August 31, 2007
Two Months On: The MacBook Pro
Well, I've been meaning to write a review of the new laptop for a while now, and with the TV more-or-less off-limits for the afternoon (see the previous entry) now's a good time.
All in all I'm happy with it. Some things take some getting used to, like only having one monitor, and the Dock takes up way too much space -- I have it shrunk down about as far as it can go, and stuffed over on the left side of the screen, so it's mostly OK, but if there was a way to duplicate the Start Menu and the Quicklaunch Bar I'd shut the Dock off in a heartbeat.
Also, copy and paste haven't been working very well, because the Command key isn't in the right place for me -- I keep hitting Function-C and getting annoyed when nothing gets copied to the clipboard. Given that I haven't actually used the Function key for anything since I bought the computer, it'd be nice if I could remap it.
I've been playing with iMovie off and on, to set up a photo montage for my cousin's wedding several weeks ago. As a basic movie maker it's mostly OK, but there's a "phantom" timeline that shows up at the bottom of the screen that I can't drop anything into. It's not just me; when I asked at the Apple Store the guy at the "Genius Bar" (and how stupidly cocky of a name is that?) went to the back room only to find out that, yes, I can't do a damn thing with it. It's apparently just there to annoy me.
iTunes isn't specific to the Mac, but since I don't allow too much Apple software to infest my PC (I barely let Microsoft software on the thing!) it's new to me. Copying my music into the library was smooth enough, and the download album art feature is kind of nifty. It even picked up the cover for FMHg's album, which surprised me.
It's also kind of dumb; it refused to believe that there was a cover for Billy Joel's Greatest Hits Volume II (hint, it's the exact same as Volume I) so I had to dissect the .itc files to extract the covers from them. That's actually pretty easy to do: the ITC format is basically a JPEG with some extra header garbage so if you open an ITC file in a hex editor (I use Hex Fiend) you can look for the JPEG's magic number (FF D8 FF E0) and delete everything that comes before it to save as a plain ol' JPEG. From there, just play the MP3 you want and drop the picture into place. You may have to hit Cmd-G to show the album cover in the bottom left corner fr this to work.
The Mac is also unable to retrieve pictures off my cellphone; the "genius" couldn't figure anything out either. I'll have to try reinstalling Nokia's retarded little program on the 2K box to get at the pics; the reason I was trying to use the Mac was because the PC stopped talking to the phone.
The AirPort does this really annoying thing where it constantly sends deauthorization frames to my TrendNet router; turning the router down to 11g from 11n made everything work. Not sure whose fault that is, since 11n is still in the draft stage. Hopefully once things are nailed down I'll be able to apply a firmware upgrade and get the wireless bandwidth I paid for.
The CPU on this thing gets frackin' hot -- it's currently at 131°F and I've seen it top out at close to 140. Apparently this is normal, but it makes it uncomfortable to have the thing sitting in my lap, like it is right now.
The last problem I had was with the Mighty Mouse -- the "Genius Bar" couldn't figure this one out either, making it 0 for 3. Basically, if you have a Mac and a Mighty Mouse you have to be careful about what you do when you put the computer to sleep.
During the time between the computer being told to sleep (either by closing the lid, or by choosing Apple Menu > Sleep) and actually going to sleep (i.e. when the flashing light in the latch starts flashing), the computer is vulnerable to the mouse crashing it.
If you click the Mighty Mouse during that time, your computer will go comatose. The flashing light won't flash, staying on all the time, and you'll be unable to wake up the machine. I tried making sure Bluetooth devices couldn't wake up the computer, I tried resetting the power-management module, and I tried resetting the PRAM. Nothing helped; the only fix is, "don't do that."
If you close the sliding door on the Mighty Mouse, do it either before you sleep the computer or after it finishes going to sleep -- it's almost impossible not to accidentally click. In fact, don't touch the mouse at all while the computer's going to sleep.
But aside from those annoyances I'm actually liking the new machine. After all, it's been good enough to use all afternoon while my living room was off-limits.
Would I recommend a Mac to someone? I'm not sure. But if someone had decided to buy one already I wouldn't talk them out of it, either.
Edit, 1 Sep 07 6:15 PM: I may have been mistaken on what happens to the Mac if I accidentally click the mouse while it's trying to sleep. I saw on a couple Mac forums where people were having trouble with the Mac waking up "on its own" because of a faulty sensor in the lid -- on one hand the computer thought it was supposed to be awake, on the other it knew the lid was closed.
In that case the Macs were waking up with the screen disabled. Burns through the batteries 'cause it's on, and looks like it's crashed because when you do open it there's no display. I wonder if mine might be doing the same thing when I misclick the mouse.
I could experiment on it to see if I can replicate the behavior without closing the lid, since I've already tried triggering the sensor bug (mine doesn't have the problem of a loose sensor like some MBPs do) but at this point I don't care any more. "Don't do that" works just fine for me.