Posts Tagged laptop

My Second Hybrid

I never got around to writing a post about the Toyota Prius that I purchased last October. Perhaps I will do so eventually. Now, however, I am writing about a different sort of hybrid. Unfortunately, it’s probably a much less interesting type. It’s a hybrid laptop hard drive, which amounts to a normal laptop hard drive with a bit of SSD thrown in for performance advantages. Wow, I’m already bored with this topic just writing it, so if you want the details, have a look at what Wayne wrote about it earlier this year.

The primary differences between my story and Wayne’s are:

  • I only paid $100 for the drive. (Score!)
  • I put it in my MacBook Pro rather than a Windows system. (Duh!)
  • I did absolutely no performance testing. (Um…)

As you may or may not know, the hard drive in a MacBook Pro is not considered an upgradeable part by Apple, and certainly not a user-serviceable part. The procedure for disassembling and reassembling the laptop is far from trivial, though certainly not brain surgery. Using thorough instructions obtained from the Internet a very special resource I use, it took me about 40 minutes to perform the procedure.

Wow, I ended up writing about it again. I thought I was done with that. On a more interesting note, here’s a picture of my first hybrid:And, just for the heck of it, here’s a graph of my mileage so far (courtesy of the Road Trip App on my iPhone):

white - MPG, blue - average MPG, yellow - gas price

The low outlier is, I think, a result of either a heavy headwind or some bad gas, or both.

Totally Unrelated AsideI’m heading to D.C. this weekend for #NoVACon2011!


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I started to Tweet this but was doubting I could really fit it into 140 characters. It then occurred to me that this would be as good a time as any to actually write something here again. I had expected my first post back to be about my new Prius, but that will have to wait.

As cool as it looks, and as much as I’d like to have one, I simply didn’t see how a MacBook Air would fit into my life. For most things I think I’d use it for, it seems I can use my iPad. Still, the gears turn…

Our single Mac is the MacBook Pro we acquired about 2 1/2 years ago. The MBP mostly stays in the family room on a laptop table. From time to time I’ve toyed with the idea of getting an iMac for the study. The Windows XP system that was technically replaced by the MBP is still in the study and gets primarily used by the kids for schoolwork. It fills this need adequately, leaving very little motivation for making a change. The only real motivation left is to improve my photo (and video, theoretically) editing process with a faster system and (much) larger display(s). In the end, it wasn’t enough motivation, at least for now.

Earlier today, I had another idea. I could move the MBP to the study, along with a new large monitor for improved photo editing, and replace it in the family room with a MacBook Air. This is an expansion of a scenario I had already considered, which was just to get a large monitor for photo editing, but only move the MBP to the study on demand. It is mobile, after all. With the pricing of Apple’s displays versus the iMacs, and with the ability to use an iMac as a second display for the MBP, this idea didn’t really go anywhere. Mostly, it was stopped by the fact that I’d really want the MBP and iMac to work together as a multiprocessing system when connected, which they wouldn’t do.

It should be readily apparent by now, if it wasn’t at the start, that I’m really just trying to come up with a justification to by a MacBook Air. So, here we go!

What if, instead of moving the MBP to the study I sold the MBP and replaced it with an iMac and a MacBook Air? Doesn’t that sound good? I wonder what an early-2008 17″ MBP is worth?

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iMac / MacBook Pro Co-op

imacAs you may or may not know, Apple recently released new iMacs (along with some other things). One of the new features of the high-end 27″ iMac is that it has a display port so that you can use it as the display for another device. In particular, you can connect a MacBook or MacBook Pro to it to use the nice large screen.

While I think this is a great idea, it immediately strikes me as being not quite enough. What I’d really like would be the ability to connect a MacBook to it and then be able to make use of the iMac’s computing resources (hard drives, CPUs, GPUs, etc.). And, vice-versa, of course — have the iMac make use of the MacBook’s resources. Basically, I’d want to be able to choose which system is the master and have the other systems resources be available.

Of course, the hard drive is presumably already available via the network, so what I’m really looking for is just the coprocessing capabilities. I want my image and video editing to be able to make use of the memory and processing capabilities of both systems.

Am I asking for too much? As things stand, it’s relatively unlikely that I’ll be purchasing an iMac. But if this additional functionality were offered, that would be a different story entirely!

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“Cable” TV

We sometimes watch shows or movies from the Internet, and while sometimes this is via Netflix Watch Instantly on the TiVo, it is often via my MacBook Pro. Normally, this involves moving my laptop near the TV, along with its power cord, and connecting audio (3.5mm) and video (DVI) between the two. I don’t have one of those Apple remote controls, but I don’t think they work on most streaming video sources anyway. Either way, if we need to pause or otherwise control the show, I have to get up, go over to the laptop by the TV and do whatever needs doing.

Not surprisingly, I felt this was less than optimum. The most common result was that we didn’t watch online content as often as we might have. Also, in case you didn’t know, we don’t have cable. I considered getting a bluetooth mouse, and possibly a keyboard, but the it occurred to me that I could turn of display mirroring and show something different on the laptop screen and the TV. This meant that I could continue to work on my laptop while we watched online content. Yeah!

Of course, I had no intention of sitting by the TV to do this, so I needed to get longer cables. What follows may be too technical to be generally interesting…

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New Laptop Table

I ordered a laptop table the other day and it arrived today. This is a table designed to extend over a chair (or bed) with a laptop. It can also tilt to improve the angle of the laptop.

Prior to this, I was using a combination of a lapdesk and a TV tray (floor-standing). The laptop was always on the lapdesk and the lapdesk was usually on the TV tray and then sometimes on my lap. When I was only casually using the laptop (reading a new email, perhaps), I would not bother putting it in my lap. However, I would often find myself leaving it on the TV tray even when I was typing or browsing for longer periods of time. This was not the least bit comfortable. On the other hand, even with the lapdesk between my lap and the laptop, my legs still got quite warm.

With the new laptop table, the situation is very much improved, though it is far from perfect. Keeping everything off of my lap is great, and the tilt provides a much better combination of typing and viewing angles. The problems are several. The arm is not long enough for my chair, so I cannot actually have the laptop directly in front of me. If I’m watching TV, this isn’t an issue as it would probably block my view of the television anyway. Of course, that is at least partly due to another problem — the table is height-adjustable, but the lowest selection is still too high. I guess the higher selections are for using a laptop while standing. I can get it lower than the lowest selection, but then the table rotates freely (which is actually how I’m using it now). When using one of the notched heights, the notch prevents the table from rotating. When using without a notch, and therefore “all the way down”, it doesn’t take much pressure on the tilted surface to cause it to rotate away from me. So far, it seems manageable though, and better than having the laptop too high.

Another issue is really the fault of my MacBook Pro. The screen simply doesn’t tilt back as far as I would like, which limits how far forward I can have the table tilted and still have a good angle for the screen. Moreover, if I decide to live with the screen tilted slightly toward me, the resistance of the laptop hinge is not quite strong enough and the force of gravity slowly (at first) causes the laptop lid to close. Oh, and it’s a good think I don’t use an external mouse as there’s simply no room for one with my 17″ laptop — I doubt there’s really room for one with a 15″ laptop either. If I placed the table on the other side of my chair (not at all feasible here) then I could use the secondary surface for the mouse, but I’m not sure how realistic that is. Without tilting the secondary surface (which does tilt), the mouse would be too high, and if it is tilted then the mouse would not stay in place.

For $73.44 (including shipping), I think it’s a pretty good table. Assembly was quite straight-forward. Amazon link: Mobile Laptop Desk (Mahogany/Silver) (30″ to 47″H x 32″W x 17″D)

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The Long Way Home….

Well, I finally took the plunge and ordered a Mac. It’s been 23 years in the making but forestalled along the way by an Amiga, OS/2 and Linux. Our first computer when I was growing up was an Apple, but an Apple II+, not a Mac.

I ended up ordering a Mac Book Pro and a Time Capsule online because the Apple store doesn’t carry the configuration I wanted (MacBook Pro 17-inch Hi-Resolution Glossy LED Widescreen Display), so I won’t actually have the Mac in my hands until sometime next week.

What pushed me over the edge was my frustration with trying to edit the AVCHD videos from my HD Camcorder. I tried both Sony Vegas and Ulead VideoStudio. I didn’t really like either of them very much and they were both simply too slow. Admittedly, this could be due to my system, which is a 2.8GHz P4, but even when I went through the pain of converting the videos to a smaller format that alleviated most of the speed problems, I still found the experience frustrating.

In contrast, when I took my camcorder into the Apple store and plugged it into the Mac Book Pro to pull of some video, I had no such troubles. iMovie was so much more pleasant to use and there were no performance issues at all. Of course, I didn’t do any real editing, so perhaps it will turn out to be less pleasant. Time will tell….

I’m looking forward to again having an Apple computer — it’s been a long time.

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