Tag Archive: mac

I’ve been having trouble with my mouse for the last week on my MacBook Pro.  I have the MB471LL/A late 2008 model of the MacBook Pro.  The first unibody MacBook; the one with the split bottom case.  Anyways, I’ve been experiencing problems with my mouse.  The whole trackpad usually acts as a button but this last week it has been getting progressively non-responsive.  I would try to click and I would get no tactical feedback and no response from the system.  In fact, the system was acting as if I was holding the mouse button down.  I got a bid desperate and plugged in an external mouse to try to use the system.  This didn’t work either since the left click wouldn’t work.\

Silly me…  I went and ordered a new trackpad from Powerbook Medic.  I chose them for a couple of reasons.  First off, the price was fair.  It was in line with eBay sellers for MacBook parts.  Secondly, they have some excellent instructional videos showing how to disassemble many different systems.  Lastly, they have an identifier that works off of your serial number to precisely identify which system you have and tell you which part you need.  I will be keeping ALL of these factors in mind in the future if I need more parts for repair of my laptop or someone else’s but for now, it appears that I jumped the gun.

Turns out that it wasn’t the mouse.  I had figured that there was a tact switch under the mouse that I had just clicked one too many times.  Tact switches are commonly used as buttons in mice, power switches on laptops and any other use besides keyboards pretty much.  I became so desperate that I was going to pop the system open and manually disable the ribbon cable to the mouse so that it could be used with an external mouse only until the new part arrived.  When I turned my system over however, I found that the aluminum door for the battery didn’t seem to be closed all the way.  I opened the door and noticed that my battery was visibly bulging in the middle to the point that it wouldn’t even sit flat in the compartment.

In other words, my battery was bulging so much that it was putting pressure on the mouse pad from underneath and keeping the button permanently depressed…  Wow!  I’m a little surprised that it didn’t warp my laptop or do any permanent damage.  In the pictures, the bulging may not look like much but it was enough to cause my problem.  While I was out today, I found a great little store that specializes in Apple computers.  They happened to have the battery in stock so I bought it and popped it in.  Good as new and the battery door closes properly again.

The moral of this story is that you should always try the easy fix first and do a proper diagnostic before rushing out to buy parts.  Once again I think this laptop is great and it feels like a new machine after owning it for almost 2 years now.  I will definitely buy another one when a quad core 15-inch MacBook Pro is available…  Not holding my breath though since it’s been rumored for years.

Your Mac knows where you live

With all of the recent excitement in the security world about people’s concerns regarding smart phones that know your location, a bigger problem has been overlooked.  Most Macintosh users probably don’t realize that there is a feature called “location services” in OS X 10.5 and later.  This feature is not widely publicized but I assure you that it’s there. This feature queries a database and determines your location based on which wifi access points can be seen by your computer every 12 hours or when invoked manually via a web browser or other application.  I’m not sure how well this works in the more rural areas but I live in a suburban area and location services pinned my down within 100 feet or so.  Apple’s statement on the matter follows:

“The data collected to provide your location does not identify you personally. If you do not want such data collected, you can choose to disable the feature, which does not negatively affect your Mac in any way.”

If you would like to test your own computer just go to Google Maps.  See that tiny button under the 4-way arrow in the upper left corner?  Push it.  I tested this under Firefox and Safari.  Thankfully they both had the courtesy to ask me if I would like to allow the web page to query my location.  The thing that struck me odd is that Apple seems to have left it up to the application to ask you if you would like to allow use of the feature.  Potentially a malicious application could use this in the background without your knowledge.

To my knowledge, any Macintosh with a airport card using OS X 10.5, OS X 10.6 or any Windows box with Safari has location services enabled by default.  Here is how to disable location services.  I’m curious why Apple thought that this should be a default setting in your operating system.  Thanks Apple, but no thanks.  My computer on my static IP is querying the mother ship every 12 hours to figure out where I’m sitting with my computer.  For some reason, I just don’t like that.

RetroMacCast podcast review

I ran across the RetroMacCast the other day when I was looking for podcasts focusing on older computers.  This podcast is ran by two guys, James & John who are both collectors, restorers and modders of old Macintosh computers.  They seem to be mostly interested in 68000 and early power PC architectures but certainly mention G3’s and G4’s all the time as well.  I like to listen to podcasts from the start when I find them.  The RetroMacCast started on December 17th, 2005 so they have been around a long time now.  As of today (6/27/2010) they have 165 episodes under their belts.  Their goal is to podcast once a week.

As of now, I’m only on episode 23 of this podcast so anything I mention now may change later but I like this podcast for several reasons.  Let me just list them off:

  • They keep it moving at a good pace.  Aside from interviews, no segment goes on for over a five minutes or so.
  • It is consistent.  You always know what to expect when you listen so if you like the first one, you’ll probably like them all.
  • The format is good.  They read some fan mail, talk about a particular retro mac of the week, a piece of hardware or memorabilia, an eBay find of the week and current news.
  • No sponsors so the podcast isn’t junked up with a bunch of ads.
  • Good audio quality and production.

I’m not a big Mac guy personally.  I like the MacBook Pro that I use but I’m not a fan boy, I don’t idolize every little nuance of the company and I don’t collect old Macs.  That being said, I always learn some new and interesting about old Macs and old computers in general from this podcast and never find it overwhelming to listen to.  Going back to the start, it’s fun to listen to these guys speculate about new hardware coming out such as the iPhone, iPod Touch, MacBook Air, etc.  To me, listening to these podcasts about the old Macs is better than actually owning most of the systems since it takes up less space to just listen to their podcast and look at the pictures they post.  I’m confident that if I ever DO decide to buy a retro Mac, I’ll have the proper knowledge to figure out which one to buy thanks to this podcast.

James and John do a very good job of keeping it interesting and leave the listener wanting to hear more.  One of my favorite segments of their podcast is the eBay find of the week.  They will discuss a few rare items that are listed, give recommendations on whether to bid on them or not and then the next week, they follow up and tell how much the items did or did not sell for.  I would not be as kind as they are when talking about some of these sellers such as the guy wanting $500 for a toaster Mac case back or the other guy trying to get $3500 from a third party external scsi drive.

If you are into old Macs, this is your podcast.  If you are into new Macs, this might also be your podcast since they do hit all of the major announcements and don’t tend to drag on about them too much.  If you are into computer history, this is definitely your podcast.  Sometimes they even step outside their scope and dare to talk about things like the Apple I, Apple Lisa and Newton Message Pad.  If any of this sounds interesting, check out their website or just subscribe in iTunes.

What is MacPorts?

Since getting my MacBook pro in early 2009 MacPorts has been one of the best and most useful tools I have discovered for it. MacPorts is a package management system similar to Debian’s apt-get. It allows you to install any of the 1000’s of packages that are available on other Unix platforms.  To use it, you’ll need Xcode which is Apple’s free integrated development environment.  Make sure you include both X11SDK and Unix Development when you grab the Xcode package.  Xcode is a huge package but it’s worth the space for ports and because it comes with Dashcode which is a nice little text editor that properly saves html, php, etc unlike text edit.

Once you have Xcode downloaded and installed, then grab the pre-built dmg file for your version of OS X from here.  One of the first commands you’ll want to make a note of is the update command.  That brings MacPorts itself up to date.  To run it you type:

sudo port -v selfupdate

More important is the package update command.  This one could take a while to run depending how many packages you have installed since it will download and recompile any outdated packages and dependencies you may have installed.  Be forwarded my computer took over an hour to upgrade.  To run it you type:

sudo port upgrade outdated

At the time of this blog post there are 6818 ports currently available.  You can see all of the ports right here.  The ports are categorized and searchable.  You can also search through all of the available ports right on the command line with these two commands:

ports list

ports search package

Once you find a package you want, installing it is a snap.  You just type:

sudo port install package

After you have installed a few ports, you can see a list of all ports and all dependencies that you currently have installed by typing:

port installed

Every time I look at the list I see new packages to install.  A few of my favorites are Perl, mysql, nmap & lynx.  You might laugh at Lynx but it really can be handy in a pinch.  Especially if you are SSH’ing into your Mac remotely.  Even if your package is not available, ports is really the best way to install dependencies for other packages that you may need to compile.  Things like gmake, autoconf & automake can be critical to running ./configure scripts and ports will make dependency hell a little less painful.

One final caveat is that when you upgrade to the next version of OS X, it will probably break some/most/all of your ports.  I haven’t had this experience yet but I’m guessing it won’t be much more painful than possibly upgrading Xcode, the MacPorts binary and running the upgrade command again.

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