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A PC Guy and MacBook Air

I've been using the MacBook Air for about a month now. I haven't used a Mac since they ran System 7, and I've been an avid ThinkPad X-series user for the past 5 or 6 years. Before then, I was a fan of Sony Vaio laptops. I'm a PC guy. I've been using PCs since MS-DOS 3, Windows since Windows 3.0, and Linux since kernel 2.0.

The MacBook Air is undoubtedly the best laptop I've ever used.

The MacBook Air is rock solid. It is small. It is light. It is fast. It is stable. It runs cool. It is compatible. It does want I want it to do, when I want it to do it. The success of the Air is clearly a combination of a great operating system running on great hardware.

On the hardware side, the build quality is amazing. It makes every other laptop look ancient. The LED-lit LCD screen looks gorgeous. The keyboard is easy to use. And the multi-touch pad is the first laptop input device that truly supplants the desire for an external mouse. In particular, the three-finger forward and back swipe is pure genius, along with double-taps and two-finger taps. The included video camera is a nice touch. Power management is superb, with long battery life and automatic power saving modes. I never turn the Air off. I just close the lid.

The Mac OS X operating system is a joy to use. As a Windows and Linux user, I had no trouble adapting to the OS at all. The integration is thoughtful everywhere in the system, with noticeable efforts to remove complexity and excessive options. Within minutes of unboxing the system, I was up and running on the network. The closed OS/Hardware ecosystem completely removed the usual hassle with hardware driver installs and crapware removal. System updates are painless, as is installing software from the net. The whole downloadable software packaging, installation method(s), directory structure, and security enforcement is a very nicely thought out process. And finally, after all these years, Mac OS has keyboard shortcuts for everything (unlike the System 7 days). Alas, as a Windows user, I'm still fumbling with the Control, Option, and Command keys, and I'm not sure all apps are using the same editor keyboard shortcuts. I suppose I just need some practice.

As a Linux user, installing XCode is a must. I was thrilled to see that I could compile and run Midnight Commander and other Linux apps with minimal fuss, and can safely dump new stuff in /usr/local without screwing up the main system config. OS X is unix! ssh works great, as well as every other basic unix command. And the default shell is Bash. Nice. X Windows also runs fine, and I'm happy that I can use The GIMP. ImageMagick works great too, as does connecting to printers served from Linux hosts.

As a Windows user on a corporate network, Microsoft Office is absolutely mandatory for any computer (note my longing for a Linux version). MS Office 2008 for the Mac is very nice, and compatible with files from Office for Windows. Entourage isn't Outlook, but in many ways that's a good thing. It is a pleasure to use, and of critical importance, is perfectly compatible with Exchange Server. Oddly, Outlook 2003 on my Thinkpad X40 loads much faster than Entourage 2008 on the Air. And alas, Excel without VBA is just a spreadsheet, not the power tool that I need. Fortunately, it looks like Microsoft is bringing VBA back in the next version. Microsoft also provides a Remote Desktop client that works very well in allowing me to remotely control my Windows workstation. The combo of Remote Desktop and Mac Spaces is nice - I switch from Mac to Windows with a simple hotkey combo. And the Cisco VPN client, along with the very nice Shimo interface, gets me on and off the corporate VPN with ease.

Finally, about the concern with the lack of peripheral ports on the Air. I haven't used a single peripheral port once in my daily operation of the laptop. I ordered the USB Ethernet adapter, tried it out to make sure it worked, and haven't used it since.

My experience with the MacBook Air has been total computing bliss. If only Windows machines were this elegant.

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Try Neooffice. You can have Office with VB scripting and support for ODF.

posted by: Ken Sherman | URL:

Wow, I didn't realize NeoOffice supported VBA. Very cool. The first script I tried from one of my sheets gave me an error, but Neo does look promising.

And it loads a ton faster than Excel.

posted by: MikeyP | URL: www.mikeyp.com

Great review. I hope to get a MacBook one of these days, but I have one question…

How does it stack up against the C-64. ;)

posted by: Bill Rodgers | URL: wprjr.com

Clearly, there was never a better computer than the C-64. But the MacBook will do…

posted by: MikeyP | URL: www.mikeyp.com

Always thought it was cool how you could just brush your finger over a Mac monitor and it would turn it off.

I can't recollect how many hours of my life I've spent scripting so I didn't have to push buttons anymore.

posted by: Kelt | URL: dockins.org/kelt