KeePass and user interface problems

This morning, I tried to install Ableton‘s Live on my Mac and got an endless sequence of issues. First, I needed to log in to my Ableton Live account in order to get the Mac OS X binaries. Unfortunately, the machine-generated password for that account is stored in a KeePass keyring, so I had to install KeePass 2 on my Mac to get access to the keyring and find the password. In order to install KeePass 2, I needed to install Mono.

After I installed Mono, I was able to unpack the KeePass ZIP and got an executable that I copied in my Applications folder. However, KeePass never showed up in the Launchpad; I had to open up the Finder, browse to Applications, then double-click on the KeePass icon there. Startup of KeePass took from thirty seconds to five minutes. After that, the menus were unresponsive, taking from five to ten seconds to open up the File menu, from five to ten seconds to find and expand the Open item, then was able to open my password file. The upper KeePass menu was unresponsive; I had to use menus from within the KeePass window, which not the Mac way. Keyboard shortcuts like Command-Q were failing. But at least I got the GUI working.

However, no matter how many times I tried, my master password started to suddenly fail. I ended up making the password visible and found out that everything was typed in upper case. CAPS LOCK AGAIN! This is so frustrating, so annoying, that this Razer keyboard is causing me to make repeat mistakes, inserting all sorts of junk through anything I write, then the CAPS LOCK that triggers all the times.  I had less issues with my Logitech non-mechanical keyboard, which is by itself an incredible non-sense for me. A mechanical keyboard should work better, be more reliable, but it is almost ending up to be the opposite for me! I just cannot give up and put back the old Logitech keyboard.

However, sorting out the CAPS LOCK issue wasn’t sufficient. Master password was failing AGAIN! I then noticed that EVERYTHING I was typing was upper-cased! I tried to repeatedly press caps lock, I tried with the Mac’s internal keyboard rather than external one, it was even WORSE! The internal keyboard is now spitting out numbers when I press letters and most keys do nothing! This is a total non-sense for me. I tried to switch keyboard layout with Windows+Space, without success. I ended up trying to log off, but I couldn’t log back in: the system was entering upper-case letters even for password input. I thus had to reboot, then that came back to normal.

After all these hurdles, I was able to connect to my KeePass keystore. However, when I right-click on the entry for Ableton’s Live, NOTHING happens. I tried right-clicking multiple times without any success. If I try enough times, KeePass shuts itself down at me.

I then tried with a command-line KeePass tool, KPCLI. However, it was totally impossible to install it. The tool requires an endless number of Perl dependencies. The KPCLI website indicates nothing about how to get these dependencies. Following another web site, I tried to install them using CPAN, but despite the effort, I am still getting error messages about missing Clone.pm. Moveover, the above blog post refers to a broken Gettext that needs to be manually fixed, again! Moreover, KeePass home page refers to a bug in Mono that needs to be worked around.

Bottom line, most open-source libraries are bugged and needs manual recompilation/patching! I also experienced this issue when trying to build Extempore a few days before. This is becoming a quite concerning trend. I cannot believe the libraries are all low-quality pieces of software. I rather think developers keep patching the libraries rather than trying to use them as they are and library owners cannot keep up pulling and integrating the patches. Even if the library owners integrate patches, the integration sometimes isn’t what the patcher exactly intended, so the code relying on the original patch needs to be adapted for the revised patch. This trend is concerning, because if it continues like that, we will end up to need a virtual machine for each and every open-source application we install. Docker can be of some help there, but it doesn’t work so well for applications with graphical user interfaces. Docker is nevertheless a good tool for running services in isolation, with each service having its own funky dependencies.

For my Perl/KPCLI issue, I probably need to recompile/reinstall Perl itself, because I am using a too old Mac OS X version! Homebrew can be used to perform such tasks, but often, it starts failing, because the installation recipes are not correct and requires tweaking for the local Mac OS X! This is non-sense, all Mac’s should be equal, but this is not the case as far as I can see. Only newer 2015 Mac’s will work, so this is pointless!

For example, I tried to use Homebrew to install Extempore. The program ran for almost one hour just to compile pcre, then it tried to install a patched LLVM package. Download happened, but install failed, because the SHA1 key mismatched. The download TAR archive can be checked with tar -ztf without issues, so it doesn’t seem corrupt, but SHA1 mismatches, so I would need to copy/paste blobs of text from a web site just to tweak the Homebrew recipes, which are non-senselessly named “formulas”. Why use a non-standard terminology at first? This is not a “formula”, we are not dealing with chemistry, mathematics, even less with magic! This should be called a “package”. Anyway, it doesn’t work, so it doesn’t really matter.

Maybe I would have more luck with a Mac-friendlier password manager such as 1Password (don’t know, never tried), but that would require me to copy/paste all my KeePass passwords into the new tool, one entry at a time, and more than that, again, 1Password is just a trial! I don’t want a temporary solution that works just for 15 or 30 days, unless I toss my full name and address with credit card to somebody that can as well sell it to non-profit organizations that will then start calling me weekly for donations. I am already starting to have this issue, so just don’t want to make things worse. I want something that will solve password management once and for all! In addition, 1Password works just for Windows and Mac, so again, Linux is left out.

The only thing I could do is to download the binaries from my main computer and copy them over to my Mac, or reset my Ableton account’s password to something I can remember and just type it, as before I discovered KeePass. I just gave up because this is too much work and just too slow. Live is likely just to fail starting on this old MacCrapPro.

These are not the only issues I ran into this morning. Firefox now takes thirty seconds to one minute to start. Scrolling with the mouse wheel is unreliable. I have to give the mouse wheel a big swing for the scrolling just to start, then it is not smooth, rather choppy. Even scrolling with the arrow keys is choppy.

I just cannot get used to the funky Mac keyboard shortcuts. For me, switching applications is done with Alt-Tab, not Windows-Tab, but the Mac way is Windows-Tab. Yes, technically, it is Command-Tab, but that’s not what I have on my keyboard, and the internal keyboard just doesn’t work, missing critical keys such as Option and Fn. I always end up pressing Alt-Tab, then Windows-Tab. I always end up pressing Ctrl-K to put the search area in focus, then have to press Windows-K because Ctrl-K fails. Sometimes Windows-W will not close Firefox tab while Ctrl-W does. Sometimes, Ctrl-W won’t close the tab while Windows-W does. Sometimes, Windows-Q will close currently running applications, sometimes not, then I have to switch to the mouse, trying to find out the really small Red circle and click, oups the mouse just slipped while clicking because the screen elements are too small, try again, works. Even the builtin terminal suffers from this issue: Ctrl-+ to zoom in, oups, Windows-+! Ok, home to move at the beginning of current line, oups that moves at beginning of the whole command line history and nothing can go back except the mouse again! Moving at beginning of the line is done with Ctrl-A, not Windows-A. All is about inconsistency, making the keyboard almost useless.

Bottom line, each and every operation requires multiple attempts, making me nervous and mad each time I am using the Mac.

QuickTime components: one key to step further!

Final Cut Express could almost open my Bandicam AVI captures: no image but sound. I recalled that I chose to use Xvid as encoding format in Bandicam so tonight, I did a quick Google search to find some QuickTime components that could add Xvid support. I was not really hopeful to find anything useful, was expecting to get blocked by yet another trial version, but instead, I found Perian, a set of QuickTime components supporting several formats. Although the project reached its end of life, it can be of some help, and this is definitely better than nothing! It’s free and likely to be released as open source when it is final.

I couldn’t resist the temptation of powering my Mac up again, download the tool and install. That worked very well, no issue. After I did that, I was able to play my Bandicam AVI files in QuickTime, smoothly, no choppy video! I was also able to import such an AVI file into Final Cut Express. Very nice! That means I can use Final Cut Express to work with ANY Bandicam capture, including my next set of Minecraft videos if I feel at trying my luck with this.

Digging a bit deeper, I found out that the MPEG4 causing issues with Final Cut Express are the ones from my Android phone. They are encoded using H.264 AAC, which is quite expensive to decode. This explains why I was getting choppy video yesterday! Moreover, I found out that my new Nexus 5 creates 1080p videos, which really doesn’t help my poor old MacBook Pro! I still have to check the encoding out of my GoPro, which also resulted in choppy videos on my Mac, but again, 1080p definitely doesn’t help, even alone.

I tested with a video from my Sony Cybershot digital camera: MPEG4 encoding in 720p. That played smoothly in QuickTime and imported into Final Cut Express!

That means I can, at least in theory, do something with Final Cut Express now! I expect the machine will soon be too slow for any non-basic editing, especially with my HD material I intend to throw at it (even 720p may hammer it to death), but at least I will have a way to try out Final Cut Express. If the tool happens to be too cool, I will have to choose between putting my Hackintosh back up or purchasing a newer Mac.

 

Desperately slow

This morning, I tried to install Razer Synapse on my Mac now equipped with Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion). That worked very well but brought absolutely NO improvement with respect to mouse smoothness. In fact, it does absolute nothing: no compensation or removal of the unwanted acceleration, and no handling at all of the side buttons. That program seems to only manage keyboard macros, completely ignoring the mouse. I thus had to reinstall SmoothMouse.

Then I started to have issues with the mouse wheel. Sometimes it wasn’t working at all, sometimes it was scrolling in the wrong direction, sometimes it seemed correct after a couple of attempts. I found an option in Mouse preferences to invert direction of scrolling and unchecked that. That may partly explain the erratic behavior.

The biggest disappointment came from performance. Boot up time is more than a minute and a half and no video playback of any kind is possible. I tried YouTube with Flash, with HTML5: choppy video with correct sound. I tried to play MPEG4 videos with QuickTime: choppy video with correct sound. It seems I would have to convert all my videos to QuickTime, probably with reduced resolution. This is kind of pointless and very time consuming. In fact, QuickTime won’t play AVI files as well: again, transcoding is required. That can of course be worked around with any good video player such as VLC, MPlayer, maybe even Kodi/XBMC, but then I slowly but surely come up to the conclusion that ALL Apple applications need to be supplemented or replaced with a cross-platform alternative that can also work well, even better, on a non-Mac environment!

Final Cut Express, while claimed in the documentation to support many input video formats such as MPEG4 and AVI, happens to support only QuickTime .mov files. As far as I read, QuickTime is a container: a .mov file can contain different kinds of video and audio streams. In practice, there is no tools capable of repackaging a MPEG4 or AVI file into a QuickTime movie: tools will slowly and wrongly reencode video, recompress audio, into some kind of probably proprietary, unknown, undocumented, Apple-specific format. Maybe only trial versions of commercial tools can do the repackaging, if at all possible.

Final Cut Express miserably failed at importing MPEG4 files from my Android phone, bailing out with useless error message. I tried with AVI files from video captures with Bandicam with a bit more success: Final Cut Express imported the clip, was able to preview sound but displayed no video.

Sometimes, more and more often, system response became unacceptable. The mouse started to be choppy, literally jumping from one place to another. Sometimes, the movement was smooth, sometimes the mouse would jump ahead, sometimes the mouse would stop moving. When that happened, I had to shut down applications, which took up to THIRTY seconds!

After that, keyboard stopped working properly. This started with CTRL-F2 not opening up the menu bar. I had to change the binding for CTRL-F10, for no obvious reason. That worked an hour or two, then ALL F1-F12 keys on my Razer external keyboard stopped working, no reason, reboot required to fix! Probably the USB stack has some quirks to flaw non-Apple devices but make people believe they CAN work. So I would have to pay 50$ for an Apple keyboard, 70$ for an Apple USB trackpad or mouse, and find some place to install all this or move all my stuff around when switching from my PC to my Mac.

Conclusion: this machine is almost unusable. I REALLY would have to downgrade to Snow Leopard, probably even better to Leopard, to do anything with this, and even then, what’s the point of using Final Cut Express if I need to preprocess all my input files into QuickTime, loosing quality during the lossy process, and then let Final Cut Express scramble the video information once more during its rendering phase?

From Snow Leopard to Lion: a leap towards the limbo

Again, I was a bit stuck with my Mac. SmoothMouse was helping with the mouse handling but not fully solving the issues with acceleration. Sometimes, the pointer was just going away. I cannot believe I loose it so often: it just disappears! I often have to bring the pointer to the top left corner two or three times per mouse action! Mouse wheel also moves super slowly, making it almost useless. I have to give it an hard swing for scrolling to begin. Besides this very frustrating mouse response, side buttons are just not working. Besides trying with all the proprietary solution, probably ending up purchasing each of them one after the other to figure out none of them will work correctly for me, there was another thing to try: Razer Synapse. But it was requiring Mac OS X 10.7, so named Lion.

Moreover, I tried on November 28th 2014 to synchronize my Google contacts with the builtin Address Book application, again without success. I took me almost fifteen minutes to figure out that the instructions I found to do it were inaccurate. They were referring to a sync menu item while the command to sync was an ICON in the top right area! The icons are too tiny so I don’t look at the area all the times in case of something that appears! The sync icon was there: i had to click on it and select the command to synchronize now. After all these efforts, I got no result, again, no sync.

I was also hoping that getting an updated Mac OS X version would give me better chances to import video files into Final Cut Express without transcoding everything to .mov files.  I read that Final Cut Express is using the QuickTime stack which is built into Mac OS X, so a newer Mac OS X implies a newer QuickTime stack.

Last weekend, I decided to try my luck with this upgrade and stop using that dumb machine if it fails or makes the system unusably slow. Easy, I though, just go the the Mac App Store, get Lion, buy and download. No, no more Lion app, just Mountain Lion! Grrrr, AGAIN! I searched on Google once more, and found that Lion can be purchased from the Apple Store. Again… Will I really have to wait for a new shipping?

No, not this time, have I found. The purchase of Lion gives you a content code to download the product. However, the code came only two days after the purchase. What? That means there is a manual process to get the content code? Quite bad design, once again. I also found on a forum people that waited for ten days to get the code without success. They had to phone Apple, not even email support, to get the email resent, the resent didn’t happen, they had to phone again, etc. I found some downloads of Lion on Kickass that I could try my luck on, but there were images for VMWare and VirtualBox, so I would have ended up downloading gigabytes of data for nothing until I find a correct Lion installation!

Fortunately, I got two emails about an Apple License Agreement from Apple Volume Licensing. Opening the first message was giving me a PDF attachment with indications that the password would come in a second email. The second email was providing the password. If I didn’t look at these emails in depth, I would have thought they only provided a somewhat useless license agreement, not the content code I really needed. I think some people did that mistake and just ignored or deleted the emails. This may explain why some people waited ten days for the content code, contacted Apple, got the email resent, waited, didn’t get anything, etc.

The content code WAS in the PDF file! I needed the first email with the PDF, second email with the password, open PDF, and then the code was there along with the agreement!

Back on my Mac, I plopped the code in the Redeem code part of the App store. That didn’t work, because I had to accept the new conditions for the App Store. I had to reenter the code, then that worked and finally started downloading Lion! Before letting the beast install, I made a backup copy of the installation application.

The installation took almost an hour, but at least it worked. This gave me the launch pad as was as iCloud integration. Synchronization of address book now works and I presume I will be able to installer Synapse now. However, the machine is significantly slower since I upgraded it.

I’m slowly loosing interest in exploring the Mac platform. It seems that Mac OS X is now behind Windows in term of maturity and responsiveness. Apple did the exact same mistake as Microsoft a few years ago: stacking more and more useless functionalities on top of a core, assuming more powerful CPU and higher memory will alone compensate lack of judgment from software designers and programmers. I’m quite annoyed to pay for that mistake once again. I know Microsoft fixed that since my Pentium D bought in 2006 started with Windows XP and evolved to Windows 7, while my Core i7 went from Windows 7 to Windows 8 without significant performance degradation (stability and compatibility are other stories…). Maybe this is fixed in Mac OS X 10.9 or 10.10, but the machine I have just cannot run these versions of Mac OS X, so I would have to revert back to my brittle Hackintosh to continue my exploration of the Mac world.

Recovering Final Cut Express

Yesterday, I tried to get my Final Cut Express setup back on my Mac. It went away when I reinstalled Mac OS X and formatted the hard drive. However, before formatting, I backed up the complete Applications and Library folders, so I had a possibility to get Final Cut Express back by just copying back the corresponding folder on my new system.

This is exactly what I tried yesterday.

Capture d'écran 2014-12-23 16.35.59

Of course, the copy operation went smoothly, without any issue. The contrary would be quite upsetting, meaning there is an issue with one of my hard drives or USB ports. However, double-clicking on the copied FCE folder resulted in a shockingly sparse error message similar to the following.

Capture d'écran 2014-12-23 16.37.34

I was so angry by the lack of details and the suggestion to contact product manufacturer that I clicked on Report and sent a report to Apple. Product manufacturer would only tell me to reinstall, reformat, try on a different machine, etc. All these solutions were not applicable for me or taking too much time.

After that, I tried my luck with a DMG file from a Torrent. The first download failed, resulting in a DMG file that would install something else, MediaPlayerX, but the second download gave me a Torrent that I loaded in uTorrent. Then I got the FCE DMG. I installed using the original serial number which I noted down before reformatting.

Capture d'écran 2014-12-24 13.47.12

The installation went well and the program started successfully. As a result, my Final Cut Express is back to life!

Ubuntu on my Mac: possible but limited

I read quite a lot of wrong and contradictory information when I searched for feasibility of installing Ubuntu on my 2006 MacBook Pro. Part of the problem is that users don’t all understand the pieces of the puzzle involved to boot a Mac into Ubuntu, but the multitude of variants of MacBook Pro, with varying technology in them, causes confusion and contribute to user’s ignorance.

First, Mac doesn’t implement the traditional BIOS used to boot nowadays PCs. They rather implement an Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI), a more modern way of booting computers than the BIOS, dating from the 80s. Newer PCs start to replace the obsolete BIOS with such an EFI, called Unified EFI or more commonly UEFI. No problem, I thought at first, Ubuntu now supports UEFI booting. I UEFI boot onto Ubuntu several times a week. However, Apple introduced several tweaks to the EFI, making it almost unusable for other purposes than booting Mac OS X.

In my particular case, the Mac’s EFI was 32 bits, which means I could EFI boot only 32 bits operating systems. However, although Ubuntu supports UEFI booting, it doesn’t on my Mac, maybe because the Mac’s EFI is too different from a UEFI. Apparently some people successively UEFI booted their Ubuntu installation, either by using unofficial Mac variants of old Ubuntu versions or a kind of patchy program EFI booting and offering the Ubuntu’s ISO as a kind of virtual device. The later requires a version of Ubuntu supporting loopback booting, and that’s again only old versions. Quite annoying, isn’t it? I don’t want to install a 12.04 then dist-upgrade to 14.04, then 14.10!

Note that newer Mac computers have a 64-bit EFI, and it is well possible that it is able to boot Ubuntu and maybe even Windows, in a native way. That means no need for BootCamp anymore to hack the GPT to fake a MBR; both Ubuntu and Windows supports booting from UEFI and GPT!

While I thought Mac’s EFI only supports native EFI booting, I discovered that it has the necessary compatibility module to boot into BIOS-based environment. Maybe I got this CSM added by a firmware upgrade I obtained when installing all available updates. That means a Mac can boot a Ubuntu live DVD in BIOS-based mode. In theory, that would mean it can boot a 64-bit DVD even though it is 32-bit EFI. In practice, no, reason still to be determined. I thus can only boot 32 bit OS.

Moreover, no matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t able to boot Ubuntu off a USB key. I tried installing rEFInd to avoid having to press the infamous defective Option key at boot to get Apple’s boot menu (using an external keyboard), but rEFInd can only boot from the hard drive, ignoring the USB key or telling Apple’s firmware doesn’t support well booting from an external device.

At least, Ubuntu boots from the DVD. In theory, I should be able to install it on a partition on my hard drive and boot from there, but I didn’t do it for the moment.

Unblocked… at least for now…

After I successfully started Ubuntu on my old Mac, I tried to play YouTube videos from Firefox and that worked relatively well. That means the graphic chip of the Mac is not broken, still capable of doing some work. I thought about just installing Ubuntu on the machine, maybe getting rid of Mac OS X, but the goal was to explore the Mac platform, not just toss Ubuntu on an old laptop. I already have plenty of Ubuntu setups at home and at work, both on bare metal and virtual machines.

After my failure with Snow Leopard, I had three options to continue my journey: increase memory of the old Mac, downgrade to Leopard or buy a brand new Mac computer. I didn’t want to downgrade, because that would involve purchasing another DVD from Apple and not being able to install pretty much any application.  I wasn’t ready to jump and purchase a brand new Mac. So my remaining option was to bump up memory.

I looked on Microbytes web site: 55$ for a DDR2 667MHz SO-DIMM. Wow! I checked on NCIX: no DDR2 SO-DIMM. On TigerDirect, I found something, but that was 45$. I found something at 35$ on Amazon.ca, but I had three shipping options: get it by December 23 (the best) but required subcription to Amazon Prime (so yet another subscription with monthly or yearly payments, yet others emails about things I don’t have time to understand, etc.), pay an extra fee to get it by December 19 (but I was planning to be at the office this day!), or wait until December 30 to get it through SuperSaver shipping, which would mean I would almost be unable to explore the machine during the Christmas break.

I finally got the chip from Dantech, a Montreal-based computer store that sells new and used hardware. They didn’t have new SO-DIMM DDR2 chip, but after more than 15 minutes of search, they found some remaining used DDR2 SO-DIMM chips at 667MHz. It was better not to try with 800MHz chips. In theory, they should work, but we never know, especially with Mac’s… I got it for approximately 30$.

Putting the memory in the machine was easy, escept the screws holding the memory cover were surprisingly small. If I had dropped one of the three screws on the floor, I would have had an hard time finding it back. Luckily, that didn’t happen and the memory chip worked.

The machine behaves better now. I will test a bit with Snow Leopard before trying to upgrade to Lion, not sure I will even attempt the upgrade because it may kill the system’s performance a second time.

Preliminary results with Ubuntu booting on Mac

After my more and more frustrating failures with Mac OS X, I wanted to do something to give a second life to this apparently dead system. My previous attempts and research about Ubuntu installation on MacBook Pro 2006 have been a real disaster. But this evening’s attempt is a step toward success!

I first downloaded the 32-bit Ubuntu 14.10 ISO. I already had the 64-bit one. Then I burned two DVD disks: one for the 64-bit, one for the 32-bit. It is always handy to have Ubuntu disks; I consider this an essential part of my geek’s toolbox. Because the Mac’s EFI is 32-bit (an unfortunate ill-design given the CPU is 64-bit capable), I tossed a 32-bit Ubuntu DVD in the machine and tried to reboot. This time, Mac OS X stuck at a blue screen, incapable of shutting down or rebooting. Grrr! What a pain in the neck! I forcibly shut this cursed system down by pressing and holding power button.

Then I powered on again and as soon as my external keyboard’s Razer logo turned on, I pressed and held the Alt key. After a tremendous amount of time, almost 45 seconds, I got the choice between the DVD and hard drive. I took the DVD, had to wait again, and finally got Ubuntu booting! Yes, that damn thing can boot Ubuntu 14.10!

I reached the live screen and was about to open a terminal, resolution is correct, audio seems there and system seems responsive. Of course, the DVD drive is just way too slow. I would have to install Ubuntu onto the hard drive to assess performance in a more thorough way.

More than that, I couldn’t find /sys/firmware/efi, which means a non-EFI boot happened. This means the Mac’s firmware DO has CSM, and thus can boot in legacy mode. I still have to try, but I suspect I could give it a 64-bit Ubuntu and bump up memory to 4Gb! I am more confident Ubuntu will accept almost any brand of memory modules while Mac OS X might be more picky and just accept Apple-approved ones.

This is a good preliminary result, something that will allow to sleep better tonight and have a more enjoyable beginning of week!

MacTracker report about my MacBook Pro

OVERVIEW

Introduced    October 2006
Discontinued    June 2007
Model Identifier    MacBookPro2,2
Model Number    A1211
EMC    2120
Order Number    MA609LL/A (2.16 GHz), MA610LL/A (2.33 GHz)
Initial Price    $1,999 (2.16 GHz) $2,499 (2.33 GHz)
Support Status    Obsolete
Case    Lightweight aluminum alloy
Weight and Dimensions    5.6 lbs., 1″ H x 14.1″ W x 9.6″ D

PROCESSOR

Processor    Intel Core 2 Duo (T7400, T7600) (“Merom”)
Processor Speed    2.16 or 2.33 GHz
Architecture    64-bit
Number of Cores    2
Cache    4 MB on chip shared L2 cache
System Bus    667 MHz

STORAGE AND MEDIA

Storage    120 or 160 GB 5400-rpm or 200 GB 4200-rpm
Media    6x Slot-loading SuperDrive (DVD+R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)

KEYBOARD AND TRACKPAD

Trackpad    Solid-state trackpad supports tap, double-tap, drag and scrolling
Keyboard    Full size (78 (U.S.) or 79 (ISO) keys incl. 12 function, 4 arrow, embedded keypad, illuminated with ambient light sensor

SOFTWARE

Original OS    Mac OS X 10.4.8 (8N1037, 8N1051, 8N1430)
Maximum OS    Mac OS X 10.7.5
Hardware Test    AHT 3A115

Bundled Software    iLife ’06 (includes iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie HD, iDVD, iWeb, GarageBand), Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac Test Drive, iWork ’06 (30-day trial), QuickBooks for Mac New User Edition, Comic Life, FileMaker Pro trial, Omni Outliner, Photo Booth, and Front Row.

FIRMWARE

Firmware    Intel Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI)
Firmware Update    MacBook Pro EFI Firmware Update 1.4

MEMORY

Built-in Memory    None
Maximum Memory    3.0 GB (4.0 GB can be installed, only 3.0 GB will be addressed)
Memory Slots    2 – 200-pin PC2-5300 (667MHz) DDR2 SO-DIMM
Minimum Speed    —
Interleaving Support    Yes
Upgrade Instructions    How to remove or install memory

DISPLAY

Built-in Display    15.4-inch (diagonal) TFT, Optional glossy display
Pixel Density    110 ppi
Resolutions    1440 by 900 (native), 1280 by 800, 1152 by 720, 1024 by 768, 1024 by 640, 800 by 600, 800 by 500, 720 by 480 and 640 by 480 at 16:10 aspect ratio; 1024 by 768, 800 by 600, and 640 by 480 pixels at 4:3 aspect ratio; 720 by 480 at 3:2 aspect ratio

GRAPHICS

Graphics Card    ATI Mobility Radeon X1600
Graphics Memory    128 (2.16 GHz) or 256 (2.33 GHz) MB GDDR3
Display Connection    1 – Dual-link DVI (VGA, Composite and S-video with adapter)
Display Modes    Dual display extended and video mirroring
External Resolution    Up to 2560 by 1600 pixels
Camera    Built-in iSight

CONNECTIONS

Wi-Fi    Built-in AirPort Extreme card (802.11a/b/g/n)
Bluetooth    Built-in Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR
Ethernet    10/100/1000BASE-T (RJ-45) (support for jumbo frames)
Modem    Optional Apple USB Modem (MA034Z/A)
USB    2 – 480 MBit/s
FireWire    1 – 400 MBit/s, 1 – 800 MBit/s
Display    1 – Dual-link DVI (VGA, Composite and S-video with adapter)
Infrared    1 – For Apple Remote only
Audio In    1 – 3.5-mm analog/optical combo jack, 1 – Built-in microphone
Audio Out    1 – 3.5-mm analog/optical combo jack, 2 – Built-in speakers
Security Slot    1 – Kensington cable lock

EXPANSION

Slots    1 – ExpressCard/34
Bays    None
Hard Drive Interface    1.5 Gbps Serial ATA (SATA)
Optical Drive Interface    Ultra ATA/100 (running at UATA/66)

SENSORS

Motion Sensor    Sudden Motion Sensor (SMS)
Liquid Sensor    None

POWER

System Battery    60-watt-hour lithium-polymer (MA348LL/A)
Battery Life    Up to 5 hours
Maximum Battery Cycles    300
Backup Battery    —
Power Adapter    85W MagSafe Power Adapter (MA357LL/A)
Maximum Continuous Power    —
Line Voltage    100-240V AC

ENVIRONMENTAL

ENERGY STAR    Meets ENERGY STAR requirements
EPEAT    —

History

Introduced in October 2006, the MacBook Pro (Late 2006) was essentially a speed-bump of the MacBook Pro and MacBook Pro (17-inch) models to include faster Intel Core 2 Duo processors. The 15.4″ model also gained a FireWire port and a dual-layer SuperDrive. The MacBook Pro (Late 2006) shipped in three configurations: 15.4″/2.16 GHz/1 GB RAM/120 GB HD/128 MB VRAM/$1999 U.S., 15.4″/2.33 GHz/2 GB RAM/120 GB HD/256 MB VRAM/$2499 U.S., and 17″/2.33 GHz/2 GB RAM/160 GB HD/256 MB VRAM/$2799 U.S. All models were replaced in June 2007 by the MacBook Pro (Mid 2007).
HISTORY PROVIDED BY APPLE-HISTORY
PROJECT NAME AND TAGLINE

Tagline    The new MacBook Pro. Seatbelts sold separately.

 

The obsolescence road block

Last weekend, I got to a first dead end: Mac OS X 10.5, installed on my Mac, being deprecated and not accepting any new application, including Firefox, Google Chrome, SmoothMouse, the Razer Synapse driver and probably many others. Besides the difficulties installing applications, I had issues with YouTube playback in both Safari and Chrome (before I broke it). Playback was choppy, especially when going full screen.

I ended up ordering the Snow Leopard DVD from online Apple Store. That worked better than I expected. I got it on Wednesday. UPS left it at my door, so even if I wasn’t at home, I wouldn’t have to go pick it up somewhere I cannot reach or make a phone call to them to schedule another delivery.

I sticked that DVD in my Macbook on Friday, December 12. The installation process happened to be simpler than I was expecting. Inserting the disk poppped up a wizard proposing me to upgrade to Snow Leopard, directly from Leopard, no need to boot from the DVD. I did that, but the upgrade took more than 45 minutes, longer than any Ubuntu or Windows installation ever, at least for me. Then I had to download and install the combined upgrade that bumped the system up from 10.6.3 to 10.6.8, then another set of updates for iTunes, Java and security.

After this, I was able to access the App Store and connect to it using my Apple ID. When I did it, I felt I was binding this machine to me, this was becoming a bit more mine.

The day after, I was able to toss in Firefox, latest and greatest version. I installed Razer Synapse, but that failed to start. I had to uninstall and reinstall to get rid of the partial non-working installation done in Leopard, but that finally worked and got rid of this damned mouse acceleration that was starting to drive me mad and creating pains in my wrist. However, font size is still too small, making the use of this machine prone to awful pains in the neck. If I don’t have to schedule an appointment with my physiotherapist before the end of this nightmare, I will need to spend a significant amount of time thanking God.

However, as soon as I started to feel this great, things went south once more. The machine became incredibly slow, starting to load from the hard drive almost endlessly. Clicking on the menu bar, including the Apple menu, was freezing the machine for a few seconds. Switching tabs in Firefox was taking a couple of seconds. And the hard drive, almost put to the torture, was never never stopping to spin like crazy.

Yesterday evening, I decided this was enough and worth trying a clean fresh install. For this, I inserted the Snow Leopard DVD once more, hooked up a USB keyboard and turned off the machine. Then that’s when the fun starts. There IS a somewhat reliable way to reach the boot manager. You need to wait for BOTH the chime and a sign of activity on the external keyboard. So I powered the Mac on, and stared at my keyboard’s lower part. As soon as I heard the chime and the Razer logo lit up, I pressed the Alt key. Pressing the key before will not send the Alt KeyPress signal to the Mac, so it will NEVER know I pressed Alt! And pressing too late gives OSX the time to boot off from the hard drive. It also seems that sticking a disk in the DVD drive, any disk, will slow down the boot process enough to leave more time for the USB keyboard  to power up. This time, that worked, so I had the menu allowing to choose between the hard drive and the DVD drive; I selected the DVD drive and pressed Enter.

It took more than three minutes, if not five, to boot up from that DVD. After that, I was in the Mac OS X installer.  From there, I launched the Disk Utility, wiped the hard drive, exited the Disk Utility, and started the installation. This took more than half an hour, I don’t know exactly how much time. After that, I tossed the combined upgrade in once more, then the other updates. I discovered with desperation that Razer Synapse was only available for 10.7. Did this changed suddenly or did Google lead me to a web site that just offered me the download? So I was maybe installing something for 10.7 on 10.6 or 10.5. I thus tried with SmoothMouse instead, and that worked great. Mouse acceleration stopped driving me crazy, and I knew it would work for ANY mouse, not just Razer ones.

The formatted machine was faster, no doubt. It wasn’t freezing when clicking on menu items, Firefox was usable, but things went bad once again when I went to YouTube.com. The hard drive started to spin like crazy, scrolling became choppy and playback was almost impossible, even without going full screen. I tried with the HTML5 video player instead of the Flash player; that helped a bit.

Then I got issues with LibreOffice which was working somewhat correctly at start, but froze completely when I was searching for a way to automatically format dollar amounts in Calc. Right-clicking on its icon in the Dock had no effect. I tried to access the menu: no response. The menu was locked up as well. I would thus have to switch to a different machine, search on the Web and find the ackward impossible to remember combination of keys to shut off a program forcibly. Tired of being blocked by all possible applications, even on a freshly installed OS, I yanked the plug and put that damn machine away.

This morning, I sent a new message on the Apple Support forum about the issue. What I got just confused and discouraged me quite a lot. Somebody replied to me that this October 2006 MacBook Pro wouldn’t accept more than 2Gb of RAM and would not upgrade past 10..6.8, and that would be pushing to limits. Ideally, it seems I should order yet another DVD, this time to downgrade to 10.5 and have no possibility of installing any application. This is as frustrating as if I got a 2006 laptop, would install Ubuntu 6.06 on it (the most recent at that time) and would end up not being able to upgrade past this!

According to MacTracker, the machine would accept up to 4Gb, although only 3Gb are addressable. It would also accept Mac OS X 10.7. Whether it would work well with 10.7, even with 3Gb of RAM, remains to be determined. Moreover, I’m not sure at all the MacBook Pro would happily work with the SO-DIMM chip I would find for it. What if I cannot get 667MHz DDR2 SO-DIMM? Would the MacBook Pro and/or Mac OS X live with a 800MHz DDR2 SO-DIMM, of course using it as a 667MHz one? I have no way to know, because Internet is not reliable anymore, sellers in local sellers all tell me they don’t support Mac and Apple is just helpless unless I schedule an appointment with a tech during work hours, bring up that machine to an Apple Store I will have trouble finding and pay an undetermined amount of money, possibly to be told one week later, maybe even after the upcoming Christmas holiday, that it is worthless to do anything with that old laptop.

I am also suspecting issues with the graphic card, because from my extremely bad YouTube experience, even on OSX 10.5, it seems there is no graphic acceleration at all. Maybe the video memory is flawed and the OS/graphic hardware works around in some clunky way.

The best way to know about this would be to boot from a Ubuntu Live DVD or USB. Ubuntu will not apply such workaround, so if the graphic hardware is faulty, it will crash, freeze, hang, etc. If Ubunt works correctly, that means that Mac OS X took the same bad route as Windows, becoming slower and slower with releases. A better CPU will just compensate bad programming, nothing more.

Same issue happened when switching from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95, from Windows 98 to Windows XP, etc. Ubuntu is less prone to this, because if the system becomes too slow for the machine, switching to a lighter UI will usually help (e.g., using LXDE instead of GNOME or Unity). Windows and Mac OS X not having this modularity, users are stuck.

With a UNIX base, Apple could have done differently from Microsoft, but they just misused that UNIX base, simply grabbing a BSD kernel to make publicity about illusion of openness.