Saturday, August 23, 2014

MacBook Pro SSD Upgrade

This morning I drove down to MicroCenter and bought a Crucial MX100 256 GB SSD (Amazon link), which I used to upgrade my mid-2009 MacBook Pro. The machine has 8 GB of RAM and a 2.66 GHz Core 2 Duo CPU, so it was still useful, although before I replaced it with my current work MBP was starting to feel a bit pokey. My goal with the SSD was to improve performance, and especially battery life, for use with my ham radios while camping.

The SSD is smaller than the original Hitatchi disk (256 GB vs. 320 GB) but I don't plan on keeping multimedia files on the machine, so it should have enough space. While at MicroCenter I added a $5 USB 2.0 external enclosure to my cart, into which I put the old disk. I can bring it along for extra storage if need be.

The SSD went in easily and I did a clean install of OS 10.6 Snow Leopard onto it from a disc. I then had to update Snow Leopard to get the App Store, so I could then download and install OS 10.9.4 Mavericks. This all took a couple hours. After getting the OS configured like I wanted I installed the apps I need:

  • Fldigi
  • USB drivers for my Baofeng programming cable and for my Icom 7200's USB interface
  • LibreOffice
  • MS Office for Mac 2011
  • TextWrangler
  • Skype
  • Chrome and Firefox
  • Evernote
  • StatusClock (to display UTC time in my toolbar)
  • Various other utilities
The laptop is noticeably faster in both boot time and how quickly applications open. Excel 2011 in particular opens much more quickly.

Next weekend I'll be taking the MBP into the field, so I tested that CHIRP works with my Baofeng UV5RA and that Fldigi can send and receive PSK31 when connected to my Icom 7200.

As an aside, OWC sells a larger capacity battery to fit this old MacBook Pro. If I find myself getting significant use out of the machine I may invest in one.

I should note that I had considered upgrading the hard disk in my MSI Wind U100 netbook instead. It's certainly handier to pack into the field for use with ham radio ops, but I chose to upgrade the Mac because (a) it's way faster, and (b) the larger keyboard and screen and much easier to use.

Performance and battery life are already noticeably better with the SSD. If you have a laptop that's a few years old changing out the old spinning disk for an SSD is a quick way to give it a new lease on life.


Ray Henderson said...

Hi Dave, found your blog when searching for help with my IC-7200/MacBook Pro/FLDigi disaster and ended up staying to read a while. Great stuff! I've been trying to get my IC-7200 to work with FLDigi on and off for the last two years, to no avail. Every 6 or 8 weeks, I try again, fail miserably, and give up. I'm on about my tenth or eleventh go-around now. Can you offer any advice or point me to a start-from-scratch guide to using FLDigi and the 7200 with my Mac (10.9.4)? I'm about one more install away from giving up on a PSK31 solution and just applying a 1911A1 solution to the whole business.

Incidentally, same story with CHIRP. I have a UV-5R and a Yaesu VX-7R that I've never gotten to work with CHIRP. Inevitably, it reads the memories from the HT's, won't send them back, and I end up programming both radios by hand again. I'm hoping for some tech tips before I give both radios the taste of some Silvertips.

Any advice for a fellow ham/2nd Amendment supporter? Thanks!

Ray WA3PRR (NRA Endowment Life Member)

Dave Markowitz said...

Ray, thanks for your kind words. I'll do a separate post with screenshots of my Fldigi settings.

With CHIRP, did you first create an image file by downloading what's on the radio to your Mac, and modifying a copy of the image, then uploading the modified copy back to the radio?

The other thing is as I understand it, CHIRP can be cable sensitive. E.g., it does not like the RS232 cable + Keyspan USB-Serial adapter I have for my Yaesu VX-5R. On the other hand, it works fine with my Baofeng UV5RA. The cable that I use with the Baofeng is this one: (Amazon link)