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radek42
Feb 8, 2011, 01:15 PM
Hi,
I am considering MBA as my first mac and my primary computer as well (not the only computer tho). I am planning on commuting with my computer almost every day so both size and weight are important.

I am coming from windows background (decades) and linux (last couple years; mostly xubuntu/debian/fedora). I will be using the computer for academic related work such as web research, paper writing (word/latex), some image processing (photoshop), minor video preparation (for presentation purposes), some number-crunching (mostly fortran and recently python). I figured that either 11in or 13in will be powerful enough, but I leaning towards 13in for larger screen size and better performance.

I cannot quite decide if to upgrade to faster processor (and larger SSD) or go for the (significantly) cheaper model; I am gonna get 4GB ram regardless. Could anyone comment on performance boost going from 1.86GHz to 2.13GHz cpu?

I figured that SSD is not such a problem is it could be, in principle, upgraded later. 128GB should be (depending on mac os install size) enough for some time

I also considered lenovo x-series laptops. I would be interested in comparison between dual-core x100e and both MBAs (I did find a nice thread comparing x201 and MBA). From what I understand x100e is better than netbook, but I am not sure how much of a "laptop" it is. I'd probably run xubuntu on lenovo.

One more question regarding mac osx. Is it possible to create separate /Users partition during clean os install? I like to keep all user data on separate partition in case of os reinstall. That being said, how much room one needs for os and programs? 40GB? I'll have os, ms office, photoshop, possibly mathematica, etc. I'd like to be conservative, but I don't want to run into disk space shortage either.

Any info is greatly appreciated.

Cheers, R>



Beaverman3001
Feb 8, 2011, 01:39 PM
With office 2011 (deleted outlook and messenger that comes in the install) and photoshop (cs5 only not the other apps) with a full osx install (all language packs) I still have 97.7GB free on my 128GB ssd. Of course there are a few other small apps, and a little over 4GB of music included in there.

KPOM
Feb 8, 2011, 01:40 PM
I'd say the 1.86GHz should be fine. I have the 2.13GHz model but previously had the 1.86GHz Rev B (late 2008) MacBook Air. Office 2011 runs well on the new MacBook Air and even ran acceptably on the older Rev B (which had a slower SSD and often throttled its processor down to deal with heat issues, which the Rev D resolved).

Macworld ran some comparisons between the 1.86GHz and 2.13GHz models.

http://www.macworld.com/article/155224/2010/10/macbookairbto_benchmarks.html

Note that the 1.86GHz model they tested had 2GB RAM, so that also accounts for part of the difference.

128GB is plenty if you are just installing applications. I had enough room on my old Rev B for OS X, Office, and a Windows 7 partition. Media is what takes up the most room, not applications. My Mac partition uses about 60GB right now, which includes about 20GB of media. I have Office 2011, Aperture, Parallels, a few games, the iLife suite, an old version of iWork that I migrated from my old Mac, several years worth of TurboTax/TaxCut, and all my data files in that space. That said, see this thread if you are trying to maximize storage space.

http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=1092917

It is possible to create another partition for your data when you install, but I have never done that on Macs. Very rarely would you ever need to do a clean install (this isn't Windows XP).

hfg
Feb 8, 2011, 01:50 PM
It is possible to create another partition for your data when you install, but I have never done that on Macs. Very rarely would you ever need to do a clean install (this isn't Windows XP).

If you are installing OS X from scratch, simply boot the installation DVD, then at the start installation screen pick "Disk Utility" from the menu-bar at the top of the screen and create your own partitions as desired. When you exit Disk Utility you can continue with your fresh install of OS X. You can do whatever you want with the other partition later.

If you have a running OS X system, the easiest way to re-partition your OS X drive is with Boot Camp. It will resize your OS X partition and create a new partition with the intent of installing Windows on it. However, you can use the partition however you wish.

-howard

FuNGi
Feb 8, 2011, 02:10 PM
Fellow academic here.

The Air will handle your academic demands effortlessly. I would strongly suggest getting the 13" for the extra screen space and battery life. The battery life per $ is worth it. My special lady friend has the 11" and it's very nice and portable but I wouldn't want to work on it for long.

From what I read the 2.13 vs. 1.86 will be generally unnoticeable. I have the 13", 128Gb HD, 4 Gb Ram model and it will run everything I need. Just grab a couple 32GB thumbdrives for time machine backups of your working files or itunes library.

I often have Mac:Office (word, excel, and powerpoint) open along with JMP and R (both stats programs), Delta Graph (graphing), Endnote, Papers, Safari, and iTunes all running at the same time. No problem. I like being able to slap it closed and immediately walk out of the coffee shop etc. without worrying about the HD spinning. It performs slightly better with all these apps open than my 15" 2008 OG unibody MBP.

I also regularly merge HDR photos from iphoto into Hydra and it is quite snappy with this mild graphic intensive application as well. The SD slot on the 13" makes it a great on the-go-photo editing machine as well, you know, like when you take a vacay from all your studies :cool:

Mike84
Feb 8, 2011, 02:38 PM
I am in law school and I have the MBA 13 with 4gb of ram. Love it and it works great! Have office 2011 on it, and have 82gbs of space left. No issue.

Xeperu
Feb 8, 2011, 02:47 PM
I give lectures in an academic environment (business school) and many of the students and faculty are dropping their MBP in favor of the MBA 13.

On that note, any 4 year old laptop is fine for academic work. Most laptops are overpowered anyway for pretty much EVERYTHING besides gaming and heavy video/3D editing.

KPOM
Feb 8, 2011, 02:52 PM
I give lectures in an academic environment (business school) and many of the students and faculty are dropping their MBP in favor of the MBA 13.


As a "charter member" of the MacBook Air fan club, it's nice to see people coming around to my view with the Rev D, though I liked having a device that stood out a bit. Apple notebooks are almost ubiquitous in the academic setting, it seems, which might cause some disruption over the coming years as today's students become tomorrow's C-level executives.

radek42
Feb 8, 2011, 06:00 PM
Thanks everybody for replies.

Re Beaverman3001, KPOM: That sounds like what I am planning to have. I would probably get rid off language packs and some perhaps some iLife apps. It looks like 40GB should be indeed fine.

Re hfg: It might not be windows, but I do the same with my linux boxes ... just a habit I suppose. When you do clean install can you specify that new/second partition should be mounted as /Users? (that's how linux does it) That way I won't need to migrate my home directory (which would be the case if I create new partition with bootcamp).

Re FuNGi: Do you have 1.86 or 2.13GHz model? I agree that 13in is better working machine. That being said, I will likely have it attached to 22in monitor at work. At home and on the go I'll be working off the laptop screen tho. I agree with better battery ... I don't have much use for SD card slot (maybe as an additional storage :-) ), since my camera uses CF cards.

Re Xeperu: I agree with 4-year old laptops being ok. I still used my wifes dell d620 at home. Unfortunately my trusty d600 (seven years old now) does not cut anymore :-)

Re KPOM: I see lots of MBP 13in around the campus. I usually see profs and staff using MBAs rather than students. I suppose you get better machine for your money, but I am looking at something fairly portable. My D600 was under 5lbs, but it was not very pleasant walking to work with it (15-20 mins).

Anybody having experience with lenovo x-series?

Cheers, R>

abuleban
Feb 8, 2011, 06:19 PM
But upgrades later for this model is not the way to plan ahead, imho. I'm very glad I got both the 4GB RAM and the 256 GB SSD; I still use an external drive for itunes and iphoto libraries, and have plenty of space to play with.

enjoy!:cool:

radek42
Feb 8, 2011, 11:17 PM
But upgrades later for this model is not the way to plan ahead, imho. I'm very glad I got both the 4GB RAM and the 256 GB SSD; I still use an external drive for itunes and iphoto libraries, and have plenty of space to play with.

enjoy!:cool:

Hi,
I think 128GB disk space is fine for now. I am just not too worried as it can be bumped up in future if really necessary unlike cpu or memory (in case of MBAs). It really comes down to price.

Of course I tend to keep my computers for loooong time so 13in ultimate might be a good investment ... decisions, decisions.

Cheers, R>

Guru93
Feb 9, 2011, 01:18 AM
I will share a personal experience with the readers. I was deeply anguished at the service support of Apple, which takes about one month to repair Macbook Air laptop It stopped working once the battery drained and never came up again. Apple's authorized service centre claims that logic board need to be replaced I am being made to wait for another 2-3 weeks whereas its already 4 weeks now. The Customer relation has offered me a alternative to this by replacing it to lower model 1.83 GHz Macbook Air without Backlight keyboard, whereas if i opt for this then i need the like-vs-like means 2.13 Ghz only. Why should i take lower speed when Apple is at fault and not able to repair it in time. I own many Apple products, and I expect better treatment by Apple to its customers.

An article to read about stupid, dissapointing apple service:
http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_43/b4055070.htm

I would strongly recommend not to buy Macbook Air...solely because of their service support and lack of customers concerns.

axu539
Feb 9, 2011, 01:21 AM
I will share a personal experience with the readers. I was deeply anguished at the service support of Apple, which takes about one month to repair Macbook Air laptop It stopped working once the battery drained and never came up again. Apple's authorized service centre claims that logic board need to be replaced I am being made to wait for another 2-3 weeks whereas its already 4 weeks now. The Customer relation has offered me a alternative to this by replacing it to lower model 1.83 GHz Macbook Air without Backlight keyboard, whereas if i opt for this then i need the like-vs-like means 2.13 Ghz only. Why should i take lower speed when Apple is at fault and not able to repair it in time. I own many Apple products, and I expect better treatment by Apple to its customers.

An article to read about stupid, dissapointing apple service:
http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_43/b4055070.htm

I would strongly recommend not to buy Macbook Air...solely because of their service support and lack of customers concerns.

I'd actually be fine with that. The current MBA gets rid of the severe CPU throttling that was in the older MBAs. (google this, read the Anandtech article) The newer 1.83 GHz is likely a more efficient processor in itself too. Add on the fact that you get a pretty decent 128 GB SSD with that at the minimum, you would probably get similar if not better performance.

radek42
Feb 9, 2011, 08:33 AM
I will share a personal experience with the readers. I was deeply anguished at the service support of Apple, which takes about one month to repair Macbook Air laptop It stopped working once the battery drained and never came up again. Apple's authorized service centre claims that logic board need to be replaced I am being made to wait for another 2-3 weeks whereas its already 4 weeks now. The Customer relation has offered me a alternative to this by replacing it to lower model 1.83 GHz Macbook Air without Backlight keyboard, whereas if i opt for this then i need the like-vs-like means 2.13 Ghz only. Why should i take lower speed when Apple is at fault and not able to repair it in time. I own many Apple products, and I expect better treatment by Apple to its customers.

An article to read about stupid, dissapointing apple service:
http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_43/b4055070.htm

I would strongly recommend not to buy Macbook Air...solely because of their service support and lack of customers concerns.

Thanks for the story. I am sure there are always folks that will have bad experience with any company... there would be not a single computer to buy then :-)

Cheers, R>

MultiBat
Feb 9, 2011, 02:27 PM
Hi,
I am considering MBA as my first mac and my primary computer as well (not the only computer tho). I am planning on commuting with my computer almost every day so both size and weight are important.

...

Any info is greatly appreciated.

Cheers, R>

Sounds like you will be using your MBA a lot.
Have you tried the MBA keyboard out in a store?

The reason I ask is that I was dead set on getting a 13" MBA just a few weeks ago. Then I went to a store a couple of times and really tried the keyboard out.
I know most people think the keyboard is simply great and I respect that. Some say that it is better then the keyboard in the MBP for writing.
When I tried the MBA keyboard out in the store something felt wrong. I just thought it was beacause I have never used a mac keyboard before (the layout is a bit different) and the table it was standing on made it impossible to try it in a normal typing position.
The second time I went to try it out (I am thorough) I happened to try the 13" MBP keyboard and for me it felt perfect. It just plain felt better for me compared to the MBA keyboard. I feel the MBA keyboard is a bit soft.
This is only a personal preference, but I suggest you try it out if you can.
I am a writer so the keyboard is the most important part of the mac for me personally.

radek42
Feb 9, 2011, 04:39 PM
Sounds like you will be using your MBA a lot.
Have you tried the MBA keyboard out in a store?

The reason I ask is that I was dead set on getting a 13" MBA just a few weeks ago. Then I went to a store a couple of times and really tried the keyboard out.
I know most people think the keyboard is simply great and I respect that. Some say that it is better then the keyboard in the MBP for writing.
When I tried the MBA keyboard out in the store something felt wrong. I just thought it was beacause I have never used a mac keyboard before (the layout is a bit different) and the table it was standing on made it impossible to try it in a normal typing position.
The second time I went to try it out (I am thorough) I happened to try the 13" MBP keyboard and for me it felt perfect. It just plain felt better for me compared to the MBA keyboard. I feel the MBA keyboard is a bit soft.
This is only a personal preference, but I suggest you try it out if you can.
I am a writer so the keyboard is the most important part of the mac for me personally.

Interesting.

I did try the keyboard on several occasions, but not for extended period of time. I am not a pro typist, but I like some keyboards more than others.

Speaking of keyboards. I am more worried about different layout and fact that some keys are missing (pgup, pgdn, home, end, etc). I understand that this functionality could be mimicked by key combos, but it will at least annoying in the beginning. On the other hand many small form-factor pcs are loosing these keys as well ...

R>

hfg
Feb 9, 2011, 07:15 PM
Thanks everybody for replies.

Re hfg: It might not be windows, but I do the same with my linux boxes ... just a habit I suppose. When you do clean install can you specify that new/second partition should be mounted as /Users? (that's how linux does it) That way I won't need to migrate my home directory (which would be the case if I create new partition with bootcamp).

Cheers, R>

If you open the system_preferences/account manager, right-click on your name/account and you will get an "advanced options" dialog box. Your "Home Directory" is listed, simply change the location of that entry to point to where ever you put your home. Don't change any of the other entries.

I always keep an additional minimal admin account on the boot drive "just in case" I can't login to my regular account. It lets me do some troubleshooting if necessary.

-howard

radek42
Feb 10, 2011, 08:34 AM
If you open the system_preferences/account manager, right-click on your name/account and you will get an "advanced options" dialog box. Your "Home Directory" is listed, simply change the location of that entry to point to where ever you put your home. Don't change any of the other entries.

I always keep an additional minimal admin account on the boot drive "just in case" I can't login to my regular account. It lets me do some troubleshooting if necessary.

-howard

Thanks for info, Howard.

This sounds more like what windows is doing with their "My Documents" folder than what linux does with "/home" directory (which seems equivalent to "/Users" in mac osx). I guess there's nothing wrong with that I am just a bit surprised.

Cheers, R>

hfg
Feb 10, 2011, 09:43 AM
Thanks for info, Howard.

This sounds more like what windows is doing with their "My Documents" folder than what linux does with "/home" directory (which seems equivalent to "/Users" in mac osx). I guess there's nothing wrong with that I am just a bit surprised.

Cheers, R>

I have wondered, but never tried, dropping down into the Unix/Linux core below OS X and trying to hard link the /Users directory to another disk, probably much like you are doing in your Linux installation. You might try that with "terminal" and let us know if it works. That would really simplify things if multiple users are on the same computer ... it would be automatic when you add a user.

-howard

Capt Crunch
Feb 10, 2011, 09:59 AM
This is unrelated to the MBA, but I would suggest getting the following programs that I use hourly:

Papers - http://mekentosj.com/papers/
Allows you to import and catalog academics papers (pdfs) with metadata and automatically export a bibtex collection.

TextMate - http://macromates.com/
Great texteditor that works very well with LaTeX.

My wife has an MBA as a medical student and it works perfectly for her.

radek42
Feb 10, 2011, 10:29 AM
I have wondered, but never tried, dropping down into the Unix/Linux core below OS X and trying to hard link the /Users directory to another disk, probably much like you are doing in your Linux installation. You might try that with "terminal" and let us know if it works. That would really simplify things if multiple users are on the same computer ... it would be automatic when you add a user.

-howard

I would certainly look into that. I am sure there must some documentation about how to do this; this is *nix after all. I agree that it makes thinks really simple when adding users or reinstalling os; just mount existing /home (/Users if its osx) during install and you are set. Only drawback (especially when used on the small hdd) is fragmentation of free space. It takes some planning and experience not to waste too much space.

Cheers, R>

radek42
Feb 10, 2011, 10:37 AM
This is unrelated to the MBA, but I would suggest getting the following programs that I use hourly:

Papers - http://mekentosj.com/papers/
Allows you to import and catalog academics papers (pdfs) with metadata and automatically export a bibtex collection.

TextMate - http://macromates.com/
Great texteditor that works very well with LaTeX.

My wife has an MBA as a medical student and it works perfectly for her.

It is perfectly related since I am new to mac platform. The both programs look very interesting. Right now I am using jabref
http://jabref.sourceforge.net/
to handle my references and (g)vim w/ latex extension
http://vim-latex.sourceforge.net/

Both programs are free and cross-platform (I am using both linux and windows). Granted, gvim is still little awkward to use if you are coming from basic text editors with more-less standard short cuts, but over time it really grew on me; many thing are so much more efficient in gvim.

Cheers, R>

Capt Crunch
Feb 10, 2011, 11:35 AM
It is perfectly related since I am new to mac platform. The both programs look very interesting. Right now I am using jabref
http://jabref.sourceforge.net/
to handle my references and (g)vim w/ latex extension
http://vim-latex.sourceforge.net/


Take a good look at Papers. It's one of those programs that I will preach to anyone that will listen. An example of my workflow:

1 - Using the modified google scholar (or many others, such as pubmed) search engine (in the application) I search for a paper by any combination of things like Title, Author, Year, etc.

2 - I click on the paper I want, and it takes me to the webpage inside the Papers app, automatically using my academic institution's credentials so that I can easily download the pdf.

3 - I click on downloading the pdf, and Papers automatically imports it using the metadata it scrapes from google scholars results.

4 - I then tag the paper with my own tags, and take notes on it in the notes metadata.

5 - The paper is automatically sorted into smart folders according to it's metadata, such as author and the tags I provided.

6 - I can search the text content of all pdfs in my library simultaneously.

I love it.

antmo
Feb 10, 2011, 06:40 PM
Thanks for info, Howard.

This sounds more like what windows is doing with their "My Documents" folder than what linux does with "/home" directory (which seems equivalent to "/Users" in mac osx). I guess there's nothing wrong with that I am just a bit surprised.

Cheers, R>

this tutorial shows how to do what you want to do (albeit not at install time)
http://lnx2mac.blogspot.com/2010/09/moving-os-x-users-to-separate-partition.html

Penooker
Feb 10, 2011, 10:26 PM
I will share a personal experience with the readers. I was deeply anguished at the service support of Apple, which takes about one month to repair Macbook Air laptop It stopped working once the battery drained and never came up again. Apple's authorized service centre claims that logic board need to be replaced I am being made to wait for another 2-3 weeks whereas its already 4 weeks now. The Customer relation has offered me a alternative to this by replacing it to lower model 1.83 GHz Macbook Air without Backlight keyboard, whereas if i opt for this then i need the like-vs-like means 2.13 Ghz only. Why should i take lower speed when Apple is at fault and not able to repair it in time. I own many Apple products, and I expect better treatment by Apple to its customers.

An article to read about stupid, dissapointing apple service:
http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/07_43/b4055070.htm

I would strongly recommend not to buy Macbook Air...solely because of their service support and lack of customers concerns.

Wow, they offered you a free newer generation MBA and you said it wasn't good enough? Seriously? It's like being given a Porsche for your Hyundai, and complaining that they are offering you a smaller car.

It's true that they could've offered you a higher CPU, though it seems like even that won't make you happy since you want a backlit keyboard. I think you should read some reviews on the newer MBA, and see what you're missing out.

Why do you link to an article from 2007? An article that was written even before the MBA was released. lol.

hfg
Feb 10, 2011, 10:35 PM
this tutorial shows how to do what you want to do (albeit not at install time)
http://lnx2mac.blogspot.com/2010/09/moving-os-x-users-to-separate-partition.html

Interesting ... thanks! :cool:

-howard

aznguyen316
Feb 11, 2011, 12:01 AM
To add about the pg up down home end issue that's the beauty of the amazing multitouch trackpad. Using an application called better touch tool it let's me set home end for three finger up down in window. The two finger scroll takes care of pg up down. The app also let's me set four finger click to close out windows in expose. So I don't have to expose click window click close and repeat. Great application very customizable. As much as I long for better spec pc I can't go back without the trackpad and I've grown to love Osx.

peapody
Feb 11, 2011, 07:28 AM
To add about the pg up down home end issue that's the beauty of the amazing multitouch trackpad. Using an application called better touch tool it let's me set home end for three finger up down in window. The two finger scroll takes care of pg up down. The app also let's me set four finger click to close out windows in expose. So I don't have to expose click window click close and repeat. Great application very customizable. As much as I long for better spec pc I can't go back without the trackpad and I've grown to love Osx.

I would agree with that. I find myself trying to do the gestures on other computers too.