Struggling with my MacBook Pro

I spent a good amount of the afternoon struggling with my MacBook Pro because for some reason it wouldn’t boot up.  During the boot sequence I kept on getting green lines going horizontally across the screen and it would never finish its boot sequence, the computer would just stay at a blank white screen and proceed no further.  I spent almost 2 hours trying to get this thing diagnosed and fixed.

Things I tried:

  • Resetting NVRAM
  • Resetting the SMC (normally done when you put in a new battery)
  • Getting into recovery mode (every which way mentioned by Apple)
  • Getting a call back from Apple phone support and trying the above resolutions

I did eventually get into the computer and I started a backup of my MacBook using Time Machine but then I tried to backup and sync my iPhone and that crashed the computer immediately and I struggled another hour or so just trying to get into the OS again!  I did manage to get into the diagnostic tools twice but the only error it could come up with was that there was a problem with my battery and I knew that wasn’t true because I had just replaced the battery not even 2 years ago with a fresh one.  After getting into the OS again, I ran a backup with Time Machine and this time I just let it run all the way until it finished without touching the computer except to check up on progress.  After that was complete I ran a disk utility diagnostic (you can only do it if you’re in the OS or can somehow get into recovery mode) and it found some inconsistency errors on my hard drive.

Using the disk utility and an article from Apple, I ran the fix utility but it didn’t fix it at first since I was logged into the OS.  WTF!!  I was afraid of trying to do a reboot because it had taken so long to get to this point.  But no matter what I did the utility said I needed to be in recovery mode and run the disk utility from there.  I held my breath and rebooted the system and somehow I got into recovery mode.  The screen looked all messed up with lines going vertically up and down and my mouse cursor wasn’t even visible, it was just this really thin line and I had to guess at what buttons I was pushing some of the time.  The screen also looked like it duplicated itself on the left 1/3 so that was weird too.  Surprisingly the utility still was able to run and it fixed my problem!  I did a reboot and all seems well for now but I’m taking more Time Machine backups for sure.  I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to use the computer again that I was researching what computer I was going to replace it with.

I had written a post a few months ago that picking a new computer was going to be hard since I had a lot of legacy things to plug into it.  I narrowed it down to a MacBook Air, a Dell XPS 13, or the Microsoft Surface Pro 4.  I eliminated the MacBook and MacBook Pro because I don’t want to use dongles for my crap and the cost of the machine just didn’t seem worth it if I had to buy more junk just to plug in my junk.  The MacBook Air was my “compromise” machine, it wasn’t as powerful as my current MacBook Pro but it had all the ports and stuff that I needed but it wouldn’t have the retina display and I craved something nice to look at.  I eliminated it after looking at the cost of it against a Windows machine.  There are apps like DayOne and Noteability that I like to use on the Mac but its not deal breakers for me to use them.  There is Photos and Messages that I would miss, but again I have an iPhone and an iPad to manage that stuff.  Downloading photos I’m not even worried about anymore with Google Photos and my NAS.  I eliminated the XPS 13 mainly because I have had bad experiences with Dell over the last 20 or so years going back to when I was in college.  While all the online reviews have been stellar, dude it was a Dell!

That leads me to the Surface Pro 4.  Granted it was about a year old already and there was a new Surface Pro 5 coming out soon but I needed a new computer (well I thought I did but now my Mac works again) and it had the ports that I wanted.  It also had a pen which was something that I’ve been wanting so I can draw shit on the screen.  The only barrier was cost.  The thing costs as much as a MacBook Pro when you load it to the gills (I like having 1TB of space on my drive, mainly its all pictures and music but I have a NAS to take care of that now at home) so the requirement wasn’t really there.  I could get away with a 512GB SSD but then I remembered there is micro SD slot under the hinge!  I poked around on Amazon and there are 256GB micro SD cards!  Instant expand-ability and I can get multiple cards so I can switch it out based on what I wanted to save on the Surface Pro!  There was also a deal on the Sufrace Pro, it would come with the docker accessory for free!  That adds even more ports and I could hook up a monitor to it too if I wanted.  Alas my computer is working now but I think I know what I’m going to get to replace the desktop computer or the MacBook Pro.  It’s definitely going to be a Windows 10 machine unless Apple comes out with something compelling and that doesn’t require me to get a fuck load of dongles and new cables!

OK quick rant about Apple’s new direction.  If you’re going to make a computer and other crap, make it all compatible!  I mean I think its cool that your new MacBooks have the newest and latest tech but your iPhones, iPads, and event he new AirPods have no way to connect to the damn thing because they use older USB 2.0 and 3.0 technology and connectors!  I hook up my iPhone and iPad to my MacBook Pro as a charger when I’m home because it charges really freaking fast.  Not to mention trying to sync your iPhone over the air when you have configured a USB drive as the backup target for the iPhone is SLOW!  iTunes sucks so hard in the syncing department, I prefer to sync using a cable since the data transfer is faster.  They need to design iTunes to run from a NAS or something, their cloud design is garbage and I’m not putting all my music in the cloud given that net neutrality is about to make data caps and throttling real.  OK quick rant over!

I’ll be watching my MacBook over the next few days and hooking up the Time Machine drive to it more frequently.  There aren’t any good tools out there to transfer data from a Mac to a Windows machine (I found plenty of articles that pretty much say, go to Finder, copy your files to an external hard drive, and re-copy them to Windows….. fucking genius, why didn’t I think of that???)  If my desktop also decides to breath its last, the only personal computer at home is my daughters under powered and frustrating as shit to update HP Stream (I happen to be writing this blog post from it and I even updated it to the latest Creator Update).  Maybe I can get permission to get the Surface Pro 5….. oooo that would be awesome!

Winning my Windows 10 War on the HP Stream

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For the past few months I’ve been struggling to get the HP Stream updated.  The single biggest barrier was the hard drive issue since its capped at 32GB.  This is the one thing that I can’t upgrade either since its part of the motherboard rather than being a component.  I knew what I had to do, I had to find a way to reinstall Windows on this laptop.  When I originally bought the computer, it came with Windows and I upgraded it to Windows 10.  Now whats neat about the licensing now is that I don’t need a license key if I reinstall Windows on the same machine.  That took a little bit of research since its not apparent when just rummaging through settings screens.

There is a neat tool that Microsoft provides now where you can make a bootable USB drive with Windows 10 on it so that you can reinstall it nice and clean on a computer.  I attempted to do this with a 4GB flash drive since that was the minimum requirement on the website but I kept on getting into trouble with an error message.  After a little more research, the minimum requirements stated by MS is incorrect.  I actually needed something closer to an 8GB flash drive and thats not something that I have handy.  I started looking to get another flash drive just to make this tool work.  The last thing that I wanted to do was to spend more money since I only needed it to reimage the computer this one time.  After doing some rummaging in my desk drawers, I found a USB micro SD card adapter.  I also remembered I had an empty 32GB micro SD card in the HP Stream.  I thought that maybe I can fake out the MS tool and install it on the micro SD card.  I gave it a go and surprisingly it worked out!  I think it was the the increased size that helped me create the installer since it had more room.

Next challenge was actually installing it.  As part of the original image for the computer, about 1/4 of the space is dedicated to a recovery partition.  I’ve never used it before and the last time that I tried to delete it I bricked the computer.  Being a little gun shy, I decided to run the installer AND delete all the partitions on the drive so there was only one partition left.  Surprisingly there were about 4 partitions on the drive and I had to delete them all.  Since I had something to do today, I left the installer to run the entire day and when I came back it looked like Windows installed just fine.  It just needed to do some updates and since I deleted the partitions to recover a ton of space and didn’t bother with a recovery partition I had almost 10 gigs of space, just what I needed to do the updates!  The rest of the setup was smooth but time consuming.  I downloaded Chrome again and had to uninstall a ton of apps that come pre-loaded with Windows 10 which took me another few hours but overall things are working again and for the better.

The amount of time it takes to re-install everything from scratch on a laptop is definitely something I don’t like spending time on.  It used to be a lot worse with floppy disks or even CD’s so relatively this was less painful.  The fact that there wasn’t any data to transfer definitely sped things along, my daughter doesn’t “create” things on her computer, its just to do her homework on the web.  When she starts “creating”, I’m going to teach her how to use the cloud so I can just blow away the computer when it starts to slow down or is infected by a virus (hopefully none of these things happen).  Whats great is that I’m doing this blog post from the HP Stream and it doesn’t suck!  I tried doing this when I was having memory problems and it was so slow I gave up and did it on the Mac.  I hope my daughters programs run better now, I’ve been using her iPad more for her streaming videos since the HP Stream couldn’t pre-load the video on the hard drive.  I’ll test it later this week to see if reinstalling Windows solved the problem.  Now I have no reason for a new computer until the desktop is truly dead, its getting there since I can’t open any MS Office files and Photoshop still hangs and does nothing.  An SSD would fix it but its time to go mobile!  Well also if there is some nasty security thing that Apple won’t update on my Mac, then that would be another reason to get a new computer 🙂

Is my desktop dying? I can’t tell anymore

A few weeks ago my desktop tipped over again and fell on its side when it was running and anyone who knows computers knows, spinning disk hard drives don’t take to sudden drops and shocks very well.  Normally there might be s clicking sound starting or lots of errors coming up upon boot but I’m not experiencing any of that.  I did hear at one time a really nasty screech from the computer when I woke it up from sleep but other than that I haven’t heard a peep that sounded unusual.

In the old days of Windows XP and before, there were easier ways for me to figure out like running chkdsk and things like that since it was easy to get to DOS but in Windows 10 it’s a little harder.  I was able to get to chkdsk using the command prompt and forcing a reboot of my computer but I missed out on the summary since it rebooted before I could see it.  I don’t know if there are bad sectors or not.  I did use the regular scan disk tools and it says all is well but I’m not buying it. I suspect there might be something wrong since it’s rejecting apps I want to install and apps like MS Publisher and Adobe Photoshop won’t work anymore.  While not really show stoppers it is what my wife uses that desktop for most of the time.

I wanted to install a Ubuntu VM last night on the desktop to see if it would load but I couldn’t even get VirtualBox to install which is the first thing that I need before installing VM OS.  I’ll have to continue to monitor the desktop but since it says nothing is wrong I don’t know what to fix but clearly something is wrong since I can’t do some of the tasks I used to be able to do.  I almost wouldn’t mind if the desktop died, I would have a nice excuse to get a new computer while also reconfiguring the office so we can make better use of the TV.  Most people would be concerned with the data on their computers but since all my data is on my NAS now I don’t care if it dies suddenly.  

I am curious how much longer it will take for the desktop to die, its lasted over nine years so far which is pretty good in computer terms.

What computer to get?

Microsoft and Apple have completed their unveils of their new laptops and I am a little torn on what I would get if I needed a computer right now.  I don’t need a computer right now, I’m perfectly happy with my MacBook Pro ever since I put in the SSD but I’ve been considering what to get next in the event I need to replace one of my computers at home.  
I like the idea of the Surface Pro a lot since it has a pen (I want to start trying to write stuff again and the pen is pretty cool when you use it with OneNote), its portable, and it has some of the older ports that I need like USB.  The Microsoft stuff is very expensive though and it doesn’t come with the keyboard, you actually have to buy it as an accessory.  That just boosts the price of the device.  I’ve messed with it in the store a few times and I have to say that I like how it looks and feels and Windows 10 is definitely a great OS.  A problem I have noticed is that some of the apps that I use on my iPhone and iPad are not in the Microsoft Windows store (things like DayOne and Notability) which I use pretty frequently and its nice to be able to see the content I created in those apps on my MacBook when I get home.  The real gravitation for me though is the ability to touch the screen and use the pen.  I think I’ll see what Surface Pro 5 looks like and how that compares.  The downside is that it is Windows and I’m kind of sick of configuring stuff but Windows is headed in the right direction in just making it work.

On the other end of the spectrum is the new MacBook Pro’s that came out.  Nothing really revolutionary here, its a MacBook that’s just way faster than my current one but it uses USB-C (Tunderbolt 3) for everything so adapters will be needed everywhere for me to hook up my stuff.  I use a lot of USB devices like external drives and for syncing my ipads and iphones so having to carry an extra adapter around is kind of annoying (I know first world problems!).  I can see how Apple is trying to go all in with doing things in the cloud by reducing the amount and types of ports, promoting iCloud as something like DropBox or Google Drive, and making it really really thin.  I also kind of worry about upgradability and keeping the computer past the 5 year mark.  My MacBook Pro is already 5 years old and I’m expecting to not be able to get past MacOS Sierra as the OS.  My HP Desktop is 9 years old and its gone through Widows XP all the way through Windows 10 Anniversary edition and I can keep on going most likely until the hard drive dies or something.

This still doesn’t get me any closer to what I should get.  Although the use case that I am trying to solve is bringing the computer with me even on the road for work.  The job is starting to get more restrictive on what I can access when I’m off the clock (they’re starting to restrict cloud storage sites) and as the consumer market moves to online storage that’s going to be a problem for me since I do have a lot of things in the cloud right now to free up space at home or to be able to access it on the go without having to download it or keep multiple copies locally.  I could also just try and use my iPad for those use cases but sometimes its just better to use a computer for some of the tasks that I’m trying to accomplish.  There’s something to be said for multi tasking (iOS tries but I can’t really get into it like I can with a desktop OS) and I do switch widows a lot and do many things at once when I am on a desktop OS.  Like right now I’m writing up this blog post and its mainly the only thing I’m concentrating on, normally I’d have Netflix or something in the background or surfing some news site at the same time with the ability to see both at the same time.

I’m trying to do the split screen thing right now and it just doesn’t feel as natural as using a desktop OS which is why I don’t think I’ll be ditching the computer in the short term.  I do need something more portable and lighter.  I considered getting the MacBook but its less powerful than an iPad Pro, I mean come on why would I want to use that if an iPad can kick its ass?  I don’t have a lot of processing needs but when I do I want something faster than a tablet.

I think I’ll wait until one of my computers breaks, then I’ll consider what I should get.  In the mean time, I’ll just stare and drool at the new tech but save my dollars for something that I really want (not NEED but WANT).  

HP Stream – Too little storage

I bought this little computer for my daughter so that she could watch some stuff online without killing her eyes trying to always watch on her iPhone (yeah my kid is using an old iPhone 4s, you wouldn’t believe how useful it is for streaming content in the minivan).  There is a new Windows 10 update that needs to be done on the computer, but the issue that I’m running into is that the HP Stream doesn’t have enough disk space to accommodate the update.  The update requires 20GB, the issue at hand is that that HP Stream only has 32GB onboard.  This presents quite the issue and even though I’ve tried doing it by adding a flash drive so that the computer has additional space, it still needs the 20GB on the hard drive.  Well thats a kick to the nuts right there, I want my daughter’s computer to have the latest security fixes and updates to keep her safe while she’s online.  Granted she doesn’t have any information to steal and I’ve locked down the computer in regards of what she’s allowed to do but I still think security updates are important.

There are also supposed to be some pretty neat features coming out for Windows 10 this summer and it would be great if her computer could get them.  According to the computer and Microsoft, the computer can run the updates, it just doesn’t have the room to actually do the installation.  The HP Stream is actually the youngest computer in the house at being barely only a year old, everything else is pushing past the 5 year mark.  I know what they said at the last Apple keynote, we’re all using really ancient computers but I don’t see a need to get a new computer if my current one is working quite well.  I need the next macOS to work on my old MacBook Pro, the tune up I gave it this past holiday season with an SSD and a new battery has definitely made the thing way better and it probably has a lot of miles left on it since I moved most of the data off of the computer itself and onto a NAS.  Now I’m contemplating putting in another SSD where the Super Drive is for even more storage!  I have to get that purchase approved though, who knows if that will happen.  But at least its still cheaper than getting a new laptop, I’ve been eyeing the new Surface Pro’s but I would want to get the Surface Pro 5 or something later when one of my computers finally kills itself or something.

In the mean time, I’ll see if anyone at Microsoft is responding to tweets to their account since I sent them a complaint and screen shot of my problem.  The computer should be fine for now but I want to put on that update!!!