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Apple

Things related to Apple

Frankenmac 2017: From BIOS to installed macOS

Today, a look at how my Frankenmac went from the basic hardware BIOS setup screen to a usable (though not yet fully complete or natively bootable) macOS machine. If you’re just tuning in, you may want to catch up…

  • The Beginnings: Resources, parts list, and ordering. (Steps 1 – 3)
  • The build: Turning the parts into something that powers on…but that’s about it. (Steps 4 – 5)
  • The roadblock: A new graphics card and an old case and old power supply do not mix.
  • Transplanted: Frankenmac moves into a new home, with a new power supply, to get around the roadblock.
  • The parts list: A constantly-updated list of the parts I used and the cost of each part.

Now that Frankenmac is functional in its new home—roadblock averted—it’s time to explain how I got to that point from the BIOS boot screen of step five a few days back. It’s a tale filled with drama, dread, doubt, defiance, and in the end, domination. Well, OK, it’s pretty much none of that, but I had a string of “D words” in my head, and had to use them somewhere…

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The past, present, and future of the Mac Pro

I’ll admit it, last week’s news about the new Mac Pro got me excited about the future of the Mac for the first time in a long time.

Note that I am not in any of the target markets for a typical Mac Pro buyer—I don’t crunch huge scientific data sets, I don’t render massive 4K movies, and I’m not compiling huge programs on a daily basis. But I have always been a fan of the Mac Pro for one reason (up until the most recent one, at least): Customization. Having a customizable Mac means it can last longer, as you can make changes to keep up with technology. I have owned both the Motorola and Intel era Mac Pros, and they were truly excellent machines.

The past


One Mac to rule them all

The older Mac Pro (and its predecessors) were—as I recently wrote—wonderful machines, because you, the user, could do so much to them. You could add RAM, of course, but you can do that to most any current Mac.

You could also choose up to four hard drives to put inside the case—no messy cables, no need to worry about a child or pet disconnecting your drive while it’s rendering a movie, etc. If you outgrew them, you could easily replace them. In my Mac Pro, I had an internal Time Machine drive (in addition to the external Time Machine drive.)

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Browse Apple’s clearance aisle

Back in August of 2015, Apple removed the distinct online store from its web site. The new store is integrated through all the pages of the site, which is a change for the better. However, I used to enjoy simply browsing the store itself, but this change mostly ended that pasttime.

The one (good) notable exception to “no store browsing” is the Refurbished and Clearance Store, which is still linked at the bottom of every page on Apple’s site. This is a great spot to look for deals on used but reconditioned Apple gear, typically for 15% to 20% less than brand new.

The site is nicely laid out, with links on the side of the page to each type of equipment. Click in, click around, browse at will.

To make it easier to jump into a given section of the refurb store, I took the top-level links and tossed them into a Keyboard Maestro macro group set to activate a pop-up palette:

You can download this simple macro for your own use, if you wish.

Now a browse of the refurb store is only a keyboard shortcut away. Good for me, bad for my wallet.

Mac OS X Hints and April Fool’s Day

When I ran Mac OS X Hints, I had a tradition of running April Fool’s Day pranks. Here’s a link to every one I ever published (including the intro of each) from 2003 through 2010 when I departed for Many Tricks. I’ve also found and included the images that went with each post, as these have vanished from the static version of the site that remains online.

2003: PR: macosxhints.com announces future direction

Beaverton, OR — April 1, 2003 — macosxhints.com today announced its new strategic direction to address the constant need for growth in the dynamic web site information portal business. In a highly anticipated move, the site announced that all future hints will eventually focus solely on the WindowsXP platform.

2004: Apple releases speed- and CPU-bumped G5s

Cupertino, CA — April 1, 2004 — Apple today announced its first-ever triple-CPU system, the PowerMac G5 Cubed. Featuring a total of three G5 processors, the G5 Cubed offers unmatched desktop processing power. “It’s clearly the fastest thing we’ve ever made, and it’s head and shoulders above anything the Wintel world has to offer,” said Apple and Pixar CEO Steve Jobs.

2005: Install and run OS X on an iPod

After running this site for a few years, I’ve come to know many people in the Mac world. Many of these fine folks are slaving away on pet projects, most of which will never see the light of day. Yet still, they toil, hoping for success. My good friend Richard is one such person. He’s been obsessed with running OS X on his iPod since the day he bought his first generation machine. Not just installing it and booting a Mac with the iPod, but honest-to-goodness using OS X on the iPod. I should preface and say that Richard is brilliant, stubborn, and amazingly resourceful … three required qualities for this particular project!

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A pricing quirk in Apple’s current non-Pro iPad lineup

With today’s announcement of a new version of the non-Pro 9.7″ iPad, Apple has created a (perhaps temporary, perhaps intentional?) pricing oddity in its iPad lineup.

Consider the new non-Pro iPad: This 9.7″ model has a current-generation A9 processor, with either 32GB ($329 wifi) or 128GB ($429 wifi) of storage. This is a $70 reduction in the entry price point for the full sized iPad, which is great news.

This model is thicker and heavier than the Pro line, but unless you need Pencil and/or Keyboard Case support, its performance with the A9 chip should be more than good enough for 99% of potential iPad users.

Now consider the iPad mini 4. This 7.9″ iPad has the older—and much slower—A8 processor, and comes only in the jumbo 128GB ($399 wifi) storage configuration. Great news on the storage, bad news on the CPU. The screen tech is older than that of the new iPad as well.

Assume you’re iPad shopping outside the Pro line, and you want a 128GB model for maximum storage space. For $399, you can get the iPad mini 4. But for only $30 more, you can get a full-size iPad with a newer CPU and a “bright” retina panel. The A9 will crush the A8 in performance, and the display will be notably nicer.

Unless you really want/need the small form factor, the full-size iPad seems like a no brainer. I would guess that either there’s a new mini coming out in the near future, or we’ll see some sort of pricing movement on the current mini, because it doesn’t make sense where it’s priced against the new non-Pro iPad.

Or does it—does Apple not want to sell many minis, and this $30 difference to the full-size model will help them accomplish that goal? I honestly don’t know, but things definitely look weird right now when you compare the mini to the new non-Pro iPad.

One possible solution to macOS Sierra Bluetooth issues

A while back, I wrote about some very annoying Bluetooth issues in macOS Sierra: My headphones would pop and crackle when I moved my mouse around, and the mouse, keyboard, and/or trackpad would randomly disconnect and reconnect.

The other night, due to some stupidity on my part1I installed an app I suspected might have infected my Mac. It was a false alarm., I felt it was time to reinstall macOS Sierra. I logged into my other admin account, launched the Mac App Store, and then reinstalled macOS Sierra2There are other ways to reinstall, i.e. from the recovery partition; they’re detailed on the support page..

The nice thing about the reinstall is that it’s nothing like a reinstall from days of yore—you’re not starting from scratch, so you won’t have to reinstall everything when done. Apple makes this clear on the support page:

You can install macOS over the same version or earlier version, without removing your data. You don’t need to remove or disable the existing system first.

I say this with crossed fingers, but it seems that this reinstallation has potentially solved my Bluetooth issues. For the last two days, I’ve used my Bluetooth headphones without any static issues at all. In addition, none of my Bluetooth devices have disconnected. There is one comment from slajax on the original article that states this didn’t work for them:

I’ve been having the same issue but with the gen 1 track pad and keyboard. I reinstalled the OS, PRAM etc replaced them with the gen 2 key board and track pad and also had the apple store replace the bluetooth antenna but still having the same issue.

If you’ve reached the breaking point with your macOS Sierra/Bluetooth issues, it might be worth the 30 minutes or so a reinstall takes. But please, if you go this route, make sure you have a good backup first, just in case. And if it works for you, please post in the comments (either here or on the original post), so that others might see, too. I promise to do the same if my now-working Bluetooth turns out to again be not-working Bluetooth.

Fix Messages’ broken bundled AppleScripts

While playing around with Messages this morning, I noticed that it ships with a feature that, if used, throws an error. Steps to reproduce:

  1. Open Messages’ preferences.

  2. Set the Applescript handler pop-up to any of the listed scripts:

  3. Close preferences, and try to send a message to anyone.

  4. Revel in the brokenness.

I especially like the execution error: No error message…it’s that rare non-error that tosses up an error dialog!

In any event, I think it’s shameful that Apple ships the app with a feature—plainly obvious in prefs—that breaks when used. Yes, I know AppleScript is probably dying, but that doesn’t excuse shipping the app with a clearly-broken feature; if it doesn’t work, just remove it. Apparently this has been an issue since Yosemite’s release in October of 2014!

With all that said, fixing this is incredibly easy—it took me about 30 seconds of “work” to find and fix the problem. If you’d like to use the bundled AppleScripts in Messages—either as is, or in some modified form—here’s what you need to do

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Magically achieve ‘inbox zero’ in Mail…or don’t

While working yesterday, I noticed that my inbox was empty. Generally, I strive to keep it that way, but I knew it wasn’t true just then—my phone showed six messages in my inbox. Even stranger, using a Smart Mailbox in Mail, set to “show messages in inbox for Many Tricks,” revealed the six messages. It was only when clicking into the mailbox itself that I couldn’t see anything. At first, I blamed Mail…

Can you blame me, though, after my Mail search issues and the weird potential fix?

When I looked a bit closer, I spotted a clue that maybe it wasn’t all Mail’s fault. The “(0 filtered messages)” as seen in my tweet normally reads “(0 messages).” This was different, so I went looking in Mail’s menus for “filter,” where I discovered View > Disable Message Filter. Because the menu read “Disable,” that meant the feature was enabled. I selected it, the menu switched to Enable Message Filter, and bingo, my inbox messages were back!

So what happened, and why wasn’t it more obvious to me what had happened? The fault lies both with me and with Mail.

[Note: Glenn F wrote about this very issue for Macworld a few months back…sorry I missed it, as it would’ve saved some investigative work on my end!]

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A modest proposal to improve the iOS Settings app

One of the things about the iPhone I don’t like is that Apple requires (recommends?1)Many apps now have settings within the app, which I love, so this “separate settings” thing doesn’t seem to be a hard requirement. that apps keep their preferences (settings) in the Settings app.

While I understand the theory (don’t clutter the app with prefs, all prefs in one spot), the reality is that this structure quickly turns the Settings screen into an endlessly scrolling nightmare. I hate opening the Settings screen, knowing how much flicking it’ll take—simulation visible at right—to get to the app whose settings I want to modify.

With some apps having some of their prefs within the app, and some of their prefs on the Settings screen, I find I often have to look in both places to see if the pref I want is available.

What I’d love to see is Apple recommend (require?) that apps do not use the Settings screen, and instead keep their prefs within the app. After all, if you’re using app XYZ and you want to change something about its settings, the most logical place to look would be within the app itself. This would greatly clean up the Settings screen, too, restricting it to just Apple’s stock apps and system-wide settings.

But barring that change, I’d like to see a more-usable Settings screen. How can it be more usable? By splitting the apps into alpha buckets, so I could tap into a letter/number, and then see only those apps on the list. Something like this very-rough mockup…

A horizontal flick on the alpha row scrolls through the letters (and numbers), then vertical flicks scroll within the chosen letter. This index would appear with the first entry in the third-party apps section, then stick to the top as the user scrolled down.

I’m sure there are better ways to do this, but something needs to be done, especially as device storage sizes increase.

An aging corner of Apple’s web site

Sometimes, when I go looking for something on Apple’s web site, I’ll stumble into some dark corner that’s somehow escaped the passage of time. Like the Mac Basics: Desktop page. I mean, just look at that desktop screenshot…

That’s from Yosemite (Mac OS X 10.9) Mountain Lion (Mac OS X 10.8) , which was released in October of 2014 July of 2012 [Thanks Tim B!]. It’s not even retina—the source image is 640px wide, which is why it’s all fuzzy. And, of course, the Dock is no longer 3D and most of the app icons have changed.

Maybe they’ll update that page when they fix that other aging corner of their site…you know, the one where they sell the 2013 Mac Pro as if it’s brand-new technology.

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