MacBuntu on a white macbook

So I’m playing around with my old white macbook. It’s a 2008 macbook with a DVDRW and maxed out memory (I think). It was running Snow Leopard up until last week when I tried out Ubuntu 14.04.

The objective is to work out if I can do my work on this MacBuntu machine instead of the Macbook Pro which has been the bane of my life since I bought it a couple of years ago.

It’s not a simple transition though.

I need to have several things:

email (duh), but one is an exchange account.

TeamViewer – there’s an app for that!

Google Drive – There’s no app for that from Google, but there’s a couple I’m trying out right now, both of which cost money.

CD/DVD playback – that wasn’t too difficult, but it doesn’t work “out of the box” because there’s licensing issues which is just tiresome.

VLC – haven’t quite got this working yet; doesn’t like one of the file types I can use without issue on my mac. Not sure why right now

Partitions – there’s three partitions for some unknown reason on this machine. I set Ubuntu up to use the standard install, but for some reason it’s jammed the OS into the smallest partition there is. Would be nice to get one big partition and have done with it. Think I need The Guru for this one.

Stop that fan running at a bazillion miles an hour – not sure why this happens, but it’s like being in a bloody wind tunnel when it goes off. Also, it kills the battery very quickly which is sub-optimal.

So, I’ll write updates when I fancy and might just have a nice alternative machine to be playing with soon.

 

Vampire Mac

My Macbook Pro is a vampire, and has sucked every little bit of love I had for Apple out of me. All that remains is a sense of disappointment and loss.

I’ve loved Apple since my father brought home our first computer, the Apple ][ europlus (the ][ plus for Europe). It was a thing of beauty, and held its own against the Vic 20, Commodore 64, Atari games boxes and just about everything else that popped into existence at the time.

Even when we moved over to a PC, there was still a feeling we’d traded down, not up. Beige boxes were hardly the things dreams were made of.

I regained the love back in 2001 with my first ever Mac, the aluminium PowerBook, 11 inches of screen, lovely small keyboard and a general sense of well-being in the face of the abominable Windows variants.

Everything was easier, simpler. More streamlined.

A friend once remarked: You buy a PC if you want tech support, you buy a Mac to do work.

And over the years I bobbed between different Macs, a bubble iMac g3, a G4 PowerMac (two actually), a clamshell iBook (a laptop with a handle! What a useful little machine! And even though it was nicknamed the “toilet seat”, I could build magazines, do writing and even a little graphic design on this baby), and a white iBook too (less impressive in the handle department, but still a nice piece of kit). Never once did I think of going back to the worrying world of PC. Every subsequent version of the Mac OS improved things, streamlined and kept things clear and easy to use. Every subsequent version of Windows, that I could see, turned peoples hair whiter and whiter, and apoplectic rage ruled the day when trying to network the damn things together.

I remember a moment with some friends in my car. Four macs connected within seconds creating their own wireless network. To this day, Windows can’t do stuff like that.

A couple of years ago, I dabbled with Ubuntu 12 on a machine I found on the side of the road, but it had no utility; everything it could do, my Macbook could do better. It was a white one, purchased in 2008, and had run 10.5 (the first operating system I’d ever bought), and 10.6. And it worked well and kept me going for seven years.

Over time, I found Apple’s own software was becoming bloated (iTunes and iPhoto were the main contenders for The Biggest Loser). They’d started out as such innovative, simple ways to manage music and photos and became feature-heavy and difficult to use.

So I investigated alternatives and got out of using pre-packaged software in favour of open source which lightened the load. VLC was a great alternative to iTunes, and I found a piece of software which would do everything iPhoto could, but wouldn’t hide my photos under endless metadata. The only thing iTunes did which there is no alternative for, was the music and video store. To this day I’m unsure of how to substitute this, and I expect I’ll have to use iTunes in an emulator.

But I digress…

The Macbook wasn’t perfect though. Trying to plug in the DVI output to an HDMI TV was an exercise in extreme frustration; I ended up finding out the on-board video card in Macs had some kind of handshake issue where it wouldn’t bother communicating with the HDMI on the other end, and so picture and audio would just disappear. But this was overcome with Plex media server and an ethernet cable, so it was all tickety-boo again.

But upon purchase of the new 2012 Macbook Pro, things took a nosedive.

Prior to purchase, I upped the hard drive capacity and maxed-out the memory. And to this day it is sluggish as hell. Upon unpacking, I made a fatal mistake: I upgraded the operating system – as recommended in the App store – to Mavericks. This was a sub-optimal decision. It failed twice on install, and the mac was never quite the same again.

Mavericks introduced some irritations which I was sure I’d pointed and laughed at in Windows Vista. Why the hell was I being prevented from using software I’d downloaded? Turned out I had to go to Finder and right-click>open on the application then choose deliberately to open before the system would allow me to use it.

But the hardware was the bigger issue. Apple was kind enough to replace the logic board, but it didn’t solve the majority of the problems.

It was the sleep issue which drove me to despair. You know on older Macs when you close the lid and you’ve got a sliver of red on the battery indicator and ten seconds before the whole thing powers down? Then when you open the lid again, and plug in the power, it’ll restore from a hard drive backup, slowly becoming clearer on the screen while the status blobs illuminate? Well I have this on my brand new fully charged Macbook pro, all the bloody time. And even when the screen comes back, it takes another minute for the mouse to become active. Mac experts and service people repeatedly told me there was nothing wrong with the machine.

It’s only recently I’ve discovered this is, in developer parlance, a feature, not a bug. It turns out because of some European directive, computers have to deactivate fully while in powered sleep mode, rather than staying on standby. That Mac rolled this out across the board is logical from a purely business standpoint – why have Macs that operate one way in one region of the planet and operate differently everywhere else? – it’s really painful to have a fully charged computer and have to go off and make a cup of tea while the damn thing wakes up. It’s like I’m using a 386 computer running MS DOS.

Alone, that would be a poor excuse to cut ties with the company that I’ve enjoyed for so long. However, the operating systems and software though provide a more than ample excuse.

If Mavericks was a step backwards, Yosemite had a shovel and started digging.

The UI looked very snazzy, but it seemed less than the sum of its parts. It was like by flattening the icons and display, the experience of using the software was similarly rendered two dimensional.

And where the hell did the scrollbars go (another hunt through Google to find how to turn them back on again)? And why when I upgraded, did some of my software stop working? Well, it was because Apple engineers had introduced a new security feature (again, very Vista-like) which I had to research online and actually go in as an administrator and hack the bloody system.

Copying from external hard drives is similarly vexing. Partway through a copy, Finder will conk-out and declare the destination drive is full (it’s not. It’s got Two Terabytes on it, ninety percent of which is EMPTY!). And it does this over and over again. Doesn’t matter how the drives are formatted, whether they’re connected directly to the computer or networked over wi-fi or Ethernet, the same damn message happens. I’m now at a point where I’m copying individual files and hoping for the best.

(And before you go on about Time Machine, and other solutions, this is for a NAS I’m setting up, and the drive connected to the router must be a specific format, which Time Machine doesn’t accept, because “Reasons”. I could also use Terminal commands to transfer from “A” to “B”, but my point is that This Shouldn’t Be Hard.)

Now occasionally upon Restart, the screen alternates between a blank white screen, a world icon, to the apple icon, to the folder question mark and back to the apple icon. I think it’s dying and I have to say if it were an animal, I’d put it out of its misery. And given the annoyance and despair this Mac has invoked in me, it’ll be with a hammer.

As an experience, an overall sense of usability and utility, it feels to me that this isn’t Apple any more. You know, the company that ran the “I’m a Mac” ads a decade ago. But rather than becoming stodgy and conservative business-computers, it’s become an obscene fashionista. Don’t get me started on the $10,000 iWatch. This is what luxury brands like Dolce Gabanna or Louis Vuitton would do. Apple is no longer the cool kid with the edgy, interesting, innovative approach to computing, music and video. It’s entered parody-space, where four or five versions down the track, an Apple computer will have two buttons to encapsulate the entirety of Human expression.

And to add insult to injury, I feel like one of those music fans who eternally pines for the “old stuff”, the stuff that the band made before they got Really Big. I used to roll my eyes at people like that, but now I’m one of them.