Get Your Fingers Dirty But Not Burnt

Recently I changed the brakes on the Saab, I am still alive.

Let me make it clear, I know how to do this kind of thing, I can do it, but I loathe doing so with a passion. I did it because I needed the car to be able to stop and it was the quickest way to do it. Also I saved a hundred quid or more.

In a similar vein I have up-graded my MacBook Pro. It’s a 2009 edition and it works but it hasn’t been working as well as it had done. I hook it up to an Eizo monitor and run it in clamshell mode (closed) most of the time. I tried dual screen mode but it didn’t work for me. This way of working is quite robust though. If there is a power cut it keeps running, and if I go away my MacBook comes with me.

Now, when I bought it a 250GB hard-drive seemed generous as did the 4GB of RAM. A few years on and the fan is running too much, the Leica is pushing too much data into the system and a G-Drive (750GB) sits besides it storing the photos. What was a neat backup system was beginning to look flakey. I was rapidly running out of space and it’s not so easy to back up the external drive. Time then for change.

I could afford a new Mac but the old one still was still doing a job.

Visiting London whilst waiting for my nephew in Goodge St a nice little man in a nice little shop said “yes we could sort that for you Sir.” And actually, for a few hundred quid my life would be easier. So that’s what I was going to do.

Hands Dirty Again

Now, by mistake I subsequently phoned the wrong shop in London to book it in and the guy I spoke to said he didn’t carry the RAM which led me to buy online. In doing so I realised that once again MacBooks had become user friendly enough to do this sort of thing oneself. A handful of tiny screws and the back is off the Mac. Ten to fifteen minutes and the job is done.

Hold on there, the hard-drive is there for the taking too. In for a penny in for a pound?

In the distant past with the drop down sides to G3 and G4 Macs hardware upgrades were sooooo easy and were my store of choice. It’s a really good website, it tells you,

  • what to do
  • How to do it


  • if you are likely to be able to do it

So a quick chat with the man and it would appear that there is a compelling case for the new hybrid hard-drives a bit of solid state to speed things up and a chunk of old tech. Carbon Copy Cloner is the software to do the job of transferring all of your own stuff from one drive to the other.

Off we go, sudden anxiety about being a static electricity conduit over and the bits are in the software is running cloning, cloning, cee ell ohhh cloning, over a million things to clone.

Many hours later and the job is done. The cloned disk (sitting in el-cheapo SATA housing) is used to re-boot, Macs will boot from an external drive. And boot it did ‘visualise fireworks over Sydney Opera House’

So the old and the new drives were swapped the Mac re-booted and… then… er… ‘visualise heavy rain, no lightning, prior to aforementioned firework display.


Hey-ho, leave the drives as they are, re-clone, cee, ell, ohh, c l o n e a g a i n.

Many more hours later the Mac boots and my how it boots.

More fireworks, yah dee yahhh.

I’m not certain what was wrong first time round but, if it all goes pear-shaped you can still put your original drive back in which is nice to know

Now, if you are following this you will gather that I have a speedy mac, the original (bootable) Mac hard-drive in an el-cheapo case and a now ready to be redundant external (750GB) drive.

Having consolidated everything on to the MacBook I have once again used Carbon Copy Cloner to make a further backup on the G-Drive.

Why? (you ask)

Well, Time Machine is OK, it has just taken me three days to recreate my Time-Machine backup, but with CCC I can create a backup disk that is totally bootable. This means that if the Mac falls over I can plug the drive in and go diddly go-go. I have just tried it. We are running out of fireworks aren’t we? For the record CCC does it’s job on a Firewire 800 transfer in a few hours (330GB) so it’s reasonably quick. Think about this, if your Mac breaks you can take the external drive, plug it in to another mac and run your operation from that until you get things sorted.

I didn’t realise how CCC works at first. It makes the original clone, but then you can schedule this to become a basis for backups. CCC sets up archives of what has changed, you dictate the schedule.

So, I now have

  • a faster Mac due to the added 4GB of RAM and the fast highbrid drive
  • a belt that is the CCC clone


  • braces in the form of Time Machine
  • I have also saved myself another £100 by doing it myself

This is all about robustness, and at the moment that helps. This is about covering grim eventualities that may never happen. However at the end of this journey I thought I would trawl through all of my old external hard-drives and see if there was anything to archive for posterity. I now have a bit of spare capacity and the chance to unite everything.

  • Drive one… click… click… click (Fail)
  • Drive two… click… click… click (Fail)
  • So I boot up a really old Mac. Great, old photos that I had forgotten about. No! No!! No!!! They are corrupting in front of my eyes!!!

You need to remember that, like it or not this stuff fails, one day it will fail for you. Don’t let it spoil your day when it does.

Old Apples Never Die, They Just Get Recycled Creatively

Some time ago I wrote about the need for things to change, notably IE6 which needed to die. Since then one of the sources of traffic to this site is people looking for images of Apple G3′s.

Recently I’ve moved and in my garage there are two old macs a Blue and White and a Digital Audio. The B&W lacks a processor, I can’t remember where I put it, but the DA works. Sadly when I moved the old Pismo laptop passed away, I suspect the Yo-Yo has gone to heaven and may check this out. I’ve also got a colossal Mitsubishi 21″ CRT monitor out there which still works although like me lacks a bit of focus.

The towers were a truly great design, they looked different but more important allowed near instant access to the memory and drives. They were really quite well made and the architecture meant that most of these Macs could have their lives extended by simple plug in upgrades. But, their time has passed.

In my old flat I used to use the case of an old angle-poise iMac as a lampshade. The computer had been damaged beyond repair so I broke it for parts. But, Macs aren’t simple boxes, they are designed with great thought as I have recently highlighted. You may or may not get this, I do and I struggle to throw such wonderfully designed objects away. Yes, I know I should but…

Well as it goes I am clearly not alone, there’s loads of people out there recycling the things. So now the only question is what shall I turn them into?

Part two here>

Jonathan Ive: Mac design & Unibody MacBook Manufacture


A clip from the 2009 documentary “Objectified” which is all about industrial design. Here, we see the wonderfully creative genius of Jonathan Ive, as he talks about the Mac, and specifically the Unibody design of the MacBook/MacBook Air & MacBook Pro.

Buy the DVD here

With a brief intro by Dieter Rams, Jonathan Ive gives an insight into Apple Mac design and manufacture. Ive mentions the curse of design, walking round constantly designing, thinking “why is it like that and not like this?”

“Of course it’s that way, why would it be any other way?”

Listening to this it is hard to miss the influence of Rams and his 10 principles.

Some Things Should Change – Why IE6 is holding the internet back.

We ate last night in China-Town in London in The New World, a restaurant that I first went to over 20 years ago. To be honest it hadn’t really changed at all. In fact I ‘m not certain it had even been decorated but that was what I wanted, the food was enjoyable and the service friendly.

When I was first there I was a student. At college we used very early Apple Macs in the labs and the adventurous were word processing their work. There were no mobile phones, no internet, and no email. The Photographer’s Gallery (where I am now) was near Leicester Square, whereas it is now just off Oxford Street.

Walking round London some things change a lot but others seem not to at all. Earlier I had a double expresso in The Bar Italia in Soho. The Gaggia machine was ‘old school’, hand pulled, refreshingly quiet whilst still making exceptional coffee. On the large screen TV, Murray was getting through to the semi-finals in the Australian Open much to the enjoyment of the Italian and Eastern European staff. Take the screen out and the setting would have been difficult to date, maybe the clothes would give the game away.

Some things change, some things stay the same, some things should change, but stay the same.

We Are The People Who Try

I am just coming out of a intense week or so of website building. The customer wanted something a bit different, saw the way the Apple presents previews of images and said I want that. I now know how to make that happen on a website. As Fahti the swimmer says, “we are the people who try”. I can’t think of a period of my life when I have done so much learning, independent learning, the ultimate aim of the education system. The information is out there, accessible (subject to cautious analysing and filtration of course). There is a huge generosity of spirit too, with people wanting to share ideas and knowledge. This is a good thing (I think) but very different to twenty years ago.

The other day I spoke to someone who only recently learnt how to cut and paste on her computer. This may seem strange but she has always used Macs where there is a long history of drag and drop. She has always just pulled what she wanted from one document and dragged it straight on to another. Macs have always had a very visual appeal, there is a strong visual metaphor and I suspect that for this reason they appeal to very different people. I am always surprised when I hear people complain about how difficult macs are to get to grips with, for me at least they seem very intuitive. However when I attended a night class that used the Windows platform I felt like a complete and utter numpty. Whatever though the Mac Vs PC seems to get to peoples’ core.

In my house now I regularly have a number of computers, currently a Mac G3(BW) desktop, a G3 Pismo PowerBook, a G4(DA), a G4 MacMini (my FTP server) and a Unibody MacBook Pro. This tally sometimes swells when two other current MacBooks come to visit as well as my son’s Toshiba PC. Apart from the G3 they all work, the only reason the G3 doesn’t is because I sold the processor. Oh there is one more, maybe the most important, I have an old Dell laptop, with a German keyboard.

So they all work, the ten year old Pismo is used by the children, it’s rather slow now but hey? But what of the Dell, what’s that all about?

Well, I use it to test websites (to destruction). You see, it is old and slow, but uses the much loathed IE6 browser. IE6 is still used by around 10% of users but unfortunately it is no longer compliant with current web standards. This means that in order to get a website to work on this browser designers will have to design in a number of hacks and workarounds. This invariably means that a compromise has to be made either to the visual appeal or the functionality and yes I realise that these two should be inherently linked. So, when it is testing time, yes it is lovely to see how good the site looks on the Mac but unfortunately much as I love them the truth is that Safari accounts for 3.4% of the (browser) market, and as such the hopeless old IE6 with all of its failings will be the window that three times more people will use.

The good news is that 46% of people will use Firefox which is a pretty good browser. Increasingly design companies are dropping support for non-complient browsers. You can get a WordPress plugin to display a large gaudy banner if the viewer is using IE6. Somewhat devilishly this plugin can be set to crash IE6 although I haven’t felt the need to be so annoying on this site.

Some grow old gracefully and get a bit slower with age whereas others get really a little too grumpy for words.

A couple of days after this post the BBC reported that “Google has begun to phase out support for Internet Explorer 6, the browser identified as the weak link in a cyber attack on the search engine.” (more)

On Macs

The Grandpa Test is one that is often of use, what would Grandpa make of it?. I remember my parents’ frustration having given my grandparents a Moulinex mixer that sat for ever in its cover. So as we sit typing into our macs I wonder what Grandpa would have said, two World Wars and all.

A pleasant chat with the local Community Fake Police Support Officer Lady (stern but fair), this evening. My son has been digging a BMX track out of the banking in the car park of the local village hall. He stands accused of removing mud from the hall and taking it in a wheelbarrow down the lane to the local cricket pitch, where there is another BMX creation. He was struggling to hide his disdain for the suggestion that he would be so stupid as to transport wheelbarrow loads of mud 400 meters or so for the fun of it. Ah, the fun of the small village.

Granny (a short, one legged Scot) made great steamed dumplings though. I am not aware that they got any better or worse for the lack of intervention of the Moulinex. Scraping the mixing bowl, peeling the muslin, like a big haggis but fun.