Desert of My Real Life

{March 24, 2011}   Moving to Apple

I got a new “toy” today.  It’s an 11.6 inch Mac Book Air.  I have never owned an Apple computer although in the last few years, I’ve become a fan (mostly) of Apple’s iPod products.  A few months ago, my friend Julie showed me her new Mac Book Air, which she had gotten for Christmas.  I am not usually someone who gets particularly excited about new technology.  I’ve seen (and purchased) too many “solutions” to think that any one tool is going to change anything about my life.  I did, however, get really excited about the Mac Book Air.  I have never thought that it is going to “change my life.”  But I thought it was pretty cool and could see that it provides a level of convenience that I haven’t seen in other products yet.  I was particularly excited about its use of flash technology for storage.  There are no moving parts for the hard drive of the Mac Book Air.  Instead, it has a large flash drive, similar to the thumb drives that have become so ubiquitous, as its hard drive.  The lack of moving parts in the hard drive means that the computer boots almost instantaneously.  It also means that the hard drive doesn’t generate much heat, reducing the need for large cooling fans.  All of this leads to the thing that excited me most about this new computer.  It is SMALL!

There are smaller computers available.  My iPod Touch, for example, is a much smaller computer than this new Mac Book Air.  But the iPod Touch does not include a full-sized keyboard.  Instead, it uses a touch pad key board which I find somewhat cumbersome to use.  I would never try to write a blog entry on my iPod Touch, for example.  It would be much too tedious.  I could get a Bluetooth keyboard but then it seems stupid to carry the iPod Touch AND its Bluetooth keyboard around with me.  The Mac Book Air, on the other hand, is an actual laptop with a full-sized keyboard and an 11.6 inch screen.  So it feels much more like a computer.  But because of the lack of a regular hard drive, it is much smaller than an ordinary laptop.  The main thing that excited me about this computer is its weight–it weighs less than 2.5 pounds.  What does that mean? Go find a 5 subject spiral bound PAPER notebook.  That is about what this laptop weighs.  And its dimensions are smaller than that.  It is significantly less than an inch thick.  And its height and width are smaller than an 8.5X11 inch piece of paper.  In other words, this is a computer that I can see carrying with me and using in a lot of situations where I have used paper up to this point.  And that excites me.

Although this is probably not a laptop that can completely replace every computer you use (mostly because the flash drive on the 11.6 inch version is only 128GB), there are some other nice features that Apple provides that will make it extremely useful.  The main tool to help with the small flash drive size is a product called Mobile Me.  This product also solves the problem of having multiple devices and wanting access to the same set of files, an issue that anyone who has both a personal computer and a work computer has probably encountered.  Mobile Me is Apple’s “cloud” solution which provides space on the Internet for you to store your files and folders.  It also provides a syncing function so that when you change something with one computer, it automatically updates your space in the cloud so that your other devices have access to the changes.  I just signed up for a 60 day free trial, after which it will cost me $99 for a year’s worth of access to 20GB of space in the cloud.  I’m still loading my space with files from my PC so I can’t review how it works yet.  I will say that Apple was having some major technical problems with new users and Mobile Me just when I was signing up for the service.  Although I wasn’t happy with those glitches, everyone at Apple’s customer service was great and didn’t make me jump through stupid hoops when I made it clear that I had already tried a whole bunch of stuff to fix the problem.  Within about 3 hours, they had the problem resolved.  Although I think the idea for Mobile Me is brilliant, I’ll reserve judgment on this particular implementation until I’ve had time to use it.

So, I’m a happy geek with a new toy!  Now I just have to figure out how to use this Multi-Touch trackpad with no right or left mouse buttons.

Welcome to the cult! (Control-click will become a familiar enough move in time, though I do like the two-button mouse I have beside my Macbook.) Have you tried Dropbox for backup and sharing? It’s less expensive than MobileMe and I use it to share files from my home computer to my PSU PC and my iPod Touch without any glitches so far. I’ve even started sharing files on class Moodle pages with it, just posting the Dropbox link and not bothering to upload to Moodle, since that’s much faster when I working from home.

I have not tried Dropbox but will definitely check it out. Now that my Mobile Me account is working, I’m finding it pretty easy to use. We’ll see. And I love the idea of not uploading to Moodle but instead just sharing a link. I’ve been doing that with my syllabi and lots of other materials for a long time because I maintain my own web page and find it easier to post things there and then posting a link for my students to follow. But maintaining the web page is not always as easy as I want it to be. So maybe this is a better way to accomplish the same task. Thanks for the tip!

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