The Grand Windows Laptop Experiment

2016-12-07 19:28:09 by jdixon

If you follow me on Twitter, you might remember my rants (well, among many other people) regarding their new 2016 MacBook Pro line of laptops. There've been an abundance of reviews online, criticizing Apple for their "courage" to remove ports and functional keys that are still a mainstay in most users' workflows, and for actual performance regressions in most real-world scenarios. I think these changes reflect a desire by Apple to cater to their larger mass consumer audience, while at the same time streamlining a Mac product line facing an eroding market due to our increasingly mobile-first world.

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Fixing Group Permissions after Migrating to OS X Lion

2011-07-31 22:17:51 by jdixon

I've discovered that restoring a user account from a Snow Leopard (10.6) Time Machine backup to a new system running Lion (10.7) fails to preserve membership in gid 20(staff). I don't know if this only affects users in this particular scenario or might affect other upgrades/fresh instsalls, but it certainly bit me in the ass. I first encountered problems when trying to brew update, only to discover that it wouldn't let me write anything to /usr/local even though the directory had group-write permissions. Lo and behold, I finally realized that my membership had been revoked.

$ id

The fix is simple enough. Use dscl to add yourself back to the staff group membership.

$ sudo dscl . append /Groups/staff GroupMembership `whoami`

My MacBook Air Kicks Your Laptop's Ass

2010-12-16 22:45:43 by jdixon

I recently found myself in need of a new laptop. I've been using some version of Apple PowerBook or MacBook Pro over the last seven years. I've had a couple Thinkpads mixed in for good measure, but those were always as a secondary computing device, mainly for playing around with OpenBSD. Suffice it to say that I'm a big fan of Apple systems design (XServe and XServe RAID, not so much).

My last portable was a previous generation 15" MacBook Pro with the glossy screen. I won't miss the reflective display but the rest of the unit was solid. My only real gripe was the slow-as-molasses base hard drive (5400rpm, if I remember correctly). There's simply no way Apple should offer that in their premium laptops, especially since they market them as a premium product. Anyways, it was still faster than thin air, which is what I found myself holding after my last day at work.

The new MacBook Air lineup was something that caught my eye recently, particularly the 13" model. The price is a bit much for a "netbook", but one look at the top-of-the-line Air's specs and it compares favorably with most of the MacBook Pro line. Its 1440x900 resolution doesn't hurt either. But one thing that made me hesitate was the CPU... an Intel 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo. I work with VMware Fusion a lot so I was naturally concerned about any sort of performance issues. Hell, we can't even run Flash games on my daughter's Dell Mini 10v. So yeah, I was a little concerned.

Nevertheless, I took the plunge. And Oh [Your] God, was it worth it. This is my first experience with a real SSD drive. And let me tell you, it makes ALL the difference in the world. This Air runs VMware faster than my old MacBook Pro by an order of magnitude. I can suspend or resume Windows XP images in under 5 seconds. The same actions used to take upwards of 30 seconds on the Pro. It's pretty obvious by now that desktop virtualization is heavily I/O bound. The CPU just doesn't have much to do by comparison.

Everything else about the MacBook Air was as expected. It's a very lightweight form-factor with a great redesign of the port locations (and availability). I haven't had the opportunity to try out the mini-display-port external output yet, but enjoy having a USB on each side. The SD slot is also a nice touch but is pretty standard across laptops these days. Sleep and resume are almost instantaneous. The keyboard is full-sized and roomy.

In summary, I'm thrilled with my purchase. I've managed to shave off some old unused VMs to make room for my music collection, which used to exist on an external drive. I hate the idea of lugging around an external drive with such a petite portable, so I managed to find enough space on the 256GB SSD. This is quite literally the perfect laptop for me right now. I fully expect my OpenBSD friends to give me shit over it, and it's almost worth it.