Archive for September, 2011

27″ Thunderbolt Display

My new 27″ Thunderbolt display arrived yesterday. My 24″ ACD was 16 by 10, and this 27″ is 16 by 9.  Fortunately for me, they are actually about the same height.  If it were just 1/2 inch taller, it wouldn’t fit under the hutch on my desk.

Resolution wise, my 24″ ACD was 1920 x 1200 pixels (2,304,000 pixels!), and the 27″ Thunderbolt is 2560 x 1440 (3,686,400 pixels!).  So, while the height of the displays are very close, there are are 240 more lines of pixels and overall there are about 37.5% more pixels!

It’s Huge!  I was used to my 24″ ACD, and while the screen size is only a little larger, it makes a really big difference. With my 24″ ACD, I still felt like I needed a little extra screen real estate.  I don’t really feel that with this display.

16 x 9?  Playing a DVD on my 24″ ACD was a bit odd, as there were black bars above and below the movie.  That won’t be an issue with this unit. I was afraid that the aspect ratio would be a bit odd to work with, but it’s fine.

Ports Galore!  When I was first looking at this display, I thought of the major draw was to have a Thunderbolt port to be able to daisy chain a future device.  It was only after the order that I looked closely and saw the Gigabit port.  At first, I thought I was looking at a picture of the back of a 27″ iMac.  But I wasn’t.  Three USB ports, a Firewall 800 port, and a Gigabit port all carried over the single Thunderbolt cable.  What?  Yes!  Not only is this a nice display, it is a docking station!

Overall:   It’s not inexpensive, but it is very well made and feature rich.  Now if I only had more Thunderbolt devices to daisy chain.  🙂

September 20, 2011 at 9:08 pm Leave a comment

VMware Fusion 4 Upgrade?

Last week, I was excited to hear about the new version of VMware Fusion (4!) that was just released.  I looked around for upgrade pricing, having owned at least one license of every version of Fusion made, along with just about every version of VMware Workstation for Windows since version 2.

I didn’t see anything on upgrade pricing…  I logged into my VMware account and found the licensing page.  Just above the table with my licenses was a small yellow window.  It stated that VMware Fusion upgrades would be available the week of 9/19.  Ok, I thought.  I’ll wait.

Tonight, I logged in again.  The yellow box with the statement about Fusion upgrades had been replaced with a similar notice about another VMware product.  Unfortunately, there was still no upgrade button to be found, relating to my existing Fusion 3 licenses.

Then I found it.  This link states that if you bought your Fusion 3 license before Lion was released, you are SOL.  Well, it doesn’t actually say that, but it might as well.  It states:

Customers who purchased VMware Fusion 3 before the OS X Lion availability will need to buy a full license of VMware Fusion 4 to obtain all its new features and enhancements.

What? Haven’t they offered upgrades on every version of Fusion and Workstation in the past? Currently, they offer the upgrade to Workstation 8 half the price of a full license.

The message I’m getting from all this:  VMware doesn’t care about us anymore.

A more reasoned analysis:  Someone at VMware’s parent company (EMC) is probably pressuring VMware to increase their income.  They priced it the same as the upgrade pricing for Parallels for Mac 7.  They probably did this to try to push fence sitters toward VMware.  They didn’t give any love to their loyal customers, though.

What they SHOULD do:  Give existing Fusion 3 customers a discount too.  Perhaps not the $30 discount new customers gets, but at least $25 off.  For a total of $48, I probably wouldn’t hesitate to upgrade my 2 licenses to Fusion 4.

An Alternative:  While it is my opinion that VMware is disrespecting their current customers in a major way, we don’t have to just sit here and take it.  Parallels is offering a competitive upgrade offer that’s very… umm.. competitive.  For only $29, you can upgrade from Fusion to the latest version of Parallels.  If you are interested, here’s a link to save you from having to go to google.

What am I going to do?  I pointed out to VMware their flub on the Fusion upgrade within their own website last week (claiming that upgrades would be available this week), then pointed out the Parallels competitive upgrade offer.  I’m waiting to hear back from them to see if they change their policy, or offer me an upgrade discount.

Why would I do that?  Honesty time.  I’ve tried Parallels before and had issues with it.  Most recently, with Parallels 6, I had multiple crashes on my iMac when running VMs.  I switched to Fusion 3, migrating those VMs over, and the crashes stopped cold.  For me, VMware won on stability.  It doesn’t matter how much faster Parallels claims to run (vs. Fusion), if it won’t stay running.  If VMware won’t fix this, I’ll probably see if Parallels 7 is more stable than 6 was, but I’m hoping that VMware will do the right thing…  Not just for me, but for all Fusion 3 customers.

Update 10/6/2011:  I have just got around to posting it, but within a few days of my complaint email to VMware, they relented and gave me a discount on the upgrade.  I’m still disappointed that they didn’t extend this to all previous customers, though.

September 20, 2011 at 8:17 pm Leave a comment

Thunderbolt / 24″ ACD Issue – My resolution

Here’s my experience, and my resolution.

To recap the issue:  Whenever a 24″ ACD is attached to a Thunderbolt port, strange issues start.  The screen blacks out for a 1/2 second or so at random, there are graphical glitches, and other snafus.  This may not sound bad, but it’s so amazingly annoying.  I don’t know if you can actually understand how annoying it is, until you’ve experienced it yourself.  Some report only seeing the problem occasionally.  Other reports seem to indicate that the problem gets worse over time.

What I did:  I opened a ticket with Apple about the problem.  Since my 24″ ACD is over 2 years old (and therefore too late for support), I made sure that my engineer understood that the 24″ ACD works fine on my old iMac and on another Mini, and that only when it is combined with my new 2011 Mac Mini does it have problems.  I actually had my 24″ ACD on an older model Mini for about a week after I first experienced the problems with my 2011 Mini.  The engineer went after the 2011 Mini as the problem, which works since it’s still under support.  He went down the path to do a hardware capture on my Mini (send a new machine to replace my “bad” machine).  I knew that wasn’t going to help, but let him go with it.  Before anything was to be shipped, he had me run a program on my Mini to collect data about it, and they sent the data to the engineering department to get approval for the hardware capture.  Initially, it sounded like he expected to hear back quickly, but it actually took almost a week before he heard back.  The time waiting was a bit frustrating as I wasn’t hearing anything back from the tech, even when I was leaving voice mails and sending emails.  I ended up calling in to support again, talking to another tech, before finally hearing back from my original tech with the engineering news.

Newsflash from Engineering:  They are aware of the issue and they don’t want to do a hardware capture, saying they are working on a firmware fix. I was told that there was nothing Apple could do for me.

Beta Firmware rumor:  I mentioned the beta firmware that people have mentioned on the support forum, and was basically told that AppleCare doesn’t have access to beta firmware.  (Perhaps the two people reporting the beta firmware were given it by engineering?  This option wasn’t offered to me.  I’d hate to think they were just trolling, though.)

My reasonable request:  I told the tech that I was very unhappy to have an extremely expensive monitor that was essentially unusable to me.  I wanted the problem to be gone, and I didn’t care if I had to spend a little money to get it that way.  I offered to pay the price difference to upgrade to a 27 inch ACD, as that model isn’t known to have this problem.  He couldn’t authorize that, but he offered to contact Customer Care and discuss the situation with them.  When he called me back, as a good-will gesture, Apple offered to credit me my original purchase price, and allowed me to pay the price difference to upgrade to a newer display.

My result:  Overall, this has been very frustrating, but I think that I’ll ultimately be happy with my end result.  I’ll have a brand new, top-of-the-line 27″ Apple Thunderbolt display for a net cost of about $200, plus the trade-in of ole’ blinky.

Side note:  Until I attached my 24″ ACD to my 2011 Mac Mini, it had been an excellent monitor, easily the best that I’ve owned.  Prior to this, the only issue I’ve had with it has actually been an audio problem when attached to my iMac.  In that case, the audio started getting distorted after several minutes of playing.  When on my 2011 Mini, or another Mini, I never had that problem.

Remember, AppleCare Techs are people too:  They are technically minded telephone support people.  They probably spend hour after hour every day on the phone dealing with fairly common problems.  This problem may be the most interesting one they hear about all day.  You may be awesome enough to disassemble and reassemble an iMac blindfolded with no tools, but don’t try to take the drivers seat in troubleshooting.  If you come across as someone unwilling to listen to their recommendations, they will be less willing to help you.

If you are having the Thunderbolt/24″ ACD blink problem:  My advice is to keep calling Apple and stay friendly.  Be willing to work with them, even if you know what they are suggesting won’t fix the problem (but don’t tell them what you think)!  Be patient with them.  This will probably be a multi-week process.  Don’t try to come off as if you know more than they do (especially if you do)!  After going through the steps they ask of you, and allowing them to come to the conclusion that they can’t fix the problem right now, then you can ask for a concession.  Let them know you are frustrated by the issue and tired of dealing with it, and offer to pay to upgrade to a newer monitor.  They almost certainly will tell you that they can’t, but ask if there is anyone else they can get with about it, like customer relations.  If you’ve worked with the tech in good faith, been friendly about it, and ultimately have a request like that, they are much more likely to try to accommodate you than if you come across as unreasonable, demanding know-it-all.

September 19, 2011 at 7:15 pm Leave a comment


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