I had an old 19″ Toshiba CRT TV kicking around, and it was finally time to ditch it on Craigslist. So, I posted it today for $20 (basically enough to be worth the time to post it). An hour later I get a call – an older guy asking “does it have the red, yellow, and white connectors?” Then he asks if he can bring over the computer that he wanted to connect to it. I assumed he was talking about a laptop or something to watch movies on the TV with. Anyway, he rolls up in his sweet late-90’s Saturn and pulls an Atari 800 out of the passenger seat of his car. No way. Sure enough, he has some kind of hacked-up connector, and plugs it into the TV. It booted right up and gave him a prompt – old white text on a blue background. I remember those from my youth, but assumed they lived only in museums. I asked if he was doing it for grandkids or his own edification. He said it was all for him. That’s awesome.
As I’ve commented before, I tried experimenting with a Linux/Windows laptop, and it wasn’t terribly successful. I realized that I don’t need a lot of power and was really looking at the netbook segment. I was also trying to see if I could make an iPad really work for my main device (assuming that I’m not replacing the iMac desktop). There are legions of comparisons of iPads to various other devices so I won’t rehash that. Suffice to say, that I felt like I needed a keyboard and a slightly richer editing environment. So, I still needed a laptop, but I really like the portability of the iPad. You see where this is going, right? Enter the 11″ MacBook Air. I was totally put off of the previous generation due to the cost, but the 11″ is reasonably priced, incredibly portable, a full-on computer, and, did I mention, it’s fast. I’m not encoding video. I’m writing. I’m doing occasional development work (with TextMate – not eclipse). And I’m surfing. The 1.6ghz/4gb RAM machine is perfect for all that. I assume the SSD has a lot to do with it’s apparent performance, but I don’t care about the specs anymore. I care about the experience, and the MBA provides an awesome experience. I know there are some long-term issues with SSDs failing, and clogging with old files, but I’m diligent with back-ups and I’m pretty comfortable with the “what might happen” risks that its just not a bother to me. So, here it is – my new toy. Yes, that’s a regular pen on top of it for scale.
A while back, I was experimenting with Ubuntu (10.04) in a VM (Parallels on the Mac), and thought it was pretty darn good. So, I decided to try an experiment and see if I could use Linux exclusively (instead of my Mac). So, I bought a Lenovo ThinkPad x201 – a well documented and linux-friendly machine. I tried the dual-boot Win7/Ubuntu setup. I worked on it nearly every day from Labor Day to last week, so I feel like I really did give a fair shake.
The Win7 side was OK, but felt like warmed-over XP. Nothing really floated my boat there. I used AVG for anti-virus, and it was constantly out of alignment with whatever the SecureConnect requirements were (Mac version worked flawlessly every time). Also, there were security patches that took reboots at least weekly, sometimes more frequently. It worked, but settings were hard to find, and it ran slow even with 4gb of ram.
The Ubuntu side was promising (and fast), and I nearly removed the Windows partition. Boy I’m glad I didn’t. Three times over the trial, I accepted the normal Ubuntu system updates only to have the update break my wireless. I had to go back to Windows to find a fix. With a mobility-oriented laptop, breaking wireless was just stupid. Besides, I was sure to spec the machine with the Intel wifi chip, not the Broadcom, so drivers should have been there all along. Also, the webcam never worked, despite much googling and attempts at fixing.
Ultimately, I didn’t want to use Windows, but needed to often enough because Ubuntu had broken itself, that I sold the machine. So, I’ve learned a valuable lesson – once you’ve driven a Mercedes, you can’t go back to a Yugo – you will always be disappointed. I really, really wanted to use Linux all the way, but it still requires a depth of geek-itude and fiddley-ness that I’d rather focus in other areas.
Looking at a MacBook Pro or a MacBook Air. Something that works AND is nice to look at.
What a loaded title, huh? I'm not piling on to the religious war. Being notably agnostic, I have all the major OSes at my house (Mac, Ubuntu, and Win 7). I did notice something interesting, however. I recently picked up a Lenovo x201 with a Core i7 cpu and 4gb of RAM. It dual-boots into Windows and Ubuntu. When I run the machine with Windows, and nothing else running, the OS alone takes about 40% of the memory (see the attached Task Manager screen cap). When Ubuntu is running with nothing else, the OS alone takes about 6-7% or the RAM (see the attached System Monitor screen cap). Anyway – 40% vs 7%. 4gb of RAM goes away quickly when the OS hogs almost half of it. If it weren't for connecting to the office, I don't think I'd use the Windows partition at all …