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Three Years of Mac

My 13-inch white MacBook on the day it arrived

This month marks three years since I purchased my white MacBook, my first Mac computer. Other than the AppleCare coverage stopping (good job they just replaced my battery, yay!), this represents quite a milestone in my technological life.

I have always had a passion for playing with anything and everything when it comes to technology. I am not satisifed merely to find a technology solution, I am excited and highly motivated to seek out the best solution that meets the specification in the best way and then to understand it and know everything about it.

My interest in the Mac was born from this insatiable desire to understand everything. The Mac was, little over three and a half years ago, much a mystery. Having explored the Windows and Linux worlds extensively, the Mac was the last place in desktop computing that I really hadn’t looked into in great detail.

Over the last three years, I have found that my investment in the Mac has proved worthwhile. Mac OS X has ended up being my primary platform for desktop computing. While I still spend time working in the Windows and Linux worlds and enjoy discovering and learning about the new things happening there, the Mac has been a big focus for me in recent years.

So I ask myself — objectively, why has the Mac become my primary desktop platform?

  • Mac OS X is a Unix operating system. This has a number of advantages, but it mainly means rock-solid reliability (in theory at least) and a decent way to interact with the machine via the command line.
  • It is elegant and put together with passion and care. Some bits of software, especially third-party driver and hardware support software for other platforms, aren’t. They are hacked together at the last minute and at low budget, just to work. Almost everything that ships with the Mac and a lot of third-party stuff for it is just done in this fundamentally different way of building stuff you would be proud to show off.
  • It ‘just works’. Often dismissed as hyperbole, this marketing phrase more often than not is true on the Mac. There are notable exceptions and a few annoying things that you don’t get with generic PC hardware as well, but most of the time, you plug something in, or switch something on for the first time and it just does what it is supposed to.
  • Generally speaking, you get what you pay for. Apple don’t make cheap computers. But neither do I think they make overpriced ones. You pay a premium price for an Apple computer, but you get a fair return for that price in terms of the quality of the product. Again, it comes back to the point about passion — Apple will not ship something that they are not entirely happy with, so what you get is something that meets their high standards.

Having said all that, I am still very interested in using everything and anything. While the Mac may be where my primary focus is on the desktop for now and the forseeable future, I am still very much interested in what is going on in the Linux desktop and Windows worlds and you can be sure I’ll continue playing with all sorts of technology in the future.

Here’s to the next three years of Mac — and perhaps beyond!

Griffin Elevator

I have a little project at the moment to try and reorganise my desk in my room to actually work a little better for how I use it now. Over the last few years, I have gravitated to using laptops as my primary systems (as I’m sure many other people have also done). This means that the way I organise my workspace needs really to take account of that shift in what I use most of the time.

When I was using my MacBook Pro at the desk, I really wanted to be able to lift it up so the screen was at a greater height, for ergonomic reasons. I also have access to a standalone Apple aluminium keyboard which made acquiring some sort of stand to lift up the machine and then use the standalone keyboard quite an attractive idea.

The Griffin Elevator is actually one of the most popular, go-to products for, well, elevating laptops, especially within the Mac product ecosystem. There are alternative options to the Elevator, some more specifically tailored to the MacBook Pro and the specific model I have, but I ended up going ahead and purchasing the Elevator as my solution to this problem.

Photo of Griffin Elevator with 15-inch MacBook Pro

I have to say I’m pretty happy with it.

The product is basically two aluminium arms (which incidentally match the MacBook Pro’s aluminium body nicely), a plastic base in which the arms slot and two bits of plastic which slot onto the end of the arms just to provide an extra protection against the machine slipping off the end. The contact surfaces on the arms grip surprisingly well — with the MacBook Pro, there is a little bit of wobble if you try to slide the machine across them, but unless you use a lot of force the machine won’t budge.

It is quite expensive for what it is, but for me it now solves the ergonomic problem by lifting up the screen to my eye height and has the advantage of providing more than adequate room for cooling.

Going Pro


Yesterday my brand new MacBook Pro 15″ arrived.

I got my original white MacBook over two years ago and it quickly became my primary machine. The seamlessness of the Apple hardware-software connection, its increased performance over my existing Linux PC and the desire to learn about OS X motivated this. Since then it has been, for the most part, my primary computer.

The MacBook still is an excellent machine for what it does, but being a full-time desktop as well as a portable computer, I began to desire a larger screen for when I’m using it at the desk and to get away from the limitation of the rather pathetic Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics.

So to address these issues and erm… continue my investment into computing (nothing to do with the fact that the new Pros are just, really, nice) I went out and bought the new 15″ MacBook Pro.

I got the middle model, with a 2.66 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM and the dual GPU Nvidia GeForce 9400M (for battery life) and Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT 512 MB (for performance).

I’ve had it just hours, but I love this machine!


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My AppleCare Experience

It’s actually quite difficult to believe that my MacBook is 18 months old now. About a month ago, I noticed that mounting DVDs became unreliable. CDs worked fine, you put them in the slot, it span up fine and everything was good. DVDs, though, would take a long time to decide whether to read, involving a lot of spins up and spins down.

Eventually, reading DVDs became unreliable to the point of not working most of the time, and on Tuesday, since I could now do without the MacBook for a few days if necessary, I decided to ring AppleCare (I have the three-year Protection Plan) and get booked in to get it looked at.

I called the number and got through pretty much instantly. The guy on the other end didn’t sound like a native English speaker and occasionally was difficult to understand, but I got my message across quickly as to what the problem was. I got booked in at the Genius Bar at the Southampton Apple Store. It’s about 30 miles away, and I had to take two trains to get there, with a total journey time (including walking to the station and to WestQuay at the other end) of about 2 hours.

Apple Store, WestQuay, Southampton

So on Wednesday I arrive at the Apple Store. Despite the fact that it was still being intermittent, in the sense of working, but being slow about it and making some funky noises, I was surprised that the Genius didn’t need much convincing that there was an issue.

It was checked in there and then for a new DVD drive (they call them SuperDrives, but for some reason I don’t like calling them that).

The one thing I didn’t like at that point is that the agreement you sign to give it away for service states that if you don’t let them take it, they apparently charge you £100 plus VAT. It’s labelled as a diagnostic fee, but really it’s a lock in to get service done with them if they think you need it. Well, fair enough, but that should have been disclosed up front, before the ‘diagnostic’ is done. This is especially important if you don’t have AppleCare, or you’ll be at the mercy of Apple’s repair prices, whatever they make them, or £100 odd and nothing done.

Anyway, it went off and they reckoned 2-3 days to get fixed, as they didn’t have the drives in stock.

The next day, in fact little over 24 hours after I checked it in, I get a call saying it’s ready for pickup. I headed back down and picked it up.

They even managed to handle the potential confusion due to the fact that it was bought in my dad’s name, but I alone did this whole process. I made this clear at the initial Genius Bar appointment, and it was subsequently well communicated between the staff for when I picked it up.

The result? I have a new … er, SuperDrive and DVDs work fine again.

Overall, a pretty positive experience. Just watch out for diagnostic fees, and don’t go to the Genius Bar unless you’re sure you can hand the machine over there and then for service.

An interesting footnote – they quoted that without AppleCare, the repair would have cost just under £200. Which incidentally, is what AppleCare costs. So, it’s already paid for itself, perhaps?

The photo is hideously blurry… but for some reason I like it.