it’s a mac yo!

The iPod Touch (hereinafter referred to as itouch) arrived last Friday, and the macbook (hereinafter referred to as macbook) arrived Monday. Which was great because I got to spend Canada Day with the macbook.

About the itouch, I had been researching eReaders for a while. The Kindle was not a possibility because it’s only available in the States, plus it’s extremely expensive and doesn’t natively read PDFs. The iLiad? Also very expensive. The Cybook? Decently priced, but still pricey. At some point I was seriously considering the Sony Reader. But with all the research I couldn’t still justify spending hundreds on another device to carry around. So I looked into the itouch, to see whether it would could be used as an ebook reader. I was skeptical since it only has a 3.5 inch screen (compared to 6 to 8 inch screens on the ereaders). I knew the pain of trying to read PDFs on a small screen when I tried it out on a Sony Erricson PDA. You have to scroll horizontally forward and backward for each line. Not fun. And I still couldn’t justify purchasing another MP3 player.

But as fate would have it (it always does), my laptop screen broke and I had to make a decision. I had also been researching tablet pcs for a while and was really high on getting one. I eventually went with the macbook.

“Why macbook?”, you ask. And I’m glad you did.

Well, for many reasons. While the tablet would have been a great play toy, and great for taking notes during work or school, the macbook’s benefits outweighed the tablet’s.

First of all, going from PC to Mac is like changing religions. It’s not a small step. It’s not easy at the start and has its bumps.

You may be distracted by the fancy exterior and the shiny graphics of the Mac, but I’m more interested in what’s inside. Mac hardware is known to be rock solid when it comes to personal PCs. They recently switched to an intel based processor (more on this later). The operating system, Mac OS X, is a Unix based OS and written/modified specifically to work with Mac’s hardware.

I extremely dislike Windows’ navigation system and much prefer to use the command-line on a Linux machine, specially when it comes to software development. So to keep my sanity I was having to keep source code files on a Ubuntu Linux VMWare install, and I would SSH into it to access and manipulate the files and using IntelliJ or Zend Studio on the Windows end. With the macbook, I get the best of both worlds, I can use my IDEs and access the command-line whenever I want. Unlike the other Unix environments, Mac can actually run programs like Photoshop and the like. Win-win.

Now, if there is ever a moment where I need to run software that will only run on Windows and not a Mac, I can use VMWare or Parallels (haven’t decided which yet) to install a Windows virtual machine. I’m using VMWare’s trail version and it’s much better for the Mac than it was for windows. I still want to give Parallels a shot. This is where the Intel chipset comes in real handy, the Windows virtual machine runs really well on the Mac. Really really well.

I want to delve into Rails development, and most of the Rails world uses Mac and they recently started using git as their SCM tool. And git really works well with Unix based systems. Most of the Rails books use a Mac as a default platform. Macbook, win-win.

I really like the desktop navigation features, the F8 to F11 keys help me easily get to any window I want without having to plow through Alt-Tab selections. It’s really good.

But the macbook is not without its quirks. The keyboard is fine, but I still need to get used to the trackpad mouse. Particularly dealing with the speed at which the mouse pointer moves, and the size of the trackpad: it’s huge! I also don’t like how when I’m filling out forms the tab key takes me to the address bar instead of the next form element. I don’t want to have to flame my carpal-tunnel having to reach for the trackpad every time I fill out a form. The Firefox theme on the macbook is just… no. It’s not right. I still haven’t found a theme I like yet.

But getting the Unix features with a great GUI trumps all of that. This is not a toy, it’s a real heavy-duty machine. I could use it for pretty much anything I would use a PC for, except gaming. I don’t play games much anymore.

Oh yes… the itouch. This is an exciting device. What makes it different from all the previous iPod versions is that it has Mac OS X installed on it. Which really makes it a mini-tablet computer! After hacking (or jail-breaking as it’s called in the itouch world) into it, I can load up a shell prompt and play with the command-line. The wifi allows me to SSH into it from another computer, and it can even run a web server. Madness and awesomeness, for a device so small. So deceptive, yet powerful and strong. I can check mail on it and download Google Reader feeds onto it and browse through them on the subway.

Reading full-sized PDFs on it is still a pain, but reading properly formatted PDFs is fine. Just getting properly formatted PDFs is hard. I need to find a way to convert normal PDFs to iPod PDFs. But HTML/text based ebooks are fine. In fact, they’re great. The itouch is a great e-book reader! I downloaded a bunch of books from and will make my way through them.

I was originally excited about the itouch because it’s 3.5 inch screen is great for watching video. I have yet to transfer a single video to it.

I may post tweaks and tips that I’ve come across for the macbook to make it more comfortable.

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