Blue Screen Of Duds

Where the alter ego of codelust plays

Leopard, Macbook Pro: First Impression From The Trenches

with 10 comments

At long last I made the switch from being a Windows user to one of those nose-in-the-air snobs who carry those beautiful laptops with leftover apple on the backside. The reasons for the switch were simple enough. I gave up my old laptop somewhere in the recent chaos and had to get a new one. Most of my options involved running Vista and it basically boiled down to the new Dell XPS M1330 and the Macbook or the Macbook Pro. While the XPS was an incredibly amazing deal at its current prices of Rs 64,000, even with the graphics card slapped on, the nagging question was that of having to run Vista.

Now, I am not a rabid anti-Windows person or a great Linux fanboy. I live by the quintessential “horses for courses” adage and have run almost everything (with the exception of the Mac, other than a stint during the journalism school days), including variants of Windows from the 3.x days, DOS, Netware, Linux, BSD, AIX etc, during my time. In my daily dalliance with computers over the past four years, Windows XP has dominated every part of it (other than the servers) and I have a pretty intimate knowledge of Windows XP by now. That said, keep XP clean of attacks, viruses and various infections is a dark art and a game of cat and mouse that never ends.

The question thus (with a Rs 30,000 mark up on it) was if I wanted to spend my time on yet another learning curve wrangling Vista to behave to my liking. From what I have seen of VIsta, it is a major upgrade that will require me to relearn jumping through the myriad hoops involved in learning any Microsoft OS. On the other hand, I am very comfortable with the command line, though for using a desktop it is not my ideal choice on any given day. Thank you, but I shall keep my point-and-click sensibilities with me any day. And as you know by now, the lure of the shiny Apple won.

In terms of a regular desktop experience, Apple and OSX has been a delight. I will not reiterate what’s been said so many times before: that things just work on the damn thing. A network printer that normally takes me about 15 clicks to add on XP took just three clicks on OSX. It looks and behaves like one of those stunning supermodels – what you get to see is more or as equally tantalizing as what is being very thinly hidden from your eyes. On the other hand, most of the trouble I’ve had are with my development platform. More on that later.

My current desktop stack includes Adium (instant messaging), Firefox (2.0.0.11, not the 3.x beta), Freemind (mindmapping), Fugu (SFTP), SVNX (Subversion client), VMWare Fusion (for Microsoft Office and Outlook, I know, sigh) Ecto (blogging, oh yes!) and JellyfiSSH (SSH client front end). In terms of performance Adium is lovely, Firefox is pretty similar to how it behaves in Windows, Freemind has been spotty (Leopard Java issues, I presume), VMWare Fusion is absolutely awesome, though Outlook is patchy. In short, it has been pretty nice to me till date.

Incidentally, I run only Microsoft Office under VMWare Fusion. Initially, I had dedicated a whole 700 MB of RAM to the VM, then chopped it to 512 MB and now it is running at a healthy 256 MB. In the long run, I do intend to see how Office for Mac 2008 holds up and move to it. Irrespective of whatever RAM I end up giving to Fusion, when it does run, I get less than 200 MB of RAM to spare. I do not know if it is any better if you run it as a real VM than a Bootcamp version, but this is only a stopgap arrangement.

Things have been different though on the developer side. I am one of those people who love to compile my development stack from source and YUM on Centos has throughly spoiled me on that count. The shortest compile instructions that I’ve seen for any OSX software runs into several screenfuls and there seems to be no sane way to get the dependency libraries in place (nobody has a straight answer whether FInk or Macports is the better option).

OSX Leopard itself runs with Apache 2.2.x and PHP 5, but it does not have the Postgresql module complied in and I have not been able to get the Entropy distribution to start up with PHP enabled for some bizarre reason that I’ve not had the time to figure out yet. I grabbed the Postgresql binary from Entropy and MYSQL server from, well, MYSQL.com. My other dependency, on Eclipse PDT, has currently hit a wall with the PHP situation and I have not taken a look yet at what major hara-kiri it would take for me to get it running with Xdebug on OSX. So the jury is still out on that one.

In conclusion I am happy that I made the switch. In terms of both hardware and software Apple and OSX is an elegant combination. I have no idea how much pain the development set up would give me, but even in the worst case scenario I could run a server install in a VMware Fusion session and forget all about it. But the most important point is that the Mac has allowed me to take my time off from maintaining my desktop environment and till OSX worms and viruses are a commonplace occurrence I think that should hold. As far as Vista goes, I’ve helped a couple of my lads in my team with it and I want to stay as far away from it as possible.

Written by shyam

December 10, 2007 at 4:39 pm

Posted in Apple, Leopard, OSX

10 Responses

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  1. Apple is truly a wow machine. There was no doubt about it’s abilities; I have seen the evolution of the machine from old cube to G4 and power chips to the latest Intels. It’s been a revelation and I always wanted to own one. Lack of “popular” support for the programmes means just one thing. I had to get used to Vista for all practical purposes.

    By the way, are you using Leopard OS? I heard that it had a lot of “bugs”…

    Abhishek

    December 13, 2007 at 6:19 pm

  2. why don’t u try installing bootcamp and install windows XP along with Mac OS X. Also, try and get hold of a copy of Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac from any torrent site. You’ll not need to run Office on VMWare then :-)

    Cheers

    shivaas

    December 14, 2007 at 9:09 am

  3. Abhishek: Well, it runs most things that I am used to quite well: vlc, adium/psi etc. On the apps-side things are pretty nice, but every now and then you’ll be hit with a shareware link for something you’d have taken for granted in Windows-land. I am still getting used to it though.

    It came with the Leopard upgrade DVD and that was one of the first things I did. Did not find it to be buggy if you ask me. Then again, one man’s bug is another man’s feature.

    shivaas: The VMWare Fusion XP install is running from the bootcamp partition. Office 2004 for Mac has an awful reputation and I had a trial version installed on this. I much prefer running Office 2003 on Fusion.

    Can’t use pirated stuff, the lappy is from office, we are shutting down the use of pirated crap and I have also made a conscious effort to pay for software.

    shyam

    December 14, 2007 at 11:01 am

  4. oh.. ok. Yeah pirated stuff is crap sometimes, but in times of need, nothing beats it :)

    I still did not get your point of “VMWare Fusion XP install is running from the bootcamp partition”. As far as i understand, VMWare is a virtualization software which you run on mac/linux and within that program u can install other software and all.
    Bootcamp on the other hand allows u to boot either into windows or mac os, as u wish. It allows us to run windows on native configuration rather than on shared resources.

    I may be mistaken here but that’s wat i’ve learned. Even i just bought my macbook a week back, and installed VMWare and using that i installed Windows Vista. Now i first boot into mac os x and then start up VMWare to run vista.
    But an old friend of mine then told me that i could boot up directly into the OS of my choice, and run vista using complete resources of the macbook rather than sharing it simultaneously with mac os x.
    Makes Sense ?

    shivaas

    December 14, 2007 at 1:00 pm

  5. Shivaas: VMWare Fusion can recognize Bootcamp partitions and load an instance of the Virtual Machine from it. Or you could do it the old fashioned way and set up the whole OS (as you have done) on a virtual disk and run it from it. It is still virtualization, but this way I don’t have to bother with the pain of having two Windows installs to maintain (one in Bootcamp and the other in the VMware virtual disk.

    Check the “break out of bootcamp” point in the link:

    http://www.vmware.com/products/fusion/features.html#c25447

    shyam

    December 14, 2007 at 2:40 pm

  6. Get your point. But i think what differs in the two approaches is the performance. Running Windows through bootcamp will definitely allow you to use system resources dedicatedly rather than sharing it with another OS simultaneously. Using VmWare hogs a lot of system resources and RAM which makes the system work almost at a snails pace if you’re using development tools like eclipse or MYSQL server on your windows machine.

    good thread though… cleared up a few of my points too in the process of discussion :)

    shivaas

    December 14, 2007 at 8:40 pm

  7. Sure, performance is an issue. But it would beat the entire purpose if I was to run XP on the MBP via Bootcamp all the time. I think part of the confusion that I’ve probably not explained my set up.

    My dependence on virtualization is for two things: 1) Running Outlook as Entourage on Mac Office 2004 is yucky and I want to wait out till Mac Office 2008 is out. 2) To test out new releases of operating systems and also test out clustering and load balancing set ups. Most of these are lightweight server installs that don’t need more than 128 MB of RAM per instance.

    My development stack including Eclipse, Postgresql, Apache and MYSQL are installed on OSX and not XP/Windows. So all I have given my Windows VM is 256 MB of RAM, which is what most of the bulky Office suites end up using anyway even on a normal non VM set up. I’ve tracked usage and have seen that my entire set up is taking 1.2 GB of RAM at the lower levels and about 1.7 – 1.8 GB at peak. The system runs pretty fine even at the peak and the only downer is when Firefox decides to lag as it does on Windows.

    And thank you for your comments :-)

    shyam

    December 14, 2007 at 11:03 pm

  8. ohhhh…. now the picture gets clearer :)

    By the way, how do u test out clustering mate ? sounds interesting and all…

    shivaas

    December 15, 2007 at 11:26 pm

  9. Custering requires multiple machines (with different IPs) or DB/http instances (with different ports) to fulfill different roles. You can do the first set up, which comes as close to being a production set up using virtualization, without actually rolling servers and undergoing outstanding pain.

    shyam

    December 17, 2007 at 2:25 pm

  10. Hmmm… Sounds fascinating i must say…

    shivaas

    December 18, 2007 at 12:46 pm


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