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Why we’ve not been posting about Web work for such a long time

I can’t believe it’s been 2 years since we last posted something about web development; time really does fly when you’re up to your neck in client work!

So what have we been up to during the last couple of years? As per usual, pretty much everything we do is for clients who don’t want us to talk about our involvement with a project, so we can’t publically post anything about individual projects 🙁 But in round terms it’s been:

  • Custom Laravel development
  • A large full stack web app build project using Laravel and View.js
  • Lots of custom WordPress themes and plugins
  • Bespoke Magento 1 extensions
  • Magento 1 maintenance and server migrations
  • Magento 1 to 2 re-platforms
  • A few small design and build projects

Need a reliable, cost-effective developer to turn your designs into a working website? Need help with an existing website that’s gone pear-shaped? Give us a call on 01380 830244 and we’ll see what we can do…

Posted in Magento, Web Development, Wordpress | Comments Off on Why we’ve not been posting about Web work for such a long time

How to safely apply Apple system and OS updates to a Hackintosh

If you have an Apple Mac, installing minor versions of System updates, Security updates and updates of Apple supplied applications is a generally* trouble free experience. Whilst that’s often also true if you have a Hackintosh, installing updates is not without risk. So the Hackintosh user  has 2 choices.

  1. Never update.
  2. Make sure you have a sensible, defensive update process.

Is never updating an option?

Actually in some specific situations this is a perfectly sensible approach. If you’re using the Hackintosh in a professional setting, it runs what you need perfectly well and it’s not stopping you doing or getting new work, why give yourself any hassle? It works, leave it be. My only caveat to this rule is please, for the love of everything holy, don’t use it for anything financially sensitive. Banking, investing, buying stuff online or any other personally sensitive transactions on a machine that never receives security is just asking for trouble in the long term.

So how can I update my Hackintosh safely?

The process is basically the same as it would be on a normal Mac, with a few significant difference. This assumes that you’ve done a vanilla install using Clover and have all of your .kexts in in the /EFI/ folder

  1. Make a complete cloned backup of the boot System volume to a separate physical “backup” drive. I don’t mean a Time Machine update, I mean a disk clone.
  2. Backup the EFI partition on your main boot drive to the EFI partition on your “backup” drive.
  3. Drop into the BIOS**, change the default boot volume to your backup drive
  4.  Boot up from the cloned drive  to confirm  that you have a working, bootable copy of your main drive.
  5. Install the update onto your cloned drive.
  6. Reboot from the clone drive. If nothing is obviously broken, ‘kick the tyres’ for a few hours until you’re confident that everything works.
  7. If all went well, install the update on your main boot drive.

As you can see, there only a few extra steps compared to performing an upgrade in a sensible, defensive manner on an Apple Mac. But I can’t emphasise enough how important Step 1, 2 and 3 are. The only fundamental software difference between a Hackintosh and normal Mac should be what’s on the EFI partition. But that partition contains all the system specific tweaks for the hardware your Hackintosh needs to run smoothly, on a particular version of Mac OS.

By following Steps 1, 2 and 3 you can be sure that when you startup from your backup drive, Clover is loading from the EFI partition on your backup drive. Thus when you install a software update, you can be confident if it all goes to pot you can simply drop into the BIOS, change the boot drive and be back where you started prior to attempting the update. Then it’s a question of doing a bit of research to suss out what caused the problem, ( or just choosing to do nothing if you don’t currently have time or inclination).

If that sounds terribly complicated, it’s really not. It’s a just a few additional steps assuming you’ve got things setup correctly in the first instance. Without this safely net you risk turning your lovely, stable and fast Hackintosh into a large paperweight – until such time as you get the boot issue sorted.

Need your Hackintosh updated, or a new Hackintosh built?

Please give us a call on 01380 830224 to discuss your requirements, we’d be happy to help. If you’ve a Hackintosh that’s been “bricked” by a System update, don’t panic. All your data will still be intact, we just need to fix whatever conflict there is between the specific OS installation you installed and your Clover configuration.

* Sometimes even Apple Macs get stuffed by OS updates, which is why I would always suggest having a known good bootable clone drive knocking around, regardless of whether you use a Apple Mac or a Hackinotsh.

** Yeah, yeah, I know it’s actually UEFI, but most people know the term BIOS, so let’s not split hairs 🙂

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Upgrading 2011 to 2015 MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, MacPro, MacMini or iMac with a larger SSDs

Solid State Hard Drives ( SSDs ) are great. They make all the difference between a computer being painfully slow or feeling snappy and responsive. However they do have one significant downside. You get a lot less storage capacity for the same money. To make matters worse Apple supplied a lot of machines with a pitifully small 128GB SSD.

What can I do when I get the “Disk is almost full” message?

Well you could enable iCloud Drive and enable Optimise Storage. That will shift a fair amount of the documents off your computer and up onto the interwebs. However for many people, fitting a larger SSD would be preferable (not just from a data privacy point of view). So is it possible without breaking the bank by paying for Apple’s somewhat usurious SSD pricing? Absolutely!

Which Mac models can I increase the SSD capacity on?

For any model of MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, MacPro, Macmini or iMac that doesn’t have a soldered on SSD, it’s perfectly possible and cost-effective to upgrade to a 2TB* or larger SSD.

Sounds interesting? Just get in touch with your serial number ( or exact model ) and we can provide pricing that includes cloning your data to the new drive, securely erasing the old SSD ready for sale/disposal, plus installing any necessary software tweaks. Depending on the current drive we might also be able to convert the SSD into a neat external drive as well.

So if you’re in Wiltshire or Somerset, frustrated with a tiny hard drive but don’t want to spend £x000s on a new Mac, give us a call on 01380 830224 and we’ll see if we can offer you a cost-effective upgrade path for your kit…

* As of September 2019. As time goes by I expect 4TB or larger drives will drop in price and become perfectly cost-effective options for home/pro users. Currently 4TB drives command a steep price premium over 2TB or smaller models.

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Mac mini 2018 RAM upgrade service

One pleasant surprise about the 2018 Mac mini is that the RAM* is once again upgradeable and you can fit up to 64GB RAM. This makes it potentially a good choice of machine for musicians, programmers and anyone else needing oodles of RAM.

However the price Apple are charging for Build To Order RAM upgrades are frankly shocking. In August 2019 a 32GB upgrade was priced at £540, which is astonishing considering you can currently buy compatible RAM from quality vendors for £130. Even if you factor in our charge to fit the RAM for you, Apple are demanding a ~300% mark up.

It’s not even that difficult to replace the RAM yourself. You just need to be very careful when dismantling, especially around the WiFi antennae. Also wear protective gloves – when pushing the logic board out of the case you have to use quite a bit of controlled force, so as it releases the board shoots forward and can trap a finger against the sharp edges of the case.

Do a quick boot test before final reassembly to ensure the RAM is recognised, and then after complete reassembly run a RAM test for 24hrs or so as a “soak test”. After that you can be pretty confident there are no compatibility issues going forward.

You should be aware that if the machine needs to be repaired under warranty you would need to refit the original RAM. However in my experience the Macmini has been one of the very few Mac products in the last 10 years that has basically been bombproof. IMHO it’s a small but acceptable risk, especially when balanced against the huge cost savings to be made.

Have a 2018 Macmini? Need more RAM but want to save some money? Give us a call on 01380 830224 to discuss options, pricing and turn-around time.

*  The hard drive is unfortunately soldered to the motherboard, ruling out future SSD upgrades. I’m not sure how many people really need T2 enforced hardware disk encryption as FileVault should be secure enough for everyone but the most security obsessed. Of course it does mean Apple can maintain their astonishingly high SSD pricing, but I’m sure that has nothing to with it…

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MacBook Air and MacBook Pro keyboard repair

One of the more common problems we encounter is Macbook Airs and Macbook Pros with faulty keyboards, and almost without exception it’s because of liquid getting spilled on the keyboard. This typically means replacing the entire top case assembly, which can be very costly…

What should you do if you spill liquid on your Macbook?

Accidents happen, so as soon as you get any liquid on the keyboard or trackpad, immediately pull out the charger, shut the computer down and flip the computer over so the keyboard is facing downwards. This might stop liquid getting deeper into the computer and destroying the logic board or worse your hard drive.

Run to get some paper towels and then try to soak up the worst of the liquid. Pay particular attention to around the screen hinges and the trackpad. Whilst you’re doing this try to keep the computer upside down. Once the worst of the liquid has been absorbed, turn it upside down with the keyboard facing down and place paper towels between a flat surface and keyboard. Leave it like that for 30mins or so. Replace the paper towels if necessary. Finally whack it in a airing cupboard for a couple of days with the display open to try to evaporate any further moisture. Ideally you’d take the bottom case off and gently heat it from underneath.

If it starts up normally, carefully try all of keys and the trackpad. If every key works, immediately take a Time Machine backup. If the machine doesn’t start up, or some of the keys are faulty, things are unfortunately going to get costly.

How much does it cost to replace a damaged MacBook keyboard?

Any Macbook with an aluminium body and black keys are complete nightmare to replace just the keyboard mechanism. The keyboard  is riveted into the top case with dozens of tiny rivets. Some of the Macbook Pros even have the battery glued into place, making things worse. So the only practical thing to do is replace the topcase assembly as a whole. But this as a new part costs at minimum £250+VAT. However buying a refurbished or recycled part can be hugely cheaper, so even with labour costs it can still be an economic repair to make.

I’ve found that you might also need to budget for a replacement microphone when replacing the top case. They are very delicate and glued to the top case with very strong adhesive. Even when gently heating them to soften the glue before removal, sometimes the microphone quality leaves something to desire when refitted.

Where can I get my Macbook repaired?

Have a damaged Macbook, Macbook Air or Macbook Pro that needs repairing? Want an honest opinion on whether it’s actually economic to repair your Macbook, or if you’d be better off taking a punt on a comparable 2nd hand machine and flogging your dead one for parts? Give us a call on 01380 830224 to talk through your options.

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