Macbook Pro 15″ i5 Unibody Upgrades

I’ve finally purchased a MacBook Pro, and things are going pretty well. Most of my work these days involves using servers for heavy lifting, but I still use Windows 7 from time to time, and Lightroom 3 almost all the time.

Unfortunately, Lightroom 3’s catalog is essentially a database of photos, and the more you put in it, the more slowly it will run. In this case, the MacBook Pro’s stock 320GB 5400 RPM hard drive just isn’t cutting the mustard. Simple actions like scrolling through images from the last import can be painful. Using Firefox or Chrome while importing makes everything crawl, and I’m forced to look for entertainment in Meat Space. The horror!

I know, “it can’t be that bad” is what you’re thinking. It is. Imports can take up to an hour. While on vacation, the last thing I want to be doing is waiting for imports of photos I’ve already taken while I could be out taking more photos.

I mentioned the fact that I use Windows 7 on the MBP. This is via either Boot Camp or VMware Fusion (running the Boot Camp partition). Things work swimmingly in Boot Camp, but I really have to be careful in Fusion because many of the newer Mac applications are RAM-hungry, and you start paging to disk quickly. Since the disk is so slow, you’re at a standstill within minutes.

So the problem essentially boils down to two things, both of which could have been resolved at time of purchase had I looked into the specs a bit further.

  1. Not enough memory
  2. Hard drive too slow

Costs add up

The memory upgrade, direct from Apple, via their online store, is a whopping $420. The hard drive upgrade from 320GB 5400 RPM to 500GB 7200 RPM is $158. Together I would have shelled out $578 in order to get the system where I think it needs to be.

Enter the Apple Technician

In the not-so-distant past, I repaired Apple laptops for a certified depot. It used to be pretty difficult as some of the Mac laptops had an inordinate amount of screws of varying sizes and dizzying teardown diagrams. I would say I was competent, but it really wasn’t something enjoyable. That said, I have been out of the game for a bit, and things have seemingly gotten much easier for the majority of Apple laptops. Often, you can simply remove the bottom case to gain access to wireless cards, Bluetooth, SuperDrive, hard drive and memory. And such is the case with the Macbook Pro 15″ i5.

Using the diagrams found at iFixIt, I was able to confirm that only a little bit of work would be needed to perform the upgrades. That means I save money on labour, which isn’t cheap.

Price Comparison

I was able to source hard drives at the 500GB capacity ranger running at 7200RPM for very cheap. I’d be looking at around $80, worst case. But being spoiled on other computers running solid state drives, I thought I should look into the option of adding an SSD instead. Though they have come down in price, getting larger capacity SSD drives can run upwards of $400 easily. Ouch. I decided to settle on one of Seagate’s newly-released “hybrid” drives that combine 4GB of superfast SSD with 500GB of traditional rotating platter storage. This should hopefully give me the best of both worlds. The cost? About $140. That’s definitely a few dollars less than the “off the shelf” Apple price, though it’s also double the cost of a typical 500GB 2.5″ hard disk. But speed is the issue to address, and I’m confident the HDD will address that. My only concern will be the speed of the platters may produce noise.

The memory for a MacBook Pro i5 is slightly harder to find. It took some poking around to find the exact speed and latency of the chips, as I want to make sure the logic board won’t complain, and no unforeseen issues would be introduced. After looking at Kingston’s website, I was able to deduce that the full specifications of the RAM are as follows:

  • Format – 204 pin SODIMM
  • Speed – PC3-8500 / DDR3 1066MHz
  • Latency – 7-7-7-20

This is not cheap memory. We’re talking high speed, high density, low latency RAM. After searching high and low, I came across some Mushkin RAM that was Mac certified. I wasn’t even aware that Mushkin made Mac certified RAM, but boy was I happy. The cost for an 8GB pair of 4GB SODIMM modules was only $260! In case you’re interested, the part number is “996644”, and I still don’t see a better deal from ANY vendor for memory this fast with timings this tight. Even for PC.

Our current total is sitting at $400. That’s less than even the RAM would cost from Apple.

Going Forward

Not to miss any opportunities, I decided to go one step further. Removing the memory and hard drive would leave me with spare parts. These could be sold on Craigslist locally for cheap, or I could re-use them. Use for the hard drive is pretty easy: Time Machine backup. A $20 external AcomData 2.5″ Ruggedized Samurai enclosure would fit the bill well, but the last thing you want to do on vacation is lug around cables and accessories. In my experience, they either get lost or forgotten (or both). This may not be the case for everyone, but I actually rarely use optical media. My data is transferred using USB sticks if I need to sneakernet, over wifi or LAN if I need to backup (and again to another location off-site to be safe) and when I do make audio “mixtapes”, it’s not often as I use an iPod for music.

So here I have a useless device taking up space in the laptop. Some digging, and looking at the tear-down told me a 2.5″ hard drive could fit in there easily. Excellent, a use for the old drive that takes up no extra space! Of course, like many good ideas I think I have come up with first, someone had “been there, done that” before, and you can buy full kits online for cheap. I found two companies that sell these: MCE and OWC. I opted for OWC because I really don’t have a need for the external optical drive that MCE throws in for “free”, creating a $20 difference in price as I have a Lacie DVD-RW already. Cost of this part: $80. (MCE’s is around $100 if you still might need that SuperDrive)

The total now sits at $480. More than the cost of the RAM, but still considerably less than the over $700 cost to have Apple do this at time of purchase. If you had messed up and bought the lower-end 15″ i5 Macbook Pro, there would also be at least an hour of labour on top. Typically that would run about $150.

I’m left with 2x 2GB DDR3 SODIMM modules, which might be hard to get rid of at any price, though they make a good upgrade for Mac Mini users. I’ve looked high and low for DDR3 SODIMM “RAMDisks” to no avail. I realize these aren’t the best devices, and never really had a following, but it would certainly be handy to have on one of the servers. One can only dream, I suppose.

So there you have it, cheap upgrade, easy install, no regrets. Preliminary testing tells me that the boot time has been halved, and Lightroom is much faster, though it’s not as fast as running it on my Mac Pro with SSD.

At some point I will probably look at replacing the second internal drive with a solid state boot drive when I replace the Intel X25-M G2 80GB in the Mac Pro with a SandForce SSD, and I will make sure to post some speeds when that frabjous day finally arrives.

Windows Home Server in VMware Fusion 3

I set off on a quest to get the home backup / media server / remote access solution Windows Home Server with Power Pack 3 running inside of VMware Fusion 3 running on top of Apple OSX Snow Leopard (10.6).

Why, you ask? Simply because I thought I could… and it works good with traderush so please don’t ask me if is traderush legit A little while after downloading the Windows Home Server trial, it became apparent that there was no selection for this operating system. No matter, I thought, it’s based on Windows Server 2003, so I should simply be able to select that, right? Unfortunately not that easy. First, the hard disk type selected by default by VMware Fusion is SCSI. Without a driver disk (virtual floppy), you’ll have no luck. Also, the amount of memory available doesn’t meet the Windows Home Server requirements.

My method?

Try these settings:

– Windows Server 2003 Web Server

– No “easy install” settings

– 512MB RAM

– Remove the default HDD

– Add an 80GB IDE HDD

– Make sure the ISO is mounted

Things seem to be working at this point.

Hope this helps someone, I trawled Google and the Fusion forums with no luck.

How do I install .kext files?

I hear this a lot, and I myself have also gone looking for it…

So without  further ado, here is the script that will install kext files for you – be warned – you’ll need to know how to get the kext file in the first place, as well as the filename.

Easy right?

Let’s get started.

Open the Terminal application by going to Applications / Utilities / Terminal.app – you will see it in the Utilities folder – it looks like a command prompt.

Once terminal has launched, type in the following command:

sudo -s

Enter the root or first user password that you inputted during the setup process.

This tells it to run any other commands after this one as the root or superuser account, allowing you to edit files you normally would not have permission to edit.

Here’s an example using IOATAFamily.kext, a popular ATA driver. You’ll want to replace this by your own driver name. Also, you’ll want to make sure the file is unzipped, and sitting on your desktop. Oh one more thing, you’ll want to edit YOURUSERNAME with… your username 🙂

mv /Users/(YOUR USERNAME)/Desktop/IOATAFamily.kext /System/Library/Extensions
chmod -R 755 /System/Library/Extensions/IOATAFamily.kext
sudo chown -R root:wheel /System/Library/Extensions/IOATAFamily.kext
cd /System/Library/Extensions
rm -rf Extensions.mkext
rm -rf Extensions.kextcache

Hope that helps!

Song Summoner – A $5 Square/Enix RPG for Your iPod!

LOS ANGELES, July 7 /PRNewswire/ — Square Enix, Inc., the publisher of Square Enix(TM) interactive entertainment products in North America, announced the release of SONG SUMMONER(TM): The Unsung Heroes, on sale at the iTunes(R) Store worldwide (http://www.itunes.com) and available for play in English and Japanese on the iPod nano with video, iPod classic and fifth generation iPod.

(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20080707/LAM083LOGO)

(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20030403/SQUARELOGO)

SONG SUMMONER: The Unsung Heroes is a Role-Playing Game that transforms your iPod(R) songs into powerful “Tune Troopers” that you can control in battle! As the protagonist Ziggy, you will embark on an epic journey to rescue your brother from the clutches of the Mechanical Militia! Intriguing characters, an epic story and a tactics-based battle system combine for a rich RPG experience previously only available on home and handheld game consoles.

SONG SUMMONER: The Unsung Heroes
Publisher: Square Enix, Inc.
Platform: iPod nano with video, iPod classic and fifth generation iPod
Genre: Role-Playing
Launch Date: July 8, 2008
Price: 4.99 USD (iTunes Store download)
Story

From the days of old, Melodica was a land of music, a land of freedom. The people sang, played and danced to the music they so cherished. Until one day, they came — the Mechanoids, who enhanced their bodies with machinery. Those who were tempted by greed and power willingly gave away their souls for bodies of steel, forsaking their humanity to become cold, emotionless automatons. Now, they seek to destroy all that do not embrace their way of life.

But there is hope on the horizon. There are those who are fated to stand against the tyranny of the machines — the Superstars, who can turn sound into lethal weapons, and the Conductor, also known as the Song Summoner, who can summon powerful warriors born of music.

In their most desperate hour, Melodica awaits the arrival of their new Song Summoner…

Game Features

— Transform your iPod songs into “Tune Troopers” to combat the evil Mechanical Militia.

— Tune Trooper types and abilities are determined by the songs used to create them.

— Your Tune Troopers can be powered up even outside of the game – just by listening to the songs you used to create them!

— Control Ziggy, a “Conductor” that creates warriors out of music, and guide him through his journey to save his brother Zero from the Mechanical Militia.

— Experience a turn-based tactics battle system, divided into player and enemy phases where each side takes turns maneuvering their forces.

— Deploy the right troopers at the right time, and use contraptions found on the map effectively to achieve victory in battle!

— iPod Click Wheel allows players to play the game as easily as selecting music.

About Square Enix Co., Ltd. and Square Enix, Inc.

Square Enix Co., Ltd. (Square Enix), with headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, develops, publishes and distributes entertainment content including interactive entertainment software and publications in Asia, North America and Europe. Square Enix brings two of Japan’s best-selling franchises – FINAL FANTASY(R), which has sold over 80 million units worldwide, and
DRAGON QUEST(R), which has sold over 43 million units worldwide — under one roof. Square Enix is one of the most influential providers of digital entertainment content in the world and continues to push the boundaries of
creativity and innovation.

Square Enix, Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Square Enix Co., Ltd. with offices in Los Angeles, California. It handles operations in North America, including development, localization, marketing, and publishing of Square Enix titles. More information on Square Enix can be found on the Internet at http://www.square-enix.com.

DRAGON QUEST, FINAL FANTASY, SONG SUMMONER and the SONG SUMMONER logo, SQUARE ENIX and the SQUARE ENIX logo are registered trademarks or trademarks of Square Enix Co., Ltd. in the United States and/or other countries. iPod and iTunes are trademarks of Apple Inc, registered in the U.S. and other countries. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners

Leopard Server on Leopard with VMware Fusion 2.0!

VMware has just announced support for their 61st OS supported by Fusion 2.0 – Mac OS X Server 10.5 (Leopard). This is great news for those looking to test things like the new Active Directory wizards, calendar server and enterprise blogging that come with the new version of the server. Not to mention that because it’s supported by Fusion 2.0, you can do it on your laptop.

Check out the full blog post on Fusion 2.0 Leopard Server support at the VMware VMTN blog site here.

VMware Fusion 1.1.1 Maps Command Keys to Windows Control Keys

From the official announcement:

The VMware Fusion Team is happy to announce that VMware Fusion 1.1.1 is now available, addressing 15 issues reported by our customers.

VMware Fusion 1.1.1, a free update for current VMware Fusion customers and available in all the languages Fusion currently ships in, also adds a nifty new feature to transparently remap keyboard shortcuts when going back and forth between applications in the virtual machine and the Mac, regardless of what view the virtual machine is in.

For example, VMware Fusion now remaps Command –X from the keyboard to Ctrl-X in the virtual machine whether in Full Screen, Single Window or Unity. The same remapping happens for Command-Z/-C/-V/-P/-A/-F. Previously, VMware Fusion only did this remapping in Unity mode.

What this means to users, is that when copying something from the Mac side to paste into the virtual machine, and vice versa, you no longer have to remember “Is it Ctrl-V, or Command-V to paste here? Which machine am I interacting with?”

The effect is a more integrated blending of the two operating systems, so your Mac and Windows work together seamlessly, where the user only has to remember one set of keyboard shortcuts!

Keyboard remapping can be turned on and off in the VMware Fusion > Preferences dialog.

Disable the Dock in Apple OS X Tiger

Many people find that they simply don’t have enough screen real estate on their MacBooks, and prefer to use application launchers such as Apple’s own Spotlight, or the third party applications QuickSilver and launchbar.

There are two ways to remove the Dock from OS X tiger – one easy, the other a more manual approach.

We’ll start with the hard one, since it’s better to understand what’s going on behind the scenes. If this simply doesn’t interest you and you’d rather move on – rest assured that scripting the hard part is just as safe, and works in a similar manner.

On to the hard part:

  • The first step is to move the dock from /System/Library/CoreServices so that it won’t be launched on startup as it is normally. This is a bit hackish, but I’ve yet to get anything else working properly.
  • Since the dock will no longer be called at startup as it is missing from the usual cave it hides out in, we’ll need to make the Dock start up from it’s new location when we log in. This can easily be accomplished by dragging Dock.app from its new hiding place to your startup items (found in the “accounts” system preference pane).
  • Since the idea here is to get rid of the Dock, we’ll need to close it after it is run on login. The easiest way to do this is to make an Applescript that terminates the dock for you, and have it run just after the Dock is launched on startup. This allows the Dock to start, get it’s act in gear, then disappear.
  • Now you can proceed with your normal modus operandi and utilize QuickSilver or whatever other application launcher that you prefer to use instead of the Dock.

The easier way to do all of this is to leverage a piece of software written by No Name Scriptware called Dock Death. Dock Death is an AppleScript that performs the same task we outlined above, and also gives you a back out strategy in case you really need to get the Dock back.

Both of these solutions will effectively disable Expose since it a Dock process. If you can’t live without Expose, you may want to try using the freeware Onyx, which allows you to move the Dock to the top of the screen and hide it, effectively eliminating it from view. Though this is a bit low-tech in that it doesn’t really disable the Dock, for some people it gets the job done.

Turn off Apple Startup Sound on your Intel Mac

If the chime your Mac makes on bootup drives you batty, have no fear – it’s controllable. You can mute, turn down, or even turn UP your Macintosh startup volume using freeware utilities!

There are a few applications out there that will allow you to adjust the Apple startup noise, but only one (as far as I can tell) that will allow you to adjust the startup chime on Intel based Macs – Psst from mistatree will let you do it on your x86 Apple computer, and it’s easy to use too!

Psst is a universal binary that runs in OS X, meaning that it will run on PPC Macs, as well as the newer Intel Macs like iMacs, MacBooks, MacBook Pros and Mac Pros.

To install the program, simply download the DMG image file using Safari, Firefox or your favorite browser, and mount the image by double clicking it. After that you can copy the file anywhere on your hard drive and run the application by double clicking it. Adjust the startup sound to your liking and reboot to see the changes. You will notice the difference on bootup/startup – the startup chime should be less noisy or muted depending on how you adjusted it.

Parallels Desktop Mac Beta2 (Build 3094)

Oh boy, big news!

A new beta of Parallels has been released today, and is a free download for Parallels users. Coherence and BootCamp compatibility have been improved, along with a slew of other features.

Here’s the release notes for the Parallels Desktop for Mac (Beta2) page:

  • NEW! USB 2.0 support – “Plug and play” popular USB devices like external hard drives, printers, and scanners, and use them at full native speed.
    • NOTE! Current Build 3094 doesn’t support isochronous devices such as web cameras, microphones, etc.
  • NEW! Full-feature virtual CD/DVD drive – Burn CDs and DVDs directly in virtual machines, and play any copy-protected CD or DVD just like you would on a real PC
  • NEW! Improved Coherence mode – The groundbreaking feature that lets you run Windows applications without seeing Windows just got better! Now you can:
    • Place Windows applications on your Mac desktop or in your application dock. Just click to launch them directly from OS X!
    • Use Command+tab to cycle through Windows and Mac applications simultaneously, and “hide and show” Windows applications just like you would with Mac applications
    • View the Windows Command Console in Coherence mode
    • Use Coherence in Windows 2000, Windows 2003, Windows XP and Windows Vista!
  • NEW! Better Boot Camp support – Using your Boot Camp partition in Parallels Desktop is now easier than ever. Beta2’s Boot Camp support includes:
    • Full support for FAT32 and NTFS partitions
    • Easy offline configuration. Simply tell Parallels Desktop that you want to create a virtual machine from a Boot Camp Partition and click start. No complicated set up required!
    • No need to re-activate Windows each time you switch between Boot Camp and Parallels. Activate Windows only once inside Parallels and work in both environments
    • IMPORTANT! It is not possible to suspend a Virtual Machine that is connected to Boot Camp as it could result in an unstable system.
    • VERY IMPORTANT! Beta1 (build 3036) users must boot natively into Boot Camp and uninstall Parallels Tools for Boot Camp prior to running it in Beta2 (build 3094).
  • NEW! Parallels Transporter Beta2 bundled – migrate your real Windows PC, or existing VMware or Virtual PC VMs to Parallels virtual machines! Learn more about Parallels Transporter Beta2 >>
    • IMPORTANT! Beta1 users MUST upgrade their Transporter package on their Windows source machine before using Parallels Transporter in Beta2. Failing to do so may result in a system crash and loss of data
  • New Look and Feel – completely redesigned windows and easier to follow dialogues to make Desktop for Mac more user-friendly than ever
  • True “Drag and Drop” functionality – a long awaited feature that lets you seamlessly drag and drop files and folders from Windows to Mac OS X and vice versa
  • Read/Write Boot Camp partition – use your Apple Boot Camp Partition as a virtual HDD for Parallels Desktop for Mac
  • Virtual Machine Catalogue – now all of your virtual machines are available through a centralized VM catalogue which appears on each Parallels Desktop for Mac instance
  • One-click Virtual Machine Aliases – automatically create a desktop shortcut for your virtual machine with the OS Installation Assistant, by dragging-and-dropping from title bar, or by pressing Command-Option keys combination. Clicking on Alias automatically starts the Virtual Machine
  • Resizable Main Window – resize the Parallels Desktop for Mac main window as you do with any other Mac application
  • Auto-Adjusting Screen Resolution – Windows auto-adjusts its screen resolution to the actual main window size
  • Improved graphic performance – up to 50% faster!
  • Connect/disconnect USB devices schema improved – no more annoying “wait 5-10 seconds” message on USB device connecting to Parallels Desktop for Mac!
  • Up to 5 Virtual NICs – now each Virtual Machine can have up to five virtual network interfaces
  • Enhanced Shared Networking Mode – run Cisco VPN and many other complex networking applications in conjunction with Connection Sharing Mode