Category: mac

parallels vs boot camp

so i think i’ve finally finished setting up my macbook and am ready to take the G5 and my netbook offline as primary computers after making sure i’ve got all the data off of them that i need.  the last part of the puzzle was parallels, which if you’re not familiar, is a program that allows you to run windows from an intel-based mac.

i had first installed windows using boot camp, but parallels doesn’t like that.  i believe the issue is that parallels wants to install it’s own set of virtual hardware, but boot camp has already been set up to recognize the physical hardware.  so when presented with a completely different set of hardware the first time you attempt to start windows using parallels, windows gets confused and blue screens.  that then confuses parallels, which goes into a boot-loop until you tell it to stop.

luckily i hadn’t installed a whole lot of stuff in boot camp, so i didn’t really have a problem with deleting that partition and using parallels to build a virtual windows install.  however, if you’re well-invested in a boot camp partition, you should definitely take advantage of the 14-day free trial for parallels to find out if you can get it to work properly.  anyway, i now have all the major things that i need to have working in windows, working.  that list includes

  • microsoft onenote – this simply isn’t available for the mac at all.  i’ve used it for a half-dozen years now, and i really like it.  i’ve tried mac-native programs that claim to be equivalents, and a couple of them were ok.  the big problem was that none of them could import my existing onenote files, so that’s a deal-breaker.
  • crimson editor – this is a really nice programmer’s editor that i found.  my selling point on it was the ability to create my own syntax-highlighting rules, which i needed to do for 65C02 assembly language for my 8-bit project.  unfortunately, it’s windows only.  it’s also no longer being actively developed; the successor, emerald editor, is available for mac, but (a) it appears to have been effectively abandoned at this point as well, and (b) the currently available version doesn’t really have all the functionality i need.
  • HXA (hobby cross assembler) – i use this for assembling the code for the 8-bit project.  the source is available, but it’s in a proprietary variant of awk that isn’t available on mac.
  • visual c# 2008 – when i need a small utility for something, i’ll whip something up with this.  i’ve installed mono on the mac side, but haven’t tested it out yet, so i want to have this available if i need it.
  • usb-to-serial cable – for transferring the 8-bit software over to the apple.

i also have a number of older games that are windows-only that i’ll eventually put into parallels so i can play them again.  i wasn’t able to play most of them on the netbook because it had a 1024×600 screen and the games required minimum 1024×78.

for the programs mentioned above, i run parallels in what they call ‘coherence mode’, which means that the windows program windows coexist with the mac windows on a single desktop, show up in the dock, etc.  they still look like windows, but they’re integrated into the mac desktop, like so:

i like the integration and not having to switch back and forth with the virtual machine.  my mac home directory documents folder even shows up as ‘my documents’ on the windows side, so there’s seamless data sharing.

ok, enough of a commercial for parallels…time to get back to some useful work.


how to force your macbook to eject a disc

so i recently ran into what appears to be a fairly well-known issue with macbook/macbook pro – sometimes a disc will get stuck in the drive and won’t want to eject.  note that i’m not talking about the case where you try to eject the disk (by whatever method) and get no sounds; that’s a different matter.  i’m talking about the case where you try to eject the disc and the drive sounds like it’s trying to eject it but ends up re-mounting it instead.

since apple, in what (imo) is an unconscionable design decision, chose not to include a force-eject hole (i.e. a hole that you can stick a paper clip into to manually eject the disc), various creative methods of getting the disc out have popped up.  some of these risk damaging the disc, and i can’t recommend them.  however, i’ve discovered (? at least i never saw it in my search for a solution) a method that won’t damage the disc which i’ll cover here.  afterwards, if you’re interested, i’ll provide my engineering opinion on *why* this issue occurs, and what apple could have done differently to prevent it (besides the obvious inclusion of a force-eject hole).


let’s start off with a review of some of the standard methods of trying to coax the disc out, in case you’ve landed on this post as your first attempt at a solution.

the basic:

  • eject button on the keyboard
  • eject button on a Finder window
  • dragging the desktop disc icon to the trash

the more complex:

  • hold down the mouse button while booting
  • hold down option while booting; when the boot-select screen comes up, use the eject button on the keyboard

you can also try tilting the laptop to get a ‘gravity assist’.

my method

i didn’t have any luck with any of the above, but here’s what worked for me.  as this requires the use of both hands, i recommend using the keyboard eject key to initiate it since that gives you a couple of seconds to get your thumbs in place.

holding open the macbook slot with thumbso here’s what you do (quickly) after pressing the eject key:  place your index fingers on the keyboard deck just above the far edges of the slot and the tips of both of your thumbs in the drive slot about a third of the way in.  then apply upwards pressure with your thumbs to force the slot to be a little taller.  (only one hand shown here because i needed the other for the camera, but you should use both hands.)

you need to watch carefully, because as soon as the edge of the disc becomes visible, you need to quickly remove your thumbs.  if you don’t, the disc will probably bounce off your thumbs and go back in and remount again.  it took me 3-4 tries to get it right, so don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t work the first time.  if you do it right, the disc will be ejected and you can remove it normally and be on your way.

engineering analysis

macbook slot closeupif you look very carefully at the picture of the slot here, you can see that the top of the frame sags just a tiny bit in the center.

this is the root of the problem – if the disc is just a fraction of a mm thicker than normal, the top of the edge of the disk can get caught on the sagging frame, causing it to bounce back into the drive and be remounted.  by using your thumbs to force the slot to its full, proper height (or more), there is no interference and the disc can properly eject (as long as you get your thumbs out of the way quickly enough so that the disc doesn’t just bounce off of *them*).

from an engineering standpoint, it should be clear that

  1. a 5.25″ section of plastic is long enough to be subject to sag, particularly as it ages, and therefore should be given some additional reinforcement to counteract that tendency
  2. there are known tolerances on the thickness of a cd/dvd, and the height of the slot should be based on the maximum thickness plus a safety margin to account for the possibility of sag or compression
  3. anything mechanical is subject to failure, and if a manual method of ejecting a disc can be included, it should

if apple’s engineers had included even one of these suggestions, much less all three, i don’t think that getting a disc stuck in the drive of a macbook/macbook pro would even exist as an issue…