Tag Archives: macbook

New Gear: The New MacBook

The New MacBook
The New MacBook

Apple is incredibly good at building sexy hardware… hardware I have a tough time avoiding!

A while back, I bought the then-brand new MacBook Pro with Retina screen (MBPr).  I fell in love with the luscious new screen, with it’s high resolution and vivid color.  Add to that a solid-state drive, and even with the big 15″ screen, the machine was a pound lighter overall than a regular MBP.  And it was fast.  Screaming fast.

At the time, I was really trying to build a very portable footprint, and the MBPr was a big part of that.  As it ends up, I began working from home last summer, and I began growing a less mobile desktop platform based on the new cylinder MacPro.

And then Apple announced the new MacBook.

Frankly, this new machine hit me a little funny.  This little laptop was gonna be light — just about two pounds — but have a pretty slow processor (by modern standards), and a 12-inch screen.  Add to that some shenanigans around a lack of built-in ports for USB3 and Thunderbolt, and this new machine was a little ho hum for me.

As I took in through some spring destination races this year, I kinda found that I needed something a little more laptop-like and less iPad-like for races on the road.  I didn’t like carrying the MBPr to away races, because that usually meant carrying a laptop bag, and while that wasn’t a ton of extra weight when packing for an “away” race, it did make things a little more clunky for travelling.

Those away races made me reconsider the little MacBook, and little by little, I started to fall for this wee beast.

Looking at how I use a laptop, I really wasn’t doing powerful photo processing, massive spreadsheets, or using other high-powered solutions when I was away from my desk.  Even with my MBPr, I was only using it to surf, write, and do a little light Photoshop work.

Suddenly, the little MacBook started to look a little more attractive.

I even came to terms with the weird situation with external ports.  The new MacBook only has a lonely USB-C connector, which is used for power and just about anything else, and a headphone connector.  That’s it.  Anything that’s externally wired has to go through the USB-C connector, which means a handful of dongles for USB3, Ethernet, video, Thunderbolt… and the list goes on.

Again, thinking about my use case, all that connectivity wasn’t that big a deal most of the time, and I didn’t mind too much having a dongle or two for those rare instances when I needed them.  Heck, I was doing that with my MBPr occasionally anyway, so that wasn’t exactly new territory.

I’d finally rationalized all the perceived shortcomings, and was ready to buy not long after they began to ship in April.  That’s when I discovered a wrinkle in my newfound excitement for this new laptop.

There was no availability.  Anywhere.  Apple couldn’t ship them out fast enough, with five week ship times for standard configurations.  Third party providers didn’t have them.  The supply pipeline just wasn’t full, which is pretty rare for Apple with a new product.  It’s usually demand that dries up the pipeline, but in this case, Apple simply didn’t have very many to ship out.

I watched for quite a while to see if the ship times from Apple would get better.  They didn’t.  And then one night I was looking at Best Buy’s web site, and on a lark, did a search for the new MacBook.

And shockingly, in mid-June, Best Buy had them in stock for shipping, and in the configuration I wanted:  1.2Ghz Intel M processor, 8GB RAM, and 512GB SSD — one of the standard configurations.  I wasted no time in making an order, and in a few days, the shipping box arrived with my new laptop inside.

The first thing that struck me was the weight of the box when the UPS delivery guy put it in my hand.  It weighed nothing.  I kinda wondered if the box was just empty.

Opening it up, I found the Apple box inside, and once again I was struck with the diminutive size.  The white-box was really tiny.  I had just packed up my 15″ MBPr for its new owner, so I was used to seeing a bigger box.  This thing was itsy-bitsy by comparison.

I opened the box, unpacked the machine and lifted the lid, firing up my new 12″ MacBook.  Once again, the Apple setup experience for the new machine was simply amazing.  It’s easy, quick, and everything just works, right out of the box.

And now, about a month downstream from my unboxing, the experience has been great.

So, to be fair, there are times when I notice the difference in processor speed… for a second.  That’s barely noticeable, and certainly not impactful.  I regularly use the Adobe Cloud apps, Microsoft office apps and iLife apps, and never find myself questioning the speed of the laptop.  It’s fast enough for what I need, and I think that’s the niche this machine fills… fast enough.

You’re not gonna do processor intensive work on this machine.  But, to be fair, it’s really not designed for that.  It’s designed to be the lightest OS X footprint device you can buy, trading weight for power.  It’s kinda like the lovechild of a full-sized MacBook and an iPad Air.  For me, that’s perfect.

The screen is really nice, with (apparently) even tighter pixels than my 15″ MBPr.  In fact, they’re tight enough that even with a 12″ footprint, you can watch full HD resolution content, and have some screen real estate left over.  The colors are vivid, and text is ultra-crisp.  And with the less powerful processor, there are no fans in the machine.  It is dead silent when running… almost unnervingly so.

Apple also introduced a new butterfly switch under the keys on the keyboard.  This has a really different feel than anything I’ve felt from them.  The keys have great tactile feedback, but don’t travel very far.  I know there are a lot of folks that don’t like the new feel, but for me, it seems pretty natural.  The other keyboards Apple’s been shipping always felt kinda “mushy” to me.  This one definitely doesn’t feel like that.  The key illumination is much better too, with each key having it’s own LED to brighten it up in dim conditions.

There’s also new trackpad.  And if I have any issues with the new MacBook, it’s with the new Force Touch trackpad.  This new trackpad allows for sensing how hard you click.  So, for example, a light click might do one thing, and a harder click might do something different.  For me, that’s taken some getting used to, as I’ve discovered I’m a heavy clicker.  It’s taken a lot of practice to get the real click-action I intended, and at times, that’s still a work in progress.

But, wait, there’s more!  The new trackpad is big, and with the smaller dimensions of the laptop, there’s not much room around it to rest your wrist while typing.  It’s very common for me to be typing, and suddenly have some kind of force-click action pop up.  If you’re a classically trained typist, and are used to keeping your wrists up, this won’t be a problem.  If you’re a lazy typist — like me! — that close proximity to the keyboard might be an issue.

Realistically, though, I’ve had nothing but fun with this new laptop.  I use it a ton, and am getting used to the subtle differences the new design introduced.  It’s crazy light, fully functional, and does everything I could possibly want.

Now, I’ve just gotta find an “away” race to give it a full road test!

Of Lust and Disappointment

Today, Uncle Steve made good, and announced new goodies from the Mothership. In other words, new Apple products were released.

The lust? Well, that’d be the new MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops. They’re just stinking beautiful, and loaded with the power to back up the beauty. I love the idea of using LED panels — I’ve heard a ton about their color correctness. Of course, how good that’ll be will depend on how the machine is designed. Faster processor, faster graphics, faster memory… what’s not to love?

And now my disappointment. I was following the announcements as they were being made this morning, and was thrilled to see a 24″ LED panel with a built-in iSight camera. The price isn’t crazy high, and is way more real estate than my 20″ Apple monitor. But…. (and there’s always a “but”)

It appears that the new monitor will only work with the new laptops — I can’t hang it off my octocore MacPro beauty sitting under my desk. What kinda design is that? And frankly, the troops are restless enough about the $900 price tag. Combine with no path to connect it to the MacPro line, and you’ve got some unhappy campers.

Count me in that number.

I would loooove to put an LED monitor on my desk, especially with more real estate, but the reality would seem to be that Apple has turned its back on the guy who’s invested a buncha scratch in a pro workstation, and instead focused on supplying a big ol’ monitor that has the same feature set as the only machines — the new MacBooks and MacBook Pros — that support it. (Yeah, yeah, there’s probably an adapter to hook it to the Little-Macbook-That-Could, but definitely not to Doc Oc.)

Apple has some of the sweetest panels out there, but the Cinema Displays have essentially been frozen in time for four years, and the Dell’s are starting to look pretty attractive. Essentially the same panel, but at about 60% of the cost. With that math, a 24″ really high contrast monitor (LCD, not LED) is sitting around $700.

Once last complaint… because I know The Steve reads this! 🙂

With the new announcements, the 17″ MacBook Pro will become defunct. No new 17″ MacBook. That also means no Apple laptop can use a 30″ Cinema Display at full resolution. Again, it almost seems like the pro user, power user or serious hobbyist has been left out in the cold with the new announcements.

The new laptops are sexy — no doot aboot it — but I’m really questioning where the product lines are headed, and am more than a little concerned for my little empire here at the Deauxmayne.

UPDATE: It looks like Apple has a cable (for a C-note) that will allow all the new laptops to drive the 30″ Cinema Display at full res. That’s cool. I’m still waiting for a way to connect the new 24″ monitor to my MacPro!!!

Dai-sy, Dai-sy…. Give Me Your Annnnssswerrrr Doooooooo

The Little-Macbook-That-Could endured the equivalent of a heart transplant tonight. It’s battery went tango-uniform sometime yesterday (or the day before), leaving the MacBook a vegetable unless the power feeding tube was attached.

Weird thing was that the power cable indicated the battery was charged, while the laptop couldn’t even see the battery, much less charge it.

Tonight, a quick run to the Apple Store confirmed my suspicions: my battery had converted from a nice lithium-based piece into a nice piece of toast. After a little checking, I was informed that I wasn’t eligible for a battery-replacement program that’s running around out there, and shortly thereafter, the forceps entered my wallet, and I walked out with a new Macbook battery.

I wasn’t thrilled, but after 22 months with this machine, I guess that wasn’t a horrible deal. Still, with that money, I coulda bought one of the new iPod Nanos announced today! 🙂

Deauxmayne Doin’s

Ya know, there’s nothing like instant gratification. A close second is almost instant gratification. This afternoon, I had three doses of almost instant gratification.

Yesterday, I pulled the trigger on ordering a 320GB harddrive for The Little MacBook That Could. With that upgrade, there’s really nothing else I need to do that little beastie. I got the drive from OWC, who specializes in all kinds of Mac upgrades and goodies. Along with the drive, I ordered an inexpensive external housing for use in transferring data around from the old 120GB drive to the new 320GB drive.

The cool thing about ordering from OWC is that I am close enough to them (as UPS drives) that I can order something before 6pm, use regular shipping and always have it waiting for me when I get home from the work the following day. Cool.

I opened the box, and set to installing the 320GB in the external enclosure, attaching it the MacBook after installation. The MacBook had no problem seeing the drive. So far so good.

Then I downloaded Carbon Copy Cloner to do the drive copy from old to new hardware. This piece of software flat rocks. The author distributes in a non-crippled fashion — which is great if you suddenly hear a drive clicking or have some other harddrive disaster-in-the-wings. CCC did a dandy job of duplicating the data onto the new drive, even making it bootable. Now it was time to take the MacBook apart and swap drives.

This is the point where I have to tip my hat to OWC. They have terrific installation videos and manuals for doing everything I’ve needed to do to all my Macs. Really top notch.

So I begin to take the MacBook apart, and get the drive into my hands…. only to discover that the screws are torx. A big fat “D’oh” eminates from the congregation. I don’t have a torx set anywhere (I checked). As it was already 8pm, I frantically checked Best Buy’s website to see if they carry anything like that. Surprisingly, they don’t. That was a shocker. Becky suggested calling Home Depot. I figured if they would talk with me, they wouldn’t have a clue what I was looking for. However, they did talk, they did know what I wanted, and I went to buy it. I picked up a Husky 8-in-1 torx set, and decided to pick up the matching 8-in-1 phillips/slotted set. The torx went down to a T4, and the phillips went down to a #000 — good sizes for working on the little stuff, and seemed to be solidly built.

After getting the old drive removed from the drive tray, I installed the 320GB into it, slide it in, and put it all back together. I hooked up the juice, hit the power button, and crossed my fingers. After a small heart attack moment — it sat on a gray screen a loooong time before the Apple logo popped up — the thing booted, and looked normal. The only weird thing was that the drive wasn’t named the same as it was. I didn’t know if the apps would care, so I changed it to the default “Macintosh HD” name. I hit a couple of apps to ensure that things were working, and all was well. As I write, I’m scanning slides again, and from all appearances, it appears that the MacBook has no idea that it’s had it’s brain swapped.

My second impulse buy yesterday was the Garmin City Navigator NT North America map set for my GPS-60CSx. I’d never bought maps for the old GPS-60CS (stolen a while back), but had always wanted to play with them. However, the old unit didn’t have a lot of storage — 56MB, I think — and that really seemed to limit the usability of the add-on maps. However, the new unit has a card slot, and I’d already dropped a 2GB Micro-SD card into the thing in preparation for one day buying these maps. With that size card, I knew I could put the whole set on the unit.

The maps require a Windows machine for installation, and that meant using Becky’s machine to get them on my GPS. I started the installation, and finally hooked up the GPS via USB. On the old unit, you had to really make sure you had good batteries in it, or you hooked it up to power, as connectivity off the unit was serial, I believe, and that sucked the juice. The new one seems to be able to draw juice from the USB connection, letting you leave it connected as long as the USB port is hot, with no drain on the batteries. That’s cool.

I’ve got to admit that the process for getting the maps on the unit was not well-defined. I had to define a map set, and then start the transfer that to the GPS. After about 90 minutes of work, the maps were on the GPS, and all was well with the world.

And lastly, in the not-so-immediate-gratification department, my copy of Office:Mac 2008 arrived. I ordered it last week, and had been led to believe that it would be another month or so before I’d see it arrive. I guess the slow boat from Redmond to St. Louis got a little boost, and I was the beneficiary of a little surprise. I’ve installed it, but haven’t really started playing with it yet. I do notice that the icons look different than the old version — nice touch, I suppose. For me, the biggest thing I wanna play with is Entourage, and to enjoy the Universal Binary version, rather than having to always run Office under Rosetta.

When I first switched to the Mac, I picked up Office:Mac 2004 and had used Entourage quite a bit for my mail functions. My perception at the time was that it seemed to handle spam better, and was more versatile with rule-based mail activities. It’s been about two years since I’ve used it regularly, so it probably deserves another look after the rewrite.

So big doin’s at the ol’ Deauxmayne tonight, and probably more goodies in the offing. Stay tuned!

Storage, Storage, Storage!

Another photographer’s harddrive bites the big one, as documented on Flying with Fish today. Documented are the trials, horror, tribulation and eventual cost of recovering a drive with important, unarchived data. For folks like me, the numbers are staggering, at well over $2K per drive. Incredible backup strategies could be had for the cost of one of these failures… and this guy has gone through two within a year of each other. Blecch.

With some first-hand experience twice in hand, the author points to a couple of nifty sites, as well as having a glowing recommendation for a harddrive recovery. One article he points to is something called “Hard Drives Die!” … to which I’m sure he’d give a resounding “Amen!” This piece lists five rules for data storage and preservation: store your data in two places, changes out drives periodically, use an automated backup procedure, rebuild your system when you replace your drives periodically, and if a drive is making noise, start figuring out what you’re gonna do about the data on the spindle. The article goes into much more detail about each of these, and is well worth the read.

His other link is to some specific information concerning the harddrives in some Macs. Specifically, this info speaks about the problem some MacBooks have had with a certain revision of Seagate drive. The good news is that my MacBook doesn’t include that drive in its configuration. The bad news is that my MacMini server does. Not the best news in the world. Now, the scary point here is that when the drive crashes, it crashes bad, scratching the platters, essentially thumbing its little electronic nose at any recovery attempts. So, if you back up a lot, you’re in good shape. If you can replace the drive before it fails, even better.

So… OWC has 320GB harddrives (and at the same 5400 RPM as the current 120GB that the Little MacBook That Could sports) for just under $148. You replace the MacBook drive, take the evicted 120GB and put it in the MacMini. And the potentially disaster-waiting-to-happen 60GB Seagate? Put a case around it, and turn it into an external drive for storing the backups of the shoots the MacBook carries around when traveling. It’s not too likely that both drives would fail…. is it? 🙂

The key point here kiddies is that storage is cheap, relatively speaking. For the price of recovering one drive, you could put a Drobo on your desk, and still have enough coin left over to fill it up with 1TB drives, and still have enough left over to put an external drive outside the laptop for Time Machine backups. The alternative universes of data loss just ain’t pretty…..