Thursday, June 29, 2017

My 2017 iMac

The Mac Pro is still an unavailable unknown, and the iMac Pro is not really what I was looking for, so I upgraded my 2012 MacBook Pro to a 2017 iMac (27-inch, 4.2 GHz i7).

I got the version with a built-in VESA mount. I’m mounting it on an UPLIFT View Monitor Arm, which is rated for up to 19.8 lbs. The non-VESA iMac is listed at 20.8 lbs., and Apple wasn’t able to tell me the weight without the stand, but this combination seems to work fine after I turned the weight adjustment all the way. If I were buying again, I might try to find an arm that has a little bit more range of vertical motion.

It’s been a long time since I upgraded RAM in a Mac, since my last several Macs were either not upgradeable or I maxed them out from the start. This time, the iMac supports up to 64 GB. I bought it with 8 GB and added 32 GB, savings lots of money and ending up with more RAM than if I’d bought it from Apple. The door and levers were incredibly easy to use, probably the smoothest Mac RAM upgrade I’ve ever done.

This is my first Mac without Apple Hardware Test, and unfortunately the new Apple Diagnostics does not test RAM. I installed Memtest and ran it single-user mode. I seem to remember this taking a very long time with older Macs, but even with 40 GB of RAM it completed overnight.

The iMac’s display is incredible. My original plan was to keep the 30-inch Dell display that I used with the MacBook Pro as my main display, using the iMac on the left side as I did with the MacBook Pro. I thought I would miss the extra vertical space since the iMac’s 27-inch display is only 1,440 vs. 1,600 points high without scaling. However, the Retina text is so sharp and the colors are so nice that I ended up putting the Dell off to the side. I’ve found plenty of uses for all this screen space, but unfortunately the Mac sometimes fails to wake the external display, which reports that it isn’t getting any signal, even though the Mac still acts like there is a display attached. Resetting the PRAM and various other remedies haven’t helped. I have to power cycle the display to get it recognized, and then rearrange my windows (with the assistance of Moom).

I’m very happy to have Ethernet again. Technically, I could have used it with my MacBook Pro, but I didn’t have enough Thunderbolt ports to use the adapter and never bought a dock. Aside from Ethernet preventing the occasional problem with Wi-Fi disconnecting or joining the wrong network, network transfers are much faster than before, even though the other Macs I’m connecting to are using Wi-Fi.

Between the faster processor and SSD, everything feels faster. Building SpamSieve takes 1m15s (while the iMac was doing some Spotlight stuff and FileVault encryption in the background) vs. 1m54s on the MacBook Pro. Lightroom is also much faster at importing photos and building previews. Unfortunately for a desktop computer, the iMac seems just as prone to turning on its fans as the MacBook Pro. It’s fast, but just opening up Xcode makes it sound like it’s really working hard. And there is the aforementioned Kaby Lake hyper-threading bug.

I’ve long wanted more performance than a notebook could offer, but I resisted getting a desktop Mac because I didn’t want to deal with file syncing. However, over the years the software situation has improved. My code and text snippets are already in Git. My bug tracker and customer support database are online in FogBugz. My e-mail is in IMAP, and I can remotely train SpamSieve on the iMac from other devices. OmniFocus and Fantastical sync. My RSS feeds and passwords sync. Other key files are in Git repositories, Dropbox, or Resilio Sync. For the remaining documents, preferences, and app data (e.g. MarsEdit), I set up some scripts using rsync.

The iMac came with a Magic Mouse 2, which I expected not to use. I’ve always found its sharp edges uncomfortable when using other people’s Macs, and I would constantly be swiping by accident. However, I was having problems with my Logitech mouse not tracking well unless the batteries were very freshly charged, so I decided to give the Magic Mouse a solid try. I found that if I hold it differently, gripping the underneath sides between my thumb and fourth finger, it works much better. As my hand is no longer resting on top, I no longer really touch the sharp edge at all. I’m not sure yet whether I prefer swipe-scrolling to using a scroll wheel, but I like being able to swipe between pages and spaces. Another pleasant surprise is that the Magic Mouse works fine with my lotion gloves, whereas Apple’s trackpads and iOS devices don’t.

There are two problems with the Magic Mouse. The first is that the Mac often doesn’t recognize it at boot time—even after power cycling it, even though my Bluetooth keyboard works fine. So I have to use the arrow key on the keyboard to select my user for FileVault login, and there’s no way to click the Restart or Shut Down button.

The second problem is that it’s subject to the same spontaneous Bluetooth disconnects as all the Bluetooth keyboards I’ve use with Sierra. But, unlike the Magic Keyboard, the Magic Mouse cannot be used in wired mode because the Lightning connector is on the bottom.

11 Comments RSS · Twitter

I have the same occasional not-waking problem with the external Dell display attached to my iMac 5K. To avoid rearranging windows, I put the iMac to sleep before power-cycling the display. Keyboard shortcut: control-shift-eject.

@Rob Good tip, thanks. Strangely, I never had this problem with the same display connected to the MacBook Pro.

I'm curious - what kind of router are you using? The increased network stability intrigues me.

@Trecento The newest (2013) AirPort Extreme.

I bought a set of the Elevation Lab MagicGrips and find them preferable to the naked Magic Mouse.

Thanks for your timely, and amazingly parallel, post! My 27", 4.2 i7, 512 SSD iMac is allegedly arriving today. Like you, I ordered it with 8 Gb of RAM, with the intention of upgrading to more myself. This will be my first desktop in a few years, and I'm looking forward to having a large screen again.

I'm also planning to temporarily string a 25' ethernet cable from my Airport Extreme in order to set the computer up, and if I see a significant difference compared to our Wifi, I will go to the trouble of running the cable more discreetly in the wall to the "office."

I've become comfortable working with a trackpad, so I opted for the Magic Trackpad, in lieu of a mouse, though.

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