Sunday, November 04, 2007

My new MacBook

My chum Richard just got back from a jaunt over the pond to New York. Before he left he very kindly asked if there was any shopping he could do for me. Not wanting to pass up the chance to get some cool tech at US prices, I asked him to pop into the Apple store and swag me a MacBook. For my US readers, you have to understand that as the dollar sinks into oblivion there's always an opportunity for US companies to make a few quid (bucks to you) by not slavishly following the exchange rate. Anyway Richard was true to his word and here it is...


It's the bottom of the range Apple laptop, but it's still considerably more powerful than my two year old dell desktop. Richard picked it up for almost exactly £600 which is £100 less than I'd pay for one in the UK. Not an incredible saving, but not at all bad either.

I love Apple hardware, they can actually do design; unlike every other PC manufacturer. Of course, as a windows software developer, I could never justify buying one no matter how much I like OSX, but now that they run on Intel processors and you can install windows it's a no brainer. I think a lot of other people share the same view because Apple's sales have gone through the roof. I would even consider buying a mac pro next time I need a desktop, although I was quite inspired to build my own after reading about Jeff Altwood building Scott Hanselman's from scratch.

I really like OSX, its eye-candy is so much better than Vista's, that there's really no competition. But I must have Vista, so after a quick play with Leopard, I fired up boot camp and got to work. Like most Apple stuff, boot camp is very nicely thought out and easy to use. You simply decide how much space you want to give your windows partition and click 'go' (or whatever); it partitions your hard drive, asks you to insert your Vista DVD and reboots into the Vista installer. The install went without any problems apart from once, when it came up from a reboot and stuck on a blank screen with the fan going full blast. I thought that was the end of it, but after doing a hard reboot, it came back to life into the last section of the Vista install. After Vista comes up, you insert the OSX DVD and it automatically installs all the drivers for the MacBook's hardware. The driver support is pretty impressive. Everything works: The keyboard's hardware control keys, the trackpad with it's double-touch scroll feature, the iSight camera and even the little remote control. I especially like the double touch scrolling on the touch pad. You just drag two fingers across and it acts just like It's a scroll wheel. Very intuitive. You right click by holding two fingers on the pad while clicking, which isn't quite as nice as having a button and requires too much hand contortion for my liking. All together it's a  pretty compelling package, especially if, like me, you've got an MSDN subscription and don't have to pay for a copy of Vista.

Now of course young Richard didn't go all the way to New York and not get a shiny new gadget for himself. Oh no. He returned to blighty the proud owner of an iPhone. Since they're not on sale in the UK until the end of next week, it was the first time I've seen one in the flesh. I was very impressed. The UI is superb; easily the best I've seen on a mobile device. The web browser is really cool. It's actually useable, unlike every other mobile device I've seen. My son has a PSP, which has wifi and a browser, but it's so hard to use that apart from one brief experiment I've never done any surfing with it. The iPhone's browser is, if anything, maybe more intuitive to use than a desktop browser. Being able to scroll around the page with your fingers is really nice and the screen is just big enough that you can a see a decent amount of text at once. I want one.

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