Aluminium MacBook Review

The short version: This laptop rocks. End of story. 😉

The longer version: This is my first ever Mac, and I have to say I’m impressed. As a long-time PC geek, I’m finding it very easy to adapt to the Mac way of doing things. There are still a few things Ineed windows or Linux for, most notably Outlook and Xen Center, but for the most part I’ve been able to find OSX apps that suit all my needs. For the rest, VMWare Fusion fills the gap by letting me run my needed apps on my OSX desktop.

I bought the higher end 13.3″ MacBook at 2.4 ghz with the backlit keyboard, and it is totally worth the extra cash. The keyboard was a huge point of contention for me. Though the Mac keyboard is growing on me, I still miss the keyboard from my old Dell. The feel of the Apple KB is nice, but it’s keys are spaced far apart and it’s missing a few important keys as a result. No page up, no page down, no insert and no delete – it’s killing me right now, but I expect I’ll get used to it. The backlight is just plain sexy. It makes the machine a treat to use in bed.

Oh, and speaking of bed – this beauty has no vents on the bottom. You can toss it on a bed/couch/carpet/whatever and not have to worry about it roasting due to lack of airflow. It’s been a mystery to me for years why laptops insist on having vents on the bottom where they get blocked if you use the thing on the top of your lap. In all honesty, this was one of three main selling feature of this laptop for me. The other two being the trackpad and the ability to run OSX+Win7+Linux.

Ah, the trackpad. It is an absolute joy to use. Seriously. Working on any other laptop now feels cramped and counter-intuitive in comparison. The trackpad is HUGE, and the gestures are a joy to work with. The main thing preventing me from getting a Mac earlier was the continuing (retarded) decision to stick with a single mouse button. On the new-style pad removing the button and creating the two-finger right click-anywhere has totally resolved that issue for me, and then some!

The screen is lovely, with a bright led backlight, and a fairly decent viewing angle. The res is a little low (especially after playing with my boss’s thinkpad with it’s 1280×1050 res.) but I have no real complaints. It’s a screen, and it does it’s job admirably.

I should also mention that heat doesn’t seem to be an issue, even with the 2.4ghz proc. I’ve never seen it above 60 C, and usually it’s hovering around 49 with an almost completely silent fan. Compared to my Dell running around 79 this is a real treat!

For the most part, OSX is wonderful to work with. I’m especially loving the “Spaces” take on virtual desktops. I’ve used Virtual Desktops on almost every OS I’ve ever used, but Spaces totally nailed the experience. It’s flawless. I’m also loving having access to a bash prompt in a mature and friendly OS. (No offense to Linux… Linux rocks, and I use it on a regular basis, but it’s not something I’d install on my mom’s PC – yet. Soon, but not yet.)

I have a few minor complaints with OSX – mainly around the fact that OSX seems to think that “Connection failed” is a valid error message, where windows would say “Conection failed – unable to negotiate compatible encryption protocol.” I know the extra info might be confusing to some people, but when shit goes wrong I like to know why so I can fix it. But, there are 3rd party ways around OSXs insisting on treating me like I’m computer illiterate. GeekTool, for one, is saving my sanity. With it I’m able to have the system.log file always tailed on my desktop, so when I get a “Error” message, I just have to look at my desktop to know what the actual error message is.

There are a few must have apps for me already:

GeekTool. As mentioned above. It’s a keeper!

rEFIt. As a PC user, I absolutely must have rEFIt installed. This thing of beauty lets me triple boot between OSX, Linux, and WIndows with ease.

VMWare Fusion. Also mandatory, allowing me to boot those same OS’s virtually from their installed partitions – Impressive!

Ecto. Almost as good as Microsoft’s Live Writer. Almost. It does all that it should, and then some, and I feel no need to use Live Writer via VMWare instead of Ecto. It’s a lovely little app well deserving of it’s purchase price.

Remote Desktop Connection – I need this for work. Hard to admin a network if you can’t rdp to any servers.

Citrix Client – Same as above.

ZTerm or PuTTY – Both are just lovely for talking to switches etc on the console port.

MacSaber – Turn your MacBook in to a light saber. Do you need any other reason to download it?

That’s about it… There are lots of other must-have-apps for the mac, but those are the ones I use the most. You can find some other, more comprehensive lists here, here, here, and here.

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