On desktops. OSX and NX. Thinkpads vs iBooks.

Back in June I decided I’d try out NX and my MiniMac as a possible active working desktop solution. The genesis for this was mainly based on my decision back in March that iBooks were the best portable solution. Reasonable battery live, hardware/software combination that just works, together.

Turns out, working together or only working together, was the main issue I keep hitting into. OSX is just not flexible. Mac keyboard and mouse, just don’t work well in any form with X11, Linux consoles or much else other than OSX. After about three weeks of progressively moving applications from the thin client desktop back to the fat OSX client, dealing with Fink, struggling with being forced to copying files back and forth over the network and not wanting to face figuring out how to change all the local OSX uids to match my Linux uids for decent NFS without reinstalling OSX and setting up NIS, I gave up.

So I started using the spare R40 WinXP laptop I had which was in-between jobs. Within days I was back up to speed. OpenOffice 2, firefox and mutt. No problems. Everything just worked again. Plus with Ubuntu install the desktop and applications became a breeze, apt-get just works. This month at least. 😉 With the advent of klik on ubuntu, sanding boxing bleeding edge software just became easier.

The MiniMac is sitting there somewhat lonely now. Mainly being used for playing iTunes and doing the odd Photoshop job. As much as I want to like OSX, it is just not flexible enough for a good business desktop. Too much under the hood that is not quite Unix and requires an Apple degree. Now my desktop focus is firmly on thin client technology. I’ll planning to have move primary work environment into a colo. Then combined with openvpn I’ll be able to securely access it transparently. The network truly does become my machine.

That said, I still like OSX very much. Its the perfect companion for the non-tech family member. Web, mail and iTunes. That pretty much covers 90% of primary usage. There are many SIP softphone clients and Skype works very well. I’ll probably continue to evolve usage patterns for myself on the MiniMac. Mostly these will be play things, and not works.

So the short term plan is a new T52 Thinkpad. 2.0GHz P-M with up to 9 hours of battery life and a 15″ screen. For the same price as a iBook.

Of course next year, when Apple release a x86 based Powerbook, I’ll probably rethink the above. Dual booting OSX, WinXP and Ubuntu will allow me to have the best of all worlds any time. Plus the P-M based tech will improve the Powerbook battery life sufficiently and making it into a decent mobile workstation and some not glorified portable desktop.


  1. Ben Said,

    November 5, 2005 @ 3:43 pm

    I’m with you. My hipster coworkers had ibooks – but they were less grunty and had no battery life compared to my thinkpad. My x40 is much smaller and lighter than a 12″ powerbook too.

    Definitely going to look at the new intel powerbooks though. Hopefully they make a single spindle device.

  2. Nicholas Lee Said,

    November 5, 2005 @ 5:33 pm

    The specs on the Thinkpad R52 are pretty good: PM 2.0GHz, 2Gb PC2-4200 DDR2, DVD Recordable: 8xMax
    80GB 4200RPM, 64MB ATI Mobility RADEON x300, 15″TFT 1400×1050, Intel PRO/Wireless 802.11a/b/g , Bluetooth:2.4GHz. 3 year warrenty. Probably a touch more than a high spec iBook, for around $4000+gst wholesale. It’s beating the Powerbook hands down though.

    I’ve also been considering an IBM x41t. Of course the thing I wonder about is actually how good the table form factor is, particularly the hinge.

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