Macbook Pro Updates

I’ve had my (new to me) Macbook Pro 2011 for almost 3 months now, and it is running great.  I’ve upgraded the RAM to 16GB, and installed a new 250GB SSD Hard Drive.  This laptop is now fast & light, and it has lowered the temps on the CPU.  I attribute that to good fan control and less heat from the SSD Hard Drive.

I even bought a hard drive bay that uses the optical drive bay for an additional hard drive.  I’ll be shopping for a 1TB 7200 rpm 2.5″ hard drive soon.

New (to me) Macbook Pro

For a Christmas present this year, Carolyn gave me to the OK to buy a 3 year old 13.3″ Macbook Pro, (2011, A1278, 8,1).  I have been looking for a while to replace my 2008 All Aluminum 13.3″ Macbook.  Since I bought that model in 2009 as a demo model from Best Buy, I have upgraded the RAM twice, (2GB to 4GB to 8GB), and the hard drive twice, (250GB to 500GB to 250GB SSD).

I found my “new” Macbook Pro on Ebay, from a seller in Indiana, and paid $499 for it with a 2.3ghz I5 cpu, 4GB RAM, & 320GB hard drive. The plan is to upgrade the RAM to 16GB immediately for $145.  I can wait on the SSD upgrade, but I will replace the 5400 320GB with the 7200 500GB that was in my other Macbook.  I’ll watch for a killer deal on an SSD and then change it.  All in all, an awesome little laptop that kicks ass running business applications.

Stay tuned for updates!

Galaxy Tab 4 Pro

Last week I bought myself a new Galaxy Tab 4 Pro.  I had been wanting to try a tablet, and since Carolyn has an iPad Mini, rather than buy another iPad, I decided to try an Android based tablet instead.

This new Tab is slick, lightweight, capable with 16GB and 64GB storage, and has a gorgeous screen.  I’ve been spending a lot of time outfitting this with a host of business apps.   Time will tell how effective this tablet is as a laptop replacement.

Carolyn’s iPad Mini

About six months ago, we bought an iPad Mini for Carolyn to use.  Her 17″ laptop had just gotten too heavy for her to use as her primary computer.  (Her hands are very deformed due to damage from Rheumatoid Arthritis).  We weren’t sure how she would like the iPad or a tablet in general, but we decided to go ahead and get one.

This little sub-1 pound unit has been a god send for her.  She can literally do anything that she needs to do with the Internet and Email.  We have a newer Brother Color Laser printer that is AirPrint certified, so she can even print any documents, web pages, etc, that she needs to.

On a recent camping trip, we even streamed video from Amazon Instant Video to it, using my iPhone as a wireless hot spot.  (Not something I would recommend as it eats up the data plan).

The explosion in tablet hardware, (Apple, Android, & Windows platforms), in the last few years is incredible, and means that consumers have, and will continue to have, many choices in the future.  For most people, I can see why they are so popular, and will eventually replace most desktop & laptop units.

Surviving Windows 8

Over the last few months, I’ve had to “customize” friends’ new computers that have Windows 8 installed on them.  Now none of them have had touch screens, (the real reason to have Windows 8).  I usually got a panicked call saying, “how the hell do I work this thing”, or “where the hell is the start button”, or something of that nature.  So for all of you that are supporting folks getting new computers, here’s what you need to do.

Try Classic Shell.  You can change the way the desktop looks.  You can change the way Windows Explorer looks.  Just about everything is customizable.  Best of all, it’s FREE.  This little “desktop enhancement”  will save you hours of phone support for those “friends” that just had to have a new computer!

(From their website):

Classic Shell is a collection of usability enhancements for Windows. The main features are:

  • Highly customizable start menu with multiple styles and skins
  • Start button for Windows 7 and Windows 8
  • Toolbar and status bar for Windows Explorer
  • Caption and status bar for Internet Explorer

Give Classic Shell a try if you want Windows 8 to look like the old familiar Windows of the past.

Adding more RAM to the Macbook

I own a late 2008 model 13.3″ all aluminum Macbook, (now a Macbook Pro model).  It originally came with 2GB of RAM & a 250GB 5400 rpm Hard Drive.  Over the years I have upgraded it to 4GB of RAM & a 500GB 7200 rpm Hard Drive.  At the beginning of this month, I downloaded OSX 10.8.2 (Mountain Lion) and upgraded the OS from 10.6, (Snow Leopard).  About the same time I saw an ad for Other World Computing, for an 8GB RAM upgrade for $49 guaranteed to work in this particular model.

As most of you know, more RAM is better, so I jumped on that deal.  It came in while I was down south working, so this morning, I opened up the Macbook, removed the old 4GB and install the new 8GB.  It’s like I bought a brand new Macbook!  This thing is once again screaming through applications, boot time was significantly faster, and I couldn’t be happier.  Now all I need to do is add an SSD boot drive!

I never had any issues with this Macbook, and I did the cpu exhaust fan a good cleaning while I had it open.  Should be able to get a few more years of service from this model.  I know this will shock everyone who knows me from the days when I had a retail computer store, but for my own personal computer, (which this is), I don’t think I’ll ever go back to a PC.

ICEMAN

Test Driving Windows 8

I finally have had some time in the last few weeks to try the newest version of Windows, (Windows 8 Consumer Preview).  I do not own a tablet, and I believe that would be the optimal test platform, (more about this later).

The test machine is a Dell Inspiron Model 1501:

  • AMD X2 64 bit processor
  • 2GB of RAM
  • 15″ LCD Screen
  • 250 GB SATA Hard Drive, (my old Macbook HD)

This machine is at the bottom end of the “official” hardware requirements from Microsoft.  I felt that it would be an honest test of the new OS’s capabilities, since it runs Windows 7 Pro quite well.

When I went to download the CP from Microsoft, I was shocked to find a 32 bit version of Windows 8.  My understanding of the move to 64 bit everything, was that Windows 7 was going to be the last version available in 32 bit.  Since even the least powerful current Intel Atom processor is both dual core and 64 bit, this surprised me. (Note:  Since I started writing this article a few weeks ago, I have now downloaded and installed the Release Candidate version of Windows 8.)

The biggest difference, (and complaint), from end users is the “new” Metro desktop.  While I’m sure that this would be something “really neat” on a tablet, it is absolutely a royal pain in the ass on a desktop or laptop computer that doesn’t have a touch screen.  On the bright side, there are several 3rd party add-ons, that give you the traditional “Start” button back on your desktop.  The upshot is that you CAN make this version look and feel like Windows 7.  As a person who has to support large numbers of desktop and laptop computers, making existing users comfortable with change is never an easy task.

With the official release of Windows 8 in the fall of 2012, end users in the home market will probably not have a choice to “downgrade” to Windows 7 like they did when Windows Vista was introduced.  The fact is that home market end users are always the ones that get stuck with the least amount of choices.  Since most businesses are just now migrating to Windows 7 from Windows XP, I don’t see a huge rush to adopt Windows 8 into the business market.

Conclusions:

  • While I understand that Microsoft had to build an OS for the tablet and smartphone market, the desktop and laptop market is already being well served by Windows 7.
  • Most end users are going to wonder where their programs and start button are.
  • Businesses will NOT be upgrading to Windows 8 anytime in the next few years.
  • Only time will tell if Windows 8 is a move forward, or just another piece of crap from Microsoft like Windows Millenium and Windows Vista.
  • Just like Windows 7, users may find that some of their existing software does not work with Windows 8.

MAC Virus?

Until recently, most MAC users were confident that their computers could not get viruses.  Most users don’t have any virus protection on their systems, because of the perceived view that “MAC’s can’t get viruses”.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  While the MAC OSX is impervious to Windows based viruses, it can become infected with 3rd party software viruses that infect Java, Adobe Flash, etc.  MAC users tend to not do their system updates on a timely basis, just like some Windows users.  I wrote about this problem in a previous post, which you can read here.

Last week, the Washington Post acknowledged that a major MAC virus was on the loose and took advantage of a JAVA vulnerability.    The F-Secure website published a set of instructions that required the user to type commands in “terminal”, something that most users are NOT comfortable doing.  Within a few days, the Mashable Tech website had published a zip file with 2 automated scripts that detected the infection.  I downloaded the file, and ran it on my MAC laptop, and was pleasantly surprised to find that my computer was not infected.  It seems that the virus likes to infect Safari, (the MAC web browser), so anyone that uses it should check your system immediately.

After checking my system, I downloaded Sophos Antivirus for MAC, and ran it on my laptop to make sure that I hadn’t picked up a Windows virus in my email.  (I use my Macbook to send and receive all my email).  I did a full scan of my hard drive, just to make sure that my laptop was clean, (it was).

This has just re-affirmed my reasoning that if you don’t do updates to your system on a regular basis, you are just asking for trouble!

 

Apple Store Genius Bar

Last month, on a visit to the Houston VA hospital, Carolyn and I went by the Apple store at the Memorial City Mall.  I needed to have the power adaptor cord for my 2009 Macbook laptop replaced, as it was frayed.  It was to be replaced under a class action suit against Apple.  We did not realize that you could make an appointment at the Genius Bar before we went to the store.  We had to wait about 10 minutes before we could see the tech, so we walked around the store and looked at other Apple products.  The store was extremely crowed, with a lot of folks getting questions obviously answered about products they had gotten for Christmas.

When our time came, the tech looked at the power cord, went and got a new power adaptor and cord, and the exchange was done.  The entire process took less than 15 minutes total.  This was our first experience with an Apple retail store, and we both came away thinking that these folks know what they are talking about.  If you’ve never been to an Apple retail store, drop by one and take a look.

Carbon Copy Cloner

A few months ago, (before the Thailand floods and hard drives prices went through the roof), I purchased a new 500GB 7200RPM 2.5″ SATA hard drive to replace the 250GB hard drive in my 2009 all aluminum 13.3″ Macbook.  Changing the hard drive was a preventive measure, a job of changing it now, rather than AFTER a hard drive crash.

Before changing out the hard drive, I did some research on the web about “cloning” my old hard drive onto the new one.  After a lot of research, I settled on “Carbon Copy Cloner“, a free, shareware program written by Mike Bombich.  I found this program much easier to use than Apples’ Time Machine, and was able to do exactly what I wanted to do, make an exact clone of the 250GB hard drive.  I used an external USB 2.5” SATA hard drive case that I already had, placed the 500GB drive in it, and “cloned” the 250GB hard drive to the new 500GB hard drive.  After cloning, I installed the 500GB hard drive into the Macbook.  All in all, a fairly easy job, removing a few small screws, installing the drive, putting the screws back in, and I was done!  The swap out process took no more than 10 minutes.

My old 250GB had OSX 10.5 on it, and I had bought an upgrade ($19) to OSX 10.6, but I decided not to “upgrade” before the drive swap.  I also did not “upgrade” to OSX 10.7 Lion, after installing the new 500GB hard drive.  After getting everything the way I wanted on the new 500GB hard drive, I cloned it back to the 250GB so that I would have a “backup” in case the new drive failed.

Since the hard drive swap, I’ve used the cloner to perform incremental backup’s without a hitch.  If you have a Mac, do yourself a favor and check out Mike Bombich’s Carbon Copy Cloner.  And Mike, my $15 donation to your project is in the mail.