Archive for category iMac

Mac is dead, long live Mac!

So it finally happened. After months of long startup times, of not knowing when it might shut itself down with little warning, and of my Address Book menus mysteriously appearing in Danish (yes, that really happened), my iMac finally faded to white (it was mid-startup when it would not go beyond the white screen — oddly symbolic, actually) and gave up the ghost.

At first I was just waiting out the refresh on the iMacs and that came. The new iMacs got upgraded to Sandy Bridge processors and to Thunderbolt for peripherals. However, after my brother and my friends all got MacBook Pros, I started to think about getting one instead.

On one hand, the iMac has that huge, gorgeous screen. Every time I go to Best Buy or the Apple Store to try it out, I am mesmerized by that screen. On the other hand, I live in a tiny condo and for years I have given up my dining table to my iMac (content to eat on the coffee table in front of the tv instead). Also, I’ve long been eyeing the Boxee Box because I want to enjoy its fun little interface on my big tv. When I had my iMac I could run Boxee there, but it was always on my immovable desktop. It felt ridiculous to watch tv on my computer when I was only a few feet away from the tv. With the laptop, I can simply hook up my computer to the tv and get the best of both worlds.

Finally, there’s much to be said for portability. I think it still hasn’t sunk in for me yet, but it’s hard for me to really fathom that my whole, powerful computer will be able to travel with me wherever I go rather than having to sit down at home before I can do some serious computing.

My new Mac arrived the day before my birthday, and I’ve enjoyed it so far. I think my favourite thing is the nice hi-res screen. I hardly feel the loss of inches (it’s as if my iMac were just a bit further away). Plus, the keyboard that I wasn’t sure I’d like (y’see I loved the old white iMac keyboards a lot!) is actually pretty comfortable. Who knows? I think I still might pick up a nice big monitor (maybe not from Apple, since the beautiful 27″ cinema display still costs a pretty penny), but it’s definitely nice to have the flexibility.

So so long, iMac. We’ve been through a lot together, but I’m a MacBook Pro guy now. It’s all good so long as we keep it in the family, right Steve Jobs?


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Alvin & iMac: The End of an Era?

2006-08-26 Mourning kid, carrying

Lately my beloved 19″ white iMac is not doing so good. I know my computer is just an object, but it’s amazing how intimate some of us can become with our machines, how emotionally invested in them we can become. Frankly, it’s because of an emotional incident that led me to become a Mac owner to begin with (no, I was not swayed by charming commercials featuring Justin Long and John Hodgeman) but it was when I had a virus attack on my old Windows PC on Christmas Day. I was so frustrated and annoyed (beyond annoyed, downright panicked) by it that the idea of a computer/operating system without viruses was like a lifeboat to a drowning man. Now, almost six years later, I’ve been an Apple convert (some would say fanatic) since day one, but my first Mac is showing some signs of its age.

First there was the freezing

So, I’d be working on my computer (maybe I’m doing a few things at once, but that’s normal, right) and then suddenly I’d click on Firefox, or Quicklook, or any darned thing, and I’d get the spinning beachball of death, then eventually that would go back to the arrow pointer, but I couldn’t click on anything, and the clincher was that the clock in my menu bar stayed frozen as well. There was no response from anything. I might have preferred to believe that time had stopped in the universe at large, but I quickly admitted to myself that I needed to do a super-hard reboot by pressing the power button until it shut down my computer, then power on again. Sad.

Then there was the blackouts

Now, I’d already had black screen of death experiences a few years back when my Mac’s logic board died, but I got it replaced and had no problem since then. This problem was different. The screen would go dark all of a sudden, but I could still tell that the computer was on and running (I’m not sure how). It’s like I’m on the other side of a closed door, and even though I can’t hear any footsteps or sounds of movement, I know that there are people on the other side. Anyway, without the screen, I couldn’t do anything. Reboot. So sad.

Then there was the progress bar

At first the reboots just were like normal, but then one time I started to notice that the grey startup screen with the Apple logo had a new little grey progress bar (isn’t it cool that even when the computer’s breaking down, everything looks nice and matches? I’m clearly an unrepentant fan-boy). I didn’t know what the progress bar was for, but it made the startup a lot longer. Sometimes taking 5, 10 minutes. Googling the problem led me to learn that while people don’t really know what the problem is, there is general agreement that it’s a hardware problem. Booo! Super sad.

In the mean time, I ran Disk Utility and it told me that there were some misreported bytes or something. So, I had to even boot off my Snow Leopard DVD and run Disk Utility again and the problem was fixed (not my real problems — see above — but the misreported bytes were fixed). Disk Utility told me that my hard drive was just fine. Great.

Now my preferences panes don’t work

The latest thing to fail is that when I go into System Preferences, some of them don’t work. When I click on Security, I get the message that it needs to restart System Preferences to run. Then I restart and click again and it tells me that the preference pane failed to load. Sadder than sad.

Nevertheless, given how emotionally invested I am in my computers, I am surprisingly un-sad. It’s about time for me to get a new computer. When I bought my iMac, I told myself that 24″ was too big. 19 was enough. But now when I see the 27″ iMacs in the Apple Store I think, “Yes, I deserve one of those.” However, I’m still going to wait things out. Rumours abound of an imminent refresh of the iMacs (they finally announced the Macbook Pros being refreshed so the iMacs can’t be far behind), plus I want to have Mac OS X Lion pre-installed on my new computer (and that’s supposed to be coming in the summer), so I am going to bide my time, and sit next to the sickbed of my dying iMac. Maybe I’ll bring him some soup or a nice hot cup of tea now and then. I’ll pat his hand soothingly or sing soft lullabies when he’s sleepy. I just want my iMac to rest and enjoy his last days in relative peace.

Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince;
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.


iMac is back

Just in time for Apple to announce a new, cooler iMac, my own white, non-aluminum iMac has finally returned from the shop. I’m very happy to have my computer back. I’ve been using my work PC laptop at home in the interim and I have to say that it’s been a bit odd. I definitely felt less eager to use the PC to do stuff than the Mac. The Mac just made everything feel slightly more fun. Using the PC full time again felt a bit like going into the past for me (granted, I don’t have Vista on my PC, it’s still XP so maybe it is kind of like going into the past).

Sadly, my faith in Apple has been shaken a bit. Don’t get me wrong. I still think Apple is awesome and I’ll recommend them to whoever wants to hear me, but the fact that such a major hardware problem happened to me less than a year after getting the computer is a bit of a shock. Again, I never had this kind of problem on any of my PCs (even the clones). I know it’s a bit unfair because Apple has such a pristine reputation for reliability that I might be reacting more harshly to a problem with my Mac than I would have to a PC problem, but that’s what makes it kind of worrisome. When I picked up my iMac, there was actually someone else’s iMac also waiting to be picked up — and this isn’t even a Mac-only repair shop. All I’ll say is that I used to look at my iMac (perhaps naively) without any concern that it might let me down. After having that very thing happen (at a really inopportune time no less), my attitude has definitely changed. I’m at least a bit more realistic about things now. I guess the honeymoon is truly over.

As far as Apple and me, I have to say that their support and customer relations people were very nice. When I explained the situation they were helpful (as much as they could be), but there was still a problem because it took so long to get my part. I would have expected that a logic board (which sounds pretty essential to me) would have been in constant supply. How do they build the new iMacs without them? So despite having nice people answering the phones and talking to me, in the end the problem is still the problem. Without a good supply of parts, the problem doesn’t get solved and the customer is still unhappy. Maybe because of the new iMacs, mine was obsolete and they didn’t really put a high priority on parts for those older models (older being less than one year old). Let’s hope that’s not true. I mean, the new iMacs look great, but I’m not quite ready to upgrade yet.

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The saga continues

So it’s been a week and a half since my own Black Tuesday. My iMac is still in the shop. Apparently there was something wrong with the logic board. (Which is ironic because I’m such a logical person myself.) The shop told me last Wednesday that they’d ordered the part and that it would arrive in 2-3 business days, so like a good little boy I waited until Monday to phone (at least I think I waited; it’s all becoming a needy, desperate blur in my memory). As you may recall from my last post, I was about to hand in a crucial assignment for my Advanced Flash class and now I couldn’t touch any of my work (why didn’t I just pull an all-nighter on Monday to get it done… I guess I need a good crystal ball to help me avoid such pitfalls, eh?)

When the part didn’t come even the next day (one week after Black Tuesday), I got antsy. I called the shop and they still hadn’t gotten the part. I explained how desperate I was and how my entire grade depended on this assignment. The shop was sympathetic, but there was nothing that they could do. I then (at someone’s suggestion) called Apple again. They didn’t see that the part was shipped yet, but I explained my situation and my case got transferred to Customer Service instead. The customer service rep told me that there was some demand for this part and that it might take until the middle of August for me to get it. Again I told my tale of woe and pleaded with him whether there was a way to make this happen sooner. He took pity on me and had me escalated to the top of the list to get the part (I felt like I was on the kidney waiting list or something), I think he even mentioned that I was top in Canada and US.

Sadly, my kidney… I mean logic board, has still not arrived today (two days later). I couldn’t wait any longer because tonight’s my last Flash class. Now keep in mind, I’m not an all-eggs-one-basket kind of guy. Meanwhile I’d been emailing my teacher, telling him my tale of woe and he was really understanding and willing to do what he could to give me extensions, etc. Nice guy. Finally, I had the idea that since my hard drive was OK, why couldn’t the shop hook it up to another computer and get my files onto a CD. When I called them up, they were very accommodating and nice (they’d already become familiar with my tale of woe) about it. They set things up for me (for a non-warranty fee) and I was able to get my files onto a CD to hand into my teacher.

It’s been an interesting ride so far (it’s interesting now because I had something to hand in tonight. If not, I think it would still be in the “frustrating” domain) because I don’t think I’ve ever really taken any of my PCs to the shop. My Dell never had any problems. Ironic, no? So my point is, I don’t know whether the service I’ve been getting has been on the nice and helpful side, or just normal. Either way, I’ve appreciated everyone’s understanding — if only they could make the parts move faster. Bottom line is still bottom line, isn’t it? I still don’t have my computer back. Another funny thing is that every time I call Apple, they send me an email for feedback on the call. Part of me feels like saying: the call was great, but I can’t email you back the frickin’ survey without my computer. But I don’t want to hurt their feelings when they’ve been so considerate of mine.

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The black screen of death

I couldn’t believe what happened this past Tuesday. After I woke up I was going to do some work on an assignment for the Advanced Flash night course that I’m taking. When I went to my iMac, the screen was all black, and the little white light was on. I figured that it was just asleep. I moved the mouse around and nothing happened. Then I held the power off button until the white monitor light turned off, then tried to start my computer again, but only the white light turned on (the hard drive whirred a bit) but then nothing else happened.

I tried all the things they suggested in the starter manual, but nothing. I called Apple care and had no wait to connect, but the only thing the support guy could suggest was the old unplug, wait, and replug. When that didn’t work, he said it was a hardware problem and gave me the name of an authorized service place. I went promptly over and dropped off my precious iMac into their hands. It’s still there right now (one day later) and they are not certain what the problem is yet.

Maybe I’m just overly anxious because of recent health issues of my own, but I feel so sad that my iMac is in the shop. I don’t want to doubt the sterling reputation for reliability that Apple has, but I can’t argue with the fact that my own is in the shop. Waiting for a call back from the shop has been like waiting for a call from the hospital. I keep wondering if I would have had the same reaction if this had been my PC rather than my Mac.

Frankly, despite having numerous PC problems over the years, I never had anything like this. I guess that’s the problem with the “closed box” computer: its problems seem much more mysterious. It’s a lot more like the human body: I need to rely on the opinion of an expert because I have no insight into the symptoms. I think if this happened to my PC, I might be tempted to write it off (but if it were still under warranty, I’d probably get it fixed). It might not have been as much of a shock, though. I half expect PCs to fail (especially fail me), but when my iMac stares prettily back at me and refuses to start up, it just seems that much more tragic.


Six months with Mac

Do I still believe the hype?

As they say, time flies when you’re having fun. On one hand it’s hard to believe that I have had my iMac now for over 6 months. On the other, it’s hard for me to think of myself back in the days of Windows [he shudders as he types]. (I warn you that I might come across as a bit of a Mac fanboy in this post. However, I realize that most of my previous posts have been preaching to the choir of fellow Mac users, but now I’m going to try to speak to the unconverted, but even so I’ll be singing Mac’s praises. If that’s too much you can skip to the end where I talk about what I miss from Windows, but you’ll be disappointed.)

Am I able to find the right software?

Along with my switch to Mac, I also made the choice not to use any pirated software. I was concerned about that at first because I know folks who have switched to Mac and back (to Windows) when they couldn’t find compatible software. I’m happy to report that not only am I doing fine on the software front, but it’s actually part of the fun. No question about it, there is far more Windows XP software out there than there is Mac OS X. However, when I started this Mac adventure, part of the exercise was to narrow things down to what I really needed to use. We’re not talking about cutting to bare bones, but did I really need five different programs for audio editing, or a million different web chat clients? Just in case, there’s always virtualization, i.e. software that lets you run Windows on a Mac system. Six months in, I still have not found any software that I’m missing so much that requires me to get virtualization software such as Parallels. I’ve found that there is plenty of great Mac software out there.

One of the fun things about Mac software is the world of freeware and shareware. I never really got into that when I was using Windows, but now I have been regularly monitoring sites such as MacUpdate and VersionTracker to find out what the latest program releases are. Mac free/shareware developers seem to follow the Apple philosophy of making the computer experience as fun and easy to use as it is functional. One case in point is a disc-burning utilty called Disco. It’s famous among Mac fans for its graphics of smoke or fire while a disc is being burned, but besides those gimmicks it has a very simple, sleek, drag-and-drop interface that makes it super-simple to use (sorry, it’s not free, but it’s not too pricey either). Also, my previous posts have mentioned Widgets (little programs that run on the Mac Dashboard) and other efficiency applications that are usually free. As far as major software, MS Office is available for the Mac, but I have not yet purchased it (because I’m kind of off Microsoft these days), but I’ve downloaded a free alternative office suite called NeoOffice, which is pretty powerful and good to use. I don’t need to do huge reports or major spreadsheets at home so this program is more than enough, and I’ve saved a few hundred bucks. I use Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird for my browser and email needs, and I also have a whole list of great free (and very inexpensive) software that I use for everything from: managing fonts, editing audio, editing images/photos, cataloging media, checking TV listings, screen captures, burning discs, converting video, playing streaming media, designing web pages, not to mention system utilities for tagging, searching, clipping, and accessing files, and making all kinds of improvements to the system. Also the iMac came with so much stuff out-of-the-box that many of my needs were met. iDVD is great for making cool DVDs (though it doesn’t let you make custom menus), iCal is a very effective calendar program that will remind you of appointments even when it’s not running, and I haven’t even really tried some of the other programs like music editor GarageBand.

Is it truly better to use than Windows?

Mac OS X is definitely easier than Windows for several reasons. For me, the coolest thing is installing applications. Too often in Windows I used to go through the steps (usually there was an installation wizard) and hundreds of little files would be installed God-knows-where throughout my computer. For Macs, I just double-click the installer icon, and when the folder (actually called a disk image) is mounted, drag the new program icon into my Applications folder. The end. To uninstall, just delete the icon from the Applications folder. It’s that easy! That is one of my favourite aspects of Mac. Plus, if I move the application icon to a different subfolder or something, it still works!

File management is pretty much the same as Windows. I drag icons here and there. However, the built in file finder application (called Spotlight) is very good at finding stuff when you don’t know where you’ve put it. Some people don’t like Spotlight, but I think it runs rings around the silly dog that searches files in Windows.

The other thing that’s great in Mac OS X is that programs run independently. OK, I don’t know much about the tech, so I don’t actually know what the programs are doing. However, what I do know is that when a program freezes (yes, it does happen even on Macs), I can right click on the icon and choose Force Quit. The program shuts down and I don’t have to restart the system or anything like that (plus the rest of the system seemed uninterrupted). It’s similar to ctrl-alt-delete on Windows, but far less intrusive.

Are there really no viruses?

I keep an ear out for that stuff. Viruses really suck and they have caused me grief in the past. So far there still don’t seem to be any. No one bothers to write them. Recently there was a contest to hack into a MacBook and someone won it, and before that there was a project where hackers were challenged to present a month of Mac bugs. The great thing is that Apple patches those bugs pretty quickly when found. Even though someone hacked into the MacBook, I’m still not worried. FYI, I don’t run any anti-virus on my iMac. For a viro-phobe like myself, that’s saying a lot.

Do I miss Windows?

Not really. I still use Windows at work, so it’s not like it’s far from my mind. However, I miss certain things that are common complaints of Mac switchers (but they’re really minor). I’ve said these gripes before in other posts, but who doesn’t like to re-complain, eh?

Gripe one: On Mac windows there is a little green button at the top of the screen that is supposed to be like Maximize in Windows. It doesn’t work very well. I don’t know how it decides, but most of the time, the window expands to some arbitrary size, but it’s not the full screen.

Gripe two: Closing an window does not mean closing a program. Often after you’ve clicked the red button to close a window, the program is still running. I think this is kind of pointless. It’s not like programs need so much time to boot up that you want to keep it running in case you need to use it quickly for another file. As a memory freak, I don’t like wasting memory on pointlessly running programs.

Gripe three: I never thought I’d say this, but I miss Windows Explorer. I like having a tree structure on the left and file listing on the right. Mac OS X Finder has various different displays of files (one which displays panels of subdirectories) but none of them are very good to use, especially when moving files from one folder to the next. With all the file indexing and searching tools available for OS X, maybe I’m not supposed to get hung up on folders and old-style file management, but I just like to keep things organized that way.

Any regrets?

Not at all. I love my iMac (though there are rumours of a new model coming soon. I guess that speaks to Apple’s ongoing innovativeness, but it’s sad when your computer is not the latest thing), and I encourage everyone, especially home users and people who don’t like to deal with a lot of headaches, to consider taking the plunge with a Mac.


Can’t sleep… gotta play with new iMac…

That title is pretty accurate (I have been staying up ’til the wee hours most nights since I got my iMac), but actually I’ve been spending most of my time with the new iTunes (getting artwork for my albums, etc.). Nevertheless, I have done a lot and will have plenty to report in my next post. I’ve been having a really good time with my new iMac so far. It’s sitting on my dining table. Funny story: I didn’t know that the mouse was going to be optical (because when I played with it in the store, I remembered the little track ball on top and mentally equated that with it having a ball on the bottom). Alas, my dining table is glass, which gives no love to an optical mouse. Now I’ve got to go back to the bad old mousepad. (Is it a weird sign of the times that we now tell computer anecdotes?)



Here’s a photo of me and Mac (sorry for the poor quality, but it was taken with a cell phone camera, because I don’t have a digital camera–hey, I can’t afford ALL the cool toys at once!)

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