Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Netbook Teacher Gets MacBook Air "Netbook"

I just love my new MacBook Air! Technically, it's not a netbook. I guess I'll need to expand my definition of netbook, or change the title of my blog! Either way, I still love this new laptop. I opted for the 13" model because this is my main computer. I use it all day long at school, then come home and use it some more. I thought I might feel cramped after a day of using a scrunched-down 11" model. Several reviewers said that, and I think I agree. At least for the way I use a computer. The vertical height would feel like 6 foot ceilings to me, and I'm 5'9" tall.

When I come home and want to get some heavy lifting done I plug in a 32" HDTV as a monitor (now, that's a BIG screen!), my Bluetooth keyboard and trackpad, my Wacom Bamboo tablet, and I can sit in front of the computer for hours. Oh, I do this in clamshell mode — laptop closed and tilted up against a bookshelf. It runs cool and quiet, best of all worlds. Who needs a "desktop" machine when you can take an ultra-light laptop with you that also runs as a desktop computer at home? Add an external hard drive and a few peripherals and you've got what I consider the perfect setup. At least for me.

Lucky for me, I got the "loaded" MBA with 8 Gb of RAM and a 500 Gb hard drive. This solid state drive is both quiet and fast! Did I mention that I love this thing?

I've had 3 MacBook Pros over the past 9-10 or so years. I started with a 17" model — too big. It was like a portable desktop machine, complete with all the extra weight. After the motherboard died and the battery swelled and bent the battery door I was able, under Applecare, to get a FREE 15-inch "loaded" MBP. Don't buy a Mac laptop without the Applecare warranty! After purchasing it for $183 per laptop under Apple's educator discount on 4 different laptops over a dozen years (less than $800 total) I more than made up the investment with a single replacement laptop that Apple gave me for this faulty MacBook Pro. The replacement model was worth well over $2000, and ended up being an upgrade for me, right before the warranty expired! Don't leave home without it!

Then, I got another 15" MacBook Pro (after a few years with the first one). Finally, I lost a few pounds (of laptop weight) and got this Air. I ditched my backpack of the past 14 years and went to a satchel that is only big enough for the Air and a few pieces of paper. I manage to also put in the charger, but I really don't use it much. I have one at school and one at home, and I can go all day without it — so far. 

I unplugged it when I left home at 7 am today, started using it around 7:20 am at school, and it just died at 6:30 pm this evening while I was typing in the recliner. I'm running on "shore power" again and will charge this thing overnight after I finish this article and close the lid. Tomorrow, repeat, rinse, and do it again. It went for 11 hours of nearly non-stop computing today. I close the lid only when not using it, and today I used it almost all day between the time with my students using this as a presentation machine, and the time when they were away at another class and I was reading their work on the laptop.

Oh, and if you're a Windows lover, this thing even runs Windows 7 or 8 with no problem. Even side-by-side with Mac OS. That little tidbit is what finally convinced my principal to allow me to be the only Mac-using teacher in our school. A few teachers have since converted and use Mac as their personal machines. I'm fortunate, and with a collection of cross-platform apps, I can use this as my main computer for home and work. If you can handle the $2K for a killer machine, go for the MacBook Air (less if you don't need the memory). It's worth every penny! 


Disclaimer: I use several Windows machines at work and home for a variety of special purposes. I teach in a Windows school. Most of my 80 students in 4th and 5th grade run Windows 7 or 8 on their BYOD netbooks. So, I have a Windows 8 touch screen Asus netbook that I use when I must show them something in Windows. Otherwise, they look at my Mac screen (and the apps that run on it) all day long for one thing or another. 

The side benefit: most of my kids could probably sit down in front of a Mac or a PC and function just fine. I call that ambidextrous teaching and learning!

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