Status

iOS 11 has already had two major effects on my iPad usage: 1) I feel delighted whenever I interact with it and 2) I want to use it more.

Announcing Nebraska93

Nebraska93 Icon

Two days ago I quietly released Nebraska93, a county license plate game for anyone traveling through Nebraska.

I’m really happy with the way it turned out and thought I’d share some fun things about it:

  • I drew the app icon, which is based on the state’s 1940 license plate design.
  • I also created all of the icons and artwork in the app and gathered all of the interesting facts for each county.
  • Nebraska93 was “in review” for only 12 minutes.
  • The photo behind the Nebraska map on the app’s main screen was taken from my yard.
  • The app uses AdMob to serve ads. If it really takes off (I mean really takes off), I’d definitely entertain the idea of rolling my own ads for local Nebraska businesses.
  • I used third party libraries to create confetti and display in-app notifications. I also modified Marco’s IPInsetLabel for the “Did You Know?” facts on each county page.
  • The basic county data (population, established date, county seat, etc.) is loaded into Core Data on the app’s first launch. The interesting facts about each county are in a separate plist so that I can easily add more as time goes on.
  • The dynamic Nebraska map, circular progress indicator, and corn icon were all made in PaintCode.
  • The “Discoveries” images were drawn with Affinity Designer and involved a lot of tracing with vector tools (except for the Walgren Lake Monster, which I made up myself).
  • If Nebraska schools showed interest in purchasing the app, I’d remove ads, switch to paid-upfront, and then release an ad-supported “lite” version.
  • One of my favorite things about the app is the little informational view that pops up when you tap an unlocked Discovery.

Discovery modal view

I think it would really be fun to collaborate with local elementary schools. All fourth graders learn about Nebraska history, so students could research the counties and send me their own fun facts which I could feature with their first name and/or school.

The next things on my to-do list are to make it available for iPad, improve accessibility, and re-take the app’s store screenshots without the ad banner (whoops).

Heartfelt thanks to all of you who have downloaded Nebraska93 so far (especially those who don’t live in Nebraska, lol)! If you have any questions about how anything in the app works, let me know. I always like it if my work can help other beginners in some way. And if you’re a beginner, let me just encourage you to explore app ideas that might benefit your local community. It’s a great way to gain experience and give back at the same time!

Status

Currently preparing to submit my Nebraska app for review later tonight. This whole project took about five months longer than it needed to, but I’m proud of the finished product and hope people in my state will have fun with it!

April 21st – Progress Update

A couple months ago I wrote about a little local project I’ve been working on: a license plate game for Nebraska residents/tourists (okay, Nebraska doesn’t really have tourists). Things are slowly coming together with only a few, albeit time-consuming, things left on my to-do list. One of those things involves researching my state’s history and geography, and another involves designing some achievement-related assets and a system for unlocking them.

The UI still needs work, obviously (especially the information density). The “Discoveries” section will be home to special “points of interest” which will be little badges that are automatically unlocked when a person discovers certain counties. Each point of interest will display a little story or historical nugget when tapped. The app is supposed to be educational and fun, and while I don’t think it’ll make much money (if any), I want it to be well-designed and look nice in my app portfolio.

As I mentioned in a previous post, there are 93 counties in Nebraska. I decided to request an App Store rating when a person spots 62 of them. I figure if they stick with it that long, they must like it at least a little! There’s also a link to rate the app in the modal Settings view.

So yeah! That’s where I’m at. I’m hoping it won’t take much more than a month for me to finish and ship this baby. đŸ€ž

Apple’s Identity and the New Mac Pro

The Mac Pro was dead, or so many of us thought. Or so Apple thought, apparently, because rumor has it the decision to revive it was made fairly recently.

The implications of the Mac Pro’s presumed death were worrisome and left us with many questions. Did Apple care to serve a higher-needs market? If not, why? What machines were Apple’s own engineers using? What did this mean for the future of macOS and Macs in general?

Apple, being Apple, naturally sought to regain control of its narrative and did so with unprecedented transparency and humility. But I can’t help but wonder whether Apple itself fully realizes the implications of its decision to double down on pro hardware. This wasn’t just a product decision, with effects on staffing, component sourcing, and profit margins. It was a decision about the company’s identity. What is our core mission? Who is our audience? Answering those questions (and making sure every employee knows the answer to those questions) is like Running a Company 101. And yet Apple seemed to be confused.

Depending on when the initial decision to sunset the Mac Pro was made, it seems like a lot of this could have been avoided if Apple had utilized its own mission statement. Up until early June 2015, the company still ended every press release with “Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world…” Now filter “Should we kill our high end personal computer?” through that and the answer is an emphatic “Nope.”

Setting all of that aside, I hope Apple realizes that new hardware should only be the beginning. After all, for the most part, pros seem to want a Big Boring Box of Raw Power—a flexible cheese grater of the future. I’m sure Apple will find a way to make it look a little sexier than that, but what remains is that software needs to be the differentiater between the new Mac Pro and a suped up Windows machine. 

In other words, renewing a commitment to professionals involves more than just designing the perfect computer for professionals. It means designing an OS and a software ecosystem for professionals. For example, it’s not enough for Adobe to do cool stuff with the Touch Bar, or for the iPad Pro to act as a Wacom-like tablet input for the Mac. Adobe’s (and other high end software-makers’) products need to integrate with macOS in a way that makes them better and easier to use on a Mac than Windows. It’s Apple’s job to make that possible and to provide incentive for companies to put resources into it. 

So, Apple. Expand your Mac software teams. Fix the Mac App Store. Make sure some of that Workflow love makes it to the Mac. Focus on improving iCloud’s stability and features, because collaboration and remote work are the future and because RAW photographs aren’t getting any smaller (and your storage tiers are not friendly to even amateur photographers). 

Look, you may not be Apple Computer anymore but you have reaffirmed that you are Apple, a company that makes personal computers (among other things), and that your audience is everybody, and that you want to be the best. So do that. 

Link

Larder Blog Interview

Larder Blog Interview

The only interview I’ve ever given was in middle school, to my local newspaper, after winning a spelling bee (ironically, the reporter spelled my last name wrong). So I was super excited when Belle Beth Cooper asked me if she could interview me for Larder’s “Making it” series. In the interview I talk a bit about my background and the advice that I would give beginning iOS developers today.

Give the Girls a Chance: Support the San Diego Girl Scouts

You have 4 days to help a whole bunch of girls in San Diego learn to code.

Actually, that’s not quite true. You really only have 3 days, and it’s not just “learning to code” in that shallow, “everybody should learn to code” boot camp sense. This is a full-fledged curriculum. It teaches math, physics, programming, product management and marketing through the creation of an adorable cookie-themed video game. It will undoubtedly strengthen the girls’ collaboration skills and give them a sense of what it takes to bring a real game to market.

There’s something for all skill levels: beginners can work using Scratch, while more advanced learners can work on porting the game to iOS, Android and the web.

Some of the girls can’t afford to participate. The program needs a meeting space, computers, dev accounts, and teachers. As of the writing of this post, they have a little under $16,000 left to raise. And with Kickstarter, it’s all or nothing. For as little as $5, you can be a part of empowering a group of girls by giving them the opportunity to gain valuable skills and experience.

I was never a Girl Scout. But if this program had been available to me as a kid, I dang well would have been.

So buy 5 boxes of Tagalongs and Samoas to support your local troop and then hop over to the Marshmallow Run Kickstarter. You’ll be helping improve the tech industry by ensuring its next generation of developers and entrepreneurs is as diverse as its customers.

A Little Local Project

When people ask me what I do, I tell them I’m a stay-at-home mom. I say it quickly, hoping the conversation will be whisked along to something else before my husband can interject—as he typically does—with “and she also makes apps.” At that point I blush and explain that I don’t really know what I’m doing and no, I can’t really show them anything I’ve made.

I don’t know why I do that, because most people don’t care whether I know what I’m doing or not. They just want to pitch me their app ideas! Unfortunately most of them either exist already, are too expensive to implement, or are just literally impossible. However, a friend posted this simple little request on my Facebook wall a few weeks ago:

A request for a Nebraska license plate game

In 1922, Nebraska adopted a license plate numbering system that assigned a specific one- or two-digit prefix to each county. Therefore, you can usually tell what county someone is from by their license plate number. The reason I say “usually” is because three counties eventually switched to non-specific alphanumeric codes because their population outgrew the 6-digit system.

Nebraska is a big state and there isn’t a whole lot to look at if you’re traveling between towns aside from crop fields, pasturelands, and sand hills. With 93 counties, it would certainly be a challenge to spot them all!

So, that’s what I’ve been working on lately: a little license plate game.

Some features I want to implement:

  • information about each county, including population, county seat, and some fun facts
  • the ability to mark a county as “found”
  • a state map that highlights the counties you’ve found
  • a progress indicator
  • confetti when you find all 93
  • a few stickers or badges depicting state landmarks that you unlock when you find certain counties

The audience for this app is obviously small. It’s a fun project though, and it continues to help me sharpen my development skills. Before Charlie came along, I think I could knock this out in two weeks. With my little buddy around, it’s going to take months. And that’s okay. 😊

Here’s what I have so far: I traced a map of Nebraska in Affinity Designer, exported it as an SVG, and imported it to PaintCode.

Nebraska map in PaintCode

From what I understand, the only way I can toggle the visibility of each red county shape is by giving it its own unique boolean variable. So that’s 93 booleans, otherwise known as “one heck of a switch statement.” 😆

I also have a list of counties in a UITableView and a detail view that shows the location of the county seat, the year the county was established, and its population. Below that will be a fun fact and maybe someday some pictures of county landmarks, if I can find a good source.

In-progress screen shot of detail view

As you can see, the app will be ad-supported as well.

I was going to keep this project under wraps until it was finished, but honestly, I’d much rather share it with you. Some secrets aren’t worth keeping, especially when they might help and inspire other beginning iOS developers to start their own projects!

In Support of (Micro)Blogging

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Manton Reece’s vision and passion for the future of blogging and of the open web. I’ve backed his Indie Microblogging book on Kickstarter and am really looking forward to his Micro.blog service, which he has described as “a step forward” in the direction of a more de-centralized, open web.

It’s caused me to reflect on what attracts me to Twitter and what aspects of that could be replaced by Micro.blog if a significant portion of the Apple community began using it.

When I open Twitter, my favorite things to see are:

  1. Links to thoughtful blog posts, articles and podcasts
  2. General commentary on any of the above
  3. Dog pictures and photos from the people I follow
  4. Jokes, memes, banter

I’m old enough to remember when people left the commenting feature turned on for their personal blogs. Then, when everyone became fed up with the toxicity of comment sections and the ridiculous abundance of spam, bloggers started inviting readers to contact them on Twitter (which is, arguably, only slightly less toxic). Manton hopes to successfully combat harassment on his platform, and I have faith in his ability to do so.

I can easily see myself using Micro.blog to read the thoughts, ideas and commentary from my friends and people I admire. For pictures? Most of my favorite people are on Instagram. So where does that leave Twitter?

There are a few things that Twitter really excels at, such as:

  1. Live event commentary
  2. Breaking news (even just local stuff like school closures)
  3. Jokes, memes, banter
  4. Having a huge subset of celebrities, athletes, public figures, TV writers, etc. actively using the service

I find Twitter particularly useful for the first three items (I’m not big on celebrity culture), so I’d probably keep it around.

Microblogging isn’t new. One only need look to the thriving Tumblr community to see that short form blogging is a proven concept. On Tumblr, users don’t just create their own posts; they reblog the creations of others, often providing their own commentary in the tags section (seriously, Tumblr tags are usually stream-of-consciousness sentence fragments). By doing this, users curate a selection of content that speaks to who they are and what they like. This is, in a way, similar to the “link post” format that Daring Fireball uses as well as myself and many other bloggers.

Where am I going with this? I can see kids who have grown up posting anonymously on Tumblr and ephemerally on Snapchat moving on to something like Micro.blog when they’re ready to have a public presence on the web and take serious ownership of their writing. 

I imagine Micro.blog as a vehicle for civilized, thoughtful discussion. Whether it turns out to be so is yet to be seen, but my hopes remain high that Manton will indeed rescue us from the centralized, ever-burning dumpster fires that hold captive our ideas. (Long live RSS!)

macOS’s Sticker Problem

Since iOS 10 launched, many have bemoaned the lack of feature parity between Messages on iOS and macOS. While Messages on the Mac did gain some new features such as rich previews, Tapbacks, and the ability to view stickers, it still lacks the ability to use screen and bubble effects and to send stickers.

I’ve been thinking about how Apple could add stickers to Messages on the Mac and honestly, I’m stumped. It’s a much more complicated problem than I initially imagined.

First, there’s user expectations. I don’t know about you, but I would expect that all of the apps in the Messages app drawer on my phone would also be available on my Mac. For plain vanilla sticker packs that use the sticker template in Xcode, that could potentially be an easy transition, as Xcode could simply compile something that would work on macOS.

But what about sticker packs with custom code? Or full-fledged iMessage apps such as turn-based games? Users can’t tell the difference between a bare bones sticker pack and an iMessage app. They wouldn’t understand why some stickers and apps were available and some weren’t. What then? Does Apple require that developers add a Mac target to their iMessage app projects? (Uh…nope.)

And what about the built-in store? Users would need a way to re-download purchases and to purchase new apps and stickers. But what if a user purchases an app or sticker pack that’s bundled with an iOS app? What if that user doesn’t own an iOS device? They’d be paying for something they could only get partial value from.

Maybe Apple could sync users’ currently installed iMessage apps to the Mac and omit the store entirely, requiring users to manage their stickers and apps on their iOS device. However, requiring that users have an iOS device in order to use stickers in Messages seems insane. This solution also fails to address the issue of iMessage apps even running on the Mac in the first place.

The only thing I can think of in the short term (before the great merging of the iOS and macOS SDKs that will probably happen someday), is that when a user opens the Messages app drawer on a Mac, what pops up is essentially an iOS emulator. Is that even possible? I don’t know. It’d be slow as heck probably.

Maybe I’m missing something obvious, but it certainly seems like a tough problem to solve. Fortunately, it’s Apple’s problem to solve, not mine!

Fireworks

New Year’s Fail-o-lutions (Sent with Fireworks)

I’m a big fan of setting small, achievable goals. I’m also one of those people that adds things to my to-do list that I’ve already done just to make myself feel good. Both of those things sound harmless until I remember that they actually stem directly from my monstrous, soul-crushing fear of failure. ☠

Failure’s not so bad though, right? It’s like C.S. Lewis said: “One fails forward to success.” I have a few goals for this year, and I also have a little boy who’s on the cusp of learning to walk. So yeah, I might achieve my goals, or I might spend every waking moment pulling my toddler away from the dogs’ water or kissing bruises on his little head. (Honestly, I’m fine with both of those scenarios.)

With that said, here are some things I might fail beautifully at this year:

Blogging More

I love Twitter, but I also love my blog and I feel like I’ve been neglecting it. Also, Manton Reece’s upcoming Micro.blog service has gotten me all excited about self-hosting my thoughts again (check it out on Kickstarter!). Accomplishing this goal will require me to make a significant lifestyle change: I will no longer be able to be a Twitter timeline completionist. It’s just too time consuming! Thinking about declaring Twitter bankruptcy on a regular basis simultaneously pains me and frees me. I’m looking forward to trying it.

There’s a second part to this goal, and it’s this: I want to “be myself” more on the Internet. It’s not that I haven’t been genuine; it’s just that I’ve been a little withdrawn and I feel like my own blog posts have been lacking “voice.” Hopefully that makes sense!

Making Money

I’m becoming a competent iOS developer and that means it’s time to make some money from this gig. My goal is to make $1000 from the App Store this year. This means I’m going to have to work hard and ship some stuff. I’d love for one of those things to be Corgi Corral, however I’m not actually expecting to make any money from that. I just started working on a new project that’s of local interest, and I’m hoping it’ll help me get started toward my goal.

Reading Some Books

Here are some books I’d like to read this year:

  1. Swift Style by Erica Sadun
  2. Making Sense of Color Management by Craig Hockenberry
  3. Aqua and Bondi by Stephen Hackett
  4. A book on either animations in iOS or UI design

There are also a few non-techie books about parenting that I’d like to read (the kind that inspire you and make you feel better, not the kind that make you feel like the world’s worst parent!).

I’m sure I’ll think of some other things throughout the year, but this list is a good start. I also decided that I’m going to try to earn the New Year’s Apple Watch activity achievement. One day down, six to go! 😅

Year in Review: 2016

As 2016 comes to a close (do I hear a “hallelujah?”), I thought I’d take a look back at what I accomplished this year.

I worked on Corgi Corral

I started off 2016 six months pregnant and working obsessively on my little hobby project. Between January and March, I transformed Corgi Corral from a prototype made out of circles to an actual iOS game with art, basic menus, and sound effects. I also learned a TON about SpriteKit and GameplayKit.

I had a baby!

On March 15, my life changed forever as I welcomed my son Charlie into this world. He’s 9 months old now and blesses me every day with his sweet smile. I spend almost all of my time with him which prevents me from getting much else done, but I know these days are fleeting so I’m trying to soak them in one by one.

Charlie 9 months

I released an app

In early May, I got the itch to learn some new stuff and tackle a coding project. I was annoyed that there was no way to rotate Live Photos in iOS 9, so in the course of a month I put together an app that did just that. LiveRotate only spent a few months on the App Store, (I removed it from sale when iOS 10 was released to the public) but I learned so much in the process of creating it!

I released a sticker pack

After WWDC, I knew I wanted to have an app on the iMessage App Store. Several people suggested I make a corgi sticker pack, so I spent several weeks turning doodles into vectors for Sploot the Corgi. Despite appearing high on the list in searches for “corgi,” Sploot hasn’t sold as well as I’d hoped. On the other hand, I was able to buy a pair of AirPods with the proceeds which is pretty awesome!

Overall, it was a good year for me. In particular, my confidence as an iOS developer increased to a point where I at least feel capable of learning whatever I need to know in order to tackle whatever problem I want to solve. That’s huge for me! Just two years ago I felt way too dumb and inexperienced to ever be a successful developer.

I have several big ideas and goals for 2017, but I’ll save those for a separate post. I hope you all enjoy ringing in the new year!

13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar with real world dust

A Review of the 2016 13″ MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

Intro

This isn’t going to be your typical MacBook review because there are plenty of those out there and most of them are very good. This review is for people who don’t give two craps how this year’s model compares to last year’s model and instead want to know how this year’s model compares to their crusty old ThickBook Pro from five years ago because that’s the one they’re upgrading from. Cool? Cool.

Without further ado, here’s how the 13″ MacBook Pro with Touch Bar fares against the mighty 15″ MacBook Pro (Early 2011).

Size and Ports

Old and new laptops in a stack on my Christmas tablecloth

I thought my old 15″ MacBook Pro was a laptop. I was wrong. Not only did it frequently burn my lap from running too hot, it was also heavy and annoying to lug anywhere. In contrast, my new MacBook Pro stays cool and feels light as a feather.

The early 2011 15″ MacBook Pro weighed 5.6 pounds. The new 15″ models are only 4 pounds, and the 13″ inch model is actually weightless. Just kidding. But at only 3.02 pounds, it kinda feels like it! I can carry my 9-month-old son Charlie with one hand and my laptop with the other, so it doesn’t get much more portable than that.

My old laptop had a lot of ports, some of which are mysterious to me (a Kensington lock slot? Really?!). My new one has four: Thunderbolt 3, Thunderbolt 3, Thunderbolt 3 and Thunderbolt 3. Oh, and a headphone jack that’s inexplicably on the opposite side of all previous MacBooks.

Side view of MacBook ports

So yeah, you’re gonna lose your CD drive, SD card slot, Ethernet port, flimsy old USB 2.0 ports and good ol’ FireWire 800. In exchange, you’re getting four ports that are approximately one zillion times faster at data transfer than what you had. I’d call that a win.

Sure, the loss of MagSafe is a bummer, but being able to plug in the power cable on either side of the computer is really, really convenient.

And honestly, I’m not upset about the adapter situation because the ports on this old MacBook are mostly obsolete, and because I really only need an SD card adapter, and a USB-A adapter for my Time Machine backup.

Display

The 2011 Pro models were the last to have non-Retina displays. If by chance you’ve never seen a Retina display in person yet: it alone is worth upgrading your computer. It’s like taking Claritin, or getting glasses for the first time. Everything is so crisp and clear that you’ll never be able to go back to blurland.

Note, however, that in order to enjoy the full Retina experience on the 2016 MacBooks, you’ll need to change the display’s default scaling.

In addition to being ultra clear, the display is also significantly brighter than the MacBooks of yore and can display many more colors (in technical terms: it has a wider color gamut). It really is beautiful!

Right below the display you’ll see the familiar “MacBook Pro” label in silver lettering except now it’s in the new system font, San Francisco, which looks much nicer in my opinion.

The Touch Bar

I never learned the keyboard shortcut for comparing an edited photo to its original version in Photos. I still don’t know what it is, and probably never will because there’s a button for that on the Touch Bar now.

I like the Touch Bar. I think it’s fun, and I enjoy customizing it in any app that will let me. Like adding stickers to the outside of a laptop or changing its desktop picture, choosing which functions to add to the Touch Bar makes my MacBook feel more personal to me.

I personally know several people who struggle to use computers but who always buy MacBook Pros because they understand that they’re the nicest in the line-up. These users rarely look through an application’s menus, and if they do, they’re afraid to try stuff. I think the Touch Bar helps surface some useful things for both professionals and people who aren’t particularly “good with computers.”

Keyboard and Trackpad

Once you get used to it, the keyboard on this thing will make your old MacBook Pro’s keyboard feel mushy.

The new keyboard is low and tight and snappy. That’s the only way I know to describe it. It feels really good to me, and I don’t like going back to the old one.

Some reviewers have noted (both positively and negatively) that the new keyboard seems louder. That’s true, but you can also type quietly on it. My baby wakes up if he hears a fly buzzing across the room and I was able to type sitting next to his bed without waking him…so there’s that.

The trackpad is roughly as wide as my iPhone 6s is tall (in its case!) which is to say it’s fairly ginormous. Unlike your old MacBook’s trackpad with a physical button at the bottom, you can press down anywhere on this thing. I opened my 15″ Pro the other day to find a file and was super frustrated that I couldn’t press down anywhere…and I’m normally a tap-to-click person! In other words, this trackpad is rad and I love it.

Speed

Despite moving from quad-core to dual-core, this computer can run circles around my old one. It used to take 20 minutes to copy Xcode into my Applications folder on the 2011 MacBook Pro with a 500GB spinning platter hard drive. My new 13″ Pro with Touch Bar has a 1TB SSD and I don’t even remember seeing a loading indicator when I moved Xcode. It’s fast. Everything is fast. Launching applications, compiling code, performing Spotlight and Mail searches, saving and moving files…it’s all fast.

I ran Geekbench 4 on both machines and here were the results (click or tap to enlarge):

I also ran Blackmagic Disk Speed Test, which is where you can really see a massive difference:

I had upgraded my 15″ Pro from 4GB to 8GB of RAM which is something you can’t really do on these new machines. They’re locked down tight, with an abysmal 1/10 repairability score on iFixit. Still, my new MacBook has 16GB of RAM. Even with Xcode, Simulator, Photoshop, Affinity Designer, Safari, Photos and iTunes open, I still haven’t come close to running out of memory.

Conclusion

If, like me, you’ve been waiting for a very long time to upgrade your MacBook Pro, the new models with Touch Bar are an incredibly vast improvement. And if you also enjoy being an early adopter like I do, you’re going to love playing around with the Touch Bar. I see no compelling reason to hold out for the next iteration of these machines. It’s unlikely that Apple will bring back any legacy ports, and besides the usual speed bump and the possibility of an e-ink keyboard, I’m not sure what else might change (other than the price, which will hopefully drop a bit). In other words, if you’re holding on to a four- to six-year-old machine, now’s the time to open your wallet and get yourself a great new laptop!

A Clean Slate

Last Thursday my shiny new Space Gray MacBook Pro finally arrived at my doorstep and so far, I absolutely love it. This post isn’t about that, though. It’s about setting up a clean install on my Mac for the second time ever.

That’s right, I’ve been transferring files from Mac to Mac ever since I got my first iBook in 2002 or 2003 (can’t remember). As proof, here’s a couple pages from one of the welcome guide PDFs that came with that computer:

Where’s Wi-Fi?

Since that’s the way I’ve always rolled, the first thing I did when I opened my new MacBook Pro was connect my Time Machine backup via an Anker USB hub. The restore went surprisingly quickly, and I set about double-checking that everything was in order.

It was, except for one thing: most apps couldn’t establish a network connection. Dropbox wouldn’t connect and Safari Technology Preview wouldn’t load any websites. I spent several moments in despair, thinking I’d received a defective unit and would have to send it back after waiting for so long. Then I tried switching to regular old Safari and
everything worked fine. For some reason, Safari was the only program that was able to access the Internet. I still don’t know what the problem was, but evidently something went awry during the restore. [Update: Rob Poulter suggested that my recent installation of Little Snitch might have something to do with it, and I think he’s probably right.]

So, I wiped my new Mac clean again, re-installed Sierra and set up a new user for the first time in 13-ish years.

That Fresh App Smell

The first thing I did was install my must-have apps and utilities: Dropbox, Homebrew, Xcode, Pages, f.lux, Tweetbot, Textastic, Cyberduck, and Affinity Designer, to name a few. I installed Caffeine only to realize for the first time that it hasn’t been updated in several years and doesn’t even have a Retina-ready menu bar icon. I searched for alternatives and found Amphetamine (Mac App Store link), which is great and gives you a selection of menu bar icons to choose from (I chose the coffee carafe).

Finally it came time to download Photoshop CS6. The download took over an hour on my sad rural internet connection and when I finally ran the installer, it quit with an error every time. So, I got to test out a feature I never thought I’d use: Remote Disc. I found my Photoshop install CD, popped it in my old MacBook, and voila! I was able to install the software. I guess I should have tried that approach first!

Photos Woes

The next thing I wanted to do was move my Photos and Music libraries over. I dug into my last Time Machine backup and transferred the 90GB Photos library file to my new Mac. However, when I opened Photos, things got
weird. Only a few thumbnails appeared, and Photos refused to let me switch on iCloud Photo Library without purchasing more space, because it was planning to re-upload everything. I went ahead and upgraded to the next storage tier hoping that Photos would check with the server, realize it didn’t need to re-upload everything, and calm the heck down. I was wrong.

So, I closed the program, trashed the library, and started over. This time I switched on iCloud Photo Library to begin with. All of my thumbnails appeared, and Photos started downloading all 11,000 photos and 200+ videos from the cloud. Although not ideal, this was the better option for me because my download speed can top out at 10Mbps while my upload speed is only 0.73Mbps. As of right now, 6 days later, there are ~2,500 left to download.

Still, I can’t believe Photos forces users to either re-upload everything or re-download everything if they use iCloud Photo Library. (Wait, yes I can. ?) I’ve read that iCloud is supposed to check for duplicates server-side, but I’m skeptical because it definitely seemed like it was trying to upload files.

The Little Things

I never thought that performing a clean install would make much difference to me. However, here’s a short list of things that are so much better now (note: I could have cleaned all of this up on my old machine; I just hadn’t realized how cluttered everything had gotten):

  • FONTS. Oh my gosh, I had so many freaking fonts installed that I never use and the font menu in all of my apps was so horrible and unmanageable. A clean install fixed that!
  • System Preferences panes. I had icons in System Prefs for devices that I never use anymore, like a 10+ year old Wacom tablet that I’m pretty sure doesn’t even work.
  • Printer drivers and utilities. Back in high school, I’d install whatever drivers and printing/scanning utilities came with my printer. And I went through quite a few printers. Starting fresh helped get rid of whatever unnecessary software remained.

So yeah. If, like me, you’ve never set up a clean user account on a new Mac: I highly recommend it!