Tag Archives | Apple MacBook Air

In Which I Bid Flash Adieu

For awhile now, I’ve been battling some maddeningly persistent, mysterious technical gremlins that have infested my MacBook Air. The machine would work just great. Then, without warning, it would get miserably slow–the cursor would turn into a spinning beach ball, apps would refuse to respond either briefly or until I rebooted, and the fan would go on full-blast.

I repaired the solid-state disk using Apple’s Disk Utility. I cleared my caches. I blamed my browser and switched to another one. (At various points, I’ve used Safari, Chrome, and, most recently, Firefox as my primary browser.) Some of these tactics seemed to help–emphasis on “seemed”–but they didn’t resolve the situation permanently.

When the Mac was in one of its moods, it was no fun at all. That’s one reason why I’ve found myself using my iPad 2 (equipped with a Zagg keyboard) more often than the Air over the past three months. But I never stopped wanting the Mac to work better.

Then it struck me. The iPad, unlike any Mac or Windows PC I’ve ever used, is pretty much bulletproof. It doesn’t get bogged down. It has no equivalent of the spinning beach ball. Even its worst technical problems can almost always be fixed by powering it down.

And–in case you hadn’t heard–it doesn’t run Adobe’s Flash. New Macs don’t come with Flash, but I reflexively installed it on mine.

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Air Apparents! Ultrabooks and Other Slimmed-Down Windows PCs

For the longest time, Apple laptops lived in their own world of stylish design, while PC makers remained steadfast in their focus on beefier specs for lower prices. I remember looking two years ago for a Windows PC that aped Apple’s style–awesome keyboard, smooth trackpad, sturdy aluminum build, decent specs–and being disappointed that such a computer simply didn’t exist.

How things have changed. Apple’s revamped MacBook Air became a runaway hit while the rest of the PC market stagnated, and suddenly every computer maker wants to make thinner, lighter and prettier products. Intel calls these creations “Ultrabooks,” and provided PC makers with strict criteria for weight, thickness, battery life, processor power and pricing to qualify for the marketing jargon. This new wave of notebooks run the latest Intel Core processors, cost around $1,000, and go toe-to-toe with the MacBook Air in physical measurements.

Over the next few months, a bevy of these machines will strut their stuff for laptop shoppers. Here’s what we know about every Ultrabook or similar product that’s on the market or on the way.

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New MacBook Airs: Thin, Light, and Utterly Mainstream

When Steve Jobs unveiled the first MacBook Air at Macworld Expo back in January of 2008, he induced lots of oohs and aahs over its astoundingly thin case. I don’t, however, remember many people declaring that it was Apple’s first pass at building the garden-variety Mac of the future. I sure didn’t–in part because I was too busy bemoaning the things that it lacked, such as built-in Ethernet.

Super-thin laptops similar in concept to the Air have been around since at least Digital’s 1994 HiNote Ultra. People have usually assumed that they were aimed at well-heeled businesspeople with decidedly undemanding computing needs–or at least at folks whose real computer is something brawnier and more feature rich.

Today, Apple is releasing two new Airs, the successors to the much-improved ones it rolled out last October. It isn’t pitching the new models as specialty machines. Even more than with their predecessors from last year, it’s treating them as well-rounded, versatile computers that happen to be really thin and really light. In fact, a tagline it’s using–“The ultimate everyday notebook”–doesn’t even mention their lack of bulk. And just to clarify things, it’s discontinuing the last machine in its lineup that was simply called a MacBook. From now on, if you want a Mac portable, you’ll choose between a MacBook Air and  a MacBook Pro.

For the past few days, I’ve been reviewing a 13″ model loaned to me by Apple, but I didn’t need any arm-twisting to accept the notion of it as a mainstream notebook. I’ve already been using its predecessor as my primary system since last fall, dual-booting it between OS X and Windows 7. (And spending a fair amount of time explaining to curious passers-by that it really is the computer I spend most of my time on.)

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Living With Apple’s 11.6″ MacBook Air

I like ridiculously small notebooks. There was a time when I used a truly diminutive Fujitsu subnotebook called the Lifebook B112 as my main mobile machine. I also have a soft spot for netbooks. I’m willing to make compromises to shed weight–such as dealing with cramped keyboards, squinting at small screens, and learning to use abnormal pointing devices.

In recent years. though, I’ve tended to use laptops that were reasonably compact–13″ is my favorite–but not ridiculously small. That’s in part because I’ve used Macs as much as I have Windows laptops, and no Mac notebook has been anywhere near midget-sized. The closest Apple has gotten to tiny has been the MacBook Air, and until last week, the MacBook Air (with its 13.3″ screen) hasn’t been so much small as thin and light. All Airs up until the new models have also pretty basic in terms of specs and kind of pricey–which is why they never tempted me.

But a week and a half ago, Apple announced the first all-new Airs since the original version. The prices are lower, the specs are better, and there’s a new model with an 11.6″ display. It weighs 2.3 pounds and is .11″ at its thinnest point, making Apple’s smallest Mac portable ever–much more so than my late, lamented 12″ PowerBook, the smallest Mac I’d used until now. It also starts at a temptingly low $999. I’ve been living with one (loaned to me by Apple) since the press event.

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The Appliance Age of Computing

My weekly Technologizer column for TIME.com this up. I wrote about the overarching message of last week’s Apple event–which, between the almost entirely solid-state MacBook Airs, the iPad-like new version of OS X, and the Mac App Store, is that Apple is trying to reinvent the Mac into something that looks a little less like a personal computer and a little more like an appliance.

Is that good news or bad? As with most change, it combines both upside and downside, and it’s Apple’s responsibility to pull it off in a way that works for its customers. (I like the first tangible results, the surprisingly iPad-like new Air, and will be writing more about it.)

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Is the New MacBook Air the First Apple Netbook?

Remember Steve Jobs demolishing the whole idea of netbooks back at Apple’s iPad launch in January? I’m a netbook fan, but I still found his takedown awfully entertaining.

Jobs was, of course, positioning the iPad as Apple’s answer to the netbook. But that didn’t make the iPad a netbook, or anything very much like a netbook at all. It was sort of like comparing the world’s best motorcycle to a bunch of ho-hum subcompact cars.

But if the rumors are true, Apple will soon announce a new version of its MacBook Air thin-and-light notebook with an 11.6″ display and a pricetag meaningfully lower than the current Air. Any such machine would still cost much more than a run-of-the-mill netbook, and have a far higher cool factor–and at 11.6″, it could have the acceptably comfy keyboard that smaller netbooks often lack. Even so, it may be as close to an “Apple netbook” as we’ll see. And assuming that such a product is indeed imminent, it’ll be fascinating to see Apple make a machine with at least a hint of netbookishness after the world stopped paying all that much attention to netbooks–and years after pundits gave up insisting that the company needed to get into the game.

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