Archive for October, 2012

Macbookpro with Retina display

Abstract: I strongly recommend you do NOT buy Apple Macbookpro 10,1 with Retina display.

Observations: In an earlier post, I expressed my plan to instal Linux on the new Macbookpro. I have this machine for more than two weeks and I try to show problems I faced. These are are first hand observations. Not only I have not installed Linux, but also I do not plan to do so. No, it is not because I love OS X, it is rather due to useless hardware of this laptop that barely any party except apple support it.

Problems: the new Retina display. This display has a higher pixel density than the standard displays. This sounds like an advantage, but as you will see it is NOT. The problem is that except native Apple programs, barely any other party supports this display at the moment. This cause to have all fonts pixelate (see below examples). It does not matter if you use Mathematica, Firefox, …. An even more, the OS X itself recommends you to stick to an “optimal” resolution (see figure).

another example

There is a special version of Firefox (Nightly) which renders fonts smooth. The standard version does NOT.

The other problem is that if you try to use a Virtualbox, the graphics of a very simple desktop like Gnome2@Centos or Debian will be horribly slow. Why? because they have to render a lot more pixels than other displays. When you move a terminal in a blank window, the terminal lags the mouse position by several seconds !!! This alone makes the Virtualbox practically useless, even when you have the graphics in the “optimal” solution (if you switch to non-optimal, it will be way slower).

I have tried hard to figure out if switching between Intel 4000 and Nvidia graphics helps (using gfxCardstatus). There is no difference in this aspect. This hardware, or better to say display, cannot even support a light weight Virtualbox. It is quite painful considering the decent CPU, RAM, graphics, and SSD that exist in here.

and last but not least, again due to heavy rendering, if you try to use a Virtual Desktop (see the figure), it uses a lot CPU power (up to 7% while doing exactly nothing) and network. As a result, it gets easily disconnected if the network gets a low speed. For me, it takes just 5 minutes to get disconnected while doing exactly nothing.

Discussion: I have no doubt that the ones love Apple product will disagree with me. I had another Apple Macbookpro (4,1) in last four years and some ten different laptops and desktops. Barely any of them had such a decent hardware and at the same time remained useless. It is brilliant and shiny but perhaps is useful only for home users.

In  a year or so, there will be more and more support for this display, hopefully. But what if it ends up like Firewire: the fast data transfer trick that Apple tried to enforce but was not well accepted by other parties. As a result, this new Apple product does NOT have a firewire anymore. It is basically out, and replaced by two USB3. What will happen to Retina? will be clear in the coming years.

Conclusion: I cannot recommend anybody who is going to use the laptop for business to buy it. If you are serious to by an Apple Macbookpro, bye the non-Retina display  models (version 9,1).

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Discovered a few weeks ago, comet C/2012 S1  is predicted to be the brightest comet in the last few centuries ! Some people already called it a dream comet. I think many people still remember spectacular shows of Comet Hyakutake and  Hale-Bop. I have observed both when I was a bachelor student. But this new comet is predicted to be shortly as bright as full Moon. In the nearest distance to the Earth, it will be about 0.4 AU away from us, comparable to the great comet of 1680.

The great comet of 1680

However, I am concerned if we can ever watch this comet that spectacular. The nearest passage on 28 November 2013, it has a distance of about 1.8 million kilometers from the solar center (twice of the great comet of 1680). Considering the solar radius of about 695,000 km, that means it will be at a distance of about two solar radii from the solar surface. It is well “in” the solar corona.. Well, sungrazing comets survive even closer distance from the sun in perihelion. Lets see  if it can survive this dramatic passage.

NASA JPL predicted the following ephemeris for this comet. The table lists the date, right ascension and declination, as well as the apparent visual magnitude of the comet:

Date                             R.A.             DEC                      MAG
2012-Oct-01      08 16 15.64    +27 48 11.7           17.98
2012-Nov-01     08 21 30.69   +28 07 20.5           17.44
2012-Dec-01     08 14 29.76    +29 10 23.0           16.87
2013-Jan-01     07 51 24.41    +30 43 46.2           16.30
2013-Feb-01     07 17 30.61    +31 43 49.6           15.84
2013-Mar-01    06 50 55.54    +31 32 54.6          15.54
2013-Apr-01     06 37 34.44    +30 34 47.7          15.23
2013-May-01    06 41 38.71    +29 27 23.0         14.88
2013-Jun-01     06 59 16.67    +28 14 15.3          14.37
2013-Jul-01      07 25 33.62    +26 50 47.2         13.67
2013-Aug-01     07 59 58.82    +24 55 45.5         12.68
2013-Sep-01     08 41 49.95    +22 07 43.3         11.28
2013-Oct-01     09 34 32.27    +17 37 46.8          9.26
2013-Nov-01     11 12 17.58    +06 22 36.3         5.64
2013-Nov-01     11 12 17.58    +06 22 36.3         5.64
2013-Nov-11     12 16 17.67    -02 06 57.1          3.71
2013-Nov-21     14 02 19.97    -14 55 26.6         0.73
2013-Dec-01     16 19 20.89    -14 02 53.8          n.a.
2013-Dec-11     16 10 33.49    +05 18 36.2         1.42
2013-Dec-21     16 13 52.09    +31 55 14.6         2.76
2013-Dec-31     16 35 13.15    +67 12 33.9         3.89
2014-Jan-01     16 40 39.24    +70 35 30.0          4.02
2014-Feb-01     04 13 57.65    +57 18 56.9          8.07

Please note that the early prediction of comet brightness is usually uncertain due to various effects, e.g. the planetary tidal force causing new orbital parameters, fragmentation, etc. At the moment, the comet is so far away that there is no clear idea about the diameter of the comet nucleus. Hence, the super bright comet C/2012 S1 should be quoted with care. Indeed, JPL quoted that the orbit is probably very poorly determined. I hope it will be at least visible to the naked eye.

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Once again, I have the challenge of installing Linux on  a Macbookpro laptop. The one that I had the first time was a Macbookpro 4,1. Since I like Debian more than  others, I installed Lenny which was testing at that time.  The first kernel was 2.6.26 and it is now 3.2.0. In the meantime, it was upgraded to Squeeze, and then Wheezy. The newer the kernel, the better the system performance.

Now, I have a new Retina display Macbookpro 10,1. With no ethernet card, no optical drive, and NVIDIA graphics, it will be a lot of fun to install any Linux distribution on it, as expressed in thisthis, and this pages, for instance. Sure, it will improve with time but for the moment, perhaps nobody get it working properly.

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