Brief notes on upgrading a 2010 MacBook Pro SSD

I have a 2010 MacBook Pro which came with a 120GB SSD. I ran out of space on the drive and took it upon myself to upgrade to a bigger one. Found a great deal ($220) on this SanDisk Extreme 240GB 2.5" SATA III SSD and was ready to swap it out with the old drive.  It turns out I'd lost out on the lottery and received one of the slower Toshiba SSDs rather than one of the faster Samsung ones, so I knew the SanDisk was bound to be an improvement. After making sure my Time Machine backup was up to date I cloned my old SSD to the new one using a SATA-to-USB dock and Carbon Copy Cloner.

I started by watching this video to get a sense of my way around the inside of the laptop. The video covers a slightly different task, but I wasn't looking for hand-holding, but just the general layout and gotchas.  One of the things I gathered is that it's important to use high-quality philips and torx bits, and in my case I used a Wiha set.  It was pretty easy to take out the old SSD and plug in the new one. I couldn't find my anti-static wristband, but I made sure to wear only cotton clothing, and to touch the power supply chasis of a nearby, plugged-in desktop PC every minute or so to avoid zapping anything.

With the new SSD in place, the first boot took an eternity. Almost ten seconds from pushing the power button to the grey Apple icon, and almost another ten seconds before the little spinny boot process indicator, but it did boot up fine. I've heard that SSDs need a few days to "settle in" before they're at proper performance levels, but other than the super-slow boot-up , I haven't had any other problems. I was back to working normally right away with the new SSD.  Using Blackmagic Disk Speed Test I get speeds of around 220MB/s for read and 260MB/s for write, which is quite an improvement (and this is before any possible "settling.")

The new MacBook Pro

I ended up changing my return flight from Chicago to Denver because of the chaos from last week's huge snow-storm. By the time I got back early yesterday morning all seemed back to normal--and FedEx had attempted three deliveries of my new MacBook Pro. I went to pick it up yesterday, and when he handed me the package I peered suspiciously at the label as I hefted it, amazed at its small size and lightness. I was used to my Dells coming in near-cubic-meter boxes with respectable weight. The label seemed to be right, but I opened the package in the car, anyway. Inside I found an even more svelte box, with the unmistakable goods. Consumer Reports won't be dishing out a Golden Cocoon award to Apple any time soon, and that's a very good thing. I took a few pictures too (see below) of the out-of-box-experience, using my Dell Inspiron 8600 for comparison. The MacBook is much thinner and a bit lighter, and about the same in the other dimensions, despite having a 17" widescreen to the Dell's 15". I just hope I won't miss the Dell's WUXGA resolution too dearly.

My first moves were to install Firefox and Thunderbird. I've done a lot of research while waiting for the new computer and Tim's and Mark's public repudiation of some of the more proprietary aspects of Mac's bundled tools resonated strongly with me. The arguments that Mozilla interfaces were non-Aqua and thus ugly are completely uninteresting to me. I don't subscribe to the school of thought that only Apple is capable of good interface design. More importantly, I've used Safari and quite a bit, and I don't really like their UI. I personally find them rather patronizing. In the end, the only reason I made the switch to Mac is that I've come to believe that I can make My Mac serve me, rather than turning me into a servant of The Great Mac Cause. Being able to install cross-platform tools for my basic work was a bit like erecting my flag of independence, to be a bit florid. Anyway I considered Camino but the incompatibility with FF extensions, including the likes of ScrapBook and Web developer tools was a show-stopper for me. I might still install Camino and even Flock. I'm all for browser polygamy.

The next thing I grabbed was Virtue Desktops (Thanks, Graham). Sorry but I can't work with all my windows crammed into one room. It seems Apple realizes the need for these as well, and is preparing the feature for Leopard. Unfortunately Virtue, and AFAICT Apple Spaces are far more limited than virtual desktop technology I'm used to. They work on the principle that each app is assigned to a "space", rather than each window. So my usual setup of having a set of Firefox windows with tabs for regular browsing, and another for client-related browsing, and another for OSS work isn't supported. I can probably get around this for browsing by using a few different browser apps, but I think this will be a real problem in the case of iTerm. I usually have a terminal window or two in each of my "spaces". I also need to find some more keyboard shortcuts for Virtue. shift-tab...arrow keys...enter is a tad too much.

I grabbed iTerm right away because I need tabs. I did find WidgetTerm, a neat Dashboard version of iTerm (no tabs, though). Dashboard is slick. I can't wait till I have some time to go hunting for widgets, and maybe even hacking up some of my own. Hope I can do so in Python.

I chose Vienna as Web feed reader. I'd have been OK paying for NetNewswire, but not on all their dubious terms . I need to quickly figure out IRC and IM (Jabber, AIM and Yahoo), and I'm finding this a bit of a murky area. AdiumX gets some great notices but some of my colleagues warned me of it because of some lingering show-stopper bugs. I'd also love to have IRC and IM in the same app. I'm guessing I'll end up trying a bunch of stuff to find what works for me. Oh well. I'm also presently trying to work out ssh-agent. I found this resource I plan to try. Then will come the hard part: my development set up. I'll be looking for an overview of Python and C dev tools on the Mac, preferably one that evaluates a broad variety of options. I think I'm going to try giving up emacs again, so I'll be checking out good stand-alone text editors. I might even go as far as trying an IDE or two. I got great advice on dev setup in comments to "Time for Mac".

A couple of annoyances I'll have to research more are lack of right click on the touchpad and an occasional disappearing mouse cursor. We ordered Lori's Intel Mac with a wireless keyboard and its mouse had right click as well as a very neat scroll button. I hope I won't be forced to use an external mouse on my notebook: I hate holding down ctrl for context menu. And sometimes the mouse cursor seems to disappear for a second or two. I'm trying to narrow down what triggers this. It's not a huge deal, but sometimes an annoying obstacle.

All in all I'm getting a god vibe about my choice. If nothing else, the energy that comes from shaking up my routine is refreshing. Thanks to all who have given such useful advice, either directly to me, or in the many general, on-line resources.

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Time for Mac?

I've decided to get a new laptop by the end of the year. My current Dell Inspiron 8600 one is a fountain of constant annoyance--I used to swear by Dell for laptops; that's so over. So I was considering either Lenovo or the Acer Ferrari series. My developer colleagues at Sun swear by the latter for power-user features and UNIX friendliness (some of them run Ubuntu, some Solaris). But more and more I've been wondering: is it time to consider a MacBook Pro for my laptop? primary machine? My right arm, just about?

We already have two Macs in the house, the high-end iMac G4 Lori got for her birthday 3 years ago and the high-end iMac 24-inch she got for her birthday in October. For the largely multimedia stuff she does, they are excellent, but I've never warmed to OS X, and I've spent a fair amount of time on her computer. I miss little things such as multiple desktops and the rapid back-and forth between GUI and command line. On OS X, as on Windows, going to the command line feels like going to a different land. And yes, I've heard there are multiple desktop add-ons for OS X, and I agree that Expose alleviates some of the need for multiple desktops, and I know that technically you can do everything OS X related on the command line, you just have to get used to some different conventions and layout. Despite all that, I've just never warmed to OS X.

Some of that might just be the fact that I don't use it as regularly. Probably if I did switch to OS X I would get used to power-user features and warm up pretty quickly. I'd have to learn to not resist all the magic that OS X places between you and the UNIX OS, appreciating that the magic is what provides the "just works" factor. I've long believed that excepting a few rough spots such as video projectors, Linux computers (with modern desktops such as GNOME or KDE) are much more likely to "just work" in any given scenario than Windows computers. In my observation OS X has both well beaten. I say this even though I've found that Ubuntu comes with a huge "just works" boost.

In the end my most important criterion is my colleagues. I know several people with similar work patterns to me who have moved from Linux to OS X. A few have become fed up and switched back. In a couple of cases the problem was performance, that was back in the mobile G4 era. I hear a lot of that's better now with Intel Core Duo. I do think that more of these folks have enjoyed the switch than have regretted it.

My leaning is more and more towards making the move. In the end it comes down to always challenging my comfort and shaking up my routine. The general stimulation of the platform switch might boost my energy and productivity, unless it's a disaster and proves a sap instead.

I've done some research on the Linux -> Mac developer switch experience, and I plan to do a good deal more today so that I can come to a rapid decision and claim the expense this year. I'd love to hear from any others who are or were in a similar situation. What are your thoughts?

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