashes and makes backing up faster. No one will really know until we can try it this Friday though.

New headphones

For a more inflated price of $79 USD, you can now get a new and improved set of earbud headphones that have more speaker power, a microphone and remote control. The mic is kind of cool, but I’m not sure it’d be worth the extra cash.

So there you have it. New iPods, new iTunes, new features. Time to start saving again.

[tags]iPod, Apple, keynote, iPhone[/tags]

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For my daily computing activities, my MacBook does an excellent job. With the 250 GB hard drive and extra 2 GB RAM, it has enough power for me to edit websites, make movies, and play the occasional game.

But every once in a while I find that I need more power, and I start to wonder what new Apple product would cause me to sell my MacBook immediately and purchase a new machine. This got me thinking about what gaps exist in Apple’s product line.

The MacBook Pro-sumer

Even though I didn’t have a computer when it came out, I really like the 12″ PowerBook G4. Unlike the MacBook Air, it didn’t sacrifice things like the DVD drive and ethernet port, but still used a fantastic 12″ aluminum shell (check out this classic ad).

What I am looking for in a laptop is a machine that is as powerful as a MacBook Pro, in a case the size of a MacBook, and with dedicated graphics. The graphics capability of the MacBook is the biggest gripe I have against the machine. I was playing a Windows game in Boot Camp (NHL 2005 if you must know), and even with the graphics turned way down, it couldn’t manage more than a few FPS. The laptop sounded as if it was ready to take off, and the resolution was down at 640×480. It was disappointing to say the least.

I know the MacBook isn’t meant to be a regular gaming machine, but it should at least be able to handle a 3 year old game.

Dream specs

  • Aluminum case
  • 13.3″ glossy screen
  • Intel Core 2 Duo or better
  • MacBook-style upgradability
  • Backlit keyboard
  • SuperDrive
  • Ethernet port
  • Dedicated graphics
  • iSight camera

The MacBook Air was supposed to satisfy this area of the market, but it makes too many compromises to be my main machine.

iMac Mini

If there is a crevice in Apple’s notebook lineup, there is a continental divide in the desktop lineup.

With the Mac Mini, Apple takes the switchers on directly because the package does not have a display, keyboard or mouse. It’s diminutive size makes it great as a second machine or a server, but forces it to sacrifice power by using laptop components. The iMac includes a beautiful display, as well as a keyboard and mouse, but does not enable future upgrades due to the closed construction. The Mac Pro has mind-bending power and speed, along with a nearly unlimited upgrade path, but all that power comes at an elevated price.

As you can see, there is a rather large gap between the iMac and Mac Pro. There is a need for a powerful, upgradeable box that looks behaves more like a Windows machine. Imagine the upgrade path of a Mac Pro, power of an iMac in a package slightly larger than a Mac Mini. Macworld acknowledged this gap once too, in a story that dubbed the machine the Mythical, Midrange Mac Minitower. It could satisfy such a wide range of consumers, but still wouldn’t sacrifice sales of the other lines. People with Mac Pro-sized needs would still purchase the flagship machine, those who want power with limited upgradeability would still get the iMac. It could be the perfect Mac desktop.

Dream specs

  • Intel Core 2 Duo or better
  • User-accessible components
  • Scalability with hard drives and memory
  • Dedicated graphics
  • Smaller power and space footprint

While personally I wouldn’t have a large need for a machine like this, it could easy satisfy a niche that currently remains unclaimed.

[tags]Apple, Mac OS X, laptop, desktop, computers[/tags]

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