Archive for November, 2008

Last train to Darmstadt.

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

Strange. This is the last time I am driving the ICE route to Darmstadt. After almost six years of commuting back and forth between Berlin and southern Hessia, it feels strange to look out at the landscape passing by. The interior of the trains, even with their changes over the course of the last years, may not be home, but it is a well known place to be. Bye Darmstadt, bye ICE, bye bahn.comfort status.

Faster, bigger, better.

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Last week, I finally took the financial and technical plunge and exchanged my MacBook Pro’s internal 160 GB drive with a new 320 GB drive taken from a LaCie rugged hard disk case. The exchange was not as easy as it was with my trusty old Pismo Powerbook, but it also was much less of a hassle than exchanging the hard disk of my first generation Blueberry iBook. Using the excellent tutorials offered on iFixIt, replacing the drive is about a 15-30 minute procedure.
My main worry was if it would be possible to extract the hard disk from the LaCie rugged disk shell or if the nice rubber frame would be glued to the case, thus making it necessary to damage the case. However, you can just pull the very flexible rubber bumpers and then extract the metal shell. You don’t even need any special tools for exchanging the drive in the rugged disk frame. (You need a # 7 torx and a # 00 phillips for the MacBook Pro, though.)
Everything went fine except for the fact that I accidentally unplugged a tiny plug on the logic board when I took off the keyboard. Because of this, the MacBook Pro would not start at all after I exchanged the hard disk and screwed things back. It did not even make the famous gong sound anymore. What got me really worried was that the Magsafe power plug that goes into the laptop did not show the regular red or green light dot. Instead it blinked – very rapidly and very faintly! Uh oh. That did not look good at all. I disassembled the case once more, did not find anything wrong and reassembled it again. Still no startup, still only the worrying LED blinking. Well, I took the thing apart once more, now doing what all technicians do when machines fail for unknown reasons: unplug and replug every single plug that you can reach. In this case, I only reached the fourth plug when I noticed that is wasn’t firmly plugged in. Pushing it back into its socket. Screwing screws back into their sockets. Sacrifice a chicken. Turn around clockwise three times and counterclockwise seven times. Push the power button. Yay! Everything is working as it should be. Yours truly truly happy.
The hard disk that was in the 320 GB rugged disk enclosure is a 5400 rpm Hitachi HTS543232L9A300 – exactly the same model as was in there before, only with 320 instead of 160 GB. Since that means that more (i.e. the double amount) data is put on the same surface, the disk is quite a bit faster than the old one. This is especially noticeable during startups. Very nice!

Putting the data from the old drive on to the new drive was a bit more complicated than I thought, because I used the LaCie tool to format the new disk. The LaCie drive tool formats the disk with the old Apple Partition Table instead of the new GUID Partition Table. Since intel Macs can only boot from GUID partitioned drives, I had to reformat the disk and check the appropriate option in Apple’s Disk Utility before I could use the new drive to boot my MacBook Pro. After choosing the correct partitioning technique, I first wanted to use Carbon Copy Cloner to clone the contents of my old drive to the new one. But the clone was not bootable because of some strange permission issues. Again, going back to the tools provided by Apple made things work: I used Apple’s Disk Utility once more and told it to restore the contents of my old internal drive to the new external drive. This went perfectly well. (I bought one of the triple interface rugged disk models and used the faster FireWire 800 to transfer the data. USB is well-known to suck with regards to data transfer rates…)

I also used this opportunity to expand my Boot Camp partition for Windows XP to double the former size. Thanks to the excellent tool Winclone this was quite easy. I first booted up Window XP and converted the disk from FAT32 to NTFS using the standard windows command. Then I booted back into Mac OS X and cloned the Boot Camp partition to a disk image using Winclone. Then I put in the new disk and used Apple’s Boot Camp Assistant to make a Windows partition twice the size of the old one. In the next step, I used Winclone to clone the contents of the disk image onto the new, larger Boot Camp partition. Finally I used the Expand Windows (NTFS) Filesystem… command offered by Winclone to expand the partition to use the new, bigger size it offers. This worked perfectly well and this gives me enough room on my windows partition to install the new expansion pack for LOTRO when it arrives this week. Ha!

James Bond 007: Quantum of Solace – Fastfastfastfast.

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

The New Bond continues. But it is not the same. After being robbed of his love, beat and broken, Jamens Bond, played by Daniel Craig, rushes onward. He aims for vengeance. Not in a bloody rage way, but in highly controlled, incredibly fast-paced way. The first twenty minutes or so were dazzling to say the least. I sat a bit too close to the screen in one of Europe’s largest cinemas (the Colosseum in Oslo), and I was almost overwhelmed. Although there will be a few pauses now and then and the whole movie gets a bit slower afterwards, the second New Bond is still different – and much faster – when compared to the first New Bond. I found this to be good, because it shows that the director has not closed the file on this successful movie series. In the first New Bond, which you really should see before watching this one, the character is introduced and his more or less complex personality is developed. In this, second New Bond, the character that has been established is let loose, or, put differently, he sets himself free.
The cast is good enough, Daniel Craig ultra-icy, the two women that he deals with more than attractive, the villain evil in a very french way. The design is excellent, firstly, because it is omnipresent but subdued, and secondly, because it is all about grit. Or sand, to be more precise, because this Bond is desert-themed in many ways. As always, you should really take care to be there on time to see the full opening credits – watching them made me happy.
Be prepared to deal with a very fast-cut, high-action movie. I really liked this Bond. It was maybe a bit less good than the first New Bond, but then I had little to no expectations when I went to see that one and pretty high expectations for this one…
IMDb entry | Trailer

Some blog functions currently broken.

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

Dear readers, please bear with me! The university that hosts this blog, Freie Universität Berlin, is currently shifting web services to a new server system. One of the neat side effets of this change is that now we can use PHP and MySQL goodies for the websites hosted by zedat, the university’s IT department. One of the bad side effects is that some things may be broken temporally. In the case of this blog, the archive, permanent links, and everything that does not appear on this front page is broken. My guess is that the new cgi script service does things differently when scripts want to generate dynamic web pages… I am confident that this problem will be resolved soon: the zedat team offers the best university IT service that I have had the pleasure to deal with. Stay tuned.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army – More silly than sound.

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Since I knew it would be difficult to recruit co-watchers for this movie (intellectuals and their problems with action movies bla bla bla), I entered the cinema on my own, replacing company with too much popcorn. This flick is not as purely fantastic as the intriguing Pan’s Labyrinth, for which Guillermo del Toro won an Oscar. We are confronted with some strange and beautiful pictures here too. But there is much less of a story and there is also less time to develop the main characters. I was somewhat bored by silly jokes and superhero-fist-fights when there finally was at least a bit of deceleration and the main characters had a few moments of their own, hanging out, being frustrated, in love, and confused.
I surely do hope that this will change when Guillermo del Toro works on The Hobbit. More time for magic moments and strange stories than for brawls, please!
IMDb entry | Trailer