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Adventures in Mac-land.

For various reasons, I spent the weekend getting to grips with a Macbook Pro, with a fresh copy of OS X Lion. I’ve held a fairly consistent view about the whole ‘Mac experience’ for the past few years. It’s UNIX with a pretty face, so the software’s lovely. The hardware’s well-built, but I couldn’t ever justify spending that much money on one, not when there’s so many other options which are just as capable and just as cost effective.

Things I like:

  • It’s UNIX. Win!
  • Mission control is nice. A quick and easy way to get to every virtual desktop
  • The fact that you can turn touchpad scroll ‘stupid backwards mode’ off
  • Apps like Sidekick make very good use of the built-in location
  • The built-in location! Auto selecting timezones, Google maps etc. Very nice.
  • VMware have done a good job integrating Windows VMs with the OS X desktop with Fusion.
  • Battery life’s (reasonably) good
  • Backlit keyboard
  • Fullscreen mode is weird, but rather useful once you get to grips with it. I gather the experience is not so good if you plug an external monitor in.
  • Trackpad gestures are pretty cool.

Things I don’t like:

  • There’s no delete key
  • There’s no page up
  • There’s no page down
  • There’s no home key
  • There’s no end key (spot the pattern?)
  • Despite having a ‘UK’ keyboard, the quote and @ keys are in the wrong place.
  • 4GB of RAM really isn’t enough. On the flip side, 8GB only cost £34.
  • There’s no consistency between tab behaviour on a web form vs a OS form. On the web, you can tab to select all elements. On an OS form, you can’t get to buttons with tab. Weird.
  • The App Store is mostly full of useless things.
  • Function keys play second fiddle to volume, backlight etc. I can understand this, but it’s annoying in a windows VM to have to hit two keys to do a page refresh
  • VMware Fusion occasionally gets a key stuck, so if you’re presenting something (as I was, this morning) and hit ‘next slide’ and that key gets stuck, it duly runs though all your slides. This happened a lot.
  • There’s an apparently new thing in Lion where connecting to an SMB share hosted on a Solaris/ZFS based system in Finder fails. Given that ‘mount_smbfs’, and every other SMB client out there works just fine, this is an odd Finder issue. I’m told there’s a fix here but I’ve yet to try it.
  • Network share automounting. You can’t do this out of the box. Sidekick helps though.
  • Auto-discovering printers is surprisingly temperamental. I’ve seen it work perfectly, and I’ve seen it be horribly broken. This isn’t easy to get right though.

That’s all I can think of for the moment. In summary, it’s a good effort. It feels nicely unixy, and being able to drop to a shell at any point and do real work is always a bonus. The main criticism is the keyboard - no serious copywriter or editor could ever use this in anger, it’s just missing too many essential keys. Also, the random inconsistencies between little things are odd, given Apple’s supposed attention to detail.

Still wouldn’t own one. They’re nice, just not that nice.