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!

The Mac for Me

Last November, I published my wishlist for the 2016 MacBook Pro. Here’s what I wanted:

  1. Lighter. According to Apple, the average weight of the current 15″ MacBook Pro is about 4.49 pounds. Given the company’s unwavering commitment to shrinking things, I think I can reasonably expect that number to drop a bit for next year’s models. Check.
  2. Touch ID. Because why not? Check.
  3. Individually backlit keys. (Check.) I don’t really want to see any changes to the key travel, but those backlit keys on the new MacBook are rad.
  4. Wider color gamut, like the new iMacs. I don’t know if this is technically possible because I have zero knowledge about display technology. However, since MacBook Pros are generally geared toward creative professionals, this would be a change that makes sense. Check.
  5. Different finishes. Gold. Space Gray. Black. White. I don’t really care, as long as it’s not just stupid boring silver. Ugh. Check.
  6. USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports. Because if I’m going to be using this laptop for another 5 years, it needs to have the Port of the Future. Or whatever. Super check.

Looks like I’m six for six! (except the key travel did change, but ehhh I’ll get used to it.) Also, one of my “dream big” requests was for a bigger trackpad with Pencil support, so I guess you could even say I got six and a half of my wishes.

I’m really, truly sorry if this MacBook Pro isn’t for you, and I hope Apple will renew its commitment to the rest of the Mac lineup ASAP.

That said, this is absolutely the Macintosh for me.

On iPhone 7/MacBook Pro Compatibility 

I’ve been thinking about how neither the iPhone 7 nor its accompanying headphones can connect to the new MacBook Pro without an adapter. My conclusions are as follows:

  1. Apple wants you to use iCloud and to buy iCloud storage. I’ll come back to this in a moment.

  2. Apple doesn’t really intend for Lightning headphones to be a thing. They included Lightning EarPods in the iPhone 7 box as well as an adapter in order to appease consumers. They assume you either 1) already have some 3.5mm headphones you like or 2) will embrace wireless headphones. So why put a Lightning port in the new MacBooks?

  3. Apple doesn’t want you to charge your devices by connecting them to your computer. I think the 12″ MacBook introduced that idea. Apple wants everyone to charge their stuff via power outlet, probably overnight. I realize the batteries probably don’t last long enough for that to be practical for most people, but there it is.

  4. Apple doesn’t want you to backup your devices using your computer either. They want you to buy iCloud storage, as stated above, and use iCloud backups.

That leaves developers as the only ones who would need to connect their iPhones to their MacBooks, and Apple has no problem selling an extra $25 cord to developers.

So really, putting a Lightning port in the new MacBook Pro makes absolutely no sense, and neither does including a Lightning to Thunderbolt 3 cable.

Viva la (r)evolución

Much to laptop-lovers’ delight, Apple announced three new MacBook Pros yesterday: a 13″ model with a traditional row of function keys and two models, 13″ and 15″, with a “revolutionary Touch Bar.” Now, I don’t have the patience to scrub through the video of the event to see if Phil actually called it revolutionary. And actually, it doesn’t matter because the word is all over their marketing copy.

Apple ad for new MacBook Pro on Facebook

An ad on Facebook for Apple’s new MacBook Pro models.

I agree that the Touch Bar is revolutionary. It’s a dramatic change to what we’re used to. As many have noted, however, the new Touch Bar is also evolutionary: one more change in a long series of tweaks that Apple’s made to the lower half of the clamshell over the past several years. Jony Ive himself told CNET that this was “the beginning of a very interesting direction.”

As I sat mulling over which model and configuration I wanted to buy, I felt slightly uneasy knowing that the Touch Bar was only the first step towards some grand, yet-to-be-realized Jony Ivian vision. How long would I have to wait for him to complete his masterpiece? One year? Two? How about five? The answer, of course, is that it will never be complete. Technology evolves too quickly for anything to remain extremely cool and intensely desirable for more than a year. Design sensibilities fluctuate, new materials are synthesized, and new interaction models are imagined at an incredible rate. In the end, what’s important is that I have a good, functional, reliable tool for doing what I need to do right now.

So, I’ve decided to just embrace the evolution. I will have to buy a hub, as I am a frequent user of the SD card slot and regular USB ports. I’m looking forward to using the new Touch Bar and seeing what developers do with it.

I’ve also decided to move down to a 13″ display. In doing so, I’m going from a computer that weighs 5.6lbs to one that weighs 3lbs, which should feel amazing (and also fit comfortably in my giant diaper bag if necessary!).

“But won’t it suck to have less screen real estate?” my mind asks as I type this entire blog post on my 4.7″ phone display. Sure, Xcode will be a little cramped, but I’ll just have to learn to actually hide various panes when I’m not using them. Full screen will be my friend. And if I decide to get a 5K monitor someday, my little 13″ buddy can handle it.

I saw a lot of snark and negativity on Twitter yesterday, some of which was probably warranted. Regardless, I would encourage Apple lovers to try to separate your desire to see Apple be its best self (and be the perfect, pure source of your futuristic dream devices) from your actual, realistic day-to-day technology needs. If what Apple offers meets your current needs, be glad, and by all means continue to encourage Apple to excel still more. If it doesn’t, then maybe sit back and carefully (prayerfully?) consider switching to something else.

Life is way too short to be grumpy about tech all the time. Embrace the evolution!

Fall Corgi Sticker Pack Update

Sploot the Corgi Fall Promo art

Yesterday Apple approved an update to my Sploot the Corgi sticker pack that includes 5 fun new autumn-themed stickers!

New fall stickers!

Nearly all the stickers in Sploot the Corgi started out with hand-drawn doodles like this:

I then took pictures of my drawings and traced them with the pen tool using Affinity Designer.

I’m planning to add more new stickers (both winter-themed and general-purpose) in the coming months. I’m also considering increasing the price to $1.99 when I hit a certain number of stickers, so grab it early!