Road testing a MacBook Pro

WILLOUGHBY CREEK CAMPGROUND, Olympic National Park--After four days of traveling on my Road Trip 2006 around the Pacific Northwest, I finally found myself camping Sunday night. After setting up my new tent and cooking a "gourmet dinner," I got to try out one of the coolest new features of the MacBook Pro Apple Computer has loaned me for this trip.

The feature is actually a little piece of hardware combined with some software: a small remote control that operates the functions of the Mac's included DVD player. The advantage of this to a weary traveler like me is that I was able to sit way back in my double-sized camping chair and watch three episodes of "24," fast-forwarding, pausing and rewinding at my whim without even moving.

Road Trip 2006

That's pretty cool stuff for a laptop, I have to admit. And in my experience with it so far, I'd say it works really well. There was never any problem getting the Mac to respond to the remote, and in fact, the fast-forwarding/rewinding with the remote appears to be twice as fast as it is when done manually on the machine itself.

Another cool feature of the MacBook Pro that I tried a couple days ago for the first time is its built-in iSight camera.

I've used iSights before, and really enjoyed them because, in conjunction with the Mac's included iChat AV software, they allow for easy and free video chatting. But taking a freestanding iSight on the road is just one more piece of chunky hardware that has to be put somewhere and kept safe.

Now, with the built-in iSight, there's none of that problem. Instead, the camera is stealthily hidden at the top of the screen. So doing a video chat with people back home was very easy and didn't require plugging in any extra hardware.

The one down side to the built-in iSight, however, is that your freedom of movement is restricted. With the stand-alone version of the camera, it's possible to move it around by hand and thus, for example, follow the movements of my cat back at home. With the integrated version, that would be pretty hard.

Still, I'll take the new version anytime.

Now all I have to do is get used to the idea of going back to the stand-alone iSight on my PowerBook G4 back at home.

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