openSUSE 10.2 on Lenovo ThinkPad T60

Well, I finally got around to installing openSUSE 10.2 on my ThinkPad T60. Unfortunately, I was running very low on disk space and couldn’t get any screen captures of the installation process.
In general, the installation process went very smoothely. The biggest advantages of openSUSE 10.2 over Fedora Core 6 during the installation process are:

  • Installation picked up my Intel Centrino 3945 and installed the kernel module. Fedora requires you to set this up manually later.
  • openSUSE has the ability to connect to the Internet, get a list of add-on repositories and add them during the installation process. Fedora has a screen where you can add the repositories manually during the installation process but this requires you to know the full URL of the repository.
  • openSUSE also allows you to install third-party applications like Sun’s Java JRE along with the Centrino firmware and kernel module that Fedora requires you download and install from a third-party provider of RPMs such as Livna or RPMForge.

openSUSE also has better fonts and looks “cleaner” and cripser than Fedora. Proprietary ATI drivers on openSUSE are easily available and installable. The default installation used a VESA driver and set the resolution to 800×600 so installing the ATI drivers was important. Fedora does a better job of providing a hi-res driver but installing the ATI drivers on Fedora is also very easy and well documented all over the place.

I’m not using openSUSE as my primary desktop yet. There’s some hacking to be done with my user settings that would allow the same user id and home directory to be used on both systems. I might remove openSUSE and give Ubuntu a whirl.

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Fedora Core 6 Delayed Again

Take a look at the Fedora Core 6 Draft Schedule. They’ve delayed general release by two more days. The original release date was Oct. 10th (I believe this was the initial date), then Oct. 17th, and now Oct. 19th. I’m anxiously waiting to see if I can install FC6 on my MacBook using an external USB drive that I can carry with me on my travels.

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BlogBridge 3.0 Released

BlogBridge 3.0 came out a few days ago. As some of you know, I’ve been using previous versions for quite a while. What I like most about BlogBridge is that the software is croos platform ( I run it on my Ubuntu PCs, Fedora PCs, Mac Mini PowerPC, and MacBook ). The second best thign is that all my subscriptions are synchronized through the BlogBridge service. I can run BlogBridge anywhere and always pick up my most current configuration. the third best thing, and the reason I prefer BlogBridge over Web based RSS aggregators is that I can access BlogBridge (without synchronization), and read previously downloaded posts even when I am offline. I just wish they would improve the performance of the UI a bit but that’s the price to pay for using Java ( a small price – the software and the service is free ).
Try it out … BlogBridge: Downloading and Running BlogBridge

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IBM/Lenovo Thinkpad Vs. Apple MacBook Revisited

I’ve been using the Apple MacBook on and off for a little over a month now.Disclosure: The MacBook isn’t my only computer. At the office, I have a Dell now running Ubuntu 6.06 and at home, I removed the failed IBM Deskstar drive out of my Dell, installed Ubuntu from scratch. At some point, I’ll reinstall Fedora Core 5 on the free partition. My main computer at home is my 1st generation PowerPC based Mac Mini. Hence, I use my MacBook when I’m not at the office or when I’m not sitting in the basement.

My use of the MacBook, though not constant, is considerable. I have come to enjoy most aspects of the hardware along with the software (OS X). I was asked to discuss my thoughts on the following aspects of the MacBook.

  1. Sturdiness: I haven’t traveled with the MacBook yet. I have only carried it with me to the local Starbucks and to the office on several occassions. It feels like a fairly well built machine but I can’t vouch for how it would react to a few falls like my old T40. I would be very surprised if it continued to function as well as my T40 after the serious falls it took.
  2. Productivity:
    • Though I am still no fan of the Apple Trackpad, I have configured it well enough that it doesn’t annoy be as constantly as before. I still think the Thinkpad keyboard/Trackpoint combination is the most productive I’ve seen on any laptop or desktop (see my review of the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic 4000 keyboard).
    • The feel of the MacBook keyboard is pretty good. I don’t miss my ThinkPad in this regard. Though, it’s a bit different, it feels nice.
    • I also miss the Thinklight that exists on the Thinkpads. This is incredibly useful when you’re trying to type in the dark (e.g. late at night in bed, on an airplane, etc). Considering the prices that some Thinkpads are available at, I hope Apple puts a lit keyboard or a Thinklight-like feature into future MacBooks.
    • The built-in iSight on the MacBook is a very useful feature if you use Skype, IM, Video IM, or just like to take pictures randomly. I am using the MacBook to create an audio diary of a project I am working on. I might turn it into a podcast at some point but not just yet. I’m also using Skype for phone calls in the US while it is free.
    • The wifi piece of the MacBook has been acting pretty flaky recently. At Starbucks, I had to reboot the laptop a few times before it would reconnect to the AP. At home, it is disconnecting from my Linksys WRT54G very often in spots that it worked fine just a few weeks ago. I think a similar problem has been reported on the MacBook Pros but I have yet to call this into AppleCare.
    • Battery life has also dropped significantly. I was getting 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 hours of battery life on a full charge, with my settings optimized for battery conservation. The same settings are consistenly providing me no more than 2 hours and 45 minutes of battery life. I have tried calibrating the battery as per the manual but no luck. I am in the process of recalibrating for the 4rd time right now before I call AppleCare.
    • Apple OS X is pretty good in terms of productivity. I would like it if I could configure keyboard shortcuts for everything and maybe I can, I just haven’t tried hard enough to figure it out.
    • Apple ships the MacBooks with a decent amount of software for productivity. (Quicken 2006 for the Mac doesn’t compare to the Windows version).
  3. Applications: I am pretty happy with the applications on OS X. I’ve been able to get lots of Unix opensource applications running, including Postgresql, NeoOffice and OpenOffice, along with Perl and a good amount of the Perl modules from CPAN. The MacBook ships with a trial version of iWork and Microsoft Office for Mac. I didn’t find a need to use either of these applications and had not installed them when I reinstalled OS X. OS X is pretty good at sleeping, though I would like to see a hibernate function. It is just as stable as Linux from my use of OS X Tiger on my PowerPC Mac Mini and on my Intel MacBook. It’s probably much much mroe stable than Windows on anything.

I haven’t completely ruled out buying a new motherboard for my old T40. If I can buy it and get it installed, all for $200, I’ll probably do it. Anything more than that, I won’t. I guess that means that though I really like the MacBook, I am really used to my ThinkPad T40 running Linux and I miss.

The MacBook is a fist generation computer whereas the Thinkpad T series is tried and true. The MacBook is very good for early adopters and those that aren’t afraid of a little tinkering. It’s also a very cost efficient way of playing with OS X and being able to see first hand how things “just work”. The MacBooks do get pretty hot so be careful to keep the laptop on your lap for very long.

If anyone has any additional questions, please drop me a line.

Apple – MacBook
Lenovo – T Series

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Apple MacBook Vs. Thinkpad T40

As sturdy as Thinkpads are, there are a limited number of drops that even an IBM Thinkpad T40 can sustain (I’m sure the new Lenovo Thinkpads maintain the sme level of durability). I dropped my Thinkpad another three times in the last two weeks and apparently, the system board is damaged. I can send the Thinkpad to IBM and have it fully refurbished for $600. I can buy a refurbished T40 for around $800, or I can pick up a new Thinkpad that will run me at least $2,000.

Yesterday, I went to the new Apple Fifth Avenue store to decide whether I wanted to switch from a Linux based Thinkpad T40 to a new MacBook or MacBook Pro. After getting to the store at about 3pm and looking the line go around the corner, I figured it would be about an hour before I even got in the store. I have no idea what kind of madness was going on inside the store. I decided to visit the SoHo store instead. After battling traffic and spending 40 minutes looking for parking, I finally got to the store.

At the SoHo store, it was crazy as it usually is but it wasn’t difficult to get my questions answered by a very helpful Apple consultant. I decided that spending over $2,000 for a MacBook Pro probably wasn’t wise, considering it would be my first foray into using a Mac for all my development, business, and non-business needs. I necided I would get my feet wet with the new MacBook instead. I opted for the midrange, $1,299 model. I figured $200 was worth the extra processing power and the Superdrive. I was still very skeptical about my purchase. I have been a Thinkpad user since 1992 (a total of 6 Thinkpads in 14 years). The Thinkpad keyboard and Trackpoint are undoubtedly the best in the industry. The comfort with the user can switch from the keyboard to using the mouse is invaluable and more importantly, it has always felt incredibly natural and ergonomic.

Here are some required glamor shots of the new MacBook.

The Box

The other side of the box

And the lovely packaging

Here’s a shot of the MacBook booting up for the first time.It is easy to see why Mac users have always laughed when they heard about all the problems in the PC world. The MacBook is a beautiful piece of artwork. The Thinkpad on the other hand, has nothing art-like about it. It’s a no nonsense, “Get the job done” machine. The MacBook booted up without any problems. It prompted me to register and run through my initial settings. It then gave me the option to migrate my user information, documents, and Applications from my Mac Mini. WOW!! It took about an hour using a standard Firewire cable (Firewire is the only way to do this, your other computer is basically mounted as a Firewire disk). An hour or so later, my new laptop had all my user info, bookmarks, files, moviews, photos, music, and applications setup and ready to go. I removed some applications as they weren’t appropriate for the MacBook (e.g. Microsoft Keyboard and Mice drivers).

I have been using the MacBook for a little less than five hours total and I have found the keyboard to be pretty good compared to the T40. I still prefer the T40 keyboard but that could just be a matter of bein used to it. I HATE, with a passion, the Trackpad and wish that Apple and Lenovo would do some licensing deal to get the Thinkpad Trackpoint onto the MacBook. The Trackpad feels odd, uncomfortable, and unnatural as compared to the Trackpoint. The other problem I have so far with my typing experience on the MacBook is that the edge of the MacBook, right below the Trackpad is a bit of a sharp edge. As I type and use the Trackpad, the edge is irritating my wrists and palm. I almost feel like I need to sand it down to be smooth and comfortable.

The display on the MacBook is excellent. It is a glossy finish, unlike the matte finish the Thinkpads have. It is far better than the T40 that I have and the T42p my Dad has. However, the drivers for the shared memory Intel graphics card are terrible. I have regular bleeding of edges ocurring.
Emacs causes bleeding and recovering from sleep as well. I hope there are updated drivers for this problem ASAP.

From a software perspective, OS X has been very stable on Intel. No crash so far, though, I have had iPhoto crash on me a few times. I have submitted the crash report to Apple. The MacBooks also have the same problem as the MacBook Pro with heat. I could cook a meal for 35 people on this laptop.

I feel like the MacBook is less sturdy than the Thinkpad but I’m not sure. It’s not a theory I want to test. This is all the observations I have after using the MacBook for a few hours. I think the features packed into the MacBook make it a worthwhile purchase, e.g. iSight, built in mic, Superdrive and Frontrow. Getting a new Thinkpad T60 with a DVD burner, better video card than the MacBook, and other all comparative specs pushed the Thinkpad well over $2,000. Lenovo has also been having some very serious supply problems. A friend bought a Thinkpad Z60 back in February, and received it early May. Any of the T60s that I was looking at, had a 1 to 3 week lag time before shipment.

For the price, the MacBook is a pretty good piece of hardware but I do miss my Thinkpad. OS X is the icing on the cake. My ideal laptop would be a Thinkpad T60p with Bluetooth, DVD Burner, WiFi, built in mic and cam, 2GB RAM, 256MB RAM on an ATI video card, 15 inch screen with 1600×1200 resolution, 120GB 7200 RPM drive, running OS X. I’d pay $3,000 plus tax for that laptop in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, I still have to buy a Thinkpad with Windows on it – a little ransom to Microsoft, then format the machine and put my flavor of Linux on it. Lenovo – you’re not IBM anymore …. think about it!

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