Saturday, 3 June 2006

Macbook Day 3

8 am saturday morning and I am up, messing around with development, writing code and tests. Big deadline coming up? No. Urgent bugfixes? No. Just testing out the MacBook as a development environment. So far, I must say I'm quite happy.

Since my projects all run on debian stable in production, my development needs are quite simple - a Unix-like environment and the usual array of FOSS tools. With a little bit of effort (about 4 hours, most spent just waiting for things to download), I managed to duplicate my production environment via darwin ports on OSX. The only thing that didn't match was the operating system - OSX does work a little differently from Debian linux.

This worked out decently. Writing code, especially when you're used to using emacs in a terminal, is the same everywhere. Running tests is usually the biggest problem. The problem I had with the old powerbook was that it took 90 minutes to 2 hours to run the full suite of the tests at the time, a bit too long for the write-test-commit cycle. On our server class machines (3 Ghz Xeons), these tests take 20 minute to run. Still too long (refactoring coming up shortly) but acceptable.

With the MacBook, tests take 30 minutes to run natively. Not quite a match for server class machines, but comparable to and in some cases, faster than our development desktops. If we refactored the tests to run more in parallel, results would be better as current tests only use one of the two cpus in the MacBook.

However, there is one problem with running all this on OSX - it's not exactly our production environment and we have been bitten before with slight differences between behaviour on different systems. What works fine on Gentoo crashes and burns on Debian ... etc.

In comes the Parallels virtualization product, a virtual machine solution targeted for OSX on Intel. A quick download of the software, a few clicks and 30 minutes later, I had a minimal Debian stable install running. Another 30 minutes later, I had a full development environment installed and running inside the virtual machine. The virtual machine was fast, responsive and fully functional. The full suite of tests took 45 minutes to run - not zippy, but still far better than the powerbook and usable until the great test refactoring happens.

I'm really pleased with this laptop. All my needs are more than adequately met by this system for the forseeable future. I just might need to upgrade the hard drive in a few months, as the 60G I'm starting with is a bit small. All these virtual machine images will eventually add up.

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