Technical Difficulties

This weekend’s technical endeavors have been… interesting. An appointment with the Genius Bar may still be on the cards, but I am holding out hope we can get ourselves sorted first.

Once upon a time, I moved to London with a trusty iBook and Mark had a (Windows) laptop of his own. Then, when Mark proposed with an engagement ring, I thanked him with an iMac and we had 3 computers between the 2 of us (a little excessive, I know). When the iPad came out, Mark bought one, and 4 devices was way beyond our needs or comfort level, so we pared down to a desktop (iMac), laptop (MacBook at the time, then MacBook pro, then a couple versions of the MacBook Air), and Mark’s iPad.

When we prepared to leave London, amongst many other things, we sold our iMac and the iPad, leaving us sharing a single MacBook Air. The plan was to buy an iMac States-side. We refrained from purchasing a new computer straight away, because the iMacs were well overdue for an upgrade, and we didn’t want to be out of date as quickly as we’d purchased a machine. FINALLY last month, new iMacs were announced… for December. We maintained patience and planned to order one ASAP so we could stop this sharing lark (do I sound bratty, selfish and entitled yet?).

The weekend after Thanksgiving – when the biggest sales of the year are typically available – I noticed Amazon had current model MB Airs (base model – 128GB SSD, 4GB RAM, i5 Ivy Bridge chips) discounted by nearly $200, prompting me to cheekily send a link to Mr. O. “Nice” he said “but it’s only 128GB”, because obviously it wouldn’t be a suitable ‘upgrade’ from my 256GB model. He didn’t realize I was suggesting a laptop for *him*. Once I clued him in to my idea, we started weighing up the benefits of two laptops. Obviously, we didn’t want to go back to an era of two laptops AND a desktop AND a tablet. However, a laptop each and his Surface (which is more for geeky/professional reasons than normal usage) was a little more compelling.

With two laptops and a display, we could effectively have an iMac with the added advantage of portability. We proceeded to spend several hours weighing up pros and cons, reconsidering our earlier decision to buy an iMac and wondering how we’d not thought of this much earlier. Laptops + cinema display had so many up sides:

– We could put the screen on the computer desk in our bedroom – where we planned to put the iMac – and still have a way to watch TV (we pretty much exclusively watch stuff on Hulu or the iTunes store anyway) from bed

– We could each have a portable machine for our respective travels. If we are travelling together, we’d likely just bring one to reduce the amount of ‘stuff’ we need to carry and avoid buying another laptop case (having effectively the same laptop, we can share accessories)

– Mark could dedicate a machine exclusively to Windows. If we were intermittently sharing a desktop and laptop, we’d need two installs of Windows (one on each machine) and be perpetually rebooting into different operating systems (which we were already doing on our single laptop).

– Either one of us can take advantage of the larger screen as necessary and change over seamlessly (again, no rebooting and any stands or other accessories would fit either laptop).

– No need to store data in two places (if we were continually switching machines, we’d need to mirror a lot of stuff on both devices; this way we store our own stuff on our individual laptops).

By this point, the Amazon sale was over, but we could pick up a refurbished model directly from Apple for pretty much the same price. A refurbed laptop + refurbed cinema display was only marginally more pricey than buying a new iMac – even at the base spec – giving us a lot of up-side for less than $50.

Despite having budgeted the full cost of a new iMac in our “stuff to buy when we move” numbers, we felt somewhat uncomfortable buying both items at the same time, especially with the Surface only having been purchased the previous month. We went ahead and ordered a laptop, but decided to wait a little longer before buying a screen. Going from one laptop to two was already an upgrade for us, so prolonging the extra purchase gives us something to get excited about next year (delayed gratification FTW). Plus, it’s likely Apple will release cinema displays that look just like the new iMacs, so there’s extra benefit to exercising a little restraint.

So why has this new sweet setup caused so much hassle this weekend? The new laptop arrived Friday night – perfectly timed after our respective trips to Tulsa and Miami – so we knew at least a little time would go toward setup.

First, Mark had a few (admittedly self inflicted) problems installing Win 8 on his new machine (he was inadvertently deleting the partition in Disk Utility rather than clearing a USB, because both had the same name).

Then, despite deleting Windows from my laptop, we couldn’t delete its 40GB partition. We did a full backup from my laptop (where all our photos and music are stored) and planned to nuke the machine and do a clean install, since it had been partitioned and re-partitioned several times in its 5 months with us. We had a few problems with Disk Utility again. This time it was refusing to unmount the disk to clear and re-partition. We tried downloading and saving a Mountain Lion installer onto a USB stick, in case it couldn’t unmount because it was trying to boot from the same drive. Still, no luck. Next, I tried changing the partition size to just a little smaller than the full size (250.04GB v. the ‘available’ 250.66GB), then erasing the partition, and then re-partitioning to the full size. Success! With just a single partition finally accessing the full HD, we installed and updated Mountain Lion and got to work transferring music and photos, and installing a handfull of other apps we use (iBank, Chrome, etc).

With my computer clean and updated, I tried doing a fresh backup of my iPhone. Alas, I didn’t have enough space on my phone. Odd. I proceeded to spend the next hour or so cleaning ‘house’ – clearing out music in iTunes and deleting photos from the phone. I got my music library down to just over 18GB, and my iPhone reported 22GB theoretical available space for music (11GB in use at the time and 11GB reported as ‘free’). Still, iTunes was not cooperating. I backed up the phone (and separately downloaded the photos to iPhoto), and as we speak I am downloading the latest iPhone updates so I can nuke the phone and start from scratch. Here’s hoping the missing gigs resolve themselves. I’m not going to lie – I have been cursing my beloved Apple this evening. I am hoping it’s just a bit of built up clutter, considering I’ve been restoring from backups for every iPhone I’ve had since my iP3 (which makes 4 models that have building on the same base over the last several years).

…so… when I said Mr O and I enjoy a good technical discussion, it wasn’t all lies. We just prefer when the end result is a little easier to get to and requires fewer backups and less confusion.

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