Fighting with computers

Computers are not always friendly.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

MacBook Superdrive problem

We all love the MacBook at home. For a while we made no use of the built-in Superdrive.

However, I noticed that the rubber feet did not work well when I put the laptop on a table: It slided easily while used. I thought it was a poor-design detail, maybe it was not flat enough.

A few days after buying the laptop, early this year, I saw the advertising of the new iLife'09. I thought it might be included with my laptop but it was not. A couple of email messages from customer support did not much to enlighten me on how to get my copy for free. A friend of mine showed me I could be eligible for an upgrade for a small shipping fee and so I buy it.

Once I've got the iLife DVD is when the problem struck me hard: The MacBook refused consistently accepting the disc. I was not even sure whether another disc might be stuck inside or not. Several tricks to get system to eject the disc failed but I was almost sure the unit was empty. I thought it was a real shame that a brand new laptop was giving me such a problem. Maybe I would need to go the Apple shop to get my computer serviced. I was not happy.

Next I thought that when I bought my computer the 4GB RAM was an upgrade they performed at the shop. I was asked to wait a few minutes to get the extra RAM added to my system. So I thought it might well be the disc problem due to something they did wrong when upgrading my system.

I googled for the RAM upgrade procedure and I saw all the back cover had to be removed. Only a small screwdriver was needed (did I say it had to be really tiny?). After removing the cover I saw the image you can see on this entry (click on it to get a larger view). Well ... all of it but without the yellow box.

Did you guess it?

They had left the old RAM memory cards on top of the Superdrive and then closed the cover. This error was causing both the bottom cover to avoid a good fit of the rubber feet on a flat surface and, more importantly, the Superdrive not to accept any disc.

Once removed and put the cover back on, they system was happily accepting iLife DVD and I was very happy not to have to carry the system to be serviced. I have noticed too, that the four rubber feet are doing its job!!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

iLife'09: Really worth it

I've just got my upgrade from Apple. Although I bought a MacBook early this year it did come with iLife'08 software. After watching some of the features about the new version I asked Apple for my own copy, that was not free but around $10 of shipping cost.

Software install took a long time (more than 30 minutes) and iPhoto browsing more than ten thousand photos needed more than two hours. But after that it was really fun to use the new "Faces" feature. Though not perfect it does an Ok job of detecting people's faces on your photos.

On the musical side, the new GarageBand includes a cool feature with music lessons you can download (some are free and some are for a fee). If you have a MIDI/USB dongle you can attach a music keyboard (our cheap eBay dongle worked nicely).

iMovie seems to have some advantages too, but iPhoto and GarageBand new features made the switch for us really worth it, even if you have to pay the full price. I've found the new photo slideshows a great feature: so cool I might be buying a Mac Mini for my TV set soon.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Avoid password after suspend on Ubuntu


As it use to happen, once you search the net for something you realize other people have done it before and hopefully have written about the solution to the same problem too. That has been the case when I was working about a way of suppressing a reasonable behavior of Ubuntu OS on my laptop: When it is wake up from suspend, the user is asked for the password. It is a well thought out security feature but it was annoying for me.

I use the laptop mostly while watching TV on my coach (ideal for skipping the ads). However I do not have a backlit keyboard (I envy my wife's MacBook which does). So typing a password with not much light in the room is error prone.

Fortunately it was easy once you find the way of changing the system configuration. Here it is.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Funnel IO


I've just learned of a very interesting sensor platform. It combines an Arduino, and Xbee wireless module and a Lithium polymer battery charger. Battery maybe recharged by USB. Standard Li-Po batteries are almost 1000mAh. It can also be wirelessly reprogrammed, which is cool.

Combined with power management it could achieve very long lifetime on a single charge.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

On-line calculator


Sometimes you need a calculator to use in the classroom. Maybe you need to solve a 2nd degree equation or you need to know the binary representation of a decimal numbers. I'm sure you can do math, but I've found this online calculator very very useful.