Be a Geek Again

Touch Me

While not entirely unexpected, my social feeds lit up this week like a Christmas tree with anger around Apple’s new Macbook Pro and how non-pro a “pro” laptop felt, and how folks felt betrayed by Apple. People have interesting expectations: what exactly did you expect Apple to launch?

I’ll say it (and im sure there’ll be the often “apple-lover” comments”) — but I’m not sure if I entirely agree here. Marcus Fehn summed it up:

The 13″ with TB looks like a perfect blend of Air & MBP retina. For a laptop connected to a monitor most of the time — pro enough for me.

The move to having four identical Thunderbolt 3 ports, 2 on each side, is a perfectly good evolution of the cable madness that we have been dealing with for years. While I wish the headphone jack was removed completely, or just a lightening connector, I get why on some level why Apple decided to keep it.

Sure — people are complaining about dongles, dongles, dongles. But as someone who has been on a single-port MacBook 12″ since 2015, this has never been a real problem for me. I have a single plug that goes into my laptop at the desk, and im connected to everything else I need: power, monitor, webcam, extra USB ports for whatever, etc. Simple.

On the road — 2 cables: power, and a USB-C to lightening/micro-usb that allows me to plug into everything mobile. Occasionally I used an HDMI adapter, but I have been moving over to wireless for presenting content.

The only thing that Apple really missed — was not introducing a new “Magic Keyboard” with the Touch Bar integrated into it. My main usage of the MacBook is with the lid-closed and a giant monitor, magic keyboard and magic mouse.

The lack of a keyboard at with Touch Bar omission now has me wondering if my new configuration at the desk will morph into just the MBP 13″ on some laptop stand (such as the ParcSlope) instead of a giant 27″ screen. Unknown at this time.

To the Future

In the end, Ben Brooks nails it:

But the truth of the matter is that it’s a laptop, and as much as you disagree, a laptop is not the future of computing, it’s the ancient hold over.

Over the last 6 months, computing has changed drastically for me.

My laptop, never leaves the desk. Sure, I use it now and again to create a presentation or if I need to code something up, but at the office, when I travel, when I read at night, when I’m sitting on the couch reading, it’s all iPad Pro and iPhone.

But this isn’t the only transformation I’ve been experiencing — I’ve been using Siri and Alexa more and more around the house. I talk to machines.

The way we interact with computers is fundamentally changing.

We are only at the beginning of the next evolution of computer interaction — voice, vision, AI, mobility. There’s something insanely awesome of just saying “Alexa, add spinach to the shopping list” when I’m in the kitchen, or “Alexa, turn off the front door lights” from the bedroom, or “Siri, what’s the score of the Seahawks game?”. Just think about that for a moment (goal-post jokes aside).

I’m excited for this future. We are only in the first inning here. And this has always been at the core of what is fun about being a geek.

It’s about pushing the impossible and moving forward, not bitching about a dongle.

That Damn Headphone Dongle

There’s been a lot of controversy (or dare I say anger?) since the announcement of the iPhone 7 and 7Plus regarding the removal of the headphone jack. While I never really considered it a big deal, I was curious to see what my experience would be when traveling with it.

The Apple-supplied EarPods never really quite fit my ears properly, so I wasn’t really keen on trying out the new lightening-equipped ones. And, thru many years of trying a large variety of earbuds, I really have come to love the way the Bose QC20‘s with “StayHear” tips sit in my ear; not to mention the overall quality of the sound.

Yesterday, I “dongled” for the first time

And you know what, everything was just fine. And, just for kicks, I used the dongle on the iPad Pro too. That worked swell.

Sure — i’ll go ahead and probably get one of the new W1-powered headsets to play around with it — I’m generally interested in seeing where the technology goes beyond just sound. The W1 is a computer in your ear, and I have a feeling this is going to be another step from Apple in the evolution of computing.

But for now, the dongle didn’t ruin my day.


“The future is all around us, waiting, in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation.”

It’s happening again: in less than one month, I have already begun to question the iPad Pro experiment. While I’ve been getting by just fine answering emails, writing documents, attending meetings and taking notes, there just seems to be something off with the entire experience.

Remember, I started this journey again with the specific intent on shaking up my workflow; what I have quickly found is the opposite. Instead of reinventing how I work, I have been trying to bend the iPad Pro into my existing workflow.

More apps, little hacks here and there, putting together a Workflow or creating new Pythonista scripts to get things done — where on a full laptop, these things are easy to do. (Side note: Don’t mistake what I’m saying here — Pythonista is FANTASTIC; it’s opened up a whole new level of productivity for me on the mobile devices).

But really, at the end of the day, while it’s an interesting exercise, I’ve found that I am spending a good chunk of time trying to make things work optimally so I don’t need a laptop with me.

But I think this just ultimately highlights a key flaw, which I mentioned in an earlier post:

The iPad Pro is all the hardware you need, but the software hasn’t caught up yet.

I’m not quite sure why application developers haven’t done more with the Pro at this point. Too many devices and differences to build for? Too limited of a market? Perhaps it’s similar to what I saw with landscape mode on the iPhone 6+ and 6S+ .. it’s incredible useful, yet few apps really took advantage of it.

And then there’s the question of “small apps” vs “full apps”. On one hand, I like single focused applications where you can get to information quickly. On the other, it often gets in the way and lends to application overload: I really don’t want 6 photo apps to filter, crop and manipulate an image — I want a single, full-featured workhorse.

Which brings me to the MacBook 12″ Retina, the other machine in my stable that I’ve been neglecting as I try this experiment.

It weighs only 2.03lbs (vs the iPad Pro 9.7 with Smart Keyboard Cover at just under 2lbs), has a solid 8–10 hours on the battery, and runs full macOS. It has a super-small wall-wart plug, and despite controversy, I actually like the keyboard. Alot. While there’s also been alot of back and forth on the single USB-C port or the overall speed of the laptop, I haven’t really had a problem with this. I even use VMWare Fusion on the laptop to run Kali on occasion.

My only fault with it is the crappy 480p iSight camera — it sucks in low light and it’s great for video chat.

In the end, it’s not a big difference when it comes to the hardware, weight or battery.

It’s the software that is the tipping point. Did I mention it runs full macOS?

I’m not at the point of giving up on the iPad Pro for work (yet), but I am starting to question if the real optimal workflow combination is the MacBook 12″ and the iPhone 6S+?