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November 01 2016

Who's to blame for the 16GB RAM limit on the new MacBook Pros

John Gruber’s comment on a Reddit thread about the 16GB max RAM limit in the newly announced MacBook Pros:

Apple simply places a higher priority on thinness and lightness than performance-hungry pro users do. Apple is more willing to compromise on performance than on thinness and lightness and battery life. Intel just doesn’t make the chips that Apple needs.

Daring Fireball: Who’s to Blame for the 16 GB RAM Limit on the New MacBook Pros: Apple or Intel?

If the 16GB max RAM limitation would be a problem of Apple not finding the right technology from their suppliers, I’d probably understand it, even if we are buying (and paying the premium prices for) Apple’s products. But to me this looks more like a misalignment of priorities, as there are other laptop vendors offering beefier machines.

Benjamin Button Reviews The New MacBook Pro

The new MacBook Pro shows that Apple is finally becoming serious about developers.

Gone is the gimmicky TouchBar, gone are the four USB-C ports that forced power users to carry a suitcase full of dongles. In their place we get a cornucopia of developer-friendly ports: two USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt 2 ports, a redesigned power connector, and a long-awaited HDMI port.

Maciej Ceglowki

This is soooo good!

Apple Watch battery improvements after upgrading to 3.1

After upgrading my Apple Watch Series 2 to the recently released 3.1, I got the feeling that the battery lasted longer.

As a rather new owner of the Apple Watch, I’m still developing my recharging habits. I’m wearing the watch all day and all night, for sleep tracking which I still hope will become something better supported, then recharge it the next morning.

Until now, when waking up, my watch showed the battery being somewhere between 20-40%. But since the upgrade, I’ve noticed that in the morning the battery is around 60-70%.

It looks like others are noticing similar improvements:

Over the past few days a hidden advantage of 3.1 has been discovered, with users on the MacRumors forums and Reddit mentioning that they have vastly improved battery life on their Apple Watch Series 1 and Series 2 following the new update.

MacRumors

I will continue with my current schedule for recharging every morning, but I do appreciate the fact that 1) the recharge will take less time; 2) I don’t need to worry if I forget to recharge it immediately after waking up; and 3) I can sleep in for quite a bit before depleting the battery.

On the other hand, I’m wondering if Apple should change the wording about the improved battery life. I think the tricky part advertising a battery life longer than 24 hours is that it might lead some users to change their recharging habits and increase the chances to find themselves with the watch battery on the red. This is less of an issue for mechanical watches, or at least the automatic ones, advertising their reserve power in terms of hours, but usually somewhere between 24 and 48 hours, as these do not require an external charger.

October 31 2016

Old keyboard with new clothes... typewriter keycaps

I just received a new set of keycaps. Mounted them on my Magicforce keyboard with blue-yellow backlighting:

Magicforce with Lighted Typewriter Keycaps

Magicforce with Typewriter Keycaps

The keyboard is the Magicforce 68-key Mini Mechanical with Gateron blue switches. The keycap set doesn’t have an official name, but they are ABS. Definitely not the best, but they make for a nice vintage look.

How to fix Irvue Unsplash Wallpapers crashes

I’ve been using, for a while now, Irvue2 app to automatically get fresh new, great desktop wallpapers.

With the last few releases of macOS, the app stopped loading after each upgrade. I have found the solution in an old tweet1:

How to fix Irvue Unslpash Wallpapers Crashes

If you’re asking yourself why I’m using such an app, I probably don’t have a very good answer. It’s just that I got bored of the default wallpapers, gave up looking for the perfect one, thought of trying to see some cool new photos. The nice thing about Irvue is that you can configure how often you want the wallpaper changed, it works with multiple monitors, and it is using images from Unsplash.


  1. unfortunately I’ve lost the original link 

  2. Not an affiliate link; the app is free. 

Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports... Almost

I’m speechless:

MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2016, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports) supports Thunderbolt 3 at full performance using the two left-hand ports. The two right-hand ports deliver Thunderbolt 3 functionality, but have reduced PCI Express bandwidth.

Always plug higher-performance devices into the left-hand ports on MacBook Pro (13-inch, Late 2016, Four Thunderbolt 3 Ports) for maximum data throughput.

— Apple: Connect with Thunderbolt 3 on your late-2016 MacBook Pro - Apple Support

Just to be clear, the small font in the 2nd paragraph is not mine.

Apple’s USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter

This adapter allows you to mirror your MacBook or MacBook Pro display to your HDMI-enabled TV or display in up to 1080p at 60Hz or UHD (3840 by 2160) at 30Hz.

The 2-star, $69 dongle sold by Apple.

Third-party USB-C hubs are notoriously a disaster

Third-party USB-C hubs are notoriously a disaster. They overheat, are missing crucial ports, or the ports they have are underpowered, and on many of the ones we’ve tested, the SD card readers consistently fail to work.. If you can’t tell, I own a 12-inch MacBook, and I, along with a few other Verge coworkers who own the laptop have used just about every viable USB-C hub to date, with less than stellar results.

— The Verge: This may be the USB-C hub we’ve been waiting for

This hub is not available yet.

What is Thunderbolt 3?

Good short description of Thunderbolt 3:

Thunderbolt 3 allows for connection speeds up to 40Gbps, double the speed of the previous generation, USB 3.1 10Gbps, and DisplayPort 1.2. It also offers USB speeds of up to 10Gbps, and it can connect up to two 4K displays, outputting video and audio signal at the same time. It also supports DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI 2.0, and 10GbE fast networking. Plus, Thunderbolt 3 is backwards compatible to Thunderbolt 2.

Thunderbolt 3 explained: The one port to rule them al

How about supplying power?

Confused about Thunderbolt 3, USB-C, and Related Stuff

I’m looking at my desk. I have a bunch of external devices plugged into my Macs, two quite old retina MBPs. It’s just the regular stuff: mice’s receivers, external keyboard(s), USB hubs to quickly plug in external hard drives and my phone/iPad/watch. I actually have a setup that allows me to plug these external devices in a similar fashion in either of the machines.

Then there’s the ethernet cable with its Thunderbolt connector. Plus the external monitor, a cheap Monoprice IPS, which requires Dual DVI. If I count, one of my laptops has 4 ports used: both USBs (1 with the USB 3.0 hub, the other with the Logitech Unified Receiver dongle), the Thunderbolt cable for the monitor, and the Thunderbolt ethernet adapter.

The new models of MBP with TouchBar come with 4 Thunderbolt 3 slots. For the simplest conversion, it looks like I’d need:

  1. 1 Thunderbolt 3/USB-C to USB A adapter for the current USB hub
  2. 1 Thunderbolt 3/USB-C to USB A adapter for the mouse receiver
  3. 1 Thunderbolt 3 to Mini DisplayPort adapter

Where things are becoming tricky though is figuring out what parts of the Thunderbolt 3/USB-C the various adapters/connectors out actually support. I read Stephen Foskett’s Total Nightmare: USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 and I’m still confused. The descriptions of the products on Amazon are not helping either.

And I haven’t got to the external displays, DisplayPort, HDMI where things seem to be even more complicated.

I just hope that by the time the new MBPs are shipping, there will be more reviews of the dongles that will be needed. And, yes, I am trying to avoid buying any of these new dongles from Apple as they are expensive.

I’ve read that the correct term for USB-C is USB Type C, but I’ll stick with USB-C for now.

March 20 2016

Emacs ispell-complete-word

Continuing my excursions with Spacemacs, I’ve learned about the ispell commands.

On OS X, I had to install aspell using homebrew and then configure it accordingly:

(setq-default ispell-program-name "aspell")

The command that got me the most interested is ispell-complete-word which base on the characters at point will offer word suggestions. What I noticed though is that using this command in the middle of a phrase will result in moving the point after the inserted word making its usage a bit cumbersome.

While reading an article (to take my mind off this small issue) I ran into save-excursion function which saves the point, mark, and current buffer; then executes the body, and restores those things. This gave me an idea on how to address my small annoyance with ispell-complete-word:

I would have liked to bind this to C-x C-d as in vim, but the C-x prefix is used for a different purpose in Emacs.

March 19 2016

MacVim Auto-Transparency

After finding a pair of settings in Spacemacs to enable transparency, I wondered if I can do something similar in MacVim.

Indeed, it is possible:

March 14 2016

When is the right time to learn Swift?

I am not an iOS or OS X app developer. I have no plans to build yet another iOS or OS X app to be lost in the undiscoverable ocean of the App Stores.

My interest for Swift is similar to the interest I have in Go or a few other new programming languages: learning new languages that could impact or even shape the future of software development for the years to come. Please do not read the previous phrase as a dismissal of Java or C++ or C# or any of heavily used languages of today. I’m (almost) sure none of these will be gone in the next decade.

Leaving aside the Swift Programming Book, my experience, based on my generic interest, with Swift so far has been quite abysmal. Mostly everything I find online assumes a good level of familiarity and reliance on Xcode (I assume everybody knows there’s no Xcode for Linux or Windows.). The Swift user mailing list seems to operate under the same assumption.

While I understand that both Apple and the Apple development community are primarily interested in Swift as a basis for iOS and OS X app development, I find this approach lacking in ensuring the spread of Swift towards the larger development community and expanding the horizons of applications that can be built using Swift. (as a piece of anecdotal evidence, based on the Awesome Swift pages, there are no web frameworks and the number of databases that one can connect to from Swift is very limited)

This is already my second post about Swift and its perceived unfriendliness for a non iOS or Mac developer. I am indeed frustrated that I find it so difficult to start building something with Swift, not an iOS app though. The time I’ve spent so far trying to educate myself and putting things together has been the least productive in the recent years (even when compared with less advertised or less main stream languages or envs).

Except the case I’ll wake up tomorrow and see things completely different, I decided to set a reminder for next year to look into Swift. Until then, I’ll move my attention to other languages/envs that will hopefully make me feel productive.

March 12 2016

3 Questions on How We Build Code at Netflix

A very interesting post from the Netflix engineering team “How We Build Code at Netflix”:

There are a number of steps that need to happen before a line of code makes it way into Spinnaker:

  • Code is built and tested locally using Nebula
  • Changes are committed to a central git repository
  • A Jenkins job executes Nebula, which builds, tests, and packages the application for deployment
  • Builds are “baked” into Amazon Machine Images
  • Spinnaker pipelines are used to deploy and promote the code change

A couple of questions that popped into my mind that the post doesn’t touch on:

  1. How does this system support hot fixes?

    Considering it depends on some many automation tools that employ queues, Jenkins, Spinnaker, etc., a hot fix would require that this flow to be aware of priorities.

    Spinnaker lists a possible “Quick Patch Server Group” stage, but it comes very late in a pipeline that it feels like prioritizing the previous steps would still be necessary to speed up the process.

  2. When in the process are the monitoring tools notified about the newly deployed code?

    Subsequently, how do the monitoring tools combine the information from different code versions that are in production? (to ensure there’s no downtime, there will be a time where different machines will run different versions)

  3. Does Spinnaker assume a homogenous set of servers for deploying a specific service?

    Accepting a heterogenous environment would make the baking stage a lot more complicated as it would need to account for the set of servers the deployed app is currently running and thus probably not be able to optimize the costs by acquiring spot instances.

March 03 2016

2Do: Copy Task with Link Back

For the last 2 weeks I’ve been using 2Do as my main repository of tasks, replacing OmniFocus.

One of the features I’m missing from my previous workflow was copying tasks from OmniFocus to my daily tasks document which I manage using TaskPaper. In OmniFocus I had a script that could automatically copy all selected tasks to the TaskPaper Inbox.

2Do doesn’t have any scripting capabilities. It does have an URL scheme and the latest version, 2.2, introduced an option in the URL scheme for searching tasks. 2Do’s default “Copy” action is also quite good at both picking all the details of a task and formatting them nicely. I also have Keyboard Maestro. Mixing these together, I can now copy a task from 2Do with a link back that more or less can lead me back to the source task.

Here’s the KeyboardMaestro flow. I’ve been using it for the last few days and works as expected.

Keyboard Maestro flow for copying tasks with a link back from 2Do

March 02 2016

My Bad, Themes Do Work in iTerm2 Version 3 Beta

In the Colors tab for Profiles there’s a setting called: “Minimum contrast”. It was all the way to the right and that made the theme colors not be visible. Moving it back towards the left, fixed the issue.

As a side note, I’d say that using a slider with no additional details about the bounds for the setting “Minimum contrast” is not very intuitive. It was only by comparing one by one the settings between my two machines that I’ve noticed this difference and at first I thought it’s safe to skip it.

February 29 2016

Battle for Linux: C# and Swift

Microsoft agreed to acquire Xamarin which might be a strong sign that C# presence on Linux will just get better.

Apple mentioned since the beginning that it plans Swift to be a language that is fit for everything from scripting, iOS and OS X apps, but also server applications. The latter implies being a first class citizen on Linux.

None of these companies sells directly Linux-based machines. It’s not a hardware driven interest.

On the other hand, Microsoft is investing massively on Azure and even if I don’t have any numbers to back this off, I assume many Azure prospects and customers are Linux users. C# on Linux could give Microsoft a bigger footprint in this space and allow the company to provide their services and tools to a much larger developer base.

With Apple, things are less clear as the company doesn’t really offer any out-facing Linux services. Still it’s probably safe to assume that the infrastructure behind iCloud is Linux based. Swift on Linux will give Apple more control over the stack behind some of their critical services. But Apple alone won’t be able to reimplement in Swift all the components behind their services. This makes me think that if this is really Apple’s interest of making Swift work on Linux, then they’ll invest more in popularizing the language and getting the developer community on board. On the other hand, Apple’s interesting in Swift on Linux, could be just to expand the developer community that can build iOS apps or even widen the market of applications they can sell (App Store for Linux?).

9581 a12b 500

Combining pictures using neural networks

Seen on imgur thanks to Stephan Schmidt

iTerm2 Version 3 Beta and Themes

Speaking about themes, iTerm2 version 3 beta — this version competes very successfully for the top place of the weirdest named version — seems to be breaking the old themes. I had a couple that I really liked, but now most of their features aren’t working.

* * * * * 

Just in case you are wondering the iTerm2 themes I like:

  • Belafonte Day (if only for the name and you have to like it). Belafonte Night it’s an interesting not too dark theme, but not necessarily a favorite
  • Espresso and Espresso Libre
  • Misterioso (I have this theme in vim too)
  • Novel
  • Pencil

I could continue with a couple more, but all lists should have at most 5 items.

February 28 2016

Dark vs Light Editor Color Schemes

Why are there so many more dark color schemes for editors?

  1. Is it because it’s easier and/or they allow for more flexibility/creativity?
  2. Is it market driven (in the sense that they are the ones more used)? 

    If that’s the case, does this tell anything about the environment in which editors are used?

I usually have a hard time finding light color schemes that I really like for any of the editors I have or am using. I find the majority of light schemes rather bland. But I seem  to prefer a light scheme when working in natural light.

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