MacBook Air

MacBook Pro SSD sleep issue

As some of you know, almost a year ago I did an SSD upgrade on a MacBook Pro. And, if you’ve been following along, you know that I recently purchased a new MacBook Pro with Apple-supplied SSD.

I have two machines sitting here, one with an OWC SSD that I put in myself, one with an SSD that came from Apple.

On the older machine I had issues with sleep: the screen goes to sleep but the next phase of sleep where the motherboard, hard disk and radios go to sleep would not kick in unless I actively chose sleep from the Apple menu or closed the lid (screen). If I walk away from the machine, lid up the LED light by the latch is on but does not pulse. Close the lid, it pulses.

Pulsing = sleep.

On the brand new machine with Apple-supplied SSD the exact same thing happens: the machine does not go into deep sleep on its own without me doing one of many things to force it: Apple menu, power button, etc.

This makes sense, there is no spinning hard disk to spin down. One thing many considering SSD or talking about MacBook Airs don’t seem to realize is that an SSD (as opposed to the soldered on flash memory of a MacBook Air) is mimicking a hard disk: it’s in the same packaging and is a replacement for a hard disk in a computer. So, until the system knows the difference, there might be issues like this.

However, there are other things that get turned off when a machine goes to sleep and you can test this yourself if you have a wireless (bluetooth) mouse.

Leave the lid up but use the Apple menu to put the machine to sleep. Move a bluetooth mouse and the machine doesn’t wake up. This means the bluetooth radio is turned off. Same with wifi: deep sleep turns the radio off. Wake the machine up by hitting the keyboard and the wifi menu (the bars) may actually search for the network. You know the machine was sleeping if this happens.

On either of my machines: the old MacBook Pro with OWC SSD or new MacBook Pro with Apple-supplied SSD if the machine is left on its own, lid up, moving a bluetooth (magic) mouse will wake the screen up and the wifi menu is all lit up, it never turned off.

So, in case you’re thinking that it’s only third party SSD upgrades that are messing with the out of the box sleep modes on MacBook Pros, it’s not, Apple’s SSDs are doing it too.

And, “real” sleep is meaningful in that it turns the computer’s radios off and in so doing saves battery life.

I’m going to be calling AppleCare next week, less to complain, more to find out of they’re aware of this and what they’re doing about it. My guess is Lion will fix this although if enough people report about it maybe it will be fixed in a Snow Leopard update.

Anyone out there with a new MacBook Air who cares to comment I’d love to hear from you. The next time I’m in an Apple store I’ll test a MacBook Air to see about this, it’s an easy experiment to do.

This is definitely not a deal breaker on SSDs and it supports attempting to save money with SSD suppliers other than Apple. But, those using machines with SSDs and possibly MacBook Airs with soldered on flash memory, make sure your machine is really sleeping when you think its sleeping.

MacBook Air as primary computer

Truly, it is made of unicorns

The Air is leaps and bounds faster than my Pro, despite having a less powerful processor and graphics card. The speed gains must therefore come from the SSD drive. All computers (especially Macs) feel fast when they’re fresh out of the box. Over the months things start to slow down though, so it’ll be interesting to see if that happens with SSD.

Note to Jon Hicks: I had my last SSD equipped MacBook Pro for close to a year and it never slowed down. I doubt your Air will slow down at all. Enjoy.

SSD may be a bridge between hard disks and some other format for packaging flash memory. Frankly, I didn’t know the MacBook Air had a “traditional” SSD, I thought its flash memory was soldered on directly but either way solid state is the future.

SSD and Energy Saver in Mac OS X


Now that I’ve installed a solid state drive (SSD) in my MacBook Pro I’m wondering if the checkbox about spinning down a hard disk to save energy has any meaning anymore.

Maybe a more interesting question is, does that checkbox even exist on a MacBook Air? How context sensitive is the Energy Saver System Preference pane?

This may sound like splitting hairs but given that an SSD mimics a hard disk (is installed instead of a hard disk in the same slot) while the solid state memory on a MacBook Air is soldered to the main system board, energy saver might treat an SSD differently from the MacBook Air’s solid state memory.

Anyone out there with an Air care to comment on this? Does that highlighted checkbox even exist on a MacBook Air?

Flash memory comes of age

Flash Memory — the Hottest Enterprise IT Trend You’ve Never Heard Of

It’s not just in all of Apple’s portable devices (iPod, iPhone, iPad) but in almost every other portable device on the planet and the MacBook Air and non Mac counterparts are leading the way for flash memory storage in laptop computers. And, solid state drives (SSDs or flash hard drives) are now finding their way into desktop computers and as the article says, servers.

It runs faster, cooler, and quieter (no moving parts) and has the potential to be cheaper than mechanical hard disks. That day will come as more of the computer and device world moves to flash memory.

One of the many things I loved about the various Rio mp3 players I had was flash memory. One of the things I loved about the AlphaSmart was flash memory. It’s what compact flash and secure digital camera storage cards use and it’s in more and more things as it gets cheaper and more copious.

One of the many reasons I’ve decided to keep my current MacBook Pro and upgrade its internal hard disk to an SSD is to wait on buying a new Macintosh until they all use solid state storage devices. That day is coming, maybe sooner than later.

I’ll post on the SSD upgrade later this week when I get it and do the upgrade. Stay tuned.

Disaster and Air change my computer strategy

I’ve been a MacBook Pro user and before that a PowerBook user since there have been portable Macs. I moved to having a PowerBook as my sole machine many years ago and a 15″ MacBook Pro has been my only computer since they came out. My current three year old 15″ MacBook Pro is one of the last models before the line went unibody and I’ve been considering an upgrade for a while now.

Yesterday afternoon I was doing some work downstairs with my MacBook Pro and was finished and ready to cook dinner. So, I closed the computer, walked upstairs to the office, opened the computer thinking I’d connect one of my externals and do a SuperDuper backup like I do every evening at the same time. When I opened the computer the optical drive made its typical noise but the machine didn’t wake up. I tried hitting the brightness button on the keyboard, waking it up with key hits, and then after trying every method I know to wake a stubborn MacBook Pro, I did a keyboard/power button reset. The machine’s optical drive made its sound but all I heard afterward was a click of the hard disk, a small flash of the sleep light, and the computer was dead.

I pulled the battery and unplugged it and held down the power button for 5 seconds to reset the power manager and that didn’t help either. I attempted to connect a backup firewire drive to it and hold option down to boot off the external but it didn’t get far enough into the boot process to recognize the other drive.

In short, I was in trouble. I wasn’t sure at that point if I’d crashed the hard disk or something else happened but that was the end of what I felt I could do.

Miniaturization isn’t always good
One of the liabilities of using a portable computer is the miniaturization of its components relative to iMacs and Mac Pros and between smaller hard disks, energy saving powering the machine up and down, and moving the computer around, components take a bit more of a beating than they do on the larger machines. Apple builds this increase in liability into the cost of AppleCare which is a lot higher on portable Macs but that’s never stopped me from buying it. I’m glad I have.

I called AppleCare and told them what happened and the very polite guy on the other end told me it might not be the hard disk, it might be the logic board and he made an appointment for me at the Apple Store in Danbury, Connecticut (my favorite local Apple store) and they would attempt to diagnose the problem before sending it in.

I made dinner and watched a movie to get my mind off of it but I was seriously bummed last night.

Luckily when these things happen my wife gladly loans me her 13″ unibody iBook (I’m using it now) and I had a SuperDuper backup from the day before that was bootable and so, I was back in business in a few minutes, minus some things I’d done during the day yesterday. Before going to bed I made sure that I could continue working on this setup and used MobileMe to pull down the few updates I’d made to my address book and calendar yesterday so those things are synced. I also tried to remember what I’d done during the day and updated a few files that I knew I’d worked on. My guess is no matter what happens to the MacBook Pro hard disk I’ll be fine.

I figured that this trip to the Apple store would also give me a chance to see the new MacBook Airs and see how readable their screens are relative to the iPad or to a 13″ or 15″ MacBook Pro.

MacBook Air
I walked into the Apple store early for my appointment and immediately went over to a table full of new MacBook Airs, both 13″ and 11″ models.

Each of these machines is spectacular in its own right. They’re both paper thin, very light, very sleek and extremely attractive. I was tempted to just buy one on the spot, seriously.

I shut both of them down and started them up to see how the solid state boot process worked and it’s very fast, amazingly fast. The 13″ which has a faster processor felt a bit zippier but for what most people will use these for they’re both fine. The 13″ as had been stated in many reviews, feels as fast as a MacBook Pro. It really does.

I then got both of them set up the way I’d be using them:

1. Changed desktop to a light blue instead of Apple’s space scene

2. Made the dock hide

3. I ran Safari and made the window fill the entire screen to give each an iPad like feel.

I went to this web site (Richard’s Notes) and read the last post. On the 13″ model, which has the same resolution as a 15″ MacBook Pro things were smaller than they look to me here on this MacBook (which is similar to my older 15″ MacBook Pro). Not too small to read but a bit smaller for sure. On the 11″ model, which also has a very high resolution screen, things shrunk more, a lot more.

But, and this is a big but, I didn’t find either of them unreadable. In Safari hitting Command + will increase text size and one size up on the 11″ did the trick. The 13″ could be left alone although it too was a lot easier to read in Safari with an increase of one text size.

I also tried using the Monitors control panel to reduce the resolution on each of them but using any of these machines in resolutions other than their native resolution seems to play havoc with antialiasing on text and I think the better solution for the cleanest screen is to increase text size in Safari rather than mess with native resolution.

I was able to hold onto these two MacBook Airs and walk over to an iPad and launch Safari and pull up my web site. The iPad in landscape orientation was just as readable as the 13″ without text size adjustment but the 11″, which compares with the iPad in footprint is a bit tougher to read. Again, the fix is simple in Safari although in other applications may be more complex.

Bottom line, I’d love to have either model of MacBook Air but if I had to choose one today I’d choose the 13″ model as it would be more universally useful to me and more readable.

But, that wasn’t the end of my exploration at the Apple store.

Back to the iMac
Given that I’ve just had a hardware failure on a 15″ MacBook Pro, my only computer, which gets used for everything all day long and given that it’s three years old, coming to the end of its life, and given that “cloud computing” with MobileMe, my iPhone and maybe an in between device like an iPad or a MacBook Air is starting to come into sharper focus, it seems like it’s time to toss the entire scenario up in the air again and come up with some other solutions.

If one isn’t going to be a one computer guy, what kinds of things could one do with the approximately $4000 it would cost to get a new high end 15″ MacBook Pro and a 27″ Apple display (with AppleCare on both).

Well, one could buy a 21″ iMac with a Core i5 processor, 8 gigs of memory, 2 terabytes of hard disk space and AppleCare for $2218. This gives you a very fast computer, a big monitor, bigger components, and cheaper AppleCare for a very decent price.

One could add to that a “low end” 13″ MacBook Pro with 4 gigs of memory and 250 gigs of storage for $1448. Maybe buy a low end iPad for the plane and have the small MacBook Pro and iPad as a traveling kit.

Or, one could add the 13″ MacBook Air with 4 gigs of memory, 256 gigs of flash storage and AppleCare for $1948.

Or, could could add the 11″ MacBook Air for a bit less money.

The Guy with the MacBook Air
After I started thinking about these things and then walked over to the 15″ MacBook Pro that I thought might be my next machine, it looked like a huge brick compared with the MacBook Air models or even its 13″ MacBook Pro cousin.

Wow, it may be that my days of being a 15″ MacBook Pro user are coming to and end. This is huge for me. I mean, if Lisbeth Salander (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) uses a 15″ MacBook Pro as her sole computer, that’s about as cool as it gets, right? This is what I’ve been doing for years and years. But, my guess is that if Stieg Larsson had lived to write more books, Lisbeth would be using a MacBook Air in future episodes.

If I get an iMac that takes the pressure off of a single portable computer being a jack of all trades. The portable device can potentially be more like an iPad and be primarily a “reader” and only secondarily a creator.

While I’m not happy that my computer failed, I’m not sure I’d have come to this new place in my thinking about these things had I simply seen the MacBook Air models, as amazing as they are. I also had to reconsider the idea of having a desktop computer, not just for the big screen or lower price, but also for its durability.

I’m not sure I’ll be doing this entire change at once or when I’ll actually start doing it, but in reality, I could easily walk into an Apple store today and buy both the iMac and some kind of portable computer “companion” and be done with it.

Those are my notes. I’ll have more to add to this tomorrow after spending a day in New York with a friend who will be carrying an iPad. We plan to get to at least one Apple store in addition to the photo expo at Javits. Stay tuned.

MacBook Air screen resolutions and readability

New Macs’ resolutions

I haven’t gone to see the new MacBook Airs at the Apple store yet, I will tomorrow, but this article is stating what I feared on reading the technical specs of both the 11″ model and the 13″ model: The screen resolution is so high that they’ve shrunk everything making it difficult to read.

On a 11″ MacBook Air, a 72-pixel line—which would measure 1 inch long against an onscreen ruler—is just 0.53 physical inches long. On a 21.5″ iMac, that same line is 0.70 inches long. User interface items, like buttons, menu items, and scroll bars are 30% bigger on the iMac than on the Air.

I’ll look at both the two Air screens, a MacBook screen, an iPad screen and an iMac screen. Readability is important to me, even knowing that I can increase the size of text on a browser. I like to keep text size as the web designer set it so that all elements look right next to one another.

I have to say, readability trumps having a hardware keyboard.

[via Daring Fireball]

Thinking of the MacBook Air as an iPad with a keyboard

The Air’s Spot in the Lineup

John Gruber has laid out my exact thinking about how the Macintosh lineup works. If you want a portable Macintosh as your sole computer, the MacBook Pro is the way to go. Probably the 15″ model, high end everything would be best. You can add an external monitor later if needed.

On planes, especially in coach but really, anywhere, this computer, even in its 13″ version is bulky, tough to get out of the way when food comes, and only the latest models can make it across country on a charge without external power.

For planes an iPad is the way to go and on my recent flights to and from Los Angeles I saw dozens of iPads in use on the planes. I’m not kidding, there were over thirty in use on the way out, even more on the return (I saw two new model MacBook Airs at the airport in LA). However, if one wants to do some typing on planes, the new 11″ Air is a great way to go because the keyboard is built in and folded, it’s the size and only a bit heavier than an iPad.

If you think of the 11″ or even the 13″ MacBook Air not as MacBook Pro alternatives but as iPad alternatives with a keyboard, you won’t judge their lack of RAM and processor speed harshly because you won’t be using them as primary computers, you’ll be using them as you would an iPad. And, thinking of them this way will allow you to buy lower speed processors in them because you’re not going to be using them for high end tasks, just the kinds of things you might do with an iPad.

If you’re a hunt and peck typist and avoid typing as much as possible, the iPad’s on screen keyboard won’t be an issue for you. I touch type and I like a full size, hardware keyboard if I can have it and I’m willing to pay for it. So, let’s put the iPad and the 11″ MacBook Air next to each other and see what’s what.

iPad: iOS, apps, connect through iTunes or the camera connection kit, no iSight camera yet, bluetooth or dock keyboard extra, solid state, instant on, everything is autosaved in iOS.

64 Gig iPad, Camera Connection Kit, Apple wireless keyboard, iPad Case, AppleCare: $935

11″ MacBook Air: Mac OS, Macintosh applications, 2 USB ports, display port, built in keyboard, solid state, instant on, standard saving of documents under Mac OS.

64 Gig 11″ MacBook Air, AppleCare: $1248
128 Gig 11″ MacBook Air, AppleCare: 1448

I could load ripped movies onto each of these devices, get and send email, browse the web, connect to my mobileMe account, track my RSS feeds and Twitter feed.

Yes, one could buy an iPad with less memory and make the price offset even greater but loading music and images and a few movies and some apps take space. I’d rather buy that space up front on any of these machines.

When you fold up an 11″ Air it’s very much like an iPad in its case and not all that heavy. This really appeals to me along with the idea of not holding it up for reading which seems to tire me out more than putting it on my lap. A screen with hinged keyboard can more easily sit on a lap and I don’t enjoy typing on the iPad with a wireless keyboard when the iPad isn’t on an easel. I’ve tried it, it’s awkward for me.

I haven’t touched a MacBook Air yet and until I do I’m sitting on my hands. But, I’m quite sure that I’ll be getting an iPad or a MacBook Air before I make my next trip across the country.

Stay tuned.

Apple’s new MacBook Air

The new MacBook Air

Marco Arment has a great post on Apple’s new computers and how they might be used by a variety of people. This post is exactly what I needed to read although it got me no closer to figuring out if I want one of these new computers. Scratch that. I want one of these new computers. I’m not sure exactly how it would fit into my life yet.

Here’s The new MacBook Air at Apple’s site.

If I got one it would be instead of an iPad because I want an iPad-like device with a built in keyboard.

Also, as Marco says, the Air isn’t powerful enough to be a sole computer for many people, especially those of us who need to run applications like Lightroom, Aperture, or Photoshop. It just doesn’t have the horsepower for that kind of work. So, do you go with a two computer setup: one for desktop use like an iMac or a 15″ MacBook Pro with a big screen and use the Air for travel, or, might you go with a 13″ MacBook Pro maxed out connected to a big screen that you can also travel more easily with.

The big screen is going to sit on your desk anyway so why not save some money and make that screen the actual computer (iMac). Makes sense and the iMac is cheaper, runs faster, and is more reliable than a portable computer because it’s got bigger faster components. AppleCare on an iMac is half the price of a MacBook Pro. However, doing this means that one’s workhorse computer is in one place and can’t easily move if one wants to do a lot of work in another room or another country. One needs a MacBook Pro for this and preferably, a 15″ model with a screen big enough to do real work on.

I flip flop on this daily: the iMac makes great sense, then I think about sitting in LA as I am now and whether I’d want an iPad or an Air here without all of my tools installed with an iMac at home. I do like having my now 2.5 year old 15″ MacBook Pro here with me. Still works quite well.

There is something very satisfying about having a portable computer as one’s main computer; being able to take it anywhere knowing that your entire setup is with you. I’ve worked like this for many years and a change from this would be tough for me.

And, one more thing… I am now using my iPhone4 for a lot of on the road reading of RSS feeds and emails and it’s working very well for that. So, the iPhone takes some of the pressure off of the need for an iPad or an Air. Not all the pressure, I’d still like to have this ultra portable Air with a full size keyboard, but I’m not absolutely sure I’d make great use of it.

Guess I’ll have to get over to an Apple store and do some serious playing and drooling. Stay tuned.

[via Daring Fireball]

Converging operating systems, the MacBook Air and appliances

Converging Operating Systems, the MacBook Air and Appliances

Kyle Baxter has written an excellent post, using the new MacBook Air coupled with iOS devices (iPad and iPhone) to hypothesize about Apple’s future direction.

I’m reading his post and posting this from 39,000 feet flying home on a plane with wifi where I’m one of a shrinking group using full size laptop computers. On the plane are at least 30 iPads, many smartphones of all types including iPhones online right now, netbooks and two new MacBook Airs that must have been bought yesterday at Apple retail stores in LA and are now on their way to NY.

I think the iPad is the iPod of computers: I’m willing to bet that many of the iPad users on this plane are Windows users in the computing world. The iPad with iTunes on their computers allows them to use an Apple iOS device without having to switch to the Mac. As Mac OS and iOS merge, these distinctions will become less meaningful. This is where Kyle gets it exactly right when he talks about the “appliance” nature of iOS devices creeping into the “computer” world with the Air and also, Mac OS X Lion (the next version of Mac OS). It’s not there yet but it’s coming, you can see it.

I must say, after struggling to put this computer away when the food service came through (I’m flying business class on a mileage upgrade) I noticed that my neighbor who’s got an iPad and two blackberries just tucked them away on his lap or beside him on the seat. No worries about power where I’m plugged in. If I had a MacBook Air that would solve a few things but in fact, just in the past few hours since I posted my thoughts on how the MacBook Air might or might not affect what I do next, I’m moving closer to an iPad for this kind of thing. I can see it more clearly now and while it won’t give me a hardware keyboard on a plane, I can always pull a computer like this one out if I need to do some serious writing. Other than that, for email and RSS feeds the iPad is the way to go. On the other hand, the new MacBook Air has enough battery life and is thin enough to tuck away when a meal comes and has a full size keyboard.

Argh! My head is going to explode!

iPad – MacBook Air hybrid thoughts

After using the iPad for a few days including a lot of on-screen typing I’m convinced that for me, the ideal tool would be an iPad with a built-in hardware keyboard, like a MacBook Air minus the touchpad.

Important fact: I’m a touch typist. I use all of my fingers and keep my eyes on the screen and type fast. I want a full, real, hardware keyboard for serious writing.

People (me included) are buying covers and portfolios to put their iPads into and this is mostly to protect the screen. The Air does this by protecting the screen with the keyboard.

Yes, typing on an iPad using its on-screen keyboard is better than attempting it on an iPhone but neither is acceptable for serious writing if you touch type.

Connecting a USB keyboard via the camera connection kit (I’ll be doing this shortly) or using a bluetooth keyboard leaves one in the awkward position of either propping up the iPad, laying the entire setup flat on the table or somehow positioning things so one can type and watch the screen at the same time (this is what touch typing is about).

The Apple iPad keyboard dock can’t easily sit on one’s lap as far as I can see. If you know otherwise I’d love to hear about it.

For me, the best solution is the one I’m using right now to write this: MacBook Pro on my lap. An attached/hinged keyboard for the iPad solves this problem nicely and is a built in cover for the screen and I’m thinking that the iPhone/iPad OS would work nicely in the skin of a MacBook Air or something even thinner. Maybe the keyboard could do a 180 and get out of the way behind the screen when not needed.

If this device had just a tad more memory and was under $1000 I’d buy one in a second. I wonder if that might be what’s coming in the update to the current MacBook Air?

Postscript: My long time friend Chet and Twitterer Kelvin point me toward the Clamcase which is in fact, the exact solution I’m interested in and if Apple doesn’t come out with something like this I might just get one. However, I’d much prefer an Apple designed solution.