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Old April 19th, 2010, 04:01 AM   #1
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Macbook Pro with Final Cut dies, what now?

I'm a wedding videographer. On Saturday, right as we were wrapping up a very nice same day edit on my 8 month old 17" Macbook Pro, running OS 10.6 and Final Cut 7.0.2, the machine froze and upon restart displayed the dreaded flashing question mark. Suffice it to say that we did not get to complete or show the video that night. (All footage was backed up just in case you were wondering!)

After having called Apple and explored my limited options, I'm 99% certain that the hard drive is dead, and that under warranty I'll be receiving a new hard drive. I'll be taking the laptop in ASAP to have this verified.

In the meantime, I have numerous deadlines - and a couple missed ones - to deal with and no Final Cut. I have an older 15" Intel MBP that I could install Final Cut on if necessary.

I know that according to the license agreement, I'm allowed to install Final Cut on one laptop and one desktop. This doesn't help me as the second machine is another laptop.

Alternatively I could take over my wife's iMac - which is of course a desktop - but I'd much rather not for fear of backlash! My question would then become, would I be able to update from the 7.0.0 on the disc to the current 7.0.2 without voiding the license / being shut down by Apple? I've seen this question asked but never answered on several forums. All of the projects I'm working on were created in 7.0.2 and I wouldn't be able to open them with 7.0.0.

So my main question is, can I transfer the license from one machine to another? And then back again (when I get the faster 17" back)? I'll ask Apple this same question, but as mentioned time is extremely tight so I thought I'd ask here as well.

And just in case it needs to be said, I have 100% respect for Apple's EULA and am only asking this tricky question because I'm in a real bind and honestly am not sure how to proceed. Since my newish Apple computer failed completely out of the blue, I'm really hooped and need some help.
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Old April 19th, 2010, 04:38 AM   #2
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Absolutely - just uninstall and reinstall later. The only practical limitation off the licence is no two machines can have the same licence, on the same network at once (even if one IS a legitimate laptop - which is kinda a hole in the EULA theoretically)
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Old April 19th, 2010, 03:58 PM   #3
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Thanks Craig! Much appreciated.
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Old April 19th, 2010, 05:02 PM   #4
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Something's rotten in Denmark when an honest guy pays for software and has to be afraid of the repercussions due a perfectly reasonable action on his part which was due to a faulty action on the part of the company he bought the software from.

A tip- grab an old firewire 400 drive that's the same size as your laptop's internal drive and download SUPER DUPER for free, clone your internal drive onto it and periodically update it. That way, if your drive crashes like it did, you just go home, hit a button, and, voila- you're exactly where you were hours before!
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Old April 20th, 2010, 01:51 AM   #5
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Thanks David!

[The "fear" came from my perusal of other forums, where users with similar problems to mine were attacked for asking others to justify their supposed violation of the EULA. I had just wanted to clarify in the original post that I was asking for help purely from the fetal position ;) ]

Backing up is key, but in this case there was neither time nor opportunity to back up the drive. The wedding was taking place when the computer failed. The footage that we were working with was backed up, unfortunately not the project file. But you are bang on that one should always back up the drive, via Time Machine or some other means.

Out of pure luck I did happen to back everything up three weeks ago. However, unless there is truly a "genius" when I visit the Apple Store tomorrow, the $3000 "professional" laptop is toast after 8 months of proper care and use. Despite over $4000 investment for machine and software (not counting many thousands in camera gear), I let my client down and made an ass of myself. Never thought I'd say it, but at the moment I do not trust Apple products.

So if you own a unibody MBP - or any Mac - seriously, back it up now and frequently thereafter. Otherwise, you may very well regret it. Also, keep your Autosave Vault on a separate drive from where you have the project file saved.
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Old April 20th, 2010, 06:08 PM   #6
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I brought my machine to the local Apple Store this morning and thought I'd share what I was told. A lot of this was new to me. Keep in mind that I'm not a computer expert and this is just what I was told to the best of my recollection.

1. Editing video footage a lot over a long period of time tends to fragment the drive, and every so often you need to format the drive and reinstall everything. Twice a year recommended. This is a preventative measure to avoid what most likely happened to me.

2. You should never edit footage that is stored on your internal drive. That drive is occupied with running the software, and something like Final Cut is quite a drain on resources.

3. You should continuously copy your drive to an external mirror drive, so that if anything does go wrong, you can just boot that mirror drive and keep working.

4. Editing certain codecs can be particularly strenuous for the computer. ProRes is more straightforward for an Apple machine to handle.

5. A bigger ram (mine is 4GB) tends to relieve the "pressure" on the computer and alleviate the fragmentation problem.

How all of the above could be done in a fast-paced mobile editing environment is at the moment beyond me and any suggestions would be appreciated. Also, if anyone could clarify, respond to or add to the above guidelines I would appreciate it.

I've just finished my attempt to recover footage from the CF cards, and will now be sending the laptop off to DriveSavers. None of the local companies can restore data without voiding the warranty of the computer, and can't guarantee that they won't destroy the data or damage the computer during their attempts at recovery. DriveSavers estimates a cost of between $700 and $2300 for the recovery.
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Old April 20th, 2010, 07:44 PM   #7
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Erik,

I'll be happy to chime in with details either later tonight or first thing tomorrow; at the moment I'm a bit overloaded with work.

But, line #1 is complete crap and BS. I'll explain later... but the person who told you this is obviously not very experienced with exactly how and why the OS becomes fragmented and how best to deal with it.

Details coming soon...
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Old April 21st, 2010, 01:35 PM   #8
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Erik,

Here's a breakdown of what you need to know line-by-line: (TONS of links, so read closely)

1. Editing video footage a lot over a long period of time tends to fragment the drive, and every so often you need to format the drive and reinstall everything. Twice a year recommended. This is a preventative measure to avoid what most likely happened to me.

With exception to defects or user misuse the primary reason any HDD fails is due to excessive and repetitive exposure to heat and have nothing to do with drive fragmentation *at all*. Unfortunately laptop HDD's are the more likely to succumb to heat-related failure compared to their tower cousins since they are smaller and live in ultra-tight and poorly ventilated enclosures. The fans that live in laptops don't cool the drives, they're for the CPUs and sometimes the GPU as well.

That's why there are a handful of tabletop mounts that lift the laptop off their flat-bottomed surfaces and even add extra cooling in the way of small fans blowing on and around the laptop case.

What I have done for my MBP for example was to take 2 strips of Audix foam (for reducing room reflections for audio studios) and put them under laptop giving it an inch of breathing room from the desk, allowing heat to be dissipated more quickly from the bottom of the laptop enclosure where the HDD is closest to (in the unibody design the HDD's are actually almost touching the bottom of the MBP case and live right next to the built-in Li-Ion battery pack).

In the previous MBP design prior to the unibody I would physically remove the battery and leave the power supply connected to a UPS; that large open space in the underside allowed for a great deal more air movement inside the case and also allowed heat to escape far faster than is possible now in the unibody. Unfortunately none of the current MBPs have externally removable batteries which means the entire case is now virtually sealed on the bottom making it much harder for air to flow around critical components like the HDD's and CPUs.

Take a look at this screenshot of my MBP running nothing except TextEdit; the first CPU core temp is over 180 deg F; when FCP is in the middle of a render it will easily spike over 210 deg F. That's insanely hot for a little laptop, just imagine how badly the little HDD is taking it. Apple is overly concerned about aesthetics rather than functionality and the current MBP design is proof of that lack of logical thinking by not including more natural ventilation.

Secondly, while fragmentation does occur to a greater degree when using apps like FCP however you can easily and reliably take care of that issue by running iDefrag at least once a month, here's my review of this powerful app:

idefrag review | Go-Go-Godzilla.com

But regardless if your drive/s are fragmented or not will have zero effect on the heat they generate and the heat that surrounds them in the laptop enclosure; de-fragging a drive will definitely help performance but does nothing for drive heat-related issues.

Also keep in mind that defragging a HDD is not system-wide maintenance; you still need to do things like run Onyx and DiskWarrior often to keep your system tuned up and free from corrupted directories and files.

FCP also requires routine maintenance to help keep it's cache, preferences and media files in-line and "there's an app for that" too:

digital rebellion's FCS Maintenance Pack

And the notion that you *have* to wipe and re-install everything just to keep your system maintained - twice a year - is totally bogus. If that were true then I doubt there'd be too many pros using Macs for serious work because to literally reinstall *all* the applications a typical AV pro uses would take an entire day, not to mention restoring preferences, setting up external drives etc, etc. Whomever said that should either be smacked on the head or taken in a back-room somewhere and given some remedial training in how to properly setup and maintain a computer. That nonsensical suggestion of "wiping" your drive and reinstalling is akin to having your car mechanic tell you that you need to rip out and replace the *entire* engine and drivetrain twice a year, just so you can avoid a breakdown. What a bunch of "frakkin felgercarb...".


2. You should never edit footage that is stored on your internal drive. That drive is occupied with running the software, and something like Final Cut is quite a drain on resources.

That's definitely solid advice but not always feasible depending on the situation budget limitations. If you're forced into a situation where you *have* to use only a single-drive system the best thing to do is replace the drive with the fastest and largest drive you can find. Currently that's the Seagate 500GB 7200rpm "7200.4" and it's also currently less than $100!! (that's insane, when I purchased mine it was over $240 last fall !!) Get one from OWC:

500GB 2.5" Seagate Momentus 7200.4 7200RPM... (ST9500420AS) at OWC

With exception to SSD's that's the fastest internal laptop HDD I've tested, almost 100GBps I/O. wow.

3. You should continuously copy your drive to an external mirror drive, so that if anything does go wrong, you can just boot that mirror drive and keep working.

Also good advice and there are a couple ways you can do that. You can copy your drive using Disk Utility to any external HDD you have; I've posted a "how to" here:

How to Update your OS & Apps Properly and Save your System

But, the really cool thing about Snow Leopard is that if things go totally wonky you no longer have to completely wipe your drive and reinstall the OS, Show Leopard is totally "self-healing". Read about it here:

Mac OS X Update: Self-healing Snow Leopard ! | Go-Go-Godzilla.com

However to properly survive a drive failure you should definitely make routine back-ups of your entire disk image, at least once a week to be safe, more often if you're in a mission-critical situation during a job in which case once a night at the end of an edit session is warranted. There's no such thing as "too safe", only "too late".

4. Editing certain codecs can be particularly strenuous for the computer. ProRes is more straightforward for an Apple machine to handle.

Mostly true; HDV and AVCHD are very processor intensive codecs because of their long-GOP structure and do require much more computing power to edit (AVCHD is really, really hard on the system and was never intended to be an editing codec) but you're not forced into using ProRes. DVCPRO-HD takes no more resources than ProRes and takes less time to transcode your files into, which is one option. Although XDCAM is also a long-GOP format it is more efficient than HDV and especially AVCHD so that too is an option. If you're not going to interface with other editors or hand off your files ProRes is fine.

5. A bigger ram (mine is 4GB) tends to relieve the "pressure" on the computer and alleviate the fragmentation problem.

Half truth. Fragmentation is caused by the simple process of data being moved around the drive, having more RAM will simply speed up that process but will have *zero* effect on HDD fragmentation.

Lastly, with regard to recovering old data off a drive - assuming the drive will spin-up and respond - you have a few DIY options:

Computer Data Recovery, Mac Data Recovery Software, Mac Data Rescue, Digital Data Recovery Disk for Mac - Data Rescue 3

Mac Recovery Software-Recover Mac Drive-Apple Mac Data Recovery-Data Recovery Mac

Micromat - TechTool Pro 5

Unfortunately I have not reviewed any of these solutions (the last version of TechTool Pro I used was for OS 10.2) so I can't give them a thumbs-up or down but they're certainly more cost effective than the options you were given. Again, these software tools will only work if your drive actually spins-up; if it's completely dead as in doesn't respond to electrical input then that's a whole different ballgame.

Hope this helps.
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Old April 21st, 2010, 08:14 PM   #9
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Don't know if you've already jumped the gun on this stuff - but for the record - if a Mac ever fails to boot, the FIRST thing to try is to pair that Mac with another Mac and put the damaged one in Target Disk Mode.

Just string a firewire cable between machine A and machine B - and reboot holding down the "T" key on the keyboard of the "dead" computer. - It bypasses ALL the startup routines and presents the dead computers drive to the "HOST" computer as a new external drive.

A HUGE percentage of the time, the dead computer's hard drive will pop up on the desktop of the HOST computer allowing you to backup and save critical data via drag and drop.

If Target Disk fails - THEN take further steps.

It's your first and best line of defense since it costs nothing and is simple to perform.

Good luck.
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Old April 22nd, 2010, 01:13 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Lane View Post
....What I have done for my MBP for example was to take 2 strips of Audix foam (for reducing room reflections for audio studios) and put them under laptop giving it an inch of breathing room from the desk...
Great idea, but does the foam itself heat up?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Lane View Post
....Apple is overly concerned about aesthetics rather than functionality and the current MBP design is proof of that lack of logical thinking by not including more natural ventilation....
You got that right; look cool before performance seems to be the Apple way. And yes, I totally agree with you that there should be more "natural" ventilation instead of having to rely on the aluminum to dissipate the heat. A great majority of the Windows only based laptops have "real" vents.
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Old April 22nd, 2010, 01:15 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Bill Davis View Post
Don't know if you've already jumped the gun on this stuff - but for the record - if a Mac ever fails to boot, the FIRST thing to try is to pair that Mac with another Mac and put the damaged one in Target Disk Mode.

Just string a firewire cable between machine A and machine B - and reboot holding down the "T" key on the keyboard of the "dead" computer. - It bypasses ALL the startup routines and presents the dead computers drive to the "HOST" computer as a new external drive.

A HUGE percentage of the time, the dead computer's hard drive will pop up on the desktop of the HOST computer allowing you to backup and save critical data via drag and drop.
Thanks for that tip Bill; will keep this in mind should this ever happen...hopefully never!!
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Old April 22nd, 2010, 07:41 AM   #12
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Great idea, but does the foam itself heat up?
No, the strips are only an inch square so they have little surface contact with the bottom of the case and run the width of the case from front to rear.
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Old April 22nd, 2010, 01:51 PM   #13
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Thanks Dave, that is great stuff. I can only wonder, why is it that we are never informed about this stuff when buying a mac laptop? Oh wait, I know the answer to that...

Bill, thanks for the suggestion, yes that was the first thing we tried. The other mac was not able to mount the drive though it did detect that something was there.

I've just tried using disk warrior but it was a no go. Another $100 wasted. Now I'm sending the MBP packing to DriveSavers, wish me luck.
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Old April 23rd, 2010, 09:59 AM   #14
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Sorry to hear about your bad luck. Hard disk drives are pretty reliable although the ones in laptops get a harder life than those in desktops as they not only get hotter but get thrown about a lot. The theoretical Mean Time Between Failure is of the order of 100 years but that's just all playing with statistics as while that may be the average there are going to be outlying examples that fail either very early or very late. Disks are cheap enough nowadays that it is easy enough to have your data duplicated in backups & live in some variant of a RAID set.

I am not quite sure exactly what it is that you are trying to recover from the dead disk drive as you said that you had backups. The data recovery firms are very good but expensive (you really do get what you pay for so don't go cheap). However they are normally called in only when the data is really, really irreplaceable e.g. the only copy of a PhD thesis or the only photos of a departed loved one.

Time Machine is an absolute marvel but you do need to keep an eye on it to make sure that it gets done & that e.g. the TM target disk is accessible. If I need to travel with my laptop away from the Time Capsule at home for any length of time I always take a little external FW800 disk that I use as a temporary TM target. The initial backup as usual takes a few hours but can either be done before leaving home or left to run the first night away.
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Old April 23rd, 2010, 11:34 PM   #15
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Thanks Nigel. Initially I thought I had everything. It turns out that some of the footage was not properly backed up. Half of one card out of the 12 or so we shot. A very crucial chunk of footage - though there's always 2-3 cameras rolling. Nightmare situation, so here's hoping!

100 years does sound really good indeed, but after this experience - failure after less than one year - for all future SDEs I can't imagine not having a mirror and of course 100% verified backup of all footage. Clunky. The more secure you are, the less flexible you are, but so be it.
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