Mac Book Air mini-review and power useage bleg

Having promised myself that I’d buy a Mac when they brought out a netbook sized MacBook Air, I did just that about nine months ago. I got forced out of Macdom many yearsafter I began on a Mac in 1986 I’ve been meaning to write a review of my experience FWIW but haven’t got round to it.

In summary

  • I was quite surprised at how much I had to figure out in making the transition from Windows.  There are a surprisingly large number of small differences and when you’re used to one way of doing things it’s surprising how often one way of doing things needs to be unbaked into memory and something else baked in.
  • Steve Jobs’ famous arrogance is on display with far more things that can’t be changed and customised to your own preferences.
  • I expected to find the Apple software better designed, but it’s not. If anything – and this is now after nine odd months, I think it’s slightly worse. The Task Bar in Windows was always a snappy device, but I didn’t realise how good it was till I discovered the dock is definitely worse. If you’ve got lots of windows open the task bar lets you navigate to different windows quickly. On the Apple it’s usually two rather than one click away. Sounds like a small thing but it’s irritating.  Still perhaps there’s a way of doing it I don’t know of. So generally I’d rate the operating system somewhat inferior to Windows in terms of convenience and intuitiveness.
  • The trackpad in the Apple is seriously better than Windows. However this isn’t a big deal for me because I use external keyboard, screen and mouse most of the time.
  • The Apple hardware is lovely.
  • Ultimately my experience hasn’t made me, like many a baked on Apple fan. But I’ll probably keep with Apple for a funny reason. I can’t stand the Microsoft Office ‘ribbon’ which is compulsory in Office from Office 2007 on. Of course the best thing to do is to simply transition out of Office but unfortunately it’s impracticable given how much I have to interface with people using Office and Open Office won’t read Microsoft Office documents without formatting glitches. However Apple has managed to get Microsoft to do for its Apple variant what it should have done all along which is to provide menus at the same time as indulging it’s obsession with the ribbon. Anyway, that means that until Microsoft changes its policy in the Windows world, I’ll probably stick with Apple computers.
  • Which brings me to the main subject of this post.  Until a week ago, my battery lasted around 3 1/2 hours. Now it lasts around 1 1/2 hours.  I don’t know of any setting  I’ve changed. The fan seems to come on more though even when it’s not on the meter seems to show much less time is left in the battery than before.  Anyway, this all suggests that, like old copies of Windows, the OS degrades in efficiency over time and needs reinstallation from time to time – if so that’s another reason I’m not happy but there you are. 1 1/2 hours is enough for most plane rides. Any clues O Troppolishous ones as to how I can fix this? (And yes, I’ve checked the power settings and there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly unusual in there.)
This entry was posted in Blegs, IT and Internet. Bookmark the permalink.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
18 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
conrad
conrad
9 years ago

You might want to test if your battery has carked it. Unless Apples have the worst batteries on Earth, even a high power option should last more than 1.5 hours (unless Apples really are crapples). Try swapping your battery for someone else’s battery and see if you have the same problem.

hc
hc
9 years ago

You should do better than1.5 hours. Have you switched off your wif-fi?

There are plenty of backup batteries around – one very good one is the Trent – that should double the full life of your Mac on a plane.

I switched to Mac’s a year back and now find Windows hard.

Tel
Tel
9 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Gruen

In my experience the entire definition of “user friendly” is just something that the person in question is familiar with. I think Microsoft totally sawed off their own feet with their “ribbon” design, not because it’s entirely a bad design but because Microsoft’s primary advantage was being the thing that people were familiar with. Many other parts of their controls and setting have arbitrarily and gratuitously changed between versions.

Apple has a somewhat spooky system for making the user aware of background jobs running (on unaware depending on POV), I say “spooky” only because I don’t understand how it works, and because after five minutes of poking around it wasn’t particularly obvious. After that I never bothered to learn. At any rate, I guess that your netbook has some additional software loaded that is using CPU cycles in the background and thus draining the battery. Someone who knew what they were doing would be able to check this (looking at CPU load, processes, etc).

Dennis Argall
9 years ago

I sent this or like before but message vanished…

I recommend MackKeeper, which will allow you to get rid of unnecessary files easily, adding back more HD space, of which too little on the Macbook Air. (Also if you lose the computer,

I also recommend that you get Disk Utility out of the Utilities folder, and asked it to ‘Repair Disk Permissions’ from time to time.

If it is running OSX 10.7 the next excellent solution is to rebuild the hard disk with a fresh install of 10.6 – notoriously the pursuit of glamour with new system versions makes them run slower, increasing the urge to buy a newer computer.

Rather than lug a backup battery, the next smart thought I have is to buy a MacBook Pro five years old or so from eBay, with decent RAM and HD. Buy late in school or university term, then sell the Air during the vacation on eBay when the prices scoot up again. :-) And maybe install 10.5 on the Pro, it will run much faster than the Air.

Don’t hang around eBay bidding, use http://www.powersnipe.com – set your max bid and go away, let the cloud computer bid at the end.

I recently got a not too old Mac Pro desktop, all singing all dancing, because HP said that they had fixed driver problems since 10.5 for my A3 duplexing colour printer. Replacing my beautiful G4 Powermac
http://www.pcmag.com/slideshow_viewer/0,3253,l%253D219903%2526a%253D219896%2526po%253D3,00.asp?p=n
While I have the ability to have four monitors with the new machine, alas the new HP driver is a dud. So I keep an old machine and route the printing that way… alas the ‘Apple Porn’ [link above] went to a charity auction last night.

This is part of the consumer-suckering routine. Scrape off support for the old, even if it’s better and works well.

Says he, about to turn 69, so exciting! :-)

Dennis Argall
9 years ago

Unfinished sentence above, regarding MacKeeper:

(Also if you lose the computer,

you report it to MacKeeper and they get the machine to take a photo of the new user and give you that and the location of the computer to give to police or whatever.

Slim
Slim
9 years ago

Thumbs up on Activity Monitor to see what’s hogging the CPU. I’ve found that with Chrome the Flash Renderer sometimes gets out of control and will run the CPU around 50% with the cooling fan going crazy. Google has it’s own Flash plugin so sometimes you can have two Flash plugins running when you only need one – Google for solutions and details.

The Apple Icon menu gives you access to About this Mac – you can check on battery health there.

As a former Windows user I find Cmd-Tab to be the quickest way to navigate between apps – same function as Alt-F4 on WIndows.

I upgraded to Lion over Snow Leopard which in turn was upgraded from Leopard. Had lots of spinning beachballs. Finally found a very simple solution – deleting all caches and then restarting. Use Finder–>Go to Folder. Go to /Library/Caches, Cmd-A and trash all files and folders contained there. Then go to ~/Library/Caches and repeat. Reboot immediately. My Macbook is much snappier and nor more beachballs. Chrome used to take up to 40 sec to close with 8 tabs open. Now takes less than 10.

It’s also important to repar permissions with Disk Utility from time to time – fixes a host of issues and sluggishness.

At least you can do these things on a Unix based Mac OS. Once Windows gets to this stage it’s time for a clean install.

JM
JM
9 years ago

Guys

One behaviour I’ve learnt NOT to carry over from Windows is fiddling with OS.

Don’t. Do. It. Unlike Windows, OS X looks after itself just fine, but if you touch it you’ll likely strike trouble. You’ll gradually find yourself turning into a U*ix sysadmin as you change more things.

BTW Nick you might like changing the Dock settings (in System Preferences) to turn on AutoHide. The Dock will then dissappear until you move the mouse back to the bottom of the screen. That reduces the clicking required.

Kien
Kien
9 years ago

Dear Nicholas – I had the same experience when I switched from a Dell computer to a MacBook about 4 years ago. Had heard how wonderful the Mac was, but was disappointed to see features that I had taken for granted disappear. But having made the switch, I am sure I will feel the loss of features I now take for granted in the MacBook, even though right now I don’t think they make up for the features I miss from Windows. I am reading Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast and Slow, the chapter on Prospect-Endowment Theory, and it seems to explain what is going on. We feel losses more keenly than gains. Having read Prospect Theory, I am surprised that many macro-economists continue to struggle over the idea that prices are sticky downwards. Kahneman would call this an example of theory induced blindness.

john walker
john walker
9 years ago

We have found that rechargeable battery life is in general a bit unpredictable-not sure if it might be a manufacturing issue.

There are a lot of ‘apple key’ short cuts in the system… Jobs did not like them …. but they are there.

Personally prefer Firefox with NoScript … Google’s attitude to data collection worries me.

billie
billie
9 years ago

After many years of PC usage I used a Mac for 6 years. It was very stylish, totally not intuitive, and expensive, could not download free software so when I couldn’t upgrade the memory any more I bought a laptop from Aldi that has a 6 hour battery life and does every thing I want for 1/4 the price of the equivalent Mac

derrida derider
derrida derider
9 years ago

Earlier this year I had to juggle two mobile phones – one for work, one for personal (don’t ask, its a long story). The work-provided one was an iPhone, my own an Android one. Moving from an old dumbphone, I was unfamiliar with both (I got them about the same time) so its a good comparative test.

I spent a lot of time using both. Suffice it to say that the Android one craps all over the iPhone in most things (screen contrast being the main exception). Most of all I found the arbitrary restrictions on just about anything interesting you want to do on the iPhone really annoying – the Jobs way is “my way or the highway”. If Apple can’t do better than that then I’m not at all tempted to try their other products.

john walker
john walker
9 years ago

billie you said can not download free software…. don’t understand … including things like Firefox, share-ware and cheap utilities like GraphicConvertor (very superior to iPhoto) we provably have more Indie applications on our machine than proprietary ones.

wilful
wilful
9 years ago

Seriously, more people really really should try Linux (Mint is my recommendation). I’m NOT a propellorhead, and when I tried Linux five years ago far too much was asked of me, it had a far too steep learning curve. But the latest distros are so easy to get into, you pretty much install and away you go. If you want some software you do a quick search for it and that’s it.

Much lower calls on system resources. Starts up in about 15 seconds, shuts down in about 5.
Totally tweakable.
Did I mention it is 100% free?
Basically virus free?

Try it you might like it.