Category Archives: Hardware

Region Free DVD on Mac’s

So by far the most popular post on this blog over the last 2 years was my post on region free DVD on my MacBook Pro. In total it has been viewed 109,000 times and has 182 comments which is impressive considering that the blog as a whole has only had 314,000 hits!

What is ridiculous about the situation is that we are in the same position today as we were two years ago so I thought I would post a summary on where things are right now from the comments on that post and my experiences with my Mac’s.

MacBook Pro (Manufactured Feb 2006)
This is my original machine that the post was made about and so naturally it has the same old problems as before and nothing really works for off-region discs. The region is set to R2 and that is all it will play, R1 discs will not play in DVD player or VLC and Handbrake can not rip them.

Mac Mini (Manufactured Jan 2008)
This is pretty much a brand new machine and it has exactly the same problem as the MacBook Pro from 2 years ago. I set the firmware region to R2 when I bought it and that is all it will deal with. No exceptions.

Aluminium iMac (Manufactured Mid 2007)
This is where the story gets a little more positive! I have the firmware region set to R2 and so obviously it plays R2 discs through DVD player without any issues. R1 discs fail in DVD player but play just fine in VLC. I am also able to rip any region of DVD using the latest handbrake. I am going to put this down to the iMac using an “OPTIARC DVD RW AD-5630A” drive over the “MATSHITACD-RW CW-8124” in the Mac Mini and MacBook Pro.

There is talk in the comments of the previous post of a solution to this being to never set the region code of the drive, apparently this allows VLC to play off-region discs. Unfortunately as all of my drives have a region set in firmware I am unable to test this. However it is unclear from the comments if this actually applies to the Mac Mini and MacBook machines as the only confirmation of it working comes from an iMac which as we can see from my tests above is not plagued by these problems due to the Optiarc drive.

If anyone can confirm that this method works on the Matshita drives in the MacBook or Mac Mini, please let us know in the comments.

Battle of the Bulge

So I haven’t had the whining or the overheating but over the last couple of days, my early adopter tax is finally being paid :)

This past week I have noticed that when when I have been using my MacBook on battery it would get to about 30% charge and then the machine would just completely die! Power off, no warning messages or anything.

So yesterday it happened again and as I picked the machine up, I noticed this:


and on closer inspection:


MacBook Pro Battery Bulge

The battery is making a break for freedom! Not good!

I did a quick google for similar problems and sure enough, it seems like a problem found with early MacBook Pro’s (Mine is a “W8609” serial number which I am led to believe is one made in week 9 of manufacture).

So I decided to take an afternoon trip to the Apple Store in Manchester (at the Trafford Centre), I booked an appointment with the Genius Bar on the web site which was an entirely painless experience and sure enough when I turned up at the store my name was up in lights above the genius bar, this is an extremely slick process and the only flaw seems to be that not many of the people who were coming for help actually knew they had to book an appointment. Anyway the guys at the Genius Bar couldn’t actually help because apparently they don’t stock batteries for MacBook Pro’s they sent me away with instructions to visit and order a battery replacement. Unfortunately you can only order battery replacements for PowerBooks and iPods there rather than a MacBook Pro so I ended up calling AppleCare phone support this morning where someone helped me through the process of ordering a replacement battery, so I could have saved myself a trip to Manchester but I am glad I didn’t (more about why I thought it was worthwhile later!).

I am guessing that this problem is limited to US MacBooks (I bought mine in California, nothing like going right to the source, eh? :) because everyone who looked at it had never seen anything like it before and the guy from AppleCare UK support was so interested in what was happening he has created an case for the engineering department to look into and wanted me to send these photos to them so they could investigate. I did mention that he should do a quick google as it was very easy to find other people with the same issue.

So what is my impression of AppleCare after all this? I have mixed feelings at the moment but generally positive. On the plus side in today’s culture of having to argue tooth and nail to get manufacturers to admit fault and provide hardware replacements it is a huge benefit to be able to easily book an appointment with a real person and to be able to go along and be able to show someone and say “Look, there, its broken!” rather than having to try and explain it to someone over the phone so I liked that a lot. On the other hand, if you are going to offer technical support at your retail stores then why would you not stock basic removable parts like batteries?

As for the phone support, well it was generally good and the guy I spoke to was nothing but polite and showed a genuine interest in escalating this problem to the engineering team. My only issue with it was the amount of time that it took to get this done, I was on the phone for 54 minutes (at my expense, of course) to arrange a battery replacement!

I will update this when the new battery arrives to finish the tale properly, in the mean time I am glad that I can still use the machine without the battery installed :)

Update 1: There is a wiki for Apple defects, see this battery article on it.

via Advocrazy

Update 2: The battery finally arrived today, 4 full days after reporting the problem. For a simple battery replacement this is not good enough. Lets hope that this one is better behaved at least :)

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iBook or MacBook

So there has been a fair bit of speculation on whether the Intel based iBook replacement will be called the “MacBook”. I would like to make a plea to Apple not to do that because of the temptation that I am already failing to resist of shortening the name of the MacBook Pro to simply MacBook.

I have seen other examples of laziness like mine with the extra “Pro” across the web and I think part of it is that “MacBook Pro” never really sounded right or flowed well (unlike PowerBook or iBook) whereas MacBook on its own does.

I know this really doesn’t matter :) But does anyone agree?

P.S. I can’t believe I finally managed to write a short post!

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DVI Mac and DVI Other?

Update: After the comments below, I had another go at this and pushed harder and the cable eventually went in. I was probably being too gentle! (I didn’t want to break anything though :). The cable now goes in and out very easily and so maybe my connector was slightly bent or mis-shaped originally, most important thing is though that this isn’t a real issue, sorry for confusion caused!

I did learn something about DVI today though, and that is something I guess :)

So what am I missing here? I tried to plug in a Dell DVI monitor (Dell 2001FP) to my MacBook Pro yesterday and the cable wouldn’t fit! Now I always thought DVI was DVI was DVI and that I would be able to use my existing DVI monitor with my Mac. Apparently not.

Doing a bit of research into it, looks like there are two types of DVI connector, DVI-D and DVI-I. I also found an article on different types of DVI cable and connector that seems to have a lot of information in it without actually saying much.

Do I need to buy a converter cable? Is is possible to connect these monitors to the Mac DVI connector?

Update: From comparing the pictures of the connectors with the end of the cable, it seems the Dell monitor is a DVI-D, Single Link (digital only), this would tie up with what the PDF specification document says on the Dell web site. However, no matter how modern the MacBook Pro, it won’t fit in.

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Region free DVD on MacBook Pro – All you need is a Windows XP machine!

This article is out of date but I have posted an updated summary so please continue the conversation over here.

So I was dissapointed to see that there seems to be no way to easily make the MacBook Pro’s DVD drive region free which unfortunately renders about half of the DVD’s I own completely useless. In these days of £20 multi-region DVD players this is not really on, and it is especially disappointing since on older PowerBooks VLC multi-region playback seemed to work so it means that additional time and effort is still being put into this pointless exercise to keep the movie companies happy.

With VLC for Mac out of the picture, the only possible solution was looking like a warranty voiding firmware hack which may or may not even exist (it is hard to tell if the ones that are being referred to on the internet are for older machines), certainly not worth the risk of a dead, out of warranty DVD drive.

So… no way forward with multi-region DVD playing :(

Unless, Windows to the rescue!!! VLC works like a dream playing any region DVD’s on Windows and has a really smart network streaming system built into it. So I popped the DVD in on my Windows PC, fired up VLC and ticked that little “Stream Output” button, select to stream over UDP and entered the IP address of the Mac to stream to:

Windows VLC DVD

On my Mac, also fired up VLC (using one of the universal binary nightly beta builds, which do seem to be generally very stable), select “Open Network…” and click OK.


Multi-Region DVD playback on a MacBook Pro, solved :)

PS. Yes there is a heavy dose of sarcasm in the whole Windows to the rescue thing for those reading with a sense of humour failure :)

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Things that suck #1 – Backspace / Delete

So after saying that I am not going to concentrate on things that suck, here I go with one. It's not an OS/X thing though, its a MacBook thing.

There is only one delete key on the keyboard and it is usefully labelled "delete", what it is from a PC perspective though is a backspace key and to get a delete like I would know it you have to press fn+delete.

That sucks.

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