Tag Archives: products


New MacBook Pro + Fyre

Back when I bought my last Mac: USB and the Playstation 2 were new, Altivec and shiny plastic were in, and fans were almost starting to line up for the first Harry Potter movie. Oh, and warrantless wiretapping was still illegal. So, Apple, I guess it’s time to put all those hardware failures behind us and see if this relationship can work.

I’ve actually had a lot of fun hacking on Mac OS at work while developing VMware Fusion. Working on such a low-level software project, you see a lot of the ugliest parts of any OS. And there’s certainly a lot inside Mac OS that scares me. But there’s also a lot of cool technology in there. And best of all, I don’t have to futz with my ALSA settings for an hour if I want to watch a YouTube video. Win!

I’d been thinking about upgrading my aging Thinkpad to a 15″ MacBook Pro when it finally kicks the bucket. But darnit, those things are too reliable. So I needed a different excuse. I think it finally boiled down to:

  1. Faster CPU (and 6MB L2 cache.. drool…)
  2. More memory (4GB standard in a laptop. We truly do live in the future.)
  3. Runs Mac OS, Linux, and Windows- so I can develop software for all three
  4. Ooh, shiny!

It arrived this morning, and indeed it is quite shiny. I really do like the new Unibody design- and the large trackpad surface with pseudo-button is actually quite a lot nicer than the standard touchpad on my Thinkpad. (I’ll see how long I can resist the urge to do some low-level poking around in the touchpad, to see how its multi-touch protocol works…)

I think I’m a bad Mac user though. Just about the first two things I did were to install the Ubuntu 9.10 RC, and Windows 7. Then I had to continue my tradition and render a new background image:

Rendering some wallpaper for my MacBook Pro

This is using Fyre‘s cluster rendering support. The GUI and one rendering node are running in a 2-VCPU 64-bit virtual machine on my MacBook Pro. I have two more nodes running on a desktop Athlon64 machine running Linux natively. The total speeds here are pretty impressive- comparable to what David was able to get from running cluster nodes on every machine in one of the CS labs back in college. Isn’t Moore’s Law great? (And I’m sure the 6MB L2 cache helps :))


Measuring energy usage

Lately I’ve been interested in measuring whole-house power consumption. I’d like to know where my electric bill is going, how often I forget to turn the lights off, how much the CFL bulbs are actually helping, etc. Besides, I really like measuring things in real-time and displaying them in interesting ways 😉

So, I’ve been pondering various ways to do this. Our house has a mechanical power meter out front, so I considered building an optical sensor that can sense the black line on the meter’s rotating disc. Apparently others have tried this, with limited success.

The other thought was to attach a clamp-on current meter in our breaker box. I was researching this idea when I stumbled upon a finished product that is pretty much exactly what I wanted to build- and for less than the price of a Fluke clamp-on attachment.

It’s called The Energy Detective. It has a pair of clamp-on probes combined with a power-line communications module that you install in your breaker box. Then there’s a display unit, which communicates over the power mains (like X10 or HomePNA) to make voltage and current readings from the sensor in the breaker box. It even has a USB interface. Their midrange model is $145, which is certainly less than I’d spend on the parts to build a similar unit from scratch.

Naturally, I had to order one. A review shall be forthcoming.