What I Was Waiting For All Day Long

Meet my new toy, one of the new 13-inch Macbook Airs. I bought it because I needed a fully-functional laptop, and the two that I have aren’t cutting it for me anymore. The netbook, while really handy, is ultimately just too small to do anything other than answer e-mail on; the CR-48, with the Chrome OS, is underpowered (video of any sort is choppy) and doesn’t work when there’s no Internet connection. Neither had a lighted keyboard, either, which is something I’ve been kind of lusting after for a while now. The new MacAirs have been rapturously reviewed, are now powerful enough as computers not to be merely an affectation, and have brought back the lighted keyboards. Good enough for me. I now own one.

For those Macheads among you who might crow about how I’ve now joined the dark side, two things for you to consider: one, I’ve owned Macs before (the very first computer I ever owned was a Mac SE; and I bought an iMac back in ’05 and wrote The Ghost Brigades on it) and we have both iPods and iPads around the house; two, I’ll presently be putting Windows 7 on this baby in a dual boot sort of situation. I didn’t buy this because I want to wallow in the Apple ecosystem; I bought it because it gives me the hardware specs I want at a price I can live with. Call it the practical side of me.

That said, the Lion OS seems fairly decent at this point, and it’s been long enough since I’ve worked on the Mac that all the changes in Lion that might frustrate me if I was a longtime user don’t bother me in the slightest. Even the backwards scrolling doesn’t faze me because I’ve been using the iPad. I can tell I’ll have a little bit of learning curve involved with it, but, eh, there’s a learning curve every time you get something new.

I was considering getting the 11-inch Air rather than the 13-inch, but now that I have the thing, I’m glad I went for the extra couple of inches. One of the things I very much liked about the CR-48 was the size of the screen (12 inches), which was big enough to have a decent amount of screen space and small enough not to be heavy and unwieldily. The 13-inch Air stays in that sweet spot of size/weight, and has enough computing power under the hood for me to do what I got it for (writing, some video, causal gaming).

In all, I’m pretty happy with the purchase. And I accept that between this and the Mini, the only thing standing between me and full-blown hipster bastardhood is the lack of a man bag. I can pretty much guarantee I won’t be getting one of those.

81 thoughts on “What I Was Waiting For All Day Long

  1. Nice John. A friend of mine bought that very one (well not THAT one… ) and it’s a sweet machine. You might know this but several of the defaults like scroll behavior etc are different in Lion and can be reversed if you find you don’t like their behavior. FWIW, VMWare Fusion seems to run fine if you find yourself needing to run Windows on that and want to do it in a VM vs Bootcamp.

  2. You do realize that now fans are going to give you *piles* of man bags, just to complete your devolution. Soooo, are you a messenger bag kinda guy, or is a satchel more your speed?

  3. Do you use the trackpad when traveling, or do you bring along a portable mouse? I use a Mac myself, and the first thing I did was ditch the one button mouse and pick up a small wireless two-button one. Lets me right click, which is ingrained after working on a windows system all day long at work. Even better, my mouse has a decent scroll wheel, something I hate not having and what was on the regular mac mouse was crap.

    And you do realize that someone is going to message Wil Weaton encouraging him to buy and present you with a manbag the next time you meet. Probably something retro in leather. (Just tell everyone it’s a satchel when they see it.)

  4. I recently bought a MacBook Pro 13″. I’ve retired my 5 year old MacBook to back up. One of the bet buys i’ve made. I hope you enjoy you MBA as Much as I enjoy my MBP.

    Ron

  5. Looks more like it has Mac OS X Lopsided Cat on it. (Maybe this is the 10.8 release?).

  6. Oh for the love of… John… why?? Why must you go to the dark side? Didn’t your wife raise you better than that? sigh…

  7. Word of advice: eschew dual booting. Virtualization is fast enough for almost everything, so save the effort (and disk!) and get a copy of VMware or Parallels instead. The advantage of not having to build *two* comfortable environments cannot be overstated. Just browser config alone – extensions, bookmarks, saved passwords, etc quickly becomes annoying to set up twice, to say nothing of maintaining long term.

  8. I’ve been reliably informed that it is a ~murse~ but really, whatever it’s called, It’s good to be able to schlep assorted stuff around. =)

  9. I’ve been thinking about getting one of these as well. It’s time for an upgrade, and given my computer use, I don’t see a reason to go with a MacBook Pro over the Air. The only thing i’m unsure about is whether to go 11″ or 13″. I guess a trip to the Apple Store is in my future to see if I’d be happy with 11″ or not.

  10. Being a hipster is all in the attitude, not the possessions. The attitude can LEAD to the possessions, of course. But I understand you have been known to enjoy things that are popular without having to do so ironically. Ergo, not a hipster.

  11. Personally, with these tiny laptop screens, I like to put the dock on the side to give myself a little more vertical space.

    It’s probably a moot point with Lion’s full screen modes, though.

  12. > In all, I’m pretty happy with the purchase. And I accept that between this and the Mini,
    > the only thing standing between me and full-blown hipster bastardhood is the lack of
    > a man bag. I can pretty much guarantee I won’t be getting one of those.

    Which is not to say someone won’t slip one into your luggage at a forthcoming con, heh heh…

  13. Oh yeah, VMWare Fusion works. I have both Win7 and RedHat VMs on my 4 year old MacBook (white plastic job), with 4 GB of RAM. Runs ok.

    @#14 DG Lewis. My 512K Mac boots Minix.

  14. @14 – Latecomer. I have a 128k Mac. One of the first 1000 in the state.

    John – if you do go VMware note that it only gives Windows 1g RAM by default. That might be enough, might not be, but you can adjust it.

  15. VMWare is great…if you don’t want to run games. But if you don’t want to run games, why bother?

    K.W. Ramsey@4: The new multitouch trackpads let you do more with the trackpad than you can do with a mouse. Pressing with two fingers is the same as right-click. Swiping with two fingers is the same as a scroll wheel. Swiping with three lets you do even more.

    After having gotten used to it, it’s painful going back to a computer without it.

  16. Pfft. No need to spend money on a virtual machine program. VirtualBox is perfectly decent and it’s free.

  17. You don’t get video acceleration with virtualization – unless you do? I’d dual boot in gaming situations.

    And John? You just told 45,000 uniques-a-day that they could convert you to hipsterdom simply by hitting the “Is this a gift” checkbox on Amazon. Expect unordered manbags to start piling up on your doorstep shortly.

  18. Erik,

    Not sure. The main reason to virtualize is if one needs to run a single program or do something quickly, but not spend a lot of time in Windows. Quickbooks is a classic example. It doesn’t exist on the Mac, but if you just need to run it to enter some information or a report, rebooting is a pain. Popping it up in a VM is much easier.

    A VM also minimizes wasted space which is something to consider on the Air unless you have a 256g SSD. Bootcamp lives on a partition and if you don’t size it carefully you’ll end up with too little space or a lot of unused space. Since you can’t resize partitions via Disk Utility that can be a pain too.

  19. I’d have never dreamed of buying a Mac (not opposed to it, just didn’t want to have to learn something new for what is basically a functional tool).

    But now, having owned an iPhone and an iPad. Yep, next time it’ll be a Mac Air!

  20. “I bought it because it gives me the hardware specs I want at a price I can live with. Call it the practical side of me.”

    Which is something “PC” enthusiasts have always said wasn’t possible when one bought a Mac. Even to this day…

  21. I have the old 13 inch. I’m notoriously hard on lap tops and this one is Charlie Stross’s cast off so it’s had two pretty demanding users, one way or another, and it has proved a surprisingly sturdy machine. The one possibly fault is the hinge: mine broke after eighteenmonths and is a “recognised fault”, so it was replaced free of charge.

  22. Congratulations on your purchase, John! The Macbook Air is a fine machine (I have a new 11.6″ model myself).

    Just a point though – under Windows you may need to seek a third-party app/extension/control panel to control the backlit keyboard. Likewise for the multitouch gestures on the trackpad.

    Also the backwards scrolling can be turned off. That was the first thing I did when I got mine!

  23. (1) I’m kind of out of date wrt Apple power. Is this along the lines of “I can video edit while playing COD” sort of machine? Regardless, congrats on the new hardware. Lighted keyboards are nice. I have one and highly recommend it.

    (2) Indiana Jones had a man bag. But just remember, that particular man bag was no fluffy fashion bag, but actually a British military-issue canvas gas-mask carrier, and it carried at various points in time, a bullwhip, a .45 revolver, the Holy Grail, Incan Treasure, and sacred Sankara stones, among other things. Context, and content, matters.

    (3) Two words: WHITE BALANCE!!!! Holy toledo. That white/grey mac is pink. Photoshop should have a white balance correction where you cna select a point in the picture that is supposed to be white. Try the inside of the mac and see if it straightens things out.

  24. Welcome to the Cult of Mac. Here’s a pair of tan Dockers, enjoy.

    Seriously, I work with Windows computers by day, sitting here with my little Macbook Pro is a joy after fighting kludge all dam’ day.

    Hope you have Pages on yours. I use it for club work (I’m secretary of a sporting club.)

    And how did we live in the days before ITunes?

  25. Manbag? The only “bag” a man should be toting stuff around in is a ruck sack. If it can’t fit in the ruck, in the car trunk, or a pocket leave it behind. Next thing we’ll here is that you were seen getting a manicure, sipping a latte, and getting your chest waxed… all at the same time. ;-)

  26. I have a 13 inch macbook pro, and I LOVE IT SO VERY MUCH, OH YES I DO. Its pricey, but well worth the money. I hope you enjoy your Air for a long time.

  27. @34: “Two words: WHITE BALANCE!!!! Holy toledo. That white/grey mac is pink. Photoshop should have a white balance correction where you cna select a point in the picture that is supposed to be white. Try the inside of the mac and see if it straightens things out.”

    I expect you’re seeing the result of Auto White Balance keying in on the backlight of the screen, while the room lighting is incandescent, leading to the orangey cast on everything but the screen.

  28. @4: “Lets me right click, which is ingrained after working on a windows system all day long at work. Even better, my mouse has a decent scroll wheel, something I hate not having and what was on the regular mac mouse was crap.”

    If you’re using a desktop Mac, scrounge up $69 and buy Apple’s bluetooth Magic Trackpad. It’s a MacBook-style multitouch trackpad for any Mac with Bluetooth. You can do right clicks in a few different, configurable ways, plus lots of multi-touch gestures that work well with Lion.

  29. Oh, if only we were wealthy at the moment. Tanita guarantees that you’ll have 15 “man bags” by next week … and one of those would have been from us except for being starving students at the moment.

  30. “…the only thing standing between me and full-blown hipster bastardhood is the lack of a man bag. I can pretty much guarantee I won’t be getting one of those.”

    Um, yeah. Famous last words. You’ll be presented with fifteen of them by Christmas.

  31. On virtualization:

    3D accel is possible now, but you’re probably not going to enjoy using that for gaming, especially with the somewhat slow Intel graphics on that thing.

    It’s also possible to single-boot that Mac to Win7 and then run Mac OS inside a virtual machine. The OSX license allows that now [1], and it’ll notice that its virtual machine is running on Apple hardware anyway. This method is probably not optimal if only because you probably can’t install updated EFI or other firmware that way, but I have set up Macs to run only Win7 before.

    I’ve found that right now you really want 4GB of RAM for running VMs on Mac hardware[2], and more is always better.

    [1] No doubt Apple intended that part of the license for running OSX on OSX, but oh well.
    [2] I have a whole department who use Macs but decided to buy a Windows program to manage their print jobs.

  32. Egads! A Macbook Air and a Mini? What next? Will Scalzi be gushing about his new fixie?

    Seriously, that looks cool. My Macbook Pro is getting a wee bit pokey so Daddy may need to buy one of those in the fall. Curious to hear your report after a few months.

  33. #10 by Jamie on July 29, 2011 – 10:32 pm

    “I’m waiting for the goatee, myself.”

    No, the ultimate in never-should-have-been-born hipsterism is the little ‘soul patch’ thingamajigger (’cause it’s not big enough to be a true beard). Or as I call it, a thumbprint.

    Throw in that and the little ‘rat tail’ in the back, and obnoxious hipsterism is yours. And if one wishes to ramp it up from there, buy two or three fixed-gear bikes and mount them on a rack bigger than the mini.

  34. I think the hipsters should all be into retro computers by now. Big heavy orange clamshell iBooks that they use ironically.

  35. Fat lot of good that MacBook Air will do you during the debtpocalypse. I guess you can smash intruders with it after you run out of shotgun shells.

  36. To throw this out there, Parallels is the other great virtualization option like VirtualBox or VMWare fusion. That said, I have heard of people buying Mac laptops to run some other OS exclusively on. It’s all good in the end anyway, and doing that will probably be less disruptive to your workflow than some other combo.

    Though I do wonder, did the normal box come inside a plain brown box (the last Mac I got via mail came that way), and did it come with any kind of restore media at all?

  37. Darth Scalzi: [T]he only thing standing between me and full-blown hipster bastardhood is the lack of a man bag.

    I don’t think you need a “man bag” to elevate your status. You have a Mini, a ukelele, and now a Mac. This should be more than sufficient to gain entry into the IOHB (International Order of Hipster Bastards). Unless, of course, you need a bag in which to carry your Mac, and its oh-so-hip accessories. ;-)

  38. @51 It’s too lightweight for that. He’d be better off sharpening the edges and throwing it at an intruder.

    Not sure if anyone else has mentioned this yet, but I believe the backwards scrolling can be turned off in the System Preferences, along with just about every other trackpad setting.

  39. @#29:

    To be clear, the MacBook Air is still overpriced. John’s apparently willing to accept paying twice as much just to get a backlit keyboard. If that’s practical for him, it’s practical for him.

    But Macs never have been the price/performance leaders — they tend in general to be twice as expensive as a similarly-positioned PC, and are often considerably less powerful.

  40. JediBear:

    “the MacBook Air is still overpriced.”

    Nah, not compared to a Samsung Series 9, or some of the very thinnest Sony VAIOs, or other such entries in the ultra-thin, ultra-portable segment, whose price tags are as much or more than those of the Mac Airs. I’m not just paying for the keyboard, but for the entire form factor, for which my shoulders will thank me when I travel.

    There’s certainly an argument to be made that this particular entire segment is overpriced, but as with anything, you look at what you’re willing to pay to get more of what you want and less of what you don’t. I’ll note I held off on considering a Mac Air until this latest iteration, when the specs on the inside (and, yes the lighted keyboard) justified the premium I was paying for the form factor.

  41. JediBear@55: Great! Can you give me a link to one of those PC laptops which is the same spec as the Air but half the price? And it should come with Windows 7 and a suite of apps which match iLife. And none of those 1″ thick plastic Dells with an Atom processor for $399.

    ‘Cause whenever I go look at decent PC laptops, once you add in a decent processor, screen resolution, battery life and other associated hardware I find the price to be within spitting distance of the equivalent MacBook. And I’m happy to pay a bit extra for excellent industrial design and a power supply which isn’t the size of a child’s shoebox.

  42. Alternative Eric S:

    Funny you should mention that. NPR had a spot a couple months ago about some type of coffee shop that sells access to shared dial-up Internet. Everyone in the shop that wants access has to share a 33.6 kbps modem, and some of said hipsters will bring “classic” early-mid ’90s laptops in.

    I can’t quite see the appeal of that, but eh.

  43. So, did you spring for the i7 processor, or stick with the i5? I just picked up an 11″ Air, and went with the i7 and 256G SSD… loving it so far…

    obligatory hipster joke: How did the hipster burn his mouth? He ate HIS pizza long before it became cool.

  44. From my understanding, in order to be a true hipster you need a goat… or maybe it was a goatee… I can never keep those straight.

  45. I think we know what John’s going to do to prepare for Debtpocalypse: wait for Steve Jobs to descend on a cloud of RDF to rapture up all Macolytes.

  46. I used to carry around my laptop bag all the time (with or without laptop), but finally caved and got a “man purse.” (I’ve since decided to just call it my purse. It doesn’t have to be gendered.) And I love it – it’s just big enough for my Kindle and/or iPad, collapsible umbrella, and all the standard purse items.

  47. @52: “Though I do wonder, did the normal box come inside a plain brown box (the last Mac I got via mail came that way), and did it come with any kind of restore media at all?”

    I believe the Air comes with a USB flash restore stick.

  48. I’ll take that CR-48 off your hands if it needs a good home. Talk about meeting the specs I want in a notebook …

  49. craig @51: “Fat lot of good that MacBook Air will do you during the debtpocalypse. I guess you can smash intruders with it after you run out of shotgun shells.”

    With some leather belts strapped around it, or a handle epoxied to the bottom, it could make a serviceable buckler for hand-to-hand combat.

  50. Your post here made me realize I need to get a lighted keyboard for my desktop computer, so I won’t have to turn on the lights to see the keys.

  51. I’m hoping the next version of the MacBook Pro will be the one where they take out the optical drive and make it about as thin as the MacBook Air. I like the 15″ screen a lot.

    Also (because I don’t have other expensive hobbies like a spouse or children), I want to buy one of those 27″ Thunderbolt displays. It’s not just a display–it adds three USB ports, a Firewire port, an ethernet port, all with one connection to the laptop. I can leave peripherals attached to the display, like the optical drive that I never need except when I do.

    I’ll get the incredible screen real estate of a 27″ iMac, along with a 15″ ultra-thin laptop that I can unplug and take with me.

    John, consider adding the Thunderbolt display if you ever feel hemmed in by your 13″ screen. It will be like a new computer, except it will already have all of your working files just where you left them.

    And welcome BACK to the dark side.

  52. Correction to the above. It actually takes two cables to attach the Thunderbolt to your MacBook. The display has a second cable for your MacBook’s power input, so you can leave the MacBook’s power supply in your man purse.

    Full disclosure: I do not work for Apple, but I am long on AAPL.

  53. I think you made a good choice going with the 13″ model. I bought the 11″ in Spring and really loved it but to get the size down the palm-rest area is basically non-existent. I noticed that the edge of the laptop was right where my palms rested on the keyboard. So it ended up digging into my palms.

    With the 13″ my hands rest perfectly on the laptop. You will also appreciate it when you have to travel. Its amazing. Sometimes I even forget I have the laptop with me at all when I am at conferences.

    — Chris

  54. Oh hey, a useful bit of information to contribute: if you set up a Win7 dual boot partition with Boot Camp, you can also install VMware (or Parallels) and use the boot camp partition as the VM’s boot device, so that all of your windows programs and files are accessible whether you’ve booted fully into windows or whether you’re running OSX plus the virtualizer.

    Now that Lion’s license officially allows virtualization on Apple’s hardware, I expect that you’ll shortly be able to do the same trick in reverse using VMWare Workstation on the Windows side.

  55. I wave hello to you from my MacBook Pro 15″ … :D

    I just bought one of those. It’s arriving in a few days. The reason I bought one is that (an earlier model of) MacBook Pro 15″ is my work computer, and I was starting to realize that the only thing I didn’t love about that computer was that I didn’t own it.

    I probably spent way too much; I’d be able to get by with the 13″. But I also figure that buying somewhat overpowered hardware is one way to make my computer purchases last longer. It’s worked for me up to now.

    Interestingly, the clock speeds have actually gone down while the number of cores doubled. It’ll be interesting to see if Apple’s claims of greater net performance are true. I suspect the answer will be “it depends”. But in any event it’ll be a lot faster than my old personal Mac, which is a dual-processor 1Ghz G4 tower from 2002.

  56. Too distracted by the nice picture of Lopsided cat to notice the computer at first. Mmm! Cat-picture!

  57. Don’t bother with Windows 7… it’s basically the same thing as the Mac OS anyways. Why spend the extra money?

  58. THE GHOST BRIGADES was your best novel.

    It was written on a Mac.

    Co-incidence? I think not.

Comments are closed.