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March 16, 2006

MacBook Pro: Updated build timings

In a previous post, I provided some build timings that showed the MacBook Pro wiping the floor with my PowerBook G4 and holding its own against beefier hardware, including a loaded Power Mac G5. My RAM upgrade arrived (a 1GB SODIMM, bringing the total installed memory to 1.5GB), and it makes a big difference in the overall usability of the MacBook Pro — at least for my needs.

I have added times for the MacBook Pro with its upgraded RAM configuration, as well as timings for an Intel iMac (also a 1.83GHz Core Duo with 1.5GB of memory), and the use of the office build farm(*) for the Power Mac G5, and a "build farm" consisting of the Intel iMac for testing distributed builds with the MacBook Pro.

Here are the results of a "time xcodebuild clean build -target BBEdit -configuration Release":

PowerBook G4 1.67, 2GB, local build 46:28
MacBook Pro 1.83, 512M, local build 23:35
Power Mac G5 dual 2.0, 2GB, local build 21:29
Power Mac G5 dual 2.0, 2GB, distributed build 17:36
MacBook Pro 1.83, 1.5GB, local build 15:26
Intel iMac 1.83, 1.5GB, local build 14:36
MacBook Pro 1.83, 1.5GB, distributed build 12:21

(*) In this case, "build farm" refers not to a rack of machines purpose-built for compiling, which I know some shops use; rather, these are desktop machines put to various uses in the office, and Xcode makes use of them if they're available: engineering workstations, office computers, etc. Clearly, distributed builds are a win if you've got the horsepower otherwise sitting idle, but on a cost-to-benefit basis I wouldn't recommend that you run out and buy machines to make a build farm.

Regardless, the Intel machines remain impressively fast in comparison, and as I said the other day, this has me looking forward to the Intel "pro" desktop iron.

March 13, 2006

MacBook Pro: First Impressions

The Ethernet port on my 17-inch PowerBook G4 failed late last week. The machine is still under warranty, but as my email, word processing, Excel, and business data machine, it's a critical component in the daily operation of my business, so I really can't be without it for more than a couple of hours. Since the Apple Store sends out most PowerBook repairs, including logic board replacements, that's a guaranteed two days of down time — longer if there's a delay with the parts.

Fortunately, my main man in Developer Relations was sympathetic to my problem, and in this case he went way above and beyond — and as a result I have a MacBook Pro 1.83 in front of me. I'm trying not to get too attached to it, because it really is quite nice, and I know that the loaner period is finite. However…

As much as I like my PowerBook G4, it's frustratingly slow to develop on - builds can take a very long time. My initial experience with an Intel iMac was very positive, so I was hopeful that the MacBook Pro would be able to hold its end up. I was not disappointed. Here are the results of a "time xcodebuild clean build -target BBEdit -configuration Release":

PowerBook G4 1.67, 2GB, 7200rpm drive 46:28
MacBook Pro 1.83, 512M, 5400rpm drive 23:35
Power Mac G5 dual 2.0, 2GB, local build 21:29

Note that the MacBook Pro is almost exactly twice as fast as the PowerBook G4, despite being handicapped by one-fourth of the installed RAM and a nominally slower disk. However, the MacBook Pro is only slightly slower than the beefy dual-processor Power Mac G5. I attribute the MacBook Pro's performance to an I/O subsystem which is vastly better than what we've seen on Macs to date. I think this bodes very well for professional desktop Macs based on their new hardware architecture — I expect real fire-breathing hardware that leave today's top-of-the-line Power Mac G5s far behind.

I'm very glad to have had the opportunity to get my hands on a MacBook Pro without having to invest in one - it's a great extended test drive. I upgraded from a 15-inch 1.25GHz G4 to a 17-inch 1.67GHz G4 primarily because I needed the screen real estate, and the 15-inch MacBook has similar screen dimensions to my 17-inch display. In switching to the MacBook, I've given up sixty pixels of vertical, and I'm curious to see whether that has any significant effect on my usage. If it doesn't, I can look forward to a 15-inch MacBook Pro in my future (and I'll be perfectly happy to go back to a smaller, lighter laptop).

One other thing? 512M is not enough. This machine is constantly swapping, even when doing basic Safari, iChat, and Finder stuff. I have a 1GB module on order, and it can't get here fast enough to suit me. A memory shortage is easily solved, though, and doesn't reflect badly on this machine at all. I may follow up with additional thoughts once the RAM is in place and this machine starts to show what it can really do.