Around 2004, maybe 2005, I saw my first 12-inch PowerBook. I wasn’t a Mac guy back then, I was just one of the people who lusted for the pretty hardware but didn’t have the money to shell out. Back then it cost $1599 just to get in the door, and that was too rich for my blood, so I figured I’d stay with my HP, thank you very much. But man, did I want that PowerBook. Bad.
I didn’t have a logical reason for it. The size was one thing — most laptops I owned back then were unwieldy, and not so much portable as they were bricks with keyboards. And maybe I thought that having something that was so diminutive compared to the competition would have made it more portable as a result. Whatever the case was, I loved that machine. I just never owned one.
Years later, I’d be staying at my friend Courtney’s house overnight when I saw a 12-inch PowerBook sitting on his kitchen table. I wrote about it in my eulogy to the man who helped make me who I am today:
We head inside and I sit down on the couch with Chad and Bill to watch some football while
Courtney sits on a stool and pops open this old looking laptop. I turned and looked, and that’s
when I realized what it was. Courtney had a 12-inch PowerBook, an Apple computer that I lusted
after for years, and had recently started wanting again. I chatted with him about it, talking about
what a great workhorse it must be, and he agreed. The latch had long since failed, so it needed a
coaster to keep the lid shut, and it was a little beat up from all of the years of travel and abuse.
But it still did Facebook and the web, and Courtney used it all the time.
Later that night, I went into the kitchen and grabbed a drink of water. As I sat there in the quiet
house, I looked at the PowerBook again, taking note of the many scratches and dings that marred
its surface. I wondered where those marks had come from, and what the story was behind each of
them. What stories he must have typed out on that thing, and how many states it had been to. Then
it hit me.
This was Hemmingway’s typewriter.
Part of why his machine was so important to me was because of the man who used it. But the second part was that a man of his stature — both physically and spiritually — used a tiny device to peck out his words. The size reminded me of a typewriter (although why that is, I have no idea — most typewriters I’ve used are mammoth), and that portability meant that he could just pop down on a beach somewhere and record his memoirs. That was another reason why the 12-inch PowerBook made so much sense in my mind.
Flash to a few years ago, when the 11-inch MacBook Air was introduced. Now we had a device that was just a tick smaller than my favorite computer of all time, and it was a fraction of the thickness and weight. Plus, it was cheap — $999 for the base model — although the lack of storage meant that the $1,099 model really made more sense. But whatever, it was my dream machine. I wanted it so bad. And then I had the opportunity to buy one.
Last year, I owned a 2008-era MacBook Pro, one of the first unibody models with the dual graphics cards. It was a pretty sweet machine, but it was heavy, and carrying it to work and back was a pain in the ass. Although 15-inches is perfect if you’re using it as a laptop every day, back then I had a 21-inch monitor that I sat on my desk, making the actual screen size pretty irrelevant. Besides, even when I did need to do design work and I didn’t have a monitor, 15-inches wasn’t really enough, so I just had to accept the fact that for some of what I did, my machine just wasn’t the best option.
So I decided to sell the MacBook Pro, and I did — I bought it on clearance for $1500 in 2009, and sold it in 2011 for $900. I needed a machine, so I had to find one that worked for me. I knew I wanted the 11-inch Air, but then there was that 13-incher, and man, that thing seemed pretty sweet. Better battery life, more available storage (the 11-inch was limited to 128GB back then) and a screen with the same resolution as my recently sold 15-incher. It was like I was downgrading in size, but not in screen perspective, and so I had everything I needed but in a more compact package.
Prior to selling the Pro, I debated the 11/13 thing for months. I remember talking to the designer at one of my gigs about it for hours on end, pushing the pros and cons of one versus the other. At the end of the day, I figured that with the specs I wanted, the difference between the 11 and the 13 was just $50. Screw it, the 13-inch Air made more sense, and that’s what I bought.
I never really had buyer’s remorse because that machine hauls ass. It’s by far the best computer I’ve ever owned, and it can take anything I throw at it. Handbrake encodes, design work, photos — it doesn’t matter, it can take everything and the fans still rarely come on. It’s the perfect machine for me, bar none.
But I still have a nagging little doubt about the size. At this point, my Air spends more time hooked up to my 27-inch monitor than it does on my lap, so the physical dimensions of the machine are pretty much moot. And when I do go out on the road, believe it or not, that 13 seems pretty big. Using it on an airplane, for example, isn’t awesome — it feels like I’m typing on a battleship when there’s a guy leaning back in front of me. Although I love my iPad, it’s just not the same for a business trip; I find myself bringing both the iPad and the Air, mainly for the convenience. Honestly, that’s not very cool.
So I find myself in a bit of a conundrum. I love my 13 — best machine I’ve ever owned — but that 11 is still calling to me like a siren in the night. You know, Kirsten needs a new computer. Maybe she could use my 13 …
Man, how cool would a book of memoirs from Courtney have been, right? The stories that guy told were legendary. ↩
Let me start by saying that I have no facts, figures or actual data on the existence of an iPad mini. There’s been a lot of talk about it — and a ton of interesting theories — but we still have yet to see it.
But this isn’t about the logistics of the device, it’s something about “real” people. I’m a nerd, as are quite a few of my friends. We all would love an iPad mini for the same reason we’d like an iPad maxi (wow, what a horrible name that would be). It’s an iPad, and an Apple device, which means it would most likely add to our productivity or fun. As nerds, that’s what we do.
My mother, although she is fairly technically savvy, is not a nerd. Two years ago, my wife and I wanted to thank my parents for all the hard work they did helping us with our first child, so we bought my mother a base model iPad for mother’s day. She loved it, but swore she wasn’t sure what kind of use she’d have for it. But as the time wore on, she kept playing with it until she knew how it would fit into her life. Today, she’s upgraded to a new iPad (64GB Verizon model, no less), and she can’t live without it.
But she also makes accommodations for her iPad, like the bigger purse she bought so she can carry it all the time. It’s great, and she loves it. But something smaller wouldn’t be too bad, either.
She is the iPad mini’s customer.
As my mother puts it, a smaller iPad would be more “pursable,” meaning it would fit in her purse better than the gigantic (in comparison) traditional iPad. That makes it more portable, and yet easier to use than her iPhone (she wears glasses, and doesn’t prefer reading on the smaller screen). Since she voraciously consumes books, the iPad mini would fit into her lifestyle nicely, providing a nice middle ground between her iMac and her iPad. And with iCloud, she’d have all her books synced between all devices, making it perfect wherever she was.
I’ve thought for a long time now that an iPad mini isn’t the best option. That it’s stupid, what with that whole “filing down your fingertips” bit. And yet, when I first saw the Google Nexus 7, I got a little excited. It’s cool. Really cool. I wouldn’t mind having one, and I’ve even considered buying one for myself. Why? It’s a great form factor. I love my iPad, but carrying it around everywhere just seems a bit weird sometimes. Having a more pocketable or portable device would be nice. Not great for doing real work, but that’s not the goal of the Nexus anyways.
You can make the argument all day long that the iPad is made for creation as well as consumption, and I’m with you on that one. Yes, I can get my work done on an iPad, and I can make some pretty cool stuff with it. But some people don’t want that. They just want their books, music and the web on an easily portable tablet that stops them from lugging out their laptop every time they want to catch up on the day’s events. The 7-inch form factor fits that perfectly, and since it would presumably be lighter, that would be better than the current iPad’s arm-draining weight.
Will there be an iPad mini? Rumors currently put it as coming out this fall, but I’ve been hearing that gossip for years now. My hope though is that it will happen, and it will come out in time for Christmas this year. Then maybe I can look for one under the tree — assuming I haven’t bought one already.
But I have a different perspective on Microsoft products. Not because I’m an Apple guy, but because my father is a Microsoft Certified Developer.
For months now, my father has been extolling the virtues of Windows 8 to me, showing off the cool new features and the Metro interface. I like it, I really do. But the same question I have is the one that he’s been wondering himself: how does it work without touch?
For my father and millions like him, it doesn’t. Well, it does, but not really well. The UI isn’t intuitive, and no one can figure out how to move from Metro to the Start button — which may or may not exist, depending on the situation. It’s a mess frankly, but now we have at least one answer, and it’s the Surface.
Right now, it’s the prettiest piece of vaporware I’ve ever seen. I mean, there’s this big event with lots of people all excited and talking about the product. But there is no release date and no price. What kind of hype machine is that?
Besides — remember the Courier? I do, because not only did I want one, I thought it was brilliant. Back then we didn’t know what the iPad could do because it wouldn’t be in anyone’s hands until April 3, 2010. The Courier was talked about, and everyone thought it was the next big thing. It wasn’t. It never happened.
The Surface is definitely a step in the right direction. For one, it does exist. From what I understand, the ARM version will be competitively priced and the Intel version will be in the Ultrabook range. What’s that mean? That Intel one is going to be around a grand, and we can hope the ARM one is under $500. If not, it’s DOA. Sure, people will buy it, but not the 67.1 million that have bought an iPad so far.
But here’s what I really want to happen.
I want the Microsoft Surface to come out and blow everyone out of the sky. I want it to be priced under $400 for the ARM model and $800 for the Intel version. And it’ll come with Windows 8, which will work flawlessly and make everyone forget Vista ever existed.
Because competition breeds innovation. Let’s face it; Microsoft just one-upped Apple with that Type Cover (but they also stole the magnetic cover design from them too, something which I bet we’ll see a lawsuit over at some point). I bet the concept made execs at Apple do a full-on facepalm, because it solves a problem that everyone has with the iPad — typing without an external keyboard isn’t awesome. It’s not horrible, but it’s not suitable for daily work, not for the most part. Microsoft just made it work.
If Microsoft does succeed with this thing, the next iPad is going to be phenomenal. Then the Surface will one-up Apple. Then it reverses again, each time with the consumer being the overall winner.
I want Microsoft to succeed because it means that Apple is going to innovate more as a result. And I can’t wait to see what they come up with.
Like everyone else I seem to talk to on a regular basis, I paid close attention to the WWDC keynote last week, which introduced a ton of new devices. And yes, there are new MacBook Airs and all that, but does anyone really care? Not really. It’s all about the Next Generation MacBook Pro with the amazing Retina display.
I saw this and loved it — but by admiration, not for my needs. After all, I’ve got my super-svelte MacBook Air that I love more than life itself, and my 27-inch Apple LED Cinema Display. Life is good. No reason to upgrade. Nope.
Admittedly, this isn’t something I could do today, nor should I in the next few months. I have bills to pay, a kid to feed and a new life to make, so dropping a few grand on a new laptop (particularly when mine isn’t quite a year old yet) isn’t in the cards. Besides, there’s no distinct advantage in my situation. Getting the Retina display MacBook Pro would mean that I’m actually losing resolution when I work at my desk. Who wants that?
One of the biggest problems I have with editing photos on my current setup is really more of a problem with 10.7 Lion. I used to easily adjust the sliders for the JPEG previews in Finder and just skim through shots that way. It’s quick for me to pick out the over-exposed and shitty pictures, then I go through with a fine-toothed comb and pick out the good ones. But Lion’s Finder is quirky, and sometimes it doesn’t let me do that. It’s weird.
What I end up doing is putting the Finder full screen and individually hitting the spacebar on any image that I find questionable. If I like it, it’s in. If not, it’s out. But that takes time, and lots of it. That said, it lets me see the images pretty close to full resolution, and that’s good enough for the technology at hand. Hell, even with a new MBP I still couldn’t match the 3888X2592 output of my Canon 40D, so there’s no discernible reason for me to upgrade. Right?
Go look at that dog again. Look at how crisp and sharp the image is. And then go back and read Andy’s post. Particularly this part:
“Photo work is terrific. Thumbnails are so dense that you feel like you can truly pick out the winners in a sequence of photos without having to maximize each and every one of them individually.”
You don’t say.
So really, if I were to upgrade to a Retina display MBP in the future, I’d actually gain speed to my workflow. Huh.
There’s another wrinkle to this whole situation, and it’s got the wheels turning. I’ve been having neck problems recently, and it’s the result of my monitor being too low on my desk. It’s an easy fix — put a few books underneath it and I’m straight. But that’s inelegant, and I really don’t want to change the aesthetic of my perfectly arranged setup unless I have a way to do it right. I’ve looked at shelves, DIY options and even monitor arms, all of which are relatively affordable. And thanks to my Dad, I’m now lusting after a ridiculously expensive Anthro desk that costs more than several of my previous project trucks combined (thanks, Dad). All of these things would fix this neck issue. But also, so would this:
It’s the mStand by Rain, an awesome little device that elevates your MacBook up onto a shelf so that you can see your display better and use a different keyboard. I own one; it’s sitting in my closet right now because the front lip on my Air is just too short and slides under the cushion. But it wouldn’t on a new Retina display MBP. No, it’d be just about right.
This is the part where I realize that I’m rationalizing a purchase that I absolutely don’t need to make. I’ll tell myself that since our family iMac (our personal media server) is starting to show signs of age, that swapping the Air and display with that makes more sense. And that buying the new Retina display MBP could take my photography to a new level, even though I really don’t do as much of it as I used to. These are all the things that are going through my head. This is a problem.
But as much as I’d enjoy having a new MBP, it’s just not going to happen anytime soon. It’s an amazing piece of equipment for sure, but it’s just too much for me at the moment both financially and for what I actually need. Realistically I could get by with a typewriter and a scanner; there’s no need to buy a computer that costs over $2gs.
But come 2013, when my Air is two years old and there’s a Retina display replacement available, well that’s when I’ll probably make the switch. See? This is me maturing as an adult.
And it fucking sucks.
When Time Machine first came out for the Mac, I was pretty excited. Finally there was a straightforward and easy way to backup my stuff without a lot of fuss. It was perfect.
I bought a Time Capsule right when it came out, and started backing up my iMac and MacBook Pro immediately. I was so happy that finally things were safe and I never had to worry about losing my files again.
And then the Time Capsule died.
My computers were running just fine, but now I was paranoid. What if my backup failed? If it could happen to Pixar with Toy Story 2, then it could certainly happen to me and I did not want to take that chance. I needed to get serious about backup, right away.
But I didn’t. I mean, I did — I had Time Machine backups on both machines right away — but that was it. If my backup failed as it did before, I was still screwed. And yet, somehow, this kept me feeling safe and secure. Sure, I could lose all my files tomorrow, but whatever, like that’s gonna happen. I’m good.
They say that when something strikes close to home that it hits you, and that’s what happened to me last week. My mother and father own a software company nearby, and my father was installing Visual Basic onto one of my mother’s machines when the hard drive controller failed. It was running two mirrored hard drives, but when the controller failed, it took the machine and drives with it, and even professional data restorers weren’t able to fix the problem completely. It turns out there was a problem prior, and the last backup was a month to the day before.
Fortunately, this wasn’t the end of the world since my mother doesn’t keep anything too serious on that particular machine, but it was a wake-up call to me. No longer could I just have local backup, I needed to make this happen. So here’s what I did.
First, I’ve got my iMac. This is our dedicated media machine for the most part, and otherwise it’s where my wife holds our financial information and all that. Since this is a 2007-era iMac, it doesn’t have a huge hard drive so we keep most of our media on separate USB drives connected via a hub. I have three drives, all named after Futurama characters. There’s Nibbler, a 1 TB drive that holds most of the Whipps Industries archives, as well as some personal data. Then we’ve got Fry, a 2 TB drive that has our iTunes library and nothing else. Finally we have Clamps, a 3 TB drive that backs up Fry, Nibbler and the iMac (which, for the record, has Kif for an icon). Again, all local, all right in one room.
Running everything on USB drives is not ideal. Although my data is backed up on Clamps, it’s still not redundant enough for me. My solution is going to be a Drobo S. It’s Mac friendly, has dual redundancy so I’m covered if two drives fail, and it’s infinitely expandable. I know this may not be the best setup ever, but for someone who doesn’t want to setup an entire server, I think this is probably the best route for me to go. With five 3 TB drives it will also get me 8.17 TB of usable space, which is enough to last me a good little bit, for sure.
For my MacBook Air, I have a 1 TB drive that’s partitioned into two halves: one is Hypnotoad and that serves as my Time Machine backup. The other is Roberto which holds my iTunes library. Since I use Home Sharing for my library, it doesn’t really matter if Roberto is backed up, because if I lose it, I lose the Time Machine backup on Hypnotoad too, and I can always restore the library from the iMac. Just to be doubly sure that everything is covered, I plug in a 500 GB drive named Zapp every Saturday night for a full cloned backup. This way, I know that if my Time Machine drive fails, I’m covered with a clone that is, at most, a week old.
In addition, I use Dropbox (or click here, sign up and I get some bonus space!) for a lot of my files. This is where I keep the current projects and a few other work-related items, which gives me a few different advantages. First, I can share files with friends easily. Second, I know that my work is always backed up, which means I can always get an older version of the file if I need to. Finally, it’s also on my iMac (and therefore, backed up by Clamps), so I’m covered if the Air gets nuked.
Now this is all well and good, but I still don’t feel secure. If some major tragedy happens — fire, flood, sprinklers go off — I’m fucked because it’s all in one space. To solve the problem, I knew I had to go into the cloud for backup, but I wasn’t sure what method was not only the most affordable for me, but also the most attainable and Mac friendly. I decided to use Backblaze, because it’s affordable and will also backup USB drives. This means that not only are Nibbler and Fry covered as part of backing up the iMac (Clamps isn’t because Backblaze doesn’t backup Time Machine drives), but if I ever get a Drobo S, that will be covered too. That means I could have over 16 TB of data backed up to Backblaze, all for $5 a month per machine. That’s worth it to me.
Uploading that many files takes time though, and even at the higher bandwidths that my network provider offers, I’m still looking at over two months to get my stuff into the cloud. Until then, I’m stuck with what I’ve got, but I do have one additional plan that will help out a bit.
My mother has a 27-inch iMac, and it’s been at the Genius Bar five times now with logic board issues. We seem to finally have things worked out, but one thing we did get coordinated was backing up her drive regularly with both Time Machine and weekly clones. In between going to the Genius Bar, we ended up cloning her hard drive twice for two different dates — one for before all the shit hit the fan, and one for right before we had the second logic board replaced (for the record, they do have AppleCare, and we’ve been assured that next go-around we talk about a new replacement). This means she has two drives, and since I have drives floating around here as well, I could have two cloned drives as well. This gave me an idea.
We meet for dinner every Friday night, and if we rearranged our backups for every Thursday, we could just unplug the drives and swap them once a week. This means that my cloned drive would be at her house, and hers at mine. That way, if there was ever a fire at one of our homes, the data would be safe at the other person’s place. We’ll swap two drives each week (one from each machine), and then we’re always backed up for at least a week at a time. It’s not quite foolproof, but it’s not too bad, either.
I know I’ll never be completely safe from problems, but I’d be devastated if we lost any of KJ’s baby pictures or our mammoth iTunes library. By keeping our stuff backed up everywhere, I think we’ve got the best chance of being as safe as possible. Now I just need to get that Drobo and I’ll feel even safer.