So I guess I am now officially a Mac user, seeing how I own a brand spanking new 13″ Macbook Pro. This of course does not mean I am not a Windows or Linux user anymore. I’m just a firm believer that you can use more than one operating system at the time. This is the twenty first century, and most of us own more than one computer, and there is no reason to put the same OS on every single one. But, to some people OS is like a religion – they pick one, and stick with it for life. Me? I’m platform agnostic – I like to play with all of them. Why not?
You see, I realized that I don’t actually own a portable, handy personal laptop. My work computer is a big, and clunky 17 inch monstrosity, that is essentially a desktop replacement. 90% of time it is actually tethered to a 23″ monitor, an ergonomic split keyboard. Whenever I use it like a laptop, I realize that there is a thin film on dust on the built-in keyboard because it never sees any use. The thing is just too big and too heavy to be handy. Plus it is a work machine. So I decided to get myself something small, and portable that I could carry around or use wherever.
One thing I knew I did not want on my laptop was Windows. You see, to me the primary function of windows is providing a platform for video games. This is really what Windows is good at. But I probably won’t be using a laptop for heavy gaming, because… Well, why would I do that if I have perfectly good desktop that can still run most games on high settings. Not only that but Windows it takes forever to boot, eternity to shut down, and picks up viral infections as if they were going out of style. I know it’s quirks, and I’m so fed up with the maintenance of the OS that I actually wrote, and continuously update an application designed to ease the day-to-day grind.
I didn’t really want Linux on it either because I did enough laptop based Ubuntu/Debian installations to realize that they rarely work 100% correctly without some tinkering. Wifi and Bluetooth support tend to be flaky unless you happen to have the right hardware. Sleep mode and hibernation is usually hit or miss. That said, the support is leaps and bounds beyond what it was back when I started messing around with Linux. Often you get lucky and absolutely everything works out of the box, and sleep/hibernation support is flawless. Hell, I use it on my work laptop and it runs perfectly. So I’m not saying Linux is not suited to run on laptops. It’s just that just like Windows is for gaming, Linux shines on the server side of things.
OSX on the other hand seems like a good candidate for a laptop OS because it combines the best of both worlds. Underneath the hood, it is a full blown unix system. Most the apps and scripts I use on Linux will work on it as well. But unlike Linux, it has a very polished UI that just works. So I can have the power and stability of Unix system, and state of the art GUI that Microsoft has been trying to imitate since Vista.
Few months ago, someone gave me an old eMac to play with, and I liked it. I have since then retired the bulky CRT into the attic because it was taking up an obscene amount of space, and making incredible amount of noise (I forgot how much the CRT’s buzz). But I got a glimpse of how the OS works, and I was fairly impressed with the ease of use and the work flow. So when it came to shopping for a laptop I decided to spend some extra cash, and buy a MacBook.
I must say that Apple’s laziness tax is quite ridiculous. Having your system shipped with 8GB instead of 4 will cost you $200 in the apple store. But if you are not lazy and are willing to do a little bit of work, you can get that same memory from cucial.com for about $80. You just have to install it yourself.
Other than that, I guess I can kinda see why they charge you an arm and a leg for the system. I’ve been kicking around Dell laptops for most of my career, and the MacBook Pro quality is noticeably above and beyond even the high end models. I mean, they were both probably assembled in the same province somewhere in China, but the difference is visible. The machine is just slick, solid and well put together.
I usually can’t stand touchpads, but the one on MacBook Pro is huge and surprisingly un-horrible due to it’s multi-touch functionality. Two finger scrolling is definitely superior to the edge scrolling offered by traditional touch pads and I was pleased to find that the pinch gesture does invoke zoom function in most applications, just how you would expect. The back-lit keyboard is actually pretty comfortable, though I still instinctively hit Fn instead of Cmd (as if it was the Ctrl button) and look for the Home and End buttons which just don’t exist. I guess this is just a matter of getting used to this layout, and memorizing some of these.
Putting a magnet in the AC plug is actually an absolutely brilliant move and I have no clue why Dell and other PC manufacturers have not ripped that off yet. Maybe it’s patented or something – these days you can patent everything so I wouldn’t be surprised.
My eMac was running Tiger, while the MacBook Pro came preloaded with Snow Leopard. At a glance, I probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the two. The OSX UI is fairly consistent across versions, though I do appreciate some of the new features such as the Stacks in dock, or the virtual desktops (aka Spaces, which for some odd reason are disabled by default).
I probably could have waited a month or two and buy a system preloaded with Lion, but perhaps it is not a bad thing that I didn’t. Apparently Lion will be sold excursively through the App Store and there will be no disks included with the systems. This sort of worries me. One has to wonder what Apple expects the users to do when their drive fails, or if they for some reason decide to to a clean install. Is it going to be possible to do this without a disk? I’m sort of happy that I have a Snow Leopard CD. Even if I get Lion at some point, I will still be able to easily rebuild the system from scratch using Snow Leopard and just run an upgrade via App Store.
I know that bunch of you guys use macs, so I’m asking for n00b advice here. Are there any must-have apps that I should install immediately? Are there some useful/awesome features that I might not be aware of? Let me know in the comments.