Apple’s Oct 2016 Mac Event

Apple Event Oct 2016

Saying that the Mac has been getting the short shrift is an understatement, recently, at least from a hardware perspective. Recently, macOS Sierra was released and I have been running it since a week before its public release and I can say it is the best macOS release I have run so far. Part of that, I would imagine, is that the features continue to be tweaks and integration points between macOS, tvOS, watchOS, and iOS and that leaves a lot of time to work on fixing bugs and minor annoyances. Many annoyances are fixed each and every release, which is great to see.

However, I’m not the normal consumer and I am quite strange, so I do not consider my experience to be typical. While I might consider myself a power user, I tend to be a careful power user who minds the default applications and default settings and does not stray from them unless there is a need. I use as many of the default as possible, in other words. If what I am doing works and allows me to do what I need, I’m pretty happy.

New 2016 MacBook ProThat doesn’t change the fact that Apple’s hardware on the Mac side needs a refresh, and I am not counting the update to the MacBook back in the April 2016, but looking at the rest of the line. Yesterday’s event was the start of the refresh and it is a very Apple start to a very Apple refresh. I’m less interested in the specifics of the new MacBook Pro than I am in what it seems to signal about upcoming refreshes and where the Mac line sits for the future.

What Is A Computer

In case you have not heard the howling, Microsoft held an event on the day before Apple and released some new products as well. These have received some, overall, positive press and feedback from a variety of sources around the web.

I will admit that Microsoft is doing some really interesting, and fundamentally different, things with their Surface lineup of computers. We have deployed the Surface Pro 4 at Martin Luther College to our faculty and so I have been able to use Windows 10 on a Surface device for almost a year. It is a very different idea of what a computer is.

That is where the rub is right now: Apple has a different idea of what a computer is going forward, and this new MacBook Pro continues to drive that home.

Apple’s lineup clearly is stating that the iPad, and more specifically, the iPad Pro, is the entry-level computing device now. Where the MacBook Air was the entry-level mobile computing device, the iPad now filling that role. From there, the traditional Macs are rising in price and pushing the Mac as a professional device in many contexts.

That’s what the lineup says right now with the lowest-priced new 13″ MacBook Pro sitting around $1500. Even the slightly cheaper MacBook starts at $1300 and that device serves an even smaller niche.

However, the 9.7″ iPad Pro starts at $600 and the 12.9″ iPad Pro starts at $800. Those are prices far more palatable to consumers if Apple is able to jump the gap from “big iPhone” to “small touch-based computer”. Will they be successful? I do not know, but these are really awkward times as Apple seems to be attempting to move the lineup while not giving in to the idea that their lines should merge like the Surface lineup has.

One Port To Rule Them All … Almost

USB-C is in … almost everything else is out on the Mac. The only other port is a headphone jack, but USB-C is going to handle everything from displays, to card readers, to power, to storage, and everything else in between. Granted, they are really Thunderbolt 3 ports, but this next generation of Thunderbolt has allowed Apple to simplify their port situation in such a fashion that everyone is going to complain about it.

I am excited!

The fact that we are now able to have a single cable handle everything, including charging, and with a reversible port as well is such a huge step forward that Thunderbolt 3 is maybe the greatest temptation for me to upgrade my current 13″ MacBook Pro with Retina display. The idea of being able to connection two 4K displays hooked up to a single docking station with network, sound, USB 3, and Thunderbolt 3 ports ready to go is extremely enticing and exactly the way I would want to be able to set up a future workstation here at work.

Yes, there is a dongle explosion at the moment to enable the usage of current and older technology, but that is temporary as well. The future is USB-C and I, for one, am happy to see it coming.

That is about it from me. The devices are not as interesting as what it means for the future. There will always be come better, something coming in the future, and something that will appeal to some and alienate others so enjoy what you have, buy when you need to, and enjoy what you are doing!

 

Final Words on the Surface 3

Surface 3 Tablet

I’ve had the device for over a month now and I think I’ve come to some sort of conclusion on it.

That’s the basics of it. I can’t see the device being all the useful past the current year, and I’d say almost any person with only modest computing needs would be better off with an iPad Air + keyboard combination (if they feel the need for a keyboard). The iPad Air is just a sleeker device overall, feels faster (because it is being asked to do less), and has better battery life. I’ve found myself using the iPad Air more while testing the Surface 3 than I was before I started testing.

This isn’t some sort of blanket verdict on the Surface line of devices or even Windows 10, but I would avoid the Surface 3 at all costs.

Apple Open Sources Swift

swift website

Apple finally went ahead and did it!

Today Apple unwrapped their open sourced Swift programming language. Yes, Swift has been around for a while already, but today it was opened up to the community (Engadget link there).

You can find out more at the website but also check out the repositories at GitHub as well. Currently Apple’s GitHub organization houses pretty m much only projects around Swift.

Sadly, on the Linux-side of things, only Ubuntu binaries are available.

So go forth OSS friends and contribute!

Indecision to Carry

Each workday I go through the same routine:

  1. wake up to alarm
  2. get out of bed
  3. shower and change for work
  4. head downstairs and help with breakfast/lunch prep/etc.
  5. drink cup of coffee with wife
  6. brush teeth
  7. pray with family
  8. gather together my stuff for work into bag
  9. say goodbye and head off to Martin Luther College

There are sometimes a few small variations to that routine, but for the most part that is it. However, out of every small decision I make in the morning it is #8 on that list that gives me the most pause each and every morning:

  • gather together my stuff for work into bag

Looking at the picture I used at the top of this post, it is probably pretty easy to see why. While my iPhone is always in my pocket and I have various amounts of reading material in my bag, I am constantly shuffling what technology I should be carrying between home and work.

Here are the three devices I currently work through my mind each morning:

  • Apple 13″ MacBook Pro with Retina display
  • Apple iPad Air
  • Microsoft Surface 3

The iPad Air is the easiest to carry, fits nicely into my bag and fulfills probably 85% of my needs on any given day. The Surface 3 is a test device for the Windows 10 deployment we are looking at for work along with an interesting look at the differences between form factors (and fits nicely into my bag). It fulfills maybe 75% of my needs on a given day, but a slightly different portion than the iPad Air.

The 13″ MacBook Pro is, surprisingly, just a little too big to bring along every day. It just fits into my bag, means I can’t bring too much else along, but fulfills 95% of my needs on any given day. It is just less portable. It takes up more space and so it sits on my desk.

In my own mind it looks like an iPad Pro or MacBook would be great compromises, but they are coming from different ends of the spectrum. Do I want a laptop more like a tablet or a tablet more like a laptop?

The Surface 3 is interesting only because it tries to toe the line between laptop and tablet by having different modes. It sorta works, sometimes (not a rousing endorsement, I know). The other problem with going all-in on Microsoft’s platform is that the software is just not at the quality I’ve grown accustomed to over in Apple’s camp.

Sadly, my trusty Lenovo X220 with openSUSE Tumbleweed has been relegated to primarily system admin work as I fix things around campus requiring a serial interface and a CLI. I eagerly watch for what the response is going to be from the open source operating systems to where Microsoft has taken Windows 10, but maybe Windows 10 is not the proper course.

All of these words are here to whine about the fact that I often don’t know what to carry with me between home and work. We have a Surface Pro 4 coming in as a test machine for our next faculty deployment at Martin Luther College. Maybe the increased size and speed will force me to start moving to a more device-agnostic way of working.

There are four amazing platforms to work from right now: Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Linux/Open Source. They all have their strong points and their weak points, but the entire ecosystem has been polluted by the fact that each platform is ever so slightly different in major ways (yes, I did read that phrase three times … it is what I want to say). Where do you turn?

Maybe it just doesn’t matter.