Delaying a MacBook Pro’s deep sleep

I bought a new mid-2012 non-Retina MacBook Pro late last year, immediately prior to the line being discontinued (I still think the second-generation MacBook Pros were the best series).  After about a week, I found an annoying thing with it:  When I turned on the computer after coming back from work, it seemed like it almost always required a cold startup after sleeping, where the optical drive initialized and did its buzz, and took a lengthy 10-15 seconds to wake up from sleep.  Also, the computer would wake up (and the optical drive buzzed) even if the MagSafe charger was disconnected.

I contemplated bringing it into the Apple store, as this behaviour was not exhibited in my mid-2009 model and the optical drive buzzing was plain annoying; I thought there was something wrong with my Mac specifically.

However, from a bit of searching it turned out that this was a “feature” of the Mac since OS X Mountain Lion for 2012 Macs and newer: Continue reading “Delaying a MacBook Pro’s deep sleep”

More Detailed Wi-Fi Info on Mac OS X

Wi-Fi Detail Menu
Option-clicking on the Wi-Fi icon in the menu bar brings up additional information about the Wi-Fi network to which you are connected.

The option button can be used to reveal hidden options and information in various places around Mac OS.  One example of this is if you option-click the Wi-Fi icon in the menu bar, you will be presented with additional information about the network you are currently connected to, including the type of the Wi-Fi you’re using, the base station’s MAC address, the frequency channel you’re on, and the strength of the connection, among other details.  In addition, there is an additional option to open Wireless Diagnostics which might be able to help you with Wi-Fi issues (however, in my experience it doesn’t really give useful information).

Network Utility

Network Utility on the Info tab
Info tab in Network Utility

An additional tool to help debug network connections is a neat little utility called “Network Utility” that comes bundled with Mac OS X.  You can find it in the Utilities subfolder in the Applications folder, or just use Spotlight to find it.

This utility provides a friendly interface for many tools that are commonly used on the command line for network debugging, such as ping, nslookup, traceroute, whois, and finger. An interesting tool though is the last tab: Port Scan.  Yes, Mac OS comes with a port scanner bundled with it.  Obviously one would hope that the port scanner be used for diagnostic purposes and not malicious purposes.

Secure your Mac’s infrared port against random Apple Remotes

If you have a MacBook with an infrared receiver, did you know your Mac could be open to other people controlling your computer?  By default, Mac OS will recognize the signal of any Apple Remote.  Although the effect is relatively harmless (they will probably be able to randomly play some tracks on iTunes), it can range from being annoying if you were studying in the library and your friend happened to prank you, to embarrassing if you happened to be doing a presentation.

Most people do not need to allow any Apple Remote to control their computer.  Why would you want other people’s Apple Remotes to control your computer?  Here is a tutorial for securing your infrared port so that only your own Apple Remote can control your computer.

If you have an Apple Remote…

The icon showing a paired Apple Remote.
The icon showing a paired Apple Remote.

You can pair your remote with your computer by pressing and holding the Menu and Next (right) buttons for several seconds, while pointing the remote to the infrared receiver (on the MacBook Pro unibody models, the port is beside the power/sleep light on the front edge of the computer).  The pairing logo will show up in the middle of your screen when the pairing is complete.

If you don’t have an Apple Remote…

You can disable the infrared port so that nobody with a random Remote can control your computer.

  1. Open System Preferences → Security & Privacy.
  2. If the preferences are locked, you will need to click on the lock at the bottom left and enter your password.
  3. Click the Advanced… button at the bottom right.
  4. Check “Disable remote control infrared receiver.”
Security & Privacy - Advanced Options
The advanced options of the Security & Privacy system preferences panel.

Hopefully this tutorial will help you avoid annoying or embarrassing situations when people try to prank you with their own Apple Remote.

Featured image by Julien Gong Min on Flickr.

A real MacBook Pro

My MacBook Pro

I bought my MacBook Pro back in 2009.  It was a Mid-2009 (2nd generation) version with a Core 2 Duo with the basic 2GB of memory and 250GB hard disk drive.  I chose Mac because of many reasons; here are some of them, ordered by what I thought most important first:

  1. Solid construction:  The unibody construction was a huge factor.  The size was quite slim and easily portable.  The aluminum exterior felt solid.  Since getting the laptop, I’ve only dropped it once.  The hard drive died as a result (expected); was not a big deal to replace it.
  2. Battery Life:  The battery life exceeded the average of other laptops of comparable performance and price.  I didn’t end up using the advertised 7 hours most of the time but 3-5 hours was good enough for me.
  3. Compatibility with Unix/Linux:  The Mac operating system is based on Unix.  As a computer science student, being able to easily compile and run *nix programs, navigate around in the Terminal, and connect to remote *nix servers was a definite plus.
  4. Compatibility with Windows:  This doesn’t seem to be well known, but Mac easily allows you dual-boot into Windows with its Bootcamp software to run any Windows programs natively.  I also used VirtualBox to setup a virtual machine running Windows for the programs that don’t need native performance or external inputs.
  5. Plug and play with projectors/monitors: From using an external monitor at home, to plugging into monitors and projectors at school and places I volunteer, it had to be good to go without much hassle.  For the most part, Mac OS X delivered this although I still prefer the more detailed options available back with Snow Leopard and Lion.
My MacBook Pro
My MacBook Pro, now running OS X Mavericks

The MacBook Pro is an awesome work horse, able to do pretty much do everything I threw at it: homework, programming various things, projecting, editing photos and videos.  It has been my primary computer for the past 4.5 years, and having replaced the battery last year I think it could probably last for another couple of years.  I’ve slowly upgraded the hardware to max out 8GB of memory and settled with a Seagate 750GB Momentus XT Solid State Hybrid Drive, which fit the bill of having a large storage space while having slightly better performance with the flash cache.

I had hoped that Apple would be producing this line of MacBook Pros for a bit longer so that when my current one dies, I’d be able to replace it with another.  However, after surfing the Apple Store recently, I realized that my presumption may not hold true much longer.  There’s only one model of the 2nd generation MacBook Pro left and it hasn’t been updated since 2012.  The rest of the MacBook Pro lineup consists of retina display models.

MacBook Pro listing on the Apple Store
Apple Store with the 13″ MacBook Pro being the last 2nd generation MacBook Pro model still standing.

MacBook “Pro” with Retina Display

I wouldn’t really call the new MacBooks “Pro”.  In my opinion, the current Retina MacBook Pros should just be called “MacBook with Retina Display”.

  1. No network port: How am I supposed to setup a router or debug network issues if I have to have Wi-Fi first?  Also, for transfers, a cabled connection is a lot more reliable and, for most access points, faster than Wi-Fi.
  2. No optical disk drive: How am I supposed to read/write CDs and DVDs with installation media to setup older computers?  How am I supposed to play DVDs? — a lot of educational media is still on DVDs, if not tape!
  3. No user upgradable parts:  There’s no way to replace a stick of memory if one has gone bad.  There’s no way to upgrade your memory if you need more.  There’s no way to buy a larger hard drive if you run out of space.  You have to consider how much memory and space you’ll need up front, and pay Apple’s premium for that specific configuration.
  4. No infrared sensor: I use the infrared sensor with the Apple Remote for a quick remote when giving presentations.  The Apple remote is a lot cheaper, smaller and convenient than other remotes out there, for small-scale presentations.

Yes, I realize that down the road (even currently) probably people don’t need a network port, optical disk drive, or upgradable parts, but those people are probably not “Pro” users.  That is exactly the reason why I think the current Retina MacBook Pro should be renamed as “MacBook”, and that the MacBook Pro lineup continue to be refreshed.

A real Macbook Pro

What I would consider a real MacBook Pro would be one with the 2nd generation hardware (retaining the ethernet port and optical disk drive) updated with an Intel Haswell processor and retina display.  Now that would be something I would find worth buying.  Basically, if Apple took the old MacBook Pro line and refreshed it with a new processor and a retina display, that would be the perfect computer for me, and I’m sure I wouldn’t be the only one buying it.

Setting up a Raspberry Pi with file sharing and screen sharing for Macs

I’m going to briefly explain how to setup a new Raspberry Pi as a basic desktop computer with file sharing and screen sharing so that Macs can connect to it.  This will be useful for quickly transferring files over, and taking control of the Pi remotely.  I will be assuming that you have basic command line knowledge (running commands, installing packages, editing text files), and some Mac knowledge.  I am not going to be too paranoid about security as I only intend on using my Pi on my home network, but if your Pi is going to be Internet-facing, you may want to read up elsewhere on securing your Pi.

Continue reading “Setting up a Raspberry Pi with file sharing and screen sharing for Macs”