Tag: MacBook

It has come to my attention recently that I am an advanced computer user. I think it was when I had Parallels, Quicktime, Mail, Safari, Adium, Transmission, iSquint and Keynote all open and working and my MacBook had slowed to a crawl. Maybe it was when I realized I didn’t have enough storage space in my house and to buy a new hard drive.

In any case, I’ve become more aware of ways in which my MacBook can’t keep up with the increased demands I’ve put on it.

I want a new MacBook

Ever since YouTube went widescreen, I’ve noticed how every website with even a small amount of Flash content causes the fans to ramp up to 6200 RPM. I can’t be certain, but I think I saw the computer rise just a little under the thrust produced. The reason for the increased air flow is because my current Core 2 Duo MacBook uses the integrated Intel GMA950 graphics chip. For casual work and operating system usage you’ll rarely notice it, but as soon as you get into anything slightly sophisticated, the graphics system steals resources and the rest of your computer experience slows down noticeably. In the new MacBooks, however, nVIDIA came through with an integrated chip that provides 5 – 6 times more graphics power than the old Intel unit.

The new machines look pretty sweet, too. I’ve always hoped that a MacBook would come in an aluminum enclosure, and now it is. Carrying my computer every day to school, it is also handy that the new laptop comes in half a pound lighter. There has been quite an uproar over the glossy screens available on the new MacBook, mostly because they almost turn into mirrors under less than ideal lighting conditions. While I have yet to try one of these things at an Apple store, the screen on my current MacBook doesn’t bother me in the least, leading me to believe the new one won’t either, assuming it’s similar to the new iMacs that I have seen.

Along with new graphics, most of the other components of the system got a serious upgrade, as well. A faster system bus, memory system, and even easier hard drive upgrades ensure that a computer like this will work properly with much of the latest technology that will inevitably come out in the next few years.

Finally, the top-of-the-line MacBook has a feature that I’ve always wanted: a backlit keyboard. I don’t really use my computer in pitch-black conditions often, but something like this really separates high quality machines from others. Of course, since it is only available on the high-end configuration, it means I’ll have to save just a little more.

…I think I’ll wait a little longer

As a semi-regular video enthusiast, I was a little disappointed when I heard there was no FireWire 400 port. The MiniDV camcorder I use has this port, and it works great. It has been pointed out on various websites that many of the latest cameras now use internal hard drives, which is likely the way of the future. I find that tapes offer an easier way to store footage, and don’t take up excessive disk space. It is also much easier to slip in a new tape when the old one is full than it is to run to a computer and transfer the footage.

In addition to the connection with video cameras, FireWire offered a time-tested method of transferring data between two computers. Target Disk Mode enables a computer to turn into a large external hard drive when connected to another system. Not only does it help when you want to set up a new computer from an old one, it can often save you when one computer goes kaput and you need your data. It was a troubleshooter’s best friend.

What does all this mean? It likely means that by the time I can afford a new computer, Apple will have come out with something lighter, faster and cooler. So until then, I’ll be sticking with my trusty MacBook, and hopefully the fans don’t break down by then.

[tags]computer, laptop, MacBook, upgrade[/tags]

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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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The Apple Geniuses. Givers of knowledge and sharers of solutions, they help you with your Mac when it doesn’t cooperate. Having been helped in the past, I found myself again at the Genius Bar this past Tuesday with a problem.

Why can’t I see files with Airport Disk on my Airport Extreme?

I told him about everything I had done:

The only way any of these things would work would be if user access wasn’t used. Regardless of format, partition, size or any other disk features, we could only list the files if either password method was set up. After some testing, we determined that user access just wouldn’t work. After switching out a new Airport Extreme base station, we found that even that system didn’t work with the user access.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before”, the Genius said. It was so weird and confusing that he sent a message off to Apple engineering to see if they could figure it out.

Ever seen anything like this?

[tags]Airport Extreme, confusing, Apple Genius, troubleshooting[/tags]

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Most of the time I’m quite happy with the products that come out of Cupertino. If I wasn’t, I’d probably not start a blog with so many Mac tips.

But recently I’ve noticed 2 video-related things that have stymied my plans of multimedia bliss.


I use my MacBook to do a lot of video presentations inside Keynote and PowerPoint. These vary in complexity but mostly involve photos and text. Recently I wanted to up the ante with a video background with text over top, but Keynote didn’t want to play nice. Instead it offered the helpful warning you see here and told me to either lower the resolution or lower the number of colors. I tried both: I lowered the resolution of the projector to 800×600 and changed the colors to thousands, but nothing happened. I even used the external monitor as the single display but that didn’t change anything.

All this because Apple decided to use an integrated graphics chip and only give it 64 MB of video memory. Why not make the amount of memory given to the graphics related to the amount of memory in the system? I have 2 GB in my MacBook, so I can easily offer up an additional 100 MB of memory to the graphics processor. Or, why not just solve all the problems with a dedicated graphics system.


My second beef has to do with the way Apple’s video applications deal with second monitors. Using Front Row, iTunes visualizer or an iPhoto slideshow with an extended desktop will always result in the video being played on the primary display. There is a specific preference inside Quicktime that tells the application which screen to use when playing fullscreen. Why not have the other programs honor this? It would be so handy to be able to have a visualizer playing on one screen, while still being able to select the tunes on the internal display. I was able to come up with a solution with Front Row but that is far from the most effective.

These may be small issues that only affect a small number of users, but with these fairly simple changes, Apple could make their products even more enjoyable to use, and effective when running a professional presentation.

[tags]Apple, OS X, MacBook, iPhoto, Front Row, graphics[/tags]

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