September 17

End User Computing – Fun and Games with MacBook Pro

The Shaggy Dog Story:

This week my company laptop arrived – at VMware we get a choice of three different laptops and opted again for a MacBookPro. It’s another 13″ job with larger 500GB drive and 8GB of RAM. That outspec’s my personal MacBook Pro in the RAM department. If you follow my rants on twitter you will know that previously I’ve been unhappy with my personal MBP. This history is that I’m new to Mac (switched in 2009 after 17+ years of Windows) – and my first MBP was excellent. Sadly, I murdered it by dropping it one day – opps!!! This 2nd MBP never seemed as good, as I contended with the spinning-wheel of hell. I never really got to the bottom of why, although my suspicions have always centred around the hard disk…

Anyway, the new work MBP presented an opportunity. To upgrade to a better system, and also have two MBPs at the same time. I saw a couple advantages. Firstly, if I cloned MBP to MBP I’d have an instant backup/replacement should I murder one of them. Secondly, I do a lot of media encoding which is CPU intensive – being able to “offload” that to 2nd MBP is appealing. Thirdly, uploading that media on my ADSL takes all night, and I’d much rather have an old/suspect machine doing that, than a brand new shiny one. Finally, I’ve had in my desk draw a SSD drive that I could do the cloning – and have SSD in the new MBP.

I used the disk cloning to tool SuperDuper! for the job. It’s free and very reliable. In my case I got caught out by one MBP being one flavour of MacOS to the other. So the first job was upgrade the older MBP using the AppStore for the new version and also update my version of SuperDuper! That was £14, and painless. There’s nothing much to write home about in the new release of the MacOS, except I do like the introduction of AirPlay Mirroing that you get – that makes the MBP behave the same was as an IPAD/Iphone. That makes the AppleTV I bought more useful (not hard given what a pile of poo AppleTV is!).

Screen Shot 2012-09-11 at 09.33.55.png

The SSD disk was attached to the MBP by means of SATA caddy. Cloing took sometime as you can see via the elapsed time (2.20.45). I don’t think this cloning is “imaged based” like you would get with say Symantec Ghost. Its more of a backup/restore process with the destination drive being marked as “bootable”. I took this clone from the old MBP because it had a LOT of software already setup and licensed – but the drive to do this was mainly the time it would take to build up the new MBP with the same/similair config. My theory was I could clone MBP-A to MBP-B and off I would go. To test the drive was bootable I disconnected it and added it to the new MBP. Holding option key I used the boot menu to force a boot from the SSD.


Note: I grabbed this image from else where. What I actually saw was MacIntosh HA, Recovery HD and my SSD drive which for consistency I called “MacIntosh SSD”

This wasn’t without hitches. Firstly. the SSD drive died inexplicably. That wasn’t horribly reassuring. What was reassuring was OZR’s customer service which despite what some folks say about the drives was second to none. I raised a return-to-base ticket on the Tuesday, packed the disk off on Tuesday afternoon – and no quibble return was done by Friday afternoon. Emails tracked the location of the SSD drive at every step. Topmarks.

Secondly, as pre-caution after booting to SSD from the caddy, I loaded up applications on the SSD including Microsoft Office 2011. Here I made a little mistake. I chose to re-active the installation. With Office you get to two “free” activations. This became apparent when I took off the back of the MBP, and swapped the disks. As the SSD was seen as new disk, when it booted of the SSD drive internally (rather than from a USB caddy) office wanted to be re-activated a 3rd time. I did try phoning the number and using the automated system to get a 3rd go. That didn’t work, instead I had to call their “Activation Team” – highly bored and skilled set of individuals in Mumbai or Bangalore most likely –  who’s sole job appears to be reading out very long digits. I did laugh out loud on the phone when we went through the process at the silliness of its all!

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The process involved reading out over the phone 9 blocks of numbers each with six digits (54 digits in total), and then the nice lady read back 8 blocks of 6-digits (48 digits in total) – then you click “Activate”. I felt rather sorry for the nice lady in Mumbai, this doesn’t seem like a sufficent use of her skills. Anyway, at least I didn’t have to explain the detail how I’d got myself in this situation. The main thing I would say if you doing this is don’t activate software (especially Mac Office 20xx) until you have the SSD drive housed inside the MBP.

For the hell of it – I took the 500GB drive from the new MBP, and cloned the old 300GB to it and swapped them round too. I’ve repuposed the old drive as TimeMachine. So now both MBP have their own Time Machine drive. I enabled VNC on the old MBP so I can manage it remotely. I now have dedicated “media” MBP used for podcast/videos/encoding/uploading – it will also save as media box for downloading BBC iPlayer content for viewing using the AppleTV. Next to it I have a second MBP which I can use for more work-a-day tasks (emailing, writing and tweeting!).


Note: Here there’s two MBPs on my Numark DJ stand. The top one is the new one – plugged into the LED Cinema Screen, Bluetooth keyboard/mouse with the Blue Snowball Mic. The older “media’ MBP sits underneath. I’ve linked them together with cross-over-cable – that runs 100Mps/Full Duplex which is quicker than WiFi. What would be nice is easy way to switch screens between the two – and easy way to switch the keyboard/mouse across. Right now I have to unplug/re-plugs and also ‘disconnect” the keyboard/mouse and re-connect it to the “media” MBP…

Of course there is another story to be told here.

The End-User Computing Angle:

That’s an EUC virtual desktop story. My hardware, operating system and application were all bonded together. Stuck together like superglue. I was lucky in the sense that the MBP were so close in generation that this backup & restore process worked. Had they been totally different generations I doubt I would have been so lucky. Now had my desktop being a virtual machine. I would have been guaranteed I would not loose a thing. In fact for many years (since 2003/4) I’ve been thinking of affectively just using hosted desktop with VMware View or using just VMware Fusion – and making my primary environment the VM rather than the native OS. I guess we could call that a client hypervisor now.

Part of me wishes Apple Mac had the same “application” virtualization (VMware ThinApp) and persona management (VMware Mirage) enjoyed by friends who use Windows. It’s seems they are much further on in the process of ungluing the layers from each other.



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