Tag Archives: MacBook Air

My Favorite Gadgets: The Top Five

3 Mar

With the iPad 2’s arrival next week, the temptation to buy another gadget rears its expensive head once more. This time I’ll pass. At least until the the device gets handwriting recognition, then I’ll exercise my American Express card.

Forgive me, environmentalists, but I am a gadget addict. Have been for years. I have forgotten boxes of gear stuffed with everything from original iPods and Sony Walkmen to handheld printers and portable scanners. My office is littered with defunct digital cameras and outmoded laptops. I own multiple boom boxes and bicycles as well as telephones and tape recorders. I’ve got…well, you get the idea. If you stripped and sold the copper from the cables, cords, and connectors that came with all my gadgets, you’d probably drive down that commodity’s price by a substantial margin.

At various points in my life, I felt it necessary to have each and every gadget in my home. So, I understand all-too-well the impulse to buy these damn things. But what if I had to pare them down to, say, a mere five items? What would make the cut?

I gave this notion some deep thought recently and whittled my list to these:

5. iMac: I enjoy working on my iMac. It’s fast. The 20-inch display is clear and crisp. It’s everything I want in a desktop computer.

4. Bianchi mountain bike: I can’t always ride in dry weather (This is Oregon, after all.), nor do I always want to pedal on pavement. Going offroad is fun and terrific exercise; something I can only experience cycling with a mountain bike.

3. iPhone: Everyone these days needs a cellphone. Although not a perfect device, Apple’s smartphone is good enough to make my list.

2. MacBook Air: The best computer I’ve ever used. No contest. Lightning fast. Feather light. Decent battery life. A perfect computer for our times.

1. Torelli road bike: I’ve owned this bike for nine years. I have ridden tens of thousands of miles on it. It’s great for 100 mile long, slow trips as well as ten-mile, all-out quick rides. Fact is, if I could only keep one gadget, it would be this machine.

If you had to choose among the gadgets you own, what would make your top five list?

Apple Does a “Doh!”

9 Dec

I wrote about my wonderful MacBook Air in an earlier post. I still can’t say enough positive things about the machine. I do, however, have one trenchant criticism. If Apple is going to design, build, market, and sell laptop computers without any removable media capabilities built into them, maybe, just maybe the company ought to consider not sending its new customers who purchase AppleCare compact discs. (See photo.)


The above shows what came in my mail after I purchased my MacBook Air and also signed up for AppleCare product protection. A CD that explains the ins and outs of AppleCare.

Yes, yes, I know that I can attach an external drive to read the CD. But it strikes me as even beyond the arrogance of Apple to assume that its new customers will automatically buy an external device for their new MacBook Air computers. I didn’t.

The units come equipped with USB connectors. That’s what I’d expect to receive, a USB stick, if Apple wanted me to read information from external media. Getting the CD makes me think Steve Jobs has let some Homer Simpson impersonator into his shipping department. Maybe someone should slap the fellow on the head to knock some sense into him.

MacBook Air: It’s All About the Hardware

23 Nov

The computer industry is obsessed with software and services. That’s not surprising given that most of us spend countless hours moving between and staring at applications on our computer displays. When we think about our computer we think about what we use it for, which is software, not so much for the thing itself.The MacBook Air is the first machine in a long while that has me thinking more about its hardware than any of its software. Despite having a relatively pokey CPU, my MacBook Air’s hardware still boosts application performance because of the device’s flash storage system. Opening, closing, and executing applications and tasks that require any I/O function are flat out quick. Hands down, it’s the most responsive computer I’ve ever used.

Then there’s the wonderful trackpad. It feels so much nicer on my fingertips than when I use Ubuntu on my aging, but eminently serviceable IBM ThinkPad T43. More importantly, now there are new ways I can leverage OS X through the trackpad’s advanced user interface.

Great operating system UIs let me move within and between applications and tasks, windows and files using hardware in the way that suits me best. The more choices I have, the more efficient I’ll be at using the machine and its software. The MacBook Air trackpad has added new, logical choices for me to use.

Inside documents on my other computers I can jump around via function keys on my keyboard or through scroll bars with my mouse. With the MacBook Air’s trackpad I can now also move inside files by gliding two fingers up or down the trackpad and the document with roll up or down the screen accordingly. It is now my preferred way to move within a document. To me, that’s a radical step. It took me years to get comfortable using a mouse to scroll up and down a file when keyboard shortcuts were so much faster. Now, however, within a couple of weeks I’ve embraced the two-finger scroll on the new trackpad as the best way to work inside a document.

Plus, the clever trackpad has broadened my choice for how to navigate between open applications. Let me explain with a typical scenario:

I’m typing in Pages. I want to change the song I’m listening to. With my MacBook Air I can:

1. Hit the F4 button and open my Dashboard widgets, one of which lets me flick through iTunes’ selections;

2. Hit the F3 button and launch Expose’ so I can find the iTunes window and click into it and make my change;

3. Move the cursor to the Dock and pick iTunes and a new tune;

4. Close window after window until I find iTunes on my display and can choose a new song.

And now I can also:

5. Swipe four fingers across the MacBook Air trackpad, which brings up the Application Switcher and lets me pick iTunes and make a new selection.

Adding this fifth option gives me another easy and useful method to find my away around an 11-inch display cluttered with too many open windows.

I could also extol the virtues of the responsive keyboard, the tight packaging, and other hardware traits. But those items, I think, are about taste and fashion and not about true hardware improvements that benefit all MacBook Air users. That is, because of the MacBook Air’s sophisticated hardware I waste less time fooling around with ways to get to the software and more time actually using it. And ultimately that’s what great hardware does: makes using software a better experience.

Obsolete Words About Obsolete Technology

14 Nov

I am now the proud owner of a MacBook Air. It’s the 11-inch model with the standard 1.4 GHz Intel Core 2 processor and two gigabytes of RAM. But I souped up the flash storage to the maximum 128 GB. I’ve never had a computer that opened applications and documents faster. I’ve never had a lighter computer. I’ve never had one that is as cool looking as my MacBook Air. It’s simply the most sophisticated computer I’ve owned.

I wonder how soon it will become obsolete.

This is my first Apple laptop since my PowerBook Duo 230, a state of the art machine from 1993. I’ve been using Windows or Linux laptops since 1996 when I left MacWeek and became the director of ZD Labs. Needless to say, while at the Labs I had access to the most advanced personal and business computing tools the market had to offer at the time. It was while there that I fully recognized the futility of my work as a technology journalist.

Nothing I write about for my work will stand the test of time. Which, of course, means the bulk of my writing is as immortal as a mayfly. But like most writers there’s a part of me that wants to produce something of lasting value, something that might be of interest to someone who’s around long after my ashes have been scattered to the winds. As a writer with an ego, it’s disappointing, to say the least.

The nature of technology is to change, to replace itself as rapidly as possible. Cars drop carburetors for fuel-injection. Circuit-switched telephone networks give way to packet-switch systems. Surgeons (thankfully) replace ether and chloroform with advanced anesthetics like bupivacaine and sodium thiopental. Technology change is not just inevitable, it’s generally for the better.

But those of us who earn our livings writing about technology crank out prose destined for dustbins and delete keys. We know that what excites our readers today will bore them tomorrow. Beyond archivists and historians, few care to read about obsolete things. I know I don’t.

So, getting excited about new technology, such as my new MacBook Air, is a double-edged sword. I love this machine. It’s so much cooler in so many ways than every other laptop I’ve ever owned or used that words can’t do it justice. Not that words would matter anyway since they will become as obsolete as my latest computer in short order.