MacBook vs.???

Hi,

I need some help on a new laptop purchase!

I have an old toshiba laptop that is currency running Ubuntu 7.04. The
machine is definitely on it's last legs; I expect it to die any time
within the next 3 months, probably a lot less. I've been looking
around at laptops to replace mine when it dies, and I was surprised at
the hardware in a MacBook (not pro) for the price.

I am in Canada, so I am quoting the specs/prices that relate to me.

This is the MacBook that I am looking at
http://store.apple.com/1-800-MY-APPLE/WebObjects/canadastore.woa/61024006/wo/B15TNtnqe8KH3jHmExt10XriAfp/8.?p=0

It is $1250 (CAD), shipping included for an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0 Ghz
processor (no upgrades).

The best non-Mac comparisons that I can find are:
1300 + shipping for an Intel Core Duo 1.83Ghz
http://www.toshiba.ca/web/product.grp?lg=en&section=1&group=1&product=5732&category=

1400 + shipping for an Intel Core 2 Duo 1.67 Ghz
http://www.toshiba.ca/web/product.grp?lg=en&section=1&group=1&product=7211&part=6484#spectop

1330 + shipping for an Intel Core 2 Duo 1.66 Ghz
http://www.tigerdirect.ca/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=3106996

1300 + shipping for an Intel Core 2 Duo 1.73 Ghz
http://www.tigerdirect.ca/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=3113048

1300 + shipping for an AMD Turion 64 X2 Mobile 2.0 Ghz
http://www.tigerdirect.ca/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=3203544

There are three common things that the PCs tend to have better than
the MacBook:
-More RAM (some have 2GB)
-More HD space (many are 100-150 GB)
-DVD-Burner

I don't think I have a problem with the RAM, but I'd like the opinion
of a MacBook user: Will 1GB RAM be enough for Rails development,
watching DVDs, surfing the web, and instant messaging? I may do some
word precessing and spreadsheets too (OpenOffice)--but most of the big
documents will be done on my desktop.

I don't about the DVD-Burner. I have one on my desktop and that is
enough.

Can I format a USB hard drive so that it is readable and writable by
both the MacBook I am looking at and Windows XP Pro (and preferably
Ubuntu 7.04)? If so, I don't care about the HD space.

Here is the really trick part of the question: Both my wife and I love
Ubuntu. Both of us have used macs and don't like the UI. So I will
almost definitely erasing whatever OS comes with the laptop I buy and
instead installing Ubuntu.

Given the above, my decision should be based primarily on the
hardware's price/performance/reliability. Should I buy the MacBook?

Here are a few other considerations:
-Lighter is highly valuable - the MacBook is lighter than all the PCs
i noted
-Screen clarity is important - I think the MacBook is better here; can
anyone confirm?
-I will be doing rails development at least part time. Is it possible
to dual boot Ubuntu and Mac OS X? If so, considering that I have tried
and generally don't like the OS, how valuable is booting into Mac OS X
just for rails development? Currently I use jedit. It's been great,
but I don't have the time to add all the shortcuts that seem to be
built-in to TextMate
-Does the MacBook I am looking at come in black? I couldn't figure it
out from the apple website. This isn't that important, but black is
much cooler.
-My wife will KILL me if I make her use Mac OS X. So far I have
assumed that I could install Ubuntu on it, is that assumption true?
Can someone who has done it say how easy/hard it is?

Thanks in advance to everyone who takes the time to reply!!!

PS. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not make this into a Mac is better than
Windows. My laptop will not have Windows (except if I have to test in
Internet Explorer 6/7).

I don't think I have a problem with the RAM, but I'd like the opinion
of a MacBook user: Will 1GB RAM be enough for Rails development,
watching DVDs, surfing the web, and instant messaging?

No.

(IMHO)

That said, if you want to buy more RAM there are third-party RAM merchants (crucial.com, transintl.com) which can at least bring the cost down.

Can I format a USB hard drive so that it is readable and writable by both the MacBook I am looking at and Windows XP Pro (and preferably Ubuntu 7.04)? If so, I don't care about the HD space.

"maybe"? IIRC OS X can read and write to FAT32 volumes. I haven't tried it, though.

but...

Here is the really trick part of the question: Both my wife and I love Ubuntu. Both of us have used macs and don't like the UI. So I will almost definitely erasing whatever OS comes with the laptop I buy and instead installing Ubuntu.

In that case a Mac laptop is just a PC running Ubuntu. It has some niceties, but most of the magic is in the software. If you don't like the software then you just paid a lot for hardware you can often get elsewhere for cheaper.

As to the prior question of what you can format the disk to: if you're running Ubuntu then the question is not whether you can format a volume so the Mac and Windows can both read it, the question is whether you can format a volume so Ubuntu and Windows can both read it.

Of course this all assumes you *can* install Ubuntu on a Mac. I haven't tried it (well, other than in Parallels) nor heard of anyone trying it, so I don't know.

Given the above, my decision should be based primarily on the hardware's price/performance/reliability. Should I buy the MacBook?

Are you carrying it around with you a lot? One thing to be said for the MacBooks is that they tend to be fairly rugged -- they're a descendant of the iBook which seems to be designed to be used by drunken college students.

Otherwise you're basically buying a PC so you should be able to compare price/performance straight up.

-Lighter is highly valuable - the MacBook is lighter than all the PCs i noted

There are dramatically lighter laptops than the MacBooks -- look at some of the Toshiba and Panasonic ultralights. Dell has a 3 lb'ish laptop. There are rumors that Apple is going to come out with an ultralight sometime soon sometime maybe. These rumors have been around since just about forever, though.

-I will be doing rails development at least part time. Is it possible to dual boot Ubuntu and Mac OS X? If so, considering that I have tried and generally don't like the OS, how valuable is booting into Mac OS X just for rails development? Currently I use jedit. It's been great, but I don't have the time to add all the shortcuts that seem to be built-in to TextMate

I'm guessing it's possible to dual boot but that's just a guess -- I haven't done it, nor do I know anyone that's tried. As I mentioned, I don't even know of anyone installing Ubuntu as a primary OS.

Dual booting for nothing but development seems like kind of a pain -- I wouldn't want to do it but YMMV.

-Does the MacBook I am looking at come in black? I couldn't figure it out from the apple website. This isn't that important, but black is much cooler.

The higher end MacBook comes in black. When they first came out I compared and you could equalize the feature sets at which point black cost $150 more. I've heard that premium has dropped to $50 but I haven't checked.

-My wife will KILL me if I make her use Mac OS X. So far I have assumed that I could install Ubuntu on it, is that assumption true?

Someone else will have to chime in on this.

PS. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not make this into a Mac is better than
Windows. My laptop will not have Windows (except if I have to test in
Internet Explorer 6/7).

One way in which a Mac will be better than Windows (and Ubuntu) is that you can run a VM system on Mac OS X (Parallels or VMWare) and then put Windows and Linux in a VM on top. This lets you have Windows, Linux and Mac browsers up *at the same time* to test your Rails app.

-faisal

Wow. Very thorough response. That is really helpful. Thank you very
much!

Not a Mac user (yet.. it's on the buy list as soon as I have the money) but 1GB of RAM should be *plenty* for Rails development. On my WinXP laptop I ran Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005 Express, Oracle express, MySQL, Adobe Photoshop and Office 2k3 on 1GB of RAM and it never gave me any problems at all; you should be fine with 1GB.

Also only a certain type of Macbook comes in black (and costs about $200 US more since it has more HD space that you can't modify). If you didn't see the option, then it's not the one. I know because I've been looking at MacBooks myself lately :slight_smile:

Hope this helps.

If you ran all of these together, memory swapping galore :slight_smile:

But 1 GB of RAM on a MacBook is more than sufficient for pure Rails programming: TextMate, iTerm/Terminal, Safari, Firefox

If you have plenty of other apps open all the time (like I have) such as Photoshop (big memory eater), OpenOffice (another one), Mail, Adium, iCal, iTunes, Vienna, … then 1 GB of RAM will still do, but swapping occurs and spoiled as I am, I hate the waiting between app switches.

Simply put: the more RAM, the more applications you can run at the same time without losing speed. I always put in the maximum amount of RAM possible.

Best regards

Peter De Berdt

I am using a MacBook Pro with 1GB of RAM in it, and it works just fine
for Rails development. In fact, I often have Photoshop CS3, TextMate,
Terminal, iTunes, Adium, Vienna, and Cyberduck all going at the same
time. Along with my browser and email client. It never seems to miss a
beat for me. Could it use 2GB+? Sure, it could, but the 1GB gets along
just fine for me. I would think that it would be the same for the
standard MacBook.

--Cory

If you got 2 GB of RAM, you could run Ubuntu, VMWare Server (now free), and Windows XP in a VM, so you’d still have access to Photoshop and the like. This means no reboots, and yes, WinXP will be slower this way, but it’s easier to do that IMO than to dual-boot.

Robert