||[Mar. 29th, 2007|10:18 pm]
The 'lab' got a new addition this month - a shiny new MacBook Pro 15". This is the second apple I've owned, the fifth I've used, and the first I've bought brand new.
I learned basic programming on the Apple ][ in highschool. Later I used a friend's 'Laser' computer (an Apple ][ clone -- I was surprised to learn there were clones of Apples...who'd of thunk?) - I don't know if that really counts as an 'Apple' or not, then used the first Macs in college, and finally a (very) used Apple Powerbook 540
There are a number of reasons I decided to go with apple once again, after many years in hiatus. First the base operating system is FreeBSD Unix; extremely stable, and I am able to leverage my knowledge of Unix/Linux. Secondly, the system is Intel based - Core 2 Duo to be exact, the currently recommended best in class multiprocessor 64 bit for gaming (which also doesn't hurt when doing other computing), which also give it some 'legs' when it comes to its eventual demise - I can resurrect it as Linux machine easily. I got it pretty loaded, but I can extend the RAM from its current 2 Gigabytes to 3 GB (officially) and reports are you can extend it to 4 GB unofficially. It supports all the tools that I am used to using (emacs, python, etc) - and I've found Apple native versions of just about everything I use now on my Linux box at home and Sun box at work. Finally, it came with iLife - which includes everything you need to record and edit music and video, burn DVDs of your projects, and make picture albums - as well as interface all of those things with your other projects. Finally, I was just plain sick of using Microsoft Windows - I was more than ready to change.
Of course I loaded all my favorite tools, as well as some interesting ones I've bumped into - FireFox, NeoOffice (OpenOffice Apple-native build), Sidenote - a drawer-based notepad replacement (I like), CyberDuck (an FTP/SFTP client - a la 'WSFTP' on Windows), Sophie - a multimedia document project framework (still trying to figure out how to use it, good for tying together various resources into a common 'publishable' polished output - XML or other formats), and a more up-to-date Python (language de rigueur for me). Initially I also loaded 'Fink' which allowed me to download open source (mostly GNU and X11) software for use with DarwinX -- but I found most of my tools already have native Apple GUI interface binaries available - so I was able to avoid using DarwinX altogether now (required me to page between the Apple interface and X).
For fun I loaded WWIIonline (Battleground Europe - I am a subscriber to this MMOG battlefield simulation - switching to the Apple version of the game without a hiccup), FlightGear (a free flight simulator - very accurate terrain, navaids, flight physics models, and a large selection of aircraft and scenery), and TeamSpeex - a Apple version of the TeamSpeak voice coms program. I still have a pile of disk images I haven't loaded yet of various free games and tools.
I was tempted to go for the 17" screen, but found that it would not fit into my backpack for transport. It goes with me back and forth to work, like my previous 486 Acer laptop (which I shoehorned Linux onto its 500 MB drive - another long story). Additionally, I got a MacBook for my daughter (I set her's up to dual boot Mac OS and XP - so she could play her current stable of Windoze games), and so could not justify the additional expense for the 17" model.
The 15" grows on me more each day - I am finding it it 'just right' for the space I have in the 'lab' and at my day job. The interface is hazily familiar from working with the old Mac and PowerBook machines - but is jazzed up in the post-millennium. What I am finding most striking about working with the Mac is how easy most things are to figure out by yourself. On a Windows machine, or even in one of the various flavors of window managers under Linux, I expected to have to tweak something during a working session. With Apple, once I got all the interface controls set up the way I liked, the interface basically got out of my way. I find myself doing more actual 'work' with this machine. The only complaint I have is a very minor issue - I am used to hovering the mouse pointer over a window to make it active for input - I have to remember to click on a window to make it active, and many times I don't, typing into the bit bucket, or worse into the wrong application - most of my time I spend on the command line shell, in emacs, and the positive aspects of the system more than outweigh this one issue, so this is not a show stopper.
As for the rest of my lab - the old game box with the honking big drive is going to find new life as an application server (probably with a zope3 frontend). I've finally brought forth the Sun Sparcstation 2 pizza box - that will become a dns/ntp server, provided I can get it running. Chicky gave me another old AMD motherboard - already loaded with RAM and CPU/fan assembly - so I now have 2 1+GHZ motherboards to load into cases, peripheralize and spin up (DB server and something else?). The current server will be offloaded to the new server, and probably turned into a firewall. Some of the boxes will also become nodes for my Beowulf experimentation - which dovetails nicely with progress I'm making at work to install a small Beowulf cluster as a proof of concept - it will be used to do forensics against raw data, and for research (directed and nondirected) in my line of work.
Things are busy - but I'm taking it easy.