Monday, June 22, 2009

MacBook Pro 13-inch 2.53ghz (mid 2009)

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MacBook Pro 13" vs Dell Inspiron 8600 15.4"


- Yes this grizzled PC veteran has finally bought a mac. This is my first mac so it was quite a learning curve (and still is!) for me. So this post will be from a complete mac osx noob perspective. So hopefully this might help those that are trying out a mac for the first time while most of you osx veterans can start rolling your eyes about now.

Why a Mac
- I think I might need to explain myself a bit on why I decided to finally buy a mac:
- I need a new laptop. We have one very old dell Inspiron 8600 which I still use daily but I've been eyeing a new laptop for sometime.
- I wanted something more portable and easier to travel with. I've been looking at netbooks but then I just got into World of Warcraft, and I wanted something that could play that at an acceptable framerate. Having just built a SFF PC built on the nvidia 9400m platform I knew that level performance would be good enough.
- I've been seriously looking into doing some iphone development and well the sdk only works on osx.
- I've looked at hackintosh, osx86, etc but I figure if I'm going to do this I want to do it right. Developing for iphone is going to be hard enough without having to worry about if the hackintosh is causing issues.
- The new macbook pro 13" fit pretty nicely. Yes I know you pay an "apple tax" but I see it as getting two computers in one (loading up windows with bootcamp). The tax isn't as big as you might think though. A comparable spec'd Dell Studio XPS 13" runs $1374 (or $1454 with 9 cell battery) with the same cpu/memory but with 9500m graphics and a bigger hard drive (500gb). So yeah you pay around a $200 or so apple tax but to me it was worth it for all the flexibility it gains me.
- So it's got the newfangled battery that is suppose to run 7hrs which greatly depends on what you are doing and your screen brightness. I do like the auto sensing brightness adjustment based on ambient light. In a pitch black room it dims quite nicely. So lithium polymer batteries have been around forever but I guess apple's trick up its sleeve is some sort of special controller chip that manages how the cells get recharged. I guess we will find out if the 1000 charges holds up after 3 yrs.
- Yes, the battery is not user removable. Yes, I hate that fact but the battery is easy to get to, and I'm sure long after the warranty is over I'll be able to find a supplier for these batteries and swap it out myself (or you could always just pay apple to do it for you at an apple retail store).
- Firewire is back (though I don't use firewire that often) and a sd card reader. No express card slot. The SD slot is bootable so you could say install another copy of osx on it in case of emergencies.

"The Apple Experience"
- Going into the apple store still creeps me out. The worst was when I went in to buy the macbook. I guess it came up in conversation that this was my first mac. The sales person was trying to push all this mac software crap, mobile me, one on one, etc. I was tempted to just say look I'm just going to go home, format the sucker, and install windows 7 :-) Anyways, when I checked out and they handed me the goods they said "Welcome to the family".....creepy.

500GB Hard Drive Upgrade



- So I wanted 500gb so I could do the bootcamp thing and install windows and still have plenty of space for both os's. I also plan to use this notebook as my portable media machine while on vacation. No more bringing a binder full of dvd's. I went with the Seagate Momentus 7200.4 7200 rpm 500gb sata hard drive for $130. Another popular option is the Western Digital Scorpio Blue 5400 rpm drive for $95. Here is a pretty good roundup on 2.5" 500gb hdd.
- Swapping the hard drive is pretty easy. The instructions are actually in the manual. What it doesn't mention is the need of a Torx T6 screwdriver to remove the four small mounting screws on the hard drive itself. I've been needing to pick up a torx set anyways so I grabbed the Kronus 20-Piece Electronics Bit-Driver Set from the local Radio Shack for $16.50. Also, the screws to remove the back plate are all different sizes so just make sure you keep them all straight.
- So I thought I would give the free Carbon Copy Cloner a try which seemed like a nice Acronis True Image type of app. I connect up the new drive using my blacx over usb and imaged the current boot drive to this new hdd. Everything seemed to go well. I was able to swap the drive easily now that I had a torx 6 screwdriver. The new 7200rpm 500gb seagate booted up just fine. So I go run bootcamp and it tells me it can't repartition or something. I learned the hard way that when I prepared the new hdd I picked something apple or another instead of GUID when I partitioned it. Yeah BAD BAD BAD. GUID GOOD.
- So next I try out time machine which is pretty slick if a bit cheesy (ok the flying through space and the different version of finder when you enter the time machine is a bit much). I just happened to have a 320gb 2.5" hdd in a usb enclosure (usb powered) I wasn't really using for anything. I did a complete time machine backup which took a while but went smoothly. I then boot with my mac osx disc (I see holding down option on boot up lets you pick the boot device), delete the partition, recreate it using the disk utility. I then try and restore from time machine but it would no't see my new hdd as a destination. It took some fumbling around but I finally just rebooted and then it let me choose my 500gb hdd for the destination of my restore. After the time machine restore (which works surprisingly well) I was finally able to run bootcamp assistant and partition for windows. Uggggg!!!!!
- Anybody try time machine over a samba share before? It sounds interesting.
http://forums.bit-tech.net/showthread.php?t=141960
http://hupio.wordpress.com/2008/04/27/osx-timemachine-and-sambawindows-share/
- SuperDuper is another popular pay option but from my experience it seems time machine pretty much does it all.
- Here are some folders you might want to exclude from time machine.
http://ryanblock.com/2008/05/good-folders-to-exclude-from-time-machine-backups/
- I did get the prohibitory sign one time on boot up. I decided to reset my PRAM and NVRAM just in case. It hasn't happened again since then.
- UPDATE: The seagate has been working well so far. It's quite speedy and quiet. This was run under bootcamp win7 x64 rc. Even though I've applied the EFI Firmware Update 1.7, and I can confirm in osx that it is indeed 3.0Gbps, it seems under windows it's still limited to 1.5Gbps by looking at the burst speed. This could be a bootcamp issue or even me running HD Tach in win 7 (you have to set compatibility mode to winxp). Either way it's still a speedy drive.

- Also, I am NOT having any issues like this. There are NO weird pauses, clicks, or beeps. I think that's because the model I'm using is the AS and NOT the ASG that apple uses. The AS lacks the drop sensor so I guess there is no chance to conflict with the one built into the macbook pro.


Exploring OSX
- So the first thing I do is install firefox and all my favorite plugins. After it was all setup I felt right at home. Safari 4 was ok but I really hate how in osx "maximize" doesn't always expand the window to your entire screen (I'm looking at you safari). I guess it's consistently inconsistent with red "close" button doesn't always mean quit the application. What apple "genius" thought that was a good idea. Also, I think they made double click the window title bar to minimize and window state buttons on the left which are exactly the opposite of windows just to drive windows users crazy.
- Where are the buttons? That was what my wife said when she first tried out the laptop. She was referring to the mousepad buttons which of course the macbook pro doesn't have any. I told her apple hates buttons and you push down the entire touch pad to click. Actually, I prefer tap to click and all those single finger drag/lock options. I was at least sort of use to a more "touch/gesture" interface from my iphone so this helped me transition a bit better. I do find some of the 3 finger and 4 finger gestures very handy. Two finger scroll feels very natural and works much better than the right side touchpad vertical strip on PC laptops. Sucked when I found out my 3 finger back/forward gestures didn't work in firefox until I discovered MultiClutch which fixed the problem. UPDATE: firefox 3.5 now supports 3 finger gestures natively (about:config filter on swipe. It also supports twist gestures).
- I had some confusion with how some apps let you create multiple instances, other apps are multi document (sort of like MDI but without a parent frame), others were single instance/single document apps. Like how command-n launches another copy of finder.
- Messed around with spaces. Pretty neat implementation of linux like virtual desktops. I'll have to mess with it more to see how I can best utilize it. Assigning vmware fusion on a different space works well. Same with wow. This way I can keep space 1 for firefox with wowhead or mapwow up.
- Stacks: I just stick folders there and load them up with shortcuts....errr I mean aliases. Great for quickly getting to downloads (I like to sort by date) and documents.
- Yeah, discovered about aliases the hard way. There were a few cases where when I thought I was creating an alias I was instead actually moving the entire app. Then when I deleted it (and emptied the trash) I accidentally deleted the app. No big deal on re-installing the app (I love how easy it is to install/uninstall apps in osx) and nice that settings are stored elsewhere (in the Library?). The command + option drag method for creating aliases sucks compared to right click drag in windows for a context sensitive menu when you release the right mouse button. This is where I really miss a physical second mouse button.
- I'm looking for an equivalent to locknote
What I did was create an encrypted disk image (10mb) with aes 128bit encryption and makes sure you don't save the password in the keychain. Then I guess I could just save a text file in that disk image. It's not quite the same so I'm still looking for a good locknote replacement if anybody knows of one. Also, I thought about using maybe a keychain and storing sensitive data in the notes section. I like how osx has really good native support for the concept of mounting disk images (.dmg/.iso).
- I tried out 1password but it doesn't let you search within a secure note. My final solutions was running locknote in crossover.
- Connected to vista with the built in vnc and it worked just fine though yeah it was a bit slow. I might look into vine or chicken. But it works in a pinch.
- I have this bluetooth 5 button dell mouse that paired up just fine with the mac. But to get the forward/back buttons to work correctly I had to install Steer Mouse. I wonder if installing Intellipoint osx drivers would also do the trick. I didn't bother trying. There are a few reports of sleep issues after installing the intellipoint drivers, and besides the mouse works great with just steer mouse installed.
- What is up with the keyboard with no home, end, page up, page down, or forward delete. Bootcamp keyboard mapping.
- Disable command Left/Right from moving page back/forward in firefox. Instead I want it to jump to the beginning and end of the line like it should. After you install the extension go to tools keyconfig. You want to disable gobackkb, goforwardkb. Command [ or ] still works fine for page navigation.
- 802.11n and gigabit ethernet both worked great and performed better than my pc's. Gigabit ethernet was faster than any vista to vista transfers I've done before.
- I'm using Leech (discount code at end of video) as a nice free download manger replacement (well except it isn't free).
- SilverKeeper is a nice little free utility if you just want to sync a few folder pairs. It works over smb shares too.
- Beware about how copying folders and merging works. In windows if you copied a folder to another drive with the same folder name, the contents and sub directories would merge. If you choose replace in osx it really does replace. It's like erasing all the contents in the destination folder first and then copying the contents from the source.
- Activity Monitor reminds me of task manager and lets you kill processes too.
- I haven't had much time to dig into the iLife stuff yet.
- Some external monitor tips (like how to get full resolution without being stuck in extended desktop or the max resolution of the macbook in mirror mode)
I haven't tried this yet but it sounds like it should work.
http://www.livingdigitally.net/2006/10/using_an_extern.html
- Why doesn't finder let you cut and paste files like in windows? Sure you can copy and paste but for some reason cut is disabled (command X). I find this really annoying. Sure there are some kludgey work arounds but it really should just work.
- Display complete path in finder.
- Setup firmware level password. It's not substitute for encryption but it might come in handy.
- Some other useful utilities:
http://osx.iusethis.com/ - Nice little site for finding useful apps
NTFS-3G - read/write ntfs partitions. Should come in handy for bootcamp users. Works great and is stupid easy to install.
AppFresh - Keep your apps up to date
AppCleaner - Completely remove an app including all its settings and other files like those kept in Library
Adium - IM
Grow - notifications
Perian - QT plugin for other media types. This didn't work that well for me. I still prefer VLC.
iStat Pro - system monitoring widget.
iStat Menus - I really like the network monitor and the hard drive activity. You can set it up to display the little color coded activity arrows to mimic the funciton of a hdd activity led. I really miss my hard drive light and this works just fine. It also displays temps which you can compare to this list of temps.
Onyx - multifunction utility. maintenance
TinkerTool - easy access to hidden settings and preferences.
The Unarchiver - It's no winrar but then again what is.
ClamXav - antivirus
coconutBattery - all sorts of neat battery info
Handbrake - great transcoding utiltiy though I mostly use it on my quad core PC.
JollysFastVNC - It's much faster than the built in vnc client and has an interesting zoom mode.
iStumbler - find wifi hot spots.

Network Shares
- Connection to windows shares (smb) is pretty easy (command K or finder, go, connect to server, save password to key ring, save as favorite). I did get an error code -41 periodically when trying to connect to one of my vista machines. I was getting an error in the event log with event ID 2017. Here are some potential solutions which seems to have fixed the issue for me:
http://www.chicagotech.net/netforums/viewtopic.php?t=3915&view=next&sid=99a01e6ca7a2220ea855d5419b2b0b42
http://www.bolverk.net/blog/24/os-x-and-smb-mount-failure/
- I created an apple script and compiled it as an application and stuck a alias on my desktop so I could quickly and easily remount all my shares when I needed them.
tell application "Finder"
activate

try
mount volume "smb://uncpath"
end try

try
mount volume "smb://uncpath"
end try
end tell

- One odd thing was when sharing from windows to mac I had to use the mac ip address. I haven't figured out how to use a more friendly unc path. I guess I could always just edit the hosts file.

Media Playback
- VLC as awesome as it was on PC is even more awesome on osx. It just looks more polished. It still plays about everything under the sun. The highest quality 1080p high bitrate MKV's will push the cpu to 80% but plays perfectly smooth. Most HD MKV's use < href="http://www.macupdate.com/info.php/id/22782">dvd assist though I didn't bother trying.
- I picked up the little apple IR remote ($20). Pretty neat for controlling front row, itunes, and to a limited extent the latest VLC. It should come in handy when using the macbook pro as a media player while on vacation like in a hotel room. Some buttons you can hold for a different function.
- An interesting app if you want to do more with the remote. I haven't tried it yet.
http://www.filewell.com/iRedLite/
- I also tried the iphone remote app. Not bad for free if you just want to control itunes with it over wifi.
- TV OUT: Look at Chris Innanen post in this thread.
Mini display port to vga $19
VGA to RCA-Composite/S-Video converter $27
VGA Gender Changer $1
Make sure you flip both dip switches DOWN for NTSC.
It's a pretty nice solution: very small and compact and the converter is usb powered so no additional ac adapters to carry around. Quality is pretty good for what it is.
Just add a set of composite cables (6ft for around $3), and a 1/8" stereo to rca L/R splitter (though I would probably go find one color coded) and you should be able to hook your macbook up to almost any hotel TV.
- Monoprice also carries the mini display port -> hdmi and dvi for less. They also have the mini toslink cables for getting optical spdif out of the headphone jack.
- I you want to get spdif audio into your hdmi you might try this adapter. (I have not personally tried this adapter)
- I tried two XBMC derivatives: Boxee and Plex. Both offer slick interfaces, works with apple remote, internet streaming support, and tons of file formats (seems to rank up there with VLC). They are a lot more flexible than frontrow. Boxee for some reason dropped the "resume" feature for video. It might return in the future but for now that is a deal killer. Plex works well with better hulu integration. Netflix streaming worked fine in both apps. For now I'll probably stick with plex.
- Hulu desktop is pretty slick and also works great with the apple remote but it's a bit redundant if you use plex.

Running Windows
- So I decided to try windows 7 x64 RC since I plan to wipe and install the final version when it is released on Oct 22. Surprisingly it went very smooth. I just inserted the win 7 disc, cold boot while holding option, picked the disc, chose the right partition (the one called BOOTCAMP), and format to ntfs. After first boot of win 7 I installed the bootcamp drivers from the osx install disc. Those went in just fine without the need for a LIMO patch. The only thing I had to install manually from the osx disc were the 64bit nvidia drivers which went in just fine. rthdribl ran at 70+ fps. World of Warcraft ran at 40fps on GOOD settings (same as the osx build). Guild Wars runs at a solid 60fps with everything maxed out. This is exactly in line with my SFF 9400m so go read that if you want more gaming benchmarks. I might do more windows gaming benchmarks on this laptop when I get the chance. The one known issue is the sound. These new macbook pro's now use a Cirrus Logic chipset and not realtek. Basically the sound is really quiet (about half volume at max) and the optical emitter is always on in the headphone jack. There is no known solution at this time. You can read more about the issue here.
UPDATE: Here is one possible solution for vista and windows 7 users.
UPDATE 2: I finally tried the solution and it does work but I had to do a few extra steps (at least for windows 7 x64). After following the steps in the solution, click your speaker icon in the system tray which should have a red x on it. It will fix itself. At this point the device manager will show ms hd audio and you will have no audio at all. Just run dpinst /F one more time and it will change to cirrus logic and all is good. No need to reboot.
UPDATE 3: Here is another possible solution.
- Hey look the win 7 task bar is now almost like the osx dock where running apps and launching are all shared on the same icon.
- Next, I installed vmware Fusion and patched it to the latest version. I had no problems booting it off of the bootcamp win7 x64 partition. All the vmware fusion tools installed just fine on first bootup within fusion. After that I went back to bootcamp to make sure the fusion tools didn't screw up anything. Everything seemed fine. Unity view is pretty cool where fusion will strip away everything around the app and makes your app look like it's running in native osx. Oh and sound works just fine in fusion since it kind of goes through a HW emulation layer.
- Finally, I gave wine (specifically darwine) a try. I was really impressed by the tech and the ability to emulate and map all the win32 api calls without any windows dll's. It actually ran locknote ok but would always throw some error when closing. It also opens all sorts of messy windows like logs, x11, processes, etc. It's free so it might be worth a try.
- I then gave crossover a shot which is basically a much more advance and polished version of wine. After creating a winxp winebottle and setting it as default I was able to run locknote perfectly straight from finder. It really does seamlessly run windows apps in osx and much quicker than firing up an entire virtual machine. It's great if your app is supported. I went ahead and purchased crossover (quite pricey I might add) as my locknote solution.
- I gave crossover games a try with guild wars. It installed just fine (created the appropriate wine bottle). After the initial download I quit gw and decided to copy the gw.dat (that was already complete) from my bootcamp partition into this wine bottle (just go to configuremanage wine bottle, advanced, and open c: drive in finder). I was quite impressed with the results. The graphics looked fine with no corruption and the framerates were pretty smooth and very playable.

Guild Wars (RA lobby):
Bootcamp: 60fps all settings maxed out. Perfect of course.
Corssover: 20fps all settings maxed out, 33fps medium settings (pretty smooth and quite playable)
fusion: 8fps all settings maxed out (jerky, not playable), 15fps lowest settings -dx8 (still pretty jerky), 20fps -dx8 -noshaders (barely playable though I really wouldn't want to). Pretty impressive that it even kind of works in a virtual machine but in practical terms it was not very useful.

Accessories
- Lapinator + Mousitizer $25 + $10 + shipping. This is my second lapinator and the mousitizer is equally awesome. It even comes with a lip that prevents your mouse from sliding off when both hands are on the keyboard. It's very comfortable and keeps my lap nice and cool. Tip: when sticking on the rubber feet make sure it doesn't get in the way of the mousitizer.

- Case Logic 13" MacBook Sleeve $26. Fits the macbook pro like a glove. Has a pocket for the ac adapter.
- Microsoft Wireless Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000 (bluetooth) $38. It has all 5 buttons. Laser. Works great with the built in bluetooth on the macbook (no need to use the included dongle). Too bad the forward/back buttons couldn't be on the same side. Also, the scroll wheel is smooth though it does have a bit of friction to it. I prefer notched. It uses 2XAAA and comes with a pretty nice carrying case too. It's your typical smallish notebook mouse. The volume controls even work. All in all it's my favorite bluetooth mouse right now.
- Wenger Synergy Backpack $66 (haven't received this yet but it looks pretty good)
- 2 X 60w magsafe power adapters from ebay from this seller: satisfactionassured. $24 each. They get a bit warm but seem to work ok. Yeah, I'm still a bit worried about using these but dang compared to the $80 apple tax it was hard to resist. After using them a bit more they seem fine.
- The sony stereo bluetooth headphones that I use with my iphone also works quite well with the macbook.

Special thanks to the fine folks at QT3 for all the wonderful suggestions and help.

Overall I'm very impressed by the hardware. It is really well built and performs great. You pay a bit more but if you want the best it's worth it. OSX is nice but I'm still getting use to it. A lot of things still feel pretty quirky to me. Plus you get a great windows machine out of it though I'm pretty much trying to stay in OSX and do things the osx way as much as possible during this learning period. If you are looking for a high end laptop then you can't do much better than the new MacBook Pro. Highly recommended!

UPDATE: 7/9/09
- So I finally got around to booting back to bootcamp windows 7 x64 RC and ran some gaming benchmarks. Most of the games are off of steam using these settings: 1280X800, vsync off when possible, AA off, trilinear (AF off) when possible. I used the benchmark feature in the latest fraps. The wow numbers between windows and osx is almost identical so I play wow under osx.

2009-07-08 23:33:00 - Guild Wars (max, vsync off, no aa, running around RA lobby)
Frames: 2575 - Time: 38718ms - Avg: 66.506 - Min: 47 - Max: 90

2009-07-08 23:40:10 - World of Warcraft (ironforge, good setting on the slider)
Frames: 3194 - Time: 50256ms - Avg: 63.554 - Min: 46 - Max: 75

2009-07-08 23:41:44 - World of Warcraft (stormwind)
Frames: 1550 - Time: 37882ms - Avg: 40.916 - Min: 35 - Max: 51

2009-07-08 23:49:56 - bioshock (plane crash, low settings)
Frames: 2393 - Time: 75350ms - Avg: 31.758 - Min: 16 - Max: 60

2009-07-08 23:55:39 - bioshock (beginning of rapture)
Frames: 3153 - Time: 101748ms - Avg: 30.988 - Min: 24 - Max: 52

Counter Strike Source Video Stress Test: 87fps

2009-07-09 00:02:41 - hl2 (counter strike source, high settings, 9 bots, de_dust)
Frames: 1922 - Time: 47937ms - Avg: 40.094 - Min: 28 - Max: 44

2009-07-09 00:05:58 - hl2 (counter strike source, medium settings)
Frames: 7341 - Time: 84491ms - Avg: 86.884 - Min: 59 - Max: 104

2009-07-09 00:12:39 - left4dead (survival, last stand, low settings, local server)
Frames: 3251 - Time: 149374ms - Avg: 21.764 - Min: 15 - Max: 31

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