Recent Acquisitions

First off, my MacBook Air was not really mine. It was my prior company’s. That, plus the various thermal issues it had were getting to be too much for me. It’s performance was…well, a little laggy, and it had no hard drive space. That’s a whole bunch of bullshit I used to justify my company buying me a new MacBook Pro – I convinced the president to get it for me. Since said person is also me, that was not too hard.

And going from MBA to MBP – wow. The weight difference is enormous. This new bad boy is heavy. And the performance differences are pretty striking too (so much faster); but I think a lot of that is just the graphics card. I can’t really max out the CPU’s now, by doing anything ‘conventional’. The bigger display ‘feels’ more subjectively comfortable – more spacious, not so cramped. And not having to worry about hard drive storage for a while will be nice too. I can feel it getting pretty warm on my knees right now, as it’s been busy installing lots of stuff. Gonna have to be careful; don’t want to fry the Boys. edit – I think this is Spotlight doing indexing shit. ‘mds’ seems very busy. Perhaps it’s running across all the various files I’ve been installing. I wanted to get the RAM boosted to 4GB, which I think I will still do, but we’ll have to wait until it shows up at the Shop.

And thanks to everyone who staged a near-intervention to prevent me from getting a 17-inch MacBook Pro. I tend to pretty much go whichever way I’ve decided to go regardless of what anyone says; but when, like, 5 people all tell you “don’t do that, it’s stupid” even I have a hard time ignoring that advice. I got the 15, as advised, and am quite happy with it.

My iPhone’s battery life has gotten to the point now where I can yank it from the cradle around 8am or so, and by 6pm it’s run out of juice. That, plus not being able to power it down (stuck power button) meant that it was starting to be that time. 3G time. I tried as long as I could to avoid it – this will cost me another $10/mo, and I’m already miffed at having to pay so much and use so little. And I assume something new and wonderful and such will come out next June to make me feel stupid for having gotten this one. But I could wait no longer. Another conversation with The Big Cheese (still me) and my company got me an iPhone 3G. Now, I can’t say if this is my imagination or not…but it feels faster in operation – like, clicking stuff and so on. And, Apple – dudes – it is *not* cool to move my application icons around on restore. Put them back. I have like 6 or 7 pages of applications, and I’ve moved the icons around ‘just so’ in a way that is convenient for me. Moving them makes me unable to use my phone, for the most part. And the whole backup/restore process felt really…creaky to me. I didn’t feel comfortable and happy that all my data was going to get from old phone to new. I was actually surprised when it seemed to have. Of course, I have to reinit the prefs in a lot of my apps – but not all. And that’s at least something.

Rails on OS X. Don’t use the built-in Ruby (/usr/bin/ruby). Don’t go and install ports and use their ruby either (/opt/local/bin/port, /opt/local/bin/ruby). Go and get Ruby Enterprise Edition, install that, and then tell it to install mod_rails with /opt/ruby-enterprise-1.8.6-20080810/bin/gem install passenger . You can hook that into the built-in copy of apache, and it will work really well and use 33% less memory (or so ‘they’ claim…), and fork little worker thread thingees at will, and so on. I’m using it on my personal server and I find it to be pretty great – where I used to manually have to watch little mongrel thingees run and die and then go and restart them. And I have to watch memory usage balloon out for whatever the worst-case scenario is on how many requests will run. And I don’t have to put in funny Apache configs to proxy or tunnel or some other crap I don’t remember. I used the setting on my server months ago, so I don’t remember the awfulness of it, but I remember the sense of relief when I made the switch. Those Passenger dudes keep good care of their little fork of Ruby and their passenger package. It is good. If you get annoyed with those stupid long paths, symlink them to something more acceptable. Also if you want to get rid of it I think you just fling that one silly directory and you’re good to go.

MacBook Air

It’s super light. The display is gorgeous. The performance is adequate. The keyboard works great. I never really noticed the backlit keyboard, but it’s nice to know it’s there. The single USB port is annoying. The no-built in CD is for the most part, fine, except for when the lack of a USB port is bothering you. The weight is great. The form factor is superior to any other ‘ultraportable’ – it’s absolutely perfect.

However, it has a nasty tendency which pisses me off something fierce:

If you do anything that makes it run at full CPU, and use the graphics chip pretty moderately, it will actually shut down one of the cores (!). I can trigger this by playing a flash game for like 10 or 15 minutes. Or from watching YouTube. There are some fixes, which I will speak about in a moment.

My theory is that Apple had designed the MBA to work with Intel’s new Atom CPU. But Intel said “Sorry, that’s going to be another 6 months.” Apple said, “screw you, Intel, we need to release this. Help us out.” Hence the release of the un-codenamed non-roadmap weirdo CPU that powers the MBA. It uses too much juice and runs too hot for the chassis it’s in, hence the weirdo CPU speed throttle and core-dropping.

One of the workarounds I heard of was to reapply the thermal paste between the CPU and the heatsink. Some on the Apple Support Forums swear by this. I’m not dicking around with that stuff because you know I’ll end up destroying this damn thing that way. Instead, I sent it to Mike’s Mac Shop – my former employer – to have a motherboard swap. Unfortunately – that didn’t seem to help. Grrr.

The final thing I had heard of doing was grabbing this software called CoolBook and installing and configuring that so as to ‘under-volt’ the CPU – giving it less power than it’s spec’ed to use. I don’t like the UI on this program, and the documentation is super-sparse. And I don’t like having to pay $10 to fix this problem which seems to me like Apple’s fault.

But damn, if it didn’t fix the problem. I can’t make it drop a core anymore. The laptop works the way it’s supposed to know. I can make it get pretty damned hot, mind you, but both cores stay up.

So I’ll certainly update if I feel like coolbook’s not doing the trick – but it sure as hell seems that it is now.

Once the MBA gets ‘refreshed’ with actual volume quantities of Intel’s Atom CPU, buy one. They’re great. The USB thing will bother you though, so be prepared.