Sunday, November 28, 2010

How I Fixed My Macbook Pro

I've had a Macbook Pro laptop for about 3 1/2 years now.  It's been a great, reliable computer.  I'd sit down, turn it on, and it would just work .. no fuss, no muss.

About 6 months ago, right after I got back from Iraq, I decided to upgrade the operating system to Snow Leopard, and at the same time install another 1GB of RAM (which I bought at the Fort Hood PX).  Both "operations" were relatively simple, and the system worked great immediately afterward.

Then a couple of months back, I started noticing little things ... for instance, any time I opened a video, the fan would kick on (noisily) and work overdrive until I closed the video.  It also seemed to me that I could hear the hard drive working more often than I had remembered in the past.

A couple of weeks ago, things really started to become serious.  My portable backup drives were not always recognized.  Programs that usually opened right up, were taking much longer (watching the spinning ball while I waited, I almost felt like I was on Windows PC again).  And then worst of all, some files and folders just started not opening, or disappearing all together.

I ran one of the diagnostics programs, and it said something about an extra sector on the volume where I had OS X installed .. and gave me a "hint" to boot from my Snow Leopard dvd, and repair the disk.  Sounds easy enough, I can do that.

Woops ... I can't find my Snow Leopard disk !!!!

The box is right there on the shelf of Ana's computer desk, where I left it.  But the disk itself is nowhere to be found.  Ugh.

Oh well, I was leaving for Philadelphia in two days anyway, and Johnathan has an "extra" laptop that I was able to borrow for the trip.    So the problem got put on hold for 2 weeks.  Oh yea, and while I was in Philly I was able to walk down to the Apple store, and pick up another copy of OS X for $29.00.

A couple of days after I got home, and was a bit settled in, I decided it was time to revive my Mac.

Booted from the DVD, opened Disk Utility, and tried to repair the volume ...

"Disk cannot be repaired ... erase the disk, and reinstall OS X"

Ok, no worries, I've got a 1TB drive with about a month's worth of time machine back ups.

Erased the disk, and rebooted the machine again.   This time I clicked "continue" on the first screen to proceed through the install process.

After about 5 minutes, it just stopped, and I got an error message "could not copy necessary support files"

Ok, I'll just try it again ...

No such luck.  After about 5 failed attempts, I just gave up, and started researching how difficult (and expensive) it would be to replace a Macbook Pro hard drive ... since I assumed that's what the problem was.

I unhooked everything from the computer, turned it off, and planned to put it away in my closet until I could figure out what I was going to do.  Yikes, that closet was a mess though ... better clean it ... and wouldn't you know, up there on the top shelf (where there's no way I could "lose" it) was that copy of Snow Leopard I'd been looking for a few weeks ago.  Oh well, now I've got two.

Now we're starting to get close to the good part though ... how I fixed it (without spending a lot of extra money).

During the time that my Mac was in the closet, and I continued to borrow Johnathan's PC laptop, I remained optimistic that I might be able to find a way to fix it myself ... and avoid the hour each way drive to the nearest Apple Store, in Austin.   So,  I continued to do some research on Internet forums ...

As it turns out, my problem was not all that uncommon among those who were having trouble installing, or re-installing, OS X.

And in the overwhelming majority of examples of people who had overcome this problem, the only thing that worked was replacing their machine's RAM.

I'm game ... can't hurt to give it a try.  What's the worst that could happen?  The computer's already "broken".

So, I found my trusty #0 phillip's head screw driver, popped the battery out,  opened up the memory compartment, and removed that store bought 1GB second stick of RAM.

Now the moment of truth ...

Restart the machine, try to the install process again.

Hey, it's working!

After about 10 minutes or so, I started to become pretty optimistic that I had solved the problem ... and it turns out that I was right.

Then I got another very cool surprise about being on a Mac ...

Even though I had "erased" the disk before reinstalling the operating system, when I opened the Applications folder, ALL of my 3rd party programs (Photoshop, MS Office, MarketSamurai, etc) were still there ... and they still worked !!!

The only minor problem I have left, is that for some of the things I do on my computer (ie, photoshop) I really do need a bit more RAM.   But I'll survive for now, and after we pay off some of the Christmas bills, I probably will take a trip down to the Apple Store, and let them install the additional memory.

So the lesson here ...

If you're on a Mac, it's probably not going to "act up".  But, in the highly unlikely event that it does, that RAM compartment is the 1st place I'd start my investigation ... especially if you bought it from a store that wasn't named "Apple", and installed it yourself.

Hopefully you'll never need to use any of this information I've just written above ... but if you do, I hope you find it helpful.

Til next time ...


Thursday, November 25, 2010

What Are You Thankful For?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Hunt The Good Stuff. Now I'm a fairly optimistic person to begin with .. but I've found that taking a few minutes at the end of every day to really focus on the some of good things in my life, and all that I have to be grateful for, really does put me in a better mood ... and even more importantly, helps keep my stress level down during those inevitable times when "life" decides to throw a challenging situation my way.

For (too) many Americans, the last Thursday in November is the one day of the year when we actually do consciously "hunt the good stuff", and give thanks for all the blessings in our lives.


Don't get me wrong, it's awesome that we have a day like Thanksgiving that reminds people to "appreciate".

But ...

Imagine how much more pleasant our world would be if we all did a bit more appreciating every day?

By all means, take this holiday to get together with friends and family, tell people what they mean to you, reflect on what you have, and give thanks for all of the past, present, and future gifts in your life.

Then do it again, Tomorrow, and Next Week, and Next Month ...

There's no reason I can think of that Every Day shouldn't be Thanksgiving.

Now, let's go eat Turkey and watch Football !!!


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Philly Cheesesteak at Geno's


We made our first foray into the Philadelphia cheesesteak wars tonight. One of the guys in the class has a car, so after visiting the Liberty Bell, and Constitution Hall, we decided to take a quick trip South, down Passyunk Ave to try a real Philly cheesesteak. Going on Saturday night might not have been the ideal choice. We ended up waiting in line at Geno's for about 20-25 minutes.

It wouldn't have been much different across the street at Pat's ... look at that line:

The waiting really wasn't all that bad though.

Along all the walls outside of Geno's are a ton of picture of all the famous and/or otherwise important people (ie, police and military) who've eaten there). Plus as you can see in the picture above, there are big windows all around where you can look in and watch them cook.

We even learned in class how to order properly (so as not to get booted to the end of the line). Here was my order: 1, whiz, wit. translation: 1 steak sandwich, cheez whiz, with onions.


We pulled up a curb across the street, near the basketball court and dug in. I guess this is where I get to be a food critic. To be honest, the sandwich was "ok". It was good, but for the price ($8.50 for the sandwich and another $5.50 for fries and a drink) I think I'd just as soon have an O'Charlie's from the food court back home.

That being said, the experience of going to eat at a famous landmark was pretty cool. Even if the food didn't knock my socks off, I'm glad that we got to go, and that now can say I've been there.

I think we're also going to try to get down to Pat's sometime next week, then I suppose I can do a true comparison ... so check back on Monday or Tuesday if you're interested in that sort of thing.

Til then, keep havin FuN!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hunt The Good Stuff

So I've finished 4 days of the Master Resilience Training here in Philadelphia. One more day as a "student", then on Saturday we start learning how to teach it to our guys back home. I had intended to do some blogging about the things I'm learning in the course .. but upon reflection, this is probably not something that would convey well just by reading it on a blog (plus the course is actually copyrighted by University of Pennsylvania).

So, I won't be making daily blog posts this subject.

That said, I did have something that I wanted to share, and it's really kind of in line with things I've already talked about here in the past. It's called Hunt the Good Stuff. And basically all it is is at the end of every day, you have to write down (physically on paper with a pen) 3 good things that happened to you that day; and with each, a sentence or two of reflection (why did this good thing happen? .. What this good thing means to you .. What you can do tomorrow to enable more of this good thing .. What ways you or others contribute to this good thing)

Doing this exercise over time will help you to build your appreciation/gratitude and optimism ... and help to counteract our natural human tendency to spend more time focusing on the negative things that happen. I was even told that doing this right before bed can help you sleep better (because your mind is thinking about "good stuff". It's only been a couple of nights, and it may just be because of my comfy hotel bed, but I've been getting a nice restful 8 hours since I've been here. ;-)

Keep havin FuN!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Off to the City of Brothery Love

Well I'm on the road again early tomorrow morning. This time, I get to spend two weeks in Philadelphia attending the Army Master Resilience training course. It was kind of short notice, I just found out about it on Thursday ... but this sort of thing sounds right up my alley anyway ... plus if I've ever been to Philadelphia before, it had to have been when I was a kid ... and I don't remember it.

I'm bringing a laptop with me, and the hotel is supposed to have Internet (unlike my trip to FL last month). If the class is interesting, and/or I get out to see some of the landmarks in the area, I'll try to make posts here on the blog as often as I can. I think I'm not going to bring my "big" camera with me. It's such as hassle to lug the camera and lenses on an airplane, so I think I'll just try to make due with my phone ... should I encounter anything picture worthy.

I've already been told that one thing I definitely have to do while I'm there, is check out this Philly Cheesesteak war:


Hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekend ... be chatting with you again real soon.