529: State of the Mac


Sneaky iPad Pro sneaked its way into the Mac episode!


My first computer ever was a Mac SE 30 with a 20 MB hard drive if I am remembering correctly. I remember the inclusion of a hard drive being a big deal at the time. My parents bought for my freshmen year in college in 1987. Our family’s first computer. I loved it and wish I still had it. Sorry to hear it lost in Round 1…I did vote for it.


I don’t mind living in Dongletown,
…but “parking” is a nightmare.

It’s really funny, I used the one-port MacBook for several years, but now that I have the two-port MacBook Air, I keep finding having “only” two-ports a giant PITA.

Why? Because I bought-in to the USB-C lifestyle:

  1. I have a USB-C hard drive
  2. Now that life is happening over Zoom, I have a USB-C external video camera.
  3. Working at home means I’m using my iPad Pro as a second screen, and I want to do that over USB-C too because it should be able to keep the iPad battery from discharging.
  4. Oh, and I want to plug in my laptop to A/C power.

Suddenly I need four USB-C ports. My MacBook Air only has two.

“Just get a dock or a hub.”

You might think that would work! Good luck finding a dock or hub with multiple USB-C ports. You’ll probably get one USB-C port, which doesn’t help because you’re giving up a USB-C port to plug in the dock / hub.

My Dongletown is using USB-A with USB-C devices
because I can connect the USB-A devices to a hub.

I have a USB-C to USB-A cable for my USB-C hard drive, which may mean that I’m getting slower speeds, but at least it works.

I would use a USB-C to USB-A for my web cam, but the cable is not removable. For some reason they made the part that connects to the webcam itself integrated with the camera, so you can’t swap the cable for some thing else.

I tried using a USB-C to USB-A to connect the iPad Pro to my MacBook Air, and it worked but it did not seem to charge the iPad Pro, which meant that when I took my iPad to go work on the couch, it was down to like 11% battery. ARGH!

So basically I need to buy a MacBook Pro… for the ports? That’s a biiig jump in price.

In normal days I would just return this web cam and replace it with a different one, but have you tried to find a web cam lately? Slim pickings.

OTOH. It’s possible that Apple could decide to put a decent FaceTime camera in their laptops someday. One can hope.

Anyway, TL;DR - forget the SD card slot, give me more USB-C ports!

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State of the Mac… and why I bought a PC

Early last summer I found myself needing to buy a new computer. My 2011 iMac was starting to have display issues, my iPad Air (1st generation) was slow, and my usage has shifted to that I decided I needed a laptop.

With my nearly 50 year old eyes, I wanted a 15" screen. The only choice Apple gave me was a $2400 (base price!) Macbook Pro, with a keyboard that I hated to use (based on a few experiments in stores).

I’m not a particularly heavy workload user, this is a personal laptop for email, videos, and small personal project programming, so I also looked at Windows PCs. I found I could get a perfectly serviceable PC with 15" screen, an acceptable keyboard, and a variety of ports(!) for about $800 delivered. The SD slot and USB A ports are handy for playing with my Arduino and Raspberry Pi. No dongle!

At the time, the 16" Macbook Pro was still in the rumor phase and since Apple doesn’t talk about the future, there was no reason to think that the crappy butterfly keyboard would be changing anytime soon. Even if the new keyboard had come out, I’d still be looking at 3x the price! Do I prefer MacOS? Yes. Do I prefer it for a $1600 price premium? No. And, with what I’m hearing about Catalina, I’m thinking I dodged the Apple version of Vista.

I’m bummed about this. I’d rather be on a Mac, but the vision and trade offs that Apple is making in both it’s OS and hardware are increasingly at odds with what I want and need in a computer. For me, the state of the Mac is rather depressing. I’m hoping it changes, but now Apple has to prove that they care about getting me as a customer and not just talk about it.

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I am probably going to buy a PC.

I really like macOS. But I also need processing power. So, I always went for a souped up 15" MacBookPro.

The way I see it now:

  • macOS plays it’s advantages when handling documents, working with email, managing tasks, etc. For that, a MacBook Air is good enough.
  • But: Lightroom is Lightroom, Photoshop is Photoshop, RStudio is Rstudio. The same software on a PC as on a Mac. No advantages at all running them on a Mac. BUT: I get a lot more processing power (and CUDA!) for the $/€ if I buy a PC.

So, instead of buying a 16" MBP (which would be the obvious choice) and expecting it to handle “pro” software (which would mean 32GB and SSD upgrade at least), I will get a low-spec portable Mac and a powerful PC. … or I might try a Hackintosh.

I did not do well in the quarterfinals.

State of the Mac. Knowing I was going to be at home for while, I went out and bought the 27” iMac that I have been wanting for long while. I am loving it.

However, the one thing I would love to have would be some forward facing USB and USB-c ports. Yes, it would mess with the nice clean look. There would be ample function. If that is the only nit I can pitch, I am good with it. There are some ways to work around it. I am all for simple.

I am trying to decide what I am wanting to do with my late 2013 iMac. Right now, it is being tasked with Folding @ Home. Loaning processor power to help science. I am still trying decide what I am going do with that machine.

I bought this Satechi hub from Amazon that clamps on the bottom of the monitor. I found the ports to a little tight but haven’t had any issues with it and it sure is more convenient. I see it is currently unavailalbe on Amazon though but seems to be still available directly from Satechi.

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