Thursday, September 21, 2006

New MacBook Pro

It had become time to upgrade. My old favourite PowerBook was slowing down - mainly due to lack of memory. It seemed time to pass it on to someone else in the company (we have a policy of rotating good gear from "power users", down to "medium users" as it seems that they get a better run of it with older good gear, than with newer "not so good" gear) and getting something that will do the job for longer.

So, it's here. It's rather interesting. Not quite what I expected.

As is often the case, some things are quicker/easier than others - and as is even more often the case, predicting which will be faster can be difficult. My biggest worry of course was dealing with the issues of changing from Power PC Mac OS X and Applications, to the newer Universal or Intel binaries. Whilst Apple provide "Rosetta" a emulator for the older binaries, I was aware that problems can come from more complex applications where any dynamic linking or "plugin" architecture is used.

The first surprise was how quick it was to install the OS, migrate my Home directory, settings and Applications. This took around 2-3 hours. Add another hour to do the typical OS upgrades (only one reboot) and basically I'm ready to go within 3-4 hours of unpacking the box! Very impressive - I can't ever remember doing anything that major, that quickly before, on any previous operating system.

The second surprise, was just how much Apple have changed their concept of the hardware. No modem, no PC-Card socket, no Firewire-800 (not that I ever found a use for that), no S-Video or TV Out. The things that mattered for me out of these missing bits; were not being able to use my PCMCIA<->Compact flash reader, not having dial-up capability (Broadband or WiFi is just not quite so universally available everywhere here in New Zealand), not being able to play video files through the TV with a cable that came with the machine. All of this is simply fixed with extra adaptors, however it's a little disappointing to have to go and pay extra for the functionality that was just there on the PowerBook.

It's when you start exploring the software a little bit more, that you find a few more surprises - all of them to do with third party software. Surprisingly it wasn't MS Office that caused the problems (I've had issues with that on a previous temporary migration from a restore). The most annoying was that my Thunderbird setup ended up crashing. Now before anyone starts blaming Thunderbird, you have to understand that I had Thunderbird with around 20 extensions and a history of running various other extensions in the past - i.e. a history of severe change in my Thunderbird profile. I suspect that somewhere in one of the extensions, was some piece Power PC binary code that didn't work inside Thunderbird. The solution was to start a fresh profile, download new versions of the Extensions I was using and migrate my address-book across. This solution of course, was only after I had tried unsuccesfully to remove them one by one.

Other things just worked well. I have been looking at most of the apps I have installed (a worrying amount when I look at my Applications folder) and updating those that have updated versions to capture Universal Binary version. Some of this, has taken a lot more time than I would normally have recommended, as in each case I want to look at the apps concerned and figure out exactly what compatibility issues they may or may-not have. There are still a few bis of shareware I've bought, that haven't been updated and won't run properly - nothing major or show stopping though.

It also triggered a look around at my Web browser situation, as it has become quite clear where the drawbacks of each browser that I sometimes use (Safari, Firefox, Flock, Opera and occasionally Shiira) are. Basically, I seem to be using Flock at the moment (mainly because of it's nice UI and News Reader) with Safari as a more than creditable backup that actually runs faster with a way lower "hit" on the memory usage. Firefox seems to run a little bit faster than Flock, however suffers in the UI space as it's default theme whilst usable is a litte less "mac like" than I would like, and also it's extensions do not always work so well in the Mac space. Also it's built in RSS "Live Bookmarks" support is insufficient and Sage whilst functionally OK - is not quite as straightforward to use as the Flock newsreader.

Most other apps are just fine. AdiumX is just superb as always. Quicksilver the same. ITunes now finally has some of the features I had been wanting (have a look at some of my back posts) and most of the rest "just work" a one would expect on a Mac.

All in all, a rather nice upgrade.

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