The Silver Surfer


I think it’s noteworthy to mention that a week ago Friday, I finally (after many, many years) got one of the company’s MacBook Pros allocated to me for an extended period of time – only six months, but it’s a lot better than the “here today, gone tomorrow” arrangement I had previously regarding a PowerBook, and as such is sure to allow me to do some in-depth testing of a bunch of things in the future.

And no, I won’t be telling you anything regarding what I will be testing with it. Grow up, people.

In what is sure to be a blow to the Apple diehards out there, I won’t be using it as my main machine anytime soon, for four main reasons:

  • I don’t have a main machine. I use Citrix. Anything able to run a Citrix client is usable for me (barring the usual issues of having specific files stashed away someplace).
  • My XP laptop (a Dell D410), old and pokey as it is, is smaller, lighter, and more practical to carry to meetings. Plus it has a standard VGA port built in, and I don’t have to bother with carrying around a dongle1.
  • Even though the machine has been sitting on my desk for a week I’ve only been able to spend around eight hours on it overall upgrading it to Leopard and getting the basics set up (i.e., FileVault, file shares, Citrix and whatnot).
  • It sticks out like a sore thumb in a sea of Dell machines. It’s the laptop etiquette equivalent of wearing a neon suit, and you’d be amazed at the number of people who hold your laptop against you2.

I’m still installing stuff and (20 minutes a day, tops) re-arranging my desk and cables piecemeal. The folk in charge of hardware have been stellar and even lent me a DVI cable to get rid of the hideous dongle, so I can switch from my XP machine’s dual head setup to the Mac’s by toggling between VGA and DVI inputs on the monitor in between (the monitor is an HP1740, and you can see the specs here if you’re curious).

And before you ask, I, like Tim Bray, believe that the black consumer MacBook is the perfect laptop for this day and age (I have one at home). The Pro is just too clunky to cart around everywhere, and, given the choice, I’d have gotten a consumer model instead.

But it is a killer desktop replacement, to be sure.

Things of note regarding my setup, so I can remember these later:

  • In those eight hours, I’ve already been bitten twice by the backlight shut off issue, which is damned annoying. I expect Linux laptops to have this kind of crummy behavior, but an Apple professional laptop? Please. If this happened during a meeting I’d be the laughing stock of all my Dell-toting colleagues.
  • I found out (the hard way) that the Scroll Lock key on a PC keyboard generates the same key code as the power button, which led to some amusing situations when I tried to use the Pro with my KVM switch.
  • Printers just workedTM. The Mac said Bonjour to them, and that was it.
  • Despite my preference for Fusion (which is what I use at home), Parallels was vastly easier to get going. Why? Because I could get Transporter to clone the disk of my XP laptop into a VM over the LAN during lunchtime with only a couple of clicks, whereas VMware’s Converter was, much to my regret, useless in that regard.

Why? well, largely due to VMware’s tendency to slap useless, broken registration forms in your face at every step of a download. This form was broken for me for over two days, and was hardly necessary anyway. I didn’t even want to try the software by the third time around.

Anyway, due to my increasing effort in driving a firm wedge between work and personal life, I don’t think you’ll be reading much about the Pro here in the future. I don’t even plan on bringing it home to frolic with its cousins…

1 Which reminds me, I don’t care much for what Apple has done in the MacBook Air in that regard. VGA is the lingua franca of projectors anywhere, and their propensity for faffing around with dongles instead of sticking a proper VGA port on their laptops shows you that they don’t get out of their office much.

2 “Think Different” is not, despite what you might think, a positive statement in some cultures.