Saturday 29 November 2014

It works - at last...

I am a long-time Mac user.  I started the business some 28 years ago, and my first computer was an Amstrad word processor, which I remember fondly. But my first real computer was a Mac, and I have had a series of them ever since.

So when I decided it was time to update my old 17" Macbook Pro, the only question was which model to go for.  I decided on a 15" with a retina screen.  The chap in the Apple shop assured me it could do everything my old Pro could do, and a lot more, and a lot faster.

They no longer make a 17' model, which is a shame (my eyes are not what they used to be) but this seemed to fit the bill in every other way. Everything transferred across nicely and smoothly, and a few checks assured me that all was in order.

The first time I used it to present, I found that my remote was not working.  I assumed a flat battery, got out my spare, and found that didn't work, either. I assumed another flat battery and proceeded to use the keyboard to move through my Keynote slides.

However, replacing the battery didn't work, and then the truth dawned on me.  A bit of research on the web, and I found it was true: the new Macbook Pro no longer supports the infrared controller.

Their proposed solution is that you download an app to your iPhone and use that as a remote.  There are several reasons I don't like that solution.  One is that I am quite fond of my Apple remote (the swish aluminium one, not the cheap plastic spare one). It is inconspicuous and easy to operate without having to look at it. Holding a phone as I present, and then having to peer at it to make things happen did not appeal.

Worse, however, is the fact that it works via WiFi. That slows things down immediately, and given the dodgy WiFi (or total lack thereof) in many venues, that is a major nuisance. The two times I have tried to make it work in a real situation, it failed to do so (despite working when I did dry runs at home).

So I did a bit of surfing to see what the options were, and came across a neat USB plug-in I/R receiver, Mantra, sold from the US by Twisted Melon ($38 including shipping). It comes with a bit of software, which makes your remote do a little more than normal.  But the main thing is that it works.  I have now done a number of presentations using this, and it is just like having my old Macbook Pro.

I am still irritated at Apple for the silly downgrade (to save space and weight, I imagine) and more seriously for failing to tell me when I changed machines; but I am delighted to have found a solution that works so well, so thought I should tell the world!

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