Got a new MacBook Pro!

Yesterday was Apples WWDC and while normally it’s software focused, yesterday they announced a bunch of hardware updates.  One of those updates was to the MacBook Pro which received the Kaby Lake processors.  Out of everything yesterday this is the only news I really cared about since it triggered my “buy” order on the Apple Store.

My other MacBook is pretty much dead right now, I’ve tried getting it to boot but to no avail.  I’m saving the SSD from it as an external drive or something that I can take with me to transfer pictures and other things.  Similar to my now dead Macbook, I just had to modify the configuration.  I opted for the 13″ screen instead of the 15″ screen since the 15″ was too heavy to carry around.  I also maxed out the RAM and the SSD to 16GB and 1TB respectively.  I left the processor alone at the 2.9Ghz i5.  The older MacBook I spiced up the processor so it was an i7 quad core but I don’t need that sort of thing.  It needs to do iMovie more and more since I take more video which is why the RAM and SSD are important.  I also have tons of things that take up space like pictures and video.  While I do offload that stuff to the cloud it’s part of my crazy backup strategy so I never lose a photo.

The unfortunate part is that I won’t get the MacBook until next week.  It takes 3-5 business days just to get out the door let alone ship it to my home.  I can survive a little longer with my daughters computer but I will say it was painful doing Azure on Chrome.  This one will hopefully last at least 5 years like my last MacBook Pro.  Although if it could last as long as my desktop that would be amazing since it’s 9 years old running Windows 10.  With the extra power, maybe I’ll update to Final Cut Pro for video edits.  The templates in iMovie are few and far between and the stuff from GoPro is good but the editing interface sucks.

The great thing with the MacBook Pro is that there will be minimal configuration needed.  Just a few apps here and there and that’s it!  I’m going to find a way to import my iTunes playlists and music from the NAS and keep that crap off the laptop so it’s not cluttering my drive. I had problems with it on my desktop but then again it’s running Windows.  Worse comes to worse, I have a time machine backup to make it a quick restore.


Can I get a thin and light laptop with ports please?

2016 MacBook with USB-C

The new trend of thin and light isn’t new but the killing of ports in the name of thin and light computers is just getting silly.  I watched a YouTube video last night where they were showing off the latest Surface Laptop and the one thing almost none of the videos I saw addressed except one was ports.  The new Surface Laptop comes with a single USB 3 port, no USB C (not that I have any device that uses it) and some external display port that I have no use for. That’s it!  The Dell XPS 13 and any MacBook save the Air likewise has almost no ports for me to use.  This is part of some grand push into the wireless world where all your shit is in a cloud that you pay for on a monthly basis.  I admit that I have stuff in the cloud but my subscriptions are all free.  I don’t put a lot on the cloud because I don’t have documents, I have pictures and lots of external hard drives and I have a need to attach multiple drives to my computer for file transfers.  Having no ports to use sucks and buying a dongle or something is not appealing when older computers had plenty of ports so you just needed a cable.

Here’s my example, I have lots of iOS devices and they all are 128GB models.  iTunes in its infinite wisdom likes to save backups to the local hard drive and hard drive space these days is scarce.  A 256GB SSD will get full after doing a backup of only 3 devices with no room to spare.  I know “what about backing up to iCloud??” Umm I have 7000 music tracks, 2000 photos, and about 200 apps on my iPhone and iCloud doesn’t restore all that in the event of a crash.  It only really saves your apps and setting but not everything else.  Also I’m not paying for storage monthly just for iPhone backups, that’s just silly.  After doing some research I was able to enable NTFS read/write on my MacBook Pro and also moved my iPhone and iPad backups to a 2TB external drive.  So what does that mean?  I need 2 USB ports to sync and backup a single iPhone or iPad to keep my computer SSD clutter free.  Most companies have also removed the SD Card reader to a large extent, hello morons in industrial design a ton of us use action cams, DSLR’s and regular old point and shoots that use SD cards, what insanity would compel you to remove that port?  I think this is the argument that a lot of “Pro” users currently have about hardware makers not making the computers they need.  I’m not really a pro user, I just have a lot of shit to connect to my computer and I so happen want my computer to be portable.

2011 MacBook Pro with USB 2.0

When I first saw the Surface Laptop I thought “cool a windows device worth owning that would fit my needs!” But then I went “ahh crap another laptop with no ports”.  That means my current predicament hasn’t really changed since I know a new computer will probably be purchased this year when my MacBook Pro finally dies.  My choices aren’t great, maybe there will be a MacBook Pro refresh that will compel me to get one or someone out there will figure out “hey ports are still necessary and dongles are crap let’s not make out users buy those things.”

My computer upgrade cycle so far is something fairly new every 5 years, I’m at about the 6 year mark but there isn’t anything that I want to spend money on. If the MacBook Pro logic board was cheap (under $200) I’d just fix the MacBook Pro, I don’t need any of the newer capabilities like Air Drop or the next MacOS.  My real requirement is ports, or that someone at Apple let us install iTunes on a NAS/Server so we can sync and backup to a central location somewhere other than our laptops.  Only then would I accept a computer with only a single port, maybe just for charging.

My MacBook Pro Lives?

Last week my MacBook Pro was experiencing some issues booting up and I did everything that I could find on the web short of restoring the computer from a backup.  I even had two different conversations with Apple Support to see if they would repair it but since it’s vintage they don’t repair it or even make parts since it was manufactured in early 2011.  I was able to get some last minute backups of my MacBook just in cas I bought a replacement MacBook so I could restore my settings, programs, and some of my data. Just in case I also started moving data to my NAS so I’m the event of a total failure my data was safe.

I went away to Disney this weekend with the family to do some races and left my MacBook Pro here at home unplugged and powered off.  I fully expected it not to boot on Sunday but to my surprise it booted right up like normal.  I tested the functions just to be sure and did a quick reboot to see if it would crash.  To my surprise again the MacBook booted up just fine again.  I took the opportunity to see if I could do some more file clean up and data transfer to the NAS.

It’s now Monday and the MacBook Pro is still humming along just fine.  I’ve started to use it like I used to but I’m not adding data to it that I need to preserve.  The thing could just crash and I intend to be ready if it does.  I think I’ve decided on at replacement, I’m going back to Windows and potentially getting a surface pro but only if the computer is totally dead.  I can then try and use the MacBook Pro SSD I installed and stick it in my desktop.  That should give it a nice little speed boost.

Due to it’s now vintage status, I won’t be getting anymore OS updates (maybe critical fixes???) but it’s not like my MacBook could take advantage of cool things like the new night shift mode, air drop, or other things like that.  On to reviewing more stuff about Azure! So not exited…..

Struggling with my MacBook Pro

I spent a good amount of the afternoon struggling with my MacBook Pro because for some reason it wouldn’t boot up.  During the boot sequence I kept on getting green lines going horizontally across the screen and it would never finish its boot sequence, the computer would just stay at a blank white screen and proceed no further.  I spent almost 2 hours trying to get this thing diagnosed and fixed.

Things I tried:

  • Resetting NVRAM
  • Resetting the SMC (normally done when you put in a new battery)
  • Getting into recovery mode (every which way mentioned by Apple)
  • Getting a call back from Apple phone support and trying the above resolutions

I did eventually get into the computer and I started a backup of my MacBook using Time Machine but then I tried to backup and sync my iPhone and that crashed the computer immediately and I struggled another hour or so just trying to get into the OS again!  I did manage to get into the diagnostic tools twice but the only error it could come up with was that there was a problem with my battery and I knew that wasn’t true because I had just replaced the battery not even 2 years ago with a fresh one.  After getting into the OS again, I ran a backup with Time Machine and this time I just let it run all the way until it finished without touching the computer except to check up on progress.  After that was complete I ran a disk utility diagnostic (you can only do it if you’re in the OS or can somehow get into recovery mode) and it found some inconsistency errors on my hard drive.

Using the disk utility and an article from Apple, I ran the fix utility but it didn’t fix it at first since I was logged into the OS.  WTF!!  I was afraid of trying to do a reboot because it had taken so long to get to this point.  But no matter what I did the utility said I needed to be in recovery mode and run the disk utility from there.  I held my breath and rebooted the system and somehow I got into recovery mode.  The screen looked all messed up with lines going vertically up and down and my mouse cursor wasn’t even visible, it was just this really thin line and I had to guess at what buttons I was pushing some of the time.  The screen also looked like it duplicated itself on the left 1/3 so that was weird too.  Surprisingly the utility still was able to run and it fixed my problem!  I did a reboot and all seems well for now but I’m taking more Time Machine backups for sure.  I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to use the computer again that I was researching what computer I was going to replace it with.

I had written a post a few months ago that picking a new computer was going to be hard since I had a lot of legacy things to plug into it.  I narrowed it down to a MacBook Air, a Dell XPS 13, or the Microsoft Surface Pro 4.  I eliminated the MacBook and MacBook Pro because I don’t want to use dongles for my crap and the cost of the machine just didn’t seem worth it if I had to buy more junk just to plug in my junk.  The MacBook Air was my “compromise” machine, it wasn’t as powerful as my current MacBook Pro but it had all the ports and stuff that I needed but it wouldn’t have the retina display and I craved something nice to look at.  I eliminated it after looking at the cost of it against a Windows machine.  There are apps like DayOne and Noteability that I like to use on the Mac but its not deal breakers for me to use them.  There is Photos and Messages that I would miss, but again I have an iPhone and an iPad to manage that stuff.  Downloading photos I’m not even worried about anymore with Google Photos and my NAS.  I eliminated the XPS 13 mainly because I have had bad experiences with Dell over the last 20 or so years going back to when I was in college.  While all the online reviews have been stellar, dude it was a Dell!

That leads me to the Surface Pro 4.  Granted it was about a year old already and there was a new Surface Pro 5 coming out soon but I needed a new computer (well I thought I did but now my Mac works again) and it had the ports that I wanted.  It also had a pen which was something that I’ve been wanting so I can draw shit on the screen.  The only barrier was cost.  The thing costs as much as a MacBook Pro when you load it to the gills (I like having 1TB of space on my drive, mainly its all pictures and music but I have a NAS to take care of that now at home) so the requirement wasn’t really there.  I could get away with a 512GB SSD but then I remembered there is micro SD slot under the hinge!  I poked around on Amazon and there are 256GB micro SD cards!  Instant expand-ability and I can get multiple cards so I can switch it out based on what I wanted to save on the Surface Pro!  There was also a deal on the Sufrace Pro, it would come with the docker accessory for free!  That adds even more ports and I could hook up a monitor to it too if I wanted.  Alas my computer is working now but I think I know what I’m going to get to replace the desktop computer or the MacBook Pro.  It’s definitely going to be a Windows 10 machine unless Apple comes out with something compelling and that doesn’t require me to get a fuck load of dongles and new cables!

OK quick rant about Apple’s new direction.  If you’re going to make a computer and other crap, make it all compatible!  I mean I think its cool that your new MacBooks have the newest and latest tech but your iPhones, iPads, and event he new AirPods have no way to connect to the damn thing because they use older USB 2.0 and 3.0 technology and connectors!  I hook up my iPhone and iPad to my MacBook Pro as a charger when I’m home because it charges really freaking fast.  Not to mention trying to sync your iPhone over the air when you have configured a USB drive as the backup target for the iPhone is SLOW!  iTunes sucks so hard in the syncing department, I prefer to sync using a cable since the data transfer is faster.  They need to design iTunes to run from a NAS or something, their cloud design is garbage and I’m not putting all my music in the cloud given that net neutrality is about to make data caps and throttling real.  OK quick rant over!

I’ll be watching my MacBook over the next few days and hooking up the Time Machine drive to it more frequently.  There aren’t any good tools out there to transfer data from a Mac to a Windows machine (I found plenty of articles that pretty much say, go to Finder, copy your files to an external hard drive, and re-copy them to Windows….. fucking genius, why didn’t I think of that???)  If my desktop also decides to breath its last, the only personal computer at home is my daughters under powered and frustrating as shit to update HP Stream (I happen to be writing this blog post from it and I even updated it to the latest Creator Update).  Maybe I can get permission to get the Surface Pro 5….. oooo that would be awesome!

What computer to get?

Microsoft and Apple have completed their unveils of their new laptops and I am a little torn on what I would get if I needed a computer right now.  I don’t need a computer right now, I’m perfectly happy with my MacBook Pro ever since I put in the SSD but I’ve been considering what to get next in the event I need to replace one of my computers at home.  
I like the idea of the Surface Pro a lot since it has a pen (I want to start trying to write stuff again and the pen is pretty cool when you use it with OneNote), its portable, and it has some of the older ports that I need like USB.  The Microsoft stuff is very expensive though and it doesn’t come with the keyboard, you actually have to buy it as an accessory.  That just boosts the price of the device.  I’ve messed with it in the store a few times and I have to say that I like how it looks and feels and Windows 10 is definitely a great OS.  A problem I have noticed is that some of the apps that I use on my iPhone and iPad are not in the Microsoft Windows store (things like DayOne and Notability) which I use pretty frequently and its nice to be able to see the content I created in those apps on my MacBook when I get home.  The real gravitation for me though is the ability to touch the screen and use the pen.  I think I’ll see what Surface Pro 5 looks like and how that compares.  The downside is that it is Windows and I’m kind of sick of configuring stuff but Windows is headed in the right direction in just making it work.

On the other end of the spectrum is the new MacBook Pro’s that came out.  Nothing really revolutionary here, its a MacBook that’s just way faster than my current one but it uses USB-C (Tunderbolt 3) for everything so adapters will be needed everywhere for me to hook up my stuff.  I use a lot of USB devices like external drives and for syncing my ipads and iphones so having to carry an extra adapter around is kind of annoying (I know first world problems!).  I can see how Apple is trying to go all in with doing things in the cloud by reducing the amount and types of ports, promoting iCloud as something like DropBox or Google Drive, and making it really really thin.  I also kind of worry about upgradability and keeping the computer past the 5 year mark.  My MacBook Pro is already 5 years old and I’m expecting to not be able to get past MacOS Sierra as the OS.  My HP Desktop is 9 years old and its gone through Widows XP all the way through Windows 10 Anniversary edition and I can keep on going most likely until the hard drive dies or something.

This still doesn’t get me any closer to what I should get.  Although the use case that I am trying to solve is bringing the computer with me even on the road for work.  The job is starting to get more restrictive on what I can access when I’m off the clock (they’re starting to restrict cloud storage sites) and as the consumer market moves to online storage that’s going to be a problem for me since I do have a lot of things in the cloud right now to free up space at home or to be able to access it on the go without having to download it or keep multiple copies locally.  I could also just try and use my iPad for those use cases but sometimes its just better to use a computer for some of the tasks that I’m trying to accomplish.  There’s something to be said for multi tasking (iOS tries but I can’t really get into it like I can with a desktop OS) and I do switch widows a lot and do many things at once when I am on a desktop OS.  Like right now I’m writing up this blog post and its mainly the only thing I’m concentrating on, normally I’d have Netflix or something in the background or surfing some news site at the same time with the ability to see both at the same time.

I’m trying to do the split screen thing right now and it just doesn’t feel as natural as using a desktop OS which is why I don’t think I’ll be ditching the computer in the short term.  I do need something more portable and lighter.  I considered getting the MacBook but its less powerful than an iPad Pro, I mean come on why would I want to use that if an iPad can kick its ass?  I don’t have a lot of processing needs but when I do I want something faster than a tablet.

I think I’ll wait until one of my computers breaks, then I’ll consider what I should get.  In the mean time, I’ll just stare and drool at the new tech but save my dollars for something that I really want (not NEED but WANT).  

Upgrading to macOS Sierra

macOS Sierra is upon us and I decided to upgrade my 2011 MacBook Pro to the new operating system.  My computer is pretty old by most accounts.  I can’t take advantage of cool things such as AirDrop (they introduced that as a major feature in 2012) but my Mac is still getting the job done especially after doing the SSD upgrade.

I originally bought my Mac with OSX Snow Leopard but quickly went to Lion.  After that was Mountain Lion, Mavericks, Yosemite, El Capitan, and now Sierra.  My Mac has been upgraded a lot at least from an OS perspective, and the iterations have been pretty decent overall.  The biggest change that I see with this version of macOS is the inclusion of Siri.  I’ve tried Siri for a couple of things but not extensively, I originally had some issues with using Siri because my VPN was getting in the way, but an upgrade to the VPN client fixed that issue and everything seems to be running smoothly again.

There was this little bit of annoyance when I first installed the new OS, the fan on my Mac would run constantly and I couldn’t understand why.  I did some searching on the internet and I did an SMC reset and that might have fixed the problem.  I also looked at the Activity Monitor and found that the Photo’s app was doing a lot of work in the background, I think its because it was trying to find faces, create memories, and generally upgrade the library with all the new features that came with the OS.

After about a day of letting it run, all seems well.  At some point I think I won’t be able to upgrade my Mac anymore with a new OS but I’m hoping that will be a few more years off.  I don’t really need another computer, I don’t use my computer for much anymore except surfing the web but I still need lots of storage and ports for things like my iPhones, iPads, and GoPro.  I’ll do more searching around and see what other things macOS Sierra has to offer beyond the basics.

Re-Installing Windows Still SUCKS

I managed to royally screw up my daughter’s computer when I was trying to delete the recovery partition because I wanted the latest and greatest Windows 10 updates.  The screw up was so bad that I am actually re-installing Windows 10 right now.  I haven’t done this in a long time and it brings back horrifying memories of when I had to do this over and over again with older version of Windows when I always ran into trouble through installing questionable software to get something done.

Right now it’s going through the motions and I’m just waiting for the thing to finish so I can start configuring it.  There wasn’t any software on the  computer (mainly because there isn’t any room to install any) so I’m not too worried about that and there is also no data on it either.  I just have to reinstall some stuff like Chrome and setup the bookmarks again and everything should be all set.  This experience makes me want to ditch the idea of getting another Windows computer and just getting a MacBook Pro or even just the regular old MacBook when the time to upgrade comes around.

I think in all the time I’ve had the MacBook Pro, I’ve messed it up once so bad that I had to reinstall the OS and even then I was able to use my TimeMachine backup to restore all my files and settings.  I think Apple does a better job of creating backups and restores than Microsoft and that’s one of the main selling points for getting another Mac.  I do still need a desktop level OS to do some things but I am trying to see how well I can survive with just my iPad Air 2 but I just keep on going back to my computers.  I think I’ll skip a tablet for my next major computing purchase and go for a regular computer.  Since I maintain my computers so well, it’s going to be a while before one of them dies (my desktop is currently 9 years old and running Windows 10 and my MacBook Pro is 5 years old and was just upgraded with an SSD).

Woohoo the OS is starting to install, maybe it will require my input soon……