Being a quick write-up on a day’s experience with a current 13-inch MacBook. Summary: I like how it feels but not how it looks.

Summary: 2.4GHz, 4G. I don’t get the Pro because I hate the extra size and weight on the road.

Migration · Yesterday I whined shrilly about the hours of work that the omission of FireWire, and consequent crippling of the excellent OS X Migration Assistant, cost me. I still think it was an error in judgment by Apple — the point is supposed to be that there’s less drudgery on a Mac — but I adopted Zack’s suggestion, like so:

  1. Make an admin account on the new Mac under a new name. I always have one of these around for backup purposes anyhow, named “Backup”.

  2. Use rsync to move your home directory (in my case, /Users/twbray) from the old to the new computer.

  3. Make an account on the new computer with the same short-name as on the old computer; OS X will helpfully notice the directory you just copied over, ask if you want to use that, and even go change the file ownerships for you (which can take a while).

That’s about all. A few minor settings here and there got lost, but nothing serious. I also rsynced over /opt and a few things from /Applications. The biggest pain point in getting everything running, since I didn’t migrate over my MySQL databases, was remembering how to set up the stupid MySQL “user accounts” and passwords that are no earthly use to anyone.

I have to give a tip of the hat to Adobe. I copied over Lightroom but it was whining about serial numbers. So I went off and logged into Adobe’s online store; it remembered everything I’d bought, offered a chance to re-download the latest versions, and had the serial numbers right there beside the download links.

This weird notion of proprietary binary-only packaged desktop software might just catch on, I tell ya.

Sad · I have to say I’ll be sorry to let Black Beauty go; maybe my favorite computer of the last couple of decades. But the keyboard was deteriorating under the pounding from my meaty farmers’ fingers, the 2G-RAM limitation was really starting to hurt, and well, hey, given the corporate backdrop, it seemed like maybe I should order while the ordering was good.

When this new thing is sitting side by side with Black Beauty, it looks like a Taurus beside a Lamborghini. The gleamy black and silver is ugly, ugly, ugly, to my eye; like a Dell. I suppose I’m in a minority.

The visual gloom extends to the screen, which is not particularly brilliant. I’ll reserve judgment on the colours till I calibrate it.

Other gripes: The keyboard’s action isn’t quite as smooth, and the back-lighting is amateurish; as I type this with the puter on my lap, I can see the light gleaming out from under the edges of all the keys.

Finally, I got the new Dual-link DVI adapter, just in case; I wish I’d read the reviews over at the Apple Store first. It burns one of your USB ports, providing a replacement with insufficient power for anything interesting; plus it’s big and klunky and ugly.

Happy · The combination of the speed-bump and extra RAM makes a difference. Everything’s a little snappier, and I can actually do real work in Lightroom. Which is good.

The unibody construction actually does make a difference too. Even with the keyboard gripes, my hands are happier slinging this thing around and pounding way with it on my lap.

The thing I particularly like, though, is the extra-large trackpad. I’m not using any of the new more-than-two-finger gestures, it’s just the size that’s nice. I’m not sure of the neuromuscular trade-offs, but my dragging and dropping is more accurate and seems to require less work. This is a big deal.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Derek K. Miller (May 21 2009, at 00:36)

I agree that the lack of FireWire is dumb, but there is a straightforward workaround. If you use SuperDuper or Carbon Copy Cloner or a similar tool (like rsync) to clone your old machine's drive to an external USB 2.0 hard disk, you can then plug that into your new Mac and use Migration Assistant as usual. Plus then you have a backup of your last-good state on the old machine, letting you wipe it for resale.


From: Jesper (May 21 2009, at 00:49)

Even though it's sad that migration Time Machine backups don't even work over Ethernet for you, I think you could also have worked around it by hooking a USB drive to the Time Capsule and telling it to dump its backup to that drive, and later restored from it. (That assumes a viable, mostly empty, large-enough USB drive at your disposal -- then again, so did a lot of other suggestions.)


From: JulesLt (May 21 2009, at 01:00)

Agreed on the black-on-silver look - I don't 'get' it, seeing as the standalone keyboards are white-on-silver, although I suspect that maybe they're learnt the lesson on the discolouration that happened with heavily used white MacBooks (more so, it seems, than old iBooks) - let's just say I have a feeling that this one will look less shabby after 18 months heavy use.

I quite like the Aluminum look over the black plastic - it doesn't end up covered in my greasy fingerprints - it's more the side I end up looking at that seems, in some ways, a step backward.

As for the trackpad - just wait until you to get used to the gestures - 4-finger expose is now something I can't live without (although I rarely use the 3 finger ones) and even the ability to select and rotate 9 photos in iPhoto with a twist of the fingers is the nice kind of small detail that I think adds to the thing.

I presume you've set up the tap-to-click and dragging options too?


From: at (May 21 2009, at 02:20)

Almost every Apple product now carries the signs of a design approach of honesty: When something looks like glass it most certainly is glass. When something looks like metal it is metal, etc. Yes, to somebody who is used to silver painted or "chromed" plastic it looks like the old cheap trick, but one touch tells the difference, and the second look will refer to that touch.


From: Zach (May 21 2009, at 06:36)

Does the dual link DVI adapter actually work for you? Going off the reviews, it's pretty much useless.


From: example (May 21 2009, at 06:39)

Why not just get an external USB keyboard?


From: Wylie Edwards (May 21 2009, at 06:44)

As has already been said, just use superduper to take a full backup of your old mac to an external drive, then plug the external drive in your new machine, mount the .dmg created by superduper and then point the migration wizard at the mounted .dmg volume and away you go - same as usual.

I actually prefer doing it this way, because you dont tie up your old machine while you are migrating your stuff on the new machine. This allows you to keep working on your old machine which can be useful if you have to migrate 500gb of data over usb or firewire.


From: Bob Aman (May 21 2009, at 07:38)

I don't know about anyone else, but aesthetically, I greatly prefer the look of the unibody MacBooks over... well every other Mac ever. I'm still a little at-odds with the trackpad, but have used one now for longer than an hour or two, I think I could live with it. But I think it'd make me more likely to plug in a mouse.


From: Andrew Miller (May 21 2009, at 08:39)

I'd really have just gone with a MacBook Pro to be honest....solves the Firewire, bigger screen, more RAM for VM's (I have 6 GB in mine although it's a 1.5 year old model), etc.


From: whimsy (May 21 2009, at 12:25)

Odd - I use Migration Assistant via USB on the MacBook Air frequently to migrate users accounts from older MacBooks and have never had an issue. Seems maybe a bit slower but all in all I've been surprised.

Was the original machine going to sleep before the copy completed?

I ~DO~ wish the firewire option existed but have been quite surprised that for the most part it's lack has not been as painful as it could have been. That feeling will last until I need to remove a HD from a sans-FW-equipped MacBook/Air to access it in some hardware emergency where FW Target Disk would have rescued me on a FW equipped model (=

Better luck ongoing! -J.


From: JulesLt (May 21 2009, at 12:51)

Bob - with regards the new trackpad, I've pretty much ditched using an external mouse, and have even reached the point where I'd seriously consider an external keyboard with a similar trackpad for my desktop - there's something about the size of it that just takes it from being fiddly to useful.


From: Chris (May 21 2009, at 13:08)

You mean, you don't use the four-finger slide? It was quite a joy when I first discovered it (I'm not one to read manuals / intros). I use it all. the. time.


From: Masklinn (May 21 2009, at 13:50)


There's no need to even rsync: have a 2.5" USB2 disk enclosure ready (always have one if you're using laptops, it's convenient). Pop the drive out of the old mac, pop it in the enclosure, hook to the new mac, do migration.


From: Bilgehan (May 23 2009, at 03:12)

You could opt for the white macbook which has firewire and much better look.


From: Martin Probst (May 25 2009, at 06:44)

The problem with the Dual-DVI adapter is not only that its clunky, oversized, annoyingly eats a USB port, but the main problem is that it does not work with the majority of screens out there.

I appreciate Apples effort to innovate, but do they have to change their graphics port with every major model revision? People are already drowning in adapters, and now adding another incompatible standard, only really used by one vendor, ouch. Add to that that the adapters do not actually work, and you can get really annoyed.


From: Arden (May 29 2009, at 02:33)

I, for one, enjoy the style of backlighting Apple uses on its 'Books. On my non-unibody MacBook Pro, the keys are similarly framed in illumination, which gives them a nice look to me. For some reason it doesn't seem like it would look right if it was just the characters glowing.


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