Life, Technology, and Meteorology

Month: July 2009

A New Mac

Gaucho Desk - July 2009

I had been waiting for Nehalem Mac Pros to be released since the middle of last year, so I was pretty excited to hear Apple release them earlier this spring when I was in Thailand. Of course, I didn’t have time while abroad to actually put in an order, so I waited until I got back and ordered one in the beginning of April with these specs…


  • 8 x 2.26Ghz Nehalem Xeons
  • 12GB of 1066Mhz DDR3 RAM
  • Radeon 4870 graphics card with 512MB of VRAM
  • 2 1TB hard drives in a RAID 0 configuration
  • 1 640GB hard drive for Time Machine


It was a tough decision between the 8 core 2.26Ghz model and the 4 core 2.66Ghz model. The 4 core model was a bit cheaper. It is also faster at single-threaded processes, but with the drawback of only having half as many cores. Since compiling code is the primary job of this Mac, and compiling takes advantage of as many CPUs as you can throw at it, I decided to go for the 8 core model.

I’m glad I did, because for compiling this machine is a beast. You can check out a screencast I captured showing XRG compiling subversion below. With 16 CPUs (8 real + 8 hyperthreading), I had to create a new CPU graph on XRG to show them more efficiently. The top shows a composite of all CPU activity, and the bottom shows a bar chart with immediate CPU usage for each of the 16 CPU cores.


All in all, this Mac is more than 6 times faster at compiling than the Dual 2.5Ghz G5 it replaces, which definitely saves me quite a bit of time day in and day out while working.

When ordering this Mac, I also ordered a second 24″ LCD. Now, having 2 24″ displays (an HP LP2475w and a Samsung 2493HM) makes usability a lot smoother. Plenty of space to spread out all the windows I’m working with. While coding, I can have Xcode take a full display, and then run the app on the second display, never having to worry about covering up the debugging interface while testing something.

I posted two other photos of the machine. All in all, it’s a dream system for me. Here’s hoping this dream lasts for a very long time.

Traveling the World

I’ve spent the last four months traveling the world. It sounds wierd to hear myself say that, because while I’ve traveled a good amount in the past, I’ve never really thought of myself as a world traveler. In the past four months, I’ve spent about six weeks at home. No matter how exotic travelers describe it, not being at home much during an extended period of time is difficult. Your body is put under a lot of stress by constantly changing its environment. On the other hand, as long as you can sustain the will to keep going, traveling can be a very rewarding experience.

Before this past February, my travels have been restricted to a single continent, North America. I’ve been around most of the US (35 of the 50 states), and have visited Canada, Mexico, and a handful of the Caribean islands, but I had always felt that I had been missing something. After the past four months, I no longer feel that way. Sure there are still a lot of places I have yet to see, but I’m happy with the world I’ve seen for the time being.

As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, I spent four weeks in Asia, or more specifically the country of Thailand (I was also fortunate to have a layover in Tokyo, though I don’t really count that as visiting Japan which I would still like to do someday). Then, six weeks later Katrina and I took off to spend three weeks in Spain and France. Finally, after only 5 days of being back from Europe, we left again to drive across the US to Arizona, where we backpacked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up. On the way home, we finished the Route 66 trip we started two years ago, and finally made it back a few weeks ago. Needless to say, I don’t plan to leave our local area again for quite some time.

You can’t travel like this without coming back a different person, and these trips were no exception. The depth of culture, variety of food, and multitude of people I have interacted with from all over has made a profound impression on me–both as an individual and as a member of the great worldwide society of humankind. Where I was once focused on a division of wealth between local economic classes, I have now discovered a much larger division of wealth between nations. Where I used to focus on the differences between cultures, I have found the core values that make us all the same at heart. And where I once had a temporal realization of monuments from only the past couple hundred years, I have now seen human-made things from past millenia. All of these things combine in a seemingly paradoxical way of both a bigger earth and yet a smaller human race.

There’s just way too much to tell here in one single blog post, so I might follow this up later down the road. I’m in the process of posting photos from these trips to my Flickr account, and I try to add descriptions there about each of the photos to give people the “story” of the photo. Check it out if you’re interested.

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