Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Another Year, Another Post

As I suspected, I have taken an extremely long time between my first post and my second.

What momentous occasion has prompted me to blog again? It's the arrival of my brand new laptop, a Mac Book Air. Oh, I'm very happy with it!

Naysayers decried it as being an expensive piece of crap toy for people with more credit card headroom than sense. Whatever. It's exactly what I wanted. See, even though I spent years working in the software industry, I have little to no desire to use a home computer for much more than a communications and entertainment appliance. Yes, I am but an end-user, and I'm happy that way. I guess I got burnt out on software issues being my problem...now I can just put in a call to technical support and it's someone else's problem. Anyway, I love the Mac platform -- especially since I've only called for help three or four times in the past eight years. It always just freakin' works, no matter what I want to do (except for the time I tried to use some Windows XP emulation software on my now-ancient PowerBook G4). In the unlikely event that I need help with something, I have friends who are Mac geeks and/or Geniuses (an actual job title) from way back. I've never had a problem with a Mac, so I stick with it. My PowerBook G4 lasted me five years, and is still usable although it looks like it's been chewed up by a dog.

I'm obsessive about checking my email, listen to several radio podcasts a day (although, ironically, I hate my iPod and rarely use it), take lots and lots of digital photos, web surf like crazy, and travel a lot. So, a reasonably fast machine with a reasonably good-sized hard drive that is very slim and light is exactly what I wanted and needed.

Oh, so the MacBook Air only has one USB port? This is a tragedy? Why? I had two USB ports on my old PowerBook and the only time I ever used even one of them was to drop a file onto a pen drive, transfer over some digital photos, or to hook up my flatbed scanner two or three times a year. So I don't actually need multiple USB ports -- and for the one time per year that I need two or more, I have a USB hub I can use. No big whoop.

No modem? What's a modem? I haven't used a modem, except at my parents' house out in the middle of the country, since 1994.

No FireWire? That's a bit of an issue, as I have a digital video camcorder that I occasionally like use to digitize VHS tapes from ballroom dancing competitions. However, it also works with USB, so I'll survive for the one or two times a year that I need to do this. FireWire is better, though. One small problem: I've lost the necessary cable. I just ordered a replacement from JVC's web site.

No Ethernet? That too is a bit of an issue, as I take my laptop with me wherever I go and sometimes there's no wireless. Oh, the backward hotels of America...everywhere I stay in England seems to have free wireless, but in many US locales I not only still have to use an Ethernet connection, but I also still have to pay for it. Fortunately Apple makes a USB ethernet adapter for the MacBook Air. I purchased one, but haven't tried using it yet.

The biggest thing that people might scream about is no optical drive. Again, as someone who has used her PowerBook's SuperDrive on the average of four times a year for the past five years, this is not a problem for me. Apple sells an external SuperDrive for the MacBook Air, which of course I bought. I've used it so far to install some software and to play a DVD, which brings me to the one big negative surprise I've had so far:

It's monaural!

At first I thought my dear new computer had arrived, direct from Shanghai, flawed. So I called Apple and was informed that the MacBook Air only has one speaker on one side because it only provides monaural sound. I was floored. Every other Mac laptop I've owned (all two of them) has had onboard stereo, but not the MacBook Air. I believe that the headphone jack is for stereo, but since I don't really own any headphones (I might have a pair of earbuds from my stupid iPod stashed away somewhere) I haven't checked this out yet. This is the one thing I am unhappy with, because every so often I like to watch movies in bed with the laptop on my lap. I can still hear them in monaural, but it's just very very weird.

Still, so far, I'd give my new cutie two thumbs up. I'm going to be traveling with it quite soon, and will definitely enjoy the reduced weight load when hauling stuff through the security line at the airport.

Now I just need to name it.

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