Tag: MacBook Pro


My Ubuntu file server is almost complete. With multiple terabyte hard drives in place, software for sharing files among computers on the network, it provides all the services a modern home network requires. However, one of the things it is missing is PVR functionality, which MythTV provides.

MythTV is one of the premier software packages to come out of the open-source movement. It has been developed by hundreds of individuals who work in their free time to generate software that useful to an even greater number of people. Built for the Linux platform, it is very robust and feature filled. This power comes at a price, however, and MythTV is famous for being stubborn to install and maintain. Originally I wanted to write a blog post about how I installed a TV tuner card and conquered MythTV to create an amazing home server package, but instead I need help.

After adding a Hauppauge HVR-1600 to a PCI port in my mid-tower, I installed the drivers and firmware and set about installing MythTV. This has proven impossible because I cannot run the setup program. As shown by the image at the top, whenever I run mythtv-setup through an Xserver session on my MacBook Pro, no video is output and the interface becomes unbearably slow. I’ve consulted with many different forums and no one has been able to offer advice, so now I want to get help from the internet at large. Has anyone see this while installing MythTV and knows how to solve it?

Here’s my hardware setup to clarify things.

  • OS Ubuntu 9.04 CLI
  • TV Tuner Hauppauge HVR-1600
  • Network Gigabit
  • Remote terminal OS Mac OS X 10.6.4
  • Remote terminal hardware MacBook Pro 13″ Dec 2009 GeForce 9400m
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With school demanding more from 3D graphics and design, and the lack of power in the GMA950 for Keynote work, it was time for a computer upgrade. Couple that with Applecare that ran out earlier this week, and you get a nice new 13″ Unibody MacBook Pro.

Since it’s been 2 months now since I’ve been using it, I thought it was time for some opinions. I’ve already installed Windows 7, run Keynote presentations, taken it on a road trip, and done nearly all of my daily computer activities. In every way, this machine is superior to my previous MacBook.

The Outside

The solid aluminum exterior of this MacBook Pro is a massive improvement over the polycarbonate shell of the MacBook–and previously, the iBook–as it has very little flex and will be the end of the dreaded palm rest cracking that affected nearly every previous generation of MacBook. That aluminum shell means this computer is lighter and thinner as well. While likely not a very big difference (I’ve yet to break out the tape measure), you can feel it when it is in a case or backpack.


The assortment of ports on the left side has changed somewhat as well. Gone is the dedicated audio-in jack and FireWire 400 and in its place is a backwards-compatible FireWire 800 port. The single audio jack now deals with digital and analog input and output on its own. In addition to the standard Gigabit ethernet and 2 USB 2.0 ports is the new Mini DisplayPort and SD card slot. The DisplayPort requires another new dongle from the Apple Store. The SD card slot has already proven itself worthy, by copying camera photos during a brief road trip. It is an item I think probably won’t be useful all the time, but those occasional times it is required, it will be great to have. The Kensington lock slot has also been moved to the right side. This is a good thing for me, as I always put my computer ports down in my bag, and now the lock is readily accessible. Using the lock for the first time, it was very tight, but after applying some pressure, it now slips in and out fairly easily. The aluminum is slightly bent inside, but nothing major. As usual, your mileage may vary.


The backlit keyboard is definitely my favourite upgrade. I had no idea that seeing what I was typing in the dark would be so handy. A side benefit of this technology is that the ambient light sensor also subtly adjusts the screen brightness to an optimum level.

Other changes from the Core 2 Duo MacBook are the built-in battery and “buttonless” touchpad. Technically the touchpad is a button, but just looking at it shows nothing. So far I’ve found it to be slightly more sensitive when using a thumb to activate. Battery life is also an improvement, though I may not get a chance to test it fully until I return to school in a few days.

The display on this machine is also noticeably brighter, with more vivid colours. After putting the two machines side by side, there is a definite difference, as shown above. I had heard all the horror stories about the screens being a black mirror, but so far that has not been an issue for me. Sure, there is some reflection, but the beauty of a laptop is that it can easily be adjusted to mitigate the glare.

Apple has been touting their non-user-replaceable batteries in their more recent notebooks, and this MacBook Pro delivers.

The Inside

The inside components of a computer are certainly more important than the outside, and the upgrades to this generation of MacBook Pro make it a screamer. Even though the clock speed is only increased from 2.0 GHz to 2.26, the newer processor is far more efficient, and the faster RAM, along with a boost to 4 GB means there is virtually no wait for applications to load or for the machine to shut down. The graphics subsystem is the biggest gainer in the lot, with a move from the GMA950 chip to nVidia’s 9400M system. This means smoother transitions in Keynote, more frames in both games and iTunes visualizer and more speed in the future when more applications use Apple’s OpenCL computing language. I’m looking forward to that.

To put a numbers to the improvements, I took measurements of some common computing tasks of both machines.

  2.0 GHz MacBook 2.26 GHz Unibody MacBook Pro
Xbench 1.3 96.32 102.18
— CPU 130.45 158.53
— Memory 126.07 178.66
— Quartz Graphics 149.15 177.57
— OpenGL Graphics 264.8 80.92
— Disk 28.60 32.13
Windows 7 Index 3.2 4.0
iTunes Visualizer (fps) 60 60
CPU with 720p Trailer 35% 20%

Overall the machine certainly feels speedy, with minimal pauses between application changes. Disk performance is basically the same, seeing as the drive was just transferred between systems.

A big change I have noticed is that this computer is far quieter than my previous MacBook. That one had fans that would peak at 6200 RPM when doing anything remotely computation intensive. Even watching Flash video would cause the fans to spike. On this computer, they seem to peak at 2200 RPM, as that was the maximum speed I observed while encoding some MP3 files recently. Obviously it’s a change that won’t be listed on the spec sheet, but it is a welcome change for anyone using their computer for semi-heavy lifting.

I’ve been very happy with this new machine and the benefits it brings. Though I said it about the last MacBook I owned, this MacBook Pro will likely stick around for a long time, thanks to its powerful processor, aluminum shell and fast graphics chip.

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Not much comes close to setting the interwebs ablaze than an Apple keynote. Fanboys everywhere were glued to their computer screens yesterday to learn what new things would come out of Cupertino this summer. While the WWDC is a developer’s conference, there were many intriguing announcements that are of interest to the general Mac-using public.

Here are some of the big points from the keynote yesterday:

iPhone 3G S
The iPhone 3G — and, it could be argued, the iPod Touch — have been fairly revolutionary for mobile computing. Apple tries to continue that with the iPhone 3G S, which they are touting as the most powerful iPhone yet. According to the keynote, nearly all the standard operations done on the phone are faster and more responsive. Things like launching messages, webpages and basic applications all seem to be quicker. Hardware wise, a new 3 megapixel, autofocusing camera makes an appearance, which even includes video recording. Hardware encryption and voice recording were also added.

Prices vary by carrier, naturally, but Apple’s price is $199USD for 16GB storage, and 32GB goes for $299USD. Is it worth it? While I don’t use an iPhone myself, I think the benefits over the iPhone 3G are subtle, but if you jumped in with the original iPhone, or have even held off purchasing the phone since the beginning, now is certainly a great time to join the party.

iPhone OS 3.0
The big deal of the keynote was more detail about the iPhone 3.0 software. Since the entire convention is for developers, most of the announcements were for the SDK included in the new software. The biggest news is that the new software includes support for copy and paste right on the phone. Additionally, landscape mode has been added to multiple applications, Find My iPhone and an undo function have been added. The latter is available just by shaking the phone — sort of like an Etch-A-Sketch function, and Find My iPhone is a feature of MobileMe that enables users to track their phone should they lose it, and optionally wipe the data remotely should it be stolen.

Phil Schiller and Scott Forstall (those taking Steve Jobs’ place presenting the keynote) had a few digs at AT&T about functions added to iPhone 3.0, that may not be available from AT&T until later. Tethering is a feature many people have asked for, now that most phones are connected to the internet with a speed almost equal to a home DSL line. It is a way of connecting the phone to a computer through USB or Bluetooth so that the phone can be used as a modem to get the computer online. The other jab at the American provider was that multimedia messaging service won’t be able to share your photos, videos and sounds with other people until later in the summer. This feature, which is available on nearly every other handset in the world, will finally bring the iPhone on part with what can be considered an essential service.


New MacBook Pros
In what I thought was a somewhat unusual move, Apple announced that the 13″ aluminum MacBook would now be a MacBook Pro, making the white polycarbonate model the only remaining MacBook. Besides the natural speed increases, the hardware changes made to the whole line were SD card slots instead of ExpressCard and a new, longer-lasting internal battery that cannot be removed. The battery situation is one I think may see some strong opposition. For a computer that is a “pro machine”, where the user is in the field for a long time, the inability to swap out a battery and get another 4 hours could be frustrating. The fact that all the previous MacBooks could have batteries swapped while the computer is sleeping means that with enough batteries, users can work continuously. Fortunately, though, I think that the power and design of the computers mean that the batteries may be an afterthought.

Snow Leopard
My personal favourite announcement of the keynote was the announcements about the newest Cupertino cat, Snow Leopard. As previously shown, Snow Leopard foregoes hundreds of new features in favour of making OS X faster, smaller, more efficient and more stable. The big news was the addition of technology to take advantage of multi-core processors and advanced GPUs. Grand Central Dispatch makes it very easy for developers to use every ounce of power from advanced Intel CPUs. This is because early versions of OS X were not optimized for multithreading, preventing software from using all available horsepower. To take advantage of GPUs, Apple has spearheaded an initiative to create a new language that threads operations in a way that GPUs can handle. Best of all, nearly all the major manufacturers have jumped on board.

Breaking from tradition, Apple has decided that this new upgrade should be available for $29USD for Leopard users, making it the cheapest 10.x upgrade yet. A family pack for 5 users will be available for $49USD, which is a full $150 off the Leopard price. If a value pack is available with a Snow Leopard license, iLife 09 and iWork 09 for ~$100, I know where I’ll be when it’s available in September.

As we’ve come to expect from Apple’s keynotes, a wide array of new products and services will be available from Apple this summer, making it yet another exciting time to be a fan of the fruit company.

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This was a busy week for technology enthusiasts. With CES going in Las Vegas and Macworld Expo going in San Fransisco, there’s a lot of new ways to spend cash.

While my CES coverage has consisted mainly of reading Engadget, I’ve been following Macworld a little closer. You may remember that earlier I mentioned that this is Apple’s last participation in the Expo and that Phil Schiller gave the Keynote presentation instead of Steve Jobs (check out this article for more on his health).

Keynote results

I’ve gotta say: I wasn’t too blown away by Apple’s keynote announcements. Sure there was a new iLife and iWork, but there was nothing quite like the iPhone, Mac mini and PowerBooks (going back a few years). I was hoping for something that I would really consider saving up for.

Instead, this is what we got.

The 17″ MacBook Pro now joins the rest of the MacBook and MacBook Pro line with a unibody aluminum enclosure, glass trackpad and LED backlit screen. It separates itself from the other models by including a new 8 hour battery, which I can only hope will make its way to the other models soon. Interestingly, this model has an optional $50 anti-glare cover, which should satisfy the many users who complained about the glossy screen on the other models. I don’t think I would ever consider purchasing a machine like this. Not just for the price tag (starting at $2,999 CAN) but also because I could get an even large screen, using a smaller MacBook for less money. Maybe a 15″ MacBook Pro, but even that would require careful consideration.

The previously mentioned iLife and iWork updates include some interesting new features that I would like to see in person. As soon as I saw iMovie ’08 I refused to upgrade, so this package needs to have more benefits for me to even consider it.

Perhaps the biggest news from the keynote is that the iTunes store will be transitioning to completely DRM free tracks. Music will now be offered in a 3 tier system: $0.69, $0.99 and $1.29 per track. That should make a lot of people happy.

Overall, I think both trade shows could be considered successes, and even with Apple’s decision to pull out of next year’s expo, I still want to go.

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It finally happened. Today in Cupertino, Apple unveiled new MacBooks, MacBook Pros, and MacBook Airs that satisfy nearly everything I wanted in a MacBook. Shown in the above image from Apple.com, the new MacBooks feature an aluminum enclosure, glass trackpad, LED backlit screen and nVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics. That last one has me most excited, as the graphics power of my current MacBook definitely leaves something to be desired. I won’t really know how badly I want a new MacBook until I can use one in person, but right now I’d say that these are some of the best, if not the best consumer laptops to come from California. It should also be mentioned that this new crop of MBs do not include FireWire 400 ports, but rather use the faster FireWire 800 standard.(Update: Ruh roh, no FW 400 either, that could be a deal breaker) Connecting your digital video camera and hard drive just required another adapter moving to a MacBook Pro.

MacBook Pro

As the flagship laptop in the Apple lineup, the MacBook Pro received an abundance of upgrades that make it an even better choice for business professionals. In addition to the glass trackpad, new aluminum enclosure and LED screen, the MBP gets a dual graphics setup that allows you to use the integrated GeForce 9400M for normal stuff, then up the ante with a GeForce 9600GT for those times when only the highest FPS will do. Personally I really like this new design as well, but I find the 15″ screen to be too big for what I use a laptop for.

MacBook Air

The only laptop in the fleet to get zero case changes, all the upgrades to the MacBook Air go on under the hood. It gets the new GeForce 9400M, the same keyboard and screen, and now has more hard drive options like 120GB HDD standard and 128GB SSD as an option. Still a niche product, but it’s always good to see more power cost less.

So another Apple presentation brought another 3 reasons to have a thinner wallet. Sadly, I must wait a few weeks months before I can even consider a new machine, but I can always dream.

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