MacBook Memory Storage upgrade

Noticing the performance of my 5-year-old MacBook Pro was becoming – well, noticeable, I thought it might be time to replace it. The trouble with that is cost. That, and the inconvenience of it. I asked around some of my Mac buddies, did a bit of googling (other search engines are available, but nobody uses them), and sought advice from the Apple Store. The hive mind seemed to favour and recommend an increase in RAM and a replacement of the hard drive with a solid state drive (SSD). Here’s how it went.

1. Backup/clone

The first thing I had to do was create a copy of all the files on my 256GB internal hard drive. The drive was running with about 75GB unused spaceIMG_2699 but I had a 256GB external USB hard drive available for this purpose. You can buy USB enclosures for about a fiver which would allow you to clone your old hard drive straight to your new SSD but I took the intermediate step because I wanted to tread carefully and also create a backup of the drive and settings, something I hadn’t properly done before. I am a regular backer-upper of my files, sometimes keeping several redundant copies of important things. The backup tool of choice is Bombich’s Carbon Copy Cloner. I like this software because (a) it works, (b) it anticipates the user’s possible lack of caution or experience and (c) helps the user do the right thing. There’s a 30-day trial available but if you’re spending money on an upgrade, why not include the just-under-thirty-quid full licence as part of your budget and get a decent backup solution while you’re at it?

2. Buy the right bits

The Apple Store people were quite clear and unhesitant in telling me that Crucial Memory is the place to buy your upgraded memory chips and drives. There is a config checker tool on their site that will tell you what you need and guarantee it’s right if you buy from them. If you’re certain that it was 2009 when you bought your Mac, then you might not need this. I was certain but used the tool anyway. I was impressed with the speed of service and delivery from Crucial. Ordering late on Wednesday night and not paying extra for faster postage, the new drive and memory dropped through my letterbox on Friday morning.

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3. Replace

The replacement is pretty straightforward. The back of the MBP is retained by 10 cross-head screws (you’ll need instrument screwdIMG_2702rivers), 3 of which are longer than the rest. Remember where they go. I recommend that you read about and follow good static discharge protection procedures, before you fry anything electronic and sensitive. The big yellow sticker is trying to tell you that. I used a bonding wrist strap that I connected to the case of the laptop and generally tried hard not to touch anything metal at all.

The memory cards are held in their slots by two plastic clips, one on each side, that you pull aside to allow the card to pop up for easy removal. The second card slot on my MBP is under the first.

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Make sure you align the new memory cards correctly before trying to press them into the holder. There is a notch in the connector side which requires you to put it in the correct way round. On mine the notch is to the left of centre. If you refer to the top image of the new memory, you’ll see this meant that I had to put the memory in with that “Crucial” label facing down (i.e. on the keyboard side).

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The HDD came out easily enough. There are two retaining brackets held in by a total of four cross-head screws. You can only see one clearly in the picture, at the bottom left. Remove these and disconnect the HDD carefully. For some reason there was a rubber blind washer in the case by this connector (see picture). I have no idea why. I have put it back where it was.

The HDD is fitted with four spigots which are needed for the new SSD. They are Torx screws, of a size I do not have the tool for, so I removed them with pliers and installed them in the SSD the same way. Reassembly is the reverse of what you’ve done so far.

4. Restore

Once your MBP is back in one piece, so to speak, you will need to boot it from the external clone if you made one, or straight from the new SSD if you didn’t take that step. If like me, you used the external clone, then you have another couple of hours to wait while you clone onto the new SSD.

5. Outcomes

What I have now is the same MBP as before only a lot faster and quieter. The fan did run fast for the first hour or two of operation but this is partly due to Google Drive getting its knickers in a twist. GDrive cannot cope with moving your GDrive folder to a different place – it has to start from scratch, synching from the web. Yet another good reason not to use GDrive. Dropbox needs you to log in again. Copy.com just copes.

Some of your file associations will have reverted to default settings in the process of setting up partitions on the clone. Apart from that, it looks exactly the same as it did before but somehow feels new. Browsing, email and compiling are all noticeably faster.

Thanks to those who steered me in the right direction; also to CarbonCopy and to Crucial for great products and customer support.

6. Next steps

Next? Probably a new battery. Even with the low-energy SSD, I’m probably down to about 3 or 4 hours maximum use from my five-year old battery which has been asking for service for months.

WordPress Redirect Loop

WordPress is a brilliant tool, probably the best of the CMSs – Google says so – but every now and then it can stop you in your tracks. It did this today as I was setting up a new site for Marc Walker, the British Biathlon veteran and team manager who is retiring from Her Majesty’s service in August to set up a very special personal trainer business in Knutsford.

Marc Walker (image copyright Marcel Laponder CC-BY-3.0)

Marc Walker (image copyright Marcel Laponder CC-BY-3.0)

I hit a wee problem with an unexpected redirect loop when trying to access the back end. There are plenty of articles and “fixes” available on the web, none of which were relevant to my installation and most of which relate to permalinks and .htaccess. Because my installation is a long-standing derivative of WPMU or multi-site, it could not have been that.

For others in the same position, here’s what my install looks like:

  • LAMP hosted (on a VPS)
  • Version 3.9.1
  • Multiple WP sites, domain-mapped

I had a while ago, for some reason I have now forgotten, network disabled the default WordPress themes. When I added this new site, created the new admin user and mapped the domain, I found that the admin or login pages simply got stuck in a redirect loop.

The fix was easy enough – I simply had to enable Twenty-Fourteen (the default WP theme) for the new site via the network admin panel.

If you want to visit Marc’s new site, it’s at AvantgardePT.com. His new business will start up in August and will have a strong European baseline from his track record in Biathlon, military fitness, Iron Man, and an impressive bunch of competitive sports.

Surgeons Tweeting

I was at a talk given by George Veletsianos today, under the title of “Acts of defiance and personal sharing when academics use social media”. This was a thought-provoking session and not the first of his I’ll be attending this week, hopefully. I’ll not report the details of the talk here, but I will point you towards George’s Networked Scholars open course and this little scribble I made as I thought about how pervasive the use of social media has become.

SurgeonsTweeting

CentOS 6.5 on MSWind

Rather than make a pig’s ear out of my live VPS by testing out new Ruby code I’m playing with, I thought it would be prudent to have a machine that I can break without upsetting users. I have an Atom-based Advent netbook which only ever gets played with occasionally and this afternoon, seems quite willing to volunteer for a rebuild as a CentOS server. The world loves a volunteer. Read More

WordPress network domain mapping fix

I’ve just been on an interesting little journey that started last September when I discovered that some of the sites on one of my WordPress networks had stopped working.

You might enjoy a little schadenfreude if I admit now that it was because I had a brilliant idea and did something stupid. I’ve posted details here in the hope that (a) if I do it again, I can find out how to fix it, and (b) if you’ve done it too, you’re closer to the solution than I have been for the past six months. I’ve ‘genericed’ the details to help you map it to your own setup. Read More

Beeswing: a brilliant critical literacy resource in the making

beeswing

(c) 2013 Jack King-Spooner
Used without permission but I hope he doesn’t mind

I stumbled across an incredible project yesterday whilst lobbing a few quid into the KickStarter kitty of the makers of The Seventh Guest 3: The Collector. I like T7G and its sister, the 11th Hour, because they are what I wish many more computer games were: things that help the player grow as a person instead of the vast majority of nasty, violent, dehumanising poison that infects the minds of so many young people.

The project I found is called Beeswing and is a creative development by Jack King-Spooner of a handcrafted role-playing game, without violence (or puzzles!), set in rural Scotland. Jack is creating “a world of intertwining stories” within a game setting using beautiful media such as watercolour pictures, graphite sketches and clay animation, all set to original music. From the kickstarter project page:

It is a story about the past, about community and childhood, attachment and growing up. Scottish folk tales, morally dubious parables, cloudy anecdotes and more contemporary stories of homelessness and immigration all combine to create a truly dynamic narrative.

This is lovely enough, but the thing that really caught my attention was the value in the dialogues within the stories: there is a depth to them that goes beyond what you might at first expect. Jack describes them as, “trues stories, blended with fiction”. I think this game will have potential to be of great value to teachers in developing connected thinking and critical literacy in children, and a capacity to see the world around them in much more richer terms. Here’s an example from the video on the kickstarter project page:

I like the scarecrow, I know what it means.
See the flowers in the field? The poppies and buttercups? Rare sight.
They mean there’s no pesticide in the fields.
No pesticide means insects.
Insects mean rooks and crows.
Rooks and crows mean scarecrows.
I like the scarecrow, I know what it means.

If you liked Inanimate Alice, you’re going to love this. Why not click the picture and go support Jack? You’ll get the game when it’s out next year and an opportunity to really develop the children you’re involved with. Hurry, there’s only a couple of weeks left.

Mavericks OSX 10.9 Update php fix

I updated to OSX 10.9 Mavericks this week, and as with all updates, it broke PHP. I run a local MAMP server for development purposes and it all works OK except that you have to re-enable PHP in the apache configuration file. I found a useful guide over at coolestguidesontheplanet.com which included these steps:

Open a terminal window and edit the httpd.conf file:

sudo nano /etc/apache2/httpd.conf

Uncomment this line:

LoadModule php5_module libexec/apache2/libphp5.so

Write out and save the file, then restart apache:

sudo apachectl restart

… and Robert’s your Mother’s Brother.

Code hacks: Internet Explorer Compatibility mode

guess-browserI’ve been developing a site for a national competition to be launched in October and ran into a little difficulty with Internet Explorer. Despite this browser losing ground amongst even the unthinking default user community, it is still sufficiently popular that I needed to look at the problem.

The site is running WordPress on a LAMP server using Konstantin Kovshenin‘s Expound theme. One of the testers noticed the letters “Ski” next to the Home menu item. Mousing over it produces a fleeting grey box to appear top left of the browser window. This turned out to be only visible in IE8, IE9 and IE 10 in “compatibility mode”, a feature of IE that allows the browser to render sites that are broken by IE’s shockingly poor implementation of standards, using a model from an earlier version. It’s what a code monkey might call a Kludge.

SkiThe “Ski” is in fact, the first few letters of “Skip to content”. It is one of several features of the site’s theme implementation which are broken in IE’s compatibility mode.

There are several suggestions in the forums designed to force IE into non-compatibility mode and render the site properly. Most rely on delivering a <Doctype> tag on the very first line, followed immediately by a X-UA-Compatible meta tag. Unless this tag is placed on the line immediately after the Doctype tag, IE ignores it.

I considered trying to knock up a plugin to make this work in some kind of customisable way. Editing the theme’s header.php file seemed doomed to be overwritten on the next update, and branching a child theme felt like too much hard work for such a small fix to accommodate a browser that I personally would like everyone to stop using. Part of me wants all sites to look broken when viewed with IE so as to encourage the masses to make an intelligent choice for once. Let’s not start talking about democracy.

Anyway, a little more digging found a really elegant solution which suited my particular needs from Reza Qorbani, which is to use the .htaccess file to have the Apache server sniff the browser and send the metatag. This is what I finished up with:

BrowserMatch MSIE best-standards-support
Header set X-UA-Compatible IE=edge env=best-standards-support

It works a treat. Thanks, Reza!

Pro Git and more MX DNS

Continuing the summer of code into the early autumn, I have been developing, enhancing and debugging the new server. New and migrated sites are stable and responding well within the resource limits I’ve chosen of 10GB disk, 50GB traffic (although we’re close to whacking this one) and 256/512 MB RAM/Swap space. Uptime has been 100% for over 60 days now.

Within the suite of services running on the server are database, web server, CGI, mail, stats and monitoring. What is not, is the DNS service, which I have learned to keep in a different place, with the registrar. Setting up reverse DNS for the mail service to work correctly is important: I discovered that one client had been having difficulties receiving mail from just one of his friends. This was because the MX DNS entry for his domain pointed to an IP address which some service providers will reject as it doesn’t comply with the RFC. Changing it to the host domain of the server’s IP, however, stopped all mail getting through to the client. This was finally resolved by pointing the MX record for the domain to the domain itself:

example.com. A     192.0.2.1
@            MX 10 example.com.

If you want to know how the Internet works, by the way, a really good place to start is the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). They have a good introduction here. Many internet standards are defined in RFC documents.

Other services on the server operate as database-driven php suites such as the WordPress CMS, Moodle, LimeSurvey or phpBB. All of these are subject to modifications, code hacks and tweaks to make them work to the needs of the site owner. Whilst the Parallels Plesk Panel allows install-at-a-click for many application suites, I prefer to manage the installation and customisation of these myself. Until now, I had used the download-unzip-upload over FTP method but I’m going to try using the more elegant command-line facility offered by Git. I’m getting started by using their excellent online documentation. This should allow me a much faster update route and potentially a way to be a better contributor to open source than the consumer I have been.

AudioBoo for Education

audioboo-t_7I’ve been a user of AudioBoo for some time now, and have recorded a few dozen commentaries, some of which have been listened to thousands of times. I find it an excellent tool for easy podcasting and most of my broadcasts are automatically cross-posted to iTunes and edutalk.cc. I’m pleased to find that audioBoo have launched this week a facility for educators who might consider the power of audio for their learners. From the announcement:

…we’re delighted to announce the launch of Audioboo for Education: a new initiative to help students and educators to enrich the learning experience and encourage conversation and debate through the power of audio.

Apart from ideas and examples of how audioBoo can be used to support and enhance learning, there’s also an intelligent and useful app for Edmodo, the VLE of choice for many teachers.

New channels of engagement are essential to the flipped classroom and the enabling of access to education on the learner’s terms, which is something that if you’re an educator and not driving it, then it will soon be driving you. Why not try it? It’s free, it’s easy and it offers leverage to your impact on learners: if you want an example, my most recent public talk has reached hundreds more through the podcast than it did in the flesh, so to speak.