Friday, August 14, 2009

Two steps forward, three steps back

Some disappointing news to report. After three weeks of use, my Modbook started acting up with uncommanded pointer/cursor movements. Application windows that were open would spontaneously close and "About This Mac" windows would magically appear. In case you're wondering if the problem was due to RF from avionics, the problem acutally started happening while I was at home. I took the machine back to the folks at TechRestore, they did some tweaking, I tried it again, but the problem persisted.

While I'm not sure exactly what the problem was or is, TechRestore assured me they had done their best to work out a solution with Axiotron. TechRestore stood behind their service, refunded the entire purchase price, and restored my Macbook to it's original state. For their part, Axiotron apparently doesn't want me as their customer. It appears the Modbook conversion is not compatible with all revisions of the Macbook logic board, several revisions are out there, and Axiotron doesn't seem to want to identify which ones are compatible. I'm told that there are reports of many Modbook users having this "jumping" cursor problem and it's all very discouraging because my unit was working fine for the first few weeks.

Here's how the technician who did the work described the situation:
The Modbook was assembled using Axiotron's instructions with ALL shielding provided in place. Also, the unit exhibited the jumping cursor problem just sitting here in our shop. After we swapped the logic board for another of the same type, the problems continued. When the unit came in we eliminated the theory of software problems by booting the machine from a squeaky clean version of Mac OS X 10.5.4 and Axiotrons installed software. PERIOD. No updates, no add-ons, nothing other than a factory fresh install. Just for the record this was NOT the first unit we have put together. It is disappointing when a product we were excited about does not perform as it should. It is more disappointing when a reseller does not have a solution for a known problem and the only recourse is to refund the customer.

The latest scuttlebutt on the Mac tablet is that it might not appear until early 2010, so I'm compelled to come up with a Plan B. That might be an inexpensive (gulp) Windoze tablet computer like an Asus T91 or a refurbished Lenovo X61, or ... dare I say it? ... a Kindle DX.

For now, it's back to the Electronic Flight Bag drawing board.


ipearx said...

Bring on the mac tablet! Fingers crossed it's got a GPS and the screen is readable in sunlight.

The glider cockpit has very difficult lighting conditions, with bright direct sunlight and dark shadow often in the same flight.

Just read about a transflective laptop screen today:
The ideal machine will get here eventually :)

Tim from

Larry Bowen said...

Why isn't Linux an option?

Jack said...

An expensive option, but one that is just about guaranteed to work with your Mac is a Wacom Cintiq 12WX, which is a 12.1" external display with a Wacom digitizer builtin. Hooks up via cable to your laptop.

While pricey at $1K (B&H Photo), there's a used one available for $750 at

These things are used by professional photo editors and have full suppport.

Hope this helps

Sarah said...

Disappointing. I have been following your hackintosh experience posts.

Larry Bowen: Why isn't Linux an option?

Dunno, it probably is. To me, though, all that does is punt s/w and h/w problems to a Linux hobby "it's your problem now bucko" solution. That may be ok with some, but for me, working w/computers 9am-5pm means I don't want to work with computers from 5pm-9am. I want it to "just work", and I vastly prefer OS/X over Windows in the commodity world. I hope a Mac tablet appears, but my need is small enough I won't spring for a Windows tablet just for the e-flightbag functions.

John Ewing said...

I, too, am interested in the Mac tablet. I don't really care about GPS so much as long as there is Bluetooth support.

Linux could be an option, but I need to do more research on pen support in that OS. I'd also like some sort of application capable of displaying VFR sectionals and TACs. I know such apps exist for Windows, perhaps they do for Linux, too.

As for the Cintiq option, the weight and complexity is just beyond what I'd find bearable in airplane so I don't think I'll be giving that a try.

I haven't given up and I hope to have more progress to report soon ...

rw2 said...

I just got my DX and am happy. Clearly it's a different solution than the one you were shooting for, but since I already have a portable GPS + one in the panel I didn't need that functionality. The ability to use it for general reading and the fact that it's really easy to read in a variety of lighting scenarios has me quite happy with my decision.

David Cheung said...

From a technical standpoint, Foxconn hardware has been known to be flaky. I am a former owner of an iBook a while back that had a known defect in the GPU surface mount, and Apple was replacing these iBooks under warranty left and right, following a class-action lawsuit. Other examples a Google search away.

How else would you explain the fact that the Modbook worked before, but not anymore? I don't know how in-depth the Axiotron mod goes into the hardware, but it was a noble attempt at resurrecting/recycling an old piece of hardware, nonetheless.

It's hard to find a perfect piece of hardware, but we can attempt to minimize the likelyhood of headaches happening. Could this problem stem from a hardware interface issue, such as a loose connector or surface mount?