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Mac OS X - Equiraptor's Journal
Mac OS X
I don't know who's fault it was, but three years ago, someone convinced nugget to buy a Mac. It was a 15" Titanium Powerbook, the first one to have a superdrive. He's been extolling the virtues of Macs ever since.

I've always built my own desktops, so they've always been x86. No OS X. I've always scrounged parts for my servers, so yet again, those have always been x86. But a laptop... I didn't own a laptop... Sure, I had one from work I could use, but, well... It was large and clunky, and hot, and only had 2 hours battery life, and that's with the screen light down to nearly nothing, and me not doing anything! Realistically, it was an hour to an hour and a half. And it was heavy. And it was big. It didn't really fit next to my desktop at home, and I really wanted a laptop that could be a secondary machine while I gamed.

So gave in. For a few years (even before Nugget bought his Mac), I've said if I ever paid for a laptop, it would be a Mac. Well, it finally happened. I learned the next updates to iBooks was coming "soon," and decided I'd wait. For a base RAM of 512M, it's worth the wait. And it came, on Tuesday, July 26. That evening, we went to Fry's to play with the different models. I was worried a 12" machine would be too small for me - that it would feel like a toy in my hands. So I stood, with a 12" and 14" iBook (the older models) in front of me, messing around, getting iChat on Bonjour, as Nugget did the same on a 17" PowerBook and an iMac or two. While at first, the 12" iBook did feel like a toy in my hands, I quickly lost that feeling, as I settled down and worked. It did what I needed. It didn't give me any more space than the 14" (both have a 1024x768 native resolution). So it was determined: A 12" iBook is not too small for me. We went home, and I ordered the base model, 1.33 GHz processor, 512M RAM, 40G hard drive, Combo drive, Radeon 9550 32M, and I ordered AppleCare. I also ordered a 1G stick of RAM for it from Newegg.

Friday, the iBook arrived. I showed my mother through the setup, just because I could, and she didn't get to see it on her Mac Mini. Monday, the RAM arrived (Hah! Apple shipped faster than Newegg!). I installed it (after sending Nugget searching for a screwdriver of the appropriate size, and giving up and using an exacto-knife), and then installed World of Warcraft. I was expecting absolutely miserable play. With only 32M video RAM, loading textures was going to be hard on the machine, and it wasn't exactly going to be easy on the processor, either. But I completed the install, patched the machine, and started to play. I had to turn the graphics settings down pretty low, and eventually took them to the lowest, but the game played passably. I switched back to playing on the desktop (on the absolute highest settings) and started using the iBook as the IRC/Mutt/web box I bought it to be. All worked well enough.

I kept taking the iBook to work... Even there, it's advantages outstripped the Compaq. The Compaq has a 2.8GHz Pentium 4 processor, and 512M RAM. I have both Windows XP Pro and Gentoo Linux installed. Neither OS matched the usability of OS X. I kept turning back to the iBook for everything that didn't require IE 6, just because, well, it just worked. The Compaq now sits, mostly neglected, in the middle of my desk, separating me from my server under test (and the rest of the world - hiding behind two laptops and a CRT monitor, weee!). While I still enjoy playing with Gentoo on the Compaq, that seems to be about all I do with it - play. While with the iBook, I can play, and work, and play WoW, all at once, with ease. Switching between applications is a breeze. Launching new apps with Quicksilver takes only a few short key presses. Everything just works.

Then, these past few days, we developed an ntp problem at work. ntpd just would not sync properly on many of our servers. As part of our isolation, I checked ntpd on my Mac. Low and behold, it could act as an ntpd server. It's running straight ntp, and communicates well with (properly working) machines. It helped me determine that the ntp problem was not on our network. While I still haven't managed to fully isolate the problem on the servers, I found it rewarding to be able to use this machine, running this beautiful, clean, easy OS, like I would my not-so-pretty, pain-in-the-rear Linux box.

This is the least powerful Mac laptop I can currently buy, new. I spent about $130 over the base price to add a gig RAM to it, giving it 1.5G. It plays World of Warcraft. It handles everything I need open for work, plus World of Warcraft, without slowdown. Terminals, Safari, iChat, Mail, iCal, Activity Monitor, NeoOffice, and whatever else happens to be open, without troubles and without swapping. The battery lasts a solid 4 hours under my normal load, and would make three, maybe longer, playing WoW. It's lightweight. It's small. It's portable. It's everything a laptop (ok, Apple, portable) should be.

My Mac isn't perfect, though. It has some issues with the wireless network at work, sometimes requiring a reboot (never happens at home or at my parents, so I blame work, but rebooting the Mac temporarily fixes it). Firefox runs very, very poorly, and the Adblock mimic for Safari loses a bit of functionality. iCal won't let me add calendars/appointments if I'm not on the attendees list (at least if there are attendees), and I can't change the default calendar app to Sunbird. But, the only one that's any real fuss is the wireless problem, and it only needs a reboot about once a week, maybe less. All-in-all, it's an extremely usable OS, with the power and functionality of a unix-based system right at my fingertips. It's everything Linux on the desktop wants to be (well, except Free and GPL'd).

If the Intel Macs become piece-wise upgradable (as my current AMD desktop is), I just might end up with a Mac for my desktop machine, as well. I may end up dropping even thatrequirement, if this iBook keeps impressing me.


11 comments | Leave a comment
eliset From: eliset Date: September 29th, 2005 02:45 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you for your business. :)
jenova_silver From: jenova_silver Date: September 29th, 2005 04:05 am (UTC) (Link)
I now have ibook envy. Daaaaarrrrrrrnnnnn.
cowbert From: cowbert Date: September 29th, 2005 04:57 am (UTC) (Link)
Is Firefox using Cocoa or whatever? I know it runs piss poor in X compared to win32, regardless of the toolkit you use. Is there Opera for OSX (since it's now free as in beer and has no banner ads?)
equiraptor From: equiraptor Date: September 29th, 2005 01:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't believe Firefox is using Cocoa, but Camino, which does, has the exact same problem. The problems I'm seeing are not in Firefox, itself, but are in Gecko.

I hate Opera. I have never managed to get Opera to run with a user interface I'd call tolerable, much less enjoyable. I had only two problems with Safari - It didn't have an AdBlock implementation, and the keyboard method for switching tabs is rather... sad (shift-⌘-arrow key). I managed to find SafariBlock, which is sufficient for that, and... Well, I'm tolerating the tab switching behavior. It's also possible I could find a way to change that, if I bothered to look hard enough. And because Safari is the "native" one, it works just slightly better than the others, for things like downloading files and having them open in the appropriate programs.
cetan From: cetan Date: September 29th, 2005 01:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Darn it, I was on the fence before, but now I really, really want a 12" ibook. :)

paradox0220 From: paradox0220 Date: September 29th, 2005 03:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm kind of an oddball when it comes to laptops. I have access to serveral at work and I never use them (except for trips so I can get to email from the hotel room). I never have an urge to take one somewhere and chat etc.

My perfect laptop would be a desktop machine that folds up for easy carrying basically. I'm not willing to give up any power, speed, graphics, screen size or anything (pretty demanding eh?). WoW should play just the same as on my desktop or I'm unhappy. I want a normal keyboard and mouse too. If it happens to have a "Turbo" button like old machines and can be battery efficient that is a bonus but I always have the laptop plugged in.
decibel45 From: decibel45 Date: September 29th, 2005 04:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
For some un-fucking-known reason, the OS X version of Firefox is built without optimization. AFAIK it's -O0. But apparently there's someone who posts nightly builds out of CVS that are built with decent optimization.

One of these days I might have time to build a darwin port for it.
equiraptor From: equiraptor Date: September 29th, 2005 08:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
There are a couple of different "optimized" builds, but from what I've heard, they weren't likely to help. It wasn't so much that Firefox itself is slow, but that if a web page it's trying to load just... stops transferring, or doesn't transfer fast enough, it will suck up 100% CPU and stay that way until enough data arrives. An annoying pain, especially with the unreliable connection here at work. Safari is... Sufficient, at this point.
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 30th, 2005 03:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

How do you like the iBook's monitor?

Biggest complaint I hear about the iBook is its monitor -- too dim. Looking at them in the apple store I tend to share that opinion.

I'd be interested in hearing how you feel about the monitor.

(I'm also a WoW junkie-- and I'm interested to hear what framerate you're getting on your iBook. I'd like to buy an iBook- but if WoW is completely unplayable on it- or if you get less than ten fps when you're out in the middle of the wilderness -- I'm gonna have to pass, I think)
equiraptor From: equiraptor Date: September 30th, 2005 03:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: How do you like the iBook's monitor?

It is a little bit dim for me, at times. In the sunlight, well, I don't think any laptop screen is bright enough. At home, in my parents' house, in the coffee shops, it's fine. At work, under the bright fluorescent lights, it seems a little dim when I first start using it. I quickly adjust to the different light level, and it's fine. For me, at least, the screen may be a tiny bit dim, but not enough to bother me (I didn't even remember to mention it in the original post, even though I was trying to think of problems with the machine).

In Ironforge, between the Auction House and the bank, on Whisperwind (high population), I'm getting abut 5-10 fps. When I fell into the ditch (done intentionally, not because of lag), framerate shot up to around 25fps. I'm getting as high as 35 and even 40 in there. Running around Feralas (on the island with Feathermoon Stronghold), I'm getting 15-25fps, 15 in the town, and around 20-ish, spiking up to 25, out on my mount outrunning wolves. WoW is absolutely playable on the iBook, at least for soloing. I'm not sure how well it would handle end-game raids.
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 30th, 2005 08:07 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you for the prompt response

I don't really consider myself a "high-end" player. I don't have a single character higher than level 35 -- so I guess I am more of a "leisure" player than a power player. Still-- it's the ONLY game I play. (No GameCube, no Playstation, no XboX, nothing but WoW.)

Well I'll have to debate it a bit more. The refurbished 12 inch iBooks are going for a pretty reasonable price right now. $849 or so. Pretty good price for a good quality machine with a one year warranty.

I just have got to get myself past the screen.. I like the screen BRIGHT. But then, I don't know of any PC's out there with such a small form factor, and as good of video.

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