Written: October 3, 2010

What I Love about My MacBook Pro

Earlier today I vented about Things a Mac Cannot Do, and I feel much better now.
So, why did I buy a MacBook Pro in the first place?

1) Cross-Platform browser testing
In my web development business I need to make sure that web pages look OK in both PC and Mac. About a year ago I bought an iMac and used it in my home office. Now I’m not using my home office as much, instead I’m in an office space in Tualatin so I didn’t want to lug the 24″ iMac along with me each day. The portability of the MacBook Pro lets me tote it to the office. Most Mac users have Safari so I double check that my client sites look OK on in Safari. The biggest issues right how is that bold fonts in Safari on Mac look about 25% larger than on any other browser.

2) Multi-OS Support
As a backup when my PC dies, I need another computer to work on. With the MacBook Pro I have installed Windows XP and Windows 7 using a virtualization tool from Parallels. Four different attempts at putting Mac OS X on my PC simply failed, so having a MacBook Pro it was very straight forward to get multiple OSes up and running without violating a license agreement.

On the MacBook Pro I have installed two main Windows programs: Outlook 2007 and Quicken 2009. I can restore the two back-up files for these programs and continue working on my MacBook Pro.

3) Better Sound
I love classical music and the built-in speakers for the MacBook Pro simply sound better than the Harmon Kardon speakers on my HP Laptop.

4) LCD Display with Matte Finish
My HP laptop has an annoying glossing finish, so that means that I can see my own reflection in it like a mirror. Talk about distractions. On the MacBook Pro my LCD version has the matte finish, or what they also refer to as anti-glare.
While my HP is in for replacement of the motherboard I’m having them swap out the glossy display for a matte display.

5) Built-in Bluetooth
To get a wireless mouse to work on my HP laptop I had to buy a Logitech mouse with a USB connector and plug that into a free port. I don’t like that little connector hanging out. The MacBook Pro has bluetooth support built-in so no ugly USB connector sticking out of the laptop. My wireless mouse on the Mac is the Magic Mouse, very cool to use the finger motions and it even supports Right-Click – something that all PC users simply have to use.

6) DVI Output
My HP laptop only has VGA output and so the DVI output on the MacBook Pro looks a bit better on my external Viewsonic 24″ monitor.
7) Gigabit Ethernet
As a geek I love faster and more efficient. My home network is gigabit so I wanted a laptop with gigabit speeds. Can I really tell the speed difference? No, but I love the spec any way.
8) It’s cool to own a Mac. The humorous commercials capture the essence of why you want a Mac.

9) Build Quality
My PC is mostly plastic and nylon, not exactly long lasting materials. The MacBook Pro is aluminum and well built. I’ve upgraded the Hard Drive from 260GB to 500GB and got to open up the case to complete the job. The MacBook Pro is a marvel of modern engineering and styling.

10) Reliability
I just read this study from SquareTrade that shows the reliability of Apple laptops to HP laptops is about a factor of 1.5X in favor of Apple.

I own and use both PCs and Macs in my web development business, each performs the job and help me to satisfy clients. May they both live long and prosper.
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Things a Mac Cannot Do

On Wednesday this past week my three year old HP Pavilion laptop running Windows 7 decided to die. This failure caused me to use a MacBook Pro as a replacement.
Fortunately for me just the week earlier I had bought this MacBook Pro from a guy on Craigslist. What attracted me to the MacBook was the fact that it could run both Mac OS and Windows 7 using a virtualization technology from Parallels.

Installation was straight forward however there was a point where I had to tell my virtual Windows 7 machine that there was no floppy disk installed.

So, here’s my list of things that a MacBook Pro cannot do compared to a PC laptop:

1) Font size

I’m used to a 17 inch display with resolution of 1440 x 900 pixels which makes the default fonts used in programs easy to read even for my 53 year old eyes.
On the MacBook Pro they couldn’t live with the standard 1440 x 900 pixels, instead they had to increase the pixel density to 1680 x 1050, just enough increase to noticeably decrease the size of the fonts, forcing me to start wearing reading glasses. Yes, on a few applications I can increase the font size by pressing Command +.
On the PC with Windows you can change the size of the fonts globally in the Control Panel, not so with the System Preferences on the Mac OS X.
Another odd difference on the Mac is any font with the Bold tag, or in HTML the Bod syntax. On the Mac this bold size is much more pronounced than on a PC, even when using Safari on Mac and Safari on PC the bold is about 25% bigger on the Mac. It even makes pages like www.cnn.com look just ugly.

2) 10 Key Pad
My HP has a full-size keyboard plus a full 10 key pad to the right of the keyboard. Very useful for: numbers, Home, End, Insert, Page Up, Page Down, Delete.
All of this is totally missing on a MacBook Pro. Apple decided to omit the 10 key pad and dedicated keys in favor of a large space devoted to the speakers. OK, the MacBook Pro has way better sound, however I dearly miss my dedicated keys. Instead on the MacBoook Pro I have to used multi-key sequences to mimic my single key commands.
Now that I’m talking about keys I have to mention that the Control key on a PC is located in the bottom-left corner and fits my left pinky finger perfectly, since I do hundreds of Control C and Control V operations per day.
On the MacBook Pro they move the Control key inwards, so that I cannot use my Left pinky finger any more for Copy/Paste, etc. Instead I have to use Command C and Command V, which requires me to learn an entirely new finger position.
This transition is so awkward, it reminds me of a musician trained on an instrument and then being handed a similar instrument but with the keys in totally new locations. Steep learning curve is required.

3) Resize a window
On a PC I can grab any of 4 edges to resize a window.
Not so on a Mac, because I can only resize by grabbing the lower right corner.

4) Delete key
On a PC the delete key will actually delete the character to the right of the cursor however on a Mac the same delete key does a backspace instead. To get a real delete key on the Mac you have the two key combination of Fn Delete.

5) Screen layout
On a PC I love to have 100% of the screen layout devoted to my tasks at hand, it’s simple to do.
On a Mac you have this Menu Bar on the top of your screen at all times whether you like it or not. To me it is a major annoyance to see the Menu Bar on the top of my screen. It becomes even more ludicrous when I connect an external monitor to my laptop and have an Application on the external monitor yet the Menu Bar for my App on the right is displayed on the laptop screen on the left, forcing me to mouse over two screens to do things like File>Print or View>Options. Talk about unintuitive.

6) USB Headset
On my PC I just plugin the USB headset and the sound switches from the built-in speakers to my headset however on the Mac I have to go into System Preferences> Sound and tell it to use the USB headset.

7) Replacing the Hard Drive
My MacBook Pro came with a 260GB hard drive and I wanted to upgrade it to a 500GB hard drive. On my PC I just remove two screws, unplug the old drive and plugin the new drive, easy.
On the MacBook Pro it is more involved requiring a dozen or more screws and a careful sequence (found on the web) taking about 15 minutes to complete.

Yes, the PC and MacBook Pro are two different animals and I have to re-learn how to do simple, repetitive things. I just wanted to rant and rave a bit today.

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Computer Woes this Week

A client informed me that the latest DVD I sent was not working, nothing was showing up even though on the back of the DVD we could see that data had been burned. Sure enough, when I loaded the DVD on my laptop there was no data. I tried putting a blank DVD into my HP laptop but it wasn’t recognized.
Oh well, the DVD burner was broken so I just ordered a replacement on eBay and will install it later this week.

Plan B – use my iMac. I inserted a new DVD, got my folder ready, clicked “Burn folder to DVD”, then nothing happened. Disappointed with this reaction I clicked the Eject button, again nothing. Then I tried five other ways to eject a stuck DVD but none of them worked.
On Monday I dropped off my iMac at the Apple store in Bridgeport Village and the Tech guy spent an hour on my machine. His conclusion, the hard drive was suspicious but it would take more testing.
Tuesday morning I heard from another Apple tech guy that my OS was corrupted and that he would have to reinstall the OS.
Tuesday afternoon the Apple tech guy said that my RAM was failing.
Wednesday morning I heard that installing a new Super Drive did not solve the eject issue, so it must by the Logic Board at a cost of $740 installed.
I chuckled and noted that I only paid $1000 for the used iMac in October, so I would not be having them replace the Logic Board.
So today I’m going to pick up my sick iMac without a working DVD, drive to Fry’s and buy new RAM. Maybe in a few years when the Logic Board prices go down I’ll buy one and replace my original.

Yesterday my PC laptop screen started to get fuzzy and show mostly red colors, so I phoned a local laptop repair place in Beaverton. We both thought it was the LCD display, so I drove in with my laptop and we plugged in a new LCD and all was well.
I went home, installed the new LCD and it was perfect for about 45 minutes, then back came the fuzzy screen and red colors. Some Google search told me that many other HP Pavilion laptop users had this similar issue and it was caused by an overheating GPU chip from Nvidia which was highly publicized.
I then remembered how my old laptop had so much dust that it clogged the heat from escaping causing overheating, so I got out my vacuum cleaner and cleaned my laptop. It’s been working great for almost 24 hours now so I think I’ve solved the problem. Now to find out if I can get a refund for a new LCD used only one hour.

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One response to “Computer Woes this Week”

  1. Daniel Payne says:

    Good news: Apple returned my iMac on Wednesday and charged me $0. They said, "Don't put another DVD into the iMac it doesn't work."
    First thing I did at home was install a DVD, and it's ejecting now!
    I took my defective RAM to Fry's in Wilsonville and they swapped it out for new RAM, thank you!

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Windows 7 – My First Woe

I upgraded to Windows 7 Professional 64 bit the first month it came out and have been very pleased with it because I’ve had a more stable user experience.

Today I encountered my first woe, probably related to Windows 7. My DVD burner can only write CD’s with Windows Explorer. As soon as I insert a blank DVD disc the system tells me to insert another disc.


Plan B is to not use Windows Explorer to write a DVD, instead I’m writing now with a tool called Free Easy CD DVD burner V4.0 provided by Koyote. It does the job just fine on my laptop, so I’m happy.

I visited the official HP web site to look for newer drivers however none were listed for my Pavilion DV9820us

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One response to “Windows 7 – My First Woe”

  1. Daniel Payne says:

    My 2nd Windows 7 woe tonight, my laptop simply rebooted while playing backgammon at Yahoo games, a Java program that I've played hundreds of times before.

    Uggh. Windows 7 is feeling a lot like Vista to me now.

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Week One of iMac Use

A funny thing started to happen this week as I used the iMac. The huge 24″ screen has now become just normal to me. I can certainly have more docs open at once and that improves my ability to get more work done on web development.

My once “large” 17″ laptop display has now become smaller to me and has a cramped feeling, making me less productive as I move multiple windows back and forth to see what’s happening between Outlook and Dreamweaver.
The “mighty mouse” could not track properly on my table top so today I’m the proud owner of the “magic mouse”.
It’s wireless using the Bluetooth technology and like all things Mac the setup was under one minute, and the big win – it actually tracks on my pure white table top. I was surprised that turning on Bluetooth for my iMac it quickly found my Samsung cell phone in addition to the Magic Mouse. Well done Apple.
Microsoft Word told me today that it had an auto-update. Fine, go ahead. Mistake.
At the end it tells me, “Your license key is invalid or there are more than one computer using the same key.”

Oh well, that’s what I get for buying an iMac used on Craigslist. The previous owner obviously has this still installed on his machine, and Microsoft won’t allow that copying.

I also upgraded from 2GB to 4GB and that took all of 2 minutes to complete.

My Canon 5D DSLR camera now connects tethered to the iMac, which I plan to use in December for some event photography.

I’ve outgrown the number of ethernet connections on my gateway router so it was time to add a gigabit switch, this one is from D-Link and the iMac connected and can now see my other PCs and networked HP printer.

Life is good and I’m learning every day about the simplicity and power of the iMac in my web development and photography businesses.

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