Stumax 2

Digital Boogaloo


In late December, I upgraded my mid-2012 MacBook Pro to a 15” MacBook Pro with Touch Bar. It’s a definite improvement over my 2012 MBP. It’s solid and well-made and beautiful and I like it more the more I use it. The screen is beautiful. Just… gorgeous.

For what it’s worth, I thought I’d post some notes on my early impressions. If you’re on the fence about ordering one of these machines, maybe this will help you decide.

Touch ID & Unlocking with Apple Watch

These two features may be the unheralded genius attributes of this new Mac. Touch ID is every bit as slick on the Mac as it is on the iPhone, and what I’ve noticed after using it (and Apple Watch unlocking) for a few weeks is that I’m much more likely to pick up and use my Mac because there’s far less friction now between when the Mac is closed or asleep and awake and ready for me to type. There’s no more waiting on the system to wake up and get reset; it’s just ready to work when I am. The Mac feels more like a fancy iPad now because of this responsiveness.

Keyboard

I kind of like the keyboard. I can see why it’s not right for everyone, but it’s not horrible. It’s a bit clacky for my taste, but I can live with it. You could definitely bang out some satisfyingly angry emails with this keyboard.

I do feel like I make more mistakes when typing on it, though, because it’s hard to feel the difference between keys. I often end up hitting a couple of keys simultaneously or hitting the wrong key entirely. I have the hardest time with modifier keys. I’m getting better with time, though, and most of my typing is on external keyboards anyway.

I don’t love the arrow key layout. Hopefully I’ll get used to it, but the half-height up and down keys are definitely harder to hit reliably.

Touch Bar

The Touch Bar is very cool and I’m using it more and more. I was most worried about the lack of an escape key, but I got used to the soft escape key really quickly and it isn’t really an issue for me now.

My favorite Touch Bar feature so far is the scrolling list of slides when you’re presenting a Keynote deck. It’s so easy to swipe that list and find a slide to go back to. I never want to be without this feature again.

There are some UX issues with the Touch Bar. The inconsistency of what’s in the bar at any given time can be annoying. I like the ability to switch tabs in Safari using the bar, but sometimes that feature is there and sometimes it’s replaced with other functions because my cursor is in a text field or whatever. You have to stop and interpret the features available from moment to moment in the touch bar, which makes it hard to create a habit around using it.

I wasn’t initially sold on having the Touch Bar controls for brightness, volume, etc. versus having dedicated hardware switches because it added an extra couple of steps to changing settings. But then I discovered that you can just touch the control and swipe in one motion to change brightness and volume. That’s sweet!

Battery Life

I know this hasn’t been true for everyone, but my battery life has been phenomenal right off the bat. I plugged the Mac in for a day and let it download iCloud and Dropbox files and do whatever else it needed to, and I am already getting way more battery life than I did with my mid-2012 Mac; maybe two to three times as much? As long as I’m not doing anything that hits the processor too hard, I can reliably run it for most of a workday without plugging in. I’m looking forward to seeing how that holds up in the weeks ahead.

Setup

I decided to start the machine from scratch and only install the things I actually use on the new Mac. I’m a bit of a digital dilettante, and I try lots and lots of software. As you can imagine, a lot of it gets used briefly and then never again. Getting rid of this cruft and only installing things as I need them feels great.

1Password is a real boon here, as I keep all my software registration information ready for just such an occasion. Evernote and Pinboard are helpful, too. I’m compulsive about keeping a list of everything I install and uninstall on my Mac. I’ll have to write up that process one of these days, but suffice to say if my system is stolen or goes tits up, I can recreate my environment on a new Mac fairly faithfully.

On the other hand, I also make a lot of tweaks to my system that can take a long time to recreate. Not using migration assistant means a lot of these go away and I’m left scratching my head trying to figure out how I accomplished some shortcut or other. I try to keep notes in Evernote to help with this, but I’m not as diligent about that as I should be.

For example, I added some program to my old Mac that let me drag a window while holding down control and shift; now I have no idea what software that was. (Update: I found it! Better Touch Tool. So good. And it lets you customize the Touch Bar.)

So, it’s going to take a long time to get this new machine all tweaked to where I really like it, but the good news is that with Dropbox and iCloud, it took almost no time at all to get me up and running with a usable system and almost all my data intact.

Dongles

Yeah, you need ‘em, but maybe not as many as you think. I like the feel and flexibility of the USB-C ports, so I don’t have a problem with transitioning to them. I’ve managed to get all the dongles I needed to get me back up and running the way I was with my last Mac without spending much at all.

If you want a good all-in-one dongle solution, may I recommend the Huawei MateDock USB-C Multiport Adapter. It’s currently $89 on Amazon, but somehow I managed to snag one for just $39, so wait for a sale. This thing has two USB-A ports, an HDMI, a VGA, an ethernet port and an extra USB-C all jammed into a nice little package that fits easily in your back pocket. I use it as my Swiss Army Dongle for connecting to various displays at work.

Gripes

My one major gripe in this whole process was that the new power adapters are $79 and they don’t come with an extension cable ($19) and they’re useless if you don’t buy a USB-C charging cable (also $19). Which I didn’t know, which necessitated a second trip to the Apple store. Grrrrr.

Actually, that reminds me of my other major gripe: The MagSafe power connector from my Thunderbolt Display is now useless (there’s no adapter from MagSafe to USB-C), so I had to buy the above extra power adapter and run yet another cable behind my desk. Grrrrr.

Other stuff

  • I was initially having problems moving things with the touchpad. Pressing on an item and dragging didn’t work reliably and I needed to try several times to get it to drag properly. That problem seems to have cleared up, but I’m not sure if it was a system update or me changing my behavior that did it.
  • Several programs were crashing whenever the Mac went to sleep, but the 10.12.3 update seems to have fixed that.

In conclusion

Gripes aside, I just really love this new Mac. It feels solid and self-assured in every way. Moving to this from a 4-year-old Mac, I can definitely appreciate the constant refinement of features over the last few years. I wish the keyboard was a little deeper, but I’m not sure I want to trade that off for the extra thickness. I think the Touch Bar interactions could use some rethinking, but it’s got some real promise. Everything else, though, is beautiful and works like a charm. All things considered, I’ve got no regrets about getting this new Mac.

Viva Amiga

January 22, 2017


As much as I love my Mac, I still miss my Amiga 3000. This documentary is a trip down memory lane, a fond and wistful look back at the amazing creative tool that was the Amiga.

This is a bit depressing. But I’m sure it’s all a negotiating tactic, right? RIGHT?!

Come on, Seattle. Get it together. Daddy needs an NHL franchise.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. >> NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman insisted Seattle is not in the running to land an expansion team.“If someone wanted to give us an application right now, we wouldn’t take it,” Bettman said Saturday
Source: Bettman says NHL would not take an application from Seattle

I find this… a bit disturbing:

The BBC wants to make videos that change to suit whoever’s watching. It’s exploring the idea through a research project called Visual Perceptive Media, which has set up a way to alter everything from what’s in a video to what a video sounds and looks like depending on a viewer’s interests. It starts with a personality quiz: an app asks questions about whether you’re shy or outgoing, lazy or hardworking, and a few other basic traits. It’ll also analyze your music library or ask about your music tastes. Combining that information, it’ll determine what group you fit into and serve you a different cut of the video you’re about to watch.

Remember when billionaires used to give back to society by building parks and libraries and stuff? Good times.

While the Republican Party focuses on winning elections, the Kochs want to realign American politics, government and society around free enterprise philosophies that they hope to spread more broadly.

A key to accomplishing the mission, from the Kochs’ perspective, is countering super PACs and other big-money groups funded by rich liberals, as well as allied public sector unions and academic and media elites. The Kochs’ allies feel that those forces have worked together for decades with Democratic politicians and government bureaucrats to institutionalize the philosophy that heavy regulation and taxation of business is the only way to ensure an equitable society.

The Kochs concluded that defeating this well-funded left-wing infrastructure requires tracking the professional left in real time — a capability they realized they lacked after the 2012 election.

Source: The Koch intelligence agency – POLITICO

This may be my favorite dialogue ever:

Brian Schmidt won the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on dark energy, and then he took the prize to Fargo to show off to his grandmother. As recounted to Clara Moskowitz at Scientific American the airport security people were a little put off by the way the giant piece of gold sucks up all the x-rays:

“They’re like, ‘Sir, there’s something in your bag.’

I said, ‘Yes, I think it’s this box.’

They said, ‘What’s in the box?’

I said, ‘a large gold medal,’ as one does.

So they opened it up and they said, ‘What’s it made out of?’

I said, ‘gold.’

And they’re like, ‘Uhhhh. Who gave this to you?’

‘The King of Sweden.’

‘Why did he give this to you?’

‘Because I helped discover the expansion rate of the universe was accelerating.’

Daltonize.org: Daltonize in Google Chrome

I was musing that there must be a browser extension for people who are color blind that would render a page in black & white. (As you do.) I found this one, which looks pretty cool. There must be others…

Presenting Chrome Daltonize! as one step towards solving the issue of color-accessibility on the Internet – a Google Chrome extension enabling users to daltonize the image content of websites.  Daltonization is a technique of exposing details to color-blind users, enabling them see what they otherwise would have missed.

From Gaping Void’s recent email: Instill Confidence.

“I reflected that I had as yet done but little, very little, indeed, to further the happiness of the human race, or to advance the information of the succeeding generation…” That’s Meriweather Lewis writing in his journal. It was his 31st birthday and he was in the middle of leading the Corps of Discovery across America on a mission of exploration and scientific discovery. Meriweather Lewis. Of Lewis and Clark. Not feeling terribly confident about his accomplishments.