Saturday, 24 February 2018

The Unseen Cost of a New Mac Laptop

My trusty MacBook Pro, dating from 2011, finally gave up the ghost a couple of weeks ago.

Although I'd no idea at the time of purchase, this model has a terrible habit of overheating its graphics card - I had noted however that the fan was sometimes very active, overactive, even on cool days. It turns out that the board gets so hot it 'cooks' the components and eventually kills it dead. So the computer just will not start - well, it actually starts, but you can't see it running because the screen is dead. 

I got online and found a lot of information on how to get this well known default fixed. One way is to take the offending board out and not replace it - you lose the ability to connect to a projector or screen because the Thunderbolt port goes with the card, but it fixes the overheating issue. 

You can also replace the card for $400+, but, as the replacement part is going to be secondhand (Apple stopped making them years ago) there's a very good likelihood of it cooking the replacement part again.

Over time I'd added a second SSD (drive) and doubled the RAM to make it run better so was loath to dump the laptop but I have now replaced the card twice and didn't want to risk getting stuck a third time.

I decided to buy a refurbished Mac - take a close look at the (bottom of the) Apple website and you'll spot a section featuring ex-demo models being sold off at a reasonable discount of about $200+, depending on the model (and loaded components). I don't need the very latest technology as this is only for travel  so bought a 13inch MacBook Pro, c/w a 2.9Ghz CPU, 256Gb SSD, 8Gb RAM and four USB-C ports.

Current Mac laptops come with streamlined ports - USB-C and nothing else.

 Apple rarely offers discounts on anything it sells so a discount on a refurb is the next best thing but, as I was replacing a six-year old laptop, new Macs come with their own connectivity  issues.  The new laptop has 4 USB-C ports, nothing else. 

So, my old-school USB mouse (now called USB-A) doesn't connect, neither do my two trusty portable Firewire 800 hard drives, my (expensive) 4Tb Thunderbolt desktop drive, nor any of my standard USB 2.0/USB 3.0 external drives. Simply because of these new ultra-thin USB-C ports.
Apple made a few enemies when it replaced the mag port with the Apple Lightening connector. Then came the USB-C connector which is now 'standard', supplying fast data transfer as well as power for recharging.

The answer of course was to go buy a USB-C dock converting a single USB-C port to one into which you can connect older-style USB-A type cables. These cost anything from $70, to well over $200, depending on the number of ports available, and the type of ports. I chose one with three USB-A ports, a single Ethernet port, HDMI port, an SD and Micro SD card reader, plus a spare pass-through USB-C port. Cost: $130.

To be able to use my 4Tb WD desktop drive, I also had to buy a Thunderbolt 2.0 to Thunderbolt 3.0 converter from JB HiFi = $69. Phew! 

I wonder how the PC world would react if USB3.0 was changed to a new type of port on all new Windows computers? 

Currently around 3 billion USB 3.0 ports are shipped every year. Global revolt would ensue if it were changed, so it's interesting that Mac users put up with this level of consumer abuse. I understand why Apple is doing this - one port works for Thunderbolt, USB data and power - but it's still a bit of a slap in the face after forking out two grand for a laptop.

The introduction of the lightning connector in 2012 generated a lot of consumer anger when it was announced - it was a better product than the 30-pin dock connector found on early iPads. 

It can be inserted either way (unlike the dock and USB connections) but requires adaptors for connection to a range of legacy cables, as does the new USB-C. My real success was to buy two HDD cases from to accommodate the two SSD hard drives saved from the dead Powerbook. At only $35, these are inexpensive and very easy to setup - all you need is a screwdriver.

So, despite the fact that the new laptop is half the weight and size of my previous model, more efficient, has a battery that (according to Apple, lasts up to 10 hours, upgrading comes with a lot of inescapable hidden costs. Ah!, the price of progress...

Monday, 19 February 2018

Last Minute Lightroom Class at CCE

I have a few places left on my Lightroom class at the end of this month if you need to get your darkroom skills up to speed - it's being held at the Centre for Continuing Education (CCE) in Newtown (02 8627 6700 9-5pm Mon - Fri) on Saturday 24th Feb. Cost  $358.

The class includes a bunch of notes and more than a dozen video tutorials to help you navigate this fantastic application after the class has finished...

Here's a sample of one of my tutorials:

Lr Wheres My Catalog from Robin Nichols on Vimeo.

FYI: If you can't get to this one, I have more one-day Lightroom classes, plus entry-level and advanced photo classes, bookmaking and camera flash classes later in the year: