Michael Olivero
The official blog of Michael Olivero, Software Architect & Humble Entrepreneur

Thunderbolt MacBook Ultimate Docking Station Configuration

Friday, 23 September 2011 17:57 by Michael Olivero

If you are a Mobile user, particularly one with the new thunderbolt or display port connections, you may be considering the Apple Thunderbolt Display or former Apple Cinema Display.  Since the iMac 27" are also usable as display via the nifty target display mode feature, this is an alternative I wanted to additionally consider.  After various forums and research I came to the following observations which I'm currently experimenting with to configure the my ultimate docking station for my MacBook Air 11".

First, lets start by laying down some facts as ultimate the facts which are more pertinent to your situation will have higher weight in deciding which direction to choose for your display needs.  Below are some pros / cons when considering the use of each: 27" cinema display, 27" thunderbolt display, iMac 27" 2010 display port model, iMac 27" 2011 thunderbolt model.

  • DisplayPort has wider compatibility with a somewhat simplified spec when compared to thunderbolt
  • The Cinema Display & iMac 27" (2010 model w/ displayport), can be connected to any display port compatible device or digital display capable of adapting to displayport
  • The thunderbolt display would provide expandability with the ethernet, firewire, & additional USB ports (USB 2.0 though)
  • Running Windows in Bootcamp currently will not work in target display mode iMacs using thunderbolt, does however in cinema and thunderbolt displays
  • When using target display mode, the ports on the back of the targeted iMac are not transferred to the connecting MacBook like they are in the dedicated displays
  • an iMac serving primarily as a display for a MacBook would have a double duty of being a workstation for whomever needs it while the MacBook is not docked
  • the typically more powerful iMac is available to be used for high end duties such as video editing or gaming
So having a brand new MacBook Air 2011, which one do I choose?  Since the MacBook Air is very powerful, leveraging to the fullest the latest Inktel Core i5 processors, it can serve as my primary computer for most needs with the new thunderbolt display or former Cinema Display.  However, these displays cost $1000 and for a few hundred more one can get an iMac 27" or even a cheaper refurbished iMac 27".  With this dilemma lingering over my head while awaiting the arrival of the Thunderbolt display, also a candidate, I decided to explore possibilities.  One such possibility was conceived as having very similar results to the Thunderbolt display was to utilize a thunderbolt hub as the intermediary between a display and the MacBook.  I recorded a video blog on the various possible connections here.  In summary, with such a thunderbolt hub, one can plug a single thunderbolt cable into the MacBook as well as the power cord ultimately achieving the same functionality as the Thunderbolt display.


So, interestingly enough though, no such hub existed at the time, however Belkin recently showcased their upcoming Thunderbolt Dock, with the same ports as the Thunderbolt display, making such a configuration a possibility.  Since thunderbolts can drive display port monitors, using such a hub/dock with a mini displayport display should have straight forward compatibility.

The next hurdle would be the accessibility of connected devices.  No one wants to disconnect a device from one computer to then reconnect it to another -- let alone multiple devices.  The Cinema Display and Thunderbolt display both redirect the devices to the connecting MacBook via their USB & thunderbolt connections respective, however a connected iMac in target display mode doesn't.  

So far I was leaning towards the one of the stand alone displays, however if a USB hub switcher existed where I can switch a device from one computer to another at a push of a button, this would allow for what I would call the ultimate docking station for a Macbook.  So with this new device, in theory, I can leave my iMac 27", say, rendering a video off an external USB data drive while I can be working on the MacBook using another USB drive.  Or a more typical scenario, I can temporarily redirect the time machine drive to the MacBook, let it do is incremental back, and then redirect it back to the iMac -- all with a single push of a button and without interrupting other USB devices who can be connected to either computer - WOW!.  After searching forums after forum, I found one small niche company who makes such an adaptor.  The device allows for 4 USB devices to be connected to 2 computers, mutually exclusive to each other and one computer at a time.


I bought this USB device for a little less than $50 and was off to try this new setup.  Although the configuration is not complex, I decided to diagram a possible configuration.  It's not too clear, but in essence:

  • The iMac & Air are connected via displayport cable.
  • Both computers are connected to hub
  • Port A of hub has time machine drive
  • Port B of hub has my main data drive for video, etc.
  • Port C has a simple USB hub where I attached my keyboard, mouse, has an extra vertical port for plugging in a flash drive from time to time.


With this configuration, I can easily move time machine from one machine to the other with a push of a button.  Or similarly, my main data drive can switch from one to the other.

One benefit over the external displays is the ability to plug in external speakers to the iMac 27.  These speakers are permanently connected to the iMac and work as any normal set of speakers with the addition of working with the MacbookAir when in target display mode.  The current cinema & thunderbolt displays do not have this plug and as a result you need to plug in the speakers to the MacBook every time you dock if you want to use them.

In summary, I have what I consider the ultimate MacBook docking station.  As soon as the Belkin thunderbolt hub/dock arrives, this will change a bit, however it will be just as good or better than the thunderbolt display.

ExFAT filesystem with Mac OSX and Windows7

Thursday, 22 September 2011 15:35 by Michael Olivero

Do you have a drive partitioned half NTFS and half OSX format just so can utilize the drive on both operating systems or resorted to the unreliable FAT or FAT32 for the convenience?

FAT was never designed to scale to the large storage systems available today. so modern operating systems evolved their own sophisticated file systems (Linux Ext3, Windows NTFS, & Mac HFS+) with various features to handle not only the enormously large capacities, but also provide fault tolerance among other valuable features.  FAT, once ubiquitous, still survives today as the defacto file system for flash cards and USB drives. So why is a new file system called exFAT necessary?

It turns out, the modern file systems have significant overhead and are considered to be an overkill for flash drives -- some times making them slower.

exFAT (Extended FAT) was devised specifically to address these issues and more.  Since the latest versions of Microsoft and Apple operating system support exFAT, it coincidentally serves as a great file system to interchange data between the operating systems too!

On OSX's Disk Utility application, you can easily select exFAT during the erase process and similarly on windows as shown:

In summary, exFAT borrows some valuable features modern file systems such as transactional file system TFAT among others.  I'm personally using this as the filesystem for my external USB drive, however I did notice some applications on the Mac side, which rely specifically on Apple's HFS+ file system, are disabled.  For example, I cannot move a Final Cut Pro X project to my external drive to work remotely -- it simply doesn't let me drop it there as it would an HFS+ partition.

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Morning South Florida

Wednesday, 21 September 2011 11:16 by Michael Olivero

LaCie 1TB & 2TB Little Big Disk Thunderbolt Arrives in Apple Store

Wednesday, 21 September 2011 01:16 by Michael Olivero

Folks, I just came across the LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt drives in the Apple store by chance.  And surprisingly there are two versions -- the 1TB and 2TB disk versions.  They will soon add SSD versions in the near future, however this is a welcomed surprise.

From the looks of it, it supports a native RAID0 stripped set by default with 7200 rpm drives delivering an astonishing 250MB/s -- other configurations such as Raid1 are also available according to references.  For a consumer oriented drive, these are speeds previously only achieved by expensive and dedicated NAS storage devices with similar raid configuration. If you consider you have two drives in one unit, effectively duplicating the price with a comparably sized external drive, the price no longer feels unreasonable.

To save space and weight, the enclosure houses 2.5" drives rather than the typical 3.5" drives weighing a reasonably light 1.4lbs.

The solid aluminum construction is typical of LaCie's build quality and additionally serves as a heat dissipator for the drive internals.


You will definitely want to have a time machine drive paired up to this speed daemon because unfortunately, the RAID0 effectively halfs the shelf life of the drive as failure of any of the two drives may effectively ruin your data.  With today's reliable drives, this is less of a worry, however it's a prudent thing to do as this will surely be the primary working drive housing important data, such as home video's, given it's speed benefits.

Apple Store Link for LaCie 1TB Little Big Disk Thunderbolt - http://store.apple.com/us/product/H7150ZM/A
Apple Store Link for LaCie 2TB Little Big Disk Thunderbolt - http://store.apple.com/us/product/H7114ZM/A
UPDATE 9/21:
The above links are currently returning 404, however when I searched the apple stores again, the SSD version's showed up and very pricy
Apple Store Link for LaCie 256GB Little Big Disk SSD Thunderbolt $899 - http://store.apple.com/us/product/H7115ZM/A
Apple Store Link for LaCie 512GB Little Big Disk SSD Thunderbolt $1499 - http://store.apple.com/us/product/H7151ZM/A

First official review of Thunderbolt Display

Saturday, 17 September 2011 02:53 by Michael Olivero

With the whole world waiting for the arrival of the Thunderbolt display, I just uncovered what would be the first official review posted online at MacWorld.

In summary, it seems:

  • You can use it with bootcamp, but booting into safe mode with F8 key at boot up time will require you to connect the USB keyboard directly to the computer rather than the display.
  • Cinema displays attached to the thunderbolt displays will NOT work according to Apple, however MacWorld confirmed it works when a pegasus raid controller (and presumably any thunderbolt device) is between the Thunderbolt display & Cinema Display.
This is what I deemed the first official Thunderbolt Display review.

Thunderbolt Display Review @ MacWorld

Thunderbolt Hub Has Arrived!

Friday, 16 September 2011 02:26 by Michael Olivero

Belkin announced the first independent thunderbolt hub!  This is a dream come true for those who do not want to dish out the $999 for an Apple thunderbolt display.  It seems to have the same ports: gigabit ethernet, 3 USB, and 1 thunderbolt for daisy chaining.  There is no release date specified and no price however however some speculate upwards of $50 since a thunderbolt cable alone from Apple is $50.

Unfortunately, it seems the USB ports are 2.0 instead of 3.0 given the ubiquitous blue connectors USB 3.0 ports usually have.  Lets cross our fingers though and hope for at least one USB 3.0 port if not all. 

With this, one needs to really consider if a less flexible Thunderbolt display is worthy over the more flexible Cinema Display.  The cinema display would simply plug into this hub (including it's USB) and now you have the same configuration as the Thunderbolt display (need to plug in only one cable into your MacBook).  The mini displayport technology in the cinema display is known to be more flexible than thunderbolt.  As a simple example, many have connected their xbox 360's with the appropriate adaptor -- even the iMacs from 2010 can be used as displays for MacBooks within Bootcamp -- something the iMac 27" from 2011 with thunderbolt cannot.


For more details on the connections options see this post I made a week or so ago:

Connecting your Apple iMac 27 or Cinima Display using only one connection similar to Thunderbolt Display

Windows 8 and HTML5 is this a deja vu of the 90's and Visual Java?

Friday, 9 September 2011 20:30 by Michael Olivero

A few weeks ago I read about Microsoft making Windows 8 UI and platform based on HTML5.  Meaning, developers should adopt towards HTML5 over say the previous product they were pushing really hard - silverlight.  This about face has a very interesting parallel to the past which I will digress into shortly.


Silverlight was destined to be the solution to all the deficiencies of developing within the stateless http applications.  The technology embraced the best features of existing technologies unifying them with a serious amount of innovation into a mature platform many developers swore as the future of web technology.  It is declarative using XML (XAML to be specific), it has a rich presentation similar to flash but much better as it was SEO friendly among other things, it is a runtime which is cross platform so Linux users just as much as Windows users would be able to run these apps with the same consistency as Adobe Flash today.  They even borrowed the best from their own .NET platform and cherry picked the essential APIs (to keep the runtime as small as possible).

So, with all this innovation and push towards silverlight, even including it as the basis for their new mobile platform, it's understandable developers are in uproar as to why Windows 8 will move towards HTML5 instead.

A few hours ago, I came to a realization. I'm not second guessing Microsoft, but it sure feels like deja vu.

Back in 1996 or 1997, Microsoft created their first Visual Studio integrated product. They called it "The Year of the Developer" and I probably still have the nifty poster they included in the box somewhere.  In short, they decided to integrate all their development tools similar to how they integrated all their office products. The idea was simple and novel.  Sell the suite cheaper than the individual products and give a Word user a new application to play with (Excel).  The same applied to the development tools and both integrated suites were a phenomenal success -- and still are as we are still working with these integrated suites to this day.  As part of this integration, Microsoft included Java as a language to develop with and build a large class of libraries so Java could work with Windows (call this the precursor of .NET).  So this suite contained Visual Interdev, Visual C++, Visual Basic, and Visual Java.  

As we now know, a large legal battle with Sun eventually forced Microsoft to remove the Java name and instead change it to J#.  The core argument from Sun was very simple -- Microsoft cannot call it "Java" if it is not Java from all the Microsoft specific windows libraries.  By the time the settlement came around the damage was done.  Java was climbing up stream from an adoption perspective with development environments such as Eclipse either non-existing or nowhere near the maturity of Microsoft's development environments.  So with Microsoft's marketing muscle and center-of-attention position they had before, they were able to get a vast majority of developers to develop Java with Visual Java.  Why not right?  It had all the environment features were developers were used to such as intellisense, was binary compatible with Java so long as you didn't use Microsoft's extensions, etc.

Well, many already know the end of that story and transcripts of the various cases against Microsoft essentially shows Microsoft intentionally derailed the adoption of Java enough, keeping Visual Java stuck on Java 1.1 as declared by BillG himself in key emails, while they developed their response.  This put the breaks on the evolution of Java significantly, especially at a core juncture where Sun was pushing Java 1.2 with it's revised event model to better handle large scale applications.  Microsoft literally stole the spotlight using Visual Java and suite as a tool.  This derailment and time-buying was all Microsoft needed to build their version of the runtime -- calling it .NET.  To ensure they lure all their existing developers C++ and VB, their model was to have all languages compile to a common byte-code.  In this process, their new language, C#, very similar to Java, will take center stage in the new developer suite.

So how does all this relate to today?  Well, for quite some time Microsoft has been pushing silverlight.  Why the about face to HTML5 for Windows 8 if they have a great following and even included it for their new mobile phone platform?  I hope I'm wrong, but I feel it may be a repeat cycle of what occurred with Java.

Microsoft may see HTML5, the richest application framework-to-date for building desktop-like applications on the web, as a threat to their desktop dominance. Their celebratory sabbatical for winning the browser wars, with over 90% market share at peak, caused them to leave Internet Explorer in limbo on version 6 while the rest of the world was moving along with the evolving web standards.  They even moved the developers off Internet Explorer to the Windows group.  This allowed for a slow shift towards using standards based browsers with Firefox taking a decisive lead.  Following Firefox many others popped up -- including Apple with Safari and Google with Chrome utilizing rendering engines such as WebKit while others such as Opera built their own.  Developers started alienating Internet Explorer by building sites with the emerging standards -- after all standards worked with all browsers and for the most part, so long as it it's not too fancy, worked with Internet Explorer too.  If we fast forward to today, Internet Explorer is actually behind in market share in Europe and has lost significant market share domestically as well.

So it's clear to me, either two things are happening with Microsoft and HTML5.  Either Microsoft it truly adopting standards and making genuine strides in interoperability with other technologies and platforms like Linux and even building it into their next Windows or they are simply attempting another coup.

I shared this with a friend and colleague via text (I'm not sure if he wants me to publish his name so I blurred it out), but he always has a valid opinion on matters and his response was decisive.  There were four consecutive texts; each with more emphasis than the previous so he clearly sees it as possibly a deja vu.

Only time will tell where the truth lies.

Inktel Direct's 100 days of innovation and GiveMeFeedback.com

Wednesday, 7 September 2011 15:32 by Michael Olivero

Inktel Direct announced 100 days of innovation just about 100 days ago.  See their blog post for more information.  In short, various groups were created with the idea of applying Ideo's principles and create or change something in an innovative way.

I was designated as a judge instead of a participant, however I was inspired to go at it alone on my personal time.  I came up with GiveMeFeedback.com.  Give me feedback arose primarily from the desire to receive feedback from peers quickly and easily for pretty much anything. I copied the following short description from the site to summarize:

Most people have the desire to improve in one shape or another. Improvement, aside from formal and self directed means, relies heavily on the interaction and feedback from others. 

Traditionally, feedback is given every quarter or semi-annually within corporations. While this is a good for self-improvement, it's traditional and doesn't keep up with the "immediate" times of today. By the time you receive the necessary feedback, weeks and months have passed potentially missing out on other opportunities to apply such feedback, or worse yet, the feedback is no longer applicable and is either omitted or simply useless. 

GiveMeFeedback.com addresses the gap to request, give, & receive feedback immediately after an event occurs where feedback would be beneficial in a seamless and friction-free click-friendly manner.

The first phase is focused on person to person, a future update will allow for general anonymous feedback.  Go ahead try it out:

Apple Revolutionizing Retail Support with iPhone & GPS!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011 13:19 by Michael Olivero


I was at the Apple store the other day and was quite surprised the Apple store iPhone app interacts with the store once you are within the vicinity.  I was going for a Mac genius appointment and the process was so smooth words cannot do it justice.  Checkout these screenshots I took of the whole process.

The pictures left to right speak for themselves...super smooth.   Notice iPhone's time indicator from for the duration of the screen shots from 3:07 to 3:22.