Fun With a Black Macbook — Part 2

March 18, 2012 by  

Well, three weeks into ownership, I continue to feel much joy. Battery life is quite good–in normal use, I seem to get at least 3 or more hours before it requires a recharge. Sure beats my old TiBook all to heck! It can sit on my lap for extended periods without being too terribly uncomfortable. It’s warm, mind you, but so far as long as the wide duct at the back is kept clear, the fan doesn’t come on very often, and it never feels like I’m being burned alive.

I brought my new toy to my local Mac user group meeting last week, as the scheduled guest speaker dropped out at the last minute, and I was asked to step in to do a show and tell. I guess the geek factor of showing how you can run Windows XP and Linux on a Mac laptop was far too high, as there weren’t a lot of questions from the audience.

The Parallels install, as reported previously, went very well, as did the Windows XP Pro installation. I have since installed FrameMaker 7.2 and several genealogy programs. Here’s where I’ve found a minor issue… With only 1 GB of RAM (that statement never fails to get me) some operations are slow to impossibly slow. One example, and maybe this is being really unfair, is my adventure with Family Heritage 2005. It has a really good report generator, and is the only one I have found thusfar that exports Word-compatible RTF files with both embedded paragraph formatting tags and index markers, which make it much easier to deal with global formatting changes (and generating an index) in a huge document. Problem is, when I tried to import the 11 megabyte RTF file into Adobe FrameMaker 7.2 running in this environment, it just didn’t work. After six hours, I finally gave up. The part that was so interesting (if this kind of thing interests you) is that I had similar results with my office Dell D620 laptop (with a 1.6 GHz Pentium Mobile M processor). Within 15 minutes of attempting to import the file, clicking inside the new document window resulted in a “Not Responding” alert in the program menu bar. It isn’t really not responding, but instead is working really, really slowly. It also took up nearly every bit of the CPU’s power, not wanting to share it with other applications (so much for multitasking). So, on a Windows box, it stops responding (but really is–it’s just trying to parse through a huge file with a bunch of formatting codes that it needs to convert into something FrameMaker wants to use, and it becomes a big resource hog in the process). My Dell laptop environment is actually quite close to that of the Parallels environment on my Mac, as I only have 512k of RAM on the Dell, so it really is a fair fight, and I get similar (lack of) performance. It gets better. Using my trusty jump drive, I copied the RTF file and brought it over to my G5 dual 2.0 GHz processor desktop Mac with 1 GB of RAM. I launched FrameMaker 7.0 (the last version Adobe made for the Mac) in Classic mode (the only way it can operate), and again attempted to import the RTF file. It completed the task in about 45 minutes. I saved the new FrameMaker file back to the jump drive, moved it over to the Black MacBook, dragged from the jump drive icon directly onto the Windows desktop (love that feature!), opened it in FrameMaker, and it worked perfectly. Score another one for Classic operation! Looks like I’ll never be able to get rid of that G5!

To summarize, Adobe FrameMaker 7.2 on both a 1.6 GHz Mobile Pentium Dell Laptop and on a 2 GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook running Parallels (both running Windows XP Pro with an identical RAM footprint) performed equally badly, while a dual-processor G5 PowerMac, handicapped by having to run the software in Classic mode (Mac OS9), blew the doors off the Windows boxes (real and virtual) running real Intel processors–at least in this real-world test. I’m sure this is an exception, and that a Windows desktop machine with similar speed processors is probably going to be faster due to more efficient data management (faster bus speeds, higher performance chipsets without regard for battery life, etc.).

Now that the cost of upping my MacBook to 2GB of RAM is down to about $120, I’ll probably do so and try this test again later.

Another impressive thing about Parallels is how OS installers integrate so well with it. I figured it would do a good job with Windows XP, but I was not prepared for the ease at which my Linux installation went and how it immediately connected to the internet through my wireless network without my having to configure anything. Without a specific printer driver for my Brother laser printer, I fear that’s going to be more challenging. I’ll know more in a few days when I try to make that work.

David Cohen had asked me what FrameMaker performance was like in Parallels, and this is a great example. In normal operation, even with that large 10 megabyte FrameMaker file, it navigates relatively quickly, though global formatting changes are a bit slow (they are on my Dell, too, with this same file). Search and replace speeds are acceptable. For a casual user of FrameMaker, this is a very viable solution–especially if you have a separate installation on a desktop machine to handle these occasional areas that require extraordinary system performance to “brute force” their way to a solution. I think you’ll probably see similar performance with Office 2003, Office 2007, or even the Adobe Creative Suite (CS2 or CS3) software–if it works with acceptable speed on a typical Windows laptop (though might be outclassed compared to a Windows laptop running the latest, fastest Core 2 Duo processors), it’ll probably work with acceptable speed on a MacBook or MacBook Pro running Parallels and the Windows OS of your choice.

Sometimes, good enough is…well…good enough.