Update: Macbook Pro Retina Thunderbolt Issue

My loose thunderbolt connector issue is now fixed. I took Omotesando Apple Store in Tokyo and genius confirmed the issue. Since I’m still under 12 months warranty the service was free.

According to the genius the logic board of the machine was replaced.  Both thunderbolt ports are still a bit wiggly; there seems to be more tolerance for connector movement than there was in my Macbook Pro 2011 non-retina model. However, the connection no longer breaks despite the wiggle. I tested this throughout with various scenarios and cables. I even tried yanking the cables (gently) while having a hard disk connected with the Thunderbolt – Firewire 800 adapter. The connection didn’t break even once. I am not able to reproduce the issue.

The connectors do feel fragile and I will surely take  extra care when handing the thunderbolt cables. Since there is so much tolerance it might be that force of the movement of the cable is transferred directly to the logic board and who knows what kind of damage that might cause. I would advice any Macbook owner to handle them gently.

Thunderbolt story continues

I took my Macbook Pro to Apple Store yesterday due to the issue of loose Thunderbolt connectors. I reserved a genius bar appointment in Omotesando store almost a week earlier.

The friendly Genius immediately confirmed the issue, Thunderbolt to Ethernet convertor dropped connection from a slightest movement of the cable. She asked other geniuses to come to check it and ran MRI diagnostics. There was actually trouble running the diagnostics since the computer was booted from a network drive using the Thunderbolt-Ethernet adapter. However, and therefore the issue was confirmed.

As I expected, the computer had to be sent to repair, and in all likelihood the logic board will be replaced, and maybe keyboard and chassis too. Since I’m still under 12 months warranty it should be free. It will take about a week or maybe  less, I was told.

Now, I could have just let it be and make a do with USB3 connections, perhaps buy USB to Ethernet adapter instead of using the wiggly thunderbolt, use USB drives and so on. However, I will likely use this computer more and more, and I might need to get a fast external drive for this to store and edit my photos, as well as connect this one to 4K monitor one day.

Even if I am able to get the Thunderbolt working by taping the connectors to the chassis who knows how long it will work if the connector is this unreliable from the beginning?

The Genius did mention to me that the computer might also be returned in it’s present state if the technicians in the other end are unable to find a flaw with the connectors. This feels a bit strange for one reason; how could Apple Genius and technician come to a different conclusion? The issue was already verified by the Genius and thus the decision was made to send this computer to be fixed.

It will be interesting to see how this turns out.

I must however say that Geniuses in Omotesando store were super friendly and professional. I hope that technician who fixes the computer will have same spirit.

I still have time to consider purchasing Apple Care for my Retina Macbook Pro. I have had logic board failure in my earlier Macbook Pro, as well as complete battery failure twice. I might buy it.

Thunder Bolt in Macbook Pro (Retina Late 2013)

macbook pro thunderbolt connector

My Macbook Pro with Retina Display (Late 2013 model) is a remarkable computer. It’s super fast and I have had almost zero issues. Just one thing.

The Thunderbolt 2 connectors are loose, like there’s too much mechanical tolerance. The Thunderbolt plug wiggles and there is no assuring firmness. I have had this issue with Thunderbolt to Ethernet, Thunderbolt to FireWire 800 adapter and Minidisplay port to DVI adapter as well.

I decided to test the adapters with my older Macbook Pro (2011) with Thunderbolt 1. The connector felt much more firm and reliable and none of the issues happened in this older device. I even tried to  nudge the connector around slightly. Even though there was slight movement, the connection never broke. This is obviously how it’s supposed be.

It seems I’m not alone with my problem.  This is so widely known problem with the Macbook Pro Retinas that there is even home brew solution. The plastic piece that secures the connectors to the magsafe is quite clever actually, and this can further protect the connectors from external stress. I am considering ordering one.

The problem however is super annoying. It’s OK if I use my laptop on my desk and be super careful not to touch the wire or computer while it’s connected. But using this on my lap? No way. It’s actually quite dangerous since if I’m using FW800 disk for example via the adaptor and connection breaks during data transfer that might result in data corruption.

Furthermore, this raises a question about the durability of the ports themselves. I would advice to be extra careful and not yank the wires when they are connected. Stress from such movement might transfer straight into the logic board.

Since my Macbook Pro is still under warranty I am considering taking it to the genius and ask if there’s anything they can do. But if they decide it’s manufacturing problem, this might require that the logic board will be replaced. Who knows what kind of new issues that might bring. Besides, I cannot afford downtime.

Seeing however how fragile things are in the new Macbook Pro Retina, I am considering getting Applecare for this, after all. In the mean while I make a do with my trusty G-Drive USB3 disk for backups.

New Year’s Resolution

My new year’s resolution for 2015 is this: not to buy any new computers or cameras (or lenses) unless following conditions are met:

  • Something breaks
  • My work absolutely requires it and renting is not somehow possible

It’s never bad idea to rent equipment and here in Japan rental services are reasonably priced.

I also try to avoid buying new software. My present Adobe Creative Cloud subscription for Photoshop and Lightroom is more than enough and it costs just as much as Hulu subscription.

My wife is likely to agree.

RAID

 

I am using Apple’s software raid in my Mac Pro. I have pair of 3TB Barracuda drives. So far there has been no problem. Then I got this.

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 6.26.44 PM

 

What “Failed” means is a mystery to me. Could it be some kind of data corruption or physical failure of the drive? It seems unlikely that hard drive mechanism would just die suddenly. Those things are ultra reliable these days. SMART status showed no issue.

What I did first was to verify which physical disk is the failed one. Disk Utility told me that the failed one is living in Bay 4.

So I shut down the machine and pulled the drive out, and connected it to my Macbook Pro via my USB3 interface. The disk worked perfectly. I was able to even run disk utility in it and check for logical errors. There was none, whatsoever.

Now, actually I think the proper way to do this would have been to demote the failed one before pulling it out. This way there would be absolutely no confusion which drive is which. When I was accessing the drive with my Macbook the raid array showed up there as well which was a bit scary.. But anyway, I thought since the disk is “failed” it won’t matter to the actual system anyway and drives can go totally dead.

So I attempted to format the damaged one. If the disk really is bad, it might show up during formatting. Formatting went totally fine, just as you would expect with a normal working drive.

So I put it back in my Mac Pro and booted up. DU said that the drive is now missing, which is to be expected. I demoted the missing drive, and dragged the freshly formatted one back to the RAID set. Then simply “Rebuild”. It takes about 7 hours. What’s really cool is that diskutil appleraid list  command in terminal actually gives you the percentage of the progress as well as other useful information. Some people recommend to do this stuff entirely from terminal which is fine, that stuff doesn’t look too complicated, but I thought to test the DU’s demote / rebuild buttons. It seems no problem.

Good thing is that I am able to access and work with the data while it’s rebuilt. There’s no downtime. I have my Time Machine backup anyway, so I’m feeling quite carefree and gay. However it’s good to note this time december-22 in my calendar, should the data become corrupted somehow due to me being total amateur in RAID setups, I would be able to recover from a backup that was made earlier than this moment. And my most important treasures, my present day Lightroom Catalog and image data is also on another external drive which normally disconnected. (I wrote a little shell script which uses rsync to update the disk whenever I plug it in so it’s super convenient)

Couple of things worth noting:

  • OS X gave me no warning whatsoever of the failing RAID slice. I was lucky to just find out by accident the failing drive when using DU.
  • If we compare this situation to the non-raid scenario, the obvious benefit is that I am able to keep working with the data, non-stop, even while rebuilding the RAID. If I was relying on Time Machine backup solely, I would first need to transfer the data in order to work with it. 2TB+ takes a very long time especially since my backup drive is connected via FW800.
  • I could add one more disk to the pack to act as a hot spare for extra safety. I am actually considering this since I have my Bay 3 empty at the moment. If one would fail I would still have two good ones.
  • One more obvious benefit of the RAID mirroring is that the repair can wait; as long as I have extra backup, there’s no immediate need to do anything. I can just order replacement drive from Amazon and when it arrive, swap the bad one. Of course this is because I do have TM in which I can rely in total catastrophe. This flexibility is definite benefit of RAID.

It is interesting question why the disk in Bay 4 became corrupted. I suspect it’s just something that happens every now and then with things like Apple’s Software RAID. If the same disk would fail again, then it’s likely to be hardware issue.

 

 

Snapselect

via TUAW.

I have several old Aperture libraries lying around in my hard disk, and also massive Lightroom catalog. Without the application they were created it can be a major pain to access the images. It’s worth mentioning that Apple has officially stopped development of Aperture, so in future the application will likely go away entirely.

Snapselect is a software that can access the images in those libraries. Currently it supports iPhoto, Aperture and Lightroom and fully supports RAW.

According to the creators, Snapselect can also find duplicates of the images.

I will check it out and write a review soon.

 

 

iPhone 6 Review

When iPhone 6 first came out, I thought I would never upgrade to it, but instead stick with my iPhone 5. But the battery life of my phone was getting worse and worse. I live near SoftBank Shop and I just kept dropping in to check out that gorgeous screen..

I have now used iPhone 6 for about a month. So I am ready to write my experiences with it.

Design

Apple has a remarkable legacy behind it what comes to industrial design. They designed the colourful iMac series, then the amazing flat screen “snow ball” iMac G4. They made iPod. The computers they make exhibit all great industrial design sense. I love especially the new Macbook Pro which is, by all means, extremely well designed piece of equipment. It has clean lines and is thin and light.

Apple’s phones have always been well designed too. My favourite of the bunch is the glass encased iPhone 4. It’s extremely ambitious and beautiful design. Steve Jobs even compared it to the old Leica Camera. It’s example of a design which has achieved harmony between form and function.

iPhone 5 also is a nice design. It also demonstrated a kind of simplicity although it was definably less cute and more industrial; I personally kind of liked that, especially the black model. It looked like monolith from 2001: Space Odyssey.

Now to tell truth, I don’t know what to think about iPhone 6 design. It is not awful, and definably still one of the nicest smartphones I have ever seen. What comes to ergonomics, this phone is comfortable to hold. It feels just right and I had no issues with the sleep/wake button being moved to the right side. The design choices are speaking practical.

Visually however, I don’t know what to say. The phone looks like pre unibody Macbook Pro which had those grey plastic stripes running in the edges. The segmented back looks like a skeleton of an early prototype, and the protruding camera lens makes it look more fragile than it probably is.  I like the large speaker holes on the bottom which look kinda sporty, but otherwise, it almost seems if the iPhone has lost it’s design identity. This is just another thin metal and glass rectangle. This doesn’t even lay flat on a table.

Smaller size iPhone 6 feels really good in my hand and the larger size is diminished by it’s thinness; this still doesn’t feel bulky.  The phone feels very solid. I have dropped mine (accidentally) couple of times on floor; not a scratch, but maybe I was lucky. The curved glass seems to be more prone for shatter as my friend found out. In terms of durability and shock resistance the new design is clearly a step back, despite the reduced weight.

Technology

The display is gorgeous. It’s again improvement over the predecessor by contrast and clarity. The pixel density haven’t changed in the smaller model, there are just more of them. But the colours are much better; the display exhibits controlled saturation and rather neutral white balance, although the display is warmer than in Macbook Pro display (by standard calibration).

Since I work with images, the display is the main reason why I bought the phone. Photos look indeed great on this. And now there’s room for extra row of icons in home screen if you so choose. The added screen estate is of course a welcome thing.

The camera is ridiculously good. It’s so good that I am always taking my phone out when shooting in studio environment for test shots, to experiment some camera angles and different lighting. I came out comparing them to my 5D Mark II shots with off camera flashes and whole shebang. Here is unprocessed shot with iPhone 6 using the default camera app with only a single light source, no flash.

IMG_0629

The colors are accurate and surprisingly neutral; there is no over saturation and most of the tones are reproduced faithfully. The photos turn out extremely sharp. Low light performance is amazing for a camera phone and phase detection autofocus is almost as accurate as with 5D Mark II even in relatively low light.

I don’t use the iPhone 6 flash, although it might work as a fill flash in a pinch.

Apple’s camera app however feels clunky to use. I am not big fan of the exposure control, I always accidentally keep changing the camera mode and rotating the phone it’s impossible to know which direction I should move my finger, and then gripping the phone in landscape orientation I hit accidentally the sleep button or the lower button which acts as a shutter button. I am definably looking for a better alternatives which certainly exist.

Video is improved too;  the biggest deal here is the slow-mo which is can now shoot whopping 240fps. This is more than a gimmick, the movies are real slow motion videos which can be imported to FCPX and used as a part of a movie. The video quality is so good that I can’t see why this can’t be used for broadcast. This offers some interesting artistic opportunities which have been out of my reach until now.

And iPhone 6 feels of course fast and all is great, iPhone 5 was no slouch and this new one is just extremely fluid experience. Moving around with apps is instant, there is almost no lag at all, and animations play really fluently. There are few annoying quirks with iOS8 but overall, I love it.

Also, for me this phone is first device that has Touch ID and I love it so much that I want to register my tongue so I can unlock my phone with it. It works, and it works great; especially when purchasing things from App Store.

Battery life is definably improvement to iPhone 5. Now mine lasts comfortably through a day even with a heavy user like me. There’s often even a charge left during late evening. I usually charge mine using the larger iPad charger or computer; and iPhone 6 charges to 100% amazingly fast. It takes like half an hour. That’s really good thing.

Conclusion

iPhone 6 is extremely good phone and I am really glad I chose to update. Biggest improvements in my experience are the screen, camera and battery. The screen is not only bigger but better. If I were to review iPhone 6 what comes to the overall UI and technology, I would rate this 9 or 10/10.

The industrial design is so-so and it makes me wonder about the direction Apple is taking in their future products. It seems almost as if Apple is putting priority on releasing technology products for competition rather than being a company that aims for perfection in industrial design without compromises.

I wish the overall design of iPhone 6 would be more ambitious from standpoint of simplicity and elegance.

Nonetheless, I can recommend iPhone 6 for those thinking to upgrade.

Handoff

I had my Eureka! moment when my wife called me and I was away from my iPhone, using my iPad. The call came through to my iPad and I was able to answer it. Then, I was able to make ordinary calls with iPad and send SMS messages.

It’s something that doesn’t seem like it’s such a big deal, but actually it makes a lot of sense. This kind of effortless integration is one of the reasons why I love using Apple’s devices. For Handoff to work I had to do absolutely nothing, (except update to iOS8). Apple guessed I would like this to be enabled by default, and they were right.

Moreover, now I’m able to send SMS from my iPad. Really good thing. Can’t wait Yosemite so that I will be able to enjoy this kind of comfort from my Macbook Pro.

Regarding iPhone 6 design

I was honestly turned off by the industrial design of iPhone 6. Segmented back and general absence of Apple’s design standard left me cold; while I dig the curved glass and round edges, the protruding camera lens and unnecessary complexity of the design left me wondering; is Apple becoming just another gadget company?

Take for example, iPod Classic, especially the last version with click wheel. From industrial design point of view, there’s no question about it, it’s extremely well designed. It’s bold and original. It can be recognised from distance; it’s iPod, clear and simple.

iPhone 3G, iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 (and 5s) were also good designs. My own favourite is still black iPhone 5. It is obviously informed design and it has nothing unnecessary. It is also honestly black; everything is black in this phone and there is no decoration. It looks like monolith from 2001: Space Odyssey, and it’s what I like; it’s elegant and sophisticated, and yet so simple.

I believe industrial design should be a statement of the core values of the company that manufactures it. For example, organic curves of Genelec’s speakers is a bold design that goes surely noticed. Seeing the speakers I felt that the designers must be beautiful people. (and they really are, by the way). Moreover the design serves a purpose; the organic shape provides a stronger structure and less interference for sound. Design is communication.

Another example; Apple’s Macbook Pro. It’s is simplified design from earlier versions. The “Macbook Pro” title is gone from the display, the sleep LED light is gone too, and I don’t miss either of them. The new Macbook Pro is a great and sophisticated design that is joy to use. There are no visible segments except the removable bottom plate. The computer has clean lines and form that serves function. I liked Apple’s choice to simplify the existing design.

With iPhone 6, Apple however seems confused. It doesn’t even lie flat on surface because of the protruding camera lens. It’s just a packet of latest technology. It seems to me that Apple just had to make it thinner so that they could say it’s thinner.

It is dangerous game; can they make iPhone 7 even more thinner? I am not expert by any means what comes to cellular antennas but there must have been a better way to get antennas working than accept the god-awful bloody segmented back; they could have made the phone from polycarbonate for all I care if that would result a cleaner design.

Technology should enhance our lives in unobtrusive, visually pleasing way. It saddens me to see that Apple seems to be losing it’s core values regarding their phone’s design.