The new MacBook Pro

I ended up changing my return flight from Chicago to Denver because of the chaos from last week's huge snow-storm. By the time I got back early yesterday morning all seemed back to normal--and FedEx had attempted three deliveries of my new MacBook Pro. I went to pick it up yesterday, and when he handed me the package I peered suspiciously at the label as I hefted it, amazed at its small size and lightness. I was used to my Dells coming in near-cubic-meter boxes with respectable weight. The label seemed to be right, but I opened the package in the car, anyway. Inside I found an even more svelte box, with the unmistakable goods. Consumer Reports won't be dishing out a Golden Cocoon award to Apple any time soon, and that's a very good thing. I took a few pictures too (see below) of the out-of-box-experience, using my Dell Inspiron 8600 for comparison. The MacBook is much thinner and a bit lighter, and about the same in the other dimensions, despite having a 17" widescreen to the Dell's 15". I just hope I won't miss the Dell's WUXGA resolution too dearly.

My first moves were to install Firefox and Thunderbird. I've done a lot of research while waiting for the new computer and Tim's and Mark's public repudiation of some of the more proprietary aspects of Mac's bundled tools resonated strongly with me. The arguments that Mozilla interfaces were non-Aqua and thus ugly are completely uninteresting to me. I don't subscribe to the school of thought that only Apple is capable of good interface design. More importantly, I've used Safari and quite a bit, and I don't really like their UI. I personally find them rather patronizing. In the end, the only reason I made the switch to Mac is that I've come to believe that I can make My Mac serve me, rather than turning me into a servant of The Great Mac Cause. Being able to install cross-platform tools for my basic work was a bit like erecting my flag of independence, to be a bit florid. Anyway I considered Camino but the incompatibility with FF extensions, including the likes of ScrapBook and Web developer tools was a show-stopper for me. I might still install Camino and even Flock. I'm all for browser polygamy.

The next thing I grabbed was Virtue Desktops (Thanks, Graham). Sorry but I can't work with all my windows crammed into one room. It seems Apple realizes the need for these as well, and is preparing the feature for Leopard. Unfortunately Virtue, and AFAICT Apple Spaces are far more limited than virtual desktop technology I'm used to. They work on the principle that each app is assigned to a "space", rather than each window. So my usual setup of having a set of Firefox windows with tabs for regular browsing, and another for client-related browsing, and another for OSS work isn't supported. I can probably get around this for browsing by using a few different browser apps, but I think this will be a real problem in the case of iTerm. I usually have a terminal window or two in each of my "spaces". I also need to find some more keyboard shortcuts for Virtue. shift-tab...arrow keys...enter is a tad too much.

I grabbed iTerm right away because I need tabs. I did find WidgetTerm, a neat Dashboard version of iTerm (no tabs, though). Dashboard is slick. I can't wait till I have some time to go hunting for widgets, and maybe even hacking up some of my own. Hope I can do so in Python.

I chose Vienna as Web feed reader. I'd have been OK paying for NetNewswire, but not on all their dubious terms . I need to quickly figure out IRC and IM (Jabber, AIM and Yahoo), and I'm finding this a bit of a murky area. AdiumX gets some great notices but some of my colleagues warned me of it because of some lingering show-stopper bugs. I'd also love to have IRC and IM in the same app. I'm guessing I'll end up trying a bunch of stuff to find what works for me. Oh well. I'm also presently trying to work out ssh-agent. I found this resource I plan to try. Then will come the hard part: my development set up. I'll be looking for an overview of Python and C dev tools on the Mac, preferably one that evaluates a broad variety of options. I think I'm going to try giving up emacs again, so I'll be checking out good stand-alone text editors. I might even go as far as trying an IDE or two. I got great advice on dev setup in comments to "Time for Mac".

A couple of annoyances I'll have to research more are lack of right click on the touchpad and an occasional disappearing mouse cursor. We ordered Lori's Intel Mac with a wireless keyboard and its mouse had right click as well as a very neat scroll button. I hope I won't be forced to use an external mouse on my notebook: I hate holding down ctrl for context menu. And sometimes the mouse cursor seems to disappear for a second or two. I'm trying to narrow down what triggers this. It's not a huge deal, but sometimes an annoying obstacle.

All in all I'm getting a god vibe about my choice. If nothing else, the energy that comes from shaking up my routine is refreshing. Thanks to all who have given such useful advice, either directly to me, or in the many general, on-line resources.

[Uche Ogbuji]

via Copia
16 responses
I forgot to mention that Firefox seems to have a problem rendering some fancy Unicode characters.  The triangle bullet I use in "latest comments" and the pencil I use in the title bar fo Copia are the examples I noticed.  Safari is OK with the bullet, but not the pencil.  I also tied Thunderbird 2.0b1 but it kept hanging trying to access IMAP. works just fine.
In a strange turn of events, I too just replaced my (almost exactly similar) Dell with a 15" Macbook Pro. I loved the Dell, but my house burned down, so I had no choice. I got it on Tuesday.

Just a few minutes ago, I finally got my fullscreen X11 using ion3 working acceptably. I still need to figure out the keymaps, but I can alt-tab from my mac osx environment to my X11 environment with proper terminals, gvim, and beautiful ion3 full screen splitting. I have to "command-option a" to get out of X, but that's a price I can pay.

So far, I can say that Macports is better than fink, although excruciatingly slow, and requiring the Xcode Tools.

Get VLC to play videos, it's much better than the crappy DVD player that OSX ships with.

I like Application Switcher to give me a list of what applications are open. I think the dock sucks, and I'm looking for options to replace it. I'll look at DragThing soon, I think.

Hmmm, this is too long, I should blog it. Tonight, maybe.
You can enable right-click via tapping with both fingers at once on the trackpad I believe.
Welcome to the Mac. You can set the trackpad to enable right-clicking (by placing 2 fingers on the trackpad while you click) over in the System Preferences (Keyboard & Mouse/Trackpad).
When you start typing in a Cocoa text widget, the mouse cursor will disappear so as to not block your view. When you move the mouse, the cursor will re-appear. Maybe this is what you are experiencing.

On the newer Mac laptops, you can perform a right-click by clicking the touchpad with two fingers (anywhere in the touchpad). You can also scroll by dragging two fingers horizontally or vertically in the touchpad (again, anywhere in the touchpad and not just the bottom and right edges). Also, the fingers don't have to be aligned (some people have said they don't like this two-finger mechanism because they have to twist their hand to align their fingers; alignment is not necessary).
You should be able to "right-click" by having 2 fingers in contact with the trackpad as you click.  (There might be a setting in System Preferences to turn this option on, I'm not sure.)

Hope this helps!


"lack of right click on the touchpad"

If you tap with two fingers, it's right-click. Also, with two fingers, you get horizontal and vertical scrolling.
Thanks all,

I missed that bit in kbd/mouse prefs, I guess because I was looking for a simple "right click" option :-)  I do lke the two finger thingy.  Gotta love Apple's innovativeness.

BTW I ended up using this program for ssh-agent:

That was after unsuccessfully trying a bunch of stuff for tweaking the login shell starting here:

The adventure continues.  Still trying out stuff for IRC/IM.
If you are looking for macintosh applications, might i suggest visiting the social source commons site.

Just enter "mac" as a tag, and you'll get a nice list of software being recommended by others.


If you use the cursor arrows to scroll up and down a web page, the cursor will disappear. Movement on your trackpad brings it right back.
Emacs on OS X:
I share your annoyance with Virtue Desktops - can I recommend replacing it with Desktop Manager ( (out of which the Virtue Desktops codebase came anyway) It hasn't been updated recently, but it does give you proper virtual desktops with per-window rather than per-app settings.

Also, I used iTerm for a while & found it unbearably slow. Try Terminator, which also has tabs, and proper Unicode support - and is much faster. (
Editorial note: your WigetTerm link isn’t, due to a minor markup botch. (Feel free to delete this comment.)

Fixed.  Thanks.  I prefer not to delete comments, even when the option is graciously offered :-)

Try Colloquy <> for IRC.

Happy New Year in advance!


I'm in the same boat as you.

In terms of the touchpad not responsive, if you have the 'ignore accidental' input checked on the preference panel I find it's a lot less responsive then. But do consider getting yourself an apple wireless mouse. it's very nice to have even with a laptop.