Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Another shiny new MacBook pro

See https://slott-softwarearchitect.blogspot.com/2014/03/shiny-new-macbook-pro.html

At the time (2014), the 8Gb machine was way more than adequate for all my needs as a writer.

Enter bloat.

Mac OS Catalina has essentially filled this machine to the breaking point. Six short years is the lifespan. Things (generally) work, but it now crashes frequently. Sometimes, streaming TV won't play properly. I've tried a large number of remedies (reboot WiFi, reboot computer, reset Bluetooth) and it glitches too offten to be comfortable.

(Rumors suggest the crashes seem to be associated with going to sleep. The machine crashes when it's idle. I come back to it and find it has restarted, and needs to restart my apps. It's not horrible. But it's an indication of a deeper problem. And it's time.)

It works. But. I've spent too many years waiting for slow computers and slow networks. An hour a day (cumulative) for 300 days a year for 40 years means I've spent 1.3 years of my life waiting for a computer to do something.

I’m reluctantly replacing my kind-of-working "Late 2013" vintage machine with a new 13” MacBook Pro. At least 16Gb RAM. At least a terabyte of storage. Hopefully, things will not be "glitchy" and I won't have constant crashes.

I’ve gotten used to having an 27" Thunderbolt Display, and a USB Querkywriter keyboard, and two USB disks doing backups. That's a lot of stuff plugged in all the time. Also. I really need a slot for SD cards (the boat uses micro SD cards, as does the old GoPro camera.). So. A fancy USB-C hub will be essential, I think.

The question is 2 ports (power and hub) or 4 ports (power, hub, and two other things)?  I suspect I can live with 2 ports.  4 ports ships immediately.

I have several use cases:
Writing books actually requires some computing power. But. Not *too* much power. The general reader doesn’t always have a huge computer. If my examples require more computing power than my readers have access to, that’s a problem. The advantage of having a smallish computer is I’m not overstepping what’s available to my readers. This is a handy way to take a tax deduction to pay for this extravagance.

Writing fiction requires a small machine. Scrivener works on an iPad Pro. I’m good with almost anything. Even an iPhone can be used for writing and editing fiction. It’s hard, of course, with a tiny screen. But not impossible. And. I'm trying to learn the craft, so tools aren't as important as understanding character arc.

Creating MicroPython-based devices is a bit confusing right now. A lot of the development environments depend on a reliable USB connectivity to the Arduino or Circuit Playground Express board. I worry about the (potential) complexity of introducing a USB hub into the mix.  I suspect I only need to replace some of my USB cables; the Arduino boards all seem to use a bulky USB type B. The CPX use USB type Micro B. (I thinks one can be replaced with a USB C to USB B “printer cable”, the other is a USB microB to C adapter. Or, maybe a USB C to USB A adapter can be used with my vast collection of legacy cables. Don't know.)

Boating involves connecting external devices like the GPS antenna to the laptop and tracking position or planning routes. This is a Bluetooth thing, generally. 

It does require considerable power for the laptop; the 60W power brick becomes a constraint. The boat have an inverter and can handle the load gracefully. A computer is a dedicated 5A draw, though; twice what the fridge pulls (and the fridge runs infrequently.) We have 225Ah available. The computer could be as bad as 120Ah if it was left on for 24 hours during an overnight passage.

The good news is that the use cases are more-or-less exclusive. The boating use case is rare. We have more thrifty navigation systems permanently installed on the boat. Many folks are using CPX and Arduino’s with MacBook Pro’s, so I shouldn’t worry too much, just buy new cables.

The best part?

Since I use Time Machine, the new machine recovers from the Time Machine backups. It has to be left to run overnight, but. Boom. Done.

(On the to-do list -- encrypt the backup volumes. Ugh. But. Necessary.)

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