Posts tagged with windows - page 2

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

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

Font rendering philosophies of Windows & Mac OS X

Jeff Atwood asked What’s Wrong With Apple’s Font Rendering? and as I answered in the comments it comes down to philosophy:

The primary difference is that Microsoft try to align everything to whole pixels vertically and sub-pixels horizontally.

Apple just scale the font naturally – sometimes it fits into whole pixels other times it doesn’t.

This means Windows looks sharper at the expense of not actually being a very accurate representation of the text. The Mac with it’s design/DTP background is a much more accurate representation and scales more naturally than Windows which consequently jumps around a lot vertically.

Jeff and Joel both wrote follow up posts agreeing that it is one of philosophy but both are of the opinion that the Windows pixel-grid approach is the better whilst our displays are only capable of low dots-per-inch (DPI).

What they don’t seem to appreciate is the compromise this causes.

Here is an example of Times New Roman on Windows (left) and Mac OS (right) scaled over whole point sizes with sub-pixel precision:

Font scaling on Windows and Mac OS X

The two thing to note here arising from this “pixel-grid is king” approach are

  1. Windows does not scale fonts linearly as the rough line points out
  2. Windows scales the height and width but not the weight of the font

Neither of these may matter to a casual user but for professionals preparing material destined for high DPI (film or print) then it’s a world of difference. How can you layout a page on-screen and expect the same result on the page when the font isn’t the same width?

The issue is reminiscent of the “I hate black bars on wide-screen films” brigade who believe that the film should be chopped, panned, scaled and otherwise distorted from the artists original intention simply so that it fits better on their display.

Typography has a rich and interesting history developed and honed over centuries. It is a shame to misrepresent typefaces especially as the pixel-grid approach becomes less relevant as displays reach higher resolutions.

Update

Some additional comparisons and a note that the gamma differences between Windows and Mac will affect how you see the “other” systems rendering on your machine.

Further update (21 August 2007)

Thanks to Daring Fireball and ZDNet we’ve had a few more great comments which I’ve summarized here:

George thinks the philosophy idea is wrong because “What percentage of Mac users sit around all day doing nothing but pre-press work?” but as Fred points out Microsoft’s desktop-user optimized rendering ends up on images and videos all over the web, thus escaping the environment for which it was crippled.

George also claims that Vista’s rendering is improved, I can’t vouch for that one way or another but from looking at his screen shots the difference there could simply be the contrast level as adjusted by the ClearType tuner.

Nathaniel believes that it’s not Microsoft’s job to manipulate a typeface and that if you want on-screen readability then choose a font designed for that such as Microsoft’s own Tahoma or Apple’s Lucida Grande.

I’d go further and say that Microsoft’s own aggression in sticking to the grid kills font choice at the regular reading size of 10/11 point by optimizing everything to a generic sans or serif look:

Windows XP

Windows fonts around 11pt in ClearType

Mac OS X

Mac OS X fonts around 13pt in Medium (Best for LCD)

James points to an article called Texts Rasterization Exposures that proposes a combination of using vertical hinting only and calculating horizontally to 256 levels and has some convincing screen-shots showing the benefits. Probably too late for Leopard or Vista SP1 though.

[)amien

Windows font evolution

Vista and Office 2007 are interesting as they provide major user interface work that also includes new sets of fonts. I thought it would be interesting to show the evolution of the various styles.

Serif

Times New Roman has been the default typeface in Microsoft Word since version 1 and was originally designed for printing newspapers on high speed printing machines whilst still retaining legibility.

Curiously enough whilst Office 2007 provides a couple of new serif typefaces the default has switched to the sans-serif font Calibri although a number of the the themes within Office 2007 utilize these typefaces.

Serif font evolution in Windows

Sans-serif

The infamous Helvetica clone Arial primarily used for on-screen document-type work and even used in some applications user-interfaces throughout the years gives way to two new lighter fonts that like most of the new ‘C’ named typefaces rely on ClearType to look legible at small sizes.

Calibri is now the default font of choice for Word documents and will therefore probably become a familiar typeface in a short space of time.

Sans-serif font evolution in Windows

Monospace

Primarily used for programming and other environments that require it. At least all those programmers too lazy to try something else will enjoy Consolas as standard in Visual Studio 2007.

Monospace font evolution in Windows

User interface

The Windows user-interface switches to a new font once again despite large chunks of the Windows UI never making it past Microsoft Sans Serif (the scalable version of MS Sans Serif pictured below).

Interface font evolution in Windows

[)amien