MacBook Pro as a sysadmin tool

A MacBook ProSo, I got one of the new Arrandale MacBook Pros a few weeks ago, and I just realized I haven’t commented it yet.

I went with the base model; a 2.4 GHz Core i5 with the normal resolution glossy screen. This allowed me to get an Apple Wireless Keyboard, a Mighty Mouse, a Mini DisplayPort to DVI converter and Parallels Desktop 5 and still stay within the same budget as I would have used on a Lenovo T510 with a docking station, which was my plan B.

My work mostly consists of administrating our server farms, which means that most of my time is spent remote controlling machines anyway, using RDP, ssh and a Citrix connection in that order right now. I use the opensource Cord remote desktop tool, which provides me with functions Microsoft’s own MSTSC application doesn’t: an alphabetical list of servers, non-standard resolution to connect to servers without the dock or menu bar getting in the way, instant switching from full-screen to windowed mode, including scaling so the resolution is kept when going back to windowed mode, etc.

For my mail and productivity needs, I’m actually using Apple’s own tools; Mail and the iWork suite. The Snow Leopard version of Mail has no problem at all connecting to our Exchange 2007 server, and from what I’ve read, it should keep working just fine when we upgrade to Exchange 2010. It also is lightweight and lightning fast in all operations.

Parallels hasn’t actually seen much use on my computer yet. I’ve installed a Win7 and an XP client as a security measure, if I would encounter anything that needs the Microsoft environment, but I simply get everything done from OS X, and so I’ve had no real use for these virtual machines yet.

The glossy screen hasn’t been any problem in real life either. I’ve seen a lot of complaints on it, but I don’t know, maybe I’m simply not a gamut nazi. Everything looks good, and if I should get glares, I can simply change the angle of the screen, or move the computer a bit. It’s portable, you know. And for the first time for me, the laptop screen is brighter than my main screen at work, which means I can turn the brightness on the MBP down about three notches and use it comfortably as a secondary screen. Trying something similar with my old Lenovo T60 was extremely uncomfortable.

I’ve had three gripes with the machine as yet:
One drawback compared to a Microsoft based workstation has been using our SharePoint based Intranet system: It’s not possible to click-to-open and then automatically save documents to the SharePoint server even from Microsoft’s own programs, but instead the procedure is to check out, download, edit, save, upload and check in the document, which gets tedious after a while, so for this kind of work, I’ve started using Citrix.

The second drawback (which might just be a configuration problem), is that the default for a Citrix desktop connection seems to be to use all available desktop space and still not show the Start menu bar, so you have to resize the window before you can access it with the mouse, and also, I need to start it running the computer in single screen mode, or it will drag itself out on both screens no matter what.
UPDATE: This seems to be related to starting the Citrix client via Safari. It doesn’t do this when running Firefox.

The third problem was something I managed to solve: The Juniper SSL/VPN client we use at work isn’t compatible with Snow Leopard, and has to be hacked to work properly.
UPDATE: The version 6.5 client seems to fix this problem. Update your SSL/VPN server if you’re having this problem.

So to sum it all up, I’m a happy Mac-wielding camper. I won’t ever become a fanboi – I’m way too pragmatic for that (2016-10-17: OK, I admit, dammit, I did become one) – but for my laptop needs, the MacBook Pro is very close to being the ultimate solution. It’s snappy in a way that no Microsoft-based machine has ever felt to me since I moved away from DOS, and it’s instantly useful in a way that no GNU/Linux or Free-/Net-/OpenBSD distribution has managed yet.


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