Pierre R. Mai's Miscellany

The personal pages of Pierre R. Mai

The MacBook Air, Airport Security and Mass-Market Appeal


I was on the road with the MBA in the last couple of weeks, traveling around the country to various clients, and the experience has been a good one, so far. I’ll write more on the computing side of things in another post, here I just wanted to note that the MBA is indeed raising eyebrows and enthusiasm wherever I take it, whether hotel bars, coffee shops, airport security, or client meetings. Even my PowerBook 17” didn’t raise that much interest when it first came out, so I really expect the MBA to be a stellar performer for Apple.

On the topic of airport security, as e.g. Michael Nygard has already noted, the X-ray signature of the MBA is indeed different enough from the ordinary for screeners to notice (though at least the European screeners I met handled this with much less fuss than the TSA screeners encountered by Michael Nygard). Which BTW seems not so surprising to me, given the design goals of the MBA, which leads to a laptop with very little electronics inside, and the rest of the enclosure containing the spread out battery. If one were to design a device that contained as much plastic explosives as possible, while still being able to function as enough of a laptop so as to fool casual tests, the design might end up looking similar, though one would probably create something with a little more volume.

Anyway, the road so far with the MBA as a main machine has been very successful, though I still sometimes long for my large 17” PowerBook display. A related nuisance I have noticed with the MBA is that connecting an external display leads to very frequent fan noise, apparently caused by the GPU circuitry working overtime (at least with my Cinema HD 23” display).

Aside from this nuisance and either a second powered USB port or a FireWire port (or a much bigger internal HD), I still have to find something about the MBA not to like. Definitely recommened for people not doing heavily media-centric stuff. Even as a developer main machine, this can pass muster, if carefully used. And as a second machine besides a Mac Pro, the MBA is likely to be enough for many more.

On a Lisp-related note: The MBA is, like all Intel-based Macs, one of the nicest modern Lisp machines, able to run all currently maintained Common Lisp implementations (even Windows-only ones ;).