One year and 41 days with the MacBook Air

A lovely, sleek laptop is nice to have, but an ultrareliable ultraportable is a requirement for people like me

When it comes to laptops and desktops, nothing matters to me more than reliability. While I may be directly or indirectly responsible for thousands of servers, desktops, and laptops, the one that matters the most is the one I'm using to manage all of those resources. My laptop is my gateway to everything I do. It must be absolutely reliable and available constantly.

I'm currently on my third MacBook Air. I bought (and reviewed) the first one back in February 2008 when it was released; I then upgraded to the next iteration in June 2009. Last week, the new MacBook Air arrived, and I wasted no time in putting it to good use.

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Over the past few years, I've used some model of MacBook Air for probably 85 percent of my computing needs: email, browsing, more xterms than you can shake a stick at, writing, reading, creating, and consuming. With the exception of my review of the iPad (which was written on the iPad), every word I've written for publication in the past 2.5 years has been written on a MacBook Air. I've logged over 100,000 miles with them and carried them all over the globe.

They've never let me down.

Here's a quick history of the punishment I afflicted on my previous Air. I purchased it in early June 2009, and until last week, I used it constantly. I tend to run a ton of processes that have connections to other computers: xterms with ssh sessions to dozens of servers, RDP sessions, and so forth. I don't like to break and recreate those connections, so I just leave the laptop open and running with the screen blank if I'm not actively using the system. I also never shut down and reboot only when required by an OS update.

According to my calculations, in the 406 days I had my previous Air in full-time use, it was on and running for over 9,500 hours. That's 23.5 hours a day, every day of that time period. I did not have a single problem with the unit the entire time.

I can also safely say that in all that time, I've never once missed having an optical drive. More USB ports would have been nice, but I have a four-port USB microhub that does the trick there.

Some detractors point to the Air's cost versus its perceived low performance. A common point of view: You can get a laptop PC with better specs for less. Yes, you definitely can, but would it be as infinitely portable, as usable, and overall, as reliable as the Air has been for me over the years? I have plenty of PC laptops that see far less usage than my Air, yet seem to suffer far greater problems, from disk failures to screen issues to battery problems and so forth. There's a reason that they're cheaper: They're made with cheaper parts and engineered to meet a very low price point, rather than being engineered to survive.

In the laptop world, you can have only two of the following three attributes: cheap, ultraportable, and reliable. While the Air isn't cheap, it certainly meets the other criteria, and it offers Mac OS X and the power of a native Unix environment on top of it. Why would I need anything else?

As always, your mileage may vary. But for me, at this point in time, there's no better way to interact with the computing world than a MacBook Air. If and when that changes, I'll be all over it, no matter who makes it or what form it may take.

I'm not holding my breath.

This story, "One year and 41 days with the MacBook Air," was originally published at Read more of Paul Venezia's The Deep End blog at


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