Originally posted on March 26th. Updated for the Holiday Season!
I was in the market for a new Laptop, given that mine is at least 3 years old and starting to show its age with non-working USB ports, one blown power supply, and failing batteries. My requirements are slightly above the average:
Any laptop must be able to run the following at the same time within a hosted virtualization solution such as VMware Workstation or Fusion.
- VMware vSphere ESX 4
- VMware vSphere ESX 4i
- VMware vCenter Server on Windows 2008
- Virtual Storage Appliance (I use OpenFiler at the moment)
- Development Environment for my security script
Now I have all this running on my older Duo Core laptop within 8GBs of memory and multiple USB disks and let me tell you, it runs SLOWLY but it will run. I was in the market for something much faster and perhaps with more memory.
So I was in essence looking at a 16GB i7 laptop, but I settled for an 8GB i7 laptop with a 512GB SSD that “Just Works.” I was all set to plunk down cash on a Windows 7 based laptop when I went on the Gestalt IT Tech Field Day and found out that my camera would not stream video and required me to reboot several times in the midst of the briefings. This was just too many reboots during a critical time. I do not believe that ‘fixing’ a problem should require a reboot. A reboot just covers up the problems. My First attempt at a fix was to purchase a Microsoft HD Life Camera, but the video quality was worse than my Logitech HD camera all in all not very satisfactory.
I really agonized over this decision, I had to make sure my applications were all available on the Mac. Most if not all were, and after talking to my friend who was a long-time Mac owner, I switched back to a Mac (actually my first every computer purchase was a Mac IIsi followed soon by the MacBook Duo and up until last year I owned a Mac G4). I knew my VMs would run within 8GBs as they already did, so extra memory was not a huge issue. The big issue was to invest in SSD over standard drives. Now that was a great decision. So soon I was the proud owner of a 15″ MackBook Pro i7 with 8GBs of RAM and a 512GB SSD.
Now what did I install on this MacBook Pro?
- VMware Fusion 3.0 which now runs in Unity mode to gain access to IE7 and IE8 for testing my website, QuickBooks Pro, and my vSphere Lab Bench
- Letter Opener which allows me to open winmail.dat files *UPDATED*
- Codeweavers CrossOver Office in which I run Visio 2007, and occasionally PowerPoint 2007. I use the Visual Basic Macros in PowerPoint 2007 to expand my animated presentations to create PDFs. I have also run IE6 within CrossOver office as it was the only way to talk to my very old Tape Library.
- Codeweavers CrossOver Games (still need to install those games but that should not be difficult seeing as I have already done this for Linux.)
- SnagIt – I use SnagIt on Windows and wish to continue to use SnagIt on Mac to capture images. It is what I know and has a powerful image editor. My SnagIt license worked with SnagIt for Mac
- Camtasia – Took a bit to get my windows licensed converted to Mac, but I was able to accomplish it with a call to Techsmith.
- Microsoft Office Mac (I already owned a copy) – Office 2011 will get you a version of Outlook. But I use MacMail *UPDATED*
- Final Cut Express (Pre-installed)
- Belkin F5L009 – (USB over Ethernet) to access my Printer <== Eventually I moved to a print server, as the F5L009 has issues if you have multiple network connections in use (which happens with VMware Fusion is running)
- Livescribe Desktop – I already owned the Pulse Smart Pen
- FlipShare – I need access to my Flip Videos
- Little Snitch – An application based port filtering firewall as I really wanted to know what was going on. Thanks to Scott Lowe for pointing me to this little gem.
- Trillian – I own an professional account on this service for all my IM Needs
- Emailchemy – I had to switch my mail from Outlook to my Mac mail application, first I tried Entourage but that was a bust so I now use the Mac Mail.app even with its quirks
- Transmit – So I can upload those book files easier (I tried Cyberduck, but prefer Transmit.)
Now for the Free Applications
- Skype – gotta keep in touch. I actually can use the Windows Beta with multiple video streams inside Fusion but it has a few issues with echos
- Remote Desktop Connection – Still the best way to reach Windows boxes necessary for VMware management
- FireFox – I prefer this to Safari and Chrome actually, but use all to test websites.
- Tweetie – for all those tweets. I tried twhirl but my friend said it drains battery being an Air App
- DropBox – For File sharing
- Chicken of the VNC – So that I can access all those Linux desktops not using XRDP
- Tunnelblick – For my OpenVPN connection
- Xcode and X11 – I do develop code so why not!
- Adobe Air – while it does drain battery, I have need for this for an upcoming product from a friend of mine for whom I do some beta work
- Windows Media Components for QuickTime – Gotta view those WMVs everyone posts.
Now for the Extras as in Hardware
- Speck Clear Hard Case (While at EMC World I noticed quite a few of these on MacBooks and I liked the look and feel of the case. The MBP needs a little extra protection).
- 85w MagSafe Power Supply (I picked up a second one so I could have one for travel.)
- USB to PS/2 connector (My laptop hooks to my PS/2 KVMs and the second one I bought works on Linux but not the MBP. The one I bought YEARS ago for the Mac G4 works great with the MBP.)
- Griffen iMic (I have a very good wand Mic that is best for using Skype, etc. as it is unidirectional and it is not amplified so need a tool that would do that for me.)
Some tools I tried but did not keep:
- Henge Dock (I tried to use this, but since my MacBook Pro has a Speck clear case, it did not fit into the dock, but for those that do not use hard shell cases, this tools is very useful.
- ooVoo is another client like Skype but has issues with sound quality (I do not think it is related to the Mac Book Pro, but to the client as the other end was running Windows an had the same version in use). I will keep this installed as some people use it.
There you go. Now I have a laptop that “Just Works”, boots quickly, and plays all my music with no major issues.
Unfortunately I have had 1 hang, 1 crash, and one small issue that have been easily diagnosed. Instead of just rebooting, I could actually fix the problem, the crash logs are far easier to read.
- I installed the Logitech Keyboard management tool, thinking I needed it for my Trackball, when in fact it was not needed. Since there was no Wireless keyboard the tool got confused. Removal of this unneeded software was the solution. Since I will not need a wireless keyboard with the MBP, its moot. This was a hang during runtime. Actually, I do not think it hanged as much as did not allow me keyboard access.
- I had attached a NTFS formatted USB drive that caused some issues. After I copied the data off the drive, I removed the drive from the laptops USB hubs and never had the same problem again. I believe the drive itself is the issue, and was hardly used with my old laptop. This was a crash at shutdown not during boot or normal work.
- Weird Mouse problem using a remote USB Mouse <-> PS/2 <-> KVM <-> PS/2 <-> USB on the MBP. I think my KVMs got confused as once I reset them, all worked once more. I know its a confusing setup but it is what I used before. This occurred during start-up but everything worked fine from the MBP, so it was the KVMs in use. <== Solution, the attached Wacom tablet was the issue. When I am not using the tablet now, I stand it up on its side so nothing accidentally scrapes against it.
Now to discuss the primary reason for using the MBP.
VMware Fusion 3 opened all my VMs that were created in VMware Workstation 7. ESX booted in less than 30 seconds, which is a huge improvement most likely due to the SSD in use as well as the i7. So far all my VMs run quite well with no major issues.
What I really like about the MBP, is its slim size, backlit keyboard, great graphics, built-in iSight video, and its pure performance. Could I have found all this in a standard PC? Yes, but the ultimate in the MBP is that it ‘Just Works’.
Edward L. Haletky, aka Texiwill, is an author, analyst, developer, technologist, and business owner. Edward owns AstroArch Consulting, Inc., providing virtualization, security, network consulting and development and TVP Strategy where he is also an Analyst. Edward is the Moderator and Host of the Virtualization Security Podcast as well as a guru and moderator for the VMware Communities Forums, providing answers to security and configuration questions. Edward is working on new books on Virtualization.