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MacBook-Pro articles

A case for my MacBook Pro: Snugg wallet case review  

I did it. Earlier this year I caved and purchased a MacBook Pro 15" Retina after being Mac-less for a few months despite some reservations about the lack of upgrade options.

Finally I had a lovely unibody machine. Now I needed something to prevent the beating my 17" acquired over the years – something with a bit of padding to prevent the occasional bump as my backpacks tend to be very thin.

Imagine my surprise when the people at Snugg asked if I was interested in a free case to review. I’d been considering something quite plain but my eyes lit up at their Snugg MacBook Pro 15 Wallet Case in Brown Leather.

The case arrived a few days later and you can just smell the leather. The outside is a slightly rough texture (on the brown at least) with very neat stitching while the inside is a very smooth microfiber – presumably to ensure the MacBook slides in nicely.

Front of my MacBook Pro case.

The front flap snaps down with quite a strong magnet – a worry for the older magnetic hard drive machines perhaps but not a concern for people with SSD drives. It also features a small business card holder and the back has a full-width pouch that easily fits a few documents.

The fit is great, it is indeed "snugg" without being tricky to remove. Despite providing good protection the case isn’t bulky and fits nicely into my backpack and on one occasion I’ve just carried it as-is. Hmm I wonder if you could attach a shoulder-strap…

Side view of my MacBook Pro in the case.

I’ve taken to putting the case under my laptop – the slightly thicker top angling the laptop keyboard to a more comfortable position.

Overall a very nice case – I might grab one for my iPad and my wife has made it known to me that she’d quite like one too!

[)amien

MacBook Pro two year check-in  

It’s been an interesting couple of years with nothing but a maxed-out MacBook Pro 17″ as my only home machine.

Failures

The hard drive died but time machine held my hand. At ALT.NET Seattle 2009 my backpack took a dive that left a dent in one corner. The battery was replaced and I roped GrinGod into obtaining a replacement UK-style \ key from the UK after some frantic typing.

A friend cracked the display when his key-fob sprang from his Batbelt culminating in a visit of the Apple Store in Bellevue. Ten days and $700 later got that fixed and included a bonus disconnected thermal sensor, a couple of new scratches, an extra screw to rattle around inside and a line of grease around the Apple logo.

Sticking with it

When I find myself eying the unibody I wince at the glossy ‘matt finish’ screen, the multi-touch trackpad clicks that sound like Robocop is nearby and a US keyboard that requires my pinky to hit a single-height enter key. That little pink dog won’t learn any new tricks. I’ve tried.

Still the OpenCL benchmark show the 8600M outperforming the newer 9400M and it does everything I need and at least one thing I don’t (gets hot enough to bake bread on). Short of switching the hard disk out for an SSD – I’ve ordered twice and then recalled after a Twitter volley of “no, you don’t want THAT one” – it’s here to stay for at least another year.

Applications

One thing that is always changing is the bunch of installed applications as I search for a combination that deliver a nirvana between productivity and enjoyment. Apps that perform a set of focused useful tasks with a shiny, eminently lick-able user interface, score highly.

I’ve rounded up my favourite apps before but here’s the latest specials on the menu.

CleanMyMac

This great-looking app helps reclaim wasted space making it a pre-requisite for SSD switchers.

Combining the PowerPC and foreign language code-purging of XSlimmer & TrimTheFat is also adds cache & log purging in with application uninstalls ala AppZapper etc.

Despite using XSlimmer already on my machine it was able to reclaim another 1.8GB and V2 is out soon which I hope will remove & alias duplicates given we’re not getting ZFS which had this feature (how many copies of Sparkle.framework do I have on my machine….)

Coda

This year I rewrote my blog’s WordPress theme from scratch and given the PHP requirement I found myself looking for an alternate IDE to Visual Studio. I already own TextMate but the feel of a raw text editor with bundles of extra bits feel didn’t have the gloss and usability I wanted such as fast preview, remote FTP sync etc. with a minimal of setup fuss.

I briefly toyed with Espresso during the early development cycle but Coda won me over in the end with it’s sheer simplicity and elegance plus the addition of built-in documentation for PHP was very helpful when working offline.

BetterTouchTool

Yes, when the Magic Mouse hit the street I picked one up. The idea of a mouse with trackpad multi-touch technology was appealing but a few minutes of use and no amount of twiddling would make it track  or let me configure it to take full advantage of what it should be able to do.

Until Apple sort this out BetterTouchTool is your friend letting you speed up the tracking of the Magic Mouse, or indeed your trackpad, and assign all sorts of interesting shortcuts and abilities to combinations of finger gestures.

Secrets

Mac apps tend to expose only the common options in their user interfaces but sometimes developers add some additional tweaks and settings behind the scenes that live in the Mac’s equivalent of the registry (known as “defaults“). While you can set these manually using the defaults command-line tool you still need to know the setting exists, it’s name and what options are available and so secrets exposes this.

Secrets is similar to Deeper and TinkerTool but the difference is that the secrets web site lets people add new options which then are automatically available within the installed preferences pane making them easily discoverable, searchable, applied… and occasionally undone.

Machinarium

Screenshot of the game MachinariumThis point-and-click adventure game will appeal to people who enjoyed Monkey Island although it feels more like the gorgeously submerging Beneath a Steel Sky.

The scenery is brilliantly imagined, stylistic and shows that very real lived-in cities can be beautiful especially when populated by cute robots capable of assembling themselves from their own body-parts (just like a triple 8 but infinitely cuter).

[)amien

Disappointing new MacBook Pros  

Like many other MacBook Pro owners I’ve been waiting for the October 14th event with some excitement. The highlights include:

  • Stronger aluminium block casing
  • NVidia dual graphics for low-power or high-performance
  • Glass multi-touch/multi-press trackpad

But the downsides are also worth noting, all of which make me think when I replace my 2.6GHz 17″ MBP in a year Apple aren’t going to have something I want to replace it with.

  • No 17″ model
  • 4GB RAM limit
  • Glossy screen only
  • 1440×900 resolution
  • Firewire gone

Keith Combs has some similar observations in more depth while AppleInsider is suggesting a January refresh for the 17″

[)amien

Boot Camp 2.1, VMware Fusion 1.1.2 and MacBook Pro firmware  

Boot Camp 2.1

Apple have released Boot Camp 2.1 which finally includes official 64-bit support on Vista and support for Windows XP Service Pack 3.

This update may mean that 3D games will play without locking up or installing NVidia’s own drivers and that the trackpad functions correctly again (broken since Boot Camp 1.x)

MacBook Pro Firmware 1.5.1

Apple’s MacBook Pro Firmware Update 1.5.1 applies to all recent MacBook Pro’s including the ones with MBP31.0070.B05 firmware that the 1.5 update failed to upgrade leaving 17″ owners on MBP31.0070.B07.

The new firmware does not fix a problem where trackpad input would become jerky after suspending/sleeping and turning Airport off would make matters worse. 10.5.3 has fixes for Airport after sleeping which might solve the issue…

VMware Fusion 1.1.2

VMware Fusion 1.1.2 is just out and includes a host of fixes and improvements including:

  • Windows XP Service Pack 3
  • Network and USB compatibility
  • Time Machine compatibility

Now that VMware lets Time Machine backup the VM image file and that Time Machine backs up modified files in their entirety you might want to exclude ~/Documents/Virtual Machines it unless you fancy loosing several gigabytes per hour whilst using a VM. Of course if you have your VM running off it’s own partition to allow Boot Camp too then that’s not an issue.

With any luck VMware will figure out a way of Time Machine backing up changed individual files within the Windows filesystem…

[)amien