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16 October 2007

My new laptop: Apple MacBook Pro

Yes, I have (finally) surrendered to the mighty Apple. They have assimilated me.

For that latest 4 months or so I have been stuck with my older Acer Travelmate 4001Wlmi of September 2004. It is still a decent laptop, but the absence of a working USB controller, the tired screen (low and non-uniform brightness - "stained") and the inability to run Flight Simulator 2004 decently with some addons made me rush the decision to buy a new laptop.

So I did, and in style. I bought a shiny new 15" MacBook Pro [@Apple website / @wikipedia:Macbook_pro]. I really dig Apple hardware's look and feel, their approach to styling, the kind of materials they employ, even the packaging is a small work of art.

I chose to buy a MacBook Pro (even though I still think they are a slightly over priced for their specs) due to the following reasons (in no particular order):

  • It's a light weight and well built 15" wide-screen laptop;
  • The Intel Core 2 Duo [@wikipedia:Intel_Core_2] with 2GB of RAM looked really appealing as a Gentoo Linux desktop platform;
  • nVidia GeForce 8600M GT [@wikipedia:Geforce_8] with 256MB of VRAM. Important for Half Life 2 and Flight Simulator X (with addons);
  • Mac OS X [Tiger@Apple website / @wikipedia:Mac_os_x];
  • High resolution, LED backlit screen;
  • Apple store offers great deals for students.
I ordered it from Apple Store UK along with an iPod classic for my wife and it took 17 calendar days to arrive. I must admit that the wait was a little hard to accept, but all is well now.

First impressions were great. Intelligent and stylish packaging (as is common with all Apple products), battery charged at about 75% and Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger pre-installed. Apart from laptop and charger there was a Quick Start guide, a DVI-VGA cable adapter, infrared remote control and CD/DVD pack with operating system and software extras.

I first saw Mac OS X when I worked at RNL [@my website] where some of my fellow sysadmins owned iBook laptops with OS X. We also had to handle a couple of older iMacs running Mac OS 9, which gave me an idea of how much better OS X was when compared to OS 9. My wife also has a macbook for some months now, so OS X is not new to me, although I never used it on an daily basis.
Being a UNIX-head geek, I tend to see Mac OS X as if it is on top of a pedestal. It is by far the best achieved OS ever made and it runs on top of UNIX. Does it even get any better? Yes, with every release! Now that finally I have a system where I can legally run Mac OS X, all I can do is agree on myself. Now I think that I took too long to make this switch. Man... is it worth it!!

While I believe that Mac OS X is brilliant, it does not mean that I like to use all the applications Mr Steve Jobs would like me to use. My every day system is still Linux and I still play my heavy graphics games... sooo... I had to infect my MacBook Pro with a (legal) copy of MS Windows XP (exclusively for games) and I also had to install a Gentoo Linux distribution (mainly because of amarok, digikam and because my work flow for producing panoramas involves a set of [free] programs that I still don't know if I can use on OS X).

I will have some detailed notes on installing the two extra operating systems on my website on a stand alone article - "Yet another guide for setting up Triple Booting on a MacBook Pro".
Just some notes:
  • rEFIt is incredible. It's trivial to install and use (no configuration); It's clever (finds out about bootable partitions and CDs by itself); It's pretty (see screenshot below);
  • The Windows XP installer is an incredibly limited, unbelievably useless piece of software. It's utter crap. Right after I got the installer to do its job (install windows) I rebooted a Linux Live CD and used ntfsclone to save the freshly installed windows partition (filesystem). When I need to reinstall the system, I'll just rewrite my windows partition with that file system;
  • After the pain of installation and after installing the corresponding hardware drivers, windows XP runs very well. Can't wait to test HL2 Ep1 on it;
  • Gentoo Live CD 2007.0 does not have a driver for the ethernet network card or the wireless card, so before compiling a recent kernel (>=2.6.21) I had to do stuff without internet connection;
  • Linux on this laptop is frighteningly fast! Probably because I am used to run Gentoo on my previous laptop laptop or on VMWare hosts... Now that I think of it, my Acer Travelmate 4001WLMi has a 1.5GHz Intel Pentium-M (banias) processor with an FSB of 400MHz, while this MacBook Pro has 2x 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 processors with an FSB of 800MHz. That alone is a big performance boost.

My website contains a page with Linux compatibility notes and tips about every one of my laptops (Linux on Laptops). The MacBook Pro will not be an exception. However, the page isn't up yet. This section will be part of a huge update long long overdue. When? Don't know yet... Soon?

Cheers, PJ.


rui covelo said...

And another geek joins the bitten apple! Steve Jobs should be happy :D

It's very easy to say something bad about Apple and it's pricing but when you're informed and have tried Apple products, it becomes kind of hard to resist. I started with an Apple iPod Shuffle and drooling over those iBooks at RNL. When I saw the new Intel MacBook I just couldn't resist.

Another good news today is the release date of Leopard:

There's a count down at

I just love this Steve Job's comment "And everyone gets the 'Ultimate' version, packed with all the new innovative features, for just $129." :D

carlos silva said...

Well done lad. I'll be joining that team as soon as I can. :)

pjvenda said...

Hey guys!

Haha, Even the ex-"no-macs-ever-i-hate-apple"-manager ended up being assimilated before me!

We are now officially authorised to do iJokes about iStuff completely unrelated to Apple, hehehe.

Let's see how people get on with the latest and greatest Leopard-Ultimate-"do-bufo". I'm only sorry for not being awarded a voucher...

Oh, did I mention how great Linux runs on the thing?? ;-] You know me, I'll probably write some stats on it anyway...