So how does the MacBook compare? Let's start with some positives:
- Small and light package, especially when compared to my rcutorture-capable ThinkPad. On the other hand, the MacBook would not be particularly useful for running rcutorture.
- Much of the familiar UNIX userspace is right at my fingertips.
- The GUI remembers which windows were on the external display, and restores them when plugged back into that display.
- Automatically powers off when not in use, but resumes where you left off.
- Most (maybe all) applications resume where they left off after rebooting for an upgrade, which was an extremely pleasant surprise.
- Wireless works seamlessly.
There are of course some annoyances:
- My typing speed and accuracy took a serious hit. Upon closer inspection, this turned out to be due to the keyboard being smaller than standard. I have no idea why this “interesting” design choice was made, given that there appears to be ample room for full-sized keys. Where possible, I connect a full-sized keyboard, thus restoring full-speed typing.
- I detest trackpads, but that is the only built-in mouse available, which defeats my usual strategy of disabling them. As with the keyboard, where possible I connect a full-sized mouse. In pleasing contrast to the earlier Macs, this MacBook understands that a mouse can have more than one button.
- I found myself detesting the MacBook trackpad even more than usual, in part because brushing up against it can result in obnoxious pop-up windows offering to sell me songs and other products related to RCU. I disabled this advertising “feature” only to find that it was now putting up obnoxious pop-up windows offering to look up RCU-related words in the dictionary. In both cases, these pop-up windows grab focus, which makes them especially unfriendly to touch-typists. Again, the solution is to attach a full-sized keyboard and standard mouse. Perhaps my next trip will motivate me to disable this misfeature, but who knows what other misfeature lies hidden behind it?
- Connectivity. You want to connect to video? A memory stick? Ethernet? You will need a special adapter.
- Command key instead of control key for cut-and-paste. Nor can I reasonably remap the keys, at least not if I want to continue using control-C to interrupt unruly UNIX-style applications. On the other hand, I freely admit that Linux's rather anarchic approach to paste buffers is at best an acquired taste.
- The control key appears only on the left-hand side of the keyboard, which is also unfriendly to touch-typists.
- Multiple workspaces are a bit spooky. They sometimes change order, or maybe I am accidentally hitting some key combination that moves them. Thankfully, it is very easy to move them where you want them: Control-uparrow, then drag and drop with the mouse.
- I tried porting perfbook, but TexLive took forever to install. I ran out of patience long before it ran out of whatever it was downloading.
Overall impression? It is yet another laptop, with its own advantages, quirks, odd corners, and downsides. I can see how people who grew up on Macbook and who use nothing else could grow to love it passionately. But switching back and forth between MacBook and Linux is a bit jarring, though of course MacBook and Linux have much more in common than did the five different systems I switched back and forth between in the late 1970s.
My current plan is to stick with it for a year (nine months left!), and decide where to go from there. I might continue sticking with it, or I might try moving to Linux. We will see!