Adventures of a Dead Mac - All Fixed Now

A little over a week ago I blogged about my Mac dieing. I'm happy to say that as of last Friday I am functioning in tip-top-shape.

Because of the holiday weekend I had to wait until Tuesday before receiving Apple's shipping box (the shipping box was really nice and well organized - with good instructions). But I was able to ship it back the same day and I received the repaired MBP three days later on Friday morning.

Apple replaced the logic board and reinstalled the OS.

Now don't be alarmed about the OS reinstall. Once you know a little more you'll understand that that was actually really nice of them. You see, I consider all of my client data on my development machine (my MBP) to be confidential (whether it is, or isn't). So, before I sent the Mac in for repair I mounted the drive on another Mac and formatted the drive 10 times (each time doing a zero out of all the free space). Am I being paranoid? I don't think so. I'm just being mindful of my client's information. Except for maybe some family photos or documents, I don't have anything to hide on my computers (no pr0n, pirated software, etc). However, my development laptop is my office, and everything on it is more important to me than all the physical items in my office workspace. This is why I back up everything daily (I use several secure backup solutions just to be safe... downtime == bad).

So I got the MBP on Friday with a new OS installed (very nice of Apple... especially since it was the latest 10.5, and according to their records I purchased this laptop with 10.4 - I own 10.5, but how would they know). I used one of my latest backups off of a secure image on a usb drive. I booted from the drive and restored the data. One hour later it was as if nothing ever happened (other than the laptop being turned off for a week). My backup software was yelling "No backups for over 7 days!" and I had to download a week's worth of email from IMAP, but this was all expected and took maybe 10 minutes to get back in order.

As it turns out I got hit with the flu last week during all the downtime, and except for a couple small fires (10 minutes of code), I wasn't able to get on my PC anyway to code.

All-in-all I am happy to be up and running. Except for the bad experience with the Apple "Genius" (see my last post), I had a great experience and turnaround with Apple Care and their service people I dealt with.

Adventures of a Dead Mac (nVidia GPU)

The other day my primary computer died (my Macbook Pro). I should warn anyone before reading this that this blog post is mostly me venting about my experience during the ordeal, so don't expect to get anything useful out of reading everything here (oh, and my first experience with an Apple "Genius" leads me to believe that they are just plain rude and to be avoided if possible).

For a couple months now I'd randomly get artifacts on the screen and things would get weird. Eventually it got so bad that I would get kernel panics, random particles, vertical lines, and more artifacts. I called Apple about it and was told to just reboot. The first couple of times this seemed to fix it. However this past Thursday when it happened again the screen froze and the internal fans were running at full speed (the machine was really hot).

I forced a shutdown, waited for the computer to cool, and then turned it back on. I could hear the Apple chime, the fans power up, and the HDD doing it's normal boot process, but there was no image on the screen (same result if I added an external monitor).

I tried all of the regular steps (cleared PRAM and SMC, attempted to boot from the install DVD, etc) but no video appeared. I then called Apple tech support who had me repeat the same steps. I was told that the GPU was likely fried (apparently a known defect in all MBPs that have the g84 and g86 chipsets *See link references below) and that the logic board needed to be replaced. Unfortunately this is happening to a lot of MBP and Mac Pro owners who have the nVidia chipsets.

For those interested, my laptop specs are:

  • Macbook Pro 3,1 2.4 Ghz Intel chipset
  • Purchased June 2007
  • 2GB RAM original (I later purchased 4GB RAM)
  • 160GB 7200 RPM HDD
  • ...and before someone asks, I do play games every now and then which make the laptop (most likely the GPU) run really hot).

From my understanding, when I send in my MBP in for repair I'll just receive a new logic board with the same defective chipset. My default one-year warranty recently ended and for once I'm feeling better about having purchased the $350 Apple Care (Apple's version of extended warranty) since Apple is only handling this on a case-by-case basis (HP and Dell officially recognized this a while back, but to-date Apple has no comment).

The tech support guy was really nice and suggested that I take the laptop down to the local Apple Store for a faster turnaround in replacing the logic board. So I made an appointment for the earliest slot and then headed down to the local Apple store. I explained the situation to the Apple "Genius" who in turn was very rude to me and treated me like I was wasting his time (a whole 5 minutes). He tried resetting the PRAM and SMC and decalred that the machine would have to be sent in for repair. He explained to me that I should take the machine back home, call Apple tech support again, and have them send me a box (for shipping) to have the machine sent in for repair. He said it would be a faster turnaround than having him send the machine out from the Apple store (right...).

So... I called tech support (again) while still in the Apple store (instead of waiting until I got home). I didn't have my case number on me (from the original call) and the tech support person couldn't find it attached to my information, so we had to create a new one -- which meant we had to start all over again (clearing PRAM, etc etc) until he was satisfied (in his defense though I felt he was just doing his job... the guy was actually really nice). We went through some second-tier support (who was also very nice and also confirmed that these nVidia chipsets are failing quite a lot) and got approval to have the machine sent in for repair.

Apple tech support was supposed to send a DHL box to my home (to be received no later than Saturday morning) with instructions on how to return the laptop... Unfortunately it hasn't arrived yet (and it's late Saturday night). I now have a feeling I'll have to wait until Tuesday to send the laptop out for repair due to the holiday weekend (in the US we have a national holiday on Monday where most businesses (including Apple) are closed) so that I can wait an additional estimated 7-10 days to receive the repaired machine (thanks Apple "Genius" (the rude guy) who assured me this process was faster than having it sent out directly from the store on Friday).

Here are some recent articles and discussions about the nVidia chipset problems

I've heard rumors that the possible September 9, 2008 Apple announcements may include a new MBP (doubtful, but you never know). I wonder then if Apple would be willing to replace defective machines (or logic boards) with something newer... or are we just stuck with these defective chipsets?

Please note that other than this defective chipset problem, I really do like my video card. For the most part it's been really good to me and runs games really well (and I bet I could cook eggs on it with all the heat :) ).

Sorry for the long vent. Here's to hoping that Apple won't send me the same defective chipset :).

New CF8 Exam Buster Released

Centrasoft recently released their new version of the CF8 Exam Buster to help those interested in studying for the Adobe ColdFusion 8 Certification.

Personally I no desire to take the exam (see my previous post from a couple years ago or Ray Camden's recent comments on the test), but Brian (Centrasoft) always does such an excellent job with his CF Exam Buster that I'd like to compare his product with that of the actual exam (Maybe Adobe should hire him in the future to write their CF exams :) ). So I've got myself a copy of the CF8 Exam Buster and as soon as I have a chance, I'm going to run through it.

Below is a copy of the press release Brian has posted. If you're looking to study for the CF8 exam, definitely consider his product (note: only runs on Windows. I installed it in VMWare Win2k3-64 and it runs great).

CF8 Exam Buster from CentraSoft (

CF8 Exam Buster is the ultimate testing tool specifically designed to help ColdFusion developers earn their Adobe ColdFusion 8 Certification through the Adobe Certified Professional Program.

CF8 Exam Buster has 384 questions designed to help you prepare for all aspects of the actual ColdFusion 8 certification exam. CF8 Exam Buster allows you to take six different tests, 11 topic tests for your weak areas, and the ability to create random tests.

All 384 questions have explanations and reference URLs to further aid your studies and build your ColdFusion knowledge.

During your test you can save your test in progress, submit comments, bookmark questions, pause your test, and much more. You can control the look and feel of the CF8 Exam Buster application, by setting the fonts, colors, and appearance of many controls, to create a studying environment with which you are comfortable. After your test is scored, you will be shown a comprehensive breakdown of your test results.

There is a DEMO version on the Centrasoft website (, which allows you to check out all the features of the program, plus one whole test.

Read what people are saying about the Exam Buster product on our testimonials page (some early CF8 comments are already on there):

Check out CF8 Exam Buster today! Thanks, Brian Simmons The ultimate Adobe ColdFusion 8 Certification testing tool: Check out CF8 Exam Buster at:

ColdFusion, and Adobe are registered trademarks of Adobe Corporation. Adobe Corporation in no way endorses or is affiliated with Centrasoft Corporation.

Adobe Connect Plugin for OS X Leopard Fix

If you were like me and upgraded to Mac OS X 10.5 when it was released and used Adobe Acrobat Connect (either Pro or basic version) to give presentations then you were likely not too happy with the random crashes while screen sharing.

I had called Adobe tech support multiple times and was told that they were working on it. Finally in May tech support told me they had a fix for it. Essentially you just need to manually remove the old plugin and it will automatically be upgraded to the new version the next time you attempt to connect to Connect (read the article for full details). This worries me a little... Should I randomly delete these going forward in order to check for a new plugin version?

From that point on it has worked great for me. Unfortunately I had essentially paid for 6 months of an annually-priced product that wouldn't work. I recently renewed my annual license and was told I would not be refunded for the 6 months of the non-usable product. But at least I'm good going forward. I suppose I only have myself to blame. I should probably wait at least a half-year before upgrading to any new OS... what can I say? It's the geek in me :).

I'm Really Liking

Sometime last year I discovered the website Shelfari. At first the site ran slow and didn't have too many features (the site was still fairly new). Then by the end of last year the site made some serious upgrades (to the UI and overall speed). Since then they've consistently added new functionality and the user experience is amazing to say the least.

About a week or two ago I started telling some close friends about the site and I've seen a few of them blog good experiences about it. So I just wanted to give my two thumbs up as well :).

If you read at all and want to look at a really good social networking site based on reading books (as well as somewhere to record all the books you've read), make sure to check it out.

Also feel free to take a look at my bookshelf. I don't have all of my books on there (I can't remember every book I've read), but I've gotten quite a few of the ones I can remember (plus I also read about 1 book a week, so I'm always adding more :) ).

Will FarCry Change its Open Source License (CPL) to a Dual License Model with GPLv3?

There has been a lot of buzz this week when Daemon announced they were thinking of changing their open source license model from Common Public License 1.0 (CPL) to a dual license with the GNU GPL License v3 (GPL).

I sat with Geoff Bowers, President and CEO of Daemon Internet Consultants, to ask him why they were thinking of changing to a dual license model.

Check out the article on Fusion Authority and see what all the buzz is about.

Adobe Announces Open Screen Project

Adobe announced today the Open Screen Project.

The Open Screen Project is dedicated to driving consistent rich Internet experiences across televisions, personal computers, mobile devices, and consumer electronics. ...

Specifically, this work will include:

  • Removing restrictions on use of the SWF and FLV/F4V specifications
  • Publishing the device porting layer APIs for Adobe Flash Player
  • Publishing the Adobe Flash® Cast™ protocol and the AMF protocol for robust data services
  • Removing licensing fees - making next major releases of Adobe Flash Player and Adobe AIR for devices free

They have a decent list of technology leaders. I hope to see more companies added to the list soon (like Apple).

You can find more about the project on their Open Screen Project and also a decent writeup at techcrunch.

New FarCry Plugin: jcFarcryFlvPlayer

The jcFarcryFlvPlayer plugin for FarCry gives you a flash-based video player for your website.

The plugin takes advantage of the JW FLV Media Player (a flash-based audio/video player) to offer your website/web-application users playback of your video and audio content (FLV, MP3, H264, SWF, JPG, PNG and GIF).


Listing Page (teasers)

Example screenshot taken from:

Video Player/Details Page

Example screenshot taken from:

I wrote the original version of this code about a year ago for another client. As more clients needed the feature (I'm now using it on 3 different FarCry websites) the need for converting it to a reusable plugin was evident. I finished the plugin for mass consumption by January, but never got around to releasing it (due to inadequate documentation :) ).

There are two version of the plugin (v1.0.x for FarCry 4, and v1.1.x for FarCry 5). Both currently have the same functionality (they are just designed for different versions of FarCry).

Find more information and detailed documentation on the docs/wiki page.

Online Backup Solutions. Which One Should I Choose?

I've been researching new backup solutions for both online and offline backups of my development computers. I don't just want to backup a few files, I need disaster recovery (if my machine completely fails, I want to be able to replace the HDD (or computer) and be able to restore it back to the way it was in a few clicks).

For years I've been backing up my PCs using Acronis True Image Home to my local NAS drives. This works great for local backups, but I moved to a Mac last year and haven't found a backup software I really like yet that does compression as well as Acronis (currently PC-only) and offers something close to a GFS backup solution.

But this blog post is to discuss online backup solutions. While I continue to try different offline backup solutions to backup my data to my NAS drives, I really need an offline backup solution for redundancy.

Here are a list of some solutions I've been researching. I'd be grateful to hear people's thoughts on the products or to hear what other people are using that they might suggest to consider. I need something that can backup my Macs (most important), but if there is a product that can backup my PCs as well, it would be preferred:

  • Jungle Disk: Offline storage powered by Amazon S3. Very affordable at only 15 cents per gigabyte per month (and you only pay for what you use).
  • CrashPlan: A really cool product that allows you to use either their online storage facilities, or backup to your own servers (online and offline). You can even do redundant backups (backup to multiple devices, both your own devices and their online backup facilities). I really like this option, except it doesn't (yet) have an option to just backup to offline HDDs (like my NAS) without involving another OS (I say "yet" because their site lists that they are working on that option and may be offering it soon). Check out their video for a pretty cool demonstration.
  • Mozy: An online-only backup solution. This one has been around for a while. It still doesn't appear to officially support Mac OS 10.5 yet (like CrashPlan), but I've had friends say they're using it without a problem. I believe it deletes your data after 30 days.
  • Carbonite: An offline backup solution. This is a very enticing solution... only $49.95 per year with no file storage capacity storage limitation. What's that you say? You heard me correct. The downside is that its Windows-only (and I need a solution for the Mac). Still, it was worthy to list here. I believe it deletes your data after 30 days.
  • iDrive: Looks like a pretty cool online backup solution, but their pricing os too high for the amount of data I need to backup and it's Windows-only.
  • Drobo and DroboShare: Okay, I know... this product doesn't belong on this list of online backup solutions, but it was too cool not to talk about anyway :). The two devices together act like a NAS (using new technology that may replace standard RAID as we know it (my personal opinion)), but limitations like USB2 between the devices, no redundant gigabit connections, etc. are holding me back. Its been out for a while, so hopefully they will have a new version out soon with many of the missing features people have been asking for.

If you Google "online backup solutions" you'll get a long list of products out there (only a few of which I've looked into). So, what do you use or suggest?

FarCry 5.0 Beta Released

Early this morning Daemon released a packaged beta of FarCry 5.0 (code-named Fortress). This is an early beta and has known bugs, however I've been running it and so far it is pretty stable (IMO).

FarCry 5.0 has a very large feature set. The new installer is great (see image below) and the upgrader does an amazing job (currently only updates from FarCry 4.0).

FarCry 5.0 InstallerNew FarCry 5.0 Installer

Of the many new features in FarCry, the one I'm really digging is the new skeleton functionality. In essence when you create a skeleton you take a snapshot of your current project (configs, plugin connections,... even data) and you can redeploy it in other installations (this is all managed from an easy user interface).

Another feature that a lot of people will be excited about is that FarCry can now run from the webroot (allowing you to deploy it on a shared hosting environment).

You can find more about FarCry 5.0 in the online wiki.

Here is a list of some of the many of the features being released in FarCry 5.0:

  • New Security Model (it's type-based now)
  • New Workflow Engine
  • New Formtool Enhancements
    • Ability to Create Formtools without a Persistent Object (providing a construct for using formtools without the need for a content type in the background)
  • FarCry now Uses Application.cfc
  • ExtJs 2.0 Integration (a new tag library that concentrates on panels and accordions)
  • New Webskin Security Model
  • New Skeleton Functionality (for solution distributions)
  • New Skeleton Explorer (allowing you to export your existing project into a skeleton)
  • New Webskin Security (example: You can secure any view)
  • Type-Based Webskins (the ability to run a new webskin on a collection of objects of the same type)
  • New Inline Documentation Functionality in the Webtop
  • Categories are Now Content Types (No need to create custom category types anymore)
  • The Config has been Normalized (allowing plugins to have their own config)
  • New Installer
  • And Much More!...

There are so many more features. Even small ones... like date fields for example (Thanks Mat). While editing in a form (in the webtop) and modifying a data field... sure you can use the date icon and click through the dates. But you can also just type into the date box in any format (and the date will automatically be converted to your locale). Example: You can type the string "+ 2 weeks" or "+2 months" and you will instantly see the resulting date.

Daemon has put a lot of work into this release and deserve all the credit we can throw at them :). They are asking for people to beta test and report bugs in the public Bug Tracker and/or in the FarCry-Beta Mailing Lists.

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