Do more with your old MacBook

Have you got an old MacBook that Apple doesn’t support any more? Can’t install the latest and greatest version of Mac OS X on it because the CPU is too old? You’re probably seeing a warning from Chrome that Google has discontinued support for Mac OS X 10.5.3 or whatever is on that ancient beast? It’s the same with Firefox.

Flash isn’t updated either and when you go to Youtube to watch a video Chrome shows you an ugly warning that it’s outdated. Frustrating isn’t it?

What’s more, you’re probably leaving yourself open to exploits by nasties on the Internet. Problems and bugs are found in Flash all the time. Browsers and operating systems are the same too but if that software isn’t actively updated then you’re out of luck. I discovered Opera browser is still built for these old machines and it’s fast but Flash was still a problem and I needed a better solution.

As unlikely as it may seem on an Apple computer, it’s Linux that came to the rescue!

I didn’t think I could put Linux on the MacBook as there was no Bootcamp to dual boot the machine. Thanks to I found the MacBook help pages for Ubuntu which pointed me towards rEFIt, a “boot menu and maintenance toolkit for EFI-based machines like the Intel Macs.” Even on an old MacBook 4,1 I could install Linux!

Installing rEFIt was simple enough, just run the package installer when I mounted the .dmg file. However the boot menu didn’t appear, even after several reboots until I pressed down ALT while rebooting.

Partitioning was a problem. I used the command line diskutil tool as suggested here but ran into problems because it couldn’t do a live resize. It would report that it ran out of space or there were too many deep links. Luckily the Ubuntu install CD comes with Gparted and after booting into the live CD I ran that and freed up 40GB of space for my new Linux install. A couple of reboots later to verify everything was working and then on to Linux!

Thankfully I didn’t run into the problems a recent Ars reviewer of Ubuntu Linux 12.10 came across. Linux installs are getting simpler and simpler. I told it to install alongside Mac OS X and let it set up partitions.

The WIFI adaptor in the Macbook requires a proprietary driver and after hooking the laptop up to an ethernet cable I started updating packages. While doing that I looked in the System settings and discovered that Ubuntu had installed the right driver without my prompting! I’m not sure when that happened but WIFI has been rock solid since.

Time to install Opera, the restricted packages (mp3 and dvd playback, etc), Java for Minecraft and finally Minecraft. Getting a Minecraft icon for Unity was a pain and I can’t find the script I used now but some quick Google-fu will find it.

Linux on the MacBook is nice and fast, even with Unity on there. I may replace that with a lighter window manager if it becomes a problem but it’s much improved on older releases. If you have an old MacBook and you don’t need some proprietary software that isn’t available for Linux then you should definitely put Linux on there. You’ll have the security of using updated software and a nice new desktop and apps to play around with!

Backups save the day

Marina City, Chicago A few weeks ago I blogged about my backup system. How I have two 1TB Iomega external drives and how one drive is a duplicate of everything on the other drive, and how I backup everything on my laptop and VPS accounts. It sometimes seem excessive but I’m paranoid.

This morning I’m very glad I went to such lengths. I wanted to copy some stuff onto my Macbook, and there’s nothing like the bandwidth available from a directly connected disk. I unmounted my drive, at least I tried. Something was keeping it mounted. Instead of following my own advice and checking what program was keeping the drive busy, I used “umount -l” instead. Turns out it was Rhythmbox, but I didn’t realise that until later.

Anyway, I disconnected the usb cable, plugged in the one connected to the Macbook (BTW – Ext2 for Mac OS X is useful for reading ext2/ext3 filesystems) and kaboom. The light on the external drive went out. Oh oh.

Long story short, the drive refused to mount again on the Linux box for several minutes. Eventually it did, but with errors. I’m running fsck.ext3 on it but it’s giving me tons of errors and won’t run automatically. I need to buy another drive this morning.

So what’s lost? My 8 years of photos? All the family videos shot over the last 2 years? My mp3 collection? Nope. They’re all backed up. Murphy’s Law states that if something can go wrong, it will. This was the worst time ever for a drive to fail as I had just reinstalled the operating system, and my backup system wasn’t running properly yet. Thankfully nothing irreplaceable was moved onto the broken drive in that narrow window of time when things weren’t being backed up.

I now want to get that new drive installed before the second goes belly up! Paranoid? You betcha!

Mac OS X Leopard and Nokia N73 Bluetooth Problems

When I got my new Macbook a few weeks back I thought I could use the Bluetooth functions to browse and copy files from my Nokia N73. It worked just fine on my previous Macbook, an old 2 year old machine destroyed by a cup of tea, so I wasn’t expecting any problems.

Unfortunately it seems that Mac OS X Leopard and the latest firmware of the Nokia N73 just do not like each other. No matter what I did, I could not get the Macbook and N73 to pair. The configuration tool stopped every single time on the “getting more information” part of the wizard. I’m not the only one experiencing problems. There’s a long thread on the Apple website. Both Apple and Nokia have been informed and are aware of the problem but I suspect it’s something in Nokia’s latest N73 firmware.

I have a card reader, now to find the SD sleeve that came with my Sony Ericsson phone. Nokia didn’t include one with their phone.

PS. does anyone else find the keyboard of their Macbook isn’t as responsive as it should be? I have to really hit the y and Enter keys to make sure. It is very annoying!

Macbook Porn

After I destroyed my Apple Macbook I thought I’d never get to put stickers on a Macbook again. Luckily the machine was insured and the replacement Macbook came this morning.

Compared to the previous machine this one is a huge upgrade! The new Macbook has 2GB of RAM, a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, 160GB drive and comes with Mac OS X Leopard installed!

Now, where did I put that Ubuntu install disk ..

How to win an Apple Mac Air

  1. Join Twitter.
  2. Follow @wubud.
  3. Tell your friends.

@wubud (pronounced woo-bud) is where Paul Walsh will reveal his next venture. You may remember Paul from a previous post here about his qik adventures when he missed his flight home because he was talking to people on the Internet. He landed a bed in a penthouse suite so don’t be too sorry for him!

Anyway, he explains on his blog why he’s going down the Twitter route and it’s an interesting experiment. It certainly caught the imagination of several people we both follow and I know others are blogging it too. Nice way to spread the word, eh? I think the incentive to win a Mac Air helps too, don’t you think?

So far only 203 people are following @wubud so it may take a while to get to the 5,000 followers Paul wants.

Paul’s in San Francisco next weekend, so you never know, he might reveal the master plan to you if you ask nicely if he hasn’t done it before then!

What about me? Do I want to win a Mac Air? ‘Course I do! My Macbook died this evening. A cup of tea spilled on it while I was feeding the baby. I quickly dried it off as best I could with paper towels but the screen was black and the thing is dead. Luckily backuppc had done a backup 6 days ago so I doubt I lost much stuff.

How to Insult the Mac Brigade

I’ve insulted the Mac Brigade. I am so sorry. I didn’t realise that putting stickers on an Apple Macbook was such a heinous crime. HOW COULD I HAVE BEEN SO STUPID?

Well, that’s how Bernie puts it anyway. Sort of. He posted a photo of my Macbook at BlogTalk and the response surprised me. Hahahaha. Thud! (Laughing my head off)

For those who missed the original shot, here’s one I took moments ago. There are stickers from Laughing Squid (and a button too), getfirefox.com (Thanks Nikolay), Zooomr.com, Hyku, that WordPress crowd who get everywhere, and 2 from Om Malik: FoundRead and NewTeeVee.
The other button says, “hard bloggin’ scientist” and I got that from Jan Schmidt last Tuesday at BlogTalk. Thanks!

Macbook

Lovely isn’t it? Who’s on your laptop? Anyone got a Dell sticker to put on the Apple Logo? It’d shine through nicely!

How to replace and calibrate your new Macbook battery

Last week I bought a new Macbook battery from the Apple Store to replace the slightly aged one that came with the machine. I’m travelling shortly and I need enough juice to play MAME and Doom do some work while I sit in airports waiting for connecting flights.

Late last week a parcel came for me, my new battery! Here’s how I replaced the old battery and calibrated the new one, with nice pictures.

macbook battery box

Continue reading How to replace and calibrate your new Macbook battery

Vim's cursor keys work in Mac OS X again

export TERM=linux

Ever since my Macbook died and was fixed again Vim hasn’t worked properly in iTerm.

I’m a big fan of SSH and Screen. SSH to connect to a remote server, and Screen is like a workspace organiser for your SSH session.

First of all the backspace key worked in Vim even when not in insert mode, but worst of all, the cursor keys refused to work and only succeeded in ringing bells in the terminal. Previous attempts at fixing the problem failed but I must have searched for the right terms this time. This review of Mac OS X led me part of the way. Sébastien recommended setting the TERM to “dtterm” but Screen didn’t recognise that. Setting it to “linux” fixes my SSH sessions, and also fixes Vim locally as well!

I added the snippet of code above to my ~/.bash_profile to make the change permanent and everything is back to normal now! I have a vague memory of fixing this before but I wish now I had blogged it then!

The blinking folder and question mark is bad, right?

Just over a year after buying my Macbook and it has quite possibly died. While using it, it stalled, keyboard wouldn’t respond, and I had to shut it down. When I started it up again I heard 3 distinct clicks which is never a good thing, and after a few minutes of staring at a grey screen a flashing folder appeared with a question mark in the middle.

It has happened to others and the prognosis isn’t good. A reinstall of Mac OS X is required, but those clicks I heard disturb me. I get the feeling I’ll be finding out how good Apple Support are. Does anyone know how to eject a DVD without the OS running? The Bourne Supremacy is in the drive and I haven’t even watched it yet!

I’m paranoid about backups, and what has been bugging me over the last few weeks is that all my email was on the Macbook, and I hadn’t got around to backing it up because the wireless connection was too slow. I’ll find an older Thunderbird directory on my Linux box and fire that up, but if you’ve sent me email over the last few weeks that needs a reply, send it again. I think I’ll allow Gmail to store my mail in future.

If for some reason the machine can’t be resurrected, it’s definitely the last Mac I’ll buy. What with the flickering screen too, I think I might be better off spending the extra pennies on better hardware from a PC manufacturer.

Update! I rang Apple, who put me on to their local reseller/fixer-upper, and they have the laptop. Hopefully I’ll hear back from them before the end of the week. They’ll try to fix the flickering screen too. That’s apparently caused by a missing piece of rubber on the mother board.

Update on Aug 24! The service center rang yesterday evening to say the machine is fixed so I picked it up this morning. All data is gone but I won’t put anything on there I can’t afford to lose. I hope the flickering screen problem is gone now as they replaced a “board, inverter” and “cable, inverter” too. OS X is 10.4.10, and Software Update picked up one iPhoto update. Now to reinstall Firefox and other apps ..

How much of your Macbook's battery is gone for good?

coconutbattery.png

Rechargeable batteries start deteriorating from the moment they are manufactured. I’ve noticed my Canon 20D’s batteries don’t last quite as long as they did 2 years ago. AA and AAA batteries seem to be even worse. As I’m heading to San Francisco in July I’ll be doing a lot of flying so it’ll be important that my Apple Macbook laptop have a decent battery life.

There’s no quick fix for this as it’s not reversible but if you’re wondering how much life is left, then Coconut Battery is a must have. I installed it last night and it looks like my battery still has 85% of it’s capacity left after 11 months of use. That’s not bad. It’s not enough to get me across the Atlantic but I don’t know if I want to spend €139 on a second battery when I’ll only ever use it once a year.

I think it is possible to slow down the deterioration. Don’t unplug your laptop! The less you use the battery, the longer the battery will last.