Peter M Howard ::

The Night Before Christmas, or, Why I’m Buying a MacBook Air

21Jan2008 [mac]

In which there’s something in the aether.

On Lovemarks

Falling asleep last Tuesday night (the keynote running mere hours before I got up Wednesday), I felt like I was ten again, with the promise of presents in the morning, and it struck me how unusual it was that a corporation could make me feel that way.

It's not uncommon, the idea that there's something peculiar about Apple Inc that makes its customers feel special. I'd long liked Apple's products, but it wasn't until I made the switch that I really felt it. I'd immediately picked up Final Cut Studio, and switched to it within days, shutting down an edit I was doing in Avid and starting again in FCP. That was just the beginning.

I've since bought Aperture, because it and Lightroom seemed roughly equal, but having used FCP I knew I'd prefer the workflow. (It was unfortunate that Lightroom released an update shortly after that sped it up dramatically, and Aperture has yet to do the same. I'm pushing Aperture on the iMac way passed its limits with the size of the shoots I'm now doing. But I wait, convinced Apple will come up with a solution for me yet.)

And I picked up iWork on a whim; played with the demo, was pleasantly surprised by some of the interface elements in Numbers, and was all too happy to get rid of slow open source efforts.

On the Halo Effect

While it hasn't, just yet, extended to iPods, my love for all things Mac did make me pay for third-party software for the first time in years (having used Linux and various F/OSS options). I'd used a lot of feed readers, but I watch way too many feeds for most of them; NetNewsWire is blazingly fast, and I was happy to pay for it — now that it's free I wouldn't hesitate to recommended it to anyone on a Mac.

On Notebooks

It didn't take me long to get tired of using a Windows box at work. I still use it — a brief fling with Ubuntu made me realise the futility of alternatives — I need Word, Excel and Outlook for my work. But I've been seriously considering getting a notebook for some time, and a Mac was the obvious choice.

The problem, however, is that I wanted a secondary machine. I used a notebook as a primary for a long time, and though it was useful when I went to France, and I used it for work for a period, it wasn't very portable. It was okay for work because I could plug it into a wall for a day — but then all I was doing was avoiding the inconvenience of having to keep my work and home separate — which, admittedly, was perfect while I was contracting, so I could still do some work from home. But I rarely took it to uni; it wasn't worth the pain of carrying it around to be able to pull it out for the hour or two it lasted on battery. That notebook is now my home server, so stays connected to the wall all the time — its only benefit is that it's much quieter than a tower.

But now that I've the iMac at home, and a Windows beige tower at work, I only need a notebook to be portable (and to give me the OSX fix I'm missing by halfway through the day). I've been studiously following the rumours of a Mac sub-notebook for a couple months now, and have been hanging out for it — even a MacBook is too "big" for me. My iMac is my media machine; I use it to store my music and for video and photo editing. A notebook would be used to hack on a website or write — nothing processor-intensive.

And though "real" sub-notebooks are kinda cute, I was wary of the idea of pecking away at a miniature keyboard and squinting at a tiny screen. So the Air is perfect; it's actually a notebook — light, portable, simple.

On Aether

Amongst all the nitpicking, or the whining that Apple didn't release exactly what they'd predicted they would, the most sensible complaint has been that the Air doesn't come with a 3G card. Or rather, that Apple didn't give us ubiquitous wireless. (It is the future after all.)

But I'm not convinced. WiFi is enough for me, for now. The 3G networks here are still unreliable, and expensive.

I'd much rather use sensible software (like NetNewsWire) that lets me download the bits of the web I want, when I can get a connection. And really, I can get myself to a wifi network most of the time nowadays. If I can't, I probably don't need to be on the internet anyway.

On Form Over Function

Yes please.