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A little bit of background history, here.

I write on my laptops. I no longer work on desktops unless something peculiar demands it. This started some time ago, when our house could be populated by computer geeks who would sit down at the nearest desktop to web surf; I wanted a machine that I could close and tuck away. If the contents of my work machine were to be wiped out by user incompetence, I wanted to be certain it was my incompetence.

Laptops have LCD displays. I loved them when I first started using them because I found them so much easier on the eyes than CRTs. But LCDs work best at a fixed resolution. I could downscale the images, and that was fine - but text looked like fuzzy, blurry, anti-aliased hell. I could not work in a non-native resolution.

So I was stuck with whatever the resolution of the LCD on the laptop was.

The more pixels on a screen, the larger the desk-top space. Conversely, this makes all of the working windows much smaller. There was a race to see who could squeeze the most pixels into laptop LCDs. There are laptops now whose 1920 x 1200 resolution is the equivalent of a 30" monitor - but in a 17" diagonal space.

This would have been fine for me when I was thirty. But at almost fifty, I find the tiny type, the tiny icons, the tiny menubars … more difficult. I wanted a 17" screen that had a resolution of 1440 x 900 - because given LCD screens that would be both large enough and crisp enough. And that was never going to happen because most people who wanted 17" laptops did not want fewer pixels.

Anyway, five months ago, my husband wandered downstairs and said, "there are rumors that Apple is going to put a retina screen in their macbook pro line." With Apple, there are always rumors; this is not why he came downstairs. To my husband, this was almost ridiculous. He works on dual monitors on a desktop. He'll work on triple monitors, if he can (he programs). He hates working on laptops, and will do so only when something needs to be demo'd. Understanding that he is not in any way, shape or form, a laptop user, he came to ask me.

And I said "If Apple put a retina screen on a macbook, I would buy one tomorrow."

He blinked.

"I work with text. I work primarily with text. I spend hours staring at a screen. It is the one--and the only--thing that would cause me to buy a new computer at this point."

At which point, he decided that perhaps Apple was not entirely as crazy as he'd thought.

I was deep in deadlines when the new machine was announced. If not for LJ, I wouldn't have known, but someone on my LJ feed mentioned it.

I therefore have a new macbook pro.


My first impressions of the new machine: it's lighter. It's not notably faster, to my eye, but frankly, I've been doing an initial Time Machine backup for what feels like a full day, and that might eat some of the processor power. It is, in weight, somewhere between the rest of the macbook pro line and the macbook air line.

This is all irrelevant, though.

Let me talk about the retina display. For those apps which use text and fonts the way Apple does in many of its own apps, it's OMG wonderful. The text is crisp, it is clear, it's clean. At the distance at which I sit to type, it looks like print-on-page text. If you're sitting an inch away from the screen, it's not iPhone clean. Yes, I tried.

For the apps that don't, it's horrible. My husband said I'm incredibly picky, because it doesn't look horrible to him - but the difference between the two presentations makes me feel, instantly, like I've been sitting in front of a computer for Too Damn Long; it makes my eyes feel incredibly tired and strained, and I get the usual squinting headache.

This means I've been changing how I do things on the mac, because there are certain apps I need and use constantly - mail, for one. Twitter. I can live with a crappy looking OED (Oxford English Dictionary) because there has never been an OED app that doesn't look like garbage on the Mac, and because I don't actually use it all the time.

I hate change, so I've been grumping.

But: the one thing about the retina screen display that isn't widely advertised is this: you can set it to any of its allowable resolutions and for those apps that work well with Mac OS X, the text is just as crisp, just as clean at any size. I can set the machine to 1440 x 900 (which is, oddly enough, the recommended size), and it's crisp and clean. I can set it to 1024 x 640 and it's crisp and clean. I can set it to 1920 x 1200 and it's the same. That setting, though, is just too small for me; I've no doubt that many, many users will choose that one - because the text is clear enough it's legible even on a 15.4" display. (There's already a small application that will allow you to run in entirely native resolution - and I can't even imagine how difficult that would be to read and work in.) At the moment, I'm comfortable working in 1680 x 1050. But knowing that I can down-size with no loss of visual clarity is a huge comfort.

This means that I can have no desktop real estate but have large, easily accessible windows with large, easily read type. I can turn a 15" monitor into a 1024 x 640 screen. Everything scales: the menu bar, the windows, the text. If my eyes continue to shy away from tiny, tiny type it no longer matters. I can use a macbook. I can use a laptop.

The drive to add more pixels to screens no longer means that my eyesight and my need for larger type drives me out of the market. This was actually becoming a real worry for me, looking ahead two decades, because screens were getting more and more dense, and the resultant images tinier and tinier in their native resolutions.

Now, I can buy a machine that my son would happily use at its highest 'density', but use it at one that's comfortable, visually, for me. It can even be the same machine.

Well, okay, not the same machine, because no one messes with my writing machine, but the same model.


( 61 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 8th, 2012 08:09 pm (UTC)
Glad to hear you're enjoying your new Mac. I've just switched and the process has been.. well, frankly, full of tears and shame. I thought I was better than this but it turns out no, I'm as fixed in my preferences in computer function as I am when eating out. (I always order the same thing at the same places.) I imagine it doesn't help that my husband is a computer engineer, and like most of the ones I've met, has EXTREMELY STRONG OPINIONS about How Things Should Be Done. Also he has the tendency to rule by fiat in this house when he can, and I've found myself forcibly switched to Chrome from Firefox among other things. Sigh. But I bought this machine mostly because I was tired of how lousy the PC support for the iPhone was. Turns out nothing really works right on the Mac either, for unknown reasons. Sometimes it's even worse than my PC was at managing my music and podcasts. And all my fears about my inability to adapt to Apple's bizarre insistence on managing your entire experience for you in a way that makes all of its functions completely opaque to you, as well as my tendency to prefer the more rigid organization of Windows have turned out to be totally true. My husband (and father for that matter, he's not a computer programmer but he's remarkably like my husband in many ways) kept insisting that if I just used a Mac fulltime instead of part-time like I was doing at work I'd get used to it but it doesn't seem to be happening.
Jul. 8th, 2012 08:53 pm (UTC)
I imagine it doesn't help that my husband is a computer engineer, and like most of the ones I've met, has EXTREMELY STRONG OPINIONS about How Things Should Be Done.

I'm sorry =/. I love my macs, but am aware that they are not perfect. I also have a PC.

I don't think any single tool is the right one for everyone.

That said, I think we all get into certain grooves and ways of doing things, and shifting is hard; we're used to certain paradigms. I find the Mac easier in general because I'm used to the way they direct user interface; I work around the things that aren't perfect.

I find the Windows machine more of a trial because I don't know where everything is, and it takes me time to figure out how to do things. It's time I don't have - but if I'd only used Windows, I would probably feel the exact same way about the Mac - I'd find it hard to find things, or to get simple things done.

If that makes sense.
(no subject) - lyssabits - Jul. 8th, 2012 09:04 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - msagara - Jul. 8th, 2012 09:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - green_knight - Jul. 8th, 2012 11:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Jul. 8th, 2012 08:10 pm (UTC)
I have a retina MBP too, as of Tuesday.

Yeah, ditto everything. I am 47 and have retinal issues of my own; not having the laptop make them worse is worth the price of entry.

Apropos the time machine thing -- you know the "welcome to mac" package in the box includes a thunderbolt-to-gigabit-ethernet dongle? If you're backing up to a time capsule via wifi, a first backup of 200Gb or so will take days. The solution is to find an ethernet cable and run it direct from the time capsule to the rMBP via the tbolt-ethernet dongle. At which point the first backup will take 2-3 hours, and thereafter the incremental backups (which are a lot smaller) will work fine over wifi.
Jul. 8th, 2012 08:43 pm (UTC)
I've had mine for a few weeks now, because I ordered it as soon as I could (literally; I was hitting refresh on the Apple Store online until it came back up). I love it.

The GbE dongle is only in there if you ordered one with the laptop, AFAIK. (I did, because I've had GbE at home for years now.) It worked wonderfully with Migration Assistant to move everything over from my 2009 MBP.

My one complaint is that the Displays control panel preference pane no longer lets me put a menu in the menubar for quick resolution switching. I'm hoping 10.8 brings that back.
(no subject) - msagara - Jul. 8th, 2012 09:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - msagara - Jul. 8th, 2012 09:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 8th, 2012 08:14 pm (UTC)
I want to get a Macbook so badly, but... they're so PRICEY. So I wind up sticking with my Sony Vaio netbook. I can see what you mean about text, though. I work primarily with text, as well, and spend hours a day writing. Something that would show up much crisper and not have as many issues... that's intriguing to me. So I'm definitely taking this review of the product into consideration.

How much IS it, though?
Jul. 8th, 2012 08:44 pm (UTC)
Seriously uncheap; the low end retina MBP is $2200. (The cheapest Mac laptop is the low end MacBook Air 11" at $1000.)
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Jul. 8th, 2012 08:53 pm (UTC)
Another eye/monitor related tip
Something to keep in mind for me, if they ever offer that for a desktop PC - I'm not going to start Apple unless I have no other choice.

Since being diagnosed with weak corneas in 2008, I've had a lot of luck at getting less eye strain in front of an LCD monitor with computer glasses that filter out the blue light. (Yes, this doesn't have anything to do with resolution problems, but I thought I'd add it as another useful thing to maybe try out).

I don't care usually that the colours are different when surfing the net. I can always take off the glasses when I watch a bit of film (and even then, if it's a dialogue based bit, I don't much mind having a tinge of yellow in the film).

It has increased my problem free time in front of the monitor by hours (I do read my ebooks on the e-reader: no eye-strain and font-size increase to whatever size I need trumps reading books - especially densely typeset hardcovers, etc.)

Edited at 2012-07-08 08:53 pm (UTC)
Jul. 8th, 2012 08:55 pm (UTC)
Depending on how you use the OED, the Mac interface has a built in dictionary you can access through the Dictionary app, or by putting your curser over the word you want to check and hitting Command-Control-D. If the application you're in enables the function (Word doesn't but Scrivener does) you'll get a popup with the word and first definition. There's a link to "More" which will open up the Dictionary Application and give you the full definition. I don't have a new Macbook to test it on, but since it's an Apple application, it should work well with any resolution. I can't say how much I love that function. For me it's either that or typing in a google search to get the spelling or homonym right.
Jul. 8th, 2012 09:03 pm (UTC)
Depending on how you use the OED

I frequently use it for etymology and first known word occurrence and variations.

I don't generally use it for definitions per se, because it's overkill and I often end up browsing the OED instead of doing something more productive...

But even at native resolution, the OED on the Mac is just a very ... non-Mac app. It's not really a good PC app either.
(no subject) - green_knight - Jul. 8th, 2012 11:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 8th, 2012 11:30 pm (UTC)
Okay, I'm curious. What does your husband do his coding on?

I'm stuck using a laptop because that's what the company provides me, so I've gotten used to it. For me, just as long as I can get to that magical prompt on a UNIX or LINUX server, I'm fine.
Jul. 9th, 2012 03:28 am (UTC)
Okay, I'm curious. What does your husband do his coding on?

I think it's a standard mid-upper-range Dell box. He has 2 24 inch monitors on his desk at home. When he works out of an office, he takes one of the monitors to work, as they don't generally provide an extra monitor.

(Deleted comment)
Jul. 9th, 2012 02:13 am (UTC)
Viruses are going to be a problem for the Macs in the future. They haven't escaped them so far because they're somehow better designed than Windows machines but mostly because there simply weren't enough people using them for them to be worth the time to design viruses for them. Wasn't it in the news just recently, that Mac users got hit with a major virus attack? And I doubt there's a lot of strong anti-virus software for Mac right now because it's never been a problem before. But in my own experience with PCs, honestly, I never had a problem with viruses and I wasn't running a lot of anti-viruses software. Well, not after my husband quit working for Symantec. ;)
(no subject) - msagara - Jul. 9th, 2012 03:32 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bohemiancoast - Jul. 9th, 2012 06:39 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 9th, 2012 08:24 am (UTC)
Heh, you're not telling me anything the husband hasn't already tried to tell me. I just have no capacity to interrupt you and say, "But why doesn't the MAC tell me to do these things the computer should prompt me I shouldn't have to already KNOW I thought these things were supposed to be user friendly I am a user and it is not my friend I haaaaaaate it!!!!" Then he rightly gets mad at me and stops trying to explain anything to me. I miss installers because they stepped me through what to do when installing something, not because I thought the Windows system was a better way to handle data. Since the Mac doesn't have that, except when apparently developers deviate from the SOP, I doubt I'll ever come to love it. That's the only reason I've managed to install anything properly, apparently. Because those apps don't follow the rules. Sigh.

Don't get me started in the God Damn Dock. I miss my taskbar so much I could weep. This is one of those fundamental Mac\Windows differences I doubt I'll ever get over. A little blue light that goes on and off to let me know what's running will never be as satisfying or easy to understand for me as the presence or absence of a program icon. Husband thinks I'm nuts, he doesn't find all the icons distracting. I find them almost debilitatingly distracting and I frankly don't have a lot in the dock that I don't use. And I hate the way I can't access the dock when I have windows maximized. Which I do a lot because I despise the way all the programs spill into each other when they're not maximized. I'm just a curmudgeon about the way things work on my computer.
Jul. 9th, 2012 01:50 pm (UTC)
You can't access the dock when windows are maximized? Mine doesn't do that. (Of course, I turned off the "genie" effect because I hate things moving when I'm trying to get to them, and I also played around with the dock a bit in Terminal (I didn't like the 3D visualization, and didn't find the reflections/lights to be strong enough visual cues to tell me if a program was open or not, so mine is now dark background and things light up. I could probably find that bit of code, if it interests you.), either of which might've changed the functionality, or maybe you're running a different version; I'm still on, um, 10.5, I think that's Leopard.) If there's not an option to change that functionality, that's a very legitimate reason to be annoyed. It would bother me, too.

If you want the Dock to be more like the taskbar, you could drag all the applications off of it, so they'd only appear when they're open. Which *would* mean that you'd have to open everything through the Applications folder, which I realize isn't a Start menu, and I can't change that for you.

I'll stop giving you tech support you didn't ask for, now.
( 61 comments — Leave a comment )