Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Early 2007 24 iMac freeze. One source found.

When I purchased my Early 2007 24 inch iMac, I also bought an external Western Digital MyBook Firewire 800 drive to keep a full backup on hand. Little did I know that this drive would cause me problems.
A random freeze, usually while browsing in Safari, brought my whole system down. It began with the spinning beachball, and was sometimes associated with a hard drive click from inside my iMac.

This resulted in a force restart, and many times caused directory damage. I did not think crash reporter put logs in my root directory HD/library/logs/crashreporter, but it does. Upon checking them, I found each and every file was named WDBMService_date-of-crash. Every single one.

It had never dawned on me that some tiny little piece of software supplied by Western Digital would do so much damage. It was random, and about once a month.

The piece of software is called WD Button Manager. It controls the blue LED light on the front of the hard drive. Removing it has not  made any difference that I can see. Apparently it showed the disk space left, but I never figured that out. It still powers down when I want it to.

So remove this buggy software if you have a Western Digital MyBook. Go into terminal and type

sudo /usr/bin/uninstall-WDButtonManager


UPDATE February 2008

Western Digital have come out with a firmware update and have also come out with a new Button Manager dated February 2008.
I have installed these and so far, no problems. Support from Western Digital is pretty bad, but maybe they read the blogs and address the issues. Whatever works, as long as it gets fixed. NOTE: The links I have given here are for MyBook Pro Edition. You can go to the general page of downloads here.

Addenda: Apple has also released Hard Drive 1.0 for you can read the release notes and get the patch here.


This is for iMac Core 2 Duo systems and may solve a hard drive shutdown problem with the original 24 inch iMacs. The drive would click off, resulting in a spinning beachball for a few seconds until the hard drive spun up again.

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Appreciate what you have

Monday, November 05, 2007

Installing Leopard on G4 eMac

3 White Macs
Installing Leopard OS X on the G4 1 Ghz eMac (1 Gig of RAM) went a little slower than the 24 inch iMac. Before installing, I repaired permissions, rebooted into single user mode (Apple S), and ran fsck -fy.
Some people actually think that running the disk utility from the CD (while booted from the CD) is better than fsck. I have read, that some belive if you run from an external disk, the disk first aid can fix "the whole disk", whereas, they believe, fsck, cannot. Wrong.

Sometimes, your machine may not boot from the CD. Fsck should be standard operating procedure.

The eMac rebooted into the Leopard install, and told me it would take 2 hours and 53 minutes. After checking at the one hour mark, it said that it had 18 minutes left. When it said that there was one minute remaining, it took about 15 minutes more. You can open an active log window during the installation and see that there is activity.

Only one major annoyance. Gmail status, although updated to 1.08, does not work on any of my Macs. It is there in the menu, but is invisible. Quickbooks Pro 5 still works fine, which is another older application I use. CNN flash video is still jittery on the eMac for some reason, but works fine on every other site.

Leopard also installed without a hitch on the G4 1.42 Ghz iBook which currently has 512 MB of RAM, and my 24 inch 2.16 Ghz iMac with 2 GB of RAM. Leopard on the iMac now launches Safari and Textedit in one bounce. This is 3 or 4 times faster than before.

Flock, my preferred Web 2.0 browser is also faster. It gives me instant access to my Flickr, YouTube and Blogger accounts and allows drag and drop between any two. Probably the best browser that no one knows about. Also the most Mac like. Even Safari 3 now looks like its Windows counterpart.

Overall, Leopard is a winner. Very fast. The only disappointment is Time Machine. I thought it would make a bootable backup and it does not. I will stick with Carbon Copy Cloner and maintain a full, bootable backup. Everyone should do this. No sympathy if you do not back up.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Luciano Pavarotti 1935-2007

Luciano Pavarotti died at the age of 71 on September 6, 2007.

He will be missed.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Machine is Us/ing Us

Part of what my new business does is make small business aware of the new Web 2.0
By participating in the web and contributing relevant information, even the smallest business can become the de-facto source for information within hours. Small business doesn't have to be.

Monday, April 09, 2007

What happens if you drive behind a 747?

I remember Mythbusters couldn't get this right and thought this was interesting.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

How Apple could design a better iMac.

My 24 inch iMac is a great computer. It is very pretty. That's the problem. It seems that the folks at Apple think that I bought this computer so that I could just look at it and go oooooh! They never thought that I would want to plug a USB flash drive in on a regular basis. They never thought that I may regularly plug and unplug a DVI to S-video cable in to watch movies on my television.

No, they put all of the ports on the backside of the machine, so that when I had to use them I must pull the machine forward and fumble with the plugs. I never put the USB drive in the right way.

I purchased a small self powered USB hub so that I could easily plug the 4 Gig memory card of my digital SLR in. More wires. More crap on my desk. It still doesn't help when I want to use my DVI to S video adapter.

Hey, Apple. Put the ports and the plugs on the left or right side. Don't put ports on the back! How long did it take for you to think of putting Firewire and USB ports on the front of a PC? Now you put them in the back of the largest computer you build?

Why not have an access panel on the front? A little door for flash cards and drives? The 24 inch iMac is so big, using the DVD/CD slot on the right side means I have to pull my machine forward everytime. I don't know what to suggest there. I wish it were in the front where it should be, but the iMac is too shallow.

It looks good though. DOn't get me wrong. It really looks good. If only that made me more productive.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Pentax K100D review

I purchased the Pentax K100D today from Blacks Cameras in Mississauga. It took a couple of weeks of online reading to finally come to this decision and I thought I would share my thoughts.

It is hard to decide which camera to buy given the overwhelming amount of information the net, but this is how it boiled down for me. First, I had to dismiss the reviews by wannabe photographers employed by computer magazines. They follow the same, predictable pattern that they employ while review computer equipment. Less expensive equipment is "entry level" or "beginner", sort of like selling condoms by asking if you want "extra small". Then there are the dedicated digital/film photography sites, who basically find fault with everything.

"I wish the LCD was bigger, it takes 0.6 seconds to turn on, you can only take 400 shots before the battery runs out or, my wife won't sleep with me anymore." Constant whining.

Two sites helped me immensely. Steve's digicams was a great resource when I decided on my Point & Shoot Canon Powershot A70. I must say though, Steve doesn't use very good pictures as examples but Flickr now lets you search by camera model, and that really helps. Sort of.

There are so many talented photographers on Flickr, you really can't see the REAL difference between a Pentax, a Nikon or a Canon, or any other brand. Flickr proves, that at the end of the day, its the person behind the lens, not the lens. Steve does a good job at explaining features, but never really says, "hey, don't buy this, buy this instead". That's good, but I want someone to really tell me what it's like.

So my second source was Ken Rockwell. Ken loves his Nikons, but he is honest enough to tell you that he enjoys his Nikon D40 as much as his Nikon D200. He explains the minor differences, and actually blows the doors off the industry. Why do all of these cameras basically cost the same? Why is a D70 or a D50 selling for the same as a D40, when the D40 is new? Why do people pay a premium for a D100 that has an admittedly crappy screen? He really likes Nikon, but he he doesn't mind telling you that a D80 or a D200 is probably not necessary. He explains the megapixel myth, which will really make you think. It made me realize that all I needed was 6.1 megapixels to really enjoy the SLR again.

So, I read all of this, and I sift through the data. The Nikon D40 looks good. I had a Nikon FG for years and although Nikon lenses are overpriced, the equipment was top notch and the results were amazing. Everybody loves the D40. Flickr loves the D40. Why the Pentax?

Well, the Pentax has the same image sensor as the D40, so image quality wasn't the concern. I liked the fact that the K100D took AA batteries. Four of them ( i get over 500 shots on 4x 2650 NiMH). I have always used NiCad or Li-ion AA batteries in my other cameras, and I don't ever want to be stuck without power. Another factor was that the K100D has Shake Reduction technology (which also doubles as a sensor cleaner). That's cool and Nikon and Canon don't have it. The K100D has top display like the Nikon D50. The D40 did away with this. It's handy to know battery power, shots left, mode, etc. Why give that up? I use it all the time, since the rear color display is off 99 percent of the time.

Finally, Pentax invented the SLR and they have maintained the same lens mounting system for years. I can take a zoom lens from 1975 and it will adpat to this camera. Manual focus of course, but hey, I know how to focus. It isn't heavy work. Invest in the Nikon D40, and you have to buy into new AF lenses. In order to take advantage of Nikon  AF lenses that you have, you really need to to look at the D50 with it's built in AF motor. At this price point anyway.

The Pentax K100D is just a better camera. It also has an 11 point AF system. The Nikon D50 had 5, the D40 has 3. Sure, you probably only use one, but the K100D is keeping the pro aspects intact. The Shake reduction alone allows far more creative low-light shots than any of the other cameras. The Nikon D40 was $700 (Canadian) at Blacks, and the K100D was $750. This was a no brainer. Last but not least, the diopter correction on the K100D has a larger range. Just enough in fact. Buying a D40 would mean getting another eyepiece to compensate for my eyesight.

Look at Flickr and see the pictures for yourself. An unwritten feature of the K100D is its infra red abilities. Many digital cameras are incapable of decent IR photography which is something every photographer should experiment with. The Pentax K100D produces spectacular IR shots with a filter. Yes, almost all of the brands and models have amazing shots, but when you look at the cameras in the sub $1000 sector, the K100D is a pro model with more features and and expandibility (Pentax lenses will keep their value for sure).

I didn't buy the SDHC card at Blacks. $50 for 1 Gig. Across the street at Tiger Direct, I managed a 4 Gig SDHC (150x) card for $70. That's 378 6MP RAW pictures, or 1400 6MP, JPEG (high quality) pics. I downloaded the new firmware update that allows the Pentax to use SDHC cards. It's fast.

I haven't seen any LCD screen protectors. I use screen protectors for a Palm Pilot. This works on my Powershot A70 and my iPods as well. It's the first thing I do.

I used to take very good pictures with my old Nikon. I can hardly wait to do that again.

Quick update: After a thousand shots and some very good ones at that, I can attest to the capable AUTO features. Some wannabe photogs will insist on manual aperture settings and guessing their own shutter speeds all the time, but lets face it, you are splitting a thousand bucks between decent optics and a clever computer that figures out stuff for you. Shoot art when you have the time to set manual shots, but shooting from the hip at 2.8 fps using the K100D on Auto is absolutely amazing. I throw away about 90 percent of my shots when shooting this way, but the 10 percent that stays is great photography. Using a 4 Gig card, I can take 1400 high res JPEGS or almost 400 RAW pics. Of course, RAW is a bit over rated and should be reserved for special portrait or landscape shots. The compression algorithms on the K100D are exceptional and if Photoshop can't fix it, you took a bad picture. The camera model or the image format won't help you much if you didn't take a decent picture in the first place, so let's not argue over the merits of RAW.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Xbench 24 inch Intel Core 2 duo iMac to 17 inch G4 eMac.

I just ran these tests using Xbench 1.3. The Intel iMac 24 inch, 2.16 Ghz, with 2 G of RAM and a Nvidia 7600 GT scored 110.56 using Xbench 1.3.

The 2003 G4 eMac (1 G RAM, 32 MB ATI 7500 video card) scored a whopping 30.20. Some quick math tells you that we have a 3.6x increase in overall performance. Many of the graphics results come in at 5x, while things like disk access are not that different. The CPU is a factor of 3 faster, and graphics around 5.

This seems reasonable. Although the eMac could play Halo "just", it managed about 20 to 25 fps. The Intel iMac would probably run it about 125 fps, since it runs Doom 3 at about 100 fps.

It is difficult to compare two completely different systems accurately. Different chip architectures, one is a dual core system, one is a G4. Normal use makes it hard to tell the difference. Internet browsing, email, listening to iTunes, all seem the same. Browsing 4000 pictures in iPhoto is something else completely. On the iMac 24, it is fluid, fast and seamless at any speed. Likewise, scolling through an iTunes library is equally effortless. This is where it feels 10 times faster. This is where you remember the eMac seemed fast when something took 2 seconds, but realize it was slow because nothing takes that long anymore.

Looking at other Xbench scores, I notice that this 24 inch iMac blows past a dual 2 Ghz G5. Finally a pro machine without having to buy an ugly aluminum box. The expandibility argument is about as valid as the WIndows argument now. This machine hooks up nicely to my WD MyBook Pro 500 G hard drive using Firewire 800 and it runs Windows. Looks like you can be a pro now and look cool.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

24 inch iMac installation

It's hard to get the sense of size from online movie clips. I noticed that many people would take videos of the 24 inch iMac close-up. This doesn't give you a reference point.

So here I am unpacking and setting up my 24 inch iMac; replacing my 17 inch eMac. My 14 inch iBook G4 is also on the desk as well as my 3G iPod.

Apple 24 inch iMac

Apple 24 inch iMac
Originally uploaded by Carl Bachellier.
Today my new 24 inch iMac arrived. I ordered it last Tuesday and since then, I couldn't find enough information online to satisfy me until my new toy arrived. It was brutal. I just kept checking the FedEx site, seeing where it was.
I began reading the comments and complains on the Apple discussions site. I used to contribute as a troubleshooter, but found that the site was becoming a dumping ground for people who wont RTFM.

I had a few concerns after reading the discussions. One, there were some people complaining about dead pixels, and two, some were complaining about a nasty hum from the monitor. A third issue, some complained that BootCamp wouldn't work. It does. Not one dead pixel and I can't hear anything except a very slight whir of a fan. It is essentially silent.

My iMac was a BTO with 2 Gigs of RAM, a 500 G hard drive and the Nvidia 7600 GT with 256 MB of RAM. I stayed with the 2.16 GHZ Intel Core Duo, because even on paper, it doesn't make much of a difference. Remember, the fastest machine on my desk is a 1.42 Ghz iBook with 1.5 G of RAM, so this is a big jump for me. The iMac will be replacing my 3 year old 17 inch eMac, which by the way did an amazing job for me. I really dislike the snobs that categorize this machine as "entry level" or "education". Really? It performs no differently than any other 1 Ghz G4 computer.

Windows runs nicely on it, but I prefer Parallels to BootCamp. I have an actual PC to play Grand Theft Auto and Half Life 2, so I don't really require the graphics advantages of booting the machine into XP.

I will agree with the most common complaint. The screen brightness control is unable to deal with the power of this screen. I have it set to zero and it is too bright at night.

I do prefer this LCD screen to that of my iBook and the 19 inch monitor on my PC. It is as clear as a high end CRT. The ports on the back should be in the centre. Not a big deal, but I hated my eMac because everything was on the right. I am right handed and like the right side of my desk clear. Therefore, I put my desktop on the left. It just makes sense to put run the cables on the left. My wife is a lefty though and may consider this a victory for the L's.

I am already used to the huge screen real estate. It was the fastest and cleanest migration I have ever done. I connected to the eMac with a firewire cable and about 3 hours later, all 200 Gigs of information had been transferred. I used isync and dotmac to store my bookmarks and keychains just in case. It was flawless.

The only thing I had to do was validate my Flickr account using Flock (you aren't using anything else for photos and blogging are you?) and update the directory paths for DreamWeaver.

This is the most amazing machine I have ever owned or ever used.