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Apple Notebooks Apple's notebook computers including MacBook Pro, MacBook, MacBook Air, PowerBook, and iBook.

Will a base 13" MBA run linux well?


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mad_griff

 
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Hey guys, newb here so I apologize ahead of time! After a long internal struggle, I recently chose to purchase a 2012 base model 13" MBA over the base 13" MBP. This is my first Mac. I chose the air because I will be toting the computer around in my backpack at school. I figured the lighter Air would be a lot easier on the back and Id be more willing to carry it around with me. Also, after looking at a lot of benchmarks, the performance between the two machines seemed pretty comparable. I know I could have upgraded the RAM and HD in the MBP at some future point, giving it better performance, but I figured in two to three years I will be done with my degree and hopefully in a position to buy a top of the line model. Im under a pretty strict budget right now.

Anyways, on to my question. I am a comp sci major and will be starting my comp sci classes soon. Ive been told a lot of the home work assignments are done in Linux. My question to yall is, how well does the Air run Linux? How well does it perform using programming utilities such as Java and eclipse? I need to be able to use this machine for my comp sci classes and I will probably need it to run Linux. I guess Im a bit concerned about it being able to dual boot because I will have to partition an already small 128G hard drive. Is there an efficient way around partitioning the HD? I could probably live with a 30gb partition for linux if it would work under those parameters. Will I run into trouble with this machine trying to do this? Should it be able to perform most programming tasks? I like the higher res for programming vs the MBP but Im still within in my return window, (and I might have to return this Air anyways do to battery issues, see Swithchers Hangout) and if I had to go with the MBP I could try and make it work if I had to. Any advice and or feedback would be greatly appreciated!
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I'm wondering the nature of the assignments. For many base things you can run Linux well enough on old hardwarebb

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My wife has a 2011 MBA and it is great, but if I were a Comp Sci major (unless I had significant back problems) I'd go MBP all the way. My advice is to return the MBA and swap for the MBP.

Regarding the other question (other than lack of HD space) Linux should be no problem. My Linux box is an old AMD64 based Gateway Laptop (about 8 years old now).

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You can run Linux in Virtual Box which is free easy to install and remove on just about any machine.
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For all school work, your Air will be absolutely fine. And best of all, you might not have to dual boot at all. Java development can be done natively in Mac OS (Eclipse, Netbeans) as well as C, C++, even shell scripting.

For those specific assignments when you really need a Linux and or Windows environment, as suggesgted above you can create a small Virtual Machine.

But, of course, dual booting is always an option .. if you ever decide to go down that road. Most of us end up deleting those partitions in the long run though. At least that's my experience, I focus on using alternative OSX tools.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mad_griff View Post
My question to yall is, how well does the Air run Linux?
Some distributions are more Mac friendly than the others. Ubuntu has a bit of documentation about running it on an MBA (see here) but that should be made better when they redo their documentation (hopefully they add your model to the list of articles). Other than that, you might want to search the web for Linux distributions and their compatibility with your model identifier ( > About This Mac > More Info... > System Report... > Model Identifier).

Quote:
Originally Posted by mad_griff View Post
How well does it perform using programming utilities such as Java and eclipse?
Thankfully, Oracle has regained the control over the distribution of Java for OS X so support for the Mac should improve. As for Eclipse, I've used it quite a bit for Python development and being a good cross-platform application, it behaves the same across operating systems.

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I run Linux MInt 12 on my base late 2011 Pro easily, the only issue is with virtualbox you will take up a bit of RAM. I normally have to quit most applications before I program in Mint and I have 4gb of RAM. I would go back and get the Pro because of the RAM issue because the upgrade to 8gb (from OWC) is about $50 and the 13" Pro is rather light ( I carry mine across campus all day).

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You may be having issues with Mint if you're using a 3D accelerated desktop environment and you have an MBP with integrated graphics. Since the Intel chips borrow memory from RAM, you're asking for trouble if you want to run a VM and have it take extra memory to drive a 3D environment. I only suggest that because I can run a Linux VM with little lag on an early 2008 MB with 4GB of RAM.

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mad_griff

 
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Thanks everyone for the comments. Seems like I'm getting about a 50/50 response to the Airs ability to do what I need. It's really a tough decision. Might just return it and wait a while
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The air should be fine for what you are doing. I just wish you could upgrade later, but as it sits it's a good machine for most uses.
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mad_griff

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dtravis7 View Post
The air should be fine for what you are doing. I just wish you could upgrade later, but as it sits it's a good machine for most uses.
Yeah it is a real bummer. The MBA would be a no brainer if I could upgrade RAM in the future. There are a lot of pro's for the Air over the MBP though. Weight is a big issue, and the standby time is really nice as well. I feel like apple is putting the weight of their support behind the ultra portables and the MBP-R. The resolution with the air is better for writing code as well.

The MBP is cheaper (factoring in the student discount difference and no necessity to buy a superdrive and external HD right away) and the HD space and it being upgradable is really nice.

If I can get the Air to run what I need it to for the next few years then it would be well worth it. The main problem I guess is if it will get bogged down with only 4gb of ram. BTW, I cannot upgrade to the 8 gig because I am purchasing through Best Buy (have to finance part of it).
Thanks everyone for the input
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Personally, I think you might be overestimating the weight of the MBP. On the whole, it's a relatively light piece of equipment. If you put it in a backpack, I'm going to guess that you'll hardly notice it.

According to the specs, it weighs just over 2kg (the 13") which really isn't all that much. True, the MBA is only about 1.4kg (again, the 13") and thus, it's noticeably lighter but my MB is 2.25kg and I can carry that around with no issues.

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mad_griff

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vansmith View Post
Personally, I think you might be overestimating the weight of the MBP. On the whole, it's a relatively light piece of equipment. If you put it in a backpack, I'm going to guess that you'll hardly notice it.

According to the specs, it weighs just over 2kg (the 13") which really isn't all that much. True, the MBA is only about 1.4kg (again, the 13") and thus, it's noticeably lighter but my MB is 2.25kg and I can carry that around with no issues.
I tried both out in a back pack an honestly I was pretty shocked at the difference 1.5 lbs made.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vansmith View Post
Personally, I think you might be overestimating the weight of the MBP. On the whole, it's a relatively light piece of equipment. If you put it in a backpack, I'm going to guess that you'll hardly notice it.

According to the specs, it weighs just over 2kg (the 13") which really isn't all that much. True, the MBA is only about 1.4kg (again, the 13") and thus, it's noticeably lighter but my MB is 2.25kg and I can carry that around with no issues.
It's about half the weight of my work 'laptop'

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mad_griff

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by osxx View Post
You can run Linux in Virtual Box which is free easy to install and remove on just about any machine.
I looked up Virtual Box and it seemed very promising, thanks! Do you think the standard MBA can handle that sufficiently?
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