Posts tagged with macbook - page 2

Boot Camp 2.1, VMware Fusion 1.1.2 and MacBook Pro firmware

Boot Camp 2.1

Apple have released Boot Camp 2.1 which finally includes official 64-bit support on Vista and support for Windows XP Service Pack 3.

This update may mean that 3D games will play without locking up or installing Nvidia’s own drivers and that the track-pad functions correctly again (broken since Boot Camp 1.x)

MacBook Pro Firmware 1.5.1

Apple’s MacBook Pro Firmware Update 1.5.1 applies to all recent MacBook Pro’s including the ones with MBP31.0070.B05 firmware that the 1.5 update failed to upgrade leaving 17″ owners on MBP31.0070.B07.

The new firmware does not fix a problem where track-pad input would become jerky after suspending/sleeping and turning Airport off would make matters worse. 10.5.3 has fixes for Airport after sleeping which might solve the issue…

VMware Fusion 1.1.2

VMware Fusion 1.1.2 is just out and includes a host of fixes and improvements including:

  • Windows XP Service Pack 3
  • Network and USB compatibility
  • Time Machine compatibility

Now that VMware lets Time Machine backup the VM image file and that Time Machine backs up modified files in their entirety you might want to exclude ~/Documents/Virtual Machines it unless you fancy loosing several gigabytes per hour whilst using a VM. Of course if you have your VM running off it’s own partition to allow Boot Camp too then that’s not an issue.

With any luck VMware will figure out a way of Time Machine backing up changed individual files within the Windows file-system…

[)amien

Windows 2008 Server on my MacBook Pro

A troublesome disk (a story for another time) has forced me to reinstall my MacBook Pro and review my Windows partition.

My Boot Camp partition was running Vista Ultimate x86 which felt sluggish, ignored the last 1GB and bugged me with UAC. One Windows update kept failing to install which also prevented SP1 from completing.

Apple’s Boot Camp doesn’t support 64-bit Windows (except on the Mac Pro) and my 64-bit experiences have been unpleasant so far (no Flash for IE x64, limited 64-bit shell extensions, Live! refusing to install, drivers etc.) The increased x64 memory consumption would also be an issue when running in a 1.5GB virtual machine via Parallels or VMware Fusion.

Windows XP was one option but losing IIS7 and DirectX 10 would see me reinstalling Vista within weeks so I decided to try Windows 2008 Server x86.

Boot Camp happily accepted the 2008 Server x86 CD where I chose the BOOTCAMP partition, formatting it as NTFS and electing for a standard installation. The Boot Camp drivers subsequently installed without complaint, all 4GB of RAM was accessible and there are no 64-bit compatibility issues.

Microsoft are giving away 1 year evaluation copies of Windows 2008 Enterprise Server x86 as part of their Heroes Happen Here launch program for Windows 2008, SQL Server 2008 and Visual Studio 2008 if you don’t happen to have an MSDN subscription to hand. There are however a few tweaks you need to do to get a more desktop-like experience:

Install desktop features

Head into Server Manager and Add Features then choose Desktop Experience to install Windows Media Player, Aero etc.

Go into Services and set the Themes service to Automatic and Start it to make themes available and then choose Browse… from the Theme Settings in Personalisation to select %windir%\Resources\Themes\Aero.theme

Install wireless networking

This one had me stumped for a while as I thought my wireless card/drivers weren’t working. The reality is that 2008 Server has wireless networking removed by default so head into Server Manager > Add Features > Wireless LAN Service to install it.

Enabling hibernate

Open a command prompt and enter:

powercfg.exe /hibernate on

Remove annoying shutdown

Head into the registry to HKEY\_LOCAL\_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows NT\Reliability and change the ShutdownReasonOn DWORD key to __.

Relaxing local password policy

A controversial change I’m sure but I’d rather choose something complex and unique that will last 90+ days than something memorable every 30. Head into Local Security Policy > Account Policies > Password Policy > Maximum password age and change it to something more reasonable.

Going further

A great guide with screen-shots on additional tweaks for a more workstation-like experience also exists – wish I known about that earlier!

Simone Chiaretta has highlighted the that tap-to-click is absent and there are some Bluetooth issues stemming from missing drivers.

[)amien

What’s in your laptop bag?

Since my new laptop arrived I’ve been fine tuning my accessories in search of the developer-on-the-move setup. Here is my current contents complete with shameless Amazon Affiliate product links where applicable ;-)

Brenthaven Pro BackPack

My parents bought me the Brenthaven Pro 15-17 Backpack for Christmas. It has a great number of sections and compartments yet can still be thinly packed with the padding contributing to a comfortable wear. The only negatives are that the finish seems a little rough in places and that the rigid laptop protection area seems to be designed to hold a laptop almost twice as thick as a MacBook Pro despite claims of being ‘Designed for a 15.4″ MacBook and 17″ MacBook Pro’.

Of course the dream laptop bag would have an external USB port that would power and charge various devices within ;-)

RadTech sleeve & protector

I’ve owned RadTech sleeves for all three of my Apple laptop’s to date and they’ve all been excellent. Snug fitting, soft but hard-wearing and well-made they keep the machines clean and scratch-free. Now available in a multitude of colors but call me a traditionalist I’ve stuck with aluminum-grey. I also recommend grabbing a screen protector that sits between the keyboard and screen that doubles up as a cleaning cloth.

OCZ Rally 2 4GB USB stick

Another gift I received is the ever-useful USB memory stick for those odd file transfer tasks. The OCZ 4GB Rally 2 USB 2.0 Flash Drive can double up as a Vista ReadyBoost cache (providing you are booted natively, neither Parallels or VMware Fusion emulate it fast enough) and is housed in a small black metal enclosure the size of my little finger. Minor downsides are the easily-lost cap and the green led that casts an eerie glow over the geek at the keyboard.

Microsoft Wireless Notebook Laser Mouse 600

I’ve been using mice with laptops less over the years as my comfort with track-pads has grown and i have found myself without desk space for a mouse. The Microsoft Wireless Notebook Laser Mouse 600 works quite well however and the battery seems to last for ages. It is quite light and possibly a bit too small to be comfortable and if I was to replace it I’d go with something Bluetooth to avoid the dongle (which clips into the mouse when not in use).

iPod Nano

I purchased a iPod Nano 8GB 3G late last year after my 60GB iPod died. The device is incredibly small with a good battery life and fantastic display. Not convinced that the screen or control is suited for video or games but it makes a great little music player – I’m just hoping the flash models have a longer lifespan.

Philips Earbuds

These Philips HN060/37 ‘Noise-Canceling’ Earbuds are pretty good considering the price, size and battery life. Whilst they don’t cancel noise out the combination of the in-ear mechanism, volume booster and the active circuity does help suppress noise levels somewhat and I have found them particularly useful on flights. Some people find the high-pitched white noise the circuitry generates annoying and others find in-ear plugs irritating however. Personally the only problem I have with them is that the rubber pieces tend to come off and get lost quite easily but you can buy generic replacement packs from many airport/music stores.

My Book Pro 500GB External Drive

Leopard’s Time Machine combined with a Western Digital My Book Studio 500GB External Hard Drive provides me with a simple backup strategy that is lightning fast via FireWire 800 (800 Mbps) and still speedy over USB 2 (480 Mbps).

The Studio drive I linked to also provides eSATA support (couldn’t find mine on Amazon). It isn’t always in my backpack but does make a regular appearance.

Cables etc.

The bane of every techie’s life. Currently includes 1m USB extender, a USB to mini-USB cable that connects my TyTN, PSP, BlackBerry and Canon EOS 400D to my MacBook Pro and the Apple DVI to VGA adapter for presentations. The Apple-supplied remote also sits in there for exactly that purpose.

Stationary

I like to keep a Moleskine pocket notepad tucked away, ruled by preference until they make a graph-paper version. This is normally coupled with a Pilot G2 at the moment which is comfy and smooth but takes too long to dry and is still too thick in the 0.38mm ’05’ version. Without sounding like a pen obsessive I’m going to try a Uni-Ball Signo Bit 0.18 next! There is also a nondescript mechanical pencil and large eraser.

Reading

Yes, there is still room in this TARDIS of a laptop bag for reading material. At the moment it is alternating between Designing Type, Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager and The Art of Intrusion all of which were Christmas gifts :)

That’s it! would love to find out what other people keep in their laptop bags and hear suggestions on some of my weak spots. I wish I could fit a full-size tactile keyboard in it but I guess I’ll live!

[)amien

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