Toybox: MacBook + Time Capsule makes cool home-file server

Wireless back up and storage at home

When my beloved iBook G4 was stolen last month I was devastated. For three years it had been with me, through thick and thin. But soon, I was keen to buy a replacement. I settled on a white, 2.2GHz MacBook, with a 120GB hard drive and 1GB of RAM.

I ordered it by phone and it arrived in the office just two days later. I unpacked it, plugged it in, turned it on and, within a minute, it was going strong. During this short space of this time, I had attracted a small crowd of people who were keen to look it over, hear how much it cost, etcetera. However, most of them were disappointed when it turned out not to be a MacBook Air.

Later, making my way home, and carrying my new computer in its characteristic MacBook box, I was amazed at how many people commented on it, and asked questions about it too – for example, the reception staff at my gym and a complete stranger on the bus all enquired about it.

Some of the highlights of the MacBook include its built-in 802.11n wireless capabilities – wi-fi networks show up on the menu bar that you then just have to click on if you want to connect. There’s also the built-in iSight camera, above the display, and the trackpad. While the trackpad isn’t as advanced as the one on the MacBook Air, it is still pretty cool. So, you can’t “pinch" to zoom in and out of a photo, for example, but it has two-finger scrolling, which easily takes you up and down documents, or scrolls through photos.

The MacBook has two USB ports, a FireWire 400 port, Gigabit Ethernet, audio input and headphone jacks. It also comes with a Magsafe power adapter, which has a magnetic connection instead of a physical one. And, opening and closing the notebook is also made easy because of a magnetic latch. There is no catch to break.

On the downside, I don’t know what those Apple engineers were thinking when they designed the sharp edge where your wrists rest while typing. I’ve got marks already, and I have read lots of comments on the web from people complaining about injuries caused by this edge. I might take my husband up on his offer of sanding it down, even though that would be a violation. Perhaps I’ll try to create some sort of padding solution…

On the upside, the little beauty ships with Mac OS X Leopard, which is a very nice operating system. Some of my favourite features include “stacks”, which gives you fast access to folders of files. For example, when you click a stack of downloads or documents, the files contained within come up from the dock in the form of a fan or a grid.

Another handy feature is Cover Flow, which allows you to flip through documents in the same way you might flip through album art in iTunes. Cover Flow displays each file as a preview of its first page.

And a feature I use daily to find applications is Spotlight. Hit the Apple key and the spacebar, and as soon as you start typing in either keywords or search criteria, a list with matches will appear — then simply press “enter” and the application will open.

Quick Look is another nice feature. It lets you view the contents of a file without opening it.

I must also mention Time Machine, Apple’s automatic back-up feature. You need to connect an external drive – not included – to the computer, which will then ask you if you want this drive to be your backup drive. If you say “yes”, Time Machine automatically backs up the computer – quietly, in the background.

In my super-geeky household, we’ve got a 1TB Time Capsule box ($799), which backs up both our Macs. It has four Ethernet ports; one USB port, to add another hard drive or printer to; and wireless N, which lets us do back-up wirelessly.

Lastly, you can use Time Capsule as Network Attached Storage. On our Macs, Finder quickly discovers the drives, so we can use Time Capsule as a pretty cool home-file server – this also works with PCs.

The MacBook costs from $1,799, including GST.

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