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December 12, 2006

Macbook Black 13" replacement; needs replacing!!

Follow-up to Macbook Black 13" – Fan fixed, CPU idle whine worse from Gibo's Reviews

So the build quality on the Apple Macbook isn’t up to much.

My second Macbook, replacing one that had CPU whine noise and a wobbly fan, has a louder CPU noise. To make matters worse, the hard drive makes a loud click noise every 10 seconds.

A hard drive with hiccups

This is really, really annoying. I can’t deal with the laptop literally having hiccups. The noise is apparently the parking of the drive’s head, however this was the exact same noise that came from my other previous 2.5” hard drives days before they died.

Mac are being compliant, and are replacing this one too. And throwing in a free Firewire cable to copy my data over. Apparently when you replace something twice the matter gets escalated to their engineering team for investigation, so this should be where the buck stops.

But seriously, if the third one is no less than perfect then all three are going back and I’ll get another brand. All these problems within a week; imagine after three years! Here’s hoping it’s just a bad batch.


December 11, 2006

Macbook Black 13" – Fan fixed, CPU idle whine worse

Follow-up to Macbook Black 13" – broke before I could finish the review! (broken fan whine) from Gibo's Reviews

The new Mac arrives!

Return of the Mac

The replacement arrived in very good time, ordered on Friday and here on Monday. The new one does not suffer from the fan noise, but interestingly the CPU whine is louder.

Watch the video:

Fix for the CPU whine?

What’s really interesting is that the old one’s whine has almost disappeared over this weekend. And what have I been doing with it differently this weekend? Playing Half Life and briefly HL2 under Crossover beta.

Could it be that giving the system a good blast settles the whine? I shall try it out on the new one and report back…


December 09, 2006

Macbook Black 13" – Intel Core 2 Duo CPU whine on idle

Follow-up to Macbook Black 13" – broke before I could finish the review! (broken fan whine) from Gibo's Reviews

It seems that the condition causing the TV-esque screaming is known on the internet as the ‘cpu whine’, which as I suspected only happens on idle. It is also of note to mention that when I phoned Apple, the support assistant told me that they were aware both of the CPU issue, as well as the fan problem. The gentleman suggested that the brrrrr noise is most likely to be underneath the ‘A’ key – presumably the location where the offending fan is installed. I mention that Apple confirmed these, as other stories on the Internet claim denial from Apple, and that their stance on the issue is that these are ‘features’. Whether this was true in the past is open to speculation, but I can confirm that as of the date on my first post on the matter, Apple UK were acknowledging it and replacing Macbooks without question.

No internet stories about the noisy fan issue that also plagues Macbook Black no.1. Macbook Black no.2 arrives on Monday / Tuesday according to UPS. I’m still impressed that Apple had ordered a new Mac for me on Friday afternoon, and it had been built and shipped by Friday evening. Sounds like at least one high-tech company is ready for the Christmas buying frenzy.


December 08, 2006

Macbook Black 13" – broke before I could finish the review! (broken fan whine)

I buy a Macbook

Since having a desktop replacement type laptop, I’ve always said that the next laptop I buy will have:
  • A decent battery life
  • Be 64bit
  • Have enough RAM to run Eclipse, surf the web, stream music and run an email client all at the same time (ie more than 1GB)
  • Not be a gamer-oriented laptop, as I will get a desktop PC for that.

The new Intel Core 2 Duo chips are 64 bit. Had a look around, and to my surprise the Macbook came in much cheaper than the competiton; and being 64bit and Intel meant that it would – in theory – be able to run Linux x86_64 (and Windows should I lose my mind).
Not being a fan of the whole Apple fashion brand, it took observing friends using these Macbooks that helped me decide.

So I bought a Macbook 13” from Apple Online Higher Education store. Black, 2GHz, 2GB RAM, 120GB hard drive, two batteries, a rather feminine blue carry case (it looked cool on the internet!) and a free-after-rebate HP 5940 printer.
Macbook Black 13

The good

Lets get the good stuff out the way quickly:
  • The battery lasts ages. I think with the backlight low, it can go for almost 4 hours doing the above programming, music, email and surfing actively. Impressive.
  • Once you shut the lid it sleeps immediately, and wakes just as fast.
  • Once the mac is asleep it has already hibernated – this means without AC you can run Firefox, close the lid, remove the battery, put a fresh one in, open the lid and keep working without losing any data. It’s an outstandingly good feature – I have no idea how it writes potentially 2GB to the hard drive in just over a second, so as a software engineer I am impressed.
  • It’s quite pretty to look at, and the keyboard is not as bad as people make it out to be. Though I have had to adjust my style to get the keypresses every time.
  • I ordered it on Friday, it arrived on Monday. That’s impressive. Oh, and a 13% Warwick uni discount too.

The weird

So great says I. The first day I tried getting Fedora Core 6 64 on it.
  • I read the Bootcamp docs, and saw that I needed to check my firmware. It seems that my firmware is more recent that the most recent one published online. Mine are:
    Boot ROM Version: MB21.00A5.B00
    SMC Version: 1.13f3
  • So I get a copy of Refit on there too, and go about booting up the DVD.
    Fedora FC6 64 installing

It installs fine, everything worked just like a normal PC would.
But then it doesn’t boot Fedora. MacOs is still fine.
So I pop in the rescue CD. It boots it, but then refuses to accept my keystrokes.
I try the original Fedora DVD, and get the same. Weird, because it worked before.
Then I booted up SysRescCD, which would sometimes accept my keystrokes on the boot screen, but then double them once the kernel booted ie pressing a gives aa, and backspace doubles too. The only way to type is to hold down a key for a while, hope you get an odd number of aaaaaaaaa and then use the double back space to leave just one. If you thought parted is a pain to use normally, try using it like that. Annoying is an understatement.

OK so that whole issue didn’t work. I tried again actually, involving scrubbing the hard drive, reinstalling MacOS and going back to default. Yet the system still doesn’t let my type when the Fedora DVD boots. So even returning the laptop to factory settings – and remember I have never altered the firmware – something is now broken; the first time it took the FC6 DVD and let me type boot options, and now after a full wipe it still doesn’t. Bizzare.

So the ‘get rid of MacOS and put on Linux’ extravaganza failed. Once I found ‘You Control Desktops’ plug-in to give virtual desktop switching on the mac it was almost as good anyway. X11 works too under MacOS.

So I forget it for now, and await either a new version of FC6 or a new firmware.

The downright ugly

But then the Macbook breaks. Ordered it on Friday, got here on Monday. On Thursday night it starts screaming. You know how you can sometimes tell if a CRT TV is on in another room, because there’s a high-pitch sound you can kinda hear? It’s making that noise. You can sort-of hear it. It’s annoying when working in a quiet place, and like a TV I can kinda hear that the Macbook is on just before I’m entering my room.
So the screaming is coming from the left hand side, around the CapsLock area. After a little scientific method and induction, it seems that it only happens when the CPU is idle. The backlight, temperature, AC/no AC, etc etc make no difference. So that’s annoying…
Then I notice that when I picked up the Macbook, the sound changed to a brrrrr like when you put a wonky DVD in a reader. Everytime you move the Macbook, you get a brrrrr. This is annoying enough to investigate whether the AppleCare warranty I bought is up to scratch.

I rang Apple up, who linked my telephone number to my Macbook serial number. Nice touch. After some fairly pointless, yet mandatory “now hold down the power button, pad your head and rub your stomach: can you now touch your toes?” style troubleshooting we both agreed the 4 day old Macbook was fubar. It needs to be sent back. And to my complete surprise, Apple were happy to send a replacement before I send this one away, so I could copy over my stuff. And to a different address to boot. Cost to me: nada. Not even time, I just have to put up with the screaming for a while until the new one arrives.

So it didn’t run Linux, and broke after 4 days.

Now that’s annoying. But at least I’m impressed with the after-sale support. And you know what, I should be irate with the whole situation. But I’m not because Apple didn’t fight me, and are doing exactly the right things to sort the problem out, without me having to threaten them like every other company I’ve dealt with in the last ten years. Which, frankly, I’m amazed at.

I’m looking forward to the replacement, and also feeling smug about taking out the 3yr warranty. Which makes me a satisfied, new, and converted Apple customer.


June 18, 2006

Review: Hard Candy

Movie image
Title:
Hard Candy
Rating:
3 out of 5 stars

The story of a girl's quest to discover the truth behind a man's privacy and expose her actions for the audience to appraise.

I can really see what this film tries to do, it's certainly meant to be disturbing and relies not on graphics or sounds to get its reactions. I get that the unfolding subject (and if you don't know what that is then the better if you intend to see and appreciate) is one that can't be taken lightly and is somewhat brave in doing so. And I see that the dialogue based interactions between a handful of characters is all it needs to spin itself out. All of that is great, and commendable; but it doesn't mean I have to like it. I don't. 6/10

I found that I actually sided with the male character in it, from the point in the film where the girl's intentions become clear, which I doubt the script–writer intended. I found the girl to be too much of a smart–ass, and sometimes hoped that she'd get at least a little of her own medicine back; sure the male character is far from saintly but that didn't make her actions at the time justifiable – which I feel is the overall moral message the film trys to convey. The problem is that I could see what the director wanted me to feel towards the film, and how my alliegances should keep switching; but they didn't, so I couldn't get involved and believe in the film, which ultimately left me somewhat disappointed.


June 07, 2006

Review: The Omen (2006)

Movie image
Title:
The Omen
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

The Omen 2006

The story of the US Ambassador to the UK's son, whose secretive past hides a destiny beyond his parent's comprehension.

Review: (no spoilers) 8.5/10

Firstly, let me say I haven't seen – and therefore am not influenced by – the original 1976 version of this film, although I was familiar with the general plot. So no accusations of this being better/worse, just whether you should go see it or not!

The Omen is a wonderfully gripping progressive film, which unfurls itself slowly to the audience, increasing with tension with such certainty as to be quite unsettling. Indeed, this horror film starts off getting its scares from disturbing scenes but don't be fooled – this film will certainly make you jump when it starts to get going using a mix of classic fast cut–shots and noise, to the downright unexpected. On more than one occasion I definitely saw popcorn flying: you have been warned!
The film cleverly incorporates recent history in its rationale as to why the Church expected an entity like Damien to come, giving it a quite contemporary feel that's just a little too close to the truth: it makes the entire film seem quite plausible and might make even the most devout atheist consider taking up some form of religious faith as it proceeds to exactly correlate with the events of today.

Critique:

This film would definitely be a classic if it were not for the slightly bad casting. To me it felt distinctly B–list and I would be very surprised if the actors in it were the first choices. Julia Stiles (both Bourne films) really didn't have the motherly warmth needed for her role which made it hard for her character to lever any emotional weight over the film. Liev Schreiber acted finely but I just don't think he suited this type of lead role; I find him too type–cast as being an untrustworthy character (Manchurian Candidate, Scream 3) when here the script demands integrity and honour.
It neeed one more audience screening before release, as some of the scenes don't quite work: the line "There's something about Damien" had me in stitches at the possibility of a spin–off comedy spoof film, whilst the very ending is just corny to the point of getting a few giggles. Spot the 'scary' pictures Damien painted in his bedroom, as well as the front–page's hilarious graphic inappropriateness and caption.

Summary:

It's a really fine film, the only reason to not see it is if being made to jump isn't your thing: this film will get you jumping out your seat. And don't be put off by the terrible cinema trailers, they don't even feature in the film.
Go see it, it's certainly the highlight of this year's Cinema season.

Conclusion:

It's almost good enough to be a classic, but I can't give it full points because the casting was just amiss across the board thus with a little deductive marking The Omen 2006 scores 8.5/10.

As always, the Comments board (link just below) eagerly awaits you. Go see the film and come back here, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

The Omen review 2006 film cinema


May 23, 2006

Review: Mission Impossible 3

Movie image
Title:
Mission Impossible 3
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

Pre-conceptions:

  • Expected it to be a sub average bond film (like The Saint) as was MI:1.
  • Expected it to be badly put together like MI:2, and be disconnected from the MI:1 style (like Terminator 3 was with its predecessors)
  • Not sure I could picture Tom Cruise without bits of placenta dangling from between his teeth (story)

Review: (includes spoilers) 8.5 out of 10

The shaky camera work of the opening scene coupled with human torture in place of clever direction pretty much summed up what I have hated this year. I was expecting this film to give me everything I didn't want, in a boring predictable fashion. I was wrong!
This film, after the opening flashback scene pulls you in nicely to a not–particularly–deep plot that jumps around fast enough to keep you entertained without letting you think "What a minute, what? That's a stupid idea Ethan!". Some masterful scenes at the start (the helicopers chasing through the wind farm at night) set the bar for which the rest of the direction follows; it is simply put together excellently. Whilst computer graphics were clearly used, every shot was done realistically leaving you clueless as to where the props ended and the trickery began.
Whilst the film is superficially about a rescue, the body of the subplot rotates around Cruises's relationship with his fiancee/wife and how maintaining a life of deciet is morally wrong and endagers the lives of the ones you love (almost barf worthy but executed well). In this context the action cuts back and forth in the same scenes intertwining these two stories, and well enough to be convincing although Michelle Monaghan played the role slightly too dappy for my liking.

It's a great, entertaining film which certainly stands above the second, and in it's own right against the first. Not too clever for it's own good, it's comfy to follow, and the direction and production are excellent. And if that's not enough, Simon Pegg (Spaced) is in it! I highly recommend it, and give it 8.5/10.

Observations

  • Plot: not really particularly clear why he'd go back on this mission. She was like a sister to him yadda but now he's got a real family…
  • He drives a Volvo 850, and from the rims looks like a 2.5 petrol. Clearly Volvo owners are not to be messed with, and are at least as cool (often cooler) than Ethan himself.
  • If you go on an undercover mission, wearing black is a good idea. Unless you're wearing a shiny black leather jacket: Ving Rhames, sort it out. Shiny Gucci shoes and other sheeny hides don't suit you.
  • I liked the embrace Ethan and Julia shared, with the camera capturing each of their expressions of fear and uncertaintly both in the situation and ther relationship. Nice touch, executed excellently.
  • Lawrence Fishborne is very fat. If he had been this fat during the Matrix, the helicoper couldn't have saved him.
  • Simon Pegg was hilariously British. I strongly suspect that audiences outside the UK won't get the humour in his character.
  • If I ever get married, it's going to be like that. Seriously. I'm being deep and meaningful here. It was beautiful in it's bare sincerity.
  • Ethan used the OQO handheld PC I must have one, so cool!
  • DHL van broke down lots. Corporate advertising but bad message surely?
  • If a lady wants to blend into a crowd, don't wear what is essentially just a red scarf draped across those bits which kept this film a 12A. Or turn up in an orange Gallardo. And then blow it up.


April 19, 2006

Another 'scary' horror film

Movie image
Title:
An American Haunting
Rating:
2 out of 5 stars

Seriously I have had enough of "creepy little boy/girl" horror films. They just aren't scary and are cliched.

For me this film was The Crucible meets The Exorcist, set in early American settler times with a Devil-possession theme. It gets its scares from textbook camera moments like sending the eye into the distance then flashing something in the foreground. The plot is disconnected and you won't care of the characters.
The ending caught me off guard, it does a very short summary at the end that I didn't fully understand so if you see it, pay more attention at the end. Or save yourself around a fiver, and do anything else.


New music

Title:
Rating:
5 out of 5 stars

I really appreciate a person who can sing well. I liked Alanis Morisette for this reason, plus her songs were quite heartfelt to her and that came across. This album is the same, with "The Flowers" and "Us" being the two highlights in an eccentric "anti-folk" album that's bursting of quirky smile-inducing songs. If you go to the cinema, you might recognise the latter on the Sky Sports skate-boarding advert.

If you do "buy" this album, go and "buy" her album 'Begin to Hope' too; or you'll miss out on

"Hey remember that month
when I only ate
boxes of Tangerines?

(so cheap and juicy)
Tangerines!"


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