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MacBook Air - hardware and system review

It's tiny - I can actually work with it in a standard class First Great Western seat and not have the screen bouncing and rubbing against the seat in front, even if my knees so - it's the MacBook Air.

Have computer, will travelI'll admit it - I was tempted to get the previous Air when I was looking at the next generation of main machine in the early summer, but the spec was looking a bit faded and I was slightly concerned at some facility losses. But the new model has been spruced up and buoyed by a busy couple of months showing a recovery, I've taken the plunge with the smaller screen version of the new model - a screen that's only 11" but is crisp and easy to work with. And - looking at the chap who's seated to my left as I write in the train - that's a good choice over a 13 inch.

The machine doesn't have a conventional disc drive ... it was 120 Gbytes of memory arranged as a disc, and 4 Gbytes of regular running memory. 12% of the disc memory is used by the operating System - OS X 10.6.4 - leaving a healthy over-100-Gb for my own use. Screen resolution is 1366 x 768, brightly backlit. Keyboard is not backlit but nice individual keys coming out through the integrated brushed aluminium case - and the whole thing is wafer thin. Trackerpad with sensitive area completes keyboard.

Connectivity? Wifi, Bluetooth, microphone and integrated camera and speakers. I'm a silent computer user, but the speaker sounds a bit tinny compared to the MacBook Pro. And in sockets - headphone, 2 x USB, Miniscreen connector and magnetic power connector. It's light - but if taking it on a longer trip that weight's doubled by the power supply; Battery life not fully tested, but it's dropping quicker than the Powerbook that's been astonishingly slow to discharge.


Not sure what more there is to say - it comes with a wide selection of the languages we teach:

munchkin:lf grahamellis$ perl
print $^V;
v5.10.0
munchkin:lf grahamellis$ php -v
PHP 5.3.2 (cli) (built: Sep 3 2010 12:10:58)
Copyright (c) 1997-2010 The PHP Group
Zend Engine v2.3.0, Copyright (c) 1998-2010 Zend Technologies
munchkin:lf grahamellis$ python
Python 2.6.1 (r261:67515, Dec 17 2009, 00:59:15)
[GCC 4.2.1 (Apple Inc. build 5646)] on darwin
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> ^D
munchkin:lf grahamellis$ ruby-v
ruby 1.8.7 (2009-06-12 patchlevel 174) [universal-darwin10.0]
munchkin:lf grahamellis$ wish
% puts $tcl_version
8.5
% munchkin:lf grahamellis$ javac -version
javac 1.6.0_17
munchkin:lf grahamellis$ java -version
java version "1.6.0_17"
Java(TM) SE Runtime Environment (build 1.6.0_17-b04-248)
Java HotSpot(TM) 64-Bit Server VM (build 14.3-b01-101, mixed mode)
munchkin:lf grahamellis$
 
And that leaves Lua, C, and C++ for me to load (languages) and MySQL and Tomcat as associated applications; the Apache httpd web server is already there:
 
munchkin:lf grahamellis$ httpd -v
Server version: Apache/2.2.14 (Unix)
Server built: Dec 9 2009 19:21:30
munchkin:lf grahamellis$


Why the MacBook Air? Because I'm traveling lighter and lighter - more and more looking to use public transport (and that means trains and ferrys) to get to courses. Almost everyone now has their own laptop, and for language training a simple install in their own environment is far better for them than getting used to an alien environment on a machine we lend them; for sure I *am* still carrying the odd extra laptop at the moment, but that will decrease.

Fuel prices rise; congestion on the roads get worse; Premier hotel prices seem to rocket - so pubic transport becomes more attractive. And it means that I can be fairly refreshed when I arrive too - saving going out the night before, and even making use of the time on most of the trains. So the travel machine is a boon, an efficiency, that will help us maintain our travel expenses at a sensible level through 2011, and also keep up the number of days training per week.




Is it sensible to travel to London by train to give a course?

Fare from Chippenham - 135 pounds return to Paddington. But take a careful look at special tickets and other options. This morning, I caught the 06:25 and was in an office in Acton by 08:45. I had paid a stinging 6.50 to park at Chippenham station (I would much rather have paid that 6.50 for a ride to and from home / Melksham, but I'm sure the train company makes far more profit on the parking space than on a train fare, so why should it bother?). But then I was able to take advantage of a "Club 55" ticket to Slough, which provides a 25 pound return fare, and a 10.90 return from Slough to Acton Main Line. Contorted research - but a saving of 100 pounds that I don't sneeze at (and makes my grumble about the parking fee sound a bit churlish!).

And I'm here (seated in reception as I write), fairly fresh and ready to go. No need to travel up last night and stay in a hotel. No petrol costs, no wear and tear on the car, or on the self.

Written - 08:45. Posted - evening. Between - a busy, fun and rewarding day teaching a Perl course, and a delegate pickup from Chippenham Station!




Update ... this MacBook Air is FAST! on bootup and shutdown ... mainly because there's no physical disc and it's all done from memory, I suspect. And that's ideal for making quick notes even on a short journey. Speaking with a delegate on Friday, he was talking about such systems and experiences of 20000:1 (yes, twenty thousand to 1) speedups in moving applications from hard disc to memory based solutions. Perhaps the life of the hard disc is coming to an end ...




Update ... I've added Xcode from the Mac Developer's Connection (free downloads) and this MacBook Air now has C, C++ and Lua too!

munchkin:lf grahamellis$ g++
i686-apple-darwin10-g++-4.2.1: no input files
munchkin:lf grahamellis$ gcc
i686-apple-darwin10-gcc-4.2.1: no input files
munchkin:lf grahamellis$ lua
Lua 5.1.4 Copyright (C) 1994-2008 Lua.org, PUC-Rio
> ^D
munchkin:lf grahamellis$

(written 2010-11-17, updated 2010-12-04)

 
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
G403 - Well House Consultants - On site - venues, UK and Ireland
  [4168] Travelling to and from courses - much easier from December 2013 - (2013-09-08)
  [3489] Python courses and Private courses - gently updating our product to keep it ahead of the game - (2011-10-20)
  [3153] Points West to Belfast - (2011-02-01)
  [3065] Pictures from the Birkenhead to Belfast crossing - (2010-11-23)
  [2956] On site course - travel and accommodation expenses - (2010-09-14)
  [1599] Fresher tutor, better course - (2008-04-03)
  [1200] Training information - England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland - (2007-05-22)
  [910] Helping the miles pass - (2006-10-31)
  [710] Linux training Glasgow, Python programming course Dundee - (2006-05-05)
  [378] A word of admiration for the London cabbie - (2005-07-15)
  [120] Good early morning - (2004-11-16)

G904 - Well House Consultants - Mac and OS X
  [3174] Sharing a single hotel internet connection without carrying extra hardware - (2011-02-18)
  [2267] winmail.dat enclosure ... reading on an Apple - (2009-07-03)
  [1491] Apple Mac Operating System OS X - code names and version numbers - (2008-01-01)

G913 - Well House Consultants - Hardware and Devices
  [4134] Setting up your MacBook Air as a mobile broadband router - (2013-07-07)
  [3596] Want to learn iPad and iPhone programming? Come along and learn with me for free. - (2012-01-28)
  [3457] Away to train - but still around by video for Melksham meetings - (2011-09-25)
  [3075] Change of balance, of attitude, and of work method - (2010-11-30)
  [2667] Web page to telephone calls / links using an iPhone - (2010-03-08)
  [2188] Camera to record where a picture was taken - (2009-05-18)
  [2055] Effect on server when memory runs out and swapping starts - (2009-02-26)
  [2033] Huawei D100 Wireless Router - Mobile Internet - (2009-02-10)
  [1993] Load Balancing - Hardware or Software? - (2009-01-15)
  [1827] What a shock - (2008-10-08)
  [1281] Latercomer to the technology - (2007-07-29)
  [630] Hostnames spring forward - (2006-03-02)


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This is a page archived from The Horse's Mouth at http://www.wellho.net/horse/ - the diary and writings of Graham Ellis. Every attempt was made to provide current information at the time the page was written, but things do move forward in our business - new software releases, price changes, new techniques. Please check back via our main site for current courses, prices, versions, etc - any mention of a price in "The Horse's Mouth" cannot be taken as an offer to supply at that price.

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