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A meme, a ticker, a review and a short update - Suffering From Elation
A Survivor's Tale
A meme, a ticker, a review and a short update

I write like
J. K. Rowling

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

That came from analysing the first thousand words of my novel. I'm not complaining, though I doubt the reliability of this quiz. It's a meme, I suppose that should go without saying!

I've put myself on a diet. Properly, this time, no half-arsed-ness. This means counting calories, which is something that got me into trouble once before. Last time I dropped to 53 kilos (116 pounds). I'm short, but sturdy of bone and, when fit, strong of muscle too. 53 kilos was slipping into the "too little" end of my weight range. People started to worry.

So to avoid that this time, I'm using a totally sweet calorie/fitness tracker called MyFitnessPal.com, which I use online and as an iPhone app. It's good because it warns you when you've eaten too FEW calories and encourages you to strike as close to your daily calorie allowance as possible. Too low a caloric intake is discouraged. Hopefully that'll keep me on the straight and narrow (hurr hurr... no pun intended). I've lost 1.5 kilos (3 pounds) so far but it's early days. Now that I've mentioned it, I don't think I'll talk about it much here. Diets are like dreams: fascinating when they happen to you, but rarely as interesting to everyone else.

In other news, I've now had my MacBook Pro for over six weeks, and I promised Hammond I'd give it a review. I don't see myself as an Apple fangirl. Excepting the iPhone, this laptop is the first piece of Apple hardware I've owned. Having said that, this is in no way going to be an objective review. How could it be, when I spent my own money (and quite a lot of it?) on the product? Confirmation bias dictates that I'm bound to WANT to like it. I'd like to think my own negative bias against technology in general will be enough to counter that. ;)

---start review---

It's dressed to impress. As I lift my new MacBook Pro (17 inches of cold, hard steel) from the glossy white box I'm struck by the amount of design that has gone into the packaging alone. As I unpack the computer, I encounter each cord, each booklet, each included accessory precisely in the order that I need them. This is a sign of things to come: in terms of design, in terms of usability, this laptop is top-notch.

A brief pause while I pop in a disclaimer. My partner Joe, who is all about being able to tweak every last damn thing in a machine, finds Macs very limiting. They are the mirrored pools of the computer world: picturesque and beautiful, their shiny surfaces hide any trace of inner workings both in terms of hardware and software. In contract with any given PC, it's tough to get into the digital guts of a MacBook and root around. Joe doesn't care for this; I, however, do. The less of the inner workings I can get to, the bloody better, because I can destroy a perfectly good machine just by looking at it. Honestly, I think I emit some sort of electrical field or something.

After six weeks, my Mac is still working flawlessly. You'd expect that of any brand-new computer, certainly, but this one works all the time, right down to the smallest challenge, and even when dealing with third-party software and hardware. Plugging in a new mouse without any drivers? No probs. Joining a network? Total breeze. Adding and removing programs from the toolbar? So goddamn intuitive it scares me. My work desktop is still a PC, as is Joe's laptop, and when using either of those I already catch myself reaching for Mac shortcuts that don't exist, or drawing esoteric hand gestures on 'lesser' touchpads which simply don't understand.

Design, design, design. You've heard it all before, so I'll only touch on the most notable parts. The screen image is bright and crisp beyond anything I've ever seen on a laptop. It sports a 180 degree viewing angle, meaning you can see it perfectly from just about side-on. The body of the laptop is carved from a solid piece of aluminium. Opening it up feels like pushing open the gates of heaven (accordingly, the very first time you do so the MacBook Pro takes you on an epic sound-and-light journey through the universe).

Initially I felt weight was an issue. All that solid metal! Compared to the netbook I'd been using, the MBP felt distinctly hefty. It was Joe who pointed out that his own laptop, a 13-inch Toshiba, weighs slightly less than my 15-inch MBP. Apparently this machine is built of METAL AND DREAMS. Like a supermodel, you gotta wonder where all the internal workings are kept.

Battery life has long been a bugaboo of mine. I like to go out to cafes and indulge in all-day writing sprees. My netbook has a battery life of three hours, if you are lucky and don't get it overexcited. Compare the MacBook Pro which, when fully charged, lasts approximately ten and a half hours. You guys don't even understand how exciting this is for me. I can go to a cafe, stay all day, and NOT have to scrabble for a seat near a power outlet. In that small but important way this machine has changed the way I work. The extra backpack weight is worth it.

The F-keys (F1, F12, etc) have been repurposed to brilliant use on the Mac. From left to right they serve as one-touch hotkeys for the following: dim screen, brighten screen, show/hide all windows, show/hide key accessories (a collection of inbuilt widgets including date, time, calculator and weather), dim keyboard backlight, brighten keyboard backlight, rewind, play/pause, fast-forward, mute, volume down, volume up, and eject. In Windows, F-keys do all kinds of things too, but here they're set up with the simplest and most comprehensive set of functions, and (importantly for people like me who are allergic to memorising shortcut key combos) they each have a little pictograph label showing what they do. So I don't even have to bother remembering where anything is, let alone remembering that I have to hit shift and control and F-somethingorother to achieve my goal.

Software-wise, it interfaces beautifully with iTunes (one would hope so). Playing and ejecting CDs and DVDs is an absolute breeze. I'm never told I need to download this driver, or that codec. It is fast. It is so silent that right now, if I closed my eyes, I wouldn't be able to tell you if it was on or off. It shuts down in the time it takes me to exhale. Stuff JUST WORKS on this machine.

That's the appeal, ultimately. It just works. It may work in a more limited fashion than a PC, but what you call limited, I call streamlined. As a designer it does absolutely everything I could wish. Extra complications would be simply that; and that is where I have run into problems with PCs in the past. The more complex a machine, the more chances for something to go wrong.

Supposedly there's a bunch of things Macs can't do. Flash pops to mind. Fuck that, I always hated fucking flash sites. The fact of the matter is that after six weeks of intensive use of the machine - for professional art, account-keeping, writing, music and the internet - I'm yet to stumble upon anything it can't do.

That, for me, is enough to justify the added expense.

What it hasn't done is turn me into a slavering Mac fangirl. No, I'm not buying a goddamned iPad; those things are laggy as hell and don't do much I can't do with my far more portable iPhone. Not everything that comes from Apple is automatically going to be revolutionary / amazing / worth the extra cash. Apple does three things well: design, marketing, and the principle of KISS. Keep It Simple, Stupid. These are computers for computer-stupid people like me*. Bless you, Apple, for thinking of the computer illiterate... and making like a squillion bucks in the process.

* I'm not suggesting that everyone who uses a Mac is computer-illiterate; I'm saying that the computer-illiterate could do worse than to check out Macs for their needs. At least one of my Apple-munching friends is a massive geek too. Looking at you, Adders. :D

---end review---

Brief update about life in general:

I've been slack with updating - sorry! Mostly that's because I was running myself into the ground with crunch-time on my big freelance contract, but I finished that almost two weeks ago. Since then I've simply been recovering. I think I'm just starting to feel normal again. I've been getting some sun, have returned to fitness and weights and a bit of Krav (though not as often as I'd like with the latter; it's just too hard to get home from New Norfolk on a weeknight). I've taken up ping-pong with mum at the local gym and I'm really enjoying it!

Joe's doing well too - I feel bound to update you guys as the jerk never updates his own journal! He's just been upgraded to 30+ hours per week at Subway, which will ease our financial strain considerably, and he has been told he'll make manager sometime soon. Good news, as manager-at-Subway can translate sideways to other forms of management, possibly even the full-time sort and, let's all hope for Joe, careers away from food service. Knowing Joe and the way things tend to just fall into place for him, he'll wind up stepping his way into some cushy-ass management job over the next few years and start earning more than me. This will undoubtedly lead to disaster, as then he'll finally have the money to do all the mad things he's always wanted to do, like keeping bees in the backyard and constructing within our house a secret passage accessible only through a custom ball-pit.

I moved into my new office last week and it is BOSS. The walls are painted white. When the afternoon sun comes in through the three windows it bounces off the walls and the entire place is luminous. I love it! My gear is all in there but when I get my final payment for this last contract I need to pick up a couple sets of shelves, etc, to finish the place off. Needless to say, I've already created a FourSquare listing for it!

Joe's sister Lucy is visiting right now, and when she goes, Mum's boyfriend and his son are visiting, and when they go, Chloe and her boyfriend are visiting, so basically it is visit-palooza around these parts. By the time Chloe's jetting back to Brissie it'll be early August and I'll have to start thinking about making a visit up there myself!

There's more to write about, but it's dinnertime and I'm the designated cook tonight. Make way for deliciousness!
10 have fought ~ fight the power!
scoutlostthewar From: scoutlostthewar Date: July 14th, 2010 09:10 am (UTC) (Link)

I love my mac for the same reasons you love yours. I'm sick of more nerdy types be all "oh I could build a PC for half that" or "you can't customize a mac"


Oh and congrats to Joe, has he tried to make the biggest fattest subway sammich ever yet?
flyingfluff From: flyingfluff Date: July 14th, 2010 09:40 am (UTC) (Link)
lots of luck with your diet! I know I need to kick my butt in gear, I just don't have the motivation, discipline, and a million other excuses.
stonelizard From: stonelizard Date: July 14th, 2010 10:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Stop teasing me with your shiny new mac :)

I am on a pc right now - really love it, better access to a lot of progs but I do so love my mac! PErhaps after this hopeful career change I will treat myself ;)

Good luck with your diet! i know how sucky they can be but keep at it! I am on a mini diet too as I put on a lot after moving back to the uk and being depressed. I am not dieting, just not eating everything in sight. Good luck! The tickers really help, they are so inspiring!

Good luck!

PS - How is the novel going? Are you going to be sending it to pubs soon? I still need to do one final reread but its on the backburner for a month or so while I settle into new home and work out crappy job ituation :)
darkwingpsycho From: darkwingpsycho Date: July 14th, 2010 02:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've been tossing around the idea of making a Mac my next computer, but was hesitant as to whether or not it would be conducive to Adobe art software and the like. Glad to hear it works fine! What about with software like Word? I've heard there is compatible software for Macs, but does it translate well? Like, can you send a document you wrote in Mac!Word and have it open just fine in PC!Word?

Glad things are going well, and good luck with the calorie counting!
tania From: tania Date: July 15th, 2010 01:36 am (UTC) (Link)
I can answer this question! (woohoo!)

I got the latest Mac version of MSOffice and I can confirm that not only does it run brilliantly on the Mac, but that documents open just fine between Mac and PC. No conversion worries or anything. My PC version of Office is the slightly older one, but still with the .docx extension - I think that's why the files go back and forth so well. The only thing I ever noticed that didn't work was a little bit of list formatting in one of my documents. Took it from PC to Mac and the bullets disappeared. That was such a small thing I didn't bother looking into why, I just chucked 'em back in.

Hope that helps!
saitenyo From: saitenyo Date: July 15th, 2010 03:54 am (UTC) (Link)
Have you found that site to be accurate about calorie goals? I tried a few other calorie counters before and all of them kept insisting I was coming in under my daily calorie intake even when I wasn't restricting my eating at all. I definitely do not skip meals or eat too little, so I kind of...gave up on those sites since they were telling me to eat more than I already was when I was trying to lose weight. :|
tania From: tania Date: July 15th, 2010 05:05 am (UTC) (Link)
This one seems great so far - most major foods have been listed with all values supplied by the site. As for user-added foods, there's a system so that others can confirm the accuracy of the calorie figures, or reject it. So the trick is generally to look for listings that have one or more confirmations from other users; you know they're going to be reasonably (copied from the back of the box) accurate.

You also have some control over your daily calorie intake - the site lets you decide whether you want to lose a small amount like <0.5 pounds per week, or a large amount like 2 pounds per week (they won't let you set it any higher than that, as rapid weightloss is unhealthy and untenable) and your calorie quota shifts accordingly. I'm aiming for two pounds per week so my calorie quota is currently 1200/day. It also adjusts for exercise.

Thus far I've found it's pretty accurate for me. If I find myself really hungry and go check how much of my allowance I've eaten today, I always find I haven't eaten quite enough according to the site. When I meet (or exceed) my quota I generally don't find myself hungry.

Both site and iPhone app are free so if you feel up to having another go at this sort of site, at least you're not putting any money on the line. :)
saitenyo From: saitenyo Date: July 15th, 2010 05:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh that sounds way more accurate just from this info. I think the one I was using before was telling me to eat something like 1700 calories a day...and I am a tiny person. I'm wondering if it just took a broad range of heights/weights and based it on that, as opposed to factoring in my actual fairly short height and small build.

I'm usually pretty good about eating when hungry anyway. I'm hypoglycemic, so I have to eat fairly frequently to keep my blood sugar up. I don't really have much to lose anymore, just trying to stay at a healthy weight as I keep occasionally gaining pounds, so I'm trying to tweak what I'm eating.
c_eagle From: c_eagle Date: July 15th, 2010 07:24 am (UTC) (Link)
A great review and update!!

..and don' vorry, Flash won't be an issue for ya either methinx
hammond From: hammond Date: July 15th, 2010 11:47 am (UTC) (Link)
Glad to hear that you're loving the lappy. I'm happy that I could help talk you into it (and if Dell weren't being stupid and slow for you).

Anyway, I totally feel you on the finger swipes and keyboard shortcuts. I think that's the biggest short-comings of Macs.... that other computer's aren't all Macintosh as well.

You know you can customise and add a multitude of other dashboard widgets as well?

I am so very jealous of your battery life. My 2.5 year old MBP only gets a couple of hours out of it now. Wow, I am impressed at how far battery technology has come. Although I think I might get a desktop for my next upgrade.

The flash thing is only with iPhones, computery Macs work fine with it.
10 have fought ~ fight the power!