Saturday, February 23, 2008

MacBook Air - thin is big, real big

I got one. A - world's thinnest laptop - MacBook Air. With SSD (solid state drive) and all. I love it!

It was a royal pain to get it set up. My (two and a half year) old MacBook Pro had a 100Gb hard drive and the Air is 64Gb. Try downsizing when doing a migration from one computer to another. Then try doing it over a wireless network. In the end I had to resort to copying over individual files (including system and library files). Total pain in the neck.

As has been pointed out by others, the battery life is not as good as advertised. It's a (bad) joke to claim that you can get 5 hours of use on a charge. If I turn off both wireless functions (WiFi and Bluetooth), run only a couple of applications, put it in power saving mode and turn down screen brightness to its lowest settings I'm guessing I get 3.5, maybe 4 hours of life. And that presupposes that the cooling fan doesn't kick in during use, which it does too oftern. Given the sound of that thing its got to be pretty energy inefficient. And the fact that I cannot swap my battery is a real drawback when I play road warrior. The performance is fine, but doesn't make me jump out of my seat. I've seen some stuttering a few times with the mouse temporarily freezing every few seconds which worries me.

Yet, I love it. What all the reviews seem to miss is the subtle, yet incredibly importance of the size - thinness really. Carrying this thing around with me is like carrying a notepad. Closing the screen is like closing a book. Opening it up is silent. No whirring hard drive. It's just there. Keyboard is great. LED back-lit screen is fantastic. Eco friendly construction is another reason to buy Apple. The way all the parts come together and the beautiful design just work.

I find myself just carrying the thing with me everywhere. The other day I even went for a run in the Marin Headlands, slipping my Air in my running pack as I left. I stopped at the top of a trail overlooking the Pacific and sat down for 30 minutes taking notes, and working through some problems I had not been able to get to in the office. It's not just a smaller laptop. It's a different laptop.

I don't have a Time Capsule yet but I plan to get one. The thought of being automatically backed up every time I get on my home network and having a big drive that can store all my media.... well that just changes the rules.

Apple has earned their reputation for innovation by pushing boundaries and by breaking rules. This machine breaks a bunch of the rules. Some of the innovations (like the small number of ports and the battery design) will perhaps be seen as mistakes, but I think we will look back at the Air in a couple of years and realize that Apple raised the bar once more and changed what we expect from a laptop.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Why I have questions about Obama

I support Hillary Clinton. It's not that I don't like Obama, nor the energy and excitement he has been able to instill in people around him. I do. Obama is a strong speaker. He is inspirational. He seems able to unify. I like him for all those reasons.

Yet when I watch him speak in town hall style meetings. Watch the debates. Look at his record. I end up with a big unanswered question: What makes us believe this man can get stuff done on the national and international stage AFTER he's become president? Does he have what it takes to sit down with the real wolves in Washington, China, Russia, Iran... not the ones we see on TV, but the ones that eat their own young for breakfast if they become a tad too hungry? Does he have the gravitas and the real behind-closed-doors leadership to bully the bullies? Overpower the powerbrokers? Outmaneuver the politicos? Can he surround himself with an A-team and then lead that team to through the biggest obstacle course imaginable to achieve successes? Does he know when to make the tough calls, understanding that many won't like it and that people will be hurt regardless of his decision?

Will the "change" he is promising backfire? What if things are more complicated than they sound on the stump? What if change happens slowly? If powerful people have it as their agenda to stop "change", and they surely do, is he setting himself up for failure? If so will people become disillusioned leaving him "stranded" without the popular support that is the very centerpiece of his strategy for change.

Analogies have been made to John F. Kennedy by many, including some prominent Kennedys. So what would Obama do in today's version of the Bay of Pigs? Kennedy was no superhero. He screwed that one up pretty bad. The consequences today could be much worse. We recall Kennedy's presidency based on being too young to remember it (I'm one of those) or with a lens that has been colored by historical rose-colored-glasses. Kennedy was an inspirational man, but he it is not clear to me that he was a great president.

This country needs a great president.