State of the Mac early 2019

I landed in London sometime in January 2019, and made an appointment at the Regent Street Apple Store the same morning for that afternoon at 1pm. This is apparently a very rare thing, because Apple Store appointments are usually full up weeks in advance.

The reason was simple: my 2016 15” retina MacBook Pro was starting to wobble at the base and the battery indicator did say it was time for a service. This battery for what it is worth has only done under 200 cycles, so it did seem odd. The wobbling suggested that the battery possibly had expanded, and this was also affecting my use of of some keys — notably the left shift key, and on the right side the ? Key (it would many times skip giving me ? But instead give me /).

I arrived for my Apple Store appointment a little early and was told that I could only check in at 12:50pm. Fair enough, I would just wait it out at the store. The Genius Bar was packed full. I was finally told to take a seat upon checking in and a genius would be with me shortly.

I met a friendly genius, who told me that it is likely the battery expanded and they would have to change the whole top cover as this was all integrated, meaning I would also get a new keyboard. Then he said that I would need to typically leave it there for up to 7 days, but since I was travelling all around, they would try to do it within 24 hours. 

As luck would have it, they did not have the parts available in store, and then checked stock to see that Covent Garden had 2 units. Upon calling, they would take 2 weeks (yes, a whole 14 days) to fix it. This was unacceptable. The genius wrote up a report about how they were willing to do it at Regent Street and how this was odd that Covent Garden would not in a timely fashion; he also encouraged me to get this fixed ASAP as it was not a good idea to continue using said laptop. This is great news to hear when travelling, clearly.

So it is clear: Apple laptops are still not made for Enterprise use. Fast forward a couple of weeks later and I order a Mac Mini to my home in Malaysia. I figure it is a computer I have wanted to get for sometime and I would use a desktop for the one week or so that I would be in town.

I make a Time Machine backup of my MacBook Pro, and restore it to my 12” MacBook (2016) that I have not sold from a previous engagement. The restore takes many hours, and when it is finally done, the one thing that I consider quite important — Mail — is not fully migrated. All the local folders are not converting, and maybe this is a Mojave bug (I was coming from High Sierra). So I am thankful to start exporting Mail in the MBOX format. In addition, Chrome seemed to be missing all the plugins that I had installed, so this was further manual work.

This leads me to believe that when I do setup the Mac Mini and also when the MacBook Pro comes back from a service, I will set it up fresh (or hopefully, the MacBook Pro just needs an update, and the data remains intact; this is apparently true according to the genius — nowadays Apple does not even ask for your password any longer). After all, I do have iCloud sync turned on (so Keychain is synced), Dropbox seems to be doing more work than expected, and passwords are managed in 1Password. I’ll have to sync my Mail manually, which seems like some bandwidth will be used, but that seems fine. But maybe I won’t be needing all the applications that I have. And what about my home directory? (The Linux advantage is just moving your home directory; I am uncertain if this is true with macOS as I have always relied on Time Machine).

Today I visited the service centre. I’m told that it would be there possibly for the 7 day period, so I may be able to get it back next Saturday. If this were my only Mac, I would be out of commission for a whole work week. If I had purchased a Dell or a Lenovo, I would have all this fixed by the next business day. Alas, I am still “locked into” macOS.

Initial Mojave thoughts? Kind of silly that when I fire up Terminal I can’t even do a ls in ~/Library/Mail unless I give Terminal all disk access. What a mess, all this lockdown is, if you ask me. 

I’ll hope to have a positive update later this week. The Mac Mini I ordered only comes with 8GB of RAM, since the Apple uplift for 2 16GB sticks (32GB of RAM) would have added RM2,640. I asked the Apple Service Centre how much it would cost, and they too said about RM2,000 since they have to order it from Apple (at first they said it could not even be upgraded!). I’ll go the after-market route, where each stick is only RM490, so getting it all for RM980 seems like a better choice. I’m going to guess that the Mac Mini 2018 model isn’t selling all too well in Malaysia, judging by many saying they haven’t upgraded it yet…

Tech teams and hiring right

“In the end we couldn’t find a tech team we could trust and that could produce what we asked of them.”

How these words ring so true. This is from a Medium post by John Biggs, now working at The Block.

It is amazing to see what happened, as they hired two tech teams:

“Our first tech team worked mightily on product that worked but was not scalable. Our second tech team was self-interested and the tech did not work.”

They raised $150k, had 10 employees, two development teams, and over 8,000 beta users, but were unable to deliver functioning technology.

I have no idea if these were outsourced teams, or hired teams (I’ll go with outsourced), but this is a real problem facing many companies, not just those involved in the cryptocurrency space. Sometimes it also has to do with the irrational exuberance of the leadership team, directing the tech teams. This is where experience makes sense and pays off…

It makes me think a lot about the offering of the fractional CTO (basically a fractional CxO in general). There is a lot to do. A lot of patterns to recognise. A lot of project management. And a lot of understanding on what can and should be delivered in an appropriate timeframe. Something a really technical co-founder or lead will get right, but something the average founder will miss.

Ciao 2018

Too busy to sum up the year but generally speaking: father much more gravely ill, lost another grandmother exactly 14 months to the date of the previous one, lots of general busyness.

As I write this, I’m in Kuala Lumpur, not elsewhere (second year running), shuttling between home and the hospital. First trip of 2019 has also just been cancelled.

Travel stats: 29 trips, 249 days on the road, 391,119 km travelled, 57 cities, 20 countries. Comparing to 2017, it is 1 trip less, 2 days more, 59,903 km less (!), with 4 cities more and 3 countries less. Nothing particularly memorable stood out (even based on my Swarm statistics).

I’d say I want to blog more, but I know its tough. I am however enjoying long form writing thanks to my Field Notes subscription.

Here’s to 2019. Life can only get better. Right?

Digital media purchasing, still horrible in 2018

Lying in bed with iPad in tow, and not feeling like reading, I fired up Netflix thinking I could watch the new season of House of Cards. Unfortunately, in Germany, November 2 2018 means something completely different (i.e. Season 5 is the latest).

Kevin Spacey, irregardless of what you think of him, was a pretty good actor. I read on Wikipedia that he was in another movie called Billionaire Boys Club and how it grossed terribly. I hopped on over to Amazon and realised I could rent it (it wasn’t on Netflix). Then I remembered I had some Google Play credit, so I tried to rent it there.

I even then downloaded the app from the App Store. In Chrome, it kept on trying to get me to download a SetSID file. Urgh. The purchase basically would not complete.

All in, I spent a good 15–20 minutes before I gave up trying to watch Billionaire Boys Club. And I was willing to pay $3.99-$4.99 (with tax, the SD version is $4.39, $0.40 for taxes), in the hopes of watching it in my German hotel room. I failed.

I bet the (illegal) download from a torrent site would have been quicker.

Screen Time and less usage of social media

I have been trying an experiment — the use of less social media, thanks to Screen Time on iOS 12. The last item I uploaded on Instagram was on September 17 2018. My usual form has been to make a photo at every place I land up at, but since seeing that I spent 30-45 minutes of “dead time” daily on the app, I figured I needed to stop using it so regularly.

My thought there is quite simple: do I make money from Instagram? No. I should generally only be doing productive things with my iPhone, correct?

Consequently I haven’t uploaded photos from my trips to Tokyo, Singapore, London, Edinburgh, and apparently London again, where I’m penning this. OK, it will be November 1 2018 tomorrow, so I should maybe start posting again.

I find that I don’t use Facebook much but have the application for the 2-factor authentication (I will have to find a way to move this to Google Authenticator or 1Password so I could zap it). This leave Twitter, which I do spend a bit of time on (I have to work on reducing this).

WhatsApp, Telegram, etc. may be considered social media but the reality is I need to communicate with folk so I can’t stop using those apps.

Screen Time also helps tell me how much time I actually spend on the iPhone. I feel like it is too much. Here’s to more iPad and more MacBook Pro. And in general, more time around Productivity/Reading & Reference/Creativity/Other/Health & Fitness, going forward. And of course… Entertainment (Netflix has some good shows from time to time).

Anyway, measuring where I spend time clearly matters. I’m surprised we don’t see this on macOS yet (but for that I have RescueTime). I understand that Timings is another popular app to use. From a time management standpoint, I reckon reading: The Average User Checks Email 5.6 Hours Per Day and also The Mona Lisa Doesn’t Tweet. These are timely reminders that we should gain from social media, but not give in much more to it.

GPGTools Support Subscription – in-situ license change

Not brave enough to upgrade to macOS Mojave on my main workhorse yet, I did however click update on GPGTools which only required me restarting Apple Mail. I was very shocked when I saw the following pop-up:

GPGMail Popup

This was an in-situ upgrade from what was free/open source software, to a sudden pop-up nag telling me that I would need to get a license to continue to encrypt/decrypt my mail with ease. I checked out the support plan, which is USD$23.90, and might be something I have to pay for yearly, since a major version coincides with a macOS release according to the FAQ.

Being in the open source industry for 22 years (longer than the term has been around; so let’s call it free software), I’ve seen many license kerfuffles, and I think one of the worst ways to surprise someone is a license change in-situ. In a world where we do git pull’s and just move on, the license is sacrosanct. I’m glad that these developers didn’t focus on mucking with the license and if you choose not to pay USD$23.90 yearly, you can still compile the software yourself.

Am I still allowed to compile my own version of GPG Mail / GPG Suite removing any code regarding the trial or activation?

You absolutely are, the GPL enforces that. You will find the source code on this website and on Github.
We would kindly like to ask you not to use our names or icons if you plan to publish a binary for others to use.

Am I going to compile from source? If this was infrastructure software, definitely, yes. Am I going to pay these developers? I do not know, I still have 30 days to decide.

They clearly learned their lesson, do read the open letter to their users (yes, they’ve had this as a plan for a while, but maybe it wasn’t clear enough). These people aren’t a big evil corp neither did that raise venture capital from what I can tell. They’re independent developers, and if there is something a Mac user tends to do, is that they tend to support indie developers.

If I already pay an Apple tax, the question then becomes: do I pay for yet another app, that seems to basically be a subscription, or do I compile the software? Comes back to the old adage of, spend money to save time, or spend time to save money.