This week has been a very busy week for Apple, first we saw (yet another) set of record breaking financial results, a day later new hardware and software were flying out of Cupertino at an astonishing rate.
First I will look at Lion the new operating system, and then I will have a look at the new Macbook Air that I have in my possession and setting it up.
A few weeks prior to any hint of a release date for Lion my local supermarket had a 25% discount on iTunes gift cards, so I stocked up, knowing full well that not only would I be buying a new operating system, but most likely some new applications to go along with it. The morning of the second rumoured release date arrived, and when I awoke the Apple Online store was down – which is always a good sign. Having duel displays meant that with a little help from a Safari Extension – Auto Refresh, I could have the Apple website open on one display, and continue my day, knowing full well that I would be one of the first to see it go live.
Between 12:30 and 13:00 GMT (I think) the Apple Store came back up online, and I instantly added a Macbook Air to my basked and purchased it with a Paul Smith Case, and extended AppleCare (more on that later), so that it would be delivered the following day. After my order was accepted, I then proceeded to download Lion from the Mac App Store.
Once I had clicked on the purchase button the little Lion logo jumped into my dock. The file was just under 4gb, and took a few hours to download. When I originally started downloading I was getting speeds of over 1MB/s, however as word spread round the world, this gradually reduced to just over 300KB/s. Installation took a further 30 minutes, and was a straight forward, non complex affair. When Lion booted it looked clean, fresh and was very responsive. There was one thing that I was disappointed in, and that was no “Welcome Video” with the funky music that we have been used to with a new mac or new install.
My desktop iMac is a 27inch Quad Core 2.91Ghz i7 with 8GB of RAM and 1TB HDD, however it was getting sluggish, applications that used to open in once bounce of the dock icon, now were taking upwards of 5. Lion replaced all of this, applications opened in one or two, and things generally happened a lot more smoothly – just as expected with a new OS from Apple. Documents had been backed up (twice) before hand and came across smoothly, Applications had been updated to their latest stable release and were all working fine.
Two things which I didn’t like about Lion, the first is of huge debate; the natural/un-natural scrolling. What does work ‘naturally’ on a tablet or phone, just seems backwards to me when using a mouse. Some have chosen to fight it out and get used to it, I have chosen to change it. If you wish to change it click here for instructions. The second thing was the lack of Front Row. This wasn’t a feature that I used an awful lot in Snow Leopard, however I knew that when I did want it, knowing that it wasn’t there would annoy me intensely. From what I understand, Front Row is still built into Lion, its just not compiled as an application. Thankfully Ralph Perdomo has written an application that finds the files and combines them in to Front Row, so that you can either launch it from your Applications, or do so by using your Apple remote. Click here for link to instructions on how to add Front Row back in Lion.
For those of you who either know me, or who follow my blog/tweets will know as of September I will be going to law school to take my first steps in becoming a barrister. A road that will be filled with lots of reading, revision, note taking and most likely a combination of all them.
Being a student of the 21st century, all my notes, slides, essays will (and have been) taken on the computer using a variety of software and hardware, and whilst the iPad is perfect for throwing in my bag and taking notes on, multi-tasking still isn’t as smooth as I would like. Coupled with the fact that Christmas and Easter holidays are not normally spent in Manchester and spent in Leeds means that I have to pack up and cart back a serious amount of hardware, which as a one off isn’t an issue, but for a long weekend it simply isn’t practical. I see the next steps I take to be ones which I will constantly have a book in my hand, or notes open essay writing. Something that can be done on an iPad once every so often, but not on a regular basis.
Therefore the MacBook Air was the only choice really, I decided to go for the 13inch with 128GB SSD. The 13inch was chosen as I’m one of those people who needs the most amount of screen real-estate as possible (hence 27inch iMac and 20inch Cinema display), and against the 256GB model as not only was it an added cost; but as this would be a work machine, and text files done take up that much space, 128GB was adequate.
It arrived today, and even though I have played with its predecessor in the Apple Stores, when you hold it in your hands, it really is a feat of engineering genius to get something so powerful so light, and wafer thin. Lion came pre-installed, and I copied across the handful of applications that I needed for university, including Evernote and Pearnote for note taking.
Email was stored on IMAP servers so no import was needed, calendar and contacts are looked after by MobileMe, so the only other concern was documents and backup.
I have been using SugarSync for several years now, in preference to (but in conjunction with) DropBox. SugarSync monitors the contents of specified folders and uploads said content to the cloud when changed. I prefer this to DropBox as it means that I can keep my current file structure in place, and needn’t move things around. If like me and you have more than one computer, SugarSync can download those files, and place them in the same folder path (or another of your choosing). So my Documents are mapped to my Documents folder, and for a few applications (such as Mars Edit and Feeder) I have also mapped their Application Support files so that my preferences are kept in sync as well.
The beauty of this is that if anything changes, when I get back to my iMac, the changes will be their waiting for me. I also needn’t worry about backing my MacBook Air up either as not only are all my documents in the cloud, but backed up on my iMac.
With this being the first MacBook Air I have owned, apart from the build of it, there is a significant speed increase in cold start (from being completely off to running applications), which is down to having an SSD. However that said, the difference between running applications and switching between them is very small now between the Air and my iMac, both of which are running Lion.
Am I pleased with my MacBook Air, very. It is everything that Apple promised, its amazingly thin, wonderfully responsive and a joy to use. Setting up two Macs to sync in harmony did take some time, as did bringing across applications. However as more of my applications will be purchased through the Mac App Store in the future, the process of setting up a new Mac from scratch will simply be a couple of clicks.