Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Walking on Air

As regular readers of this blog know, I pitch my books at bookstores and libraries by means of a computer, a digital projector, a portable screen and Keynote, the Apple version of PowerPoint.

Over the years I've used a variety of computers for this task, each more lightweight than the one before. The first was a 2002 Macbook, the second a 2008 Macbook, and the third a 2011 iPad 2. For the last two years the iPad served very well, and I could even use it with an external keyboard to write while on the road. It seemed the perfect road-warrior computer for a traveling writer.

But then I ran into a problem. The Keynote presentation I created to pitch Hang Fire used a third-party font, Caslon Antique, that needs to be loaded into the computer's font library. This worked fine with the Mac mini I created the presentation on. But one cannot load fonts onto an iPad 2. iPads will work only with their built-in fonts.

Bummer. I didn't want to lose Caslon Antique, because this colonial-era font is perfect to illustrate the period re-enactment that opens Hang Fire. So I got out the old 2008 Macbook and loaded the presentation on that. It worked fine, but . . .

I could not find my mini-DVI-to-VGA adapter that allows that particular Macbook to drive a digital projector, even after hours of searching.

So I went to the local Apple Store and asked for a new one. Long outdated and not in stock, the genius said haughtily. We can have one for you in a week, or you could try eBay.

Not enough time. My first presentation was three days hence, followed by two more in rapid succession.

So on the spot I bought an 11-inch Macbook Air and a suitable mini-Displayport-to-VGA adapter. That set me back well over $1,100. But the 2008 Macbook was five years old and ancient technology. It works fine, but oh so slowly compared with the new machines. It was time, I told myself, time for an upgrade.

The Air performed beautifully during the three presentations I did last week, projecting Caslon Antique clearly and sharply.

It weighs only 2.38 pounds, compared to the 2008 Macbook's 5.5 pounds, and just a pound more than the iPad 2. Other than the keyboard the Air has no sensitive moving parts like a hard disk; rather, it uses a 128 gigabyte solid state drive. It loads programs fast and runs them speedily, even the memory-hogging Lightroom 4 I use for photography.

As for the iPad, I'm still using it, mainly for email and surfing and the odd Netflix movie, but it stays by my recliner in the family room.

But the Air travels with me today. It's worth every penny.

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