Tech Friday: New MacBook with Leopard OSX 10.5

In the Pournelle tradition, “we do these things so you don’t have to”… and contrary to advice to clients, I’ve remixed my operating systems, and gotten an Apple Macintosh, a MacBook. This is the little laptop with a 13.3 inch screen.

It was fun to place the order last Friday and then watch the machine wing its way over from China to Anchorage Alaska, and then down to the lower 48 over the course of the next couple of days on the FedEx tracking site. I was told that the unit would come with the latest version of the Mac operating system installed. It wasn’t, but there was a CD enclosed, and the first thing I did was to do an OS update, which went without a hitch. Now I’ve been reading on-line discussions about the update, but since I had zero experience with Mac operating systems since the first Mac was introduced about twenty years ago, I was blissfully ignorant about all the changes. My baseline is simply the latest and greatest…and my early experience has been favorable.

There are still a few hold-overs from the earliest Macs. The startup sound is the same. The finder “logo” with the two faces is still the same. I wonder if someone, somewhere, has a digital recording of the first Mac floppy drives as they sort of clicked away. I can still remember that sound.

The OS comes with an embarrassment of riches. Like Ubuntu or other Linux distributions, there are enough applications in there to keep you busy (and unproductive) for days. So far the only things I’ve added are the iWork suite (word-processing, presentations and spreadsheets), and an upgrade from the standard GarageBand recording software called Logic Express. I also installed the Cisco VPN client for our university’s wireless network. A second power brick for the office is $70.00.

Frankly my first impetus for the change was to solve a hardware problem. My Dell Inspiron is falling apart, and the keyboard never worked the way it should.

The MacBook hardware is quite complete. It includes an integrated microphone and camera. There is integrated Airport wireless networking which works flawlessly. Integrated BlueTooth, (haven’t tried it yet…need to get one of those nerdy headsets). A FireWire port. Two USB ports. External microphone input, and headset output. All this is wrapped up in a sleek black package which weighs a little over five pounds.

Of course the underlying OS is Unix, so all the Unix command-line goodies are available. And Boot Camp, which allows you to set up a dual-boot Mac/Windows is now out of beta and integrated directly into the Mac OS. So, even if I relegate the Mac to “personal” use, I’ll still be able to use it with Windows XP or Vista.

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