Is Apples MacBook Pro Rotten To The Core?

Articles like this top Digg article of the morning from ZDNet make me extremely nervous about my new purchase. I tend to be somewhat of an “early adopter” once I actually make a decision and I’m starting to rethink that purchasing strategy. I have (so far) had no problems with the MacBook, but according to the article it could take a couple of months for the symptoms to occur.

The Labs Adds A Mac

MacBook Pro

Your looking at the first post to this web site completely written on a Mac.

Yep, thats right. A Mac.

Since the release of OS X I’ve wanted to make the leap to the Mac. The idea of a Unix based system with the useability of a Mac intrigued me to no end. I also have a couple of friends that have used Macs from what seems like day one, and have always told me that I was missing out on something cool. I just haven’t been able to justify getting one in my own head.

I think the clincher for me that a Mac was in my future was when Jonna started bringing one home for her testing work and I was watching her use it. It just looked so cool! Its been on my mind for a couple of weeks now, so yesterday we decided to take a road trip out to the Apple store and “just look” at the Intel based MacBooks to see whether it might be something I want to commit to as my next machine.

Well, I wound up walking out with one with the voice of an Apple customer from the store ringing through my head, echoing softly, “Once you make the move, you will never go back …”.

I got the machine home and booted it up. Within literally 15 minutes or so, I was hooked to our wireless network here at the Labs. Another 25 minutes or so and all of the software updates were downloaded. A few trips to grab the software I use most, like FireFox, the Flickr uploader, etc. and I already felt like I was home.

Of course, being a developer at heart, there are a few things I just had to do as soon as I got the base software like my favorite browser installed. I had to dive to the Terminal window and see what was out there.

  • Perl? – Check.
  • Python? – Check.
  • Ruby? – Check.
  • Java? – Check
  • Subversion? – Nope, but a few clicks and it was installed.
  • Screen Capture Tool? Kind of – only supports TIFFS. I need JPG for Flickr. A quick Google search got me to Snap N Drag, a free screen capture utility that supports JPG files.
  • iTunes – Check.
  • Office Suite? Nope – not there. Have to install OpenOffice, which requires X11. I’ll do that tomorrow.

Here’s the great thing about the whole experience. Every scripting language I use for every day work is on the machine from the moment I opened the box, even my old familiar friend, the bash shell. The important software I use day to day is at least available for me to install.

My email, calendar and news reader? I use Google, for all of that, so there was no setup or importing of data required. I just log in and feel at home.

The loose ends I have to tie off at this point is moving all of my iTunes stuff to the new machine. I’ve found a few articles on this around the NET, but the volume of data I have to transfer is becoming prohibitive. For some reason, rsync just stops part way through the sync — but I’ll get this worked out.

I’m extremely impressed with the machine so far. It has all of the utility of Unix and all the beauty of a Mac. I’m really not sure what else anyone could ask for.

Bieber Labs Servers circa 2001

BieberLabs Servers

Photo by rbieber

circa 2001-2002

‘Elmo’ and ‘Bert’. My machine is on my desk to the right of these (named ‘Grover’). I went through a phase where all machines were named after Sesame Street characters. I stopped just before having to use Snuffleupagus.

Going through old pictures I found this one of the old ‘labs’ back when we lived in a house that had no space for a lab.

Ahhh the good ol’ pre-DSL days. These are two linux boxes, one of which was on a 56K modem that autodialed my mindspring account if someone on the network requested something outside the network.

Hardware Upgrade At the Labs

About two years ago I bought a Compaq Presario 3000 laptop computer as my primary machine. It started overheating whenever I would try to check things out of a source repository or build software on it. I had it dual booting Windows XP and SuSE Linux 9.1. The overheating would cause it to just plain shutdown on Linux, or completely freeze under Windows XP. It was impossible to get anything of any substance done on the machine past email and web browsing, but I stuck it out because I didn’t want to spend more money on a new machine — and I didn’t want to be without a machine for 4-6 weeks while they sent it in for repairs.

At the time I bought it, it was brand new on the market and the poor customer reviews weren’t available. By the time I called support, the machine was on Compaq’s “classic” list.

Last month I got completely frustrated and decided to go out and find a laptop. I settled on the GATEWAY 7422GX Notebook Computer. It’s a 64-bit AMD chip with built in wireless, universal card reader, and DVD-RW drive. To be honest, I was actually too cheap to settle on this one and bought a cheaper model. However, that model I soon found had a known defect with the system restore, and they let me trade up for this model for the same price. You have to love Best Buy.

My first inclination was to again dual boot the machine running Linux and Windows XP. I need XP because my Digitech GNX4 software does not run on the Linux environment. However, once I got Linux on the machine, I found that the wireless card wasn’t supported on the distribution of Linux that I was installing (or if it was, I couldn’t figure out how to get it running after hours and hours).

VMWare on Windows Rather than spending my time wrestling with the machine and operating system for hours on end, and realizing that I actually wanted both Windows and Linux without having to reboot every time I wanted to change operating systems, I grabbed VMWARE WORKSTATION 4.X for Windows NT/2000/XP and installed it.

I decided that this time around, I was going to try out Fedora Core 3 as my Linux operating system. Having VMWare at my disposal was great, as I could muck about with the configuration as much as I needed to without hosing the machine. Once I found the documentation on getting the VMWare tools installed under Fedora, the machine has worked great.

In addition to being able to run multiple Linux distributions at my whim, the virtual machine is also able to piggy back on the hardware drivers for the Windows operating system, giving me access to my wireless network from my Linux installation. For each virtual machine installation, I now have the ability to snapshot the environment before making any major changes, guaranteeing that I can get back to a working installation.

This is truly the best of both worlds. If you want a truly safe way to run Linux on newer hardware and have any questions as to whether it will run or not, I highly recommend VMWare as a platform to integrate Linux into your daily work. I haven’t been happier.