Taking a Bite of the Apple

Real life has reared its ugly head the last few months, and although I’ve written several posts in my head, I never found time to put them down in the ether. Sorry about that, I’m going to see if I can do better in ’09.

Popular notion has it that the fruit Eve ate in the garden was an apple. We all know how that worked out for her (and Adam). I’ve swallowed my own Apple, and I’m not convinced yet the end is going to be any different.

A new MacBook Pro has been calling my name for some time now. Given the switch to Intel, the subsequent ability to run Windows in a VM on OS X (I have to use Windows for work), and the brain-dead decision by Lenovo to mess with the Thinkpad’s keyboard, I decided to see how the other three percent live. So, after twelve years as a staunch ThinkPad user (I’m on my fourth; we recently found my first one in a closet somewhere — it was almost three inches thick. Amazing.), I made the leap to the other side.

The Good

  • Startup was dead simple. Answer a couple of questions, and BAM!, you’re in.
  • Network setup was equally easy. Leopard handles multiple locations out-of-the-box, so I set up one for home with my wireless, and one for Work for my client setup.
  • As soon as the network was setup, my other two home computers showed up on the Sidebar in Finder. Nice!
  • When I took it to work and plugged into their network and started to figure out how to add the printer (I figured it was going to be a big deal trying to get it to work with a Mac), the work printers showed up automatically. Pick one and you’re done. Very nice!
  • When I plugged in my AT&T air card, it hummed for a couple of seconds and I was on the network. No installing software, no network preferences setup, no nothing. True plug-and-play. Nice again!
  • Installing a new application? Drag an icon to another icon. BAM! It’s installed. Awesome!
  • Running Windows side-by-side with OS X turns out to be as easy as everything else on the Mac (but see “Bad” below).
  • Now we can Skype our friends in Italy. We haven’t managed to get together after three weeks of having it, but we can!
  • The screen is brilliant. My brother-in-law refuses to buy one because they’re only glossy screens, but I haven’t had any problems with reflection, and next to it, my ThinkPad looks like it’s dull as dishwater, even when it’s on full brightness. In fact, the screen is so clear I took my default font down a point on my text editor.

The Bad

  • Apple needs to get a clue about keyboard users. As just one example, getting keyboard access to a program’s menu is a convoluted mess, requires three times as many keystrokes as Windows, and requires Full Keyboard Access to be turned on. The consistency between programs is non-existent; again, as just one example, Cmd-1 switches to the first tab in most programs, but opens the first bookmark on the toolbar in Safari (which is an Apple program).
  • No dedicated PgUp/PgDn/Home/End/Ins/Delete keys. This one is just stupid. Moronic, even. There is plenty of space to put the keys (IBM and now Lenovo has been doing it for 15 years). Having to learn, not only new keystrokes for the Mac, but new keystrokes for Windows, and having to use two hands to do it, has been the hardest part of using the machine. Again, Apple needs to get a clue about keyboard users.
  • The trackpad, although nice for a trackpad, still can’t beat a touchpoint. It’s easier, it’s faster, and it keeps your hands on home row (again, Apple needs to get a clue about keyboard users).
  • Parallels, the first to the VM party on the Mac, has been something of a disappointment. The latest version (4.0) has numerous keyboard issues (again with the keyboard theme) that makes it all but unusable for a touch typist. And, it had a problem with my Bible software (again keyboard related), which turned into the deal killer.
  • VMWare Fusion, the latecomer to the Mac party (but a longtime VM veteran and the name brand on the PC side of the house) doesn’t have the keyboard issues that Parallels has, but my VPN won’t stay connected more than 10 minutes or so at a time.

The Ugly

  • iCal is a joke. After migrating my emails and calendar from Outlook (using O2M, the suggested Apple genius bar way to do it), it invented an appointment out of thin air. But only on my iPhone (which has been happily syncing with Outlook for months). That is, after syncing with iCal, I had a recurring appointment on my iPhone which didn’t exist on my iPhone before, and which did not exist in iCal. After a two-hour visit to the Genius Bar didn’t fix it (he gave up and gave me a new phone, but the minute I synced with iCal the appointment showed back up). Further, deleting the appointment on the iPhone and choosing “all future events” doesn’t work — none of the appointments are deleted. Only by deleting them one at a time will they go away. Since it was a recurring appointment all the way to 12/2010, I had to delete 48 entries. I actually haven’t synced the phone again, so I don’t know if they will stay gone or not.
  • I’ve already lost a key. The Enter started wobbling after two weeks, and completely fell off yesterday. More on that story below.

The Key to Happiness
On the same Genius bar trip mentioned above, I asked them about the wobbling Enter key. He took in the back, and came back and said he’d let me know what they found. A half-hour later, he told me that the keyboard would have to be replaced. For one key? You gotta be kidding me. He ordered the keyboard, said it would be in in two or three days, and they’d call me.

The key completely fell off yesterday, so I went back to the Genius bar today, the guy took it back, came back out in a few minutes, and said the keyboard was in (where was my phone call?), but they had to send it in to get it swapped out, and it would take three days. Three days? This is a work computer, I can’t do without it for three days. How about just giving me a new laptop, and swapping out the hard drive? Nope, the geniuses can’t do that, I’ll get my manager and see what he can do.

He says he can’t swap it out either, but he can order a new computer and swap it out of that one. What about in the meantime — I can’t use it without an Enter key. He said he would give me a wireless keyboard to use with it.

So, although I think it’s ridiculous that losing a single key requires the entire keyboard to be swapped out, it’s ridiculous it takes shipping the machine somewhere else to replace the keyboard, and it’s ridiculous that the keys are held on by two microscopic pieces of plastic that look like they could be broken by looking at them cross-eyed, Apple, in the form of the manager, did a good job of customer service and attempting to make things right. Kudos to them for that.

All in all, it’s been a good, not great, experience so far. I have doubts about the longevity of the keys, which may turn out to be a big issue in the long run, but for now we’re OK.

Happy New Year!

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