MacBook Air – My First Week


As many of you know, I am now a convert to the Cult of Mac.  I finally broke down and bought a MacBook Air this past week.  I’ve spent some time using it and I think I’m about ready to give my first impressions based on what I’ve learned so far.

My primary reason for getting a MacBook was to spend some time learning the OS.  I’ve taken the OS X Snow Leopard Administration exam already thanks to my Hackintosh and the time I’ve spent troubleshooting some of my friends’ MacBooks.  If I’m going to seriously start to work on deploying them and working on them, I figured it was time to eat a bit of my own dogfood.  Thanks to Best Buy running a nice sale on the entry-level MacBook Air, I leaped at the chance while I could.  I knew I wanted something portable rather than having a 21″ iMac on my desk.  I did spend a lot of time going back and forth about whether I wanted a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air.  The Pro does have a lot more expandability and horsepower under the hood.  I would feel a lot more comfortable running virtual machines with the Pro.  However, the Air is an ultraportable that would come in very handy for me on my many recent travels with things like Tech Field Day.  The SSD option in the basic Air was also a lure, as my SSD in my Thinkpad was the best investment I have made.  Add in the $1000 (US) price difference, and the Air won this round.

I’ve used OS X quite a bit in the last 6 months, but most of my experience has been on Snow Leopard.  Lion wasn’t much different on the surface, but it did take some time for me to relearn things at first.  I spent the majority of my time the first couple of days finding things to replicate the tasks that I spend most of my time doing each day.  I installed VMware Fusion as my OS virtualization program thanks to my status as a VMware partner, and I installed MS Office thanks to my Microsoft Gold Partner status.  Afterwards, I looked back over the lists I had compiled for Mac software, such as those found in the comments of my Software I Use Every Day post.  I settled on OmniGraffle for my drawing program and TextWrangler for my basic text editor.  After installing the drivers for my USB-to-serial adapter, I figured I was ready to strike out on my adventure of using a Mac day-to-day.

I’ve already encountered some interesting issues.  I knew Outlook at my office would be broken for me thanks to some strange interactions between Outlook 2011, Exchange 2007, and Exchange Web Services (EWS).  Outlook 2011 might as well be called Outlook 1.0 right now due to the large amount of issues that have cropped up since the switch from Entourage.  Most people I know have either switched back to using Entourage or have started using the native Mail.app.  I have decided Mail.app is the way to go for me until Outlook 201x comes out and actually works.  I also have to remember to use the Command (⌘) key for my CTRL-based shortcuts when I’m in OS X proper.  The CTRL-key commands still work in my terminal sessions and Windows RDP sessions, so the shift in thinking goes back and forth a lot.  I’m also still trying to get used to missing my familiar old Trackpoint.  I like the feel of the MacBook trackpad, and the gesture support is quickly becoming second nature.  However, the ability to navigate without taking my hands off the keyboard is missed some times.  I also miss my Page Up and Page Down keys when navigating long PDFs.  I know that the scrolling is very smooth with the trackpad, but putting a PDF into page mode and tapping a key is a quick way to go back and forth quickly.  The other fun thing that cropped up was a ground hum from the power supply when recording Packet Pushers show 78.  Thankfully, Ivan Pepelnjak was able to help me out quickly since he recently got his own MacBook.  If you’d like to read his thoughts on his new MacBook, you can go here.  I can definitely identify with his pains.


Tom’s Take

When I announced that I had finally fallen to the Dark Side and bought a Mac, the majority of the responses boiled down to “about time, dude”.  I can’t help but chuckle at that.  Yes, years ago I actively resisted the idea of using a Mac.  I’ve started to come around in the past few months due to the fact that most of the software that I use has an equivalent on the Mac.  Given the fact that I’ve already had to start running some of my software on a Windows XP VM instead of natively on Windows 7 64-bit, the idea of switching wasn’t that abhorrent after all.  I don’t know if the Air is ever going to replace my every day Windows computing needs.  I know that carrying it around on trips is going to be a lot easier than lugging the 8-pound Lenovo behemoth through the TSA gauntlet.  Maybe after I spend a little more time with OS X Lion I’ll finally get my processes and procedures to the point where I can say goodbye to the Redmond Home Improvement Corporation and settle down with the Cupertino Fruit Company.

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11 thoughts on “MacBook Air – My First Week

  1. Hi Tom,

    nice post. I quite a while thinking about switching to mac,
    and now you and Ivan inspires me to moving on the dark side too)
    Are you tried gns3 on it? What is the battery life?
    Could you show your specification or part number?
    How do you think can I migrate from the 10′ android tablet (asus transformer) to the air?

    • I haven’t yet tried GNS3. The dual-core processor and 4 GB of RAM would suggest that it should run things fairly well, but I wouldn’t expect to be able to get a large amount of routers running at once.

      The battery life has impressed me quite a bit. I keep it plugged in on my desk at home because I don’t like it going to sleep too quickly, but when I use it on the couch I can let it go for 5-6 hours of regular use without totally draining the battery.

      The model number for my unit is MC965LL/A, the 13″ model with 128GB SSD. I think you should be able to move from a 10″ tablet to this unit, provided you can find applications that work with the Mac versus Android. I plan on following up in a few weeks with a post about Mac applications that I’m finding useful.

  2. Regarding GNS3…use GNS3-Workbench within VMWare Fusion, works like a charm on my early2010 MBP 15″ with 4GB RAM and core i5 2,8GHz, if i remind correctly…got so unconcerned about that facts, compared to windows-times, since i bought my Mac. Now i even bought a iMac 27″ and use it for everydays work. The sun doesn´t always shine on the apple side, but i´m quite pleased coming back to the fruit company after 15 years…my last one was a Performa 630…piece of shit. 😦

      • This worked fine too, but i use the GNS3-VM stored in my dropbox, where i can access it from MacOSX@home and Win7@office. Simplifies things. 🙂
        But a native install worked, too. I´ve done this under 10.6.2 in the last year, but have no need for it now, all works perfectly with the GNS3-VM.

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