Friday, January 18, 2008

I'd Like My CD Back, Please

My second Apple Mac related entry in a week. No, I'm not getting kick-backs from Steve Jobs. Yet.

I recently encountered one of my worst nightmares come true. I had a CD (a fairly important CD) stuck in a slot-loading CD drive refusing to come out. After the initial freak-out phase, followed by trying random, ineffective solutions found on the web, I stumbled upon a solution that was surprisingly effective, that I thought I'd share.

The problem: After attempting to set up my MacBook Pro to triple-boot Mac OS 10.4, 10.5 and Windows XP (don’t do this, by the way. I had to do this for work, but any sane person has no reason to set up their Mac to triple-boot, and it's actually more of a pain to do than I expected), I got to a point where I was running Windows, and tried to insert the Mac OS 10.5 install CD (DVD, really) into the MacBook CD drive. The drive is a slot-loading drive, with a very thin opening, where you have to insert the CD pretty far in for the motorized "grabbing" mechanism to kick in. I pushed the disc in, and only after I had pushed it all the way in, did I realize that, for some reason, the motorized "grab" never triggered at all.

Neither the Mac, nor the CD are mine, so I was in something of a bind. I read several articles on the web for what to do if the CD was sucked in, but could not be ejected, however this was a different case, where the machine thought there was no CD in the drive, when, in fact, there was.

I tried using a tiny pair of tweezers and a flashlight. Don't do this. The slot is tiny, and covered with some sort of fabric to keep out dust. You won't be able to see a thing in there, and you’ll have no idea if the thing you just hit with the tweezers is the CD, or a fragile part of the CD drive.

My second idea was to take another CD, and try and tap the CD the rest of the way in. This didn't work either. However, in doing this, I said to myself, "Self, I wish this CD in my hand was sticky, so the other CD would stick to it."

There was my solution. I took a long piece of scotch tape and wrapped it around the CD, sticky-side out. I then slid the CD into the drive to a point where I guessed it was slightly past the stuck CD, and pressed up and down. I hit pay-dirt, and easily pulled the CD out. It was like fishing, if you used CDs instead of fishing rods and tape instead of hooks. It was nothing like fishing.

Here's a pointless diagram to illustrate this fairly mundane solution even further. No, I do not actually have a Britney Spears CD.

So there you have it. The MacBook Pro and the OS disc are both fine. My boss is none the wiser, unless he is reading my blog.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

One More Thing

As many Apple fans had hoped, Apple introduced a new ultra-portable laptop computer today. It's ridiculously thin. It has a nice LED screen. It's environmentally friendly. I'm probably not going to get one.

I've been waiting for Apple to announce a proper successor to the 12" PowerBook for some time now. Sadly, I believe the new MacBook Air isn't it.

For one thing, the hard drive is a potential issue. The default hard drive is an 80Gig 4200RPM drive, a bit on the slow side. A much better alternative is the optional 64Gig solid-state hard drive, but this will set you back a whopping additional $1000, putting the total price of the MacBook Air above the price of a MacBook Pro, or even a low-end Mac Pro.

The thing that kills it for me, however is that the Air lacks a proper graphics card. It uses an Intel integrated video chipset, which, according to some reviews isn't exactly a great performer. Granted, the intended audience is not your average gamer. However, it's somewhat sad when my four year old computer would probably outperform the Air in an average game, even though the Air has a much more advanced CPU and more memory. And remember, the 12" Powerbook did have "dedicated" graphics from NVidia that would also likely beat the Air's integrated Intel video chipset today in average performance tests.

The Air, thus, ends up looking like a really thin MacBook, without a DVD drive. Or, if you buy the solid-state drive model, it ends up looking like a crazy expensive, really thin MacBook, without a DVD drive, that someone will likely attempt to steal from you.

Not that I'm advocating buying a Dell at all, but they do offer a notebook, the XPS M1330, that is slightly cheaper, but has a better CPU, an actual GPU, a DVD drive, and is only about half an inch thicker, and about a pound heavier. So why get the Air? Simple. It comes with Mac OS. Really, that honestly is almost worth the price of admission. Almost.

One more thing. The Dell comes with Vista, which you should factor into the cost, since you'll be spending some quality time replacing it with Windows XP.