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Air on a Theme February 24, 2009

Posted by antimeme in Apple, Switcher.

Ok, first impressions of the Macbook Air.

  • Fit and finish: Mostly excellent. There is a slight bow on the left side that is noticeable when you close the lid. That  is the only noticeable defect I can see. There are no scratches, dings, smudges, or blemishes anywhere.
  • Screen: Bright, crisp. Viewable in almost any light.  No dead pixels. 13 inches is a perfect size for me.  I am perfectly comfortable using this thing outside at midday or basking in the evening glow of the tv.
  • Keyboard: Full size, quiet and responsive keys. Best part – backlit keys let me work in the dark. Worst part – full size does not mean full keyboard. I’m not talking about a numeric keypad – I’ve never had a laptop that had those keys.  But coming from a Windows world, I miss the Page Up/Page Down, Insert/Delete and Home/End keys. I don’t know if those keys are on any other Apple product, but I  used those keyboard navigation keys a lot. I miss them.
  • Trackpad: Wow. Since I already have an iPhone, the trackpad  was immediately understandable. It’s funny –  the motions are exactly backwards from what happens on an iPhone. On an iPhone, you flick up to move to the bottom of the page. On the Air, you slide down. What’s weird is that both ways feel natural, and I never scroll the wrong way on either machine. The size of the trackpad is plenty big, but I could have done without the button. One of the options for the trackpad is to have a tap work like a mouse click – a two-finger tap works as a right-click. If it worked that way from startup, I could live without that button. The only complaint I have is that I sometimes inadvertently hit the trackpad with my palm while typing, which means I sometimes type stuff into the middle of other stuff I typed.
  • Battery life: about 3 hours of normal usage – mostly typing, some browsing, including the occasional YouTube video.
  • Heat: yes. It gets HOT. This happens when you do processor-intensive tasks. The thing gets pretty warm sitting in my lap.
  • Hinges: I’ve seen a lot of reports that the hinges break rather quickly. It seems to happen after repeatedly opening the Air all the way back. And really, all the way back is about the only way the screen feels right. In fact, I’d be happy if it opened a few degrees farther. I find myself often wishing I could tilt the screen back just a little bit more.
  • MagSafe power connector. How cool is that? Having broken one laptop already because I tripped over the power cord and pulled the whole thing onto the floor, using the MagSafe makes me wonder why nobody thought of this before.
  • Ports: Ok, there’s only three. So what? The Micro-DVI works fine. Actually, it works GREAT. I connected my 22″ LCD Monitor, and it looked beautiful. I ran Keynote, and had the presentation on the monitor, and the notes, timer and next slide all showed on the Air – really nice. One USB. So what? Apple has bluetooth mice and keyboards, so you don’t need the USB for them. I use it for my backup hard drive and for charging/synching my iPhone. Well, sort of. My music is on an external drive, so synching music is … interesting.  I’ll be writing more about that later, so stay tuned. The headphones that work on my iPhone also work really well on my Air. The fit of devices into the ports – especially the USB port – is really tight. It takes some effort to remove anything plugged in. This worries me some, because I a afraid I am eventually going to pull something too hard, and break the port door or something. And maybe it is just that I haven’t got the hang of it yet, but I have to lift the whole thing up and look under it whenever I want to plug something in. It is a little annoying.

Overall, I am very happy. Apple does all of the little things right, and the Macbook Air is one sweet machine.


What, Me Worry? February 3, 2009

Posted by antimeme in Apple, Switcher, Uncategorized.
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I have concerns. I also have issues, but that’s another story. Allow me to explain…

I am not worried about the lack of ports. I have never, ever used firewire. My ex had a firewire connector on her 2nd gen nano, but it didn’t do anything when I plugged it in. And one USB is plenty. I usually only have my wireless keyboard and mouse plugged in to my desktop. the only other things I use USB for is for charging and syncing my devices, and for printing. The mouse and keyboard are bluetooth, so I don’t need them. I can print remotely, so I don’t need that. One device at a time for the other stuff is fine with me. 
I am also unconcerned about the other ports. I have an iPod and an iPhone, so I know the headphones I have will fit. I also like that there is just that one port for video output. with one simple connector, I can connect to a VGA device, or a DVI, or even Dual-Link DVI. It is a simple, elegant solution that works perfectly for me, as I have all of those types of devices.
I have little need for a CD/DVD drive, but I got the SuperDrive just in case. I doubt I’ll be taking it anywhere, but it is nice to have if I need it.  Here again, Apple came up with a simple solution that works for me. 

I am similarly unconcerned with the lack of a microphone jack. I have never had a mike that was quiet and effective until I got a Logitech USB headset. 
I hope that I get 3.5 – 4 hours on the battery. That will be better than any laptop I’ve had previously. I once took a flight where I wanted to watch a couple of DVDs, so I brought a spare battery. It turned out to be more trouble than it was worth, so I never did it again. I plan to use my iPhone for entertainment, and I have extra power for that. Another potential problem solved.

So, the only real problem I have is the skimpy hard drive.

I have spent years ripping all of my music into digital format. I have more music than the entire capacity of the 80Gb PATA hard drive that will be on my Air. I could transfer them onto a USB drive, but I don’t want to. What I’d really like to do is to leave them on my desktop hard drive and access them wirelessly. But, I don’t want to just connect to the iTunes library remotely – I want the files stored on the Windows machine to actually be my Library on the Air. You see, one of the things I want to do is to sync my iPhone through the MacBook. I understand that the calendar and contact functions will actually work on the Air. 

I hope it will be possible.

Macbook Air? Srsly? Are you nuts? February 2, 2009

Posted by antimeme in Apple, Switcher.
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So why am I switching, and why in heaven’s name, did I choose the slow, skimpy, underpowered, overpriced Air? I’ll answer the second question first, and save the switcher discussion for another time.

To answer the questions posed in the title: Yes. Seriously. Maybe. In that order. Let me freely admit right here that I coveted the Air for its sexiness. From the moment I heard Yael Naïm singing New Soul while that svelte beauty (the Air) was sensuously sliding from her skimpy manilla folder, I knew she had to be mine. But I didn’t buy it because of that. I bought it because it was the least expensive Mac that met all of my needs. All of the things that it has been critisized for not having were things that I didn’t need. It was a perfect fit. 

It’s called a ‘laptop’ for a reason.
I don’t know whether I am ADD, OCD, ADHD, or just flighty, but I have the attention span of a gnat. The prospect of sitting at the same desk for eight hours a day is frankly  terrifying to me. I want to be able to wander out to the kitchen, the lanai, or the park and still be able to get something done. So carrying around a 17-inch Macbook Pro is completely out of the question. For me, a 13-inch screen is just about perfect. Big enough to see, even with my 50-year-old, been-wearing-glasses-since-I-was-five, eyes. Even the 15-inch Prois a little too big (and a LOT too expensive) for me. So my choices are easily limited to the regular Macbook and the Macbook Air. 

Just like buying a car, picking a computer is a very personal thing. You really have to decide what you are going to use the thing for BEFORE you can decide which one you want. I sat down and thought about what I wanted this new thing for. I thought about it for a LONG time. Probably ten minutes or more. (Remember what I said about gnats?). Here’s what I decided:

I need this laptop so I can be a code monkey. I need it so I can create lesson plans. I need the macbook so I can create presentations. I like to carry my laptop around, so I can work whenever the mood strikes me. I like to work at night. I have a pretty healthy iTunes library and I want to use the laptop to sync up my iPhone/iPod. I don’t want to play games or watch movies, and I don’t plan on taking any intercontinental flights. My budget is $1400 (USD), which seems to put me at ‘entry level’ for Apple, but well more than double what I spent on my last Windows laptop. 

So, I decided on a refurbished MacBook Air. With a wireless Mighty Mouse, SuperDrive and iWork ’09, the total cost is less than $1300. My second choice was the 2.4Ghz aluminum MacBook, because it also had an illuminated keyboard. But the refurb model was $1399 – and that was without the mouse and iWork. It’s funny how the one laptop I was lusting after turned out to be the best value for me as well. 🙂