MacBook Pro first impressions and why I switched

I just received my MacBook Pro on Friday. For me this is an even bigger switch since I’m making the switch from Windows to OSX as my primary work desktop. Over the years I’ve alternated between Linux and Windows and as my current Windows laptop is a few years old and shows its age when running IDEA and doing Java compiles I decided the time was right to make the move to OSX.

So for the first impressions, this is the nicest laptop I’ve ever used in terms design, speed, screen size, screen brightness, and the little things (magnetic power connector, keyboard and screen that auto adjust brightness based on light conditions, double finger scrolling, etc..). Apple got this laptop right, it’s amazingly thin and light yet still packs the same amount of power as the current Dell offering!

There are a few downsides in my opinion of switching to a Mac but they are general gripes I have with Apple and not specific to this laptop.

  • My main gripe is the lack of a right click, for the love of god Apple, please accept that right click is a good thing and it wasn’t invented by Microsoft so it’s OK to give us a right click button on the trackpad.
  • The other one is the lack of hibernate. In Windows you have shutdown, hibernate, and sleep and I use hibernate a lot because I want to leave my apps open but I think sleep is a waste of electricity if you’re not going to use your laptop for half a day. I may be totally wrong on this but I’d bet if you added up the power draw of all the Macs sleeping in the world right now that it’s not an insignificant amount of energy being wasted… tree huggers heart hibernate!

I also thought of staying with Windows or Linux but here was my thinking there:

Linux

  • Pros: It’s *nix so it has everything a developer would like for the command line such as bash, xargs, sed, awk, vim, etc… and lots of programs with gnu readline support.
  • Cons: While there’s good support on the open-source application front and Java you can spend a good chunk of time trying getting things installed and working right such as browser plugins like Flash, using CodeWeavers Crossover Office for Word and such, and so on. And yes, I’ve used OpenOffice and while it’s 95% there in office compatability it’s not 100%.
  • Summary: Basically there’s a bit of a hassle factor in the office applications when trying to use Linux in a Windows office. I want to focus on our core business, not dealing with compatability issues.

Windows

  • Pros: Runs every application under the sun (except Textpad) and in my opinion it’s a pretty stable OS these days.
  • Cons: It has the crappiest command line and scripting language out there, see my hunor piece I titled Fed up with Java, switching to .BAT for a little tongue in cheek! I always end up installing Cygwin to develop on a Windows machine and while Cygwin works really well, some bash scripts of downloaded software don’t work out of the box and even in Cygwin it shows through from time to time that you’re running on a non Unix platform.
  • Summary: Basically there’s a hassle factor of being a developer on the Windows platform. I need a good command line and I really want Unix.

That brings me to switching to my new MacBook Pro. It’s Unix under the hood which makes for a great development and command line working environment. There’s a version of MS Office for it so I can still easily deal with opening and editing office documents without worrying about sending out a document that looks like crap when opened in Word. I’ll see how it goes but I’m hopeful it will be the right mix of being able to work in both worlds a little better.

Related reading: MacBook Pro: So fast, oh, so fast, Eclipse on MacBook Pro, MacBook Pro: Kicking ass and taking names, MacBook Pro Experience, MacBook Pro First Impressions, New MacBook Pro (with great Pug photo!), and More MacBook Pro Benchmarking.

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48 Responses to MacBook Pro first impressions and why I switched

  1. Danny Yoo says:

    Hi Todd,

    There was an implementation of hibernation on the last generation of PowerBooks;

    http://www.andrewescobar.com/archive/2005/11/11/how-to-safe-sleep-your-mac/

    Perhaps this may work on the new MacBooks too.

  2. Torgeir says:

    I thought you could right click with the macbook pro by holding two fingers on the trackpad and clicking the button. Maybe it needs to be turned on in the system configuration?

  3. Ben Atkin says:

    I’ve seen a few reviews by bloggers of the MacBook pro, and not one of them has mentioned the built-in camera. I wonder how many people will be using that.

    I have an iBook here, and I’ve got so used to the one-button trackpad and using Ctrl-click for context menus that it would take some time to adjust to two buttons. When using the trackpad I rest my palm to the right of the trackpad and keep my thumb just barely right of the center of the button (I’m right handed).

    As for reasons for switching to the mac, yours are a lot similar to mine. Be sure to check out a few blogs for ideas of how programmers are using macs. I tried out TextMate because I saw that DHH uses it. He has a review about it on his blog.

  4. Christopher says:

    I used Sleep on my iBook quite often. How does that differ from Hibernate as you describe it?

    Thanks in advance,

    Chris
    http://amateureconblog.blogspot.com/

  5. Tuaw Reader says:

    Use Sidetrack and configure mouse pad tap as a right click

  6. Joshua Ochs says:

    Hibernate is indeed already in place on your MacBook Pro. I was wondering why mine was taking a few extra seconds to go to sleep than my iBook used to, and hibernation (known as Safe Sleep on the Mac) is the cause. Yes, believe it or not, those extra few seconds of hard drive spin time before the sleep light starts pulsing are writing the memory contents to disk. I estimate that without hibernation it will sleep in 1-2 seconds, with it, it’s asleep in slightly under 10, and I have 2GB of RAM to deal with.

    One thing you can try is on a fresh boot, put it to sleep (and wait for the pulsing light!), then remove the battery and replace it. When you boot up again it should show your previous desktop in blurry grayscale and a progress bar as it restores main memory from disk.

  7. Andre says:

    This exactly reflects the same reasons I used to switch: it is almost like linux underneath, yet with office and a consistent graphical interface. I used to say that OSX is a Linux box with Office and a nice window manager :)

    Welcome to the Mac. I’m sure you will enjoy. I love it, can’t think of myself going back to windows or Linux.

    And here are some links to get you started with some apps (in case you haven’t found all of them yet…)
    http://www.opensourcemac.org/
    http://www.magicpubs.com/mac/macosx.html
    http://macspecialist.org/content/articles/essential_apps/

  8. maique says:

    hi,

    congratulations on your move.

    as someone said you can ‘right-click’ with the keyboard or you can also get a mouse.
    you can even get a microsoft one if you fancy lots of buttons or get by with the ones offered by apple’s mighty mouse.
    you can then click your breath away, right and left.

    i’ve tried the themouse by macmice and am now using a microsoft one (i really like to right-click and thumb-click and scroll about).
    i’ve also used the mighty mouse on a friend’s powerbook and i’m considering it to replace the bulky microsoft one…

    both the macmice and the mighty one have designs that match the powerbook perfectly.

    i know not everyone likes to use mice with laptops but i find it much easier to make selections with them when using photoshop or any other software that requires some amount of precision.

    (note: please forgive any mistakes, english is not my native language)

  9. Paul Bienick says:

    Excellent. Another developer that’s switched. Be patient, and give yourself a couple of weeks to get used to the new environment. You’ll love it. Some tips for you:

    1. Get QuickSilver (or Launchbar). It will change your life (I swear)
    2. Try out Adium for your IM needs. (www.adiumx.com) Excellent program.
    3. You’ll need at least 2 browsers. I personally like Safari, especially with the Saft plugin, but I keep Camino & Firefox around for pages that don’t render properly in Safari
    4. Change your keybindings so Home/End work like you’re used to. (Either that or get used to Command+Left/Right arrow to move the text insertion cursor to the beginning/end of the line). Here’s how: http://www.pbenz.com/switch/archives/2005/03/changing_key_bi.html (ignore the rest of my blog – it sucks :-) )

    Happy computing!

  10. Thomas says:

    welcome to the family! you will not regret the switch, remember you can drag n’ drop everything in OSX, and check out http://www.freemacware.com for some must have programs, and just get a two botton mouse, track pads suck.

  11. Paul says:

    Hi Todd, I def second using either QuickSilver (or Launchbar or Butler, all three variations on the same concept, each with their own cheerleaders (though this is one ap category, where everyone seems to agree that any of the three is good as long as you have one of them!). That ap alone will change the way you use a computer, and you’ll soon wonder why all computers don’t have such a cool tool.

    But on to your mouse issue…I think this is a case of Steve Jobs’ anal visual aesthetics over everything, and beuaty in simplicity, etc… crap. Here’s a great solution though, which doesn’t require you haul around a mouse. It’s called One Finger Snap. It’s a shareware preference pane that lets you set the mouse button or track pad so that after holding it down for a user-specified time, the “right click” menu (or control-click in Mac terms) will pop up. Not sure if it’s available in Universal Binary yet, but I did just see an update. The UBs are coming fast, so I would expect to see it soon if it’s not ready yet.

    Def give QuickSilver a try (it’s still free as a forever-in-beta product, and Launchbar (the original) is shareware, and i think Butler is donation ware).

    Have fun!

  12. Josiah Pugh says:

    I just want to point out that it’s neither OSX or OS X. It’s Mac OS X. Other than that congrats on the MacBook Pro.

  13. Jason says:

    Why use Adium when you can use Proteus?

    http://www.defaultware.com/proteus/

  14. Rich says:

    Sidetrack is a fantastic product as indicated above. But, it is not yet a universal binary, nor is it compatible with the newer style trackpad on the MacBook Pro. The author is in the process of updating it, but says it may take several weeks due to the change in the track pad, not really in converting it to a universal binary.

  15. Eric J says:

    More kudos for Sidetrack I use the top-right as a right-click, and the bottom-right as the Expose trigger. I like this solution even better than the “real” button on my PC laptops.

    regarding Hibernation, Patrick Stein has written a System Preferences panel that will allow you to Hibernate instead of Sleep when the lid is closed. I greatly prefer it to Sleep. Unfortunately, I know of no way to add both Sleep AND Hibernation to the shut down options or the Apple menu bar.

  16. Neil says:

    I too am thinking of making the switch. I am unix admin, and I live on the command line as well as with VI. Everytime I try to edit a doc in Word, I get a rude awaking when I try using VI habits ;-) I have started up a blog to help myself as well as other make the switch to OS X.
    http://www.geekster.org/maketheswitch

  17. BigC says:

    I just use sleep, and I’ve left it like that for days and the battery impact has been minimal. I love the fact that I can open my Mac and be using it in 2 seconds. Yes, the alternative might be 10 seconds but that’s just too darn long :-)

    I switched 20 months ago because I found Linux/BSD too low level and Windows too broken. It’s the best move I ever made. One thing I will say is that myself and other Mac switchers I’ve known have suffered “switchers remorse” after a few months, where suddenly you think “I could be doing all this with Windows for less money and I can run all the old software I liked.” I actually moved all my files back over to a Windows PC, ready to give up my PowerBook. That lasted about 3 days.

    I envy you for having a MacBook Pro though, my 1.67ghz PowerBook G4 (my second Mac) is now officially old and slow :-)

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  19. When I use an external mouse, I use a multi-button mouse. However, when I’m using my PowerBook keyboard I think a right click button would cause a problem (judging by the way I click, and what happens when I use a PC laptop with a right click). My hands are always so close to the keyboard when the laptop is on my lap, that it’s no problem to ctrl-click instead.

  20. David says:

    Right click = control click : )

    I use a 3 button mouse with my desktop mac but have no problem with control-clicking on my PB.

    While I can live with or without a right click button, I can not live without Quicksilver!

  21. Ben Atkin says:

    Matthew,

    That’s exactly what I’ve found. I’ve had a number of moments where I’ve noticed that something just turns out to work great. A lot of these moments have been while using a mac, and some of the great mac apps.

    At first when I installed TextMate, I thought not having a built-in FTP client was a big drawback. But then I discovered that a couple of the popular mac FTP clients have an “edit in external editor” feature that handles the uploading and downloading in a more convenient way. Now I see *having* a built-in FTP client as unnecessary cruft that raises the price of the editor.

    I admire good design, even if some of it just fell into place.

  22. topfunky says:

    How is the battery life?

    I’m waiting for the take-it-everywhere 12 or 13 inch MacBook and will pounce as soon as it is announced.

  23. Jay Contonio says:

    If you’re ftping on your mac you better be using Transmit. (panic.com)

  24. Mike Zara says:

    Paul — thanks for that tip on One Finger Snap!

    This was a function that I recall being available in OS 9 (or maybe the X PB?) and that I really missed.

  25. Paul Bienick says:

    I second the Transmit recommendation! Beautiful, simple, functional interface.

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  27. Justin Bell says:

    “I used Sleep on my iBook quite often. How does that differ from Hibernate as you describe it?”

    Hibernate uses no power. It basicly dumps the RAM to disk and then completely shuts down. You can take out the battery, and even take the entire computer apart. When you boot up, it pulls the data from the disk back into RAM.

    I’ve been using Hibernate on my Windows PC for years. I wish Apple would put it on all their computers.

  28. Davidlow says:

    One thing I didn’t see mentioned here. Plain old sleep mode on a Mac (not even safe sleep mode) uses much less battery juice than the sleep mode on a Windows laptop. When I used to use Windows I used hibernate mode, but after using a Mac for a while and complaining about the lack of hibernate I finally realized I could leave it sleeping for days and the battery wouldn’t even notice.

    By the way, my two biggest gripes with Macs initially were the same as Todd’s, sleep & right click. Now I just have one gripe: Right click. But after reading here about the wonders of Sidetrack for the umpteenth time I’m gonna go give it a try.

  29. Gregg Fuller says:

    I prefer iScroll to Sidetrack. It’s more stable, competely free, and allows a two-fingers on the trackpad + click = right click. mmmmmm

  30. David says:

    1. Ctrl + click usually works like right-click
    2. I’ll bet sleeping overnight uses less battery power than it takes to write the contents of RAM to disk and read it again on wake. Someone should do a study. At any rate, energy conservation is not a reason to complain about sleep.
    3. Adium is better than Proteus

  31. Peter says:

    Mac OS X has unofficially offered “Safe Sleep” since 10.4.3. Although Safe Sleep can be compared to Hibernate on PC’s, as mentioned in one of the comments above, regular Sleep should not be compared to Standby. From my experience, Standby on PC’s still consumes a lot of power, and on all of the PC laptops I’ve used, Standby will drain the battery in a single day. On Macs, a fully charged battery should provide enough power to sustain sleep for weeks.

  32. Oliver Otway says:

    Hey for FTP try Fetch i found it much more friendly & reliable than Transmit,
    MenuMeters is also useful for developer types if u want an at a glance view of whats going on under the hood.
    also QS is amazing (dont forget to set up some triggers)
    and GeekTool allows you to run *nix shell scripts and have the output displaed to the desktop (doesnt sound amazing- but i have a little bar at the bottom of my screen that tells me my current external IP; essentially it tells me if my shitty windoze server is still connected to the internet or not)

  33. James Katt says:

    Mac OS X’s Sleep Mode is so much more convenient and safe than Window’s Sleep and Hibernate modes.

    I’ve used sleep mode in a Powerbook for years. It uses very little battery power. The laptop Mac can go days in sleep mode without running down the battery (as opposed to the Windows laptop I use (a Sony Vaio TX) which will run down the battery within a day in sleep mode, requiring a reboot).

    I hate hibernate on a laptop because it takes so long to boot up. Mac OS X’s sleep mode is so convenient because it starts up instantly. On my current Powerbook G4, I have not had a crash from sleep mode in the two years since I bought it. How is that for reliability. On my Sony Vaio Tx, I often crash waking up from its sleep mode.

    With my laptop Mac, I have the security of knowing I can instantly go to work by waking from sleep, without crashing the machine as I often do on Windows. It is so much more productive to wake up instantly on the Mac, then to have to wait for hibernate to wake up on a laptop PC.

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  35. algal says:

    I’m the same boat. I’m a developer and longtime Windows/Linux user. I started using OSX at work a couple years ago. Just two days ago my fiancee bought a macbook pro, largely on my advice, and we’ll both be using it. She’s making the switch all at once.

    Overall, it’s a lovely machine. But nothing is perfect.

    Our reactions/questions:

    1) I will definitely check out sidetrack. Not worth going into the one button issue at length, since it’s such a thoroughly flogged dead horse already. It’s quite pissing her off. I hadn’t realized how much I’d got used to it.

    2) can I remap Fn so that the function keys default to being function keys, and I only use Fn to access special functions like volume, brightness, etc..? CTRL-F2 was bad enough to get to the dropdowns menus by hand, but CTRL-FN-F2 is a real pain. Could I remap this to an ALT double-click or something? FN-PGDOWN for tab browsing in firefox, or CMD-SHIFT-{ in safari, is also a royal pain.

    3) any way to remap the right Command key to ALT (aka option)? I use emacs, and it’s annoying how small and remote the CTRL and ALT keys are on the macbook pro keyboard. This was always an issue, but less of one, on the full-sized keyboard at work.

    I general, I think the macbook pro keyboard is not great for keyboard navigators, but maybe it’s only a matter of getting used to it.

    4) It’s wonderful that most apps install by just dragging and dropping into Applications. BUT: how do I do a complete uninstall of apps that install through a pkg file? I know it’s virtually impossible to count on a clean uninstall off an app in Windows, but I’d like to hope there’s a way on OS X.

    5) until firefox universal is released, I’m guessing there’s no way to install Flash and Shockwave so that they simultaneously in Safari and Firefox. Bummer, but I suppose that will be sorted in a month or so.

  36. Jay Contonio says:

    Whoever says Fetch is better than Transmit is insane. That must be why Panic keeps winning Apple Design Awards for Transmit. It is the best use of Apple technology out there. So bow.

  37. Anonymous says:

    MacOS X Finder has a built-in FTP client (for downloads). AFAIK, it still won’t do uploads, but haven’t checked in a few years. That may be because FTP sends passwords in the clear. Finder also supports WebDAV servers (downloads and uploads). Use “Connect to server” from the Go menu for both.

    I use Fugu for all my uploads because FTP sends passwords in the clear. Fugu supports sftp and ssh tunnels, but doesn’t do plain FTP. It’s free.

  38. Mike Zara says:

    Yes – Fugu! I love Transmit, but have recently been playing with Fugu for the secure features. Not quite as clean and pretty as Transmit, but getting close… Glad to own Transmit, though, because Panic should be encouraged in making cool software.

  39. Charles says:

    Not that this would be the reason for sticking with Windows, but there is something in development over at Microsoft called MSH, or Microsoft Shell, aka Monad [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MSH_(shell)]. Beta releases are currently available, and what little poking around I’ve done in it, it seems to do a good job of aliasing all of the most common command line functions in *nix.

    Might be worth a try, even if you already have switched over to Mac :)

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  42. Hardy Machia says:

    I probably shutdown my old powerbook once per year. The rest of the time I just close the lid, it goes to sleep, then open the lid and work. The battery would last for a very long time. I bought a windows laptop this year for a work project, and its sleep feature shocked me how fast it drained the battery.

    My complaint about the MacBook is it is slow to wake, but it has 2GB instead of 0.5GB of ram as in my old powerbook, so I’m going to assume that is the delay.

    Another complaint is when an external mouse plugged into the USB the MacBook will wake up when the mouse is bumped. It should stay asleep.

    An observation is that the mouse button on the MacBook seems to pivot in the middle, so I think is it designed to support left and right clicking (like on the mighty mouse). It is just a matter of time for someone to figure out how to access the two different click signals that Apple hasn’t published yet.

    I tried Finger Snap for the right click, but it doesn’t work very well with World of Warcraft which is mainly what I want right clicking for.

    Glad I found this blog. It had a lot of useful information in it.

    – Hardy

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  45. Brian Giernacky says:

    On the macbook and macbook pros, their is an option to “Tap trackpad using two fingers for secondary click”. Combine that with the “Use two fingers to scroll”(vertical and horizontal) and who needs a mouse.

  46. Anonymous says:

    One program that I’ve been finding useful every day since I began using it is Synergy, which allows you to share one mouse and keyboard pair (plugged into your main system) over the network. In my current set-up, I’ve got my win32 desktop PC sitting to the right of my MBP, and it’s as simple as dragging my mouse to the left edge of the screen and I’m instantly in control of my Mac. There are a lot of useful customizations, too. The site address is: http://synergy2.sourceforge.net

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  48. Anil Dewani says:

    This helped me in one of my projects. You rock!

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