Friday, November 8, 2019 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Falling Back to an Older MBP

Erica Sadun:

The basic truth for me is that both keyboards are fully usable and that having the dedicated escape key (or not) was never a big deal. The virtual one did the job just fine. That’s something I never expected to admit but it’s true. I may not love MBP keyboards but they work.

[…]

On the other hand, moving back from USB-C to all these wonderful ports is delightful. My 2018 was always an octopus, and I had to carry around a bag of hubs and adapters.

[…]

I have a bunch of extra file space with the built-in SD card reader with my computer-flush reader adapter so it looks built in. The two standard USB ports are so convenient. I have an entire bag of USB-C gizmos that I’d carry around with the 2018 machine that I dumped into my USB box-of-everything for now.

Unlike others, she doesn’t seem to have had trouble with keyboard reliability and likes the big trackpad. She misses Touch ID but not the Touch Bar.

Previously:

Update (2019-11-09): Tanner Bennett:

This mirrors how I feel. I don’t mind the Touch Bar or the miss the escape key, and my keys rarely broke, but

• I hate the low-travel keys
• I hate the new arrow key layout
• I miss ports (HDMI, USB)

David Heinemeier Hansson:

Apple’s stubborn four-year refusal to fix the terminally broken butterfly keyboard design led me to a crazy experiment last week: Giving Windows a try for the first time in twenty years.

[…]

What this experiment taught me, though, was just how much I actually like OSX. How much satisfaction I derive from its font rendering. How lovely my code looks in TextMate 2. How easy it is to live that *nix developer life, while still using a computer where everything (well, except that fucking keyboard!) mostly just works.

Update (2019-11-26): See also: Hacker News.

17 Comments

I've now sold all of my personal Macs, except for my old 17" MacBook Pro, which now runs all of the remaining Mac stuff I rely on and don't want to run in virtualization. Every time I use it I'm reminded of how amazing Apple's hardware used to be.

I switched jobs and got a 2018 MBP. After using it for a couple of months, I agree, the new keyboard is terrible. The low travel drives me crazy. I hate the touch bar. Instead of being able to just hit a button without looking to mute or unmute, I have to look a tap twice. If I want to change the volume its tap, drag, UGH. And having now USB-A or HDMI is just madness. I don’t like the MBP at all.

I respect David Heinemeier Hansson quite a bit, but "mostly just works" is about as true on Mac OS as Windows and pretty much the only way you can "live that *nix developer life" on macOS is to install a third party package manager. As such, seems curious not to mention the fact Microsoft is pushing Linux tools on Windows as well. It has been many years since the "Apple made Mac OS into an easy to use *nix" refrain has sung true. Most of the system is locked down by default, plenty of common tools have been pulled from the system, and the remaining tools tend to lag behind quite a bit. If you want *nix, just use a quality Linux distro or perhaps GhostBSD, but if you want a commercially supported, easy to use operating system with *nix tools, then use Windows.

I prefer the *nix way of computing too, but Windows on my new (to me) laptop is working pretty well for the time being. I am going to wipe and restore Linux at some point in the near future.

I'm assuming DHH is using retina displays for the font rendering comment, because non-retina font rendering on macOS — especially Catalina — is a disgrace compared to Windows.

I've the latest 15", constantly spill crumbs and such on it and I've yet to have a single issue with the keyboard.

Sören Nils Kuklau

Seems curious not to mention the fact Microsoft is pushing Linux tools on Windows as well

He did get into WSL, if that’s what you mean?

It has been many years since the “Apple made Mac OS into an easy to use *nix” refrain has sung true. Most of the system is locked down by default, plenty of common tools have been pulled from the system, and the remaining tools tend to lag behind quite a bit.

It’s true that macOS is getting locked down a fair bit, which doesn’t really feel like the ”Sends other UNIX boxes to /dev/null” days. As for tools, though, I cannot remember a time when Apple’s supplied Unix toolchain was sufficient. Back in those days, I used fink, then briefly Gentoo Portage, then MacPorts, and eventually HomeBrew. Which continues to work fine.

I’m assuming DHH is using retina displays for the font rendering comment, because non-retina font rendering on macOS — especially Catalina — is a disgrace compared to Windows.

Windows is removing subpixel rendering just like Apple has started to. UWP/WinUI doesn’t support it.

So the new MBP 16” adopts the Magic Keyboard from 2015 (with same specs, see iFixit tear down) and Schiller declares it a Pro exclusive. Clearly somebody at Apple lost track of some Points-of-Parity items long ago.

@Wu I’m not sure what you’re referring to. I don’t see a tear down from iFixIt yet, and it’s not the same as the external Magic Keyboard.

Sören Nils Kuklau

Yup.

We know for a fact that the Magic Keyboard (external) differs from that on the 16-inch MBP in at least three ways:

It’ll be interesting to see if iFixit reveals anything else. It sounds like it takes some lessons from the evolved butterfly keyboard (better dome material?), but is much more like the Magic Keyboard or the pre-2016 MacBook Pro keyboard than that.

@Sören
>Windows is removing subpixel rendering just like Apple has started to. UWP/WinUI doesn’t support it.

Indeed (IIRC we chatted about this a while back), but I mostly use traditional Win32 apps on Windows, which have the ClearType subpixel rendering, and it looks immensely better than macOS.

If Microsoft actually deprecate or remove ClearType from Windows I would be surprised, but if they do, then I guess the only OS with legible font rendering on non-retina monitors will be desktop Linux... which would be an indication of how far the tech industry has strayed from focusing on useful/cost-effective tools.

I'd be more amenable to upgrading if the industry actually offered me something — anything! – to upgrade to. We're almost into 2020 and have yet to see a single-cable matte 27" 5K monitor. The initial dual-cable models were discontinued years ago and had significant QA problems. I currently use a matte 27" 1440p monitor, which can be obtained for reasonable prices on the used/refurb market. Unless I can get a clean @2X of that in matte, anything else I buy would be a downgrade. Certainly I'm not the only person in this situation?

@Michael I was referring to the Keyboard teardown where the same 1 mm travel distance was suggested. Clearly Arment gave us the definitive answer about that. Also @Söeren nicely summarized “is much more like the Magic Keyboard [...] than that.”. And yes, is not tilted because has to serve in a laptop.

@Wu Do you have a link to the teardown? I don’t see anything about it on iFixIt. The 1 mm is in the press release. The MacBook Pro product manager said in her interview with Snell that the old keyboard was 0.55 mm.

Here’s it https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Magic+Keyboard+Teardown/50995#s111296

“according to Apple, they've actually reengineered the scissor mechanism to increase stability and improve key travel. By our best measurements, the new design offers a whopping 1 mm travel distance and totally flat keypresses”.

Close enough to what Mr Schiller said four years later. And isn’t surprising since there’s no (and never was) need to re-invent the wheel. Magic Keyboard is wildly appreciated and few additional finishing touches are just as incremental as they should be.

Now my question to Mr Schiller is how he can sustain a keyboard (!) I can use with my 2015 iPad (the BT Magic Keyboard) will become a Pro exclusive not available in the $1100 MBA?

@Wu Oh, I thought you were referring to a teardown of the new one. I do think the butterfly is more stable than the old Magic Keyboard, so perhaps they’ve made further improvements for the new MacBook Pro.

@Sören
Yes, that is true. I meant the wrap up is weird given the *nix developer tools just don't work on OS X either unless you configure external functionality, which he does not mention at all. I guess my words were ass backwards earlier. Weird to mention WSL without mentioning the same requirements on OS X. Sorry for my complete mistype in the previous post. And doubly true as to your point of whether OS X was ever out of the box a suitable workstation for *nix. I was a Fink user for a while too, in the early to mid 2000s. I do agree with DHH that performance could be better on Windows for the Linux subsystem.

I do not agree with his assessment of Safari being this great browser, it's kind of terrible, just like Edge really. I always download an alternative on Apple devices, just like I do with Windows devices, and Android devices for that matter. Even on iOS, I prefer other non Safari browsers (yeah, yeah, under the hood there is no difference), even on Android I loathe Chrome and so use Firefox or Brave (yes, Brave is built on Chromium so performance should be good.), and on Windows, Edge is not worth using. Neither am I a Chrome fan on desktop, I prefer Chromium, Brave, Vivaldi, yeah, yeah, again, Chromium is the guts of Chrome and Brave/Vivaldi are just reskinned versions of Chromium, but I also enjoy Firefox on Android, Windows, and Linux. Even OS X. Or Firefox forks like Pale Moon, that's a nice Windows browser.

As far as font rendering, having switched between multiple devices on a daily basis, I simply do not notice much friction in that regards. I was thinking how my, new to me, Dell Latitude 7470 has pretty nice font rendering on Windows. I will eventually get Linux up and running, but I wanted to test Windows 10 for a while. Unlike the Surface Pro 3, this refurb model has Windows 10 Professional. Technically it was a no OS device, but when I installed Windows 10, the system automatically fetched a key, which means it ran Windows 10 Professional at some point, so the license remains valid, doubly neat.

Too bad DHH did not switch years ago so he could have figured out a good working platform on Windows because after years of supporting sub par hardware from Apple, he switched right when Apple released a much better notebook computer. Oops.

Sören Nils Kuklau

Indeed (IIRC we chatted about this a while back), but I mostly use traditional Win32 apps on Windows, which have the ClearType subpixel rendering, and it looks immensely better than macOS.

If Microsoft actually deprecate or remove ClearType from Windows I would be surprised

I’m not even sure Microsoft knows what the plan is.

I’d be more amenable to upgrading if the industry actually offered me something — anything! – to upgrade to.

Indeed. I don’t even really need 5K, and the LG pricing is ridiculous. Businesses are not gonna spend four figures on one or two external monitors for a MacBook when they can get a pair of $150 1080p ones, or even $300 24-inch 4K ones (which are too low-ppi for Retina!).

I meant the wrap up is weird given the *nix developer tools just don’t work on OS X either unless you configure external functionality, which he does not mention at all.

Ehhhhhh.

There’s a big difference between needing to install more tools via a package manager and needing to install an entire subsystem (WSL1) or virtual machine (WSL2). For starters, a Unix tool on macOS actually uses the real, honest-to-god Mac file system, not a virtualized file system or chrooted subpath.

WSL is pretty neat, and they’ll smooth the barriers down further over time. But it’s not the same thing as an actual Unix.

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