Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A mech keyboard nerd's thoughts on 2017 MacBook Pro keyboard

My old Thinkpad has reached its end of life and so the company issued me a new notebook. By default, they issued a MacBook Air, but I tried to justify for a MacBook Pro. The only way I could get a Pro, according to the guy who looked at my job scope, was that I would be assigned a 2015 MacBook Pro 13", the one that has many ports. I wasn't thrilled about an older model but I know that I will not like the new MacBook Pro (the space grey with Touch Bar and ONLY USB-C ports) due to many unpleasant stories I read about it. 

New MacBook Pro from work. My company is cool, in this sense!
So, it was a shock to me that when I tore open the packaging to see that I was given a 2017 MacBook Pro 13", the one without a Touch Bar (a.k.a. MacBook Escape), instead of an older 2015 model. I was not sure how I felt about it. On one hand, having the latest and greatest is always good - beautiful & bright retina screen, super slim and light - I dare say that it is smaller and lighter than even the MacBook Air. On the other hand, I was pretty worried about the dumb, unreliable, poorly built "butterfly" keyboard, the lack of (Thunderbolt and USB-A) ports, no Mag Safe 2. Above all, I am really worried about the keyboard. Me, being a mechanical keyboard aficionado.

ooooh! so slick and classy and beautiful!

The MacBook Pro 13" is slightly smaller than the MacBook Air 13"

See, I can't even attach my mechanical keyboards to the MacBook because it does not have a USB-A port! I need a #donglelife just to do so! It's kinda ridiculous, at times.

The keyboard (and trackpad) is important to the overall experience of using a laptop because that is what a user touch and feel a computer on a daily basis. Sure, the retina screen is equally important and this screen is just so beautiful. Coming from 4 years of MacBook Air, retina screen is astounding to behold and no one should go back to ugly non-retina screen ever. But the keyboard where you spent the days click clacking on is equally important because the feel of it will determine how pleasant or unpleasant your experience with the MacBook Pro is going to be like.

I didn't like the keyboard in the beginning. The stupid way they made the left/right arrow keys to be full size made locating the arrow key cluster very difficult and confusing. The smaller travel is not satisfying. No way this is better than my old MacBook Air's scissor switch nor any of the Topre or MX mechanical keyboards I am using.

But after using it daily for almost 4 weeks, I have to admit that it does grow on you. The nice click clack sound it makes, I think due to its shorter travel, thus able to hit the bottom pretty easily, feels like the sound I get when typing on a clicky switch. I don't need to feel the actuation. Instead, the sound already tells me that I have actuated, so I can move on to the next key - and surprisingly, this experience made my typing to be pretty fast and accurate.

look at the height of the keyboard; very slim and very short travel...

There were some complaints on dust or bread crumbs getting into the key, causing them not to work and as such, Apple had to replace the whole keyboard(!) so I was careful not to eat near the Mac, which is also ridiculous that we had to adjust our lifestyle over a machine. Let's see how this goes in the next 6 months or one year. Surely I will nimble some food. Will the keyboard fails?

The other complaint was that after 7 months, frequently used keys will see their lettering being smudge - more like the black layer of paint/plastic being worn off. This is typical in keyboard but this is the first time I hear of one tearing away in less than a year. If that is true, then the quality of the plastic used are really poor and Apple should be ashamed of themselves.

So far, my experience with the keyboard is pleasant. Hope this keeps up!


Monday, September 25, 2017

Don't WhatsApp /SMS when driving

This morning, we received news that one of Jane's classmate passed away after fighting for her life for 4 days. She was cycling in her Ara Damansara neighborhood - just taking a ride to a friend's house around the corner - and she was knocked by an incoming car. I am not sure if the driver was texting while driving or if he was speeding .. but the point is that a 8 year old girl died because of an accident with an incoming car who was not able to stop in time. She had a concussion to the head and was in coma. The doctor know that her brain had blood clot and swelling but because she was not responding, they were not able to operate on her. And so the family suffered through 4 days of anguish waiting - praying for her to respond, so that they could operate on her .. and on the 5th day, she stopped breathing.

I don't pretend that I am an angel here - I did text before behind the wheel.. but incidents like this served as a REAL reminder to me that I should not. THAT TEXT IS NOT WORTH IT. Any messages CAN WAIT. IT. CAN. WAIT.

And as a reminder, please turn on Do Not Disturb While Driving in iOS 11. With this turn on, when the phone detect that you are in motion, it will not buzz when there are incoming SMS/text ... I think any notifications will not ring - so if you have incoming Whatsapp, Twitter, eMails, the phone remain silent. This is a good feature that should be the default in ALL phones!

Friday, September 15, 2017

My opinion on iPhone X

I'm a huge fan of everything Apple. And yet, I don't have the latest Apple gear. I'm not that rich to buy every Apple gear there is out there. I don't have the latest iPhone (I'm still using a 6 Plus), I don't have a MacBook with TouchBar (using an Air) and I don't have a iPad Pro (using an Air 2). And yet, I do go and take risk on new Apple tech - when they launched iPhone 3G, I was in line for it, then when they had the new, all glass design of iPhone 4, I was in line as well. iPhone 6 Plus was their first big screen iPhone and I jumped on it. AirPod was new and I bought it out of faith.

So, now the iPhone X is in totally unchartered territories for an iPhone - new form factor, new OLED screen, Face ID, no home button nor Touch ID. Unproven battery life. Wireless charging, etc etc.

Without Touch ID, many of my existing apps may not work, especially the banking ones. There will be immediate impact on existing apps.

Will I take the leap?

I would, if it's $3000. I might even bite at $3999. But at almost $5000, it is a hard bullet to swallow. I don't want to be carrying an equivalent of a new state of the art custom built PC with GTX 1060 graphic card! There is always a risk of losing the phone, dropping it (and thus cracking the all glass of enclosure). Is it water proof this time? I'm not even so sure of that.

I've never lose a phone in the 10 years of owning iPhones so I'm pretty careful but even then, I'm wary of holding a $5K device.

Cool tech, super beautiful phone, but the price just ain't right. Sighhhhhhh....

Sunday, September 03, 2017

5 weeks with the 2017 CRV

Now that I have driven the new 2017 Honda CRV for 5 weeks, complete with an outstation trip to Ipoh with 4 adults and 2 kids, have my impression of the car changed one bit? Actually, I am more pleased with the car after a full 2-hour drive up North. Firstly, the car is so quiet when travelling the freeway at 130km/h. At 110km/h, the RPM was around 1900RPM and at 130km/h, it is just 2700RPM. The engine didn't feel like it was roaring. And I don't even know I was going at 130km/h! Pick up for overtaking, with 4 adults and 2 kids, plus luggage at the boot, was excellent. The car is powerful and effortless in just zooming past other cars.

Fuel consumption was good, around 16km/litre which is 15sen per km (I am using RON97, so that's like $2.44 per litre as of this writing)

Apple Maps and Foursquare was a great combination to look for places and CarPlay was able to get us to any place in Ipoh. I believe Apple hada partnership with Foursquare. I like that when I was searching for something in the Foursquare app, and then I switched to Maps, Maps automatically showed me my recent Foursquare view. And within Foursquare, clicking Directions allow me to have the option to open in Apple Maps. It looks like Waze is not the only accurate GPS in the market.

On the way back, we met with a storm. Heavy rain and strong wind. This was the day where Jalan Kuching in KL was hit with flash flood and there was a video that went viral, of cars stuck on the highway. Anyway, the storm hit PLUS highway too but the CRV handled the storm and the rain pretty well.

The comment from adults at the back seat was that it is very spacious and lots of leg room for them.

Truly a great car in terms of it's exterior design, interior furnishing and the turbo engine are really great differentiators. Honda have a winner here that will last for years!

Monday, August 21, 2017

What are the advantages of CarPlay over traditional Bluetooth?

Readers of this blog knows that I am a die-hard Apple fan - so much so as even appearing cultist and fanboism. They also know that the reason I delayed my car purchase and chose the current car is somewhat related to waiting for Apple CarPlay to arrive in Malaysia. After one month of driving the car and using CarPlay, I am afraid I have to ask the hard question of "why bother with CarPlay?"

The current CarPlay in all models of Honda is the wired models - meaning there is a lightning-USB cable that goes from the car into the iPhone. Once you plug that in, the whole infotainment system turn into one giant iPhone screen. Very responsive, very beautiful.


With the iPhone plugged in, I could say "hey Siri" and Siri is turned on and I could ask Siri to call the wife or play this playlist or play songs by Adele or even send someone a message. And with the integrated Apple Maps, I could have turn by turn navigation. No Waze yet, unfortunately - a BIG unfortunately, actually.

But you must remember to plug in the cable.

Consider the alternative - get into the car, start the engine and drive off. The iPhone automatically connects to Honda HandsFreeLink (seriously, it is super smooth connectivity, no waiting, no lag - it just connects without you having to do anything). Your finger goes to the button on the steering wheel and just click to call someone in your Speed Dial or start playing music.

And if you had music that was playing before you stopped the car, the music continues where you left off. Sure, CarPlay does that same but you HAVE TO PLUG IT IN! With the Bluetooth, it connects and play automatically where you left off, even when the phone is in your pocket, without having to take out the phone!

So, why bother with CarPlay?

I, uh, I am afraid, I can't answer that!

I could just grab an excuse - Apple Maps! coz you can't get turn by turn navigation from Honda infotainment otherwise - sure.. but Apple Maps is no Waze! All I need is a RM$50 hands free magnet thingy and I will have Waze on the iPhone on the windscreen. Why bother with CarPlay?

I find it disturbing that I waited so long for CarPlay to only realize that it is no big deal .. except it's beautiful .. but that's about it. There is no practicality over connecting via traditional Bluetooth way.

P.S. This article is an excellent complementary write up on this subject.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Economy is bad?

Have you noticed that it is very difficult to get home improvement work done these days? My roofing (pergola, to be exact) had some problem and needed replacement. The sales guy came and took some measurement but told me that I have to wait 4 weeks before they can get someone to install. Just two months ago, we install a mosquitoes screen on the door and window. I also have to wait for 4 weeks before they are available for installation. Plumbing - a few days. They say the new CRV have to wait two weeks. Want someone to service your aircond? Wait a few weeks. Have a ceiling fan need to be replaced and need an electrician? Good luck looking for one because they don't want to do small jobs like this.

So if economy is bad, these guys should be very free and available. Or hungry for jobs. But it seems that they have lots of jobs waiting for them! Hmmm....

So, if you lose your jobs one day and you are willing to work hard, you can't "die of hunger", as a Chinese saying goes.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Using an iPad as a secondary monitor

the iPad is running at 60fps

How about extending the display of your Windows 10 PC or MacBook into a secondary display without needing to pay for a second monitor? That's provided you have an iPad around. With DuetDisplay (RM60 iOS app, desktop app is free), you can do just that! And a secondary display is something that once you have it, you can't live without it. And using an iPad made it so much practical to carry around another display on-the-go, with your MacBook, to work! Try it out!

DuetDisplay just requires an iOS app, a desktop app that's super easy to install and the normal Lightning charging cable that came with the iPad. Connect the cable between the iPad and the USB port of the PC/Mac and you get high resolution, 60 FPS (!!) secondary display that DOES NOT LAG at all.

P.S. and if you connect to the Mac, the iPad can be used to display a TouchBar - you know, that nice new row of icons you can punch on your keyboard to do different things? Very nice!


A mech keyboard nerd's thoughts on 2017 MacBook Pro keyboard

My old Thinkpad has reached its end of life and so the company issued me a new notebook. By default, they issued a MacBook Air, but I tried ...