How did I get here, dear worst-reader? How did I get to be the confiscating husband I’ve become? And how did I get to this place I’m at where being overwhelmed w/ tech gadgets could be so frustrating? You know, dear worst-reader, as a useless-eater, as an exploiter of Tennessee Williams’ and Blanche Dubois’ “I’ve always been dependent on the kindness of strangers”, I wake up in the morning (sometimes) and say to myself: what the hell am I gonna do with all this tech krapp that has begotten me? Are there not people in the world cleaning up poisonous tech gadget waste dumps because of me? Are there not children’s fingers bleeding from mining the rare elements that make up the innards of these devices? Or perhaps the better, more prudent question is: Do I really have a need for all this krapp? I’ve got desktop computers, servers, laptops, phones, watches, tablets, etc. I’ve got video editors, glorified and digitised typewriters, backup devices, routers and LAN bridges, etc., etc. And I’ve also got a big old box in my basement labelled “Apple” where I store all the stuff I don’t/can’t use anymore. I know. I know. I should call it “junk”. The sad part of all this consume-to-survive nothingness is that it’s actually hard even giving this stuff away–especially when you have no friends and so little contact with the outer world. Indeed. Corporate agenda consume-to-survive obsoletism and dust collecting. That’s me. With that in mind, who would have guessed–after years and years of youth driven anger–I’d be in this phase of life overwhelmed with too much gadgetry? What to do, what to do, what to do–other than consume more.
The pseudo review.
As mentioned in my previous review of the 2016 12″ MacBook (see link above), there was/is something about it that got under my collar. That something has left me perturbed with my beloved MacBook Air. I mean. I don’t need two laptops. Does anyone need two laptops? But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Damn you Apple engineers! In short. The MacBook is nothing short of amazing. In fact, it’s so good, I’ve found myself questioning why Apple has continued the MacBook Air line of laptops. So does it matter that the MacBook is outrageously expensive compared to other laptops, especially Apple’s MacBook Air? Which begs the question: Is this little device worth all that stupid-money? I suppose that’s exactly why Apple has kept the Air models going. For worst-moi, though, having a relatively new, i.e. three year old Air, the discussion is now moot since I got hooked on the 12″ model a few months ago. The real issue is, does the new 12″ MacBook (not really new as mine is the 2016 2nd gen version and the 3rd gen came out last June) work for me by doing the things I need to do in this useless eating, failed artist life?
Oh boy does she go!
I gave the MacBook a trial run–having left my MBA at home during recent travels. Between visits to Denmark and the bewilderment of galavanting in a north European forest that had markings for graves from as far back as 700AD, I spent a few hours each day typing on this new device. By-the-buy, my wife bought the MacBook in late fall of 2016. Being the iOS obsessed user she is, though, she rarely used it. When she finally replaced her go-to device, an iPad Air 2 with a new iPad Pro about two months ago, I don’t think she ever even looked at the MacBook anymore. It was relegated to sitting on a gadget shelf in my room. And, don’t you know, dear worst-reader, it was talking to me. It was looking at me–especially when I was using my MacBook Air or my Mac Pro. It said: Come on dude. You don’t love those outdated things. You love me.
For a while I was able to resist. But we traveled to my beloved Homeland in late October and once again, for about two weeks, I left my cumbersome MacBook Air at home. Can you believe I’m calling a 2015 MacBook Air cumbersome? When we returned to the old country, around mid November, I found myself reaching for the MacBook instead of my MBA. A few days ago I finally gave in.
Twelve inch joy and that’s what she said.
There is something about this device that just fits. For one, I love the 12″ inch form factor. The fact that it’s so light doesn’t hurt either. Of course, I never thought I’d refer to my old MacBook Air as cumbersome–but I’ve already said that. The chassis actually makes this machine feel higher quality than my MBA. Compared to the MBA, the MacBook is stiffer and feels robust. In my humble opinion, when it comes to the amount of typing I do, although it’s a bit louder when I type, it even types better than my MBA. More on that in a sec. And by-the-buy, so far the solution to loud typing on this thing is to keep your fingernails trim.
That Damn Keyboard.
Would you believe I missed typing on this machine during the few months I wasn’t using it in the last half-year? From the day the new MacBook came out, introducing a new-fangled keyboard, trackpad and screen, I was totally skeptical about what Apple had done. I mean, come on. Someone at Apple actually came with that touch-bar thing on the MacBook Pros. A touch bar on a device that wants a touch screen? Hello!
Anywho. My first thoughts were: There is so little movement from the keys. Then, the more and more I used it, it turns out that something was missing when I wasn’t using it. And you have to understand, dear worst-reader. I’m an old school typist. Other than having too many modern tech gadgets, I have a small collection of old mechanical typewriters. Trust me when I say, I know typing. The keyboard on the MacBook is for typing. All you have to do is type softer. And that’s not a bad thing.
There’s one more thing that makes this new keyboard rock. As mentioned, I really like the 12″ form factor of this device–especially how Apple made everything fit perfectly. One of the faults of the MBA keyboard is that there’s too much chassis around it, especially below it. That means, if/when I’m typing I have to remove my Apple Watch because the watch-band gets in the way of the chassis. Also, the edges of the MBA are sharp enough to irritate skin. The MacBook, on the other hand, just fits my hands/fingers better. How they fit this keyboard into the chassis is actually more impressive than how they fit the retina screen.
But the screen is the cream!
The “retina” display is more than a brilliant and versatile screen. The thing that makes it special is how I can adjust it–for writing/typing. What I mean by “adjust” is more than changing screen real-estate and pixels. Keep in mind, I’m getting to be an old guy. My eyes are almost shot (as in I can’t see without coke bottle glasses anymore). In fact, my eyes are so bad, if I were alive during the bronze age, I probably would believe in the mysticism of religion, too. Yeah, that’s what is wrong with the blind imagination of the men who snaked religion into humanity because they couldn’t see the trickery of things around them like… walking on water or how someone snuck in the wine to replace the water! But I digress.
The most important thing you can do with adjusting the MacBook screen is not only change the size of it but also when you do change it, it doesn’t turn the text into a bunch of ugly pixelated letters. Nomatter what size the display is, the text is sharp and crystal clear. I cannot tell you, dear worst-reader, how significant that is for me.
I was never and probably never will be a trackpad fan. I’m still using a wired mouse on my cheese-grater 2010 Mac Pro. When I work with my MBA on my desk I usually use a wired mouse with it, too. Remember the red dot pointer device on Thinkpads? They were/are the best pointer solution other than a mouse–ever. I had a Thinkpad back in the day when The System let me work for the man. Speaking of Thinkpads, if/when I finally give up on Apple/Mac–and I believe that day is coming as the company keeps going down this path of being an iOS centric organisation–I’m getting a Thinkpad and installing Linux on it. But again–I digress.
Moving a finger across a small slab of glass (or in some cases textured plastic) and that translating into a pointer on your screen is the worst tech innovation ever. With that in mind, is the GUI (graphical user interface) an idea that’s reached its end? Personally, with the advent of AI (artificial intelligence), I think it is high-time to re-think the personal computing GUI. I, for one, would love having a command-line interface but with a voice activated AI that allows me to control the entire machine.
- “Open” this or “Close” that.
- “Put the last file I was working on in the trash, please.”
- “Play that song I was listening streaming last night…”
- “Open file so-n-so, please.” Etc.
The trick being to finally get rid of the graphical user interface. Really. GUI sucks. CLI rules. (If only I were the coder I wish I were.)
One last thing about trackpads. The thing I hate most about the trackpad on my MBA is how only parts of it are useful for certain tasks. The top of it acted different than the bottom. The bottom sometimes got in the way if I my hands were moving around wild and free. In fact, I would often take my eyes off my work (the screen) to make sure I was placing my finger in the right place so I could command my machine. Switching between left and right fingers didn’t help matters either. Luckily the MacBook’s new trackpad is finally approaching what I consider to be usability simply because all parts of it work equally. Although I haven’t found much use yet for “force touch”, it does seem like a logical and much needed addition to trackpad technology.
Going places with the low-end.
Compared to 2015 MacBook Air (with i7 CPU), the low-end M3 processor of the MacBook is impressive. Switching between desktops spaces and full screen apps is faster on the newer machine. When I’m working I usually have several apps open, each occupying a desktop space. I have to move between them all regularly. There is no delay in screen redraw or app performance. Surprisingly there is some performance issues with my MBA. Manipulating screenshots from the interwebnets or pics from my iPhone that are transferred using AirDrop and adjusting their size or converting formats all happen instantly on the new MacBook. If I take a break from writing and go to youtube or stream media from my home server, it all happens in the blink of an eye. Now that’s to say that for other tasks (video and more intense picture manipulation) the MBA with its heavier CPU would be better. But there is no denying that the MacBook–for a low-end device–is very impressive.
The good, the bad, the über-cheap and ugly.
The worst part of this MacBook is the camera. For reasons probably better not made public, Apple decided to put a ten year old (480p) camera in this laptop. My MBA has a great camera in it. The pic above, btw, is the same ten year old camera that’s in the MacBook. I used to love that old camera when it worked on my Mac Pro–until Mavericks broke it. But get this. Even though the video of the iSight camera was $hit, I continued using it for its great microphone. But then El Capitan broke that. Actually, what I think broke was firewire. (But that’s a whole different post.) For me, video is just not a big deal. And when I FaceTime with people, it’s more than good enough–except in low light. Audio is somewhat more important to me and the twin microphones of the MacBook seem to work great. To me, the digital world is all about tools for worst-writing, typing, researching $hit on the interwebets, etc. and this machine does it better than any Mac I’ve ever used.
As far as hooking $hit up to this new MacBook, I don’t care about that either. The only thing I miss is the opportunity to attach an ethernet cable. But I’m starting to break away from that, too. Even though I have a USB-C dongle that gives me 3x USB 3.0, 1x MicroSD and 1x HDMI out, I really am good with the single port. Eventually I plan to utilise the port to tote around a battery, taking advantage of USB-C charging capability. Of course, I probably wouldn’t say any of this if this were my only machine. But I’m practically drowning in tech krapp at this point so I can’t judge whether I need more I/O. So far, traveling with it, typing with it, sleeping with it, hoarding it, the one I/O is not an issue. In fact, the only thing missing from this gluttonous life of mine is that I can’t own the newest stuff yesterday.
I’m digging the 12″ MacBook and for the future, unless something changes everything, like my wife gets really pissed at me for confiscating it or she breaks her new iPad, it’s gonna be my daily (typing) driver.