MacBook Solutions

As some of you may recall I have been having problems with my MacBook Pro, to the point where I was just about ready to give up on it. It has been crashing more and more often recently and this is not something you want in a work machine. I had installed a new SSD but the machine refused to boot after awhile so I stuck the old hard drive back in. There were still random crashes but at least it worked, most of the time. Sometimes programs would not work as they were supposed to. Sometimes the whole machine would simply freeze and all I could do was lean on the power button until it reset. I was, to say the least, unhappy. One reason I have always liked Apple machines is, to quote the slogan, they just work. Apparently not this MacBook, not any more.

A friend of mine had been having similar problems  after migrating his stuff from his old Mac to a new MacBook Air. The machine worked fine when he bought it but when he imported his old programs and data to the new machine it kept crashing. A clean install would see the machine working again and a Time Machine update would cause crashes. On my own machine I had started to suspect motherboard failure but this gave me pause for thought. Over the years I have migrated my programs and data a lot of times, from a 2004 vintage iBook through various system upgrades to an Intel iMac and on to an Intel MacBook and finally the current MacBook Pro. Some of the stuff on my computer dated back to era of PowerPC chips and ran on the Intel machines using Rosetta, the PowerPC emulator that used to come with all the Intel Macs. This got me thinking that perhaps I was not experiencing hardware failure but maybe kernel panics caused by some sort of creeping incompatibility or instability. There was only one way to find out.

This weekend I formatted my Kingston SSD again, fitted it back into the MacBook Pro and did a clean install of all the software I wanted to use from downloads or the original disks. This was going to be a completely clean installation. Most of my work is stored in the cloud in Dropbox. My notes are all stored in Evernote. My passwords are in a 1Password encrypted file in Dropbox too. This made the process pretty simple if a little laborious. In a few hours, my machine was running again and running pretty much perfectly. To be honest, it is like having a whole new computer. The MBP always booted fast from the SSD but now it is twice as fast. I have only been using the machine for a couple of days now but so far there has not been the slightest hint of instability. No crashing, no kernel panics, all the installed software works perfectly as it is supposed to.

This might just be a coincidence and the machine may start crashing again tomorrow. I hope not. I’ll report back if there are any problems. If you’ve experienced similar crashes you may want to give this a try. It’s a pretty radical solution but right now I am really, really happy with the machine. On the other hand I am going to be a lot more suspicious of the whole process of upgrading operating systems and migrating data in OSX in the future.

iCloud: The Hype Begins

There’s another interesting Apple puff-piece over at the Guardian. It sings the praises of Apple’s new iCloud as opposed to Google’s Web based approach to the cloud. The main difference is apparently that you can just fire up your MacBook and save your documents in the cloud and they will miraculously appear on all your other Apple computers from the cloud. You get to use local apps and not be tied to the browser as with Google’s offerings. Sounds pretty cool, huh? Another radical new innovation from Steve and the boys in Cupertino!

Well, no actually. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years on a mix of Apple, Windows and Linux machines using Dropbox (and sometimes LiveMesh) as have millions of people like me. I am sure that the Apple version will be polished and beautiful. I am sure we will be reading a lot more about in the Guardian but it’s kind of sad that their tech writers need an Apple press conference to uncover “innovations” that have been generally available for years.

Of course, the publicity will push this into the spotlight and Apple will get credit for it. Such is the way of the world.

Apple Sales Growth and Guardian Spin

Over at the Guardian tech blog Charles Arthur points out that over the past five years Apple has enjoyed growth of up to 27% while Windows PC manufacturers have seen sales slump. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? Surely it’s worthy of serious investigation! There must be something that Windows PC manufacturers could learn here.

And yet the same article points out that Apple’s overall market share has grown from something like 3.35% worldwide to a mighty 4%. That sounds a lot less impressive, doesn’t it?

Apple are a great brand and they make very nice machines but 4% market share is not striking any sort of blow against the Windows behemoth. Using those 27% growth statistics to flog the Windows beast relies on a simple jedi math trick. Here it is:

I sold one book a year in 2009. I sold 2 books in 2010. I managed 100% sales growth and J K Rowling, whose sales numbers are stagnant, would do well to study my methods.

Alternatively I sold one million books in 2009. I sold 950000 books in 2010. My sales slumped by tens of thousands.

Which position would you rather be in — revelling in a mighty 100% growth or suffering through that 5% slump?

It’s easy to achieve high sales growth when you are coming off a small base. It is much harder when you already have a gigantic number of customers.

There are lots of things you can praise Apple for in a business sense — iPhone sales, their app store, their margins compared to PC manufacturers. But spinning this sort of sales growth as some kind of challenge to the Windows monopoly reads like it comes straight from a press release.