Apples

Last night I went shopping at the Perimeter Mall just north of Atlanta. I’ve been up in the area a few times, but I hadn’t been inside the mall yet. Last night, a friend and I had too much food at Cheeseburger in Paradise before walking off our fattness around the swanky stores.

Most of the stores weren’t very inviting; either selling kids clothes or personal electrolysis kits. We had a little fun in the EB Games, but as our game systems are mostly modded, we weren’t really planning on buying anything.

Then we came to the Apple Store. It was a glorious, pearly haven of electronic goodness, bountiful in innovation and style. Behind the counter, the Apple Geniuses were hard at work training and explaining all the latest Mac concepts to the shoppers. Stepping inside, we could feel the excitement. Customers swarmed around iPod touches, MacBooks, new iMacs, and of course, the new MacBook Air.

MacBook Air

It was our first time seeing the device in person. The commercials had been a big hit, showing how thing and elegant the design was, but I wasn’t impressed. To me, thin meant fragile, stripped-down, even backwards. Then we touched it.

I knew I was wrong right away. As I lifted the unit, I was as impressed by how sturdy and solid it felt as I was by how little it weighed. Gone were the days where the screen wobbles as you walk the laptop around. The hinges held tightly as I closed and reopened it, noticing another nice surprise. Apple had also removed the annoying push-button to open the laptop. On my 12” PowerBook at home, that very switch has recently being giving me problems. On the Air, you just lift from the recessed notch and it’s done.

With the outside examined, I wanted to put it to the real test. As I moved my hand to the touchpad, I paused. It had been enlargened to a big comfortable size. I could barely keep my excitement in. I’d been dying to try this out for a while. Opening safari, I went to the first webpage I could think of, this blog, and pinched my fingers together. Instantly, the text size shrunk. I spread my fingers out and the text grew. Multi-touch touch-pads may be the coolest thing since the hotdog was invented.

Plopping my thick fingers onto the keyboard, I was in for another surprise. The new keyboard design was fantastic! Rather than the shoddy loose keyboard faceplate of the old PowerBook models, the Air had a solid metal faceplate with large, unencumbered buttons rising up. No tapered sides or miniature footprint here; this keyboard was solid, easy to use, and comfortable.

I loved the keyboard so much, I wanted one right then and there. I couldn’t afford the 1799\$ pricetag of the Air, though, so I went the easy route. I picked up the Apple Wireless Keyboard for use on my PC at home.

Apple Wireless Keyboard

Without going into too many details, let me just say it’s amazing. The smallest footprint you can imagine, with the feel of a full-size keyboard. As I type this blog entry out on a big, clunky, monster of an HP keyboard, my fingers feel dirty. They crave the AWK even now.

Setup had a cost, though. While I’m certain that integrating with a Mac would have been simple, doing so with a PC had a few problems.

First, setting up the bluetooth connection was really problematic. I purchased the Kensington Bluetooth USB Adapter 2.0 from Best Buy on the way home. I followed the installation instructions, set up the Bluetooth device, and turned on the Keyboard. My Bluetooth configuration picked up the keyboard right away and knew exactly what it was, but when I went to handshake and share pass-key to connect, the problem was apparent. The screen told me to type in the PIN number on my keyboard and press Enter, but there was no PIN number on the screen. After some searching online, I found more information on this forum.

In the end, the solutions they presented helped lead me to my own solution, even if they didn’t work as stated. I downloaded an old version of the Wildcomm Drivers (v. 1.4.2.10), as they suggested at one point in the forum. The order in which I installed things was important. After a few errors, I uninstalled everything and did the following. I installed the old Wildcomm Drivers. Then when it asked me to plug in my Bluetooth device, I plugged in the USB adapter. It popped up asking for a driver. At that point, I had Windows search the driver CD for the correct driver. When it finished installing, the Wildcomm install also finished. After a reboot, I turned on the Keyboard and told Windows to supply the PIN itself. Voila!

If that wasn’t crazy enough, I had a new problem. The FN button wouldn’t work. That made it very difficult to perform a CTRL-ALT-Delete. After a few more forums, I found the solution via the utility, AutoHotKey. I started with someone’s prefabricated “Apple Wireless Keyboard” script, and edited it to make the eject button into a delete button, which was my preference. Now not only can I CTRL-ALT-Delete, but the keyboards media keys work with Winamp too!

All in all, I’d say the keyboard is downright fantastic. If you don’t mind messing with firmware and drivers a bit, or installing and scripting some fancy hot-keys, this keyboard might be a good fit for you too.