Unveiling my new MacBook

I’ve had my new MacBook for nearly a week now and what I can say? I’m in love. I’ve even started liking the glossy screen, which I hated before I bought it. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about the experience of getting the laptop out of the box. I know that opening the box of a new electronic gadget is usually done without much thought – I mean, who cares about the packaging? All we want is what’s inside, right? Well, apparently Apple cares. Its attention to design and form extends to the packaging. Anybody who has an iPod knows that.  The volume of packaging has been reduced in recent years but opening the box is still quite an experience. Here’s my new MacBook:




Neat package, if only my office was this neat…


New working setup. I can view my documents on the 24″ iMac while taking notes on my laptop. It’s been working great this past week!



I heart Macs

I love my 12″ Powerbook. I think it’s the best laptop Apple has ever produced. It totally converted both my husband and I into Macs and it’s been my faithful and trusty machine since 2004. Although it still works perfectly, has the latest version of Mac OS X, new memory and a new high speed 100GB hard drive, time has come to upgrade. I’m not a light user – I always have at least 10 programs running simultaneously and a score of web pages. I routinely need to run Adobe CS3 and I do web design and photography work. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, my 12″ Powerbook was starting to show its age and there were things I couldn’t do with it without an extra dose of patience.

It was then that Alan started talking about using computers as a media centre at home. Basically, the idea is to have all our music on itunes and have it connected to a stereo system that can be activated remotely (he found a nifty way of doing this using the ipod touch as a remote control). The initial idea was to get a Mac Mini but once we started pricing everything, it became clear that for a bit more we could get the new laptop I needed and use my old laptop as the multimedia centre. This idea occurred to us last weekend and after a week of researching to make sure the 12″ Powerbook would work well as a multimedia centre, we finally bit the bullet. Today I got my new Macbook.

I know people are sick of hearing Mac fans brag about their computers but I have to say something about one of my favourite features of OS X. Setting up a new Mac. All I had to do was take it out of the box, plug it in to the power supply, turn it on and it asked me if I wanted to migrate from a previous Mac. I said yes, and selected the backup drive I had used to backup my Powerbook earlier this morning. In half an hour (30 minutes!) all the software, files, accounts, EVERYTHING, I had on my Powerbook was installed in my new MacBook. Anybody who has gone through re-installing software, files and setting up internet and network connections knows how amazing that is. I’m happy.

Upgrading the OS

As many of you know, we are a Mac family. In addition, Alan and I are both computer geeks and like to have the latest version of any software we use, let alone the operating system. Of course we bought Leopard, Apple’s much-touted new upgrade to OS X, as soon as it came out some months ago. We installed it right away in our iMac and have been enjoying it there ever since. But although we bought a family license for Leopard, we didn’t install it right away on our laptops. One of the reasons is that our laptops (a 12″ and a 15″ Powerbook) both have PowerPCs chips and there was some question at first as to how well would the new operating system – optimized as it is to work well with the new Inter chip in our iMac and the latest Macs – would work on older machines. Since I rely so much on my laptop for all my academic work, I didn’t want to risk it at first. And I also had to wait until all of the software I use would catch up to Leopard.

The time has finally come. Leopard is now on version 5 4 it seems and most of its initial bugs seem to have been exterminated. So this afternoon I finally cleaned up my hard drive (deleted junk, cleaned my trash, removed software I didn’t need), made a full back up to an external firewire drive. I’m now half-way towards making a clean install of Leopard on my trusty 12″ Powerbook. The next step will be to migrate all my files and applications from the external drive. I know things should work fine, I’ve done major OS upgrades before, but I still feel like a parent whose child is having a heart transplant…

PS: did I tell you I might be converting my brother into getting his first Mac? I promised him he would not regret the jump.

Update: Yay! It’s done! Hooray to Apple for creating an operating system that allows you to do a clean install – i.e. formatting the hard drive and installing the operating system from scratch – and then allowing you to migrate everything you had in your old machine without having to re-install a single software. Even the internet settings, desktop picture, preferences, everything migrates seemlessly. That’s why there’s no going back for me.

Fake Steve

I’ve been reading the Secret Diary of Fake Steve Jobs for a while and generally get a real kick out it. I’m a Mac fan and the parody of Steve Jobs is really well done. For over a year no one knew who Fake Steve was despite the many journalists and tech analysts trying to figure out. Fake Steve Jobs became a phenomenon on the Internet until he was finally busted by a NYT journalist in August last year. The site has continued, but now we all know that the author is really Dan Lyons from Forbes magazine. Today I found this really funny talk with Dan Lyons explaining how the blog came about – the guy is REALLY funny.

MacBook Air

MacBook Air With much fanfare, Apple released this week MacBook Air, probably the world’s thinnest laptop. I was converted into the Mac world when I bought my 12″ Powerbook G4 about three and a half years ago. I wasn’t entirely convinced that it was the best choice but the price was good (I had a student discount) and it was the only laptop at that price range at that time that came with wireless internet. Since I still had a Windows desktop as my main computer, I convinced myself that even if it wasn’t that great, I was only going to use it for typing notes at school and accessing the internet anyway. And I still had my Windows machine for everything else.To cut a long story short, the Windows machine got used less and less until I finally got rid of it altogether.  When the time came for Alan to replace his desktop for a laptop when we went to Spain, he bought a 15″ Powerbook. On our way back, we needed a desktop for some more powerful image processing. A 24″ iMac it was. We don’t even follow what’s going on in the Windows world anymore. We’re Mac addicts now and I can’t see myself not having a Mac as my main computer. When Apple introduced its new line of computers with an Intel chip we got pretty excited. The Powerbooks were replaced by a new line of fast MacBook Pros. Unfortunately that new line didn’t have a 12″ laptop. It might sound small, but a 12″ laptop is ideal for lugging around and taking notes at the library. Having the height and width (not the depth, of course) of a regular sheet of paper, it fits anywhere. I’ve even carried it in a purse.So I’ve been waiting for a 12″ MacBook Pro. I’ve heard lots of rumours that Apple was working on an ultra-light laptop. My hopes soared. And the rumours came true this week.  But I’m not happy.Sure, the new MacBook Air has some nifty features like being able to pinch, swipe or rotate an image using the trackpad. Or the backlit keyboard that I so wished to have on my laptop. But it also had to sacrifice in other areas, like no CD/DVD (you need an external one) and only one USB port. And it’s 13.3″…Maybe I was expecting something  light but still fully-featured.  It just didn’t make me jump and want to rush to the store. Luckily, Apple laptops have long lives. My PB was 3 years old when I finally had to replace its battery. I’ve added a bit more memory and replaced the hard drive for something bigger last month and now it feels brand new! I won’t be needing a new one for a while… 

New OS

Here I stand, waiting for OS X 10.5 (aka Leopard) to finish installing on our iMac. Yes, we were one of those Apple nerds who pre-ordered the new and flashy operating system as soon as we possibly could.

There are some pretty nifty new features on the new OS, but the ones I’m looking forward to the most are the new Dock, with its stacking feature  – I need every help I can get to keep my desktop semi-organized -, and the new Finder, with its ubercool cover flow.

I’m just not sure whether I’ll be installing it on my laptop right away. We bought a family license (i.e. we can install on 5 computers), but I’m not sure if it would make my laptop somewhat slower. Maybe I’ll buy some more memory first. Usually, new Apple OSs don’t really require new hardware upgrades in the same way as Windows updates do, but it seems that this new one, with all of its 64 bit processing and multi-threading capability is a bit out of  the league of older machines… We’ll see…

Customer service

Among the many errands we had to run today – such as buying a couch – was a visit to the Apple Store at the Eaton Centre. When we bought our iMac back in June, we also bought an Airport Extreme Base Station. It’s basically a fancy wireless router that can also work as a server for a printer or an external hard drive. It worked flawlessly for a couple of weeks and then, suddenly, we couldn’t find the printer anymore. We went by the Apple Store one day and asked the guy at technical support for some ideas on how to troubleshoot it. He told us to try a factory reset and if that didn’t work, to bring it in. OK, easy enough. We tried resetting it a few times. Still no printer. So we brought it in this afternoon. The system at the store is pretty neat. You log on either from home or at one of the gazillion computers at the store and book an hour with someone from their tech support – the so-called Genius Bar. We got there at 1:45 and found a slot open at 2 pm. We told them what happened – that the printer couldn’t be found on the network and that we trying to reset to no avail – and the guy didn’t even hesitate, “ok, let’s just exchange it for a new one”. He didn’t ask how long did we have it, he didn’t ask us to try new tricks, he didn’t claim there was something wrong with the printer. I even asked if he didn’t want to try plugging it in first and testing it. He said it wouldn’t make any difference since he didn’t have our printer. So we walked out ten minutes later with a new Airport Extreme. Gotta love customer service in this country…

The iPod to measure value of currencies

For some years, the price of McDonald´s Big Mac was used to gauge the value of a specific currency. Now one of Australia´s largest bank has developed a new indicator for foreign exchange based on Apple´s ubiquitous digital music player. iPod nano

One of the basic differences between the two foreign exchange indicators is that whereas Big Macs are made in a host of countries, iPods are made only in China and in theory it should cost the same anywhere – with some allowances made to import duties and volume discounts.

The first reading of the iPod index for 26 countries listed Brazil as the place where the iPod is most expensive and Canada where it is the cheapest. No surprise there. My brothers always ask me to buy electronic equipment for them when I go to Brazil for the holidays. I once went to the Brazilian Apple site and was shocked by the cost of computers. My 12″ Powerbook, which cost me about CDN $ 1,800 (roughly about BR$ 3,500-4,000) was listed at almost 10,000 brazilian reais!!! That would be almost CDN$ 5,000 at the time. For that reason alone, I leave my Powerbook at home when I go to Brazil…

If you want to know more about the iPod index, go here.