Tag Archives: macbook pro

“Late 2008” unibody MacBook Pro screen flicker problem

After Apple announced the unibody MacBook Pro about a year ago, I walked into the San Francisco Apple Store that night just to “check them out”, of course, I walked out with one. I’d owned a large number of Apple products and I kindda knew getting one of the first batch of a brand new design was probably not the best idea, but the unibody construction was just too cool to pass up at the time. Plus, Apple did the right thing in the past when our “dual-USB” iBook G3 failed.

The first batch of the “Late 2008” unibody MacBook Pros, and I think MacBooks as well, have a fairly common screen flicker problem. If you google “macbook pro screen flicker” you will find a ton of information at various forums about this issue. It bothered me some, but it wasn’t really that bad. However, after upgarding to Snow Leopard, the problem got MUCH worse. So bad that I made an appointment at the Genius Bar to get it looked at. The flickering happens pretty often, and even though I am usually plugged into an external monitor and only use the MBP’s display as an “extended desktop” display, the flickers bothered the hell out of me even in my peripheral vision.

When I got to the genius bar this morning, of course the machine wasn’t flickering at all, I explained that it had been widely reported online, and told him the facts like it does not happen with the discrete video card, and only happens on the built-in display, not external monitor. The genius then said since it didn’t happen on the external display it must not be the graphics card, I was like, well, I’m not sure about that and probably wouldn’t rule out the graphics card because of that. He was being pretty helpful and offered to take the machine in and have someone research the knowledge base and see if there was a fix for it. I agreed and said I’d leave the machine there for the day and would pick it up before they close.

At around 6pm a guy from the store called, and told me that he had seen the problem before on the early unibody laptops, but there isn’t a known fix for it. He said he had submitted the information to engineering and he was hopeful that there will be some kindda fix later, and if after a couple of months there was still not one then I could bring it back and talk to a manager and see what he would be able to do for me. He said since I reported this problem now, even if I don’t get AppleCare they would still be able to take care of it after the 1-year mark. I thought that was pretty reasonable so that’s what I’ll do with that machine. (I haven’t had the best luck with genius bar or Apple products lately, btw)

After my genius appointment this morning I went and looked at the antiglare MacBook Pros, the glossy screen had always bothered me, it pretty much renders the machine unusable in a lot of conditions, and it’s pretty scary when you have to do things like edit color photos. I work from coffeeshops pretty often and the glossy screen absolutely sucks when there are windows or just when using the machine any time except at night. After thinking about it for half a day and checking out resale values of my other macs on eBay, I decided to get another 15″ with the antiglare display, and I’ll keep the glossy one around in hope for a fix later, and I’ll sell my older (10/2008 rev) MacBook Pro. That machine is in really good shape, but we just don’t need 3 macs. It’s pretty cool how the MacBook Pros got so much cheaper now, I remember my first PowerBook was close to $3k, my first MBP was $2k but I got the “lowend” version, my first unibody was $2.5k, now you can get a 17″ for under that! Pretty amazing.

Anyway, the main reason I felt like blogging about this was that while I was migrating data between machines, I found some information I can add to the screen flicker issue:

  • the screen flickered when I had the machine in Target Disk Mode, this means the problem is most likely not software related, when in TDM the OS isn’t even loaded
  • the flickering happened during Snow Leopard clean install, again, the full OS X was not loaded when I booted to the install DVD directly (by holding option key when machine starts up and choosing the DVD)

So I can pretty much eliminate any user or even OS software from plausible causes. I really hope a EFI/firmware upgrade would fix it, there might be a loose connection somewhere, but I highly doubt that. Worst case it will be a faulty graphics chipset (it’s not uncommon to have yield problems), that would require a logicboard replacement, but a few people posted that the issue remained after they had their logicboards replaced. If Apple doesn’t acknowledge this problem and come up with an official fix, a class action lawsuit for something like this is not unheard of (right? @seoulfully I’m looking at you).

In case you’re wondering, no, I have not seen any screen flicker on my new MBP. If I ever see one I will be very upset. btw, I really like the silver bezel around the matte display:

matte screen ftw

“Late 2008” MacBook Pro display color profile calibration

I spent most morning messing with color profiles of my MBP. The “late 2008” MBPs come with 2 different panel models so far: 9C84 and 9C85. I have the 9C84, probably because I got mine on the release day. I’m not sure which model is better, but it’s more important to have it calibrated correctly than which model number it is.

I really should get a hardware calibration device to calibrate my screens and printer, well, I already have an ICC profile for printing with my printer (Canon i9900) and my photo papers (Ilford Gallerie Pearl), if you use Ilford papers you can download profiles here. I spent more than an hour looking at comparisons and reviews of the different hardware calibration devices, they are pretty confusing as it’s not just the hardware that matters, the software makes a huge difference too, obviously. Doesn’t seem like I can get anything I will be completely satisfied with without spending over $1k. If I were to get something now I’ll probably go with the Eye-One Display 2 by X-Rite. If you’re interested in that here’s a link to get it from Amazon.

I googled to see if I can find profiles calibrated with different devices and software, and I found this thread on MacRumors forums that is exactly what I needed. I tried pretty much all the uploaded profiles there and these 2 looked the best to me. I am using the D65 one, but most people will probably like the native whitepoint one better. (I’ve shared these 2 profiles here and here).

btw, for my photography, I shoot in Adobe RGB, RAW, and open them at 16-bit in Adobe Camera Raw (CS4). I never convert them to sRGB before I publish my work online. I do embed the Adobe RGB profile in the JPEGs, so if you view them in applications that support color management they should look fine. If you don’t, the colors will look really messed up. Safari in Leopard uses ColorSync, so if you use Safari you’ll be fine. If you use Firefox 3 in Leopard, you need to enable color management yourself, as it is disabled by default. To do that, you can either edit the settings in about:config, or install this add-on. If you’re one of the unfortunate few who are still on Windows, I believe Vista has color management built in, if Vista sucks too much and you’re still on XP (good choice!), you can try to download Microsoft Color Control Panel.

Now my profiles from display to prints are pretty close, so I’m okay as long as I shoot and sell my prints. But I upload a lot of images to Flickr, I think maybe I would start converting the profiles to sRGB so they won’t look ridiculous on browsers that don’t support embedded color profiles or color management at all. Any color management or digital workflow tips you’d like to share? Please post them in the comments.

If you’re new to color management, RenĂ© Damkot wrote a great post about the topic at Canon Digital Photography Forums.

Initial impressions of new MacBook Pro

Apple - MacBook Pro
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

Broke down and walked out from the San Francisco Apple store with a new MacBook Pro, I definitely do not need an upgrade, I got my MBP this Jan. But the unibody is just too sexy, and I have to send in my MBP for repair and I absolutely cannot live without my laptop for a week, so getting a new one allows me to send the old one in for some cosmetic repair (free of charge by Apple), and then I can sell it on eBay. I went with the 2.53GHz version as I do want more memory, bigger hard drive, larger L2 cache.

By now I’m sure you’ve all read the specs countless times and know what the differences are on paper, here are some things you probably won’t find by reading the specs:

  • the keyboard is LOUD, it is much louder than the gapless keyboard on the last generation MBPs and the PowerBooks.
  • the keys of the keyboard has a slight “play”, overall the keyboard doesn’t feel as solid as the Apple Bluetooth or the slim USB keyboards, I actually might even prefer the keyboard on the plastic MacBook to this one. Keep in mind that the machine is only a few hours old so things like this might change with more usage.
  • the glass trackpad is great, it feels better than a used MBP/PB trackpad, but again I’m not sure how it would feel a couple months from now, according to Apple it is supposed to stay this way because of the new material and processes used
  • the machine runs quite a bit cooler, they keyboard and the palm rests don’t feel hot like my old MBP (it is 2 generations old, the last MBP with the old-style keyboard layout).
  • even though the fans run at around the same speed as my old MBP (at around 2k rpm), they are a lot nosier. I could hardly hear the fans on my old MBP at 2k rpm, but I can DEFINITELY hear them on this new one.
  • speed of normal usage (web, mail.app, etc) and web development feels about the same, I fired up Bridge and CS3 and it is a bit snappier.
  • Migration Wizard was able to copy almost everything over, including the stuff in /opt (MacPorts stuff mostly, including my Rails setup). I had to however re-install X Code and Passenger again manually.
  • I would prefer a matte screen but the glossy screen is okay so far, we’ll see how much I hate/like it during the day tomorrow.

Overall I am pretty happy with it. I’m gonna drop off my old MBP at the store to get the top deck replaced, when I get it back it will pretty much be a brand spanking new MBP. Let me know if you want to buy it!

root caused my Leopard wifi problem

Short version: disable and/or remove the JiWire dashboard widget if you have it.

Since I got my MacBook Pro with Leopard pre-installed I’ve never had a usable SSH connection. When I worked in the semi-conductor industry I worked over SSH 100% of the time, as the CAD tools only ran on company servers. Now I do local Rails development so I just avoided using SSH, like I edit files with TextMate over CyberDuck connection vs login and vi files. This works okay but I am a huge VIM user and it bothered me a little that I got a brand new Mac with unusable SSH connections. I’ve googled a lot about this and could never figure out why.

I also found out the problem was not just with SSH, but it was with my wifi. First the problem went away when I’m plugged in with an ethernet connection. Also I was not able to sustain any wifi connection without lags, all my Skype voice and video calls were getting chopped off. This really drove me crazy as I use Skype a lot. So last Friday I scheduled an appointment at the Genius Bar to see if the genius could help me with this. The guy was knowledgeable with all things Macs and he could tell that I am sorta a power user by the stuff I had running, so he skipped the usual debugs and he suspected it was either that I had something running that interfered with my wifi or it was a hardware problem. He created a new account, we logged in with that account, and the SSH problem went away. I tested a Skype voice call and it worked great. I logged back into my account and the problem went away. He even said he didn’t do anything but if it comes back bring it in again and we’ll debug more.

I didn’t occur to me until this morning that the difference was that my Dashboard widgets weren’t running. With most Macs the dashboard widgets aren’t loaded until you look at them the first time after you login. This morning I got into the office and my SSH connection was slow again, I looked at all the widgets I had running, and disabled the JiWire wifi hotspot locator widget, and boom, my SSH connection was normal again. I can’t believe I didn’t figure this out earlier, the JiWire widget scans for nearby APs and it was probably scanning way too often. I had the same widget on my PowerMac running Tiger for years and everything was fine though.

Just thought I’ll post this up in case someone out there has the same problem. I had tried everything from adding a SRV record for the SSH service to my domain, to SSH’ing to IP addresses to avoid all DNS problems, nothing helped.

New MacBook Pros get dissected, look like old MacBook Pros – Engadget

I couldn’t wait for the update to come out as I badly needed a new laptop, also didn’t want to set everything up twice at the new job. (though next time Migration Wizard might actually work)

The changes to the MacBook Pro are minor but nice, not enough to get me to eBay this one for it. I could use the bigger hard drive so my iTunes lossless library would actually fit on my laptop, faster and more efficient processor (45nm!) with new SSE4 instructions, better battery life, and better graphics performance will be nice for Photoshop work. I don’t really care for MultiTouch myself, I’d much rather get a Wacom tablet. I read that Intel will update the Santa Rosa platform with Montevina in June, might upgrade it then. 🙂

We’d love to tell you that during AnandTech’s dissection of the “new” MacBook Pros they made a shocking discovery about the internals of the systems that brought into light significant changes and / or upgrades to the computers. We’d like nothing more then to say that it appears Apple has completely reworked the architecture of these machines to be harder, better, faster, and stronger. But honestly? They’re exactly the same as the old models, save for those little Penryns, and as a result, kind of boring. Don’t believe us? Take a look at the photos — you’ll see.

[From New MacBook Pros get dissected, look like old MacBook Pros – Engadget]