Operation iMac Upgrade

The main house computer that we have is our 21.5″ iMac. Since I have a MacBook Air, I have been using it for most of my computer work over the last few years which mainly consisted of photo editing, surfing the internet, and creating/updating this blog. However, the screen on the iMac being 21.5″ is much bigger than my Air’s 13″ as well as having a 1920×1080 resolution vs. the Air’s 1440×900. So it dawned on me that it would make more sense for me to use the iMac to do most of my computer work and have the Air for when I travel.

The iMac still had all its stock components other than having upgraded the RAM from 4 GB to 8 GB. However, I am used to a solid state drive (SSD) on my Air which is around 6-10 times faster than your standard hard drive and so trying to do anything on the iMac in comparison was painfully slow!! Therein begins our story and the reason for Operation iMac Upgrade.

iMac Upgrade 1

First look at the interior of the iMac once the LCD and glass cover were successfully removed

For one of my previous Apple laptops, I had removed the SuperDrive (CD/DVD drive) and bought a special mount in the same shape but it had room for a laptop hard drive or a SSD. I successfully got 2 hard drives in there and installed the operating system on the SSD and got a speedy-fast computer. So my concept for this upgrade was the same, to replace the SuperDrive with an SSD as well as upgrade the internal hard drive to a larger capacity while I was in there.

Off I went to the wonderful world of the internet to do some research and came up with the following items and tutorials that I would need to make this operation a success:

I ordered all the components I needed, got my USB stick set-up with the MacOS install files, and got started on the upgrade. From everything I read, it seems the trickiest part was removing the glass covering the LCD and then replacing it afterwards without getting any dust particles stuck behind it. It was really easy to remove with suction cups since it’s only held on with magnets. I actually thought the trickiest part was removing the LCD display because after you unscrew it, you have to gently lift it so you can get to 4 separate connectors on the motherboard and remove those before you can take the whole thing off. Regardless, it all came apart pretty easily.

iMac Upgrade 2

Removed the stock 500 GB hard drive

iMac Upgrade 3

About to install the new 2 TB WD Black hard drive

Removing the hard drive was a matter of 2 screws and a few more to swap over the mounts to the new drive after which it went back in place pretty swiftly. Removing the SuperDrive was also a matter of 4 screws.

iMac Upgrade 4

New 2 TB drive installed, SuperDrive removed

iMac Upgrade 5

SSD installed on mount, mount installed in iMac. Ready to close up.

I had to make a slight modification to the new “SuperDrive” mount that I bought because it had some plastic nubs in the wrong places but a quick tweak here, some scotch tape over there, and it was all ready to be closed up looking like the photo above.

iMac Upgrade 6

Successfully showing the 2 new hard drives installed and ready to be used

Once I had the LCD screen physically back in place, I just replaced 2 screws to hold it in place and stood up the iMac to turn it on and make sure I had made all the connections properly. Lo and behold the 2 new hard drives showed up when I booted from my OSX installer USB stick and I got the process started to install the operating system. It was a little frustrating to make sure all the dust was off the LCD and the back of the glass cover before I placed it on, but after 3 attempts I got most of it removed to the point where what was left was no longer annoying me. 🙂

iMac Upgrade Summary

Upgrade Summary

All in all the tutorials worked really well. My only modification over the tutorial I used was that I was not able to install the temperature sensor onto the 2 TB hard drive because it wasn’t from the same manufacturer as the stock one. However after doing a quick Google search, I found a nifty little software called HDD Fan Control that uses the hard drive’s S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) protocol built into the drive rather than the actual temperature sensor to control the iMac’s internal fan speed.

So far everything has been running at the wonderful superspeed that I was expecting. The SSD allows for the computer to go from being turned off to fully logged in and ready to go in 15 seconds which is fantastic! The applications run blazingly fast so now I can actually consider this iMac usable as opposed to a computer that needs to be replaced soon. I figure with these fairly minor upgrades, this computer can last another 2 years or so before needing to be replaced!

Jump from the Edge of Space: 128,097 ft Freefall

Today I, along with millions of people around the world, witnessed an historic event which can only be compared to the landing on the moon on July 20, 1969. Felix Baumgartner, an Austrian born skydiver and base jumper, dropped from the stratosphere over 120,000 ft above the Earth’s surface in a free fall that broke the sound barrier.

I turned the live YouTube broadcast on while I was making pancakes for breakfast for my wife and my niece, Nayeli, who was over for her first sleepover at our place. Reaching the altitude took just over 2 hours and 30 minutes and so I just had it running in the background. As we sat down to eat, Felix was past pre-jump check #30 so I scarfed down my breakfast and came to sit and watch the jump.

My heart started racing as he disconnected the oxygen umbilical to the shuttle and was pretty much set to go. I couldn’t imagine what it must have felt like for him to be standing where he was as he made his final statement, saluted the world and viewers, and jumped.

“I know the whole world is watching now and I wish the world can see what I see. Sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you are.”

Felix Baumgartner – October 14, 2012

I still get chills when I see him take the step and drop out of the camera’s sight in less than 2 seconds. With my eyes pinned to the screen, I saw him reach his terminal velocity and get into that spin that could have been catastrophic. As my heart started racing, you could see his experience as he pulled himself out of the spin to continue a controlled freefall with a triumphant yell coming from mission control and a sigh of relief escpaing from my lips as I released the breath I didn’t realize I was holding.

As I was doing a bit of research for this post, I noticed that today also marked the 65th anniversary of Chuck Yeager’s historic flight where he broke the speed of sound for the first time in a manned aircraft. This is an amazing coincedence escpecially considering the delay in the launch of this mission earlier this week.

The unofficial results of the jump from the press conference are below:

  • Exit Altitude: 128,097 ft
  • Freefall Time: 4m 19s
  • Freefall: Distance: 119,846 ft
  • Maximum Velocity: 373 m/s (Mach 1.24) – that’s INSANE!!!

This was a fantastic experience and I truly want to congratulate Felix for being the first man to freefall from the edge of space!

Reference: http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/daredevil-skydiver-felix-baumgartner-breaks-sound-barrier-1.995072

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Final checks before he steps out onto “the ledge”

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Giving a thumbs up before stepping out of the capsule

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An external view of the capsule

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Saluting the world and everyone watching after making his statement quoted above

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Standing at the edge of the precipice

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And off he goes to break those records!

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This was the fastest the estimated speed was shown as during the broadcast but the preliminary results at the top show a much faster maximum velocity which broke Mach 1

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Felix celebrating at the end of his historic jump!

Steve Jobs

By now everyone knows that Steve Jobs, the revolutionary co-founder of Apple, passed away earlier this week, at 56 years old, from his battle with prostrate cancer.

I’ve spent a lot of time this week reading the blog posts, forums, and news articles talking about his death but more importantly talking about his life and all that he accomplished during his time on this world. His contributions are so many that I won’t begin to list them but instead I want to talk about my ever-growing love affair with Apple products.

Although I had an iPod before I devled into the Apple computer realm, my real adventure with Apple started in October 2007 when I bought my first Apple computer. It was an open-box white MacBook and I have to admit to being extremely skeptical about Apple computers as I had been up to that point. I never looked back after I got that laptop home and started using it. I first started out by trying to find the same or similar programs that I usually used on the Windows machine and ended up finding suitable replacements for pretty much everything. I was also ecstatic to be using an operting system like MacOS due to the ongoing fiasco of Windows Vista on my other system.

From there my usage of Apple kind of skyrocketed with the purchase of my first iPhone; frankly, I don’t recall what I would do before I had my iPhone. Next I gave the MacBook to my wife and upgraded to a pre-loved, older MacBook Pro which gave way to the 2009 MacBook Pro. This summer I finally sold that after having upgraded quite a few things in it and settled with the new and very powerful MacBook Air. I got my wife an iPad last Christmas and because of that we sold her white MacBook and ended up getting an iMac for the house computer.

My love affair with Apple products was not only due to the extremely sleek and sexy industrial design that accompanied each product, but also the fact that everything “just worked” straight out of the box. I didn’t need to go searching for hours over the internet for drivers and make sure it’s all the right version… it just all worked!

Obviously we all know that the popularity of Apple products has been skyrocketing the last few years and for me, my respect for the main man behind its continued success, Steve Jobs, has also been growing considerably. People sometimes complain that he is too much of a perfectionist but honestly if that were not the case, the products wouldn’t be as great as they were.

This man changed the world from a very early stage with the first Apple “desktop” computer but most recently with the iPad. Words cannot express the tribute that is due to such a perfectionist, a visionary, and although I never personally met him, a mentor.

Rest in Peace Steve and know that you will not be forgotten.

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“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

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Floating on Air!

With our upcoming trip to Italy & Lebanon, I had been thinking about leaving my MacBook Pro behind for the trip due to the extra weight that I didn’t want to deal with. A few days after those thoughts popped into my head, Apple decided to announce the new line of MacBook Airs which had the i5 and i7 processors. I ended up selling my MacBook Pro and I received my MacBook Air last night. The technical specs of the one I bought are as follows:

  • Model: 13″ MacBook Air
  • Screen: 13.3-inch high-rez LED-backlit glossy widescreen with 1440×900 native resolution
  • Processor: 1.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 with 3MB shared L3 cache
  • Storage: 128GB flash storage
  • Memory: 4GB of 1333MHz DDR3 onboard memory
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 3000, 384MB of DDR3 SDRAM shared with main memory

I wanted to post my first impressions of it so far since I played with it for a few hours yesterday installing programs, copying my files, and getting familiarized with MacOS Lion.

Overall Speed: Wow, this is one fast machine! From being completely turned off to logged in and ready to rumble takes at most 20 seconds and that includes the time for me to type the login password. The SSD is fantasticly fast and is even a step up faster than the SSD I had installed on my MBP. Simple things like copying files over from USB 2.0 feel exponentially faster. It took 23 minutes to copy 65GB of MP3s over USB 2.0 from my external backup. USB 2.0 is rated “up to 480 Mbps” which I had never come close to but that rate is equivalent to 386 Mbps (amazing!!).

Programs in General: I click, and the program pops up almost instantly… that’s all I have to say about that 🙂

Adobe Products: Since I’m a hobbyist photographer, the most processor/power intensive task I’ll be performing on my Air while traveling is image processing. I spent about 20 minutes playing around with Lightroom where I had it reading my full photo library off the external hard drive and it ran beautifully. For Phosotshop I ran a photomerge (5 photos in RAW format @ 10mpx) and it ran very very smoothly. That’s about the extent of the “heavy-duty” stuff that I use LR & PS for so I’m really happy with those results so far.

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MacOS Lion: Lion is a very interesting upgrade. It really makes use of multi-gestures but will take me a few weeks to get used to it once I have the big features figured out. There are a few annoying quirks where the back/forward gestures for websites don’t seem to work right now outside of Safari (I use Firefox or Chrome). The new Launchpad & Mission Control screens are pretty cool. Launchpad is customizable very much like the iOS device’s app customization with folders and such. One big feature that’s fantastic is Air Drop which basically allows you send files between Lion-running computers that are within wifi-distance to each other just by drag & drop but it’s neat and much simpler than before.

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Battery & Weight: The laptop is extremely light and feels only slightly heavier than the iPad. I didn’t find that the lightness compromised my typing or mouse usage like I was expecting, which was nice. The battery is pretty great for how small and thin it is. It lasted about 4 hours yesterday but that was with me going crazy copying files, installing programs, downloading updates, having USB powered hard drives plugged in, and basically just going nuts on a new computer :). I would expect it to have a battery life of around 5-6hrs based on regular internet use and likely 3-4 if I’m doing some full screen work like photo-editing/processing, all of which is great.

Upgradability: I did a bit of research on the ability to upgrade any part of the MacBook Air. It looks like the SSD is upgradeable but it’s crazy expensive at this point in time; see here. As the SSD technology gets better, the flash memory will come down in price and that’s when I’ll make the jump and get a bigger drive. For now it’s just going to have to be the 128 GB on-board plus the external backup that I carry around everywhere.

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Final Thoughts: Overall I’m super happy with it so far. Granted it’s only been 16.5 hours since I received it and started writing this post but the first impression with all my software on it and my documents copied over, it’s still running just as fast as when it was empty of any of my files. Only time will tell how it maintains the speed but for now I’m extremely satisfied with my purchase!

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Please note that all photos in this post are courtesy of http://www.apple.ca

Ah, the iPad!!

This past Friday, May 28th, 2010 the iPad was finally launched in Canada. After the initial launch in the US several weeks ago (or is it months now?) there have obviously been a lot of blog posts, tear-downs, and reviews all over the interweb (yes I said interweb). Even though I had been toting the iPad as an “iPod Touch on steroids” I was still pretty excited to get a hands-on look at this piece of technology.

I had booked my car in at Best Buy to get a USB power cable installed for my GPS so I didn’t have to keep using the cable, stringing it across my steering wheel, and plugging it into the cigarette ligher jack. Of course being the geek that I am, I took the opportunity to look around the store a bit and came across the Apple area. Well lo and behold there were some iPads sitting there and I promptly picked one up and started doing my thing.

The first thing I noticed was how smooth the interface was. I own an iPhone 3G and my biggest complaint about it is the processor speed and how slow it is at times. Not so with the iPad. It literally responded to my every movement with pretty much no lag and opened up the apps that were installed seamlessly. It switched between landscape and portrait view with no more effort than just rotating the unit and it had quite the wow-factor on me. I did notice that it was a bit heavy at 1.5lbs but for prolonged use, you would always be able to put it on a table or a lap.

Overall I think I’ll definitely wait to see what they’ll do in the next generation or two. One big thing that is lacking for me, and I have seen comments about in the webosphere, is the lack of a camera. I think a rear-facing one would be pretty useless but that’s just my opinion. For me it would have to have a front-facing one to be able to use with applications such as iChat and Skype to name a few.

I’m still quite excited on what the future holds and can’t wait to see with what Steve Jobs comes up with next!

Am I a MacTard?

So how did a Mac come into play to someone who has obviously grown up and used Microsoft products his whole life?

I think the change started back in 2005 when I moved away from Vancouver, BC for work and ended up living in a small town of around 9,000 people. I moved away from my regular gaming buddies and although I tried to maintain the gaming by myself, it just wasn’t the same. I continued to game, and still do, but not to the extent that I used to and it just wasn’t a priority any more. 2 years later I ended up getting married and found there were more important things to spend my time on than playing games in front of a computer. I took up DSLR photography and started learning how to use Photoshop… of course Apple also has their awesome marketing campaigns and although I vowed not to get drawn to a system just because of marketing, I definitely was curious why more and more people were going to Macs.

From My History of Computing post:

In October 2008, I was at our local Futureshop looking around at the computers and gadgets like any normal geek and I started talking to one of the Apple associates in the store. He started with the normal speal about the Apple products but once he realized that I was someone who actually knew something about computers proceeded to get into the nitty gritty details of how Macs are built etc. I spent about an hour and a half with him playing around with the MacOS and came back a few days later and played around with the OS a bit more, did some research on transferability of programs from Windows and ended up buying a white MacBook.

So my Mac history so far is as follows:

  • October 2008: White 13″ MacBook, Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4Ghz, 2GB DDR2 RAM, 160GB hard drive; upgraded it myself to 4GB DDR2 RAM, 320GB hard drive (currently my wife’s computer).
  • May 2009: Silver 15″ MacBook Pro (used), 2GB DDR2 RAM, 160GB hard drive; upgraded it myself to 320GB hard drive. Sold it in August 2009.
  • August 2009: Unibody 15″ MacBook Pro, 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 2GB DDR3 RAM, 250 GB hard drive; upgraded it myself to 4GB DDR3 RAM, 500GB hard drive (currently my computer).

It’s been just over a year since I made the switch over to Mac and I have to say that I have absolutely no regrets. When people ask me to suggest a computer for them to buy, my standard response to them is something like “IF you’re not planning on doing any gaming, AND can afford the higher price of a Mac, then I would definitely suggest going with a Mac. The stability and ease of use has no comparison to a Windows system and everything just works out of the box; no need to spend countless, frustrating hours searching for drivers online. Also, since Apple started using the Intel chipsets on their computers, you can very easily install Windows on a partition just in case you just can’t do without a certain program that doesn’t run on MacOS.”

I don’t think I would call myself a MacTard because in my opinion, MacTards are those people that are Mac-this and Mac-that and don’t even consider anything else at all. In my opinion they are very close-minded and should just go find an island to live on. As for me, I’m not closed to the potential that Windows 7 will be an awesome OS but for my current needs of Internet, Office Suite use, Photoshop use, iTunes syncing, and keeping my calender in sync with my iPhone, I’m going to stick to my Mac… BUT, I am definitely not close-minded towards what the future holds and may make a switch later on if it’s really worth it.

My Computing History

I discovered this term “MacTard” earlier this week while I was sitting at home and catching up on some news, podcasts, and shows. I can’t quite recall which one of them I heard it or read it on but it intrigued me and I did a Google search on it with some interesting results. I’m going to take a step back and talk about my computing history in this post for a bit and talk about whether I’m a MacTard or not in the next one.

I got my first taste of computers as a birthday gift for my 3rd birthday. At the time we were living in Cairo, Egypt and my parents got me a sweet little unit that I don’t even remember the brand of. It consisted of a slick black keyboard with inputs from a cassette tape player and RCA outputs to the TV. When it was turned on, it would load to a command prompt and wait for user input. From there I would pick a game cassette (tape) and put it into the player, press play, and then type “Run” and enter on the command prompt and the game would load up.

The next step from that was an Intel chipset machine running DOS 5.0 which I eventually took from 5.0 to 6.0 to 6.2 and finally 6.22. Next came the Windows era which progressed from 3.1, 3.11, 95, 98, 2000, ME, and finally XP. When Vista first came out I gave it a try and although the graphics were impressive, it was just not what I was looking for and I switched back to XP. When the SP1 came out for Vista I gave it yet another try and was still as unimpressed with performance and compatibility issues as the first time so I decided that I was sticking with XP until something better came along.

I was pretty excited when I heard about Windows 7 coming out and am very pleased to see that with its release on October 22, 2009, there have been nothing but good reviews. I’m really glad Microsoft finally is done with the Vista failure and can move on to an operating system that is as developed technically and has a good looking GUI that fits with the year 2009.

But I’m talking about my computing history here and not good ‘ol Microsoft so back to it. In October 2008, I was at our local Futureshop looking around at the computers and gadgets like any normal geek and I started talking to one of the Apple associates in the store. He started with the normal speal about the Apple products but once he realized that I was someone who actually knew something about computers proceeded to get into the nitty gritty details of how Macs are built etc. I spent about an hour and a half with him playing around with the MacOS and came back a few days later and played around with the OS a bit more, did some research on transferability of programs from Windows and ended up buying a white MacBook. Since then I’ve progressed into a 15″ unibody MacBook Pro (late ’08 model) and am running Snow Leopard.

Personal Computer aka “PC” (rant)

So I don’t know why this bothers me so much but it does. It probably started with the Mac vs. PC ads that Apple put out during their marketing campaign a few years ago and seems to have stuck. It seems that people can’t think for themselves any more when they use the term “PC”.

Let’s break that acronym down for a second. P = Personal, C = Computer => PC = Personal Computer. So somebody PLEASE tell me how a Mac is not a personal computer? Do you own it? Yes. Does it have your personal information on it? Yes. Is it a computer? Yes. Then how is it not a PC??!!

The way people talk about a PC is probably meant to be anything that’s not a Mac and that spawns from the ads. I can’t believe that somebody as neurotic as Steve Jobs (CEO of Apple for those who don’t know) would allow something as simple as that misnomer to continue to be included in his marketing campaigns.

Just to be clear, a Personal Computer (PC) does not have anything to do with what operating system is on it. Unless you’re talking about a business where it’s a Workstation computer in which case the computer is not a “Personal” machine but a company owned and distributed computer. MacOS vs. Windows vs. Linux vs. whatever other operating system does not determine if it’s a PC or not!