So many MacBooks, so little time

We’ve written a lot about the new MacBook over the past few weeks, as is Macworld’s custom when Apple releases a brand-new computer system. But we’re not just people who get paid to write about new Macs — we’re Mac users, too. Jonathan Seff, who wrote our MacBook review, liked the product so much that he bought one for his own personal use. Senior Editor Rob Griffiths and Assistant Editor Cyrus Farivar did likewise. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen so many people so excited about a new Mac.

I’m a Mac laptop fan myself, and the past month has been an interesting adventure for me. Up until a month ago, I was still using a 12-inch PowerBook G4, all the while desperately hoping for an Intel-based replacement. I finally got tired of waiting, and as the editor of Macworld , I felt some serious pressure to make a switch. After all, I really ought to be someone who’s actually using an Intel-based Mac for my day-to-day work, so that I can write about it intelligently.

The switch

With a heavy heart (and a heavy backpack), I switched to a MacBook Pro. And although I disliked its size and weight, I sure didn’t mind its gigantic screen and impressive speed. Coming from that 12-inch PowerBook, almost everything seemed faster — even stuff running in Rosetta seemed just as fast as it did before.

My two weeks with the MacBook Pro also made me notice just where having a dual-core processor comes in handy. Sometimes, for whatever reason, an application you’re running swallows your entire processor. It grabs hold and, for a time, won’t let go. On a single-core processor, you’ve got no recourse — you just have to wait it out. But on these dual-core Intel-based systems, it just doesn’t happen. While that one hungry app—be it Eudora or iCal or Safari or whatever—chomps on one processor core, the other processor core happily continues working on its own.

The end result is a much more pleasant and productive experience, because I can switch to another application and continue working while that particular software-versus-processor drama plays itself out in the background.

This factor is incredibly hard to test, as I’ve said numerous times in our forums. But it can make a big difference in the realm of the amorphous and anecdotal: these dual-core laptops just feel more responsive.

Anyway, not two weeks after I switched to the MacBook Pro, Apple announced the MacBook. Jon Seff and I ran down to the Apple Store, picked up two models on release day, and Macworld Lab ran its tests. When the tests were complete, I took the black model and Jon took the white one, and we both started using them in earnest. I actually moved house entirely, using Shirt Pocket Software’s SuperDuper to clone my MacBook Pro’s hard drive to the MacBook.

The next switch

I love the MacBook. It’s heavier than my old 12-inch PowerBook, but the trade-off is a much bigger screen. The fact is, 1024 x 768 is just too small for many tasks, especially as Apple pushes all its computers into a widescreen format (and builds user-interface widgets like drawers to take advantage of that aspect ratio). And compared to my two-week MacBook Pro rental, the MacBook is light and tiny.

However, as I started to use the MacBook as my main machine, I began to notice some quirks. At work, I attach my laptop to a 23-inch Apple Cinema Display and an external keyboard and trackball, and run it with its lid closed. The MacBook would occasionally refuse to understand that it was running in lid-closed mode, a situation that could only be remedied with a restart.

It was only when I realized that the MacBook’s clever new two-finger-click feature (you put two fingers on the trackpad and click to generate a control-click) didn’t work on my MacBook that I discovered what was going on. Although the MacBooks ship with Mac OS X 10.4.6, they don’t ship with the same 10.4.6 that other Intel-based Macs use. As a result, my MacBook was being powered by an older 10.4.6 that wasn’t built with the MacBook in mind.

In a conflagration of lost productivity, I had to do the two-transfer shuffle. First I cloned my MacBook’s drive back to my MacBook Pro using SuperDuper. Then I wiped the MacBook’s drive and reinstalled Mac OS X from the DVDs that came with the MacBook. (Interestingly, the MacBook’s DVDs refused to install on the MacBook’s drive until I completely erased all trace of my old data.) Finally, I used Apple’s Migration Assistant to transfer my personal files from the MacBook Pro back to the MacBook.

Once all was said and done, the MacBook worked great. It recognized when it was running with its lid closed and the two-finger click worked. And so I resumed using the MacBook as my main system. That is, until…

The MacBook two-step

I got the word from our most excellent art director, Rob Schultz, that we’d need to shoot both the black and white MacBooks for the cover of the next issue of Macworld’s print magazine. And since we only had the two MacBooks, my days as a black MacBook user were numbered.

I didn’t want to stop my time as a MacBook user, but I had no choice. Although the Macworld IT staff had ordered me a MacBook, it hadn’t arrived yet. And so I cracked open SuperDuper yet again, this time to transfer my MacBook hard drive back to the MacBook Pro.

This is how I learned that the MacBook’s clever two-finger click feature is entirely done in software, not hardware. Because when my MacBook Pro was running the version of Mac OS X 10.4.6 that ships with the MacBook, it gained that very same feature.

A few days later, my official MacBook arrived. Another SuperDuper session later, I was up and running with no troubles on my new MacBook. I couldn’t be happier. After a month and six complete migrations of my computer data, I’ve found a nice place to stay.

At least, that is, until Apple comes out with an even cooler, smaller laptop…

  
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