Fun With a Black Macbook — Part 1

March 18, 2012 by  

I just bought a slightly refurbished MacBook (2 GHz black model), and so far, it’s really wonderful. It’s fast, it hooked right up to my wired and wireless (as soon as I entered the password correctly–one lower-case character where it should have been an upper-case one–took me several hours to figure that out out…) networks, I’ve already installed a bunch of applications, including Parallels, so I can do my genealogy work (most of my genealogy software is Windows-based) on a portable device. That mag-power connector is really the bees knees.

About Parallels, so far, flawless. I’ve already reported about how it worked on my Mac mini. I removed it from the mini and installed on the Macbook so I can use Windows XP. I’ve done a few Windows installations in my time, and this was one of them… No, seriously, the Windows XP installation went so quickly, that as it turned out, the subsequent installation of 76 security patches and bug fixes took nearly twice as long as the actual Parallels and Windows installations. Performance? Surprisingly snappy. While not as fast as my office Dell laptop, this Parallels-equipped MacBook acquits itself very nicely. The latest update to Parallels adds several cool new features, including the ability to drag files from the Mac environment into the Windows environment, and the new Coherence mode, which hides the Windows background screen, so that as you run your Windows apps, you only see the application window on top of your Mac desktop. It’s like you don’t know where the Mac stops and Windows starts. Like I said, very cool. Along with the genealogy applications I plan to install (including Family Tree Maker and Heritage Family Tree), I installed Adobe FrameMaker, FileMaker Pro, and Adobe Acrobat Professional, and found they worked well enough for everyday use, and I expect they will run even better when I add more RAM. I guess the only other problem is that Parallels doesn’t fully utilize the “dual core” experience, only using one of the processor cores. If the folks at Parallels can figure this one out, it could be a big and “free” performance boost to Core Duo and Core 2 Duo users.

Last night, for grins, I installed Linux, too (Xandros, a Debian distro), from a recent copy of Linux Pro magazine. That, too went amazingly smoothly. Parallels handled the network issues, so my wireless network automatically connected to xandros as if I had actually done some configuration work. I installed some additional apps, including The GIMP, an open source equivalent (well, kinda…) to Photoshop, along with OpenOffice.org 2.03, and the amazing thing is that it all just worked. With only 1GB of RAM (for us old timers, the very idea of 1GB of RAM is still an amazing thing–and even moreso when saying ONLY 1GB of RAM!), I was hesitant to try to run Xandros Linux, Windows XP Pro, and Mac OS X 10.4.9 simultaneously, though in theory, I guess I could have. I’ll wait until I have more RAM before I show off like that! I still need to figure out how to make my Mac server talk to Xandros. Drag and drop between the Linux and Mac desktops didn’t work, as expected.

Back to the new MacBook, the wide screen is gorgeous, and has the first keyboard on a laptop that I feel I can regularly use without saying too many bad words. With memory prices dropping fast, I can see a 2GB upgrade in my immediate future. The wide cooling duct in the back goes a long way toward cool operation (that and the Intel Core 2 Duo processor, which runs much cooler than the older Core Duos). It never got uncomfortable sitting on my lap, even when pounding it pretty hard with software installation off of a CD or DVD. It was also a bargain price. I bought my factory refurb’ed unit at the online Apple Store, and saved $200 over the brand new price of $1499. Think of it as the white MacBook with the 120 GB drive (a necessity if you’re playing with Parallels) thrown in for free. Coming from a manufacturing background, I can tell you that in most cases, if a unit fails early (out of the box or soon after), after repair, it will live a long and trouble-free life. I’ll keep you informed over the coming months.

The rest of my Macs, including a G4 mini, a Core Duo mini, and a G5 tower, are performing famously. The G4 mini is my webserver, and has been virtually flawless in its reliability. My previous servers were dogs in comparison (a PowerMac 6100, replaced by a PowerMac 7500, running Personal Web Sharing under OS 9.2.2), and were constantly going down for one reason or another. The Core Duo mini will be the heart of my media center. I will have a Micronet Network Attached Storage device coming in for review sometime soon, and I’ll let you know about my experiences. The dual 2GHz G5 tower is my mainstay, and has also been a wonderful machine. So much of this is due to OS X. I can’t say enough about how much I love Tiger (OS X 10.4.9). My last primary machine, a now-retired 266 MHz Beige G3 tower, running Mac OS 9.2.2, was nowhere near as reliable or as stable. Anyone still using Mac OS 9 (and you know who you are!) needs to give it up and make the move. It’s soooo worthwhile. If you still have classic apps that can’t be replaced or upgraded, look on the used market for a G5 machine. They’re out there for very attractive prices–especially now that Adobe has released the new Intel-optimized CS3 family of professional graphics apps. It looks like the CS3 suite is going to sell a lot of Intel Macs, so there will likely be bargains galore for G5 machines, which should still have years of good life left in them. Anyone out there need a Umax scanner with SCSI interface?

This blog adapted from my monthly column, Tidbytes, published by the Palm Beach Macintosh User Group, in 2006.