My attempt to install OS X on a Macbook Air over a wireless network was ultimately unsuccessful. Five hours into the process, with roughly 2 GB transferred and the install process still less than half done, my desktop computer dropped its wireless connection. The desktop had dropped its connection a few times yesterday while I was syncing movies over to the AppleTV, but I was able to achieve much higher throughput for those transfers, moving over 2 GB in less than half an hour (a feat that I’m repeating while writing this). I think the dropped connection is actually a different problem than the excruciatingly slow installation, but I’m hardly a wireless expert.
Rather than trying again, I physically connected the laptop and my wife’s desktop to the Airport base station, and did the installation that way. That worked flawlessly, and it didn’t take any longer than an installation from an internal DVD drive. With the operating system and iLife installed, I then tried installing iWork and Aperture from my wife’s desktop using Remote Disc over the wireless network, and that also worked flawlessly. So it seems that the networked installation options for the Macbook Air can work if the other computer and the wireless base station are in the same room as the laptop. But I do I think those alternatives would benefit from better status reporting. If I knew exactly how things were going and what was slowing things down with the initial installation attempt, I would have been in a better position to correct things or to know that I should give up.
Having gotten through the initial configuration of the computer in less than a day, I was able to begin using it today, and as I expected, it does everything I need in day-to-day use. Again, it’s really small. Carrying it back and forth to work was much easier than carrying my old Macbook. Two pounds makes a big difference. But despite its size it has a great keyboard and monitor, and it seems snappy enough. I didn’t notice any pauses or delays as I was using it. I think it’s probably viable as a second computer if you’re patient, but I don’t think it would work as someone’s only computer, and I wouldn’t recommend it for someone who’s not comfortable with the inconveniences that seem to go with the newest technologies.