March 25, 2006

Apple, Windows, Linux, Dell (oh my!)

Filed under: Technology — Cory @ 7:13 pm

A few months ago I discovered that the Apple PowerBook that I use daily was only recognizing 512MB of RAM, rather than the full 1GB that was installed. After searching around a little I discovered that other people were also experiencing this problem. Several week later Apple posted the issue on their website and initiated a repair program.

I was not excited about having to send the PowerBook away, especially since it is my only computer. I finally took the plunge last week and called Apple. I was able to get to take care of everything over the phone, and they scheduled the repair right away. The next day a box arrived for me to pack the PowerBook in and send it back via Airborne Express/DHL next-day air. Apple received the box on Monday, March 20, repaired it, and sent it to QA/shipping on the same day. It shipped on Tuesday and I received it back on Wednesday. Had I known that it would have happened that quickly I would have shipped it on Monday instead of the previous Friday.

Being without an Apple computer was actually pretty difficult. When I switched from Linux to Apple two years ago I remember that it seemed pretty nice, and things just seemed to work without much effort. But going back was much, much more difficult. While the PowerBook was away I had a loaner laptop from helpdesk that was a Dell Inspiron 1100 running Windows XP. Wow, I really don’t know how people use this setup every day without going postal. When I was using this computer I found it was very frustrating to do just about everything, but it was particularly painful doing anything on the Internet. The last version of Windows that I used regularly was Windows 98, but I had heard that Windows XP was better because it didn’t crash. That’s a load of crap because this machine crashed on me 3 times during the first 2 days I had it. But since I am on-call I needed something at home, so I just dealt with it.

Meanwhile, at the office I took my development machine that was running Debian Sarge and installed Kubuntu on it. I had heard great things about Kubuntu (and Ubuntu in general) from a lot of people, so I figured it was the least painful route. Sure enough, the install was easy and I had a relatively nice looking desktop from the very beginning. But…

The previous week I had ordered a Dell 2005FPW 20″ widescreen flatpanel for my desk at work (since that’s where I spend most of my computer time). The monitor arrived on the same day I mailed out my PowerBook, so I had not yet used it with that. After a day of using this monitor on the Kubuntu box with a video card that wouldn’t support the correct resolution, I went searching for a better video card at the office and found a Nvidia ti 4200 based card with DVI and VGA outputs. I descended into the hell that is configuring Xorg and eventually got the monitor running at the right resolution, but I was never able to get the dual monitor setup to work. (I later found out what I was doing wrong). But this little experiment served as a nice reminder of why I love using Apple computers so much.

When my PowerBook arrived back at the office on Wednesday I felt like a kid in a candy store. There was a slip of paper in the box stating that while they were repairing the PowerBook they noticed that it qualified for a replacement battery, so they gave me a new one. Score! I immediately plugged it in to the new monitor and, suprise, it all worked immediately!

To be fair, there were things that I liked about the software I used while the PB was away, so I’ll list them here:

Kubuntu (Linux/KDE)

  • Klipper (the KDE clipboard) – this is a nice little utility for managing and using multiple clipboards. It has a nice interface and is easy to use.

Windows XP on a Dell Inspiron 1100

  • N/A

Using Synergy with Linux and Mac OS X

Since I had the Linux machine connected to a 17″ Dell flatpanel, and the PowerBook running dual monitor with the 20″ widescreen flatpanel, I wanted to use them all together with Synergy. I had been running a similar setup before, but I was using the PowerBook as the server and the Linux machine as the client. This was a pain for various reasons, so with the new setup I decided to run the server on Linux and the client on the PowerBook. When I initially set it up I noticed that there was a lot of lag with the mouse when it was on the Apple screen. To remedy this I started synergy on the Linux machine with the highest priority using “nice”:

sudo nice -n -20 /usr/bin/synergys

Now the synergy process takes priority over pretty much everything else on the system and there is no more lag when the mouse is on the Apple screen. :)

On a related note, yesterday was the fifth anniversary of the release of Mac OS X. If anything, I am more appreciative of it now than ever.

• • •

No Comments »

No comments yet.

Comments RSSTrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Powered by: WordPress • Template by: Priss