More Mac Notes

While browsing the web, I often lie down and use one hand to navigate.  On my old laptop, I typically use the page down key a lot.  As I mentioned earlier, I found using the function key along with an arrow can achieve the same effect but it requires two hands.  Today, I found I can use the option key and the arrow key in the browser to do it and since there’s an option key on the right side of the space bar, it only requires one hand.

I found the firewall in Settings -> Security & Privacy.  It defaults to the off position, much like Windows XP before Service Pack 2.  I wonder why Apple chooses to do that.  Maybe it works differently than a Windows PC?

I have used the 15” MacBook Pro for a couple of days now and find it takes a bit of getting used to but overall, it’s very nice.  The $1800 price tag still bugs me.  That’s more than my previous two computers combined.  After having used the 14.1” HP dv4i for two years, the 15.4” MacBook Pro’s screen seems huge.  I truly forgot just how big that is (my laptop before the dv4i had a 15.4″ screen).  If it actually gets the 7 hours of battery life it’s advertised as getting (with wifi on), I’d be truly impressed.  I find I’m not really using the whole screen though and so that coupled with the high price tag made me consider switching to the 13.3” model instead.

I went down to the Apple store and sought out Big E again (my salesman’s name), and bought a 13” MacBook Pro.  I plan to use it for a while and see if it works out.  I’ll be sure to return the computer I decide not to keep.  They have a 14 day return policy.  I’m in the process of changing its settings to be like the other one.  I’ll then try to compare the two a bit and of course use it to do things to see if it’s an acceptable alternative.  The screen is almost an inch shorter than my HP but the resolution is exactly the same (1280 x 800) so I’m hoping I’ll still be able to read text on it comfortably.  The 15” has a 1440 x 900 screen.  Whereas the 15” laptop is ever so slightly lighter than my 14”, the 13” Pro is 1.1 lbs lighter than the 15” coming in at 4.5 lbs.  That, coupled with its smaller form factor, makes it a lot more portable.

I compared the 13” MacBook Pro’s screen with a 13” MacBook Air screen at Micro Center.  They had them side by side.  The Pro’s screen was much richer and just overall more beautiful than the Air’s screen.  The latter looked like it had a matte screen instead of the nice glossy screen.

Like the 15”, the 13” ships with OS X Lion 10.7.3.  The 10.7.4 update, along with iTunes and a few other system updates, total 1.35 GB.  The 10.7.4 takes up the vast majority of that.  The Mac App Store has two updates, one for iPhoto (391 MB) and one for iMovie (1.35 GB).  That’s about 3 GB for something that just got released this past Monday.

Comparing the two Pro’s specs, there are a few differences.  The 15” will fly past the 13” in performance but since I am keeping the desktop, I really don’t need a super-powerful processor.  If I were looking to replace the desktop, the 15” would be the clear choice.

13” MacBook Pro

15” MacBook Pro



2.5 GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.1 GHz) with 3 MB L3 cache

2.3 GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.3 GHz) with 6 MB L3 cache

13.3” LED-backlit glossy display

15.4” LED-backlit glossy display

1280 x 800

1440 x 900

12.78” x 0.95” x 8.94”  4.5 lbs

14.35” x 0.95” x 9.82”  5.6 lbs

Intel HD Graphics 4000

Intel HD Graphics 4000

Nvidia GeForce GT 650M with 512 MB of GDDR5 memory

Audio line in/out

Audio line in

Audio line out

63.5-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery

60W MagSafe Power Adapter

77.5-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery

85W MagSafe Power Adapter

Both computers have:
4 GB of 1600 MHz DDR3 memory (up to 8 GB is supported)
500 GB 5400-rpm hard drive
720p FaceTime HD camera
MagSafe power port
Gigabit Ethernet port
FireWire 800 port (up to 800 Mbps)
Two USB 3 ports (up to 5 Gbps)
Thunderbolt port (up to 10 Gbps)
SDXC card slot
Kensington lock slot
802.11 n Wi-Fi
Bluetooth 4.0
Stereo speakers with subwoofer
Omnidirectional microphone
Full-size backlit keyboard with 78 keys with ambient light sensor
Multi-Touch trackpad
Up to 7 hours wireless web

Both also come with OS X Lion which includes Mail, Address Book, iCal, the Mac App Store, iTunes, Safari, Time Machine, FaceTime, Photo Booth, Mission Control, Launchpad, AirDrop, Resume, Auto Save, Versions, Quick Look, Spotlight, QuickTime, and more.  iLife is also included which includes iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand.

Apple is also giving a free upgrade to OS X Mountain Lion when it gets released next month.  As a student, either computer comes with a $100 discount.  Apple is also currently running a promotion where they’re giving students a $100 Mac App Store gift card.

The 13” does not have a discrete graphics card but the Ivy Bridge processor is supposed to improve graphics performance by a good amount over the Sandy Bridge processors.


My New Mac

At work in the computer lab on campus, I’ve been looking for new things to do.  My boss offered me the opportunity to work on programming the college’s app for the iPhone.  He loaned me an iOS 4 programming book and I started to read through it but found it was pretty difficult to follow along.  Previously, I went through most of an Android programming book and followed along by going through the exercises using Eclipse (the recommended software).  For iOS, I couldn’t follow along because the only way to do so was to use a Mac(intosh), which I don’t own.  There is one iMac but it’s being used by other workers. My boss said sometime in the future he wanted to get laptops for that purpose but as with all things, one can never tell when that would be.

So in my quest to get more tech experience, I decided to buy a Mac.  The reason is threefold.  First, it would give me Mac experience, which can be pretty different from a PC (Windows-based computer).  The last Mac I used for any length of time was a Mac LC (circa early 90s).  Second, it includes BSD which is a derivative of Unix so I could get more experience with that.  Lastly, it is the only way to make apps for iOS devices, such as the iPhone.  It doesn’t hurt that the Macs are cool-looking.

I settled on getting a Macbook Pro a while ago.  They’re pretty pricey (okay, they’re extremely pricey) but it seemed to make more sense.  My laptop, a 2-year old HP dv4i, is still perfectly good so I wasn’t sure but I really don’t have the space for a desktop unless I replace mine.  My desktop is three years old but is a bit more powerful than my laptop.  I can envision myself trending towards laptops in the future as they get more powerful.

I checked out when the last models were released (late 2011) and saw rumors that new models would come out in the near future.  Intel was set to release the Ivy Bridge processors to replace the Sandy Bridge ones so it made sense that the Macbook refresh would include them.  For these reasons, I decided to wait a while.  I have been following Mac rumors for the last month or so.  It’s interesting how Apple builds hype by selectively letting information slowly slip through.

The new models were announced at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on Monday, June 11, 2012 with immediate availability.  The biggest news was the introduction of the Macbook Pro with Retina display ($2199).  After reading many reviews, it seems older apps (non-Retina optimized apps) don’t look good on it.  In fact, I read they look bad on it.  Since that accounts for the vast majority of software, not to mention my Windows software that will probably never be optimized for it, I decided against that.  The cost of $2199 is a lot too though I could have brought it down to $1999 through the educational discount since I’m a student.

After reading for a few days, I went down to Somerset Mall and bought a 15″ non-retina Macbook Pro.  I got $100 off for the student discount and I also got a $100 app gift card as part of a early back to school promotion that Apple is running.  Unlike all my other computers, this includes no discs at all.  I have to figure out how to reinstall the OS as I want to buy an SSD drive to replace this 5400rpm HDD.  I haven’t found any bloatware yet which is something all my other computers had too.  Apple is also running a promotion where I will get a free copy of Mountain Lion, the next version of OS X, when it gets released sometime in July.

There’s a lot that I’m finding different with this Mac.  For one, there’s no page up/page down buttons.  I use them all the time.  I found there’s a workaround where you can press the function key and the appropriate arrow key.  That requires two hands though verses one finger.  The key marked delete is actually backspace but I found it can be a delete key by also pressing the function key.  The home and end keys are missing too but can had using the function trick.

The trackpad is pretty cool in that it does different things depending on how many fingers are used.  A right-click is used by tapping with two fingers since there is no right button.  There’s no obvious button at all but that’s because the whole trackpad is a button.  I found I was able to turn on tap-to-click in the settings which I prefer.

Dragging windows is different and I am still not used to the change.  On my old laptops, I double-click but hold on the second click and drag the window.  That doesn’t work on the Mac.  I have to enable the option where I can use three fingers to drag the window.  It’s not the end of the world but it’s not easy to get used to.

The battery life is rated at seven hours with wifi turned on.  That’s pretty impressive.  My dv4i might make four hours with wifi turned off.  The battery indicator on the Mac Book’s screen has an option to display the estimated time remaining which is pretty nice and much more useful than knowing just a percentage.

The non-retina screen is beautiful so I can only imagine the one with retina.  I think it’s the contrast that makes this screen much nicer than my HP’s.  It’s just gorgeous.

The updates are huge.  The computer came with Mac OS X 10.7.3 installed.  The update to 10.7.4 was over 1 GB.  Two apps needed updating as well, one was also over 1 GB and the other was just under 400 MB.  They took quite a while to download on my 3 Mbps-max internet connection.

I have two weeks to try everything out as that is the return period.  The phone support is 90 days but the salesman said I only get one phone call.  The hardware warranty is one year.  The resale value is excellent.  I looked on eBay a month ago and found I couldn’t get a really inexpensive one.  Windows laptops by comparison can be had for less than $500 brand new.  Because of the resale value, I read some people stay pretty current with the computers by selling their old ones.  It’s a good way to stay in warranty I guess.

HP Pavilion dv4i (March 2010, $888)

  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • Intel Core i5-520M Dual Core processor (2.40GHz, 3MB L2 Cache) with Turbo Boost up to 2.93GHz
  • 4GB DDR3 System Memory (2 Dimm)
  • 500GB 7200RPM SATA Hard Drive with HP ProtectSmart Hard Drive Protection
  • 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4550 Graphics
  • 14.1″ diagonal WXGA High-Definition HP BrightView Widescreen Display (1280 x 800)

HP Pavilion a6720y (March 2009, $678)

  • Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit (upgraded to Windows 7 Ultimate)
  • AMD Phenom X4 9550 Quad-Core Processor
  • 6 GB RAM
  • 640 GB 7200 RPM hard drive
  • Nvidia GeForce 9100 graphics (upgraded to Sapphire Radeon HD5770)

Apple MacBook Pro mid-2012 model (June 2012, $1795)

  • Mac OS X Lion (10.7.3)
  • 2.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.3GHz) with 6MB L3 cache
  • 4GB 1600MHz DDR3 memory
  • 500GB 5400rpm hard drive
  • Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M with 512MB of GDDR5 memory
  • 15.4” LED glossy widescreen display (1440 x 900)