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For the majority of my life I have been a proverbial power user with computers, primarily in love with speed and specs more than practicality. If a computer was not equipped with the fastest processor, most amount of RAM, or largest storage, then I would not consider it for purchase. After traveling all over Tokyo with a laptop attached to my back for the past few years, I have a newfound appreciation for mobility, and my desires have evolved – dare I say – with both old age and pragmatism.

When Apple released its most recent new laptop design in 2015 – the Retina MacBook, simply called MacBook – I laughed at the single USB-C port and thought there was no way in hell I could ever live with a single port. One port? Seriously? WTF Apple?

Fast forward to a couple months ago when Apple released an update to the MacBook lineup, equipping it with a refreshed set of Intel m3, m5, and m7 chips. Apple opted to stick with the single port and same design, much to the dismay of the power user crowd. Initially I rebuffed the new models until I took a closer look at my more recent usage patterns, as well as long-term computing desires.

Background

Late last year my wife purchased a MacBook Air 11” and she loves its portability. Not only does it have a small footprint but it is lightweight, and packs a fairly decent performance punch. It is, by no means, a MacBook Pro – nor is it meant to compete with one – but it demonstrates essentially no discernable lack of power in everyday tasks like web surfing, email, PowerPoint, Word, and other standard business applications. The MacBook is ultimately meant to replace the Air in the Apple laptop lineup, and this was obviously their goal: make the most mobile yet usable Mac possible.

The noticeable lack of weight, and thus extreme portability, are what attracted me to the idea of the MacBook. My back was tired of carrying around a heavy MacBook Pro on the train and foot to customer meetings all over Tokyo. My desire to be more productive while on-the-go was overcome by the strain the weight added when mobile, so I yearned for something like the MacBook. I had thought of buying an Air but was uninterested in using a non-Retina screen. This was a tough decision, and one I weighed very carefully over the course of a couple weeks, visiting the Apple Store almost daily to play around with the MacBook and the Air.

About the MacBook

Let me get this out of the way upfront: the 2016 MacBook m5, w/8GB RAM and 512GB SSD is my favorite Apple laptop ever. I say this after having used nothing but PowerBook and MacBook Pro models since 2003. I migrated to the MacBook from a Retina MacBook Pro 15” w/16GB RAM and 512GB SSD. The screen and weight alone are the perfect combination for someone like me, who is constantly taking the train, bus, and walking all over Tokyo.

Having moved from a rMBP, which still functions as my mock-desktop replacement, I was only slightly concerned about the USB-C port. I use my rMBP for streaming video to my Apple TV via Plex. The majority of my media is stored on an external 1TB USB3 HDD. I had contemplated retiring the rMBP and using the MacBook for streaming, but then realized my goal with the MacBook was portability. I rarely ever use the external HDD when I am mobile, and quickly dismissed the notion of the single USB-C port being a barrier for my use case.

Let me just dive right in the deep-end and breakdown the pros and cons of the MacBook, as I see them:

Pros

  • Weight. I can barely even feel the machine in my backpack, therefore it does not bother my back in the least. Unlike the MacBook Pro, which is noticeably heavy, the MacBook is light as a feather.
  • Screen. Having moved from a Retina MacBook Pro, I had to stick with the Retina display. The Air, while a nice laptop, still has old display technology. The MacBook’s screen is simply gorgeous.
  • Battery. I use this thing constantly, for likely 6-8 hours a day, on wifi, streaming music. Never once have I needed to charge it during the day even though I bring the charger just in-case. It is unreal how well this battery holds up. At the end of the day, I usually have approximately 35% battery remaining, even after heavy daily use.
  • Speed. While there are some minor noticeable speed issues, by and large the MacBook launches applications immediately. I have not had issue with lag yet for one exception: Microsoft Office. Launching Word, Excel, and PowerPoint takes a noticeable amount of time, with the icons bouncing on the dock for a couple seconds before the window finally appears. For me, it is a non-issue, however if you are impatient, this could be problematic.

Cons

  • Speed. While listed as a Pro, it is also a con. Sometimes you expect and want apps to launch immediately. That Microsoft Office apps take a noticeable amount of time to launch can sometimes be a tad frustrating. As I just mentioned, if you are impatient, this could be a potential deal breaker. I challenge you to reconsider your notion of speed and why it would ever be so necessary to have a bloated Microsoft application appear instantaneously. But I digress …
  • Resolution. I am getting old, and my eyes are not what they used to be, and thus the 12” screen is tough to see at times. Nothing glasses will not solve, but I generally do not want to resort to pulling out my reading glasses just to see my MacBook screen. Call me vain.
  • Cost. At almost $2000 total, you really need to consider the justification for a purchase of this magnitude.
  • Ports. The MacBook only has two ports: a single USB-C port, and a headphone plug. The USB-C port doubles as the charging port, therefore the only way to use USB devices and charge the laptop simultaneously is by using a hub. This is a huge con for a lot of people, although in my practical yet anecdotal use of my own MacBook, this has never been an issue.

MacBook Butterfly KeyboardI hesitate to put the keyboard in either of the above even though it seems to be a huge debate topic. Overall, I am satisfied with the keyboard and the small travel distance of the keys. The only part of the keyboard I can say I utterly hate is the arrow keys. They are so weird, and I have yet to get used to the layout. Otherwise, for me, the keyboard is a non-issue.

Being in the industry I am in, often times I need to run VMware and have a VM or two open at a time. I have done this while keeping Safari open with about 15 tabs, Mail, Slack, Tweetbot, PowerPoint, and Word, and the MacBook hums along without any lag or issues. I often times even have VLC playing a video in the background or I am streaming music, and I have yet to see the machine stutter.

Generally 8GB RAM does not sound like a lot, and the m5 seems like it would be underpowered compared to its i7 cousin in my rMBP, but it performs mostly flawlessly. It is amazing how tight this laptop is compared to its on-paper specs.

Finally, I do not count the single USB-C port a con. The vast majority of people, myself included even though I am techie and geek, rarely need to plug in external peripherals. In the unlikely event it iss necessary, I did pick-up an Anker USB-C hub. It was 2000JPY and has two standard USB-3 ports, HDMI-out, and a USB-C port for either charging the MacBook or for using another USB-C device. All-in-all, I have used it twice in two months.

I consider that hardly a necessity nor a problem.

Conclusion

MacBook 2016As I said at the very beginning, this is a wonderful laptop, and my favorite of all I have ever owned. I have never been so enamored with hardware, Apple or otherwise, until now. I feel much more productive being able to move around Tokyo, barely noticing a laptop is hanging off my back. It is refreshing.

The biggest question on my mind about the MacBook is this: longevity. How long will the machine last? I have a 2009 MacBook Pro that continues to hum along without issues. Will a MacBook last that long? I suspect not, but you never know. As a costly investment, I really hope the MacBook is capable of handling future macOS updates without any noticeable performance degradation. Only time will be able to answer this question.

If you value portability over expandability and raw power, the Retina MacBook is likely just what you need. I find myself falling in love with it all over again, each day I use it, simply because I can use this laptop anywhere and everywhere without ever thinking twice. Even if you value power over portability, this little engine that could will surprise you.

However, if you are unable to get passed the lack of expansion ports, this is decidedly not for you in its current incarnation. Remember, the first two years of the MacBook Air’s life, it had limited expansion ports, and then the third year saw it slightly redesigned into its current form, complete with plenty of expandability.

This is my machine, and the only computer I need on a daily basis. For me, the MacBook is almost the holy grail of computers – the perfect combination of iPad-like portability yet with a full-fledged operating system where I can be, and feel, productive.

Thank you Apple for catering to my needs.

I have been an Evernote user almost since service inception. Throughout the years I have been on the roller-coaster ride of highs and lows, and lately have been fairly ambivalent about the service. It had never really done me wrong, but at the same time there was no single killer feature keeping me invested in the Evernote capabilities.

Late last year I signed up for a special premium subscription offer when Evernote was poised to add six months for free for those subscribing for one full year. So although I had no real need for premium capabilities, I figured why not – I can find a way to use all the exciting features – and hit the “pay now” button.

So here I am, six months into an eighteen-month subscription, and I do not find myself really enamored with, or tied to, any of those paid-only features. The following list is what comprises Evernote Premium, the first three of which are also part of the Evernote Plus middle tier:

  • Access notebooks offline
  • Forward emails into Evernote
  • Customer support via email
  • Customer support via live chat
  • Search for text in PDFs
  • Search for text in Office docs
  • Annotate PDFs
  • Scan and digitize business cards
  • Present notes in one click
  • Browse the history of your notes
  • See related notes and content

Looking at it today as I write this post, I see nothing compelling other than the following:

  • Search for text in PDFs (peripherally interesting)
  • Scan and digitize business cards (definitely)

Of these two features, I use and highly rely on the business card scanning via Evernote’s Scannable app. I love how simple yet effective it is at scanning business cards, finding the right data on the card (most of the time), and then allowing me to create contacts or connect via LinkedIn to people I meet.

In the many years I have used Evernote, I rarely ever had an occasion where I really needed to search for text within PDF files. It is just not something I value nor require.

A couple days ago Evernote announced some new pricing models and restrictions on free accounts. Since I am a premium subscriber, this has no effect on me currently. However, should I opt to allow my subscription to lapse, I immediately fall prey to those limitations, and this prospect does not make me feel comfortable.

At. All.

This got me thinking about my future, continued use of Evernote as my note-taking-and-storing app of choice.

I am first and foremost a Mac and iOS user. At work I occasionally do work from my corporate provided HP laptop. More often than not I find myself working from my personal Retina MacBook or corporate provided Retina MacBook Pro 15” 2013. So my usage requirements primarily revolve around the Apple ecosystem, although that does not mean I need to use their services. The important factor is ensuring whatever solution I stick with, it must be cross-platform – iOS, macOS, and web or Windows – so I can access my data no matter where I am or what device I am stuck using.

While I would not necessarily call these requirements, I find the following Evernote capabilities essential to my workflow. So any potential replacement solution should have at least one of these, but preferably most, if not all.

Web Clipping

One of the features I most use with Evernote is the web clipping capability via their web browser extensions. My favorite part of this feature is not the mere ability to save full web pages to Evernote, but to simplify the page, remove the unnecessary cruft, and save the important content for later consumption.

Business Card Scanning

As I previously mentioned, I live and die by Scannable. It is my most popular use for Evernote, outside of mere simple note taking. Is there really a valid replacement for this app for other Evernote-like apps?

Third-Party Access to API

Finally, I really enjoy how Evernote offers an accessible API. I have a number of IFTTT recipes that either save data to Evernote, or syndicate it out. AFAIK, no other solution offers this capability.

Folders and Tagging

While I do use Evernote’s built-in tagging system, I do not ever find myself browsing or searching via tags. As a result, tagging – for me – is just a nice-to-have addition. It is not a killer, must-have feature.

On the flipside, I thoroughly adore Evernote’s folder hierarchy. Folders can be nested within other folders, with notes inside those various folders, all for maximum compartmentalization and to simplify locating relevant data. This is one of Evernotes strong points. However, I do not find my use needing multiple nested folders, so long as there is some kind of basic folder structure in place.

Based on these thoughts, I came up with the following solutions:

  • Stick with Evernote
  • Migrate to Apple Notes
  • Migrate to Google Keep
  • Migrate to OneNote
  • Text-based Notes Saved to DropBox
Evernote. Sticking with this solution essentially means sticking with the status quo. It has worked flawlessly for me for years. If Evernote does start locking down the number of devices capable of accessing a single account, that could be problematic for me, and I do not want to be in a situation where my ability to get work done is dependent upon paying for a subscription.

Apple Notes. This is likely the smartest solution for my use case, primarily because I use Apple devices almost exclusively. However, Apple Notes has no ability to clip web pages stripped of excess cruft, is unable to scan business cards in the same manner as Scannable, nor does it have an API. The up-side of this is Notes does have a simplistic folder structure, but steers clear of the complexities tagging offers.

Google Keep. I used to be an avid user of Google products, and still do consume some of their offerings. However, I have tried to wean myself away from Google dependence because I disagree with their data mining position. Plus, Keep does not have a native macOS client, and is required to be accessed via the web.

Microsoft OneNote. This is likely the most true cross-platform application on the list. Overall, the UI is usable and the app is more than sufficient. However, I do not quite understand its syncing system, nor am I pleased with its folder hierarchy. Overall it is not a bad application, it is just that it does not seem to fit well with my thoughts on how note-taking applications function.

Text-Based w/Save to DropBox. Do I really need to go into how unwieldy and not user-friendly this solution is? While it is cross-platform, and allows for far more control over ones own data than the others, the lack of ease-of-use is off the charts. It is not worth the hassle to me.

Conclusion

As part of a test, this morning I exported all my Evernote notes and imported them into Apple Notes just to see how it would work. Export and import worked flawlessly and without any hitches. Although, I do notice some peculiarities with the imported PDF files, overall its not bad at all.

However, for some reason, I do not feel comfortable fully committing to Apple Notes quite yet. Already I miss the things I previously mentioned, and find myself yearning for those capabilities. So while I will continue to give Apple Notes a few more chances, I will also syndicate all my content on Evernote.

I really want to like Apple Notes since it has tight integration within macOS and iOS. This makes is highly attractive for those of us highly invested in the Apple ecosystem.

Just look at that facial expression. Does it instill confidence and give the impression this is a talented, intelligent individual who is extremely capable of running the United States of America?

I think the primary reason I dislike Donald Trump as a US presidential candidate is how he carries himself. It is not necessarily his racist beliefs in things like closing immigration to all muslims, or building a wall between US and Mexico. Rather, it is the arrogance he demonstrates when he mentions these fleeting thoughts.

The way he delivers these toxic ideas is worse than the thoughts themselves. His face is so easy to read when he is standing in front of the TV cameras, almost as if he has a sign hanging above him with an arrow pointing down at his head, and the words, “SMARTER THAN EVERYONE” written above.

Trump actually believes he is smarter than everyone, and therefore never is able to demonstrate any form of empathy or emotion. He has that same forever-entitled look on his face, falsely believing he is the smartest person in the room simply because he was born with a spoon in his ass mouth.

Does the United States really need a president leading the nation who is incapable of sympathy? While one of the leading traits a President needs is strength, they also need to have a soft side and show their ability to truly understand, and even feel, what the average person is feeling. Trump could give two shits, as long as he is increasing power, or amassing more net worth.

I have quite a bit more I can say but this is good for the time being.

This week is another random selection of interesting wallpaper found during my travels throughout /r/wallpaper on Reddit. Here are links to the originals:

This week I am really feeling either the Thailand Elephants or the Calgary Stampede. Enjoy these until next week.

I always love endlessly browsing wallpaper galleries in search of the next best image for my desktop, only to fall into despair because I am unable to make a decision on which fits best. In keeping with that idea, here are twelve breathtaking wallpapers to increase your excitement this week.

All the below links go directly to the full size images hosted at imgur.

All wallpapers were found while perusing the /r/wallpaper subreddit as part of my daily web surfing ritual.