?

Log in

entries friends calendar profile My Website Previous Previous Next Next
Worried about MacBook Air being wireless-only? - Mark's Journal
mhaithaca
mhaithaca
Worried about MacBook Air being wireless-only?
Draft response to a concerned higher-up at work. Comments?

The lack of wired Ethernet is one of many factors that makes this a "road warrior" laptop and not the "desktop replacement" that nearly all Apple laptops have been for the last 15 years. The slower processor and limited storage capacity are also biggies.

Apple has tended not to offer dock accessories, since the days of the Duo, leaving that space as a third-party add-on opportunity. I'm sure the BookEndz folks are contemplating an adapter that plugs into the headphone jack, USB port, and micro-DVI port on the side of the MacBook Air, but most users will probably never bother. This thing's screen and keyboard are good enough that the average user will never need to hook into desktop-based equivalents, which is the main reason people use docks.

It's worth noting that most laptop users EVEN NOW aren't bothering to plug into wired Ethernet, even when they HAVE the requisite port on their laptops. I strongly suspect we've already seen a large chunk of the hit on Red Rover's capacity from the shift to wireless, and Apple is just giving in to reality by leaving out a port no one is using.

The folks who want wired Ethernet can buy the inexpensive USB adapter Apple is offering, and we can certainly suggest it. That'll especially come in handy in areas of campus where Red Rover isn't yet ubiquitous, but in areas where it is, I don't think anything changes... I think wireless use is going to continue to ramp up whether the manufacturer provides the wired connector or not, especially since Red Rover is already sharply faster than the switched 10 Mbit wired pipe we've still got to so many desks. We just have to keep up with capacity demand.
21 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
fabunobo From: fabunobo Date: January 16th, 2008 08:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
I wonder if Cornchild will buy me a laptop when I begin working in the audit office and thereby become more mobile. Likely. If so, I wonder how much input I'll have in the purchase decision? I'll of course need your two (or four) cents.
kinnerc From: kinnerc Date: January 16th, 2008 09:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
It doesn't have an Ethernet port? Wow. This thing is stripped down.

I completely agree, however, with your analysis. I have used the Ethernet port on Ananda a handful of time, but when I have needed to use it, I've needed to use it - largely for configuring wireless routers, a use you can successfully argue that "normal" users won't be doing.

It's the no optical drive part that still bothers me.
jccohen From: jccohen Date: January 16th, 2008 09:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was worried about the lack of optical drive too, but then I read this page:

http://www.apple.com/macbookair/wireless.html

and I think Remote Disk makes it fairly clear this isn't supposed to be your only computer. You still need to have a desktop (or desktop replacement laptop) somewhere to handle your optical disk tasks.

This isn't for me, who never travels, or even you, who won't be traveling after your job pans out... its for people who do traveling for their job quite a bit, and are tired of hurting their shoulders with heavy computers.

Its fairly specialized, it seems, but a knock out of the park for that niche.
mhaithaca From: mhaithaca Date: January 16th, 2008 09:55 pm (UTC) (Link)

It's very stripped down, very intentionally, and leaves out everything that the average user only uses once in a while, if ever. Optical drive? Available external accessory so you don't have to schlep it around all the time. Ethernet port? Available external accessory. Stereo? Hook up headphones or speakers.

It is, to say the least, exactly what I've been waiting for since the days of the PowerBook 100 and Duo. But, in the interim, I've grown accustomed to Apple's desktop-replacement laptops; even the MacBook has everything I need for almost every task. I'd have to shuffle things around quite a bit to move to this, not least because its hard drive is too small if I want my full iTunes library with me.
corredance From: corredance Date: January 16th, 2008 10:53 pm (UTC) (Link)

Bingo and hear hear on Duo/PB100 replacement.

I like to use my bicycle for stuff around town and the Air is the right size for a carrier bag or cargo rack. Even the MacBook was a smidge too bulky.

guinness_duck From: guinness_duck Date: January 17th, 2008 01:22 am (UTC) (Link)
My only surprise on it is the size. Yes, it's thin, and it's light, but for someone looking for something ultra-portable the 13.3 inch monitor seems on the larger size when compared to other offerings by other companies in this category. I would have expected to see something a hair smaller in size. Mind you, whether in current size, smaller, or what have you this is a laptop that is something I wouldn't be interested in anyway... I mean outside of the sleek shiny factor.
ruhe From: ruhe Date: January 16th, 2008 09:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Actually, my initial reaction/concern was a security one (_only_ wireless?). I didn't hear about the USB/Ethernet adaptor though--that will help (although USB-anything tends to make security-tense security folks even more tense given that stuff could potentially walk out again). Also, at least in my work, the lack of a built-in optical drive on my laptop is a bit of a hassle sometimes--especially with data transfer needs--again because of some security issues. Paranoid we are, yes?
mhaithaca From: mhaithaca Date: January 16th, 2008 09:59 pm (UTC) (Link)

I think the Remote Disk feature obviates the need for an optical drive for most users, and the cheap external SuperDrive takes care of the rest.

As for wireless and security, if your security folks think being wired instead of wireless is secure enough, you've got other problems. :-) Mac OS X includes secure VPN software, and all network traffic ought to be encrypted at the application layer anyway.
ruhe From: ruhe Date: January 17th, 2008 02:33 am (UTC) (Link)
No wireless connections to the VPN permitted.
yamazakikun From: yamazakikun Date: January 17th, 2008 10:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Is there a rational explanation for that policy? The whole point of a VPN is that it provides a secure connection over an insecure one. It's not as if you're actually trusting the local connection, wired or otherwise.
ruhe From: ruhe Date: January 18th, 2008 02:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think (although need to double check some of my crypto stuff) that some passwords submissions and key exchanges have to happen in the clear.
klutzywaitress From: klutzywaitress Date: January 16th, 2008 09:27 pm (UTC) (Link)

Grammar Edit

I have two suggestions: the use of a semicolon in one spot, and in the second spot, it seems that you may have missed a word that you meant to type, because that sentence doesn't make sense.

"The folks who want wired Ethernet can buy the inexpensive USB adapter Apple is offering, and we can certainly suggest it. That'll especially come in handy in areas of campus where Red Rover isn't yet ubiquitous; but in areas where it is, I don't think anything changes... I think wireless use is going to continue to ramp up whether the manufacturer provides the wired connector or not, especially since Red Rover is already sharply faster than the switched 10 Mbit wired pipe we've still got to ___?___ so many desks. We just have to keep up with capacity demand."



But other than that, looks good! :)
ianwsmith From: ianwsmith Date: January 18th, 2008 12:44 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Grammar Edit

If you're gonna add a semi-colon, you should take out the 'but'.

belmikey From: belmikey Date: January 16th, 2008 10:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
I would recommend re-arranging it to emphasize the availability of USB-Ethernet pods earlier rather than later, thus covering the practical concern right up front rather than defending Apple's choice (which I also agree with, but that's beside the point).
mhaithaca From: mhaithaca Date: January 16th, 2008 11:04 pm (UTC) (Link)

The original e-mail I was responding to brought up the USB-Ethernet dongle.
psyllisa From: psyllisa Date: January 17th, 2008 12:56 am (UTC) (Link)
You may want to consider the need to simplify the process for users defaulting to the Red Rover Secure SSID, so that the most secure channel for administrative and research data is more readily selected. And the need to register departmentally-operated non-CIT WiFi services.
chesther From: chesther Date: January 17th, 2008 03:26 am (UTC) (Link)
People freaked out when the Mac didn't have a 5.25" floppy disk.

People freaked out when the iMac didn't have a floppy drive at all.

People freak out when Jobs has the audacity to remove standard but irrelevant features when there is cause to do so.

That being said, the MacBook Air isn't for everyone. It isn't trying to be for everyone. If you really need an on-board DVD or hardline ethernet, get an MBPro. If you want ultraportable, cope with the limitations. I don't whine about the fact that my iPhone doesn't have hardline ethernet or a DVD drive. It's still a fantastic device.

If folks want an MBAir, they should get an 802.11n base station and set up good WPA keys and get over it.

(IMNSHO, of course. :-)
yamazakikun From: yamazakikun Date: January 17th, 2008 11:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'd make a slight change to that -- use your organization's PKI, or failing that get a good passphrase. Password-guessing attacks don't work too well on large random numbers.

ianwsmith From: ianwsmith Date: January 18th, 2008 12:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
And some people absolutely need a 9-pin serial port. (me) *sigh*

chesther From: chesther Date: January 18th, 2008 03:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yes, but you're weird. They make USB-serial adapters for people like you. And me, since I too occasionally need to talk to a serial console.
ianwsmith From: ianwsmith Date: January 18th, 2008 12:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
The only thing that shocks me about this is that you still have 10-base T *anywhere*.

I consider the wired/wireless decision to be a speed issue, but in the opposite direction that you are suggesting. When you are trying to download a large file in a wireless network with more than one client per AP, your are going to run into contention, even with G or N, and that means lack of real-life throughput. USB-dongle solutions don't impress me. Back when laptops had PCMCIA ethernet cards with dongles that got you an ethernet port, the #^&!ing dongles were _always_ getting broken. they suck, period. I would not even mention them as an option, esp since you're limited to about the speed of a G connection anyway, (although without the contention issue. . . probably). For a user who will _ever_ need a wired connection I would not suggest this as an option.


That said,

Oooooooooh, shiny!

21 comments or Leave a comment