Looking back, I’m not sure why I was so anti-Mac once upon a time.
Oh wait, yes I am. Because they were expensive, not as functional, and didn’t bring enough to the table to justify the investment.
Enter the new Macbook
When I saw the video detailing the changes and updates in the body and design of the new Macbook, I salivated. The way they put the laptop together was very cool, and between hardware changes and the standard integration of OS X, it looked like it ran very well indeed. “If only it was around $1200 instead of $1800,” I said. “Then maybe I could justify such an extravagant piece of machinery.”
Then I looked at the page on Apple’s site and discovered that the base Book was sitting at $1299. That was almost reasonable, I thought, and I began considering it more seriously. I’ve been thinking about getting a new laptop for around two years now, and my old lappy was originally purchased in late 2003 or early 2004. It weighs around 6.8 pounds and currently gets around 30 minutes of battery life, so you might consider it more of a desktop replacement than a true mobile computer. I didn’t use it much anymore because it just wasn’t that useful for my purposes.
Serving my purposes
I’m willing to pay a lot for good service, and I had occasion to call Apple’s service a few times for work purposes. When ordering new or warranty replacement hardware from them, it had been an incredibly positive and quick process, and I was beginning to enjoy working with Apple. But good service only takes you so far if the computer doesn’t meet your needs.
The main argument against getting an Apple computer centers around compatibility issues, particularly with Microsoft software. My change in heart regarding this matter makes perfect sense in retrospect, but I hadn’t considered it in terms of Apple computers: since I began using Linux two years ago, I haven’t touched Microsoft software hardly at all, nor have I needed to. I learned through using Linux that it was rarely necessary for me to use Windows, and that Windows simply doesn’t perform as well as Linux. Yeah, there are some compatibility issues, but it’s rarely deal breaking, and everything else worked so much better that there was no justification for Windows.
This growing M$-independence is quite a change from 4-5+ years ago, and makes accepting Macs a whole lot easier. Why do I need to have my computer on an Active Directory? From a System’s standpoint, I can see why others might want me to, but I prefer to have my laptop untethered to a domain. Do I really need Microsoft Word, or Outlook? My experience with Linux proved that I do not, as a general rule.
So, what do I really need out of a laptop? I need mobility, which equates to lightweight and good battery life. And I use it primarily for writing, so it has to have a good word processing program. Macs have some great applications in this arena (and I’ll review one later that I’ve fallen quite in love with), and weighing in at 4.5 pounds with up to 5+ hours of battery life, it certainly fit the bill.
Paying More for More
I had looked at other options for a new laptop, in particular the Pangolin from System76. I want to be clear that the Pangolin looks like a fantastic laptop, and everything I’ve read about System76 indicates that they have great service and great products. What it came down to was the operating system and ensuring full compatibility with the iPhone (when I finally get one, as I fully intend to do).
The defining factor of Apple computers is that the operating system (OS) is tied very tightly with the hardware. This means you get maximum performance out of your hardware, and the OS can really manage resources optimally. I knew this was the case, and it certainly influenced my decision, but I had no idea it would make such a difference.
Like I said, I’ve been using Linux for a couple of years, and if I were grading operating systems I’d give it about an 80-90%. Microsoft would be sitting at around 70-80% (depending on which OS you’re talking about; XP is higher, Vista is lower, Server 2008 might be higher than XP…). OS X would be approaching 99%, and while I’ve found a few bugs, the next release of OS X may take care of even those few minor issues.
OS X’s multitasking and process management capabilities blow away anything I’ve seen before, and I’m really impressed with its performance, especially for a laptop. It simply runs great. If you’ve ever looked into process manageent in the kernel of Linux, you know that it’s currently something of a mess. Maybe better than Windows, but I’m not even sure if that’s the case when looking at Server 2008. Better resource management utilities were rejected, and while it runs very well, it doesn’t hold a candle to OS X.
Don’t forget the trackpad!
The major complaint I have about the Macbook is also a compliment: It has ruined me for using OS X on desktop computers, such as the iMac. Without the swiping capabilities of the trackpad tied into OS X, I really wouldn’t enjoy using the OS as much. The way OS X does window management isn’t quite intuitive to me, and I’m not sure I like it, but Exposé makes up for whatever issues I might have, and the trackpad is necessary to get the most from Exposé. It really makes a huge difference.
And for those who say the lack of a button and the whole thing being clickable seems unnatural, I have no idea what they’re talking about. I didn’t even notice there wasn’t a button at first (despite having read at length about it) because it performs so smoothly and flawlessly.
Not for everyone
In my time with Linux, I’ve learned that the important thing when cosnidering computer hardware and software is picking the right tool for the job. Therefore, while I don’t necessarily like Windows a whole lot, I can recognize that there are instances where it is simply the best tool for the job. Likewise, there are some things that Linux excels at and some (like running Excel) where it just sucks and cannot do the job. In those instances, you need a different tool.
If you’re doing a lot of advanced video/photographic editing, the Macbook is not for you. No, it doesn’t have a firewire port. From where I’m sitting, I don’t think the Macbook was made for you, though; it was made for me. I don’t need firewire, I’d never use it, and I’m kind of glad it’s not there. I didn’t pay extra for something I’ll never use, just like the SD slot.
For someone who needs long battery life in a lightweight package for writing, but who wants to play a few games when he’s traveling (I’ve got Lux, World of Warcraft, and Warcraft 3 currently installed) but doesn’t want the weight/heat/poor-battery-life of a gaming laptop, the new Macbook is ideal. I used it extensively over this last weekend, and it was perhaps the most pleasant computing experience I have ever had.
Conclusion: Why I use it
The Macbook works about how I think a computer should work, and this leads me to wonder what I’ve been using all these years. As much as I love Linux, and indeed as much as I recognize the great strides and contributions Microsoft has brought to computing, OS X just works like I think a personal computer should. It’s fast, responsive, seems to interpret what I want and presents the information I need. It is precisely engineered to do what it does well, and it is clear that a great deal of thought has been put into every facet of the product, from the thumb scoop to the dock to mounting network drives or working in the terminal.
I look forward to greatly increased productivity using this laptop, and I’m excited to work more with it. I really think it’s going to revolutionize my writing and my work, and am glad I have finally found the right tool for the job I need to do.