Minor MacBook Pro Refresh

Apple has announced a slightly updated MacBook Pro.

Jason Snell (Six Colors):

These updates don’t bring any changes to the exterior of the MacBook Pro — it’s the same base design introduced in late 2016 — but they do bring 9th-generation Intel processors with up to eight cores to the MacBook Pro for the first time. There’s also been yet another tweak to the controversial butterfly keyboard Apple first introduced in 2015.

I’ve had to buy this (I went with the 15-inch base model). My mid-2012 MacBook Pro died a few months back and I’ve been waiting for an update to the lineup before biting the bullet. I was hoping for a whole new refresh with ARM chips. But that was always a little hopeful.

But the main reason I didn’t go out and buy a new one straightway is due to the unreliable butterfly keyboards on this current generation of MacBook Pro’s. I wasn’t waiting for a refresh for that sweet new industrial design. I was waiting simply because I wanted a keyboard that would work reliably.

This update does have an ‘updated’ keyboard though. John Gruber (Daring Fireball) has some info:

First, these new MacBook Pros still have the third-generation butterfly-switch keyboard that debuted with last July’s updated MacBook Pros. But Apple has changed the mechanism under the hood, using a new material for at least one of the components in these switches. The purpose of this change is specifically to increase the reliability of the keyboards. Apple emphasized to me their usual line that the “vast majority” of users have no problem with these keyboards, but they acknowledge that some users do and say they take it very seriously.

Fingers crossed that his update fixes a lot of the keyboard issues. But the simple, sad truth is this: a fancy MacBook Pro is being delivered to my house tomorrow and I’m more apprehensive than excited. Will this new machine last 6 years like my old one? We’ll see.

12 Steps To Drink Well and Not Get a Hangover

I turned 27 this year. And almost overnight I started to get bad hangovers whenever I drank more than a beer or two. Gone were the years of my next day invincibility. So I’ve been forced to develop a system. It helps me. Maybe it can help you too, my fellow old people.

Step 1 – You might still feel like crap

Accept the fact that you’re going to have to slightly write off a day after drinking. Despite taking precautions there’s still a chance you might feel pretty rough the day after drinking. So don’t drink if you have to work the next day. Save it for those sacred days off.

Step 2 – You will get fat

You’re probably going to drink and eat 2000+ of excess calories on your drinking nights. Accept this.

Step 3 – Don’t start too late

You’ve had a long day of work. You get home late and now you just want to unwind and get plastered. Well, I wouldn’t. It’s bed time in just a few hours and that’s not enough time to get drunk and also take the necessary recovery steps for a hangover-free tomorrow. Save it for another day. A special day. A drinking day.

Step 4 – Learn to get less drunk

This meant seem silly, but after years of chasing the dragon your expectations of drunkenness and your ‘tolerance’ to booze has probably gone up. Spend some time getting in touch with the taste of alcohol again and the more subtle elements of its intoxicating effects. Spend a month or two every now and then just getting a little tipsy and not totally plastered. I’d recommend sticking to drinks that you really like the taste of so you can sip and savour the taste itself, not just its stuporing results.

Step 5 – Please line your stomach

Eat. Eat well. Eat a lot. And close to when you start drinking. I eat my meal 45 minutes before I begin imbibing. The first hour or so of drinking will feel a little too sober, but you’ll be thankful later. And trust me, you will still get drunk. So relax.

Step 6 – Track that booze

This might seem a little too OCD and geeky for some of you, but I recommend tracking how much you drink. I use the app Boozed?. You enter what you drink and it gives you an estimated BAC (learn about how BAC effects you).

Step 7 – Set Timers

Again, maybe a little too over the top. But this step is absolutely vital for me. In certain situations it can be very easy to drink too fast. For each drink (175ml wine, 500ml beer, or 50ml spirits) I set a countdown on my phone for 30 minutes (experiment until you find your correct timer length) and I’m not allowed to get another drink until the timer ends.

Step 8 – Drink water between drinks

I know this is an annoying step, but it’s an important one. Between every alcoholic drink consume 250-400ml of water to stay hydrated. This can be potentially harder to stick to if you’re not drinking at home. So if you’re in a club and you know you’re not going to be that guy asking for a tap water at the bar maybe drink a G&T and ask for extra tonic water instead to up the amount of non-alcoholic liquid you’re getting.

Step 9 – Skip that last drink, drink more water instead

So the night is winding down and bed/home time is approaching and its last order. Well don’t make that last order. That final drink might just push you into hangover territory and by the time the alcohol actually enters your bloodstream you’re probably going to be home or asleep anyway. So skip that last drink my friend and power down some water instead. And it’s better to drink that water now than just before bed anyway, otherwise you’ll be waking up to pee it out in the middle of the night.

Step 10 – Eat before bed

I generally try to keep it mildly healthy most of the time and will munch on a banana or two and maybe some mixed nuts. But let’s be honest here, that kebab looks bloody good. Either way, eat! If you have a choice between eating before or after drinking though always eat before.

Step 11 – Eat upon waking

Don’t skip breakfast please. And this isn’t time for your Instagram-worthy bowl of Chia seeds. Get some disgusting saturated fat down your gullet and feel sorry for yourself like you’re supposed to.

Step 12 – Accept that alcohol is very bad for you

This is my final step and my goodbye. Don’t be ignorant. Please accept that alcohol is very bad for you. It aids violence, mental illness, sexual promiscuity and sexual dysfunction (a cruel combination), over eating (until alcoholism takes ahold later in life and then you can barely stomach a slice of bread), a myriad of diseases and cancers, and is also expensive. So be like Winston Churchill and get more out of drinking than it gets out of you. Think alcoholism isn’t too much of a big deal? Here’s a reddit comment by an alcoholic describing his ailments due to drink.


  • Drinking beer? Buy some non-alcoholic beer too and have one after every second alcoholic beer. Trick yourself into drinking less.
  • Some people swear by taking B-Vitamins before bed. I’ve never tried this though.
  • Maybe just don’t drink? If every time you drink you end up in trouble or you get hangovers after just three drinks maybe your hell raising days are over. Or maybe you have Gilbert’s syndrome or something.
  • Only drink with a sugar-free mixer. It gets you drunker and won’t give you full-blown diabetes.
  • Remember, you’re not a heavy drinker, you’re a pintman.

Note: Science doesn’t agree with a lot of my points. We still don’t know how to cure hangovers. The only really proven way to feel better the next day is to quite simply drink less. So a lot of my steps are pseudoscience at best. But hey, it works for me. Try it and then email me with your results.

I’ll leave you with this advice by Christopher Hitchens on drinking:

[…] Of course, watching the clock for the start-time is probably a bad sign, but here are some simple pieces of advice for the young. Don’t drink on an empty stomach: the main point of the refreshment is the enhancement of food. Don’t drink if you have the blues: it’s a junk cure. Drink when you are in a good mood. Cheap booze is a false economy. It’s not true that you shouldn’t drink alone: these can be the happiest glasses you ever drain. Hangovers are another bad sign, and you should not expect to be believed if you take refuge in saying you can’t properly remember last night. (If you really don’t remember, that’s an even worse sign.) Avoid all narcotics: these make you more boring rather than less and are not designed—as are the grape and the grain—to enliven company. Be careful about up-grading too far to single malt Scotch: when you are voyaging in rough countries it won’t be easily available. Never even think about driving a car if you have taken a drop. […]

Security Lapse Exposed a Chinese Smart City Surveillance System

[Outline.com link as TechCrunch has a terrible pop up that I couldn’t dismiss on my iPad and their website is truly awful. So sod ’em. Here’s the original link if you’d prefer though.]

Today in Cyberpunk China:

Security researcher John Wethington found a smart city database accessible from a web browser without a password. […]

The exposed data contains enough information to pinpoint where people went, when and for how long, allowing anyone with access to the data — including police — to build up a picture of a person’s day-to-day life. […]

The database also contained a subject’s approximate age as well as an “attractive” score, according to the database fields. […]

The system also uses its facial recognition systems to detect ethnicities and labels them — such as “汉族” for Han Chinese, the main ethnic group of China — and also “维族” — or Uyghur Muslims, an ethnic minority under persecution by Beijing. […]

The Chinese government has detained more than a million Uyghurs in internment camps in the past year, according to a United Nations human rights committee. It’s part of a massive crackdown by Beijing on the ethnic minority group. […]

The customer’s system also has the capability to monitor for Wi-Fi-enabled devices, such as phones and computers, using sensors built by Chinese networking tech maker Renzixing and placed around the district. The database collects the dates and times that pass through its wireless network radius. Fields in the Wi-Fi-device logging table suggest the system can collect IMEI and IMSI numbers, used to uniquely identify a cellular user. […]

Further reading: One Month, 500,000 Face Scans: How China Is Using A.I. to Profile a Minority

Jack Dorsey Is Gwyneth Paltrow for Silicon Valley

For 10 days a year, he sits in silence at a meditation retreat. Before getting dressed each morning, he experiments with using his home infrared sauna and then an ice bath, sometimes cycling through both several times before he leaves home. He walks five miles to work. He eats one meal a day and has said that on the weekends when he fasts from Friday to Saturday, “time slows down.” He talks about starting each morning with salt juice — water mixed with Himalayan salt and lemon. It is dispensed in Twitter offices around the world.

I haven’t really kept up with Twitter founder Jack Dorsey for a while but it seems he’s now gone full podcast bro.

Last time I saw him was via his long-lasting Twitter profile image. But that chisel-jawed Armie Hammer lookalike is more of a Tyron Lannister from Game of Thrones lookalike these days. That dude is looking lean. Maybe this criticism that he’s promoting eating disorders is partly correct. I wonder what’s next chasing that natural high. Self-harm maybe?

I mention all this not to mock the guy, but because I actually find myself somewhat attracted to the health douche culture, sadly. There was quite a while when I flirted with hipsterhood instead. I had to stop myself buying shit from Best Made Co., having £30 beard trims, and listening to Bon Iver. Luckily the furthest I wandered down that path was buying Iron Ranger boots, raw denim jeans and getting into fancy coffee.

So I must be strong and not let this new fad engulf me. I currently actively avoid minimalist YouTube channels, refuse to listen to Tim Ferris, and won’t read Podcast Notes.

Stoicism and intermittent fasting is all I’ve given in to so far. I read Aurelius each morning. And I’ve actually lost a bunch of weight. So, maybe I should just embrace the douchedom? 😐

Further reading: The Podcast Bros Want to Optimize Your Life + Why Is Silicon Valley So Obsessed With the Virtue of Suffering?

ARM Macs This Year?

Intel have been dragging their feet when it comes to advancements in laptop-class CPUs for a while now. And it’s costing the Mac dearly. The iPad Pro is a more powerful device than most MacBooks! So for a few years it’s been rumoured that Apple is going to switch to ARM processors like their iOS devices.

In my head this was still a year or two away. But maybe not. Tim Cook:

For our Mac business overall, we faced some processor constraints in the March quarter, leading to a 5 percent revenue decline compared to last year. But we believe that our Mac revenue would have been up compared to last year without those constraints, and don’t believe this challenge will have a significant impact on our Q3 results.

As someone who just had their 6-year-old MacBook die on them and is waiting for WWDC before biting the bullet for a new one I really do hope ARM chips arrive this year.

{via Daring Fireball}

Some Quick Thoughts on Apple News

I know the tech world is currently busy covering Apple News+, but I’ve recently just been trying out plain old Apple News recently for the first time. Here’s some random thoughts.

  • I actually think it’s a decently designed app. It does nothing outstanding, but it displays stories and their texts simply. It does its job.
  • The main thing I’m not a fan of design wise is the time when posted text (e.g. ‘4h ago’, see screenshot) below each article. As long as it was published today I don’t care about the time published. And I don’t like how it’s placed at the bottom of each story block, as it can look a little stranded if the headline is a short one.
  • You really need to train it. If News was made by Google or Amazon you’d launch the app for the first time and it would would be eerily good at showing you stories of interest. But this is Apple so it takes some time to set it up to get good results. You have to be very proactive in blocking websites and disliking certain stories.
  • The typeface on the Mac version is too small and I don’t think there’s a way to enlarge it.
  • I never visit the human curated ‘Spotlight’ section. Nothing has ever caught my eye in there.
  • Overall I’ve found a lot of the negatives aren’t to do with Apple News itself and are instead due to the websites that are within it. Online journalism now is too short, too wrong and too clickbaity. And there just isn’t enough good articles published each to day to fill out the ‘columns’ of the Apple News app. But maybe the new higher-quality paid stuff in News+ will help with that problem.

The New York Times Gets It

I don’t read much news, but fairly often one of my RSS reads will link to an article from a newspaper. And this has become a little anoying in recent years as many newspapers now put their online content behind a paywall due to their dwindling physical paper circulation. Which I understand. But as someone who reads just a couple of articles a month from each publication it makes little finanical sense for me to take out an expensive, recurring subscription. The Guardian costs £13/mo (after a 14 day free trial). The Wall Street Journal costs £12/mo for the first twelve months and then an eye-watering £35/mo thereafter. And to sign up you have to fill out the usual endless amount of online forms and give them all manner of data.

Compare that to the New York Times.
– £3.40/mo for the first year.
– £6.80/mo thereafter.
– Buy with Apple Pay and unlock the desired article in seconds.
– Cancel at any time.

(The Washington Post also offers Apple Pay and costs £4.50/mo. A good value.)

Amazon Prime Video

There’s a nice little article by Alex Sherman at CNBC on Amazon Prime Video, beginning with this interesting rumour as to why the Lord of the Rings TV show rights went to Prime Video:

But money alone wasn’t going to separate Amazon from the pack — Amazon’s $250 million offer wasn’t even the highest bid for the show’s rights, according to a person familiar with the matter. The ultimate selling point, according to people with knowledge of the negotiations, related to Amazon’s original business from over two decades ago: books. The Tolkien estate was convinced that in promoting the series, Amazon could sell truckloads of Tolkien’s fantasy novels, including “The Hobbit” and “The Silmarillion” as well as “The Lord of the Rings.”

So it looks like maybe part of the deal involves the Amazon homepage pushing Tolkien books as hard as it does its Echos.

Amazon Prime Video is a curious thing. It has some good ideas and potential but somehow it’s just not coming together.

According to the above article Prime Video originally focused on ‘high-minded, potentially award-winning content to lure users into Prime’. Which is true, with rather niche films like The Neon Demon, Paterson, and Manchester by the Sea being funded by them. All of which were good, but not exactly mainstream. They’ve had more luck on the TV side, with Transparent and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel finding more appeal. However the rest of their TV offerings haven’t quite cut the mustard.

And now it seems like Prime Video is changing tactic slightly, realising that what really stops people from not renewing their Prime membership is not a bunch of four-star shows, but a couple of five-star shows that customers can’t live without. They’re doubtless aware there are plenty of people who subscribe to HBO GO just for Game of Thrones. And I think that’s one reason they’ve overpaid for The Grand Tour and Lord of the Rings. They need a hit. I’m sure they’ll continue funding lots of original content and seeing what sticks, à la Netflix. But they’re now aggressively pursuing what they perceive as ’ready-made’ hits, in desperation.

Another thing the article mentioned was Amazon Channels, which is essentially a way for users to get streaming content that isn’t on Prime Video into the service if they’re willing to pay for it. For example, $15/mo gets you HBO and $9/mo gets you Showtime. Now that every television network seems to be making its own streaming service, requiring users to deal with a bunch of different apps and bills, why not put all in one easy centralised place? Amazon Channels is a great idea. But it doesn’t quite work. And a large part is due to, what I think, is Prime Video’s biggest weakness: its UI.

Amazon products aren’t exactly known for their design, with nearly everything they make being ugly. But Prime Video is actively dysfunctional. My Mum can’t use it, whereas she has no issues with Netflix. It also makes the catastrophic mistake of showing non-Prime content that you have to purchase alongside the stuff that you get as part of your subscription. You see a movie that takes your fancy and then you realise once you click on it that you have to rent or purchase it. Truly ludicrous. Amazon needs to separate Prime Video and the Prime Video store. And talking of separating. They separate the above mentioned Amazon Channels, the one thing they shouldn’t. Rather than nicely adding Channel content into the interface, it’s almost treated like an app within an app.

If Amazon offered users Prime at $99 rather than $119, but for that they didn’t get access to Prime Video, how many would go for the cheaper plan? I believe a healthy majority would. Prime Video as it stands today, is a fairly limp, ugly offering.

Remembering Podcasts

Podcasts have a big problem: remembering them. Many of the podcasts I follow are overflowing with ideas, knowledge and references that I will almost certainly never remember to look into further.

A big reason for this is because like a lot of people I listen to podcasts in the background whilst doing something else. 95% of my podcast listening time is spent whilst I’m either walking, running, driving or trying to sleep. Basically times when it’s not appropriate to whip out my phone and start writing things in my notes app like ‘look up BBC news article about bees in South African plane’s engine that delayed flights’. It’s too much hassle. The most I manage to do is take a quick screenshot which lists the show, episode and timestamp. But then my phone just becomes full of screenshots and I can never be bothered to re-download the episode, find the correct spot, listen to it again and then finally do the research. I just don’t bother.

I can hear you shouting “show notes!”. True, show notes are very handy and thankfully more and more podcasts do them now. But I still have to go to their website, find the episode, and then seek out the correct section. Again, I just don’t bother.

Here’s want I want. It’s simple we kill the batman. I want my podcast player of choice (Overcast) to have an easily accessible bookmark button. In an ideal world it would then grab the audio starting from 1 minute before and 1 minute after and then email it to me, or import it into Evernote or something. But I’d settle for a ‘bookmark’ section in the app which lists all podcast episodes with bookmarks then lets you skip through the them. That feature would make listening to podcasts a lot more productive for me. Episodes wouldn’t just come and go. I could sit in front of a computer, browse through the bookmarks, and do the appropriate research.

Now that I’ve written this I just realised that I’ve blindly been using Overcast for many years now and maybe there’s an app out there that already does this? To the App Store!

I Put My Dad on Linux and Everything Went Fine

Oh the joys of giving tech support to your parents for their crappy computer. I suffered for years with this and so did my poor Dad. It was the classic cheap PC + Windows combo of pain. The laptop display looked like it was 512 × 342 and it lost an average of one keycap a month. And then there was the usual Windows woes. Slowness, old school viruses, antivirus viruses, free-to-play games inexplicably downloaded to the desktop and about seven AskJeeves toolbars. Pure misery. So when the laptop finally died and my Dad came to me for advice about a replacement I knew a better solution was needed.

I quickly recommended going the desktop route over a laptop since my Dad nearly always worked at his desk and a desktop would last a lot longer. We could have picked up a pre-built machine, but I knew buying the parts and building a desktop myself would be cheaper, offer more spec flexibility and be a lot more reliable. Plus if something did break I could probably quickly and easily fix it by replacing the dead part (and not the whole machine!).

I went with a Silverstone Mini-ITX case (in white, which pleased Mum as it blended in nicely with the study decor), Intel Pentium Dual Core G3258, 8GB of DDR3 RAM, 120GB SSD, MSI LGA1150 motherboard and a 300W Be Quiet! power supply. Total cost: £240.

Next came the OS. There was no way I was going to give Microsoft £80 for a copy of Windows and a lifetime of headaches. So I thought ‘why not Linux?’. It might seem bizarre, but it’s a near perfect OS for someone like my Dad. He’s far less likely to download a virus, Linux doesn’t bother him with popups, it’s easier to keep the same UI for many years (no forced Windows software updates and ‘visual refreshes’), and his computer will still be blazing fast five years from now. And he doesn’t use Adobe Lightroom or Microsoft Excel, his needs are simple, all he wants is a web browser and a word processor. Linux gives him that easily.

There’s lots of Linux distributions out there of course and at first I looked into ones that mirror his old Windows 7 desktop as much as possible. But they also often copied some of the bad and confusing elements too. So in the end I just settled on Ubuntu with the Unity desktop. It’s simple, with a nice large dock to the left.

His new desktop. Minimalistic with just four buttons that he knows as ‘search, documents, internet, and Word’.

However this was all good in theory and on paper, but how would this system and Dad get on in reality? Well it’s been over two years now and there has been literally zero problems. Honestly. Even the wireless printer works flawlessly. It did take him a little while to get used to the Ubuntu file browser. But now he knows to just save everything in Dropbox and click on that folder or Downloads when wants to find something. But aside from that the transition went swimmingly. We get a lot of power cuts and both the hardware and software have even dealt with that (somehow) without issue. The only maintenance I do is run sudo apt-get update every now and then.

I expect this machine will serve him loyally and reliably for many years to come. Thanks Linux.