Simon Harriyott

New Laptop

This is the first post from my new laptop. Well, when I say new, I mean second-hand. My last laptop (and indeed my first) is a tablet PC, which has been great, but my life has changed since I bought it, and it's not quite up to what I need it for.

When I bought the tablet, I was a permanent employee at a software house, and all of my work was done at my desk, on a company PC. I wanted a laptop to use at home when I couldn't get on the desktop, to use for the usual sort of home stuff, and some light development. Why did I get a tablet PC rather than a normal laptop? Honestly, I just fancied it. It's been handy on a couple of occasions, such as taking notes in meetings (drawing a diagram is much easier with a pen than cracking open Visio).

So now, I'm a contractor, and the three contracts I've had this year have required me to use my own computer, which I'm quite happy with. I know how it's all set up, I've got my favourite utilities installed, and I can just get on with the work once I've got the spec and the version control details. The downside is that the screen on the tablet is tiny - around 13 to 14 inches.

I spend most of my time in Visual Studio, and by the time I've got the solution explorer on one side, and the output or debugging windows at the bottom, and the menus and toolbars at the top, I've got a screen area about the size of a postcard, and not very high resolution either. That means I can see only around 15-20 lines of code at a time, which can be frustrating, especially if I want to split the window to compare two sections of the same file, or use split view in the designer.

So, I needed a big laptop. A 17" screen would be ideal, so that's what I've got. That was about my only requirement, other than it could run Visual Studio, so as long as it had a better processor than the tablet, and it had (or I could put in) a decent amount of RAM, then it would be fine.

So I bought a Mac. Yes, really. A MacBook Pro, 17". Like the tablet, I bought it on eBay, which saved a bit of money. Well, over a grand actually. There's no way I would have bought a new one. So why did I get a Mac? Honestly, I just fancied it. And also, I've never heard anyone say "I used to use PCs, and then went to a Mac, but I didn't like it. Windows is much better". On the contrary.

The guy I bought it from was a star. He repaved it, and put on Parallels and boot-camp, and when he found out that I've not had a Mac before, he threw in a Mac book (as in a book about Macs, not a smaller laptop).

First impressions: it's big. It won't quite fit in my laptop bag, which is big. There's a nice big bit of metal to rest my hands, well, arms on when I'm typing. There's load to get used to, like finding out that there's no Windows Explorer. Yes, really! There's a thing called Finder, which seems a bit odd so far. Simple things like selecting the previous word with the keyboard are tricky too. It's all a case of getting used to things, which I'm sure I will.

I haven't installed Windows on it yet - I don't have a disk that isn't tied to a specific computer, and nor do I have a licence - yet. Once my free Expression subscription is sorted out, I'll have licences a-plenty, and I'll set it up then, and I'm sure I'll tell you all about it.
31 October 2008