A week with the MacBook Air

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It´s been a week that I have the MacBook Air. The small 11 inches one, with 64 Gigs of storage and 4 Gigs of RAM. One friend asked me about it, and another one wanted help to set up his new Mac. I used to have a page for setting up a new Mac, but it was lost on my recent migration from my old german webpage. For them, and everyone who might find it of help, here is my not complete, or even fair, review, with some points and recommendations.

Welcome home Ms. MacBook Air.

What I like:

First of all, it runs OSX, my main reason to choose an Apple.

  • Thin. On the thick part is 1.5 times a USB plug. On the thin part is thinner than half a USB plug (0.3 cm!). That thin it can actually cut bread.
  • Instant. Having the SSD drive makes it amazingly fast. I never turn it off (close the lid when done, open the lid when back), but it takes like 10 seconds to fully boot up. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvu4lINRHQc]
  • Silent. In the week I had, the fan was never on. Or I don´t hear it. And I did some lengthy compiling when installing MacPorts.
  • Light. It weights 1 Kilo. 2,3 pounds.
  • Looks great. Not important, but you´ll work many hours on it. It is easier to appreciate something when it looks so nice.

Yes, I really like it. All other laptops will look way to thick, heavy, noisy and slow. The unibody technology makes it feel sturdy.

What I don´t like:

  • The bezel around the screen is too wide.
  • The keyboard does not have light.
  • There is no external indicator of the battery level.
  • There is no pulsating light indicating the laptop is sleeping.
  • No IR remote sensor.
  • For the moment, there are no cases or sleeves for it.
  • The batteries cannot be easily replaced. I hope they last more than 6 months with 75% of the capacity...

[caption id=”attachment_1153” align=”aligncenter” width=”500” caption=”Adapted from original pic by Miroslav Djuric”][/caption]

So far, I don´t miss the DVD drive or the extra storage. My SSD drive is 64 Gigs. I have a external 500 Gigs (2.5’’ 1xUSB powered ) with a copy of my old mac, and the Time Machine backup for the Air. I only plug it to run my old iPhoto library from it (pressing “alt” on run) and add new pictures. I think I´ll set up my old mac as a home server and connect remotely when needed. Or may be just move to the cloud. It seems that having a cloud drive with your stuff might not be so expensive.

2 USBs seems a working minimum. Actually makes me wonder why not make a truly universal socket. Like a USB but also for the external monitor, for Ethernet, for AC, … It kind of makes sense.

The battery lasts forever. I tested it for my flight from DC to Frankfurt. On the gate, on the flight, on the train. Summing up to almost 8 hours of use (no WiFi, no movies, just typing and reading on medium brightness). The charging time is like 1 hour. One caveat. Make sure flash is not running or it will cripple the battery to half the duration. You can check that on Activity monitor, and also kill it.

7:28 hours of battery with my MacBook Air. oh, yes. Ésa es mi Mac ina!

It does not have Ethernet, only WiFi. I thought I woud not need it, as most of my environments have WiFi (Home, hotels, cafe). As true as it might be, I ended up buying the USB to Ethernet adapter 2 days ago. Another thing to carry along, together with the monitor adapter and the charger.

In conclusion. The laptop is expensive compared to seemigly similar netbooks. Yet I would argue that the quality, finish and underlying OS makes it ahead any other option. At least for me. The price is also similar to a MacBook Pro. For my usage, and my estimation of where the market goes, the Air was the winner.


Instead of migrating from my old MAC, I chose to start from scratch. These are the steps I did to have it up and running:

  • On first boot I choose the new account option. In German (both to practice german, but it turns out it also works as security measure).
  • On Settings: Mouse click on tap, drag with 2 taps. Scroll with 2 fingers. This should be default, on every laptop on earth. No auto-loginLanguage switch icon on top bar. Nonetheless I try to use the spanish locale (I ordered a spanish keyboard)
  • Software update: 1 Giga!!! Over Wifi! Hope you have a WiFi b/g/n speed router.
  • Activate Google syncs on Address Book, Mail  and iCal.
  • Installed these basic apps: Chrome (and sync bookmarks) QuickSilver (icon on top. Bezel skin. Also install clipboard module) Prey http://preyproject.com/ (Locate your stolen laptop) DropBox. A must. GeekTool. Another must. TweetDeck VLC Perian Afloat, to keep windows on top when needed. http://infinite-labs.net/afloat/#download
  • All icons out from Dock. Only remains, Terminal and Chrome. I use Quick Silver for calling apps.
  • Hidden apps are translucent in the Dock. Put this on Terminal: defaults write com.apple.Dock showhidden -bool YES
  • Add a 'recent things' stack to the Dock: defaults write com.apple.dock persistent-others -array-add '{ "tile-data" = { "list-type" = 1; }; "tile-type" = "recents-tile"; }'
  • Install Developer tools. It is not on the included recovery USB drive, so you have to get it from http://developer.apple.com/technologies/tools/ (3.5 Gigas !!!! I ended up downloading it to the old Mac and transfer it through USB). I chose not to install iOS Developer. A whooping 6Gigs uncompressed.
  • Install MAcPorts
  • Update Ruby on rails: sudo gem update --system sudo gem install rails sudo gem update installed
  • Terminal setting. Close window on exit without errors. Homebrew theme by default.
  • Terminal - case insensitive auto-complete. On Terminal type: echo "set completion-ignore-case On" >> ~/.inputrc
  • On Geektool I adapted ideas from the geeklets forum:

-A system log

-Network speed with this geeklet script

# Change this to en0 for an ethernet connection instead of airport INTF=en0 # get the current number of bytes in and bytes out sample1=(`/usr/sbin/netstat -ib | awk "/$INTF/"'{print $7" "$10; exit}'`) # wait one second sleep 1 # get the number of bytes in and out one second later sample2=(`/usr/sbin/netstat -ib | awk "/$INTF/"'{print $7" "$10; exit}'`) # find the difference between bytes in and out during that one second # and convert bytes to kilobytes results=(`echo "2k ${sample2[0]} ${sample1[0]} - 1024 / p" "${sample2[1]} ${sample1[1]} - 1024 / p" | dc`) # print the results printf "In: %.2f Kb/secnOut: %.2f Kb/secn" ${results[0]} ${results[1]}

-Battery info. It tells when is fully charged, time to reach full charge, or remaining battery time. It also warns if Flash is running while on batteries.

isFullyCharged=`ioreg -n AppleSmartBattery | grep FullyCharged | awk '{ print $5 }'` timeLeft=`ioreg -n AppleSmartBattery | grep TimeRemaining | awk '{ print $5 }'` if [ $isFullyCharged = "Yes" ] ; then echo "Battery charged." else ((hour=$timeLeft/60)) ((min=$timeLeft-$hour*60)) isConnected=`ioreg -n AppleSmartBattery | grep ExternalConnected | awk '{ print $5 }'` if [ $isConnected = "No" ] ; then flash=`ps aux | grep -c "Flash"` test $flash = "2" && printf "¡Flash on batteries! -> DRAIN " fi printf " $hour:$min remaining" fi

I´ll probably add more things, but these are the basics for me.


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