Blog

From Air To Eternity

  • Words: Andy Clarke

My new Macbook Air arrived this evening and it’s the best laptop I’ve ever owned. Less than an hour after unpacking it, it’s already the travelling production powerhouse I wanted.

After agonising for hours over the 11" or 13" dilemma, I opted for a 13" model as I expect to spend a good deal of time out of the UK next year. I boosted its 1.6Ghz processor with 4Gb RAM and opted for a 128Gb flash drive which means I’ll be travelling light in more ways than one.

In the past, I treated my laptops as ‘almost’ secondary machines. That meant that I installed a full set of desktop apps on them including all the tools of the trade, even those that get used more rarely. I also kept an iPhoto library on the go and carried music and movies. But the Air feels different and so is my attitude to it. The smaller storage space is forcing me to think differently. It’s a machine for doing just the work I need to while on the go, not a half-way desktop.

Resisting the temptation to run a Time Machine restore from my old Macbook, I opted to keep the clean OSX install and only install the apps and data that I absolutely need for on the road or in the, errr, air. Here are my essential apps.

1Password

I can’t stress strongly enough how important this app is for keeping my logins and other private data secure and synched across desktops, laptops, iPad and iPhone. I know many people who use the same (usually insecure) password for all their online accounts. 1Password abstracts this by generating passwords that no human can remember (well, maybe Christian Heilmann) for each service, but uses only one to access them. If you’re not using 1Password already, you’re madder than a bag of ferrets. Another reason to love 1Password is the ability to sync your 1Password data using DropBox.

Alfred

Not just a replacement for Quicksilver but the best launcher and search tool I’ve used on the Mac. No need to sync it across Macs. Just download, install and go.

Dropbox

For the last year, every one of my working files, projects, settings and more have lived inside Dropbox. While writing Hardboiled Web Design, I upgraded to a paid amount of storage to hold the gigabytes of revisions and images, but as I’m currently only using 3% of my allocated 65Gb, I’ll be downgrading back to free space when my year is up. I also pay for MobileMe to sync contacts, bookmarks and a few bytes of other business data.

Espresso

My coding tool of choice. After giving up Dreamweaver in the early 2000’s, I somehow never got the urge to find a replacement text editor, coding for years with colour coding, syntax highlighting or auto-complete for years in TextEdit. Espresso changed all that.

Fireworks and Photoshop

How designers use Photoshop to design web layouts is a mystery to me. Fireworks, on the other hand, works like it was meant for the job and I’ve been using it since the beginning. I still run CS3 and have no intention of upgrading as these apps already do more than I need. Installing just these apps took just less than an hour over Remote Disc from my iMac.

iWork

This year I scrubbed all Microsoft apps from all my Macs. Not in some religious fervour, but because iWork does everything I need. Keynote is a huge part of that decision of course, and as someone who speaks at conferences fairly regularly, I can't live without it. Installing Pages, Numbers and Keynote took only a few minutes over Remote Disk.

Reeder for Mac

Synching perfectly with Google Reader, Reeder for Mac is still in beta but the best feed reader for iPad is just as good on the Mac.

Things

I’m not much of an organiser, but Things does at least help me to stay almost on top of, errr, things. To stay synched across two Macs: On your first Mac, move the Things folder from Library / Application Support / Cultured Code to a suitable place inside Dropbox. Restart Things on both Macs holding down the Alt key. Things will ask you for the new location of your library. Choose the one inside Dropbox and you're good to go. One caveat though. Things won’t stay in synch if you access its library from two machines at the same time. To get around this, I only launch Things on one Mac at a time.

That’s it. Nothing else. Nadda. My Air is going to stay squeaky clean on the inside as well as the outside. Notice something I missed. That's right. OSX on the new Air comes without the Flash player installed. I, for one, will be keeping mine that way.


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