Tag Archives: mac

Late night surgery

Last year I upgraded Shlomit’s MacBook Pro to an SSD. A few months ago I upgraded my MacBook Pro. The only little Mac left behind with its puny little spinning platters was my Mac mini. So I finally broke down and bought an SSD for it. This time it was a 250 GB Samsung 840.

Samsung 840 SSD

Similar to the last times, I used Carbon Copy Cloner to transfer the contents of the original 2.5″ hard drive to the SSD. This took about three hours over USB 2. Slow but without a hitch.


But one thing would be different this time: turns out that when Apple ditched the DVD drive on the Mac mini, it left room for a second internal hard drive. So I can fit both the original drive and the SSD in the little box! Great. The problem: You need a special cable to do this. The solution: OWC ‘Data Doubler’ SSD/2.5″ Hard Drive installation Kit.

For $35 you get:

  • A little ribbon cable to connect the drive
  • Four cute screwdrivers: two were needed for the installation, two were not, and a third type that was needed did not come in the kit but thankfully I had it.
  • Four screws.
  • Four rubber bumper thingies.
  • A piece of green plastic they call “pry tool” and was actually super useful.
  • A U-shaped piece of bent metal, effectively used to move the computer’s motherboard out of the chassis.

A rip-off? Hardly, because they also bundled a very detailed manual with great photos and step by step instructions. Trust me, the booklet alone was worth the price. This was one tricky installation, they sure pack those little boxes tight.

The Mac mini 40% into the installation. These little boxes fit together like one of those impossible to put together wooden puzzles.

I’m happy to report that although it took a long time, the operation was a success. The computer is a lot faster now. Nobody should be forced to use magnetic hard drives anymore. Now all I need to do is decide how to best distribute all my stuff across the 5 (five!) hard drives connected to this machine. I want iPhoto to be fast, but my giant library won’t fit in the SSD. Questions, questions…

SSD Upgrade

Solid State Drives have been replacing Hard Disks on computers lately. Instead of storing data on a rotating magnetic disk, they store data in flash memory: basically silicon chips that keep data even when powered off. They are lighter, use less power, have no moving parts, and most importantly are way faster than hard disks. The problem is that, compared to their rotating counterparts, they are (still) more expensive.

Still, prices have dropped dramatically recently. Shlomit’s computer was feeling a little sluggish so I decided to give it a nice little upgrade.

Crucial M4 SSD

After waiting for a good price on DealMac for a few weeks, I bought a 256 GB Crucial M4 for $180, a very good deal at the time of this writing, to replace the stock 250 GB spinning disk.

The upgrade is reasonably simple, here are the steps:

  1. Copy your Hard Drive contents to the SSD.
    1. I used a borrowed adapter to connect the SSD to the Mac via USB.
    2. Use Disk Utility (it comes with Mac OS X) to format the SSD.
    3. Use Carbon Copy Cloner (donation-ware) to copy the contents of your old hard drive to the new one. This was straightforward and it even created a Recovery Partition on the SSD. But it took a long time: almost 3 hours.
  2. Swap the hard drives. It’s easy, just follow the instructions posted on any of hundreds of YouTube videos. Like this one. But make sure you have the right tools, in my case a Philips #0 and a Torx #6 screwdrivers.
  3. Turn on your Mac and be amazed at how fast it feels now.
  4. Go into System Preferences and make sure you select the SSD as the Startup Disk. Otherwise every time you boot your computer, it’s going to spend ~30 seconds looking for the old drive.
Carbon Copy Cloner doing its thing.
MacBook in mid-transplant. Make sure you don’t misplace a screw.

Really, the speed difference is amazing. Everything is snappy. Opening programs like iPhoto or iTunes happens in less than a second.

If you have a computer that’s 1-2 years old and you want something much faster without buying a new machine, strongly consider upgrading to an SSD. You may have to sacrifice capacity but I think it’s worth it. Just put your pirate movie collection in an external hard drive and/or pay $25 to keep your music on iTunes Match.

If you are buying a new laptop, make sure you get one with an SSD. If it’s too expensive, get a slower processor instead to make up for the difference. You will be surprised at how most slow tasks are dramatically sped up by an SSD. Don’t believe me? Check out this video of a side by side comparison:

Flashback Trojan

You probably heard about the Flashback Trojan infecting Macs through a security hole in Java. Apple has now (finally!) addressed the flaw and even shipped a removal tool.

When the whole thing started, I

  • Manually checked my machine for infection using instructions posted here. No infection found.
  • Downloaded and ran this tool for finding and removing the infection. No infection found.
  • Read an article about how the trojan will not infect machines with Xcode installed. I have Xcode installed.
  • Installed all but the latest of Apple’s software updates to Java which closed the vulnerability.

Finally installed the very last update from Apple, which includes a removal tool. To my surprise I got this message:

Guess there has been a lot of misinformation about this out there. My advice: run Software Update!

Mini Lion Review

Because you asked for it, here it is: a few notes on the new Mac OS X. But I must clarify that I have not used it that much yet.

First, some quick observations:

  • Since I don’t have a multitouch trackpad on my old Mac, the new subtler scroll bars don’t disappear. This is good. Scroll bars serve a purpose: They tell you if there is more content in the window and how much content you can see at once. I want to be able to glance at them without needing to attempt to scroll.
  • Not having a multitouch trackpad has disadvantages: No cool gestures for Mission Control, Launchpad, etc. I’m missing out.
  • Oh yeah, Mission Control is great, and Launchpad might be useful.
  • The new Mail.app is cool and I really really like the way they did threaded messages.
  • They reversed the scrolling behavior: Move fingers up, and the content moves up, like on the iPad. This seems like the right thing to me but it’s going to take some time to get used to. I will try to without going crazy. Those of you who aren’t as patient can toggle the behavior in the System Preferences.
  • I really like full screen apps except for the fact that the menu bar hides until you hover. It’s not that I need to see the menu bar, but rather that when I move the mouse up to push some button or select the URL bar in Safari, the menu bar pops down and pushes down whatever I’m trying to click on. It’s driving me crazy. Breaks Fitt’s Law too.
  • AirDrop does not work on my computer. I don’t know the details on how it’s implemented nor why they couldn’t make it work on my computer… but my hardware does not support it.

The lesson so far: Time for me to get a new Mac.

But here’s what I think is the most significant and profound change in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion – and it happens to be the one thing that you won’t use immediately because it requires third party application updates: Auto Save and Versions and Resume.

It’s a big deal: Apple went back and questioned one of the most basic givens of computer use since the 80’s, the stuff nobody even questions anymore. From now on, you no longer do we need to save your files. It happens automatically, and you can always go back and revert any change. It’s built-in and transparent and easy to use. It’s great.

And they didn’t stop there. Quitting applications is now obsolete! But if you do quit, when you restart the application or even your computer, everything comes back just the way you left it (and you didn’t have to save your open files!).

Maybe it doesn’t sound like much, but it is a is a change to a basic paradigm on our interaction with our computers (Ah! but not our iPhones and iPads). File managing and file systems are going away, and that’s a good thing.

Overall I really like Lion, it feels as fast if not faster than Snow Leopard (YMMV), and it’s very well worth a paltry $29. So download your copy now!

Cyberduck for suckers


I use an excellent free Open Source FTP client for the Mac called Cyberduck. It is available on their website for free, but I have donated to the project. On a whim, I searched for it in the Mac App Store, and there it was… for $23.99. Interestingly enough, the link to the App Store from their website did not work for me.

Is this a rip off? Or is this a way of taking advantage of less technically savvy App Store users?

MacBook Air

I stopped by the local Apple Store to look at the new MacBook Air. Man it’s so tiny! According to the reviews and to what little I played with it, it seems fast enough for most daily tasks. My only recommendation is to get the one with the bigger 128 GB hard drive. Not a single demo machine at the store had the 64 GB one, they all had the 128 GB drive. And all the demo units had their hard drives already more than half full. You do the math.

John Siracusa reviews Mac OS X 10.6

snow_leopard_ars-thumb-640xauto-8029Every time there is a new major Mac OS X release, John Siracusa of the excellent technology website Ars Technica releases a long and detailed review. And the one for Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard one has arrived. I post about it here because I think a del.icio.us link on the sidebar is not enough.

John Siracusa has been writing these reviews since Mac OS X DP2 (December 1999) and they are excellent, offering a well written detailed view into the internals and externals of Mac OS X. For me it’s a fascinating read. For you, I don’t know… this is probably attractive only for the technical mind. Mom, don’t read this.