Matt RaibleMatt Raible is a Web Architecture Consultant specializing in open source frameworks.

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Over 10 years ago, I wrote my first blog post. Since then, I've authored books, had kids, traveled the world, found Trish and blogged about it all.

MacBook Pro: Kicking ass and taking names

I received my MacBook Pro this morning, and I've spent the day setting it up, doing some development and running some performance comparisons. The setup was easy: I just booted my PowerBook into Firewire mode and copied over all the files I needed. Everything works for the most part. I did have some issues with IDEA and Eclipse, but got both working after doing a few try and try-again shenanigans. Eclipse was crashing when I'd browse to set my workspace; typing it in manually fixed the problem. IDEA hung the first time I opened it; killing it and restarting fixed the problem.

As far as performance, this thing fricken' rocks! Safari launches in under a second and you're browsing before the dock icons hits the top of its first bounce. Firefox is a different story (likely b/c it hasn't been compiled for x86) - it takes 10 seconds to launch. The good news is once it's up, there doesn't seem to be any performance issues. Safari is amazing though - the speed does wonders for GMail and it actually feels like a desktop application.

When I mentioned yesterday that I was going to compare the MacBook to my desktop, Rob Williams said it wasn't a fair comparison. I agree - but I really wanted this machine to be the best machine I could possibly buy. With my (very unofficial) performance tests, it appears like it is. It's faster than my dual-core AMD 64 desktop machine that has 3 GB of RAM. Now, I have had the desktop for a couple months, so it's possible I'm suffering from OS Rot, but still - it's impressive it keeps up. Here are the numbers from my Performance Comparisons page:

For the tests below, I used Java version "1.5.0_06" and had the following variables set: JAVA_OPTS=Xms256M -Xmx384M, $ANT_OPTS=-Xmx256m. I used the CVS version of AppFuse (1.9.1-dev).

ComputerOperationTime (mm:ss)
HP Pavilion a1250n with Windows XP Media Center (dual-core 2 GHz AMD64 3800+, 3 GB RAM)appfuse: clean package-web00:15
appfuse: setup test-all01:51
PowerBook G4 with OS X 10.4.5 (1.33 GHz, 1 GB RAM)appfuse: clean package-web00:30
appfuse: setup test-all03:31
MacBook Pro with OS X 10.4.5 (2.16 GHz, 2 GB RAM)appfuse: clean package-web00:12
appfuse: setup test-all01:28

A couple of interesting things to note:

  • When I first got my desktop, it's numbers were 00:14 for "ant clean package-web" and 01:29 for "ant setup test-all". The MacBook Pro? 00:12 and 01:28. The Windows box had 1 GB of RAM when I ran those tests, but no matter how I tweaked the memory settings once I put 3 GB of RAM in, I've never gotten better numbers.
  • My PowerBook has been dog slow for several months now. When looking up the OS X version on it - I noticed it lists the memory as 512 MB. WTF?! I've had 1 GB in it every since I first bought it! What happened? Did half my RAM go bad or did someone steal half of it during a repair? Oh well, at least I now know the reason it was so damn slow. ;-)

Conclusion: The MacBook Pro is one of the best machines you can buy (laptop or desktop) for Java development. As for the battery life? I'm still doing the "calibration", so I'm not quite sure. Nor do I care - I plan on having this thing hooked up to my 20" cinema display that Virtuas was kind enough to get for me. The display combined with a mouse, keyboard and iCurve is a very nice setup.

Update: I pulled out the memory from my PowerBook and put it back in. Upon reboot, it resulted in the correct (1 GB) memory setting. The numbers above appear to be accurate regardless. I ran some tests again and times were actually slower (maybe because I'm on battery power).

Posted in Java at Feb 23 2006, 05:20:14 PM MST 27 Comments

Wow think for posting those numbers Matt. I shouldn't have bought a new machine in Nov. but I just didn't believe the rumors that the intel laptops were ahead of schedule. I am going to have to figure out a way to sell mine and get one of these!

Since Firefox isn't a Universal Binary yet, check out Camino [], I believe it uses the same version of Gecko what Firefox 1.5.01 does and is already available as a Universal Binary.

Posted by Kurt Wiersma on February 23, 2006 at 07:15 PM MST #

Nice, Matt. Was wondering when you'd get your MacBook Pro. Enjoy your lovely new Apple! :)

Posted by James on February 23, 2006 at 07:55 PM MST #

One thing about your windows performance (that you may have already tried) is to turn virtual paging off. I'm forced to develop on a Windows box at work and have 2 Gig of RAM. I found little or no difference in speed between 3/4 of Gig and 2 Gig until I turned off virtual paging. Everyone here in the office has it turned of now and it's much snapper. Once an app is running there's not much difference, as you would expect, but switch around between apps is really fast. I can run a ton of apps (Word, Outlook, 5 instances of VS.NET, XmlSpy, etc) and never run out of memory - games may be another story. Charlie

Posted by Charlie on February 23, 2006 at 07:58 PM MST #

Well, sure, it's the "best" machine you can buy, for certain values of "best". For example, it would be interesting to include the prices in your comparison. All the speed problems disappear if you throw enough dollars at them, but I'd be interested to see you add in your chart a PC bought with the same amount of money you spent on your new toy...

Posted by x on February 23, 2006 at 08:18 PM MST #

Charlie - what do you mean by "turn off virtual paging?" Do you mean don't let windows handle your paging file? Here's what I have mine set to:

<p style="text-align: center"> <img src="" width="344" height="438" alt="System Settings" />

Good point x - my desktop cost about 1/3 less than the MacBook.

Posted by Matt Raible on February 23, 2006 at 08:41 PM MST #

Also, my PowerBook cost 4K when I originally bought it - so it was twice as much as my desktop and 25% more than the MacBook.

Posted by Matt Raible on February 23, 2006 at 08:42 PM MST #

Kurt - thanks for the tip about Camino, I didn't realize it was released as a Universal binary. I also found that Firefox and Thunderbird are available from the mozilla wiki. Thanks to the Zimbra for the tip.

Posted by Matt Raible on February 23, 2006 at 09:11 PM MST #

Matt, regarding the paging file... not quite, but close. :) Choose the "No Paging File" option. It will warn you and complain but you've got plenty of memory.

Posted by Jared Richardson on February 23, 2006 at 10:29 PM MST #

Thanks Jared (and Charlie). I'm now running under no paging file - and the numbers are the same. Oh well, at least running 24 apps (like I tend to do) will feel snappier now. Not that I really need it - I have no complaints about my desktop's speed.

Posted by Matt Raible on February 23, 2006 at 10:56 PM MST #

Matt, which terminal do you use when you develop on OSX, the standard one or iTerm? I noticed iTerm releases a universal binary. My MacBook arrives tomorrow, can't wait!

Posted by Todd Huss on February 23, 2006 at 11:19 PM MST #

Todd - I use iTerm. I got the universal for it and it seems to work just fine. It has issues like DHH noted, but I just use the default font and it works fine.

Posted by Matt Raible on February 23, 2006 at 11:34 PM MST #

I have just check it out but I cost as much as 3 of my dell computer. I think I have to wait till I have my pay raise.

Posted by Cung Thai Son on February 24, 2006 at 03:40 AM MST #

Re: XP tuning: here is a great article and links of it as to what services you can turn of. Makes it much faster. And a secret: If you buy even a low end disk controler (SATA) w/ any cache memory (ex: 128 ) machine becomes like 2X faster (even w/o RAID). The reason is NQ or eleveatro seek, the ram on controler says data is writen... but it async waits a few ms for head to move. Re: OSX : I had 2 macs... so I decided to install Linux on one, w/ IBM JVM for PowerPC. It was MUCH MUCH faster w/ Linux then OSX. Everything wroked (Yellow Dog). Also on OSX, if you turn of Jornaling on disk it's faster. May have to reinstall, hit disk uttilties before next. And last tip for developers: Allways use dual DVI cards, w/ dual monitors. It makes you effortlessly noticable more productive w/ no effort. I can't realy explain it, but I even got a few emails from people telling me same after the tip. I saw some of my clients doing it once long time ago, traied it and .... wow. hth, .V

Posted by Vic on February 24, 2006 at 08:37 AM MST #

Not to get into a big price discussion, but when I went to Dell's website and priced out one of their notebooks with similiar specs to a MacBook Pro the prices were pretty comparable:

* Dell Inspiron 9400 Dual 2.16GHz/17"/2GB/100GB 7200RPM/8x CD/DVD burner (DVD+/-RW) : $3,437
* Apple MacBook Pro Dual 2.16GHz/15"/2GB/100GM 7200RPM/4x CD/DVD burner (DVD+/-RW) : $3,199

So, while the Dell costs more it also comes with a larger screen and faster burner so I'd have to call it tie. =)

Posted by Ryan on February 24, 2006 at 09:03 AM MST #

How snappy do Eclipse or idea feel on the Mac Book Pro? I'd be very interested in any graphics benchmarks that you do.

Posted by Tom on February 24, 2006 at 10:24 AM MST #

Having seen your stats, I was interested in how it compared to my 10-month old Dell Inspiron 9300 laptop, with a regular Pentium M 2Ghz, 2 Gb RAM and 7200 RPM HDD running Ubuntu Linux 5.10.
I checked out the latest Appfuse sources from CVS and ran each test 4 times.
ant clean package-web
  16 seconds
  14 seconds
  13 seconds
  13 seconds

ant setup test-all
  1 minute 25 seconds
  1 minute 21 seconds
  1 minute 23 seconds
  1 minute 23 seconds

I'm thinking the file system, RAM and HDD are by far the biggest factors in boosting Java development speeds.

Posted by Tim on February 24, 2006 at 02:35 PM MST #

Maybe you've lost a memory slot. I bought my own Powerbook G4 with 2 GB RAM and after some months noticed I was running with only 1 GB. Turned out that one memory slot died. Anyone needs a spare 1 GB memory module? :-)

Posted by Stephan Schwab on February 24, 2006 at 04:43 PM MST #

Matt, have you tried to install Postgres? I guess Postgres on the Mac needs readline and I've installed this with Fink (which doesn't seem to be available yet). I'm thinking about purchasing a MacBook Pro but I don't want to use MySQL.

Posted by Lars Fischer on February 28, 2006 at 03:47 PM MST #

Lars - PostgreSQL runs fine. I installed it using Marc Liyanage's instructions. Also, Fink has a universal binary that I installed without any issues.

Posted by Matt Raible on February 28, 2006 at 04:03 PM MST #

Thanks Matt!

Posted by Lars Fischer on February 28, 2006 at 04:07 PM MST #

Ryan, You are right! PowerBook and Dell 9400 are at about the same price. I think I should add a powerbook on my whishlist.

Posted by Cung Thai Son on March 01, 2006 at 12:17 AM MST #

yeah PowerBook is nice, just ordered one, cant wait :):)

Posted by andy on March 04, 2006 at 08:20 PM MST #

Hey Matt. Now that you've had it over a week... any other comments? Any significant drawbacks?

Posted by Ted on March 04, 2006 at 11:55 PM MST #

No complaints at all Ted. I still haven't got the wireless working on my home network, but that's about it. In all honesty, it's so fast and works so well - I don't notice it's a new computer anymore. It just works and I never have time to sit back and grumble about the spinning beachball (b/c there isn't one).

Posted by Matt Raible on March 05, 2006 at 02:41 PM MST #

any one got linux working on it ok?

Posted by andy on March 06, 2006 at 06:56 PM MST #

Matt, you're going to want to visit this page to get your PwerBook G4 memory slot issue resolved. It WILL come back, by the way.

Posted by Rax on March 20, 2006 at 12:01 PM MST #

FYI... Rax is right as rain, Matt. Watch that memory slot and consider purchasing AppleCare before your one year warranty expires. Powerbook G4 owners have experienced memory slot failures (and related problems) across a range of models. Here is the one site with a link to Apple and a list of other affected Powerbook G4 owners. . I hope this problem is not in the intel-based motherboards, too. That would really suck.

Posted by Art on January 02, 2007 at 04:58 AM MST #

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