low cost laptops around but they're often unsatisfying in the end. The family is down one Mac laptop at the moment due to a fault in the keyboard and I had a look at what's available second hand.
Generally Apple gear holds its price very well, which is great if you want to sell to upgrade but not so good of you want to get a cheap Mac.
There is a regular trickle of Mid 2012 MacBook Pros appearing on eBay. This model is the last one before they went retina.
With a 2.5GHz i5 CPU, they are built like a tank but are very easy to open and work on. Some people even say "The 2012 Non-Retina MacBook Pro Is Still the Best Laptop Apple Sells" and while that's not really the case if you value a high resolution screen and light weight, they are attractive at the right price.
I was pretty lucky and got one for AU$415. The battery wasn't great, a few key caps had been substituted, it had 4GB of ram and a slow spinning 500GB disk. Otherwise it's fine.
A few standard cross head screws aside and you're in and able to upgrade the machine.
As it came, and as they were at the time, the machine felt pretty slow. I added the following enhancements:
- 120GB SSD
- Extra 4GB RAM to take it to the maximum of 8GB
- New battery
The SSD makes a huge difference and if you are still running a spinning disk I can't recommend this upgrade enough. Four or five bounces to launch Safari is now just one.
These machines will run the latest edition of macOS, Sierra, and support AirDrop and Handoff.
A non-retina screen is a shock after getting used to it on every other device I look at. Apple's switch to the San Francisco font actually makes a non-retina screen look worse. There is a utility to switch the system font back but I found the font metrics are so wrong that you see lots of glitches running like that so I don't recommend it.
It turns out that dual booting Linux on a Mac does not require Boot Camp or any of those fancy EFI boot tricks.
To install boot into the recovery system by holding Command-R during power on and use Disk Utility to resize the main partition down to leave free space for Linux. Hold option during power up to boot from a Linux USB install drive.
Fedora Linux was installed into the free space on the disk. To choose which OS to boot into you simply hold the Option key down during power on and you get this nice menu.
Wifi doesn't immediately work after a clean linux install due to proprietary drivers but happily this machine has an ethernet port and I simply followed this recipe to get the driver installed and now Wifi works well.
Everything else just works including volume, screen brightness keys and sleep on close.
It makes a very respectable Linux laptop. One thing to note that after the install you should boot into macOS and set the startup disk in System Settings so that by default it will boot into macOS (if that's what you want).
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