My First Mac

Tuesday, Jun 30, 2009 2:14 pm
William Barnes

So I did it. I went over to the shiny side. A little over a week ago, Apple announced an update to the MacBook Pro line and so I went to the Apple store to check out the new computers. I always do this when Apple releases a new MacBook. I’ve thought about buying a Mac for years. OS X is close enough to Linux for me to feel comfortable and Apple products are often shiny. But the white plastic MacBook was still too clunky for me and it had the annoying one button touchpad. But then Apple came out with the unibody Macs and a new touchpad and I started seriously considering it. So when I went to check them out on Thursday, I was doing it with the intent of making a decision on whether to buy one or not. To my surprise, I came home with a brand new 15″ MacBook Pro. I’ve been using it for five days and I now have things to write about it.

The Computer

It is just beautiful. It’s shiny and solid and just looks absolutely perfect. The 15″ screen is great. I’m used to small notebooks (my first three were 13″ and my last was 12″) and I didn’t think I’d like a big one, but this Mac has changed my mind. One reason I haven’t liked large notebooks is that as the screen gets larger, manufacturers care less about the thickness and weight. But the MacBooks are all the same thickness. So while it’s much wider, it’s not bulky. It feels compact in a way 15″ notebooks seldom do. The keyboard is full-sized and comfortable. There is no delete key (although the backspace key is labeled delete). You have to press Fn+Delete/Backspace to do a “reverse delete”. The new touchpad is also great. The whole thing is one big button and if you click with two fingers it does a right click. It took them twenty years, but Apple finally invented a better mouse click.

Mac OS X

OS X is much like Gnome (or Gnome is much like OS X, it’s hard to tell). One of the reasons I didn’t switch years ago was my addiction to virtual desktops in Linux. Apple finally (even Windows XP had it) added that a year or two ago. I wish you could easily drag windows between desktops. OS X is very comfortable. My only complaint is that it is really hard to change certain behaviours. For example, hidden files are hidden by default. Fair enough, but there is no option to unhide them. The only way to do it is to type some obscure command into a terminal and restart Finder. That’s not user-friendly Apple. Another thing is that Apple apps save files to random places (desktop, home folder, documents, etc) and most of them don’t seem to have an option to change the default location. I don’t mind if they don’t give me a save dialog each time, but at least let me go into the preferences and fix it. On the other hand, it’s beautiful how everything works together. Yesterday, I got a reminder on my iPod that I have to finish signing up for courses. It almost makes you want to switch to Apple products exclusively. Except I still use multiple other computers running Windows and Linux and I want my email and schedule on them as well. I wish it would play nicer with Google, but of course if it did that then people wouldn’t need to spend $100 a year on Mobile Me.