Why I Bought a MacBook Air

I needed a new test mule. Really.

MacBook Air MeasurementsToday, I finally broke down and bought an 11-in MacBook Air. For those of you who don’t know what this is, it basically a full-powered Mac OS computer that measures in at 11.8 x 7.56 x 0.68 inches and weighs 2.3 pounds. It’s the laptop I wanted two years ago when I needed a new laptop and the smallest thing Apple offered was a 13-in MacBook Pro.

Mac OS X 10.6 Snow LeopardOf course, back then I did buy the MacBook Pro. I bought it as a “test mule” for the book I was working on: Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard: Visual QuickStart Guide for Peachpit Press. Test mule is my name for a computer I own primarily to run software on while I’m writing a book about the software. I bought the 13-in MacBook Pro to run Snow Leopard, which had several features that took advantage of the computer’s touchpad. My older MacBook Pro (15-inch; just handed it off to my husband for use) didn’t support all the new features. At the time, I even wrote a blog post lamenting why I couldn’t fully enjoy my new computer.

When I was finished with the book, I outfitted the computer for my own everyday use. It would replace the aged 12-in PowerBook I’d bought long before. (At this point, you must think that I’ve had a lot of Macs since my first one in 1989. You’d be right.) Since then, the old test mule has become my traveling computer and has been many miles with me.

Outlook for Mac 2011Recently, when I began working on Microsoft Outlook for Mac 2011 Step by Step for Microsoft Press, I needed a test mule to run Office 2011 on while I wrote the book. I didn’t want to sacrifice my 13″ MacBook Pro, since it had really become my main travel computer. So I dug out my 15-in MacBook Pro and installed the software on that. It worked like a charm. Problem solved.

But now I’m starting work on a new book about software that simply won’t run on that old 15-in MacBook Pro. Worse yet, if I installed the software on my 13-in MacBook Pro, it would significantly impact how I could use the computer. This was quite a dilemma.

I had two options:

  • Stop using the 13-in MacBook Pro as a travel computer and use it as a test mule. Hmmm…that sounds like fun. Either face the next two months without a laptop or spend hours on the time-consuming, nightmarish task of shifting software and data files to the older laptop still in my possession.
  • Buy a new test mule. And oh, by the way, wouldn’t that 11-in MacBook Air that you’ve been admiring be the perfect machine for the job?

Guess which option was more attractive to me (although less attractive to my bank account)?

MacBook AirI picked it up at the Apple Store today. I went all out and got the faster processor, bigger flash drive, and 4 GB of RAM. I got a tiny discount because of my relationship with one of my publishers and that saved enough money to buy a neoprene case for it. The wireless Epson printer, which I’ll use in my RV this summer, was free after rebate.

So now I can begin a new lament. As I type this in my Phoenix office on my 13-in MacBook Pro, sitting beside it on the desk is my brand new 11-in MacBook Air. So far, I’ve plugged it in, started it up, told it who I am and how to access the network, and downloaded 1.6 GB of updates to installed software. Not exactly fun stuff. But right now, it’s downloading the beta software I need to write my book. All work, no play for this new puppy.

It’s okay. when I’m done with this book and the other projects lined up after it, I might actually use it for my own computing needs. We’ll see.

Apple is a Corporation, NOT a Cause

A post by former MacWEEK editor, Rick LePage, really hits the nail on the head.

Yesterday, while having lunch in my hangar at Wickenburg, I checked ÜberTwitter to see what was going on in TwitterLand. Along the way, I followed a link shared by @BWJones to a blog post by Rick LePage.

Rick LePage was the editor-in-chief of MacWeek magazine, a weekly tabloid-sized publication that covered all things Macintosh. Back in the 1990s, not long after I began my writing career, I wrote occasionally for MacWEEK. Not only did the magazine pay well, but it was highly respected. Writing for MacWEEK likely helped my writing career get off the ground — although I never really pursued magazine writing, preferring to author books instead.

So there I was, munching a bacon cheese burger and tater tots while sitting on the back seat of my golf cart at the airport, reading Rick’s blog post on my BlackBerry Storm. One thing I hate about the Storm is its Web browser. I don’t surf on the Storm. I’d lose my mind. But this blog post really sucked me in. It explained what was going on at MacWEEK when Apple was in its “state of confusion” before Steve Jobs came back. It admitted that MacWEEK had gone beyond reporting and had been trying to push its own agenda to sway user opinion on what Apple was doing. (I can’t help but think about FoxNews and its political slant here.) I was so sucked in that I forgot I was reading microscopic print on a cell phone.

And then that cell phone rang. I was called into action doing something else. I put the phone away, cleaned up my lunch mess, and got back to work.

But I didn’t forget the blog post. It had impressed me that much. I figured I was only halfway finished with it and I wanted to read it to the end. I can’t tell you how seldom that happens these days.

So this morning, I looked it up and finished reading it. I discovered that I’d nearly finished. But the best was at the end, in the last paragraph. It started with these sentences that really hit home for me:

I don’t think Apple is a better or worse company than most others. I still love the stuff they turn out, and would much rather be pushing a Mac than a Windows box. But, for all of you who think that the Mac—or Apple, or the iPhone—is a Cause, and that somehow Apple cares about you, wake up.

It was as if Rick had written this based on what was in my mind.

I like most Apple products, and have bought many of them. I prefer a Mac over a Windows PC — to me, there’s no comparison worth making. I own numerous Mac computers, including a desktop Mac and three laptops.

But I’m not a blind follower to everything Apple. I’m not a member of the Apple cult. I make my product decisions based on design and functionality, not logo. I don’t hang on Apple rumors. I don’t push Apple products to my friends and family members. I don’t surf the Web looking for all things Apple. And I certainly don’t get into bullshit platform wars in forums and blog comments. Hell, I have a life beyond the computer I chose to get work done.

I don’t like all Apple products — I still can’t see the real point of an AppleTV and prefer my BlackBerry over an iPhone. (I don’t want to surf the Web and run countless pointless applications on my phone.) My days of buying in and adopting early ended not long after I bought a Newton.

I realized years ago — probably around the time iTunes made its debut — that Apple is not putting the customer first. As Rick points out in his piece, Apple is a company with the need to make a profit and stockholders (like me, I might add) who want to see it succeed. Apple has a huge cult-like following — there must be something hypnotic about Steve Jobs at a keynote intoning, “Isn’t this incredible?” — and it’s cashing in on it. More power to ’em!

The sentences I quoted above should be a reality check for everyone. Apple is not a cause. It’s a corporation. Its goal isn’t to make you feel good or solve all your problems. Its goal is to get you to buy its products so it can make a big, fat profit.

Wake up, folks. Look beyond the logo and pretty white packaging and think about what you’re buying. If you still want to evangelize the “Apple cause” — well, it’s your life.

And now lets see how many people completely misunderstand the point of this post and come to Apple’s rescue in Comments.

The Blog Posts I Wanted to Write this Week…

…but couldn’t because I’m writing something I’m getting paid to write.

If I had to choose between writing blog posts and writing 400+ page books about using computers, I’d take the blog posts any day. They’re shorter — I can knock one off in an hour or less — so I get immediate gratification. They’re also about a wide range of topics I choose to write about, so they can be a lot of fun to write. I can include color photos and other illustrations that don’t require me to set up a computer screen just so and snap a picture. Best of all, I can archive them here in my blog with almost 2,000 others, building a living journal of what’s going on on my life. You don’t know how much I love reading blog posts from the past five years of blogging just to remember what was on my mind back then.

200907212014.jpgBut I’m not blogging much this week. I’m writing something else: a 648-page revision to my Mac OS X Visual QuickStart Guide to cover the features of Snow Leopard.

I’m working my proverbial butt off on this book. 648 pages is a lot of pages. And, as usual, I’m not just writing it but also laying it out, page by page, using InDesign CS4. So I’m sitting in front of my 24″ iMac and my new 13″ MacBook Pro, both of which are set up on the dining table in my camper, typing, mousing, screen-snapping, and Photoshopping my way through the project. I have 4 of the book’s 25 chapters left to churn out — roughly 120 pages. My editors (production and copy) are keeping up with me nicely, so we’re turning around finished chapters at an amazing rate. Even my indexer is hard at work with the first 18 chapters properly numbered and ready to index.

A lot of people think I fly for a living. I don’t. This is what I do for a living. I write books about how to use computers.

Of course, when you do something for a living, that means you get paid to do it. I get advances on the books I write and when they sell a bunch of copies, I get quarterly royalty checks. That’s how I pay my bills and, when my helicopter business isn’t busy enough to pay its bills, my writing work pays its bills, too.

I don’t get paid to blog. And I don’t have blogging deadlines. And my blog will never become a bestseller, featured in the Apple store and on Amazon.com. (Yes, it’s true that the first edition of my Mac OS Visual QuickStart Guide, which covered Mac OS 8, got all the way up to #41 in rank on Amazon.com.) So I set my priorities accordingly and my priorities tell me to get this book off my plate so they’ll send me more money and I can get to work on the two books lined up right behind it.

Yes, you read that right: this is the first of three books I have to revise this summer. The other two, which I’m not at liberty to discuss right now, are also more than 400 pages. Each.

But I thought I’d take a moment to list the blog posts I didn’t write this week:

  • Where I was when Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon. I was almost eight years old and my mother kept me and my six-year-old sister up to watch the activities on television. It was late and I was tired. It was boring. But my mother said that we were watching history. All I can remember is wondering what was taking so long for them to come out and why there was so much beeping in the sound.
  • Miscellaneous Political Things. I’m thinking about Sarah Palin, who isn’t a quitter or a dead fish, but gave up mid-term, likely to pursue book and television deals while she’s still hot. I pray she doesn’t try running for president. I’d hate to get a real count of the number of Americans stupid enough to vote for someone who doesn’t know Africa is a continent and thinks living in a state between Canada and Russia gives her foreign policy experience. I’m thinking of Mark Sanford, the South Carolina governor who disappeared off the face of the earth for 5 days without telling anyone where he was going, leaving his state unmanaged so he could pursue an extra-marital affair. I’m thinking of that same guy giving Clinton grief for being serviced by an intern in his office, insisting Clinton resign and now not resigning himself. I’m wondering whether his name will appear beside the word hypocrite in dictionaries or Wikipedia. I’m thinking of the guy who owes him a good dinner (or maybe an all-expense paid trip to Argentina), John Ensign, the Nevada senator who, under threat of blackmail, revealed that he’d had an affair with a member of his staff (no pun intended). A member of a Christian Ministry that calls itself the Promise Keepers, he evidently didn’t think his marriage vows were a promise worth keeping. And I’m thinking of a wise Latina, Sonia Sottomayor, allowing herself to be submitted to the indignity of cross-examination by members of the Republican party trying to make her look hot-headed and unprofessional. They failed because, after all, she is a wise Latina indeed.
  • Blessed by Arizona Highways (Again). My phone started ringing this week with more calls for Flying M Air’s Southwest Circle Helicopter Adventure. Someone had written in a blog comment that I was listed on page 29 of “AZ Magazine.” Turns out, the listing is in Arizona HIghways magazine, the same publication that did a 10-page story on my company’s excursions in the May 2009 issue. This time, I’m listed as the “Best Way to See Arizona in a Week” in the August 2009 issue. While I’m thrilled to be getting the additional press, I’m also a bit worried — I didn’t bring enough marketing material with me to send out the info packets that are being requested daily.
  • My New Old Mechanic. That would be a brief post about how glad I am that my original R44 helicopter mechanic has left the company he worked for to go solo. His boss wouldn’t let him fix my helicopter because of insurance issues and I wound up with a long line of inferior mechanics. Until recently, of course, when I started getting my annual done up here in Washington state. But now I can use my old mechanic for my 100-hour inspections each winter and feel good about the quality of maintenance.
  • Helicopter ArtworkAn Orchard Party with Three Helicopters. That would be an account of the party my friend Jim and I attended near Othello, WA the other day. I was invited by another cherry pilot I’d met on my blog and was meeting her for the first time. Jim came along. We both flew — in two helicopters. We had great Mexican food, met really nice people, and gave 12 lucky raffle winners helicopter rides around the orchards. We were promised artwork from the kids (hopefully like this piece I received last week after giving a grower’s kids a ride) so maybe I’ll blog about it then.
  • The Evolution of Twitter. This would cover my observations of two Twitter accounts I maintain, how I maintain them, and what the results are. I’m pretty sure I’ll write this one sometime this month.
  • On Skeptics. Why I’m a skeptic and how it makes me look at the world. I haven’t thought this one out much yet, so I might still write it. I know it needs to be written.

These are only a few topics I didn’t get a chance to write about. And if you know me, you know I’d write a lot more than I’ve written here. But when I get this book done, I have about a week before I need to start the next one. Maybe I’ll churn out some fresh and interesting content then.

Or maybe I’ll get out of this camper and away from my computer and enjoy the area while I’m here.