Spilling white stuff on my Mac

This is bad... Do not do this.

Yeah, irony is teaching your new students about the dangers of drinking near computers, and denying students entry to your classroom because they’re drinking… and then spilling your own drink on your own computer.

The affected keyboard – one of those nice white Apple USB ones is now drying out after being rinsed under the kitchen tap. After trying a backup keyboard, a blueberry iMac keyboard which the dog had chewed the USB plug on I decided to give a slightly older keyboard a go. The blueberry one was pretty terrible, with all the interesting keys missing and the enter key kind of stuck as if it’d had a soaking in something sugary in its past.

Here’s what I’m typing on now…

Apple Extended Keyboard II with iMate USB-ADB bridge

It’s a 1995 vintage Apple Extended Keyboard II, plugged into a temperamental (due to damaged cable that I need to repair) iMate USB-ADB bridge. The similarities between it and the white one are quite striking. This keyboard has a bit of a PC style to it, with redundant ‘scroll lock’ and ‘print screen’ buttons, along with the PC-style status LEDs. None of that does anything on OSX with the exception of the capslock LED – the capslock button itself is mechanical and locks down when pressed.

The typing action on this keyboard is superior to the newer Apple keyboards too. I might continue using it even if the white one survives its drowning.

My mouse is magic… ish…

They claim this mouse to be mighty
I suffer from that expensive disease known as “being an Apple owner”. A disease that I blame on borrowing my sister’s 1 gig iPod Shuffle, those things are serious gateway drugs. Anyway, my Mac Mini came with a Mighty Mouse which has a pleasing rounded shape and a fun little nipple to twiddle. And a confusing and highly irritating left/right click mechanism. For the uninitiated, the whole mouse is hinged to produce a left click, but right clicking involves removing your left finger and pressing the right one. I found this failed to work pretty much every time I clicked the damn thing and made playing Minecraft impossible.

If Harry Potter owned a Mac, he'd use this
So I got a fancy so-called Magic Mouse to replace it. Despite being smaller and having a slightly annoying angular shape it works so much better. Maybe the Mighty Mouse I owned was faulty (although we also own a wired version and that is equally bad, also being confused by the pattern on my desk) but it just didn’t feel like a nice mouse to use from the second I held it. There seemed to be a strange lag between moving my hand and the cursor doing something useful, it felt like there was someone else with a mouse trying to take control of the mouse pointer.

The Magic mouse has one slightly confusing feature – the touch sensitive top. Press it and you get a left click, press it on the right hand side and get a right click (which actually works properly. Well done Apple, you made a mouse that can right click reliably… just like Microsoft have done for decades). If you gently stroke the top of the mouse it’ll scroll things for you, like web browsers. This scrolling thing is great and means there’s no nipple to get gunged up, but it does cause some odd brainfarts if you’ve also used a Mac laptop with touchpad.

I just spent a few confused moments trying to move the mouse pointer by sliding my finger on the top of the mouse. It took a while before this whole new concept of “move the whole mouse!” slid into my brain. Seriously, it was like the apes from 2001 learning to hit things with bones.

PS, hold onto your obsolete Apple products, once the aluminium on the planet is used up we’ll be rich! The same goes for the titanium oxide in the shiny white plastic.

Cleaning my Macbook’s heatsink


For a while I’ve noticed my Macbook getting excessively hot under normal use and while encoding video it locked up registering a CPU temperature of 99c. Not being known for their ventilation design, I decided the machine was probably clogged with dust and that a clean out might help. Also, I’ve not taken my Mac apart before and wanted to see what was in one.

I used the iFixit guide on how to replace the heatsink of a Core2Duo Plastic Macbook which is quite easy to follow. I didn’t have the correct sized screwdriver and had to resort to a sharp kitchen knife.

After cleaning, the CPU runs at around 40c and the fan is barely audible, even when playing HD videos in a flash player. The computer has also stopped trying to burn my legs off, which is nice. If only there was a way to make the PSU run cooler, under heavy CPU load while charging the battery the PSU gets warm enough to make the power cables go floppy.

Here are some photos.

Heatsink of a Macbook showing the vanes clogged with fluff

The heatsink was coated in fluff, and its heatsink paste had dried out and was starting to crumble off.

Macbook logic board coated in fluff

The air to cool the CPU is draw in through some of the airvents at the back and causes all the components on the logic board to become coated in fluff.

Cleaned and ready Macbook Logic board

After cleaning some new heatsink paste was applied before reassembly.

Car Boot Goodies: Apple Pro Mouse

It is Sunday, that means it’s car boot day, and since it was dry the car boot was quite large. Amongst the junk I managed to buy an Apple Pro Mouse for £3.

The Apple Pro Mouse has two major failings; 1) It has one button and can only function with one button and 2) Its cable is really short. I am right handed, the USB ports on my Macbook are on the left. The cable reaches, but only just. In OSX problem 1) can be overcome by pressing the control key for left mouse (but you still don’t get a scroll wheel, leading to comical stroking of the mouse) and 2) can be solved by not moving the mouse very far from the computer.

It has that crap Apple cable that gets all kinked inside. I don’t know how Apple make cables, but they all kink in horrible ways. I saw my cousin’s Macbook charger melt its cable after it became twisted inside to the point where the outer covering came off.

Coming soon in the short series “people’s crap I bought from the car boot” – Some 70s “How things work” type books and a 1940s army infantry guide that says I’m forbidden from publishing its contents. I also gained another Amiga (when the economy collapses, I hope these become legal tender, I have quite a few now) and a new cordless phone. In return I got rid of a mini fridge and some breakfast bowls. I can also get rid of a table and weird Ikea shelf thing.

Right, I’m off to learn how to prepare a minefield and what the correct way to do a beach landing is.

Your computer is crap

Xerox Alto
Xerox Alto

And now I have your attention, I will explain why.

The computer you see in this image is a Xerox Alto, a prototype computer that contained a graphical user interface, pointing device called a “mouse”, full A4 screen with a virtual “desktop”, it was connected to other computers using “ethernet” and could display print quality documents on its screen.

And it did this in 1973.

Now look at the computer on your desk. It contains exactly the same things, and does exactly the same thing. You control it with a mouse, it can display print-quality documents on its screen, is networked using the same ethernet. The only difference is in the looks and speed of the device.

The mouse was invented in the 1960s, as was the concept of hypertext, as demonstrated by Douglas Engelbart.

Then let’s look at the software we use on our computers. Our main pieces of software are wordprocessors and spreadsheets. The first spreadsheet was Visicalc on the Apple II, created back in 1979 and looks like this:

Visicalc on an Apple II
Visicalc on an Apple II

 If you compare this to Microsoft Excel (because all the other spreadsheets such as Lotus 1-2-3 have died off) it’s remarkably identical. OK so Excel contains half a million extra features, and Windows Vista/Mac OS X has the benefit of 30 years of research and development, but the initial concept and idea are identical to those first prototypes created in the 70s.

We’ve not advanced at all. We’re just making variations on a theme, polishing innovative ideas until the sharp edges are all blunt and “user friendly”. We’re using 30 year old ideas and every year re-releasing them while claiming the latest ideas to be the next thing in computing.

Pimp my iPod Touch – Gelaskin

Closeup of a Gelaskin applied to an iPod Touch
Closeup of a Gelaskin applied to an iPod Touch

I’ve just received the Gelaskin I ordered for my iPod Touch. Like the one I stuck to my Macbook, this was very easy to apply.

All I had to do was clean the back of my iPod Touch, peel the Gelaskin off its backing and then carefully stick it down. One corner is a bit wrinkly due to the complex curved edge of the iPod Touch, but it doesn’t seem to want to lift up or come unstuck.

The thing that makes these stickers easy to apply is the special glue on the back. It’s manufactured by 3M and is called Controltac, and contains a grid of small scores cut into the glue that allow air bubbles to escape. The glue itself is very sticky, but not the sort that comes off when touched, peeling a Gelaskin off leaves no resudue.

I took some photos of the process to show how easy it is to use.

An iPod Touch with a Gelaskin stuck to it
An iPod Touch with a Gelaskin stuck to it
A Gelaskin stuck to its backing
A Gelaskin stuck to its backing
Instruction sheet for an iPod Touch Gelaskin
Instruction sheet for an iPod Touch Gelaskin
The glue side containing 3M Controltac adhesive
The glue side containing 3M Controltac adhesive

iPod Scuffle

Scuffed back on a 1st generation 16Gb iPod Touch
Scuffed back on a 1st generation 16Gb iPod Touch

Here’s a photo of the back of my 1st generation iPod Touch (16GB). As you can see it is quite heavily scuffed due to Apple making the back from mirror smooth polished metal. Very posh and fancy looking, but not very durable.

I think it looks good, as though it’s been used a lot and was an excuse to try out the macro mode on my digital camera.

I’m waiting for another Gelaskin to be delivered to stick on the back of my iPod Touch. I already have one stuck to the back of my Macbook.