A Cyclist’s Computer: Macbook Air

We periodically write about technology, mobility, and gadgets. Our travels to Asia have been to attend Intel Developer Forums and blog about Mobile Internet Devices, NetBooks, and more – we also covered CES and its totally overwhelming consumerism.

A technology I’ve been following is small-form factor, ultra-portable laptops, and have been watching the Macbook Air since it came out.


Airing it out

The first Macbook Air (rev A), I just couldn’t do because we’re blogging with photos and video when traveling and now doing that in HD. Rev A was too anemic to push out videos or work with Photoshop files. Another problem with the Macbook Air is you can’t read a review (objective or not) without a comment taint that criticizes the laptop for what it’s not. That’s like if we reviewed carbon racing bikes and complained they didn’t ship with rack mounts. There’s much the Air doesn’t do, but it does what it’s intended to do very well.

As new tech emerges and old dies, Mac users will typically wig out then forget about it. Remember when the iMacs dropped floppy disk support and introduced USB? Geezus, you’d think that Apple had lost all regard for it’s fan base – but we all lived to compute another day. For example, I push a cd/dvd into a drive about 3 times a year total and have recently found myself surviving just fine with an 8G iPhone. 2 years ago, I spent considerable time fretting about whether or not 30 Gs was enough for my iPod …

To the point and context of Bike Hugger, I’ve been on a quest to become more mobile, simplified, and lightweight. Traveling with an folding bike, S&S case brings out the perfect packer in me and a desire to get even more efficient on the road. We’ve also got our Mobile Socials, where we talk this stuff and bikes and I’m riding around shooting video and blogging.

It’s More Fun to Compute

I haven’t owned a desktop since the first iMacs, opting instead for a laptop as a desktop replacement. Blogging doesn’t require much more power than a few Photoshop filters and rendering a 90 sec movie file for YouTube. I’ve had 17s, 15s, PowerBooks, Macbooks, and the new Unibody Macbook Pro. For the past year, I tried a travel computer set up where I had a laptop at home and one for the road and tried to keep them in sync. That worked for like a week and mostly got out of sync, nothing too confusing, but it’s just too much to keep two computers in sync – I’ve got another post about “the Great Sync” coming soon.

What I realized is that I needed a machine optimized for writing, blogging, and not any heavy lifting. It wasn’t migrated from another computer or synced beyond a shared folder, mail accounts, bookmarks, and passwords. Enter the Macbook Air.

Skipping the first rev, I waited for an update and then spent a few hours in an Apple Store testing rev B when it was shipping. I defer to the tech bloggers for all the numbing details of the rev, but what’s relevant is the Air does what I want it to do and is the thinnest, lightest, sturdiest computer I’ve owned.

It’s remarkably liberating to tout it around in a messenger bag. It feels like a solid piece of equipment – you can hold it with two fingers and wave it around, if you like, and the chassis doesn’t flex or creak. I’m not even using a sleeve, just tossing it into the Timbuk2 for a quick errand or Crumpler for travel. The air is fun, not drudgery to lug around, and I’ve found myself just taking it everywhere (of course, with regard to the wife limits). I liken it to riding a single-speed or fixed compared to the complexities of DA 10.

Despite what the Macbook Air playah haters have said, I’m using

  • iMovie 8, Final Cut Express
  • Photoshop
  • Localhost Movable Type 4
  • Keynote with motion graphics

and the machine feels as snappy as my first Macbook Pro and it should, it has similar specs. The Solid State drive opens apps like whammo – check the AnandTech review for more on the SSDness with pros and cons. I don’t know why exactly, but browsing with Safari is just blazing on the Air, faster than any machine I’ve owned.

Santa Air

Grabbing big Air

Being on the bike with a computer, I want a lightweight machine that works. I’ve lugged computers all over the place and it gets tiresome packing, unpacking, lifting, all the cords, stupid TSA lines, etc.

What I’m doing with the Air, is using it as a purpose-built machine – don’t need a disc drive, USB limitations, whatever. I’m blogging, writing, emailing, browsing and rock. Also note, when traveling, I’m not with a cargo bike – it’s a folding Dahon or the Modal and no damn panniers.

Typing on Air

Sharing my enthusiasm for the Air is Matt Haughey

It’s interesting having a powerful desktop, an iphone, and then the Air in the middle … the air is what I do everything around the house on, and yeah, I use it for writing long blog posts more than my desktop.

Right on. For heavy lifting, I’ve got the Macbook Pro; I’m moblogging with the iPhone, communicating, quick emails; and the Macbook air is my travel, blogging machine.

air_sleeve.jpg Tim from Commute by Bike agrees.

And see the Vintage Bicycle Macbook Sleeve.

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