My Mac “Switcher” Experience Part 6

The Rotten Side of My New Apple


I’ve put my MacBook through its paces, and now it’s time for some hard truth. Despite my previous gleeful ranting, I’ve had some serious disappointments using this computer. But in the end, I don’t anticipate most of them affecting the average user.

Within hours of having my Mac up and running, I was downloading and installing dozens of free programs. Many of these programs warned that they were “beta” or even “alpha” (meaning they’re not ready for commercial release). I’m sure that some of the problems I experienced were related to this glob of potentially unreliable code. However, many of my concerns must sit squarely on Apple’s shoulders.

Hardware:

  • There is no “delete” key, but I fixed this by downloading DoubleCommand, which has worked almost perfectly. Getting used to using the Command (Apple) key instead of CTRL is annoying, and I still don’t know how to quickly move my cursor in a document. Eventually this will become second nature, but then I will have the issue of mentally switching my keyboard habits when I go from my personal computer to the machines at work.
  • The MagSafe connector, while brilliant
    Ed’s note He just tripped over the cord a few minutes ago, and the laptop is fine.

    appears to be under-engineered. Several users have reported fraying cables, and another couple have experienced melting plastic or outright bursting-into-flames. The thin cable may be a victim of its own popularity, with people yanking on it instead of pulling the plug out by the lighted connector. I’m feeling uneasy about leaving mine plugged in if I am going out for long periods of time.

  • Lastly, but most importantly, this laptop is unacceptably hot. Apple has recently started calling the MacBook a “notebook,” claiming that the heat is normal for such a fast computer and that it shouldn’t be used on your lap. Their own advertising (much of which was recently altered) used the word “laptop” and depicts users with the machines perched on their thighs. There is no conclusive explanation for this overheating, though I notice that the fan almost never turns on, and some people have suggested that Apple went with heat over noise. I’d like to be able to control the fan tolerance in a system setting.

Software:

  • On the first day, the MacBook hung while I was trying to show my class the fast user switching feature. Not cool.
  • Learning how to install software isn’t the simplest thing; you run immediately into DMG files, virtual mounted drives, and the paradigm of dragging an icon to your Applications folder. A bit daunting for anybody. Once you get it down, it’s a breeze, but be prepared for this initial shock.
  • Parallels (used to run Windows XP) isn’t as stable as it sounds. I’ve used it to test the IE browser for web sites I’m working on, and to play on a PC-only online poker site. About 10% of the time, it hangs. I don’t know who’s to blame for this, but it sucks. Especially when you hit the nut flush on the turn with a fish betting into you. Ahem.
  • For some reason, the guest user I’ve set up for my students to use is hosed. Almost all the programs throw an error in the first couple of minutes, or refuse to work altogether. So much for “it just works!” Perhaps “it just works for one user” would be more accurate.
  • The process of burning a CD messed me up. In the Finder (the OS X version of Windows Explorer), drives show up at the top, and folders show up at the bottom. So when I put in my blank disk, and didn’t see it at the top, I spent hours searching for how to get it to work. Finally I realized that the blank disk shows up as a folder in the bottom of the Finder; you add files to this folder, and then burn the folder to the disk. This seems to be part of Apple’s UNIX heritage, where you can “mount” a folder as a drive, and other uber-nerdy things.
  • iMovie is a bit dodgy. I’ve just finished my second video, and while the interface is easy to use and I’m very efficient, there are times when titles and clips preview incorrectly, or go blank. I have to rearange them and update the effects to correct the problem. This would non-trivial and frustrating for the average user.

Design:

  • I can’t find anything to gripe about here.

That’s it for now. On balance, I still love this computer. I just wish it wouldn’t sear my flesh.

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