New Macbook Air

To support Mac OS X development, I purchased the 64 bit MacBook Air 13″ last week. I have not been disappointed as it is just plain faster than any computer I have ever used or seen. Blistering fast. I would have chosen the MacBook Pro if I had a spare $1000 to throw at it but I am happy with the Air. The smaller form factor has it’s advantages and it’s actually newer generation hardware than the Pro right now. I told one person the Air was so thin I could cut cake with it. He laughed and suggested maybe I could chop wood. I don’t think I’ll try that.

However, I had some interesting little glitches early on, so I just thought I would share since others might have the same… Since I need both Windows and Mac OS, I decided to install Windows via Boot Camp. I considered Parallels or VMWare VM (Virtual Machine) but decided that, as a developer, I won’t be switching that often. I’ll spend long periods in each OS and I like the idea of running natively. Besides, Mac OS X boots up in only 8 seconds or so. I can handle that!! Also 4GB of memory is fine for one OS but a bit tight for two. The Air’s memory is not upgradeable because it is soldered in to achieve the ultra thin styling.

I purchased an OEM version of Windows Home Premium as the price is right and I don’t need anything offered by the Pro version for my development or support tasks. Not having a ready external optical drive for installing Windows I decided to create an ISO image on an external notebook drive connected via USB. Didn’t work. I created the ISO image OK but the drive just wouldn’t boot successfully into the Windows start-up via Boot Camp. After some frustration (and vain googling) I gave up on that and just hooked up an internal DVD drive borrowed from a desktop computer. I used an inexpensive USB cable with power supply and it worked like a charm. BTW, I consider a USB to hard drive cable like this one to be simply indispensable to owning a computer. Five dollars. Don’t leave home without it.

The Air has a solid state hard drive and it’s “only” 128 GB and I wanted to leave plenty of room for Mac OS X. When setting up the Windows partition via Boot Camp, it defaults to 20 GB. I thought that should be fine since I don’t need that much and since I’ve read people claim they can run Win7 in 8GB. WRONG. The Windows install itself chewed up 15 GB plus, then after installing Visual Studio C# I had less than 3GB remaining. After a few more installs of essentials, I got down to 1.7 GB left and then — BOOM. Windows would not reboot successfully. It could not be repaired or restored from a restore point either. Dead.

The wild thing is that it damaged the Mac OS X partition also! — and this was just after I got everything set up over there. After going through the Command-R (restore utilities) process without success, I placed a call to Apple and got immediate and friendly help but after some consultation, they confirmed what I already pretty much knew. I was toast.

So, after re-partitioning the drive with the Mac OS repair utility (Command-R at boot-up). I got a chance to try Apples new internet based “no DVD needed” approach to system restores. Worked great, although some patience was required to download the entire OS.

The second time around I partitioned Windows for 50GB, installed Windows 7, and it’s worked great ever since. I consider my MacBook Air to be worth every dime I paid for it and then some. And it’s nice to be leading edge, at least for as long as it lasts…

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