A month ago, I mused purchasing a 13″ MacBook Pro. My primary reasons for considering the MBP were the freedom of OS choice, “seeing what all the fuss is about,” premium hardware for just a couple hundred dollars more, excellent customer support, and a healthy dose of nostalgia.
Approximately a week after writing the post, a friend let me know of a rare deal: a friend of his who just so happens to be an Apple authorized reseller was in jeopardy of losing her authorization because her sales were really low. In order to meet her goal, she was selling Apple hardware at cost. You can’t beat cost! Combine that ~$300 savings with putting the purchase on a credit card with excellent rewards, and it would put me over the edge of my reward amount needed to get myself with a free flight worth about.
So, I bought a stock mid-level 13″ MacBook Pro, the one with a 2.53 GHz Core2Duo, 4 GB of DDR3, and a 250 GB HDD. I did get AppleCare and a remote, although the remote was backordered and mysteriously hasn’t arrived yet (should hear why on Monday).
I’ll never go back. Apple has a solid hardware product with bells and whistles which themselves make me glad I bought it, plus a slick operating system which appeases my desire for an easy-to-use, on-the-go environment.
Hardware. Seven hours of battery life. Seriously. I got right around that many hours the day I took this screenshot about a week after I bought it. The multitouch touchpad with its gestures are amazing and have seriously changed how I use a touchpad–even more once I enabled tap-to-click I miss them when I use a non-Mac laptop. The magnetic power cord connector should be on every computer: it’s saved my ass twice now. The graphics card is enough to handle Left4Dead with most of the settings on medium, and it’ll certainly handle the older games and casual games I tend to play more often these days. The screen color is amazing and the keyboard is the most welcoming keyboard I’ve ever used. This is the first line of Mac laptops with an SD card reader, and that’s indispensable for me these days with the dog show photography I’ve been doing.
Downsides? I’m not too hot about the non-removable battery, but I’ve never needed a second battery even on my old Averatec which had approximately two hours of battery life. Apple made a data-driven design decision when choosing this path. I’ve not heard many complains except from people who are resistant to change. Folks who really need another battery can suffice for the hour-long charge time while plugged into something like a HyperMac battery. I also wish it had a real microphone port, but how often do I actually use a microphone? Never. The built-in mic is sufficient for almost everything I’d ever use it for. I’m also not too hot about the lack of a DVI or HDMI port and a mini-Displayport instead, but it’s another data-driven design decision and technically Displayport is a better standard for video. I ordered an adapter from Amazon; it’ll arrive this week.
Software. Mac OS X isn’t new to me. I used 10.5 on Jon’s Macbook when I borrowed it for a few months last year, and used 10.1 back in high school. It’s not a huge adjustment for me, so I’ll not go over such nuances. However, there are a few things I must highlight, primarily so that Linux folks like myself can mirror these features in Ubuntu, Fedora, and the like.
Time Machine is indispensible. I configured Time Machine to work with my QNAP NAS and it backs up regularly. The whole system! Efficiently! Recoverably! With an excellent interface for both setup and browsing and recovery. rdiff-backup pulls this off on Linux, but there’s no “don’t make me thing” GUI for it like there is for Time Machine.
Drag-and-drop installation of programs has always been one of my favorite things about OSX. No complicated installer program with click-through EULAs, no broken packages or forced upgrades. Sure, the packages are larger because of universal binaries and statically linked libraries, but I’d rather take up another 10 MB if it means I can simply drop an icon in a directory to install it, or move it to the recycle bin to remove it. I’ve been using iUseThis to track my used programs and combining it with AppFresh for version updates.
OSX is just Unix-y enough for a lot of the stuff I do. MacPorts gives me access to a lot of utilities, especially Synergy, which allows me to use the mouse and keyboard of one computer on another via a network connection. I’ve also used it for up-to-date Python and other scripting and development tools. I use Visor to give me a drop-down, Quake-style terminal in which I do lots of command line stuff, primarily via an SSH connection to one of my many Linux computers.
Perhaps one of the most care-free benefits of OSX for me is painless hibernate, sleep, and suspend. I can shut the lid and forget about it. I’ve rebooted the Mac maybe thrice in the month I’ve had it (outside of OSX updates). I’ve never seen Linux or Windows hibernate/suspend working this well on any hardware.
Downsides? There aren’t many. Sometimes I get frustrated when I can’t find an OSX analogue for a Linux program I’ve used. I have yet to find a decent microblogging client which I like as much as Gwibber on Linux. Despite being written in the highly-portable Python language, Gwibber depends on a few things that OSX just doesn’t provide. I’ve tried Tweetdeck, Nambu, Spry, and a host of others, but just can’t find the feature set I want (eveything most clients have, plus Identica, Facebook, and Flickr plugins). Twirl comes the closest, so I’ve been using it. Eventbox is showing promise as it becomes Socialite, but I’ve yet to actually see it in action.
A major problem I have with my OS choices is that I like to tinker. OSX gives me the freedom to tinker with a lot of things, but its defaults suffice for almost everything. I think it’ll be more difficult for me to screw up OSX than it is for me to screw up Linux or Windows.
I’m pleased with my purchase and haven’t had the buyer’s remorse I’ve had sometimes when making such a giant purchase. The MacBook Pro laptop was designed with both low-level and power users in mind, and I highly appreciate it. It’s just enough to not be too much.