The iMac saga has a happy ending

I finally got a message from the Apple Store that my iMac was ready to be picked up. I called them up to find out what they did and how much is cost. Originally, when I started this whole endeavor, I wanted them to replace the video card. First, they told me to wipe my OS which I did, and it didn’t solve the problem. This last time when I brought it in they suggested it might be the mainboard that is the problem. The mainboard was around $500, the video card was $200. I wasn’t willing to spend more than $200 on a 2011 computer, no matter how nice it was.

So I waited for them to do some more diagnostics and see if changing out the video card made a difference. I got a call about a week ago saying that they were going to swap out the video card, but they accidentally broke a part that connected to the entire internal computer frame, so they would need to replace that part and frame as well (at no charge to me). Yet another week later I finally had the computer back in my hands, with a new video card.

The only comment that the tech made to me was that they thought that the temperature sensor on the hard drive was broken because the HDD fan kept kicking on. When I put in my aftermarket SSD, it came with a digital temperature sensor that attached to the hard drive cable and transmitted temperature data from the SSD, since the SSD didn’t have a temp sensor built-in. I figured that the temp sensor had simply failed and ordered a new one with same-day shipping from Amazon (on a Saturday no less). A couple of my memory sticks had failed tests as well, so I ordered those as well.

Saturday night I get the memory installed, and then crack open the case to put in a new temp sensor only to find that Apple had disconnected my after-market temp sensor. That’s the whole reason it wasn’t working. They hadn’t hooked it back up. I re-attached it, put the computer back together and lo and behold, everything works like a dream. There are no graphics artifacts (thanks to the new video card) and the fans are silent. It cost $200 for the new video card, which felt like an OK price to pay for a few more years of life from this old beast.

I’m still sitting on a completely wiped OS, and instead of restoring from Time Machine, I decided to just go with it and start over fresh. It’s allowed me to get rid of a LOT of crap that was just clogging up my drive and frankly, completely un-needed. I’m a little frustrated that it took me weeks to get Apple to fix what I knew was wrong in the first place, but in the end I’m glad it’s fixed, and the saga is thankfully over.

More iMac woes

On Friday night I got a call that the Apple store wasn’t able to confirm that my video card was dying and so they suggested that I wipe the drive and start over. I was incredibly frustrated with this because I know this isn’t an issue with the operating system. I get weird graphical artifacts in both Windows and Mac on this same machine, but they wouldn’t believe me. So I brought the device home and began the tedious process of starting over.

Because this is a machine from 2011 that meant starting over with OS X Lion. Then I was able to move up partway to El Capitan before finally getting to install High Sierra. After hours of installs I started to use the machine again, and sure enough, the problem was still there. Weird graphic artifacts all over my screen. It seems to be worse when the computer is cold, but then when I push it graphically it starts to appear again. I logged on to Apple’s support chat and sure enough the only thing they could do for me was to recommend that I bring it back in to the store. So back I go on Tuesday.

Since I was re-installing everything I happened to come across a nice old B&W photo I took back 10 years ago at a park near my house. Figured I’d share it so that this post isn’t all just complaining.

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The death of an iMac

Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 5.06.13 PM.pngBack at the end of 2015 I blogged about my iMac starting to develop some graphics artifacts and being slow. Somehow, the graphics artifacts abated enough for me to get another couple years of life out of it. I managed to speed up the system with a shiny new SSD, which made it feel like a brand new computer.

This past week though the graphics artifacts got to the point where things are almost unusable. It appears to have something to do with heat, as I didn’t seem to have many issues in the summer, but now that it’s colder outside it’s struggling more and more. I have an appointment on Thursday to get an estimate on how much it will be to get it fixed.

I’m not sure how much it will be, but if it’s more than I want to bite off, then I’m back to making a decision about where to go next. New iMacs that have SSDs (and are of comparable performance) are $1500+. A Mac Mini might be an option, but I’d need to invest in a decent monitor as well. Plus, the Mac Mini isn’t really value priced when you add in a decently fast chip and SSD. And, before anyone asks, no, I’m probably never going Windows.

One option that I’m considering is using my 12″ Macbook as my replacement. It’s not a powerhouse, but I already own it. I’d need to figure out a nice docking set up, with a decent monitor, but it would probably be the most economical of all the solutions. The lack of ports beyond just USB-C isn’t a big deal, until you need to start hooking up a lot of devices, including video. I have a concern that transmitting video data, as well as other I/O might bottleneck the single port. One more thing to Google.

The silly thing is that I could probably go with a Chromebox, since 90% of what I do doesn’t involve anything that’s not online. If there was a full fledged version of Lightroom (not mobile or web app) for Chrome, I could go that way. However, for now I still need access to the full version (especially until the bugs are fixed with CC).

So anyone out there done the Macbook USB-C dock and have any advice on a good model? How about monitors that people like?

Got to try CarPlay!

Today I brought my car into the shop to get some work done. It was costly enough that I decided to spend the extra $25 to get a rental car for the day. I love getting rental cars from dealers because they are usually the latest model vehicles with all the bells and whistles. Today was no exception as I got to drive around in a 2017 Honda CR-V decked out with leather and everything else you can imagine.

One of the biggest perks is something I’ve been wanting to play with for a long time, Apple CarPlay. I immediately plugged my phone in this morning and started playing before I left the parking lot. CarPlay (and Android Auto) are dead simple to use. When you plug in your device the screen is taken over by a UI similar to that of your phone. No more clunky auto manufacturer attempts at a user interface. You get something clean and familiar.

It took mere seconds to get my phone screen up on the dashboard, with it’s limited set of icons that are CarPlay enabled. Most apps don’t make sense on a dashboard, so only a few have been modified to work. Thankfully, Google Play music is one of them. Operating CarPlay is just like operating my phone. The menus are familiar, and you simply press the screen and select, just like on the phone. Things are optimized to be efficient and easy to use, with no clutter.

As I used CarPlay over the course of the day I fell in love with how it wasn’t distracting, but in fact got out of the way. Changing music involved a quick poke with my finger on the next track, or simply pressing the steering wheel controller. Siri was there for any other interactions I wanted to have, meaning it was easy to pull up directions and travel times without taking my eyes off the road. Best of all I didn’t need to worry about pairing anything to Bluetooth.

I don’t know that a new car is in the cards for me for a while, so I’m starting to think about getting an aftermarket deck installed. I’m curious if anyone out there has ever gotten a CarPlay/AndroidAuto deck put into their vehicles, and what their experiences are?

Am I an Apple guy anymore?

Recently, I’ve been starting to question how much of an Apple guy I am. Those who know me, know that I’ve been an Apple fan boy since the late 1990s when I was running OS 7.x on a clone Power Computing machine. The evolution of Macs to OS X was a tremendously welcome change for me, especially since I am an old Unix geek at heart. The ability to have a full CLI shell for power work, and still have a nice GUI for daily putzing was a dream come true. I even converted my friend Wes from Linux to Apple over a decade ago.

When the iPhone came out I waited for a while, mainly because it wasn’t on a carrier I wanted to work with. Eventually though I joined the ranks of happy iPhone 4 users on Verizon and have been an iPhone user ever since. Before this I had spent a bit of time on Android and webOS (Palm), and although they were good platforms, iOS had them beat hands down. Perhaps the biggest advantage that Apple had was it’s ecosystem. At the time, iTunes and the Apple store were fresh and innovative, and no one had anything that came close. The Google Play store was mediocre, and even Google Docs was still mostly rudimentary.

Fast forward to 2017 and when I look at the tools I use, everything is Google. Ever since Google Play Music came out with an unlimited family subscription plan, I haven’t loaded up iTunes. I use Google Docs for just about everything productivity wise, and on my iPhone my primary clients are Gmail and Chrome. So, am I really even using the Apple ecosystem anymore at all?

I know a part of this has to do with the fact that I live in a mixed household where some people use Android and others have iPhones. This means that collaboration moves over to the most supported tools on both platforms, which means Google. But when I really look at the ecosystems, I have to admit that Google really has Apple beat when it comes to many of the things I use it for. The email client is smoother, the productivity apps are fully web enabled and robust, and the media ecosystem is at least on par with what others offer.

When you toss in the fact that for many years my laptop was a simple Chromebook, which I still use regularly, and I have to wonder if I really have anything keeping me with Apple. Most likely my desktop will always be Apple, since I can’t get the photo tools that I need elsewhere (and no, I’m not going Windows), but perhaps it’s time to delve into the Pixel realm for my phone, and look at upgrading my Chromebook to something a bit newer and more powerful. Maybe it’s time to just admit that I really don’t use Apple for all the things that I used to. Maybe it’s time to make the leap…