The End of a MacBook Era

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The End of a MacBook Era

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A lot of people have noticed that I’ve ditched my MacBook Pro in favor of a Dell Latitude. I’ve posted a lot about my trials and tribulations with the MacBook here, here, here and here. I loved my MBP but there are a number of reasons why I had to ditch it in favor of a true Wintel machine:

  1. Drivers. The BootCamp drivers on the pre-Unibody MBP’s were pretty darn good – I had no trouble running Vista or Server 2003/2008 and Apple was one of the first to have native x64 drivers for both. I assumed – wrongly – that the same would apply to the Unibody MBP’s but that was never the case. The switchable graphics on these machines made running Vista/Windows 7/Server 2008 a complete nightmare. The nVidia card would lock into high performance mode and the thing would get so hot you could fry an egg on it. Naturally, this led to horrible battery life and with the aluminum casing spreading the heat around it was almost impossible to use after a few minutes. The trackpad never worked quite right and Bluetooth was a complete joke. Perhaps worst of all, when connected to a projector the video card would lock into 640×480 and there was no way to increase the resolution. And did I mention using the Express Card slot to connect to an eSATA drive? Yeah, that doesn’t work, either. No matter how much people complained in the support forums Apple never stepped up to the plate to fix the drivers (and still hasn’t). I realize that nVidia is very much to blame in this situation but I’m pretty sure that if Apple had put pressure on them they would have released a fix.
  2. Ports. At first I didn’t miss having a few extra USB ports but after it while it became a real hassle. It wasn’t only having two ports that caused me grief – they are also positioned too close together. Anytime I put in my 3G dongle or any one of a number of other peripherals they blocked the other port and it was effectively useless. Just about the only things that plug into the FireWire ports are portable hard drives, which would have been fine except that the drivers never seemed to work right under Vista or Server 2008. So for all intents and purposes I was left with one USB port. That just ain’t gonna cut it. And what on earth is with Apple’s decision to replace the ExpressCard slot with an SD slot? That just makes no sense – there are a ton of peripherals which use the ExpressCard form factor – including multi-card readers so I can read and SD if I really need to – but you can’t do much with just and SD slot. I’m still shaking my head over this one.
  3. Expansion. When you use a lot of virtual machines like I do you’re forced to have a second (or third or fourth) drive to put them all on. Sure, you can use the FireWire or USB ports but both are pretty slow and there are a lot of situations where presenting with a drive hanging off your machine is difficult (some podiums leave you no room at all for peripherals). I’ve seen people attach portable drives to the lid of their machines but a) I really didn’t want to mar the finish by sticking a Velcro strip on it, and b) the hinge on the Unibody MBP’s isn’t as tight as it could be so the weight of the portable drive would drag it down to the fully open position which can be hard to view (especially with the high-gloss screen). What I really needed was an expansion bay like the Dell’s and Lenovo’s had but the design of the MBP’s won’t accommodate one. This may sound trivial but it turned out to be a real hassle.
  4. VMWare Fusion. All the issues with running Vista and Server 2008 forced me to use Mac OS X. I don’t really have any complaints about the OS, although there were things that seemed a whole lot easier to do in Windows, but what really got on my nerves was VMWare Fusion, which is a pale shadow of VMWare Workstation for Windows. I’m not sure why VMWare can’t seem to figure out how to release a full-blown virtualization client for Mac – lack of support for snapshots and clones is just ridiculous. Not to mention the fact that Workstation is much faster than Fusion running the same VM’s. This isn’t Apple’s fault but it is a primary reason why the Mac platform doesn’t cut it for the way I work.
  5. DisplayPort. Ugh. This is a complete PITA. Offering the latest and greatest display connections is all well and good so long as you leave the old tried-and-true VGA connector intact. Plenty of PC manufacturers have figured this out but Apple appears to be clueless. This isn’t just a Windows problem – I was forever trying to find the stupid adapter to allow me to connect to a projector or monitor in Mac OS. Heaven forbid you lose it, like I did on more than one occasion, and have to hope against hope that there’s another Mac junkie around who has one. And I’m not the only one – I still keep a Display Port to VGA adapter in my bag in case I come across some poor soul in the same situation.
  6. Docking. Over the years I have come to rely upon the ability to dock my notebook and have instant access to a full keyboard, multiple monitors, and the range of peripherals I keep scattered across my desk. Except for the 13" versions, the MBP is no small machine – finding a place for it to be open yet out of the way can be a real problem. Worse, you can’t even close the lid and tuck it under a monitor stand as the heat vents are on either side of the keyboard facing upwards. Try it and you’ll have a fried hunk of aluminum in nothing flat.

The bottom line is that MacBooks, regardless of whether or not they put "Pro" in the title, are not designed for business use. It’s a PC world out there and Apple isn’t doing much to bridge the divide. Perhaps I shouldn’t have had such high hopes for the platform but it seems to me that the folks in Cupertino would have gotten the message by now. Based on how many people I saw at TechEd and SharePoint Conference toting MacBooks, it seems there is a pretty substantial market for Windows running natively on Apple hardware. There are probably a large number of people like myself who love the form factor but just can’t use the machines for day-to-day work tasks. And that’s a real shame.

So, until I find a really good use for it, I’ve got a very expensive paper weight sitting on my desk just begging to be used for the good of mankind. Who knows, maybe I’ll dream up a cool iPhone app at some point…anyone got a 57×57 glassy cowboy hat logo sitting around that they’re not using?