Starting Up Pt. 1 - The "Out of the Box" Experience

One of the more loathsome traits of Mac idiots is their tradition of "unboxing photos/videos" in which their new babies are fetishistically removed from their packaging, every step documented by more photos than would be taken if Jesus Christ returned on the stage of the American Idol finale.

Not gonna do it. Here's all you're getting:

Moving on, you open the lid to find the MBP sitting there with a pull tab announcing, "Designed by Apple in California." What they don't tell you is that it was manufactured by brutalized labor in China. (Must not have fit.)

Booting up, the Setup Assistant thing immediately plows into a snag: I can't connect to my wireless network. It sees it and accepts my password, but gives an error. This is most likely because I have my router configured to only accept connections from devices that I've entered the MAC addresses. This keeps people from jacking into my network even if they see it or guess the password. The problem here is I don't see where I can find the MAC address and the only way to get past this is to select that the computer doesn't connect to the Internet. Not an auspicious start.

After trudging thru the rest of the setup, I went into the wireless - whoops, AirPort - setup and looked for the MAC address. Taking a guess that the Advanced button will reveal something useful, I saw a familiar-looking string of characters which would a MAC address on every other piece of tech, but is labeled "AirPort ID" here. I thought the AirPort was the base station/router thing that Apple sold? Nope, it's a proprietary name for a common thing to sow confusion and slavish brand loyalty.

The Trackpad isn't set to accept taps for clicks - you have to press down to click, like a BlackBerry Storm smartphone - so I find the settings and hit the first "Oh, that's cool" thing I've seen so far. When you hover over the various settings, a little window shows a movie of the gestures that action requires. Half-setting, half-multi-touch tutorial, all pretty slick. I'm used to being able to scroll by dragging the right side of the pad on my Dell laptops, but two fingers anywhere - hey, minds out of the gutter! - allows scrolling. Sweet.

Running the Software Update reveals 732.5 MB(!!!) of patches and updates are required including 500+ for OSX patches and nearly 100 for the piggish cash register program that keeps Steve Jobs alive, iTunes. Fortunately, I have a fast cable connection and it will only take 20 minutes to download all this, but if I was on a basic DSL hookup, yikes.

While we're waiting, let's recap some fast impressions:

  • The thing feels as solid as the block of aluminum the case is carved from. I'm used to the flex of the plastic panels on the bottom of my XPS, so this feels hella better from the jump. My old Dell Inspiron 6000 was much sturdier feeling than the XPS in this regard.
  • The instruction manual is a joke. The only reason I was able to sort out the networking hassle was because I knew what I was looking for. Newbies would be on the phone to Apple support. I've noticed with my iPods that Apple documentation is pitiful because they clearly think that to expose their trembling customers to the possibility of trouble would give them nightmares, so they pretend everything will automagically work.
  • Likewise, the paper folder the reinstallation discs are stored is so flimsy, I can see them being accidentally tossed. My XPS came with a freaking BINDER for the manuals, discs, etc. Other than the power cords and a screen polishing cloth, Apple doesn't give you anything.
  • Another snazzy detail is the MagSafe power connector. Instead of a barrel plug which can lead to damage and a pricey repair if the power cord is tripped over, there is a short nub with magnets that holds the power to the laptop and it just pops out if strained. I've replaced motherboards on laptops at work where the power jack was strained by a trip and fall.
  • The backlit keyboard is nice, but my XPS had a black-on-silver keys which made low-light use easy and I've got an illuminated Logitech keyboard on my PC, so the novelty is minor.
  • Here's a HUGE improvement: There's no cooling fan noise!! Due to a defect in the video chip of my XPS, Dell put out a BIOS that really pumped the fan speed under most circumstances and the constant whirring to pump out the heat is a little annoying; my cat curls up on the futon in front of the air vent in the winter. The MBP OTOH is dead silent and I can't see any vent holes. I'm guessing the aluminum ingot body acts as a heat sink.
So far, so-so. The updates are installed - very fast - and now let's get into using it.