Danny Guo | 郭亚东

Published on 2018-06-07

I've been using Macs for almost nine years. I got a 15" MacBook Pro the summer
before my freshman year of college through my school's computer store. I used
it for six years before getting a 13" model in 2015. I'm considering getting a
new one in the next year or two, but the latest MacBook Pros have
become worse in many ways that are important to me. While it's hard to
generalize from my opinions, I've read a fair amount of discontent on Hacker
News
and the
r/apple subreddit. Some
people
are seeking out used or
refurbished 2015 machines.

Charging

MagSafe was always one of the best
MacBook features. Now, all the MacBook Pro models use
USB-C for charging. While I like the
idea of eventually being able to use the same charger for everything, losing
MagSafe is still unfortunate.

Ports

Apple has been enthusiastic about pushing forward with new standards and
embracing a wireless world. They dropped the DVD drive long before other
companies did. But I didn't want a DVD drive, even in 2015. USB 3 and HDMI are
different. MacBook Pros only have USB-C ports now. Not having a single legacy
USB port may be progressive, but I don't like the idea of buying and carrying
around dongles and adapters. The built-in HDMI port on my 2015 machine has been
useful since HDMI is so widely supported. At this point, I just hope they don't
drop the headphone jack like they did for iPhones.

Keyboard

I've tried the new butterfly mechanism keyboard, and it feels terrible. The keys
barely move. I love the physical feeling of typing, which is why I use a
mechanical keyboard with obnoxiously loud switches. The new keyboard also seems
to be less
reliable
,
with pieces of dust or
debris

causing keypresses to not register. Apple is facing a class action
lawsuit

over the issue.

Trackpad

The trackpad is too big. Even one palm rejection failure in a hundred is too
much. I set my sensitivity to max anyway, so a larger trackpad doesn't help me
because I can go from one edge of the screen to another with barely any finger
movement.

I also think the trackpad is aesthetically too large because there's almost no
margin between it and the keyboard and the edge of the laptop. One of the
reasons many terminal emulators and older websites look ugly is because they
don't have enough margin between elements. The MacBook Pro trackpad is ugly for
the same reason.

Touch Bar

The touch bar doesn't seem useful. I don't mind the digital escape key, since I
remap my caps lock key to escape (when
tapped) and control (when held down) anyway, but I would rather use keyboard
shortcuts than look down at the touch bar. At home, I also put my laptop on a
stand, so reaching up for the touch bar would definitely be slower than using
my mouse.

macOS

I've realized that almost all of the macOS software is effectively bloatware for me.

macOS software

  • Photos
  • iMovie
  • GarageBand
  • Pages
    • I haven't needed to make a Word document in a long time, but I can use Google Docs.
  • Numbers
  • Keynote
    • I prefer creating HTML presentations using frameworks like reveal.js.
  • Siri
    • Voice assistants are more helpful on smartphones where typing is harder. I never use Siri on my laptop.
  • Safari
    • I use Firefox as my primary browser.
  • Mail
    • I use the Gmail web client.
  • FaceTime
    • It's restricted to macOS/iOS users. Skype, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, etc. all work anywhere and with multiple people. I tried to use FaceTime with my family once and learned that it still only supports one on one video chats, though Apple recently announced that group video chats are coming.
  • Messages
    • It's also restricted to macOS/iOS users. I use Google Voice, so I can send and receive SMS messsages using any device because it works through Hangouts, which is multi-platform.
  • Maps
  • Notes
  • Calendar
  • Contacts
  • Reminders
  • Photo Booth
    • This was fun to play around with, but I haven't opened it in years.
  • Preview
    • This is the only one I use regularly.
  • iTunes
  • iBooks
  • App Store
    • I only use this for system updates. I use Homebrew for software because I can check my software list into version control.
  • Time Machine

The overarching problem with macOS programs is that they are tied to Apple
hardware, and they don't have web versions. I want my software to be
hardware-agnostic.

One big reason to buy into Apple's ecosystem is their pro-privacy
stance
,
but that's not compelling enough for me yet. While I don't want to be so
reliant on Google services, I'd rather use software from a variety of companies
anyway. Todoist is better than any similar product that Apple or Google has
produced, and I'm always on the look out for new solutions in established
categories.

Docker

I try to do as much software development as I can in
Docker. However, there are significant performance
issues with Docker for Mac when using
mounted volumes. The issues
aren't very noticeable for small projects, but for working on a medium-sized
website, I do all the development on Linux on a five year old Lenovo laptop.
If I could only fix one issue with using Macs, it'd be this one.

Alternatives

I'm considering getting a Lenovo ThinkPad X1
Carbon
instead and running
Arch Linux on it. The X1 has USB-C ports but
still retains legacy USB and HDMI ports. It's about a half pound lighter than
the 13" Macbook Pro, yet it has a 14" screen. It even has a matte screen option
that I would prefer. Rather than a touch bar, its uncommon feature is a
physical webcam cover, which I actually want.

The main thing holding me back from switching is the fact that I want to learn
how to develop mobile apps, and a Mac is basically required for iOS
development. While there are workarounds, they all have enough restrictions and
drawbacks that they don't seem viable. Some of the other advantages of sticking
with Apple are:

  • iTerm2 is the best terminal emulator I've used.
  • There are many more desirable native apps for macOS than for Linux.
  • macOS is generally more polished and reliable in my experience. I've never had to debug the wake from sleep functionality on my Mac, but I've had to for Linux. On the other hand, Apple software quality seems to have taken a downturn recently.

Hope

Macbook Pros are due for an update,
and I can only hope that the changes will restore some sense of desire. When I
got my first Mac, I checked the shipping status multiple times a day because I
was so excited. If I stick with Apple now, it would be with great reluctance.
The Apple magic isn't there anymore.

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