I’ve been using a MacBook Air almost every day since November 2012, which is five-ish months from now, and today I successfully installed Ubuntu GNU/Linux on the machine. These are my observations from the past couple of months.
Scrolling content instead of scrolllist handle is very natural – going back really feels backward. Mac OS X does a better job at tracking two fingers – what happens is that under Ubuntu all of a sudden I end up at a new page because a link was clicked instead of scrolling continuing.
Forward/backward is another move I’ve found that I use a lot.
Vertical scrolling can be reversed, but not for all applications/widgets, using Xmodmap aor fiddling with xinput.
I’ve had very few issues with typing and accidentally moving the cursor as a result of unintended click with either thumb. After a few hours of using Ubuntu, this is the number one thing on my “to fix” list – ie disable the touchpad while typing.
Long pressing two fingers, as in resting the hand on the touchpad while reading, brings up some really nasty stuff in the Ubuntu default window manager. Yuk.
The default workspace managment in Ubuntu is limited to 2×2, but is easily overriden.
However, the window manager in Mac OS X is just horrible since you need different key bindings to switch focus between current and previous window, depending on if they belong to different applications. Full full-screen is really nice, but that it makes and takes up it’s own workspace is very annoying. It’s all Mac/Apple, so it can’t really be modified or overriden.
Delete button is missing!
Cmd+X/C/V/T/, is really nice – it’s induces less strain on the hands and also leaves Ctrl free to Ctrl+C – as in break program execution – and removes the need for Ctrl+Shift+X/C/V as used in gnome-terminal.
Using Alt to skip and/or jump a word at a time instead of Ctrl is again puts less stress on the left hand. This took some time to get used to in when moving to the MacBook, while I could still work without problems on my desktop/work station full sized keyboard. Now that I’m running Ubuntu on the MacBook, I’ve hit Alt+<- (left arrow) which translates to “back” in Firefox … Not very nice when you’re editing text. So, surprisingly hard to un-learn this.
There’s also a UX difference, since the Ctrl+right arrow jumps to the end of words, where as Alt+right arrow jumps to the beginning of a word, which makes much more sense!
Pipe, forward slash and backslash under the default Mac OS X key mapping is just awkward for a person that writes code.
Being able to reverse the mode of the fn (function) key (or keys, depending how you look at it) is really nice. Need to find a way to do that under Ubuntu.
Switching windows of the same application is something I’ve been using quite a lot. Not sure I will actually miss it. Ubuntu’s alt+tab implementation in the default window manager is – as is well known and documented – sooo broken. Fortunately Cmd+W works pretty well, except that you can’t navigate/select window using arrow keys: you have to use a mouse.
While the screen lock works better in Mac OS X, it does somewhere depend on the network which makes it a pain to wait for.
The screen lock under Ubuntu on the other hand is not always showing when bringing up the picture/lid.
Both OS:es are equally good/bad at handling multiple outputs: technically, it works but from a UX perspective it still sucks. (No, AirTV (or whatever it’s called) isn’t that good or reliable and still has UX issues.) I would really like to see the Screens/Monitors control panel/application show up when new monitors/screens are attached, AS WELL AS the controls for audio if the connected device supports sending the audio that way (which really is becoming main stream AND is probably something you want to do).
Mac OS X software updates are really intrusive, with sticky notifications.
Why change power coord connector between MacBook Air 4.x and 5.x?
The Hardware – MacBook Air
I waited three extra weeks just to get the 8 GB model (instead of 4), which makes a huge difference – especially if you’re using “heavy” tools like several instances of Eclipse, VirtualBox, browsers.
The keyboard turned out to be just as I expected it: it leaves an imprint on the monitor’s surface, it’s not as nice as ThinkPad keyboards but in no way bad. All the alluminum (or whatever what kind of metal it is) makes my hands and wrists cold.
Battery is good, way better than the ThinkPad batteries I’ve had, but still not perfect. Can’t live without a charger and doing heavy lifting on the machine still drains battery like modern ThinkPads.
Weight is really nice. Love the fact that I can feed my kid with one hand, and lift and move the computer around with my other hand, easily.
The alluminum (or whatever it is) is pretty, but it also makes it more difficult to put on your lap – it very easily slides away unless you thighs are perfectly leveled with the ground. Can become very annoying.
I really want touch. And I really want to be able to flip the screen/monitor so I can use touch only as in “stowe away or hide (and inactive) the keyboard”.