MacDrama

It was around 11am a coupla weeks ago, and I was happily coding away on my 3 yr old Dell XPS 1710 running Ubuntu 8.10 (and it was running fine too), when it suddenly gave in to some cosmic dust. Or whatever else that made it go bust. I was not too pleased ofcourse, and had to get myself another laptop asap to get back in business (and keep the company that hired me happy). So I went online to get a good deal, but couldn’t resist that voice in my head that said: “its time to get that Mac now boy”. And so I did, I fell for the powers of the dark side and got myself a brandnew MacBook pro. Hoping to find comfort. Which I did find, but lost pretty soon afterwards.

See, I was happily installing and configuring, using my new friend quicksilver, when after 2 days it wouldn’t start up anymore. The infamous question mark folder appeared after the infamous white screen of death, leaving my macbook locked for ordinary humans like me. Google couldn’t help me. Nothing on the net could help me out. On day one I installed all the updates it could find, so I figured all would be well. But no. I even reinstalled OSX that night, only to be left with the same white screen and questionmark folder upon first reboot. I was, however, able to deduct that the hard drive was fine (because disk utility said so after each test).

So the next morning I gave the machine back to the store, which gave me an entirely new macbook in return the next day, telling me they found the harddrive to be faulty (!). Too bad that I never got the chance to backup all my work, so I decided to do that every so often from now on. And that was no luxury decision. Because after another 9 days the same problem happened to me again! And again I could tell that the hard drive was fine. So I went back to the store and told them about my findings. I even mentioned my suspicions about a flaw in the EFI boot loader, because both disks proved fine. I asked them to backup the goods on the harddrive (which they said they would). But when the store gave me back my machine (after 3 days!), they said that they changed the harddrive because it was faulty (?). And when I asked them where my files were, they said that somehow that information was not given in time to the tech ppl. NOOOOOOOO! So much time lost! (back to scraping the interweb). They did however tell me with a friendly smile that they had already preinstalled OSX for me. How nice!

In the mean time I had found more posts regarding my macbook’s symptoms. Many people believe it has to do with a flaw in the EFI bootloader, but which is denied by Apple themselves. So by now I was worried that this new harddrive wouldn’t be the solution to my problem and wanted my money back. Hell, I can’t work on-site as a freelance programmer with a failing laptop! They would not do that however, hiding behind saying that the period in which I was able to do so expired. But when I asked them how long a period that is, since I only had it under 2 weeks, they said “we cannot disclose that information”. How frikkin weird and customer unfriendly that came across, you can imagine.
So off I went to work again, reinstalling my time machine backup, working through lots of hickups because of broken symlinks and files that disappeared somehow. (Strange.) But then I realised that my screen was too dim, and had only about 60 to 70% of the brightness as my first macbook pro. So I went digging on the net, and eventually found out that the store’s technicians had preinstalled one of the most ancient versions of OSX from late 2007 (9G55). And it was known to have a brightness issue. But worst of all, it had kernel version 9.6.0, which wouldn’t be upgraded to the current 9G2141 version with 9.6.2 kernel (that is on my install DVD). For heavens sake! Haven’t you Apple store airheads caused me enough grief?! That night I had to redo the entire days work. All in all I have lost over 3 billable days to this sharade. Pfffff…

Did I tell you that I have a friend who had his Mac repaired 5 times within half a year? Stoopid me knew this, but I decided to buy one anyway. Hoping that wouldn’t happen to me, reasoning about Apple selling controlled hardware with specialized software.

So whats my advice? Don’t buy one? I am not saying that, don’t get me wrong. Maybe I am the victim of a poor hardware/software combo, and if so, many with me (do you? is that how you found this post?). And I certainly feel that I was not helped by the Apple store and its crew, even though they were a smiling and friendly bunch. But I like a LOT of my Macbooks offerings, and am certainly willing to spend all that time to get used to its crippled keyboard layout (no delete key, no right CTRL key, bad keyboard mappings in Terminal), or find ways about cut and paste not working in Finder (only drag and drop will work, how painful!), or … pffff, what a list that has become. But like I said, I am willing to go ahead with it. After having had the pleasure of Ubuntu’s super functionality, I am crazed about the crispness of OSX. And to be able to use Quicksilver in all it’s might, as opposed to the flimsy wanne-be Gnome-Do (which not only lacks Quicksilvers usability and true powers, but also lacks a good team leader with vision in my opinion, you can find a post on this blog about that here) .

Anyway, it’s been a week now, and I haven’t had any problems since then. Time machine is backing up right now, using a custom sized sparsebundle on my external harddrive (thanks to a little app called TimeTamer).
Lets hope I don’t run into more MacDrama (which is how I dubbed my macbook :p). No coincidence. Did you know my first nickname is MoDrama?

Next time you check in here I hope to have filled up my fav OSX apps section. It will be worth checking out!

1995 is here!

Did you read my previous post? 1995 is here. Well, almost. I can now listen to or view any track, video or stream I want, since I have added dTunes and PwnPlayer to my iPhone. They rock!

dTunes is an alternative to iTunes. It doesn’t support podcast downloading/viewing (iTunes does that well and for free anyway), but does offer:

  • torrent downloading with a webinterface defaulting to thepiratebay.org website;
  • a SeeqPod interface enabling almost all of their online functionality such as:
    • searching/discovering/browsing music/video:
    • downloading/streaming music or video files;
    • browsing my Podlists (SeeqPod’s online playlists). Problem is that it wont let me start playback of a playlist, nor let me create new Podlists. So I am left to downloading/streaming one track at a time. (And that suxx, so where’s the SeeqPod app?)
  • a TinyTube interface (providing PDA-screen optimized video’s from well known 3rd parties);
  • shake and play: turn the feature on and shake yer iPhone to let it play shuffled songs ๐Ÿ™‚

How kool is that? But like I said, one problem is that it won’t allow me to create podlists , so I am tempted into downloading tracks for later organising (which I am trying to avoid). However, at other times you are likely to rip your own or somebody else’s cd’s. So you are bound to collect media files sooner or later anyway. And for that we have the PwnPlayer, which is an alternative to the original ‘iPod’ player. It does everything the iPod player does, plus:

  • filesystem browsing and playing;
  • on the fly playlist creation.

One problem with the PwnPlayer is that it’s not so easy to sync it with desktop music apps like RhythmBox. (I think there are ways, but it involves hacking xml files on yer iPhone.) I use AirSharing to move files to its public folder on its webdav server, and created a symlink to that AirSharing folder in my ~/Library/Music folder. I also created a link there to the downloads folder that dTunes uses: ~/Media/Downloads. So now I can listen to and organise my incoming files from within PwnPlayer (or MobileFinder for more file management options).

iPhone home

I finally managed to go to a Belgian store and got me the last simlock free 16G black iPhone (of that particular week). Went home, tried to jailbreak it first over VMware, which fortunately told me in a rather early stage that it wouldn’t work. But then it dawned on me that I still had a dualboot XP setup (doh!), and JB’d that sucker in a whiffy.
WHY, oh WHY didn’t I get me one SOONER? With the port of apt-get in the form of Cydia, it’s just like my Ubuntu! I’m in heaven, going through all those repositories offering me all da goodiez from open source geekdom. But wait, there’s so much more. After viewing some apps in uncle Stevies appstore, I googled around a bit for some easier handling of my insta-app needs. And thats when I found that little gem called Installous. It can install ipa files, which are basically user created archives of an installed app, which can be created with Crackulous. Just go to http://appulo.us, and you can see what people are sharing. It’s actually a better experience than the AppStore itself in my opinion. My mobile life will never be the same.

I have created a special iPhone apps page where I am listing and reviewing my favourite apps. If you haven’t JB’d your iPhone yet, I suggest you do that asap :p

Did I already say I am in heaven? I can play LastFM without even a bit of lag, and the same goes for any stream over 3G, even on the highway! Some of the time I listen to dubstep.fm on ShoutCast, but I mostly crank it up for my favorite number 1 stream from InterGalacticFM ๐Ÿ™‚ Finally, no more downloading music! Which is what I hoped for back in 1995, when I stopped buying plastic media and started downloading over dial-in….what a way to come :]

Waited too long :(

My bad. I waited too long for my HTC Tytn 2 to arrive on my doorstep. I waited for 2 months, because everything went wrong with the company I bought it from. (So don’t buy from bestelmaar.nl, since these girls don’t bother to give any feedback if something goes wrong with your order.) Anyway, I am kinda fooked for 2 reasons:

  • I just read that the new iPhone will be coming out in NL on the 11th of July, and I was actually waiting for that. One solace: I wouldn’t be able to use a new iPhone with my brand new Vodafone internet contract anyway. I will have to wait for somebody to crack the new iPhone wide open. Only then will I buy one. (Of course that won’t take too long :p)
  • HTC just released their Touch Pro, which looks and performs (with its Qualcommยฎ MSM7201Aโ„ข 528 MHz processor) way better than my Tytn 2 ๐Ÿ™

But that won’t bother me at all, since I can trade my hardware with less tech savvy users at eBay anytime ofcourse. Should I do just that, and already trade my pimped Tytn 2 for that Pro? Hmmmm…nah, I guess I can wait for the iPhone. In the mean time I will keep you informed on the goodies for my Tytn 2 in my favorite PocketPC apps section.

Kohjinsha SR

Ok, I was in Japan..and had to get me one: the Kohjinsha SR. Of course I also ordered the 2 GBย  mem upgrade, the large battery and the car charger.
I must say it’s rather sweet. The touchscreen especially has me panting. Installed some FF plugins like mouse gestures and the likes, and now it’s almost dashboard ready for my car :p. Almost. I just setup a XAMPP server to serve me a google maps page which updates every 4 seconds (thanks to the original post by Ryan Byrd). Now I am waiting for the next GpsBabel beta that supports my Qstarz BT1000 gps mouse. With a little mashing of google maps services I can drive around and see my personalised stuff be updated on the screen in real time :).

Update: the latest GpsBabel just came out, and I got my setup working aok! Darn slowness of my phones GPRS internet connection won’t handle the payload though ๐Ÿ™

Something related that also needs mashing into my own project:

Google Calendar Map Generator

Me so nerdy…

Obeying my right hand connected hemisphere, which is my left one, actually…I have to tell you about this goody:

My Archos 605 Wifi 80 GB PiMP. See this product page for all its possibilities.

It is just so sweeet! Plugin architectures rule! Too bad it is proprietary tho, so no free open source plugins ๐Ÿ™ I had to buy 2 plugins so far: Opera for viewing the web, and one that let’sme play apple-codec encoded moviez (nice for watching your favorite vodcasts). What’s also too bad is that they make you pay for all the old options: TV out needs a docking station or travel thingy; No standard USB charging (you need a special charger cable); bla bla etc…

I have it with me here in NZ and it serves me so well! Not only did I bring a lot of movies, documentaries, ebooks and audiobooks (which I still prefer to hear on my iPod) on it, but also heaps of my digitalized comics. I did, however, have to write me up some scripts to convert them from CBR to HTML, but it was so worth it! I find it hard to switch to a normal book most of the times, but hey…why would I?

Btw, if anybody is interested in my scripts, I’d be happy to share them.

Lets take her for a spin, honey.

Yes! Me and Corine are going to travel New Zealand per bicycle. We found out that we both liked the idea to do a cycling holiday somewhere on the planet, yoohoo! And not just on ordinary bicycles. No, we will be getting our own recumbents. And I have found just the perfect specimen with the comfiest saddle around! Try this link if your interested. Just what I need to get me going through those thousands of miles. It seems that NZ is a good place to learn to ride it too. Being kinda flat ‘n all. I was already at the store yesterday, so I know what I want. But Corine still has to find a model that suits her as well, so we will be test driving some models this weekend. But after all the investigating I have done, I think she will turn to the Nazca as well ๐Ÿ™‚