In with the new

MacBook Pro screen with bad pixels

It was nothing like as dramatic as my iBook dying one evening, but there was no getting around the fact that my nearly five year old MacBook was no longer up to the tasks that I was trying to throw at it. Developing applications, even for resource limited devices such as the iPhone, needs a pretty substantial piece of Mac software called Xcode. My photography pushed me towards getting Aperture to manage all my pictures. It’s great, but it did have a tendency to grind to a halt when it was least convenient.

Anyway, long story short I just got one of the shiny new MacBook Pro’s. I went for the 15″ since I have the iPad for portability and I liked the idea of a quad-core, eight-thread CPU and the discrete graphics card would be a good thing for Aperture. The increased screen resolution, for me, is just gravy.

I was a bit concerned about upgrading from my old machine. In the olden days you could use the Migration Assistant to copy files from your old machine (put the old one in “Target Disk” mode and plug the machines together using FireWire). These days there’s an added complication, in that you can also use a Time Machine backup. Which is the best, quickest option? I didn’t get a great answer from the guys at the Apple Store but in the end I had to use the Time Machine since I don’t have a FireWire 400 – 800 cable.

I picked the default options and I was pleased to see that it was pretty quick; only a couple of hours. It dropped me into a very familiar looking desktop (my old one). Upgrading a Mac can be so much of an anti-climax — everything the same but faster.

Things changed after that. I clicked on Tweetie in my Dock. Nothing. The same with Aperture. Activity Monitor did start, but it just told me that the other two apps were not responding.

I decided to go for the Windows solution and rebooted. Not, it turns out, a good idea. I got the white screen with the Apple logo, a pause and then a black screen. The sleep light came on.

Um, hello?

I think what happened is that it restored a little too much from the Time Machine backup, over-writing some video drivers perhaps. I reinstalled the OS and all was good in software land.

I played around for a while and was very happy with what I found. It really is very much quicker. iTunes actually launches fast enough that I don’t think twice any more. Aperture doesn’t stutter. And the geek in me loves to see a build in Xcode using all eight (virtual) CPUs. I kept Activity Monitor running for a couple of days just so I could see what it was up to. It really is a thing of beauty in hardware terms, too. I’ve poked around with the unibody models in the Apple Store before but even there you don’t get the impression of just how solid they feel.

Eventually the high — maybe it’s the chemicals in the incredibly minimal packaging — started to wear off and I began paying attention to some of the details. Such as, well, take a look at the picture above. There’s a horizontal line of non-operational blue pixels all the way across the screen. One row higher and I probably wouldn’t have noticed and, even now, it’s quite subtle. But now I know it’s there I can’t not see it.

I think this is the first Apple hardware product that hasn’t been perfect out of the box (not including some of their software!) so, while disappointing, I’m confident they’ll replace it and I’ll get a good, fully working model without too much fuss. And if that lasts as long and works as well as my old MacBook, I’ll be very happy.