Friday, February 27, 2009

Mac Pro DVD drives are easily replaced

Since purchase, the single DVD drive in my Mac Pro has been, well, broken. After disc insertion, it almost always makes a horrible grinding noise—not the loud spin-up-style noise, but a low, rumbling noise that sounds quite literally like it's going to shake itself off its mount. I'm fairly sure it's been reported elsewhere. It's taken me over a year to do anything about it, due to a combination of factors:
  • I actually use the drive pretty rarely. Almost all software I buy these days is downloaded. DVDs as storage media are going the way of the CD: 4GB isn't the vast expanse of space it used to be, and, frankly, optical media are pretty fragile. (And the failure modes of DVDs seem to be catastrophic: what's with a couple of scratches making an entire disc unreadable?) At $A 176 for a 1TB USB disk, I can't see myself buying too many stacks of blank DVDs in the future.
  • It usually works. Often, it will spin the disc up, growl once or twice, then settle down. Other times, it won't read known-good discs at all. And very occasionally, I am pretty sure it has damaged some discs.
  • Despite having purchased the 3 year Apple Care option, presumably entitling me to a free replacement for the faulty drive, powering down the Mac Pro and sending it into a store (for what would presumably be a minimum of a week) would cost me more in time and energy than replacing the drive myself, at my own expense.
I had a spare LG DVD writer just lying around, so I grabbed a screwdriver, and a copy of the Mac Pro User Manual, and set off. It's about a 10 minute job, almost completely described by the manual—you do need to prise the faceplate off the front of the drawer if it's a drive intended for a PC-style case. (Otherwise the front of the drawer won't physically fit through the auto-opening slot door on the Mac Pro's case.) If you're into this kind of thing (industrial design, and computer design in particular), the internals of the Mac Pro are spectacular. Why can't other companies design cases like this?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Safari 4 Beta: first impressions

After reading about it all over the web, I just downloaded the Safari 4 Beta. Here are my first impressions:
  • The installer required a restart of the machine. Let me just repeat that using some different words: I had to reboot my machine at the end of the install. If there was a warning about this requirement, I missed it.
  • Safari 4 Beta is installed over the existing Safari 3. I don't know if Safari 3 is archived somewhere so that it can be restored if I uninstall Safari 4 Beta, but, again, if there was a warning about this, I missed it. If I find the beta to be buggy or unstable, it's not at all inconceivable that I might want to uninstall it and revert to Safari 3 while waiting for the non-beta release. I sure hope this is automated by the uninstaller.
  • The progress-meter-in-address-textfield, which I originally hated, but grew to love, has disappeared. There's now a spinning wheel at the far right of the textfield, which obviously conveys no information about the state of completion of a page load.
  • On first load, I am presented with a very nice looking matrix of ‘Top Sites’, though I don't know where these are coming from. I assume it's from my own history. GMail's front page is depicted twice. Four of the twelve slots are blank, which is surprising, as I am sure there are more than eight URLs in my history. Oh—hang on, there are references to pages (though one is just recent, a page I have visited all of once), but four of them have no thumbnail image.
  • There has been some commentary on the new placement of tabs. With the caveat that all I've done so far is open the application, my first response is that it's not a look that I like. I'll reserve judgement until I use them.
  • Develop > Show Web Inspector now appears as a pane in the lower portion of the window, rather than as a separate window. I think I like this.
  • There are some interesting demos of new CSS features about. Presumably no other browser will support these, and hence they will be useless, for about a decade.
If I keep it around, I will post some second impressions later.