A new computer to start the New Year:
I’m writing this post today on a new computer: an Apple MacBook Pro 13″ laptop. I’ve been a Windows PC user since I first made the switch to from electric typewriters and dedicated word processors to real computers sometime back in the 1990’s. All of my computers except one have been laptops, as desktop systems would have been incompatible with my lifestyle. My various books and blog posts over the years have been written from a variety of locations, from an office in my home where a desktop could have worked to the cabin of my sailboat where it definitely would have not been feasible. My computer has to go with me when I travel, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
Looking back at the number of these laptop units I’ve been through over the years makes me realize it was indeed a false economy to buy low-end Windows PCs on the assumption that they were a lot cheaper than the more exotic Apple products with their high price tags. Counting the recent purchase of a 10-inch Dell Inspiron Mini netbook last summer, I’ve now owned six PC laptops in a decade and a half, including my still-functioning Dell Vostro running Windows XP.
While the Vostro has been the best of the lot to date, continuing to run okay despite the fact that it will be four years old next month, I began to seriously run into its limitations last year when I started trying to edit HD video files shot on my new Nikon D7000 DSLR camera. Even after upgrading the RAM to the maximum that could be installed, dealing with video was frustrating at best and infuriating more often than not. While I still can and have been using the Vostro for writing up until last week, even that was getting difficult with the second battery I’ve bought for it now at the end of its useful life. Having to hunt for an outlet if I ever want to take it away from the desk defeats the main point of owning a laptop.
For years I had convinced myself that I would never own an Apple computer. Though I did buy an iPod for my music collection several years ago and have never had a problem with it, I wasn’t convinced that Apple’s operating system and lack of compatibility with some of the software I frequently use would work for me. So what changed my mind? A recent upgrade of my smartphone from the HTC Hero to Apple’s new iPhone 4s:
My old phone, running the Android operating system, was always freezing up, making random calls on its own to people in my address book, and behaving in other buggy ways that made using it less than a pleasant experience. Previously, I had stayed away from the iPhone for many of the same reasons I avoided Apple computers – not to mention that you could only get one through AT&T until recently. When my local carrier announced that the new latest and greatest iPhone 4s was available through them, and I realized I could upgrade for little out of pocket, I decided to give the iPhone a try.
I immediately discovered that most of what Apple enthusiasts say about the iPhone is true: it simply works. Unlike the Android system, which perhaps allows those who are technically inclined to tinker more with the software of their phones, the Apple iOS 5 operating system provides a user-friendly interface that just stays out of your way and does what it’s supposed to. I don’t have time to be bothered with apps that may or may not work and may or may not contain viruses or malware. While some may see any smart phone as unnecessary complication when a regular cell phone would do – there are many ways that a phone as capable as the iPhone 4s can become a valuable tool to a writer. I’ll post about some of the apps. I’ve discovered and how I use them soon, but suffice it to say that this phone is already streamlining my work flow and helping me organize my thoughts in ways I never dreamed of.
In addition to it’s usefulness for voice calls, email, Internet browsing and syncing data to the computer, the newest iPhone also has the best camera available in a smart phone: an 8-megapixel sensor with a low-light maximum aperture of f2.4. This was a big selling point for me, as the idea of being able to shoot hi-quality photos (and 1080P HD video) from a device I will always have with me is quite appealing. Not to mention that photos and video clips shot from this device can be uploaded to my blogs, Facebook page, web albums, YouTube or email almost immediately.
It didn’t’ take but a few days of using this fantastic new phone for me slide down the slippery slope of infatuation with its seamless interface and start seriously looking at Apple computers for the first time. With the introduction of Apple’s new iCloud synchronization between computers and mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad, it was a logical move to switch to a MacBook for my main computer.
Although I was impressed with the form-factor of the ultra-light MacBook Air, I decided to stick with the more practical (for my purposes) MacBook Pro 13. Compared to my old Vostro, this thing is still ultra-light and ultra-compact even if it is thicker and heavier than the Air. Weighing just 4.5 lbs. and only .95 inches thick, it’s certainly small enough to take anywhere I want a computer to go. And with a battery life of 7 hours, I can leave the power cord at home most of the time.
Along with that portability is impressive computing capability that will make this new laptop a real workhorse far exceeding anything I’ve had in the past. With 4GB of RAM upgradable to 8GB, and an Intel i5 processor, it will handle my photo and video editing with ease. Apple’s superior build quality is apparent throughout, and I really like the uni-body machined aluminum construction. Like the iPhone and the iPod, everything about the way this computer is put together says “quality.” After having problems with broken display hinges and cheap keyboards on my plastic PC laptops, I can appreciate something that is built like it is intended to last.
Despite the overall compact size of the machine, the MacBook Pro 13 has a full-sized keyboard with excellent spacing between the keys. Unlike my Dell Vostro, I see no need to use a separate, external keyboard for all day writing sessions with this one. Typing on this machine is comfortable whether at a desk or reclined in an easy chair, and I can’t wait to try it on the deck of my boat or propped up against a palm tree on the beach somewhere.
So far, the user experience with MAC OS X Lion has been great. It’s taken a bit of adaptation to switch from Windows, but it’s mostly intuitive and easy to understand. Best of all, I don’t have to worry about constantly upgrading my anti-virus protection software because there is no need to run any at all. With nothing to get in my way or slow me down, I really have no excuse not to increase my output of writing, photography and video work. And that’s a good thing, as I still have a novel to finish by the end of this month and I’ve just signed a contract for another nonfiction book that I have to finish by the end of July.
I’ll be posting more here soon about using these new tools and some of the great apps that are both pre-installed and available as downloads for the MacBook and the iPhone.