Bob Ippolito (@etrepum) on Python, Erlang, JavaScript, etc.
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MacBook Pro first impressions

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After over three years with a 1ghz 15" titanium PowerBook I've finally upgraded to a 2ghz dual core 15" MacBook Pro! Compared to my old laptop, this machine is absolutely amazing. I've been waiting a LONG time for:

  • Built-in Bluetooth, 802.11g, USB 2.0
  • Higher resolution, contrast, brightness display
  • Trackpad with the two-finger scrolling
  • Much much improved video subsystem
  • A machine fast enough to effectively use spotlight

Additionally, this new kit is going to save me a lot of VNC sessions since I can run other operating systems in virtualization via Parallels, and it will allow me to more easily build and properly test universal binaries. Parallels seems to work pretty well for a beta product, but I'm definitely looking forward to seeing some competition (especially open source competition).

Despite its awesomeness, there are still some issues with the MacBook Pro:

  • The power supply whine is still there when the system isn't using a lot of juice, but apparently much less so than in earlier revisions.
  • These machines run HOT. I probably wouldn't try and put it on my lap if I wasn't wearing jeans, and it does make your hands a little uncomfortably warm when using the built-in keyboard (though I'm sure I'll get used to that).
  • The display doesn't tilt back quite as far as the old titanium powerbooks. Not a big deal, hopefully that just means they've solved the problem where the hinges would just snap after a year or two (and take out the backlight cable, argh).
  • Intel code on Mac OS X supposedly uses more RAM than the PPC equivalent, which means you should buy more RAM than you are accustomed to from earlier machines.

The RAM usage increase is somewhat surprising, because i386 binaries are more compact (the i386 libSystem is about 16% smaller than PPC). I'm guessing the increase is due to the lack of usable registers on i386, which increases the amount of stack necessary per thread. I doubt it's an alignment issue, because PPC definitely cares more about alignment than i386 does. A quick sample shows that Terminal.app with one window does use about 5% more real memory than the PPC equivalent (and a LOT more virtual memory, but that might just be Quartz or something).

5% doesn't sound like much, but I've heard bigger numbers for other kinds of applications. I definitely plan to upgrade this machine from 1gb to 2gb, but the only times I've really felt RAM-hungry so far are when I'm using Parallels (which understandably needs a lot of real memory).

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