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MacBook Pro 13.3″ unibody

This entry was posted by on Sunday, 11 April, 2010 at

Today I (finally…) got my MBP. This machine will now face the scrutiny of a longtime Linux user.

I ordered the entry-level 2.53GHz Core2Duo and upgraded to 4GiB RAM and a 128GiB SSD. The reasoning for the SSD was quite simple: it is more shock-resistant, consumes less power and is faster than an ordinary harddrive.

The OS-Xperience

The machine came neatly packed. After opening it up and booting the machine I went through the usual OS-X greetings (such as entering your private information, watching the (overly long) Welcome – Willkommen – Bienvenudo – etc. movie). Then played around with Snow Leopard for a while.

The SSD (which I choose for vibration resistance) is also a bit more energy efficient. I was astonished to see the machine predicted a full 10 hours of duty! Besides that, it is completely silent and incredibly fast. I won’t go into a full-out review, as many others have already done this. I just want to mention the backlit keyboard is a big plus, and the glossy screen a big minus. The entire environment reflects in it like a mirror, which is a true pain when using the machine in brightly-lit environments.

De-glared screens used to be standard on the MBPs, but is now optional for the 15 and 17″ MBPs. Luckily, after-market vendors like http://www.nushield.com/ come to the rescue here.

After some fiddling I decided it is time to do business: install Linux. Kubuntu that is.

Getting The Koala to coexist with the Snow Leopard

Following the how-to at http://www.pingtrip.com/weblog/2008/04/kubuntu-on-a-macbook-pro

Apple has put some Disk Utils in OS-X. Nice and informative, but in order to do real stuff you’ll have to resort to a console (or, in Mac Lingo, a terminal). Now as a Linux user this is nothing new, but I observe some differences between the Open Source and the Mac mentality.

The article at http://ubuntuforums.org/archive/index.php/t-89960.html provides a nice how-to on how to prepare the disk for multi-booting. It is quite simple:

  1. Disable the HSF+ journalling.
  2. Boot to Linux (by holding ‘C’ during boot or if you installed rEFIt, which I can recommen!).
  3. Run sudo parted from the Live CD (or USB stick) to shrink the Macintosh HD to the desired size. “resize 210MB 40GB” was the command I issued, as I plan to use Linux most. This made a 40GiB partition for OSX and leaves the remaining 80GiB of the SSD for Linux.
  4. Continue with installation of Kubuntu as usual.
  5. Afterwards, boot to OSX from rEFIt to enable journalling.

Making the Karmic Koala at home

After installation of Kubuntu, add whatever repos and packages you need. I really like build-essential, autoconf, automake, and all the medibuntu stuff. I always install yakuake, a nice quake-style konsole. Don’t forget ssh-server, you never know if you want ot access the MBP from a network (do think wisely about your passwords though!). The package kubuntu-restricted-extras also contains many useful things.

Using the Hardware Drivers tool you can enable non-free drivers for the MBP’s WiFi and NVIDIA hardware, which functions perfectly.

Enabling F-key combos: dim screen, keyboard light, sound, can be done with sudo apt-get install pommed. This is a daemon which manages these features and is highly configurable. Have a look here on how to proceed: https://wiki.kubuntu.org/MacBookPro/Feisty

Also, have a look at the MacTelSupportTeam site:

https://wiki.ubuntu.com/MactelSupportTeam/CommunityHelpPages

Get trackpad support (multitouch etc):

sudo apt-get install bcm5974-dkms

I did have some issues with the trackpad, because it was far to sensitive to be used.

Ruggedising the MBP

The aluminium unibody makes the machine both solid and light. Using a hardshell cover from incase (http://www.goincase.com/) it becomes a bit more resistant to being thrown around. It is not a truely ruggedised laptop, but it does help protect the assets 🙂

Up- and Downsides

I was hoping to experience some of the “OS X bliss” others are raving about. So far OS X’s ability to work with the hardware is the only thing. Apple’s standard tools (finder, iPhoto, preview) are not my cup of coffee. Many third-party programs are available, but they only have crippleware trial versions or you have to buy them. This is just what scared me away from Windowns in the XP era. Luckily it works well with Linux.

The hardware though is excellent. Except for the mirrorscreen and the SD card reader, which does not completely swallow the card, but leaves almost a 1/4 of the card sticking outside, where it is just asking to be broken. I wonder why Apple did not use the simple bayonet-type readers you often encounter in cameras and other mobile devices.

One Response to “MacBook Pro 13.3″ unibody”

  1. You should also review a screen protector from xo skins. Their skins are military grade and don’t have that orange peel texture or rubbery feel. I have one on my macbook pro and it filled in some of the little scratches it had. Very cool stuff


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