New MacBook Pro and Mac OS X.5 (Leopard)

MacBook Pro

I recently bought a new 15″ MacBook Pro to replace my first generation model. There were a number of reasons I did this upgrade now:

1. Apple just came out with new versions of the computer.

2. I needed a MacBook Pro that could handle more than 2 gigs of memory so my photo editing work with Lightroom would go more smoothly.

3. I had not yet upgraded to Leopard and figured I’d do it when I got a new machine.

4. I wanted to use the new iChat screen sharing feature of Leopard to help my 92 year old mother with her computer in Los Angeles but her older computer would choke on Leopard so I needed to give her my old MacBook Pro with Leopard installed to make this work. This was the piece that tipped me as well as Apple coming out with new models of the computer.

Meta Process
I bought the new MacBook Pro (MBP), backed up the old MBP with SuperDuper!, transferred my stuff from the old machine with migration assistant, put the extra 2 gigs of memory in, took the old machine apart to get 250 gig HD out and put a 100 gig HD in for my mother, put the 250 in the external case my 100 was in, installed Leopard on old MBP and set it up for my mother. She mostly uses Gmail so I got her account up and running here in Connecticut.

When I got to LA last week I moved her stuff from her old G4 PowerBook onto her new MBP and taught her how to use screen sharing. We had a few sessions with it and hopefully we’ll practice more now that I’m home.

I brought the old G4 home and it will get scrubbed and used for something.

The entire process of getting the new machine, moving my old stuff onto it and setting up my mother’s machine went without a single hitch. Apple’s Migration Assistant works spectacularly well and it’s hard to believe we went through over ten years of moving things around by hand in the old days. In my mind, the smoothness of this process is another part of Apple’s design genius that few take the time to recognize.

New Buying Process
I generally buy my Macs direct from Apple but because Apple has stores in Connecticut they charge sales tax here, even on mail orders. Still, I always figured they’d have the latest products in their pipeline and if there was a small hardware change in a product they’d have it earlier than their resellers. That was my rationale anyway.

There are two versions of 15″ MacBook Pro and one version of the 17″ and one can customize each.

I got the 15″ model, 2.5 ghz processor, matte screen, 250 gig HD, 512 mb memory on graphics card.

I got this model because of the memory on the graphics card which would be useful if I ever switch back to Aperture or buy an external monitor. Otherwise I’d have been happy with the lower end 2.4 ghz model and I’d have simply bumped up the HD to 250 gigs on that model.

I also bought a memory upgrade from B&H to install myself which would give me 4 gigs of memory.

B&H’s prices on the memory are as good or better than anyone else’s and they make it easy to choose the right memory upgrade because it’s listed as an accessory for the computer.

The memory is quite easy to install and one is left with the original 2 x 1 gig DIMMs which one can put away to possibly use in case the new memory fails.

If you don’t have a small philips screwdriver consider this kit if you can find it: Newer Technology 7 piece tool set which includes the phillips “0” driver and the torx “T6”. The phillips “0” is all you need to put memory in a MacBook Pro.

I also bought AppleCare for the new computer and I had problems registering it. It’s possible that B&H pre-registers AppleCare accounts when it’s bought with a new computer from them but if they did, the person who did it mistyped the account number and it took me a bit to get it squared with Apple. That was the only bump in this process and frankly, it could have easily happened had I bought the computer at an Apple store as well.

I’m completely satisfied with B&H as a vendor of Apple products and will continue to use them as the price is right as is the service.

Notes on New MacBook Pro
The battery life on the new computer is incredible, much longer than any I’ve had before. Some or all of this must be from the new LED backlighting on the screen. Whatever it is, it’s great. I can now watch a full length DVD without running out of juice.

Between LED backlighting on new matte screen and new typography in Leopard, the screen on the new computer looks different from the old. It’s taking me a while to get used to it.

MacBook Pro left front edge

The fit and finish on the new computer is less than perfect. The top deck’s fit to the bottom of the case is not exact and there’s a ridge on the left side, like the top deck is a bit too big for the bottom.

<MacBook Pro right front edge

That ridge doesn’t exist on the right side so it’s a flaw, not a feature. I noticed this on my last MacBook Pro as well: lack of smooth fit between top deck and bottom.

When the computer is closed and latched there is more play between the closed screen and the bottom (computer) such that if I carry the MacBook Pro around like a book the top clicks as the screen moves away from and then back toward and hits the keyboard/bottom.

The sensor(s) that control screen dimming must be built into the speaker vents because with automatic screen dimming turned on my screen would change at the oddest times. It seems I must put my hand or hands over the speaker vents when I type or mouse or do things with the computer and when I do, the screen lights up thinking night is falling. I turned that feature off for now until I can retrain my hands.

Upgrading to Leopard
The upgrade to Leopard is the first major Mac OS upgrade I’ve not done as soon as it came out. Because of my photography and my use of Lightroom and Aperture, I didn’t want to mess with a working system and I was quite happy with Tiger: it was stable and while not perfect, I had printing working perfectly. Given that I’m still having problems with printing with Leopard I’m glad I waited on this upgrade.

The printing architecture of Leopard has changed and it’s both a blessing and a curse. So far I can’t print as I did from Tiger in Lightroom or Aperture although I’m still working on it and will no doubt be back in business soon, and while I can now use paper profiles in Pages, there seem to be bugs in the system’s ability to remember settings between print jobs.

I’m not crazy about the new look of the Dock and I seem to remember hacks to get rid of the bottom “shelf” if one were so inclined. I’m not that motivated but I still don’t like it.

Cover flow in the Finder is a godsend (thanks Mamen) for reviewing images before importing them into Lightroom or iPhoto. It’s fast and easy to use.

Likewise, Quick Look is incredibly useful: tap the spacebar with a document selected in the Finder and you can see what’s in it without opening it. Great for images, PDFs, anything.

The new Dictionary is fantastic with both local content and a Wikipedia button. I’ve not used Wikipedia on the web since I got this machine, preferring the less cluttered UI of the Dictionary.

The new iChat screen sharing feature really works amazingly well and is easy to use.

The new voice “Alex” in Leopard is quite spectacular, one of the best free text to speech voices I’ve ever heard. Turn on text to speech, choose a reading key (I use “T” for talk) and select an article on Salon or the New York Times and have your computer read it to you.

I like the Downloads and Documents folders on the dock although it’s taking me a while to get used to them being there.

I have yet to use Time Machine at all since I’m happy with SuperDuper! and I’ve continued my daily backup routine onto multiple external hard disks. I plan to buy a Time Capsule at some point but not quite yet.

Endnotes
Really, my biggest issue now is printing and I hope to have that solved this week. That’s not an issue with the new computer but with Leopard and it may just be my own stupidity in not knowing how to migrate my old process rather than problems with Leopard.

Other than that, the new computer is incredibly fast at everything I do with it and with the extra memory I can leave things running while I edit large batches of RAW images with Lightroom. For this reason alone the upgrade was worthwhile for me but it’s also nice to be using the latest version of Mac OS X, I don’t like to get too far behind on these things.

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