Upgrading to a new MacBook Pro
We were sitting around the dinner table when my daughter called to tell us that her MacBook—which had loyally served her through he entire college career—had died. The hard drive was failing, she was three weeks from graduating and needed a solution quickly. My wife and I discussed options for how to deal with it and then she said something incredible:
Wife: ″David, you’ve been talking about getting a new MacBook Pro. Why don’t you get it now and ship your older MacBook Pro down to her? She could have it tomorrow if you do this now.″
Wife: ″David? Where are you?!?″
Too late, I was already driving to the Apple store.
The ″Problem″ With Macs
When I was a Windows developer (1990 to 2008) I found myself upgrading my machine with pretty regular frequency. It wasn’t that the hardware was that far off the state of the art, it’s just that Windows had a tendency to degrade over time, to the point that within a year and a half the machine felt very sluggish. The normal solution was to reformat the hard drive and reinstall Windows and all of my apps. When faced with this option I often just decided to upgrade the entire machine.
My Macs however have been a different story. Both of my primary machines, obtained in the Spring of 2008, still performed as fast as ever. It’s become more and more difficult to justify an upgrade to a machine that just worked fine and performed well. When my wife dropped the green flag I didn’t hesitate to jump in.
Choosing the Right MacBook Pro
Figuring out which MacBook Pro worked best for me was relatively easy. My MacBook is used as a development machine; some Ruby on Rails work and basic web development and lately more and more Xcode work on iOS apps. I am a heavy Spaces user and at any given time have a considerable number of apps running. All this pointed towards a slightly more powerful processor.
From a portability standpoint this is my travel machine. When I’m on the road (or just want to head outside and work), I need something that’s portable enough I can grab and take with me. While I think a 13” would be ideal purely for travel size (or a MacBook Air for that matter), as long as I can open it on an airline folding table I’m good and I have been able to do that on most airlines with my older 15” MacBook Pro. This is one of the things that eliminated the 17” from contention.
From a screen real-estate standpoint my needs are high. When doing application development you want as much screen as possible. Having an application window open while you are debugging code in another window is a regular occurrence. Fortunately Apple recently released a much higher resolution screen with the 15” MacBook Pros - it’s 1680 × 1050, a 36% increase over the standard 1440 × 900 display I used to have. Though I would love the 1920 × 1200 display on the 17” MacBook Pro, the portability factor trumped that. If this was my only Mac (I still have a desktop bound Mac Pro with dual displays) I likely would have gone with the 17”.
The displays are also offered in a Glossy or Antiglare options. Though technically the Glossy display is supposed to make colors pop better I didn’t see that when comparing them side by side. The Antiglare screen is significantly more visible in brightly lit environments. Sunlight, fluorescent lights, background lights, etc. can wreak havoc on the glossy display and limit your ability to see the screen.
While I could have custom ordered my machine from Apple I needed to get it that night so I had to make some compromises. The Apple store I visited didn’t stock exactly what I wanted so I paid a little more than I intended and got the highest processor so that I could get a machine with the higher resolution screen and Antiglare.
I really want 8GB of memory for this machine but Apple’s cost to upgrade that is a completely unrealistic $200 premium. I’ll go to the aftermarket for that.
The specifications for my new MacBook Pro are:
15” High Resolution Antiglare Screen
2.3GHz Intel Quad Core i7 Processor
750GB 5400RPM Hard Disk
I plunked down the credit card and walked out the door with my shiny new MacBook Pro.
Before I shipped off my old MacBook Pro to my daughter I needed to migrate everything over. When you first start up a new Mac you are presented with a series of options, one of them being to migrate your data and applications from your old Mac to your new Mac.
Since both of my MacBook Pros (old and new) had FireWire 800 ports, I purchased a Belkin FireWire 9-Pin cable to hook them together and perform the transfer. When you choose that option on a MacBook Pro you are presented with a series of steps, the first of which start off with starting up your previous Mac in Target Disk Mode. You restart the machine and immediately hold down the "T" key. This effectively turns your Mac into a FireWire hard disk enclosure for your drive.
I walked through the steps to start the migration and let it perform its magic. With 165GB of data and an extraordinary number of small files (versioned development with Git will do that), it took about 2.5 hours to perform the migration. I’ve done these migrations before using Ethernet (also an option) cabled up to a 1 Gigabit Ethernet Switch and it takes about 20% longer. I’ve also had some problems with the Ethernet migration because it sometimes has trouble with very large files.
This is where a Mac really shines—once you’ve completed a migration (assuming it works like mine has anyway) your new Mac has everything ready to go just like your previous Mac. There were only a couple of minor things that I had to tweak and that’s because I’m a developer: I manually modify my /etc/hosts file to remap domain names and that file did not get migrated over. I also had to manually start (and set to auto-start) my MySQL server instance. Once that was done my new Mac was performing just like my previous Mac, except that it was considerably faster and had a much higher resolution.
Saying Goodbye - to an old friend
With my new Mac up and running properly all that was left was doing some final touches on the older MacBook Pro, packing it up and overnighting it down to my daughter. This Mac is named Yoda (in keeping with the Star Wars theme I have for all my computer names).
As I write this Jocelyn called to tell me Yoda had arrived and that she couldn’t believe how cool her “new” MacBook Pro was. She never got around to upgrading her older MacBook and it was still running Tiger, so Snow Leopard on a bigger screen with a faster processor was a huge step up.
Hearing the joy in her voice about her new Mac made me pretty happy too.