I’d been happily working along on my 3-year old 17” iMac since I bought it back in 2003, using an even older 12” iBook while on the road. It’s a credit to Apple that, although long in the tooth, these machines kept on running the latest version of OS X, albeit in a fashion that seemed ever more poky as time went on.
Over the last year, as the number of applications “running in the background” grew to include Plazer, Adium, Skype, Snapz Pro and Quicksilver, along with Firefox, Safari, BBEdit, OmniOutliner, YummyFTP, iTunes, NaviCat and a few others running in the foreground, memory started to become an issue, and so I got used to the occasional — and then not-so-occasional — “spinning beachball” that means “hold on, I’m busy” on a Mac.
With Isaac singing the praises of the new MacBooks, along with my desire to amalgamate my digital life onto one machine (that whole “keeping things in sync” thing never actually works in practice), I decide that it was time for an technology upgrade.
And so last week I placed an order for a fully tricked-out MacBook, along with a 23” Cinema Display to use here in the office. While the display is currently on a truck between Mississauga and Charlottetown, the MacBook arrived on Friday, and I’ve been busily moving my digital life over.
Man is this thing ever fast!
While I’ve got the irrational and interminable need to upgrade as much as the next guy, this time I hung onto the old gear for a lot longer than I normally would; the upside is that the MacBook, with its faster processor (2 GHz vs. 667 MHz on the old iBook), quicker video, extra memory (2GB vs. 384MB on the iBook) goes like a bat out of hell. In the old world it would take most applications 4 or 5 seconds to launch; slower apps, like OmniOutliner, would take 10-15 seconds. Now everything just starts. Right away.
While this might seem a trivial issue, when you’re living in front of a machine, constantly switching tasks and focus, just being able to seamlessly move around without delay is a really big psyche-saver. I think of my old pre-upgrade gear as offering “death by a thousand little delays.”
Of course this too shall pass, and the sheeny quickness of the new gear shall soon feel as poky as the old stuff. But I’m enjoying the thrill of high velocity while it lasts.
Some brief notes about other cool upgrade spinoffs:
- Parallels Desktop for Mac is amazing. With it I can run Windows 2000 apps “Virtual PC style” without a reboot. Except where Virtual PC ran apps like molasses, running them in Parallels feels like I’ve got a modern-day really fast PC buried inside here somewhere. I’ve got Quicken for Home and Business (my only reason, really, for running Windows) running like a top.
- The first time I opened up the MacBook (with battery charged: thanks, Apple), I ran through a 2 minute configuration process, then a 15 minute wait for various software updates, and I was good to go; installing Windows 2000 from scratch took 10 reboots, several upgrades of the ‘Windows Updater’, a separate upgrade of the browser, installation of Service Pack 4, and several more reboots — about 2 hours in total — before I was ready to use it for the first time.
- This is my first machine with USB 2.0 — my iPod, which used to work, but slowly now gets filled up real quick.
- The “fit and finish” of the MacBook is brilliant: it’s beautiful, well-crafted, lighter than the old iBook, and is full of design candy.
- The only app that I need to run that isn’t “Universal” (i.e. designed to run natively on the Intel processer inside the MacBook as opposed to through emulation) is AppleWorks (it was my word processor before Pages, and is still my primary spreadsheet). I don’t notice the difference: AppleWorks works just like it used to.
- Quicksilver, which I’ve only begun to plumb the usefulness of, is a much, much more useful tool when you have enough memory: being able to known that a quick press of Control + Space will call it up, rather than having to wait and see if there will be a delay while memory gets shoveled around, makes it a different experience entirely.
- The most noticeable increase in pure speed comes when using Google Maps (or Google Maps-dependent sites, like Plazes) — these pages used to load slowly, and operate like a turtle. On the MacBook they load about twice as fast, and I can zoom in and out with my Mighty Mouse like I’m using a local GIS app.
Expect more gushing with the larger-than-life display arrives tomorrow.