Posts in category apple - page 5

One week with a MacBook Pro 17″

It has been one week since I picked up my new MacBook Pro 17″ to replace my aging first-generation 15″ model.

My initial concern was that the size and weight would be unwieldy after 4 years of lugging around a 15″ MacBook Pro and a prior to that a Titanium PowerBook G4. The actual problem was that my trusty Samsonite Trunk & Co. backpack could not accommodate it and that I’d have to hope Santa would deliver something a little bigger. Being properly kitted up might reveal if the dimensions and weight are uncomfortable so expect an update once I’ve travelled with the beast.

MacBook Pro 17″ image courtesy of Apple Inc.The screen is fantastic, a little brighter, and provides me with a desktop-like experience in terms of real estate thanks to the combination of the increased size and the high-definition 1920×1200 option. I had examined the glossy finish in-store and found having my face and the rest of the store glaring back at me far too distracting for real work (it might be nice for watching DVD’s in the dark I guess) and so went with the matte finish. Surprisingly it is a little more reflective than the older MBP but not overly so and it does make removing unwelcome fingerprints easier.

One problem I had with m 15″ was that heavy use of Visual Studio within Parallels wasn’t always cutting it on performance. Compilation was faster than the cheap HP/Compaq desktop I’d been using but still wasn’t snappy enough to keep my attention tightly focused ;-)

I went with top options – a 2.6GHz processor coupled with 4GB of RAM and a 7200RPM 200GB drive – to ensure maximum performance. Mac OS X and native Vista did not disappoint and felt like a speedy desktop despite Vista being 32-bit and limited to 3GB of RAM until Apple ship a 64-bit ready Boot Camp drivers and tools.

My .NET development typically takes place inside a virtual machine – previously Parallels but now evaluating VMware Fusion with its enticing dual-core and 64-bit guest OS support. Both Parallels and Fusion had similar almost-native performance in the disk and processor department on my 15″ according to Vista’s performance index and I’ve yet to rerun those (stay tuned). Whichever gets Aero/DirectX 9Ex shader support first will be my home for a while.

Battery life was a big surprise offering over 3 hours and I certainly feel less conscious of where the next power feed is coming from although that is partly due to the poor battery on my old machine being rather tired and worn.

One big disappointment is the keyboard. Firstly it is the same size as the 15″ model which leaves the extra space to the speaker grille. Whilst the speakers do sound far superior – good enough to actually listen to music on – I couldn’t help but feel a wider enter key, a second ctrl and a little f-key spacing could have gone a long way. What is more concerning is that many keys do not register if hit off-centre even by a slight amount :(

There are still some things to try:

  • Games under native Vista taking advantage of the Nvidia 8600M GT chip
  • Time Machining my MyBook Pro external drive over FireWire 800 (800 Mb/s) instead of USB2 (400 Mb/s)
  • Burning DVD performance
  • Removing DVD drive (UJ-85J FBZ8) region protection (RPC) to play my DVD collection

[)amien

More free Mac software picks

Alarm Clock 2

Wake up every morning to your iTunes playlist without the danger of an app launching it and having a problem/update pending that prevents you getting to work on time.

Alarm Clock 2 also includes Timers (great for a quick 20 minute power nap) and Stopwatches alongside the normal one-off or regular scheduled alarm that will bring both you and your machine out of sleep ready for that early-morning email check.

AP Grapher

If you need to keep an eye on what your WiFi connection is doing AP Grapher can help a little by showing you noise and signal levels over time.

Quick tip: Hold down Alt when going to the normal Apple WiFi menu to see some stats on your current connection.

AppFresh

Keeping your apps up to date can often be a pain and until Apple extend Software Update out to third parties we’ll have to use alternative solutions.

AppFresh is much more reliable than the previous Software Update widget which I was previously using. It still has the odd problem recognizing unusual version numbering such as build numbers and beta’s but otherwise does a pretty good job.

Cyberduck

I’ve been using FireFTP for a while under OS X but as I find myself spending more and more time in Safari and less in Firefox I wanted a standalone FTP client that’s a little better than using the command line or Connect To Server disk-mounting option.

Thankfully Cyberduck comes in to play and apart from not supporting my favorite column-mode and no option to make default connections passive it does the job quite well.

Senuti

There are a number of legal and legitimate reasons for grabbing songs back off your iPod (hard drive crash, removing music from your laptop to make space, overenthusiastic parents and siblings cleaning up your machine…)

Senuti helps save the day by letting you get your tracks back off your iPod and onto your Mac.

SyncMate

I must confess I haven’t had time to try this yet but if you want to syncronize your Windows Mobile phone with your Mac and don’t want to pay up for MissingSync (or pay extra just to get Leopard compatibility, grrr) then SyncMate is your only option although how long it stays free beyond beta remains to be seen.

[)amien

Windows Experience Index on MacBook Pro 2GHz compared

I just got the opportunity to try out the latest version of VMware and thought I’d do a quick Windows Experience Index on Boot Camp, Parallels and VMware to see what the performance is like before my new MacBook Pro 17″ arrives (hopefully on Friday!)

When I installed Leopard on my machine I took the opportunity to carve out a dedicated 20GB partition again to put a fresh install of Vista on. As well as being able to boot natively this also now means I can run my single Windows partition switching between native, Parallels or VMware at will which admittedly drives Windows Activation crazy.

Host machine

Hardware MacBook Pro 2GHz “MacBookPro1,1”
Memory 2048MB DDR2 667MHz
Processor 2.0GHz Core Duo
Graphics ATI Radeon X1600 256MB
Disk 100GB 5400RPM
Operating system Mac OS X Leopard 10.5.1

Configuration

Memory 848MB (Virtual machines only)
Disk 20GB Boot Camp partition
Operating system Microsoft Vista Ultimate Edition 32-bit

Testing notes

  • No other applications running in OS X or Vista
  • Full-screen mode
  • Vendors guest OS tools & drivers installed

Scores

VMware
1.1 62573
Parallels
3.0 5570 beta
Boot Camp
2.0 drivers
Processor 4.7 4.7 4.7
Memory (RAM) 3.9 3.9 4.9
Graphics 1.9 1.9 4.1
Gaming graphics 1.0 1.0 4.4
Primary hard disk 5.9 5.9 5.9
Overall 1.0 1.0 4.1

Thoughts

  • Processor: A little surprising given that VMware supports multiple cores but that Parallels doesn’t.
  • Memory: To be expected given that the VM was only running with less RAM.
  • Graphics: Disappointing and likely caused by the VM vendors graphics drivers not being WDM which based.
  • Gaming graphics: Very disappointing and caused by lack of DirectX 9 graphics support.
  • Hard disk: Like processor this is a pleasant surprise.

After my new 17″ MacBook Pro arrives (hopefully this Friday) I will produce another set of scores which should show how much faster the 2.6GHz is with all the options and let me compare like-for-like on the memory front.

I also want to run some Visual Studio 2008 build time comparisons (probably of SubSonic) because compilations are what really counts ;-) If you have any further suggestions for benchmarks, leave a comment!

[)amien

Show Package Contents in Mac OS X

Bundles are a concept in Mac OS X whereby a specially named folder becomes what appears to casual users to simply be a file that can be copied as usual and often launched by double-clicking on it.

Other operating systems have file formats that are little more than containers for other files and in doing so keep those interesting resources out of your reach. (Okay, we have DMG but that’s more of a transportation mechanism like ZIP, TAR etc.)

To see the contents of one a bundle select it and just choose Show Package Contents from Finder’s context menu (hit the Task button in the toolbar, Ctrl-click or two-finger click).

The ones I find most interesting or useful are…

Application (.app)

All sorts of great resources can be found in here including icons, templates, sounds and the NIB’s for the user interface. Great for learning but consider the license before you take resources for your own application.

Garage Band project/template (.band, .wand)

Audio files of the instruments and output can be found inside.

Safari Download (.download)

An absolute gem if you are downloading audio or video files and want to watch or listen to what has downloaded so far.

Slideshow Screen Saver (.slideSaver)

Various images used in the slideshow.

iDVD theme (.theme)

Various images in tiff format and Quartz Composer compositions you could try using as screen-savers.

Time Machine (.inProgress)

If you have a partial backup with Time Machine and need a file it my have backed up this could be a life-saver.

iPhoto Library

Your original and modified photos from iPhoto and the XML data behind them.

iMovie project (.rcProject)

Contains a QuickTime movie of all the still images used in the project.

Others

There are others to be found scattered across your file-system too:

Extension Type
.action Automator action
.bundle Bundle
.clr Colors
.colorPicker Color picker
.component Component
.dvdproj iDVD project
.fs Filesystem
.kext Kernel extension
.key Keynote presentation
.mdiimporter Spotlight importer
.nib Interface builder
.numbers Numbers spreadsheet
.osax Scripting addition
.pages Pages document
.plugin Plug-in
.pkg Installation package
.prefPan Preferences pane
.saver Screen saver
.wdgt Dashboard widget
.xcDataModel Core Data model
.xcodeproj Xcode Project

You might also want to check out this guide to examining bundles.

[)amien