Posts Tagged ‘review’

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

Monday, 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

Monday, 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.

Burger Bar (Las Vegas) Review

Thursday, 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

Pappasito’s disaster – Now with extra glass in your margarita!

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

So, this isn’t a full review, per se, because I wasn’t the one there — my parents live in Houston, and they ate at Pappasito’s on the Southwest Freeway (yesterday, December 30th) on their trip back from visiting us here in Boston.  When I lived in Houston, I ate at Pappasito’s regularly.  Generally, it’s a quality mid-range Tex-Mex option that’s run by the Pappas family.  (They own several mid-to-high-end restaurants in Texas, all of which started in Houston).  I realize that this week is very busy for restaurants, but there is no excuse for what happened to them last evening:  they were served a margarita with a rather large chunk of broken glass in it.  When my dad bit into it, he spit it out, and they called the manager over.  To make matters worse, the manager rather flippantly offered, “I’ll bring you another one — minus the broken glass of course, hah hah”.  Yeah, really funny, asshole.  Overall, my parents said the food was good (thankfully that hasn’t changed), but that the service was terrible, including their waitress who was flirting with the customers at the table next to them, using their phone to text message.  (Memo to her:  Hooter’s is further north on 59.  Perhaps you should consider employment there instead).  The manager should have immediately apologized for the incident with the glass, but apparently he didn’t even do that.  He also should have promised to find out how this happened and make sure it didn’t happen again.  How on earth can you eat someplace where you’re not sure if the food isn’t going to literally destroy your insides?  I’d have walked out, and needless to say, I won’t return to Pappasito’s when I visit Houston.

Tosca Review

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Tosca is a higher-end restaurant in Hingham, near where I live.  It’s owned by the group that also owns Stars, which is across the street.  (My wife and I really like Stars, which is an affordable, quality casual dining experience that’s perfect if you have a family).  We went on December 29th, which apparently is a busy time, which was fine.  I had a nice glass of cabernet sauvignon, and we started with some risotto.  The portion size was reasonably large for an appetizer, and it was quite good.  It was a bit heavy on the oil, but not too bad, and the amount of parmesan in it was just right — not overwhelming.  For entrees, my wife had a dry-aged boneless ribeye, and I had the “entree” portion of lobster ravioli.  The chef made the questionable choice of pairing the shallots, steak, and red-wine reduction sauce with cabbage, so my wife (wisely) substituted out the cabbage for some garlic mashed potatoes, which were delicious.  Her steak was large — perhaps 12 or 16oz — and quite carefully made and presented, and the sauce was just perfect with it.

My lobster ravioli was presented on a long rectangular plate, with each ravioli lined up.  The mild wine-reduction-and-cream sauce and sauted vegetables were flavorful and good, but there was a glaring problem with my ravioli:  there were only 5 of them.  For $27.  I am not cheap — I have no problem paying $50+ a head for a quality meal out, but this was ridiculous.  The ravioli portion size is wildly disproportionate to everything else offered as a meal at Tosca.  I’d have been much happier if they gave me 7 or 8 of them & charged me $35 instead of misleading me into believing I was ordering an entire meal.  The ravioli is marked as “entree sized” because Tosca rather obnoxiously notes on their menu that there’s an additional $11 charge to order pasta as an entree.  One would think that, since they conscientiously distinguish between smaller and larger portions, that the larger portion would be appropriate.  I noted this to the waitress, who seemed to indicate that they’d heard this before.  I definitely did not get the impression that they were going to change it any time soon, however.  Overall, the food was quite good, but there were some odd choices by the chef here (portion size being the primary among them, but also the questionable pairing of cabbage with steak & wine sauce).  Given that Bernard’s is nearby, I think I’ll be skipping another trip to Tosca in favor of going there instead — in fact, we would have gone to Bernard’s if it was open, but it’s a smaller establishment that is not open Monday or Tuesday.  Ah well.

Whole Foods Christmas Dinner Review

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

My wife & I ordered Christmas Dinner from Whole Foods again this year.  We’ve ordered Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners there before and have been impressed.  It’s a decent value for what you get, and the food is usually quite good.  This year, $79.99 bought me some green beans with almonds, bread stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and 4 to 6 pounds in turkey.  This is designed to feed 4 people.  The mushroom gravy (“vegan”) is really delicious, so I like to substitute that out for the default turkey gravy.  Unfortunately, my Whole Foods (in Hingham, MA) seems to be slipping in its execution for this.  Things started off badly this year when I went to pick up my food (on Christmas Eve), and they were unable to provide me any kind of meaningful instructions for reheating my turkey.  I’ve gotten this before, so I thought my meal would be the same, but the turkey they provided was not the prepped, bagged turkey — it was catered turkey in a roasting pan.  Both are pre-cooked, but the preparation was different, and this one lacked the turkey farm’s bag that had instructions printed on it.  So, they gave me the Whole Foods instructions — which were blatantly incorrect.  After 3 calls to the deli to try to get instructions, the lady working there decided that I should preheat my oven to 325 and heat my turkey for 20 to 30 minutes.  For 4 to 6 pounds of meat.  Yeah, no.  Okay, I’m from Texas, and I know a bit about both cooking and heating meat, and that isn’t even close.  I wanted the instructions from them about how to prepare it with seasoning & not dry it out, but they were hopeless.  I kept insisting it was wrong, and she was oblivious, so I just paid & left.  (Preheating to 350, putting the bird on a roasting rack, covering with foil, and putting 2 cups of chicken broth in the bottom of the pan while heating for 2 hours did the trick — came out moist & delicious).

On the day of heating (Christmas), I discovered several new problems with my meal.  First, the amount of potatoes was both skimpy and seemingly wrong.  I bought a 4-person meal for Thanksgiving from Whole Foods, and they gave me at least twice as many potatoes.  This was confirmed when I looked at the portion size — 8oz — and noted the package size:  24oz.  That’s right, they gave me 3 servings of potatoes for 4 people.  Next, I discovered the sell-by date for my cranberries:  November 30th.  Yes, they really did give me cranberries that were 4 weeks past their sell-by date.  I quickly double-checked the rest of the dates to make sure they were ok, but I had to throw out the cranberries.  Maybe they froze them.  Maybe they didn’t — I have no way of knowing, and that’s the point.  Overall, the food was good (especially the pecan pie I bought at Whole Foods to add to it) and easy to prepare, but I won’t buy another meal from them after this disaster.  My parents ran out of potatoes during the meal, and the bad service at the store just isn’t worth it.  Honeybaked Ham Company does pre-made holiday meals as well, so I’ll give them a shot next time.