My Last Apple Computer Upgrade

I just finished upgrading my last Mac. My wife’s early 2011 MacBook Pro was really starting to show its age. The full 320GB hard drive was making this computer inoperable and needed to be replaced.

The Upgrade

To breathe new life into her MacBook Pro, I added a massive 960GB SSD. I wanted to kill two birds with one stone here: triple her total storage and increase her computer’s performance.

Before I started the upgrade, I used this USB 3.0 to SATA cable to setup the SSD. Unfortunately, this cable was not backwards compatible with the USB 2.0 ports on the 2011 MacBook Pro (which was weird). That meant I had to use another Mac to go through the following setup process:

  1. Download the El Capitan installer from the Mac App Store.
  2. Install El Capitan to the SSD (using the mentioned cable to mount the SSD).
  3. After the installation is completed, setup OS X on the SSD. I used the Migration Assistant to move all of the data from the original hard drive to the new SSD.
  4. Replace the old hard drive with the new (now identical) SSD.

To replace the hard drive on the 2011 MacBook Pro I followed the guide from iFixit since it was straightforward and provided a video demonstration:

Anyways, here are the photos to commemorate this upgrade:

After the new SSD was installed into the 2011 MacBook Pro, I booted up the machine to make sure everything was working properly, then immediately enabled TRIM for the new SSD since I wanted this hard drive to perform optimally for the next few years. The guide from OSXDaily provided me with clear instructions on how to do this.

At this point, I was finished with her 2011 MacBook Pro, my last Mac to upgrade.

Why is this my last Mac upgrade?

Mac upgrades have always been a big part of my life. Lots of Macs have seen RAM upgrades (more appropriately: maximizations) by my hands over the years.

But, we are at a turning point. We are coming to the end of the era of (easily) upgradable Macs. Many of the newer Macs do not allow access to internal components like they once did. In most cases RAM and SSDs are soldered directly onto a Mac’s mother board. Combine this with several Apple computers that are difficult to upgrade, and there are now very few Macs that are upgradable by non-professionals.

As the few remaining serviceable Macs are aging, I wonder how much longer these computers will be supported by Apple. Very soon, the components of most Macs (possibly excluding the Mac Pro) will have to last for the entire life of the device.

There is a tradeoff in this new era of non-serviceable Apple computers. No longer will I have to worry about upgrading computers, but at the same time, I will lose the valuable learning experience of servicing a Mac. Not to mention having to pay a premium for the permanent parts of any Apple computers I purchase upfront—I hate to imagine the price of a 960GB laptop SSD in 2011….

This moment is rather melancholy. Although I am excited to bump my wife’s spinning hard drive to a newer solid state drive, I am saddened by the fact that I may have just finished my last Mac upgrade.

Not Another Reason to Update Your Operating System!

It is easier to learn incremental changes in an Operating System (OS) than wait 12 years and be overwhelmed by drastic differences.

Let me put some context to this thought: Last weekend I was talking with an extended family member, who was describing his update from Windows XP to Windows 8.1 and being disappointed with how slowly he was learning the new OS. Rightfully so—a lot had changed in 12 years. And when I thought about it, coming from Windows XP, he had never experienced my favorite feature of Windows.

The Windows Search functionality was introduced in Windows Vista (following Windows XP) in 2007. I remember this feature was a game changer in terms of how I accessed my files since I could reach them directly from the desktop through the Start Menu. And with each iteration of the OS, Windows Search became even more integral into my digital workflow.

And this is only one example—without the knowledge of Windows Vista and Windows 7, the transition from Windows XP to Windows 8.1 was all the more painful for my relative.

To ease this transition processes for yourself, I suggest updating your OS more frequently, so that the variations from version to version are not quite as extreme. Yes, this does mean you will struggle through the learning process for each OS release, but in so doing, you will gain a better awareness of the constantly evolving landscape of technology and be better prepared for the future of computer interfaces and productivity workflows.

This year, there will be many opportunities to update your operating system(s). We will see the release of Windows 10 (for free!) in addition to the usual Mac OS X, Android, and iOS updates. And I encourage you to consider updating to current versions of these operating systems. If not for security improvements, additional features, or device compatibility (etc.), then to stay current on ever evolving digital workflows that come with each new update.

Preferably, there’s not another reason to update your operating system!

Featured image by Craig Garner, no copyright.

Digital Writing Tools

Originally posted on the Center for Teaching Excellence Blog

Today, there are many different types of digital writing instruments. Since they can be utilized to create instructional videos, record notes, and create interactive presentations they can be a valuable tool in the university classroom.  Since there are dozens of different digital writing devices, I have distilled a list of a few I think are worth reviewing:

iPad (iOS)

Pros: Software, Price, Mobility

Cons: Writing accuracy, (Lack of) Rest hand on screen while writing

Description: The iPad is a popular device for digital writing. In fact, there are dozens of apps that are dedicated to the task. Some of my favorite writing applications include Notability and Explain Everything because they allow you to record audio and video notes; and Keynote and PowerPoint allow you to annotate during presentations. However, the iPad does have a major flaw with regards to digital annotation. Accurate stylus options are typically overpriced, while the inexpensive options suffer from poor writing precision. That being said, many Apps for iPad contain features that aim to make handwriting easier and more accurate. For example, page zooming and zoom boxes are a couple of feature within an App that help improve handwriting. But the biggest drawback of writing on an iPad is still training yourself not to rest your palm on the screen while annotating since it results in stray marks and unintentional button pressing.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition (Android)

Pros: Writing accuracy, Price, Mobility, Rest hand on screen while writing

Cons: Software

Description: This Android tablet is notable due to its integrated stylus. The “S Pen” that comes with this tablet allows for a greater degree of precision while writing. You can even rest you hand on the device’s screen while annotating with the S Pen! Yet the drawback to this tablet is the limited number and capabilities of good annotating Apps. Fortunately, the Galaxy Note 10.1 comes pre-loaded with an annotation App from Samsung, since other options in the Google Play Store are hit or miss. For instance, the Explain Everything Android App has fewer features than the iPad version. But in due time, annotation App availability and capability will not be an issue.

Surface Pro 3 (Windows 8.1)

Pros: Writing accuracy, Desktop software, Rest hand on screen while writing

Cons: Price, Weight

Description: This Windows tablet is not only a powerful computer but is also a great tablet. Paired with great performance and a precise stylus, you can use this device to run desktop applications with the benefits of digital writing. You can install Explain Everything on this device (through the Microsoft Store) in addition to Adobe softwares, PowerPoint, and Smartboard softwares. So, not only would this be a great device for taking notes and annotating presentations, but you could also use it to record, edit, and publish high-end instructional videos. For example, you could install Open Sankoré to record annotated screencasts and then edit and publish the footage with any video editor made for Windows. Since this device is both a computer and tablet, this particular tool could serve as a singular device that accomplishes both traditional computer and tablet computer tasks.

Modbook Pro (Mac OS and/or Windows)

Pros: Writing accuracy, Desktop software, Cross platform, Rest hand on screen while writing

Cons: Price, Weight

Description: If money is not a factor, this is my favorite tool to create instructional videos with. Since the Modbook Pro is essentially a Wacom tablet grafted to the top of a MacBook Pro, you are looking at a price tag nearing three thousand dollars for a Modbook Pro. But, with the ability to install both Mac and Windows operating systems on a Modbook Pro, you can run any desktop application on this device while utilizing the added functionality of an accurate Wacom digitizer. Just like with the Surface Pro 3, I would suggest using Open Sankoré for making instructional videos. But you can also use the annotation tools in PowerPoint and Keynote among many other softwares. Analogous to the Surface Pro 3, this device is also great for traditional computer and tablet computer tasks. Although the Modbook Pro is more versatile keep in mind that it is bulkier and more expensive than any other digital writing tool listed.

Wacom Tablet

Pros: Writing accuracy, Cross platform, Rest hand on screen while writing

Cons: Price, (Lack of) Mobility, Requires computer

Description: If you already own a powerful computer, you may consider adding this accessory to your machine. There are many models of Wacom tablets, including ones with built in displays. Like the Surface Pro 3 and Modbook Pro, the benefit of a Wacom is that you can utilize the desktop software already own on your computer with the added benefit of digital writing. You can also use Wacom devices for instructional video production with Open Sankoré to produce screencasts. The downside to this peripheral is that it is impractical to use for presenting or moving to a separate location frequently because you would have to transport both the computer and the Wacom tablet back and forth to class or conferences. However, for digital writing in a non-mobile environment, this is a fantastic option.

These are just a few of the digital writing tools available nowadays. Whether you would like to use digital writing devices for note-taking, annotating presentations, video production, or any other use, I hope this information will be a helpful starting point.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave a reply below or reach me on twitter @CraZyIriShman7