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Author Topic: Project Apollo + Macbook Pro (Somewhat Off Topic)  (Read 2022 times)
dseagrav
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« on: March 21, 2007, 07:16:29 PM »

(This is somewhat off-topic for this group, but I want the opinions of this group, so I'm posting this here.)

My work-provided laptop has been on its last legs for months now, and finally burned out its DC board on the 8th. Work declined to provide me with another laptop, and I was instructed to obtain one myself. So I did. On the 9th, I moved all of my savings into my checking account, took out a small cash advance against my credit card, and made the arduous trek to Chicago, almost 3 hours north. There I matched wits against an uncooperative co-worker, an equipment delivery gone horribly wrong, and insane downtown Chicago traffic. I did not escape unscathed - I was thoroughly frustrated by my co-worker's inability to locate our dropoff location, and the rental van we were driving was damaged as well (I was instructed to drive the van into a parking garage, and it didn't fit), but after a hard day's labor, I arrived at the Chicago Apple store and wrote the largest check I've ever written to anyone for anything (including flight instruction) and purchased a Macbook Pro.

Mine has a 2.33 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 2 GB of DDR RAM, and a 15 inch screen. It's the middle of the three configurations that Apple sells. It came with the Macintosh OS, which I'll not discuss now, because it's not of any intrest to this group. (My primary job is sysadminning a mix of UNIX and Windows servers with a side task of PHP and C coding. The Mac OS is a UNIX underneath, which is well suited to my tasks. And it's pretty.) My focus for this post is on Windows XP, which installs via the Boot Camp software. The Macbook doesn't have a BIOS, it has EFI. Boot Camp allows you to repartition the hard disk (which was not destructive to the Mac OS) and allocate space for a Windows partition, then emulates a BIOS for the Windows boot process. Windows XP is then installed in the partition. Some users have successfully installed Windows Vista instead of XP, but I don't have a Vista license and really didn't want to bother.

Windows XP installs and operates like any other PC, except that the Mac touchpad has only one mouse button. To get a right-click, you have to put two fingers on the trackpad and click. This was really non-obvious. (The trackpad can tell when you have one or two fingers on it. If you put two fingers on it and move your fingers, it operates like a scroll wheel. I thought this was really neat.)

Orbiter installed normally, as did VS 2003, PuTTY, and TortoiseCVS. Project Apollo checked-out with no problems. The machine can do a full build of Project Apollo in 3 minutes and 30 seconds.

The screen has a native resolution of 1440 x 900, which means I can run a 4:3 Orbiter window at 1152 x 864. The keyboard has no numeric keypad, but it has a numlock mode that works fine for both Orbiter and pressing DSKY keys. The same effect can be obtained for Orbiter by holding the FN key down and pressing number keys, but FN+Shift+Number doesn't work for pressing DSKY keys - it generates the wrong keycode. Joysticks work as expected. I expect an external USB keyboard would work as well, but I didn't try it.

The video card is an ATI Mobility X1600, and is actually clocked BELOW the ATI spec by Apple for thermal protection. Certain utilities can change the clocks back to the manufacturer's defaults, but I did not change the stock Apple clock values and still get reasonable performance. The external DVI port can be used without significantly impacting framerate. FPS is never below 30 on orbit in any situation, and only drops to 20 or so in external views on the launch pad. That's while windowed at 1152 x 864. I did not try any full-screen resolutions, and that's because of my one nitpick: The LCD panel is ALWAYS 1440 x 900, and if you run any fullscreen programs at lower resolutions, they get stretched to fill the screen. I have yet to find a way to prevent this.

I didn't try running the battery dry under Windows, but under the Mac OS, with my normal production workload (Firefox, Mail client, a few emacses, a few xterms, a couple RDP windows) I get 3 hours of battery before the machine wants to be plugged in. It's probably worth an hour or so running Orbiter.

My boss was jealous and asked me to spec out a similarly equipped laptop for him to buy that wasn't a Mac. (It wouldn't do for the owner of a Microsoft Certified Partner to tote around a Mac...) The closest I could find was a Dell machine that cost $300 more than the Macbook, and didn't have a Bluetooth radio. I thought Apple was supposed to cost more? Gateway and HP/Compaq didn't even offer a similar configuration. I've heard disturbingly bad things about Lenovo after they bought the IBM Thinkpad line, so I didn't bother checking there.

In any event, I think I got my money's worth.

Questions/Comments?
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Tschachim
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« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2007, 09:12:01 AM »

Congratulations to your new gear!  Happy

Quote
My boss was jealous and asked me to spec out a similarly equipped laptop for him to buy that wasn't a Mac. (It wouldn't do for the owner of a Microsoft Certified Partner to tote around a Mac...) The closest I could find was a Dell machine that cost $300 more than the Macbook, and didn't have a Bluetooth radio. I thought Apple was supposed to cost more? Gateway and HP/Compaq didn't even offer a similar configuration. I've heard disturbingly bad things about Lenovo after they bought the IBM Thinkpad line, so I didn't bother checking there.

I've a HP nc8430 laptop with basically the same specs as your mac except a 1680x1050 wide screen display and I'm quite happy with it, perhaps this is something for your boss?

Cheers
Tschachim
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dseagrav
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« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2007, 01:04:00 PM »

I dunno, I'll have to ask him. I didn't find those machines from the front page. It kept redirecting me to the compaq consumer stuff, so I thought maybe HP had stopped selling higher-end notebooks. I guess I just needed to look harder. I found it right off the bat when I googled the model number.
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