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To Mac or not to Mac?

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venom77

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Post Mon Apr 02, 2007 8:32 pm

To Mac or not to Mac?

Hello again fellow EH-Net'ers,

I'm looking for some advice and/or insight into the world of Mac. My laptop decided to die yesterday for no apparent reason. I was using it fine the day before and then I went to turn it on and nothing. I've ruled it to be a motherboard failure, as has Gateway, and they wanted $300+ to repair it. It's 5 years old and I feel that it has served its purpose (plus I've been considering upgrading for a few months now).

In searching around, I've decided to consider purchasing a MacBook or MacBook Pro. However, I don't know anything about the OS. I've not used a Mac in many years, but I have several friends that have purchased them and absolutely love it. I saw that you can purchase VMware for Mac or run something called Parallels Desktop (anyone used it?) so that I'll still be able to run Windows as well as whatever else.

I guess what I'm looking for from you guys here, is if I were going to do any security testing with it, is there really going to be any difference in comparison to my old XP laptop? Obviously my friends can say "yeah, my Mac is sweet" but they're also not on the same level as far as computer skills go nor do they use theirs for the same purposes =P It sure seems that with the virtualization it should be pretty much the same... start the program and boot up my virtual attack machine or BackTrack .iso, etc. Plus I think I'd really like to get to learn the Mac OS.

Anyway, thanks in advance for any advice :)

- V
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LSOChris

Post Mon Apr 02, 2007 9:07 pm

Re: To Mac or not to Mac?

macs rule...but there is an element of pain to using them for a "hacker" laptop. 
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mn_kthompson

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Post Mon Apr 02, 2007 9:08 pm

Re: To Mac or not to Mac?

You know, I've been thinking about making the switch too.  For me, it all started when I start migrating from using windows to using linux on my desktop.  Once I started to get used to how things were done in linux I started to grow as a security professional.  And I think I have a more powerful operating system.  I've recently had the opportunity to play around with the Macs a bit, and I have to say that I was impressed.  Since the operating system is unix based, I was able to do a lot of the stuff that I do in linux on the mac, but I was also able to take advantage of the fact that I know the hardware is going to work with my operating system.  Also, the media playback is far superior on Mac than it is on linux.  Sure, I can make my debian machine play a .WMV file, but it was a pain in the butt to make it happen.  On the Mac, it was easy.

There have been some applications that I use on linux that don't come standard with the Macs, like Gnu Privacy Guard (GPG).  I also found that everything I needed had been ported to Macs.  I think that since they moved to the unix based operating system, the amount of software available on the platform has increased quite a bit. 

I don't know how the virtualization works on the Macs.  If VmWare is available on the Mac then I would be pretty confident that you could work your windows stuff just fine.  Since I got to a point where I almost never need to use Windows, I didn't really spend much time trying to make my Mac act like a windows machine.  Worst case scenerio, you can always have a windows desktop running somewhere and use remote desktop if you need to use some application like MS Outlook.

So there is my opinion.  I liked using the Mac, and I'm trying to come up with a way of convincing my boss that I should have one permanently.
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LSOChris

Post Mon Apr 02, 2007 9:32 pm

Re: To Mac or not to Mac?

with the intel macs, you can run vmware or parallels, so you are good to go for virtualization.

i think thats all you can get now.

all the gripes i have about mine, i think have been resolved with the new ones.  i have an ibook g4 PPC.
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don

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Post Mon Apr 02, 2007 10:18 pm

Re: To Mac or not to Mac?

The reason things work well on a Mac is (funny enough) the same thing that people seem to take joy in ripping Microsoft about... a monoculture. The control freak that he is, Steve Jobs has completely closed off the Mac platform. Microsoft does an awesome job of promoting the developer community out there. It's not because of the so-called monoculture but rather expanding a platform. God forbid someone else other than Jobs make money on the Mac platform.

The thing that Jobs does best is marketing. Take for example the famous 1984 commercial where everyone else who doesn't use Apple products are grey, boring, simply doing what everyone else is doing because you are told to do so by big brother. We were all basically lemmings. Oh wait, isn't that the same concept as the current Mac vs PC campaign? Once again, Jobs tries to take the traits of every Mac Head out there (blindly follow Jobs to the edge of the cliff) and somehow try to dupe the rest of the world into thinking that it's actually the other way around.

You know what Mr. Jobs... try attacking Linux, because you're not the number 2 OS trying to nip at the heels of the market leader. You're actually 3rd behind Linux. That's why you don't hear a response to these Mac vs PC adds from Microsoft. It would be like giving more attention to the annoying gnat flying around your head. It's small and insignificant.

Forgive me but I'd rather not give my money to the biggest ego in the history a silicon valley. His marketing prowess always makes me feel like if I buy his stuff, then I'm giving in to the sales pitch. And I've never been one to buy something simply because it seems to be the cool thing at the time.

How about this as a final thought... Apple should simply become a consumer electronics company. Keep up the good work with iPods, iPhones, accessories and other playful gadgets and stay out of the enterprise until you hire Woz back.

Sorry for the tirade. I've been meaning to do that for a while. I'm not against the technology per se, but I'm clearly not a fan of Jobs.

Don
CISSP, MCSE, CSTA, Security+ SME
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slimjim100

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Post Mon Apr 02, 2007 11:00 pm

Re: To Mac or not to Mac?

Amen Brother!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Brian
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venom77

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Post Mon Apr 02, 2007 11:10 pm

Re: To Mac or not to Mac?

don wrote:His marketing prowess always makes me feel like if I buy his stuff, then I'm giving in to the sales pitch. And I've never been one to buy something simply because it seems to be the cool thing at the time.

Don


Hmm, marketing sells the product, though apparently not to you :P. Anytime you buy any product that has a commercial, billboard, magazine ad, etc. you're essentially giving in to a sales pitch whether direct or indirect. Or I suppose you're just buying something you need. It's near impossible to just buy products that aren't marketed though.

Do you have any recommendations/suggestions on any other specific brands/models? The other laptop I like is the Acer Ferrari 5000 model. It has some excellent specs, pretty much everything I would ideally be looking for (2GB DDR2 667 RAM, AMD 64 X2 CPU, dedicated video) [newegg link]. And also for close to the same specs, there is an HP Compaq that looks pretty good, and quite a bit less.
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plik

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Post Tue Apr 03, 2007 7:40 am

Re: To Mac or not to Mac?

I use my PowerBook all the time. (and actually a G5 at work, amongst others). I only ocationally have issues with it.

I like it because it's a nice middle ground between a Lappy with windows or linux. It's still a *nix under the hood but I know that if I've got my not-geek hat on I can download an OSX app and *know* it'll run without any dependacy issues. (and yes, yes I'm a sucker for eyecandy)

As long as you get the developers tools from .Mac you can compile apps to your hearts content.

You can get the free MS virt machine for OSX too.

However, I'm the first to admit they're a little overpriced for what they are. The thing that swung me was i could get educational discount and a free iPod!

At retail prices I'd go with a non-apple. Infact there was a dell with almost the exact hardware as the Macbook Pro, for a lot less, that and the reatail OSx and you could have it all on one box!
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Cutaway

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Post Tue Apr 03, 2007 8:42 am

Re: To Mac or not to Mac?

@venom77

I did a lot of research on notebooks about 18 months ago.  I have to say the the Intel PowerBooks were not out then so I did not consider them (just missed it on that one).  But once I got to my new job I got a Mac to see how the other half lives.

I have to say that I am not impressed by the Mac other than the fact that I can get all three operating systems going on one machine.  Parallels works well but there are some default setting security issues you will want to research.  Some of the new features Parallels will have will be awesome, such as running Windows programs as single windows and not having it contained within a virtualization instance (for lack of a better term).  VMware is working but still in Beta (this should smooth out very quickly as VMware does a great job).

If you want to look at some good and powerful laptops then I suggest you go check out the systems supplied by Powernotebooks http://powernotebooks.com/.  These guys have some great and powerful systems, good prices, and EXCELLENT customer service.

The specs you have for your system look good but if you are going to be running multiple virtual images I would bump up your memory to 4 GB so you can dedicate enough ram to multiple running environments and Vista (it has been written somewhere) performs best at the level.  I would also consider getting a lot of storage.  You will probably be downloading a lot of tools and ISO images and when you combine those with the virtual images (I recommend 8 GB for anything you will be running and updating but only 4 GB for anything you are just playing with) and all those ones and zeros start to add up.

Good luck, a new notebook was tough for me but I am happy with my Sager NP9750 http://powernotebooks.com/category.php?catId=26#id1176 (although I don't look at the new prices because it makes me cry :'().

Cutaway
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dean

Post Tue Apr 03, 2007 9:36 am

Re: To Mac or not to Mac?

I bought a Macbook Pro a couple of weeks ago and have really only spent about a day on it. I run Gentoo/XP dualboots on my IBM Thinkpads and they are still my notebooks of choice when it comes to work.

For me getting up to speed on OSX has been a pain in the @$$ and as Chrisg said getting it set up as a "hacker" platform is far from easy but getting my Gentoo install just right took a while too. I have quite a few infosec friends that swear by Macs. Right now I am not completely sold but as with so many things there will probably come a time that I could not imagine not having one.

As for a recommendation for a good notebook? I would have to say the IBM/Lenovo thinkpads. Expensive, but they are workhorses.

-dean-
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plik

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Post Tue Apr 03, 2007 9:53 am

Re: To Mac or not to Mac?

dean wrote:For me getting up to speed on OSX has been a pain in the @$$


I think I found it easier moving from XP to the totally different OSX, than I'm finding it moving from XP to Vista (which I'm finding more annoying than 2k -> XP)
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venom77

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Post Tue Apr 03, 2007 9:55 am

Re: To Mac or not to Mac?

plik:
Yeah, I agree. There are some very comparable laptops to the MacBook/Pro out there. The price different from a MacBook to a MacBook Pro doesn't really seem worth. You jump from 2.0 to 2.16 for $700 or 2.0 to 2.33 for $1200. In addition, it bumps the RAM from 1GB -> 2GB. If I were to end up going the route of a Mac, I think I'd stay with the MacBook and just upgrade the RAM.

Cutaway:
Thanks for the excellent information. I'm definitely surfing over to check out that site after I get done typing this post. I'm not looking for a complete desktop replacement, just something that will be powerful enough to run an additional 1 or 2 OS's simultaneously. I have a custom built desktop that I beefed up to do most of my playing with, so I don't need to be running a bunch of victim machines and such on the laptop.

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