Intel iMac 27″ developing dirty, dark spots and patches on the screen : The zombie problem that just won’t die!

March 15, 2011 46 comments

Like one of those nightmare zombies that never stays dead, the dreaded screen dirty dark patch screen problem has recurred….

Started with this:

My Intel ‘Aluminium’ iMac 24″ roasting with dark spots on screen

Admittedly, it did come  back from repairs in record time.

But that was only the beginning, Since this battle for a replacment continued for over a year!!

Then, my new iMac 27″ started to develop dark patches on the screen too.

FFS Apple, fix it.. I just had a new screen for my replacement iMac  in November!

I’m running it in a cool, clean dry environment.

As usual, the discolouration appears to be behind the glass. Or even behind the pixels themselves, in the underlying lighting panel. So there’s no way it could be dirt from regular use.

This time, the discolouration looks somewhat like hand prints…

Or, forget trying to describe it. Let me show you some pics…

Photos taken with an old D70, so vignetting and sensor dirt is a little bit of a problem.

Please note, that these marks only appeared last week so I’ve upped the contrast of the pictures. But I can assure you that within a month they will be quite visible without tweakage.

Ignore the yellow piss-like tinge at the bottom of the screen, although it’s there, it’s hardly noticeable at honest contrasts.

Here is a closeup of the left hand side. Note that I had to intentionally blur the picture when taking it since the moire effect of the pixels made the final image unviewable. What a mess of dots and a fine patina of blobs! Yuck!

Now for the right hand side:

This looks a little bit like the heel of someone’s hand, perhaps…?!?

What more can I add?… This is my second iMac 27″ screen and my 7th (or 8th) iMac screen in total. Grrrr Arrgh! As the phrase goes.

Apple’s quality control has not improved over the last three years.

I’ll keep you posted.

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iMac 27″ screen repair complete

November 25, 2010 7 comments

Intel iMac 27"

The new iMac 27" with LCD backlit screen.

 

My iMac 27″ came back from Apple after it developed dark patches on the screen and has had its screen repaired. It is now as good as new (well, technically better because I only actually bought a 24″ iMac, and this one was a replacement).

In any case, the machine is back and has been restored to its former glory.

My real worry is that, since it took 8 months for the patches manifest and suddenly, over the course of a month, spread to cover the whole screen, will I be in for another replacement in nine month’s time? I hope not because my guarantee runs out in March of 2011…. I think I’m going to have to get Apple Care, Again!

Fingers crossed.

The original IXY / IXUS Digital, 10 years later

November 25, 2010 Leave a comment

I was Julia’s fourth birthday a little way back and I had been thinking of what to buy her, when I remembered that she’s always fiddling with my iPhone and taking pictures with it.

So I decided to get her a secondhand camera. The problem with that is that most shops only stock decent and recent models at fairly hefty (for a four year old) price.

Thus, when I found that my favorite junk shop, Shop Inverse in Akihabara had a little box of old cameras in one corner all going for 1000 yen, I started digging though.

The majority were around 3MP, early fujifilms a couple of old casios of unknown sub megapixel vintage and some cameras so worn out as to be unrecognizable. There were a few newer cameras among them, too, but nothing could see my daughter using.

Then I found a little black, almost cube-like case. Curious, I opened it and found an IXY Digital in pristine condition, complete with a lithium ion battery and battery cover. A quick search online reveals spare lithium-ion batteries and a charger for less than 1000 yen! Bargain.

I had had the good fortune of using a first generation IXY  when Sam came to visit in 2000 and remember it survived serious drunken droppage, down stairs and on to concrete. Perfect for Julia.

IXY / IXUS Digial Overview

corner-on picture of Ixy Digital

IXY Digital

The Bad News

If one is to compare with today’s cameras, one might say the following:

  • Low resolution
  • Tiny, noisy image sensor
  • Chunky build
  • Heavy for its size
  • Tiny view finder
  • Tiny display
  • Slow to start up
  • Long recycling delay between shots
  • Wimpy flash
  • Eats batteries at a rather astonishing rate – so much so that the camera could be used as a hand warmer in the winter.

The Good News

So, what’s to actually like about it? Quite a lot actually.

  • It’s solid, all-stainless-steel construction is an eye-opener in today’s world of the plastic fantastic. The build quality is truly something to behold.
  • It is heavy and tough and should be able to take a battering.
  • It is small but chunky… Ideal for wee little hands.
  • It takes Compact Flash cards, which are also solid and chunky.
  • The screen is small but relatively clear.
  • It is simple, with few functions, again perfect for a first camera.
  • The flash won’t burn your retinas out if released in front of your face.
  • It is shiny and cute. Julia loves it.
  • Accessories like batteries are dirt cheap.

IXUS / IXY Main Features

  • UXGA 1600 × 1200 image size (1.92MP)
  • 2.11MP, 0.37″ image sensor with CYGM filter.
  • 2 × optical zoom (35mm ~ 70mm equiv)
  • Bright lens, F2.8~F4
  • ISO 100
  • 1~1/1500 shutter
  • Macro feature with an impressive 10cm minimum focus range.
  • Fill flash
  • Centre weighted metering
  • ±2EV exposure adjustment
  • Compact Flash Type I slot

Image Quality

Since I bought the camera, I have taken a few photos, mostly just to test it, but also a few family snaps.

One of the interesting things about this camera is the rare CYGM filter which has a significantly different gamut to the standard RGBG Bayer filter used on practically every modern digital camera except for Simga’s Foveon.

Due to the more serious colour conversion required to shift between CYGM and RGB, the IXY Digital has a distinctive, almost cyan cast to overexposed highlights.

Colour balance is definitely a little “off” but it’s actually quite a pleasingly smooth colour balance.

The other issue is that the CYGM sensor has a wider dynamic range than standard, thus there is a distinctive HDR feeling to the photos. i.e. a little flat and low contrast.

The pic below shows both the bluish tinge and the slightly off cast to the colours.

Unedited image of a plan with an ornamental bird perched on a branch.

Here is the original IXY image, showing realistic colours, but lacking in contrast.

However, the high dynamic range means lower noise in the darker areas and a smoother overall image. This makes the IXY photos remarkably amenable to Photoshopping.

Retouched image of bush with bird perched in branch

Images taken by the IXY can be adjusted significantly without jpeg or other artifacts showing

Final Virdict

Although it’s minuscule size and both tiny finder and rear screen make this an occasionally squint inducing affair and both the autofocus and zoom are lethargic, pictures taken with it remain sharp and crisp. There is the added benefit of wide dynamic range and lack of JPEG artificing means that despite its age, the IXY is more than adequate for the occasional snap.

More importantly, the sheer Premium-Canon quality, stainless-steel build and overall toughness make you feel that this is a camera you can really rely on. It’s weight also makes it feel stable and solid, even in larger hands and makes both taking slower exposures and using higher zooms a little more straight forward.

Finally, compatible batteries and compact flash cards are two a penny, which means this camera can continue to be used for the foreseeable future.

I would put the picture quality generally on par with the iPhone, but it pushes ahead with the 2 x zoom and semi-decent flash. Of course, it is a Canon digital camera based on a “real” Canon film camera and not a computer peripheral.

Album Review: People of Earth — Dr. Steel

November 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Was I reviewing an album or a complete online persona? (luv the teddy)

How I found him.

I was checking some suggested artists out on LAST.FM when I came across Ronald McDonald as a suggested artist…. FTW? So, I clicked only to find Steampunk among the genres connected to The Red Haired Clown. I was surprised to find the steampunk actually existed as a music genre, and as a fan of brass goggles (not the clown), I clicked the tag and was presented with a list of thumbnails of artists associated with Steampunk… And there he was, his iconic profile, a beacon of light among the dully and morbidly Gothic profiles that were plugging themselves by adding the avant-garde  SteamPunk tag to their profile.

I’m really sorry, but even Emilie Autumn, who classes herself as Victoriandustrial, was far more Steampunk than any of the emo faces I saw here! And so I was compelled to click on the austere, out-of-place-in-his-own-genre profile of Dr. Steel.

Overview

As I always do before I listen to a new artist, I clicked on his gallery and was confronted with a menagerie of slick images. The sheer imagination, originality and production values of the photos effectively demonstrated what a consummate detail-artist he is. Not only that, but the wide range of influences, including Vaudeville, Jules Verne, Victorian, Lincoln, Industrial, Frankenstein, Tom Waits, Nine Inch Nails, Vlad Tepez and Marilyn Manson are truly a delight to behold.

More importantly, although coming across as intensely, almost pretentiously stylish and cool, there was an immediate intelligence matched with an equal aura of playfulness and frivolity  to the images that was outstanding.

On the Dr. Steel profile page of Last.fm  there was a suggestion of the Dr. Steel Show, so heading over to Youtube I soon found them and each one just has to be watched!

Dr. Steel Show

  • Ep #1
  • Ep #2
  • Ep #3 – doubling as Back and Forth music video.

Immediately beguiled, I headed over to emusic.com in the hope that his albums would be available; they were!

He has made only three albums since 2001 so was clearly not what one would call prolific, nor, by his mere 13,000 odd LAST.FM listeners could he be considered in any way mainstream…

I listened to the 30 second clips before choosing People of Earth as my first album.

People of Earth

Dr. Steel - People of Earth Album Cover

Dr. Steel - People of Earth

First up, the song titles are a mixture of Frank Black and Frank Zappa. Fibonacci Sequence… C’mon Seriously? And he made a song about it? What is this, the The Songatron?

  1. Imagination
  2. Fibonacci Sequence
  3. Planet X Marks the Spot
  4. Back and Forth
  5. Bogeyman Boogie
  6. Ode to Revenge
  7. Glutton
  8. Secret Message
  9. Atomic Superstar
  10. We Decide
  11. Winky in C Minor
  12. The Singularity

This album has a number of highlights, from the high energy glam rock opening of Imagination through to the grind-rock of The Singularity, there is a cohesion and theme which sets this album apart from a number of concepts.

The second track, Fibonacchi Sequence is a remarkably unbalancing mix of absurdism and industrial rap, which somehow manages to cover the subject with humor.

The first real highlight of the album comes with Planet X Marks the Spot, an upbeat number cleverly bemoaning the mess that humans have got themselves into. The faithful sampled Mariachi strings and brass, keep the pace and energy levels high with a catchy hook being peppered throughout the song. As the most instrumented song on the album, It also features accordion, saw and bow, music box and steel piano.

Dr. Steel rages against blind consumerism in the catchiest song of the album, Back and Forth (as played in Dr. Steel Show Part 3 – above), which combines an outstanding combination of the swinging 20’s muted trumpets and double bass on top of throaty lyrics.

The weakest part of the album is the instrumental Bogeyman Boogie, which while having an attractive Spanish Guitar riff, comes across as a pale Zappaesque imitation shot through with rather nasty Scoobie Doo cartoonish sound effects… Sorry but this one’s not a keeper.

Dr. Steel gets himself all glammed up and dramatic with the unsettling Ode to Revenge, a Gothic Opera which flits somewhere between Tom Waits at his creepiest and Joe Cocker on heroin. It spins the background story of frustration at modern (American) society and a Fight Club like desire to “Burn it All Down”

Glutton is a Metal-driven, stadium-filling power anthem which has Dr. Steel screaming his way though the track at breakneck pace. This is perhaps the only song you’ll ever heard featuring a Dalek chorus.

He breaks out a Bowie-like spread of electronica for Secret Message, a song which seems to me to suggest someone going mad and beginning to spot messages and patterns in the static.

Atomic Superstar is a curious ode to Godzilla as he rampages through the centre of Tokyo. Fun, perhaps but, but it comes across more a confused and incoherent mess of disparate styles rather than meshing like the other, superior tracks on this album. not as memorable as the other tracks on the album.

Another excellent track can be found in We Decide. Which has Dr. Steels relates a cleverly crafted story in a close miked radio croon over Spanish guitar, accordion and double bass with a simple and very catchy riff. It is notable for its lower tone, more laid back instrumentation and harmonic backing choir.

The Doctor gets all “Nightmare Before Christmas” for Winky in C Minor, another instrumental which comes across more stocking filler than wanted present.

It does however prepare the listener well for the darkest and lyrically most interesting number of the album, The Singularity, which is a darkly brooding rock track on the convergence of humans and technology and the transcendence of genetics.

All in all, Dr. Steel has produced another album, which while not being Earth shatteringly epic in any way, does set out to do what it was meant to… Entertain.

It is an excellent example of production, flair for the humorous and is very, very catchy.

Give Dr. Steel a listen on You Tube.

Categories: 2) Music & Film

iMac 27″ screen displays dark stains, spots and patches

November 15, 2010 30 comments

My iMac 27″ which has performed flawlessly since I acquired it in March of 2009, has started to develop dark patches here and there, across its once pristine façade. And this pisses me off, mightily.

It all started in summer of 2008 when my first iMac (the new Intel Aluminium 24″ iMac) started to develop dark stains on the screen…

Mac 24″ roasting with dark patches on screen (12th August, 2008)

There were various theories bandied about, such as overheating, condensation leading to mould, dust sucked into the system, etc… But my  room is airconditioned and on the 9th floor of an apartment, above the majority of dust and grime. And although the room sometimes reached 35 degrees (right on the edge of operating spec) or so, there was never any condensation and I always used air conditioning when I with operating the computer.

Before discussing, let me fill you in on a little background with this post:

Aluminium iMac 24″ screen displays patches, uneven brightness and dark spots saga recap

So you can see that I have a history of nasty screenage.

The effects are not so great that the screen is unusable, but in my experience these things never improve with age.

So, here we go again, it is with a sense of deja vu and disdain that I contact Apple this afternoon to see what can be done.

Here’s the money shot:

 

picture of imac 27 LED backlit screen showing mottling

This iMac 27" LED backlit screen has recently developed a mottled appearance

*edit* THIS WAS SHOT IN A PITCH BLACK ROOM, IT IS NOT A REFLECTION.

Aluminium iMac 24″ screen displays patches, uneven brightness and dark spots saga recap

November 15, 2010 13 comments

My Aluminium iMac 24″ started to develop dark patches and black spots during the summer of 2008. It was well into it’s second year of Apple Care, so I was glad I’d purchased the extended cover.

—> For 27″ iMac story, click here.

Here is a picture of my disfigured screen, which I posted in the original blog entry.

picture of iMac screen showing mottled patches and uneven brightness

Dark patches are clearly visible on the left with the right hand obviously darker

My Intel ‘Aluminium’ iMac 24″ roasting with dark spots on screen

I first sent it in for repairs a couple of days after that, as detailed here.

My iMac 24″ comes back from repairs in record time.

My initial feeling of satisfaction remained for almost a year, and the screen performed flawlessly for most of it. But as time progressed, I couldn’t help noticing that the bottom left hand corner was

was subdued by the quality of the second screen which was much lower than the original it replaced. I contacted Apple again and sent the screenshot below.

iMac 24" screen showing darkened left hand region

The lower left region was less than half as bright as the centre of the screen.

A call back from a more senior engineer suggested a further replacement screen.

So, I zeroed my drive, reinstalled tiger and sent it back with screenshots and explanations saved to the desktop.

The machine came back a couple of days later and no sooner had I powered it up than a horrible feeling came over me.

Second New Screen

The second replacement was just ghastly. After leaving it to “warm up” for an hour, I took the above screenshot. I didn’t even reinstall. I just put it straight back in the box, contacted Apple again and had the bloody thing replaced forthwith.

iMac screenshot showing bandind down left hand side and darker central region

This screen clearly shows striping down the left hand side and a dark central region

This time, a more senior member of staff contacted me, since this was now the third time to “fix” the problem.

She explained that the next screen would be the final screen I would be able to receive, since a screen could be replaced a maximum of three times.

So I explained to her that in actual fact, the screen would be replaced as many times as was necessary to ensure that I could do my work on it again, as I had done when I first purchased it. She seemed a little surprised by the concept.

I explained that the new screens were clearly inferior in clarity, regularity and colour balance and were clearly a different make from the originals. She would neither confirm nor deny this.

Once more she asked me to realise that this would be the last free replacement they would give, and I was once more forced to explain that this was not a favour to a mate, this was in order to fulfill the legal requirement of “fit for purpose” and obey advertising standards as on their original advert: A built-in professional grade screen perfect for editing photos and videos, and serious graphical applications, the screen was far from professional or perfect.

I asked for the screen to be fully tested and have an engineer report the fact to me before returning the machine, a demand to which she acceded graciously.

The engineer called and said that the screen had been calibrated for both colour and brightness and was found to be well within specifications.

Great! Finally, we were getting somewhere… Surely this time, the machine would have a lovely, clear screen, like the one it first came with.

The computer came back the next day.

I fired it up.

Bong. Came the chime.  It was immediately and, by this point, unsurprisingly apparent that this screen was also substandard.

iMac screenshot showing a dark band along the centre of the screen.

This screen shows a terrible, dark band on the left hand side

I contacted Apple again and this time, they put me straight back though to the lady in charge. I showed her the picture above and asked her if this was typical Apple quality.

No she admitted…

I asked her who had tested the screen and who had assured me that it was within spec. She couldn’t release the information, she said, but she would speak with him before contacting me back.

An hour later the phone rang and with an apologetic tone, the lady asked me to send the machine back in and confirmed that “some irregularities in the testing procedures had been found.”

Off it went.

The next day, a call from the chief engineer confirmed that the screen was below standard. But since there were no more screens of the original standard, the next screen might well be of the same quality or even worse. But, if I was not satisfied with the next screen, I could have the whole machine replaced.

The machine was back in my hands the next day, with another substandard screen, with almost the same patterns of distortion as the second replacement I’d received.

Screen shot of iMac showing banding and colour shift

This photo clearly shows the nasty banding on the left, a dark central region and a severely pink-tinted right hand edge.

‘Since there are no more 24″ iMacs in stock, I’m afraid we are going to have to replace it with a different model. But we guarantee that it will be of at least the same spec or higher than your last model.”

“Whatever,” I said resignedly, as long as the screen is clear.

Two days later, the machine below arrived on my doorstep.

Intel iMac 27"

The new iMac 27" with LCD backlit screen.

Now we’re talking…

Thank you Apple. It was a long and winding road, but well worth it. A machine nearly 3 years newer than the one it replaced. Although they had some quality control issues, they were constantly polite, attentive and very forthcoming with “fixes”.

Here’s another satisfied Apple customer (albeit with caveats).

Elbow: One Day Like This Featured in Apple’s new Macbook Air Commercial

October 21, 2010 Leave a comment

I just watched the recent Apple Stevenote (keynote speech by Steve Jobs) and as usual, Apple chose some uplifting music for the Macbook Air advert at the end of the show, to which I found myself humming along.

Then it hit me who the song was by!

ELBOW!

Elbow Winning the Music Prize

A rather stoned looking Elbow winning the Mercury Music Prize.

It would seem that Elbow, the band named after what the Singing Detective described as the “loveliest word in the English language,” have finally “arrived!”.

Was it the Murcury Prize they won a few years back that would ear mark them for success? Nope.

Was it the fantastic performance of said song at Glastonbury in the same year? Nope…

No, Apple’s choice of backing track for their new Macbook Air 13″ and 11″ might just prove the break this epically talented band needs to get them and their remarkable back catalogue spanning 20 years or so, some much needed air time.

Here’s hoping that a day like this is just what elbow need to nudge them into the spotlight.