macbook pro

Computers are amazing

In a break from the typical kind of writing I do here, I'd like to mention a few thoughts I've had after reading some opinion pieces on the reparability (or lack thereof) of the new MacBook Pro with Retina display.

Early PCs and Macs

The first computer I owned was a scrap-parts 386 DOS-based PC. I found a working 386 processor from a broken computer, scrounged 1MB of RAM from a couple dead motherboards, found a small hard drive and floppy drive, and slapped it all together inside a huge metal case. It ran great, except when one of the components failed—which seemed to happen on a monthly basis.

My First 386 PC - Gutted
My first PC - and all the tools necessary for PC repair!

While using early PCs, I had to deal with IRQ addresses, serial port driver conflicts, floppy drive cables malfunctioning, hard drive errors, and power supply fuses breaking... not to mention the myriad software incompatibilities with various bits of hardware (and I couldn't just Google "<device name> + <windows 3.1>"!).

I even spent quite a bit of time hardware hacking with the first few Macs I owned (a Mac IIci, a PowerBook 180c, and then a few other Mac desktops and towers—more history here).

Throughout high school and college, I helped a few hundred people repair or upgrade their computers, first through 'Jeff's Computer Service' (as a side/hobby job), and then through Midwestern Mac, LLC (this site's company). I loved working on computers, and still do! From the earliest computers until the past five or so years, most computers required some level of technical knowledge to be used effectively, and required repairs and upgrades at least once or twice a year.

But times have changed; I've since dropped 'computer repair' from the services I provide, because the only service requests are for Windows users who have found some way to clutter up their computer with strange search toolbars and other junkware.

Tips for Using a MacBook (Air, Pro) in Clamshell Mode

On this page, I will compile all the knowledge, tips and tricks I have for using a MacBook, MacBook Pro, or MacBook Air as a desktop replacement, in clamshell mode.

I've used a variety of Mac laptops in the past few years (starting with a PowerBook 100, moving on to a 190, then a 1400, a 5300c, a G3 Wallstreet, an iBook G3, iBook G4, PowerBook G4, MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and back again to a MacBook Pro. With all of these laptops, I tended to use them most often at my desk. And what better way to sit at a desk on a computer than with a huge 20"+ display and a full keyboard and mouse?

Along the way, though, I've learned a lot about effectively using these Macs while their open next to the main monitor, and while they're closed—in 'clamshell' mode.

Convenience and Stands

One of the great advantages of having a laptop is being able to take it with you on a moment's notice for some mobile computing. However, many of the stands and I've used to help me get the most out of my laptop while at my desk made it very hard to grab the laptop and go.

Review: MaxConnect USB External Enclosure for Unibody MBP Optical Drive

Jeff's Rating: 3/5

tl;dr: A good way to get some use out of a displaced internal SuperDrive. Case design has its flaws, but it works pretty well.

If you want to make your MacBook Pro a true mobile workhorse, there are few things you can do that are better than adding in a second hard drive (for capacity or RAID), and/or swapping out the main hard drive for an SSD and loading your OS onto that (it's ridiculously fast!).

Doing Some Benchmarks - Mac Processor Speed

I currently own or use a variety of Macs, and am approaching the end of a 'cycle' of Mac usage, where I need to decided what Mac I'd like to purchase next. Currently, I'm using a 27" iMac at work, an 11" MacBook Air (from work) for travel, and a 24" iMac at home. They're all great computers in their own right, and using Dropbox, MobileMe, and a couple other helper services, I can operate simultaneously on all three Macs, without any hiccups.

So, I'm thinking about getting a new Mac for hardcore development work (web and app), some graphic design, and possible portability. I have an iPad for lighter computing (reading, browsing, email, videos...), so even though the MacBook Air is probably the best thing to happen to a laptop in a very long time, I'm shying away from it as my primary personal computer.