Posts Tagged ‘apple’

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…

When your Mac’s display out stops working

I landed in San Francisco at around 10pm, hit the hotel in Santa Clara by 11.30pm, crashed, and woke up to give my tutorial at 9am. By 8.45am, I couldn’t get my 12″ MacBook to display out via HDMI or VGA to the projector, so I ran back to the room to get my 15″ rMBP instead.

Later on, I ran the Apple Hardware Test. Or what it’s called now, Apple Diagnostics. Everything came back just fine, which seemed odd.

The best fix seemed to then be resetting the NVRAM. That didn’t improve things, so I had to reset the System Management Controller (SMC), and voila! everything seemed to work thereafter.

In the years of using Apple hardware, I have to think this is the first time I’ve had to do this. I guess the presentation pro-tip here is always carry a backup presentation device (I might going forward get the relevant dongles for the iPad to run a presentation too).

The Touch Bar can wow you over!

In the tech space, sometimes people can be notorious for bemoaning new technology. Case in point? The Touch Bar on the new retina MacBook Pro’s.

I’ve been using a 15″ retina MacBook Pro with Touch Bar for about six months now. I am a vim user when I SSH to servers so I do use the Escape key (and maybe find it a tad annoying that I don’t get any feedback that I’ve hit the Esc key). Otherwise, I use BBEdit. I’ve used the function keys to control screen brightness, adjust volume, and play music. I don’t find Siri useful. I’ve wondered why when I use Keynote I can see little slides appear on my Touch Bar (not like I can read the text, right?). Safari has always been odd with switching tabs via a keyboard (unlike Chrome’s shortcuts), but now you can also switch tabs using the Touch Bar (alas, I’m not really a Safari user). PDFpenPro has selection tools that I can now access via the Touch Bar, so its a bit of a productivity improvement.

So all in, I’m more or less indifferent to the Touch Bar. I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it. Oh wait, I can’t forget the killer feature: unlocking my MacBook Pro with my fingerprints! Touch ID is a killer feature especially since I use 1Password which also supports it. I think this feature alone has improved my productivity tremendously, and saved lots of time re-entering my password.

However, Sara saw my keyboard the other day and she was amazed that it could also display emoji. And this made her really like the MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar (she’s a 13″ MacBook Air user). So Apple can wow users!

Touch Bar with emojis

I presume she will find other uses for it as she’s a creative user of the Mac. I’m just a boring text/code wrangler.

How would the Touch Bar be improved? It needs to be offered across the board on Macs (even for keyboards that iMac and Mac Mini users will use). It probably needs to have haptic feedback; this I suspect will improve the touch typing experience. However even as I write this, I think to myself that when I type on my iPhone or iPad, I don’t get haptic feedback and I intuitively know where everything is…

Upgrade notes on macOS Sierra

I’m notorious for not updating OS X (macOS) too quickly, preferring to wait months on end for Apple to iron out bugs. I just hope that in 2017 they don’t make a major release and something sensible, i.e. that fixes usability and makes the OS much more stable.

However when you buy a new Mac, you’re more or less forced into the new OS. I did pickup a MacBook Pro 15″ with the new TouchBar, and at some stage I’ll talk about my usage (its been about 3 months of daily usage).

One thing that has annoyed me about the new macOS Sierra is that I don’t get to use GPGTools – it will not work on macOS Sierra. There is now however a beta you could try to ensure you’re signing and encrypting email just as well.

Another thing that I hit almost immediately? Some of my SSH hosts just stopped working. I’ve seen various sites talk about how ssh-agent does not automatically load pass phrases to keychain during startup to Upgrading to macOS Sierra will break your SSH keys and lock you out of your own servers.

My ~/.ssh/config now has:

Host *

UseKeychain yes

AddKeysToAgent yes

to fix things.

Everything else more or less works. I did Time Machine restore. I’m not too happy that they removed the Time Remaining from the Battery icon, and I’m not getting the battery life that I expect, but maybe when the new Mac Mini’s come out, I’ll do another Time Machine restore to that, and a clean install to the MacBook Pro.

Migrating to new iPhones

When we do upgrades, we have to do them family wide which is four devices at any given time. This time we all settled on the iPhone 7 in varying colours. Naturally, I got the jet black variant. I also realised that I didn’t need the form factor of the Plus sized phones – quite simply, my jeans pockets aren’t that deep, and I end up fraying the earphone 3.5mm connector quite regularly (I’m on my third one now and its almost giving way in a span of about 2 years). Smaller phone might also allow me to spend less time looking at it, and if I wanted to consume, more time on the iPad.

Anyway… one phone migrated in a jiffy. Sure, after an iTunes encrypted backup, it wouldn’t restore automatically since the iOS version of the phones were too old. A bit of a tedious un-Apple like process, but the correct document to read and follow is: Restoring from an iTunes or iCloud backup when a later version of iOS is required.

Another phone had an encrypted iTunes password that just could not be remembered. So the arduous task of turning on iCloud Backup and then doing a restore (so while no fault of Apple, this I’m sure is a common scenario).

My phone had quite a few apps that required me to login again. Google Authenticator did not have all the two-factor logins migrated for some reason, so I had to manually add a bunch back. Maybe this should have been the key to move to a 1Password vault? I’ll leave that for next time.

Most of the social apps I use required some form of verification. WhatsApp had an easy process. WeChat was by far the most complicated. LINE had a password I didn’t know anything about.

Apps you would think would just automatically restore from the iTunes backup? But no, a lot of them end up downloading again. In addition some user hostility from apps like Audible and Overcast – imagine having to re-download all your content!?!

I had to also remember about my Apple Watch, fortunately again, another good guide: Switch your Apple Watch to a new iPhone.

Why isn’t this process more seamless? Android gets this done really well – enter your Google login details, and you’re good to go. Why is this not the case with Apple? Am I forced to then use an iCloud Backup to make magic happen?

Do I care that I’m not having a dual-lens camera with some “software” bokeh effects? No.

Why don’t more apps support 3D Touch? Its been quite sometime and most don’t seem to care to support it, which I find quite odd.

I don’t consider myself an “app-holic”, but spending about two hours of time to switch things over seems rather ridiculous. There has got to be a better way.

(What about the fourth iPhone? I’ll find out tomorrow if it has any surprises for me; here’s hoping things “just work”.)

Cleaning up the Mac, backup edition

A while back, I realised that com.apple.bird was getting too large and it was easy to purge it. I had to do this again.

The app I use to see where my space is going is OmniDiskSweeper. Its free, and I highly recommend it.

I use Arq to handle backups (in addition to Backblaze, and CrashPlan), and today I noticed that ~/Library/Arq/ had a huge (32.7GB) Cache.noindex. Apparently it is safe to delete, so that’s what I have done.

I also notice a large /Library/Backblaze.bzpkg – 8.1GB – and apparently you can’t delete it. The penalty you pay for keeping offsite backups?

Anyway, I suddenly have a lot more free space. Its annoying that I’ll have to keep track of all this from time to time, as one has to occasionally perform some housekeeping of one’s Mac.


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