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Ask HN: anyone using the new MacBook Air as your main development machine?
75 points by acl on Oct 23, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 118 comments
A top-of-the-line Air has a 2.13GHz Core 2 Duo and a 256GB SSD. Anyone taken the plunge and made this your primary development box?

If your current machine has a magnetic hard drive, even the bottom-end Air will feel incredibly fast by merit of its SSD. Check out how quickly it'll boot:


As has been pointed out, compile speed isn't necessarily CPU-bound and some compilation tasks are quicker on a slow machine with a faster drive. CPU performance is much less important than most people think.

Screen size is a more difficult issue, as so much depends on your development approach. I'm increasingly inclined to think that my large display may actually hinder my productivity, as it seems to facilitate distraction and procrastination. I seem to feel less bad about procrastinating if I have my text editor open. I'm giving very serious thought to replacing my 17" MBP with an 11" Air and a Kindle DX. A lot of writers use a full-screen text editor like WriteRoom, or even a typewriter, so there's a lot to be said for minimalist, low-distraction tools.

I don't understand why boot-up time is an issue for a laptop. I cannot remember the last time I rebooted my MBP; the only time it gets switched off is when I have to install security updates which is pretty rare.

Using an Air as your main development machine seems odd to me - I want a large display so that I can read docs/papers and have emacs open at the same time. I also want good separation between screen and keyboard for maintaining decent posture. I hate to use a laptop as my main machine for exactly that reason. My main development machine doesn't get picked up and moved around enough (at all?) to be worth using a high end laptop. For the same price as the machine at the top of the page you could buy a decent desktop and a 13" Macbook and lunch, I guess.

I reboot my MBP every few days. It gets sluggish if I don't. I'd love to know why you don't have to and I do! I suspect it is the heavy amount of stuff I have running compared to my available RAM? Anyone else have this issue?

Basically I have 4GB of RAM (on the latest MBP) and regularly run: Netbeans IDE, Safari (and a bunch of tabs), Firefox (ditto on the tabs), an FTP client, a Subversion client, iChat, Mail, a notes app, alarm clock, Dropbox, Evernote, terminal, one other text editor (MacVim or Textwrangler), Photoshop, MS Word, a clipboard app and sometimes VirtualBox running Windows XP (with 1GB of RAM assigned).

The killers seem to be Netbeans and VirtualBox. Once I have those both going I know I'm in for a reboot before too long.

I assume it's just a RAM issue but it is annoying that 4GB isn't "enough" (assuming I'm correct about why I have to reboot).

> It gets sluggish if I don't. > ... Netbeans IDE, Safari (and a bunch of tabs), Firefox (ditto on the tabs), an FTP client, a Subversion client, iChat, Mail, a notes app, alarm clock, Dropbox, Evernote, terminal, one other text editor (MacVim or Textwrangler), Photoshop, MS Word, a clipboard app and sometimes VirtualBox

Did you check top? free? You should be able to see what's eating your machine after a few days of uptime.

I did check top and I can see that Netbeans and VirtualBox are the hogs. However, even after quitting them I still have sluggish responsiveness.

That sounds like a herculean load. Everythign running at once?

Does shutting down all the applications and re-opening them help? Something's got to be eating all of your RAM, and it's hard to guess without seeing top/Activity Monitor.

I run VB, FF, thunderbird, adium, MS Office and also have 4GB, with no rebooting problems. It maybe Netbeans; I have no experience with it.

> I don't understand why boot-up time is an issue for a laptop.

Word. For me, every Mac has been instant-on for years. I open the lid or hit the power button (iMac), and the machine is up and running (from sleep) in a second or two.

One scenario that immediately comes to mind is frequent flyers. I note this since I just took a series of flights a few days ago. Say you want to be productive during your six hour red-eye flight. That involves several repetitions of "we are now preparing to descend and land, please turn off all electronic devices at this time." If you're a business user who goes through this on a regular basis, a long boot time could indeed get annoying in a hurry.

I've flown with my Macbook and just let it sleep instead of turning it off. Nobody has ever cared.

I generally just put the laptop to sleep by closing the lid. Macs are generally quite happy about that - the superb power management is one of the major selling points.

On a normal flight "switch off electronics while landing" happens once. If you think otherwise you have failed at flying (sorry, couldn't resist re-using your phrase there).

Austin -> Denver -> Las Vegas. http://flightaware.com/live/flight/SWA420

I read 'your six hour flight' and thought of a single flight. I didn't read 'series of flights' - that's where I slipped up. I failed at reading.

An iPad comes in handy as a portable second display using ScreenRecycler and an iPad VNC client. I use it with my 13" macbook to satisfy real estate envy.

I put the less "active" stuff on it, since there isn't a version of JollysFastVNC (fastest VNC client I've ever used) out for iPad yet, although I hear it's in progress.

Air Display is another option and costs under $10 - http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/air-display/id368158927?mt=8

Is it faster than air display? What i've seen from air display and competitors, it's fairly choppy and not that great.

This is what I've experienced. Bought Air Display and haven't used it more than once or twice because of the choppiness/delay.

Can be choppy, depends on what you're doing. I tend to put palettes and low priority stuff on them. In that regard, the real estate still has value to me.

Agreed. A small screen and the right IDE is perfect for focusing. At first I thought I'd miss the extra real estate but after about a week I adjusted and never even think about it now. Especially with Spaces and gesturing between apps.

And the startup time you mentioned, with the SSD - true. It's phenomenal. My Air starts up (and shuts down) about 5x faster than a Pro. It's almost instant-on.

This says more about OS X than it does about SSDs. I have two Debian boxes. One has an SSD. The other has a regular disk. They both boot up almost immediately.

The reality is that reading about 323k into memory is fast from both SSDs and rotational disks:

    $ ls -lh `which gdm`
    -rwxr-xr-x 1 root root 323K Sep  5 14:20 /usr/sbin/gdm

To be fair it doesn't start or shut down faster than a Pro w/ an SSD in it.

That said I don't need an optical drive and would love to shed 2.5 to 3 pounds. I'm sort of attached to my 1680x1050 display and 8gb of RAM though. A bit unsure if I'll trade my Pro in for an Air just yet.

1680x1050 is 1.75MP while 1440x900 is 1.3MP and 1366x768 is 1.05MP. Being frustrated with my old MacBook's resolution of 1280x800 1.02MP I'd probably have to get the 13" Air.

So my main development machine is a cluster of servers behind a firewall. Therefore, it doesn't matter what my thin client's specs are: I typically develop from a 15" MBP, but since all it's running locally is ssh / sshfs / sftp and a browser, it totally doesn't matter. A future of living and working in the cloud? The machine is literally named the "Air".

Lucky! I wish game development was like this. :(

Sounds like a business opportunity: moving editing and development into the cloud.

sounds at home - although I never was thinking of getting an Air. But you are quite right - for a terminal window who needs more than 11" screen... Is it big enough for browsing? seriously considering that now :)

Speaking having used the 12" Powerbook for a year and a half:

Plenty big. In any case, many sites are stuck assuming your screen is only 800px wide, or the generous ones go up to 1000px - far more narrow than the screen can support. Any wider and text flows so wide you can't easily read from line to line anyway, so all you really use is height, and everyone is used to scrolling. And vertically it's not much different than any other (widescreen) laptop.

I'd buy the 11" Air in a second if I had the money. Having the 15" MBP is handy for movies, but for almost everything else it's noticeably larger than necessary. If you really need the space, you're probably hooking your laptop up to a second monitor anyway, in which case the slightly smaller space is inconsequential.

Sounds interesting. Can you offer more details of your setup and tools?

This is kind of a vague question. Do you mean "is the keyboard good enough to type on"? Do you mean "is it good for me to stare down at a weird angle for 8 hours a day"? Do you mean "is it easy to upgrade the hardware when I want to"?

If that's what you mean, no laptop is going to be acceptable. Laptop keyboards are crap. Laptop ergonomics are crap. Laptop expandability is crap.

If the question is, "does Ruby run on 2.13GHz dual core machines", the answer is yes.

I like to work from not-my-desk once in a while, so I have a small netbook for that. But honestly, it's so much nicer to work at a properly ergonomic workspace that I rarely do this -- only for hackathons and the like. If I am by myself, I am in front of a proper workstation.

(I also don't like the "well, just ssh from your laptop to a server" approach that others are mentioning. I can feel the latency. If I run Emacs over ssh or X to another machine, I notice the key lag. If I edit files on a remote file system, I feel the latency for operations like "git status" and even saving. Perhaps I am just very picky.)

If that's what you mean, no laptop is going to be acceptable. Laptop keyboards are crap. Laptop ergonomics are crap. Laptop expandability is crap.

Well, I tried the 11.6" in the Apple Store today. The keyboard is awesome. It is a full sized keyboard. There is nothing 'laptop' about it. So it is exactly what you are used to if you have been using the recent wireless keyboard.

These are not good keyboards. See current front page article about mechanical keyboards for more details.

It's subjective. They're great keyboards and I love them. As a former hoarder of IBM buckling spring keyboards, I'll take an Apple keyboard any day. And a Magic Mouse, too.

They're what I'm comfortable with and that makes them good.

Well, buckling spring keyboards are not that great either. Time to update your standards from the early 80s to the late 80s...

My standards are a bit different. I use what I like, not what other people tell me I should.

PS: I didn't down arrow you. What's with all the Redditesque down voting lately?

I use what I like, not what other people tell me I should.

Blub :)

Seriously though, I was a big Model M fan for a while. Then I tried something newer, and could never go back.

Also, the new keyboards are less likely to cause your desk to collapse ;)

As ohers said, it is a very subjective qestion. Personally, my hands start to hurt after about 15 minutes typing on a "real" keyboard.

That being said, the ergonomics of using a laptop-style keyboard is usually much better when it is external than when it is connected to a computer. The thinness of the Air might change this though, haven't tried it yet.

Personally, my hands start to hurt after about 15 minutes typing on a "real" keyboard.

Which model, specifically?

Essentially anything with more travel-distance than a laptop keyboard. I've tried a lot of different models. Currently, I'm using a Logitech diNovo as my main keyboard, but I'm looking for a replacement since it is starting to break.

Ah, OK. I thought you were talking about mechanical keyboards, and then I found it strange that you were still having trouble.

I have a coworker whose right pinky finger starts hurting about an hour into using a keyboard. He replaced his no-name rubber dome keyboard with a Cherry Brown-based Filco, and the problem was solved. The advantage a mechanical keyboard offers over the standard rubber-dome keyboard is that you don't have to press the key to the bottom of it's travel to make it register. This limits the force that your finger is required to transmit to something like 60g, instead of an infinite amount as you press the key against the immobile bottom of the keyboard. Less stress, less pain.

Anyway, if you do get a mechanical keyboard, just make sure to consciously avoid bottoming out for a while. If you pound on it, it will still hurt.

Thanks for the info. Maybe I'll try something a bit more mechanical for my next keyboard. I'll definetly remeber to try and stop bottoming out if I get one :)

I actually find the Mac laptop keyboards to work pretty well (other than the crap placement of the fn key). I am not sure why, but I don't feel as great with the wireless keyboard. I thought their was no difference but it sure feels like it.

My desktop setup is a matias keyboard.

There's just no way a Mac keyboard is as good for someone who does a lot of key entry as a Unicomp or similar third party hardware.

I don't understand. What is a "proper workstation" ?

In my home office I have a MBP w/ a Microsoft Ergonomic Elite Keyboard w/ one 24 inch Cinema display (Apple) and one 19 inch flatscreen. I also use an Intellimouse.

As far as I can tell, that's the best of both worlds. Take the MBP on the road when you need to; stay cozy at home all the rest of the time.

Right, but there's no way to upgrade your hardware with that setup. Want a RAID-1 array? Too bad. Want a new CPU? Too bad.

And it costs more than a desktop + netbook combo.

The lack of hardware upgradeability on Apple products in general kept me from switching for many years. Then I realized by the time I was ready to upgrade my system the CPU sockets changed, the memory changed, etc.

So I'm not concerned if I can't upgrade my hardware down the road. Having everything soldered in place means I get a lighter product with fewer points of failure.

> fewer points of failure

Do hardware parts really fail enough to make it worth eliminating cpu sockets, memory slots, sata, pci express, etc?

The more you play with a component's mechanical housing the more likely it is to break. There's also just human error in replacing hardware that leads to housing fractures.

Creepage among memory chips is also possible. RAM doesn't sit as snug for the entire life of your computer. It creeps out a little bit over time and allows for dust to prevent conductivity between the chip and the slot. Having everything soldered in place is much better.

The biggest issue, though, is all the added space required for the housing. The slots, connectors, clips, etc make the product bulkier. While that's fine for a desktop it's not ideal for a mobile device.

By the time I tend to want a new CPU it tends to be a new architecture anyway so I have to replace most of the parts. Other parts of laptops tend to be replaceable.

If you want a RAID array on a Macbook series laptop, you can get a cage to replace the optical drive and pop in a second 2.5" drive of your choice. It's a compromise, but it's doable.

Not sure that CPU replacement is -that- common an upgrade, even for desktops. Every few years, the latest and greatest CPUs seem to use a new socket anyways.

It depends. I bought an i7 when they first came out a few years ago. My motherboard is still compatible with the newest i7s; if I wanted a 6-core CPU, I could pop one in right now.

Only problem is that the 6-core CPUs are $1000 :)

operative phrase -that- common

Just because you can doesn't mean you will, in many cases.

it's so much nicer to work at a properly ergonomic workspace that I rarely do this -- only for hackathons and the like.

This is my basic feeling right now, and I wrote about it in more detail here: http://jseliger.com/2008/12/26/computer-post-desktop-or-lapt... . Notice in particular the apt Lord of the Rings quote at the end.

I think laptops are (somewhat) overrated, though they might not be for you, in the plural sense.

I don't own an Air, but the idea is tempting. I have 27" iMac and old 13" black MacBook, and while I really enjoy my workstation with the former¹, I've found myself to work on the MacBook more oftenly – as a laptop, it's always with me, and because of its SSD, it is even faster in many daily tasks than the iMac with quad cores and octa gigs of RAM.

I'm fascinated by the minimalistic concept of the Air. I don't need zillion USB/FW ports, optical drive, 500+ gigs of disk, user replaceable components (every machine will be outdated as professional tool in few years anyway). I just need good keyboard (check), wifi (check), good all-around performance without bottlenecks (SSD, check), solid construction (check) and enough screen estate (not sure if 1440x900 is enough – I would love to see 15" Air with 1680x1050 screen).

[1] http://picasaweb.google.com/jaakko.holster/HomeOffice?authke...

Ok, I was looking an a MacBook Air, but somehow now I'm also considering a lazy-boy armchair and a mounting arm for my monitor.

That's a nice setup you have there. :-)

Who develops on a laptop? Do you ignore ergonomics? This stuff will catch up with you (at the end of the day, and over your lifetime).

I'm healthier and lots more productive on a desktop with a keyboard, mouse and large screen (all at the correct heights and distances).

Just because it's a laptop doesn't mean you have to use it in an non-ergonomic configuration. My current setup is a 15"MBP mounted on a sit/stand desk at home. An external keyboard and monitor keeps both hands and eyes in the right position. I have a similar docking setup at the office. That covers 80% of my time on the machine. The other 20% (mostly at coffee shops) doesn't bother me, and I still get the benefits of mobility and freedom.

The key is to have a good sling-back chair and to keep both feet squarely buried in the sand. I find having a low table on your left-hand side helps keep the sand from sticking to the base of your beer bottle, but you can always use a paperback for that too.

In the end, I find it's more about shade than ergonomics, especially in tropical climates where you're dealing primarily with palm trees and their small cross-section. I guess your mileage may vary.

You'd be surprised at how ergonomic laptops are. I find my macbook touch-pad to be much easier on the wrists than a mouse, and the display angle adjusts to a perfect viewing position.

The real benefit is that I get to sit in the most comfortable seat in my home, be it a chair, sofa or bed.

I have to disagree with you on the ergos of a laptop. I personally find a touchpad (or any touch interface) terrible on my wrists. And a laptop monitor is far to slow to be comfortable (you have to bend your neck to look down or have your hands positioned too high).

I developed RSI shortly after I started using a laptop extensively.

Even if you use a laptop as your machine, it is best to dock the thing to a large screen, mouse, and keyboard.

My initial response was going to be "No", but that would have been a snap response based on my previous prejudices on the MacBook Air.

I'm currently doing all of my development (iOS, web and Java) on a 2 year old 13" 2.4GHz Aluminum MacBook and it's been fine. Compared to my MacBook, the new MacBook Air has a slightly lower clock speed processor with twice as much L2 cache, an ultrafast hard disk and probably a better video chip (GeForce 320M compared to my 9400M) and a higher-resolution screen.

I say go for it.

This is my question, too! I want one...

Wil Shipley blogged a couple years ago here: http://wilshipley.com/blog/2008/01/macbook-air-haters-suck-m...

about developing his Delicious Library app on his Air. The post itself is a bit much, but there's an addendum at the bottom with some compile stats. Namely, the Air (because he got an SSD) compiled Delicious Library faster than his Macbook Pro.

But I would love to hear others' experience developing on an Air, since that's what I'm considering now, too. This Stack Overflow post: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/549008/macbook-air-for-ip...

mentions that Xcode can't autocomplete well on an old air, but I think it might be because it has a balls-slow 4200 rpm hard drive.

The only thing that concerns me is the processor. What things tax the CPU?

I use a 2009 MacBook Air with 128GB SSD as my only computer with a screen. (i.e. Everything else is headless)

A few things tax the machine:

1. Streaming video, especially flash, and especially when you multitask it.

2. HDMI out. I like to plug my Air into an HDTV and stream video using VLC. Sometimes this will overheat and start skipping.

3. There is lowered responsiveness when the Air is doing a backup to Time Capsule.

4. The Ethernet is not as fast as a normal PC, which can be kind of obnoxious sometimes.

5. If I put it on the bed covers for too long it overheats and slows down. Likewise for couches and occasionally my lap.

All in all I'm happy with this setup, and I use many big apps concurrently: Photoshop, Word, Mathematica, Eclipse, lots of PDFs, iTunes, Safari, VLC, SABnzbd+, as well as many other less taxing apps like Aquamacs, EverNote, Mail.. all concurrently.

The Air has never had a problem for me running standard apps. The issues always crop up when I'm trying to watch video (esp flash) or doing large amounts of i/o either through WiFi or ethernet.

Ethernet is not as fast? I wonder why?

Because it's 10/100 running as a USB dongle.

What? That would drive me crazy. I wonder if the new one is any better. All of my other machines (macs & pc's) are gigabit.

Sadly that is the specs for the new one...

Ouch. It's probably faster to use the Wifi (802.11N).

There are some Gigabit USB adapters that you can buy. They are apparently Mac compatible. Of course, with USB2 peaking at less than half GB ethernet's speed, it's still just an OK solution.

At least for me, Xcode has got a lot more bloated since 2008. Even both my iMac and my MBP seem underpowered - I hate to think what an air would be like. And if Xcode 4 is anything to go by, this isn't going to improve.

My guess is that it's not going to be any fun if you want to run an IDE. But regular text editors shouldn't cause a problem.

I've been using a previous generation MacBook Air (1.86GHz Core 2 Duo, 2GB RAM, 128GB SSD) for web dev work for 18 months or so. It's great for everything _except_ browser testing in VMWare. The 2GB of RAM just doesn't cut it when I need to fire up Windows to test in IE or, god forbid, the BlackBerry simulator for email testing.

Why don't you use WineBottler and not need to fire up a VM to test in IE? I use it to test against IE6, IE7, IE8

Because I hadn't heard of it 'til now :-).

Will _definitely try this out. Thanks!

Because all three are still very buggy on Wine/WineBottler, and there's no way to tell the difference between Wine/WineBottler/IE issues and bugs in your application.

Yeah, I tried it out after reading the above post. Way too buggy to rely upon for client work.

More and more, I find myself renting EC2 instances for small projects instead of using VMWare. The new micro instances are super cheap at .02 and .03 per hour for Linux and Windows, respectively.

Granted, I still use VMWare/Parallels periodically, but my reliance has started to wane in the past 12 months.

I really want to get one of the new Airs but my main issue is that developing for the iPhone using the iPhone 4 simulator takes up 724x1044 all by itself. I know it scales down, but it still sucks to have so few pixels. I went to the store today and felt up the 11" though, and it is so amazing and futuristic that I can't stand it. I'll probably end up getting either the 11" or 13", even though I don't need either. :)

I have a Mid-2009 17" MBP with 8GB of RAM in it, and one of the Seagate Momentus XT drives in it.

Since I'm already accustomed to the weight, and carrying a book or too with me all the time, or my iPad... weight argument is moot.

I'd get more benefit, and it'd be cheaper... to just upgrade my current setup with a 512GB SSD, rather than going with a current model Air.

(because I wouldn't be buying anything but a fully-loaded top model)

It's too wimpy with the stock setup, imo.

I recommend dropping the Momentus XT. Mine died after 3 months.

I moved to a Sandforce based SSD. Night and day difference.

I don't see why not. I use a Lenovo x201 as my main machine with zero issues.

By boss uses the prior-version Air for some development: Xcode, Matlab.

He's a patient guy.

If I'm able to use a Dell mini 10v as my primary web and Xcode development machine, I'm positive you'd be just fine on an Air. ;)

Not yet, since my MacBook is still relatively new. But the last few MacBooks I bought where already deliberately on the low end, so yeah, my next main machine is likely to be an Air.

It kind of depends on my working environment at any given time (lots of time on the go or sitting behind a desk with an external screen), but power will definitely not be an issue.

I use a 13" 2006 MacBook + a 22" screen for development of my toy iPhone apps, and I'm looking to upgrade to the Air. Developing just on the 13" screen works, but I like to have the simulator and the console on the 13" and keep the code on the 22". It's tricky to fit the iPad simulator on either screen though.

Does anyone have experience and/or info regarding how the Air would compare to the 15 and 17 inch MBPs for more design-oriented (I'm leaving that vague on purpose) work? It's hard to find definitive display specs, so it's hard to anticipate what color accuracy and response times would be like.

I've been using a Macbook Air 2nd gen 1.86Ghz/2G/128GB SSD for 2+ years as main station along with a 23", then 27" screen. It has not slowed down my productivity at all but instead increased it! Being so portable let's you work anywhere, I carry it everywhere, even on the eliptical walker it's great to catch up on twitter feed or watch a video!

With a higher rez screen, greater battery, more memory & larger permanent storage, I can only imagine the new ones are even more suited to become your main development machine (and you won't be going back once you tasted it ;)

I mainly just keep everything open in screen on my server so I can pull it open on any machine. I usually just alt-tab between a browser (usually Opera) and my terminator. I can just as easily work on Dell Mini 9 (well the keyboard layout of extra keys sucks for most coding) as my desktop as my laptop.. I just can't do the screen -x and split the window up as nicely. But seeing as the Air has such a nice screen resolution and a full keyboard, I see no reason why it couldn't work.

I haven't used the Air and I don't plan on using one in the near future. I currently use a 2006 MacBook Pro with 4GB of RAM.

Why not use the Air?

I need a ton of RAM. I'm actually currently limited because I need to spin up VM's on my local machine (for various reasons, often to test out, say, PXE booting in a confined environment.) If I wasn't in the business of testing systems vs. software stacks, then I'd be all over the Air.

I currently use a pre-unibody 2.4ghz mbp 15"(love the keys) and when seeing the slimness and form of the newer Mbps, I'd really consider getting the 17" ! The tradeoffs seem worth it! I'm waiting till this one kicks it..

My 2.4GHz MacBook has been feeling sluggish lately... so I just ordered a 1.6GHz MBA. I expect it will actually feel faster for many tasks due to the SSD and 4GB of RAM (current MB has 2GB), but I'll let you know...

The ultimate test: How long does it take to do a full Fink rebuild on it?

What about the screen size? Is a 13 inch screen suitable for development?

The new MBA 13 screen is 1440x900, a nice step up from the 1280x800 that 13-inch MacBook users have been used to.

For web programming it is fine. Reddit was programmed on a 13" MacBook, after all.

If you're doing Xcode development I might still be hesitant. The rapidly upcoming Xcode 4 environment is one large window and seems to put smaller screens at a significant disadvantage. It's probably okay, but I would really want to see it running.

Yes it is. I am using my x301 as primary development machine. The x301 as well as the MB Air have 1440x900 which is enough for me.

It's not just about resolution as some have pointed out. I like to have Terminal, emacs, XCode, Firefox, Preview for any PDFs all open at once.

That's why I prefer 15/17" + external 22/24" - I would never be able to handle the small 13" just by itself.

I generally am using 8 to 10 Spaces desktops at a time, with several of those desktops running multiple windows. With Spaces and Expose I find it good enough on a 13" screen.

Bigger is always nicer, but the tradeoff is that it would be a lot harder to carry my laptop with me. I prioritize mobility.

I only use 2-3 Spaces (to separate work from chats and distractions). I find it hard to split up "work" into multiple Spaces when I need to look at all of my work at once (ex. need reference docs + code up at the same time).

FWIW, I write code on my 13" MacBook all the time.

I guess it depends. I worked on a 13 inch MB screen for three years before getting a 15 inch MBP. I am much happier with the 15 inch. This is mostly because I use vim with 4 to 6 split screens at the same time.

What's the minimum you'd use for iPad development?

Doesn't the iPad only fit on the 17" MacBook Pro? I don't think there is any other MacBook that can hold the iPad simulator.

You can scale the simulator down to 50%.

And if you don't need the window chrome, you can fit almost all of the iPad simulator onto a 1440x900 display. Enough so that its definitely usable.

The high res 15" screen is suitable for every resolution/orientation of iOS devices currently available.

Uh no. The hi-res screen is 1050 high. Which is not enough for the iPad simulator in portrait mode at 100%. It works because the simulator simply gets scrollbars, but I find that very annoying.

The 17" is 1200 high. Which is is good for any iOS device in the emulator.

An iPad is only 1024 high, does OSX have a way to disable the window chrome?

That would be a nice hack! Bring it on!

Megazoomer works on the iPhone Simulator in iPad mode: http://ianhenderson.org/megazoomer.html

I've been using a last-revision 2.13 Ghz Air (SSD) as my dev box and only computer for a year and a half. I love it. It's the best mac I've ever had (and my 10th since 1992). I do a fair amount of graphics work as well as code, and it's suitable for that - don't let anyone tell you otherwise. You can't walk into a Costco or Sam's Club without seeing labels I designed on my Air. And for coding, it's a dream. The ONLY reason I'd be a bit averse to getting the new one is it's no faster than mine; with the SSD, "2Gb" of RAM is really never a limit since the drive is basically lightning fast anyway; and the new one doesn't have a backlit keyboard, which is bad because I don't stop coding when it gets dark.

I'm an expatriate and live on the road; I'm literally never anywhere without my laptop, not even for five minutes, so the weight and form factors are critical. And I don't use my computer for entertainment, and don't care about having a DVD drive, etc. I do all my development with Flex, Dreamweaver, Dashcode and a LAMP stack, so my needs may not match those of desktop app devs. But for me it's really been ideal.

To offer a countering point of view, my 4 year old MacBook started dying on me yesterday - if I hold it wrong it reboots, so I had to go looking for a replacement. I ended up going for a new MacBook Pro 13" for several reasons: - I like being able to rip DVDs and watch them on my iPhone. It's one of the cheapest ways of watching TV series, if you don't mind not being up to date with the latest episodes... - 4gb RAM. More RAM never hurt anybody in the speed stakes. - Firewire - I work quite a lot with video, so being able to suck stuff in over Firewire 800 is a very nice feature to have. - And then, last but not least, battery-life. The MacBook Pro is a beast for battery life, and that is very important for me.

Some of the advantages of the Air include the fact that the screen resolution is better than my MacBook (but as I'm used to the MacBook resolution, it's what I currenty have, I'm sure I won't miss it) SSD drive, but I'm thinking that that is more about headroom on my MacBook Pro. In a couple of years time when it starts to feel a bit old and slow, I'll pop in an SSD (which should be cheaper by then), and my machine will get a new lease of life.

Just as an aside, my use case is mostly centered around programming in XCode and Textmate, but this is my principal machine at home, so lots of web surfing is also done.

I also like have a DVD, but I actually like several of the the external ones better. I never use it on the road so I tend to have a powered hub with some toys attacked.

You are so right on video, it really needs a bigger machine.

I think the biggest difference this time (I have used a MacBook Air in the past for dev until I switched to 17" MacBook Pro) is the added option of 4gb of memory. That will really help. Also, the lack of heat right under my left arm would be a nice touch.

// do not buy the official external drive - it doesn't work on other machines

Note that you can order 4GB RAM in any Air model, when you build-to-order online.

True enough, but as a general rule, I never buy extra RAM from Apple if I can avoid it. The stuff that is baseline installed seems to have a reasonable price tag attached, but they really do price gouge when it comes to adding extra RAM as a BTO option. So that, plus the fact that I doubt that RAM is user-extensible in the new MacBook Air (they call it 'onboard RAM' on the Apple Store, which doesn't fill me with confidence.)

I do exactly the opposite: I never want to have to open up a piece of hardware (I've done that plenty in previous lives)--I want to treat my computers as appliances.

So if I want 4GB of RAM, Apple it is.

Isn't the fact the RAM isn't user-installable (true) in the MBA even more reason to buy the full boat?

Have you considered the sony vaio Z? You can get a 1080p screen, 2 SSDs in a raid 0 or 1 configuration, a DVD/Blu-Ray player (think you can put another HD here instead), core i7 processor, decent battery life (6/7 hours), standard amounts of RAM, 13" and 3 pounds. It will blow your air out of the water while being the same weight and size. It's about 0.5" thicker although.

I do iphone development, so I'm stuck with what apple has to offer, but if I didn't that would be my machine of choice.

I did consider it, actually. The thing is, I need to use the Adobe suite a lot, much of that for graphics work, and I loathe Windows. If all I did now was code, I'd consider a Vaio running linux...I would say that's a better value overall if you don't need to do any graphics. I toyed with the idea of getting one and hackintoshing it, but I wasn't really committed to the headache of potentially having a brand new machine play badly with software I need to use daily.

Also, to the poster who wrote about the MBP vis-a-vis video...Yeah. Firewire is what's missing from this machine. I don't do any video work at all anymore so it doesn't bug me. But it would.

Does your Air have 2gb of RAM or 4gb? Does it ever feel sluggish?? I'm also a Flex developer :) so for me it's usually Flash Builder, photoshop, a browser and terminal.



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