Successful replacement of my Macbook Pro’s keyboard – some tips

March 1st, 2010

Last week, my wife left her (red, non-diet) soda next to my Macbook Pro on our kitchen counter, and the inevitable happened:  my 2-year-old son tossed something up on the counter and knocked the soda over right into the keyboard of my laptop.  (This is the third laptop-spill incident that my wife has been involved in — the previous 2 were on her Dell, which I’d fixed and replaced.  Here’s hoping she actually listens to me about not putting liquids next to laptops this time).  Fortunately, the laptop was still functional, though the keys were sticky and the “f” key in particular was completely nonfunctional.  I tried taking the key apart, cleaning underneath with rubbing alcohol, and replacing the key, but it didn’t work.  (As a side-note to all of you out there learning this the hard way, one thing you should do if this happens to you is to unplug it, remove the battery, turn it upside down with the display opened at a 90-degree angle after toweling it off, and let it dry out.  My wife toweled it off, but didn’t do any of the other stuff, risking electrical damage.  Thankfully that didn’t happen).

I ordered a replacement keyboard from applecomponents.com.  Despite the amateurish web design, the service was solid, and I received my keyboard (in new, not used, condition) in a well-packed box in just 3 days from the west coast.  I have a Core 2 Duo Macbook Pro (the late-2006 “Merom” edition, not the later “Santa Rosa” edition).  The guys at ifixit.com have a nice, detailed guide for replacing such a keyboard.  I’ve used their guides before for replacing my hard drive.  I like that they have large, clear pictures for each step, and that they effectively highlight where the screws are.

Now, this is not for the faint of heart.  Obviously I’ve done this a few times (including with my old G4 powerbook, which was easier to muck with).  If you endeavor upon such a thing, you’ll want to make sure you have separate containers for the screws from each step, so that when you put it back together, you’re not wondering which parts go where.  (I used baby-food cups).  I will say that though ifixit’s guide got me most of the way there, there were a few minor issues with their instructions.

Specifically, step 9 is troublingly sparse on detail about how exactly to get the upper case free from the front of the case (near the optical drive).  They mention “rocking it back and forth”.  This is totally, completely insufficient.  There are 3 or 4 HARD LOCKING SNAPS in place in this portion of the case.  After lifting up the back portion of the case (which is screwed tight, after you’ve removed the screws) as described in the ifixit guide, you really, really have to pry this sucker open.  The first time I did it, it took a long time.  I thought it should come apart rather naturally given the instructions, but you have to apply quite a bit more force than is indicated in the guide.  I honestly thought I was going to break it until it snapped apart, and everything was fine.

The other issue I have is ifixit’s pithy “follow these instructions in reverse order” reassembly instructions.  Seriously, that’s all they give you.  Sure, that’s sufficient to get the cables reconnected & screws back in place, but it tells you NOTHING about how to properly mount and install the keyboard.  I had to assemble/unassemble/reassemble 3 more times before I got the keyboard sitting just right (not bowing).  Also, the first time I screwed the keyboard back in place, I had forgotten to thread the backlight connector down through the tiny hole where it attaches.  Regarding the proper mounting, one issue is that there are tabs on the back/top of either side of the keyboard that must be pushed fairly far into place to prevent upward “bowing” of the keyboard (ie, keys sticking up at an angle).  It’s entirely possible to get the tabs into the proper slot, but for the keyboard to still bow up after reassembly — you’ll need to take it apart & then push the tabs further into place (mine had a bit of a “click” when they got all the way in — but I did have to force it).  The other issue is that the “tabs” (which are really sharp pointed needles of metal rather than what one might think of as a “tab”) at the top of the keyboard have to be carefully aligned and pulled into place to get the keyboard taught and satisfactorily installed.  (Unless you like bleeding, you’ll need needlenose pliers.  This is not listed as a “required material” in the guide.  Sure, I have them, but it’s a small nit about the guide itself).

One last thing you might want to consider when doing this is a can of compressed air for cleaning out the insides while you’re in there.  Mine was fairly clean, but it doesn’t hurt to blow out the dust, since excessive dust buildup can lead to static discharges and shorts.  Anyway, my keyboard is literally as good as new now.  Hopefully the extra tips here will help out someone else in a similar situation.

Update on hackintosh build

March 1st, 2010

So, 3 business days after ordering my parts on newegg.com for my new computer, Newegg has begun shipping some of them.  (Note that their “policy” is 2 business days.  They didn’t even begin the credit-card verification process until after 2 days had passed.  (I know, because I called both them and American Express).  Anyway, they shipped everything except the case from New Jersey, so I’ll have a collection of useless parts sometime this week via UPS “3-day select”.  The case (an Antec Sonata Elite) is yet to ship, so I’m probably screwed on that front.  If it ships today from California, it’ll be a 50-50 crap shoot whether it arrives this week at all.  (Can you tell I’ve been through this song and dance before?)

I just hope everything works, but newegg, your service sucks so far.

Hackintosh attempt: begun

February 24th, 2010

I’ve really wanted to buy a new Mac Pro. Really. I have the money. I could afford one if I wanted. (That said, I don’t like wasting money… who does?) I appreciate Apple’s attention to design and, normally, functionality. However, Apple has completely screwed around since the Intel changeover on their “Pro” line of computers. It’s late February. Nearly one year since the release of the beleaguered i7 Mac Pros. I cannot justify spending $3850 for the same hardware I can build myself for $1800. I just can’t.

So, I’m willing to cut the cord from Apple. I’ve ordered a “hackintosh”-compatible Gigabyte X58 motherboard, i7 950 processor, and corresponding peripherals, and hopefully it’ll actually work with the Chameleon bootloader. I’ll post back here if it does. (I bought a family pack of OS X 10.5 *and* the Snow Leopard upgrade, so I’m mostly covered on the licensing front… except for the obnoxious “Apple-branding” clause of the EULA).

The objective of this project is to get as close to an unmodified, retail build of MacOS as possible. We’ll see if it happens, but frankly, I’ll live if it doesn’t work out. I’ll just use FreeBSD and Windows (for gaming), if all else fails. Apple has pretty much turned their back on “Pro” developers like me. Updating their Pro line of hardware (and pricing) once every 16-18 months, given Intel’s update cycle, is pretentious and obnoxious. Worse, Apple is obviously more concerned with the faux-mobile computing market of the “iPad” (read: iPod Touch Maximum Edition) than they are with making reliable, high-performance computers anymore. Read the horror stories with the 27″ iMac sometime — good luck convincing me that Apple gives a shit about computers anymore. Or, the fact that they took a year to fix a serious performance problem with their i7 Mac Pros. Or, that they capriciously provide nonstandard power connectors for video cards just to throw up an obnoxious obstacle against modularly upgrading (software still required anyway!) the ALLEGEDLY MODULARLY UPGRADEABLE MAC PRO!

So, to hell with Apple. I’ll try hackintoshin’ it, and I’ll see what happens. But if it doesn’t work out, I’ll live. And I know, I know, Apple doesn’t give a crap about losing a sale from someone like me, despite the 3 Apple computers and 4 iPods in my household. I get it. They don’t give a shit. The feeling is mutual.

Super Bowl over, on to NASCAR!

February 9th, 2010

The Super Bowl was actually was a decent game – after many years growing up in which the game itself was a blowout, we’ve had nearly a decade of actual, competitive games (with a few outliers, but still).  The food at my party was pretty decent, too.  After trying (and failing) to find any kind of outstanding (or even non-mediocre/bad) Mexican restaurants in the Boston area, I’ve been really wanting a quality Mexican food meal lately.  So, I braved the 30-degree weather & grilled one myself outside.  (My buddy Steve was a good sport & came outside with me).  Sure, it was on a propane grill rather than charcoal, but I was pleased with the results.  (Seriously, New Englanders, stop being so goddamn snotty about grilling and grilling technology.  When you can tell me the differences in complexity between fajitas and a burger — or even how to come remotely close to making a decent fajita — then you can justifiably get indignant over my fuel source.  Until then, kindly cram it).  I wasn’t in mid-season form, since grilling in Winter is something I’ve never done before, but it was good nonetheless.

Several of my friends are rather despondent about sports now, because they either don’t give a crap about much other than football.  Granted, those people are mostly from Texas, and that’s not a very uncommon position there — football is first, and everything else is a distant second.  New Englanders are less than enthusiastic about the Red Sox and seem to have fallen back into the belief that nobody can stop the Yankees.  (A century of beatdowns is bound to leave some psychological scars, no matter how good your team finally gets).

I, however, am excited for the start of NASCAR season.  I like that the Daytona 500 is the first race of the season.  The field is wide open — there’s nobody with a runaway points lead (read:  Jimmie Johnson).  It doesn’t really have any analog.  You’ll hear people say “what if the NFL had the Super Bowl on the first week of the season?”, but that doesn’t make any sense.  Yes, they’re both the biggest event in their sport, but the Daytona 500 is still just one race.  It’s a big race that makes for great competition, but I like that the season isn’t over after it.  Rather, it’s only just begun.  (And no, the Bud Shootout doesn’t count — it’s not an official Cup-series race).  To me, the story surrounding Dale Earnhardt Jr. is one of the most interesting in sports right now.  He had an awful season last year and never really looked competitive, even after now having 2 years with Hendrick Motorsports.  If he has another year like that, it’s conceivable that he retires (or at least makes suggestions that he might).  It’s hard to understate the damage that would do to NASCAR as a sport and as a business.  NASCAR desperately needs Dale Earnhardt Jr. to show some signs of life this year.  (And hell, I want him to do well — the sport’s just more interesting when he’s performing well).  And, here’s hoping that Tony Stewart puts Kyle Busch in the wall at Daytona — again.

With apologies…

January 21st, 2010

Sorry about the whole election-of-Scott-Brown thing, America.  Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos!  Actually, I think Kodos might’ve  been able to win, unlike Martha Coakley (who I did vote for — though not in the primary).  Mike Capuano is much more in line with my politics and a more passionate guy than Martha Coakley, which is why I chose him in the primary.

Anyway, Scott Brown is taking his horribly “old” 2005 GMC pickup truck to Washington, thanks in no small part to the voters of my town on the South Shore, where he won by a 2:1 margin.  My perspective on this, living in Massachusetts, is that this reflects mostly on the crappiness of Martha Coakley as a candidate and very little on the overall rejection of Democratic policies by Bay Staters.  Scott Brown ran a fraudulent campaign.  None of his ads mention that he is, in fact, a Republican.  Why?  Republicans and Republican policies are overwhelmingly unpopular in Massachusetts.  (Yes, they are popular with some people here — but not enough to win state-wide election).  He claimed that he supports health-care reform, but not the Democratic bill, which he vows to block.  That apparently resonated with many Obama voters.  (Despite the loss for Coakley, polls here show Obama is very popular among registered voters — it’s just that many Obama voters didn’t show up for Coakley).  Half of the Obama voters who switched to Brown said that the health-care bill doesn’t go far enough.  Inexplicably, though, they voted for a guy who says he supports health-care reform… but will now proceed to block any and all health-care reform bills.  Also, local talk radio basically went silent with the usual loony bullshit.  There was about a 2-week window prior to the election during which the hosts suddenly pretended to respect the ideas and wishes of left-leaning independent and moderate Democratic voters in Massachusetts, instead of calling them commie traitor moonbats.  Suddenly all the people in my neighborhood believe that this is a guy they can vote for — he’s not like the other Republicans!  Why did they believe that?  Because Martha Coakley didn’t press him — she went on vacation instead.  Scott Brown, who supports water-boarding as a means for interrogation, should’ve been made to answer if he thought it was torture if it was done to his daughters, who he paraded around throughout the campaign.  Scott Brown, who voted to allow hospitals the ability to deny emergency contraception to patients after they’d been raped, should have been made to answer how he would’ve responded if a hospital followed his own proposed legislation had one of his own daughters been raped and gone to such a hospital.  Martha Coakley did not hold his feet to the fire, and instead a content-free personality contest decided who would win.  Yes, she put out “attack ads” (which he whined about and said he would “consider suing over” — and didn’t, because they’re entirely true), but that is not the same as personally confronting him and making the point to him in a personal way that voters relate to.

Oh, and Brown voters, let me just remind you — the sun rises in the East, water is wet, and you should brush your teeth twice a day.  I mention this only because you people seem to have the fucking shortest goddamn memory of anyone on the planet! I’m sure that a Republican will do an awesome job representing the economic interests of Massachusetts.  After all, their track record is great.  😐

Burger Bar (Las Vegas) Review

January 21st, 2010

I went to Las Vegas last week.  For the most part, I don’t really eat much when I’m there — it’s generally incompatible with the large volume of free adult beverages that I’m consuming.  (It’s not uncommon for me to have a single meal — the $5.99 steak-and-eggs special at the Victorian Room inside Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon — per day).  But with many talented chefs (Joël Robuchon, Hubert Keller, Tom Colicchio, and Todd English to name just a few) establishing high-end restaurants in Las Vegas, I was determined this time to try to partake of at least one meal at one of these places.

Unfortunately, I’d be going alone — my buddies who go to Las Vegas with me tend not to want to spend $100+ on a meal, regardless of how awesome it is.  Hell, they (like me, most of the time) prefer to stick with the $5.99 fare, or to just substitute a bloody mary for a meal (hey, it’s got vitamins — and you can even get it with celery!)  And these places tend to have a dress code that is incompatible with the one-carry-on-and-no-checked-bag, rushed itinerary of my trip, so I looked elsewhere.  The perfect place?  Hubert Keller’s casual-burgers-meet-high-end-food Burger Bar between Mandalay Bay and Luxor.

First, this place is always busy.  Despite Las Vegas being far slower than I’ve ever seen it before, this place was full every time I walked by.  I wound up eating there at 2pm on a Friday.  I decided to eat at the bar so that I could chat up neighbors and generally avoid the loserdom associated with solo dining.  They have an impressive selection of draft and bottled beers.  I decided to go with the Hubert Keller burger (hey, it’s his joint, how could I go wrong?) and a Duvel (bottled) beer.  The burger features buffalo meat, sautéed onions, and bleu cheese on a ciabatta bun.  Normally I order my burgers medium or medium well, because incompetent cooks seem to know how to make that and I don’t risk getting a burger that’s raw in the middle (which is quite unappetizing to me).  However, I ordered mine medium-rare here, confident that if anybody was going to get this right, it’d be this place.  I was quite pleased with the results — my burger was pink, but never bloody, throughout, except for the gray exterior.  The onions were soft and flavorful, but not greasy or slimy.  The cheese was melted evenly and did not overpower the burger, as might be possible with some choices for bleu cheese.  (That said, if you don’t like bleu cheese, do not order this burger — though the cheese doesn’t overpower the burger in the least, the flavor is still there, which is what I wanted).

It comes with a side of vegetables (lettuce, tomato, raw onions), which I appreciated — this place, despite charging $20 for a (unmatchably delicious) burger and fries, is not pretentious enough to force you to eat your burger “their way”.  However, I tried the burger as-is without the additional vegetables to taste it as intended by the chef, and I quickly decided to stick with having it that way rather than supplementing it with the additional vegetables.  The service was what you’d expect at a bar or diner, which was fine with me.

My neighbors at the bar shared a traditional burger with cheddar, sautéed onions, and a red-wine sauce that they said was delicious.  It certainly looked good.  This was a decent place to strike up a conversation, as it was not overly loud, but it was not so quiet that one would feel uncomfortable.  Hey, it’s Las Vegas — everyone’s a tourist, so it’s no big deal to talk to chat people up.  It was a pleasant meal, and I would definitely go back there again.  Burger Bar delivers on the concept of a high-end burger in a relatively casual dining experience, which is perfect for Las Vegas.  Now, if I can only convince my gambling buddies to go there next time…

Joël

NOOOOOOOOOOO!!

January 9th, 2010

My reaction to Pete Carroll leaving for the Seahawks

God.  Dammit. Ah well, it was fun while it lasted.

McCoy goes down, so does UT

January 8th, 2010

So, Alabama won, but they did not look as prepared as I’d expected them to – plenty of mistakes, including standing around on a pooch kickoff & letting UT recover.  The fake punt early on was dumb, and even if they’d have connected on that pass, it wasn’t past the first-down marker — UT would’ve taken over on downs, as their defender was right there (who ultimately broke up the play).  Now, that said, people claiming that UT “almost pulled it off” with their backup quarterback, and “imagine what would’ve happened with McCoy in the game!” are missing an obvious point:  Alabama’s strategy in the 2nd half, including settling for consistent 2 and 3 yard rushing losses time after time in the 3rd quarter, was dictated by Alabama’s lead and McCoy riding the pine w/ a dead arm.  Alabama didn’t throw the ball until they had to because Texas had managed to get back in the game with almost all of the time of possession.  And, when they did, Alabama slammed the door shut.  I’m still trying to figure out how winning 37-21 is “almost losing”, but such is the delusion among a disappointed Horn Nation.

UT-fan delusions

January 7th, 2010

I hear that the UT fans in Austin are all a-flutter about not getting “respect” from the media.  The ABC/ESPN crew just picked, by majority, UT to win.  If they manage to win, you can be sure that they’ll still claim that “nobody gave them a chance”.  The pre-whining has begun.

UT / Alabama predictions

January 7th, 2010

Alabama is going to win this game, because:

1) Texas can’t stop anybody with a non-crappy offense.  This isn’t Nebraska we’re talking about.  See:  Texas’s performance against hapless A&M.

2) Nick Saban is a better coach than Mack Brown.  Alabama will be better prepared for this game.

3) Texas’s offense is one-dimensional to begin with, and if they get down by 10, that will severely limit what they can do.  Granted, McCoy can make you pay, but I’d rather be in Alabama’s position if that happens.  Alabama, conversely, can make it happen on offense in other ways when they’ve needed to.

4) I cannot stand UT sports, and God isn’t cruel enough to bestow upon me another round of insufferable Texas fans, especially after they beat my alma mater (USC).