Written: January 28, 2017

New MacBook Pro with three monitors

My Upgrade Experience to the 2016 MacBook Pro laptop

I’ve been using a 2011 MacBook Pro with 17″ display for several years, and it allows me to view web pages under both macOS Sierra and Windows 10. The display is a gorgeous anti-glare, which means that you don’t see your own reflection in it. Once I started using 17″ laptops over 10 years ago, then anything smaller like 15″ or 13″ just seems so unproductive and tiny in comparison, so screen size really matters. In fact, I connect my laptop up to three external 24″ monitors, so that gives me a total of four screens to get all of my work done. Here’s how I use each screen:

New MacBook Pro with three monitors

New MacBook Pro with three monitors

As of January 1, 2017 the Apple store will no longer offer any repairs on my 2011 MacBook Pro, so it was time to upgrade. I did check out several used MacBook Pro laptops on craigslist, but ultimately decided on buying a shiny, new 2016 MacBook Pro. A lot has changed in the last five years with Apple’s lineup of MacBook Pro computers. Let me just show you a side-by-side comparison of how different it was to go from a 2011 to a 2016 MacBook Pro:

 

Feature 2011 2016
Screen 17″ 15″
Resolution 1920×1200 2880×1800
RAM 16GB 16GB
SSD 500GB 500GB
Ethernet Port Yes
Firewire Port Yes
Thunderbolt Port 1
Thunderbolt 3 Port (aka USB Type-C) 4
USB 2.0 3
Audio line in Yes Yes
Audio line out Yes Yes
ExpressCard/34 slot Yes
WiFi 802.11a/b/g 802.11ac
Bluetooth 2.1 4.2
Touch Bar Yes
Fingerprint scan Yes
Track pad Small Giant
Optical Drive SuperDrive
Weight 6.6 pounds 4.02 pounds

The first big let-down with buying a 2016 MacBook Pro was the smaller screen size of 15″, after using 17″ laptop displays for over 10 years, however because I also use three external 24″ monitors this wasn’t as big of a deal for me in terms of impacting productivity. If I were traveling with my 15″ MacBook Pro and that was the only display, then yes, it would be awkward and inefficient for me to use in comparison to the 17″ model.

Apple makes a lot of noise about Retina, and how gorgeous photos look, however there is no wow factor for me in using a Retina display over the older, non-Retina display. Just good old-fashioned Apple marketing trying to make me fall in love with Retina, well, I’m not in love with it and can easily live without it.

Ports, oh my goodness, what did Apple do with all of those useful, varied ports on my MacBook Pro? Well, they replaced the variety with uniformity, and you only get four of them, oddly enough one of them has to be used for power, so you really only have three left to work with. I’m not a big fan of this move by Apple, because it has caused me to go out and buy additional USB Type-C adapters to:

Apple felt badly enough about this port blunder by temporarily lowering the price of many of their adapters, but they really are nickel and diming their loyal users by insisting that you can only have Thunderbolt 3 connectors. Apple has taken the same physical shape of the USB Type-C connector and upped the data transmission by 4X to a stunning 40Gbps for short cables (aka active), and 20Gbps for longer cables (aka passive).

What’s really new in terms of features is this concept of a Touch Bar that takes the place of what we used to call Function Keys. Yes, you can still have Function Keys, but whenever you start to use an App in the new MacBook Pro then this Touch Bar lights up with new buttons for you to press. No other company has such a system, so at least there’s a little bit of innovation going on here. I do like the Fingerprint scan feature, located in the far-right of the new Touch Bar, because is saves me from having to continuously type in my password to wake the system up after it goes into sleep mode. Yes, sometimes I stop and think long enough that I’m not typing anything on my computer and it falls asleep.

The track pad has become super-sized, which looks kind of funny at first, but then I got used to it. This feature is not making me more efficient, it’s just a marketing gimmick to make the MacBook Pro look different in 2016 compared to past models.

Overall the weight has gone done dramatically, as the 2016 MacBook Pro is some 50% lighter than the older 2011 model. Since I rarely go mobile with my MacBook Pro, this is not a wow feature for me yet. In their quest to get the 2016 MacBook Pro this light they have further reduced the distance that each key moves when press, and oddly enough the new keys are much, much louder than the old keys. As a touch typist I am having to get used to increased noise levels, and I’m the one creating a noisier environment. Too bad that there is no official specification for keyboard noise, just be forewarned that as you move to the 2016 MacBook Pro there’s going to be a whole lot of keyboard noise going on. I would even pay up to $200 to have a quieter keyboard installed on my new MacBook Pro, that’s just how annoying it is to me. Yes, I could use an external keyboard that is quieter, however that defeats the whole purpose of using minimal desktop area for me.

Migration Assistant

So Apple has the wonderful, included App called Migration Assistant, and as the name implies it helps you to migrate all that data from your old MacBook Pro to the new one, so no geek experience is required. My first approach was to use WiFi, because that was the only thing that I had to choose from when I got back from the Apple store. With WiFi connecting my old and new MacBook Pro I was informed by the App that it would take 23 hours to complete the migration. Uh oh, time is money for a freelance web developer, so this amount of time was not acceptable. Why oh why didn’t the Apple sales rep at the Bridgeport Store mention to me that I shouldn’t use WiFi. I specifically asked him, “How much time with Migration Assistant take to run?”

His reply, “About an hour.”

Apple Bridgeport Village – not so helpful

He never mentioned that with WiFi it would take one day to transfer. Who teaches these Apple sales reps about customer satisfaction?

Another observation about Apple reps, when will they teach them that Apple stores accept Android Pay and Apple Pay. The last three times that I made a purchase at the Apple store I asked the clerk, “Do you accept Android Pay?”

Their response each time, “No, sorry, only Apple Pay.”

Then when I pull out my Samsung Galaxy Note 4 phone and pay with Android Pay their jaw drops, their mouth opens, their eyes turn big, and they say, “Huh, that isn’t supposed to work in here,”

Android Pay works at Apple Stores

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – Not an iPhone

The next morning at 10AM I was at the Apple store for a second trip to ask how to speed up Migration Assistant. The first lady that I asked directed me over to the wall display of dozens of adapters and cables, but couldn’t answer my question so she sought help from the bearded guy with tatoos. The bearded guy asked me five times what computer I was migrating from, and each time I patiently told him that it was a 2011 MacBook Pro, however he had not a clue what ports were included in the 2011 MacBook Pro. What a painful process, I literally wanted to shake him out of his stupor and ask, “Have you ever been trained on Apple products like the MacBook Pro?”

Because there were so many witnesses in the Apple store I didn’t assault this rep, although I really wanted to. Bearded guy then showed me two adapters:

Adding up these two adapters was something like $48 or so. Then I asked Bearded guy, “Well, what about if I just buy this one adapter from USB Type-C to Gigabit Ethernet?”

Bearded guy replied, “Uh, oh, yes, you could do that, I guess.”

So I bought the $22 USB Type-C to Gigabit Ethernet adapter and hurried home, remembering that time is money in my profession. Happily, it took about 90 minutes to use Migration Assistant with my new Apple adapter. While at the store I wisely purchased a USB Type-C to USB connector so that I could use my Garmin bike computer and other USB gizmos.

External Monitors

Since I already own three 24″ external monitors I needed a way to connect between their DVI connection and the USB Type-C on the MacBook Pro. Of course, Apple doesn’t sell such an adapter because they only want you to buy the monitors in their store, so I had to drive Southward into Wilsonville for a visit to Fry’s, the superstore that makes Geeks smile with glee, because they mostly have whatever you need, in stock, although you will not be able to find it yourself. When I asked the Fry’s clerk where their USB Type-C to DVI cables were, we hunted at four different locations in their store until we finally found the aisle that had the product that I had already seen online and confirmed was in their store.

Frys – What aisle is my product on?

Once at home with all of the proper Apple and Fry’s cables I finally had my new MacBook Pro all up and running with all of the account data from before. Ah, time to get to work and start making up for all of the trips and hours away from a working computer.

The Moral of the Story

Apple reps really need to be trained to ask their customers simple questions, like, “What computer are you coming from?”

Frys really needs to have a mobile app that tells you which aisle every product will be found on in the store, instead of relying upon a search party model to find your gizmos.

The new 2016 MacBook Pro is lighter, shinier and way more expensive than a 2011 MacBook Pro. I don’t expect to be any more productive at all by using it, however I will be supported by Apple for the next three years because I paid the Apple Care tax. About this same time in 2020 I will be selling a 2016 MacBook Pro on craigslist, and I will give you a good deal on the price.

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8 responses to “My Upgrade Experience to the 2016 MacBook Pro laptop”

  1. William says:

    “Why doesn’t Apple just use the standard nomenclature of the computer industry and simply say that they offer USB Type-C connectors? Obfuscation on display, big time, it’s a mistake and Apple marketing should grow up and stick with USB Type-C.”

    Because USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3 are not synonymous. Thunderbolt 3 uses USB Type-C ports, but not all USB Type-C ports are Thunderbolt 3-capable (most out there are in fact not). So Apple marketing doesn’t need to “grow up.” You can read further about the differences, e.g. here:

    http://www.velocitymicro.com/blog/usb-3-1-vs-thunderbolt-3/

    • Daniel Payne says:

      William, thanks for the link. So Thunderbolt 3 is 4X faster then USB Type-C, can drive dual 4K monitors, and can do peer to peer connections at 10 GbE speeds. Info is appreciated. I find it ironic that at the apple.com web site they are selling an LG 4K and LG 5K monitor, both of which have incredibly low user reviews because the monitors connected to the new MacBook Pro don’t wake up, cause freezing and reboots. These early monitors are giving Apple a black eye in the market.

      • William says:

        No problem. I’m running one of these 5K monitors with a 2016 13″ MacBook Pro. There are definitely a few teething issues, but nothing particularly offensive (in my usage, anyway). I’ve not had any freezing or random reboots.

        Most of these issues feel like Apple not being quite up on their software to support the monitor, and I expect we’ll see some fixes in short order.

        That said, I do love that you can come home and just connect one cable from the screen to the laptop and the result is a gorgeous 5K display (image, if not design!), power, sound, camera/mic – and whatever other things you already have plugged into the display (ethernet, external disk etc) – again – all from just the one Thunderbolt cable – which you can plug into any of the four Thunderbolt 3 ports on the laptop. It really does feel special.

        Still, Apple has work to do in this space, and updates should come sooner rather than later.

        • Daniel Payne says:

          I just plugged in the headphone for the first time tonight, too bad that Apple designers placed it behind two of the Thunderbolt 3 ports, instead of in front of it. The positioning isn’t ergonomically correct. My 2011 MacBook Pro had the headphone jack closest to the front, which is ergonomically proper. At the Apple store I asked the clerk if he would connect two 5K monitors to a MacBook Pro and he said, “No, we cannot do that.” Is it just Apple arrogance or policy to not show a customer how two products in the store actually connect together?

          • William says:

            I can’t speak for individual Apple employees. The 2016 15″ MacBook Pro will support 2x 5K monitors + the internal display without issue. (It will also support 4x 4096×2304 resolution displays + internal display, too).

            The 13″ model only supports the 1x 5K display (or 2x 4096×2304).

            As far as the headphone jack goes, I don’t personally use it that much, having switched to wireless, and generally when I do use a 3.5mm pair of cans, the 3.5mm cable is plenty long enough so it’s no big deal. I guess if you’re using EarPods it might be an issue with the short cord, but those are sub-par anyway and if you’re using the Thunderbolt 3 ports you’re likely at a desk where you can use something better. I don’t see one location being that much more ergonomic than the other, really.

            It sounds like you don’t like the laptop very much, and that’s fine. Maybe it’s better to continue with your 2011 model, and upgrade when you have to? I really like the 2016 MacBook Pro, but I recognize that others don’t.

  2. I just purchased from amazon a combined Ethernet with 3 x USB connectors and USB c charging for a clients new 15″ mbp. The only thing missing was a mini DP connector. I had to get another dongle for that. So I have reduced 4 cables to 2 for my client.
    The dongles cost approx £15 each and arrived 3 days later. The USB / Ethernet one is quite smart looking.
    My 2011 17″ is still going and I have a spare. Battery is really good as well, using the original one with about 4-5 use on a full charge working it hard, not in the Apple / VW way of testing. 🙂

    • Daniel Payne says:

      Mike, that combo adapter sounds very useful, it always makes me wonder why Apple doesn’t offer one on their site to help their own customers. Of course the market place sees this new opportunity and is responding to meet the needs.

      • Mike Matthews says:

        What is very deja by here is the Apple Old Timers will remember the last century Mac Duo. Who remembers that thing? A lightweight portable with a motorised docking station for those accessories that are always at you desk. It ran a Motorola 603e processor I think? So a bit under powered. But sounds familiar.

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Apple MacBook Pro Woes

I’ve been using an Apple MacBook Pro brand of laptop computer for three generations now, however there is a myth that Apple laptops are more reliable than PC laptops. On my 17″ MacBook Pro laptop the keyboard started having keys that no longer work, so I’ve got an appointment at the Apple Genius Bar today to probably have the keyboard replaced. As a work-around I’ve added a wireless keyboard so that I can continue my work.

As a backup for my 17″ MacBook Pro I have a 2nd computer, a 15″ MacBook Pro, so I took it off the shelf and placed it on my table, however it wouldn’t sit on the table flat, it wobbled instead. Hmm, what would cause my laptop to no longer sit flat? I opened the laptop up only to be horrified to see that the trackpad had been destroyed. What would cause a trackpad to be pushed out from the inside?

I took the bottom of my 15″ MacBook Pro apart to see what was going on, and look what I found, a bulging battery had pushed the trackpad to crack and moved the bottom of the case. Doing a Google search for “MacBook Pro battery bulging” I found that this is a known problem with many people reporting the same issue. I’ve got an 11:55AM appointment at the Genius Bar, so I will bring them two broken MacBook Pros, one with a bad keyboard and the other with a bad battery, broken trackpad and bulged case. Wish me luck.

Oh, and Apple laptop hardware is not more reliable than PC hardware, both brands will have failures.

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4 responses to “Apple MacBook Pro Woes”

  1. Daniel Payne says:

    At the Apple store in Bridgeport Village but they want to change me $239 to replace the battery and track pad on the 15″ MacBook Pro, so I’m an unhappy customer.

  2. Todd Tomlinson says:

    I have one of those sitting in the closet — same problem – and that’s the second one that’s done that to me. I threw the first one away.

    • Daniel Payne says:

      Todd, I’m amazed that there isn’t some class action lawsuit against Apple for these bulging batteries or a lot more publicity about it. I last powered up the 15″ MacBook Pro just two weeks ago and it was totally fine, no bulging at all.

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macOS Sierra, Is it a big deal?

My MacBook Pro prompted me to upgrade to the latest OS, now named macOS Sierra, so I said OK and have been playing with the new features today. The installation process took maybe 30 minutes or so, and while that was happening I was able to watch some Netflix series on my iPad.

Siri

Users of iOS devices like the iPad and iPhone have long been able to chat with their devices to ask questions or control apps, so now we have that useful feature on the desktop. I first asked about the weather, but then quickly discovered that I hadn’t setup my location:

Oddly enough the icon for Siri is supposed to be in my Menu Bar, but it isn’t showing up, instead I have to find it in my Dock instead. The hotkey to invoke Siri is “command shift”, however that is already defined to be the Spotlight feature. Oops, Apple duplicated their own hotkey sequences and failed to notice that gaffe.

Universal Clipboard

This nifty feature allows you to copy from one device, say the MacBook Pro, then paste into an iPad. Sadly for me this feature requires that my MacBook Pro be a 2012 or later model, but I’m using the 2011 model so this doesn’t work at all, ugh.

Auto Unlock

This trick requires that you purchase an Apple Watch, then it will unlock your MacBook Pro. I’m not going to buy a watch just to do this task, but I understand how wearables could impact my laptop.

Apple Pay

You can be shopping on your Safari browser on the desktop, click the Apple Pay button, then use your iPhone or Apple Watch to make the payment. Since I own the iPad Air, this doesn’t work, it requires an iPad Air2 device.

Photos

Memories will arrange your photos into collections that are grouped by people, events and location. Worked OK on my MacBook Pro, but I couldn’t find it on my iPad device.

Messages

I can use the Messages app and add fun emoji. Most of my contacts use Facebook Messenger or regular text messaging.

iCloud Drive

Works across all my devices like iPad and MacBook Pro, kind of like Apple’s version of DropBox.

Optimized Storage

Clever feature to move infrequent files from my Mac into iCloud, leaving more space on my Mac. Haven’t tried it, but it does make sense should I run out of space.

Picture in Picture

In iTunes or some web sites on Safari you can start playing a video, then float that video to a corner of your screen while you work on other things. The only streaming that I do is on Netflix, so I haven’t tried this yet.

Tabs

Apps like Maps can have multiple tabs, just like in a web browser. I’m a Google Maps user, so seldom play with Apple Maps.

Summary

For how I use my MacBook Pro this latest OS is mostly eye-candy, so really won’t change my daily work and entertainment routines. It was free, so thank you Apple

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Failing Graphics on a 2011 MacBook Pro

What Happened When My Laptop Died, Twice

Over the past few decades I’ve owned laptops from Zenith Data Systems, Toshiba, Dell, HP and Apple. I’ve known that the reliability of laptops in particular is quite low because of how tightly packed the components are, leading quite often to heat-related failures in the CPU, GPU, DRAM or other chips mounted on the logic board. Last week my 2011 MacBook Pro with 17″ display decided to flake out and stop working after annoying graphical glitches and constant freezes and reboots.

Failing Graphics on a 2011 MacBook Pro

Failing Graphics on a 2011 MacBook Pro

Thankfully, I’ve been watching the Apple forums and heard about an official program dubbed, “MacBook Pro Repair Extension Program for Video Issues“. It turns out that the graphics chip is attached to the logic board with lead-free solder, and that if not applied properly will eventually begin to fail after so many heat and cool cycles.

Related – A Brief History of the Apple MacBook Pro

I did a quick Google search for, “lead free solder failures” and it returned some 940,000 results, so this is a big topic not just limited to Apple’s MacBook Pro product.

Sn/Ag/Cu/Sb Failure with Voids in Crack

Sn/Ag/Cu/Sb Failure with Voids in Crack

Some related articles about lead-free solder failure:

AMD Radeon GPU on a MacBook Pro

AMD Radeon GPU on a MacBook Pro

Prior to the Apple repair program you had a few choices:

Apple is wisely offering to repair at no cost to the owner affected MacBook Pro laptops that were sold from February 2011 and December 2013:

To see if your MacBook Pro qualifies, see what year your laptop is by clicking on: Apple> About This Mac

About this Mac

I was able to phone my local Apple store at Bridgeport Village, confirm my serial number, then make an appointment with the Apple Genius Bar to drop off the laptop. Since I wanted to keep working while my 17″ MacBook Pro was being repaired, I decided to buy a used 15″ MacBook Pro from a local Craigslist listing. After just five days of use my 15″ MacBook Pro died this morning in the same manner as my 17″ in for repair, so today was not a fun day for me. I traveled to my Apple store with the dead 15″ MacBook Pro and the Genius Bar guy noted, “Oh, your 17″ is back from repair”. Now that was perfect timing, so I’m typing this blog on my recently repaired 17″ MacBook Pro, and waiting for my backup 15″ laptop to be repaired in about a week for the same failure mechanism.

Related – A Brief History of Chip Design at Apple Computer

I’m not sure of the exact economic cost to Apple for implementing this MacBook Pro repair program, but online there was a petition started to recall these failing MacBook Pro computers and over 38,000 people had signed it. In California and Canada class action lawsuits have also been filed to address this consumer product failure. Let’s take a guess and say that up to 100,00 MacBook Pro owners have this work done and that it costs Apple $500 to repair each unit, that would make the cost about $50 Million, and maybe it will also stop the two class-action lawsuits.

The one Apple person that I spoke to on the phone about my failing laptop wanted to know if my machine was stock or had been modified. I admitted that I had replaced the hard disk drive with a Samsung 500 GB SSD, and upgraded the DRAM to 16 GB. At first he wanted me to return all components to stock, but I pushed back and pointed out that my SSD used less power than a hard disk drive, and actually made my laptop run cooler, plus the DRAM was testing OK and was not causing these failures. He finally relented, and said that he was making an exception for me. Uh huh.

Related – A Brief History of the Apple iPod

The good news is that Apple is the largest consumer electronics company in the world, and they finally decided to help out distressed MacBook Pro owners like myself by admitting that there was a reliability issue, then offering a free repair program. I’m still undecided if I will continue to buy Apple products because it has been such a hassle for me to have two failing MacBook Pro laptops plus an iPad 2.

My iPad 2 was out of the 2 year Apple Care warranty period, and it continued to freeze and reboot sporadically. Maybe I just have to wait long enough for Apple to have a free repair program my iPad 2, just like the MacBook Pro.

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Passing RAM Test

Mac Computer Woes Resolved

I enjoy using a MacBook Pro laptop in my business because of the unique ability to run both OS X and Windows 8 apps, side by side. This ability allows me to view a web page in both Internet Explorer on Windows 8, plus Safari on OS X. All is well when the laptop is operating properly, but this week that pleasant reality was quickly shaken when my laptop started rebooting.

At first I thought that the rebooting was caused by Google Chrome, so instead I started using Safari for web browsing, but the reboots kept happening even with Safari. After each reboot I had to use the Disk Utility to do repairs on the hard drive, and sometimes I could go for an hour or two before rebooting. Eventually my backup hard drive became broken, and my Windows 8 with Parallels would no longer work.

I searched the Apple support forums and found that others were having rebooting issues, but their solutions didn’t really work or apply to my situation. Finally, this morning I found one useful suggestion – try testing the RAM (Random Access Memory). According to Apple there was something called the Apple Hardware Test, where I could reboot my laptop and press the D key to get some hardware diagnostics running. Oddly enough, pressing D while rebooting did nothing.

Ready for Plan B, I found a wonderful little free App called EtreCheck that quickly identified that my RAM chipset was defective.

I was excited to finally identify the cause of my reboots, but then again I was saddened that my 16GB of RAM had already failed after only a few years of use. How could RAM go bad so easily?

Jumping into the car I made my way to Fry’s in Wilsonville and purchased 16GB of replacement for $159.99, returned home and installed it. The good news is that when I reran the memory test, it now passed everything with a clean bill of health:

The moral of my story – do a RAM test if your computer is randomly rebooting. My 2011 MacBook Pro still allows me to change my own RAM, however starting in 2012 Apple decided to solder the RAM to the motherboard, so this repair would not be possible with the newer MacBook Pro laptops – which is a big mistake on Apple’s part.

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Apple Stumbles After Steve Jobs

Today the one-time brilliant marketing department at Apple made a major stumble.

What was it you ask?

Well, for the past 9 years I’ve enjoyed using a 17″ laptop every single work day (and play day). Once I found out how useful and productive the big screen was I vowed to never go back to a tiny 15″ or 13″ display.

Today, Apple announced brand new MacBook Pro laptops in only 13″ and 15″ sizes, no 17″ size. Somehow they forgot that the pricing on the 17″ laptop was higher than the 15″ and 13″ models and therefore had the most margin, and they have no 17″ laptop in their product line.

Yes, I do like the Retina display because my iPad 3 (aka New iPad) has it, however I would never downgrade from a 17″ to a 15″ display, never.

Apple, if you are listening, then please make at least one 17″ MacBook Pro prototype with the new Retina display and I promise to be your very, very best beta tester ever on the earth, so send one my way up here in Tualatin.

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One response to “Apple Stumbles After Steve Jobs”

  1. Daniel Payne says:

    If you want to voice your opinion that Apple should make a 17″ MacBook Pro, then come Like our new Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/pages/MacBook-Pro-17-We-want-a-Retina-Display/384423851613825

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Windows 8, My First Impressions

Today I read an article about Nokia, the one-time world leader in cellphones and how they are now rated as “Junk” by the financial world, and it got me interested in Microsoft because their OS runs on the newer Nokia phones. Apple has two operating systems iOS for mobile devices and Mac OS X for laptop and desktop, while Microsoft has merged their mobile (Metro) and desktop OS (Windows) into the upcoming Windows 8.

My first step was to double check that I could run Windows 8 Beta on my MacBook Pro using the Parallels virtualization software. Yes, according to Parallels this can be done.

From Parallels I went to my Virtual Machines list, then clicked the + button to add a new virtual machine, then clicked the Windows 8 choice in the lower-right corner. The 3.3GB download said about 4 hours of waiting. At the end of the download was a lengthy “Validating” phase, followed by “Your download is corrupt, try again.”

My second download ended in exactly the same state as first, failure.

Since the Parallels auto-install wasn’t working I just looked in my download directory, located the 3.3GB file, renamed it windows8.iso, then asked Parallels to install from an ISO file. Installation was straight forward after that. A bit of Microsoft humor shows up in the install because this is a Beta release they used a beta fish icon:

While waiting for the Windows 8 install to complete there’s an animated swirl of five stars to mesmerize you into a hypnotic state and forget about time passing.

The background color scheme can be selected among a dozen earthy choices:

The opening Metro screen uses tiles instead of icons, and you can make them wider, narrower, re-arrange, or un-pin them.

Microsoft has you login with your LiveID, so that it can remember your preferences in the cloud:

You can customize the lock screen with some beautiful photography included:

With the Parallels software on my MacBook Pro I now have many Operating System choices including Windows 8:

Just like Windows 7 you will find that Microsoft has many updates it wants to install, and with Windows 8 Beta I get failures to update for an HP Laserjet printer (never been attached, so unsure why it thinks that I need it at all):

Start Screen

As you setup accounts in Windows 8 the Metro UI becomes more personalized to your tastes and habits:

I setup accounts for:

SkyDrive

I downloaded the SkyDrive app for Mac then added photos from a weekend trip, and my profile photo:

I found that the background color is constantly changing in Metro. The first time you visit the background is a style pattern and solid color, then in SkyDrive the background is white, but when looking at Photos on SkyDrive the background changes to black. Thank you Microsoft for the very liberal free storage capacity of 25GB for me, that is just wonderful.

Apps

In Metro you will notice that Apps need to be updated with a number inside of a circle, clicking Store shows you:

Once you’re in an App and using a Mouse/Keyboard it’s not real intuitive how to get back to Metro, so after a Google search I discovered that I had to move my mouse to the far right side and select Start:

Once in the App called Store you can scroll horizontally to the right to see lots of App categories and suggestions. I added the free Kindle App and it looked just like what I use on the PC or Mac:

Windows 8 adds every App and Program on your computer to the Metro start page, so it’s a hassle when I downloaded the Kindle App because it gets added to the farthest right of the screen, causing my to scroll about 8 pages to even find it. I would prefer that new Apps are pinned to the Start screen on the far left with now scrolling, not the far right. On the Android when I add a new App it gets added alphabetically, while on iOS new Apps get added to the farthest right screen (still don’t like it, too much scrolling).

Desktop

From the Start screen you click Desktop and see something that looks just like the Windows 7 desktop.

The marketing folks at Microsoft want you to believe that Metro and Windows are now merged however I don’t drink that Kool-Aide because clearly these are two totally separate Operating Systems glued together, there is simply nothing merged about it. You are either working with the Metro UI or the old familiar Windows 7 UI. Honestly I am underwhelmed, but have no choice but to learn and use Windows 8 because my clients will be using it.

Microsoft documentation tells me to click the Windows button on my keyboard to switch back to Metro from the Desktop or App, however on my MacBook Pro the equivalent key is the right-hand Command button.

Finance App

Yes, the Microsoft folks went a little crazy for this App and provided maximum eye candy, charts, numbers, facts and figures:

[nggallery id=8]

Conclusions

Microsoft will certainly continue to extract their OS upgrade tax moving Windows 7 users into Windows 8. I’ve really just scratched the surface of what Windows 8 will do however I can say that this OS does have a learning curve, works OK with a mouse, and the Metro UI should work OK as a touch-based UI. Windows 8 works fast enough for me as a virtual OS under Parallels on a MacBook Pro, at least as fast as Windows 7 did.

Will your life forever be changed for the good after buying and using Windows 8? Uh, no.

Download Windows 8 Consumer Preview here, I would recommend on a PC to add a new partition and keep it separate from Windows 7, on a Mac get Parallels which will keep it separate from your other OSes.

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Unreliable Laptop Hard Drives

Last evening I returned from the office, setup the laptop at home and pushed the power button. Uh oh. My MacBook Pro screen just showed a startup but never progressed even after minutes of waiting:

No problem, I’ll just reboot again using Command+R and plugin my backup hard drive. Then I could see the utility screen:

In the Disk Utility I clicked Repair Disk however it returned this ominous error:

Invalid B-Tree node size

A Google search told me that this meant that my 500GB hard drive was damaged. Wow, that drive was less than two years old.

This morning I drove to Fry’s in Wilsonville because they open at 8AM, while I really preferred to shop at Best Buy in Tualatin because they were much closer to my office in Tualatin however they open later at 10AM.

The tech guy at Fry’s showed me the laptop hard drive choices available and when I told him that I had a MacBook Pro he said, “Well, I wouldn’t use the 7200 RPM drives in that because Apple didn’t design it to remove the heat fast enough, stick with the 5400 RPM drive instead.”

So, I bought a Seagate 500GB hard drive, the 5400 RPM version and went back to my office to replace the dead 500GB hard drive. Sure enough, my dead drive was the 7200 RPM version from Seagate. Lesson learned, don’t exceed Apple specs in your MacBook Pro.

Replacing the hard drive was straight forward, with my small screwdriver set I unscrewed the phillips screws on the bottom of the case. Remove two screws on the hard drive assembly, popped out my old drive, inserted the new drive, the powered up. Uh oh, the new drive had nothing on it, so the MacBook couldn’t boot.

I powered off, the powered on while holding the Command+R button and did a reboot from my backup drive. Back to the familiar Mac OS X Utilities menu. Under Disk Utility I had to first Partition the new drive, then choose Restore from Time Machine. Now it’s telling me that a restore will take 4 hours and 23 minutes, hmm. I’ll let you know how the story ends.

This is not the first time that my MacBook Pro has given me woes:

What Can Go Wrong With Mac OS X – Lion?

After Lunch Update

Just before I left for lunch the Restore dialog told me that I had less than 1 hour to complete, so I felt excited to finish lunch and come back to a restored laptop. Not so. After lunch I entered my office to find that the laptop display was off, so I clicked the mouse but it didn’t wake the display. Hmm. Next I clicked the power button but it only showed me the start screen and never booted to the desktop.

I re-powered and pressed the Command+R key to boot from my backup drive but now that wouldn’t work. I’m going backwards here.

Jump in the car, drive home and fetch the old Snow Leopard OS which came on DVD, unlike Lion which has no DVD and requires that your laptop be healthy enough to boot up. Now I am starting my second Restore from backup and the dialog says 5 hours and 43 minutes…

The only thing that allows me to do any work today is my backup HP laptop running Windows 7 and accessing my email accounts through webmail. Now, why did I leave HP in the first place?

No go, the second restore will not boot.

Apple Store
At the Apple store now and Tony thinks it is an OS issue so he is loading Lion on my new hard drive. Success, my MacBook Pro will now boot after the corrupt Lion OS was re-installed. Tony is a genius, many thanks you found the issue and got my laptop back to life again.

Apple Bridgeport Village

When I returned from the Apple store I still had to do a recovery from Time Machine to get back my user accounts, programs and documents.

Conclusion
My MacBook Pro would not boot because the OS was corrupted and the Time Machine backup doesn’t include the OS, so my attempts to restore from backup didn’t solve anything. I still don’t know exactly what caused the OS to become corrupt.

In three years of owning MacBook Pro laptops I can say that they are as unreliable as any PC that I’ve owned for the past 30 years. So much for the fabled superiority of Apple over PC when it comes to running a business because I don’t see Apple as being more reliable than PC (HP, Dell, Toshiba).

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One response to “Unreliable Laptop Hard Drives”

  1. Joline Johnstone says:

    Currently the only reason I have a cloud storage account is due to the unlimited music storage. Otherwise I really do not use it, as I am not going to waste all week recreating folders for my files. Also I am unhappy that the Kindle Fire really does not interact with the cloud store items as I have a few photos on there that it does not see.

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What Can Go Wrong With Mac OS X – Lion?

This morning I turned on my trusty MacBook Pro and read some emails (battery very low), then dashed off to walk my youngest son to the bus stop. Returning home I closed the lid and headed into the office.

At the office I opened the lid and hit the power button. Uh oh. My LCD was dim and I could barely make out the windows. No problem I thought, then pushed the Power button to restart my laptop. When the laptop restarted I saw the familiar Apple logo and the swirling icon:

After several minutes and no login prompt I knew that something was wrong. Probably the Hard Drive, so let’s try rebooting with Command+R:

Then I choose Disk Utility and clicked both Verify Permissions and Verify Disk, followed by Repair Permissions and Repair Disk:

Tried to reboot but my laptop was still stuck at the Apple logo, no login.

Well, time to try and restore Lion from the Internet, so another reboot with Command+R then tried Reinstall Mac OS X:

A dialog asks for my AppleID:

I lookup my AppleID in an Excel spreadsheet but it isn’t accepted. I click Forgot Password and wait for an email confirmation, none comes. I try a second AppleID, that also is rejected. Finally, I try a new AppleID which is accepted however it tells me that the new AppleID wasn’t the one used to originally buy Lion.

I phone Apple Care and spend 58 minutes on the phone (very nice tech support guy who helped in spite of the fact I don’t even own AppleCare):

I try several things the tech support guy offers, none of them fix the broken login.

Support: Go to iTunes and add Lion to your cart.
Me: I only have a PC and iTunes won’t let me buy Lion. Can you just charge me the $29.00 and add Lion to my account?
Support: No, we aren’t allowed to do that. Do you have another Mac?
Me: Yes, at home.

Driving back home I login to my iMac, click the App Store, buy a 2nd copy of Lion, pause the download, then drive back to the office.

In the office I reboot with Command+R, choose Disk Utility, Reinstall Mac OS X, AppleID. Finally, it’s accepted and I wait another 95 minutes for the download to complete, the MacBook Pro reboots, I wait another 35 minutes for the install to complete, then I see the login:

All of my data and apps are in tact, the only things I had to re-install were:

Summary

I entered my office at 8:00AM and had a working laptop at 2:30PM. That’s 6.5 hours of character building experience for me today.

Lessons learned:

  1. Recharge or plugin my laptop when it’s low.
  2. Use TimeMachine to make a backup.
  3. Never forget my new AppleID password.
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4 responses to “What Can Go Wrong With Mac OS X – Lion?”

  1. Mark Fordice says:

    Doh. Character building is a great way of looking at it!

  2. John O says:

    I have been repairing Macs for 20 years and am appalled at the re-install system for Lion.
    What used to be easy is now an ordeal. I entered an Apple ID and password 20 times and was turned down 20 times.
    On the 21st, the install started downloading. Who knows why.

    Truly abysmal.

    What this new system also means is that if you don’t have an internet connection at the moment, you are screwed.
    I always thought the prime rule was don’t break what isn’t broken.
    Apple broke what worked very well.

    Way to go, Apple.

  3. Daniel Payne says:

    John,

    My sentiments exactly. This whole move to the cloud and download-only upgrades has a dark side that costs me time and money as a user.

  4. Daniel says:

    Deja vu, all over again.

    Today I reached my office and turned my MacBook Pro laptop on and found that it was operating so slow that something must be wrong. I went to Disk Utility and did Verify Disk, it could finish and said to copy files to another disk and re-format the drive. Uh oh.

    I next rebooted with Command+R and tried to re-install Lion, but was not allowed by the drive was Locked. Hmm, no luck.

    Driving back home I fetched my handing backup drive from using Apple’s Time Machine. Sure enough after three plus hours I had a restored laptop and could do useful work again.

    I’m just not buying that Apple laptops are more reliable than Windows laptops, just comparing my experiences the past two years with Apple compared to decades of Windows use. Your mileage may vary.

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Windows 7 on a Mac

I’ve been using software from Parallels to let me run Windows 7 on my MacBook Pro for almost one year now. All has been well until I noticed that my C: drive was getting full.

My first response was to use Google and find out how to increase my C: drive disk space. The first page of search results suggested that I use an App called Image Tool, however I had no such App and started getting upset about not finding it. Finally in a forum the suggest was to Read The Fine Manual (RTFM).

Tough for a guy to do, so once I read the PDF manual I found the gem that I needed:

I’m now a happy camper with more disk space on C:.

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