macbook pro, cons and pros

Having had my new mac for a few weeks now, it is time for a review.

In a nutshell, consider me switched. Overall it’s great and a huge improvement over my slow XP based laptop.

However, since everybody seems to focus on how great macs are,  I’m going to first focus on everything that I think sucks or otherwise annoys the hell out of me. Aside of course from Steve Jobs launching new models right after I got my mac.

  • Key bindings. A matter of taste, habit, and also a matter of consistency. My main gripe is with the latter. I use Mac Office (entourage, word, powerpoint), eclipse, a terminal window and of course firefox. Mac Office is the only of these which preserves the quite sensible behaviour for the home and end key that you find on just about any platform: home means beginning of line, end means end of line. The default in mac applications is different: beginning of document and end of document. I need the former functionality dozens of times per day and the latter … well never actually. So it’s a mess. I ended up reconfiguring eclipse because looking at the java imports each time I press home gets old real quick. Thankfully eclipse is fully configurable. I also attempted configuring the mac itself. Very few applications seem to pay attention. The Terminal application also has its settings, and ignores mac defaults regarding this anyway. Which leaves firefox. Annoyingly still looking for a solution to that one.
  • Delete. The backspace is called a delete button. My usb keyboard has two delete buttons and a clear button. One of the delete buttons is actually a real delete button. Command+delete only works with the backspace variant. The clear button seems equivalent to the (real) delete button. My laptop has one delete button but it is not a delete button. I normally use the delete button almost as much as the 26 letter keys. Gimme back my delete button! If this doesn’t sound very logical, consistent or usable that’s because it isn’t.
  • Mighty Mouse. Of course I got a Mighty mouse with my mac usb keyboard. Nice experiment this touch sensitive surface but I really mean left click when my index finger clicks left of the wheel/ball thingy. Likewise for right clicks. This goes wrong a lot. Middle clicks are annoyingly difficult. The side buttons require quite a bit of grip to press. Yet, it is surprisingly easy to click them accidentally. In short, strongly considering to hook up a reall mouse now.
  • Alt+tab. Expose is nice but often I just want to switch back and forth between two windows. This works fine as long as they are application windows, but not if they are document windows. So open two mails in separate windows and you can’t switch with alt+tab between them.
  • Window management. You can minimize windows. But then it is a lot more difficult to switch to them. Double clicking a window title minimizes (on win32 this means maximize). So I accidentally minimize loads of windows which I then need to find back in the dock. Annoying. When minimized, windows are nowhere to be seen in alt+tab or expose. This sucks if you want to switch back to them. Which is the whole point of minimizing vs. closing a window.
  • No file move supported in finder. This stinks. No select file, command+x, command+v. No right click, move. No file->move. Apparently possible to do with drag and drop and option key. Defaults to copy though :-/.
  • Finder. In general, the finder is a bit underpowered if you are used to windows explorer. I miss my folder tree.
  • Time machine + file vault. Loads of trouble to get this working properly. It’s sort of backing up now, finally. But not exactly ‘it just works’.
  • No VGA connector. This means I need to drag along a converter whenever I go to meetings because most beamers come without a DVI cable. Annoying.

In all fairness, three weeks is not enough to get rid of my windows habits. Especially since I still have an XP machine at home.

However, I’m getting more efficient on the mac by the day. I’ve absorbed tons of new tricks and have had loads of fun figuring out little issues. Here’s my list of big grin on face causing stuff:

  • Display arrangement. I have my laptop left of my 20″ screen. It’s slighly lower. I managed to arrange the screens such that when I move my mouse horizontally, it moves to the other screen at more or less the same altitude. Cool.
  • Display settings persist. The display settings survive me unplugging the laptop, using a beamer for some presentation and plugging my monitor back in. Great & just the way it should be.
  • Ambient light adjustment. Quite funny when I covered the right most sensor while pressing the delete (or rather backspace), the screen dimmed. Turned out that with the desklight shining on one side of the laptop, covering the lit sensor with your hand causes the screen to compensate for the sudden darkness by dimming. Had a good laugh about that. It actually has two sensors so this is only an issue if you are sitting in the dark next to a desk light.
  • Photo screensaver. Looks great with my vacation photos. Apparently my efforts to calibrate my windows PC at home were reasonably successful since the photos look excellent on the laptop, which of course is properly calibrated (being a mac and all that). Of course it dislays different photos on both screens, at the same time. Same for my desktop background, which updates every few seconds (without apparent performance hit).
  • Expose. Love it, partially compensates for the alt+tab. Inexplicably, they only show one desktop if you use spaces. I have it hooked up to my side mouse button.
  • It’s fast. It should be for this price of course. But still. It is fast. Gone is the endless disk churning that comes with windows.
  • It’s silent. This is the most silent laptop I’ve ever worked with. No vacuum cleaner type fans activating and deactivating all the time.
  • Multi touch touchpad. This is a really nice feature. Tap with two fingers -> context menu, drag with two fingers -> scroll. So much fun.

5 Replies to “macbook pro, cons and pros”

  1. Hello from another relatively recent Mac switcher 🙂

    I’ve mapped Exposé to the bottom right corner and Spaces to the top right corner, and you can activate them both – just touch both corners with the cursor.

    You can do the dualhead display setup with a Thinkpad as well. I’ve used it for years. It’s not nearly as seamless and reliable there, though.

    Second you on the annoyances, and add one of my own: why, oh why can’t you resize a window from anywhere else than the bottom right corner? That “feature” makes no sense.

  2. resizing the windows.. OMG. It annoyes me as well.

    Did anyone of you run the Nokia VMWare image for Windows? I find it superior to my previous Thinkpad (X61) – faster performance, bootup and less hick-ups (blue screens)

    You know you can launch Expose (actually not all doc windows but all windows in that space) by drapping 4 fingers on the touchpad?

    Finder sucks. Try Forktree.

    Other really useful apps: Quicksilver, BPenabler (allows to get your sms’ to the macbook via bluetooth), vlc a must (all possible media-formats suppported).

    Space has some really annoying feature if you run Microsoft. It can be nearly impossible to get back into a Word-document.

  3. I’m running the vmware windows image from Nokia of course. It’s OK but not great performance wise.

    I know about the various gestures. However, my trackpad is not really designed for more than two fingers. I’ve set expose up such that moving to the bottom left corner activates it. I’ve disabled spaces in the end since it was just annoying me.

  4. Like you, I too have emigrated from Windoze XP to the Mac and love it. OS X is so much more powerful, with its BSD Unix foundation and the hardware is top quality with an intelligent design. I got the 17″ MBP unibody with the processor and HD upgrades and love how fast the machine is. This machine does everything I want it to and more, giving me a good platform for studying Unix and acquiring open-source math/physics apps.

    Win NT was a good OS as it was developed by David Cutler in the early 90s, but it has been corrupted badly since Win 2000. MS should have but didn’t and probably will not develop a really good 64-bit modern OS, something along the lines of a modern day BEOS. The Unix foundation of OS X will allow Apple to continue development in house and to reap the benefits of others around the world who are doing cutting-edge development on the BSD variants.

    In a nutshell, I don’t see a long-term future for Windoze as a product that can evolve beyond its limitations and weaknesses. You made a good choice in choosing a platform that will be relevant way into the future. I think that M$ should just try to stick to writing good apps and leave the business of OS development to others.

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