Back in July 7th, I disassembled my MacBook Pro to see if I could easily replace its hard disk for a faster one. I hadn't bought it yet because I first wanted to check that the whole process was easy. The thing is that, after a couple of problems, I could disassemble it. So I then ran to the local store to buy the new drive. But oh! They didn't have it. I decided to not reassemble the computer as one of the disassembling steps was quite scary and I didn't want to repeat it unless really necessary.
Stupid me. It has already been three weeks and they have not yet received any unit; I hate them at this point. And yes, I've been all this time with the laptop partly disassembled, working with external peripherals and without the battery. Which is very annoying because, even though I didn't think I really needed mobility, it is important once you get used to it.
Anyway. I have been using the machine as usual all these three weeks, and have kept working on my SoC project intensively. Lately, I noticed that my builds were running slower than as I remembered: for example, I went away for two hours and when I came back a full NetBSD/i386 release build had not finished yet. That was strange, but I blamed the software: things keep growing continuously, and a change in, e.g., GCC, could easily slow down everything.
But yesterday, based on this thread, I installed CoreDuoTemp because I wanted to see how the processor's frequency throttling behaved. I panicked. The frequency meter was constantly at 1GHz (and the laptop carries a 2.16GHz processor) no matter what I did. Thinking that it'd be CoreDuoTemp's fault, I rebooted into Windows and installed CPU-Z. Same results. For a moment I was worried that the machine could be faulty or that I had broken it in the disassembly process. Fortunately, I later remembered another post that mentioned that MacBook Pros without a battery installed will run with the processor at the minimum speed; seems to be a firmware bug.
Effectively: I reassembled the machine today — with the old, painful, slow, stupid, ugly, etc. disk! —, installed the battery and all is fine again.
Why I am mentioning all this, though? Well, the thing is... if it wasn't for the software rebuilds, I wouldn't have noticed any slowdown in typical desktop usage tasks such as browsing the web, reading the email, chatting, editing photos or watching videos. And the processor was running at half of its full power! In other words, it confirms me that extra MHz are worthless for most people. It is "annoying" to see companies throwing away lots of perfectly-capable desktop machines, replacing them with more powerful ones that won't be used to its full capacity. (OK, there are other reasons for the switch aside the machine's speed.)
Just some numbers. Building ATF inside a Parallels NetBSD/i386 virtual machine took "real 4m42.004s, user 1m20.466s, sys 3m16.839s" without the battery, and with it: "real 2m9.984s, user 0m22.725s, sys 1m39.053s". Here, the speed is noticeable :-)
I will blog again when I have the replacement disk and possibly post some pictures of the whole procedure.