New MacBook

Back in June, I upgraded my trusty 12″ iBook to a new 13″ MacBook, with 2.16 GHz Core 2 duo and 2GB. I was on the fence for a long time before the upgrade – I loved the 5+ hours of battery life on the 1GB iBook under light use, and was skeptical about battery life on the beefier MacBook. Also, the 12″ form factor is really convenient.

The Mac is my ‘admin’ machine, for note taking, email, and things like that when I’m on the move. I never relied on it for compute horsepower; my development machine is still a desktop GNU/Linux machine, with a big monitor and an essential Happy Hacking keyboard (with the control key in the correct location, of course.)

After a couple of months, I’m now totally sold on the MacBook.

The size is only slightly bigger, and it’s thinner. Battery life is over 4 hours, under heavier usage than the iBook. I’m more aware of keeping a power adaptor around than I was with the iBook, but I’m getting more comfortable with the power profile. The PowerPC versus Intel transition has been almost totally transparent. And I get all the benefits of a Mac – sane handling of sleep mode, wired/wireless networking transitions, and USB audio (apart from the first, shaky OSX 10.4.10 update which muted all my USB audio.) On the down side, the edges of the MacBook seem sharper, and actually bug me.

Setup was straightforward. I didn’t use Apple’s firewire migration option, since the iBook had a fair mix of old PowerPC apps and junk. I decided to start clean, and migrate my important files by hand over the network.

Apart from an initial boot and OS X updates, the main installs were:

XCode and the Apple SDK’s: This is on the Apple install disks, or can be downloaded. It’s the simplest way to get a development environment (i.e. gcc) installed, and the latest XCode seems to set up some includes related to universal binaries that a lot of source packages depend on.

Firefox: Safari is OK, I just prefer FireFox.

Del.icio.us Bookmarks plugin: At this point, almost all my bookmarks are on delicious. The only local bookmarks are for the LAN, and a handful of local files.

GnuPG (MacGPG): GnuPG is an essential tool. The MacGPG port includes a couple of handy UI utilities like a keychain management tool, a preferences editor, and drag and drop encryption.

Thunderbird: My preferred email client. The only tricky part of setting up Thunderbird is the funky names for the profiles in Library/Thunderbird/Profiles, if you want to copy local mail. All my mail is on IMAP servers, so I just set up the accounts, and did an address book export/import.

enigmail: I wonder how many people really understand that unencrypted email is the equivalent of writing your message on postcards and sending it through the postal service? Without the government protections usually afforded to postal mail! enigmail + gpg is secure email usable by anyone.

iterm: Tabs ! Transparency ! I have a Konsole! Good bye, Terminal….

gvim: The One True Editor, with a native Mac interface.

Office.Mac 2004 (from the old PowerPC disks) I use this less and less….

NeoOffice: I had been running regular OpenOffice on the iBook. It worked, but the transition between the Apple and Unix style interfaces was always annoying, as was the X window requirement. NeoOffice is a much better port, that works well on the native OSX interface. The Spreadsheet seems to have problems with data filtering, apart from that everything else I’ve tried has worked well.

MacPorts: Formerly known as Darwin ports, this is a great way to get open source on the Mac. I like their philosophy of installing in /opt/local/ to avoid dependency problems, but it does mean maintaining a parallel installation for almost everything. But disks are cheap, and you just have to allow time for the installs to compile. The first few will have a lot of dependencies to install; don’t do this unless you have time available.

From MacPorts, I installed:

  • cdrtools: for backup
  • mysql: – I’ve got the memory and disk space, so why not install a full RDBMS ? I installed the GUI tools from the MYSQL site.
  • sqlite3: gotta have this.
  • subversion: For the client, primarily.

Python 2.5 : I installed from the Python.org image for the Mac . This is my first ever Python install that wasn’t built from a tarball. No problems, no surprises.

Komodo 4.1 : I’m giving this a try, but the reality is that I’m much more comfortable developing in Python with command line tools. I find Komodo useful for spelunking, and showing code to others., but it’s not my primary IDE. The VI emulation in 4.1 is, well, it’s not vi. Not even close. jkl; seems to work, but everything else has quirks.

Funny thing, the MacBook is starting to look like a development system more than an admin system…..more on that later.


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